§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by Lord Kimball—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".
§ 2.53 p.m.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)
My Lords, before commencing the debate this afternoon I should like to offer a particularly warm welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, on his appointment to the Front Bench. I look forward to discussing European Community matters with him, and shall pay particular attention to his closing address today. We wish him the very best congratulations.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, last year we were able, in the debate on the Address, to celebrate the beginnings of democracy in Eastern Europe and the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the year since we have experienced nine months of increasing joy followed by three months of increasing soberness. The watershed was Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. I should therefore like to begin with the Gulf crisis, but will then move on to consider more hopeful developments in Europe, South Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia.
The present crisis in the Gulf is the result of naked Iraqi aggression. Saddam Hussein's invasion of a neighbouring country and, let us not forget, a fellow member of the United Nations, was unprovoked and unjustifiable. His aim is to snuff out a sovereign, independent state. He cannot be allowed to succeed. This Government's objectives are clear and unwavering. They are shared by the international community and have been spelled out in the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.
We seek complete and unconditional Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait; the restoration of the legitimate government of Kuwait; and the release of all foreign nationals in Iraq and Kuwait. The means to achieve those objectives include Iraq's diplomatic isolation; the imposition of full and effective sanctions against Iraq; and the possibility of military actions. It must be made clear to Saddam Hussein that, if sanctions do not work, the military option exists and can be used against him.
Iraq's diplomatic isolation is almost complete. Sanctions continue to be broadly effective. There is evidence they are hitting Saddam where it hurts. Industrial production is slowing down, and vital imports are not getting through. Iraq is earning no foreign exchange. Economic agony is beginning to pile up. It is essential that the international community remains united in condemnation of Iraq, and steadily 200 tightens the pressure of sanctions. It is vital that we all remain firm. Even so, it would be hard to argue that sanctions alone are likely to be decisive in reversing Iraqi policy in the near future.
We are doing our level best to make diplomatic and economic pressure work. But we must face the possibility that Saddam Hussein will resist all the peaceful pressures. That is why it is essential to build up the military option and to show that it is not a bluff. The threat of military action can focus an aggressor's mind powerfully. Saddam Hussein must be receiving regular reports of the build-up of the international military force which opposes him. He must know that their deployment does not suggest a bluff. Forces are in fact moving into a position from which they can expel him from Kuwait. That must be gnawing at his mind. We have to be serious in our threat of force. We hope Saddam will conclude that he must change his mind and pull back his army into Iraq—even at the eleventh hour. That is the peaceful outcome for which we are all working.
The solidarity of the international coalition opposing Iraq is essential to the success of this work. The allies consult regularly. On 9th November Secretary of State Baker came to London for that purpose. The United States, like the UK, remains committed to trying to resolve this conflict by peaceful means if possible; by force if necessary.
Throughout the crisis the United Nations have shown unprecedented and heartening unity of purpose. We must work to maintain this united front. Some will look for compromises, for face-saving formulas. We must resist that. The route, the only possible route, to a peaceful solution is clear—full Iraqi compliance with the Security Council's resolution. We must not sell ourselves or the people of Kuwait short.
In the last few days horrific reports have been reaching us in Europe about the Iraqi army's rape of Kuwait. It is clear that, far from behaving in a disciplined fashion, Iraq's occupation forces have behaved brutally and without mercy. Eye witnesses report the murder of children, boys in their teens, in front of their mothers and sisters. Torture and imprisonment without trial are routine. This is part of a deliberate campaign of terror against the Kuwaiti people aimed at the systematic obliteration of Kuwait as a nation.
Iraq's conduct has been sickening. The taking of British and other Western hostages is a cynical and wicked action. Around 60 Britons are at strategic installations in Kuwait; 300 at installations in Iraq. This so-called "human shield" is an inhuman manipulation. There are also over 400 British citizens who are being prevented from leaving Iraq and another 500 in hiding in Kuwait, sometimes under appalling conditions. They are showing remarkable courage and resilience. Their plight is one of our first concerns. Our embassy in Kuwait—staffed now only by our ambassador, Michael Weston, and the consul, Larry Banks—continues to maintain contact with as 201 many of them as it can. I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in thanking the embassy staff for their work in such difficult circumstances.
The Earl of Caithness
My Lords, we take every opportunity to make clear to the Iraqis that their continued illegal detention is unacceptable. All foreign nationals must be allowed to go. We are urging the UN and other international organisations to continue their efforts to help foreign nationals. So far the representations of the UN Secretary General have been repeatedly spurned. In a British initiative, we agreed yesterday with our European partners that a wide selection of countries should be pressed to urge Iraq to receive the Secretary General's special representative.
We have taken a number of practical steps to help those held at strategic sites and those prevented from leaving Iraq. Our consular emergency unit and embassy in Baghdad are manned 24 hours a day to assist with enquiries from their families. There is a new PO box to speed up the delivery of mail. With our encouragement British Telecom has cut the cost of telephone calls to Iraq and the BBC has extended its Gulf link programme. The embassy in Baghdad is sending, comfort parcels to British detainees and provides financial assistance to distressed Britons where necessary.
In all this activity, the sufferings of the relatives back home are very much at the front of our minds. I should like to pay tribute to the fortitude of the families of those affected. On the whole, in spite of their acute anxiety, these families have resisted the temptation to ask us to weaken our policies. We are committed to doing everything possible to bring our hostages home; but we cannot negotiate with hostage takers, whether terrorists or governments. Throughout our discussions and in our thoughts we must rot forget that Iraq, and Iraq alone, is responsible for the present situation. We would be in a far more dangerous world if we submitted to blackmail.
The Gulf crisis has absorbed much of our attention in foreign affairs in the last three months, but no one can have failed to notice the debate raging over the European Community. There is indeed argument. There is always in any normal family, whether in our home life or a family of nationals. The Community does not stand still and honest open debate is a prerequisite for sensible decisions on the next step forward. Discussions never stop, but occasionally the debate is focused in a formal conference. Two such conferences will be convened next month in Rome.
One will deal with economic and monetary union. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will represent the UK. There is much common ground between the UK and our EC partners. We all agree on the need for further economic integration, price stability, curbing budget deficits and moves beyond stage one of EMU to create a new monetary institution. The debate is over the way to achieve these goals. This Government believe a 202 European monetary fund and a hard ecu are the best way forward. In time, if consumers, markets and governments so chose, the common currency of a hard ecu could evolve towards a single currency. The people's choice, not the Eurocrats' imposition, is the key. In our deliberations we should examine this and decide substance before deciding timing.
The second intergovernmental conference will aim to improve the working of the Community institutions. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will be the UK's representative. The UK's approach is guided by five principles: maintaining balance within the Community, both between Brussels and member states and between the institutions in Brussels; strengthened foreign policy co-ordination; better efficiency and more value for money; improved democratic accountability; and openness to new applicants qualified for Community membership.
The Community is taking notice of UK pressure for member states to respect, implement and enforce Community laws. Our proposals for improving financial accountability have been welcomed. The taxpayer deserves better scrutiny of budget and the Community should provide it.
We believe that subsidiarity must be a major element of IGC reform. This will ensure a clear division of responsibilities, leaving to national governments everything that does not need to be done in common. We recognise that national parliaments must play a greater role. The Parliamentary Conference of the European Community meets on 27th to 30th November. It can make a direct input. Westminster will be fully represented by eight noble Lords and 18 members of another place.
In both the intergovernmental conferences our aim is to help Members of the Community reach agreement to work more closely together. We will play a constructive part so that the Community can move forward as twelve. Despite all the rhetoric, all our partners realise that reform should be pragmatic and gradual.
The Community is advancing but there are some things it cannot and should not take on. We do not seek the EC taking on a defence role, but we want to see the European defence pillar strengthened and made more coherent within NATO. The NATO summit in London last July set the agenda. It is essential to preserve the fundamentals: an integrated military structure; the continued presence of the US in Europe; and a sensible mix of nuclear and conventional weapons to counter-balance continued Soviet power. But at the summit we recognised that NATO had to change in order to survive. The NATO review is now looking at the alliance's political role, its strategy and force structures. We expect the outcome next spring. We do not want to pre-empt the conclusions of the review, but it is clear to us that a stronger European voice is needed to match Europe's increasing responsibility for its own defence. The Western European Union may have a useful role both politically and militarily.
203 The review will also doubtless take into account the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, due to be signed in Paris on the 19th of this month. This treaty is the visible expression of the post-cold war European security relationship, based on mutal confidence, openness and lower levels of armaments. It sets limits for major conventional weapons systems held by NATO and the Warsaw Pact between the Atlantic and the Urals and sets a sufficiency rule; that is, a limit on the numbers of each system that any one state can hold. This means a hugh quantity of Soviet military hardware—almost 100,000 pieces of equipment—will be removed from the European theatre. As a result, the risk of conflict will be greatly reduced.
The CFE Treaty will be signed in the margins of the conference on security co-operation in Europe summit. The CSCE has helped provide a framework for the democratic changes in the east of our Continent. The summit will celebrate that achievement but also relaunch the process. We expect the summit to agree to give CSCE a permament small secretariat for the first time and to set up a timetable for regular meetings at head of government, ministerial and official level to improve political consultation among the 34 signatory states.
Meanwhile, we must help the newly democratic countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Britain has contributed to the development of those democracies through the know-how funds. The know-how funds have been a substantial success. There are now over 130 projects. My right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development arrived in Budapest this morning at the start of a tour which will also take her to Poland and Czechoslovakia. In the next seven days she will have discussions with Ministers who are involved in managing the transition to a free market economy. Despite the rigour of the public expenditure round, in the next financial year we shall double our know-how fund assistance from £15 million to £30 million.
Chances for the better are not confined to Europe. The United Nations has seen not only good work in building and keeping together the international coalition opposing Iraq's takeover of Kuwait, but also valuable work over Cambodia. The five permament members of the Security Council proposed a framework for a settlement which all Cambodian parties have now accepted in its entirety. The UN General Assembly has unanimously endorsed that framework. Negotiations will continue in the coming weeks. We hope the Paris international conference on Cambodia will reconvene before the end of 1990 to sign a settlement agreement; but this will not be possible without co-operation among Cambodian parties. I am sure all noble Lords join the Government in calling on all Cambodian parties to stop fighting and settle their differences so that they can co-operate fully in working out the details of a comprehensive political settlement.
Negotiations also began to bear fruit this year in South Africa. Our aim has long been clear: to help a pluralist, non-racial and democratic South Africa 204 achieve stability and prosperity and take its place in the international community. For this, apartheid has to be replaced, through negotiation, by a system of government acceptable to the majority of South Africans. President de Klerk opened the door this year. Last month the South African Parliament repealed the Separate Amenities Act, one of the pillars of apartheid. In the next parliamentary session, President de Klerk is committed to repealing the Land Act, which prevents blacks from owning land in reserved areas, and the Group Areas Act, which delineates areas where blacks can live. Progress so far has been very significant. We hope all parties will now begin full constitutional negotiations as soon as possible.
I turn next to Hong Kong—an area for which I have special responsibility. Before doing so, however, I welcome both maiden speakers in our debate today. The noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, brings an enormous amount of experience from his work at the UN. I know your Lordships will understand my wish to give a special welcome to the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, who continues to do so much for Hong Kong. We all look forward to hearing their contributions to this important debate.
When I visited Hong Kong in September, I made it clear that the British Government were determined to do all in their power to secure a stable and prosperous future for Hong Kong. We remain determined to fulfil our responsibilities, building on the Sino-British Joint Declaration. To this end we are seeking to establish a better working relationship with China, not only because it is right and desirable in itself, but because it is a key to reassuring the people of Hong Kong. The visit of my honourable friend Mr. Maude to China in July was an important step in that process. Following the recent agreement in Luxembourg where we took a leading role in urging fellow members of the Community to restore more normal and improved relations with China, it is hoped that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and then I will visit next year.
In addition, we and the Hong Kong Government are planning actively for Hong Kong's future. The Hong Kong Government, with our full backing, are pressing ahead with plans for a new international airport and port extension. It is the largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Hong Kong. The airport is essential if Hong Kong is to remain a major international financial and trading centre. Tai Tak airport is already crowded and will be saturated by the mid-1990s. The new airport will be a valuable asset for the new SAR Government of Hong Kong.
The passage of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act has had a steadying effect on confidence. The implementation of the scheme will begin on 1st December and the first passports will be issued next spring. Emigration from the territory is still a matter of serious concern. But we hope our nationality package, coupled with measures being taken by other countries, including the United States, Singapore and our Community partners, will succeed in anchoring key people.
205 The number of Vietnamese boat people and their dependants continues to be a matter of grave concern. There are still nearly 54,000 in Hong Kong of whom about 13,000 so far have been assessed, after appeal, using international criteria, as not being refugees. Sadly, only a small percentage have volunteered to return to Vietnam, a statistic which underlines the need for rapid progress in returning non-volunteers. An agreement on 21st September between the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, Vietnam and the United Nations' High Commission for Refugees in Hanoi set up procedures for speeding up the return of volunteers and a new programme for returning non-volunteers who do not object (the so-called grey area) under UNHCR supervision. It remains to be seen how, indeed whether, this plan will work. Our objective remains the repatriation of all non-refugee Vietnamese boat people before the end of 1992.
Foreign affairs debates inevitably tend to develop into Cook's tours of the globe. Before I finish I should like to complete my world tour in Latin America. Democracy has broken out the length and breadth of the continent. The place of posturing generals has been taken by democratically-elected presidents. In February this year we resumed diplomatic relations with Argentina. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has met his Argentine opposite number on two occasions since then. My honourable friend the Minister of State paid a successful visit to Argentina and Chile in October. Trade is increasing rapidly. We welcome the Argentine trade mission at the end of this month when we hope to sign an investment promotion and protection agreement. The message across our relations with Latin American countries is not so much business as usual but rather business is booming. We are one of the largest foreign investors, with investments now in excess of £10 billion. We aim to build on that position.
I hope that your Lordships will agree that much of the international scene is encouraging. The events in Eastern Europe last winter have made us look again at the world. The cold war is over. Ideological antagonisms which used to play themselves out in the third world have resolved themselves: communism is in full retreat. The third world is now freer to pursue the policies of good government, no longer distracted by the false hopes of Marxist doctrine.
In so much of the world the news is hopeful. Peaceful change continues in Eastern Europe. We are more hopeful than ever that Western Europe, through its democratic institutions, the European Community, NATO and the CSCE, will respond constructively and imaginatively. But this year we face a new challenge from the Gulf to the whole world order. We are confident that we are pursuing the right policies to persuade Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait. We are determined to reverse this aggression. We are clear that, if our peaceful policies show no success, the military option exists and we will not be afraid to useit.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for his wide-ranging introduction to the debate. As he said, one of the difficulties about debates on foreign affairs and defence is the impossibility of doing justice to every facet of so very large a subject. I shall try to concentrate on two or three of the immediate problems facing us at this time.
Like the noble Earl, I would very much like to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn. We look forward to hearing her maiden speech. We know of her outstanding work in Hong Kong and of the leadership that she has provided during this difficult transitional period. I hope that it will be possible for us to have a full debate on Hong Kong very soon. We also look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest.
Since the last debate on the Address 12 months ago the world has seen great changes and new challenges. A year ago the Berlin Wall, symbol of a divided world and menacing confrontation between East and West, crumbled. A new hope was born and the suspicion and hatred of decades seemed to fade away. How do things look today? Is that hope still alive? These are two of the central questions that we must ask in this debate; I shall return to them in a moment.
We have known for years that the Middle East is the flashpoint where war could be triggered off. Iraq and Iran fought a cruel and unnecessary war throughout the 1980s. On 2nd August the leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, ordered his forces to invade and occupy the small, independent country of Kuwait, although he had informed the President of Egypt that he had no such intention. This House returned to debate the crisis and its implications on 6th September. With my colleagues in another place I made it plain that we on this side of the House supported the actions of the Government and of the United Nations.
In the two months since that debate several events have taken place. But, notwithstanding the unprecedented unity of the United Nations in its condemnation of that criminal invasion, the Iraqi army remains in Kuwait. The United Nations resolutions are treated with contempt. Since Iraq occupied Kuwait the United Nations has passed 10 resolutions. The main object has been to bring pressure to bear on Iraq to withdraw peacefully. Economic sanctions are the spearhead of the resolutions. They are supported by a naval and air blockade.
The noble Earl referred to sanctions. He spoke of them with some confidence although Saddam Hussein gives the appearance of being as obdurate as ever. I hope that the noble Earl who is to wind up for the Government will give us the latest estimates on the efficacy of the economic sanctions. The United States' State Department, in its first report on the effect of sanctions, states that 97 per cent. of Iraq's oil exports have been choked off and that imports to Iraq of machinery, industrial goods, semi-finished goods and 207 raw materials have declined by 90 per cent. Furthermore, the report says that food prices have increased eightfold in Iraq.
Experts like Mr. Omar Hassan of the Gulf Centre for Strategic Studies are saying that there is considerable ground for optimism that sanctions will work. Others are more sceptical. Mr. Leo Drollas, of the Centre for Global Energy, has said:Saddam just sits there and waits for others to lose heart".It will be helpful to have the Government's latest reaction, especially as remarks made recently have tended to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. The announcement that a further 100,000 American troops are to be sent to Saudi Arabia and a report that additional British forces may well be going there reinforces the belief that war is imminent or at least inevitable.
I make no comment at this stage save to say that I hope that the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Arran, can give us some clarification and tell us whether the Government still believe that sanctions can lead to a peaceful solution. Some take the view that sanctions should be given six months to work. At one stage this was said to be the State Department's opinion and one that was shared by Her Majesty's Government. I note that Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Daniel Moynihan argued strongly in Congress yesterday that sanctions should be given time to work.
This leads me to another key question. Under what circumstances and under precisely what authority would military action be taken? The point was raised during Question Time a few minutes ago. Of course we understand that if Saddam Hussein takes further aggressive military action then there would be a military response by the United Nations forces. We assume that the objective would be to drive the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. But military action in response to Saddam Hussein's continuing refusal to recognise United Nations resolutions demanding his withdrawal raises other considerations.
The Prime Minister said outside No. 10 Downing Street on Friday last, when she stood there with the United States Secretary of State, Mr. James Baker:We have the legal authority to take military action".Is Mrs. Thatcher saying that the United Nations forces in Saudi Arabia and in the Gulf can and may launch an attack without further recourse to the Security Council? In short, are the Government now saying that they contemplate military action under Article 51 of Chapter 27 of the Charter, or do they think that a resolution under Article 42, which provides for the use of force, should be sought in the Security Council? This seems to me to be the crux of the matter, and, as the House will appreciate, there are deep waters here. I think that we must do all we can to preserve a united front in the United Nations. I was glad therefore to read Mr. Douglas Hurd's remarks in the Independent on 5th November. They were:There is much to be said for keeping the maximum support of the international coalition. So long as there is 208 confidence that a further resolution will not be put 'at the mercy of a minority who have the capacity to delay', there is an argument for one to reinforce solidarity".It is important that all parties in Parliament should be united at this critical time. The Foreign Secretary's remarks help to that end.
We should also be grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and to his Eminence Cardinal Hume for the lead they have given. I note the Cardinal's remarks in his letter to The Times on Friday that the United Nations has become an effective vehicle for formulating the international response and that obtaining its authority for military action is of great importance.
In his opening speech, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to the hostages in Iraq and Kuwait. We all have very deep sympathy for them and their families. I join him in paying tribute to all those who have worked to help the hostages. There is no defence whatsoever for the way the Iraqi leadership has treated them. They have been manipulated as pawns in a sinister game, when every rule of law between nations lays down that they should be allowed to return unconditionally to their own countries.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, I also join the noble Earl in condemning and deploring the conduct of Iraqi forces in Kuwait. One of the pretexts for the invasion was that Kuwait was part of Iraq and that its people were Moslem brothers and sisters desiring to return to the family. But all the evidence shows that Kuwaitis and others resident there have been treated with extreme brutality. One report from Amnesty International, after interviews with scores of people who have fled Kuwait, reads as follows:their testimony builds up a horrifying picture of widespread arrests, torture under interrogation, summary executions and mass extra-judicial killings … scores of hangings have also been reported on the grounds of Kuwait University of people suspected of opposing Iraq's annexation of Kuwait".It appears that Kuwait and its people are being systematically and deliberately destroyed and that the case for reparations is unanswerable. We must consider whether there is anything to be said for Saddam Hussein. Has he any defence for his actions? He has said that Kuwait belongs to Iraq but, even if that were true, which is strongly denied, it does not justify his criminal acts. He has claimed that he acts and speaks for Islam especially in the context of Israel. That is refuted by his Arab neighbours. He has tried to link the Gulf crisis with the Arab-Israel problem. It is an astute and unscrupulous argument because its object is to deflect world and Arab attention away from the main issue: namely, forcing Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait without conditions.
A negotiated peace is desirable, if it is a just peace, and many believe that this can still be achieved. I hope they are right, although I believe that negotiation is only meaningful if it is carried out by or through the United Nations. Mr. Perez de Cuellar has made one attempt, as the House knows. We must always bear in mind that British forces are in the Middle East at the behest and under the authority of the United Nations. 209 They are there with the forces of other nations, and 54 nations, a third of the United Nations' membership, are now making a military or economic contribution to the great effort being made to resolve the problem. Let us hope—and I fear that it has to be a faint hope—that Saddam Hussein, or other Iraqi leaders, see sense and withdraw from Kuwait. The United Nations cannot reverse its resolutions, nor can it be humiliated; that could really plunge the world into chaos. That is something we cannot contemplate, and Britain, of all countries, must stand by and be loyal to the United Nations.
The second great issue which faces us at the present time is that of economic and monetary union. The Rome Summit in December will be of great importance and we must hope that the Government will have constructive policies to put forward. Incidentally, one lesson to be learnt is that the way a case is put is almost as important as the case itself. The key issues are the balance between national parliaments and the European Parliament; the question of subsidiarity, referred to by the noble Earl; and the need for real accountability, for it seems obvious that we could not contemplate a central bank reaching major decisions about national economies unless those countries had the opportunity to intervene beforehand. This is why economic union must be considered in parallel with political union.
The crucial point is that we must not be isolated in these discussions. We could and should play a leading role, not least because our experience of democratic government and the role of a civil service is not inconsiderable. I do not, however, intend to discuss this issue fully or further at this time because we shall have the opportunity in a few days' time for a full debate on economic and political union. That is the subject of a report by a Select Committee of this House chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Aldington. I understand that the document, which I have not yet read, is a comprehensive one and can form the basis for a debate of the first importance.
Finally, I return to my first point; namely, the revolution in Eastern Europe, the collapse of communism and the gradual emergence of free societies from the ashes of oppression. The pace of progress over the past 12 months has varied from country to country but one thing is clear: acute economic and environmental problems remain to be overcome. Whatever may have been our doubts—there were apprehensions in this House and in the country—we wish the new reunited Germany success in raising the standards of the East up to the level of the West. The new Germany will be a great European and world power and the countries of central Europe in particular will be influenced by her policies. It is essential that the new Germany should remain within the European Community and in the new and reformed NATO.
This debate is concerned with defence as well as with foreign affairs, and my noble friend Lord Richard—I am grateful to the noble Earl for his kind references to my noble friend—will deal more fully with them when he winds up for us. However, I should 210 just like to say this: the new and improved relations between East and West are leading to progress in all areas of disarmament. We urge the Government to take full advantage of the situation.
This debate gives me the opportunity to congratulate President Gorbachev on the award to him of the Nobel Peace Prize. In my view, he thoroughly deserves it. Without his initiative, the changes in Eastern Europe would not have taken place at this time. Let us then consider his achievement.
President Gorbachev did not demur when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe recovered their freedom. He gave his blessing to the reunification of Germany; he withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan; and he supported the moves for peace in southern Africa and South-East Asia. Glasnost and perestroika have created difficulties for him in his own country, difficulties which threaten his position and make him unpopular at home. However, be that as it may, the world is a very different place today from the way it looked five years ago. The man responsible for that deserves more than one Nobel Peace Prize! We do not intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, but we hope that he and Mr. Yeltsin, and others, will unite to resolve their problems very soon.
How has the West reacted to these historic changes? Of course, the great majority welcome them. For the first time in modern history there is a real prospect of permanent peace in Europe. Western Europe, America and Japan must surely wish to sustain the new democracies and to do everything possible to help President Gorbachev through his difficulties. Help along the lines of the Marshall Plan has been proposed: that would certainly be an investment in the future. I warmly welcome the announcement made by the noble Earl about the increase in the know-how fund which, as I know from the talks that I have had with representatives of Eastern European governments, is much appreciated. However, we in the West generally must think in more extensive terms than £15 million or £30 million.
When we look around the world there are times when we feel like weeping, primarily because of man's inhumanity to man. But there are other signs which give great cause for hope of a better future for mankind: the prospect of a lasting peace in Europe; the gradual change towards justice and equality in Africa; and, even in days of crisis, the emergence of the United Nations as a world force for peace. That is the vision which should strengthen and direct the Government in this historic hour.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I must first apologise for having arrived somewhat late for the debate; this was due to your Lordships' extremely exiguous Questions. I should like to join with the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, in welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn. I greatly look forward to hearing the noble Baroness not only on this but on many subsequent occasions. I also extend that welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest.
211 I share with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the problem which this kind of debate presents, especially when so many noble Lords wish to speak. I shall therefore not follow the noble Earl in his tour d'horizon. It would be a waste of time and we would be here until very late tonight. In connection with events to which the noble Lord referred when making a tribute to Lord Gorbachev, I merely repeat—
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, we would welcome him in this House.
As I was saying, I shall merely repeat the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Dacre, in a recent debate. He said that the extraordinary thing about the present situation is that we have now achieved exactly what we wanted to achieve in 1949; that is, a united democratic Germany allied to the West, the collapse of communism and a free Eastern and Central Europe. Therefore, we have a second opportunity to rebuild Europe. It is an opportunity which we dare not fail to seize.
Huge issues are before the House. There is the Gulf crisis, about which my noble friend Lord Holme of Cheltenham will be speaking later; there are the developments in the European Community and the forthcoming intergovernmental conference to which my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead will probably be turning his attention tomorrow; and there are the developments in Hong Kong about which all of us must be concerned. However, I do not propose to speak on any of those major subjects. I shall concentrate on events in Central and Eastern Europe.
I returned recently from an Anglo-Polish conference, the first to take place since a free government was installed in Warsaw. Much depends on the success of the revolution in which the hopes of so many millions of people are concentrated and invested and which is so important to Poland. In my view, we in this country have a special obligation to Poland. However, that is not to say that Central Europe, which I distinguish sharply from Eastern Europe—by Central Europe I mean Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Austria—can be considered in isolation. Indeed, it has been drastically affected by events in the Gulf, by the unification of Germany and by the chaos in the USSR.
When the present Polish Government took office they found raging, rampant inflation of the South American variety, a geriatric agricultural and industrial base and a country burdened with foreign debt of no less than 40 billion dollars. Their response was characteristically bold and courageous. They could reform the system and then stabilise the economy; or, they could try to stabilise the economy and then reform the system. They chose to do neither. They chose to stabilise and transform the economy simultaneously. That was to take an enormous and very substantial risk. But the results are remarkable. They abolished subsidies; they unified market and 212 official exchange rates; they liberalised foreign trade; and they embarked upon a programme of privatisation.
In August, inflation in Poland was 2 per cent.; it rose to 4 per cent. in September, owing to the Gulf crisis. The cost of living was put up 30 per cent. in January, but there have been no riots. Mr. Gomulka, Mr. Gierek and the last general secretary were all overturned because they moved subsidies by 2 per cent. or 3 per cent. It is a most remarkable tribute to what a government can achieve with the confidence of the people, if they have the courage and initiative to do so.
Unemployment, which was nil, now stands at one million—not very much, it may be said, out of a working population of 17 million. However, if you are used to having no unemployment and if, owing to your economy, the unemployment pay which can be offered is very small, then that is a pretty savage increase. And it will go further.
Having achieved this remarkable result, having balanced their budget—in fact, they have a budget surplus—and having a surplus on foreign trade, the people of Poland have been ambushed, if I may put it that way, by three events. First. the Gulf has drastically raised the cost of oil and severely reduced remittances and debt repayments from Iraq, while Russian oil is in short supply and its price has increased. Secondly, they have been hit by German unification which has removed a hitherto safe and secure market for their exports. Thirdly, the chaos in Russia, especially as regards the Russian states on Poland's borders, has led to very serious economic losses.
Above all there is the Polish debt of 40 billion dollars. Rescheduling does not solve the problem; it merely postpones it. The existence of that debt is very serious in terms of the expectations of the Polish people. It is a very serious disincentive for foreign investors and for the transferability of profits which foreign investors may receive from Poland. As 75 per cent. of the debt is not to banks but to governments, it is a problem that we—who hope that the revolution in Central Europe will be a success—must take on board and must take seriously. We have to give the Polish people a chance to reform their society politically and economically. To reform it economically, that huge debt burden must be reduced. That is a very high priority.
I should like to speak briefly of the political situation in which the Polish people find themselves. It is typical of Central Europe. There are 40 million Poles. Poland is about the same size as Spain. It is in a central, crucial area lying between Russia in chaos and Germany reunited. Poland is searching for stability; that is what it needs. In addition, in order to provide that stability it needs to rebuild, to reinforce, and to institutionalise its relations with the West. It has to do so without neglecting its historical connections with the East, with its neighbours Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and also with the Ukraine and with the Baltic republics. A delicate balancing operation has to be achieved. But let no one 213 have any reservation that the Poles see themselves as part of western Christendom. That is where they see their home.
However, at the moment they see an asymmetry within Europe. On the one side they see Western Europe integrated politically and economically. That integration which they welcome is becoming stronger and closer day by day. In the East they see the disappearance, the redundancy, the decay of the Warsaw Treaty organisation, which exists only in name, and of COMECON which also exists only in name.
It is a moving and disturbing message that I bring home. The Poles see themselves isolated in a vacuum belonging to no defence or economic organisation but sitting between two giant neighbours. That is the problem we have to recognise. To deal with it, Poland urgently needs a pan-European security structure to which it can belong. It needs recognised limitation in conventional arms in Central Europe. It needs means for dealing with conflict which, in that part of Europe, with the rise of nationalism all over the place, is an urgent, dangerous and pressing problem of which they are acutely aware.
I was sorry that the noble Earl did not mention the Council of Europe in his tour d'horizon. The Council of Europe has an extraordinarily important role to play in all these matters. Above all Poland needs to strengthen its links with Western Europe through the Council of Europe, through OECD and ultimately through joining the European Community. Hence there is the importance of the association agreement and the importance for Poland of fixing a date, no matter the qualifications surrounding it, for making its dream of joining the European Community a reality. Poland knows that that means drastic reform of its economy. It knows that it cannot be achieved within the next decade. But if we had as an aim that it should join by the year 2000 in some shape or form, I believe that it would be a major step forward.
Finally the Poles are deeply concerned with their two neighbours, and with the consequences of the disintegration, as they see it, of the USSR in the Ukraine, in Byelorussia and in the Baltic republics. They say, "Let us suppose that there is famine in the Ukraine or an outbreak of some revolutionary movement." They may be invaded by floods of refugees. Who will deal with that, and how will they deal with it? Have we considered the consequences of that problem? What are we prepared to do to help them?
That is one fear. The other fear is of course economic domination by Germany. The Poles welcome Germany within the European Community. They welcome Germany within NATO. They welcome the new border agreement. But they are inevitably —and who would not be with their history? —alarmed, apprehensive and conscious of this giant economic and political force on their border. That is why our connection with Poland is so immensely important to it. That is why we have a real obligation to help ii to find a new security to help fill the vacuum 214 in which it considers that it is living in Central Europe. That is important not only for the Poles but for the future of democracy in Central Europe.
I believe that there are four matters that we should bear in mind. The first is very simple. Having abolished visas for Czechoslovakia and Hungary, it is truly insulting that we should insist on visas for Poland. Each year 60,000 Poles come here; 1,400,000 go to Germany. The Germans have announced that they are abolishing visas for the Poles. We stick to visas. I know that that is not the fault of the Foreign Office; it is the obsession of our dear old Home Office with immigration control. The visa regulations that we operate against Poland do more damage to our relations with that country than words can possibly express. Secondly, we ought to deal with the massive debt so that Poland can see light on the horizon. Thirdly, we can press forward with a pan-European security structure to which it can belong. Lastly, we can give the Poles a date at which they can aim to join the European Community.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Worcester
My Lords, perhaps it is not inappropriate for me as a fairly new Member of this House to say how impressive I found the first two speeches in the debate, with their note of solemn responsibility in the face of the present crisis and near unanimity. I thank the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos.
It may seem odd for a bishop to be speaking in the debate. However, bishops are fairly close to the people —almost more so than other Members of this House, and indeed Members of another place, dare I say? —because we go to our dioceses and are among our people. We talk about defence and armaments. Their costs affect the people, wherever they are.
In speaking about the broad content of the gracious Speech, in particular on defence and foreign affairs, we must of course keep up our guard. The Question on the Order Paper yesterday from the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, was important. I suppose that if two people were departing from a duel they would do so still keeping their eyes on each other. Yet in the face of the brave and quite remarkable initiatives by Mr. Gorbachev, who has coined the important words "perestroika" and "glasnost", is there no way in which we can constantly be ready to show an equal response and equal generosity?
Of course the disbandment of the Russian forces must be demanded and negotiated, but we must surely realise that this cannot take place overnight for social and economic reasons. I believe that we must all seek to dismantle the arsenals which we built up in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The building up of them has pauperised Russia and very nearly brought America low, for the national debt of America is into trillions.
As has already been said in this debate, 1989–90 was an annus mirabilis. I myself was in Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia, this summer. The sheer exhilaration of having cast off the dominance of Marxist communism was remarkable to see and wonderful to experience. The new initiatives in South Africa, the 215 release of Nelson Mandela and the lulling of the wars in central America, have all been good news. We were on the edge of a decade of peacemaking. I was in the UNICEF building about a month ago before the summit for children. There was a special appeal to the world's religions for the world's children. As I sat there seeing helicopters taking off from the pad across the East River, I realised that for the first time in my lifetime we could make the world a better place for all its inhabitants. We have the technology, the resources and the know-how.
However, all has been blighted by the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. Perhaps I may say that the Standing Conference of European Churches has taken on a new and important role. Much is being done by the Churches—not, I hope, to replace a Mediterranean and medieval dominance but to stand alongside those who are trying to grapple with the issues which the new freedom has brought. There is much optimism and hope there. Nevertheless, it shows that however optimistic Europe may be, we cannot have peace by ourselves unless we are prepared to make peace for the one world in which we live and to take on board the frustrations and the angers of other nations, other races and other religions.
The bishops have been blamed recently for being silent on the question of the Gulf. That is a new approach because we are usually told to shut up. The reason is this. In the face of a situation which is deeply complex, where reticence and restraint are of the essence, it does not necessarily help for bishops from Worcester, Hereford or all over England to raise yet another strident voice. The fact is that we are emphatically for a peaceful solution. However, we do not want at the same time to give comfort to Saddam Hussein by anything we may say.
We cannot legitimise international piracy merely because we are too timid to take action. We cannot bow before insolent aggression merely because we fear that the cost of resistance would be too painful. Rightly, we have deployed our forces, together with those of America and many other nations, within the United Nations Organisation. We must constantly think of them. Indeed, I believe that in every church in the land last Sunday prayers were said for those who are in the Gulf on our behalf and for those who have critical decisions to make and the burden of awesome responsibility. We should at least be thankful that the end of the cold war has made this unanimity possible in the United Nations. Long may it be kept so. We dare not lose that; it is our trump card.
Yet we must desire, we must pray for, we must work for a peaceful solution. It is the number one requirement, if a war is to be just, that every possible avenue for peace has first been explored. Is it true that the American ambassador in Iraq gave it as her opinion that a move by Iraq into Kuwait would be regarded as an Arab matter? If this is so and if Saddam Hussein has misread the signals, is there no way by which we can find a ladder down which he can climb? I know that this is not easy, but it should not 216 be beyond our capacity. If it is the nature of Arab people to bargain, is it totally impossible for us to talk in some way, even if by secret diplomacy?
In so far as Saddam Hussein is an Arab soldier and a Moslem, will hurling threats at him have any effect but to generate in him a total defiance? Is there no way in which Her Majesty's Government can find methods other than the solution of war? Again, in the traditional doctrine of the just war, it is not right to go to war unless one can be confident of improving the situation. I took great interest in the remark made already in this debate that it would be absolutely fatal if the United Nations were humiliated. We have to be able to know that we can improve the situation by taking up arms.
Furthermore, it is part of the doctrine of the just war that action must be targeted, contained and economical of casualties. I fear that it is unlikely that any military action in the Gulf could take place without horrendous casualties, widespread damage both to oil installations and to the environment and the prodigious costs involved. It may be that tragically this cannot be avoided, but at least let us not be bland or jingoistic.
I do not believe that it is quite fair to make a comparison between today and 1939 because the weapons of modern-day warfare are so devastating that it would be hard to contain any conflagration that broke out. In the present situation, as opposed to 1939, there is the racial element. There is also the North-South divide and the question of religion. If there were to be a necessary war, decades of avowed revenge in the name of religion could well ensue.
I dare to finish with an apologia pro vita nostra for those on these Benches. It is sometimes said that we would be more respected in the country if we took a more combative stance. I hope that in everything I have said I have shown that the word "appeasement" should not be addressed in this direction. However, would anyone respect leaders in the Christian Church who did not speak out about the horrors of modern warfare? Do your Lordships really want a Bench of Bishops who have nothing to say on their own account but only place a sacramental coping-stone on the edifice of present-day society, and that recognised by perhaps only part of our society? I believe and hope that if by any chance we ever had a Labour government we should stand in solidarity with the government in any event—but in critical solidarity. Would noble Lords not agree with Rabbi Sachs, who recently said in an interview that he felt that it was the duty of religion to provoke questions and stimulate thought? I say that because sometimes an apologia is necessary. If I were a pacifist I should not be standing here annoying some noble Lords on my right.
I end by saying that if we know ourselves at all we know the feelings of aggression, of pugnacity and warlikeness which well up in us at the provocation of a ruthless man like Saddam Hussein. I believe that those are bad counsellors. Patience and strength are better—the patience and strength which will wait until sanctions bite and new talks can begin. I submit that as a contribution to this debate.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord Fitt
My Lords, it is almost with reluctance that I intervene in this debate. It is the first debate on the Queen's Speech in which I have spoken since I entered this House. I am reluctant because Northern Ireland and the problems of Ireland do not fit readily into any of the five categories of debate on the Queen's Speech. It does not fit into home affairs or into foreign affairs.
I have listened with interest to the intense interest, understanding and compassion already expressed by the four previous speakers regarding the affairs of Eastern Europe and the international problems that have arisen over the past year. However, the greatest problem that this House and the other place have had to consider over the past few years has been that of Northern Ireland. No soldiers have yet been killed in the Gulf, and I hope that no soldiers will be killed in a Gulf war. I attended the remembrance service on Sunday: I fervently hope that by this time next year there will not be more names added to the list of people killed in war. However, 429 young British soldiers have given their lives in Northern Ireland. Hundreds more, if not thousands, have been brutally maimed and injured. Yet this House does not seem to be able to come to any conclusion about how to deal with the problem.
I listened to my noble friend Lord Cledwyn this afternoon. He said that with the coming down of the Berlin wall the suspicion and hatred of decades seemed to have faded away. The Berlin wall came down last year, but three more were erected in Belfast this year. There are three more barriers to keep the communities apart. Nothing seems to have changed. As an Irishman who lives in these islands, I am as concerned about those world problems, but my more immediate concern is with what is happening in the country in which I have spent most of my life.
Five years ago, on 15th November, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. I have the Hansard of the debates which took place in this House on Tuesday, 26th November 1985. A great deal of optimism was expressed then about what the Anglo-Irish Agreement would achieve, how it would bring about reconcilia-tion between the communities, end the alienation of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland, bring together the forces for peace, improve relations between this country and the Irish republic and allow the Irish republic to enter into extradition cases where necessary. I defy any Member of your Lordships' House to say that any of the objectives mentioned in Hansard for 26th November 1985 has been achieved. Not one of them has been achieved. In the meantime 300 more people have been killed in Northern Ireland. So Northern Ireland is a problem which is just as serious as any in other parts of the globe.
Not only has the Anglo-Irish Agreement failed to achieve any of its objectives and to bring about better conditions, it has led to far greater alienation and isolation of the communities in Northern Ireland than existed before the signing of the agreement. I believe that this House should show the same concern and compassion as has been shown here today in relation 218 to world problems and I intend to listen to other speakers in this debate and see whether we cannot do something to end the terrible divisions which exist in Northern Ireland.
In the five years of its existence, the Anglo-Irish Agreement has failed to grapple with the problem. However, the problem goes back much further. Is there anyone in this House who would deny that however the situation in the Middle East may develop, however long it may continue, however long a possible war may last and whatever the number of casualties that that war may bring about, at the end of that war we shall still have the problem of Northern Ireland? As Churchill said at the end of the First World War, after cataclysmic changes had taken place throughout the world the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and South Tyrone rose again. Therefore, I believe that this House should take a greater interest in discovering whether anything can be done in relation to the Irish problem.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement has not achieved any success. It must be looked at again. If any Act of Parliament which was designed to achieve a particular aim in relation to Ireland is seen to have been an abject failure let us recognise that fact. In the field of extradition, which was one of the objectives of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, what has been achieved? There has been the Father Ryan affair. Week after week and month after month Irish courts say that they cannot extradite people who have been found guilty of the most horrendous crimes and release them on the grounds that the offences were political offences and it is a constitutional imperative to comply with Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution. Those people are freely roaming the streets of the Republic of Ireland, much to the anger and distress not only of the Unionist Protestant population but of people like myself who are opposed to murder. That is one reason why the Anglo-Irish Agreement has not been a success.
We were also told that the agreement would bring about devolved government and create political structures in which the Protestant and Catholic communities could get together in some form of executive. We have now been told—no later than last week—that that is no longer attainable. The SDLP and the Irish Government have said that they do not want a devolved government. They want to create some other structure which will involve the Unionist Party. So there are two objectives of the Anglo-Irish Agreement which are not attainable.
Last week I was considering whether to take part in this debate and I wondered what the justification would be for doing so. Then I heard on the radio that four men had been murdered in a very brutal way when they were on a duck hunting expedition. That is my justification for taking part in this debate—that and all the other murders that have taken place. The IRA has sunk to depths of depravity that I as a Catholic and an Irishman cannot begin fully to understand or imagine. How can anyone take an innocent man, strap or tie him into a car, load it with explosive and tell him to drive into an army post and 219 kill five young British soldiers? Yet those are people who are supposed to have been born into the same community as I was.
Again, I watched the funeral of the late Cardinal O'Fiaich. I saw Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, two representatives of Sinn Fein, taking communion. They were taking communion at that funeral. It made me sick to the heart to see it because those people proclaim that they are of the same faith as I am. I should find it very difficult to kneel down at the same altar, even in a symbolic way to associate with people who have been so instrumental in supporting and condoning the terrible acts of murder which have taken place in Ireland.
Noble Lords were told that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would lead to better co-operation between the Government of the Republic and the Government in Britain. Last week the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced that in this Parliament he would promulgate emergency provisions to take account of happenings in Northern Ireland. His co-chairman, Mr. Gerry Collins, immediately went on radio and television in the Republic of Ireland to say that he would not accept any further emergency legislation. That can do nothing but give support and succour to the people who are committing acts of violence.
Yet the Anglo-Irish Agreement was alleged to mean that the British and the Irish governments would have meetings in silence and that they would not use megaphone diplomacy. That is exactly what is happening at the moment.
A ray of hope came from Ireland last week in the appointment of Bishop Cahal Daly to be Primate of All Ireland. I believe that that is the best Catholic ecclesiastical appointment that I have seen in my lifetime. I regard Cahal Daly as one of the great ecclesiastical figures of this century. My only regret is that he was not made Primate of All Ireland 15 or 20 years ago. I believe that he is a man of great intellect and compassion. He is a man opposed to every action of the IRA and has made himself very unpopular in some circles by saying so.
I am no expert in ecclesiastical matters, much less in canon law, but the other morning on radio I heard Bishop Cahal Daly speak on the question of his appointment. He said that there was only a small number of people in Ireland—Catholics—supporting the IRA. I am not too sure that he is correct. I should like to know just how many people of the Catholic faith and community support the horrendous murder campaign that the IRA has been commissioning over the past 20 years. But if there is only a small number —I sincerely hope that it is a small number—as a humble Catholic I urge the Primate of All Ireland to consider excommunication.
Many people have said—they may be right—that it would not change anything. I believe that it would change the situation. I believe that if the Catholic Church under its new Primate were to take the view that those people have committed acts which are not 220 only anti-Catholic but anti-Christian and anti-human and have therefore debarred themselves from any solace that the Catholic Church can give, and excommunicated them if they are a small number, then when the next murders take place (and we can be assured that murders will take place) the Catholic Church can say that they are not its members. It can say that they cannot attend and are not welcome at any of its services.
As at present constituted, the IRA is a disgrace to the island of Ireland, a disgrace to Christianity and to humanity. The Catholic Church under its new Primate should have absolutely no hesitation in saying so.
I am glad, although not in any personal sense, that there is such a large audience in your Lordships' House to hear me speak today. Normally when the affairs of Ireland are discussed it is late in the evening in a very small House. That is unfair to the problems and the people of Ireland.
Last week, as has already been commented upon, there was the election of a woman, Mary Robinson, as President of Ireland. I was delighted to see that big breakaway from the civil war attitudes that have existed in Ireland for so many years. I know Mary Robinson. She is a woman of great intellect. She will be concerned. I have no hesitation in predicting that there will be a new type of presidency in the island of Ireland. She was a member of the Labour Party. A few days after the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed she resigned from the Labour Party with the very same objections that I had; namely, on the grounds that the agreement was too one-sided, gave too much to the SDLP, to Nationalists and the Irish Government and was absolutely nothing but betrayal to the majority community in Northern Ireland. She resigned on that issue.
Mr. Gow, the MP, also resigned on the same issue. So it is not only a concern for Unionists, Right-wingers, Left-wingers or Protestants. People who understand Ireland objected to the conditions of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I hope that, limited as the new presidential powers in Ireland may be, Mary Robinson, who has such an understanding of the Northern Ireland problem, will find it easier to talk to the Unionist population and that the Unionist population will find it easier to talk to a President of Ireland who understands its problems.
The malaise has existed in Ireland for the past 20 years. The present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Brooke, began an initiative earlier this year, in January. He was well intentioned and sincere. He thought that he could bring the warring communities together to create some form of political structure which would be in the interests of all the people in Northern Ireland. He has been unsuccessful. I do not blame him for being unsuccessful. I am aware of the 700 years of frustration and suspicion which have led to the attitudes in Northern Ireland today. But I make an appeal to him: do not try to maintain the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the hope that it will bring success five years or 10 years in the future.
221 I know that there are five former Secretaries of State now in your Lordships' House. Anyone who speaks to them privately will hear them concede that the present political arrangements under the Anglo-Irish Agreement will not bring peace to Northern Ireland. I know that many people will meet me in the corridor and say, "What would you do?" That is a question which does not have an easy answer. I think that I would tell the Irish Government that they must deliver on extradition. They must ensure that murderers who are identified in the Republic of Ireland are handed over when they have committed such atrocious crimes. In itself, that would do a lot to relieve the tensions and suspicions that exist within the community in Northern Ireland.
We have direct rule at the moment. It is not the best way to govern Northern Ireland but to me it is the only acceptable way. The Unionists in Northern Ireland and the minority community will accept direct rule, with all its imperfections, rather than try to get together in a way that would begin to take the first tentative steps towards reconciling the communities.
I end on the note on which I began. There are many problems in Europe that certainly seek the attention of this House and every other democratic forum, but in the process of looking into those problems of Europe let us not forget that long problem vis-á-vis the relations between this country and Ireland.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Baroness Dunn
My Lords, it is a great privilege for me to become a Member of your Lordships' House and to speak today. My subject will of course be my home town, Hong Kong, to which reference was made in the gracious Speech and by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, in his opening statement. First of all I should like to say how much I have appreciated the courtesy and attention I have received from Members of your Lordships' House on the many visits on behalf of Hong Kong that I have paid over many years. I hope that I myself and Hong Kong can count on your continuing attention over the coming years.
We are now nearly half way between the initialling of the Joint Declaration in 1984 and the transfer of sovereignty to China in 1997. Viewed against the long span of history, I am sure that the century and a half of British administration of Hong Kong will come to be seen as a brief interlude between a Chinese past and a Chinese future. The humiliation visited upon China by those who took Hong Kong in 1841 as a safe haven for the opium and tea trades still loomed large in the minds of China's leaders when negotiations began in 1982 about Hong Kong's future. But whatever one's view of the circumstances in which the link with Britain was forged, Britain can be proud of the legacy it will leave behind.
Colonialism is an outdated concept, but the quality, discipline, and decency of those who devoted their lives to administering British dependent territories deserve recognition, and I am glad of the opportunity to give it today. Hong Kong has been particularly well served by successive governors, notably the noble Lord, Lord MacLehose. I know how closely the 222 present governor, Sir David Wilson, keeps the Government informed and how strongly he represents Hong Kong interests.
The years of British administration have given Hong Kong a firm respect for the rule of law; for a system of justice under which all are equal before an independent judiciary; for freedoms of speech, of association, of travel and of ideas. It has created a society that combines opportunities for individual wealth creation with compassion and concern for those who cannot fend for themselves, and which welcomes all who can contribute, regardless of race, colour or creed.
The fusion of these values with the energy, enterprise, determination and work ethic of the people of Hong Kong has produced a unique community of which I speak with pride. It is now up to us, the people of Hong Kong, to demonstrate that we are capable of generating from within our own community the same measure of discipline and accountability of the administration that Britain has exercised on our behalf for so long. We shall be taking a major step in this direction next year with the first direct elections to the Legislative Council. The timetable for building up our representative institutions to the point where they can take Hong Kong seamlessly through 1997, as provided in the Basic Law, is formidably tight, but succeed we must.
The greatest task ahead is developing a relationship of mutual respect and trust with China. Hong Kong's future is inextricably linked with China. For Hong Kong, a working relationship with China is not, and cannot be, a matter for diplomatic fine tuning; it is the only way to bring to reality the bold concept of "one country, two systems". Hong Kong people do not lack courage or self-confidence; their achievements in the last 40 years prove that. Nor do they lack faith in their own ability to meet the challenges of 1997. But they are required to take part in a constitutional, political and social experiment that is without precedent.
The agreement that brought this experiment about was negotiated by Britain and China and approved by this Parliament, without the formal representation of the people of Hong Kong when their fate was determined. They are asked to believe that because of the provisions of the Joint Declaration and the Basic Law the expected course of their lives will not be subject to fundamental change, despite the essentially different political philosophy that prevails in China. That is bound to cause apprehensions—and they will not be dispelled by exhortations that people must have faith and be confident of their future. Indeed for Hong Kong people it is not easy to be tolerant of such exhortations when they come from those who share none of the personal risks.
My Lords, I make these points because if there are signs of anxiety and vulnerability in the last years of British rule, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will show understanding. The transition to Chinese rule will inevitably be difficult at times, perhaps even turbulent, and will require wisdom and sensitivity not 223 just in Hong Kong but also in London and Beijing. I am convinced that parliamentary interest can help during these years.
There is a tendency for Parliament to become involved only when there is a crisis in Hong Kong, and meanwhile to hope that we shall make it to the finishing line without causing too much bother. I know that Parliament has spent more time on Hong Kong in these last years than ever before, and we are grateful for your efforts, for instance, over the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Bill. But in these years of transition it is in all our interests for Parliament to devote time and attention to Hong Kong to ensure that the influence that Parliament is capable of exercising has its effect.
A little time and attention spent by this House on Hong Kong and by Britain's opinion formers can do much to bring about a successful transition. Is Parliament satisfied with the progress of the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group? Is enough being done to help Hong Kong establish a healthy relationship with China? Parliament's interest in such matters would alleviate suspicions in Hong Kong that British commitment is diminishing as we approach 1997, and that Hong Kong's needs take second place to Sino-British relations.
Looking further ahead, Britain's industrial leaders should look on the years beyond 1997 as years of opportunity for trade with Hong Kong and with China. The vision of American and Japanese investors and businessmen is not distorted by thoughts of the end of Empire. Their judgment of Hong Kong's trading prospects is measured on the basis of economic strength and relative advantage, regardless of the change of flag.
The most obvious symbols of Hong Kong's success are the gleaming skyscrapers, the expensive cars and the designer shops. But for me there are more telling, more enduring and more worthy symbols of that success. For every Hong Kong multi-millionaire, there are tens of thousands of ordinary people who started with nothing, but who have created prosperity for themselves and their families and provided employment for many more. For every spectacular story of overnight success, there are thousands of people who have had to pick themselves up from the floor and start all over again when bad luck or over-enthusiasm laid them low.
The same qualities of pragmatism, resilience and sense of life's purpose are bound to keep Hong Kong in the fore as one of the most dynamic economies in the world. Britain has cause to be proud, not just of the legacy it leaves behind, but also of the opportunities that Hong Kong will provide for China, for Asia and for Britain, too, long after 1997 has come and gone.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, will have been aware how many of your Lordships were eagerly looking forward to her speech. I am very fortunate that it falls to me to tell her on 224 behalf, I think, of the whole House that her speech was something that we shall never forget. It was an example of courage from a small country against a very big shadow. That is the kind of example that we all need, because there are shadows everywhere. But let us just think what bravery is needed in Hong Kong to stand up to the great power of China next door. We hope very much that we shall hear her many times in the future.
The 12 members of the European Community are about to begin very difficult negotiations and I cannot help wondering whether they will pay enough attention to the end of the cold war. That was what the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, was talking about. Power is being redistributed right across Europe and beyond at a startling rate.
When the Delors plan was put upon the table there was nobody in Europe, not one person, who foresaw the collapse of communism, the reunification of Germany and all those countries in Eastern Europe wanting to have an association with the Community. I thought: surely that enormous revolution demands a pause in the negotiations. But not at all. We are told that we must hurry up and get on with stages two and three.
What is the reason for the hurry? It is that there is no time to lose to lock Germany into some kind of federated Europe. That excuse is ominous. It means that we should take a very careful look at the new factors which are affecting the relations not only between the members of the Community, but also between the Community and all these other countries which are now in line for membership or association. The door to the single market must be seen to be open and not on conditions which require anything so comprehensive as the Delors plan.
Therefore, in very broad terms it seems to me that the choice before us lies between centralisation in some kind of super-state, confined, of course, to the 12, and association and co-operation between a greater number of nations who are as much part of Europe as we are ourselves.
The British are bound to take a somewhat isolated position. We are an island. By sailing the seas we have acquired a sense of the world as a whole. The end of the cold war is a form of world liberation. It frees many countries to act differently, perhaps more aggressively, in their foreign relations than they could have done previously.
When a crisis arises it is no longer axiomatic that the United States will be on one side and the USSR will be on the other side. An illustration of the problem under the new conditions is, of course, the crisis in the Gulf. It looks very much as though the major problems ahead of us will be global and not continental. We have to rely more on, and put more hopes into, the United Nations.
There is a very good reason why we should hesitate to hand our foreign policy to a European government. We have to remember that all governments are selfish and understandably so. They do not, and they will not, put the interests of another country in front of the 225 interests of their own electors. Therefore one asks: is it reasonable to count on the disappearance of this ingrained selfishness? Yet a super-state in Europe would be unworkable if it could not rely on a common standard of good international behaviour. That standard does not exist today. In time, could it be developed?
There was something like it in the Middle Ages when the Catholic Church laid down the rules for all Christendom. The Reformation put an end to that. There followed the rise of the nation states held together not by religion but by patriotism. Since then patriotism has been the lifeblood of every great nation in Europe. France and Germany have made attempts to unite Europe by force of arms. Ironically a Frenchman is today trying to do by diplomacy exactly what Napoleon failed to achieve by war.
Who stopped those Imperial advances? We did, my Lords. And why did we stop them? It was because we saw very clearly that our own independence was doomed if one nation dominated the continent.
It is difficult but important to be clear about the origin and strength of the instinct that life is better in a country in control of its economic and social affairs. This conviction—or perhaps the opposite—is not the sum of individual opinions canvassed on a particular issue such as whether there should be a common currency in the place of sterling. The conviction resides in a collective consciousness which has grown up like a plant out of the successes and failures of our history.
I know well that distinguished noble Lords such as those who sit on the Select Committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Aldington—I have not yet read its report—can make a rational argument for the subordination of our economic and financial policies to European institutions. Even I could do that. However, the best intellectual plan will not work if it conflicts with the deepest instincts of the people. Therefore, one must ask how strong those instincts are in 1990. My pro-Brussels friends tell me that the young feel hardly a twinge of the old-fashioned patriotism. They say that the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain meant little or nothing to the young. I wonder whether that really is a sign that they have lost their patriotism.
Then consider this: no other member of the Community can celebrate a victory comparable to the Battle of Britain. On the contrary, their experience during the last war may have persuaded them to fall for a vision of a superstate. They would not be the first to rush into marriage without contemplating the dangers and difficulties of a joint account. Britain's relations with Europe are not precipitate like that. We should expect that when the wedding is over our partners in Europe will continue to put the interests of their people before the interests of the Community. Chancellor Kohl and President Mitterrand said that the votes of their farmers were more important than the expansion of world trade. They will continue to talk like that.
226 What about the judgments of the European Court? They are often disregarded especially when they conflict with the interests of a Latin member of the Community. What about ourselves? Is the Prime Minister right or wrong to tell us that Parliament would refuse to hand over key domestic issues to a majority-voting council in Europe? The Prime Minister knows a good deal more about another place than do some of us in this House. I am not saying that a superstate could not manage our monetary affairs better than Her Majesty's Treasury—I expect that it could. I merely ask whether the British people, especially the working people, will give it the power to do so.
We all want the prosperity of Europe from the Urals to the Atlantic. General de Gaulle had that vision and recommended that we should try to achieve it through an association of nation states. The success of NATO shows that that is not impossible. People say that perhaps NATO worked only because of the fear of Soviet aggression. That threat has gone but in its place there is the fear of German economic power.
However great that power may become, will not your Lordships agree that we are likely to be able to live more comfortably with it as a reliable ally than as a treaty-bound satellite? I use the word "satellite" with care because satellite we should be if Europe adopted a single currency. The quantity of that currency would have to be controlled by a single central hank. That central bank, however the board were appointed, would have to be managed by the Germans or they would not support it. That is the crux that is coming.
Some of my noble friends say that a German-controlled currency and bank are not only inevitable but alluring. I can see that if the overriding object in life is material wealth a merger of our economy with those of Europe makes sense. But suppose life has other objects such as the integrity of the country of our ancestors, loyalty to the place from which we come, and a guarantee of the freedom to govern ourselves? If that should be so, surely we must strive for a compromise in Europe based on the single market —we all want that—but not going as far as to corrupt or destroy the best instincts of a great people.
I wish that the major political parties could agree on the main objectives to be pursued in the forthcoming negotiations. Our negotiators, whoever they are, will not obtain the best deal for Britain unless they are supported by a manifest consensus at home. This is a great issue; it is much greater than party politics.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, I apologise for the fact that domestic responsibilities which I am finding difficult to devolve may make it impossible for me to stay until the end of the debate. I shall certainly stay as late as I can. I wish to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, on her most eloquent and moving speech. Last week the Commonwealth Press Union, an organisation on whose committee I serve, held a conference in Hong Kong. Its members went there with the idea that the press throughout the 227 Commonwealth should have a better idea of the anxieties and hopes of Hong Kong. I am sure that they returned home fortified by what they learnt.
I have found this to be the most moving debate that I have heard for 20 years. I have heard the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, talk about the plight of the Poles, the right reverend Prelate talk about the problems of the just war and the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, describe the terrible situation in Ireland. Their comments will give me great cause for thought and feeling during the next few days.
I was not so moved by the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and I shall not attempt to reply to him. My recollection, which may be faulty, is that when 40 years ago he and I attended the first meeting of the Council of Europe he was a stronger European than he is today.
§ Viscount Eccles
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. In those days, I thought that we could run the show. I do not believe that we can do that now.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, that is exactly the insular prejudice which distressed me in the noble Viscount's speech this evening.
For a few weeks within the past year or so, we seemed to be living, like Candide's tutor, in the best of all possible worlds. In the Eastern bloc, nation after nation was turning out its cruel communist government and proclaiming its freedom while Mr. Gorbachev looked on benevolently and continued his historic transformation of the Soviet Union into something resembling a democracy. I was rather surprised that, when my noble friend mentioned the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, there was not a single cheer or murmur from the other side of the House, especially in view of the generosity which Mrs. Thatcher has shown to Mr. Gorbachev.
The right wings of the parties throughout Europe and the right-wingers in the parties yet to be formed were as naive about the consequences of abandoning communism as were left-wingers about its advent 70 years before. Let the East European countries convert themselves into free enterprise capitalist economies, they thought, and political freedom and commerce would soon flourish, as in the United States and Western Germany. Our own Prime Minister seems to have regarded herself, and indeed to have been regarded by some people in those countries, as a major inspirer of the unexpected miracle.
Now we see that the transitional period will be slow, painful and dangerous. Even those of us who were pessimistic about the state of communist countries—and I am thinking particularly of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—did not appreciate to what depths the political corruption had sunk, to what extent the economies had decayed and to what extent the environment had been polluted. Some parts were less terrible than others but everywhere in central Europe and the East matters were becoming worse and not better.
I do not believe that any of us realised how complex 228 is our own system and how difficult it is to introduce it when there is no professional corps available to procure the materials, to bring the finished goods to market and when there are no experienced people to create the market itself.
Eastern Germany is more prosperous and sophisticated than its neighbours. However, even in union with affluent and efficient Western Germany, it is embarking upon a long and arduous path. I read a report the other day of a committee of West German businessmen. In advising which enterprises were ready for privatisation, one of their basic difficulties was to assess the potential value of a company which, under a command economy, has not kept a conventional record of its costs and sales.
However, it is not only the economics which give cause for anxiety. Among many of the liberated peoples, there is a moral vacuum. They have nothing to replace the conditioned social morality which was part of the discredited communist system and which has perished with it. There seems to be a reluctance even to help the police—once the dangerous henchmen of an oppressive regime—to discourage and detect crime.
Even more dangerous is the manifestation of ethnic and religious hatreds which the old authorities suppressed along with all other discontents. The anti-Semites raise their heads and voices again, and next they may raise their weapons. Every day we tremble for Mr. Gorbachev struggling with his economic reforms against those who are crying for full speed ahead and those who are telling him to hang back.
What is to be feared is not so much a return to the bad old days as a solidly destructive, simplistic neo-liberalism. Looming over that is the danger of the Soviet Union being fragmented by the demands for total independence of some of its constituent states. There is better news today of the new effort by Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Yeltsin to work out a new agreement.
Our burden in the West has changed completely from the one we have carried so long and so well of physically and morally containing communism. We must help the central and eastern part of our continent to live at peace with itself, to preserve its new-found internal and external freedoms while it patiently builds decent economies and provides good social welfare. It must learn from all of us in the Community that not everything publicly owned is bad—for example, there is a place for publicly owned utilities—and not every collective is dangerous—for example, there is a place in good democracies for a trade union movement.
Now, as the Foreign Secretary and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, have reminded us in the speeches on the Address, we must take a fresh look at our institutions in Europe and see what changes are needed. It seems to me that the necessary adaptations needed are almost revolutionary and can be found only by patient examination, by experiment and by 229 evolution. There are no blueprints available. There are great problems which we must approach humbly but with courage.
It is to be hoped that we shall start that process with the meting in a few days' time at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe—the CSCE as it is usually called. That summit, which is to be attended by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, will take place in the hopeful light of the signing of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, a treaty which will procure the removal of an enormous quantity of Soviet heavy weapons and which provides for the exchange of information and for inspection.
However, the CSCE will go on to strengthen the basic principles of Helsinki—the Helsinki Final Act; that is, the strengthening of democracy and the rule of law through a charter of rights and the creation of a centre for the prevention of conflict and possibly a voluntary conciliation mechanism throughout Europe. I believe that that is a suggestion from the British Government.
As the noble Earl said, the CSCE is at last to have its own permanent secretariat. The presence there of the old Warsaw Pact nations alongside the Soviet Union, the United States and Canada has led many of us to have high hopes that the CSCE can become a great and vital institution for European security. However, we still do not know how that will develop.
The new Europe which must be created on the basis of a larger Germany and a weakened and possibly fragmented Soviet Union will be led largely by the Western Europe of the European Community. We should thank God that the revolution in Central and Eastern Europe happened after the European Community had shed its sclerosis and now that it has found a new dynamism. It is to the Community that the Central and Eastern European countries are now looking. Of course, the time that they will have the developed economies and steady democracies which will qualify them for full membership is fairly distant. However, we should promise them closer and closer association and also bring them under the wider umbrella of the Council of Europe. Any other plans for opening wide the Community and it going back to a free trade area would be of very little use in the present situation and nobody would listen to that.
In the Community we must reach a deeper stage of integration impelled by the Single European Act. The Community's institutional structure also may need strengthening if it is to bear the weight of resolving issues created by the development of the great single market. The Prime Minister may be right in her apprehension that the Community may regulate where nations have deregulated. But that regulation is inevitable. The social dimension of the Community will be pushed ahead. That is one reason—though only one—why some of my friends have at last come on board the European train.
In the face of great historical developments this is no time for turning our backs on economic and monetary union. We must press on with it. The loss of sovereignty is largely nominal. There have been many 230 exaggerations of the degree of federalism that it will entail. That is all rhetoric and propaganda. The resistance is based less on reason than on pride and prejudice. It is a complex problem and needs much technical exploration and explanation. I hope we shall obtain some of that from our own committee when we debate the subject shortly.
There remains one other great institution with an uncertain future; that is NATO. The North Atlantic Assembly of parliamentarians is to hold its six monthly plenary in London this month. That is still too soon for anyone to see clearly where NATO is going and where it should be going. We must beware of the military and industrial lobbyists who want to keep their salaries and their profits. We must still keep in the forefront of our mind the Harmel objectives: sufficient military strength to prevent war, and a willingness to explore political solutions.
All our hopes for the future are being explored as we deal with the remote conflict in the Gulf. That belongs to another world. Yet the two worlds could collide and cause more turmoil. I shall not go into the problems of the Gulf, except to suggest that the Harmel principles now have an out-of-area validity.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Lord Haden-Guest
My Lords, before I proceed further perhaps I may express my appreciation for the friendly and courteous reception I received as a new Member of your Lordships' House and for the kind remarks made by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and other noble Lords during the present debate.
If I presume to speak on foreign affairs—as I do with some trepidation—it is because I grew up in and absorbed the atmosphere of a family deeply concerned with international and domestic politics. My father, a Fabian in the company of H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw at the beginning of the century, entered politics in the 'twenties in another place. As more than a few noble Lords will recall, some 40 years ago he continued his career of public service in your Lordships' House.
My own experience of the international scene includes 26 years with the secretariat of the United Nations in New York. Perhaps it was rather like seeing the world stage from a fauteuil de luxe, but it had its points. It is difficult, as your Lordships know, to deal with such a wide expanse as foreign affairs, especially when so many matters have already been covered in the debate by most able and respected figures, as has been the case today. But there is nevertheless an advantage to be found from that. It forcedly sets decent limits to the length of the debate. Having said that, there are some points I should like to make, but I should like first, if I may, to put the events with which we are now dealing into perspective.
In the winter of last year your Lordships were concerned with the vast changes which had already occurred and were still occurring in the Soviet Union and certain countries of the Warsaw Pact and also the expected emergence of a single Germany. How long ago that seems today. As the months went by it became clear to all that these changes, far from 231 slowing down, were continuing at a quite extraordin-ary pace. Governments, jolted by events, were prompted with unaccustomed speed to rethink their policies and commitments and, as necessary, make readjustments of all kinds to these new facts of life.
As the year ends there is much to consider. Though the cold war, at least in its old form, appears to have run its course, the possibility of sudden spasms of the sort associated with rigor mortis cannot be ruled out. In place of the two super powers of cold war days we find instead two great countries now somewhat reduced, each still immensely powerful in a military sense, but for different reasons with diminishing authority in relative terms in a world of newly emerging power blocs.
Her Majesty's Government are confronting those vital questions which face all governments in this state of flux and are, as indicated in the gracious Speech, now dealing with some of them. In particular they have announced their policy of adapting NATO strategy to reflect the welcome changes in Europe.
As regards the European Community, the Government have announced steps to work with our Community partners on various matters. That must be welcomed. Of course the fuller picture is not likely to emerge until a policy evolves in the course of the probably long and no doubt protracted debate. However, it is reassuring to see that, despite the new emphasis on ties with Europe—which must come— the Government, in the words of the gracious Speech,will continue to play a full part in the Commonwealth".—[Official Report, 7/11/90; col. 3.]Regarding the larger world scene, Her Majesty's Government will continue to uphold the purposes and principles of the charter. In connection with the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq they have undertaken to work for the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions. It is of particular importance in that troubled part of the world that Her Majesty's Government have also undertaken to continue to work for long-term peace in the Middle East, including a settlement of the Palestinian problem. That was an undertaking not given in last year's gracious Speech and is one to be warmly supported now.
As noble Lords will be aware, the United Nations has not always received the unequivocal support of its member states. Indeed, for much of its existence the cold war and other related factors served to inhibit its effectiveness. More recently, as the thaw in relations between East and West continues, the organisation has achieved much.
In the present confrontation between the newly formed Alliance and Iraq, there is no doubt that the Security Council plays the principal role—one of patience, caution and supple strength. In the first of its resolutions on the question, adopted on 2nd August, the Security Council in operative paragraph 3 called upon Iraq and Kuwait to begin immediately intensive negotiations for the resolution of their differences. It supported all efforts in that regard and especially those of the League of Arab states. That paragraph 232 was subsequently continued in force by other, later resolutions which themselves imposed sanctions that are exceptionally tough.
It is important to stress now, in the face of mounting pressure from many quarters for a military solution, that this paragraph, together with the rest of those resolutions, is in force today. Representing, as it does, the agreed policy and the will and wisdom of all the permanent members of the Security Council, it remains the single hope both for the avoidance of a grisly war, with consequences which no one can foresee, and the achievement of a peaceful settlement in the Gulf. Does it not continue to deserve the world's support?
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lord Pym
My Lords, I feel fortunate that the privilege of being the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, on his maiden speech falls to me. It was an authoritative speech, based on a lifetime of experience in international affairs. I am certain that I speak for everyone in the House when I say how much we look forward to his future contributions. Following the admirable maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, the House has today enjoyed two maiden speeches of exceptional quality.
I should like to say also how much I appreciated the way in which this debate was opened by my noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. I thought that the latter made a most valuable contribution to the unity of our Parliament and the unity of our nation in handling the difficult matter of events in the Gulf, which I shall come to later.
As the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, said, we are holding this debate at a time when really huge changes are taking place in the world; so much so that in my view it is no exaggeration to say that the world is at a turning point—a rare event in history. At a fundamental level, the accelerating development of technology has so shrunk the world that many of the issues confronting mankind today are no longer capable of resolution by one nation or even a group of nations. They can be tackled only on a global basis.
This is a new environment, a new fact of life, with implications for the sovereignty of every nation and with implications for our international institutions. All our existing international institutions have served us, and still serve us, very well. They have done so since they were set up after World War II, but I believe that they are inadequate now for the tasks that they face. The rapid acceleration of international business of all kinds means that the existing institutions are required to carry a load which is far heavier than that for which they were designed. I should like to see a lot more thought given to that.
We know from our own history how important are our institutions. The same applies to the world's present needs. These generalisations are relevant to the two absolutely major world events we have witnessed since our debate a year ago, about which I wish to speak—the revolutions in Europe and the 233 Iraqi aggression in the Gulf. Both will have far-reaching effects. On the first event, the point is that, in the end, even the Iron Curtain and all that went with it could not stem the tide of interdependence. It is inexorable. The Soviet empire was bound to collapse at some time—only the timing was in question. Thanks to Mr. Gorbachev, it happened a year ago —one of the most courageous political decisions of this century and worthy of the Nobel peace prize twice over. As a result, we have the opportunity now to rebuild Europe once again.
Already the peace treaty that should have been signed in 1946, but was not, has been signed in Moscow. The foundation stone for rebuilding is in place, but what a colossal task faces the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, spoke of Poland. The same could be said, in different terms, of all those countries. On the political side, the kind of democratic institutions and practices that we in Western Europe take for granted are foreign to them. They leapt free from communism into a vacuum. It will take those countries a great deal of time, skill and patience to fashion their own democratic systems from scratch.
To add to their difficulties, they have deep-seated ethnic problems, already clearly revealed in Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. They are long-standing problems, now exacerbated by the fact that after being held in a straitjacket for 50 years it is very natural for a strong sense of nationalism to sway people's emotions. Somehow we have to support their fragile democracies and help them to bring their conflicting interests into some degree of harmony. At present, the machinery for that does not exist.
On the economic side, those countries must revise their economies from scratch and fit them into the real world. They have little or no knowledge or experience of the market economy. They have no capitalists and they are burdened with immense debts. However bright their long-term prospects may seem, their near-term prospect is bleak indeed. All that presents the Western world with a major challenge and in my view Western leaders have come nowhere near to matching up to it yet. I say that notwithstanding what my noble friend on the Front Bench said in opening the debate. To quote the image taken by Sir Julian Bullard in an address he gave to the Atlantic Treaty Association last week:There are more carts stuck in the mud in Central and Eastern Europe than there are tractors in the West to pull them out".If those peoples are not to become too down-hearted or unstable, and if they are to be pulled out of the mud, a great deal of help and support is required.
The whole financial, industrial and business world needs to be involved and governments need to provide the leadership. The West Germans are doing a great deal, not only in East Germany but also in Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere. The collapse of the Berlin Wall has meant that Germany is now closer to the East and sees rich opportunities in that sub-continent.
234 There is a real danger that Europe could again become unbalanced. That can be prevented in two ways: first, by creating more co-ordination and integration in Western Europe, including all countries inside and outside the European Community, leading to a pattern that encompasses the whole of Europe. What matters is the European context into which a united Germany fits, and that can ensure that a balance is maintained. Secondly, the rest of us must invest more in Eastern Europe and not leave most of it to the Germans, which is what is now happening.
A strong international structure is needed which will watch developments, nurture the emerging democracies, assess the needs of these countries and collectively organise investment, management training and whatever they need. I believe that the CSCE can provide that structure and I was delighted to hear what my noble friend Lord Caithness said on this matter—that a permanent headquarters is to be set up and that there is to be a programme of work and regular meetings. I believe that that is the right way ahead. In my view, failure to appreciate fully and to react to the magnitude of the problems facing the eastern half of our continent would be a major strategic mistake.
Turning to the Gulf, the whole world will be affected by this event and its consequences. For a start, there is the potential conflict between the Christian West and the Moslem East, the smoulderings of which are already evident. Whatever else happens, the last thing we want is a re-run of the Crusades. Within the Arab world, divisions are more acute than ever and it is difficult to see how the situation will improve. Israel could become involved in various ways, and that would be a very complicating factor.
However, underlying the whole situation is the opportunity to start a new chapter in world affairs, made possible by the revolutions in Europe. Those revolutions have closed the intellectual divide and suddenly virtually all of us find ourselves on the same side. It is the Gulf crisis, hideous though it is, that has revealed this truth in such a bright light. It is revealed by the extraordinarily wide degree of international agreement on action to undo Saddam Hussein's aggression. The extent of that agreement is new and obviously very significant. Virtually the whole world is saying that military aggression cannot and will not be allowed to succeed. The challenge to statesmanship today is to build on this wholly new accord for the benefit of all mankind. With our allies we have been striving for 45 years to create just such an opportunity and, thanks to the resolution of NATO, we have finally achieved it. So we are at a turning point.
In weighing up the various ways of dealing with Saddam Hussein in the coming months, in my view the most important factor is the maintenance of the international accord already achieved. In this connection we should pay tribute to the work of Mr. James Baker. Kuwait is going to be regained in the end one way or the other. The key to achieving that by peaceful means is the solidarity of the international community. There are those who think that this 235 solidarity is more vulnerable if military action is delayed. But I believe the opposite. Hostilities will put it under extreme strain. There are those who seem, or sound, enthusiastic for war, or at any rate regard it as so likely that they give the impression of favouring it. I am not one of them. War in the Gulf is the last resort. It may have to happen. Aggressors do not usually volunteer to retreat. But there is a very widespread desire held to end this conflict without war, including notably by our principal Arab allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria.
In our September debate I stressed the need for the strict and rigid application of sanctions and for patience while those sanctions and diplomatic pressures take effect. I believe that that is still the right approach today. I wish that individuals representing nobody but themselves would stop going to Baghdad. I do not know, and I suspect that none of your Lordships knows, the military appreciation except possibly those who were earlier chiefs of the defence staff. Reports in the press are confused on this matter, sometimes saying that the military would prefer early action and sometimes the opposite. Obviously the military appreciation is a crucial factor, but in the particular and peculiar circumstances in the Gulf today other considerations are no less weighty. We must do everything possible to prevent conflagration, with all its horrendous consequences. If in the end it has to be faced, then of course we shall face it.
In conclusion, I believe that the world is at the beginning of a very profound change in its thinking. For four centuries since the Renaissance we have had a particular attitude towards our planet. Its secrets were discoverable and capable of being harnessed by mankind for its own benefit. Our century has seen the apotheosis of that approach at Ypres, Hiroshima, Auschwitz and in the rain forests of the Amazon. In addition, but in a less major way although still horrendous, today we have in Kuwait the brutality to the Kuwaitis and the cruelty to hostages and refugees.
These and many other equally awful events contributed to the turning of the tide. There is a change now. At last we have been driven to realise that we are not quite as clever as we thought. The earth's resources are finite and there is a limit to growth. We are going to have to learn new methods and take new attitudes. We are at a turning point. In my view it is the new level of accord achieved by the United Nations which points the way ahead clearly. If we adhere to that and build on it, we can be much more optimistic for a better world order and for peace in the future.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I feel that the House will remember for some time the two remarkable maiden speeches that we have been pleased to listen to today. Both the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, and the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, lived up to their reputations, as reflected in their speeches. For some time I have been interested in Hong Kong in the other place as well as in your Lordships' House.
236 A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of being in Hong Kong. I met the Governor and the council. We had very interesting talks. They charged me with a responsibility which I am now going to fulfil. It is to convey to Lydia their very best wishes. They even knew that the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, was going to make her maiden speech today. I say to her that her good friends in Hong Kong are proud of what she has achieved and, like me, know that it was well worth creating her a Peer of the Realm to sit in this House.
I hope that the House will take full cognisance of the speech we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. It was very moving and realistic. We should be absolutely uncouth if we ignored it. It is about time that our Government and Opposition told those in America who supply large sums of money to the IRA that they are killers and murderers. Is that not so? That is what we must have the courage to say. Such people should not shield behind religion and say that they are good Roman Catholics. They send money to the IRA to butcher Protestants. That is an appalling attitude of mind. I also believe that the Church of England, the Methodists and the Baptists have not said this loudly enough. Perhaps they are a little scared. I do not know. But it is about time that they and the politicians began to make this clear.
When I served in the other place the proposition was put that all parties in Ireland should have 30 to 40 years to get together to form a new country under a new form of democracy. They had to do away with killing. I believe that was a reasonable proposition. I hope that Her Majesty's Opposition and the Government will continue with it with the co-operation of the sensible and reasonable people who exist in what is called Northern Ireland and Eire.
I have very recently visited Australia. There I was privileged to have talks with the Prime Minister, Mr. Bob Hawke, and with Mr. Gareth Evans, the Foreign Secretary. I was deeply and emotionally moved by their expressions of absolute loyalty to our country over the situation in the Gulf. The Australians had a brilliant history in the First World War and also a magnificent one in the second. They are in no way losing the spark of their idealism in being faithful and loyal to the United Kingdom.
Some time ago I was privileged to open a debate in this House on Cambodia. Speeches were made by people who had lived in Cambodia and who realised that since 1941 there had been no peace in that part of the world. We had tremendous speeches, primarily from the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and the noble Lords, Lord Fanshawe of Richmond and Lord Rea. There was also a very good speech from ray noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs. Those speeches, with the tiny contribution that I made, outlined what was necessary in order to relieve the appalling suffering in Cambodia and described what had happened to the people of that country under the Khmer Rouge and probably the world's greatest and most poisonous villain, Pol Pot. When are the Churches going to begin shouting about it? When are other politicians going to 237 begin shouting about it? The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, were speaking from their personal experiences in Cambodia.
The speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, at the end of the debate was highly commendable. That debate, particularly the speeches made by those with personal experience of Cambodia, showed what a powerful influence this House can be on world affairs if it is listened to as respectfully as it should be. The situation in Cambodia has now changed for the better but there is still a lot to do. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has written to me on the position in Cambodia and I thank him for doing so. I am sure that the letter is a mark of respect for the speeches made by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, and all those who participated in that debate.
Although the position in Cambodia has improved, there is still a grave threat. Many people in Cambodia, in this country, in the United States and in Australia are still very anxious as to whether members of the Khmer Rouge, with the blessing of the United Nations and of the Government, are still in authority. That is an extremely serious thing to say. It is what I said to the Australians and it is what I said to people in Hong Kong. The people in Hong Kong were worried about what had happened in Tiananmen Square, but being Hong Kong people they got over it. They too are worried about the position in Cambodia. Therefore I hope that we shall have a further opportunity to discuss the matter. Horrible though the Holocaust was, one must realise that tens of thousands of human beings were deliberately put to death in Cambodia so that their bodies could be interred to raise forests. There is no real anger in the rest of the rich Western world about it. There ought to be.
I want to turn briefly to an issue of vital importance which rarely gets a mention. We have spoken about the Gulf and Saddam Hussein. What really worries me is that Saddam Hussein, with the largest army in the Middle East, might withdraw and stay just a few inches over the border. What will we do then? He will have committed no crime. He will have responded to the United Nations but kept his huge army on the borders of Saudi Arabia, his own country and Kuwait. We have to give this matter careful thought. I wonder, for example, having been on a number of occasions in Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, whether sometimes the ordinary people and ordinary soldiers do not quite understand precisely what is happening. Why do we not use a little initiative and distribute leaflet propaganda among the soldiers of Saddam Hussein?
I am reliably informed by people who have escaped from Kuwait that in the first few days there was among Iraqi soldiers an elated feeling of victory. Then they realised that they were punishing, harming and killing fellow Arabs. This has sown a tiny amount of dissent in the Iraqi army. We ought to take full advantage of that. I hope that the Government will consider this point with our United States allies. There are soldiers in Kuwait who are becoming somewhat 238 perturbed. Let us encourage that feeling. Whether we do it through leaflets or in some other way, such action ought to be taken.
I turn now to a subject very near to my own feelings and one which is seldom mentioned. Whenever there is a threat of a war, whether it be in Kuwait or in the Middle East, there is great consternation and debate. But on every single day of the year 10,000 children die in Africa and India. The war which we should be permanently fighting is the war against poverty, ignorance and disease. Is it realised, for example, that since this debate started about 20,000 children have died of starvation? That should be food, paradoxically, for thought in this great Christian nation. Forty thousand people die every day and tens of millions every year.
Perhaps I may give some statistics to put matters into perspective. The average person requires 2,400 calories a day. The world produces enough for nearly 4,000 calories a day for every person. We do not know how to share that wherewithal with those who are starving in India, in China, in the Sudan and in other parts of Africa. Since the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, made his speech, and since my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition made his admirable response, about 20,000 people have died from diseases which could have been cured, but primarily from starvation.
It is right and proper that when discussing foreign affairs we give priority to the position in the Gulf. I hope that the Government realise that if Saddam Hussein leaves Kuwait and stays on the border or if there is a war it will undoubtedly be most horrendous. Saddam Hussein has a massive army. For that reason alone he should be resisted or others will think that all they have to do is to build a huge army, defy humanity, as represented by the United Nations, and take whatever they like. He has to be resisted. I hope that thought will be given to the points I have made.
When the crisis is over—and one day it will be—I hope that the Government will continue the good work they are doing in the third world with various international organisations. It is the war that goes on and on: the war against poverty, ignorance and disease. I hope that my country will continue to give a lead in bringing an end to suffering and in bringing relief to millions of people in other parts of the world—what I would call the cruel part of the world. If any nation can do it, it is my nation.
That was the feeling and attitude last Sunday of my comrades in the Royal British Legion. I am privileged to be the president of the metropolitan area, the largest area. They have the highest regard for those who fought in the First World War, for the gallant few in 1940, for the Desert Rats and for all those who helped to produce things in this country. They are also mindful of the fact that we have the capacity to beat dictators and to fight, if necessary alone, to save democracy for the world. It is this nation above all others which can give a lead in the fight against poverty, ignorance and disease and in helping suffering humanity in other parts of the world.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, whatever our views, we must surely now all admit that war with Iraq in the comparatively near future is now, unfortunately, a distinct possibility. Failing some climbdown on the part of the present allies—which would in fact be a victory for Saddam Hussein—no peaceful or diplomatic solution of the crisis is possible, unless Iraq conforms to the various resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations, chief of which is that demanding the immediate and unconditional evacuation of Kuwait. The Iraqis have now flatly rejected this, maintaining that Kuwait no longer exists or, as they say, that it is part of Iraq for ever.
That being so, it is difficult to imagine that the allies, and notably the Americans—though it is arguable that they should do so—will keep large armies in the desert for another year or more until sanctions may oblige the Iraqis, if they do, to take the action required of them. If sanctions have not worked after several months, force is therefore surely on the cards. It may be—and as we must certainly still hope—that when war is actually imminent Saddam Hussein may disappear, but no one should count on this happening. Therefore, we must, however reluctantly, be prepared for hostilities, the nature and length of which no one can with certainty predict.
As I understand it, this prospect is accepted in principle by Her Majesty's Government and, to a large extent, by the Official Opposition. But it must be admitted that there is a strong body of opinion in all our countries, but more especially in the United States, which, while admitting that continuous pressure should be put on Iraq, recoils from the actual use of force on the grounds that a war would inevitably spread and quite possibly in the long run have the reverse effect of that intended. It is also alleged that we should not in any case go to war to restore a sheikdom that could hardly be said to be democratic, and that our oil interests do not necessarily demand the continued presence of enormous forces in the Persian Gulf.
I see why this attitude appeals to many whom I respect, but I cannot accept it. Ultimate military action against a recalcitrant aggressor is clearly laid down in Article 42 of the United Nations Charter, to which we have all subscribed and which we have all underwritten. If the charter is not applied in this case of open aggression, what hope is there of preserving eventual peace of the world? Just when, with the end of the cold war, the possibility of some effective world authority is emerging, it would surely be a tragedy if we were to revert to,the ancient plan that he will take who has the power and he will keep who can".How, therefore, can military action be both legally authorised and duly enforced? It can be done only by a suitably drafted resolution by the Security Council of the United Nations based on Article 42 of the charter, providing, in effect, for action whenever the United States (which must evidently take the lead) judges this to be necessary after due consultation with its allies. Is such a resolution obtainable?
240 To be valid, such a resolution requires the approval of nine out of the 15 members of the council, including that of the five permanent members. Any one of the latter can, if it so desires, apply a veto, in which case the whole resolution fails. But equally a permanent member can abstain. Both the Soviet Union and China have apparently now said that they would not oppose military action—presumably at what is in their view the appropriate time—which must mean either that they would eventually vote for it or at the least not vote at all. Even if they both abstained, the resolution would still have the full force of law provided that the three permanent members—namely, the United States, the United Kingdom and France—voted for it, together with six non-permanent members.
Therefore, even in the unlikely event of the abstention of two permanent members, would the consent of at least six non-permanent members be forthcoming? There seems good reason to think that it would be. Cuba and Yemen would doubtless vote against. Columbia and Malaysia might be doubtful. But the remainder, judging from their attitude up until now, would seemingly approve, while France, I should have thought, could hardly fail to vote for the resolution in the event. It need hardly be added that the prospects of getting it approved would be greatly enhanced if President Bush felt able to announce his support for a conference to deal with the Palestine issue once the Kuwaiti crisis is over.
If, therefore, the Americans after, say, another month or two feel that they can wait no longer, everything points to their seeking the authority of the United Nations for military action—for only so can that moral sanction for war be obtained which is so essential if the objections to it on the part of many are to be overcome and for which Cardinal Hume has so eloquently pleaded in his recent letter to The Times.
The alternative is action by the Americans and some of the allies under Article 51 of the charter, presumably on the invitation of the exiled government of Kuwait. Whether this would be legally justified—I am among those who doubt it —the fact remains that the invocation of Article 51 only would be likely to divide the present alliance and reinforce the already strong peace movement in the United States. Rather than action under this article, it may indeed be better to have some patience in the hope that sanctions will after all have the desired effect or that action under Article 42 will still be possible.
I should like to say a word in conclusion on the possible conduct of the war should it come to pass. In the first place, the American generals could hardly recommend war with Iraq unless they were confident of their ability to eliminate the Iraqi air force after a short engagement. That should not result in many civilian casualties—Iraqi aircraft could hardly take refuge in urban centres. If the Iraqis were so misguided as to employ their few and highly inaccurate missiles, the launchers should likewise be destroyed. They can do little damage, even in Israel, unless chemical or biological weapons are employed, in which case all-out war would doubtless result.
241 After complete mastery of the air had been obtained, Iraqi tanks could then be gradually accounted for by, among other things, cluster bombs dropped from aircraft, with the reoccupation of Kuwait being perhaps undertaken largely by Arab troops. There seems little reason to suppose that this whole operation, though it might well take some time, should result in enormous casualties. In any case, Iraq's threat of turning the whole Gulf into a lake of fire is an obvious absurdity. This generally optimistic scenario is, however, based on the assumption that early elimination of the Iraqi air force is possible and that the Iraqis could not put to good use the latest United States anti-aircraft weapons which they are said to have captured in Kuwait. The main conclusion, in any case, lies in the ancient saying, si vis pacem Para bellum; or, if you want peace, prepare for a war which you are confident of winning with the full backing of the law.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, first, I should like to join in the many tributes being paid throughout the country to the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Douglas Hurd. The majority of noble Lords consider that he is serving the country very well with great energy and distinction.
There are two foreign affairs issues which demand immediate attention: Europe and the Gulf crisis. The House will have an opportunity to debate European policy fully when the report of the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, comes before it on 22nd November. But whatever the significance of the intergovernmental conferences in December and afterwards, there can be no doubt that the Middle East crisis is of more immediate importance. That crisis carries with it risk of a horrible war in a nightmare setting. It is already bringing economic disaster to several innocent and undeserving countries and hardship and financial ruin to numberless families and individuals.
However, it is hard to contribute usefully to the debate while we are unaware of the contents discussed in the shuttle diplomacy conducted by prime ministers, ex-ministers and every kind of limelight seeker from East and West. How it must entertain Saddam Hussein to spread doubt and confusion by telling each of them a slightly different story and handing them, like Santa Claus, a small present of hostages as they leave.
We are told by reliable personalities that the alliance is solid; I very much hope that it is. However, one cannot ignore a statement by M. Cheysson, adviser to President Mitterrand, who recently observed that the Middle East crisis was of little importance to the European Community.
When I spoke in the debate on 6th September, I raised two points. I should like to make them again in slightly more detail. They could show the way—admittedly, over a long period—towards a peaceful settlement of the dangerous situation in which we now find ourselves. The points are, first, the priority objectives of the Security Council and the majority of UN members; and, secondly, the quite different 242 priority objectives of many Arab countries and, I suggest, the majority of Moslem people. Can those two conflicting objectives be peacefully reconciled?
The priority objective of the UN powers is the establishment at last of an effective system of worldwide collective security for which the United Nations was founded. With the revolution in the relations of the super powers, the chances of achieving that objective are better now than they have been for half a century. The opportunity on no account should be lost. However, the priorities of some Middle East governments, and perhaps the majority of Arab and Moslem peoples, are quite different. I enumerated them on 6th September. They include the settlement of the Palestine problem, the equitable division of oil wealth and the modernisation of out-dated means of government in the area.
It is manifestly difficult, and perhaps impossible, to reconcile fully those apparently conflicting objectives. However, we should try by attempting two steps. First, it is entirely right to insist on Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait. The threat of the use of force and the pressure of sanctions may yet succeed. The second step is just as difficult but should be pursued with some persistence. I suggest that it should be on the following lines. The UN security powers, with the support of as many others as possible, should give an assurance that they would be prepared to back fair settlements made by Middle East countries between themselves. Those would have to include a UN guarantee of the frontiers agreed, and the mutual disarmament of the confronting countries and destruction of weapons of mass destruction.
Such a settlement would require a tremendous diplomatic effort. In the past two years seemingly impossible revolutions of policy have been achieved in Europe by negotiation, and stubborn minds have been changed. I should like to ask one question of the Minister. Would it not be sensible and indeed normal for a senior member of the alliance to make direct contact with Saddam Hussein? Perhaps such contact already exists and is held very secretly. It is normal in a dangerous confrontation to have direct contact, and it could possibly help. In addition it would be evidence that all reasonable steps have been taken to avert hostilities.
Noble Lords may well ask what is to be done if Saddam Hussein does not withdraw in spite of all pressures. There is now firm agreement apparently that an allied attack then seems the only course. What would be the right time has still to be judged. An unattractive but seductive alternative might be to try to set in train some of the diplomatic steps that I have outlined without insisting on prior Iraqi withdrawal, as Saddam Hussein now appears to suggest. That would concede a partial victory to him. It would ensure the demise of Kuwait and probably the break up of the present alliance in the UN. Above all it would fatally weaken the authority of the UN. To some, however, it would have the overriding advantage of avoiding a war. It is something that I 243 believe we should not contemplate; but in the event of the failure of the alliance and a lack of cohesion in the UN it may be forced upon us.
The overriding priority is to try to achieve the establishment of an effective system of worldwide security based on strengthening the United Nations. The balance of power in the world is changing very fast. The problems are not just Europe and the Middle East. They are global problems—political, economic and scientific—which can be managed only through the influence of a world organisation. I believe that even a partial concession to Saddam Hussein would fatally delay the establishment of such an organisation.
Lastly, as a former member of the diplomatic service, I should like to say that we watch with pride the performance of our staffs in Baghdad and Kuwait.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, we are also filled with admiration and sympathy for the hostages still held there and the patience of their families in this country.
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Cockfield
My Lords, I start by joining in the congratulations offered to the two distinguished maiden speakers, the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, and the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest. I had met Lydia Dunn, as she then was, in Hong Kong on a number of occasions in various capacities when I was a Minister in the Government here and later when I was a commissioner of the European Community. She brings great experience and knowledge to your Lordships' House, together with a considerable measure of wisdom, which leavens it. I am sure that we shall have much to learn from her.
It is impossible for me to participate in a debate on foreign affairs without paying tribute to my right honourable and learned friend Sir Geoffrey Howe. His resignation was a great loss to the Government, but it was an even greater loss to the country. He was one of the most distinguished and successful Chancellors of the Exchequer. I was both honoured and happy to serve with him as a Minister of State at the Treasury. Indeed, it was in that capacity that I first sat on the Front Bench in your Lordships' House. As Foreign Secretary, his diplomatic skills, his invariable courtesy and clear convictions on important issues of policy served this country extraordinarily well in the international field and particularly in regard to our relations with our fellow members of the European Community. Not only was his style and mode right; so too was his stand on matters of substance and of principle.
I have, if I may say so, a less agreeable comment to make regarding the attitude taken in some quarters in this country—I am glad to say not in your Lordships' House—towards Jacques Delors, the President of the European Commission. At times remarks have been made which verged on personal abuse. Jacques Delors is a distinguished statesman of international stature. He was recognised not least in this country as a most 244 successful finance minister. He was the unanimous choice of the 12 member states. Without his constant support I should never have succeeded in launching the single market programme and driving it through to success. I may say also that it was Jacques Delors, not the United Kingdom, who was responsible for the total liberalisation of capital movements throughout the Community. I know this because I sat with him when, by sheer willpower and determination, he pressed these proposals through that most reluctant body, the Council of Finance Ministers.
It was Jacques Delors who secured what reforms have been made in the common agricultural policy. The part played by the ministers of agriculture—including, I regret to say, from time to time our own—was to water down, never to strengthen the Commission's proposals. Despite what from time to time has been barely concealed hostility on our part, he has always been helpful to this country. The only criticism that can be made of him is that when we have too patently displayed a national tendency to wander off on our own he has striven very hard to keep his wayward flock together.
I do not propose to say very much about economic and monetary union and political union. The report of your Lordships' Select Committee was published on Friday and we will have what I hope will be an extended debate on that subject next week. I simply have one comment to make at this stage because it goes to the heart of our relations with the European Community. The claim constantly made that an attempt is being made to impose—and "impose" is the word which is being used—a single currency on the United Kingdom is complete nonsense. No one wants to impose a single currency on us; no one has tried to impose a single currency on us and no one legally has any power to impose a single currency on us.
Monetary union could be embodied in Community legislation in one of two ways: either by amendment of the Treaty of Rome under Article 236 (but that requires unanimity); or, following precedent, a separate treaty could be negotiated. Clearly no one could compel the United Kingdom to sign such a treaty if we did not wish to do so. Thus whatever route is chosen, nothing can be imposed upon the United Kingdom.
The real issue, I suspect, is precisely the opposite. Eleven member states have decided to go ahead with a single currency. What we are trying to do is stop them. In other words, it is not a question of 11 imposing their views on one; it is one endeavouring to impose its views on the other 11. Perhaps I may say quite categorically that there is no way in which we can do so. We can of course block action under Article 236, but the major developments in the Community in the past have always taken the form of a separate treaty. Indeed, the report of the Delors Committee refers repeatedly to a new treaty. That treaty can be signed by all 12, or, if we stand out, by 11 only. We simply cannot stop them. All we can do is knot the rope around our own neck. I sincerely hope that we will not do so.
245 I have made this point in some detail because it illustrates the fundamental problem that we, or at least some members of our Government, have with the European Community. They simply do not understand it. They do not know its history. They do not understand its philosophy; or, if they did, they would disagree with it. They do not understand its policies and most certainly they do not understand its law.
This is a situation which I had to face in the years during which I was at the Commission, and I see no change since I left. These attitudes are rooted in nostalgia for the past, in the hope of reviving once again what were described as the Victorian values, in a regret for the passing of the era in which we were the most powerful industrial nation in the world, in which we had the largest navy in the world and in which we were a political power of the first order. This is an honourable dream but it is a dream of an era which has long since passed. There is no way in which we can revive it.
What we have to do is live in the present and live in relation to the facts of the present, because the onus on our shoulders is not only to act correctly in the light of present circumstances but also to ensure that the heritage we hand down to the next generation is a sound inheritance. One fact we must accept—and I know it is regrettable—is that we now have one of the weakest economies in the Western world. Some time ago, when I was clearing out my personal papers, I found a copy of Hansard for 1955. It included a table showing the income per head in the major countries in Europe. We in the United Kingdom stood at the head of that table. Today we are poorer than any of the original members of the European Community; we are poorer than any of the members of the EFTA group; we are poorer than the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan; and so one could go on. It is all very regrettable and very tragic.
It means that the future of this country can no longer be built on our own domestic market. That future can only be found in Europe—in the European Community whose population will, by 1992, be 325 million people, and in the greater Europe where the developing policy of the Community is to create a free trade area. We have broken away from the old type of trading co-operation agreements. The policy now is to establish a free trade area extending from the Atlantic to the Russian border and comprising a population of 500 million people. That is where the future of the British economy and the British people must lie.
It would be wrong, and indeed foolish, to pretend that there are not important divisions of opinion in this country on these matters. Those divisions exist not just in one party, they appear in most parties. They appear in Parliament, in the media and in the country as a whole. It requires a great effort of statesmanship to resolve those problems. As we look forward to the years ahead we have to hope that that effort and that degree of statesmanship will be forthcoming. Unless it is, we shall find ourselves in a position of genteel poverty. I know that there are some people who would regard a position of genteel poverty as preferable to 246 losing some of the trappings of sovereignty which have long since disappeared. That is not the view of trade and industry in this country.
Although I do not myself belong to the younger generation, I believe that the younger generation does not take that view either. We ought to remember that when the next general election is held the people who vote in that election for the first time will have been born after we joined the European Community. They will have lived all their lives in a period in which we were members of the Community. That, more than anything else, will shape their attitudes both to the Community and to the future.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, it gives me pleasure to take part in a debate which has included two such excellent maiden speeches on subjects of very great interest. I reiterate the congratulations that have already been given.
I choose to speak on an aspect of British foreign policy which has not been touched upon often today, namely, overseas aid. I feel some regret, having heard Sir Geoffrey Howe put his position on the European Community in unequivocal terms, and following the very strong speech of the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, on the same subject, that I have not elected to follow up that central plank of British foreign policy—Britain's position in the European Community. However, the Government made a very strong commitment in the gracious Speech to overseas aid. They said that they would maintain a substantial programme aimed at promoting sustainable economic and social progress and good government in developing countries. It would be useful to examine that commitment to see whether government action is fulfilling those objectives.
Can the Government's aid programme be described as substantial? Many would question the assertion. In 1989 British aid amounted to 0.31 per cent. of GNP, which was not only lower than that of most of our European partners but also well below the UN target for official development assistance, which is set at 0.7 per cent. of GNP. Another reason why the amount gives cause for alarm is the growing demands placed upon it. For example, extra funds are now needed to allow for the environmental standards applied to development aid. Extra funds are needed for the debt relief being given to the Gulf front line states, such as Egypt and Turkey. Additional funds are also required for the emergency relief which is constantly required for catastrophes in Africa.
In addition, there are funds for the know-how fund and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I was happy to hear the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, say that funds for the know-how fund were to be doubled. However, there is always concern that those funds will not be treated as additional sums. I have met those anxieties in Africa, and in particular in the Sudan. I shall be very happy if the Minister can give an assurance today that overseas development aid for developing countries is separate from contributions to the know-how fund 247 and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I should also like to hear of any plans the Government have to increase the percentage of GNP allocated to overseas development aid.
I recognise that aid should not only be measured by quantity but also by quality. Is British aid really aimed at promoting sustainable economic and social progress in developing countries. I am sure that we are all agreed that that is the right objective. I believe, however, that the Government have mixed motives when allocating their aid budget. The ODA's 1989 anniversary review asserted:We concentrate British aid on poor countries, poor people and on their basic needs".Yet the all-party Foreign Affairs Committee disagreed. It reported:The purpose of bilateral aid programmes in the UK, as in most other countries, has rarely been viewed as the purely selfless promotion of other countries' and peoples' welfare. It has always been understood that such programmes should be carried out with British commercial and industrial interests and political interests in mind".It is a fact that aid largely consists of funding from western governments for services, machines, technical exports and consultants to be supplied by companies in rich countries, frequently their own. Therefore it is true to say that most aid money is spent in the rich world. That is directly contrary to the charitable instincts of most people in this country. When they are asked to provide funds for an emergency in a developing country they are most generous and dig deeply into their pockets. There is a sharp division between what people expect from overseas aid—that it should go to the poorest countries—and the way in which the ODA ties aid to the commercial and industrial interests of this country.
In its recent report on overseas aid the Select Committee on Science and Technology recommended that where there is a conflict in our aid programme between the needs of the recipient and the potential benefits to the UK the needs of the recipient must be paramount. That is a very clear message. When one looks back to the 1970s one sees that much greater effort was made to focus aid on the poorest. In Britain the Labour Party set out policies which indeed helped the poorest people in the poorest countries. Agencies such as the International Labour Organisation established a basic needs approach to development and in 1977 the International Fund for Agricultural Development was established with a strong mandate to reduce malnutrition and alleviate rural poverty specifically in ways such as supporting small farmers, the landless and others of the rural poor. As we know, that movement was brought to an end by the pressures of a debt crisis, followed by the overriding obsession of aid policy-makers with adjustment programmes and all the terrible social and environmental consequences which that brought on so many people of the developing countries.
However, now we feel that there may be a movement back to more altruistic aid. I hope that that is the direction in which the Government are moving. One test that their intentions are changing for the 248 better will be if aid is switched away from large-scale infrastructure projects, such as power plants, high-level city services and telephone systems, which did not help the poorest people in the country and towards agriculture, community forestry and fishing, cottage industries and social programmes in health and education.
It is also a key priority that women should be at the centre of a development process, which has not been the case until recently. After all, in Africa women are the farmers, yet there are few projects directly aimed at helping to grow more food and allowing them to profit from new technology, training and credit schemes. When all is said and done, if aid-givers want economic and social progress to be sustainable they must ensure that in those countries there are men and women who are equipped and able to sustain the aid that they are given. If they do not, there will be no way of sustaining it.
The year 1990 is International Literacy Year. UNESCO is making literacy for women a great priority. When one considers the proportion of women who are literate in the developing countries, it is clearly an important priority. Will the Minister say what funds Her Majesty's Government are allocating to International Literacy Year and whether they are reconsidering their withdrawal from UNESCO, which does so much in that field?
Her Majesty's Government were a signatory to the Convention on Rights of the Child. There is no doubt that social progress must increase the emphasis which is placed on children's welfare. Her Majesty's Government have not ratified the convention. Does the Minister have any news on the matter?
The Prime Minister attended the World Summit for Children where it was agreed by no fewer than 71 world leaders that aid programmes should be adjusted to take into account the welfare of women and children in the poorer countries. That means that the ODA must make some adjustment in its aid programmes in the direction of women and children to accommodate that commitment.
Finally, the gracious Speech states that our aid programme aims to promote good government in developing countries. There are many ways to do that: one area in which governments in some of the poorest countries could be strengthened and helped to rule more wisely is education and training. However, it seems that that is not happening.
There is a worrying trend. In 1979 education received as much as 17 per cent. of all aid from western industrialised countries. By 1987 that figure had gone down to a mere 10 per cent. Again, overseas student numbers in this country show a worrying trend. It is the numbers of students from the USA and the European Community countries which are up and those from the poorest developing countries which have decreased. To give only one example: in 1980 there were 5,200 Nigerian students in Britain; in 1988 there were only 1,300. On the other hand, the numbers from the USA rose from 2,900 in 1980 to 15,000 in 249 1988. Our overseas student numbers are thus more or less maintaining the same level but the change in balance is very pronounced.
If we wish to give support to governments in developing countries it is surely best to invest in training and education programmes rather than give an ultimatum about withdrawal of aid if those governments do not move swiftly enough towards the democratic process that we require. We see that happening in Kenya. We are withdrawing certain aid from Kenya because of what is happening there. It can only make the poorest people of that country suffer if their government are impoverished in that way.
I repeat that Her Majesty's Government should increase their aid budget. There are more demands put upon it but it is well below the level of many of our European partners. Secondly, the primary motive in allocating aid must be to help the poorest rather than to tie it to British commercial and industrial interests. Lastly, well directed aid can give support to weak governments through the ways that I have suggested.
I hope very much that those kinds of change can be made. In that way the commitment made in the gracious Speech about Britain's overseas aid programme will be truly substantiated.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, I last spoke on this general subject in the House when we debated the defence White Paper on 17th July. Since then two important events have occurred which are relevant to both that debate and the one in which we are engaged today. The first event was the Government's announcement on 25th July of the decisions that they had reached as a result of the study called Options for Change about future reductions in the armed forces. The second was the Gulf crisis. In my opinion both reinforced the views that I expressed in the former debate.
Perhaps I may briefly remind your Lordships of what I said. I concentrated on the question of a future security organisation for Europe, noting that the future of our own armed forces would to a large degree depend on how that evolved. I stressed that the principle must be observed that the military organisation should be designed to suit the political one, and not vice versa. I accepted that it would depend on how Europe developed politically and that that depended on developments within the Soviet Union which could not be forecast now and which were unlikely to become clear for some time. Therefore, I said, it was right for the Government and NATO to be cautious at that stage, to rely on existing structures and institutions and not to make major changes in the structure of our own armed forces. The Government followed that path and I commend them for it.
However, I went on to say that we must look further ahead, on the assumption that events in Europe would develop in such a way that the threat which NATO was established to meet would disappear. Almost everybody now seems to accept that it has already disappeared. The co-operation between the United States and the Soviet Union over 250 the Gulf crisis has reinforced that view. If and when we are confident that we have reached that state of affairs and that it will endure, I suggest that Europe will need something very different from NATO.
But there will still be threats to the security of Europe, on which the security of our own island depends. Whatever happens in the Soviet Union, its constituent parts—especially Russia, Byelorussia and the Ukraine—by their very size, resources and geographical position will pose a potential threat to their neighbours, as they have done for many centuries. The age-old rivalries and animosities that exist between the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, aggravated perhaps by the combination of raised hopes and economic difficulties, are even now a potential threat to stability.
But there will still be threats to the security of Europe, on which the security of our own island depends. Whatever happens in the Soviet Union, its constituent parts—especially Russia, Byelorussia and the Ukraine—by their very size, resources and geographical position will pose a potential threat to their neighbours, as they have done for many centuries. The age-old rivalries and animosities that exist between the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, aggravated perhaps by the combination of raised hopes and economic difficulties, are even now a potential threat to stability. Finally there are, and will remain, fears about how an 80-million strong Germany will behave. These are the internal threats to the security of Europe, to counter and contain which a European security organisation will have to be created.
But the ill wind in the Gulf has brought with it one benefit —proof that Europe, as my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall emphasised in the same debate, must also look to its security against threats to its interests from other parts of the world. Some people say that those events have shown that NATO must continue to exist in something like its present form, and that the hesitant and divided attitude taken by other European members of NATO, whose dependence on Middle Eastern oil is greater than ours, shows that it would be fatal to rely on a more European organisation to defend our interests.
I take the opposite view, as did the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his speech in the debate in this House on the Gulf crisis on 6th September. He said at col. 1827 of Hansard:For those of us who believe, as I do, that, if the Community is to have any influence in world affairs and that after 1992 there must inevitably be a closer political element to match the economic integration, there are urgent lessons to be learnt from the past month.In the future, the Community must concern itself with its own security and … there are, it seems to me, ways in which that could be done in association with an evolution of NATO in a rather different form from what it is now".I support that view. I consider that NATO should eventually develop into a treaty relationship between, on the one hand, the United States and Canada, and, on the other, a European defence community linked to 251 or integrated with the European economic community which is developing into, and I hope will develop further into, a European political community.
However, it is too early to see what the pattern should be of a European security organisation to meet the needs of a Europe that is no longer menaced by the overwhelming threat of a massive attack by the Soviet Union. But it seems to me that, whatever form it takes, it should not resemble NATO as it is today and as we have known it for the last 40 years; that is to say, a tightly integrated military command and training organisation dominated by the United States and dedicated to the production of detailed military plans to counter a Soviet attack on Europe with both conventional and nuclear weapons.
The first question to be faced is that of membership of such an organisation. Should it include the superpowers? Should it be built up from existing organisations, or should it move directly to some sort of pan-European membership based on CSCE or the Council of Europe? The authorities of NATO themselves envisage an expansion and transformation of NATO for the purpose. They say that this is welcomed by members of the Warsaw Pact, including the Soviet Union, as it would ensure the continued involvement of the United States in the maintenance of stability in Europe, providing a counterweight both to a strong Germany, which could dominate a purely European organisation, and to the Soviet Union in whatever form it develops, and also to the danger of too close an association between those two.
I do not favour that solution. I believe that it would retain too great an American dominance in European affairs, complicating them with the nuclear weapon issue. In my opinion we should bring to an end, a situation in which Europe's security needs are determined in bilateral meetings between Washington and Moscow. It would perpetuate the trend for European nations to seek to influence the United States separately instead of getting their act together, and, as a community, dealing with the United States and with the Soviet Union.
It would not be practicable now to move to a much looser and wider organisation based on CSCE or the Council of Europe; and it would be imprudent to try to do so until we can see more clearly how things develop within the Soviet Union. But CSCE should be the forum in which these matters are discussed. Meanwhile, I believe that we should begin to build up a European defence community at the same time as we loosen and gradually dismantle NATO's military command organisation. The forces which European members of NATO now contribute to the alliance—and they are bound to be greatly reduced—should be transformed into forces of the European defence community. That should either be linked to or integrated with the European Community, absorbing Western union as it did so. In my opinion, some simplification of European institutions would seem to be desirable in any case.
I have hardly mentioned nuclear weapons. They greatly complicate the issue, which is one of the 252 reasons why I believe that we must see how things develop within the Soviet Union before we can decide on the form of a security organisation. If the Soviet Union remains in something like its present form, I hope that we can get rid of nuclear weapons in Europe, at least outside the borders of the Soviet Union and at least land-based and air-delivered ones. We could then leave it to the United States and the Soviet Union to negotiate between them reductions to a very much lower level, designed just to maintain the existential threat.
I have said little about the Gulf crisis. Speculation by retired senior officers about what might or might not, should or should not, happen when active operations may be pending is almost always unhelpful. If they are wrong, they are misleading. If they are right, they may help the enemy. I wish to emphasise one thing only: the need for clarity of the aim. The political aim must be clear if the military are to be given a clear strategic or operational aim. That must be something that will achieve the political aim, and is itself attainable with the resources made available. History abounds with examples of failure when these principles have not been observed. They are seldom easy to achieve, but without them lives will almost certainly be sacrificed in vain.
I should like strongly to reinforce the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Pym, for patience. Patience is needed now in order to ensure that we do not get pushed into some political or military action just for the sake of satisfying people's impatience fuelled by the media. Patience will be needed later on when the Iraqi forces have been removed from the territory of Kuwait, whether they have been removed by political action or by military action. That will not solve all the problems by any means, and a great deal of patience will be needed then.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Lord Holderness
My Lords, all noble Lords who have so far addressed themselves to the crisis in the Gulf in this debate have, not surprisingly, concurred about its gravity. Some but by no means all have agreed with the conclusions which were expressed clearly and forcibly by both my noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, at the beginning of the debate. But there has been general agreement—this was a point stressed particularly by my noble friend Lord Pym—that on no occasion in the 45 years since San Francisco has United Nations' opinion been nearly so unanimous as in its sanctions policy of the present day.
For most of the nations who have agreed to impose sanctions on Iraq, the policy, costly as it is, makes no very painful demands. While they could continue it without disaster for many more months, it all too evidently places a state such as Jordan, which is a good and reliable friend of Britain and on whose stability much depends, in a position of great danger. Allied to this danger is the question which was cogently asked on Wednesday by my noble friend Lord Kimball — will the policy of sanctions work? I suspect, as has 253 been echoed in one or two speeches this afternoon, that past experience fills very few of us with a great deal of optimism.
It has at least become evident over the last few months that the leaders of the nations are now acutely aware that it may become necessary to repel aggressors by the use of force. As a very young man I was able to observe at close quarters the weight of responsibility thrust upon a former Foreign Secretary in the late summer of 1939. Now, as then, there can be no doubt of the grave consequences should hostilities begin both immediately for those still held hostage and ultimately in their effect upon a large part of the world well beyond the borders of Iraq.
Everything that I have learnt in my life and all that I observe now convinces me that such a decision therefore cannot be lightly taken. Nonetheless signs are increasing that the time of decision may be drawing near and many—certainly I include myself—are haunted by the unwelcome conclusion that reliance for too long on the hoped-for success of the sanctions policy could result in a disastrous failure to redress this wrong, with incalculable consequences for the whole world. This is one of the lessons of the past that I suggested last year had been faithfully learnt.
Like many others, I regard the attempt to link the present dispute with the hostile atmosphere that has persisted and still divides Israel from the Arab world as a cynical exercise designed to divert attention from an inexcusable act of aggression. But I go along I think completely with the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, when he suggests that once this dispute is resolved there can be no more worthy objective for the diplomatic skill of the whole world than the seating and creation of a true and comprehensive stability throughout the Middle East.
In honesty and justice, one more theme must be added. Israel will not disappear and Israel must be afforded the right and the means to defend herself. But accompanying that right must go an obligation on Israel to respect the property, the interests and indeed the lives of individuals who live within or near its assumed borders.
It seems to me, and probably to most of us, that the collective suffering of few peoples in the long history of the world can begin to be compared with that of the Jews, and Israel's power today is founded largely on the persecutions of the past. But in my admiration for their achievements and in my gratitude for all that the Jews have given to the world, I find myself sometimes looking sadly and in vain for the expression of justice and mercy in Israel which one, perhaps wrongly, imagines might be the natural inheritance of those who have themselves suffered and escaped from the vicious anti-semitic brutalities of this century.
International law may not be perfect or complete, but there should be no more right for nations than for individuals to live outside or beyond the law, which the state of Israel, too often in my observation and opinion, attempts to do. If therefore a worldwide effort to achieve this kind of stability could follow the resolution of this present dispute, any sacrifices that 254 the nations have made and any sacrifices that they must make in the future may be seen in the years ahead to have been well worth while.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, in the Guardian newspaper last week, there was a letter signed by 17 Labour Members of Parliament. Not all of them were known left-wingers, though I had better say at the beginning that the names of Tony Benn and Ken Livingstone were among them. But so were those of Andrew Faulds, who I think would not object to being described as rather on the right of the parliamentary Labour Party, and of Tam Dalyell who, as I think everybody knows, is nobody's man but his own.
That letter drew attention to what it described as,the growing world demand for a peaceful negotiated settlement to the crisis in the Gulf.The signatories saw a changing tide of public perception in the United States and across Europe, shown, they said, in one opinion poll after another, and drew attention to protest demonstrations against the drift to war in 15 cities in both continents.
The letter went on to say that calls for negotiation were being heard in government circles in France, as well as in the Soviet Union, and that one-third of the membership of the American Congress had written to President Bush opposing a major war in the Middle East. On the other hand, they said, the British Government, in the voice of the Prime Minister, was rigidly in favour of confrontation. They called for a change.
This was followed in the same paper by a rather futile letter from a Durham academic, in which he argued in favour of a just war provided that not many were killed. The trouble with war is that it often starts with good intentions and finishes by killing thousands, if not millions, quite apart from the fact that it sometimes reaches quite different ends from the one aimed at at the beginning. This is particularly true of modern war, but even Napoleon Bonaparte was one man's tyrant and another's liberator.
In the present case we should be in grave danger at the end of a war in the Middle East of finishing with the Western world on one side and many Arabs on the other; and, whatever happens, it is unlikely to be a case of a small war in the Middle East with not many killed.
So I want to make it clear that there are voices who believe, with those from another place who signed the letter which I have just quoted, that, as Winston Churchill put it,Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.I call upon our Government to recognise that the glow of rectitude which comes from a refusal to negotiate does not last and may cost many lives and worse.
The decision to send troops to the Gulf may have preceded consideration of what they are likely to face if and when an attack is launched. Saddam is unlikely to attempt to defend the whole country and will probably concentrate on Kuwait City and the oil installations. I am quite sure that that is the advice his 255 commanders will give him, and I think he will take it. This is just where the majority of non-Kuwaitis is greatest and aerial bombardment of those areas would be likely to kill a large number of people, but very few Iraqis.
The inhabitants of those areas not only are not Iraqis; they are not even Kuwaitis. Most of them are nationals of other countries or nationals of no countries, including a large number from the European area, as well as an even larger number from Asia and a few from Africa. So a surgical strike in such circumstances is a figment of the imagination of a non-military person.
Therefore we might finish up with a hand-to-hand conflict in the streets of Kuwait City and around the oil installations, which is just the point at which the overwhelming superiority of the United Nations forces would be least effective. The environmental consequences are most alarming. It is to be hoped that the all-party Inter-Parliamentary Union group, mentioned by the noble Earl when introducing the debate, which is visiting Libya may be able to initiate a breakthrough towards a negotiated settlement, especially as Saddam is now making conciliatory indications.
If we turn our minds away from the imminent dangers in the Middle East we may find that the second paragraph of the gracious Speech is curiously out of date, as suggested by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. However, before doing so we might reflect that the number of NATO-made weapons pointed against us in the Gulf emphasises once again the inadequacy of present methods of arms control. Surely that is a lesson that we must at long last begin to learn. The gracious Speech stated:My Government attach the highest priority to national security and to the preservation of international peace with freedom and justice. They will give full support to NATO as the basis for collective Western defence, and will maintain adequate and effective nuclear and conventional forces. They will play a full part in adapting NATO strategy and will take forward work on reconstructing our forces to reflect the welcome changes in Europe and threats to peace in other parts of the world".The statement is rather like the curate's egg; it makes gestures towards change but retreats to the verbiage which would have been appropriate a few years ago. However, I suggest that it is not relevant to the situation in which we now find ourselves.
Quite by accident I recently came across a perspicacious article in the Christian Science Monitor. It was written by Daniel Plesch and a colleague who are respectively director and associate director of the British American Security Information Council. He stated:In the area of international security, the effective disintegration of the Warsaw Pact leaves just one military alliance in place. If the West continues to view NATO as the central mechanism for guaranteeing European security, it will perpetuate a confrontation with the Soviet Union that has lost its ideological basis".There is a lot to be said for that point of view.
Mr. Plesch and his colleague go on to point out that NATO is not constructed to fulfil the role of 256 integrating Eastern Europe into the decision-making process of the Continent. They suggest that the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, known as CSCE or the Helsinki process and mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, is more fitted for the job. They point out that the recent CSCE meeting in New York, which was attended by our Foreign Secretary, was held precisely for the purpose of creating an infrastructure to give the CSCE permanence and authority.
The noble Earl mentioned that in opening the debate. I suggest that it would be better than inviting Eastern European nations to join NATO. Among many others, Mr. Havel, the president of Czechoslovakia, sees a strengthening of the CSCE rather than the enlargement of NATO as being the way forward. It would be interesting to have the Government's views on the subject. As the noble Earl said, a meeting of heads of government is to take place next week in Paris. It is hoped that decisions on these matters will be approached or perhaps even made. If there is time, it would be helpful to the House to know a little more about the matter.
There is an argument against creating further international bureaucracy. It has been suggested that a small staff of less than a dozen would be sufficient at the beginning. I am no friend of bureaucracy in Europe but the case against it comes ill from NATO, with its 5,000 employees in Brussels alone. The Helsinki process would not be able to replace NATO overnight, as the noble and gallant Lord correctly pointed out. However, as regards the future it has the makings of a permanent security arrangement for the whole of Europe, whereas, in my view, NATO is obsolescent if not yet redundant.
I return to the subject of the Gulf. I suggest that it would be a mistake to regard the Iraqi forces in Kuwait as a pushover. That mistake was made in Vietnam with disastrous results. However, at least the lesson about the necessity for strict international controls on arms exports can be learnt. Western arms firms flocked to the Baghdad arms fair all too recently. There is also the danger of the nature of the war changing once it has begun. The US Government have seen that and appear to be seeking specific United Nations endorsement for military action. It would be better for this country to be seen as an advocate of strict sanctions and a little more time rather than as one eager for a war as soon as possible. Such a situation would be for the worse rather than for the better. If there is one lesson to be learnt from modern warfare, it is that it has a momentum of its own. Once unleashed the dogs of war are out of control.
I was horrified to learn that we are to test yet another nuclear warhead underground in Nevada. We shall do so just prior to the holding of a conference in New York which is designed to bring to an end nuclear testing. The Government's claim to support the non-proliferation treaty rings hollow in the ears of non-nuclear states as Britain refuses to take the medicine it prescribes for others. Government spokesmen who quote the treaty ignore Article 6 which obliges nuclear states to pursue negotiations 257 relating to nuclear disarmament. The Government's concern that others shall not acquire nuclear weapons while we ignore the obligation upon nuclear states to become non-nuclear is regarded by the non-nuclear states as a supreme example of British hypocrisy—and they are right. It is time the Government realised that, in order to rid the world of nuclear weapons, one must start at home. It would be a good idea if Her Majesty's loyal Opposition reiterated constantly its understanding of this essential fact of life at the end of the 20th century.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Lord Alport
My Lords, the gracious Speech makes only perfunctory reference to the Commonwealth—included seemingly as an afterthought. My noble friend Lord Caithness did not mention it in his speech. That is evidence of how during the past 20 years the attitude of this country has changed towards a worldwide association which represents perhaps the greatest achievement of our history and in which everyone in these islands shares. In many ways it is a sign of the declining standards of values and vitality of Britain that our attitude to the Commonwealth should be increasingly characterised nowadays by neglect, petty resentment and even open hostility.
No doubt there are many reasons for the changes which have taken place. Those include a consciousness that we are no longer the imperial superpower which we were in the lifetime of many of your Lordships and that we have become just one of the 12 members of a newfangled Europe. The debilitating consequences of two world wars, in spite of the fact that we were victorious in both, have had a profound effect on our human and economic resources. Our relationship with our fellow members of the Commonwealth has changed radically so that leaders of even the smallest countries bring to the conference table criticism of Britain's policies and even abuse beyond the normal standards of diplomatic usage.
For many people in this country, some aspects of our relationships with dependent peoples in the colonial era have left a sense of guilt. For others, the belief that our natural self interest lies within Europe and in association with the United States has greatly reduced the importance placed on Commonwealth relations. We tend to forget that, despite all those changes, the historic association of a quarter of the world with our institutions and our political values and our common economic interests, language and culture give Great Britain an inheritance of unique value.
I believe that there is some significance in the fact that when the current Gulf crisis arose, the first countries to respond with support were Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Of course they did that as independent members of the United Nations.
We should not forget that a year ago Pakistan applied, and was accepted, to rejoin the Commonwealth. We should consider the significance of the application this year of Namibia, which never previously had any direct association with the Commonwealth. We should remember that, whereas 258 our trade balance with Europe in 1989 was £16 billion in the red, there was a favourable £1 billion balance with the Commonwealth. Nor should we forget the thousands of students from every country in the Commonwealth who come to Britain for their education and professional qualifications and in so many of whom their years here have left a lasting sense of affection for this country.
If my argument that the creation of the Commonwealth is a major part of the heritage of this country, what should we do to preserve this great legacy? First, our representatives at Commonwealth conferences should realise that the principles governing our diplomatic relations with Commonwealth countries are not the same as those which apply to our diplomatic contacts with foreign countries. Her Majesty will open the conference in Zimbabwe next year. For her, her role as head of the Commonwealth remains of the greatest significance.
Secondly, we should understand the susceptibilities which their past relationships with Great Britain have created in each Commonwealth country. Since the demise of the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Foreign Office has tended to treat Commonwealth countries on exactly the same basis as it treats foreign countries. The confrontation between Britain and its European partners is parallelled by the confrontation between Britain and other Commonwealth countries on the question of South African sanctions. Although Germany and France may understand and laugh off the abrasive diplomacy of the last Rome conference and may even welcome it as evidence of Britain's vulnerability and decline, for many Commonwealth countries which, despite the legacy of years of dependence, look to Britain for a conciliatory and balanced judgment it produces a sense of disillusionment and almost of shock.
While I think that the blame for the neglect of our Commonwealth heritage rests mainly with the political leadership of Britain during the past 20 years, some of it also belongs to the Foreign Office. In the belief that nations which have become independent within the Commonwealth should be treated in exactly the same way as any other foreign country, the special relationship of Britain with other Commonwealth countries has been gradually eroded.
Perhaps I may take the Department for Overseas Development as an example. The ODA was created during the premiership of the late Lord Stockton to administer aid to the Commonwealth and its dependent territories on the basis of their needs and without any political strings. I know that because, as Minister at that time and influenced by the Canadian example, I persuaded Lord Duncan-Sandys, the Secretary of State, to present the idea to the Prime Minister, and it was accepted. It was to be outward, practical evidence of Britain's anxiety for the Commonwealth and particularly for those members belonging to the third world. At the Foreign Office, overseas aid, although under the direction of an able Minister, has become an instrument designed simply to reinforce British interests in any part of the world. The criterion for the grant of aid, as the Foreign 259 Secretary outlined in his speech to the Overseas Development Institute on 6th June, is best described as "getting Britain value for money". Thus, a contribution to the maintenance of our relations with the Commonwealth becomes an instrument of contemporary British foreign policy. Aid will now go not to help needy Commonwealth countries, but to serve our policy interests in Eastern Europe.
What should be done? I believe that, as a start, the Secretary of State's deputy at the Foreign Office should be designated Minister for Commonwealth Relations and should have responsibility for all matters involving our relations with the Commonwealth—political, economic and cultural. In particular, he or she should have the resources needed to promote a better understanding of the Commonwealth among the younger generation in Britain and to give evidence overseas of Britain's continuing special relationship with Commonwealth countries. He or she should be able to advise the Prime Minister, through the Secretary of State, of the implications for various Commonwealth countries of developments in British foreign policy. I believe that a dedicated and able Minister, with the support of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, would be able to begin to repair some of the ravages of our neglect of relations with the Commonwealth during the past 20 years.
I am sure that evidence of the importance which Britain attaches to the special relationship which we have inherited with those countries, great and small, throughout the world, would be widely welcomed by them. Today Britain needs friends perhaps more than at any time in her history and our best friends remain in the Commonwealth.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Lord Selsdon
My Lords, one of the great privileges of being a Member of your Lordships' House is the relatively free ability which one has to go on learning. Today I have learnt more in a few short hours than I have for many a month, not least from our two maiden speeches.
I am not sure that I can teach your Lordships anything. Therefore, I must rely upon history. In my intervention, which will be on Europe and the Middle East, I wish to take us back to 1974, for the same period of confusion seemed to exist then as exists now. There was some form of turmoil or doubt over our membership of the EC and the Middle East was in disarray, at that time because of rising oil prices.
Today we find that my own party appears to be somewhat in disarray over EC issues. I recall well that in 1974, when I was joint treasurer of the Conservative Group for Europe, having desperately to go out and raise money to support our delegation for the European Parliament because members of the Labour Party had flatly refused to go or to participate. I should hesitate to call them renegades or turncoats but I would defend to the last the right of everybody on European issues to hold their own views and to seek to impose them on other people.
260 In those days we had a relatively small European Community. It began as the European Coal and Steel Community. It then became the European Economic Community and then the European Community—the EC. All of a sudden the "C" has been dropped and we are back to where we all came in many years ago; namely, Europe.
The question is: where does Europe begin and end? Is that a political or a geographical lesson? To me, Europe runs to the Bosporus and the Urals. However, I find already that I have a limited knowledge of history and can no longer name the countries which made up Europe in the days when Europe was united before the first and second worlds were created. Presumably, the second world now disappears and we struggle desperately to create the wealth of the first world across Europe.
With that change come other problems which relate not least to defence, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, pointed out. NATO must find a new role. The end of the cold war does not necessarily bring stability, as many commentators pointed out; it creates an opportunity for instability outside Europe. We have had and still have an unstable situation in the Middle East. Perhaps it was only in 1974 when the oil prices rose in the way that they did that people realised the importance of the area, although it has been of importance to Europe throughout the generations.
I remind your Lordships that my only contribution in that area is that for six years I was chairman of the Government's Committee for Middle East Trade, CMET. I have the privilege of having met most of the Ministers out there and of seeing people I used to call friends appear on television in uniform. The Iraqi people are intelligent. Most of the Middle East has a strange intelligentsia which many of us fail to understand.
At the back of it all lies oil. Seventy per cent. of the proven oil reserves of the world are in the Middle East: 65 per cent. are in the Gulf and 25 per cent. are in Saudi Arabia; another 9 per cent. are in Iraq, Kuwait, Iran and so on. That is fairly significant as long as the world, and Europe in particular, is dependent upon imported oil.
One can also see that after the price rise of 1974, which suddenly enhanced the economies of that region, those who found that they had overspent, such as the Iraqi people, longed for a rise in oil prices. The arguments began to take place in OPEC and OAPEC. It is probably true to say that if many of the governments of the Arab world had been as wise as they always claimed to be they would have seen what was coming long ago. This crisis could then have been averted.
We are now forced to play a role, though not necessarily a reluctant role. The strength that the United Nations has given us all is encouraging for world stability. From an economic point of view we recognise that our pattern of trade has shifted inexorably towards the European Community or to Europe, where in many cases it used to be. But we should not forget the significance of our trade with the 261 Middle East, which runs at around £6 billion a year and gives us a £3.5 billion surplus. It is mainly in manufactures, where exports are hard to come by. We should also not forget that whatever may happen at this time there will always be trading opportunities there. Trade is always followed by finance, and finance should never leave trade.
What is the solution? What can happen now in the Middle East? I am not able to assess the outcome. But the old pearl divers I used to see—they once provided the main economy of that part of the world—would tell us to look back to the empires and try to understand the ambition for territorial, political and economic gain that has always rested with many of these nations. There has been coup after coup over time. The desires of Iraq, having fought a bloody and costly war, to extend its empire and increase and boost its economy are understandable. But it should never have been allowed to get away with it. One of the rules I learnt a long time ago is that one cannot negotiate out there except from a position of strength: the stronger one's position, the easier one's negotiation.
We must also say today that a position of strength is one in which one can isolate completely the man who is probably now the sole enemy of the world. He has isolated his own people from any knowledge or news externally. We cannot know how the people in the middle of Iraq think today. But we can be sure of one thing. They know nothing other than what is fed to them. They may believe that they have been invaded by a hostile, aggressive force which seeks to destroy them. The truth is that we cannot get through unless we negotiate from strength.
If we look back over time we must ask what the point of war is. I know not. There are many quotations. I shall pick one which I enjoy and which was given to me in the Middle East:The aim of war is to live unhurt in peace".That was said by one of the old colonialists or imperialists, Cicero.
If one follows the Arab world, the history of Babylon and the developments over time of the Darian empires, one sees that people have behaved in roughly the same way. Those who, like me, were not very good at construing Latin or Greek, will remember at the end of the chapters on the Punic, Gallic or other wars the phrase, "and they exchanged hostages". Even today there is confusion over the word "hostage". Perhaps to some extent in using the word "guest" the Iraqis are correct. I believe it descends from hostis, an enemy, and hoste meaning guest. They are not hostages. They were people taken in exchange for good behaviour. The people out there at the moment are prisoners or internees. If the word used is 'hostage", how do we equate that with the hostage held in Buckingham Palace when Her Majesty opens this House? I believe one of the Whips is held there as a hostage to ensure her safe return.
What a scenario. When trying to negotiate from strength we fail to recognise that, like some strange and peculiar game of chess, the opponents will seek forever to entice one's pawn into their net. Great 262 pieces will move out there in the belief that they are trying to save or help a few. One must admire those who struggle to bring back their family and friends by whatever means at their disposal. But they play into the hands of someone else. Before I came here tonight I looked up in your Lordships' House the definition of a pawn:The pawns are the humblest pieces on the board and their promotion is rare".We must stop pawns going out there; they have no role to play.
When we come to what happens next, there will undoubtedly need to be a position where either Iraq stands off or there is war. That war may be limited in some stages or it may not. Another quotation comes to mind. It was given to me by one of my chief petty officers in the Navy when I was being rather slow. He used to say, "Don't worry. The strategy should always be diu apparandum est bellum ut vincas celerius". That translates to mean, to win a war quickly takes long preparation.
We already have control of the sea. I am told it is only a matter of 10 daylight hours before we have total control of the air, and gradually the isolation of Iraq will be complete. As noble Lords pointed out, Iraq must have a way out; it will probably be a last minute retirement or nothing.
Who are we? We are backing the United Nations, providing the strength for the Arab world to conduct its own negotiations. It will not be our role after any aggression or withdrawal to negotiate; it must be for the governments of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to do that. As I sit down I recall another great empire, that of Alexander the Great. As your Lordships will know, he died in Babylon of malaria. But it was his father, Philip of Macedon, who said,No fortress is impregnable if a donkey laden with gold can be driven up to its gate".
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I add my congratulations and admiration for the two maiden speeches to which we listened. I believe that there will be general agreement in your Lordships' House that of all the issues touched on—some more profoundly than others—the issue of war is by far the most ominous. It is not necessary for me to go as far as some of those who regard the present situation as potentially terminal, though there is no argument for the final immortality of this planet.
I find that there is considerable apprehension today among those who claim to be scientifically minded that the fact of human self-consumption is a dreadful prospect. Whereas within the world as we know it a swarm of locusts is inclined to eat almost anything other than another swarm of locusts, it is the human species which seems to be bent on its own self-destruction. I do not necessarily believe that to be true. However, I find on my travels that many more people than hitherto are returning to the concept that this is a passing phase in our pilgrimage. I shall refer to that a little later. I believe that at this moment what 263 is pertinent to your Lordships' concern is this: what is the moral nature that can be attached to war? Is it permissible? Is it inevitable?
I deal with the three options which historically the Church has professed in relation to war. First, there is the attitude of complete neutrality on the basis of the supposition that this is a lost world anyway, that the various rules that belong, shall we say, to war have nothing to do with the Ten Commandments, and to keep those two issues apart is the essence of sobriety and common sense. Unless one should think that that is not by any means the general view, I assure myself that it is a much more current opinion now among those young people who find the ministrations of the Church more or less concentrated on the prospects of eternity rather than the concept of immediate practical attitudes to evil as they find them.
The second of the options is that war can only be conducted in certain ways and with certain reservations if it can be equated with the Christian faith and Christian procedure. However, there is a third option and I make no apology for mentioning it as it has not yet been put forward. The pacifist position is, I believe, as academically acceptable and as respectable as any of the other two options. In fact, I believe that it is the only option that remains for the contemplation of those who look with confidence to the future. I believe that on the ground that when the just war is examined it falls into tatters.
In the first place, it is a corruption of language. The various arguments propounded for a just war turn out to be, on examination, a mixture of inaccuracy and indeed, in some cases, of sheer superstition. I put it this way. What is the difference between throwing a baby on the fire and throwing fire on the baby? The answer is 6,000 feet. If the airman, whether he be English, German or American, who drops his bombs on, shall we say, Hamburg, Warsaw or Dresden, were to go down with the implement of destruction rather than see some delightful little glow in the sky over the city and a white patch where the bomb apparently has landed, would he still do it? It is this corruption of words in which we associate things which are themselves far beyond our capacity to put into rational form but nevertheless belong to the higher nature of our concept that is, I believe, one of the supreme enemies of proper attachment to the proposition that a war can be just.
In the second place, as Augustine promulgated and St. Thomas Aquinas identified in a great deal of prolix argument, the composition of a war which can be regarded as just must be an economy of the requisite amount of force to provide the desired result. What nonsense that is in a nuclear age. We are told that when the crossbow was invented an abbot used one to shoot Richard the Lionheart. I am sorry that it was an abbot, but it was. The result was that the papacy pronounced that bows and arrows were acceptable in a just war but crossbows were out. It made no difference. However, it was one part of the process in the acceleration of the power of violence. Is it not true that at the Battle of Waterloo the fire power of a 264 brigade of the British was not much greater than that which can be carried on the back of one saboteur today?
However, that is not the end of the story—it is the beginning of it. I believe that a just war which is not confined within known limits cannot be reconciled because it passes all the judgments which belong to some circumspection and idea of what will be its results. Proportionality—a long and not very helpful word—is another aspect of the just war: that one's attitude must be proportional in what we do by violence to assure the possibility of a result which is acceptable and for which that war was first undertaken.
I do not believe that there is any further justification needed for the proposition that there is no such entity as a just war. The Christian Church should have the courage and intelligence to recognise that one cannot square the proposition of war today with any of the propositions that belong to the Kingdom of God and which are enunciated, shall we say, in the Sermon on the Mount.
Having said that—I hope not with truculence—I understand the difficulty of pronouncing. The pronouncement of no war under any circumstances because it is the total evil immediately provokes the question: then what do you do? I shall try to approach the answer to that imperative need. It is not enough to renounce war. It is, I believe, in the interests of everyone and certainly part of the essential characteristic of Christian teaching that when once we have said something is wrong, and unless we believe that this is a chaotic and useless universe, we are all in need of, and must perforce propound, what we believe to be right.
However, there is a precondition. I find that the general concept of the proposition that the wages of sin is death is only associated in the minds of the hearers with the fact that if you commit sin you will go to hell. That is not what it means. The wages of sin is paralysis, total inertia. That is what death is so far as we are concerned. I believe that there is a Christian doctrine—in fact, a necessary and proper doctrine that does not necessarily derive only from the Christian faith—that if you go on doing what is wrong for long enough you shut up the opportunities of doing what is right. Anybody who has had anything to do with an alcoholics' hostel, as I have for 20 years, will not doubt that proposition. Therefore, the itch for action, and the view that anything is better than doing nothing, is not necessarily a proposition to which we can attach any practical importance today.
We could have prevented Hitler in 1926. We could not have prevented Hitler in 1936. I believe that we have enough time left to provide the means whereby a way to avoid a future, proximate, inevitable conflict can emerge. That is why in my remaining time I want to say something about the practical alternative. It begins with the total renunciation of that war proposition. It goes on to say that if we are to regard anything active and constructive that is still available in the time left, the first proposition in that regard is not to say that we are righteous, that our enemies are 265 villainous, that they must primarily accept their condition of wickedness and that there is an absolute need for them to recognise that wickedness and to retire from its prosecution. I cannot believe that.
I remember that we supported Iraq when that country invaded Iran. I go further back. I learnt long ago that, as Winston Churchill said, "Lying in wartime is an indispensable ally". What did your Lordships or I know, when it happened, of the chopping up of the Ottoman empire in the interests of the Western world and pre-eminently in the interests of oil?
Perhaps your Lordships read in this morning's newspapers of the particular characteristics of the Islamic faith in, say, Saudi Arabia compared with the much more generous attitude to the Islamic faith elsewhere in that part of the world. These created in me the requirement of a confession that we cannot assume that we are in the robe of righteousness dealing with these sinners who need, first of all, to accept our repudiation of their behaviour and, alongside that, the repudiation of their continued villainy. Of course I regard the invasion of Kuwait as a crime. Was it very different from the crime involving Nicaragua? Was it very different from the crime of the invasion of Tibet? Is it very different from the occupation of the outstanding areas alongside Israel?
I do not for one moment deny that there is a need to reduce the evil which Saddam Hussein has begun and continues to do. However, it would be wrong to rule out the prospect of some coming together of this bunch of human sinners as part of the essential characteristic of any programme which may be constructive and helpful in the solution of this present problem, or the beginning of a solution to the problems that go with it. That is preferable to plunging into the awful catacomb of war. I believe that is the message of the Church, or it should be.
I am a pacifist, but not because I am antagonistic to war. I am a pacifist because I believe that the conduct of war essentially contrary to the spirit and teaching of Jesus. Those who take the sword will perish by it. It is contradicted in the spirit of Pentecost. It is very difficult to account for Pentecost, which is the giving of God's spirit to the early Church, and then to recognise that it went straight towards the Roman Empire and asked to become holy on the grounds that it would be supported. I do not believe that. The evidence that the early Church was pacifist is incontrovertible.
Having made this confession of faith, I wish to end by making a suggestion which I believe to be perfectly genuine and which at the same time is absolutely imperative. I want the Church to claim and the community to accept a total repudiation of war at least for the moment in order that there may be an opportunity, which we have to seize, to say that we should pt together not because we have righteousness on our side (although in many respects we have) but because the solution of this problem involves the recognition of penitence on the part of both sides or rather the acceptance of a sense of responsibility.
266 I end on what I hope is a more joyful note. I speak of the religious situation in Russia. I have with me a copy of the journal of the Patriarchate of Moscow. It is in English, so I can read it. It is a very interesting document. Do noble Lords know, for instance, that Pimen, just before he died a few months ago, was an elected member of the Soviet? I did not know that. I wonder whether your Lordships know that the number of inter-religious groupings in the Soviet Union promoted by the Church is about 10 times that of the West. There is evidence, for those who are prepared to look at the matter impartially, concerning the existing problem of how to reconcile the violence of Islam with, I hope, the lesser violence of the Christian faith. In the Soviet Union, stepping stones have already been provided to a common front in peacemaking.
It is a curious commentary on that old rascal, Stalin, that in the middle of the war he did not turn to piety first of all but recreated the patriarchate because it would reinstate the concept of holy Russia. It did. If one looks at the evidence today one will find that in Russian literature the Second World War was the Great Patriotic War. Part of the patriotism of the Church under Stalin was within the framework of peacemaking. I do not necessarily believe that all extraordinary events are miraculous. However, I invite your Lordships to believe that when we speak of an alternative to war we must not conclude that we have all the evidence yet. I still believe that obedience to the ultimate principles of the Prince of Peace is a better way to an understanding of the future that opens up before us than all the accoutrements of war. That is my testimony.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Lord Bridges
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, I find this a remarkably interesting debate. We had the benefit of an excellent maiden speech from my noble friend Lady Dunn, which I heard with great pleasure. A number of other noble Lords remain to speak. Therefore, I shall concentrate on what seems to me to be the most immediate and important issue before us; namely, the Gulf crisis. I shall approach it from a rather different angle from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, whose views I heard with respect. I have a rather different approach to his.
My starting point is to thank the Government for the resolute and effective way in which they have handled this question in the United Nations, particularly during our presidency of the Security Council in October. We have been right to stress the primacy of collective security. For us, that is what the United Nations is all about. The countries of Western Europe cannot forget their failure to devise and execute an effective policy of collective security in the 1930s. It was consciousness of that failure which led the victors of 1945 to create the United Nations. It is only now that the frozen lines of the ideological divide have thawed and that we are able to use the resources of the organisation for the purposes for which it was originally designed for the first time since the Korean war.
267 If we are sure that collective security is the main issue for us in this crisis—and I am personally convinced of this—we should not cast it lightly aside. I was therefore particularly glad to read in the press that the Government have now agreed to seek a further Security Council resolution in advance of any military steps to free Kuwait from foreign occupation. That was my interpretation of what I read in the press. It appears that the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, has a slightly different view. In winding up it will be helpful if the Minister can explain the Government's attitude.
We may be legally entitled to act on the basis of the resolutions already passed and on Article 51 of the charter. Many would feel that on the basis of the principles involved we would be justified in taking that view. I suggest that the question is a broader one. The commencement of hostilities carries unpredictable risks and uncertainties. Action on the basis of a specific resolution would be a much wiser course. Only in that way would we have a real chance of retaining broad international support. In other words, this is a matter of politics rather than of law only, and it needs to be treated as such.
I am not qualified to speak of the military difficulties of such an operation, but I would like to draw attention to some of the political aspects which would arise. There is the war crimes and atrocity issue. We have all read of the barbarous acts committed during the occupation of Kuwait. We have also seen circumstantial accounts of the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish population of Iraq in the recent past. Revulsion at such activities has led, not surprisingly, to calls for the President of Iraq to be tried by a war crimes tribunal for his misdeeds.
While I share the repugnance felt at these horrible activities, I ask myself whether it would be wise to proceed down this path to the extent of making the punishment of the President of Iraq a stated objective of our common policy. My doubts arise not from any lack of moral outrage, because I feel as indignant as anyone else, but from the military consequences of that obligation. Surely, there is a vast difference in practical terms between restoring the sovereignty of Kuwait to its inhabitants and the capture, imprisonment and trial of the President of Iraq.
That would require the conquest and occupation of Iraq on the scale of the occupation and conquest of Germany in 1945. This extension of the military objective would surely add to the difficulty of a military campaign. I believe that the liberation of Kuwait is our essential and stated task and that it would not be prudent to make any formal commitment to aim more widely than that. If Iraq agrees to the restoration of Kuwaiti sovereignty or is obliged to cede it, no doubt the people of Iraq will draw their own conclusions.
Similar arguments apply to Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, by which is meant her access to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. It is argued, and with some reason, that an outcome of this crisis which left such capabilities in Iraqi hands 268 would merely postpone the day of reckoning. That may be so, but we need to remember the long-term effect of Israel's earlier attack on Iraq's nuclear installations, which shows that destruction of such activities by military means may be effective only for a limited period. So long as the political will and the economic resources are available, such preparations for mass destruction can be started afresh, as has indeed happened in the case of Iraq.
Iraq is not the only state in the region to harbour the ambition of developing such weapons. I submit that we shall not remove the danger of armed conflict in the Middle East, involving such arsenals of mass destruction, without a wider and more general pacification. We may hope that Iraq would conclude, after two disastrous and expensive campaigns, that military adventure does not pay and will adapt her policies accordingly. We can encourage such conclusions if we, and above all the United States, pursue initiatives which permit all states in the region to devote fewer resources to armaments, which many of them can ill afford. This cannot be done effectively in relation to one country alone.
I should like to offer your Lordships a further broad reflection on this crisis. I do not myself believe that our objective—collective security—is widely recognised as such by many of the Middle Eastern states. I suspect that to most Arabs it is the security of oil supplies and the price of oil which are seen as the real motive underlying Western determination and military commitment. We also need to realise, here in Britain, that our alignment in this crisis with the traditional societies of southern Arabia and the Gulf will be clearly perceived by other states in the region. Except in the case of Egypt and of Syria, of which I shall say more in a moment, this observation by others is entirely correct. We are indeed aligned with the traditional rulers, our friends of many years, and against the more secular attitudes of the Iraqi Ba'ath. This is an important factor because there are many in the Arab world who are jealous of the riches disposed of in the past two decades by the rulers of southern Arabia. Should armed conflict be a prelude to a widespread social convulsion in the Middle East—and this might be one of the consequences —we need to be aware that we should be lined up with the old social order against the new.
If this identification does not worry us—and I think it should—we need to look carefully at the effect of conflict on the most fundamental of all issues in the Middle East, the divide between Israel and the Arabs. Fear and distrust of Israel is the highest common factor among the Arabs. The Arab leader who can most effectively champion the struggle against Israel will emerge as the hero of the Arab world. There must be an ultimate temptation here for Saddam Hussein. He might conceivably, in extremis, seek to bring Israel into this conflict, aiming to polarise the struggle between the just cause of the Arabs—and the rest. Such a decision would surely be as fatal for him as it was for Samson. But it would also be damaging to others, particularly the United States and the European Community. For the European 269 Community to be allied with Israel and the United States in armed conflict with the leader posing as champion of the Arabs is not a prospect any of us would care to contemplate. That is not the way that we would interpret the situation; but, regrettably, that is how it would appear to some others.
This subject is labelled, rather erroneously I think, as linkage. We are right to deny any direct connection between the occupation of Kuwait and the dispute between Israel and her Arab neighbours. But we should not be surprised if others see it in that light, after the persistent but ineffective struggles of intifada and the lack of any real effort in recent years to get on with the issue of Palestine. Of course there are Arabs using this crisis in an effort to get us more involved in a matter of great complexity and difficulty. But we have reasons of our own, the protection of our interests, for seeking to remove in the longer term causes of tension, strife and injustice. Conversely we expose ourselves unduly by any apparent passivity or partiality. Such exposure may be markedly increased by the outcome of the Gulf crisis. For that reason, like my noble friend Lord Haden-Guest in his maiden speech, I greatly welcome the passage in the gracious Speech which seems to herald some further visible endeavour to bring about a more general pacification in the Middle East. I hope that this may be followed up with some vigour; I believe that we cannot afford to do otherwise.
I should like to add a word about our relations with Syria, a subject not so far mentioned. We have no formal relations with Syria but we find ourselves unexpectedly in alliance with that state. We might do well to contemplate the situation for a moment. We all know the reasons for our past difficulties with Syria. To judge from certain press reports, the Government have at tempted to resume relations with Syria in the recent past, but without success. I feel sure that the Government were right to make the attempt and I regret that it has not succeeded. I hope that it will be possible to persist with such efforts. Of course we cannot condone the earlier Syrian activities; equally, we can hardly expect an explicit and public admission of error on its part. We should bear in mind that the existence of formal diplomatic relations with a state does not imply any moral approval or disapproval. It merely recognises a fact. There are ways in which Syria could give undertakings about the future which should give us sufficient satisfaction. I make these comments because I believe that we need to end the present state of affairs which is not only anomalous but deprives us of contact with a state of considerable importance in the Middle East.
In drawing these reflections together, I invite the Government to continue their policy of proceeding by means of Security Council resolution. This policy has been effective and deserves our thanks. It would be the only sure foundation for the military action now in prospect. Such a policy is right, not only because of its application in the present crisis but also to promote the broader cause of collective security which is going to be so significant for members of the United Nations in years to come. At the same time, we need to pay 270 attention to the perceptions of other states in the region which see the crisis from different points of view. If our motives are to be correctly judged on their merits—they are not ignoble motives—we should join others who are searching for a broader framework to enable the societies and nations in the region to concentrate their resources and efforts on peaceful development. That is what their peoples aspire to, and it has been for so long denied to them.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, when I ventured to address your Lordships' House in the debate for which we were recalled early in September, I put forward the suggestion that we must, above all, be careful not to delude ourselves as to the realities of the situation which was developing and with which we were confronted. Her Majesty's Government had by then set out a policy and that policy has, in essentials, been repeated in the interim period. The words which one might use to describe it are, "steady and collective resistance to all acts of unprovoked aggression". Those are not in fact the words of the present Foreign Secretary; they are the words used by Sir Samuel Hoare at the United Nations Assembly on 11th September 1935. Sanctions were adopted in a spate of enthusiasm and we know what happened to sanctions and to Ethiopia.
It may be, as other noble Lords suggested, that Iraq is perhaps vulnerable to sanctions. I do not question the validity of an attempt to use them. However, what I regard at present as a more important form of delusion is the belief that collective security has somehow been fortified and made manifest by the ability of the United Nations to pass no fewer than 10 resolutions, none of which, I observe, have had any impact on the course of events in the countries concerned.
When we look at this alliance, whether it is the alliance as regards voting in the Security Council or that in respect of the forces arranged against Iraq in the Gulf, we have an extraordinary collection of countries which would normally, and still perhaps do, find it very difficult to regard their national interests in this conflict, and indeed in many others, as being substantially the same.
The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, referred to Syria. It is indeed curious to find ourselves the allies of Syria which, certainly only a year or two ago, was regarded in this country and widely in the West with the same opprobrium as Iraq; that is, as a nest for terrorists. We must necessarily depend upon Saudi Arabia. But that is a country where for the first time British troops on Remembrance Day were unable to have religious ceremonies performed. That is also a curious phenomenon, for both the United States and ourselves to have to witness. One could continue in that respect. In other words, we now face a much more complex situation. I wholly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, who asked us to look at how it appears from other quarters.
We have, as has been said by several noble Lords, movements of opinion in our country, and perhaps 271 even more so in the United States, which look towards some kind of negotiated settlement without anyone so far, either in your Lordships' House or in the wider world, having been able to produce even the skeleton of a negotiated settlement which might be acceptable to the ruler of Iraq.
Looking back over the events of several weeks, it seemed at one time as though the Soviet Union, which had long connections with Iraq, would, through Mr. Gorbachev's envoy, bring about some move towards a settlement. However, it now appears that the Russians have abandoned their hopes in that respect and that the baton has now been taken up by China. I shall not refer, because I think it would be pointless, to the procession which has been referred to as the "three Gs"—namely, the great, the good and the gullible—starting with Mr. Edward Heath and finishing up as a final flourish of absurdity with Mr. Tony Benn who has announced that he will negotiate peace, although on whose behalf is something which has yet to be revealed.
Therefore, there are many aspects which must be taken into account. One of them—the only one I wish to talk about —was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Holderness and Lord Bridges. I refer to the implication, which I believe to be correct, that the Arab-Israeli dispute will be much affected by the course of events in the Gulf over the next few months or perhaps over a longer period of time.
As some noble Lords will be aware, I have constantly urged my friends in Israel, a country that I have close and intimate connections with, to embark upon a policy of negotiation out of pure self-interest on the grounds that their own society would be wrecked if they remained for ever in occupation of territories wholly populated by people hostile to that rule. I also attempted to assure my friends —this is where the Gulf Crisis comes into the issue —that simply to say, "Well, the United States will always bale us out and, therefore, we do not need to rethink our policies", was placing upon their relationship with the United States a burden which it may not tolerate in the long run. It is obvious, and has been shown to be so in the resolutions of the United Nations, that the United States is inevitably moving towards the view that that conflict must be settled.
On the other hand, I am sure that neither of the noble Lords who raised the subject would expect or wish the conflict to be settled by the further application of violence involving the invasion by Iraq or by Syria of those territories, though, no doubt, it would seem to their inhabitants to be liberation. In my view, it remains essential, even if the present government in Israel is impenetrable, that a government should be formed at some stage in Israel which would take an initiative in suggesting the lines upon which negotiation could proceed. I see no reason why any interlocutors who have something to offer should be excluded from such negotiation.
However, for that to come about—this is the main point I wish to make—the people of Israel must have a degree of confidence in their new government and 272 the desire to seek peace by negotiation. There must be confidence that, if they abandoned territories which they regard at present as being essential to their defence, there would be a substitute for them. For that reason I was delighted to understand from the noble Lord, Lord Holderness, that he thought some kind of international guarantee of the agreed frontiers of such a settlement would be essential. That confidence must be given.
It is very hard to inject confidence into the Israelis. Not only have they the memories of the holocaust —a large proportion of the population are either survivors or the descendants of survivors—but they also have the patent evidence all around them of what Arabs do to other Arabs. When Israelis read about the rape, looting and murder in Kuwait of fellow Arabs, as they were described by the ruler of Iraq; when they read of the appalling atrocities committed by the Syrian Government against their own people (more Syrians have perished at the hands of the Syrian Government than in any international conflict); and when they read of what has gone on in the Lebanon, even quite recently, and of the fate of some of the Christians of Beirut, is it surprising that they say, "If the Arabs do this to other Arabs, what can we Jews expect if we allow them a position from which they can inflict their will upon us?" To inject such confidence is therefore an enormous task. I believe that it should be faced because the end is worth it. We shall have to see a general settlement.
The mere solution of the Kuwait crisis is not in itself enough. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. We then have a major task of reassurance. I hope that that can be achieved. I am sure that it should be embarked upon as part of the diplomacy which the noble Lords, Lord Bridges and Lord Holderness, recommended to Her Majesty's Government.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Lord Pitt of Hampstead
My Lords, as someone with a developing country—Commonwealth and Caribbean—background, I thought that I should take advantage of the debate to highlight the economic impact of some recent major world developments on developing countries, including those in the Commonwealth.
I believe that Her Majesty's Government have an important duty to ensure that the problems facing those countries less fortunate than ourselves are not overlooked and that they are able to take advantage of the opportunities thrown up by the changes in the world. I therefore welcome the commitment in the gracious Speech to,maintain a substantial aid programme aimed at promoting sustainable economic and social progress and good government in developing countries".The recent events in the Gulf following the brutal annexation of Kuwait by Iraq have created great uncertainties, not least in the future outlook for the price of oil. The oil price rose sharply initially to about 40 dollars a barrel. Since then the price has remained highly volatile. Needless to say, the oil exporting developing countries have made windfall gains. For some severely indebted Commonwealth countries 273 such as Nigeria or my wife's native country of Trinidad and Tobago, the gains make their current adjustment efforts partially easier. For others, such as those in the Gulf, higher oil revenues help to pay for enlarged defence bills. But the main losers are the oil importing developing countries which form the majority of countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
In addition, a number of countries—among them all the South Asian Commonwealth member countries —are likely to lose between 4 and 5 billion dollars annually from workers' remittances. All in all, the deterioration in the current account of the oil importing developing countries could be 14 billion dollars this year and close to 30 billion dollars in 1991. If war breaks out, causing great disruption in the supply of oil, the deterioration will be far worse.
I am pleased to note that the international community has mounted a major effort to aid some of the countries which are hardest hit. Through the Gulf Crisis Financial Co-ordination Group, about 13 billion dollars has been raised in emergency aid to help mainly Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. But for the majority of developing countries there is little available except further adjustment.
Adjustment is certainly necessary. Countries must face the realities of international life. However, for many countries which have been adjusting for almost a decade, a serious question must now be asked: can the fragile fabrics of their impoverished societies withstand further upheaval? For example, income per capita in the sub-Saharan African region fell on average by about 2.2 per cent. per annum during the 1980s. In 1989 the income of an average citizen in sub-Saharan Africa was almost a fifth lower than in 1980. The industrial community must therefore offer oil importing developing countries assistance to enable them to undertake orderly adjustment.
Some help may be forthcoming from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But that is not an adequate response to a crisis of such magnitude as that now facing oil importing developing countries. Even before the oil crisis broke, fears were being expressed in many developing countries about the effect that political and economic liberalisation in Eastern Europe could have on them.
I do not wish to be misunderstood. It is certainly right to provide East European countries with financial and technical help to assist them in implementing their reforms and in nurturing their new and fledgling democracies. Their financial needs will be immense if they are to reform and modernise their economies, raise living standards and tackle environmental problems. However, we must ensure that the assistance that we provide to East European countries is not given at the expense of developing countries. Poverty has at least as great a claim as liberation from communism.
Our Overseas Development Administration has given an assurance that aid will not be adversely affected. That is to be welcomed. However, such an assurance can be consistent with mere maintenance of 274 aid in real terms, while incremental aid is diverted to East European countries. That would mean that our aid in relation to our gross national product, which is already below the average of all donors, would fall further. It would thus move us even further away from the target of 0.7 per cent. which was collectively set by the international community some 30 years ago. Real growth in aid is all the more important at present because we are entering a decade when there is likely to be immense competition for private capital. It is also a fact that, for many developing countries, the 1980s were a lost decade.
We must come to grips with this problem, and I wish to suggest some of the actions that can be taken. First, I believe we can assist in the solution of the debt problem. I congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer, John Major, on his proposals at the meeting of the Commonwealth finance ministers in Port of Spain, Trinidad, to make a large leap in the debt relief provided to the low income countries which are distressed with debt.
The United Kingdom has been in the forefront on this question of debt relief for very poor countries. It was Mr. Lawson who first outlined the debt relief proposals for low income countries which culminated in the agreement which is now known as the Toronto Terms. We must therefore engage all our skills to persuade other creditor countries to adopt the Trinidad and Tobago terms outlined by John Major.
However, it is not only the poorest who need debt relief. The lower and middle income countries like Jamaica owe a significant proportion of their debt to official creditors. Earlier this afternoon, the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, reminded us of similar problems confronting Poland. These countries—less poor than the poorest but nevertheless poor—are also severely weighed down by debt. In fact, we have the peculiar situation now where the large debtors like Mexico and the very poor get some relief but those in between—often small countries—get virtually no relief. We must find a way of helping them.
My second suggestion concerns private capital. I urge Her Majesty's Government to ensure that those developing countries which wish to attract private capital are encouraged to do so through credit and investment guarantees and financial and technical assistance similar to that being offered to East European countries. I suggest also that they be helped to develop capital and stock markets and in the promotion of country funds in international capital markets. This could provide an important route for attracting portfolio investments. Such investment has a tremendous long-term potential for developing countries. In this respect I welcome the launching in September this year of the Commonwealth equity fund, an idea conceived and developed by the Commonwealth Secretariat. My congratulations go to the Secretariat for this forward-looking and innovative approach.
My third suggestion concerns increased opportunity for enhancing aid flows arising from the prospect of the peace dividend. The reduction in East-West tensions has given us an immense opportunity to 275 reduce defence expenditure and to reap a peace dividend; a dividend which, if properly used, could provide benefits to our citizens as well as those of developing countries.
I feel I ought to remind noble Lords that absolute poverty afflicts 1 billion people in the third world. That is a quarter of the total population of those countries and nearly one-fifth of the population of the world. If the present understanding and commitments being reached between the superpowers are translated into cold statistics, annual reductions in military spending of between 2 per cent. and 4 per cent. are quite possible in the 1990s. This could give potential savings of 1.5 million to 2 trillion dollars during the course of the 1990s. These sums could be used to meet the social needs of the countries involved and also to help the countries that are less fortunate.
I believe that a major dialogue should now be encouraged here as well as in other countries on the potential size of such a peace dividend and the beneficial uses to which it could be put. A commitment to reach the target of 0.7 per cent. of gross national product as official aid by the year 2000 could easily be one of the outcomes of this exercise. I wish tonight to invite Her Majesty's Government to make that commitment. Enlightened leadership can certainly make this possible.
I had intended to say something about the problems that will confront developing countries after 1992 but I have spoken for long enough. I conclude by saying that I read in the Independent on Sunday an article by Neal Ascherson. He wrote that an iron curtain had developed in Europe between rich and poor. It is not just in Europe; that iron curtain between rich and poor exists the world over. I implore Her Majesty's Government to play their full part in trying to remove it.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Lord Holme of Cheltenham
My Lords, this has been a most informative and engrossing debate, not least the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead. It has also already been a rather long debate which has led me to a personal embarrassment for which I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Arran. I may not be able to stay until the end of the debate this evening. I have a long-standing engagement to fulfil, for which I apologise.
I wish to make three substantive points about the situation in the Gulf and precede them by one short observation about the attitudes with which we approach the problems there. I urge your Lordships that in our approach to the Gulf we do not adopt an over-self-righteous and over-pious approach. I imagine that it is common ground from the tenor of the debate in this House that we are united against the international brigand that Saddam Hussein has proved to be and that we are determined to see that Kuwait is restored to its proper government and liberated. But at the same time we should remember 276 that we and other Western countries have our share of the responsibility for the situation in the Middle East today.
It is we who drew lines on the sand and called them national boundaries. It is we who for 40 years have left unsolved the Palestinian question. It is we who have poured profitable arms sales into the Middle East. Is it not a bitter paradox that we read in the newspapers that, as the Desert Rats left for the Middle East, they had not been able to obtain the proper kit or uniform? Why?—because those desert uniforms had been sold. To whom had they been sold? Two years ago they were sold to the Government of Iraq. Therefore, we should not approach these Middle East questions in a holier than thou spirit but in a spirit of realism. If we have a resolute approach let it not be a pious one.
There are three matters that I should like to share with your Lordships. First, I urge that we do not talk ourselves into a war psychosis and create an unstoppable momentum towards war. My noble friend Lord Gladwyn talked about the virtues of preparing for war. Of course we should prepare for war. We should, as the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, said, negotiate from a position of strength. On these Benches we support the action of the Government in sending forces to the Middle East and we support the increase in the level of forces undertaken by the Americans. However, we support them in the spirit of preparing for war, not as a prediction of war.
I do not know whether I am alone in this House in finding it curious that the right honourable lady the Prime Minister has twice in the past week used the word "soon", first in the debate in another place on the gracious Speech and then in the Guildhall last night. I cannot believe that that is militarily or politically well advised. If we are not careful we shall create a momentum that will take over. We should remember the events that led to the First World War. There was the sense of an unstoppable momentum carrying us forward which nobody could escape. To use the word "soon" does not help. Even in the most practical terms it removes the element of uncertainty which is essential when dealing with someone like Saddam Hussein.
The second point that I should like to make, which is a point that was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, is that we have not heard enough about how economic sanctions are working. When we sent our forces to the Gulf it was on the basis of a twin-track strategy, of protecting Saudi Arabia and enforcing economic sanctions through a blockade so that they would effect a stranglehold on Iraq. We have not been told in this House, or generally by Her Majesty's Government, how well those sanctions are working. Are we to assume from the fact that we hear very little about them that their significance is being diminished in order to prepare us for a military option? That is wrong. We must know and understand fully how far the declared strategy of the allies in the Gulf is working.
My third point is that if the strategy of economic sanctions and blockade ultimately proves to have failed we may have to face the prospect of the use of 277 force. As the right reverend Prelate said, having exhausted all other possibilities and peaceful avenues we may have to face the prospect of the use of force in the Gulf. It should be the last resort, not an easy next step.
I am sure that I do not need to remind those of your Lordships who have seen active service that the consequences of war are almost always unknown to politicians and predictions are almost always wrong. In August 1914, when the troops went off to France, people talked about them being home by Christmas. They did not come home four and a half months later; they came home four and a half years later—those of them who came home—after suffering massive casualties. Therefore, if we are faced, as we are, with the unknown when considering the prospect of the use of force there must be no facile optimism about the duration of any war, about the casualties likely to be incurred or about the political consequences for the Middle East as a whole.
Another point about the potential use of force which has been mentioned by a number of noble Lords is that it is essential to hold the international community together. It has been said by my noble friend Lord Gladwyn—and we on these Benches agree with him—that a special Security Council resolution would be appropriate. My noble friend explained why that is so legally and I should like to say why it is also desirable politically. It is the outward and visible sign of the new world order about which the noble Lord, Lord Pym, spoke earlier in the debate. That would be expressed by a Security Council resolution. A Security Council resolution would represent the unity of the Soviet Union, the European allies, the moderate Arabs and the rest of the world community together.
In these deplorable events, the real prize that is at stake is a new international order. Let us make sure that we secure the real prize and do not grasp the fool's gold of hasty action for its own sake.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham. I should like to try to respond to the eloquent appeal of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. I want to refer to our closest neighbour, the Republic of Ireland, and later to mention the Soviet Union.
Last year at this time I spoke about Article 2 of the 1937 constitution of Ireland. It states:The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial sea".Article 3 merely limits the effect of Irish laws pending reintegration of the national territory.
As long ago as 1967 a committee of the Irish Parliament proposed amending Article 2 to make it clear that that was only an aspiration. That amending action was never taken. Some well-intentioned persons then maintained that the article in question should be understood as an aspiration. However, since the Supreme Court's ruling in this year's McGimpsey case such an interpretation is no longer possible. The learned judges ruled: 278The reintegration of the national territory is a constitutional imperative".That dictum has an unfortunate, if not perverse, bearing on the application of the Extradition Act 1965 and the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1977. It means that terrorist offenders are less likely to be brought to justice in one jurisdiction or another, despite the welcome Irish ratification of the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism.
The greatest damage caused by Article 2 and the Supreme Court ruling lies in the political sphere. I suggest that it constitutes a major obstacle to political agreement within Northern Ireland and to the necessary reformulation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The article provokes deep-seated and historic fears within most northern Unionists while at the same time causing the Social Democratic and Labour Party to be less forthcoming and more Dublin oriented than it might otherwise be.
In 1985, ambiguity had to be used by those framing the Anglo-Irish Agreement. That ambiguity now needs to be removed. We are in the era of the Vienna and Helsinki agreements and I believe that it is wrong for a friendly neighbouring state to claim the territory of another. That is the view that I tried to express in a letter to The Times of 8th August 1990.
Perhaps I may illustrate the harm of Article 2 by referring to the honourable Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The honourable gentleman is a Unionist, but by no means an extremist. In August he spoke at a summer school in Donegal in the Republic of Ireland to a largely Irish audience. He said that he had advocated responsibility sharing within Northern Ireland and had recognised the need for North-South liaison. He concluded that such developments would not be possible until some reasonable basis for trust had been established both within Northern Ireland and on the whole island. He felt openly threatened by the aggressive attitude of the Republic of Ireland toward Northern Ireland.
That is why we need the removal or substantial modification of Articles 2 and 3. However, I am glad to say that this issue is being actively discussed and addressed within the Republic. Mrs. Robinson, the newly elected President of Ireland, whom I am sure we all welcome most warmly, was asked during her campaign whether Articles 2 and 3 should be amended. She replied:We do need to modify them … It is not a question of denying the aspiration to national unity … It is a question of modifying in accordance with what is already guaranteed internationally in the Anglo-Irish Agreement".She went on:I felt the Anglo-Irish Agreement process was not complete. It did not involve Unionists and it did not involve constitutional change here"—and that means in the Republic.
A little later, on 27th September, Mr. John Bruton, the deputy leader of Fine Gael, addressed the conference on security and co-operation in Europe at Strasbourg. He called for amendment of Articles 2 and 3 to align the Republic's constitution with the Helsinki Final Act, which states that borders can only 279 be changed by peaceful means and by agreement. On 17th October Mr. Michael McDowell, chairman of the Progressive Democrats who form part of the governing coalition, spoke to law students in Dublin. He called for the removal of those articles and not just for them to become the subject of negotiations.
I have deliberately quoted leading personalities coming from three Irish political groups. I am sure that many members of the other main party, Fianna Fail, would agree that partition is a political reality which cannot and should not be overridden by constitutional imperatives however venerable. Change concerning Northern Ireland can only come about by consent and agreement. That is a very long way off, and repeated opinion polls taken in the Republic have shown that the majority there do not expect it to happen within their lifetime, if indeed ever.
The gracious Speech said that Her Majesty's Government would,maintain positive relations with the Republic of Ireland".Such relationships need to be based on clarity and not on ambiguity. I believe that the Government can help the process of constitutional change in the Republic by making clear now what is the status of Northern Ireland. It should be something that is known, definite and not conditional, unlike what is stated in a recent press release from the Northern Ireland Office dated 8th November concerning security policy. It is necessary to remove the conditional status that has applied since 1948. If any review is later thought to be necessary, it should be at some remote date, perhaps 2050 AD.
I believe that Her Majesty's Government are in agreement with me when they turn their minds to such matters. For instance, in February a long-serving Minister in the Northern Ireland Office stated that existing boundaries were the fundamental first principle on which agreement had to be underwritten by the international community if greater ethnic strife were to be avoided. He was speaking in a context that included both Eastern Europe and Northern Ireland. I heartily concur with him. Will Her Majesty's Government join with others in establishing a service to help monitor and conciliate the grievances and legitimate political aspirations of minorities throughout Europe within existing state boundaries? That, I think, is something at which the noble Lord, Lord Pym, was probably hinting in the course of his speech.
With that transition via Eastern Europe, I come now to the Soviet Union. I was briefly in Moscow in January. Since then it has become clearer that that vast empire is changing character and structure. The component republics are gaining in both importance and autonomy. Despite that, our country is only represented in Moscow. Will Her Majesty's Government move rapidly to set up consulates in such places as Kiev, Riga, St. Petersburg, Tiflis, Vladivostock and even perhaps in western Siberia? There is regional business to be done and it is important that our competitors should not arrive first on the scene.
280 A month or two ago a small group from the Catholic organisation Pax Christi visited Siberia. It received a request from a district authority in the Republic of Yakutsk to help with the care of orphans and the transformation of their existing schools into all-purpose grammar schools. In Novosibirsk the same group had appeals from the university and a children's hospital. I mention those examples to point out how the official Soviet bodies recognise their need for help even from religious sources. They also show that the needs of remote places are likely to be discovered only by personal visits. I trust that this will be a stimulus both to your Lordships and to the Government. Our know-how in this country has never been in such demand as it is now.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am just, but only just, old enough to recognise for myself, without having them pointed out to me, the very close parallels that can be drawn between the present dictator of Iraq in 1989–90 and the dictator of Germany in 1939–40, just 50 years before. Each sought to exterminate a minority population using poison gas, each used the truth as a malleable substance to be manipulated to his own advantage and each seized neighbouring territory by force of arms and thus overthrew international law. But there the parallels should end.
Hitler was able to persuade himself that the warnings issued by the free world were without substance and we demonstrated to him, above all at Munich, that we were prepared to compromise. Saddam Hussein should not be under any such illusion, since his invasion has produced such startling unanimity across the world. It may in fact be a valuable by-product of the present tragic circumstances. That is not simply because he threatened the energy supply of the developed world possibly for the next decade but because he overturned the legal independence of a small sovereign state whose claim to an independent identity was exactly the same as that of countless other states throughout the world. All alike were threatened. As my noble friend Lord Caithness said in his opening speech, world order itself was threatened. All alike recognise the threat and, for the first time in human history, all have acted in concert.
Those circumstances did not exist in 1939. They have never been achieved before and, given skill, courage and steadfastness of purpose, that may yet prove to be the most important consequence of the invasion of Kuwait. If it does, I agree with my noble friend Lord Pym, the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, and other noble Lords that one day it will become clear that we are living at the beginning of a new and more hopeful age.
But, without that skill, courage and steadfastness of purpose, the consequences will be quite other. We are being borne along on the river of history at an ever-increasing pace with ever more dangerous rocks on either side of us. Failure now to uphold the rule of international law would not be just to let our immediate affairs slide into chaos; it would be to let go, perhaps for another 50 years, a chance at least to 281 begin to establish a worldwide consensus on the basis of that law and the proper means of upholding it in the future. That rock lies on one side of our narrow course. If, on the other hand, we fail to exercise the force at our disposal with wisdom, efficiency and both due vigour and due restraint, we shall be faced not with a short, victorious war but with a long and bloody struggle that will claim countless promising young lives. That rock lies on the other side of our course.
Those are dramatically obvious circumstances, and I draw a starkly simple conclusion from them, so simple indeed that it seems to have escaped the notice of some of my friends entirely. It is that, at supremely critical times such as the present, to precipitate a leadership struggle in this country seems to those of us not involved in it to be about as sensible as starting a fight over the paddle in a canoe at the head of the rapids.
It is not for us to offer Members of another place advice on how to conduct their affairs—any such advice would be counterproductive—but right now everybody—even Members of your Lordships' House —has a right to say that sometimes whoever is at the helm must be given the authority and the peace to exercise a calm, clear judgment on behalf of the nation. At such times too much of our future and too many of our children's lives are at stake for it to be otherwise. I believe that this is such a time.
It was very good indeed that we were able to act swiftly and effectively in response to an unexpected threat in the Gulf, and that we could do so, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, explained, because we had for long been prepared to meet a familiar threat in Europe, and that that threat had appeared to recede. We had already, I understand, counted some of the savings that could be expected from the receding of that threat, and they appear already to have been costed into the defence estimates.
If so, let us have a care. I do not doubt that, as in the now distant days of the Korean war, it has been necessary to concentrate on formations that face the immediate possibility of battle, supplies and resources that would normally have been spread more thinly over a larger number of troops in a lesser state of readiness. To what extent this may have been necessary I do not know, and it may have been minimal. I only ask as a taxpayer that it is noted by those planning the shape and size of our forces in future years and taken as a yardstick of efficiency.
We have surely learned over the last 45 years that only those who are prepared to go to war have any prospect of preserving peace. To the extent that contingent threats cannot be met from a reserve and it is necessary to rob troops already deployed in one area to supply those deployed in another, the troops that are robbed are not in practice available and not therefore effective in the preservation of peace. Is it not, therefore, open to question whether the deployment of those troops was not in some sense beyond our financial capability?
282 I only ask this to make the point that the size—any size —of the defence estimates must bear an actual and not just a theoretical relationship to the commitment our forces are meant to meet. Our forces must surely be trained and equipped to a standard that will enable them to meet that commitment readily, and paid at rates to enable them to recruit up to the necessary strength for the purpose. If they are not, we must either reduce the commitment or increase the estimates. If the commitment is inescapable, so is the expense. A peace dividend that resulted in forces that were either undertrained or underequipped, or under-recruited to meet their commitment would not be a peace dividend at all because it would not increase but reduce our ability to keep the peace and to maintain the rule of international law.
The subject of training brings me, telescoping my speech, briefly from the general to a much more particular matter. That is Salisbury Plain, on which a great deal of training is done. As Minister for the heritage, I was for a year and a half closely interested in the effects that military activity had had and was having on the training area on Salisbury Plain and particularly on the archaeology there. The area is astonishingly rich in archaeology because it is, paradoxically, the ploughshare and not the sword that does the real damage to archaeological remains, and the sword has held sway on Salisbury Plain for a long time.
Where else could you go to find the undisturbed foundations of an entire Romano-British village and its associated field system as just one of 12 major aggregations of archaeological sites among over 100 smaller ones? But first trenching tools and then armoured vehicles changed the almost wholly beneficial influence of army training on the plain. While it was clear that the army's training needs must prevail, it was also clear that with care they could be met in ways that are consistent with preserving the archaeological heritage.
A policy was worked out between the defence and environment departments when my noble friend Lord Trefgarne and I were responsible as the respective Ministers of State there. My noble friend who is to reply to this debate is aware of my concern to see that this policy is fully and effectively implemented, and I ask him today only to confirm that this is the Government's clear intention.
The debate on the gracious Speech is the occasion on which your Lordships are expected to put down markers as to their intentions regarding legislation foreshadowed in it. I am advised by the usual channels that I should use this opportunity to refer very briefly indeed—and it will not take more than three and a half minutes—to two matters raised in an earlier debate. I do this because I was for three years Minister at the Home office responsible for prisons, and during that time I was impressed, as I am sure are all your Lordships who know the fact, by the quite unacceptable effects of prison overcrowding.
I shall not list the numerous steps that we then put in motion to try to reduce this—a task made no easier, may I say, by the conduct of the Prison Officers 283 Association, which was very ably illustrated by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, on the first day. In two respects I feel that the Government can substantially assist the courts in doing more to reduce prison overcrowding. One of these consists in providing the courts with disposals other than imprisonment for a number of offenders for whom imprisonment is at present the only suitable sentence.
The probation service has a wealth of relevant experience for this, and many suitable staff. I welcome the steps that Her Majesty's Government have already taken to explore ways to use these resources, and particularly of adding to their scope and effectiveness by involving the private and the independent—and more particularly the independent—sectors. I particularly draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary the extensive practical experience of successful work of this sort that has been acquired by the voluntary sector in the juvenile field right up to the age of 16.
One effect of the present distinction in law between juveniles and young adults has been that the former are dealt with by the Department of Health and social workers, while the latter are dealt with by the Home Office and the probation service. I have been fortunate enough to have been a Minister in both departments and to see the excellent work done by both services, and I can assure my right honourable friend of two things. The first is that people do not suddenly and magically change their nature on their seventeenth birthday. Everyone matures at his or her own rate. But there are very few young adults who are not susceptible to some of the good effects of both the preventive and the curative regimes that go generally under the name of intermediate treatment.
This is something that has been developed in the voluntary sector under the aegis first of the DHSS and now of the DH. That sector has wide experience and a large number of local projects already operational up and down the country. Suitably supported by his own department, this could be an invaluable resource in the initiative which he is now contemplating, and I commend it to him.
Finally, I return to a matter I raised on the last Criminal Justice Bill and which I intend to raise in the next. I hope that I shall have the sympathetic ear of your Lordships and that you will return to debate it. A major contributory factor to the congestion of our prisons is the congestion in our courts. A great many of those who have to wait for their cases to be heard do so in the remand wings of local prisons where overcrowding is at its insanitary and corrupting worst.
If you are remanded into prison you have to wait for the court to be ready before your case can be heard, and it will not be ready until the cases ahead of yours have been dealt with, even though the accused in those numerous cases are all bailed and not remanded, waiting comfortably at home rather than in a cell, living with the family and not with a swarm of recidivists, and going to work or to outdoor leisure for eight to 12 hours rather than 60 minutes a day.
284 Most of the prisoners in these wings are queuing for the Crown Court, and the Crown Court is full. Need it be so full at such a very great price? I understand that recently 10 per cent. of Crown Court time and 8 per cent. of Crown Court business in the London area has consisted of cases of handling goods worth less than £100. Most of them involved trivial sums. I shall be asking your Lordships to consider again whether these lesser offences should be imprisonable and triable by jury at all. Surely there must be some way in which we can reduce the enormous price that must be paid in the degradation of other accused persons waiting in our prisons while this elaborate machinery is engaged on such trivial matters.
It is a controversial issue; it deserves your Lordships' attention. I do not expect my noble friend to reply to it; merely to pass it on to his right honourable friend at the Home Office. I thank your Lordships for your patience. If you will think kindly only of that proposal I shall weary you no longer.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Lord Blease
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will understand if I do not follow him in the very pertinent and interesting topics which he raised in his speech. There are three reasons why I shall try to keep my contribution short: the hour is late, I have a husky throat and, in his very challenging and emotional speech, my noble friend Lord Fitt ably dealt with a number of points that I had listed.
My noble friend Lord Fitt was right when he suggested that we ought to read the report of the debate in this House on the Anglo-Irish Agreement on 26th November 1985. The noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, who was then the Leader of the House, presented the agreement on behalf of the Government. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, Leader of the Opposition, spoke with strong reservations about the possible difficulties arising from a unique international agreement.
I concluded my remarks in that debate—my noble friend Lord Fitt expressed similar sentiments today —with the hope that,the agreement is a flickering light in a very black situation. I appeal to everyone genuinely to try to keep that light alive by building trust with hope and compassion". [Official Report, 26/11/85; col. 829.]That is the approach all must take when we are dealing with Northern Ireland affairs. It must be a constructive approach.
In the complexity of Irish affairs, we should seek to approach every genuine effort with reasoned hope and positive action. The troubles in Ireland did not arise from the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The people in the Province have been subjected to political chaos, relentless terrorism, crippling conditions for essential social and economic developments and a vile sub-culture of despotic sectarianism, which ensnares many of our children and young people. Some sadly end up spending the best and most productive years of their lives in prison—yes, my Lords, in prison—while the mafioso godfathers go free.
285 I agree with my noble friend Lord Fitt. Just when it appeared that our tortured Province had endured every imaginable horror, the terrorists resorted to an even more sinister device for murder by using innocent civilians as human bombs.
The public highway, the workplace, the homes of citizens, shops, hospitals and even places of worship are places of risk in Northern Ireland. There is no place safe or sacred from the cruel deeds of the gunmen and the bombers. It appears that the terrorists have become hardened to human suffering in their ruthless determination to inflict death and terrible suffering on families and the whole community. What an insane, inhuman, inexplainable way to seek to promote support for the establishment of a political regime —a new state—and the election of a parliamentary democracy, with the essential international recognition to function in the modern world.
Here in England and in Europe these dastardly terrorist acts have sullied the "pride of being Irish". Such acts have not helped any legitimate political or community cause. They have made great difficulties for the personal and social lives of many thousands of honest, peaceable Irish people from the North and from the Republic, who have homes, families and employment here in Britain. As Bishop Cahal Daly said last Sunday,They bring shame and disgrace on the community from which they came".Thank goodness, there is hope in Northern Ireland. There are some rays of light appearing on the Irish political scene. There are new feelings of hope that changes for betterment are slowly beginning to take shape. I refer briefly to some of these perceptible rays which shine, more or less, from the different political and community vantage points.
My noble friend Lord Fitt mentioned the election of Mrs. Mary Robinson as the first woman president of the Republic of Ireland. She is a lady with great personal political experience and proven ability. She is knowledgeable and interested in the practical affairs affecting the lives of the people of Ireland. She is limited in her political capacity to change affairs in Northern Ireland, but I believe that her election epitomises the qualities that make for political change in Ireland, qualities worthy of emulation.
The announcement of the election of Bishop Cahal Daly as Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland was received with generous and widespread welcome not only in Ireland but throughout these islands. He is justly recognised as an outstanding figure of courage, vision, lucidity, high intellect and deep spirituality—a man of the people. He is highly respected across the communities and has shown through his work a realistic approach to the day to day problems facing people of all creeds, especially the disadvantaged. I am confident that the standards of personal conduct that Dr. Daly upholds and the high value that he places on corporate action for community well-being will have a potent influence for good on future political attitudes and events in both parts of Ireland.
There are a number of noble Lords in this House, including the noble Lord, Lord Elton, who has just 286 spoken, and the noble Lord the Leader on the Government Benches who have held high ministerial office in Northern Ireland. We know only too well the disappointments, the privation, the dangers and the sacrifice of the comforts of home and family life that those noble Lords experienced during their ministerial duties in the Province. Not only they; their families also suffered. Such an experience means that they have developed a very high degree of sensitivity, sympathy and appreciation for our police and our armed service personnel, which is always warmly expressed and demonstrated.
As one who lives in Northern Ireland, I can say that there is much genuine respect for the Secretary of State, Peter Brooke, and for the fair, courteous, sincere, patient and skilful way in which he has conducted the present political initiative to find a way forward to new political structures for the good government of Northern Ireland and for peace, prosperity and justice.
There is much more that I could say, but it has been a tradition in this House that we take a bipartisan approach to general affairs in Northern Ireland in the hope that the consensus may enable us to build peace and to encourage those who are seeking the proper constitutional and political way forward.
In conclusion, and in an attempt to be constructive, there have been failings in the way that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has been operated, rather than in the textual or legal explanations. More could have been done to deal effectively with the promotion of cross-border co-operation and there is a whole list of matters such as agriculture, environment, terrorism, transport, shipping and so on which require attention. Many of these matters could have been dealt with in a much more forthright and public way.
Without going into detail about the important and useful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, there is a considerable amount of movement in Northern Ireland and in the Republic towards the need for change in Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution. In any changes which might be forthcoming a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland should have been discussed.
There are hopeful signs amid the terrible ongoing murderous campaign of terrorism. It is not always helpful to say that in the presence of those who have suffered in Northern Ireland during the past years. However, let us build upon mutual understanding towards constitutional politics, community wellbeing and prosperity. There is no magic wand or formula for the resolution of the problems in Northern Ireland. It must be built on real, sensible and peaceful methods.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Lord St. John of Bletso
My Lords, I wish to address my remarks this evening to the Government's commitment to,their policy of encouragement to all sides in South Africa to enter negotiations to create through peaceful means a democratic non-racial society".287 In this regard we all welcome the dramatic reforms and courage of President de Klerk. In addressing that goal it is important to consider not only the political climate but also the social and economic environment.
Of late, world attention has focused on the continuing tragic violence and deaths in the black townships of South Africa. Many commentators are of the opinion that if Nelson Mandela and Chief Buthelezi were to meet they would be able to achieve an instant solution to those violent acts and would pour oil on the troubled waters. The root causes of the violence are however not so simple and such a meeting would not necessarily result in defusing such conflicts. That is not to say that the root causes of the violence cannot be overcome: they can be overcome. To do so requires that they are identified and understood as the consequences of social, economic and political developments in the country.
In my opinion the major contributors to the conflicts are, first, that the various political groupings are now jockeying to establish their support bases. In many instances that tends to reflect traditional or tribal allegiances, more specifically pitched battles between Xhosa and Zulu supporters. Secondly, there is much evidence that physical intimidation is one of the tactics used to secure this support. At the same time there is evidence of a total lack of control of lower ranking activists.
Thirdly, there is undoubtedly an element of apolitical opportunistic criminal behaviour which highlights the problems of maintaining an effective anti-crime programme including weapons control under these conditions. Fourthly, the social problems created by the accommodation in hostels of more than 500,000 single migrant workers has provided a ready flashpoint for many of the pent-up frustrations which have accumulated in the poverty stricken townships in South Africa. Finally, there is a distinct lack of trust for the impartiality and accountability of the police force. In my opinion, only when those factors have been comprehensively addressed as part of the normalisation process will any meeting between Nelson Mandela and Chief Buthelezi produce a workable long-lasting result.
In opening today's debate the Minister referred to the repeal of the Separate Amenities Act followed by the Group Areas Act and at a later stage the Land Act. In addition to those measures repealing the last vestiges of apartheid, the South African Government have recently agreed to the release of political prisoners in the country. It is also noteworthy that the Nationalist Party has opened its membership to all South Africans. Indeed, last week for the first time ever all the main Churches and denominations in the country met to discuss their moral solidarity for a future South Africa. Most significant at the gathering was the public rejection by the main Church of the Afrikaners, the Dutch Reform Church, of its previous justifications in support of apartheid. This is a profound psychological step indicating the depth of 288 willingness and acceptance by the spiritual leaders of the Afrikaners of the necessity for fundamental reforms.
In focusing on the social and economic challenges facing the new South Africa one must consider the country's demographic peculiarities. It has a population of which more than 60 per cent. is under the age of 23. The current population growth rate among the black people is more than 3 per cent. With that rate of growth, 1 million people will be added to the population each year. There is more than 50 per cent. unemployment with a prognosis for the forthcoming year of negative economic growth. Even with negative growth in the economy, an estimated 1 million people a year migrate from the rural areas into the towns and cities. That places an increasing strain on the social and physical infrastructure of those areas.
Clearly, now is the time for the international community to show its recognition and acknowledgement of the dramatic reforms that the South African Government have achieved by easing sanctions, thus allowing economic growth and increasing job opportunities.
The decision of the South African Government to enter into the negotiating process was taken in the knowledge that the future was unpredictable. Many commentators tried to predict an outcome by applying experience from other African countries which had undergone a decolonialisation process. The fact is that South Africa is not a country which is being decolonised. Thus, that model has limited if any ability to predict the outcome of negotiations in the country.
The prospects of revolution or abdication of power, as spectres which have haunted the negotiation process, are rapidly receding. All the major participants in the debate have recently demonstrated their committed support to negotiating a solution which will transform the state and in which its benefits will be shared by all. Only yesterday I attended a conference on economic opportunities in post-apartheid South Africa at which a Minister of the South African Government, a member of the ANC executive committee, a leading South African trade unionist and leaders of the South African business community shared the same platform and expressed remarkably similar views for future developments of the economy.
From that significant experience and other personal contacts, I believe that while the final outcome cannot yet be determined the basically Liberal Democrat ideals espoused preclude some of the more extreme outcomes which may have been postulated at the beginning of that journey into the unknown. There are still many gates which need to be opened. However, the stage is in the process of being set so that those can be tackled in a systematic manner in an environment of mutual trust.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that the road ahead in South Africa is complex. However, I am confident that with the joint resolve of all political groupings, 289 the strong existing infrastructure and, it is hoped, the support of the international community a non-racial, democratic South Africa can soon be achieved. To that end, I wholeheartedly support the approach taken by Her Majesty's Government.
§ 9.10 p.m.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, will forgive me if I do not follow him on South Africa. Over the past hour or so no noble Lord seems to have followed another on anything at all. I intend to confine my remarks this evening to a brief account of my impressions of the situation in Poland, a country with which I am connected by marriage and for which I have always had the greatest admiration and affection.
Before I say anything further, I must congratulate my noble friend Lady Cox. She is not present this evening but I told her that I would be saying this. She has been awarded the Commander Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. She has richly deserved that honour, which I gather is the highest Polish honour given to foreigners. I believe that the whole House should be very proud of her. My noble friend has told your Lordships on many occasions of the very serious economic, social and environmental problems which Poland has inherited from the foreign-imposed communist regime. I underline and agree with everything that she has said. However, this evening I shall give your Lordships a quick look on the brighter side—and there is a brighter side.
I spent the whole of August 1989 in Poland and was there on the great day when Mr. Mazowiecki became Prime Minister, ending 50 years of foreign rule and foreign-imposed government. The occasion was not marked, as in most former communist countries, by mass disorders and demonstrations. Indeed, to all outward appearances, nothing much had happened. It was a year later, last August, when after a year's absence I was able to observe the quite remarkable consequences of that day.
At this late hour I shall give your Lordships only a few instances of the markers of change from oppression to liberty. Many problems remain but the air of liberty in Poland today is like champagne. The country has been denied that for a long time but has never forgotten it.
What are the signs of change? The food queues have vanished, but on the other hand, food is very expensive, and prohibitively so for some. However, it means that people have more time for constructive activities instead of standing in queues for half a day at a time. New businesses and shops are opening everywhere and even the decrepit old state shops must work for a living as otherwise they will close down, and many of them already have. They will certainly not be lamented.
Old attitudes have died, such as the saying which used to be addressed to the communist authorities: "You pretend to pay us and we pretend to work for you". Some of the more obnoxious activities of the Nova Huta steel complex near Krakow, where I spent 290 most of my time this year, have been closed down. In Krakow one can now see the sky in that beautiful city and breathe the air. Scaffolding round buildings which has been in place for more years than many people can remember now has workmen on it and the task of restoring the city to its former glory has started. The building of houses is going on everywhere, in both the city and the country areas. The airport building is being greatly enlarged, which is certainly needed.
I wish to make the point that Poland is now a country worth investing in. Private enterprise is already moving in from the West to reinforce the enterprise of the Polish people. To my mind that is far more important than government handouts and aid, which are so often misapplied.
If aid is given I make one suggestion. The telephone system in Poland continues to be quite awful. Speedy modernisation is vital and cannot be done quickly enough. The need is pressing. Businesses in this country and elsewhere cannot communicate with their opposite numbers and colleagues in Poland by telephone unless they are prepared to take half a day over it. In short, I would make telecommunications the number one priority in the present situation.
I should like once more to raise a point which I raised with Her Majesty's Government on previous occasions and which was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. He made today a quite outstanding speech on Poland. I should like briefly from these Benches to say that I agree with every word. Perhaps Her Majesty's Government will appreciate that agreement does not come simply from the Liberal Democrat Benches; it also comes from me.
The Iron Curtain has gone. It is easy for us to travel to Poland, and Poles are given passports and allowed to leave if they wish. The question now arises where they can go. The queues may have disappeared from the shops but my information is that they have not disappeared from the British Consulate or from the other West European consulates. East Germans can now come to Britain at will as EC citizens. Visas have been abolished in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, but I find difficulty even in arranging for my wife's relatives to visit Britain due to the present unacceptable visa situation.
I understand that at a meeting between Chancellor Kohl and Mr. Mazowiecki last week it was agreed to abolish visas between Germany and Poland by Christmas. That is a wonderful advance for two countries whose histories have hardly been marked by mutual affection. If they can do it, surely we can. In concluding that point I underline what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. Nothing does more damage to our relations with Poland than the present policy of Her Majesty's Government on visas. That is certainly my experience, and I spend much time with Polish people.
I have not mentioned the crisis in the Persian Gulf. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government are aware of the cost of sanctions to Poland and to the other newly liberated countries in East and Central Europe. It is all very well to say that it is better to go on with 291 these embargoes and sanctions than to make war. No one can foresee how all this will end, but an indefinite continuation of the present phoney war situation may in the end produce more suffering than war itself.
That is all I feel I should say about the matter. I trust that Her Majesty's Government will be aware of the cost to those countries like Poland which have loyally supported the policy of the United Nations, and that all possible help and understanding will be given to them while the situation lasts.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe
My Lords, perhaps I may first apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and my noble friend Lord Cledwyn for not hearing their opening speeches. It was due to a long-standing appointment at the Home Office. I was fortunate enough to hear the two maiden speeches, and I add my congratulations and felicitations to both speakers.
Last year during the debate on the gracious Speech I drew attention to the appalling situation in the Sudan, particularly as it affected the substantial and heavily persecuted Christian minority in that country. I wish that I could now tell the House that it has improved; unfortunately it is as bad as ever. Crop failure, famine and starvation are rife, at the same time as reports are received that Al-Bashir is sending food to other countries including Iraq. We receive continuing reports of child slavery, and the situation is a disgrace. Christian-led rebels in the south continue to fight against the imposition of Islamic rule by Al-Bashir, who is one of the few remaining supporters of Saddam Hussein.
Last year I regretted the absence of contributions from the Bishops' Bench over the plight of the Sudanese Christians. It is true that after the debate one right reverend Prelate wrote to me sharing my concern and offering to take part in any future debate on the subject. Again this year I have to report that there has been a negative return from the right reverend Prelates on the subject of the Sudanese Christians. I am sure that it would give heart to their Christian brothers and sisters in the Sudan if the Bishops' Bench made a concerted effort to ventilate and publicise the appalling human tragedy unfolding in that country.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester said that he hoped people did not regard remarks from that Bench as an apologia. He added some Latin tag which I could not even begin to try to understand. Speaking for myself I certainly welcome contributions from the Bishops' Bench on all aspects of persecuted minorities abroad.
It is not only the Sudan in this part of Africa that is concerned; the whole Horn of East Africa is in turmoil, with fighting in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia. The whole ghastly scene is overlaid by the continued failure of the rains and the consequent spectre of suffering and famine on an almost inconceivable scale. These dreadful affairs should be the concern of each and every one of us, doing what we can to focus attention on the problems and urging 292 those in authority to do what they can to expedite solutions and provide relief to the suffering through the established agencies.
The gracious Speech refers to continued efforts to secure the release of all Britons held hostage or detained in the Middle East. While fully recognising the plight of these innocent people and the anguish suffered by their relatives and friends, surely we should be louder in our condemnation of the groups who use this diabolical way of drawing attention to themselves. What sort of people are they, we must ask, who are prepared to subject so many innocent people to this form of mental torture for their own ends.
The gracious Speech naturally makes reference to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The newspapers and television have been full of the preparations which the forces sent to the Gulf have made in case chemical warfare should be used against them, including the difficulties of wearing protective equipment in the intense heat and carrying out practice drills while it is worn. It is estimated that the protective clothing can reduce the efficiency of infantrymen by between 30 per cent. and 80 per cent.
These are not overelaborate or unnecessary precautions. Unfortunately, the threat of chemical warfare is only too real. With their new research and development centre 25 miles outside Baghdad and a new manufacturing plant in Samarra, the Iraqis have the capacity to produce possibly as many as 3,000 tonnes of chemical warfare agents each year. It is not a hypothetical threat. Chemical weaponry has been used by Iraq against its own Kurdish people with appalling effects, as has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. An estimated 5,000 Kurds were killed and another 10,000 injured when Iraq attacked with nerve and mustard gas. The horror of Halabja has been well documented. It was by no means an isolated incident but part of a systematic and ruthless attack on the Kurdish people. The forces in the Gulf are right, therefore, to be wary of a similar attack by Iraq on themselves in the event of an outbreak of hostilities.
We are all concerned about possible chemical warfare in the Gulf, particularly the service men and women who are there and those near and dear to them. Let us consider for a moment how much greater the worries and anxieties would be if our forces faced the threat of nuclear warfare with Iraq. If that were so it would be easy to imagine a real doomsday situation with almost unimaginable consequences.
Why are the forces in the Gulf not faced with this nuclear threat? It is because on 7th June 1981 the Israeli air force attacked Iraq's nuclear facility at Osirak to pre-empt the development of a nuclear weapons capability. When people are reminded of that they say, "Thank goodness the Israelis had the foresight to remove the threat all those years ago, or at least set back its development".
Yet how did the international community react at the time? No words were too strong to condemn Israel for its action. On 19th June 1981 the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 487, which, among 293 other things, strongly condemned the military attack by Israel and called for appropriate redress to Iraq for the destruction it had suffered. Moreover, on 13th November the General Assembly passed a similar resolution, Resolution 36/27, by 109 votes to two with 34 abstentions. That resolution also condemned Israeli threats to repeat such attacks on nuclear installations if and when it was deemed necessary.
When one looks at the continuing build-up of military might in the Gulf which is considered necessary for possible conflict with Iraq and then considers that Iraq is only one of several countries which have threatened Israel's continued existence, it is very understandable that Israel has to take a robust attitude in looking after itself.
Last year during the gracious Speech debate I remarked on the enormous concentration on the affairs of Israel, mentioning that Israel, a country the size of Wales, with a population of 5 million, attracts a quite inordinate amount of attention. I should like briefly to return to the theme again this year. When children first come across telescopes they soon discover that, while they magnify objects, if they are reversed things correspondingly diminish in size. I sometimes think that the world looks at Israel through a telescope and then turns it round to look at the rest of the world. Let me give an example. It must have been obvious to the Iraqis that the best way to ease the pressure on themselves would be for some well-publicised event to occur in Israel. Hence I believe that the allegations made by the Israelis about the Temple Mount trouble being plotted and planned are true. Certainly in terms of the world publicity that this incident received the plot was highly successful.
While all loss of life is to be deplored, let us contrast the Temple Mount publicity with current events in India. I shall weary your Lordships for a moment with a quotation from the Observer. Last Sunday week Peter Hillmore wrote a long article from Delhi about the problems there under the headlines:India's 'hour of peril' ends in days of slaughter".A week later, last Sunday, he wrote another article from Delhi. I wish briefly to quote a paragraph towards the end:Over the past three days, as it happens, there have been fewer violent deaths than usual in India. A mere 20 people died in communal violence between Muslims and Hindus. Only a dozen were killed in fights in Kashmir between troops and separatists, and 25 in similar clashes in the Punjab.Just seven people were killed in Amritsar when armed men opened fire on a coach, and only a few members of the Assam Liberation Front died in a shoot-out".He goes on to say:Only four students set themselves on fire … In Ranchi, arrests of rioters remained static at 779.All in all, a relatively peaceful time in a troubled country".Can your Lordships imagine what would happen if the deaths described there had taken place in Israel? There would have been hostile Early Day Motions put down in another place collecting signatures. There would have been calls for a special meeting of the Security Council; and the various delegations would have been 294 lobbied as to whether they would support further heavy expressions against Israel. We have to consider very seriously how to get this matter into proportion.
People are suffering all over the world. We have mentioned the problems of India, the Kurds and the Sudanese. We need to have a much greater awareness and effort in solving all these problems. In particular, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, said that at the moment there is some cynicism that our great concern about the Gulf and Kuwait is oil. Only by showing a great concern for all the peoples of the world who are suffering in various ways can we counter that in the minds of other people in the world. If we do that we can actually begin to move towards the new world order of which the noble Lord, Lord Pym, gave us a glimpse in his most interesting speech.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, I too wish to congratulate my two noble friends on their quite outstanding maiden speeches. Although he is not in his place, I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, on a superb speech on Northern Ireland. I shall return to that shortly.
When speaking about the current Middle East problems, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester wondered, if I interpreted him correctly, if there was any way in which a lifeline could be thrown to Saddam Hussein to allow him to pull out of Kuwait without totally losing face, in order to avoid the terrible casualties among both Western and Arab powers that war in the Gulf would entail.
Every civilized person must surely agree that a brutal burglar who breaks into a house, shoots the householder and one or more of his sons, rapes his wife and one or more of his daughters, steals every single item in the house, not only the furniture, carpets, silver and pictures, but also the fixtures and fittings, and then smashes up the house having meanwhile taken passers-by hostage, should not be allowed to keep even one tenth of 1 per cent. of his loot. Furthermore, he must be made to pay restitution in full. But, having said that, the West in general and the United States in particular has a very exposed Achilles heel so far as concerns morality in a Middle Eastern context.
The existing situation in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and other occupied territories cannot be tolerated indefinitely. I am not simply talking about the shooting of large numbers of demonstrators and stone throwers, many of them young people. These incidents are appalling but they are, sad to say, rather less than par for the course in a Near Eastern context. We must remember that the Syrians can get away with shooting 10 or 20 times as many people with virtually no response from the Western media or the public. As I understand it, following the Syrian incursion into East Beirut last month, somewhere between 100 and 200 Christian prisoners of war were murdered in cold blood without any Western response to speak of. One can imagine how the balloon would go up in the 295 unlikely event of the Israelis shooting 150 or so Moslem prisoners of war in cold blood. One would never hear the end of it.
No, my Lords, it is the fact of the occupation itself of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and other occupied territories, more than 23 years after the end of the Six Day War, that must be rectified for the sake of the Near East, the Middle East and not least, as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, pointed out, for the sake of the Israelis themselves.
The question of East Jerusalem is the hardest nut to crack. But surely even here some compromise could be found. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the Moslem holy places and, if need be, the Christian holy places could come under United Nations protection and possibly even United Nations jurisdiction. I do not know about East Jerusalem—attitudes here may be different—but happily it appears from a news report in the Financial Times on Saturday that no less than 63 per cent. of the Israeli population also feel that they must get out of the Occupied Territories for the sake of peace. That being the case, the United States really must use its financial muscle to put pressure on the more intransigent people of Israel to follow the desires of their more moderate fellow countrymen in this regard while paying all due attention to Israeli security.
There is no need or even desirability to wait for Iraq to pull out of Kuwait. If some movement on the Palestinian question were initiated as soon as possible, it would then be possible for Saddam Hussein to pull totally out of Kuwait and pay massive compensation while being able to boast that his invasion was the catalyst for the solution of this long-running sore. It would certainly be extremely irritating but it would be a price worth paying if it avoided tens of thousands of casualties on all sides and solved the Palestine problem into the bargain.
I turn briefly to what those who presumably failed their geography 0-levels call Europe and what the rest of us call the EEC, or the EC if one absolutely must, although one notices that the French still officially refer to the CEE. We shall debate one important aspect of this subject next week and so in view of the hour I shall cut short what I proposed to say on this subject.
I should like to refute the disgraceful slurs being made on the Government in general and on the Prime Minister in particular, to wit that her position is extreme and that the Continental countries in contrast are taking what might be described as the middle way. That is the precise opposite of the truth. It is Britain which is promoting free trade by scrupulously lowering all barriers against foreign and, in particular, EC competition, while at the same time resisting Utopian extremism. All Utopianism is by definition extreme, in that it takes no account of human nature, history or traditions. In contrast, there are all too many on the Continent who veer to one or other extreme position; that is, either cynicism and grasping materialism —avoiding or ignoring entirely directives designed to ensure freedom of trade—on the one hand 296 or quasi-religious mystic idealism on the other. I should like to develop this theme more fully next week. Therefore, I shall leave the matter there for the time being.
Finally, I should like to touch upon the election of Mrs. Mary Robinson as President of the Irish Republic. This was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, in his splendid speech. Mrs. Robinson tends to be described in the British media as that very rare bird in the island of Ireland—a genuine Liberal—and as an advocate of women's rights. Indeed, she is both. But, as the noble Lord pointed out, she is also noteworthy for having resigned from the Irish Labour Party in protest against support for the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which she opposed, and still opposes, as being heavily biased against the unionists in the North. I emphasise the fact that I use the word "unionists" with a lower case letter "u". In her opposition she shows a much more acute intelligence and a much greater sense of fairness than the vast majority of Irish and British politicians. It is not only a question of morality or fairness; it is also a question of common sense.
There is a school of thought which suspects that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was a Machiavellian plot by those members of the British establishment, who are both numerous and to be found in all parties and not merely in those on the Left, whose instinctive loyalties are not to the United Kingdom as a whole within its present boundaries, but only to part of the United Kingdom. According to that interpretation, the alienation of the majority community in Ulster was actually an intended by-product of the agreement in the expectation that the more the unionists came to distrust and despise Westminster and Whitehall the more ready they would be to fall into the arms of Dublin as the lesser of two evils, thereby ridding mainland Britain of a long-standing problem.
There is another school of thought which believes that such Machiavellian scheming was unlikely, maintaining instead that once again the wily, subtle, glib and silver-tongued Celts had outwitted the plodding, slow-thinking, confused and guilt-ridden Saxons. Whichever interpretation is right, the fact is that alienation of the majority community is unlikely in the extreme to result in a peaceful, happy and united Ireland. Indeed, some bid for independence is a far more likely outcome, with all the dangers and uncertainties that this would produce. Moreover, alienation of the majority provokes a sullen reaction among that majority, which in turn weakens mainland Britain's already wilting will—a vicious circle—all of which plays right into the hands of the IRA. The cowardly murder of Ian Gow can only be explained by his high profile opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the IRA feeling that any success on his part might weaken its position.
The IRA is also assisted by other well-intentioned misunderstandings. Of course the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland means well. He has an enormous amount on his plate. None of us envies him or wishes to be in his shoes. Nevertheless, surely it was a terrible mistake to announce publicly on 9th November, first, 297 that Britain has no strategic interest in Northern Ireland—a rash thing to say with the world in its present turbulent and uncertain state; secondly, that Britain fully respected the desire for a united and sovereign Ireland—implying that the moment that 50.0001 per cent. of the population of the Province voted for unification, Britain would be out of there like a shot; and, thirdly, that Britain's role in Northern Ireland was,to ensure democratic debate and free democratic choice".That is certainly one of Britain's roles; there is no doubting that fact. However, a more important role is to defend the integrity of the United Kingdom against subversion, sabotage, murder and torture. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but for the Secretary of State to talk in such terms frankly risks giving the IRA the impression that it requires only two or three major atrocities on its part for Britain's nerve finally to fail completely.
Let me conclude by saying, "Well done, Mrs. Robinson. Let us hope that you can advance the cause of peace in your island by persuading your compatriots to agree to delete the offending Articles 2 and 3 from your country's constitution. If that is too much to hope for, let us at least hope that your wise and perceptive views on the Anglo-Irish Agreement percolate through to minds that are currently firmly closed".
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Lord Ashbourne
My Lords, I was delighted to hear in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government,will work with the utmost determination … for the unconditional implementation of the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council which require the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, and the restoration of the independence and legitimate government of Kuwait.Is it not reassuring to note that while Her Majesty's Government have not lost their political will to repulse the armies of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq from Kuwait other members of the alliance appear to be weakening? President Saddam Hussein's best hope for avoiding a direct military confrontation with the West has been to play for time. Central to his invasion strategy lies the assumption that whatever the strength of the West's response, by the time it comes to act some governments will have lost interest or heart, or both. Certainly there has been more than enough evidence to give President Saddam Hussein every encouragement that his ruthless gamble may yet pay a dividend. With the campaign only just entering its third month, there have been frequent reports of waning morale among US troops on the ground, no doubt a reaction to the barracking that President Bush received during his mid-term election campaign from redneck Vietnam war veterans chanting, "No blood for oil."
The French Government's decision to send troops to Saudi Arabia is now generally regarded as a classic exercise in Gallic opportunism which recently saw the French contingent vacating its front line positions to 298 be replaced by Moroccans. As one western official cynically observed, "They're here to sell arms, not to fight."
The fragility of the thread by which hangs the success or failure of Operation Desert Shield was highlighted by the rulers of Saudi Arabia—the very people for whom the 300,000-strong force now deployed around Kuwait was constructed to defend. If charges of appeasement have been levelled against the right honourable Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup for gaining the freedom of 40 elderly or infirm hostages from Baghdad, it is small wonder that comments attributed to King Fahd and his brother, Prince Sultan, the Defence Minister, prompted disbelief among the western diplomatic corps in Riyadh. Within hours of King Fahd and Prince Sultan making appeals to President Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait and avert bloodshed, senior diplomats were racing to Jeddah to see King Fahd and seek clarification. It was not so much the content as the style of the comments which caused alarm.
The tone of King Fahd's speech was decidedly conciliatory. Suddenly Saddam was King Fahd's "brother", the invasion nothing more than a blunder, and the Saudi monarch conveyed the singular impression that everything could be sorted out amicably if only Saddam would show a little more understanding.
Over the past few weeks there has been much speculation that the Iraqis are constructing a new defensive line along the Kuwait side of the Rumeilah oilfields taking in the islands of Bubiyan and Warbah at the head of the Shatt al Arab. The invasion of Kuwait followed the failure of negotiations to resolve Iraq's claim to the territory. One possibility now mooted is that Iraq might stage a partial withdrawal to the Rumeilah line to avert confrontation. All these expressions of doubt and lack of firm resolve should be deeply worrying to the allies and the West needs to ensure that the Saudis do not become the Achilles' heel of the whole enterprise.
Last week's visit by James Baker, the US Secretary of State, was no doubt an effort to concentrate Saudi minds on the daunting tasks ahead. That is just as well so far as the men of the 7th Armoured Brigade are concerned. The Camberley and Sandhurst manuals are, I am reliably informed by my military friends, rather vague on the question of how an army withdraws without ever having advanced.
Finally, I have a question for the noble Earl who will reply for the Government. In view of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, do the Government still intend to proceed with the far-reaching defence cuts announced by the Secretary of State for Defence on 25th July? If the noble Earl, Lord Arran, would be so kind as to answer, I should be greatly in his debt.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Lord Gifford
My Lords, perhaps I may express my regrets that I was not here during the afternoon because of professional commitments and particularly because I missed the two maiden speeches. The year 1990 has been historic, pregnant with the possibilities 299 for a better world. To see Nelson Mandela walk free in February this year has lifted the spirits of people of all colours in all continents. While there are still many obstacles to a non-racial democracy in South Africa, I believe the process of change initiated by President de Klerk to be an irreversible and intensely hopeful development. In Europe, new democracies have been born and the cold war is effectively over. These events were hardly dreamt of 10 years ago.
However, all those possibilities and exciting developments are today overshadowed by the clouds of war, for if the crisis in the Gulf were to be resolved by war, the consequences would be so unspeakable for the whole world that it is the duty of every one of us to analyse with care whether such a war is necessary and morally justifiable.
The consequences of war are clearly foreseeable, given the scale of weaponry on both sides: massive military casualties for all forces involved in the hideous conditions of desert warfare; terrible loss of life and suffering for the Iraqi people, including those many Iraqi people who are bitterly opposed to Saddam Hussein; an environmental catastrophe for the Middle East, as King Hussein has accurately predicted; a rise in oil prices so steep as seriously to injure every economy in the world, especially the economies of the third world, whose people are already facing destitution because of the debt crisis and the unequal terms of trade about which my noble friend Lord Pitt spoke so eloquently. Yet President Bush and our Prime Minister in particular are seriously preparing to unleash those consequences on the world, not in the contingency of an attack upon Saudi Arabia, which was the original and proper purpose of sending troops, but as an act of deliberate policy to restore the sovereignty of Kuwait and to remove a tyrannical ruler.
Let us examine this. Certainly, Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator. A ruler who has crushed all democratic opposition over years and who has used the horror of chemical weapons on the Kurdish people deserves only the condemnation and isolation which he should have received long before the invasion of Kuwait. But the world can find and has to find ways of dealing with ruthless dictators other than by unleashing war upon them. After all, dozens of ruthless dictators have risen and fallen in recent history; they have been removed from power by a combination of internal resistance by their people and external non-violent pressures. In the past 20 years we have seen the passing in Europe of Franco, Caetano, Papadopoulos and Ceausescu; on the American continent of Somoza, Duvalier and Pinochet; in Africa of Amin and Bokassa; and in Asia of Marcos and the Shah of Iran, to name but some. All of them have gone, as Saddam Hussein will go, without being threatened with war by the major powers.
Certainly Iraq has violated the United Nations Charter in a flagrant manner. However, even in such cases the world has been able to respond effectively without going to war, even if the alternatives to war are slower to take effect. The illegal rebellion of 300 Rhodesia was ended by a combination of internal resistance and external sanctions, even though in that case United Nations sanctions were massively breached. The invasion of Czechoslovakia has now been reversed, again by patient, long-suffering resistance by the Czechoslovak people. On the other side of the coin, the only modern instance of a superpower launching a major war to achieve its policies, the intervention in Vietnam, was so disastrous, causing such misery and devastation that it stands as a horrifying warning of what can happen if warmongering policies prevail.
I believe that our people are being misled by a barrage of rhetoric and jingoism into believing that a war in the Gulf could be a glamorous, glorious, even desirable way of dealing with Saddam Hussein. A recent opinion poll in the Observer of 28th October revealed that, while 62 per cent. of our people would like to see military action against Iraq within a year, the overwhelming majority does not wish this to result in injuries or deaths to British troops. That means that people are living in Cloud-cuckoo-land. They believe that this war can be won as if it were a television drama. We must find alternatives before the casualties, before the bereavements, before the incalculable suffering that a war can bring.
If a war is started on the terms now being declared by Her Majesty's Government—war within weeks if Saddam Hussein has not capitulated—I shall not support it. I shall oppose it with all my strength. I hope that organisations which think as I do will mobilise before it is too late, as they are doing in the United States.
What are the alternatives? The means to achieve our stated objectives without recourse to war lie ready to hand, although they are more difficult and they all take time and patience. First, the closest attention should be paid to the views of the Arab states. They have to take the worst of the brunt of any war. They have to live with Iraq. They are concerned with all the injustices of their region, including the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people. Judging by the West's response to King Hussein's peace-making efforts, the Arab states are receiving scant attention and respect.
Secondly, we have the unique opportunity of a common Western and Soviet effort to solve the crisis in collaboration. The patient efforts of President Gorbachev and his envoys stand in stark contrast to the sabre-rattling of President Bush. One might make the same contrast between the statesmanlike pronouncements of President Mitterrand and the bullishness of our Prime Minister. Let us give a chance for East and West to work together before the prospects of peace are swallowed up by war.
Thirdly, we must use to the full the present unanimity of the United Nations. The United Nations Security Council has ordered sanctions and the use of force but only to enforce sanctions. It has not agreed a counter-offensive to recapture Kuwait or to topple Saddam Hussein. It may well be that it will not agree to such a counter-offensive. Without such an agreement any such counter-offensive itself would be 301 a breach of international law. It would not be justified under Article 51. It would have nothing to do with a defence of Saudi Arabia against aggression. That objective, if it were at risk, has been successfully achieved. It is neither legal nor moral to punish one act of aggression by another more devastating act of aggression. The world must find other ways than war to remedy this wrong.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Lord Weidenfeld
My Lords, two flying hours away from where American and British troops are stationed in the Gulf an ancient king, Croesus of Lydia, 2,500 years ago stood poised for battle and, hesitant, consulted the oracle, which told him, "If you cross the River Halys, you will destroy a mighty empire". He crossed, fought and destroyed an empire—his own. He had hesitated too long.
The mighty empire now at stake is not the tangible expanse of this country or the United States but the intangible realm of moral credibility and the validity of law. If Saddam Hussein were to be allowed to stay in power unscathed with even marginal rewards and in possession of his chemical, bacteriological and nuclear potential, he would emerge as victor and leader of a contagious revolt from one end to the other of the whole Arab world. No crown or sceptre, no presidential seal in moderate Moslem countries would remain safe.
But worse still, signals would go out to adventurous regimes throughout the world to the effect that violent change, subversion and aggression, given sly timing and tactics and terrorist accompaniment, can inevitably prevail over United Nations resolutions, world public opinion and grand alliances.
So far, President Bush has stood firm and the Prime Minister has probably come out more forcefully than anyone else with the triple objective of restoring the status quo in Kuwait, reparations and the punishment of war crimes. She has also more explicitly than anyone else insisted on removing the threat to the region from Iraq's unconventional armoury. But, as noble Lords have put it forcefully before, the grand alliance presents dangerous fissures and disturbing side effects.
Syria has lunged at Lebanon and probably destroyed the political identity of the Maronite Christians. France may have sent men, ships and arms, but also confusing messages, with whiffs of compromise and appeasement. The Russians have raised hopes, so far quite unsubstantiated, of a political solution. The guild of elder statesmen has sent its emissaries to trade hostages with hints of concession. All that only destabilises those most immediately involved, the anxious Saudis, the emirates and Egypt.
It is the aftermath of the crisis which vexes decision-makers. President Bush has rightly talked of the need to chart a regional new order of economic stability, military security, fair government and lasting peace. So has Saddam Hussein. Two nights ago the 302 Iraqi dictator used mellifluous words and propounded seemingly equitable solutions, but his new order in the Middle East means Iraqi domination.
So far, Iraq has scored in the propaganda war among the Arab masses, American isolationists and European faint hearts. He caught a raw nerve among those who see the issue as the price of oil, or link Kuwait with the unresolved grievances of the Palestinians. But whereas Lebanese Christians and Kurds are only rarely mentioned for fear of Syrian groans, Iranian scowls and Turkish scorn, the Palestinian issue is on top of the agenda.
Of course the Arab-Israeli conflict is indeed a vital central issue, but only in an ambience of good faith and compassionate comprehension can it be solved. I believe that the United Nations resolution on sending a commission to Jerusalem was lacking in evenhandedness. It failed to condemn the violence that gave rise to what the media now term as the Temple Mount massacre. If the government of Israel showed wariness on its account, you must recall the record of the United Nations and especially the General Assembly on issues involving the Jewish state. An international forum includes Cuba, whose leader we were recently told by a Soviet defector had tried to goad Kruschev into making a pre-emptive strike against the United States at the height of the missile crisis. If Israel is to be judged by China on the question of massacres in public squares, you may perhaps think more benevolently of the Jerusalem government's hesitation.
As for Iraq, as the noble Lord, Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe, reminded us, we would be sitting here a good deal less comfortably had Israel not destroyed the nuclear reactor in 1981. I have just looked at the record, and while I cannot find anything said at the time in your Lordships' House I noticed an exchange in the other place between the honourable Member for Davyhulme, Mr. Winston Churchill, and the then Minister of State, now Foreign Secretary, who roundly condemned the Israeli action, and added that it was a pity that some Israelis continued to use the tragic memories of the Holocaust as justification for breaking international law. Let history judge if Israel's sense of self-defence against terrorism and crude threats to her existence have justified, or at least attenuated, some of its actions.
What on a balanced view is clear to me is that Israel must, and will, seek the first opportunity after the crisis to resume the peace process. When that day comes there is a special role for this country and Europe. Britain was the mandatory power for that greater Palestine which now holds Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and Jordan. It is that whole area that has to be pacified and freed from fear. Fear is at the root of the whole of the Arab-Israeli conflict, much more than territory or even military security—fear of the future, fear of their neighbours, fear of no future.
Europe can present itself as a model of how erstwhile enemies can be turned into friendly neighbours. A master scheme that gives economic stability, military security and the prospect of peace to all the people in the greater Palestinian area should be 303 devised and propounded by Europe and notably Britain. The Americans are talking of something resembling the Marshall Plan. Europe still lives on the ideas of Jean Monnet, who preached European association during the darkest days of the last great European war.
This is the role for Europe in the future. By distancing itself from the notion of a free-standing Palestinian state, which would become a mini-Lebanon and proxy battleground for feuding neighbours, we should aim at the larger regional solution and encourage Palestinian leaders on the ground who are independent of the official PLO leadership, which is so clearly now in Saddam Hussein's camp, to sit down and negotiate with Israel. They can be found.
It is a received idea that Palestinian leaders, notables, are wholly and exclusively dependent on the PLO leadership. I have visited that part of the world for 40 years and have been in many Arab houses, known many Arab families—families of notables, professional people, businessmen—and brave Arab 304 patriots who lost their dependants in wars against Israel. They would sit down and talk but not out of fear of blackmail threats or murder on the part of people who are guided by foreign leaders or leaders living abroad. It would be a very challenging task for this country and for Europe to think in these broader terms of regional solutions and it would do justice to Arabs and Jews. But, first, we must not falter in our resolve to remove the present evil and threat of future terror, turmoil and nuclear war that stems from the Iraqi aggressor.
I began my speech by reminding your Lordships of the tragic fate of an ancient king, and perhaps I may in conclusion recall the ringing words of that venerable member of one of the most distinguished upper houses in all history, the Senate of Republican Rome, who said: "Carthage must be destroyed". It would be a very challenging task for this country and for Europe to think in these broader terms of regional solutions and it would do justice to Arabs and Jews. But first, we must not falter in our resolve to remove the present evil and threat of future terror, turmoil and nuclear war that stems from the Iraqi aggressor.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
My Lords, we have had a debate which has ranged widely over many parts of the globe—Europe, Hong Kong, the Gulf, Northern Ireland and many different places. But at this late hour I propose to return to the very beginning of this debate and speak to your Lordships about Latin America, as I have done on many occasions in the past.
Latin America was not mentioned in the gracious Speech; indeed it never is. It was therefore with some surprise, but with a great deal of pleasure, that I listened to my noble friend Lord Caithness and his encouraging comments on this subject. I have had many arguments with him in the past about Latin America, but I am delighted by his recent conversion. Long may it continue.
I believe that there are good reasons why this conversion is justified. In a troubled world, about which we have heard a great deal this afternoon, Latin America can be seen as a continent of stability, growth and opportunity. We have heard from a number of speakers today about the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the emergence of democracy. All this has taken place very suddenly. By contrast, in Latin America the demise of autocratic governments, mostly military, over the last decade has been gradual —different, of course, in each country but with the same result. Now all the republics of Latin America, except Cuba, are democracies and it is quite possible that that may change in the next few years.
Latin America has historically—certainly, since the end of World War Two—been very closely linked economically and politically to the United States, but is now seeking ties with Europe. In fact, the new democratic leaders are travelling extensively to Europe to promote their cause, which is a very welcome move. I hope that we shall see more of them all the time.
If I may turn for a moment to trade and economic matters, the past 15 years have been difficult for Latin America. Indeed a similar difficulty was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, in connection with the Caribbean and Africa, as indeed is the case for most developing countries. The oil crisis of 1973 hit Latin American countries hard. The terms of trade turned against hem. They adapted, but it was not easy.
Added to that has been the burden of debt. I would remind your Lordships that debts were contracted by largely autocratic military governments, but with the full support, and indeed encouragement, of the West at a time of excess liquidity. The debt burden, therefore, is something which is a shared responsibility between those who provided it and those who received it. It seems to me that dialogue and understanding are needed in order to resolve the problem. Debt in Latin America has also been a factor in fuelling inflation; something which has been referred to by others and which appears to be endemic in Latin America, but which is now being tackled vigorously by the new democratic governments.
306 Let me give your Lordships a few figures about Latin America and why it may seem important. First, the population of Latin America is now approaching 450 million. The gross domestic product is more than £430 billion. The market size in terms of import capacity is larger than south-east Asia, the Indian sub-continent and sub-Saharan Africa combined. Indeed, in economic terms Brazil is more important than what was previously described as Eastern Europe. In those circumstances it is gratifying that the UK is the second largest investor in many countries. Unfortunately, our share of the market in visible trade remains abysmally low, though that is changing gradually and during the past two years trade has begun to pick up.
Ten years ago China was all the rage. British exporters and industrialists were encouraged to go there. I am one of the few who did not then make the visit. China turned out to be disappointing. Now the rage is Eastern Europe but the change in state control and in the systems there will be slow and difficult. That is due to the nature of their history. By contrast, Latin America is naturally entrepreneurial. Therefore, the change in economic philosophy which has accompanied the return to democracy has brought with it the opening of markets, the introduction of market forces, the privatisation of cumbersome and inefficient state industries and the dismantling of central planning. All those factors will be readily accepted because of that entrepreneurial nature. Therefore, we in the UK and Europe have much in common with Latin America and I hope that we can profit by that.
I congratulate the Government on the appointment of Tristan Garel-Jones as Minister of State with responsibility for Latin America. He is a fluent Spanish speaker and, as far as I am aware, the first such Minister with that talent to be appointed for a long time. He understands the countries and his visits, which I hope will be frequent, will be well received by all concerned. I hope that he will continually repeat them. Sadly, few Cabinet Ministers, and no Prime Minister, have ever visited Latin America. That is surprising when one thinks that we have had the same Prime Minister for 11 years. She has travelled the globe extensively but has not gone to Latin America. Perhaps it is not too late.
In Latin America we can see a continent that has changed direction, is developing fast and is seeking closer ties with Europe. Up to now it has been ignored by Her Majesty's Government, but I hope that the new awakening indicated by my noble friend Lord Caithness will prosper and increase in the years to come.
§ 10.14 p.m.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, I have the unenviable task of being tail-end Charlie in the debate. I had hoped that other Members of your Lordships' House would raise the topics about which I wish to speak and that, therefore, I need not speak for too long. Unfortunately, that has not proved to be the case. If I say straightaway that I shall talk about black hats, 307 white hats and blue hats it is probable that your Lordships will become confused and therefore I shall lead up to the subject gradually.
Like my noble friend Lord Fitt, one of my problems is that I wish to speak about topics other than foreign affairs and defence because they are all related. In a debate about foreign affairs and defence it is difficult to introduce them but let me see whether I can try.
The theme of my contribution is the partiality of this Government. Perhaps I may say as a small aside that this has been a very interesting and rewarding debate for everyone who has taken part in it. However, it becomes even more significant than we thought it would be at the beginning of the afternoon because of events in the other place and the possibility of significant change in the Government. If that should take place, one hopes that a reconstituted Conservative Government might take rather more notice of what has been said in your Lordships' House not only today but on preceding days and what is to be said tomorrow. Therefore, it is quite an interesting time at which to speak.
The partiality of this Government and their ability to create a climate which is most unhelpful and in some cases positively anti-social is the theme that I wish to talk about this evening. I want to talk about personal relationships, community, regional and international relations. I hope that I shall not take too long in doing so.
It may be wise at this time of night to start at the end and work back, but perhaps I may try to build my theme. One item in the Queen's Speech is the introduction of legislation to require errant parents to pay maintenance for their children. While I accept that the payment of maintenance causes a great deal of difficulty—for example, judging how much to pay, when to pay it, when to increase it and whose responsibility maintenance is and so on—placing emphasis on introducing legislation on the subject distorts the way in which we should look at the problems of marriage break-up, divorce and the results of those problems.
I had hoped that the welfare of the family and children would be uppermost in all our minds and not just as regards what appears to be uppermost in the Government's mind—namely, saving money and penalising people. That is what I have to say on personal relationships as regards my partiality theme.
Perhaps I may now talk about community relations and look at Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has already been mentioned today. I was interested in the subject and looked at the statement of the Government's security policy in Northern Ireland. On the first page, paragraph 2(c) states:to defend the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Northern Ireland against those who try to promote political objectives, including a change in the status of Northern Ireland, by violence or the threat of violence".We can agree with some of the phrases in that paragraph but unfortunately two of them seem to introduce an element of partiality into the security 308 policy in Northern Ireland. My understanding is that both Protestants and Catholics are murdered by people on both sides of the divide. In fact there is a law on the statute book which prevents one side of the political debate being heard on radio and television but not the other side. That introduces an unfortunate note of partiality which I do not believe helps.
If one looks at regional relationships, there is the whole problem of the North-South divide. The other day I heard that a very senior industrialist not very far from the highest echelons in contact with the Government has forecast that the recession into which we are entering will be worse than that which we experienced in 1980 and 1981. In that recession we lost around one-third of our manufacturing industry. It decimated the Midlands, the North West, the North East of England and large parts of industrial Scotland. One of the results of that recession was rioting on the streets of Liverpool and Manchester. We need to be aware that we are heading into that kind of territory again. It stems from the partiality of this Government. They appear to be quite happy to see the further erosion of our manufacturing industry.
Perhaps I may now touch on the international relationships and demonstrate the partiality which occurs there. I turn first to Europe, about which there has been much talk. It seems to be a favourite theme in the other place. I feel that the problem is that the Government are looking at Europe from the point of view of national advantage—our advantage—rather than in terms of the people of the European Continent coming together and working to benefit each other. The theme of seeking partial advantage does not help this country or its people.
Finally, I turn to the Gulf, and here I introduce the concept of white, blue and black hats. The partiality of this Government suggests that the problem in the Gulf crisis is black and white. Saddam Hussein is black; the Americans and Brits are white; we will go in there and sort the problem out by military means. That unfortunately seems to be the only option the Prime Minister can think of.
The other problem that exists is that we are advised that the military action will occur under the aegis of the United Nations; we shall be part of the United Nations force. But that does not appear to be the case. Effectively we have a force in Saudi Arabia under American control; our troops and land forces are subject to American military command. The ultimate political command is in the hands of the President of the United States. In an action which is purported to be the upholding of international law, one hopes impartially, for the conflict to be effectively between one state and another is not constructive.
We seem to be very good at handing out advice to everyone but ourselves. Various people who were not members of the Republic of Ireland offered advice to the Irish Government; we heard people who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause offering advice to the Israeli Government and people who are sympathetic to the Israeli Government offering advice to the Palestinians. I shall follow in the footsteps of those before me and offer some advice to the 309 American people. They should place their armed forces under the control of the United Nations. By that I mean that the political control should effectively be surrendered or given to Perez de Cuellar, the Secretary General of the United Nations, subject to the actions, advice and orders, if I can put it that way, of the Security Council and the General Assembly.
That suggestion has already been laughed at. It is reasonable to laugh because it is laughable to think that the President of the United States would place 10 per cent., 15 per cent. or 20 per cent. of the armed forces of the United States under the control of an international body. That is not going to happen.
However, the fact that it is not going to happen demonstrates the partiality of what is going on. What we are seeing is a conflict not between Saddam Hussein and the rest of the world but between Iraq and the United States. When one looks at it from that perspective the situation is very unsatisfactory. That is not what the Government are explaining to us. That is why I entered this debate—to demonstrate the partiality of this Government and to suggest that we need a little more impartiality from them.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, it is hard to wind up a debate consisting of interesting and well-informed speeches on entirely disparate subjects. Today we have had speeches on Latin America, Cambodia, Poland, South Africa, the Sudan, Israel, development aid, Northern Ireland, the Commonwealth, terms of trade and, of course, Europe and the Gulf. We also had a truly memorable speech on Hong Kong. We had a speech on personal relations, social relations, community relations and international relations; and also on white hats, black hats and blue hats.
There has been little discussion on the defence of Europe There was a time in such debates when one-third or one-half of the speeches would be on that subject. For obvious reasons that has not been the case today—the most obvious reason being that quite quickly the threat of war in Europe has become extremely remote and the threat of war in the Gulf has become extremely acute. The only speech substantially on defence in Europe was that of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. Once again, I should like to associate my noble friends and myself with a great deal of what he said about the future of NATO. He envisaged a treaty relationship between, on the one hand, the United States and Canada and, on the other, a European defence community. It may be that such a European defence community would be different from but parallel to the European Community and might grow out of a reformed Western European Union.
I do not want to anticipate the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, but so far we have had no partisan attack—indeed no attack of any kind—on the defence policy of the Government, though there are differences and perhaps on some other occasion we may explain them and press them. In general, another reason why in this debate there has been less discussion on European defence is undoubtedly 310 because, by and large and for one reason and another, the big issues between the parties have become much less sharp. The issues of unilateralism, forward defence and flexible response have become much less sharp than hitherto.
Indeed, if we look back at the long perspective of inter-party discussion on defence policy we see that the outstanding feature has been not disagreement between the parties but agreement on the fundamentals of support for NATO and containing the Soviet Union. In that sense we can all congratulate ourselves. Broadly speaking, we have all been right and have been proved spectacularly successful, There has been a great deal of consensus today on the Gulf crisis. Certainly my noble friends and I wish to make clear, like others in all parts of the House, that we view the annexation of Kuwait as an outrage which cannot in any circumstances be allowed to continue. We welcome the dispatch of British troops and pledge our support to them. We join with noble Lords in all parts of the House in calling for a rigorous and, if necessary, a protracted use of sanctions at this time. There may come a time when sanctions begin to impose severe hardship on the Iraqi people and particularly on Iraqi women and children. However, there may also come a time when we have to remind ourselves that sanctions are a merciful alternative to war. That must be borne in mind at all times when trying to get a peaceful solution to this crisis.
My party will also not support military action unless and until the possibilities of sanctions have been tested to the limit. We also require military action to have very wide international support and a new resolution from the Security Council. I speak frankly on this point at the cost of causing some controversy. Doubts and differences must arise. There has been extraordinarily wide and confident international support for the Security Council resolutions. Everyone has said that. There are many countries which have deployed forces in the Gulf which would no doubt take part in military action to resist further Iraqi aggression. But how many of these countries would be willing to take part in a counter-offensive to liberate Kuwait? We have to ask ourselves that question.
The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to visits made by the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Baker, to the relevant countries. But there is no evidence that he achieved successful results in trying to persuade those countries to undertake to participate in a counter-offensive. I notice that the noble Earl made no reference to the results that Mr. Baker achieved. Perhaps the noble Earl who will wind up the debate will do that.
The situation is not satisfactory. The Chinese and the Russians have not deployed troops. They are plainly reluctant to approve the use of force. Either of them can prevent it under the auspices of the United Nations. Apart from that, it is hard to see, without Soviet acquiescence, that military action can succeed. The attitude of the French is not by any means clear. Apart from Kuwait the attitude of the Arab governments is not clear. Syria and Saudi Arabia have 311 not said plainly that they are willing to participate in action beyond the boundaries of Saudi Arabia even though both those governments have been amply rewarded already for the dispatch of troops to the coalition.
Yesterday President Mubarak said specifically that Egypt would not take part in military action across the Saudi frontier. He undertook only that Egypt would contribute a peacekeeping force afterwards in Kuwait. These governments have strong and particular reasons for wanting the downfall of Saddam Hussein, but all of them, including the government of Morocco, are plainly worried by reactions at home to the spectacle of their governments fighting an Arab country side by side with the United States. Incidentally, their troops are deployed between the British and American and the Iraqi troops. That is a comparatively minor matter but obviously it is an operational headache of the first order. The important point is that we must have grave misgivings about a United States and a United Kingdom commitment to engage Iraq unless there is also substantial Arab support by dispatch of troops to the coalition. The first Arab deaths through American bombing could produce what the noble Lord, Lord Pym, described very aptly as a re-run of the Crusades, and no outcome could be more disastrous than that. Yet it is a possibility.
The Americans perceive themselves as upholding international law and the resolutions of the Security Council—and in this instance they are right—but their posture is seriously undermined by their disregarding of international law and Security Council resolutions in other instances. The instance about which the Arabs are most keenly sensitive is that of Palestine. On resolutions concerned with the occupied territories, under President Reagan the United States used its veto 18 times. President Bush has so far used the veto four times and undoubtedly would have used it twice more recently had he not required more support from his Arab allies in the coalition. It is small wonder that the Saudi, Egyptian and Syrian governments hold back and hesitate when asked to ally themselves with the United States against an Arab country.
President Bush showed some awareness of this problem when he stated that after the Kuwait crisis was settled the time would come to handle the problem of Palestine. That does not seem to have had the major impact it should have had. It is not clear to me—and here I speak entirely for myself—why, during this difficult and perhaps long period of waiting for sanctions to take effect, a period when the United States urgently needs to build up its Arab support, President Bush's offer should not be brought forward and why the Security Council, quite independently of Iraq and entirely on its own merits, should not address itself now to the implementation of its resolutions on Palestine.
Such a move by the Security Council would certainly be supported by all Arabs unitedly, including the Iraqi people. It would help the anti-Saddam coalition to solidify. It would strengthen it. It would further isolate Saddam Hussein. If the coalition found 312 later that it needed to take military action, that action would be taken with greater moral authority and with greater Arab support. I do not expect the noble Earl to commit the Government to my proposal today but I should be most grateful if in due course he could let me know what the Government's attitude to it is.
The outlook in the Gulf is difficult and dark at the present time, but as other noble Lords have said during the debate the Gulf crisis could and should produce positive results as well—above all, the assertion of the authority of the Security Council in other parts of the Middle East besides the Gulf; and the deployment of a powerful United Nations force in the Gulf could be a very useful precedent. Several speakers have referred to the security of Israel. Is it simply dreaming—I do not think it is—after the precedents set in the Gulf to think that one could have a United Nations force, with American and European troops, in the West Bank and Gaza, guaranteeing the security of Israel, protecting the Palestinians, as they deserve to be protected, from the treatment they are receiving now from the occupying forces and thus also enabling Israel to dispense with control of South Lebanon, which it believes to be necessary, and which in itself might relieve the Syrians of the need to control the rest of the country?
Of course the realisation of such ideas is a long time away, but it seems to me that what has happened in the Gulf makes them more credible and practicable than before. In addition, as other speakers mentioned, they would make more possible the liberalisation of some of the Gulf regimes. Moreover, the redistribution of some of the vast assets of the oil-producing countries and of the oil companies would help to develop some of the poorer countries in the region.
It has been said that after the Gulf crisis the Middle East will never be the same again. Those of us who have had a lot to do with the region in past years may believe that that would not be a bad outcome.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Lord Richard
My Lords, I shall begin by dealing with two pleasant matters before I launch into the debate. I should like first to thank the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for his kind words about me in his opening speech. I am most grateful to him for them. Secondly, I should like to congratulate the two maiden speakers, who both made extraordinary speeches today.
I am sure that everyone who listened to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, will agree with me when I say that it was a performance which we shall remember and indeed cherish. She reminded us in forthright terms of our obligation to history. She is of course quite right; British rule is a interlude so far as concerns Hong Kong. Empires comes and empires go. In some ways they always are an interlude. However, she was gracious enough to say that in her view successive British Governments have tried to govern wisely, though not always successfully. At least she was kind enough to give us the benefit of the doubt. I should like to say that we on this side of the House wish her and the people of Hong Kong well.
313 The noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, spoke from personal experience and conviction. I agree with a great deal of what he said. His time in New York qualifies him as having a particular knowledge of the United Nations. I welcome much of his speech and look forward greatly to hearing from him again.
As the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said, winding up a debate of this character is an extraordinarily difficult task. The discussion has covered many countries, including Latin America, Northern Ireland, Southern Africa, Poland, Israel and Palestine. Indeed, I believe that it is impossible for anyone to do justice to the whole range of topics which have been mentioned.
I should like to draw the Government's attention to a few matters as regards Cambodia. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will take all possible measures to ensure that the Khmer Rouge, and especially Pol Pot, have no role to play in the process which is now taking place in that country. It would be deeply offensive to those of us on this side of the House if the situaticn were other than that Pol Pot was excluded.
Secondly, if, as part of the settlement in Cambodia, the United Nations is to be brought in to man the temporary administration, or some kind of peacekeeping force, I hope that the Government will not be niggardly when it comes to paying for such a force. There is a tendency to believe that peace is cheap. Of course it is cheaper than war, but it is a jolly sight more expensive when it comes to paying the bills.
The noble Lord, Lord Alport, spoke about the Commonwealth in his speech, a fair part of which I agreed with. However, I do not share the view which seemed to be implicit in much of what he said that somehow or other a policy which was positive towards Europe necessarily involved being antagonistic towards the Commonwealth. That is not a view I share.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, made what I thought was a preceptive speech. He looked forward to a post-NATO Europe. I believe that we are nearly in the position of being a post-NATO Europe. I listened to his words with interest and I look forward to pursuing that particular line of policy. I especially agreed with what he said about the Gulf. He said that there were two requirements: first, clarity in the aim —otherwise it is unfair to the soldiers (an attitude with which, I am bound to say, I totally agree); and, secondly, he said, we need patience. We need patience for two reasons. Sanctions will take a considerable time; and it is always bad to start a war out of impatience rather than out of deliberation and policy.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said that we had not talked much about defence in this debate. He is quite right. However, I have given the Minister who is to reply notice of two purely defence matters which, if the House will allow me, I should like to raise so that I may hear his answer. With regard to Britain's nuclear Forces, we are disturbed that the Government have announced that another two of Britain's nuclear powered hunter-killer submarines—HMS "Warspite" and HMS "Churchill"—are to be decommissioned in 314 addition to HMS "Conqueror", whose decommissioning was announced in July as part of the options for change review. As I understand it, the two submarines were undergoing expensive refits when hairline cracks were found in their reactors' primary cooling circuit.
It is now thought—and I welcome the Government's views on this because if it is true it is of extreme importance—that the rest of the Valiant-Churchill class will have to be scrapped. The discovery of the cracks also raises questions about the future of the four Polaris submarines which have the same reactor system. If cracks develop in these submarines before they are replaced by the Trident II submarines, Britain's defence force will face major problems indeed.
Can the noble Earl who is to reply to the debate give us some reassurance on that issue? He will know that an independent nuclear engineer, Mr. Large, was quoted in the Observer on Sunday as saying:Since the reactors on the Polaris submarines are exactly the same design, as well as being older than the Valiant-Churchill submarines, then the same design defect is likely to exist. It seems as though the Ministry of Defence might be stretching its luck in continuing to operate these submarines until the Tridents come into commission".Having given the Minister notice that I should do so, I pose that question in the hope that we can receive a definitive answer from the Government.
Secondly, I should like him to comment on the change that there has apparently been in the tour of duty in the Gulf of hundreds of men in the Royal Air Force. The tour of duty has been extended from three months to six months. The doubling of time spent in combat readiness will apparently take effect shortly. In The Times today there is a report about the effect on morale that that is supposed to have had. I should welcome some reassurance from the Minister on that matter.
Perhaps I may turn to the contributions in the debate. Understandably the debate was dominated by events in the Gulf. I believe that most noble Lords who took part agreed that the policy of sanctions should continue. They also agreed that the policy of sanctions will take time.
Different trends of opinion on that issue, and upon past policy in the Gulf, now seem to be emerging even in the United States. Perhaps we may envisage a solution to the problem in the Gulf in which Iraq withdraws from Kuwait; after a decent interval there is a negotiated settlement—primarily negotiated by the Arab states—and a negotiated settlement of the territorial claims, perhaps relating to the islands, and perhaps some concessions on the oilfields. As the Government will know, that issue seems to be raised more and more, in particular in the United States. I gather that Senators Nunn and Moynihan may have been questioning the trend of American policy up to now. As we all know, they are very senior politicians in the United States. If that emerges as an avenue which the Arabs themselves wish to explore, as a non-indigenous foreign country, can we really say no 315 to it? If indeed such exploration were to be successful, should we then be in a position to say no to a possible settlement along those lines?
I venture to suggest that it would be extremely difficult, even if the United States were as firm in its position now as it appears to have been at some stage in the past, for an Anglo-Saxon alliance of that kind to deny validity to an Arab settlement. I do not expect the Government to give us any firm declaration of their views on this tonight. It is obviously not a matter for overt politicking. I merely ask the Minister to comment on the reports coming out of the United States. Its views are entitled to be treated seriously.
I wish to press the Government on their position now on the possible use of force and their view on the need for a further Security Council resolution before embarking on a war. Perhaps I may say at the outset of this part of my speech to the House that it is not a question now of whether it is under Article 51 or Article 42. I have my own views, but perhaps it is no longer a legal issue. The question now seems to be much more a political than a legal one. Does it make sense for us to embark on war without the international stamp of approval that a Security Council resolution would give? I have to tell the Government why I think it would not make sense for us to do that. We all agree that it is essential to maintain as great a degree of international solidarity as possible. We all know that in his journey last week to various capitals, Mr Baker, the United States Secretary of State, seemed to be attempting to line up precisely that kind of international solidarity which is needed. I must therefore press the Government on this.
According to the press, the Prime Minister last week accepted—albeit, it is said, reluctantly—that before force is used there will have to be further recourse to the Security Council. Is this so? Is this the position of Her Majesty's Government tonight? If it is, it is a major shift in the Government's position and it is one upon which we are entitled to a greater degree of clarity. Can the Minister give us that assurance tonight? The House and indeed the country should not have to learn of a change of policy of this gravity and magnitude through a series of inspired leaks. It may be that an enabling resolution of the Security Council would do. The Chinese Foreign Minister in Baghdad yesterday apparently said that China would not veto a United Nations resolution authorising the use of force. So there is some ground for believing that Security Council action would be attainable.
The attitude of the Soviet Union on this issue is of course crucial in the Security Council. Can the Minister give us an indication of what the Government expect the Soviet attitude to be in the event of the matter going back to the council? Last week Mr Shevardnadze said that they did not rule out the use of force. Is this the message he is conveying to Her Majesty's Government? If so, we would like to know.
In short, I think we need from the Government tonight some indication of their current thinking as to 316 the way forward. Standing pat at the moment is hardly a policy, if I may say so. It is more an excuse for the absence of one. I must press the Minister on this. We cannot just drift into war. The British people are entitled to have the issues clearly presented to them. So far, as the Government know, the Opposition have given the Government our support. We have not given them a blank cheque, but we have broadly given them our support. I think that the time has come for a little more openness on the part of the Government.
I have listened to most of the debate today. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, will not be surprised to hear me say that I agreed with a great deal of what he had to say about the intricacies of operating within the Community context. In considering the Government's European policy, the difficulty that one feels they have is in grappling with the problems of a world in which multilateral diplomacy has overtaken the bilateral pursuit of national interests. More and more, those national interests can only be safeguarded and accommodated and can only prosper by operating in a multilateral context and through multilateral institutions. That is true whether we are talking about the EC, NATO, the United Nations, GATT, the Commonwealth or the many other international institutions in which we operate. The inexorable trend of the last two or three decades has been the inability of nations, large as well as small, to defend their national interests on a bilateral basis only. National freedom of manoeuvre has declined inevitably as international events have become more and more soluble only on a multilateral basis.
A very distinguished former American ambassador to NATO, Mr. Harlan Cleveland, recently made a study of what American ambassadors do. He talked to American ambassadors in capital cities, analysing their day and seeing what occupied their minds. He discovered that approximately 75 per cent. of their time is spent not on relations with the host country but on multilateral issues, trying to decide how the host country will behave when an issue comes up in New York, Brussels or any other multilateral context.
If that is so, what does it mean in practice? It means that one has to operate in an atmosphere and environment in which consensus is the goal. One has to operate in an environment in which the winner in the game is the country which can gain a consensus nearest to the direction it wishes. However, in turn, consensus also means, first, that one has to be ready to listen to the other side's argument, and, secondly, that one has to be prepared to compromise. In addition, one has to show a decent respect for the institutions within which one operates and the direction in which they are moving.
The Government are not good at that, to put it moderately at this hour of the night. Speaking personally, I am fed up with Britain being the awkward squad, whether it is in the Community, the Commonwealth or any other international institution. Not only am I fed up with it, I believe that we achieve less that way. One tends to be marginalised more and more in the decision-making process. One tends to be less genuinely consulted and to become more isolated. 317 Decisions by the rest of the members tend to be formulated on the basis of a genuine give and take between them and are then presented to the odd man out, or the odd woman out, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. When that has resulted in the odd person out taking it, one's credibility is even further eroded. I wish it would end, not only in our own interests but in the interests of the very institutions that we are trying to influence.
The acid test of the way in which one runs one's foreign policy is whether it is successful. Have we managed to prevent a serious move towards a single currency in the EC? I think not. Have we increased or diminished our capacity to mould a Community consensus in that direction? I think that we have lessened it. As I said, it is time we stopped being the difficult member of the Community and being so by design rather than by accident. It is indefensible on grounds of success and it is doubtful in terms of the genuineness of our commitment.
Therefore, I conclude - I hope on not too philosophical a note - by saying to the Government, having personally tried to operate in two or three institutions which were all about consensus, that it is time the Government learnt how to operate that policy.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, your Lordships will agree that this has been a debate on a very high level, highlighted by some notable speeches but starred by two memorable maiden speeches, those of the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, and the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest. Not only were they a valuable contribution to the debate; once again they demonstrated that your Lordships' House is a House of diverse skills and talents. I am sure that we can look forward to further performances of equal talent from both of those speakers in the near future.
We have been discussing foreign affairs and defence at a time when we must consider profoundly different futures for areas of the world in which we have very important interests. In Europe, although the future remains uncertain, there are very hopeful signs that we may be able to look forward to the development of freedom and democracy throughout the Continent. In contrast, the Middle East is in turmoil and we have made a major commitment of forces as part of an unprecedented international operation to oppose blunt aggression by Iraq and to secure the freedom of Kuwait I stress to the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, and to many other noble Lords, that our objectives are the unconditional withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, the re-establishment of the legitimate Kuwaiti Government and the release of all foreign nationals in Iraq and Kuwait.
The United Kingdom has already committed some 17,000 service personnel to the multinational force and Awe are now considering whether further deployments may be necessary. I am sure that your Lordships would wish to join me in paying tribute to the professionalism of our service personnel and their 318 civilian support who organised and undertook so large a deployment to such an unfamiliar environment with great efficiency and dispatch. For example, within 48 hours of the order being given to deploy forces to deter an invasion of Saudi Arabia a squadron of Tornados arrived at Dharan. Within two hours of the squadron's arrival a pair of Tornados was airborne on an operational mission.
We do not seek war. That is a point that I want most firmly to make to the right reverend Prelate, to the noble Lords, Lord Soper and Lord Gifford, and to many other noble Lords. Very often the threat of war is more effective than military action itself, but it is quite clear that the use of naked force to overrun and pillage a neighbouring country cannot and will not be tolerated by the international community. We must acknowledge frankly that our forces may have to be deployed to compel Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait if sanctions alone cannot achieve this.
"Can sanctions lead to a peaceful solution?" asked the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, as did my noble friend Lord Holderness. We very much hope that they can. But Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator and has already subjected his people to many years of futile sacrifice and war against Iraq.
Like many other noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, also asked about legal authority for force and whether further resolutions are needed. Article 51 of the UN Charter provides the legal authority for the use of force for the Government fully recognise the need to keep together the unprecedented coalition against Iraq.
One of the few bright spots in the dark clouds that have surrounded the invasion of Kuwait has been the performance of the United Nations. In particular, the support of the Soviet Union for effective measures against an erstwhile client has been significant and important. No longer can an aggressor count on East-West antagonism to prevent concerted UN action. These are pointers towards a hopeful future for this institution and we shall work to make it even more effective in future. But that will only be possible if we can restore the legitimate government and territorial integrity of Kuwait. Any weakening of resolve on the part of the international community will fatally undermine the prospects for the United Nations taking a prominent role in maintaining international security. That point was most ably brought out by the noble Lord, Lord Haden-Guest, in his extremely reflective maiden speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, asked "Why not contact Saddam Hussein?" There is nothing to negotiate. The international community has made clear its requirement that Iraq should comply with Security Council resolutions. The aggressor cannot be rewarded for his crime.
My noble friend Lord Selsdon spoke of individuals seeking the release of hostages. While we warmly welcome the release of any hostages, we are firmly of the view that such initiatives serve only to help Saddam Hussein in his attempts to divide the unanimous international condemnation of his actions.
319 The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, my noble friend Lord Beloff and the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, all mentioned the problem of Palestine. We all agree that the Palestinian problem requires strenuous efforts to achieve urgent solution. Saddam Hussein is the main obstacle to progress. We will pursue this with renewed vigour once the current crisis is over and we are ready to assist in the search for solutions.
Let me now turn to Europe, which has been the prime focus of our security planning for so many years and indeed about which so many of your Lordships have talked this evening. Europe is greatly changed from the Continent we viewed when your Lordships last debated the gracious Speech and it is almost unrecognisable compared with the Europe of two years ago. Such has been the pace of change.
If one single dramatic event epitomised the transformation of Eastern and Central Europe it was surely the unification of Germany last month—an event which was barely conceivable 12 months ago but which throughout this year had to be brought forward time and again as the governments of the Federal Republic and East Germany sought to keep pace with popular pressures and with events. The rebuilding of Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said is an event that we must not fail to seize.
A major factor in removing the final obstacles to unification was the decision by President Gorbachev to agree that a united Germany should be free to choose to belong to NATO: a proposition for which the Federal German Government and its allies had consistently argued. That the Soviet Union was prepared to drop its opposition to German membership of NATO reflected the very welcome extent of the changes that have taken place in Soviet thinking about security and the shape of the new Europe. The new thinking on security matters in the Soviet Government has followed a fairly steady path of convergence with Western ideas during President Gorbachev's time at the helm, and we warmly welcome his being awarded the Nobel peace prize.
Part of this is a changing perception of the role of NATO. It is hardly surprising that the clear image the Soviet Union and our public have had of the alliance is of a military organisation. Of course it still is, but it always has been, in addition, a political organisation; and as the military threat in Europe recedes we need to develop and give greater emphasis to NATO's political role.
The London Declaration issued by NATO Heads of Government following the summit in July this year set out clearly the direction in which we intend to move. It reaffirmed the central point that NATO is a wholly defensive alliance and invited the Warsaw Pact states to join the Western nations in a joint declaration that we no longer regard each other as adversaries. We are engaged with our alliance partners in a review of NATO's military strategy and as Soviet troops leave Eastern Europe NATO will scale back the readiness of its forces. These and the other measures outlined in the London Declaration are already having the intended 320 effect of helping to reduce the sense of suspicion of the West and its intentions that has been such a potent force in Soviet policy making.
We continue also to take the opportunity to build bridges with the Soviet Government and its armed forces. Manfred Woerner, NATO's Secretary General, has already visited Moscow; General Galvin, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe—I had the opportunity of meeting both of them in Brussels only a few weeks ago—and General Eide, the Chairman of NATO's Military Committee, are there now. General Moiseyev, the Chief of the Soviet General Staff, visited NATO last month and addressed the Military Committee, and we hope that President Gorbachev will address the North Atlantic Council in Brussels before the end of the year. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff will both address audiences in Moscow in the coming weeks. These contacts are vital if we are to break down the legacy of years of mutual distrust.
The signing of the CFE treaty in Paris next week, to which my noble friend referred in opening the debate, will be a major event in the process of building confidence between the West and the Soviet Union as well as an important step in improving security. To some extent the CFE negotiations have already been overtaken by events: they were envisaged as essentially a bloc-to-bloc negotiation, but one of the blocs has effectively ceased to exist.
That does not mean that CFE has no positive military advantages to offer the West. It will achieve the removal of massive amounts of military hardware from Europe, the destruction of many of the items removed and intrusive verification of those remaining. Moreover, there is an important political component of CFE in that the process of painstakingly negotiating these reductions and exchanging information about military capabilities makes yet a further contribution to increasing trust between the Soviet Union and the West—that trust and confidence which we all regard as so vital.
All these hopeful developments are interpreted by some as having removed the rationale for the continued existence of NATO. If there is no longer a military threat in Europe, they argue, why should we need the military and political alliance that has existed to contain the Soviet threat? But although we can be justified in being optimistic, all in the garden is not yet rosy. The Soviet Union faces immense difficulties in reforming itself and these difficulties are creating terrible strains. Such apprehension and fear of the future was very clearly outlined by my noble friend Lord Pym. They are anxieties we all share.
We cannot predict what will be the structure of the Soviet Union in a year's time, much less five or ten years' time, nor what sort of government it will have. But we can be relatively confident, however unpalatable it may be to dwell on the fact, that Soviet military power, even after the CFE reductions have been implemented, will remain far greater than that of any other country in Europe. While we pursue further arms control agreements, and while the Soviet Union continues to wrestle with the problems of transition 321 towards a fully democratic state in which respect for individual freedom is irreversibly embedded in the social fabric, we shall need to maintain substantial armed forces as an insurance policy against the unforeseen.
NATO also performs a vital function by acting as the structural link by which the democracies of North America are integrated into European security planning. Our historical, cultural and political ties, as well as the vast military power that the United States can deploy, make it crucial that North America plays a central role in Europe's security planning. And the alliance continues to represent the close political co-operation of 16 sovereign, democratic nations in an area or great importance.
That co-operation has been developed and tightened over 40 years. To abandon it now, when the future is perhaps less clear than it has ever been, and to attempt to build a new pan-European security structure from scratch would be the height of folly. This is not to belittle the contribution that we hope the conference on security and co-operation in Europe can make to improving stability and human rights. We have high hopes for a successful meeting of CSCE next week in Paris. I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, that the summit will further the principles of democracy, prosperity and stability. But we must remain realistic about what CSCE can reasonably achieve and the provision of a tried and tested collective security system embracing the whole of Europe is simply not yet an option. On that, I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver.
However, we shall not need to maintain forces at the levels we have required in recent years. We and many of our allies have announced proposed reductions in forces that go beyond what will be required by the CFE treaty. We are still working out the details of the changes, and consultations on options for change are still in progress. I cannot therefore offer your Lordships many further details about possible changes in the structure of the armed forces at this stage.
But, as foreshadowed in the statement on options for change in July, we have reviewed our RAF basing requirements in Germany. After consultations with our allies and in particular the German Government we have decided to redeploy units from RAF Wildenrath during 1991–92 and from RAF Gutersloh subsequently. Flying activity will reduce progressively from 1991. We are now considering, in consultation with the German authorities, the future of these bases after RAF operations cease.
Perhaps I may now go across the world and take up some of the points which your Lordships have made, beginning in Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, and my noble friend Lord Belhaven and Stenton asked about the abolition of visas for Poland. We must consider national security and immigration requirements when looking at visa abolition. Poland continues to present immigration problems, particularly illegal working, not only for us but also for many of our EC partners. Last week Mr. Komorowski, a deputy defence minister, came to 322 London for talks with me. I found him to be a most warm and friendly person who showed intense interest in the West.
My noble friend Lord Eccles talked of the EC and foreign policy. Foreign policy co-operation in the EC is one of the most positive developments in recent years. It received its treaty base only in the Single European Act in 1986. Great strides have been made. We proceed on the basis of consensus. The Twelve make themselves heard better in the world when they speak with one voice.
My noble friend Lord Cockfield said that the UK was trying to impose its goodwill on the Eleven and not the other way round. That is not true. We are fighting Britain's case and fighting it hard. It puts the cart before the horse to set a date for the start of stage two before deciding what stage two will be. No one must pre-empt the work of the intergovernmental conference.
The noble Lords, Lord Molloy and Lord Richard, spoke of the problems of Cambodia. We thoroughly agree with their comments on the excessive Pol Pot. We have repeatedly expressed our abhorrence of Pol Pot and would be the last to object if he were brought to trial for genocide. We shall make a significant contribution to the cost of settlement but it is likely to be expensive.
My noble friend Lord Alport spoke of the Commonwealth. The Government remain fully committed to the Commonwealth. It is a unique organisation held in huge respect. Membership is still expanding and the UK continues to play an important role. The Commonwealth is moving with the times and preparing to tackle current world affairs such as the environment, drugs and human rights.
The noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, made a deeply thoughtful maiden speech to which I have already referred. I reassure her that the Government fully recognise their responsibility for the security of the colony until 1997. The garrison will continue to play an important role in countering smuggling and illegal immigration. Our plans for the withdrawal of the garrison will ensure that our ability to carry out those roles is not impaired.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, spoke of UNESCO and asked when we shall rejoin it. We are monitoring developments carefully and there is as yet no evidence to show that the reforms are sufficiently substantial to merit rejoining. She asked when we shall ratify the UN convention on the right of the child. The United Kingdom signed the convention on 19th April 1990 and will ratify it as soon as possible. The noble Baroness also asked about aid to Eastern Europe as did the noble Lord, Lord Pitt. Aid to Eastern Europe is separate and additional to the aid programme for developing countries.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, spoke about consulates in the USSR. We have no plans at present to open a consulate outside Moscow. However, we are keeping the possibility under review.
The noble Lord, Lord St. John of Bletso, spoke about communal violence in South Africa. We 323 condemn violence from whatever source. It is not our business to take sides or apportion blame. The South African Government have a duty to ensure that their security forces enforce the law impartially but all political leaders have a responsibility to restrain their followers and maintain the momentum towards negotiations.
A major aim of options for change is to enhance the mobility and flexibility of our armed forces. While we anticipate a reduced need for forces primarily structured to fight if need be in the environment of North Europe, we shall need to maintain balanced forces capable of performing effectively within a wide range of environments to cope with whatever crises we may face. The forces we have deployed to the Middle East to counter Iraqi aggression all have NATO roles and they illustrate very well the flexibility which is so valuable and which we are determined to retain. In that context I can tell my noble friend Lord Ashbourne that the Gulf crisis will not affect our plans to reduce our armed forces under options for change.
Members of the services demonstrate that flexibility as they carry out a very different but also very demanding role assisting the RUC in maintaining law and order in Northern Ireland. For the Army this remains its largest peacetime commitment and the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force also make a substantial contribution to operations.
The terrorists are deeply mistaken if they believe that they can achieve their aims by butchering, coercing and intimidating the people of the Province. The IRA still clings to the mistaken belief that, having failed miserably to attract support for its cause through the ballot box in either part of Ireland, its campaign of violence can override the wishes of law-abiding people who form the vast majority of both communities of Northern Ireland. It fails to understand that we will never submit to its barbarity and that violence cannot advance its cause—a point which I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Monson. The people of Northern Ireland have been subjected to more than 20 years of terrorist savagery and they are tired of paramilitary posturing.
The job our service personnel do in Northern Ireland is demanding and dangerous. Ten regular soldiers have been murdered this year by the IRA. Members of the Ulster Defence Regiment also face the dangers involved in protecting peace in the Province and have the added strain of knowing that they and their families are under a constant threat of attack as they go about their everyday lives. Eight have been murdered this year. Despite all of this our people carry out their tasks in the Province with great courage, dedication and professionalism. Only last week the George Cross was awarded to Warrant Officer Johnson for his bravery and devotion to duty in ensuring the safe disposal of IRA mortar bombs found near a hospital and in the middle of a housing estate even though he had been severely wounded when one of the bombs exploded. I warmly congratulate him on his award, which reflects the selfless commitment to serving the community 324 displayed by all our service men and women in the Province. As regards the eloquent pleas of the noble Lords, Lord Fitt and Lord Blease, on Northern Ireland, for the past 20 years successive governments have given profound and continuous thought to that troubled Province.
I make no apology for saying a few words on several defence issues which are currently topical. First, following options for change and changed training requirements for our restructured forces, the NATO summit declaration in July made plain our intention to reduce exercise activity. We are quite clear that our landholdings should be no greater than is absolutely necessary. But if we are to have effective forces it is essential to provide them with facilities where they can train properly. Consequently, while we seek to acquire additional land where there is a proven training need, we also have a comprehensive programme to dispose of land that is no longer required. I assure my noble friend Lord Elton that the recommendations of the Salisbury Plain training area working party are being implemented, notably the protection of the important Roman village at Chisenbury Warren. We hope that all our plans will be finalised by next summer.
The smaller forces we shall have as a result of options for change must be well trained, well motivated, well accommodated and well paid, a point firmly expressed by my noble friend Lord Elton. We rely heavily on the technical skills of our service personnel, skills that require much investment to develop and are difficult and expensive to replace. It, would be a poor use of public resources to fail to give proper priority to the retention of trained personnel. Since taking office in 1979 the Government have increased service pay in line with the recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. Indeed, service pay has increased by more than 30 per cent. more than inflation during this period—a record of which we can rightly be proud.
We are also determined to ensure that conditions of service remain relevant and appropriate to modern circumstances. Housing is a particular area that causes difficulties. Service personnel, like other members of the community, increasingly want to own their homes. Traditionally the demands of service life and the high degree of mobility required of service personnel have made it difficult for them to take full advantage of the opportunities available to civilians to invest in the housing market, although the extent to which that is true has varied between the services. We are continuing to look positively and imaginatively at a range of schemes to help overcome those problems. They include sales of surplus married quarters at a discount to non-home owning personnel and preferential savings schemes.
Before turning from the subject of personnel, I should mention the important contribution made to our defence by those who are prepared to devote their spare time to becoming effective members of the services. The volunteer reserves train to become as competent in their tasks as the regulars alongside whom they would serve in time of war. Their role has 325 expanded considerably in recent years and they contribute significantly to the front line support of the regular army. Reserves of all three services undertake vital roles in defence of the United Kingdom.
I turn briefly to the two questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. The first concerned "Warspite". A decision was taken in line with our intention to move to a level of 16 submarines, as announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in his statement on options for change. It is not our policy to comment on the material state of individual submarines.
Regarding tour lengths, the RAF is satisfied that six months is an appropriate period for its personnel to serve in the Gulf in the present crisis. The decision to extend the RAF tour from three to six months was not generally applied retrospectively to those already serving in the Gulf.
In approaching the end of this considerable debate, your Lordships will no doubt agree that this is a sombre time to be debating foreign affairs and defence. Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union have embarked on a new road that looks set to lead to greater security and stability on our continent. We can rightly be proud of our contribution to this change. But the possibility of further conflict in the Middle East is disturbing and is a harsh and timely reminder that the world remains an uncertain place where, overnight, our interests and our citizens can be threatened from unexpected quarters. While seeking peaceful solutions we need to retain the capability to take effective action to prevent and redress such situations.
326 The present crisis in the Middle East also underlines the importance of effective collective action to protect peace. The level of co-operation that has been achieved among the forces deployed there is an impressive testament to the strength of international solidarity. Maintaining the bonds of consultation, co-operation and obligation needed to make collective action possible is a long term process. In Europe this is one reason why NATO continues to remain important to us. The western alliance has been spectacularly successful in keeping the peace in Europe and in helping to end the cold war. Its role is not over. It also has a major part to play in maintaining stability in Europe as it passes through a difficult time of transition and in developing its political role to contribute to building new structures in Europe that can help ensure a stable peace. Our attention is now focused, naturally, more on the Middle East than on Europe. Both are important to us: both require our most serious consideration and earnest endeavours. We shall ensure that they both receive them.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.
Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—( Viscount Long.)
On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until tomorrow.
House adjourned at half past eleven o'clock.