§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on 31st October last by the Earl of Selborne—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".
§ 2.46 p.m.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)
My Lords, the past year has been a momentous one in foreign affairs. In the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and the Community, the Middle East, Africa and the UN the balance of forces has shifted. New opportunities have opened before us. Britain has played a full part in shaping positive development—through the United Nations, 23 through our chairmanship this year of the Group of Seven, through the Commonwealth and, not least, through the European Community.
Nowhere are the opportunities and challenges facing us likely to have a more direct impact on us than in the Community; the very Community out of which a Labour Government would have taken us if they had won the 1983 election. We want to see greater European unity; but we have strong views as to the form it should take.
The two critical inter-governmental conferences are due to reach their conclusion next month at Maastricht. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor are working hard to get an agreement; but it must not be an agreement for the sake of a good press conference. Its content must be substantial and enduring.
On economic and monetary union, following considerable British input the signs are that Finance Ministers are close to a good agreement, but we still have a lot to do before an agreement can be signed. So, let me sound this note of caution: we are not there yet. The essential concerns of the British Parliament will be protected. The conditions for strong economic and monetary union will be respected. Economic convergence will be the prime consideration.
On political union, the story is more mixed. We discussed that subject recently on 21st October during the debate on the European Committee's report on political union. I then set out the Government's priorities clearly, so let me summarise our concerns: we wish to reach an agreement. If we do not it will not be for our want of trying. However, that does not mean accepting everything others want without question or jeopardising the gains we have achieved during the past 12 years.
We realise that European countries must work closer together, but Britain's position stems not from yesterday's federal dream but from tomorrow's realities.
Britain is arguing for a future Community which is open, liberal market-oriented and outward-looking. We are not interested in a fortress or protectionist Europe. That is why we particularly welcome the fact that two weeks ago we in the Community obtained political agreement to the European economic area with seven EFTA nations; so 19 countries accounting for more that 40 per cent. of the world's total trade are now working as one. The agreement means that Europe will have the biggest free trade zone in the world.
We must not neglect central and eastern Europe. The opportunities opening up there are extraordinary. Courageous strides are being taken towards democracy and market economies. We must ensure that the European Community sustains and encourages these developments rather than shutting them out. This means consolidating new links with the east by concluding quickly association agreements with Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. In the longer term full membership should be an option for all European countries when they are ready economically and politically.
24 One of the missed opportunities of last year that must not be missed this year is the successful conclusion of the GATT Uruguay Round. Nothing will do more to ensure a healthy global trading environment than success. Nothing will more effectively resurrect the spectres of the depression of the 1930s than failure.
Already there are threats of a trade bloc in America and if we fail there will be one in Asia. North America and the Community are the world's biggest trading blocs. We must work together. Growing world trade means growing world prosperity: a successful Uruguay Round offers that big prize. The Community must agree to lower agricultural trade barriers. That is what we are working for within the Community. For its part the United States must accept an ambitious services agreement. There is also the question of textiles. All sides must be ready to move on individual areas in the interests of securing an overall agreement.
The events of the past year have also opened up new opportunities for the United Nations. It has begun to function as its founding fathers intended. We have seen an unparalleled degree of co-operation among the permanent members of the Security Council. We must do our utmost to maintain it. The UN is a central part of the emerging international system. Iraq's aggression would not have been reversed without the firm line taken by the Security Council and backed by the vast majority of member states. The United Nations is playing a vital role in many regional disputes—El Salvador, Western Sahara and Angola. In Cambodia, after brokering an agreement to end 50 years of civil war, it stands ready to launch the biggest mission it has ever undertaken to ensure peace and prepare for free and fair elections.
The UN has learned from its experiences with Iraq. That Iraq is now out of Kuwait was in no small measure due to Britain's role. At this point I wish to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. We eagerly await his maiden speech. Now that Iraq is out of Kuwait, for the first time the UN is insisting—and rightly so—that a member state forgo weapons of mass destruction and pay compensation to its victims. The UN is resolved to maintain sanctions until Iraq has complied fully and unconditionally with successive Security Council resolutions. If Iraq does not, she must face the consequences. Iraq will not be re-admitted to the community of nations until she shows herself willing to observe international law.
We all share the responsibility to prevent the re-emergence of a danger like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, both arms suppliers and recipient countries. Everyone accepts that many states depend on arms imports to assure a reasonable level of security and the inherent right of self-defence which is recognised in the UN charter. But the Gulf conflict showed how peace can be undermined when a country acquires an arsenal way beyond the needs of self-defence. We must make sure that that does not happen again. Britain has proposed a universal register of arms transfers under UN auspices.
Another lesson growing out of experience over the past year in the Middle East is the need to handle 25 emergencies better. Tragedy has also touched Bangladesh and Africa. We need to reinforce UN relief in coping with emergencies. Co-ordination, early response and effective delivery are critical. We are proposing a new and more effective structure for handling emergencies and disasters. At the apex we see one high level official. Preparation is the key to success and would be the work, the responsibility, of one person.
There have also been major developments and new opportunities in areas of direct responsibility for Britain. In Hong Kong we have been working to ensure the continued political and economic development of the territory in the run-up to a peaceful transition of sovereignty in 1997. This means closer co-operation with China while safeguarding Hong Kong's autonomy and Britain's ultimate administrative responsibility. We reached agreement on a new airport, which will ensure that Hong Kong will be able to maintain its position as a major regional, financial and trading centre. Britain's commitment to Hong Kong's future was underlined by the visit of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to Peking to sign the agreement in September. The Chinese Government re-affirmed their adherence to the joint declaration and agreed to speed up the work of the joint liaison group, essential for a smooth transition in 1997.
The Hong Kong Bill of Rights became law in June, giving effect in Hong Kong courts to the international covenant on civil and political rights. In September, 18 seats in the legislative council were, for the first time, directly elected: an important step forward in the development of democracy in Hong Kong.
For much of the year Hong Kong has been trying to cope with a renewed surge in the number of migrants arriving from Vietnam. We have now, I am pleased to say, reached agreement with the Vietnamese Government for the return of those who are not refugees. But this is not a problem confined to Hong Kong. Large-scale movement of people is an increasingly worrying global problem. We can only ensure that genuine refugees are protected if non-refugees are repatriated.
While on areas of interest and concern to Britain, perhaps I may turn to one Commonwealth country and, at a slight tangent, congratulate Australia on its magnificent performance on Saturday.
Around the world parties who have fought for decades, who have refused to talk for decades are beginning to see a better way, a more co-operative way. As this spirit becomes stronger so there is greater scope for strengthening the international order.
Prospects for tackling the thorny problems of South Africa are better. The statutory pillars of apartheid have fallen. The main parties are committed to devising a non-racial and democratic constitution. The peace accord signed in September should open the way to further multi-party agreement. We shall continue to encourage all sides to agree on a new constitution acceptable to the majority of South Africans. We hope full constitutional talks will start before the end of the year.
26 The biggest and one of the longest-running challenges is the Arab/Israel problem. We strongly support the peace conference which opened last week in Madrid. Mr. Baker's tenacity has achieved its first reward. Despite the inevitable difficulties in the opening stages, the peace process remains on course. We shall do all we can to ensure that the parties remain engaged; there are great opportunities for peace which must be seized.
In the old Soviet Union, power has shifted decisively to the republics. The central planning system has simply fallen to pieces. Output is falling, prices are soaring, queues are growing. These trends have far-reaching implications for western Europe. We cannot predict how events in the Soviet Union will unfold. But we and our partners and allies can make a concerted effort to bring home to the republican leaderships that it is in their interests to behave in an orderly manner. In particular, would-be independent republics can expect little joy from the West if they play fast and loose with nuclear weapons; if they do not deal sensibly with the Soviet Union's foreign debt; and if they do not respect CSCE principles on human rights. We hope that this message is getting through.
In Yugoslavia, Britain has played an influential role in urging the Community to take on the thankless task of peace broker. We are providing monitors to help assist the peace process and with the help of my noble friend Lord Carrington, to whom much credit is due, we have provided the warring parties with a framework within which they can negotiate, once they recognise that only negotiation offers a lasting solution. The Serbs and Croats must choose peace; we cannot force them. Our role in Yugoslavia is not perhaps as spectacular as some people want, but our policy is eminently sensible.
The events of the past year have created a new opportunity to press for the adoption of certain basic standards of government world-wide. Britain has taken the lead in advocating the principles of good government. These are: accountability through a pluralist democracy; a free press; the rule of law, guaranteed by an independent judiciary; and a market economy. Those principles are now widely accepted. Economic interdependence is a well established fact. There are many institutions in the world to make it work smoothly. It is recognised almost everywhere that free markets are the only sure way to economic prosperity. The idea of a command economy has been rejected around the world.
However, none of those principles is any good unless there is good management at home. One way or another self-help is going to involve some form of accountable government. There is no wish to impose particular models, but recent history shows us that stifling individual rights leads both to discontent and economic failure.
Individual rights are not a luxury which only a developed world can afford. They are the bedrock of any successful society. If political development lags behind, so in the end will economic development. Essential steps along the road to political development are clear: accountable government, pluralism, human rights and the rule of law. We see this trend around the 27 world. In eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America many governments have already taken those first decisive—we hope irreversible—steps.
The past year has seen extraordinary changes in the world. It has demonstrated beyond dispute that Socialist ideals do not work and that certain basic standards of accountability, liberal economics and respect for human rights are necessary to ensure effective government. It has also taught us once again that international relations will depend on mutual trust and confidence, on openness and on the peaceful settlement of disputes. It has thrown up new challenges and opportunities. Britain is unique as it is the only country to be a member of the UN, G7, the EC and the Commonwealth. As such we are well placed to respond constructively and to lead others to do so. We shall not fail to do so. In the past 12 years Britain's voice has again become more influential in foreign affairs. Your Lordships should be in no doubt that this. Government will continue to work for a secure and prosperous international environment and to protect Britain's interests within it.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, in his opening speech, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has given us a summary of government policy on the main issues facing the world at this time. We are grateful to him. Even in the 12 months since we debated foreign affairs in the debate on the Address last November, we have seen significant changes, and the noble Earl was quite right to describe the past 12 months as a momentous year.
Last year we were discussing the invasion of Kuwait and all its implications. We believed, with the United Nations, that the Gulf War was a necessary operation and it was, militarily, a successful one. On the credit side I believe it strengthened the United Nations and the rule of international law; on the debit side the thoroughly bad man who caused all the trouble is still in power, and while he is there no one can safely turn his back on Iraq. He is a time bomb which should be defused. I agree with the noble Earl's remarks on the need to control the sale of arms.
The profound changes in the Soviet Union and the way they develop will affect the future of this country and western Europe generally. These and other events mentioned by the noble Earl will create problems for us and our friends and allies, and our reaction to them and the way we deal with them lie at the heart of this debate. Furthermore, it is only as members of the four major organisations that we can make our influence felt and that we can be effective. We must work through the European Community, through the Atlantic alliance, through the United Nations, and in a more informal way through the Commonwealth. The failure or collapse of any one of these bodies would be a disaster.
Our objective should be to sustain those four organisations and to ensure that our membership of them and contribution to them are significant and that we do not become a marginalised, offshore island in world affairs.
28 The noble Earl referred to the Maastricht Summit. As we look to that important event, we are conscious of current uncertainties as between the Government and some of our partners. We debated the subject of political union on 21st October and I will not cover that ground in detail again; but it would be helpful to have the Government's present view of the likely success of this important summit. As things are, does the Minister think the Prime Minister will sign the treaty? France and Germany are strongly pressing the case for a Community as a diplomatic and military power. The question of majority voting for some decisions in joint foreign policy makes it possible that Britain could be isolated in the last stage of the negotiations over the EC's political union treaty. We hope that can be avoided.
But Germany could also find itself isolated. That is to be avoided. Germany wants to pool sovereignty and wants a close knit political union. We know the reasons for that. The new Germany does not want to be tarred with the old brush. Who can blame them for that? The Government must therefore work hard to find a way out of this impasse. Noble Lords will be only too well aware that these are all critical issues.
It has always been predicted that a treaty will be signed by all 12 members in Maastricht. Is this still a practical possibility? The answer surely is that if the divisions on the points I have mentioned remain unresolved—there are others as well—then it is unlikely that the Prime Minister will lift up his pen to sign the treaty. Is that really not the position as things stand at this moment? Up until now neither Mr. John Major nor Mr. Douglas Hurd have given any hint that they might be ready to make meaningful concessions on any of the central points at issue. Indeed Mr. Hurd in his speech in Blackpool dismissed talk of one of the issues—that is, majority voting—as "wasted breath". The House will know that we take the view that our links with NATO must be retained. To break them at this point in history would be unthinkable.
What is lacking at this moment is any clear understanding of the Government's policies for Maastricht. The noble Earl dealt with this matter in his speech but his explanations did not satisfy me. We know the areas of disagreement. These include at present: extending majority voting, immigration, a common foreign policy, the powers of the European Parliament and the argument for a common currency and a central bank. On the latter point, the draft declaration includes what is called a "let out clause" for Britain. It is said that the treaty will proceed even if this country does not sign it. Britain can "opt out". That is a popular term these days. We concede that these are all acutely difficult matters to resolve, and we appreciate that they are not made easier by the divisions which exist in the ranks of the Conservative Party. I also recognise that they would be difficult if we were in office. But the party opposite is at the moment in power and the division in its ranks is acute. I do not think "acute" is too strong a word to use. Our anxiety is to know how the Government propose to tackle the problems posed by the proposals that I have listed.
Parliament and the British people have the right to know how the Government propose to proceed in six 29 weeks' time when the Prime Minister is in Maastricht. I have an uneasy feeling that it has been a mistake to build up Maastricht as being the final summit at which all the decisions on economic, monetary and political union will be settled for the foreseeable future.
I do not see how they can possibly be settled in six weeks' time. If however overall agreement is not practical, would it not be better to classify those areas on which accord can be achieved and to reserve those areas which obviously call for further discussion and negotiation? Effective political union is the chief of those areas, and I doubt whether anyone in this House believes that the complexities on the road to achieving it can be resolved in so short a time. I see that as the realistic scenario in the shorter term.
I want to see a progressively united Community and I do not want to sound pessimistic. I hope therefore that the Prime Minister will go to Maastricht determined to find as many practical solutions as possible in the public interest both here and abroad.
Turning to eastern Europe, we know that if the European Community fails to respond to the appeals of those countries, including the Soviet Union, we shall be failing in the biggest peacetime challenge of modern history. The failure of the coup in Moscow, for which we must be thankful, has had complex consequences which are still unravelling. The treaty of 18th October established a loose federation of independent sovereign republics within an economic community.
It is clear that the main and immediate objective of both Presidents Gorbachev and Yeltsin is to prevent the economic collapse of the Soviet Union. It is a critical and highly charged scene with ethnic strife, political polarisation, violent border disputes and potential civil war, as in Georgia, for example. It is the time for a massive, constructive response to save Europe from potential catastrophe.
We have so far supported the Government's attitude to events in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. We fully agreed with the Prime Minister's condemnation of the August coup, and we are at one is supporting President Yeltsin's daunting task of building a democratic system in Russia.
Notwithstanding recent events, we also have great respect for President Gorbachev. History will not forget that he and he alone was the catalyst which released the spirit of freedom and democracy in the East. We want the August revolution to succeed; the thought of another coup by the dregs of the old system appals us. Peace in Europe depends on the creation of stability and a free society in Russia and the republics and in the old Warsaw Pact states. The G7 meeting was helpful but, sadly, inadequate. Helping Russia and eastern European countries demands and deserves as much attention, as much detailed study, as much dedication, as are being given to the Maastricht summit. If Maastricht were to collapse—which we would not wish to see—we would survive and could try again. If the Soviet Union collapses we may not survive. Let us come face to face with that reality.
The noble Earl dealt with the Madrid conference. I know that we all hope and pray that some constructive 30 result may be achieved, although we also harbour doubts. Like the noble Earl, I believe that we should pay the warmest tribute to Mr. James Baker, the US Secretary of State, for his great efforts to convene a conference, and for his refusal to take no for an answer. He has travelled to the Middle East on eight occasions in recent months, and the physical and mental strain must have been considerable. It was an achievement to get Arabs and Israelis to sit down together—the first time the nations of the area have come together since 1917.
We must commend the Arab leaders who conceded to most of the objections raised by Mr. Yitzhak Shamir. For example, they dropped their insistence that Israel must make a prior promise of land for peace. But Israel is there too and we do not forget the Israelis' anxieties and their long and bitter memories. If Israel can gain formal recognition and direct relations with the Arabs through this conference, it will have achieved what it has sought for 40 years. It is good to know that Arabs and Israelis are sitting down and talking to each other for the first time for many years. At this moment, perhaps it is prudent to say no more save that we hope profoundly that there will be a constructive outcome.
I turn briefly to the tragic events in Yugoslavia, which were also mentioned by the noble Earl. We support the efforts made by the European Community to bring hostilities there to an end. In particular, we congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, upon his efforts as chairman of The Hague peace talks. The noble Lord has an immensely difficult, almost impossible, task; but we have every confidence that he will work hard for a settlement.
I hope that when the noble Earl, Lord Arran, replies he will be able to tell us what further steps, if any, the Government have in mind to bring that futile and pointless civil conflict to an end. I am thinking especially of possible action through the UN Security Council and of the imposition of sanctions upon the federal authorities until they comply fully with the ceasefire agreement.
I do not remember a time when so many agreements to cease fire were made and then broken in a matter of hours. As always, it is the innocent—the children, the women, and so on—who are suffering and dying. We and our allies must be as determined to bring this tragedy to an end as we were to tackle the Gulf problem.
There are other matters I should have liked to have dealt with such as developments in Southern Africa and the terrible starvation in other parts of that continent, but time will not allow. However, I know that my noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs and other noble Lords will touch on them in the debate.
We had a full day's debate on defence less than three weeks ago. Therefore, I shall not go into great detail on the subject save to ask the noble Earl a few questions which I am sure he will deal with when he comes to reply.
The Government's policy document Options for Change has given rise to argument and doubt as to whether the proposed reduced level of our forces will he adequate to meet our obligations and our 31 commitments in future. Can the noble Earl confirm that our NATO allies were fully informed of those proposals, and can he tell us what their reactions to them were?
Secondly, we are concerned about the disarray within the Government over the Scottish regiments. This debate gives the noble Earl, Lord Arran—a Scotsman himself—the opportunity to explain the Government's present position and to make a definitive statement about the future of those old regiments. Are the decisions of 3rd July on the amalgamation of regiments final or are they not?
Thirdly, can the noble Earl tell us what provision is being made for the 66,000 service personnel who will become redundant? There are problems of retraining and of rehousing and so on which will become acute very quickly unless adequate plans are made. Can he say whether such plans are now under consideration?
Before I conclude, I feel it my duty to refer to one criminal act which has sickened and disgusted decent people across the world; namely, the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, by the illegal regime in that unhappy country. Our thoughts are with her, her husband, Professor Michael Aris, and her children, and I think I can say that we were all delighted and moved when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope that we shall do all that is possible to secure the establishment of the duly elected government and the release and return of this courageous lady to her office as Prime Minister of Burma. A UN human rights mission arrived in Burma a few days ago. I shall be grateful if the noble Earl can tell the House what progress it has made.
I mentioned at the start that we are going through a period of great change. Are we fortunate to be living in such a period? Are these changes for the better or for worse'? I believe that we are fortunate. I believe that the changes in Russia and eastern Europe, and in our own affairs if we manage them well, are all for the better. Let us make sure that we, with our allies, do not miss the opportunity to build a new, free and democratic Europe. That should be the main objective of all of us.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, I am happy to associate myself with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, about the fate of the elected Prime Minister of Burma. I should like to express my hopes and those of all my colleagues that Her Majesty's Government will do what they can to change her position for the better.
I shall not attempt to cover in the course of my remarks the innumerable changes that have taken place in the world since we last debated foreign affairs in this House, including events in Cambodia, the USSR, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Iraq. There is only one matter in connection with Iraq which I propose to raise and which the noble Earl has been warned that I would raise; namely, the fate of a British prisoner, Ian Richter, who has been imprisoned there for five years. He was accused of bribing the mayor of Baghdad, who had been executed. It was specified at the time of the ceasefire that he would be released, but 32 he has not. I should like to know from Her Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to get him released and what his position is today.
I should like also to join others in congratulating the American Secretary of State, Mr. Baker, on an extraordinary and remarkable diplomatic achievement which can only excite our admiration and which deserves our most wholehearted thanks.
The most common single characteristic which almost everywhere in the world today shares and reflects is instability. That instability is nowhere more marked or more apparent than in central and eastern Europe. Having returned late last week from a visit to Yugoslavia, I am all too familiar with the extremely dangerous consequences which that instability can bring about. Having gone there at the invitation of the Croat Government with two parliamentary colleagues, one from the Conservative Party and one from the Labour Party, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I spend a little time conveying the impressions gained on a very short visit to that unhappy country. The situation that confronts us there is, not surprisingly, extremely fluid; it changed in the four days we were there and has changed since we left. It is a country where the loss of life is difficult to quantify but where the damage to property, particularly property in the shape of people's houses, has been devastating; where 400,000 people—the large majority Croat—have fled or been driven from their houses; and where the Serbs now occupy about 20 per cent. of what was Croatia. The economic damage is equally devastating—the loss in tourism alone amounts to about $3,500 billion—and that is in a country which is not blessed with overwhelming wealth. I suspect that the state of the economy of Croatia is more serious than has been admitted. If that is so, the economy of Serbia must be in an even worse condition.
There is not much doubt where the chief responsibility lies, although that is not to say that the Croat Government have always been prudent. Serbia, and its idea of a greater Serbia, must carry the chief responsibility, as has been made clear in the declaration from The Hague. That declaration also makes it clear—this is something which, regrettably or unregrettably, we must face—that Yugoslavia as a federal state no longer exists. To pretend that it does is simply to delude ourselves. We must also face the probability that it will break up into six independent or self-proclaimed independent republics, thereby increasing the Balkanisation of the Balkans and carrying with it the grave danger that the process will have consequences outside what was Yugoslavia. One republic, Macedonia, always excites interest in both Bulgaria and Greece. In addition, the area has a large Moslem population, which must excite interest in Albania, to mention but two possible knock-on effects.
If, therefore, the first priority is somehow or other to secure a ceasefire—here I should like to pay tribute to the 12-nation monitoring group which I visited; it is clearly doing a most noble job in almost impossible circumstances and alone in that country appears to maintain some kind of impartiality and ability to look 33 at both sides of the question—it is also important, if that Balkanisation to which I referred is not to gallop away with the whole situation, that a looser arrangement or association of those six republics should be arranged to prevent the knock-on effects to which I referred.
The prospect of a ceasefire depends largely on the Serbian response to last week's ultimatum from The Hague. The offensive reported in the press today in eastern Croatia can be interpreted either, optimistically, as an attempt to gain as much advantage before negotiations start or, alternatively, as a sign of total and utter intransigence. The next few days will reveal which of the two, if either, it will be.
During our visit we saw all those members of the Croat Government whom we hoped to see, together with leading members of the Church, including the archbishop. They treated us with the utmost generosity in terms of time. They were frank in their replies, but sometimes their replies were slightly worrying, or so it seemed to me. One must report that, despite the disparity in numbers, the Serbs have done far less well than they should. They have a huge superiority in numbers—it is estimated that there are 100,000 quasi-regular troops and 30,000 Chetniks—against 50,000 rather irregular Croats. They have taken 20 per cent. of the country, but they have not as yet won any kind of outright victory.
On the other hand, in talking about the future, one found among the Croats very few suggestions of any possible way forward. Their ideas were based on the simple return to the old frontiers. It must be said that redrawing the frontiers of Yugoslavia is a singularly fruitless exercise as the ethnic mix produces such a mosaic that you could never draw the frontiers to fit the settlement areas of the various populations.
The conflict is all too reminiscent of what we have seen in Northern Ireland. It is a child of history; the old fault line between Rome and Byzantium, between the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. That kind of historical conflict is extremely difficult to reconcile between peoples who, as in Northern Ireland, relish and live on history. That having been said, the importance that these people attach to the European Community can hardly be exaggerated. They seriously expect—I say that advisedly because very few of them deny it—the European Community to impose a settlement on Yugoslavia by force of arms. They are extremely reluctant to accept it when they are told that that is extremely unlikely and that in fact there is no such possibility.
One consequence of that conviction is that it relieves them of the responsibility for thinking themselves of any way forward. That needs to be said, because the solution, although assisted by those outside, must come from within Yugoslavia and must be accepted from within. Even if we were prepared to impose a settlement from outside by force of arms, our experience elsewhere indicates that force of arms is not 34 a good way to make other people reach agreement and that once in such a situation it is extremely difficult to get out.
Therefore, it is a pity that the British Embassy in Belgrade has no one in Zagreb. The World Service operates in Zagreb and the press is in Zagreb, but there is no one there from the embassy to tell the Croat Government what we think or to learn what they think. In fact it is only five and a half hours from Belgrade via Hungary, a somewhat arduous journey but not impossible. I should have thought that it would be a good thing to have someone in Zagreb at this critical time.
There is no doubt that the Yugoslav problem is a European problem. There is no doubt—the Foreign Secretary indicated it in another place on Friday and it is implicit in what he said—that this is not the kind of problem in which we can expect the Americans to intervene. It is a very important problem because there are potentially quite a lot of other Yugoslavias lying around the Balkans, like so much tinder. It is therefore of great importance that it should be dealt with as effectively as possible.
No one would deny that, as in the case of the Gulf, the response of the European Community to the Yugoslav crisis was both fragmentary and slow. The fact that it was slow meant that when the decisions were ultimately reached, as they have been under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, they were more difficult to implement. Various other ideas were taken up and suggested and there was no decisive intervention or decision from the body which was meant to be dealing with the situation. The slow and fragmentary response of the Community in this matter of foreign affairs, which is so important to it, indicates that we should look closely at European political co-operation. We must see whether it can be improved, whether we can make the machinery better and whether we can develop a more effective common European foreign policy to which the Foreign Secretary has given some assent. That means examining the machinery for dealing with disputes within Europe and differences of opinion within the Community. We must decide how they should be resolved and provide European political co-operation, when it becomes a common foreign policy, with a proper staff to develop that policy.
It used to be argued that differences within the Community made it impossible to have such a common foreign policy. But exactly the opposite is true. Because there are differences there must be machinery to resolve them. In a totally friction-free and harmonious society there would be no need to have parliaments, elections or votes. However, because there are differences we must have all this political paraphernalia. Similarly, within Europe, in devising a foreign policy we must have machinery to resolve our differences. Therefore, we must think in those terms and in my view that means accepting the idea of majority voting in foreign affairs issues.
That matter was referred to in the debate in another place last Friday by the Foreign Secretary. In a particularly opaque paragraph (Hansard at col. 124) which, if the House will trust me, I shall summarise, he 35 said that he thought that votes would weaken co-operation because rather than think of co-operation:People would think in terms of a vote.I am bound to say that this seems to me at this moment to be a rather odd argument for a Conservative politician to deploy. Think of votes! Good Lord, perish the thought in this year before the general election!
But when I think of the posture adopted by Her Majesty's Government before the Maastricht talks, I believe understand what the Foreign Secretary may have had in mind. That is all I shall say about Maastricht because my noble friend Lord Thomson of Monifieth will talk about that subject much more authoritatively. However, it seems to me that the posture that Her Majesty's Government adopted before Maastricht is governed far less by the interests of this country than by votes within the Conservative Party, and by that I mean the Conservative parliamentary party.
The Prime Minister said and I agree with him that he wants this country to be at the heart of Europe. How dos he propose to achieve that? It seems that he has adopted Liddell Hart's strategy of the indirect approach in its most extreme and oblique form. His first step toward reaching the heart of Europe is to ensure that this country opts out of a single currency. He signals his commitment to belong to the mainstream—if I may change the metaphor—by swimming toward the bank on the side. That is proclaimed by the Conservative press as a great diplomatic triumph. I find it very difficult to follow. In fact it is a simple and direct consequence of an attempt to appease the remnants of the Bruges Group, most of whom will not be fighting in the next election. The opt-out clause is no diplomatic triumph; it is directed at that group within the Conservative Party. I believe that that is an abnegation of leadership and in contradiction to British interests.
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Lord Craig of Radley
My Lords, I am grateful for your indulgence. It was for me a happy coincidence that on the day of my introduction last month your Lordships debated defence. I was able to sit in the Chamber, listen to and see maiden speakers of eloquence. I was able to sense the depth of wisdom and the breadth of knowledge which are the hallmarks of this place. After such a short apprenticeship in listening mode, I deem it a very great honour to be allowed to speak on this particular day on the occasion of the debate on the Address. I feel immense humility and no little trepidation as I embark on my maiden solo. Perhaps I may start by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for his kind remarks.
For the first 30 years and more of my service career there was little doubt about the principal danger to the security of this country and little doubt that we must rely on the collective defence of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. For all that period NATO was our priority one commitment. Indeed, as the years passed, it was, financially speaking, the only real priority. Virtually all other commitments had to be 36 met from the forces and equipments that we could afford and justify for NATO. Double hatting and earmarking were the themes for covering the rest of our commitments.
In the past decade the Falklands operation and more recently the Gulf conflict stretched us greatly, as I saw for myself from the closest of quarters in the Ministry of Defence. Of course war will always be a testing and trying experience. But the intense television and other media coverage of the Gulf conflict brought us something else. It brought to the attention of all of us the great professionalism of our all-volunteer regular and reserve forces. I share the universally held admiration for the way in which so many young men and women performed under great danger and difficulty so far from home. It would be invidious to single out any by name but I believe that your Lordships may share my special awareness of the particular courage of those whose duties exposed them to extreme hazards.
I am thinking of those in minesweepers who at grave personal risk sought out and destroyed a variety of deadly mines which could cause immense damage to large warships and inhibit their key operations. I am thinking of those in the special forces from all three services who operated sometimes in small teams under particularly arduous conditions far behind enemy lines. I am thinking of the air crews who had to get airborne and perhaps rendezvous at night and in darkness, silently, with an airborne tanker, to top up their fuel before flying deep into enemy territory. Each man in his cockpit knew that he would be under constant enemy fire as he approached his targets; yet he pressed on with his mission.
I was able to visit the Gulf immediately after the end of hostilities and to talk with a large number of those who had fought in this way at sea, on land and in the air, including all the special forces. It will remain an inspiring memory for me. I count it a very great privilege to have been associated with the activity of such brave people who display that very special kind of individual courage: to outface danger and conquer fear on their own and often alone. I welcome the opportunity to speak of them in this place.
From these recent operations many lessons are drawn. One which has always struck me is that both Operation Corporate and the Gulf conflict called for offensive operations at very great range from these shores against a numerically stronger foe. Your Lordships will recognise that such offensive operations may call for a much greater intensity of effort than those of a purely defensive kind. NATO prepared us to defend against aggression; to hold and recover territory we knew well, and to do so from well found defensive positions and operational bases. Even our lines of communication, though not without vulnerability, were comparatively short.
Contrast that with the complexity and effort involved in equipping, moving and sustaining a tri-service offensive—not defensive—operation many thousands of miles from home over long and exposed lines of communication. As always, fighting forces need food and water. But today, unlike their forbears, they need enormous tonnages of fuel and ammunition 37 too if they are to fight a modern battle of movement, surprise and firepower. Your Lordships will not need me to elaborate on that point. You are, I know, well attuned to it. Logistic support is as vital as front line numbers to success in such endeavours.
Looking to the future, in what roles are our armed forces most likely to be put into play? It may be as peacekeepers or in aid of those who suffer from natural and other disasters. It may be as part of a wider group or commonwealth of nations prepared to respond to United Nations leadership in those fields. Would that the world might become such a peaceable place, my Lords. I for one would not plan on it alone. If our forces have then, with others, to deal with unacceptable behaviour, it will most likely be at some distance from these shores and the territories of our NATO allies in North America and Western Europe, though if missiles of long range and advanced technology grow more available, we cannot rule out the threat from afar that they might pose to the United Kingdom itself.
However, with a clear-cut threat, such as the one we have faced out so successfully, now hopefully behind us, we and NATO, too, if it is to survive, must devise new ways to measure our force structures and requirements. These will need to be based and justified more on having a range of capabilities than on direct correlation with perceived threats. Such an approach needs much study and discussion if we are to get it right.
Those thoughts, among others, made me feel in my time directing the earlier stages of the Options for Change work that we should look for flexible and adaptable forces with reach and seize what was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to correct imbalances where they existed between the front line and its essential logistic support and sustainability. For deterrence and a conventional European battle, probably limited in time and space, not quite the same degree of logistics and sustainability were needed as are required for offensive operations at long range, though many of my noble and gallant predecessors as Chiefs of the Defence Staff over the years have worried and reported about the extent to which our sustainability had been eroded.
I therefore accepted, as most do, that our front line forces would be smaller but that they should be better in the sense that, if called on to carry out offensive operations far from home, we would have the right range and mix of capabilities without, as in Granby, having to pass the hat around our not always willing friends and allies to make good shortfalls.
Perhaps I may finish by making one comment on the concept of a more robust and expanded Western European Union defence force which France and Germany at present seem to be advocating. I speak from a military standpoint. It is for others to weigh the political value and imperatives for such a development. My point is indeed a straightforward one. In NATO, and in the Gulf, the scale of the United States military contribution gave it the authority and the leadership which all members of the treaty and the coalition accepted. In WEU, I ask myself, who will 38 lead? Consensus among equals is fair enough in peacetime. In war it could be a dubious basis from which to direct operations. Those who fight for us must have the fullest confidence in the chain of command above them. As we found in the Gulf conflict, when offensive operations are called for the most careful setting out of agreed political aims is the essential and most important prerequisite to preparing an achievable and unambiguous directive to our field commanders and the forces under their direct command. It is too late and perhaps disastrous to attempt to determine what precise objectives one is fighting to achieve if one's forces have already been committed or caught up in war. I hope that such considerations will be given proper weight if any serious development of this new European security vision is to be attempted.
Your Lordships' courtesy and indulgence in hearing me today is a very great honour. I thank you most sincerely.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Lord Pym
My Lords, it is indeed a great honour to be the first to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, on his most excellent maiden speech. After a lifetime with the services he brings all his experience to this House and we value that very highly. We admire all that he did in the Gulf war as Chief of the Defence Staff, and we admire equally the eloquent tribute that he paid to our servicemen in that conflict, in particular those who were at greatest risk. The noble Lord joins a long line of highly distinguished predecessors whose words are always listened to with great care and attention and it is perfectly obvious that the words of the noble and gallant Lord will be listened to with equal care and attention. The House looks forward to that.
There are many issues on the world agenda and therefore one must be very selective on an occasion such as this. I wish to confine my remarks to the present political situation in Europe and to the international scene as a whole. The particular event that has riveted our attention in recent months has been the collapse of the Soviet Empire with all its immense implications. I imagine that it was the last such empire that the world will ever see. The collapse brings to an end the division of Europe forced on the Allies by Stalin; a division that was a violence to the culture and history of the Continent. It was bound to end some time and thank goodness that it has ended now. But the wounds and the scars will take a long time to heal and some could become worse before becoming better.
The end was in stark contrast to the end of the British Empire when full responsibility for their own affairs was transferred to hundreds of millions of people with remarkably little rancour or bloodshed and with all the help and support that we could give. In contrast to that the Communist Empire simply collapsed under the weight of its own inefficiency and its lack of any sound philosophical, political or moral foundation.
What is its legacy? It is one colossal disaster area. The economies of the countries concerned are in a 39 grievous state of deprivation or bankruptcy. All the technical, political and social changes with which we have grown up have passed them by. They suffer from a complete lack of any institutional infrastructure on which to build pluralist democracies and market economies. It is difficult for people in the West to grasp the sheer disorder that such a situation consists of.
Naturally we take our democracy, institutions and standard of living for granted. However, those countries are starting from scratch. The end of the Communist Empire brought about the liberation of 10 countries and the creation of about 15 independent republics. Each and every one suffers from the same lack of democratic structure or experience. Potentially that situation is very dangerous and in my view calls for a quite exceptional response from the West. Whether the Soviet republics will be able to form themselves into some kind of partnership so that they can help each other remains to be seen, but I believe that their ethnic problems will make that extremely difficult.
The task of helping all these countries to pull themselves up and provide an improving standard of living for their people is so huge that its attainment cannot be taken for granted. Not enough investment and technology is available in the whole world to provide what is needed, except over a long period of time. Thy, disappointment and misery which people will continue to experience could prove to be explosive.
Therefore, the question that we must ask is: how are we to keep alive the hopes and expectations of these peoples? They are expectations that have been raised so high. At last these peoples have managed to free themselves from their oppressors but in many cases the alternatives in terms of experiences in everyday life are worse. At present the virtues of democracy and a market economy are for them a bit of a joke. Somehow the rest of us must provide good reason for them to cling to their hopes. As your Lordships know, at present an enormous number of individual initiatives are being taken by all countries in the West, in particular Germany; by governments; by the European Community; by G7; by the private sector and by many organisations. All that is excellent as far as it goes. However, my own view is that these efforts need to be augmented. I should like to see in place a structure where all the issues can be looked at together and where both sides of the European divide can find out in terms of political reality, how best to build the bridges that are needed to bring the whole Continent gradually into a balanced and harmonious entity.
In opening the debate the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to the issue of economic convergence in the European Community. Of course he was right, but in my view the convergence of the whole Continent is of equal and greater importance. That is a great challenge. There are constraints for the West no less than there are huge problems for the East and many bridges will be needed. At the top of the list are investment, technology and managerial training. In addition, cultural and educational bridges will have 40 a major contribution to make. The bridge of the English language is of fundamental importance. The best expression of that which I heard recently came from a professor at Moscow University. When speaking at a seminar at Dartmouth House she said:Teachers in English have never been so important and so wanted and so unable to satisfy the cry for help".The professor continued:For very many people, English is the standard bearer of democracy".I believe that the building of these bridges will be greatly facilitated by a structure that encompasses all the countries of Europe together with the United States and Japan whose strength and wealth will surely be needed. In other words, we need a group such as the components of CSCE which appears to be a good starting point. My anxiety is that without some such structure, without a method of looking at the whole picture, our efforts to build these bridges could easily falter or be inadequate. That would be a catastrophe and we would not be able to escape some blame for that. I expressed the same anxiety in our debate a year ago but today I feel it even more strongly. I believe that view is shared by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition.
Two trends stand out clearly in recent history of which your Lordships are well aware. The first is the large increase in the number of independent countries in the world which are taking their seats at the United Nations and elsewhere. Each country has its own distinctive culture, interests, aspirations and opinions. That number could increase significantly in the years ahead. Secondly, there is a marked growth in the sense of nationalism and independence. That is felt by millions of people throughout the world.
As regards Europe, it is natural, indeed inevitable, that after 50 years of iron rule and with no individuality permitted, people will use their newfound liberty to express strong personal feelings, instincts and loyalties. Those trends are much to be welcomed because they are what people want. However, they make the world more difficult to organise and govern. There are so many conflicting interests to try to reconcile both within and between countries. As a result of the volume and complexity of conflicting interests they will be resolved, if they can be resolved, only in an atmosphere of self discipline and patience in the context of international institutions and structures that command universal confidence and are man enough for their task.
That brings me to what I consider to be one of the central issues of international affairs today; it is the need to redefine the balance between national sovereignty and international responsibility. We face an acute example of that in relation to the European Community but all countries face the same issue because the concept of the all-powerful, independent nation state has been diminished by technology. That concept in the manner in which we have known it is out of date. Technology has made all nations interdependent and that is a new feature. It transforms the whole political international landscape and makes new methods of governance unavoidable.
I have no doubt that nation states will continue to be the foundation of any world order, but they will be 41 operating in a changing context. One element of that context is already in place; it is the regional groupings that we see throughout the world. They are dealing with regional issues and will surely develop strongly in the future. However, few people appear to be thinking about the world institutions and I do not believe that it is wise to postpone that any longer. More and more issues become global in scale and can be dealt with only globally. Technology, communications, environmental issues, financial markets and many other matters know no national boundaries. The existing machinery to help mankind handle issues on a global basis is in my view inadequate. Existing institutions serve us well but they were designed in the age of steam and cannot bear the weight which is now put on them and they were not designed to do so.
There is a view that any proposal to alter those institutions is so fraught with difficulty that it is better not to try. I regard that as a pusillanimous point of view and one which ignores the realities of the world. It would be wise to put this issue firmly on the international agenda in order to find ways to evolve our institutions so that they keep up with the pace of change.
A more difficult part of the task may be to adjust people's attitudes and psychology towards their own nation state in the face of changed world circumstances. As I said, nation states will remain the foundation of any system but they must work in different conditions.
As it happens, there is a marvellous opportunity next year to promote the whole concept of a global level of government. The United Nations 1992 Conference in Brazil on Environment and Development is the ideal vehicle for that purpose because environmental issues are the ultimate global issues. They cannot be regionalised or nationalised. The whole earth is at stake. At an individual level, people have come to realise that the earth's resources are limited and that this is the only world that we have and we all belong to it so we must look after it. That means that we must develop our institutions and create a methodology which enables the world to cope effectively with global issues as they emerge. The Brazil conference is the opportunity required. I say that especially in the light of the cohesion of the United Nations in the Gulf crisis, which was a very optimistic state of affairs
Nobody believes that that task will be easy, but that is by the way. Somehow it must be done.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Pym, I wish to confine my remarks to Europe. Before doing that, I should like to report to your Lordships that I had the privilege a short time ago of spending time with the British Army on the Rhine and with the Royal Air Force in Germany. I was deeply impressed by the levels of enthusiasm and professionalism which I found in their ranks. It is 15 years since I was last there and I am sure that the standard is much higher now than it was then. That is a great tribute. It was also a tremendous privilege to 42 meet many of those pilots and soldiers who had served in the Gulf and to share with them some of their experiences. I echo every word said so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Craig of Radley.
However, I left with one impression; namely, that the Government have failed to convince those who must carry out the nation's tasks that the resources fit the commitments. From the many conversations I had, I believe that no one thought that to be so. I believe that Options for Change began as a genuine exercise to find out how our commitments, now that the Soviet threat is reduced, could be met. However, it seems to me that what began as a genuine Options for Change ended up as a Treasury-driven exercise. That is the mistake which has been made.
I believe that the Prime Minister has a special responsibility in this matter. I hope it will not be thought that I am making too much of the point if I say that it is a pity that the Prime Minister has only been Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would have been far better had he been also Foreign Secretary or defence Secretary. I urge him strongly not only to read his briefings and to listen to what he has been told but also to investigate the matter himself. It is important that he should convince those who have responsibility for carrying out the Government's tasks that they will have the resources to do so. If that is not the case, the Government must adopt one of two options: either they must reduce the commitments as they think appropriate and come to this House about that; or they must increase resources. If those who study those matters and must operate those affairs are to be convinced, I do not see how the Government can evade that responsibility.
I now turn to the major part of my speech. Naturally I welcome the re-affirmation in the gracious Speech of Her Majesty's Government's continuing commitment to NATO and the recognition of the need to be prepared against instability in Europe. Indeed, having listened to the speeches made by a number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Cledwyn and the noble Lord, Lord Pym, instability seems to me to be something of an understatement of the situation which we are facing there. As we have been told by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, a civil war is raging in Yugoslavia. In eastern Europe there is evidence of an ugly nationalism and racism arising. Ethnic minorities are endangered and old grievances about borders are being revived.
As the noble Lord, Lord Pym, said, overshadowing that is the total collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union. Powerful interests, whose attempted coup was foiled last time, are still there and are capable of striking again. The army is discontented and morale is low. We read of troops selling their weapons and indulging in the black market in so many different ways. A Russian said recently that 85 per cent. of the borders of the Soviet Union lack legitimacy. As the noble Lord, Lord Pym, said, some 20 million citizens who are estimated to work in arms production—including those in a number of cities where the whole economy and the livelihood of their 43 citizens depends entirely on arms production—face unemployment. Europe could be confronted by a refugee tide which could turn into a flood.
I was particularly struck by the stark verdict of Mr. Rutskoi—Boris Yeltsin's deputy—who said:The confusion is worse than in your wildest dreams".His assessment is that the first priority in the Soviet republics, because the rule of law does not apply, is the restoration of a measure of order. That must be tackled before anything else. Mr. Rutskoi even suggested to his German audience that a solution would b for the Russians to join not only the European Community but also NATO, at a later stage. That is an unrealistic proposal but it is a measure of the total lack of confidence which some of the Russian leaders have in their capacity to solve their own problems.
We face more than instability. Today in western Europe we are living on the edge of a revolution; a revolution the range of which cannot be foreseen and the consequences of which may not be discerned for perhaps another 20 years. Fortunately—and this is the major point I wish to make—western Europe has two stable institutions to steady us against any shocks which may come. I refer, of course, to NATO and to the European Community. Nothing must be done at this time to weaken either. On the contrary, we need a stronger European Community and a more relevant North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
There is also the further factor of Germany and its growing influence upon European affairs. Germany is seated geographically in the centre of Europe and is now united. It is a nation of 80 million people and is the most powerful nation in Europe, with the strongest economy. The question for Germans, which other noble Lords and I have seen over the years, has now been articulated whereas before it was not; namely, how their strength is to be used. The answer concerns not only the future of the Germans but also the people; of the rest of Europe, the United States and, indeed, the Russians. President Bush recognised that; he almost brought the matter to a head when he talked of the reality of German strength and called upon Germany to become, in company with the United States, "a partner in leadership".
For at least two decades German leaders Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, and now Chancellor Kohl, have been aware of the dilemma in presenting Germany on the international stage; namely, how they were to use the latent political power that accompanied Germany's growing economic might without alarming their neighbours in the rest of Europe. In my own time I have seen that because of their knowledge of Germany's history and its recent past both Brandt and even Helmut Schmidt felt inhibited from assuming the political role to which their strength entitled them. Germany has given a clear answer to the dilemma and sought to reassure us by exerting her influence through the energetic and enthusiastic support of the European Community. I must say that the rest of us must be relieved that that is so.
However, the answer carries with it certain conditions. As I said, it brought the issue to a head. 44 Hans Dietrich Genscher was responsible for calling on Germans to shoulder their world responsibilities. That coincides with the single market in 1992 and what I regard as the natural evolution of a common economic and monetary union which will require Germany to take some risks with the strength of the German mark and the German economy. The answer from Chancellor Kohl has been to call for full-blooded political union which will require a surrender of German sovereignty. He made that a condition for Germany's willingness to relinquish control of its currency. Britain should listen to that with sympathy and understanding. It would harness the German giant's great strength to the European chariot and, let us be frank, inhibit that strength from being used —not at present but under different leadership—at some time in the future, perhaps in a manner that could harm the rest of Europe.
There are genuine differences between Britain and Germany on that issue. It is no use disguising them and they should not be hidden under any kind of verbiage. Let me suggest why I believe them to exist to enable us to decide how to overcome them. As my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said, historically Britain has always expressed her personality through a variety of institutions, of which the European Community is but one. In addition, Britain has a permanent seat on the Security Council; Germany does not. Britain has membership of the Commonwealth; Germany has no such counterpart. Britain has a long history as an independent state; Germany is only around 100 years old.
Germany has come to terms with her past and decided that the way to fulfil her role in the future is through a united Europe. I submit to your Lordships that that is equally in Britain's long-term interests and our security as a nation. When Chancellor Kohl, our Prime Minister and the remainder of the European Community meet at Maastricht the difference between our two nations—which arises from our different history—should not be one of principle but one of timing. The British people are not yet ready for a full surrender of sovereignty. That must be clear to all and must be explained to Germany. We need a full public debate but it is for us to give a lead on the direction we should follow and why it should be necessary for us to follow it.
My noble friend Lord Cledwyn made a helpful proposal that we should classify the matters that can be agreed and reserve for further discussion those that cannot. If we proceed in that way then there is a chance of reconciling both the position of Germany in Europe—seating her firmly in the centre—and, at the same time, safeguarding and promoting our own future.
I turn to the WEU. I shall cut down what I had intended to say because I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Craig, in his maiden speech, who speaks with far greater authority. Incidentally, I noticed that the gracious Speech did not mention the WEU, the Anglo-German initiative, the Franco-German initiative or even the Anglo-Italian initiative. Whether that 45 is due to a lack of conviction on the Government's part that the matter is of importance I do not know. If so, I would agree.
In the light of what the noble Lord said, I suggest that Europe is in danger of muddling up its defence structures. We do not make those arrangements any more logical by hiding them under verbiage about strengthening the European pillar of the alliance. As has been explained, NATO is seeking to adapt to changed circumstances with the establishment of a rapid reaction force some 75,000 strong under British command and with a strong element of American troops. Those with whom I had the opportunity of speaking last week said that the professionalism of the United States forces in the Gulf filled them with admiration. I was told by those who served with them in the Gulf that the American army has been transformed since Vietnam. I hope that that is true. It is a great comfort to hear that view expressed.
I realise that it is early days, but neither the mission nor the role of the rapid reaction force has been defined. Against what force is it to react? In what countries and within what geographical boundaries is it to react? As usual France is unenthusiastic due to the presence of American troops. It is high time the French overcame their pride and prejudice in the matter. It is ironic that the Russians should be more keen to preserve the strength of NATO than the French.
East Europeans are unhappy now that the Warsaw Pact has been broken up. I wish it had been possible to create a European security community through the CSCE. However, having seen that in action, although it has a forum that embraces the whole of Europe, I fear that the unanimity role would make it impossible to use the CSCE for any decision making that required immediate and urgent action.
The WEU is perhaps a little more practical. However, it was intended to exclude the United States but such a force would need to depend in its entirety upon the United States for all its major facilities— reconnaissance, communications, logistics, intelligence. What can any force do without those? How can the WEU operate unless it has that backing? In those circumstances, why do we want to depart from the necessary adaptation of NATO which could give us the same result?
With due respect, I say to the Government that I understand that there is a desire and feeling that we must counteract the Franco-German initiative for setting up a force of 25,000 to 40,000 men. But we do not achieve that purpose by proposing Anglo-Italian initiatives. They seem to have little more to say for themselves than we can obtain by a revised NATO structure with perhaps an extended role and a new and different mission. Those should be our aims. I would say to Germany that from her point of view, as well as from the point of view of Britain and the other allies, it is a better bet to work out a new role for NATO than to create alternative forces which may weaken its cohesion and its integrated structure. That, if badly handled, could cause uninformed opinion in middle 46 America, which hardly knows where Europe is, to create political pressure for the removal of American troops from Europe.
Since World War II, western Europe has done remarkably well. Our countries have enjoyed the two bulwarks, one against external aggression and the other to promote internal progress. If we decide to use those two instruments, suitably revised and certainly strengthened in the direction of political unity as we get there, Europe can then take its place as an old continent alongside the United States and Japan in offering world leadership to the other countries of the world.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord MacLehose of Beoch
My Lords, previous speakers have concentrated on great events which have and are taking place in the world, in Europe and in the Gulf. We have had the magnificent maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord. Since it is also a major feature of British policy, I wish to speak briefly about the administration of Hong Kong and co-operation with China as regards the implementation of the Sino-British declaration. We hear much. particularly in the media, about the hazards of implementing the declaration. These have been multiple and real. I should like straightaway to congratulate the Government on the skill and professionalism with which they have faced them, including getting things moving as regards the airport to which the noble Earl referred and which, of itself, involves so many other things in the Hong Kong-China relationship.
The latest example of action relative to Hong Kong has been the agreement with Vietnam to receive back illegal immigrants in Hong Kong who are judged not to be refugees. That has been a frustrating and protracted negotiation. It started in the days of the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur. and was pushed to success by the noble Earl. When he winds up it would be valuable to hear what the American attitude is to this development which is so important to Hong Kong. In particular, we should like to know what prospect there is of the Americans lifting their ban on World Bank support for the rehabilitation of Vietnam. Surely the absence of that lies at the heart of the immigration of these hopeless people from an at present hopeless land.
The agreement is yet another demonstration of the United Kingdom's determination to do what it can for Hong Kong. Obviously, the principal aim is to smooth the path in implementing the joint declaration. I say at once that I am sure that this path would have been blocked without the better working relationship established with China. It was well done to achieve that, and it was achieved through the patient. firm work of officials of the Governor and eventually of that of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. I believe that both showed considerable political courage in what they did. This path will not be an easy one because it enters ground which is entirely new and which has never been covered before in international 47 relations The administrative, financial and political problems that beset it are real and lend themselves to doomsday reporting.
Today there are very many speakers and I do not want to go into the problems of implementation. I wish to confine myself to emphasising what I believe to be the essential fact that underlies this joint Sino-British endeavour. That is the continuing economic success of Hong Kong and the whole area.
It is against that background of success that the well publicised political and administrative problems should seen. Hong Kong itself continues to be a boom city successfully outriding the world recession. But for my part I am equally, if not even more, encouraged by the dramatic economic success of adjacent areas of China. The Chinese success has resulted from the open-door policy of Deng Xiaoping. It has bun steadily implemented despite what may have been happening elsewhere in China. It has been implemented in the key areas such as the coastal provinces of South East China including those adjacent to Hong Kong. There has been huge benefit to the tens of millions of inhabitants and the productive capacity of the area. It is a success story on a gigantic scale.
Hong Kong has been a large beneficiary of this extraordinary development just as it has been a major contributor to it in terms of finance and management. The problems of implementing the joint declaration which faced the two governments and the people of Hong Kong are political, administrative and psychological. No doubt we shall hear a certain amount about them during this Session. Their solution should be assisted by the mechanisms now established between the two governments. But in considering them as they arise, I suggest that we should be encouraged by seeing Hong Kong not in isolation but under the policies of the two governments in what it is proving to be; namely, a key part in NN hat is economically accepted as the fastest growing economic area of the whole world. Against that background of economic success, surely the political and administrative problems will be solved. I congratulate the Government on what they have been doing to solve them.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I hope that it will not be considered improper that someone should take part in this debate on the humble Address following the gracious Speech who was not here for that Speech. While noble Lords were fainting under the heat in the Chamber, I was striding out along the banks of the Zambesi in the rain. I was there because I had been invited to look at the general election campaign in Zambia by the Commonwealth Secretary as part of the observer group. I arrived back into London early this morning and I thought that I might spend a few moments informing your Lordships of what happened in that general election because I believe it was a very significant event.
In addition to the honourable member for Devon West and Torridge, the team consisted of me and a further 11 much more distinguished members of the 48 Commonwealth. Among them was the President of the Australian Senate, a former Governor-General of Canada, the Vice-Chairman of the Indian Upper House and a former Bangladeshi High Commissioner to London. We were led by Mr. Justice Telford Georges who was a former chief justice of Tanzania, Zimbabwe and the Bahamas. The terms of reference that we were given by the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, whom we met in Harare at the end of the Commonwealth Conference, were these. We were to serve every relevant aspect of the organisation and conduct of the elections in accordance with the law of Zambia in relation to elections. Our function was to ascertain whether, in our impartial judgment, and in the context of that law, the elections were free and fair. We had no executive role and our function was neither to supervise nor to act as a commission of inquiry. It was to observe the process as a whole and to form a judgment accordingly; to report to the Secretary General and, subsequently, to the Government of Zambia and the leadership of the political parties taking part.
Noble Lords will appreciate that this was a huge task because Zambia is a huge country. It is about 750,000 square kilometres in size which is equivalent to the size of France, Belgium the Netherlands and Switzerland. It has a population of about 8 million which is thinly spread. Thirteen people do not go very far in those circumstances. Nevertheless we were not the only observers. The Carter Foundation had a number of observers; there were local monitoring organisations, and the High Commissions also travelled about the country on polling day. Here I should like to pay tribute to the British High Commissioner and his staff in Lusaka who not only gave us considerable support, but played an important part in the monitoring.
The important thing was that we were seen. We were welcomed by the Zambian people. We had been invited by President Kaunda and the leaders of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy, which was the opposition party, the MMD, and we were certainly welcomed by the Zambian people wherever we went. I do not remember when I was last so popular anywhere.
These elections have wide repercussions for third world countries as well as for the whole of Africa. I believe it was an act of courage to agree to allow these elections to take place at all, given the dictatorial powers that President Kaunda had before the elections took place. It was of course fatal both to his presidency and to his government. I shall come to that later.
We spoke to a wide range of people. We spoke to the President himself, to the Electoral Commission, to the head of the police and to delegations from the various monitoring organisations. We looked very carefully at the practical provisions that had been made, and we listened to a number of worries and objections that came from all sides. They mainly came from the opposition, the MMD. The government party had fewer problems since they had been responsible for designing most of the practical provisions. The serious worries were really because in 49 a situation where there had been a one party state for 17 years people found it difficult to distinguish between the government party and the government. I have to say that some candidates found it difficult to distinguish between the role as Minister and the role as candidate.
The electoral laws had been tightly drawn. Many noble Lords would have recognised them as being the child of the British electoral system. Whatever faults that may have in relation to matters of electoral procedure, or at least voting systems, it did not really apply because there were only two parties in contention. The sealing of the ballot boxes, for instance, one would recognise from having been in a polling station in this country; the rules of conduct within the precincts of the polling station one would also recognise.
There were some differences. Voters had to produce identity cards, which we do not have. They also had to produce voting cards, which we do not have—or if we have them we do not have to produce them. They had to have their thumbs marked with indelible ink, which people in this country would find less than pleasant. There were problems with the electoral roll which had originally been designed in 1988 and brought up to date in 1990. It was inadequate. Many people whose names were on the roll clearly were either not living there or perhaps were not even living at all. It meant also that nobody between 18 and 19 years of age was able to vote.
There were fears that the count would be corrupted. The count did not take place in the polling stations; ballot boxes were brought to central counting points. The opposition were very fearful that some of the ballot boxes would be tampered with between the polling station and the central count. This is where the monitoring groups came into their own. These people watched those ballot boxes like hawks. They followed them by every possible means of transport, because transport was a great difficulty. It was a great difficulty for the authorities, apart from anything else. One has to recognise that this is a very poor country and I was in one of the poorest parts in central Mongu which is about 500 miles from the centre of the country. They were very short of transport. The permanent secretary of the province told me that he had expected to have something like 45 vehicles and he had 25. Some of those were broken down and not at all suitable for the terrain.
It is a poor country because of the fact that it has suffered—and one has to give them credit for this—for being a front line state for a long time. The country has been attacked from all sides. It is also a poor country because of incompetent economic management stemming from a single party state. The agricultural industry has been destroyed by government interference; by the so-called Parastatals, the nationalised parts of the industry; by patronage; by placemen; and by corruption. The fall in the price of copper proved fatal to the very basis on which they try to run the economy. The country is virtually bankrupt and its infrastructure is collapsing.
50 In western province, where we were, we found that they did not even have petrol to put into the vehicles that they were using to send out the ballot boxes. The reason they had no petrol was that they had a cheque for 350,000 kuachas (which is about £3,000) but the bank of Zambia in Mongu did not have any money with which to cash that cheque. Even if they had, there was no petrol at the petrol station because the tanker was still on its way from Lusaka. I say this not to mock them in any way, but to give the House an indication of the kind of difficulties that these people had in putting an election together at all.
On polling day there were not sufficient rubber stamps for the polling clerks to have one each when they needed them; they were sharing the stamps between them. However, in spite of all these physical difficulties, I believe that those local government officials worked miracles on that day —miracles of dedication, of effort and of patience.
The question of fairness of the campaign itself was something that we studied. There is no doubt that in the early stages of the campaign the government had far more access to television, to newspapers and to radio because those were within their control. That was corrected once the monitoring groups started to make their presence felt. Two new newspapers appeared—one a daily and one a weekly. They certainly took the opposition viewpoint very forcefully indeed. In some ways it was quite a brutal campaign once it got under way. That led people to worry that after the election there might be trouble. For instance, the MMD was allowed to hold a rally only if it obtained a permit from the police. The government party, UNIP, was able to hold rallies without a permit if a Minister was present. Since most of their candidates were Ministers, that put them in a slightly privileged position.
In spite of all that, the opposition party fought a remarkable campaign. It captured the hearts and minds of the people of Zambia in a way which those of your Lordships who have seen the results must realise it had. They fought on the slogan, "The hour has come". They demonstrated this by using a hand signal representing the hands of the clock at one o'clock. Wherever we went throughout the length and breadth of Zambia small children and people walking by the roadside were giving us "The hour has come" sign as we drove along. That had a slightly odd consequence because on polling day when we went into the polling stations we were asked to take our wrist watches off lest that be seen as a political slogan. We suggested that perhaps the presence of a picture of one of the presidential candidates in most of the rooms might also be seen as a matter of bias and those were taken down as well.
On polling day one saw people walking many miles and standing for four or five hours in the hot sun waiting to vote. It was an inspiring sight. Those people who said in the press that there was apathy were not there to see the enthusiasm with which people voted. If one supposes that the percentage vote was only 45 per cent. or 50 per cent., that was not because all the people who had the opportunity to vote did not come to vote. It was because the electoral rolls were not 51 adequate to allow them all to vote. When it came to the count, again, the local government officers showed themselves to be extremely competent. They were not rapid in their counting, but they were meticulous. They had been up the whole of the previous day; and when the count took place the following day, many of them had had hardly any sleep for 24 hours, and yet they went on doing their job.
It was a resounding victory for Frederick Chiluba and the MMD. It was also a resounding victory for local government in Zambia, because for the first time its members recognised that they were getting away from the politicisation of the Civil Service from which they had suffered for a good many years. They knew that they no longer had to kow-tow to their masters in one political party, and we could see them growing in stature as the hours went by.
The Zambians have shown themselves to be far more mature than people outside might have suspected. They behaved calmly throughout the whole of the day. Trouble was predicted, whatever the result. There was no trouble. The police also behaved with great calmness. Apart from the one provincial governor whom I saw thrown out of three polling stations, I saw no one causing any trouble.
The result came out, and one wondered how the transfer of power would go. Here, nothing has so enhanced the reputation of President Kaunda than his method and the speed with which he laid down his presidency. He conceded graciously and quickly. In response the new president, President Chiluba, made a masterly inaugural speech which bodes well for the future of politics in Zambia. They have terrible tasks ahead of them, but they are beginning along the right lines. It may be symbolic, but I understand that a certain official, who shall be nameless, in the new Government of Zambia, was asked whether they intended to change the name of Saddam Hussein Avenue. He replied, "That will be the new Government's first task".
A new era has begun, not just for Zambia but for the whole of black and central Africa. All those countries which suffer under dictatorships can now feel hope from what the people of Zambia have done. That applies not just to Africa but throughout the whole world. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will respond to that new situation and will be forthcoming, not just with cash—that is not what is required—but with all kinds of assistance to try to train the necessary people in this country now that that country has become a true democracy. It was an inspiring experience. I was privileged to be there. I hope that this country will do its best to ensure that the new Government of Zambia are given every possible support.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Lord Cockfield
My Lords, perhaps I may start by joining in the congratulations offered by other noble Lords to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, on a distinguished maiden speech. He no doubt recalls the tactics adopted by Admiral Lord Nelson at Aboukir Bay when he sailed between the French line of battle and the shore. It has always given 52 me great pleasure to see the way noble and gallant Lords sitting on the Cross Benches sail with such confidence between the Benches occupied by the Government and the Opposition, offering advice of great value to both sides.
I propose directing my remarks to relations between the European Community and the United Kingdom. It is perhaps unfortunate that that subject has to be debated under the omnibus heading of "Foreign Affairs and Defence". That is almost as though there was something foreign about the Community of which we are members and as though we required defence against our fellow members. That at times is the impression one gathers from reading the columns of our newspapers and from listening to some of the speeches from our politicians. I was impressed therefore by what my noble friend Lord Caithness said this afternoon. His remarks were well measured, showed great balance and a judicial approach to the problems that we face.
The dilemma that we face is much more fundamental than arguments about particular provisions or words in a treaty. It goes to the heart of our membership of the Community and to the obligations that we undertook when we joined it in 1973. To understand fully the issues involved, one must go back to the commencement. The Community of course started in 1952 with the Treaty of Paris, and not with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, as is so often thought. Although it dealt specifically with coal and steel, the Treaty of Paris looked forward to the establishment of a community among the peoples of Europe, and referred specifically to the creation of an economic community.
By the time we joined the Community in 1973, it was already 21 years old. It had reached maturity. It was endowed with a series of policies which had already been agreed and to which we were committed by the Treaty of Accession. We have always acted as though we had a tabula rasa upon which we could write anything that took our fancy. That never was so; nor could we ever. We were in fact Johnny-come-lately. We were obliged under the Treaty of Accession to respect the Community's policies as already established.
From the very commencement, the intention was to create a community in the fullest sense of the term. Free trade, customs union, and the Economic Community itself were merely steps along that road. That comes out clearly in the texts of the treaties themselves. The point is perhaps most clearly made in the Treaty of Rome, where the opening words —this is not buried in the body of the text—read:determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe".Note that it is "the peoples"; it is not "the states". To make certain that that was so, and that it is not an error of translation, as has sometimes happened, I referred to the original French text of the treaty. There is of course no English text going back to 1957 for the simple reason that we were not members. The French text reads:"déterminé à établir les fondemonts d'une union sans cesse plus étroite entre les peuples Européens".53 The unofficial translation prepared by the Foreign Office and issued in 1962,for the convenience of Parliament and the public"—it is interesting that the public was brought into the picture—reads:determined to establish the foundations of an ever closer union among the European peoples".There cannot be the slightest doubt therefore that what the treaties provided for was a union among the peoples. The perversion of the phrase to:a union among the Member States"—which is sometimes even elaborated into the phrase:a union among independent sovereign states"—was a pure heresy, invented by General De Gaulle, who did not like the Community; adopted by Mrs. Thatcher, who shared many of General De Gaulle's views; and repeated since by lesser mortals. But a heresy it is, and that needs to be said unequivocally and without hesitation.
What has happened in the Community ever since the treaties were first signed is continuing progress along the path set out in the treaties. Sometimes slow and hesitant, sometimes determined and much faster, but it has always been progress forward, never progress backwards. The single market programme which I launched in 1985 represented the completion of the Common Market which was the foundation stone of the Community. The single currency is the next logical step to be followed by the achievement of economic union and ultimately political union. Exactly what "political union" means at this stage is a matter of some debate. While not in any way controverting the ultimate aim, I myself believe that it might have been approached in a more measured fashion. I entirely appreciate and indeed agree with the analysis given by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, of the attitude of the German Government. Indeed, in a Community of 12, much must be done to accommodate different views. But I feel that the real problem lies not in how fast or how slow we are going, but in a degree of mistrust on the part not only of Germany but indeed of certain other countries—many other countries—as to our commitment to the ultimate objectives. If that commitment was clear, I think that there would be much less difficulty over the pace at which political union was reached. But however we approach this, that progression is entirely consistent with the principles set out in the treaties. It is in that spirit that I believe we should approach the intergovernmental conferences at Maastricht next month.
From time to time there has been talk of an eleven to one situation emerging once again and indeed the use of a veto. Of course, there is no such thing as a veto under the terms of the treaty. It was another of General de Gaulle's heresies. True in some instances the treaty requires unanimity, but the purpose of unanimity was to enable all the member states to move ahead together, not to allow one member state or a small minority to block progress. One can see this very clearly if one looks at the detailed provisions of the treaty where in the early days during what was called the "transitional period" unanimity was required. But at the end of the transitional period, which 54 incidentally ended in 1973 at the latest, unanimity was replaced by majority voting. That is strictly in line with the original intention of the treaties. In a general sense we must take care of our own interests but that does not and cannot extend to frustrating the clearly expressed intentions of the treaties when the Community by virtual unanimity wishes to progress towards the objectives actually set out in the treaty.
There has been much talk of national sovereignty. We have heard some reference to it in the House today. But to the extent that we surrendered national sovereignty in 1972 when we signed the Treaty of Accession that was our own decision: no one ever asked us to join the Community; indeed, some people did not want us to do so. It is also argued that economic and monetary union and political union will further erode our sovereignty. That is perfectly true. But it was inherent in our decision to join the Community in the first place and in the specific terms of the Treaty of Accession. We cannot resile from that without reneging on our own solemn word.
There is also talk of no surrender of the sovereign powers of the Westminster Parliament. The Westminster Parliament understandably is zealous in the defence of its powers and privileges. But sovereignty in the fullest sense of the term belongs not to the Parliament but to the people. At the end of the day it is the good of the people, not the good of the politicians, that matters. It is interesting that the most vigorous defenders of parliamentary sovereignty are also the loudest voices demanding a referendum. But a referendum is a massive vote of no confidence in the Parliament which is thought to be unable or not to be trusted to take so important a decision. I see that there is a proposal to make a new musical version of the Gettysburg speech with the voice-over of our previous Prime Minister. Perhaps it would be unkind to remind her when she declares those immortal words that what President Lincoln actually said was:Government of the people, by the people, for the people".Like the Treaty of Rome, it was "the people" and not the Parliament or the member states. If we find that the other member states of the Community wish to proceed along the path delineated by the treaties and we find it impossible to do so, as I recognise might well happen, the only honourable course would be for us to withdraw from the Community, and not to attempt to exercise a supposed right of veto in order to frustrate the legitimate will of the majority. It is a path I hope that we would never wish or need to tread. But it is the only alternative to going along with the will of the majority which is the basis upon which all democracy is founded.
Of course, it is always possible for us to seek to leave ourselves out of specific developments in the Community by way of derogation or otherwise. There are plenty of precedents for such action, although no one has ever liked it very much. But that is quite a different matter from trying to stop other people going ahead. We need to recognise that it is in every sense a confession of failure. We would be voting ourselves into the position of second-class citizens; it would not be a question of other people putting us in that position. But if it is our judgment that it is the second 55 division where we belong, so be it. However, at some stage the British people may have something to say about that. Therefore, we have a choice in these matters, but it is necessary to say very, very clearly indeed just what is that choice.
My personal views on these matters are so well known and on the record that it is really not necessary for me to repeat them. But I believe that we should and indeed need to respect the spirit as well as the letter of the obligations which we undertook when we joined the Community in 1973—to be willing to proceed along the path to the goal so clearly and unambiguously set out in the treaties in co-operation, not in conflict, with our fellow members.
I do not expect other people necessarily to agree with me. But I do ask that the nature of the choice facing us should be fully understood, that there should be a realisation that it is not just matters of detail or bargaining over words which matter but above all our honour 2nd integrity as a nation in relation to the commitments we not only voluntarily but clearly and publicly shouldered when we joined the Community.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, does he agree that the inexorable consequence of an ever closer union is the ultimate creation of a single European super-state with Westminster reduced to county council status and a single seat at the United Nations with a unified Army, Navy, Air Force, and so on?
§ 5 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, this debate has underlined that we live in extraordinary times. The transformation of East-West relationships has fundamentally altered our outlook, both as Europeans and as world citizens. It has enthused us with optimism because the global stalemate which blocked progress for so long has now dissolved.
However, I have often noted that the analytical tools seen as vital to third world development are not applied often enough to the first and second worlds. The over-arching relationship between human rights —political, civil, social and economic—and human progress is the same the world over. Raw communism and raw capitalism alike have failed humanity. Neither the unbridled power of the mighty state nor that of the mighty market must be allowed to dominate and dictate to human society. That is the lesson of history and nowhere has it been learned more painfully than in the third world.
Scanning the East-West axis, we see many problems which have parallels in the poor South. We have to look carefully at the changing spheres of influence and new alliances which are filling the vacuum as the Soviet empire breaks up. It is hardly necessary at this time to emphasise the crucial importance of tackling the root causes of conflict in the Middle East, although frankly I sometimes tremble a c the inability of key actors, both Arab and Israeli, to see that ownership of any solution is vital on 56 all sides and that others—Arab or Israeli—endeavouring to pick and choose representatives of the Palestinians whom they see as acceptable—whatever the majority of Palestinians themselves prefer—is potentially self defeating. Representatives must be representatives.
We must look carefully at conflict in Yugoslavia where for many years deep internal rifts were suppressed instead of tackled by communism and where the European Community's patient diplomacy is blunted by the world's failure to tackle a major challenge to democracy—the question of the rights of minorities. This issue is of central importance to Europeans. If we do not forge new constitutional, legal, political and economic methods to tackle it, ethnic violence threatens to unravel the tenuous stability in central and eastern Europe as well as in the Soviet Union and, who knows, perhaps nearer home as well.
In the crumbling Soviet Union this winter we must tackle the real threat of hunger and face the awe-inspiring scale and complexity of turning round an economic structure which has the capacity to "nuke" the globe, which can send people into space, but which cannot feed its people on the ground. It took the grim week of the failed coup to reverse the G7 aid policy. But even if we can help stave off hunger this year, we must ask whether the West is doing enough and whether it really has the know-how to transform a dangerous juggernaut. What of all that nuclear potential amid so much unpredictability and volatility?
In Albania we must tackle the abject poverty of third world proportions and worse. It is a disaster that illustrates not only the total failure of bigoted communism but also the driving force behind the new threat to western Europe—that of mass migration away from chaos in eastern Europe. We all remember the thousands of desperate people pouring on to the Brindisi quayside. Simply to erect immigration barriers is not an adequate response. We must prioritise the common objective of assisting the rapid yet sustainable development of eastern Europe. A western European oasis of relative prosperity in a morass of poverty and conflict cannot remain unscathed indefinitely. At the same time, we can delay no longer in tackling the dubious commerce of massive arms sales to unstable conflict zones. What kind of profit did Europe derive from arming Iraq?
We must nail the scourge of poverty in the rich world itself. Here in Britain, the gulf between the rich and the poor has widened unacceptably during the 1980s. In the United States, there has also been a dramatic increase in poverty. Over the past decade and despite economic growth, there has been a 20 per cent. increase in the numbers of people in the United States officially classified as living in poverty—over 33 million US citizens, 13.5 per cent. of the population. We must ask whether this trend away from social justice in the world's one remaining superpower, as well as here in Britain, makes for long-term stability. As we prepare to enter the 21st century, it is poverty we must determine to leave behind, not the poor.
57 We all know that the only sane policy for the future of humanity is sustainable growth with equity; economic progress coupled with social justice. But what is Europe doing? How are we applying this in the way we conduct our foreign affairs? My fear is that Europe remains disturbingly inward looking. To date, the process deliberations do not augur well. If we follow the current trend, our common foreign policy will be little more than the lowest common denominator of our separate national foreign agendas. That common denominator will be the simple desire to enhance and protect our own enclave of comparative prosperity.
The alternative, if we Europeans choose it, is a confident and outward-looking Europe. We need a European Community with a foreign policy which looks south as well as east and west; a Europe which takes the long view of its own interests and which understands that the real threats to its own security must be tackled by a constructive integrated foreign policy.
We need a Europe which takes seriously its humanitarian and development aid responsibilities, and I mean here our responsibilities both towards the third world and towards the repeatedly demonstrated instinctive priorities of the home electorate. The latest figures on Britain's aid effort are depressing. Despite the unquestioned personal commitment of the Minister at present responsible for aid, at a time when there are unparalleled humanitarian and development aid needs, at a time when, despite the recession, the public have voluntarily dug deep into their pockets to help, the British Government's aid as a percentage of gross national product remains totally inadequate. It is time our political leaders listened to their own Minister responsible for aid and caught up with the British people. The Prime Minister's recent initiatives on debt are at least some encouragement, but they must be followed by a renewed more general commitment to positive engagement in the third world.
We already have a European Community which effectively co-ordinates at the UN level. What we need in addition is a common agenda which dedicates political will towards securing the rights of minorities, towards conflict resolution and prevention mechanisms, and towards effective humanitarian relief.
We need a Europe which uses its position of influence in the Bretton Woods institutions to advance key foreign policy principles and to ensure that the remits of the two institutions are co-ordinated in their relevance to the deep and complex economic crisis afflicting the third world. Promoting growth with social justice should guide structural adjustment policy. However, in saying that, we must recognise that without doubt the cause of social justice equally demands radical change on the part of many third world governments.
If we recognise that improved terms of trade can boost poor economies more than aid alone ever will, we must also recognise that we need a European Community which uses its position of influence within 58 GATT to give poor countries fair market access to the rich world but never at the cost of their national food security and environmental protection.
We need a Europe which acts on environmental degradation for the good of humanity, not just when the costs of our energy supplies rise uncomfortably. We need a Europe which is able to tackle the terrible upsurge in racism and fascism which the unresolved social and economic pressure of rapid change have alarmingly unleashed. Immigration barriers to keep the world's poor out will of themselves never provide a lasting solution. We need also a Europe which plays its full part in the reduction of nuclear weapons and tension within the context of a wider commitment to global collective security. However, an integrated European foreign policy does not necessitate an isolationist European defence policy. That would certainly be destabilising.
We must learn our lessons. Our foreign policy must follow through the logic of our own experience in Europe. We have experienced the pain of extreme ideological power exercised by fascism and communism. We have experienced the pain of war, famine, mass poverty and massive population upheavals. During the Cold War we were the theatre of East-West nuclear tension. The situation was that of a disaster waiting to happen. Now we see the terrible effects of environmental abuse. By contrast it was we in western Europe who pioneered the dynamic, responsive mix of mutually supportive government action and private enterprise which underpins modern economic growth with social justice. We should be proud of that achievement and we must stand by it if we are to sustain our commitment as the cradle of democracy.
It would be tragic if the fall of the Berlin Wall led only to a modest enlargement of a rich man's club. That would put the seal on our terminal decline. Civilisation is about the recognition of our qualitative as well as quantitative potential. It is about our moral responsibilities. That surely is also what the foreign policy of a civilised Britain, as part of a civilised Europe, should be about.
§ 3 p.m.
§ Lord Bramall
My Lords, the gracious Speech emphasised the great importance that Her Majesty's Government attach in their foreign policy to maintaining the nation's security in a still dangerous and unstable world, and their determination to keep substantial and effective forces in support of the country's influence and interests. It is evident that many noble Lords will welcome that necessarily general statement of intent.
Against that background and the significant easing of East-West tension currently being experienced, it makes some military sense, at least in the short and medium term—quite apart from the political and eventually financial advantages—tomain Armed Forces which are somewhat smaller than at present. That factor is typified by the replacing of the comparatively large and cumbersome British Army of the Rhine—geared rather rigidly to an awkward and now unnecessary forward defence deployment—with 59 a smaller, although largely British, rapid reaction force with only one British armoured division and two Royal Air Force airfields on the Continent.
Quite apart from the value of that force for and in NATO—that body is still the most generally reassuring and stable framework for European security, and it has scope for enlargement and modification—it will give us, from within the United Kingdom components, some capability to operate with allies outside NATO and outside Europe if the need arose. We will thus have significant flexibility in the vital interim period when perhaps it really will become possible to judge how the critical power balances in Eastern Europe and the Middle East are going to work out, and whether the threats to European and British interests have receded as far and as much as some people imagine.
At the moment it is too early to be certain about those factors. That is why this flexibility and the need for a proper balance is so essential. That point was made so well by my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig of Radley in his excellent and moving speech. He has had a great deal to do with evolving this policy. He played a distinguished part in masterminding the Gulf War which brought great credit to our arms.
The policies I have outlined make sense. However, it would not make sense in this context to cut such a splendid national asset so deeply, particularly in terms of manpower, that what is left would not be in a position to carry out the day to day commitments which invariably continue to come its way—I am sure noble Lords would agree that this national asset is one of the few with an untarnished reputation—without a continuation or even an aggravation of the present totally unacceptable overstretch.
One sometimes wonders whether those people who arrange these matters in Whitehall have any idea of the extra strain imposed on stretched manpower, for example, in the context of anti-terrorist guard duties which are increasing all the time. One also wonders—and my noble and gallant friend referred to this—whether they have any idea of the need for the stretched manpower to be in a position to react quickly, and without all the contortions and cannibalisations that were such a feature of the Gulf deployment, to a wide range of challenges with which, historically, our forces seem to be faced every nine to 10 years. En view of the current state of the world they may be forced to tackle such challenges even more frequently. Neither would it be sensible for the Options for Change reorganisation to be so underfunded in the next three years that it became impossible to carry it out properly and economically, or treat fairly and generously those who have served their country so well in peace and war and who now find that their services are no longer required.
Despite considerable evidence as well as some manifest concern by professional advisers that the final turns of the screw have gone too far, and that the fears I have mentioned are likely to be realised, it is clear that Ministers will not admit to any flaws in Options for Change whatever, let alone indicate a willingness to try to correct them. Rather than go over the ground all over again which would be a complete 60 waste of time, I shall concentrate on a few points for the future which I hope the noble Earl, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Defence, will find constructive. Noble Lords may be surprised to know that my noble and gallant friend Lord Carver and I are in almost entire agreement on these points. For example, I was disappointed that the gracious Speech made no mention of reviewing our nuclear capability or of our pressing for the streamlining of the command structures in NATO and our desire to make them more relevant.
With the likes of Saddam Hussein still in power and the tension in the Middle East and what was the Soviet Union still unresolved, no one in his right mind would want to denude us of an effective nuclear deterrent in the background to prevent any irresponsible threat or use of a nuclear device against Britain and others. However, with the moral and political restraints on anyone ever employing such weapons becoming yearly even more apparent, I believe there is still a degree of over-insurance and overkill in our nuclear capability which may in the future lead to a greater drain on our limited resources than can now be entirely justified. That matter should be reconsidered whatever political hooks may have to be negotiated.
Equally, now that NATO should be assuming more the mantle of a security organization—perhaps, as I said, embracing a wider area—rather than providing a framework and structure for war fighting, some significant savings could undoubtedly be made in our contribution to the rather cumbersome and duplicated command structures.
I am also disappointed that the gracious Speech—perhaps for reasons of space—made no mention of using this opportunity to modernise the organisation of our Armed Forces and particularly the Army's combat arms. One of the reasons why I have been against special pleading for this or that regiment is that, apart from perhaps exacerbating an already acute manpower and funding problem, it diverts attention from the real problem, which is how we can design for the future a viable regimental system which will stand the test of time—a regimental system by which Ministers emphatically and not unnaturally set great store, as I do.
Such a system must be one in which the regimental family is small enough in terms of pedigree, regional loyalty or professional specialisation to have a natural ethos of its own and thus to mean something very special to the individual from the moment he joins as a recruit. His recruit training is a fundamental part of the system. The regimental family must be large enough to be generally viable in terms of up-to-strength units and their rotation and in providing opportunities for regimental homes where families can congregate, buy houses and consistently educate their children. The Army Board has so far failed to grasp that nettle. However, in future it must work towards fewer, larger regiments or groupings of three or at least two battalions, or units which would give the advantages obtained by the Cardwell reform of over 120 years ago. Otherwise the hotchpotch of large and small regiments will become increasingly unworkable 61 and tend to bring the whole system into disrepute when it has to be watered down, as it very largely was in the Gulf.
I was also sad that in connection with reducing the size of the regular forces no reference could be made to the greater importance which Her Majesty's Government should now attach to the reserve forces. In an earlier statement the Secretary of State said that he would not turn away willing volunteers. However, that statement is meaningless if the desired establishment strength is not fully funded and the commanding officer cannot afford to train the recruits he attracts to his unit. Nor will the value of the reserve forces be fully realised unless there is a clearer idea about their future role. That must include an easier ability to mobilise at least some units or parts of units in an emergency short of more general conflict, as happens in the United States with the National Guard. That could have been done with good effect in the Gulf with our own reserve forces.
It takes some time to work up an entire Territorial Army battalion or regiment to regular army standards. A company or sub-unit can be made almost indistinguishable from its regular counterpart after only the shortest period of work-up training. I can think of no more effective or motivating way of using the Territorial Army in future than to see that in an emergency such as the Gulf a regular battalion, which even with fewer units in the Army is unlikely to be established at sufficient strength to deploy that all-important fourth company which all wars demand, will be able to receive that fourth company made up entirely of volunteers from its affiliated Territorial Army battalion.
In a world in which lower intensity emergencies are far more likely than anything requiring general mobilisation, I believe that the future of the Territorial Army and perhaps also the reserves of other services lies not in specialist individual reinforcements as happened largely in the Gulf, nor in formed units as was the common practice when the British Army of the Rhine had to be trebled in size on general mobilisation, but in providing at short notice sub-units of volunteers to be grafted onto the regular units and to operate with them.
I apologise for going into detail inappropriate for the gracious Speech, but Options for Change hangs heavily over the defence scene and must now be faced up to in the most constructive way possible. There is a good deal of detail to be filled in before anyone can be confident that the Government are as keen on defining the future roles of the Armed Forces and developing strategy as they are on cutting the Armed Forces down to size within a fairly arbitrary financial ceiling.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Lord Fanshawe of Richmond
My Lords, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Bramall, in the most impressive speech he has made today on the defence scene. Defence is part of the gracious Speech, and it is inevitable that in a debate such as this we should discuss in some depth some of the detailed 62 aspects of defence as well as the macro view on foreign affairs which has been covered so well by so many noble Lords on both sides of this House and on the Cross-Benches today.
I should perhaps declare an interest as a director of the Westland Group; but I hasten to add that in no way shall I bring into the discussion this evening anything relating to defence equipment. I want to speak this evening—and very briefly because a number of noble Lords wish to speak—following part of the debate which we had in this House on 16th October in the last Session, aspects of which have been touched on so skilfully by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, today.
None of us who spoke in that debate on 16th October—including the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who is to speak today and who made an outstanding contribution on that occasion—received a reply in the winding up by my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State. I do not criticise my noble friend personally for that because it was a very long debate with nearly 40 speakers and there was not enough time. However, I hope that he will find time this evening to answer the questions put forward by noble Lords on all sides of the House, including the noble Lord, Lord Richard, who expressed some surprise to discover me on these Benches under a different name from that with which I sat in another place.
I should therefore like to restate very briefly the anxiety which is felt in the Army today and which was underlined by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. As a former Life Guards officer and subsequently a Territorial Army officer in the 21st Special Air Service Regiment (Artists Rifles) I am aware not only of the problems affecting the regular Army but also of the problems facing the reserve forces which were touched on by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall.
Can my noble friend explain to us why there has been no defence review? We have had Options for Change around our necks for the past two years. It was put into reserve in a filing cabinet during the Gulf war and was pulled out again after the war. There is no doubt in the minds of all of us who spoke in the debate on 16th October—and I suspect in the mind of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall today—that the Options for Change programme is entirely Treasury driven. We are told again and again by the Secretary of State and by my noble friend the Under-Secretary of State that it is not Treasury driven. However, there is no longer any credibility in the Government's statements when it is quite clear that the Treasury is telling the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, through the Secretary of State for Defence how much can be spent. That has been laid down before the Ministry of Defence had assessed our commitments.
I asked questions in the earlier debate, which were not answered. One was that such is the shortage of money that I understand that at Sandhurst today gas rattles are used to indicate the use of automatic weapons in exercises instead of the real equipment which has been used for many years since the last war. Is that true? Again, the commanding officer of a 63 well-known territorial yeomanry regiment is about to take his regiment on a three-week annual course on which it will carry out exercises with only one blank round for each member of his unit. Is that correct? If it is correct, I do not blame the Secretary of State; I blame the Treasury. I believe that the Treasury is cutting hack the amount of money available to the Army.
The Government have admitted on many occasions that there is a morale problem in the services as a result of Options for Change. That point was underlined in the leaked letter from General Chapple to the Secretary of State. A defence review would provide credibility and show whether the commitments which we are told we still have are balanced by the correct amount of military resources.
I should like again to detail the position of the Household Cavalry. That organisation has to perform public duties and has a fighting role which it performed in the Falklands and more recently in the Gulf War. It will be made into a composite regiment consisting of two sabre squadrons of the Life Guards wearing their cap badges and two sabre squadrons of Blues and Royals wearing their cap badges, forming an armoured reconnaissance regiment with a headquarters squadron. I do not understand the point of the reorganisation because both regiments could be kept as they are at the moment with just one more headquarters squadron of 100 men. Is it not possible to reconsider that option? Many noble Lords raised the subject in the debate on 16th October, but we received no reply. The Minister, my noble friend Lord Arran, said on 16th October (at col. 1209 of Hansard) that manpower increments would be provided for public duties for battalions of the Grenadier, Coldstream and Scots Guards which would be retained after putting into suspended animation the second battalions of those three regiments. However, does that manpower increment apply to the Household Cavalry; and, if not, why not?
As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said, the future is uncertain. It is so uncertain that the point was made clearly by Her Majesty in the gracious Speech when she said that:instability and other risks remain in Europe and elsewhereThat instability and those other risks remain with us. Whatever we do with our defence arrangements, it is vital that we restore and maintain morale and the career structure in the Household Division and in other regiments. It would not be appropriate, nor is there tine today, for me to mention the Scots regiments which, I understand, have made their views plain to the Government. Perhaps my noble friend will comment on the stories, which are rife, about reconsideration regarding those Scottish mergers. I hope that the Government will have another look at the overall position following Options for Change.
§ 5.32 p.m.
Lord Bruce of Donington
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos paid what many of your Lordships may consider a justifiable tribute to President Gorbachev for the actions that he has taken and the catalytic role that he has played since 1986. 64 There have been three developments of which we are all well aware. The first is the considerable easement in the problem of arms stocks, particularly nuclear arms stocks, throughout the world. The easing of the Russian attitude and the comparatively easy coming together of the United States and the Soviet Union—the two great nuclear superpowers—have lifted, although not entirely, a shadow from the whole of humanity.
In connection with the Gulf War and the enhancement of the role of the United Nations to a point at which there was agreement between the Soviet Union, the United States and the rest of the Security Council, it should not be forgotten that that agreement enabled effective military action to be taken against Saddam Hussein. Incidentally, it enabled this country to assert its sovereignty independently of any other country in giving support to the United Nations and the United States in the successful military operation that took place. So far as I can recall, there was no degree of substantial unanimity among our colleagues within the European Community.
Those events underlined the necessity for the United Kingdom, with all its associations with other organisations outside the European Community, including the G7, the Commonwealth and the Security Council, to retain its sovereign powers of decision with regard to matters of international importance. I shudder to think what would have happened to the Gulf campaign had a proposal from the Commission—the European Council can act only on a proposal from the Commission—for some action to be taken against Saddam Hussein been acted upon and what proceedings would have taken place at the next meeting of the Council if one had been called within a reasonable period of time.
There are other matters associated with that. One detects a certain degree of indecision among one's valued colleagues in the European Community. Perhaps I am over-sensitive, but I discerned a certain hedging when the coup against Mr. Gorbachev was attempted. President Mitterrand appeared to leave his options open at that time. I do not know what influence he would have had in any meeting of the Council of Ministers. M. Delors was for once unconscionably silent.
The third aspect of the changes that have taken place in the Soviet Union has undoubtedly been a passionate desire, and the expression of a passionate desire, for democracy within the Soviet Union. There has been a demand for the progressive disintegration of the bureaucracy and the giving of democratic power to the people. That has been the aim of the various component member states. There has also been nationalistic expression, due partly to geography and partly to language. But there can be no doubt that the changes in the Soviet Union have unleashed throughout the world, and particularly in Europe, a desire for people to be able to govern and control their own affairs as distinct from their being controlled by a bureaucracy that tells them what to do. We should welcome that development.
What has happened in Europe since the passing of the Single European Act in 1986 on which I had the 65 honour to lead my party and speak from the Front Bench? I do not wish to retract anything that I said during those debates. We were told, although some of us expressed doubts, that the Single European Act would lead to the facilitating of the completion of the single European market. It would facilitate the freedom of movement of goods and services and of capital and people across Europe. It would do all those things, which would be to the great benefit of the people of Europe.
There is no reason why the Community could not have attempted those tasks. There is no reason why the Commission, on whose proposals alone the Council can act—it cannot act on its own—should not have produced constructive additional proposals for facilitating the common market itself, the freedom of transmission of goods and so on. There is no reason why it could not even have applied itself to the entire reform of a ridiculous common agricultural policy which threatens the whole of the GATT negotiations and which costs consumers and taxpayers in Europe very much more than they ought to have inflicted upon them. It could have embarked upon a whole series of measures and voluntarily put forward proposals to the Council for the elimination of widespread fraud in Europe, particularly in the administration of the common agricultural policy. Yet, as I recall, when fraud on a massive scale was first revealed, the Commission itself tended to pooh-pooh and minimise it, despite the fact that evidence of fraud was clearly presented to it. There were many constructive things that could have been done to remove those problems. The Commission could have applied itself to the enforcement of the existing regulations instead of turning a blind eye every time France committed offences against the régime.
All those things could have been done and would have obtained wide national and international support. Instead, from the moment that the 1986 Single European Act was signed, the Commission applied itself diligently to the task of obtaining more power for itself and more power for the bureaucracy because it was afraid that democracy might progress too quickly. The present position is that the Maastricht treaty is being negotiated and, I am told, is for signature somewhere in the middle of December. I am sure that anyone reading its 87 pages, which I managed to do over the weekend, can come away with no conclusion other than that its only effect is once again to increase the bureaucratic power of the Commission.
I want to refer to one aspect only of the dangers involved; namely, the powers that are proposed to be taken in relation to economic and monetary union—in effect, a single currency. A case can be made for economic and monetary union—not, I believe, based on sound economic grounds but there is at any rate a case for it—provided that the whole operation is under democratic control. Anyone who reads the draft treaty will know perfectly well that that will not be the case at all. The whole monetary union is to be under the control of an independent European bank responsible to no one. By virtue of that fact, the 66 United Kingdom, along with the rest, would give up its power not only in regard to the exchange rate, which is implied in having a single currency, but also its control of public expenditure and monetary and fiscal policy. Those are all matters which have been reserved for the democratic control of this Parliament, and similarly the other parliaments of the Community. There would be no way to exercise democratic control.
That is one limited aspect of the matter. Perhaps I may draw upon my own experience. I have been in politics for a long time. As a member of the Junior Imperial League I remember canvassing for the Conservatives in Paddington in 1931. I had the wisdom to join the Labour Party in 1935 and I have been a member ever since. I well remember the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s. There are not many in your Lordships' House who were alive at that time. However, I still remember it. The whole basis of the rise of fascism in Italy, Germany, Spain and elsewhere was large-scale unemployment. Large-scale unemployment lay at the core of the rise of fascism.
Maybe as a consequence of my advanced age—I trust it is not a lack of sensitivity—I begin to wonder what is happening today. I learn from reports of an opinion poll in France that some 32 per cent. of people are in support of Mr. Le Pen and his ideas. I well remember the Croix de Fer and the Action Francaise before the war. I remember too some of the disturbances that took place in Germany in the early and later 1930s. Today I learn once again of unrest in some cities in Germany, arising from the resurgence of the neo-nazis.
I do not suggest that history will repeat itself. We have advanced considerably since the 1930s. But once there is the imposition of an EMU régime with the consequences that I have outlined, there will be institutionalised unemployment. At the moment unemployment in Europe stands at some 12 million people. Over the past 10 years it has averaged 9.8 per cent. of the employed population in Europe. I warn your Lordships that on the basis of following our policies under the independent control of banks—bankers do not receive universal acclaim these days—there is likely to be institutionalised unemployment. From institutionalised unemployment will come not only human suffering but also unrest.
Mercifully, all is not lost because during this period the seven countries of EFTA have joined with the European Community in a common market for goods and services which, I am given to understand by Mr. Edward Heath, was the original prime objective of the European common market itself—the EEC. One thing is for sure: if the seven eventually join the existing 12, with the addition of Turkey—on the assumption that Turkey can live in approximately the same room as Greece—followed by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and possibly more, the formation of a super-state under the control of the European Commission becomes a figment of the imagination which would be so ridiculous that it could not happen.
That is the only hope that we have: to proceed in Europe in full collaboration with one another, in the utmost friendship with one another, but not under the 67 bureaucratic control of a non-elected Commission. I know perfectly well that what I have said will be called old hat, and that 1 may be accused of being what is called a little Englander. I can only say that when I joined the Territorial Army before the war, and when I was in the Army during the war, that accusation was not then made against me.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I should like to deal as briefly as I may with one specific military problem and one major foreign policy issue which I believe flows logically from it.
The military problem is the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, to which reference has been made on several occasions during the debate. In an earlier debate in your Lordships' House I referred to this rapid reaction corps as a mythical animal of dubious political parentage. I suggested that its military value was somewhat limited. I did not mean to suggest—and perhaps I should make it clear now—that the concept of a rapid reaction corps is not an admirable one. Indeed it is. However, my problem and my criticism of it is quite simply that it does not have the resources to be in any way militarily or geopolitically effective. That is a point that has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, the noble Lord, Lord Fanshawe, and indeed the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, in his totally admirable and impressive maiden speech.
Perhaps I may refer briefly to Command Paper 1595,Britain's Army for the 90s, and remind your Lordship; what it says about this rapid reaction corps. It states:We shall be assigning to the Corps an armoured division based in peacetime in Germany, [and] a predominantly mechanised division which will be based in the United KingdomThat is the third United Kingdom division. The paper later states:The Allied Rapid Reaction Corps will be available for timely deployment anywhere within the Allied Command Europe area".So far so good, my Lords. However, a few paragraphs later it states:For as long as they are needed we"—the British—shall continue to provide forces for our dependent territories and other overseas responsibilities, including the Falklands, Brunei, Cyprus, Gibraltar and Belize".The next paragraph states:The 3rd (UK) Division"—which noble Lords will recall is a part of the rapid reaction force—will also provide a national 'strategic reserve' capability to undertake a range of operations beyond the NATO area with parachute, airmobile or mechanised formations".Therefore it is not only to be deployed in the allied command area but presumably, parts of it, anywhere in the world.
Finally, in very small print at the bottom of Annex C, the paper states:Garrisons for Belize and the Falkland Islands will, as now, be found from forces in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Cyprus".The point on which I should like to question the Government quite firmly and seriously is this. Do they really believe that this rapid reaction corps can indeed 68 fulfil all those military commitments effectively? Will the rapid reaction corps, which was meant originally to be deployed in Allied Command Europe, be responsible for out-of-area commitments? Will parts of it be used as reliefs for our units in Northern Ireland, Belize, the Falklands or our United Nations contingent in Cyprus?
If it will not be used for those, how will those commitments be met? How shall we rotate battalions through Belize, Cyprus, the Falklands and the United Nations forces to which we contribute our own contingents? How will those commitments be fulfilled if units of the rapid reaction corps are not to be used? Per contra, if units of the rapid reaction corps are to be used, can anyone really regard it as a rapid reaction corps of any meaning? Noble Lords familiar with the history of the Holy Roman Empire may conclude that it is not rapid, it is not reactive and it is not even a corps.
Dealing with forces as we are now at a time of extremely technical, complicated equipment, it is absolutely essential that any rapid reaction force, or any force that will be effective, must train continuously with its equipment. It is quite simply no good thinking that somewhere one can have a theoretical rapid reaction force with highly technical equipment, possibly airmobile, capable of fighting in a sudden emergency, if for the past few months it has been sitting in a garrison somewhere like Belize. Forces required for such a purpose must train all the time with their equipment. They must train all the time in the techniques and operations that will be required if the crisis arises for which the rapid reaction is needed.
We might at a stretch have been able to do all that I have outlined when we had three divisions in Germany, although your Lordships will recall that at the time of the Gulf war we had to denude those divisions of a great deal of their equipment and manpower in order to meet our Desert Storm requirements. Even then, when we had three divisions in Germany we were constantly taking sub-units away for commitments in Northern Ireland and our allies complained bitterly from time to time. What will it be like when we shall have only one division in Germany?
I therefore ask the Minister in all seriousness whether he would not agree that the Government need to consider again this question of matching resources to commitments. It is not a matter only of the rapid reaction corps. I simply use that as a classic, typical and easily explained example. It is no good having smaller armed forces, although the Government say they will be better armed forces, if they cannot provide the resources to meet all the commitments that remain. I have no time to deal with all the other areas in which I believe, even in the other two services, we are failing to match commitments with resources.
On the broader aspect, I believe that failure to match military resources to our security requirements and commitments is symptomatic of a malaise which seems to be affecting our external policies generally in this country. Effective military power—that is to say, the military power that is proportionate to the place of a country in the world—is absolutely essential not 69 necessarily to project our power abroad (it may be no longer relevant that we should require to do that) but to protect ourselves against threats, menaces, blackmail or any of the factors that might prevent us from carrying out the role in the world that we have set for ourselves.
But what is that role? What is the Government's vision of the role that this country will play in foreign affairs in the remainder of the century and the beginning of the next? I recall that, when I was writing the biography of the gallant Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, he said to me over and over again, practically every day I saw him, "There is one thing you must remember, my boy, about military affairs generally. You must have a plan". That was Monty's great slogan.
As a result of what I have heard today and in previous debates in this House it appears to me that the recent changes in our defence policy are not based on any coherent plan. There is no clear vision of the role that it is intended Britain shall play in the new world order. I do not blame the Government alone for that; it appears to be a national malaise. I hear from no quarter of the political spectrum—or more accurately from no band in the political spectrum—any suggestion that it knows precisely what it wants this country to be and how it wants it to act. In my view, we appear to be losing some of the qualities that have enabled us to play a unique and decisive role in the development of world events and the resolution of national issues. We are in danger of being fashionably embarrassed by the very idea of greatness. We are in danger of becoming contemptuous of history. We are in danger of being frightened by the very concept of power as though it were something evil and undesirable.
It may be that the Government have decided that our future will be very different from our past. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, it may be that we are to be an offshore island. As other noble Lords have said, it may be that we should be content with policies that are driven by anxieties for the third world, overseas aid, the Commonwealth, global collective security and arms control. All those are respectable enough views and policies and, if the Government intend to pursue them, they are perfectly entitled to say so. However, they are no substitute for a coherent, strategic foreign policy or for a vision of the world and a Britain of the future.
There are many possible visions of the future. However, in my view, any responsible government must have at least one of those visions and, furthermore, the will and capacity to inspire the people of the country with the vision to which they aspire. I believe that it is a national malaise but it is the duty of any democratically elected government to lead and to inspire.
I return to the focus of the remarks with which I opened my speech. The main requirement now is for the Government to persuade me, and I suspect many other people, that there is a strategic and coherent policy. In the context of our defence, we require a radical review of defence policy and not a tinkering 70 with our armed forces largely determined by the dominance of the Treasury and the political establishment.
Some people will say that those are the views of someone of the much older generation. That is not entirely so. I often meet younger people—it is not too difficult to meet people younger than myself—and people in schools and universities. I detect a feeling that they need a clear leadership which will tell them what this country will be in the 21st century, how it is to become that country and how and where it will act. Noble Lords who are familiar with the Book of Proverbs may remember perhaps the most memorable. It is:Where there is no vision, the people perish".Almost certainly within the coming months we shall hear a great deal about the council tax, the National Health Service, the Children Act and social security. It is right that we should hear a great deal about those issues. However, some of us would also like to hear from both sides of the political battlefield a word or two about their vision of this country's role in the world affairs of the future.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Lord Selsdon
My Lords, as I was preparing for today's debate I found myself walking by chance backwards and forwards along the corridor between St. Margaret's and Westminster. In the cold a number of people were gently hammering crosses into the ground; small crosses to mark the boundaries of the territory and larger crosses to mark the names of great regiments which performed great services for this nation. Feeling marginally emotional, I tried to recall many of the great events. Then I realised that having been able to complete my National Service—but only just!—I had neither the knowledge nor the stature.
As I was contemplating the issue, a number of thoughts flashed across my mind. They were not of Mafeking nor Omdurman but were of more recent events that had occurred as a result of the breakup of colonial empires or post-imperial activities. I thought of Angola and Mozambique, of the Congo, Brazzaville; and Zaire; of Dien Bien Phu and Chad. There were ranges of activities across the world and as empires broke up revolts took place causing distress and internal revolution.
I also wondered whether we might learn something in contemplating the recent great events in eastern Europe. I recalled Pitt who said:Roll up this map [of Europe]; it will not be wanted these ten years".However, I had not in my mind the knowledge of the map of Europe. I searched your Lordships' Library and found nothing available other than a children's guide to the time when Mongol herds moved across Europe. I could not find a single map laying out Europe as I believed that I had been taught it when first at school. There were names of countries that we have only recently come to know about again when watching television.
As I stood before the crosses, I thought of the simple phrase, "Lest we forget". With age and experience your Lordships have greater memories than Members of another place. Those memories 71 bring thoughts of dangers and perils ahead. Almost every noble Lord who has spoken today, and probably those who will follow, has spoken in similar vein, drawing attention to past experience in detecting some worry for the future.
Someone once said to me, "Better a known foe than an unknown friend". In a way known foes create stability. We have only to think back one or two years when we had two superpowers. I remember hearing in your Lordships' House the definition that there were two aspects of "superpower"; that is economic and military. The Soviet Union and the United States were super military powers; but only the United States was a super economic power.
After seeing the breakup of the Soviet Union into territories and the return to the original maps, one wonders whether there will be stability or instability. I am not alone in concluding that we are in for a period of considerable instability. During a period of such instability one wonders why one detects a government trend to cut back and withdraw. I remembered being present in this House after the Suez crisis and hearing noble Lords opposite—then in Governmmt—saying that perhaps there was no role for this country East of Suez. I remember too the Think Tack; a committee inspired by the Treasury to discover whether it could reduce the strength of the Foreign Office because we no longer needed it. Since those days I have detected a change among noble Lords opposite in many of the issues for which they stand. That is quite logical. The world seemed to be divided historically into fascism and communism. Suddenly fascism was replaced by the so-called evil of capitalism, and communism was replaced by socialism.
Those changes and trends caused a certain stability because a e 189 countries of the world which were not part of the various bodies could divide themselves into no camps. as the growth of the non-align movement came, or into the Soviet camp, NATO, or the United States camp. Now it is more difficult and it will be more difficult for those countries as we may see revolt after revolt and possibly revolution. I think of the occasion after the storming of the Bastille when Louis XVI first heard the news from one of his courtiers. He said, "Is it a revolt?" His courtier said, "No, sire, only a revolution".
However, if there are to be revolts around the world which will cause instability to whom do people turn? I believe that but for the Falkland Islands issue we should never have seen the support which came from the United. Nations in the Middle East. In times past when incidents have occurred in general, countries have stepped back and waited to see what will happen before committing themselves because of guarded interests in other parts of the world.
In all of that I believe that as a nation we can take great credit for having begun to play a greater role for many decades in foreign affairs. There is no doubt that our standing has risen. I have no hesitation in attributing much of that to the activities and initiatives of my rig ht honourable friend the former Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher. I remember a lunch which I was privileged to attend at Downing Street when she 72 said, "It will not be long, I think, before I will be talking to Mr. Gorbachev about the dangers of the reunification of Germany".
Only last week I thought about the Soviet Union. The chairman of the East European Trade Council, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, told me off many times for referring to the Russians as Russians. I had just become used to calling them Soviets and now we are back to calling them Russians.
Last week I sat with a Russian in London. He was a young man, under 40. He made me realise that we assume that in that nation and in that part of the world there are no intelligent and well-trained people. I asked him what would happen to Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Yeltsin and so on. A few years ago or even months ago he would have said nothing. However, he said: "I will answer that by saying that I think it might not be impossible to contemplate Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Gorbachev applying for the same job at the United Nations, and I think Mr. Gorbachev might get it". That made me think. He said, too: "Do not forget that we are grandmasters and pastmasters". He reminded me that most children are still brought up with a knowledge of chess, and that they think and plan ahead. During our discussions, I was reminded also that the Iraqis are the world's greatest poker players. They are taught poker from birth.
I do not know what that may have to do with the debate today. I believe that if we do not concentrate upon strengthening our Foreign Office and defence at this time, we shall be doing ourselves a grave disservice. If the factors affecting us are purely economic, then I take comfort from knowing that on the debate on the Address, this subject always comes first and some priority is still given to defence and foreign affairs over economic matters.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I am afraid that because of my rather advanced age, it may not be possible for me to be here until the end of this long debate. If so, I can only apologise and ask to be forgiven.
Always supposing that the virtual collapse of the Soviet Union as such continues, what may we reasonably expect the defence of Europe to be like during the coming years? Most people seem to agree that, for the time being, the cuts in the Armed Forces of the West, including our own, broadly speaking, are acceptable and the general arrangements for defence should continue as they are. However, what happens if present tendencies persist and a revival of the cold war is something in regard to which serious defence planning is entirely unrealistic?
It seems to me that, in view of continuing heavy commitments in the eastern Pacific and elsewhere, and no doubt for purely financial reasons also, we may eventually expect the Americans to assume that the defence of Europe, west of the Oder, is the concern of Europeans only and that there is, therefore, no further need for their military presence on the Continent. But that is no reason why the North Atlantic Treaty should not remain in being. Indeed the United States might continue to have a certain joint responsibility for the defence of the two flanks—Norway and 73 Turkey—where the presence of the Sixth Fleet could well be some reassurance in the event of trouble in the Middle East. But NATO in Brussels would clearly become a European centre, within the alliance, with of course an American observer and acting in close co-operation with America.
There is no reason for us to be alarmed at such a prospect. But it would have at least one result: it would make the formation of some European defence organisation inevitable if a Europe dominated by a united Germany is to be avoided. All the difficulties in the way of it that now loom so large would simply have to be overcome. Membership would presumably be limited to those members of the European Community who were prepared to assume the necessary responsibility—whether as members of WEU or not. The others—Ireland and no doubt future members of the Community who might prefer not to be associated—would not necessarily be bound by any of the defence decisions. There are various ways in which this kind of difficulty could be resolved.
European Defence could, to the extent judged necessary, mount guard on the Oder and would have its own nuclear force in the shape of the British and French strategic deterrents. But these should only be deterrents against any conceivable Russian (or other) nuclear attack. Nobody in their senses could ever imagine a nuclear first strike against the Russians or anybody else. And since both the Americans and the Russians would no doubt by that time have abandoned short and medium-range missiles, there would be no need for them in Europe either, whose chief defence would therefore be conventional only. But perhaps its chief concern—and I say this in relation to what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont said—should be the formation of an effective force which could be at the disposal of the United Nations, or the Atlantic alliance, or, indeed, the European Council itself. It is obvious that this system, if it were to operate meaningfully, would involve the council in some form of majority voting. But it must be recalled that we are considering circumstances in which unanimity would almost of necessity impose itself. It is also conceivable that, in the last resort, a member of the Defence Council in a minority of one might by agreement decide not to join in any proposed action while yet not preventing its being put into effect.
Peering yet further into the future, it must be fairly obvious that if matters work out at all in this way, there is no reason why Europe should still be only represented on the Security Council of the United Nations by Britain and France. Their place should rather be taken by one person appointed by the Council of Ministers, thus leaving a gap in the Security Council which might possibly be filled by Japan. Indeed such a development, though no doubt a long way off, would seem to be in the nature of things.
In the meantime, what should we do to prepare ourselves for what, on the face of it, seems to be a quite probable future? Very broadly, the following line suggests itself. First, agree at Maastricht on a provision for European defence which contains at 74 least some potential elements of supranationality and is thus capable of development as I have suggested in the event of American withdrawal from the Continent.
Secondly, consider the possibility of reducing the number and the power of the war-heads carried by the four Trident submarines already ordered and the way in which they might best be deployed in co-operation with the French. Thirdly, and above all, proceed here and now with negotiations for the ending, within five years or so, of all our overseas commitments (with the possible exception of our bases in Cyprus) which are only the rather expensive relics of a vanished past and of no possible use for the defence of these islands or of Europe. That is something which the present Government may well find impossible to contemplate, but which an alternative government might.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Lord Moran
My Lords, I apologise to the House and to the Minister who is to wind up. I must leave early to fulfil a long-standing commitment to attend a conference in Derby.
There can be little doubt that the most important foreign policy issue facing us today is the question of the draft treaty on political and economic union in Europe which we shall be asked to sign at Maastricht next month. It is not only a foreign policy issue but also one which may profoundly affect us all. Indeed our future as an independent country may be at stake.
It is therefore strange that until recently the British public appeared to be largely indifferent and are only now beginning to wake up to what it all means. Perhaps their strange lack of interest has something to do with the terms in which the issues are described. Most ordinary people have little idea of what is meant by subsidiarity, federalism—which means different things to different people—the extension of Community competence, the concept of co-decision described by The Times as "moonshine" and by Sub-Committee E as "inherently unsound". They do not understand the democratic deficit, qualified majority voting, the IGC and the CFSP. I sometimes wonder whether that jargon is made deliberately obscure and whether my noble friend Lord Rees-Mogg is right in writing in the Independent on 14th October that,the front bench Europeanists are trying to lead their parties into a closer European integration by the method normally reserved for leading horses out of burning stables. The horse is first blindfolded and then led by the nose".Moreover, what public debate does take place is often conducted purely in terms of party politics. Will the Conservative Party be split? Can the Labour Party outflank it by coming out in favour of a single European currency? But what is at issue is far more important than that and as yet the British people have scarcely been informed, let alone consulted. One point on which I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, is that it is their view which really matters.
Five years ago we debated the European Communities (Amendment) Bill introducing the Single European Act on the basis of a report from a Select Committee of your Lordships' House which had pointed out that there would be a, 75gradual replacement of national competence by Community competence".I asked the Government what our long-term objective really was. I received no clear reply, although the noble Baroness, Lady Young, assured us at col. 1082 of the Official Report on 31st July 1986, that there was,no question of moving forward to a United States of Europe",and that there is no question of our being out-voted on foreign policy issues. I pointed out at col. 1065 that we had.
an unfortunate tendency to find ourselves enmeshed in organisations where our own views are far apart from those of the majority, so that we find ourselves constantly isolated with our backs against the wall".Five years on not much has changed. Now a whole range of problems relating to European unity have, by accident or design, come to the crunch at once. So far as one can judge from the outside, thus far the Government appear to have taken a firm and robust line on all of them, and I was encouraged by what the Minister said in opening today's debate. They deserve our full support. From the media at any rate they receive little backing. In most of the countries in which I served, the media usually gave vigorous support to the Government when they were perceived to be upholding the national interest. But not here. The Government must be aware that if in the end the Prime Minister were to decide that the Maastricht treaty was not acceptable, he would receive little understanding from our media. The BBC would wheel up Mr. Heath for the umpteenth time and no prizes need be offered on where he would pin the blame. And the newspapers would denounce British isolation and intransigence and predict all manner of woe, oblivious of the fact that were an unsatisfactory treaty to be signed, they may cease to be national papers and become provincial ones.
Yet the fact is that the Government are under extreme pressure from most of our Community partners and from the Commission to agree to plans which manifestly they regard as unsatisfactory or damaging. On the Social Charter, the Greek Commissioner, Vasso Papandreou, is reported as boasting that the British Government are powerless to block her proposals, while Mr. Howard and his officials so y that a maximum 48-hour week could cost British industry up to £5 billion a year. We are at odds with the Germans who want a European immigration policy which may deprive us of our right to control access to this country. The Anglo-Italian plan for a European defence force under NATO control has come up against the Franco-German plan for a joint force distanced from NATO under WEU control. On that I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan.
People seem to have forgotten that France has consistently refused to take part in integrated NATO defence and that Germany is prevented by its constitution from sending troops abroad. That does not seem to prevent the Germans from laying down what the arrangements should be for a force to operate outside the NATO area and, at one stage, urging military intervention—presumably by others—in Yugoslavia. The warning given to us by my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig of Radley in his 76 excellent maiden speech should be heeded. Moreover, we should not give up part of our defence capability in the interests of an inadequately thought out European security plan.
On foreign policy we seem to be in a minority in resisting M. Delors' demands for decisions by majority vote, which the Dutch say should include relations with the United States and Russia. The prospect of conducting our relations with the United States through Europe rather than direct seems so bizarre as hardly to be worth taking seriously. However, it is what M. Delors and the French, Germans and Italians are apparently demanding of US.
Then there is the proposed extension of the powers of the Commission and of the European Parliament. It is suggested that the Council of Ministers could in future act as a type of second chamber in Europe while the Commission becomes its effective government. We have already transferred important powers to the Commission in the fields, for example, of agriculture, fisheries and trade. The results are not encouraging. Moreover, our own Ministers are accessible and have constantly to explain and justify what they are doing. We can talk to them and write to them and they respond. Commissioners have no such obligation. They are accountable to no one.
The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, reminded us earlier that accountability is one of the marks of good government. Sometimes it shows. When Sub-Committee D was preparing its report on the future of the common agricultural policy, Mr. Gummer gave us valuable evidence and answered our questions fully and frankly. But Mr. MacSharry, whose proposals lay at the heart of our inquiry, took four months to respond to our invitation and then said that he was not prepared to see us. Such offhandedness—indeed arrogance—strikes me as singularly unfortunate.
I am not sure that I would go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, in describing the European Parliament, as he did the other day, as a "farce"—Official Report, 21/10/91; col. 1359—but its procedures are clearly unsatisfactory and, with its enormous constituencies, it is scarcely representative. The Times says that it is difficult to take it seriously. Who knows who his or her MEP is or what he or she does? I believe that the Government are right to argue that the job of the European Parliament is to monitor and question the work of the Commission, not to initiate legislation.
Finally, there is the most important question of all: the single European currency. I am still firmly of the opinion that I expressed in your Lordships' House a year ago that a single currency means a single nation, though I do not believe that I convinced the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, on that occasion and I do not suppose that I do so now. I believe that once it is established, we shall have, as the Germans at any rate accept in fact if not in name, a single European country. If that currency replaces the pound our own independent status is at an end. As I said on that occasion, if that is the considered view of a majority of the British people, so be it; but I very much doubt if that is really so. I believe that it is essential that in one 77 form or another they should be asked. It seems inconceivable that we should give up our independence unless we are certain that that is the wholehearted desire of the people of this country. An opt-out clause, which is in effect just a stay of execution, may simply put off the need for decision.
How is it that we have arrived at this position where we are at odds with the Commission and nearly all our partners, and where we see every day some bullying or disobliging reference to our attitude by commissioners or others? I believe that all these arguments arise from a profound difference of outlook, aim and intent. Most of us want to work closely with the countries of western Europe. We want a genuine Common Market—which has hitherto been distinctly one-sided and which does not seem to enjoy the support of French farmers—and close co-operation on a whole range of issues. But fundamentally I believe that we want the Europe des putries envisaged by General de Gaulle of whom the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, clearly disapproves. We want to be governed from Westminster and not from Brussels or Strasbourg, while not excluding the gradual convergence of national policies which might lead, through unforced organic growth, to a closer union of all the countries of Europe, genuinely desired by everyone, at some point in the future.
But on the continent, as the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, reminded us in speaking about Germany, things are different. The EC began as an association of the defeated, of countries that had to a far greater extent than we had lost confidence in their own capacity to stand on their own feet. Some of these countries only came into existence in the 19th century. None has democratic institutions remotely as strong, ancient and effective as our own. The peoples of continental countries, with the possible exception of France, seem content to see their national identities fade away to be replaced by a European state of which they will become citizens.
Besides that, I believe that some European leaders and officials are jealous of our different status; of our record during the Second World War, of our permanent seat on the Security Council; of our close relationship with the United States and of our Commonwealth connections. They want to pull us off our perch and to remind us that in the Community we are merely the equals of Greece and the Republic of Ireland. Hence the constant sniping at us. It is ironic that last month the Community signed an agreement forming a single market with EFTA. So it seems that if we had stayed with EFTA instead of abandoning our partners in that association to join the Community, we might in due time have got the free trade area that we always wanted without having to accept all the disadvantageous and disagreeable aspects of the Community. We would be far less shackled than we are today.
As it is we face in any event a worrying future in the Community. For example, all of us who listen to the radio hear demands, day after day, from every quarter for more Government funding for health, education, law and order, research, transport or whatever. But 78 the Community is committed to a massive transfer of resources from the North (ourselves and Germany) to the South (Greece, Spain and Portugal). So many of the demands on our Government will have to be rejected when the money goes to develop Greece, Spain or the Mezzo Giorno. It is now reported that Spain is demanding a doubling of these transfers as the price of agreeing to a Maastricht treaty. As one consequence the British budget rebate may come to an end next year.
So what happens now? Our negotiators seem to be holding the line though it was a jolt to learn this past week that the Prime Minister numbers Mr. Neville Chamberlain among his heroes. It is important that this time there should be no fudging. So often in the past, faced with unreasonable demands, our passion for compromise has led us to make some concessions that have led us bit by bit down a path along which we really did not wish to go. But this time we must not make that mistake. We should make clear, quietly but firmly, what our fundamental sticking point is and say unequivocally "thus far, but no further".
A true European union must be based, if it is to succeed and to last, on genuine, wholehearted consent. The breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia shows us all too clearly what happens if unions are forced on reluctant participants. If the other countries in the Community want to sink their identities now in a single European state, they must do so. But such a future is not for us. We need to work for a looser, more flexible, more outward-looking Europe, which includes EFTA and Eastern Europe. I believe that that is a far more attractive prospect than a narrow, centralised Western Europe run by the Brussels bureaucracy.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, perhaps I may begin by adding my tribute to the excellent maiden speech that we heard today from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. When the USSR Defence Minister, Mr. Shaposhnikov, was asked in late September who was now the Soviet armed forces' political adversary, he replied:1 do not see potential adversaries at present, but a military threat has not been entirely eliminated since there remain large groupings of armed forces. Some leaders have aggressive aspirations, and the solution of some political problems by force has not been ruled out. As long as this situation remains, we should maintain our armed forces at a proper level".He added that there were plans to reduce spending on arms purchases, but he opposed the idea of slashing the budget in order to resolve social issues. He opposed reducing expenditure for military research and development.
I only wish that we could see a similar approach from our own Secretary of State. We who question the apparently inflexible position being maintained in support of Options for Change are not disputing that the world has changed and that there should be some adjustment to meet those changes. But we remain deeply anxious about the timing and the scale since the situation in the USSR remains wholly uncertain and explosive. Not only we, but the central command 79 apparatus of the USSR itself does not know what dangerous upheavals may yet take place there. On 8th October Mr. Shaposhnikov said that he must either agree to the collapse of the Armed Forces or he must strengthen the Armed Forces. He said that at present the central Asian republics favoured unified forces while Belorussia, Moldavia, and the Ukraine favoured united forces.
While we in the West must clearly recognise that much of what is being said by the republics—that is to say, the Ukraine's declared intention points to the takeover of the Black Sea fleet and to forming a 450,000-strong Ukrainian Army; the Kazakhs' claim to the cosmodrome launch pad at Baykonur, and so on—is largely hot air, arising at least in part from fear of the RFSFSR, Mr. Gorbachev's decree on military service refers to numbers to be determined by the agreement between the USSR defence ministry and the sovereign republics. There are thus serious grounds for many in the USSR high command to be tempted even now, were another and more professional coup to be mounted, to see it as their duty to act to protect the long-term future of the services from the anarchy which, as they will see it, now threatens them.
The powerful defence-industrial complex has equally strong motives to oppose all radical economic change which would dilute its power. That is the nub of the matter. Conditions are only too favourable for another coup by a more effective group which could be more successful and could place a very different leadership in power. The Kazakh leader, Mr. Nazarbayev, called the August coup a bureaucratic coup when for three days power passed into the hands of a few high ranking officials. "I saw this," he said, "as the death throes of the command and administrative system in the USSR. Just as that system had been inept in ruling the show for seven decades, so it was inept in the putsch and signed its own death warrant." Alas! there is every reason to fear that the bees may have been smoked out; but they can still sting. There are now stronger popular arguments for, "an end to anarchy".
The ordinary Russian in the street can see what Mr. Khasbulatov recently called the Balkanisation of Russia. He was speaking of the troubles in Chechen Ingushetiya, in north and south Ossetia and in Tatarstan, and the Caucasus generally, both nationalistic and Islamic fundamentalist-orientated.
There is the threat, to add to that, of civil war within Georgia; the daily killings in Nagorno-Karabakh; strife between Armenia and Azerbaijan; unrest in the central Asian republics and Moldova's move to independence. The Russian populations in particular must feel threatened when they see how the interim administration is operating—or failing to operate. They become vulnerable to any group offering stability and order. Colonel Rutskoy, the RSFSR vice-president, speaking on 10th October—the day a rumour of the assassination of Mr. Gorbachev was spread through Moscow—described the current situation in Russia as "complete anarchy". "We adopt," he said, "mountains of laws, but no one observes them since there is no mechanism of the state, 80 nor is there control over execution. Anarchy is setting in as a consequence." Meanwhile Mr. Yeltsin, like Mr. Gorbachev, has had to recognise that administration on the ground is still in the hands of that very nomenklatura which remains stubbornly procommunist and determined to sabotage his policies.
Yavlinsky the very next day, after announcing that the slump in production had reached 17.5 per cent., added that a fall to 20 per cent. would lead to complete paralysis of the economy; and that, "if we continue to give politics priority over the economy, we shall be buried under the debris of the disintegrating state by next spring".
Unfortunately, no amount of aid from the West can substitute for effective government, and that is not yet in place. Meanwhile, our Government are proceeding with Options for Change. These were presented as the outcome of a long, hard look, together with NATO, at the strategic long-term future.
I find it disturbing that as recently as August this year—according to the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies—the NATO supreme allied commander was arguing strongly for the alliance to deploy a sizeable military presence in the central region to confront what he considered the most immediate threat: the fact that the Kremlin still has the capacity to put together 45 divisions with 13,000 tanks west of the Urals in about 45 days "from a standing start". I believe, as we all must, that today's Kremlin government genuinely wishes to end the East-West confrontation. But we have now allowed enough time to enable them to consolidate their power. After the recent inquiry into the KGB's part in the coup, 32 relatively middle-ranking officers were dismissed out of a strength of 486,000. Equally, in all the flood of words from Moscow about the reform of the Armed Forces, we have heard little about the implementation of the CFE programme of cuts—apart from more evidence of evasions—except for a brief aside from one of Mr. Gorbachev's advisers, Mr. Zagladin, who remarked on 3rd October that, "the destruction of nuclear weapons requires money".
All we are asking the Secretary of State to do is to recognise that the situation in the Soviet Union has not yet stabilised sufficiently for strategic decisions to be made and to give it time to do so.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Lord Molloy
My Lords, I should like first to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, for his superb, knowledgeable and informative speech. I shall make one or two additions to the points he made as they strike me as vitally important. In 1939 through to 1944 far too many young men who were called up into the forces were unfit for military service. That situation endured for some years, until living standards of the ordinary people were raised and we realised that a corporal and a sergeant were as important as a general and a field marshal and we began improving living standards. Then along came the National Health Service. Ever since then I have believed that good living standards and our National Health Service are part and parcel of the defence of our land.
81 Debates like this one should be called Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs; not merely Foreign Affairs and Defence. It is inevitable that in most speeches that have been made this evening the Commonwealth has, quite rightly, been mentioned in one way or another.
I believe that the Harare Conference was not too badly handled. The Government and the Prime Minister did pretty well at that conference. At least Britain is back in the centre. However, what I regret is that the human rights commitment, advocated by Britain, was not accepted by that conference. Nevertheless the "Ten Steps" were a move in the right direction.
As has already been said, we have to acknowledge —because it is inevitable in a debate of this nature —that if one is halfway down the list, or towards the end of the list of speakers, much of what one wants to say has already been said. However, some points are worth reiterating. For instance, Britain and the Commonwealth have developed, quite rightly, a new role in a changing world. We have acknowledged a new Europe; we were compelled to acknowledge a new Africa emerging; and this country has much still to offer. I hope that at the important conferences to come we shall not have handbag slogging matches which spoil the force and submissions of this country. The developed nations are united in seeking a cancellation of third world debts. Britain has once again given a reasonable lead.
There is one question I should like to ask the Minister. I do not necessarily expect an answer tonight, but perhaps on some other occasion. I have been somewhat disturbed by reports in our responsible newspapers that the Germans have been selling Soviet tanks to Israel, and that the deal has been fixed by the German secret service, the BND, and Mossad. The probability is that the ordinary Israeli has not the faintest idea what Mossad is about, any more than the ordinary German knows what BND is about. However, it is no good talking about democracy, and wanting to see democracy, and shutting our eyes to the behaviour of secret services, even if some of them are in democratic countries. They are a vulgar stain on democracy when they behave in this manner.
In the Middle East land has been a grave issue. It is quite remarkable. I did not think it could ever happen—or at least not for another 20 years or so —that the Israelis and the Arabs would sit down together. It is a shame that the Syrians behaved in such an abominable manner, but they were put in their place by the Israeli spokesman. Ordinary Israelis and ordinary Arabs who understand their two great religions, do not wish to kill and butcher one another. When we hear tell of the appalling sufferings of Jewish people throughout history—the most recent in our lifetime, during the last war—we realise that these things were awful.
Israel was created by the United Nations. But the Arabs did not agree with the United Nations decision so they declared war and they received a good thumping and a bloody nose. Now the Israelis must 82 have the courage to do what we would have done. When we got rid of nazism in Germany and Austria we did not give large chunks of those countries to our country and call them part of overseas Great Britain. We would never have done that. We dared not.
The Israelis have made their point and have been generous in their approach; but they must be made to understand this: I love my country; the Germans love their country; the Israelis love their country; and the Palestinians love their country, too; and it should be returned to them as laid down in the United Nations resolutions. We must have our defences properly examined. The Government are right to reduce the financial burden, but caution is required.
We must reconsider the proposed abolition of some of our famous regiments. Over the weekend the coal mining and steel working families in the North demonstrated to me their feelings which are almost bitter. In addition to having a coalminer or a steelworker in the family?, they have always had someone in the British Army or the Royal Air Force. Their great regiment, the Durham Light Infantry, is one of which they speak with great pride. No nazi or fascist regiment was able to destroy it, but it seems as though the British Government are going to have a good go at doing so. That would be awful.
We should also reconsider what we are going to do about Britain's nuclear deterrent. I was never a member of the organisation which wanted to see the complete removal of British nuclear weapons. I should have liked to have been on its side and to have supported the abolition of nuclear weapons, and I should have done so had I thought that everyone else would do the same. But the world is not like that. We should take note of the warning given by General John Galvin of the US Army and of the fact that Europe is still unstable. We need evidence that we do not need strong armed forces. That point has been reiterated and supported by Mr. William Taft, the United States ambassador to NATO. He believes that we should not undermine the Copenhagen Declaration. I agree.
Two of our eminent politicians pointed the way. The man who created NATO when he was Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, was passionately anticommunist. I worked with him. He loathed communists. It did not matter to which country they belonged. He would say that he had driven them out of the Transport and General Workers Union—he did —and that we should be prepared for them to try to take over our land. Out of that feeling came NATO.
There was then Aneurin Bevan. I remember him making a great speech at the Labour Party conference which was then moving towards the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons. As I said, I was torn. I did not know which way to turn. I wanted to see those dreadful weapons removed, but I did not want to see my country occupied by a communist government. Bevan explained that we were willing to talk, examine one another's points of view and co-operate. He asked the Labour Party conference not to send a British Foreign Secretary naked into the conference chamber. Those two points made by Bevin and Bevan apply today.
83 The servicemen are at the sharp end of the proposed military cuts and their futures are disturbing. I am president of the metropolitan area of the Royal British Legion. The legion is worried about the effects of the manpower reductions, especially those in the infantry divisions. We should have had a debate on that aspect of defence alone. We have had soothing words from the Government, but firm decisions are awaited. The servicemen affected expect Parliament to appreciate the problems that they will face on return to civilian life if tens of thousands of them are made redundant. Men who believed that they would be continuing in the Army, Navy or the Royal Air Force for a further 10 years will want the Government to examine what is to happen to them.
There is an example to follow. The British Steel Corporation dealt with a similar problem in the mid-1970s when the market for steel collapsed. It faced vast redundancy problems. A similar situation is being faced at the end of the so-called cold war by the British Government. Numbers differ but the effect will be the same. In South Wales there is no work available for redundant coal and steel workers which compares with what they were doing. Servicemen are in the same position. The Ministry of Defence must reconsider the redundancy terms—generous compared with private sector schemes—which are unsatisfactory to many of the organisations that support our ex-servicemen from the three services.
I shall give an example of what has been happening. A debate was organised in the Queen Elizabeth II conference hall by General Burgess and Colonel Creasy of the Royal British Legion. We were supported by Admiral Sir Peter Herbert, who took the chair, and Air Marshal Gilbert. Their main interest was servicemen facing redundancy. There was a contribution from Mr. H.D.B. Hawksley of British Steel. He told us that British Steel had provided a large sum of money to help people it had had to make redundant. It also provided a measure of security for a person who was to lose his job. Where possible it encouraged and helped that person to obtain a job. Where the salary was lower, British Steel made it up to what the employee had been receiving previously. It offered help to solve housing problems, and it did magnificently. In some instances, British Steel provided two thirds of the cost of a house so that the redundant steelworker would not have to bear the frightful burden of a mortgage. We all know what mortgages have done to tens of thousands of people who believed that they were buying their home in a free society. They could not keep up the mortgage payments, so along came their fellow countrymen and turfed them out. British Steel said it would not allow that to happen to its employees.
I hope that the Minister will examine British Steel's experience. It is worth examining. I have spent a great deal of time with Mr. Hawksley as have General Burgess, Colonel Creasy and the Air Marshal. We examined the scheme in depth. We believe that it is an excellent scheme. If a privatised organisation can operate successful scheme surely the nation can for the servicemen it is getting rid of.
84 Our servicemen will be losing their jobs. Many of them love their jobs. As a senior member of the Royal British Legion I have spoken to many of them. I have talked to RAF men, sailors, and members of great regiments who feel crushed at having to leave. They are worried not just at the thought of having to find a house and job but by the fact they are having taken from them the privilege of being a regular sailor, soldier or airman. I ask the House to support me when I say that they have earned and deserve all the consideration that a good parliament can give them. I ask the Government at least to examine the British Steel scheme in the interests of the servicemen and their families.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Lord Zuckerman
My Lords, I should like to turn to a point made by the Minister in the earlier part of his speech. He talked about Iraq's success in secretly building up a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, chemical and, we are told, biological. That happened despite the fact that only a couple of months before Iraq invaded Kuwait the IAEA had inspected all the nuclear plants that the country was supposed to possess. The same point was taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, when he referred to the break-up of the USSR and to the danger of proliferation. If the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, believes that these things will never happen again, the answer is that they will; that is, unless the IAEA is given proper teeth and the NPT becomes an international treaty which is respected in the way that it should be and in the way that it should have been from the very start. My noble friend Lord Chalfont and I both had parts to play in bringing about that treaty.
The main international watchdog to prevent proliferation from occurring and to prevent countries like Iraq building up secret arsenals is the International Atomic Energy Agency. It became the executive arm of the NPT but began life as the result of a speech made to the United Nations by President Eisenhower. That speech was made in 1953 and became known as his "Atoms for Peace" address. His purpose was to propose that those advanced countries which were already in the nuclear business could help other countries, both by providing them with fissile material and with know-how and by helping them build plants for the generation of electricity. They were to be provided with help under the strictest of safeguards. Those who have read the IAEA statutes will realise that, on paper, you cannot have stricter statutes. But those strict statutes did not work in practice.
In 1970 the IAEA, which started life as a peaceful organisation, was charged with the even more important role of becoming the NPT's watchdog in seeing that countries which were party to that agreement complied with its terms. However, it operates under a statute which limits its powers of action to what can be agreed bilaterally. It cannot enter a country unless it has that country's permission. It cannot do things about which it has not warned that country in advance. Its arrangements with Iraq were 85 bilateral before Kuwait. Incidentally, Iraq was not only one of the earlier signatories to the NPT but, if I remember correctly, it was also within the first 20 signatories of the 1925 chemical warfare convention—the Geneva Convention.
In its actions the IAEA has to avoid hampering the economic and technological development of its clients, some of whom are not signatories to the NPT (the non-proliferation treaty). It can offer advice on the design of a nuclear reactor to assure the best health and safety standards, while watching that the country concerned is not proceeding with plans to further any military purpose. However, in the event of non-cooperation and if it suspects that a country is in fact not abiding by its agreements, all it can do is to "withdraw any materials and equipment" which it may have provided.
We now know that, despite repeated inspections of Iraq's supposedly peaceful nuclear installations, it was easy to hoodwink the IAEA's teams of inspectors: Iraq had in fact embarked upon a comprehensive nuclear weapons programme. Today the IAEA's teams are operating in Iraq. They are searching for evidence and bits and pieces in connection with that country's programme. However, they are acting as a special UN commission set up specifically for the purpose. All I can say is that, in so far as the IAEA's operations before Kuwait were by consent, the answer to the proposition suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, is that the same thing will happen again; that is, if inspection is by consent.
I shall suggest in a few moments what I believe must be done. The IAEA is absolutely necessary on the civil side. We cannot dampen the demand for electrical power as the world's population increases and as the demand for higher standards of living continues to grow in the advanced world as well as in the third world. We know that there is not enough in the way of fossil and renewable reserves of energy to satisfy world demand. I do not think that there will be any opposition to that proposition. There will come a time when renewable and fossil reserves will not be enough. Nuclear experts suggest that by the year 2050 we shall certainly have to double the present output of nuclear energy, which provides, I believe, 17 per cent. of world consumption today. We also know that we must worry about environmental matters—for example, the greenhouse effect. The provision of nuclear power is one way to avoid speeding up an adverse environmental process which may be irreversible.
However, at the same time, there is worldwide popular reaction against the thought of further pursuing the nuclear path. Several countries which had already begun to do so are now being forced to stop or turn back. It is my contention that only a strengthened IAEA and one invested with the full authority of the international community can help the world to steer a rational course between nuclear fear and nuclear need. We all know about that fear. The effects of Chernobyl have not yet left us. Sheep farmers in Wales and in Cumbria are still suffering from the effects of an accident which took place thousands of miles away.
86 Despite its failure in Iraq, the IAEA carries out valuable work and publishes a magnificent report every year. But, as I have already said, without any power to deal with any contravention of the agreements made with the country concerned. At present, when the upheavals in the USSR leave us wondering whether there will be any true central control of nuclear weaponry, that country is increasingly approaching the IAEA in Vienna for help.
The NPT is due for its next review in 1995. It will be a difficult negotiation and one which could be as difficult and almost as futile as that which took place at the end of 1990. For a number of reasons, no conclusion was reached. For instance, Mexico demanded that before agreeing to a five-year extension, the US, the UK and the USSR should cease testing nuclear warheads. Only the USSR agreed.
In 1995 the IAEA can be given real authority. It operates on a shoestring at present. I have tried to relate its total costs to the cost of building a single nuclear plant: they are about 5 per cent. The organisation operates by consent, as does the London group of suppliers, as they were called, who were undoubtedly among those who helped Iraq in her secret programme.
The UK is committed to the NPT and IAEA. Those bodies are there to save the world from nuclear disaster, whether it be from an accident like Chernobyl or from a nuclear weapon used in anger. It seems to me that it is more important that, after the 1995 review, the NPT should carry on as an effective body with teeth than to look for safety in schemes such as Star Wars, SDI or the other schemes referred to in an article in The Times Saturday Review this week. If we are to be saved, we need both safe nuclear power and a continuation of deterrence. We can be satisfied now, in the new relationship between East and West, that our respective arsenals can be cut still further than has already been negotiated and that deterrence will continue.
What we could do without any cost to ourselves is to provide an assurance that we will not build a nuclear reactor, a civil plant, without the IAEA people sitting with the body that holds the initial inquiry. Sizewell B is an example of one that recently took place. Why do we not provide the IAEA with a measure of moral authority so that it can sit in on national inquiries into civil nuclear power? That could be done without any cost to us if we were to declare now, before the 1995 review, that that would be our intention. We should not continue to seek commercial advantage in the building of nuclear plants when, if the total world effort were costed, it would be recognised as the worst business venture ever to be invested in. But we still need nuclear power, however much the world is worried by nuclear fears.
As to the military side, I suggest that, when the IAEA sends its teams to find out whether a country is building a nuclear arsenal in secret and if it suspects that there is a contravention of the arrangements, it should be fortified with whatever secret information the Secretary General can be provided. Thus the teams working on the ground will be—as I hope they are at 87 present—supported by whatever information is available to the intelligence agencies about matters which they themselves suspect.
Nuclear power is too dangerous to play with on a national and certainly on a competitive commercial basis. Harold Macmillan recognised the dangers of the atom in the late 1950s and early 1960s. His vision failed to prevail with the US and the USSR. The goal of a comprehensive test ban which he wanted to see in place ended in a partial test ban that allowed the nuclear arms race between the two superpowers to continue. It was a race which some of us who were associated with Mr. Macmillan—later the Earl of Stockton—realised would only whet the appetites of the non-nuclear countries at the same time as it brought danger to all of us. We must have effective controls if proliferation is to be stopped.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, these debates on foreign affairs and defence could be justified by the opportunity they give us to hear someone with notable authority speak on an issue as important as the one to which the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has addressed his remarks. However, one wonders how many more of these debates we shall have. After all, it is apparently the intention of the Commission in Brussels—an intention applauded, I gather, by the noble Lords, Lord Cockfield and Lord BonhamCarter—to remove foreign affairs and defence from the purview of national governments and national parliaments. If that were done, then it would be as otiose for us to devote half a day or a day to the consideration of these matters as it would at the moment be otiose for Hampshire County Council to devote a meeting to discussing our foreign policy and our defence.
Noble Lords may feel that I exaggerate, but I should have thought that the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, was fairly outspoken. I am sorry that he departed after lifting Salome's seven veils. He said that the original intention was to create a federal union. He called it a community, but as described it could equally well be called a federal union. That was the original intention. Those who thought that they were going in for mere mundane matters like the freeing of trade or the moving of people more freely across national frontiers were misled. They must now accept the logic of what they did, even if they did not know what they were doing. I think that on the whole he is right.
In a speech which I made in your Lordships' House on a report of a Select Committee of this House I pointed out that the story of our involvement with the Community had been one of the constant accretion of power to the Commission, assisted by the court in its interpretation of borderline questions. I said that that was perhaps the inevitable outcome of placing a number of persons of talent —they must have talent or no doubt they would not have been nominated—in positions where it would be natural and proper for them to seek, above all, to increase their own authority. I was talking on that occasion about matters not of secondary importance but perhaps of 88 relative secondary importance, that is to say the constant flow of directives and regulations which limit the power of our own legislature in important matters such as the relations between employers and employed, the methods of planning in relation to our transport and our countryside, not to mention the horrors of the common agricultural policy. That latter matter was dealt with effectively by noble Lords in another debate. However, we are still left with something.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is perhaps worried that the younger generation will not be given a vision. The kind of vision they would receive from this spectacle, transferred to our position in the world, is surely not a very encouraging one. After all, it is not merely proposed that we should seek agreement, as we always should, with our nearest neighbours on matters of foreign policy, and co-operation with our neighbours, where possible, in matters of defence. It is also proposed that these factors should be gleichschaltet—only the German word is satisfactory here—that is, amalgamated with and based upon the ordinary procedures of the Commission and the Council of Ministers, including majority voting. In that way British soldiers could be committed to action by the votes of mighty Luxembourg and gallant little Belgium. I do not believe those are prospects which are largely acceptable to the population of this country. It is idle for noble Lords—particularly for noble Lords opposite on the Liberal Benches —to say that the only opposition comes from a reactionary element in the Conservative Party. If they really believe that, they have another think coming.
Euromanes are present in the Conservative Party but they are and will remain a minority. It is worth reminding ourselves that despite all the talk there has been of a wave of federal enthusiasm sweeping western Europe from which only Britain is immune, much of that talk is false and much of it is imaginary. There are in all countries, and rightly, national interests which the governments, legislatures and political parties of those countries believe they ought to forward.
In a most illuminating speech the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, referred to the position of Germany. He pointed out that Germany has special and understandable reasons for wishing somehow to share the burden of its greatness. But as we have seen in the past week or so, when it comes to a question of how the Mark will fare and how Germany is to preserve the way in which it combines growth and stability in a new set of arrangements, even the Germans begin to realise they must consider those matters carefully.
We seem to concentrate, understandably, on Germany. Nevertheless it is curious that, as far as I am aware, no one either this afternoon or on previous occasions when we have discussed this subject, has said anything serious about France. After all, from one point of view, what is the machinery of Brussels? It is an extension of French foreign policy. The French, unlike us—I believe the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, would agree with me on this point—study history. They are concerned about their history. Successive generations of French political leaders want to appear to have adopted a satisfactory role in 89 that history. Understandably the statesmen tend to identify themselves with the great figures of the past —General de Gaulle and Joan of Arc. General de Gaulle took a rather different view on Europe from that of his predecessors and successors.
Most of the statesmen limit themselves to Louis XIV and Napoleon. However, I believe they show a preference now for Napoleon. What did Napoleon do? He conquered Europe and proceeded to organise it by setting up satellite monarchies whose monarchs were chosen from his own family. But occasionally the monarchs began to feel they had some responsibility for their citizens. They started to take a view which was not altogether that of Napoleon.
Noble Lords will remember that only a few weeks ago M. Delors was the object of tremendous criticism in the French press because on some relatively minor matter he did not insist on vetoing a decision on something that concerned a French economic interest. He is after all in Brussels—as seen by the French—to represent the French, just as Napoleon thought his hapless brother Louis was sent to Holland to ensure that the Dutch did what the French wanted them to do. If people will think of Louis Bonaparte every time M. Delors is mentioned, they will obtain the real flavour of the situation.
What is the object of that policy? The object is threefold. First, and notoriously, the object of the policy is to maintain French agricultural and industrial protectionism. France has been a consistent practitioner of mercantilism since the time of Louis XIV. That has damaged, and is damaging, the interests of Eastern Europe—to which much attention has been devoted in this House—and of the third world. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked us to take seriously the problems of the third world.
The second objective—this is a perfectly honourable objective—is somehow or other to avoid the possibility of being dominated by Germany. On the whole the method sought has been to go along, where possible, with German ideas on Europe.
The third objective, which is the one that most nearly concerns us, is that of eliminating from Europe the influence and protection of the United States. That is why there is equivocation over the projected role of WEU and the Franco-German force. People may think I am anti-French, but in fact I am rather pro French. They have a good case against the Americans. It is my belief now—I stated this belief at the time —that President Roosevelt's treatment of De Gaulle and the French movement for national liberation was an enormous blot on his record in foreign affairs. However, I should have thought that by now that chapter might reasonably be closed.
It is not closed. Therefore, we have a proposal which if it were taken seriously, and we accepted into a treaty of political union a disposition of the armed forces of Europe which would implicitly exclude the Americans, would lead inevitably to the Americans excluding themselves. In that event the French triumph would have been gained at the expense of all of us and of the whole of Europe.
90 It is no good talking in abstract terms about sovereignty or the lack of sovereignty and about democracy or the lack of democracy. As we approach these last few weeks before the meeting in Maastricht let us for once look at matters realistically. Let us remember that if an Italian commissioner tells us that our water is not drinkable he intends mainly to divert attention from Italy's appalling record of nonobservance of the directives for which it has voted at Brussels. The Germans wish to take up a matter, equally domestic here, as to whether or not we should trade on Sundays. That is a matter on which one can take either view—pro Sunday trading or anti Sunday trading. However, because Germany has very strict sabbatarian laws and does not have factories which operate continuously over the weekend we are to be weakened by having a rigid rule imposed upon us preventing work on Sundays. However, it would not be imposed by the Germans, who keep in the background, but by Mrs. Papandreou, a Greek.
It may appear to be carping to talk about these matters but they reflect real anxieties. Those anxieties will grow in ways which have nothing to do with splits in the Tory Party, the Labour Party or any other party. Incidentally, I see that even Mr. Ashdown has said that he is beginning to worry a little about the intrusions of the Commission into our affairs, so even the Liberals are not solid on that front.
It is a terrible tragedy. I do not speak in this way with any pleasure. I have always regarded myself as pro-European. I have always believed that cooperation between the countries of Europe is right. However, I also feel that the European ideal has been hijacked by the Brussels machinery. What is the use of the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, drawing us a picture of the straits to which the Yugoslav war has brought that country and saying that the way to deal with it is through the European Commission when the European Commission, despite the valiant efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has been unable to deal with the situation because its members do not agree and most of them are too remote to care? When we had the concert of the great powers and the kind of Europe which the predecessor of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins—Gladstone—favoured, there might have been a solution to a local problem of that kind. It will not be achieved through Brussels mechanisms.
As it is possible, as many people have said, that the treaties will prove unacceptable, it is necessary that at the same time we should commit ourselves to a continued belief in the European ideal. The Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland, in a remarkable statement this morning, said that he thought that the latest atrocity in Ulster was such that people who had joined the IRA for idealistic reasons ought now to reconsider their membership. I believe that much the same, though luckily on a much less sanguinary scale, has occurred in relation to the European Community. Those who thought that this was the right way to handle the problems of a United Europe ought now to think again.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, I rise somewhat hesitantly after hearing so many distinguished speakers. To pick up one sentence of the previous speaker, if German sabbatarian laws create the weakness that the Germans exhibit then please give me some of that weakness. I know that sometimes my contributions to debates irritate your Lordships. I can only hop, that, rather like the grit in the oyster, my efforts may some day bring forth a pearl.
I wish to speak about people, about empowering people and transferring power from the vested interests of land and capital to people. It is a fit subject to raise in your Lordships' House because we have had some experience of it. Over the past 150 years there has been a shift in power from this House as the House of vested interests of land and capital to the House of Commons representing the people. That has enabled the people of the United Kingdom to come together to discuss and debate the great issues of the day and to work together for the common good.
Over the years we have evolved democratic structures and mechanisms which value every adult, male and female, over 18 years old as equals. We have constituencies of approximately equal size—about 60,000 electors, although there are one or two anomalies—each of which sends a representative to Parliament. Our local government is structured in a similar way. The European Parliament operates on a similar basis, with each Member of the European Parliament representing about half a million electors. It is interesting to ponder that United States Congressmen—members of the House of Representatives—represent approximately the same number of people.
We in the national parliaments of Europe must be more relaxed about enabling the people of Europe to work together for the common good. Although that is generally described as transferring power from the nation state to the European Community or regional assemblies, I do not see it in that way because there are certain things which cannot be done at the level of the nation state. Reference has been made to the need to tackle environmental problems. That is just one example of actions which cannot be taken by nation states individually but which can be achieved by the peoples of continents coming together. We must work towards enhancing that facility for people to work together.
In world terms the United Nations General Assembly can be seen as representing vested interests in terms of land through national representation rather than as representing people. There is also the rather curious executive structure called the Security Council, which is dominated by the victors of the last world war rather than representative of the human realities of today.
The nub of my proposal this evening is that it is interesting to consider that a world parliament, with each member representing approximately 50 million people, would be a reasonably sized assembly and, by happy coincidence, would result in one representative for the United Kingdom, which is what we have today at the United Nations. I make the suggestion in the 92 hope that we shall start to recognise the value of every member of the human race on this planet and so help the process of enabling all of us to work together for the benefit of everyone.
The noble Lord, Lord Pym, spoke of the need to transfer some power from national to international arenas. I agree with him, as I am sure do most noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Judd spoke of the need to value human life both at home and abroad and of the need to address the sources of instability in our world—the reasons for migration, for example. I hope that the concept of a parliament for the peoples of all the world that I have introduced this evening can be seen to help the process of meeting those needs.
The United Nations General Assembly is rather like this House of Lords. I suggest that one of the tasks of the people of the world is to build the equivalent of the House of Commons. I hope that the British people will not be found wanting in support of that task.
§ Lord Monson
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may correct him on one point. He suggested that the average MEP represents 500,000 people, but that figure is not uniform throughout the Community. The average Luxembourg MEP represents only 100,000 people while the average British, French, German and Italian MEP represents 660,000. That is one good reason for not giving more power to that parliament.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, in quick response to the noble Lord, I said that there were anomalies both in our own national Parliament and in the European Parliament. I hope that we would be prepared to address such matters together with other people rather than make pronouncements as to the irrelevance of a particular structure just because it contains some anomalies.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, at this stage of the debate the most appropriate thing that I can do is to be brief. I have a strong feeling of sympathy with the noble Earl who opened the debate and with the noble Earl who will wind up. Both face immensely difficult agendas in foreign and defence policy. I doubt whether there has ever been a time when the international situation right across the world has been so confusing, volatile and potentially dangerous. To make more difficult the right decisions, our political parties are naturally being tempted to exploit the situation in the light of the coming election.
Europe necessarily comes first on the agenda. I have one general suggestion to offer: it was, I believe, reflected in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. Must we in the Community be in such a hurry to reach agreements? If I remember rightly, the idea of two intergovernmental conferences with a time limit was sprung upon the Dublin summit in a Franco-German ambush inspired in part by hostility towards Mrs. Thatcher. That was a perfectly legitimate but somewhat ill-mannered ploy. However, since the Dublin summit the world has turned upside down, and the European situation is totally different. 93 As the noble Lord, Lord Pym, wisely and eloquently indicated, the situation is far from stable and the future is obscure.
Community Ministers agreed at Dublin that the conferences were to be concluded by December 1991. Would they have set that timetable if they had foreseen the events of the past two years? Perhaps not. M. Delors was then intent on protecting the integrity of the Twelve. He now talks of planning the expansion of the Community and has made an agreement with EFTA which he had once hoped to keep at arm's length.
Because of all that, it would not be a tragedy if agreement on amendments to the treaty was not reached next month. It would be better if discussions continued into the new year and even beyond. We should not now try to fudge compromises because of an outdated timetable. Ministers and shadow Ministers may say otherwise, but I would be surprised if, in their hearts, they, along with the leaders of several other Community countries, did not prefer more time.
That is particularly true of defence policy. I was impressed by the speeches of the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Carver, before the recess and by the maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, today. Those noble and gallant Lords recommended interim decisions for good reason. The situation in the Soviet republics has far from settled down; members of the Community are themselves at sixes and sevens; there is unfinished business in Iraq; and potentially dangerous disputes are smouldering across the world. Should not some members of the Community be wary of talking of dispensing with American support in Europe? Would it not be more prudent to proceed with greater caution and to try to develop the vision to which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred? The Yugoslav situation, which is not a purely European disaster, has reminded the Community of the limitation of its power to make peace without the assistance of others. In those circumstances, is it right to commit ourselves with such certainty to the proposed cuts and reorganisation of our forces?
I shall not take up more time of the House by trying to deal in detail with other parts of the world. The campaign for democracy and human rights is a just cause to pursue, but we should not be surprised if some of what we say about human rights sounds very different to those in, for example, China, who reflect on their relations with western Europeans during the past century. In particular—the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred to this point—I hope that HMG will give special thought and take action to help that lonely, Nobel Prizewinner in Rangoon who is surely the most deserving of all the prisoners of conscience.
Lastly, the new president of Zambia is probably right when he says that the era of dictators in Africa is over. But that does not solve the present problem of starvation and ethnic conflict—an immediate problem which our aid policy must try to alleviate, although inevitably conflicting with the development needs of eastern Europe. We in the United Kingdom are well 94 placed to help with the problems of southern Africa. I hope that we shall continue to try to do so in our own interests and those of the people who need help.
I do not believe that there has been any serious reference in the debate to the recent Commonwealth conference. I am not sure whether the communiqué has been put in the Library of the House. I wonder whether the Minister will feel able to comment on that when he winds up the debate.
Lastly, let us not forget the remarkable speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cheshire, and his vision of the future role of the United Nations. Whoever is selected as the next Secretary-General must receive the full support of the membership and especially of the Security Council. The strengthening and redesign of the United Nations must be a constant and urgent objective for this country. The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, mentioned a subject which could be well tackled within the United Nations in future.
The noble Lord, Lord Pym, referred to the United Nations conference on the environment to take place in Brazil next year. It is indeed a very important conference. I should like to be assured that our representation at that conference will be of the highest quality.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Elles
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, touched on a great many of the issues contained in the gracious Speech. I very much welcome that. In this debate we have tended to concentrate on events which are taking place in Europe. I shall do so not because those events may be more important than the issues touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, but because they are more urgent. Within a few weeks major decisions may be taken which will affect many of the issues that have been debated in a more general way this evening.
I should like to mention here the very interesting speech made by my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth. Nobody can fail to recognise its importance and significance in the overall development of our foreign relations. However, I should like to welcome the undertaking made by Her Majesty's Government in the gracious Speech that they will continue to play a constructive role in the two inter-governmental conferences. It is a critical and crucial time when decisions will be taken in Western Europe which affect the prosperity and security not only of this country but of other members of the European Community and indeed of many millions of people who live outside it.
I shall make a few brief points on the short-term issue and three or four points on the long-term issue. As regards the short term, I believe it is true to say that the British people as a whole will want to have some kind of decision at Maastricht but not at any price. We must make that perfectly clear. Our Government will do their best for Britain but it will not be just because they must sign that they will sign. That is something on which I, who, after all, have been a European by tradition and practice over the past 20 years, nevertheless would totally support the Government.
95 We must also not lose sight of the principles which were expressed in the EC treaty of 1957: freedom of movement, deregulation and competition. But we do not see much of those issues in the draft treaty or what one might call the non-paper which was circulated by Luxembourg. Other noble Lords have referred to the fact—I stress it also—that a powerful, centralised bureaucracy must be avoided. There is no doubt at all that the Commission is becoming more and more powerful in relation to the duties that it is meant to carry out.
I quite understand why that has happened. I have the greatest respect for the former Commissioners who are in your Lordships' House and for the people who work in the Commission. They are first-class administrators and the Commission is a very open civil service. But it is not the task of the Commission to do many of the things that it is now doing. Why does it do them? It is because the Council itself is failing to keep control of the actions of the Commission. The Council has been far too ready to delegate, first under Article 155 and now under Article 145 of the Single European Act. It allows the Commission to undertake secondary legislation and indeed take certain important decisions. I believe that it is up to the Council to ensure that the Commission does not run away with more power than it has already.
One has only to look at the so-called non-paper to see the number of additional competences which are being passed over to the Community and which will therefore be exercised in the main by the Commission. I shall mention some of the issues that are being considered. There seems to be very little intellectual or legal ground for extending health, education and culture to a European level. Those matters are already dealt with, and have been for several years, perfectly efficiently by the Council of Europe. That includes the six EFTA countries plus Liechtenstein and, more recently, some of the central and eastern European countries outside the Community, all of which are future candidates for European Community membership should their peoples so demand.
Perhaps those issues, including many social issues, could eventually be dealt with, when the European Community is enlarged. Recommendations and international conventions seem much more appropriate to those fields of policy. Standards would be set but the national institutions of the countries themselves would be allowed to implement and decide the issues as it suited them.
Incidentally, it is perhaps worth recalling that the envisaged harmonisation of social standards was intended to encourage and facilitate the free movement of labour. However, the statistics show that the people who move from one national member state to another member state, whether in the sphere of the professions or the workforce, are extraordinarily few. In fact the people who move are immigrants from outside the Community, refugees or those seeking asylum. In that respect European Community standards and regulations should be enforced throughout the 12 member states, but without impinging upon the freedom of movement of 96 nationals. I know that there are already rules on residence and so on, hut, the statistics show that very few people actually benefit from the harmonisation of these issues.
My second point on this issue concerns the powers which it is envisaged should be allocated to the European Parliament. They seem to have created a great deal of concern in the national Parliament, particularly in another place. But the fact of the matter is that none of the powers under consideration in this non-paper affects in any way the powers that so far still exist in the national Parliament. If the national Parliament were only aware of it, the power to make many decisions has already passed to the Community. What is needed is further powers of scrutiny and monitoring of the Commission by the European Parliament as well.
I should like to suggest a far more effective and efficient scrutiny of draft legislation in the national Parliament, though I almost dare to exclude the Select Committee on the European Communities of our own House, which is so ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, and which does sterling work in examining draft legislation and bringing it before your Lordships' House for debate. We have always had the benefit of an answer on it from a Minister of the Government, giving the Government's position. In this House we have a very effective form of scrutiny, though possibly we do not deal with as many issues as need to be considered.
I should now like to make two or three points about the long-term issue. In our debate on 21st October on law-making procedures in the Community, my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter made a very effective speech which was not so much concerned with the procedures as with the fact that we should remember that in 1940 we stood alone. We did indeed stand alone. That is one of the reasons why most of us now are Europeans, in that we no longer want to stand alone, we do not want our children to stand alone and we do not want our grandchildren to stand alone. To me, that is the whole purpose of the European Community. In this dangerous world we must be sure that we have an integrated membership within the member states. That legal and economic integration that we have seen taking place has been our guarantee that our 12 countries can never go to war with each other again.
I am old enough to have been taught history when I was a small girl. I remember that most of my lessons concerned the memorising of dates of battles. My grandchildren do not seem to learn the same things. However, we were brought up to learn of battles that took place between the French, English, German, Spanish, Dutch—you name them. In the past 40 years such battles have been no longer possible. Surely that is the essential characteristic of the European Community: it must be maintained in a form which guarantees that structure. That is most important in particular now that we have a European economic area with the six EFTA states plus Liechtenstein joining us.
The noble Lord, Lord Moran, suggested that if we had stayed in EFTA we should have benefited. 97 However, perhaps he forgets, or does not realise, that all the EFTA countries have had to accept all the European Community legislation to date. This affects standards, transport, competition and policy in all the areas which unite us in the economic community. We, as Britons, are part of that European Community. We have taken part at every stage in the decision-making process. That would not have happened if we had merely remained in EFTA.
Whatever is decided at Maastricht, it is essential also that provision is made to foresee an enlarged Community, involving the Twelve and the Seven and gradually extending it to the other countries of Eastern Europe, including the three Baltic states, which will no doubt request membership.
I wish to make two further short points without expanding on them. Our security and defence over these years has been guaranteed by NATO. General Galvin had a famous saying when talking about people doing trick riding on aeroplanes: "Don't leave go of your secure hold until you have another one!" I believe that the position is the same now: we are walk-riding on aeroplanes. If we leave go of NATO we shall be leaving go of the one guarantee of safety without having anything else to put in its place. I believe that we have to stay within NATO therefore. Whatever else is arranged it must include that principle and be on that basis.
It is also essential for us, whatever may be the French view, that we keep the closest ties with the United States. That is not only for security reasons. We sometimes forget that the United States is the biggest exporter to the European Community and the biggest importer of European Community produce and services. It would therefore be folly to attempt to take ourselves away from a close relationship with the United States. The democracies in an unstable world surely have to stand together.
Whatever happens at Maastricht I know that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and his Ministers will be negotiating for the good of Britain and of the British people. Once that treaty has been signed, he and his Government will come before Parliament to explain and to stand by the decisions that have been made. Once again I believe that the democratic system of our national Parliament will be a guarantee that the decisions that are taken, whatever they may be, will be for the good of the British people. I therefore put my total trust in the Prime Minister and the Government.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, throughout this inevitably wide ranging debate, there has been an underlying sense that over the next few weeks, months and perhaps year or so, a series of critical decisions must be taken in the field of international affairs, in the United Nations, the Middle East, in connection with Yugoslavia, and in the European Community. They are decisions that will seek to maintain international stability in a new world situation that is simultaneously hopeful and frightening.
98 Like the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, I wish to concentrate on the European Community aspect. One has a consciousness that after the exciting and historic events of the dissolution of the Soviet Empire in Europe there is now an increasing, uncomfortable awareness of the vacuum in world affairs that has been created by the virtual disappearance of the Soviet Union as a world power. I rarely disagree with the wise caution of the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, for which over many years past I have had reason to be grateful. However, I felt that his argument that there ought to be a further delay in the timetable for coming to decisions at Maastricht because the world had turned upside down since Dublin, was an argument itself turned upside down. It is the extraordinary developments that have taken place in the world situation that give a degree of urgency to these matters.
The Foreign Minister of Italy said the other day that the choice for Europe and the world now lay between integration into a new world order or disintegration into a new world disorder. The question for Britain is surely how best she can make her contribution to that search for a new world order. In his opening speech, the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, mentioned that Britain has many roles to play at the United Nations, in the Commonwealth, in NATO and elsewhere. However, undoubtedly one immediate task is ready to hand; namely, to play a positive and enthusiastic role at the Maastricht Summit. I am sure that it will not be an uncritical one, but will be more constructive than was the British practice under Mrs. Thatcher and more constructive than is apparently now being advocated by no less than Mr. Norman Tebbit and Mr. Nigel Lawson.
Has the prime ministerial attitude under Mr. Major really changed? That question is very much in all our minds. Frankly, it is hard to tell. Sometimes it looks like it has done and sometimes it does not. A great deal is at stake in the tone and manner in which the Prime Minister and his team approach the Maastricht Summit. If there is to be stability in Europe in the face of the economic problems of the former Soviet territories, and the ancient ethnic rivalries that have once more been unleashed causing civil war in Yugoslavia and chaos in the Soviet Union and which are bubbling up in Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia, there is need for an economically strong, politically cohesive European heartland.
Only the European Community can provide it, and if it is to be done wisely and well it needs Britain at the heart of the Community. I believe that those were the Prime Minister's own words on a recent occasion. It needs Britain pulling its full weight along with the other major Community members —Germany and France.
In terms of the domestic political scene, there should be the chance for Britain to play a leadership role in Europe on the basis of support across the party political spectrum for the first time in 20 years. For perhaps the first half of that period the Labour Party was opposed to entry or wished to get out of the Community. Sadly, its conversion to making a success of the Community coincided with Mrs. Thatcher 99 leading the Conservatives into the "never-never-never" land of her Bruges speech. There ought now to be an opportunity, fortunately at a fateful moment in the Community's development, for all of that to be put behind us.
There remain minorities in both the country at large and in Parliament who believe with deep conviction that Britain should never have joined the Community. However, with all due respect to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, I believe that the number of members of the general public who take that view is smaller than ever. I have no doubt that there is a parliamentary majority for being part of the Community and a common sense British view that if one is going to be in the Community one had better do one's best to make a success of it. All that is required is what in Brussels jargon used to be called the political will but which perhaps in simpler Anglo-Saxon is the political guts.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, made clear with his usual inexorable logic, we have the right under the letter of the treaty, if not the spirit, to seek derogations. We have apparently spent much of our negotiating goodwill in bringing about one proposi-tion carefully tailored to suit Britain as part of the preparations for Maastricht. But surely it cannot be in the British interest to opt out of these historic developments, and still less to consider staying out.
I find it inconceivable that the Government would volunteer to relegate the United Kingdom to the second division of the Community league. The greater danger, and it is a real danger that has happened too often in the past, is that we shall opt out for temporary party-political reasons only to sign up later after we have lost influence and goodwill. That is the way to earn the worst of all worlds. It would be particularly self-defeating for Britain to do that, aspiring as it does to keep London as the financial capital of Europe. The proposed European monetary institute—the embryo central bank—ought to be in London which has too small a share of Community institutions. We run the risk of losing any chance of bidding for that by giving priority to the opt-in/opt-out clause in order to see the Government through the forthcoming general election.
The critics of what has been planned for the Maastricht summit appear to suffer simultaneously from two very different fears: federalism and centralisation. Historically they have always struck me as being odd fears for citizens of the United Kingdom. For more than 250 years it has been a political, economic and monetary union, highly overcentralised for most of the time, without making the Scots notably less Scottish or the Welsh notably less Welsh Nor are they in any danger of turning into identikit Europeans as a result of anything that might flow from Maastricht. The fears of federalism or overcentralisation are greatly exaggerated.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, that the more real of those fears is the latter of excessive harmonisation by the Commission. Speaking as a former infamous bureaucrat of Brussels, I freely confess that the Commission is subject to the temptation of harmonising some matters which are 100 best left to national or regional administrations; indeed, some matters which are best left altogether. A European Parliament enjoys a degree of democratic legitimacy that is greater than that of the European Commission which should be a little more conscious of how insubstantial its legitimacy is. However, it too is prone to being overzealous and seeking to harmonise consumer behaviour from Greenland's icy mountains to Sicily's golden sands.
Achieving the right constitutional balance for the future between Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the Commission will not be easy. It will need a much longer timetable than the Maastricht summit provides. The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, spoke wise words when he said that if the Government were more clearly to commit themselves to the goal of European union it would be a good deal easier to obtain agreement on the method and timetable for reaching that goal.
As regards federalism, in my judgment there is no possibility of the ancient, idiosyncratic, language-bound nations of the European Community turning themselves into a tidy federation on the lines of the United States of America or of the Federal Republic of Germany. Both those countries enjoy a common language. However, there is a real possibility of developing the European Community into a body with a strong political purpose and a common foreign policy based on an economic and monetary union and acting as a single, liberal unit on the world trade scene.
I agree with Sir Julian Bullard, the former ambassador to Germany, who recently wrote that he sees that notion applying to a common foreign policy which complements national foreign policies and not to a single foreign policy which replaces that. I believe that within that formula there is room to draw up agreement in areas where majority voting is entirely appropriate. Certainly it is inconceivable that with the Community growing from 12 in number one can continue to run it on the basis of unanimity without majority voting.
The world badly needs an effective Community as a critical bastion of stability. Europe is facing greater instability than at any time since some of the acute crises after the Second World War when the cold war was at its height. The alternative to having an effective, cohesive European Community would be a Europe overshadowed, perhaps dominated, by a new united Germany once the former GDR becomes the first former communist economy to be successfully converted to a prosperous Western standard. Who can doubt that the Germans will achieve that and not over a long period?
In what I thought was a particularly impressive and significant speech, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, made clear that we are singularly fortunate to have a contemporary Germany which has no desire to use its economic strength and resilience to return to the nationalism of the past. Indeed, Germany sets us an example with its consistent vision of a united Europe, with its desire to he an integrated member of the European Community and, in defence, a partner in a multilateral NATO. We are fortunate that the German leaders have shown none of the signs of 101 preserving jealously an outdated degree of national sovereignty that sadly distinguished and, I am afraid, disfigured the final days of the former Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher. I plead that her successor should put all that behind him and show the statesmanship to restore Britain to her proper role of sharing positive leadership in the developments that will undoubtedly go ahead in the European Community.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Lord Alport
My Lords, the gracious Speech promises that the Government will support the Commonwealth. That is a welcome assurance to those of us in the Conservative Party who have been distressed by the way in which our relations with the Commonwealth have been handled by the party's leaders during the past 20 years and the attitude to it of the Conservative press.
It is most encouraging to see the constructive and conciliatory part which the Prime Minister played at the recent conference in Harare. He was unfairly criticised for spending eight days away from Whitehall. Surely that was a short time in which to repair the damage caused by two decades of confrontation and neglect. As a result we can now hope that the new initiatives discussed at Harare will strengthen the Commonwealth and give it a new role in the promotion of democratic government, the protection of human rights and the economic development of its members.
There is much to be said for linking the provision of aid to the form of government and the human rights records of developing countries. But, so far as Great Britain is concerned, we must be careful to ensure that it is not suspected by those countries that this is an attempt to revive British imperialism in a new guise. However much our record as an imperial power may be recognised by future historians as contributing to the success of the Commonwealth countries when they achieved independence, it is not always recognised in ex-colonial countries under successor regimes.
The establishment 30 years ago of the Ministry of Overseas Development, separate from the Foreign Office and the CRO, was intended to help to meet the needs of the developing countries of the Commonwealth and to emphasise the fact that aid was not aimed at maintaining British political influence and control in the post-colonial era. If in future aid is to be employed to promote democracy and human rights it must be backed by something which is seen to be independent of the United Kingdom's policy and interests.
Therefore, I believe that the ground should be laid by the Commonwealth Secretariat for consideration at the next conference in 1993 of the establishment of a Commonwealth Court of Human Rights analogous to the European Court and with members drawn from the judiciaries of various Commonwealth countries. Two might come from the "old" Commonwealth, two from Asia, two from Africa and one from the Caribbean. Its role would be to pronounce on the seriousness and extent of the abuse of human rights in cases which came before it. The publication of its 102 judgments would be a sanction in itself. It would then be for Commonwealth countries providing aid to decide individually what pressure should be brought to bear by the withdrawal of aid or by other means.
As regards the maintenance of democratic government, we should take great encouragement from the recent developments in Zambia. Those stand in stark contrast to neighbouring Zaire. I hope that an immediate and generous programme of aid will be launched by the Government here and by governments elsewhere to help Mr. Chiluba in restoring Zambia's prosperity. That is an opportunity which must not be missed to give substance to decisions at Harare.
Still further to emphasise Britain's new commitment to the Commonwealth, I suggest, as I did last year, that a Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office should be appointed Minister for Commonwealth Relations. He or she would have special responsibility for all aspects of our diplomatic relations, aid provision and cultural contact with the Commonwealth. The Minister would have an influence in encouraging Commonwealth students to come to Britain for training and in ensuring that developing Commonwealth countries receive a fair share of the resources available for overseas aid provided by Great Britain. There is a danger that their needs may be forgotten in the light of the demands for aid coming from Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and elsewhere.
We cannot rely on the fact that we all tend to play cricket and some of us are better at playing rugby than others to keep together the cement of the Commonwealth. As the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said earlier this afternoon, our membership of the Commonwealth is an important asset for Britain's foreign policy. We must now build on the Prime Minister's success at Harare and give it a new dynamic in the field of democratic government, human rights and economic development as an example to the rest of the world.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Viscount Massereene and Ferrard
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will be delighted to hear that I shall not make a speech because I have just had some news and I must leave before the end of the debate. I thought I should remain to apologise to your Lordships, however.
I had intended to make a speech regarding some of the Highland regiments. I understand that that matter has been discussed before in this House. I plead that the Queen's Own Highlanders are not amalgamated with any other regiment. I believe that that was done in 1961, and, although it depends to some extent on its location, once that has been done, the regiment is never the same again.
Having said that, I shall not make a speech. I crave your Lordships' indulgence and excuse myself from the remainder of the debate.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cledwyn referred to Aung San Suu Kyi. That was a right and proper reference and I am glad that my noble friend said what he did. He might have said—as I am about to say—that that reference should have been in the gracious Speech itself. It should not have been left to someone outside the Government to make a reference to such an important matter. Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of the great hero of Burma, U Aung San. She is democratically successful in that country and has been improperly imprisoned in her own house by the military. She has properly been awarded the Nobel Prize. It seems to me that it would have been better for the Government to mention that. It should not have been left to my noble friend, although I am glad that he did so.
With due respect, I convey my sympathy to Her Majesty for having to deliver such an uninspired Address. I should also make it clear that although constitutional change is in the air, it is not my intention to introduce such a Bill before the next general election. The Labour leadership is nerving itself in that direction and it will clearly be desirable to see what it comes up with. Therefore, I have decided not to give way to the temptation to indulge in private enterprise on the matter at this time.
One further point which I wish to make is on the content of the gracious Speech outside the content of this debate. I have taken the precaution of consulting the authorities on this point and I understand that I am entirely in order in making this reference. It concerns an omission from content rather than content. The gracious Speech deals with a number of areas where this country has collapsed from the top of international league tables to a position in which we are in some danger of relegation. However, there is one table where we are still near the top; that is, our standing in the arts.
It is one of the few areas in which the Government can claim some brownie points in spite of making sad mistakes. The arts have urgent needs and there is no opportunity to discuss those in the debates on the gracious Speech. Therefore, I make this passing reference. There is no mention of the arts in the gracious Speech. I wonder what Mr. Renton thinks about that. As arts Minister I once kicked up a dreadful fuss about the Queen's Speech. I insisted upon an undertaking to remove entrance charges from the national museums and galleries. I got my way in the end but it was not easy. Is Tim Renton happy that his responsibilities do not even rate a mention? That says something about the Government's priorities.
Now I turn to our muttons—or perhaps I should say munitions. In the gracious Speech the Government talk about the importance of maintaining our security. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, was extremely enlightening and had more to say on that than the Government. I believe that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, may have made a coded reference to the subject, which I shall address, when he suggested that the Government were perhaps economising in the wrong direction. I believe I know what he meant.
104 As regards maintaining security, the Government say that substantial and effective nuclear forces are to be maintained. We are not told from where the threat comes but one imagines that it must be real because to meet it, among other things, Trident is to go ahead. President Bush includes measures of unilateral disarmament in his response to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. President Gorbachev comes up with deep nuclear and conventional cuts. But our Prime Minister says that we must have Trident. He calls it our "minimum deterrent". Perhaps one may ask who is being deterred, at what cost and why. Minimum? Trident represents an eightfold increase in our nuclear capability at a time when the other nuclear holders are cutting back. Is that right? Is it the right policy to adopt at this time? Should we stand out as the greatest increaser of all with an eightfold increase in our nuclear capacity by the acquisition of Trident? Is it necessary? Is it even sane?
We are now, in theory, covering 64 targets with Polaris. I say "in theory" because Polaris seems to be mostly out of order. With Trident we should be able to cover 512 targets. What is the necessity for that at this time? What are we up to? What does one mean by "cover"? It means an ability to totally destroy towns, including their inhabitants. Incredible though it may seem, the destructive capability of Trident in terms of warhead kilotonnage is between 16,000 and 20,000 Hiroshimas. That is 16,000 to 20,000 times the most terrible killing yet inflicted on mankind. So what are we about at this time of decreased tension? It makes no sense. Has everyone gone mad?
What of the Labour leadership? Neil proposes to continue with Trident while negotiating it away. That is the language of Nassau. It makes no sense. It means consent to lunacy. Trident serves no useful security function whatever. Deploying it simply justifies proliferation, and at what cost.
As the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, pointed out, however effective the International Energy Authority may be in the civil area, it is militarily ineffective. The estimated minimum cost of Trident is £10 billion. That is the equivalent of spending £30,000 a day every year for 1,000 years. What is the use, the purpose, the reason for that kind of expenditure at this time of lesser tension? The cost of dismantling the nuclear reactors has not even been calculated. Cancel Trident now. There is no other sensible course. I can promise the Government that should they decide to do so, there will be no opposition from Labour.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Lord Bridges
My Lords, a common theme in this debate has been the recognition of the extraordinary changes which have taken place in the world during the past 12 months or so. Noble Lords referred to the collapse of the Soviet empire, perhaps the most sudden collapse of any empire since the Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453. We heard references from the noble Lords, Lord Callaghan and Lord Thomson of Monifieth, to the reunification of Germany, an event which has long been an objective 105 of our policy but which I never expected to see in my lifetime. That change alone will profoundly alter the nature of European politics.
We have also heard of the termination of the ideological conflict between East and West and the diminution of the military threat which we face from the East. That event caused the prompt reaction of our own Government in unilateral force reductions, an action which a number of noble Lords—including myself—consider to have been somewhat too hasty if only for the total uncertainty which prevails about the nations which may arise on the territory of the former USSR. That is a point to which I shall return in a moment.
The parallel conclusion I would first draw is that those events are confined to a small part of the world —the developed world of Europe and North America. The bulk of the world population is not greatly affected by what has happened. For the populous nations of China, India, and Africa there has been little change. There the problems which matter most to ordinary people are the problems of disease, malnutrition and poverty. We can perhaps expect more significant effects to reach those parts of the world from the greater changes which I mentioned; for example, in Castro's Cuba after the withdrawal of Soviet support, and in Afghanistan if the superpowers agree to restrain support for their rival partisans. Optimists may even hope that the Middle East will benefit from the reduction in the rivalry of the great powers although it would be unwise to expect any early result from the Madrid conference, given the bitterness of feeling between Israel and most of her neighbours.
However, there is a more realistic possibility that the collapse of the communist threat will enable the democratic West to contribute more actively and effectively to easing the problems of the developing world than it has been able to do in the recent past. The need is particularly great in Africa where social conditions and economic prospects have deteriorated so rapidly in recent years. I believe we have a special opportunity in Africa. It arises mainly from the change in the policies of the South African Government which make it possible to overcome some of the political obstacles which apartheid placed in the path of peaceful collaboration and development. We can see in the results of the Harare conference that that is not altogether misplaced.
I suggest that our understandable absorption in the collapse of communism and the future of the European Community should not mask those issues completely. Nevertheless, for Europeans and especially for citizens of this country there is a specific task nearer to hand; that is, the next stage in the construction of Europe. The crucial meeting of the European Council in a few weeks' time at Maastricht looks like being the most important discussion of the leaders of the European Community for a long time. I do not propose to examine the details as many noble Lords have done. But I suggest that it is important for us to recognise the nature and extent of the task on 106 which the European Council will be engaged. It is nothing less than determining the identity of the European Community of the future.
It is right and natural that attention should be focused on the details of the European union, its constitutional arrangements and the powers entrusted to the European Parliament. But we should not become so worked up about these matters that we neglect the biggest issues of all. For example, who will ultimately wish to join the European Community? It is the membership which determines the character of the club. Do we wish to see an institution which could ultimately embrace all the nations of the European continent? If so, should the European Community be entrusted with specific responsibility in the field of defence? Not all of the postulants may wish to assume that collective role for defence. Should they assume it, their view of the task may not tit very well with our own. Can this new defence role be assumed in such a way that the partnership between western Europe and the United States is not undermined?
I suggest that these two underlying questions—the ultimate membership of the Community and its potential responsibility for defence—transcend most of the other issues under discussion. I also suggest that it would be wise not to prejudge them in the decisions taken at Maastricht or indeed at the further meetings which may prove to be necessary. I too share the feeling that some of your Lordships have expressed. It may be difficult to arrive at a complete settlement of all those major issues at one meeting.
My reason for believing that it is wiser to think of a more extended timetable is that we do not know, and cannot at present judge, the nature of the successor states which may appear on the territory of the Soviet Union. It follows that we cannot now determine how Russia's neighbours in central Europe will decide to protect their essential security interests any more than we in western Europe can make any long-term judgment about our security arrangements for the same reason. So we should not do anything now to make it more difficult for other states to create closer links with the EC should they wish to do so in future.
Sometimes this problem for the Community is presented as a choice between deepening and widening. But the more you think about it the less satisfactory this formulation seems. I would prefer to say that we need to build higher on solid foundations, allowing scope for extension of the structure if the neighbours wish. Provided that the architects and the builders think ahead, there need not be undue structural difficulties. The recent Anglo-Italian initiative on the Western European Union looks to me to be a particularly helpful way of handling the defence dimension.
I return to the identity of Europe. That is now a more open question than it has been for many years. We are surely at one of those turning points which occur only rarely in human affairs when the decisions taken will mark the terrain for a long time to come. We can also see that the last year has unmade some of the mistakes committed earlier in this century. We 107 have a chance to retrieve them, taking care to avoid the skeletal remains we can see around us of earlier errors and divisions.
It is indeed surprising how much the landscape has changed. Perhaps I may give one example from personal experience. Twenty-five years ago I climbed Mount Olympus in Greece with two friends. In my knapsack I carried with me a copy of that classic travel book, Kinglake's Eothen. On the mountain I can remember reading the opening pages of the book in which Kinglake describes the East-West frontier of the day—the passage of the River Sava at Belgrade which was then the frontier between the Turkish and Austro-Hungarian empires. It was clearly just as alarming an experience for him as I found it crossing between East and West Berlin in the 1950s. Yet when I read the book that old frontier on the Sava seemed a distant and improbable anachronism. But the current conflict in Yugoslavia has uncovered this very same historical division between Turkish Moslem Europe and the Europe of the Orthodox and Catholic faith.
If the divisions of the Europe created in 1945 are crumbling away, the defects of some of the settlements made after the First World War are emerging afresh. Above all, they are the problems caused by the partial application of that essential principle of international life; self-determination. These are once again some of Europe's largest problems. But we do have an unexpected and fresh chance to tackle again these long quiescent rivalries and to determine the future identity of Europe for a long time to come.
I do not wish to take your Lordships on a conducted tour of Greek mountains, but another experience recently may illustrate the general point that I am 1 tying to make. A few weeks ago I was in the northern Pindus Mountains of Greece and climbed Mount Grammos on the Albanian frontier. This is a place famous in modern Greece as the scene of the last engagement of the Greek civil war in 1949 when the communists were finally dislodged from Greek territory. From its summit you look north into the plains of southern Albania, for long forbidden territory for outsiders. But now communist society has collapsed as totally there as anywhere else, leaving its unfortunate citizens impoverished and hungry. Albanians—for so long tightly confined at home—are now telling us that they too feel part of Europe. Looking into the unfamiliar landscape from the top of my mountain, you could see another part of this question of European identity. The European Community has, by its success, created a pole of attraction for others elsewhere in Europe for whom it represents the democratic freedom and prosperity to which they too aspire.
We should not disappoint those aspirations. In representing the interests of the nation in the next crucial discussions, I hope that the Government will always remember the wider perspective and the longer view. Whatever their preoccupations are in an election year it is on this that they will ultimately he judged.
§ 8.47 p.m.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton
My Lords, in the debate on the loyal Address last year I spoke about the situation in Poland. I trust that your Lordships will forgive me for returning to this subject after the passage of a year as I have spent nearly two months of the Summer Recess in that country. I have an interest there as my wife is Polish and is the owner of a house on the outskirts of Krakow. It is a very nice house and we intend to keep it and live in it from time to time.
I was glad to hear in the gracious Speech that Her Majesty's Government,will further encourage the development of democratic institutions and market economies in central and eastern Europe; and pursue the completion of Association Agreements with Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia".I should like to tell noble Lords about the changes which I have witnessed in Poland in the past two years. I was in Poland for six weeks in the summer of 1989 and was actually there on the day when 44 years of communist rule came to an end. But unlike in Czechoslovakia and Romania, it was a day that was unmarked by demonstrations of any kind. It was a day just like any other day. That of itself was rather remarkable.
In August 1989 Poland was profoundly depressed. Apart from the fact that there was no actual damage, to my mind it resembled a country which had just fought a war and been defeated. That was after 45 years of so-called peace. There was little or nothing to buy in the ordinary shops except of course for bottled beetroot. One shop I visited had shelves and shelves of very nice though identical crystal ashtrays. I wonder whether they have all been bought yet. After a long tour of the beautiful city of Gdansk, we found that the only item available in the cafes of that city was soda water. In Krakow, where I spent most of my time, the city was still crumbling and desperately polluted by the factories of Nova Huta eight miles away. Most of the time the sky was invisible and the air, though breathable, was pretty foul. Buildings had scaffolding around them which local people told me had been there for at least 20 years.
I can only report to your Lordships that after two years the change is staggering. It is not the same country. Not only can one see the sky in Krakow, but the awful miasma of depression has lifted. Most people, especially the young, look alive and active. Buildings are being renovated; roads are being repaired; cafes are thronged; shops are open and busy and selling everything that one might require. The natural energy of an intelligent and inventive people has been released and one has to rub one's eyes to remember what it used to be like. It is these natural energies which are the most important thing of all. The Government have got off people's backs and they are allowed to get on with it. Judging from what I saw, they are getting on with it.
There is always another side to anything. I am well aware that there is another side to this picture. There are some people who have not gained and through no fault of their own are finding themselves unemployed or otherwise impoverished. There are the super-rich, too; but I shall not make too much of that. There were 109 super-rich people in Communist times, mostly party members, some of whom are now feeling the wind a bit.
As I said earlier, there are many who are suffering from the changes; but I say to the House that serious though their deprivations are—and I am not reducing them in any way—they are as nothing to what they would have been had the communist system remained in place for another two years. It is impossible to imagine what that situation would now be.
I should like to take issue with many of the comments in our press and on our television. At present it seems that there is an attitude that wants to run Poland down. One must remember that Poland until two years ago had been misgoverned since 1939, sometimes—as under the nazis—with atrocious malevolence, and sometimes with more well-meaning bungling and neglect. Poland has had so far only two years to put right the ills of nearly half a century. It would be simply miraculous if there was nothing wrong; but it is not helpful to keep on harping about decaying industry, unemployment, discontent and arrest. As a farmer, I notice that if I burn old grass it takes time for the new grass to establish itself. I wish some of our media would be less patronising and would imagine, just for a moment, how we would fare in a similar situation.
I turn now to the internal political situation. At present this appears to be chaotic and to be a re-run of the French Third and Fourth Republics, without the benefit of the extremely efficient French Civil Service. One commentator, himself of Polish extraction, in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph actually seemed to write the country off both politically and economically. I personally know far too many Polish people to accept his diagnosis for one minute. The politics will sort themselves out but the whole point of what is happening is that people have been freed. It is people—hard working and inventive people—who will make Poland prosper. For once the government is taking a back seat and I hope it stays there.
For the benefit of noble Lords opposite who are indulging in thoughts of PR, I should like to make a brief point on the subject of the Polish elections. They ought to take notice of the situation in Poland where there are 100 parties and where the ballot papers are so confusing that many people have given up and decided not to vote at all for the simple reason that they do not know who or what they are voting for. If they want the House of Commons to become a replica of the present Polish Sejm, then they should go ahead with PR. However, I do not believe that the Social Democrats or the Labour Party will find that they are beneficiaries. Nor will the British people.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, the noble Lord must be aware that there is more than one system of PR. He must be aware that in Germany they have PR and there are not 100 parties.
Lord Belhaven and Stenton
My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point. I do not know which form of PR he advocates. Perhaps we would be as happy as Germany and not as unhappy as they are with the 110 Polish Sejm at present. I shall pass on that point except to say that I very much hope that Poland will abandon PR and go for the system that we have here.
One thing struck me which was depressing. There seemed to be very little evidence of British involvement in the growing volume of trade in Poland. In Poland there is a market of 40 million people. Supplying that market are Germans, French, Danes, Swedes, and so on. There are enterprises and goods from all over Europe. Part of the reason for this is that movement in central and western Europe is remarkably free and frontiers are easy to cross. The result is that Polish businessmen can visit their counterparts easily throughout most of Europe. The only country where there are difficulties is in Britain. It takes so long for Poles to get visas at our consulate in Warsaw that they are inclined to give up and trade with Germany or France instead.
At this point I have to say that the biggest thing standing in the way of good relations between this country and Poland is the British consulate in Warsaw. I cannot but believe the voluminous number of stories that I hear about the activities in this consulate. There are just too many of them. I do not intend to stand up in your Lordships' House and blame our officials. Whatever happens in our consulate in Warsaw is the direct responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. The Government are answer-able and not the harassed officials who work in Poland. I visited the consulate in August and was most courteously received by the vice-consul who showed me round the building. We then repaired to his office where he invited me to ask questions. After one or two questions, with which I shall not trouble your Lordships, I asked him the million dollar question. I asked if, in his opinion, visas were to be scrapped would there be any more illegal Polish workers in Britain than there are already. He replied that he did not believe that there would be and that he could not understand the obsession of the Home Office with visas. That is from the man on the spot.
From personal observation I believe that to be the case. The visa regime is working against families, families which have been divided by war and the iron curtain for 50 years and are still divided by the visa curtain. Certainly a lot of Poles want to come here from time to time. I want to visit my wife's relations in Poland from time to time. From my end it is easy. I have to say that if someone is determined to come here from Poland and to work, they will succeed in spite of the system. But if they want to visit a sick grandmother, they will either fail or she may be dead by the time they arrive. I must also ask if it is necessary to inquire of young ladies visiting the United Kingdom whether they sleep with their husbands. I have heard too many tales of this happening to doubt it.
If Her Majesty's Government are determined to continue with visas—and I hope they are not—they really will have to do something about the inadequate consular building where the visas are processed. No one, least of all those working there, would disagree with that. The present situation is a disgrace and it is bringing this country into disrepute.
111 Finally, I put the question: what does Poland need from us? I would say that she needs the largest possible breaking down of barriers for trade and movement. She needs that even more than she needs money—though money is always welcome.
I do not believe that we are doing enough in this direction and it will not be possible to do enough so long as the present visa regime remains unchanged. Small Polish businessmen cannot visit this country to deal with their counterparts here. Perhaps the bigger businesses can get a special concession through the consulate but small ones cannot.
The visit of the President of Poland last summer to this country was very welcome. How splendid it would be if Her Majesty the Queen could return the visit after the establishment of free movement between our countries.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, I have been wondering how an historian a hundred years from now will judge British policy in the second half of this century. Of course he will allude to the great change that is taking place in the affairs of the Soviet Union and the effect that that has had on British defence and foreign policy. However, I suspect that he will also draw a parallel between Soviet and British policy which he will say was not perceived at the time by British statesmen.
The parallel is this. The Soviet regime did not appreciate how technology was changing the world. They concentrated on heavy industry on 19th century lines and they forced this policy on their East European satellites. They developed rocketry as a natural response to the American nuclear programme. They then spent millions of resources in orbiting in outer space. Meanwhile they kept a vast army and air force in being, and they built a new navy supplying arms to any country that they hoped to bring into their orbit. In the end their economy broke down. It broke down not only because it was strangled by a gigantic bureaucracy and a corrupt party, but because it could not supply reliable consumer goods.
The historian will then point out a certain similarity in Britain. After the war we still tried to act as one of the world's arbiters. Despite our inability to pay the costs of the British zone in Germany, we alone sent forces to Korea and rearmed. We continued despite Suez and the desperate state of the pound in the 1960s and 1970s, to maintain armed forces far exceeding in strength all those of our European allies. It was thanks to Mr. Denis Healey that we at last retired from east of Suez in the late 1960s; but we still today regard as inescapable military commitments, the Falklands, Honduras and Gibraltar.
Our historian will no doubt praise our wise retirement from our former colonies, but he will note that we still regarded ourselves as the policemen of the world. 142 will also note that one of the reasons we gave for refusing to surrender that role was that we feared for our armaments industry and the unemployment that would result if that were dismantled. How could we sell arms abroad and gain much needed hard currency unless we ourselves had 112 sizeable Armed Forces'? So, like the Soviet Union, we continued subsidising heavy industry—shipbuilding, aircraft, tanks, guns, and an independent nuclear deterrent for which it is impossible, it seems to me, for any fair-minded person to imagine a situation it which it could ever be used.
Of course it can be argued that our independent nuclear deterrent deterred Russia during the cold war. But does any one believe that it was our nuclear weapons, and not the vast American arsenal, which deterred the Soviet Union? It is on that point that I find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and that is not always the case. We still maintain that weapon today. Against whom? If the Americans declined to use nuclear weapons in the Gulf war, when, if ever, are we likely to do so?
Meanwhile, the nations that were defeated in the Second World War—Germany and Japan—starting from ruined industry and hungry people, rebuilt their economies. They spent little or virtually nothing on defence. Today they stand as triumphant economies. The historian 100 years from now will conclude that the humiliation of defeat is a better spur than the vanity of victory to teach men how to rebuild their own dear country.
I am no sympathiser with CND. I am grateful for the American nuclear umbrella. Of course I sympathise with the feelings so ardently expressed in the debate in the House on the Defence White Paper by those who regret the amalgamation of famous regiments and the reduction in the size of the Household Brigade, aircraft squadrons and in the number of frigates. It is ironic that at a time when the British Armed Forces have never been more professional and efficient that they should be reduced in size. If our industrialists had been as efficient as our Armed Forces, we should have been able to afford far better health and educational services. The Government are to be congratulated on their decision in this matter. What we need however is an assurance that with the reduction of forces the Foreign Office will also propose a reduction in commitments.
It is impossible to ask the Government to outline our strategy for the new era because that gives away too much to those ill-disposed to us; but it is necessary, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, emphasised, for us now to restructure our Armed Forces. I say that because during the defence debate I heard it argued that since our Armed Forces might be summoned to fight anywhere in the world, so far from reducing them, we should strengthen them. It is not given to us to foresee the future, but we must make assumptions about it. We can perhaps guess at what will happen within the next 10 years. Even then, we cannot do that with certainty; but Winston Churchill was not wrong or inconsistent to plead for a reduction in defence expenditure during the 1920s, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and then in the 1930s to plead for vastly increased expenditure. Until Hitler came to power there was no real threat to peace in the West.
But is it not evident that we must integrate our defence commitments with our colleagues in the European Community, while relying upon America to 113 act as the policeman of the world? I do not mean that we should join a polyglot army with uncertain leadership, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, feared we might have to. At Waterloo, Wellington commanded Dutch and Hanoverian as well as British troops, and the Prussian army was on our left flank. We should continue to operate within NATO or its equivalent. It is for that reason that I join the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, in emphasising the supreme importance of the deliberations that are to take place at Maastricht and subsequent Community summits.
The aim that our Armed Forces should co-operate internationally was the conclusion of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cheshire, in his remarkable and widely praised maiden speech in which he envisaged a force emerging which could act as the policemen of the world under the auspices of the United Nations. I confess that I am not as sanguine as he is about the United Nations' role; but such a force, which must act in conjunction with American armed forces, can emerge only in the early stages within the European Community.
I have already referred to the speech made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I was very pleased to hear him say that, on this occasion at any rate, he found himself in agreement with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I say that because I thought that the most cogent speech on the White Paper was that made by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. It grieved me to hear his speech at once being rubbished by a former Minister of Defence; namely, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne.
If there is any lesson to be learnt from the past years, it seems to me that it is this: our survival as a power depends on our economic strength first and only secondarily on our military strength. That is the lesson which Sir Nicholas Henderson outlined to the government of the time in his farewell dispatch from Paris where he was such a notable ambassador.
There is another point I should like to make in that connection. Our Government's first priority must therefore be to strengthen our economy and to strengthen British industry, not to support lame ducks but to support the initiatives and enterprises of the leaner and tougher leaders who have survived two recessions in the 1980s. If we do not do so, and if we still intend to act militarily independent of the Community, we shall continue to suffer from what I call the Soviet syndrome. I know that that is an unpopular view to take in this House because, in a way, this Chamber is a guardian of the Armed Forces. Indeed, one can always find those who will support and pay tribute to those who have served the country in those forces. Nevertheless, I feel that I must express it.
All that depends upon our being an effective member of the Community. I greatly enjoyed the robust defence of the Treaty of Rome made by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield. However, I am bound to say that it simply will not do to declare that "the people" of Europe will rule the Community. Does the noble Lord envisage government by perpetual referendum? The fact is that "the people" have never 114 ruled; only their representatives can rule. I am bound to say that I think the noble Lord ought to be requested by the House to attend lectures on political theory and institutions by his noble friend Lord Beloff. That is why I believe that the Community must develop some democratic structures and safeguards. That is what we need to do in the Community. At this point I shall not proceed any further because that would lead me into making a very much longer speech.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Lord Kagan
My Lords, when Gorbachev came to power and was elected to lead the Soviet Union his intention was to rebuild that country and make it into a strong world power. Indeed, a literal translation of the word perestroika is "rebuilding". In order to achieve that aim he perceived that he would first have to end the cold war. It was a logical decision. He knew that he would not be able to outgun or outspend the United States. Secondly, he had to end the isolation of the Soviet Union in order to reintegrate it into the technical interchange with the western powers and overcome the innate resistance of Soviet bureaucracy to technical change. He also decided to end the command economy and introduce a market economy so as to release incentive and native talent. He saw what Margaret Thatcher had done and was an ardent admirer of hers.
Gorbachev then decided to end the dictatorship —he was not the first to attempt to do so; indeed, Krushchev had tried previously—and introduce democracy. But that sudden change was so startling and so unbelievable that he found it difficult to convince people, especially the Americans and Mr. Reagan, of the sincerity of his purpose. However, he embarked upon that course so as to release the native talents of the Soviet peoples. Unfortunately, democracy is not something that you can ordain. Free men are bred: they are not appointed. It takes generations, if not centuries, to be able to handle freedom. That political maturity did not exist in the Soviet Union. In circumstances where democracy is introduced too soon, it does not necessarily lead to freedom but to anarchy. That is what happened in the Soviet Union.
Possibly in a way we share responsibility for the chaos and anarchy so dangerously created in eastern Europe because Gorbachev was pushed and pushed to keep proving that he meant democracy. Although he was warned by his own people that the capacity to absorb this change did not exist and that he was going too fast, he felt that in order to keep his credibility he had to continue along that road.
The Soviet people have a simplistic attitude: in shorthand, dictatorship means oppression to them and oppression means poverty. Democracy means freedom to them and freedom means prosperity. It is as simple as that. When people discovered that it was not as simple as that, they went to the ruler, Gorbachev, and said, "Well, we voted for you, we have democracy. Where are the goodies? Where is the standard of living?"
I was recently in Moscow and in Lithuania. It is difficult for anyone from the West to understand the 115 economy of the Soviet Union. The wage for a factory employee working normal hours is £1 per week or £4 per month. The manager of a factory employing 5,000 people receives the princely wage of £5 a week. Of course he has perks and opportunities to steal from the factory, but that is the situation. There is no miracle. If one wishes to understand the Soviet economy one must look at the economy of a prison or the army. People there do not pay rent, nor do the Soviets or hardly any. People in prison or in the army do not pay for basic food or uniform or clothing nor are they paid for working. However, over the years people in the Soviet Union have settled to that and it was ultimately a "nanny" state. In other words, the government decided what were the practical essentials which were given to people at a highly subsidised price or virtually free.
If democracy does not lead to freedom but to anarchy, anarchy in turn leads to instability. Internal instability could lead to external adventurism and great danger. When the coup of the eight men took place, Gorbachev was temporarily isolated. It is said that they cut off his red telephone and took away the suitcase which held the codes for the atomic arsenal. That was a dangerous moment, near doom, and it could happen again. The world is too small now for anarchy in one place not to endanger its neighbours.
Stalin was evil but predictable. He was a chess player, as the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, pointed out. He was not an English sportsman. He tended to put a bet on a horse after it had passed the post. However, he was predictable whereas anarchy is not. It is accident prone.
Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, there are supposed to be 2,000 atomic weapons of one kind or another in the Ukraine which wants to be independent and create its own army. It not only possesses the 2,000 weapons; it has the personnel who are fully trained in how to handle, service and look after them. Kazakhstan and Tadjikistan are in much the sari e position. The population of Kazakhstan includes a strong Moslem fundamentalist element.
While in Russia recently I was informed that 12 tanks were sold on the black market to Iran. Some noble Lords in this House know more about atomic weapons than I do. I am nevertheless aware of the inherent danger of some half a dozen little states having the awesome power that atomic weapons would enable them to have. That power would at least give those states blackmail possibilities.
Would Saddam Hussein have used an atomic bomb in the Gulf War if he had had one? Hitler stated during his final days in the bunker that he thought the German people deserved to go down with him. Such dictators become suicidal if they cannot get their own way. We have to ask ourselves whether Yeltsin can keep all the existing weapons in the Soviet Union under his control.
The noble Lord, Lord Cheshire, said on 16th October in this House in a remarkable speech that our army should have an international role. He added that the army should be the police force of the international scene. It should be the keeper of international law and order. The United Nations has 116 respect for the sovereignty of states, but human individuals also have sovereignty that should be respected. He also said that if that were grossly violated, the United Nations should have the authority and the teeth to do something about it. Those remarks illustrate the core of the problem. The principles mentioned should be pursued in defence matters.
As regards civil matters, Yeltsin is now the only man on the horizon who has a chance—although not a certainty—of bringing some kind of order to Russian affairs. When the history of this era is written, it may be recorded that the western powers were not wise to raise the despair threshold in Russia because although the Russian people are long-suffering they are now reaching the point where they are disillusioned with everything. Such a situation is an ideal breeding ground in which a ruthless dictator may emerge. Such a person may not come from Moscow. If he inherits control over some of the Russian arsenal, he will command awesome powers of blackmail. There is perhaps still time to ensure that Yeltsin is given his chance. Unfortunately he has a weak heart. However, if the situation is allowed to deteriorate much further I shudder to think what may happen.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Lord Auckland
My Lords, I must apologise in his absence to my noble friend Lord Caithness and to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, for the fact that, due to a long-standing engagement at a charitable function which was attended by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, I was not in my place for their speeches.
Inevitably a foreign affairs debate on the gracious Speech covers a wide territorial spread. It is not surprising that the European Community has taken up much of the debate concerning foreign affairs. There can be no quarrel with that. However, it is a little depressing that very little mention has been made of the Commonwealth. I should like to say a few words about the Commonwealth. Your Lordships will not be surprised that New Zealand comes to my mind.
Although today the Commonwealth is a dirty word to some in the media, it still plays an important part in our proceedings. Last year the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, initiated a debate on the Commonwealth for which only two and a half hours was allowed. I hope that in the present Parliament there will be a further opportunity to debate the Commonwealth, particularly following the recent conference at Harare.
Of course all is not necessarily well with the Commonwealth any more than all is well with Europe. We all make mistakes and the Commonwealth is no exception. However, we must all hope that after 1992, especially in view of the very important impending conference at Maastricht, the Commonwealth will not lose out, particularly in terms of trade and our defence relations with the Commonwealth under the Anzus pact. Our own defence forces have the closest links with Australia and New Zealand and with the other Commonwealth countries.
The statement in the gracious Speech that: 117My Government will Continue to support the Commonwealth",is good news. I do not expect that this evening my noble friend the Minister will tell your Lordships how the Government intend to support the Commonwealth, because he will have a gargantuan task to reply to the points that have been raised. The wording of the gracious Speech always conjures up good intentions. The question is whether any government can put those intentions into practice. It is to be hoped that in the foreseeable future some time will be devoted to the Commonwealth, both the old Commonwealth and the new members.
Yesterday my wife and I attended a large function in the City organised by New Zealand News. It was interesting how many young New Zealanders attended that function. It was not a political function. It was very good to see so many New Zealanders and Britons getting together. It was also encouraging to discover how many young people visit Australia and New Zealand (my son worked in Australia for two years) and the number of exchange visits that take place. I am all in favour of exchange visits within Europe since it is very important that we should have a stake in Europe. It is also vitally important that we have a stake in the Commonwealth.
I now turn briefly to another part of the world in which I have an interest, namely Scandinavia and the Nordic countries, particularly Finland. I have made three visits to Finland. We have far more links with that country than many people think. As has been said, we hope that the European Community will embrace Finland, Sweden, Iceland and possibly other Nordic countries and in the future—who knows?—possibly the Baltic states. It is ironic that the new developments in Russia have hit Finland hard as much of its trade, particularly in energy, was done with the Soviet Union. That has hit extremely hard a country which had a fine gross national product. When people ask what or where Helsinki is, it is worth mentioning that the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty discussions took place in that city.
A month ago my wife and I were in Denmark. I was speaking at a conference organised by the Registered Nursing Home Association—not a subject germane to today's debate. We were impressed, as I was when I first visited Denmark in 1968, by the important links between Denmark and Norway and this country. Those of us here this evening who are old enough to remember the days of the last war will know how much we owe to the armies, navies, air forces and civilians of the Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway and Denmark. We should bear that point in mind when we consider Europe.
I hope that I am not a Little Englander. I do not in any way deprecate the European Community. It is obvious that we have to become part of Europe, but I look forward to the day when we have an association with the countries which care about us. In Europe, those are the Scandinavian and Nordic countries which have done so much for us.
I conclude by making a plea to the Government with regard to the Commonwealth. We must all 118 welcome the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Australia next year—a well-timed visit as there is a great deal of irresponsible comment at present about Australia going republican and not liking royalty. When I was there four years ago on a Commonwealth parliamentary delegation, that was certainly not the case. We all wish Her Majesty well in her visit to Australia.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ Lord Cheshire
My Lords, before I embark on what I have in mind, I feel constrained to make one response to a comment made by the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, because it is something that I have heard said by a number of people. She said that Britain stood alone in 1940. With all respect, I have to say that we never stood alone. From the outset the entire Commonwealth and all the dominions were behind us.. Literally from the first day, Australians packed their bags and began to make their way towards us to fight our war. They came from New Zealand and the entire sub-continent of India, from East Africa, Southern and South Africa, West Africa, the West Indies, in tens of thousands from Canada and from the United States. By June 1940 every occupied European country had already organised its resistance. If I labour that point it is because I feel privileged to be able to acknowledge the debt that we in Britain owe to all those people in the dominions, in the Commonwealth and in occupied Europe.
I want to confine myself to defence and make two fairly simple points, both interrelated and both going to the very heart of the issue. With your Lordships' indulgence, I shall start by making a personal statement, because the timing of this debate —the moment of time in which we stand—makes such an inescapable impact on me.
The day before yesterday was All Souls Day, the day when the Church directs our thoughts and prayers to those who have died. The coming Sunday is Remembrance Sunday. We have entered remem-brance week: the week in which in the inner silence of our hearts we should confront the nightmare of world war with the dream of world peace. The dream should give us hope, strength and resolve to work together as one world. The nightmare should, among other things, make us humble, because the nightmare consists not only of tens of millions of lives lost in war and devastation on an almost unbelievable scale, but of devastating miscalculations, political and also, I fear, military.
Listening to this debate has impressed upon me that everybody is genuinely, from the bottom of his heart, seeking the right solution and it is clear that an immense amount of thought has gone into what is required by way of a defence capability. But I venture to say that, no matter how able we are, no matter what experts we have consulted nor how hard we have tried, in the tremendous, bewildering changes that we are facing we cannnot be certain that we have got it right. Those who went before us in public office were good men. Look at the mistakes they made. Can we say that 119 we are better? We need to be very cautious before we can truly say, "We think we have not made the mistakes they made".
There were just two points that worried me a little in the two speeches that the noble Earl, Lord Arran, made on the 16th of last month. He talked about unexpected crises and said that they were unexpected as regards location and timing and that the initiative lay with the aggressor. That may have been true, but if so we need to take steps to wrest away the initiative in future; in other words, we must take the necessary steps to foresee what will happen. I do not believe that it would have been too difficult to foresee the Argentinian attack on the Falklands, but I suspect that the reason we did not do so was that our entire intelligence effort was directed towards the Soviet Union.
Yes, the unexpected will happen. The noble Earl said that the Government were fairly confident that they could cope with another Gulf war—another unexpected development. However, that relates to unexpectedness in timing and location. What about unexpectedness in the nature of the attack? I do not wish to be alarmist, but I believe that one of the problems we face is that of a future aggressor who, as the noble Lord, Lord Kagan, said, realises that he has come to the end of his time. Hitler said as he died, "The German people were not worthy of me". He would willingly have brought the world down with him if he, had had the means. We cannot say that such a thing will not happen again. We have heard from many noble Lords that nuclear weapons are fairly easily available. The armed forces know how to deal with a military attack. We can even hope that a missile attack can be thwarted.
But there are other delivery systems. The world's skies are criss-crossed by domestic airlines flying scheduled flights. What if one of them, doing everything outwardly as it should do, contained a lethal cargo? As it came into a westerly wind over the Thames it issued a May Day call, saying, "I've lost control of my aircraft," and went into a spiralling dive aimed at Westminster. How could the armed forces deal with that? They could not. They could take reprisals, yes, but they could not stop it.
The only way that such an event could be stopped is by building up our intelligence. We could not do it alone, but only in conjunction with all our allies. That is another argument in favour of working to the utmost of our ability and strength towards a strong United Nations and a strong global peacekeeping force with highly developed intelligence services that can isolate the potential aggressor and foresee what he will do.
§ 9.42 p.m.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, speaking in your Lordships' House is always a very alarming experience. Speaking after the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cheshire, is a particularly humbling one. I shall therefore try to emulate in my speech what my noble friend the Leader of the House said about the coming Session: it will he shorter than usual.
120 However, there are two points that I wish to raise. The first is about defence. I congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, on his splendid, informed and downright maiden speech, in which, as one would expect, he flew straight to the heart of the problem, as did the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. Our forces, like elastic, can stretch only a certain extent. If cut down too far they will not be able to meet their commitments.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and, not surprisingly, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, also made the point about overstocking with nuclear weapons. If as a housewife I have to feed a large family, rather than keep two tins of caviar in my store cupboard for special guests, for the same price I shall stock one tin of caviar and 50 tins of baked beans. I may never use the caviar but the baked beans will come in very handy. As did the noble Lords, Lord Fanshawe and Lord Callaghan, I reiterate: please, please think again about cutting the Army, in particular the Household Brigade and the Scottish regiments.
My second point is about Czechoslovakia, which I, together with other noble Lords, our spouses and Members of another place had the good fortune to visit last month. We were in Bohemia, which was friendly, smiling and coming well out of its communist past. Everyone we met in office was new to the job. The mayor of Prague had been mayor only for three months, although he had been a councillor for a year. The head of the Foreign Office had, as a non-communist, been kept demoted until two years ago. Many of the nice and enthusiastic Members of Parliament had been there for only a year. They were young, keen and seeking a democratic future in which they hoped to achieve qualification to join the European Community.
We did not visit Slovakia, although we heard much of Slovakian independence. There is to be a referendum in December. Slovakia, formerly part of Hungary and predominantly agricultural, was only incorporated as a federal state with Bohemia in 1918 when Tomas Masaryk was looking for non-German allies to make a big enough state to be a viable entity after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire. With 4 million Slovaks and 6 million Czechs, the country was big enough (with Moravia and Silesia) to stand on its own, so Czechoslovakia was created. But there were massive differences not only of nationality but of religion. The Czechs were largely Hussite Protestants; the Slovaks Catholics. The Czechs had, as Bohemia, had a long history of separate nationhood. The Slovaks have never been a separate nation.
Under the communist regime, much heavy industry, including arms factories, has been built in rural Slovakia. Many of these are 40 years old and environmentally very unfriendly indeed. Most of the power stations and all the oil refineries are situated in Slovakia as well as the arms factories, which employ 200,000 people. There are also well founded suspicions that many of the public service employees and some of the politicians in the Slovakian Parliament are still hard-line communists. These, combined with the 121 Slovak nationalists, make a powerful and sinister alliance. We can only hope for the future of the Slovak people that the December referendum will not take them along the path of isolation and communism.
Eighty-five per cent. of the investment in Czechoslovakia comes from Germany and very little from Britain. After the Czech nation of Bohemia was totally crushed by the Austrians in 1620 at the Battle of the White Mountain, it had little real independence until 1918, and that lasted only for 20 years. Now it is once more an independent nation. It can surely not be coincidence that the Christian name of President Havel is the same of that of the patron saint of Bohemia; our own Good King Wenceslas.
At the Battle of the White Mountain the Czechs looked in vain for help from our King James VI, father of their Winter Queen. Now, 370 years later, let us give every help we can to the nation of Czechoslovakia. As their patron saint's carol says:Wherefore Christian men be sure, Health and wealth possessing, Ye who now do bless the poor Shall yourselves find blessing".
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, I wish to add a few words to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord MacLehose, on the importance of Britain's role in looking after the implementation of the Sino-British agreement for the future of Hong Kong. Last week I returned from a short visit to Hong Kong where I found a great improvement in both commerce and spirit from the situation that I observed in November 1990. During a difficult two years Hong Kong has benefited from steady government. I believe that we owe a particular tribute for this to the governor of Hong Kong, Sir David Wilson, and his deputy, Sir David Ford.
The direct negotiations with China through the joint liaison group, which more or less came to a halt after Tiananmen Square are now, at last, under way again. The year of the snail has ended. We have not yet reached the year of the hare. Perhaps we should be content to move at the steady and purposeful rate of the tortoise.
One major development has been the success of the first democratic elections to Hong Kong's legislative council—18 out of 60 seats. I should like to congratulate Mr. Martin Lee on winning 16 of those seats. I am sure that we all wish to salute his courage and integrity in standing up for the rights of the people of Hong Kong against threats from China.
Recently there was some local criticism that Mr. Lee has not been appointed to the governor's executive council. That criticism is ill-founded. Mr. Lee made it clear that he would not wish to be bound by the collective responsibility of that body and would wish to be free publicly to pursue his dissent from its decisions. If that were to be allowed, it would turn the executive council into a mere advisory body to the governor and thus remove an important component from participatory—one cannot yet say democratic —government in Hong Kong.
122 I urge also the democrats in the legislative council to consider carefully before exercising their indisputable right of free speech to campaign for political reform inside China. I understand that seven of the 16 are members of the Hong Kong alliance in support of the patriotic and democratic movement in China. That alliance was founded in the aftermath of Tiananmen—and understandably so.
The bedrock of the 1984 agreement upon which Hong Kong's future depends is the concept of "one country, two systems". That means that China must not interfere with the internal politics of Hong Kong. I hope that we here will be vigilant in discouraging China from doing so.
However, it does not seem to me to be sensible for the democrats to use their cherished right to free speech to advocate political change inside China. I would remind those who are tempted to do so that in the four decades which followed 1949 it proved necessary to ensure that the political activities of the Kuomintang inside Hong Kong were discouraged from provoking China. Indeed there may have been occasions when such restraint—it was mainly voluntary restraint—was crucial in ensuring the survival of Hong Kong.
I fear that I do not agree with those who claim that democracy in Hong Kong is not possible without democracy in China. Indeed, the difference between reform in China and the Soviet Union is that in Russia there has been much glasnost but not much perestroika. In China, perestroika has come first. Although we are right to remind China of the importance we attach to human rights, we should not seek to demand that they embrace glasnost at a rate faster than they think fit.
There is, however, a crucial and positive role for the new democratic component of LEGCO: that it should put an independent view on economic policy in Hong Kong. The most serious economic problem facing Hong Kong at present is inflation. The economy is clearly overheated, and with full employment and, once again, a booming property market, inflation is currently at 11.5 per cent. It has been damagingly high for the past four years. If that continues, the link between the Hong Kong dollar and the American dollar could come under pressure. As your Lordships will remember, that link was established at 7.80 Hong Kong dollars to 1 US dollar in September 1983 and successfully underpinned the Hong Kong dollar at a moment of great political uncertainty. Since September 1983 consumer prices in Hong Kong have risen by 75 per cent. while those in the United States by only 36 per cent. over the same period. Purchasing power parity arithmetic would suggest that an exchange rate of about 10 Hong Kong dollars to 1 US dollar would now be appropriate.
However, the September 1983 fixing link greatly undervalued the Hong Kong dollar's real economic strength. And the effect on Hong Kong's commercial industrial costs of rising domestic wages has been diluted by the low Chinese labour costs from which much of Hong Kong's mainland production now 123 comes. The extent of this production inside south China was spelt out by the noble Lord, Lord MacLehose.
The Hong Kong Government are shortly to unveil their anti-inflation package. It is expected to include measures for the importation of contract labour from China. Frankly, I view that prospect with apprehension and unease. I fear social disruption could follow on both sides of the border. The importation of contract labour has too strong a 19th Century flavour for my taste. It is said that the use of monetary policy is limited by the perceived wisdom that Hong Kong interest rates must stick closely to American interest rates to avoid exchange rate pressures. I should like to see that assumption tested in the markets. Noble Lords will at once recognise in this a parallel with the problems of the European monetary system.
Perhaps I may end on an optimistic note. I believe that China is as increasingly dependent on Hong Kong, as Hong Kong is on China. I see signs that this is recognised at the highest levels of the Chinese leadership. There is much goodwill towards Hong Kong inside China in the places where it matters most. I was greatly encouraged to read the words of the director of the Hong Kong and Macao office of the State Council of China, Mr. Lu Ping, the top official responsible for Chinese policy on Hong Kong, when he said at a seminar in London on 16th September this year:I would like to give you my personal pledge that I will spare no efforts and will do everything possible within my power to see that in Hong Kong the policy of 'one country and two systems', as well as all the policies enshrined first in the Sino-British declaration and later in the Basic Law, will be fully observed and properly carried out".That, my Lords, for a Chinese mandarin is indeed a positive statement.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, it would be churlish not to acknowledge that the Government are making serious efforts to adjust their defence policy to the new world situation. But in some respects it seems to us on these Benches to be unduly hesitant and indeed misguided. We had one example in the speech of the noble a ad gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, who stated that he had at last found an important aspect of defence policy on which he agreed with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. The whole House waited breathlessly to hear what that aspect was. He said that in the new situation this country is over-insured in its nuclear capability. That is profoundly true and important.
In our last debate I asked why the British are now building two devastating new nuclear weapons systems, not only Trident but also a new sub-strategic tactical air-to-surface missile (TASM). The noble Earl did me the courtesy of sending me a reasoned reply by letter. He justified the sub-strategic weapons system by saying:The knowledge on the part of a potential aggressor that NATO has this link between its conventional and strategic forces is an essential part of deterrence".That is a strange throwback to the military thinking of the 1970s and 1980s and to the doctrine of flexible 124 response which the Government defended with enormous zeal and which has now been abandoned by NATO.
I have never questioned Britain's need to possess nuclear weapons. I confess that I have two neckties bearing Polaris insignia. One of them was presented to me about 25 years ago by the Polaris executive for defending Polaris against unilateralists in the Labour Party. The other necktie was presented to me about 15 years ago for defending Polaris against unilateralists in the Liberal Party. Therefore, I claim the right to speak critically not of Britain's possession of nuclear weapons, but of this Government's extraordinary decision to build up not one but two nuclear weapons systems. The Government say that NATO needs as a deterrent Britain's sub-strategic weapons as well as Trident, and as well as the United States' strategic weapons and sub-strategic weapons. In other words, according to the Government, NATO might be confronted by an aggressor who would not be deterred by its conventional forces or by strategic nuclear weapons; neither would the aggressor be deterred by the Americans' nuclear strategic weapons nor by their sub-strategic weapons. However, it may be deterred if, in addition, Britain had sub-strategic nuclear weapons.
That scenario is not credible; it is preposterous. The Government might do better if they put their case for TASM on the basis of the needs of Britain or Europe. They might argue that Europe or Britain alone might be faced with nuclear blackmail without the support of the United States. For example, Libya or Iraq possessing nuclear weapons might not be deterred by Britain's ability to deliver a warhead with pinpoint accuracy by submarine, but they might be deterred by Britain's ability to deliver a warhead by aircraft. The Government might argue that. They do not argue that because it is not credible. I say to the noble Earl that we on these Benches will need much greater justification for spending billions of pounds on this new nuclear weapons system than we have had so far.
In this debate we have had new warnings from noble Lords opposite about the inadequacy of our resources. However, there is a different reasoning behind their arguments this time. When the noble Lord, Lord Colnbrook, moved the Motion on defence in June, we had chilling speeches from the Benches opposite about the size of the Soviet defence budget and its remaining submarine and tank capability. At that time I said that it was not enough to count the Soviet forces; one also has to ask which side they are on. That was true then and it is even truer now.
The ethnic divisions which are disintegrating the Soviet forces are so fierce, deep and old-established that it is hard to believe that powerful Soviet forces can be re-established for several decades, if they are ever re-established. That produces problems. How can we get the CFE and START treaties implemented on the Russian side? To whom do the weapons belong? With whom do we negotiate? We would urge the Government now to make the closest contacts with the republics in order to insist on the fulfilment of the disarmament and arms controls obligations entered into by the former Soviet Government. That produces 125 problems, but it also produces a vast relief and a chance to have major reductions in defence expenditure and reductions in forces manpower.
Judging from this debate noble Lords opposite—those who criticise the Government—now accept that Soviet military power has disintegrated. However, they continue to demand more army manpower in the new situation. Of course, we still have commitments and we must fulfil them and have the resources to fulfil them. But singly or together they are not on the same scale as the old departed commitment to deter and, if necessary, to defeat an all out Soviet conventional attack on the West. Moreover, with the end of the Soviet threat—which is now universally accepted in this House—the remaining commitments can, with far less difficulty, be reinforced if necessary from British troops in Germany and the United Kingdom.
I see the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, is in his place. He will forgive me, I hope, if I say that when he attacked Options for Change as being Treasury led, I could not help recalling the decisions on defence taken in 1966 when he was a strong and able Chancellor of the Exchequer. He laid down an absolutely tight ceiling of £2,000 million for the defence budget, as a result of which the Government decided, whilst staying east of Suez, keeping all our defence commitments east of Suez, to scrap the aircraft carriers. That was an outrageous decision which led inevitably to the resignation of the First Sea Lord and of myself as Navy Minister. The noble Lord will forgive me, but that was a Treasury led defence policy.
It is a very strange Chancellor of the Exchequer who does not demand cuts in defence expenditure. It is a very strange Cabinet in which all the other spending Ministers do not gang up against the Defence Minister on the side of the Treasury, hoping to get bigger budgets for themselves.
Nothing has been produced in this House to suggest that the Cabinet that decided on Options for Change went through anything out of the ordinary or anything different from the usual bun fight.
A number of noble Lords have referred to NATO. We on these Benches entirely agree that the fact that NATO has triumphantly fulfilled the purpose for which it was formed certainly does not mean that it can now be wound up. The obligation for mutual defence must remain; so must the habit of constant 126 consultation; so also, for a period, must the United States forces. We need their surveillance and their intelligence capability which is unparalleled in the world. Surely that need should not prevent the need for maintaining NATO. I am very glad to see that the Government are encouraging consultations with east European countries. We on these Benches do not agree with not allowing those countries to join NATO. There should be consultation and mutual support and mutual exchange of information. All these things need not and should not prevent the emergence of a specifically European defence structure. Surely in time it will become unacceptably anomalous that the European Community should have the same trade and aid policy, increasingly the same foreign policy and yet have nothing whatever to do with defence. That is not a viable situation.
We on these Benches welcome the Government's decision to develop the WEU. If we were told more about it, we might welcome the Anglo-Italian agreement about which the Government are strangely silent. When the Minister winds up, perhaps he will tell us more about the state of play between the different concepts of the Anglo-Italian agreement and the Franco-German proposed European army. Why should not the development of the WEU lead in due course to a European defence community; with a Council of European Defence Ministers meeting regularly; and with a Community directorate-general for defence?
At one time there were 250,000 American soldiers in Europe. Soon there will be 50,000 only, and yet the command structure for European defence is wholly United States dominated. Surely that must now be changed. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what line the British Government will take on Wednesday and Thursday of this week at the NATO summit which will be discussing that issue. On these Benches we feel that the time has now come for a primarily European command structure for the defence of Europe. We trust that the Government will take a positive line in that direction.
On the level of defence forces and the future structure of European defence, the Government's approach seems unduly hesitant and slow. The most charitable explanation is that Ministers are scared of their Back-Benchers. If that is so, they are timid souls indeed!
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Baroness Ewart-Biggs
My Lords, the speeches that we have heard leave little doubt as to the testing and dramatic phase through which international affairs have moved in the past year. The debate has been characterised, as it so often is, by the experience and knowledge of many of the speakers. I should like from these Benches to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, on his impressive maiden speech. I must admit that I found myself wondering which caused him more fear—facing the enemy on the battlefield or their Lordships on the occasion of his maiden speech. I came to the conclusion that he was probably fearless in both situations. We congratulate him on his authoritative and informative speech.
Many speakers pointed to the good news: during the year peace has won victories on several fronts; notably in Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique. Now there is even a glimmer of hope coming from the peace negotiations between the north and the south in Sudan. We have also seen South Africa enter a new phase, with a fairer and more equitable future facing its people. We applauded the signing in Paris, about a week ago only, of the Cambodia agreement to end the tragic conflict in that country.
We hope also, as has been said many times during the debate, that good will flow from the Middle East Madrid conference. As my noble friend Lord Cledwyn said, we are happy that the representatives of those countries have agreed to meet and talk to one another.
More sombrely, we recognise that conflict continues in Afghanistan; that the Yugoslav people are suffering the most brutal of civil wars; and that 29 million Africans south of the Sahara face starvation as a result of drought, exacerbated by civil war, internal debt and overpopulation. We also recognise that there are still many governments with appalling human rights records.
The majority of speakers have concentrated upon events in Eastern Europe and the Middle East and Britain's position within the European Community. My noble friend Lord Cledwyn asked some important questions about the Government's intentions at Maastricht. I hope that the Minister will give us some more precise information about how the Government intend to speak at that all-important meeting. I also hope that he will take note of the encouragement given to him by his noble friend Lord Cockfield that the Government should follow the spirit as well as the letter of the obligations which we undertook in 1973. However, there was a great deal of dissent in the speeches which came from the Benches opposite. He may perhaps find it rather difficult to know how to answer, therefore.
My noble friend also put some questions to the Minister regarding Options for Change. Many speeches have been most critical of the Government's defence policy. I hope that we shall be hearing more about that from the Minister. I should like to ask him one question on the defence side of the debate. Can he say, in the light of the recent nuclear disarmament initiatives made by Presidents Bush and Gorbachev, when Her Majesty's Government will enter the disarmament process? Can he also outline the 128 direction which the development of Britain's nuclear forces will take, in particular as regards the size and composition of the arsenal required?
I shall now leave those parts of the debate which have received so much attention and address my few and brief remarks first to our policies on overseas development, secondly to Britain's response to human rights abuse and thirdly to the need for support for the UN in the very challenging role it is facing in various parts of the world.
My noble friend Lord Judd gave a very good background to the state of countries in the third world. We must ask ourselves: what are the Government's overseas development policies and what do we, as one of the world's richest countries, do to redress the balance between North and South? The answer must be that we do not do nearly enough. Over the past decade the Government have in no way made sustainable development and the alleviation of poverty in third world countries a priority. Their overseas aid budget has fallen to an all-time low since the OECD first started recording such figures. I know that those figures are often addressed to the Government, but I believe that one cannot say often enough that a mere 0.2 per cent. of GNP is really a miserable amount for a country of our wealth to offer towards overseas development.
The Minister for Overseas Development, who has many fans in this House, among whom I certainly count myself, would obviously like a larger budget and has often said so. But because of the very low priority given by the Government to her department she is in a very weak position to fight the Treasury in order to obtain more money. I believe that that stresses the necessity to underline the importance attached to aid and development policy which we on these Benches support. The Labour Party plans to establish a separate department of state for development and co-operation which would be headed by a Cabinet Minister. I believe that that is the only way to ensure that the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP would be met. That is the intention of the Labour Party.
Her Majesty's Government attach importance to aid conditionality. They believe that good government should be rewarded, and indeed the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to that in his opening speech. Here I can but agree that there should be some way for democratic countries to register disapproval of tyrannical governments who have no respect for human rights and who make their own people suffer. However, I believe, first, that such a policy must be applied consistently. That is not the case with the British Government, who, for example, do not have a bilateral aid programme with Vietnam—despite the poverty of that country—because its regime falls short on democratic practice but who have maintained one of the highest levels of assistance going to Kenya, despite President Moi's record on human rights at the moment, which leaves a great deal to be desired. I feel there must be some consistency in the policy, but also that, to compensate those people suffering the double disadvantage of bad government plus a lack of foreign aid, increased funding should be given to those 129 humanitarian agencies and NGOs which work to relieve poverty and disease in all countries irrespective of their politics.
Here I must give the example of UNICEF, which has an unprecedented record of working with all shades of government throughout the world. The Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, told me a few weeks ago that government funding of the UK committee of UNICEF in 1989–90 of £9 million had never been higher. That sounds good, but he omitted to say that, despite that, Britain has slipped in the table of contributors from sixth place in 1988 to 12th place in 1990. In view of the enormous, immeasurable help that UNICEF gives to the poorest people in third world countries, and to keep up with the generosity of other countries, surely we should do better.
While on the subject of aid conditionality, we believe there should be a stick and carrot element in our aid policies. For example, when British Ministers speak of the operation of good government, they do not include anti-poverty strategies. Yet we believe that the socially progressive governments of developing countries who emphasise jobs, land reforms and policies to reduce poverty should be encouraged with increased aid. The prime objective of all aid programmes must be to reduce the number of people living in poverty. This should be brought about by every means.
Moving to the subject of the welfare of children worldwide —they always suffer most from the effects of poverty—I wish to ask the Minister, when he replies, to say when the Government will ratify the convention on the rights of the child. We know that there are various problems for the Government but nevertheless the time has come to anticipate a date, since nine countries have ratified the convention and it would be good to have a date when Britain will do the same.
I also wish to know whether, in accordance with the plan of action and declaration made at the world summit for children, Britain has adjusted its aid programmes to focus more on the needs of women and children. I wish to ask the Minister whether he has taken note of the disquieting report published last week by the international study team on the Gulf crisis which describes the plight of Iraq's children following the war. The 87 researchers from different countries concluded that the only way to prevent a tragically high child mortality rate this winter was to lift sanctions on Iraq's non-military exports to enable the Iraqis to buy food, medicines and spare parts to rebuild their infrastructure. I noted what the noble Earl said about the political position regarding Iraq, but the humanitarian position is becoming a matter of great concern.
As I said at the start of my speech, human rights abuse is still evident among governments in many parts of the world. Indonesia's illegal occupation of East Timor and the cruel oppression of its people is one example. Yet, despite the Foreign Secretary's statement on human rights and the recent Commonwealth initiative, the UK Government are still selling arms to Indonesia. I believe that, as my 130 noble friend Lord Judd said, the whole policy on arms sales should be reviewed. To sell arms to a country which has annexed its neighbour and treated it so cruelly is unbelievable.
I am happy that my noble friend and several speakers today mentioned the leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma and expressed their admiration not only for her Nobel Peace Prize award but also for her courageous commitment to non-violence and democracy. I hope the Minister will say whether Her Majesty's Government are willing to assist that country in a practical way. Although we are agreed it is quite right to withhold aid from such a regime, would it not be useful to help those who have suffered from the system such as the thousands of student refugees on the Thai and Bangladeshi borders for whom an education programme has been set up by the voluntary agency, Prospect Burma, but which badly needs funds?
Several speakers have referred to South-East Asia and have remarked how the situation there is changing rapidly. We certainly welcome the agreement with Vietnam concerning the repatriation of the boat people. However, we stress that the successful rehabilitation of those unfortunate people in their own country depends enormously on the improvement of the Vietnamese economy which in turn depends on the normalisation of the USA's relations with Vietnam and the consequent unblocking of World Bank and IMF restrictions. We urge the Government to do what they can to hasten the process of the normalisation of relations.
We also welcome the first elections to take place in Hong Kong. The noble Lord, Lord MacLehose, spoke of that matter. We offer Mr. Martin Lee our congratulations on his success in those elections. We on these Benches feel that the election process should be accelerated. We hope that in the 1995 elections a larger number of elected representatives will be voted into office. I understand that LEGCO shares that desire.
We also welcome the signing of the Cambodia peace treaty but stress that the UN will need support from all its members in its role of overseeing the ceasefire, carrying out the repatriation scheme and maintaining the peace until the elections take place. That will be the biggest and the most complex operation ever to take place in the history of the UN.
In his opening speech the noble Earl spoke of the vital role of the United Nations today. The world expects a great deal from the United Nations. The noble Lord, Lord Cheshire, attributed a peacekeeping role to the UN. However, at present the UN is in a sad financial state. It is owed 1.3 billion dollars. That presents a sombre picture when one considers that so much is expected of the organisation at the present time.
It is evident from the debate that we look forward to the coming year with some apprehension. We foresee that many momentous international decisions will have to be taken regarding eastern Europe, the Community, the United Nations, the Middle East and the developing world. We very much hope that the British Government will play an effective role in that 131 decision-making within the framework that my noble friend Lord Cledwyn mentioned of the EC, NATO, the UN and the Commonwealth.
§ 10.28 p m.
§ The Earl of Arran
My Lords, the extraordinary events of the past three years and those which continue to unfold so rapidly before us are the clearest example possible of the interaction, interdependence and indeed the partnership between foreign and defence policy. That partnership is the theme of our debate today. It resides in the recognition that Britain's security is founded not only on the bedrock of defence provided by our armed forces, but also in the robust good health of its political, economic and cultural life. Our security will be maintained by our policy of defence and deterrence and through the links of common interest we can forge with our allies and former adversaries.
In mentioning defence and security I join other noble Lords in warmly congratulating the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, on his fine maiden speech. I do not need to remind your Lordships of the immense contribution he made as chief of the defence staff during that most difficult but nevertheless highly successful conflict in the Gulf. His generous words on those who fought and those who fell in that conflict were most moving.
For much of the past 40 years our relationship with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies was based on mutual antagonism and was symbolised by that stark phrase, the Iron Curtain. Indeed, very often there was little interaction and no empathy, the core of any relationship. Thankfully, that has evaporated and with it the ideological hostility which characterised the era. Despite all the current uncertainties and the multiplicity of issues which face us we are able to discuss them with an increasing degree of mutual understanding and indeed perception of shared interest.
In its most positive dimension we see this expressed in the quickening pace of arms control agreements undreamed of in the obscurantism and rigidity of the past. The INF agreement was signed in 1987, CFE in November 1990 and START earlier this year. Those bilateral and multilateral agreements were followed in late September by President Bush's historic announcement of unilateral cuts in the American nuclear capability, followed a week later by President Gorbachev's welcome response. Britain has reacted positively to these events and is playing a leading role in the development of alliance strategy.
In the past our links with the Soviet Union were at best rudimentary; today we meet at ever more regular intervals, not only at ministerial level but also at official and service level covering an increasing variety of issues. We are looking forward to establishing regular meetings between the defence staff and their Soviet counterparts.
Our commitment to dialogue and understanding through increased contact and friendship found further expression during Operation Dervish 91, the visit of HMS "London" to Murmansk and Archangel. The voyage of HMS "London" commemorated the 132 50th anniversary of the first arctic convoy to reach Archangel and the celebrations included over 100 veterans from the Second World War. I gather they had a good run ashore.
In his opening speech my noble friend Lord Caithness spoke with optimism of the new climate of international relations, full of opportunities and challenges. The last year has been something of a roller coaster. There are enhanced prospects for peace and progress in areas where conflict seemed both unending and intractable. We are in an era of profound and rapid change. Many of the underlying assumptions of international relations for the last 45 years have been swept aside.
The inventory of change in the past few years has been extensively catalogued before and I shall not dwell on it at length tonight. Your Lordships have referred to many of its dimensions. It is still less than two years since the Berlin Wall came down. It is less than three months since the failure of the coup against President Gorbachev—the final evidence of the bankruptcy of the communist system. It is only a month since President Gorbachev gave his response to the United States' initiative on reductions in force levels. Perhaps the most surprising feature of the revolution that has taken place in recent years, and it is most certainly that, has been the pace and the depth of change.
The picture I have painted reflects the roller coaster. But lest it be thought I see the world through rose-coloured spectacles, there are the downturns. Of course we welcome the reforms which have taken place in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, but our optimism must be qualified by a strong sense of realism. Risks remain although different in their form and for the most part much reduced in their immediacy. That being so we must continue to provide for our security through the principles of dialogue, defence and co-operation set out by NATO Ministers in their meetings this year.
It is accepted that the countries of western Europe should take on a greater responsibility for their security and that of their interests. That has been reflected in the ongoing debate on European security and defence. The UK has contributed positively to that debate throughout, and we welcome the concept of a European defence identity so long as that is compatible with the NATO alliance. I can say to both my noble friends Lady Elles and Lord Beloff that we shall not exclude the Americans. We see the continued need for defence because of continued uncertainty. We see that the safest and surest defence is through NATO. NATO could not exist without the Americans.
The United Kingdom is keen to reach agreement, but that cannot be at any price. There is still much to be done if we are to reach agreement on the issue, which has become increasingly central to the current political union negotiations for a common foreign and security policy as well as to the debate within NATO and the WEU.
There are a number of proposals on the table. However, I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that we believe the Anglo-Italian declaration on 133 European security and defence of 4th October represents a genuine move forward. It sets out a practical and balanced way of developing a European defence identity that is wholly compatible with a reformed North Atlantic alliance. In so doing, it demonstrates how a continued and reformed transatlantic alliance can and should accommodate the process of European union.
However, above all, and notwithstanding positive developments on the evolution of the European pillar, the principal focus for our security and defence needs remains NATO—a fact firmly acknowledged by the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan—not merely because it has served us so well in the past but because it contains the political and military structures which can be developed for our future needs. To put it baldly, NATO works. Politically, it reflects the interdependence of Europe and the United States and, militarily, it has provided a crisis management organisation for both deterrence and, if that fails, defence. Those requirements are no less important today than three years ago. Certainly, NATO will not remain static; its doctrines and its institutions are evolving to meet new circumstances.
The alliance's defence ministers discussed progress on NATO's new strategic concept at their meeting in Taormina on 17th-18th October. The concept will be submitted for approval to the meeting of NATO Heads of Government at the Rome summit on 7th-8th November. We anticipate that it will be published, although it is too soon to reveal details of its contents.
During today's debate a number of your Lordships returned to the theme of reductions in the Armed Forces and particularly the Army. We debated this matter at some length a little over two weeks ago. The international situation is now markedly different from what it was two or three years ago. As I said earlier, many of the underlying assumptions of international relations of the past 45 years have disappeared. Your Lordships would be rightly critical of the Government if they took no notice of such developments.
As a result of those developments, we have assessed what scope there is for changes in our future commitments. Although I shall return to this point in a moment, I must say again to the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, that Options for Change was strategically originated and not cash-driven. Further, when I visit units as I do most regularly, I do not find that scepticism exists as regards future resources for our Armed Forces. On the contrary, I find morale to be high and servicemen and women looking forward to being better equipped, trained and housed.
I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Fanshawe who said that I did not answer any of the questions in the defence debate a few weeks ago. I answered one of his questions and the questions of many other noble Lords. I have written to those I did not answer, and I am still in the process of writing. I take this opportunity to say that the same process will apply tonight as regards the questions that I cannot answer. Either I or my noble friend Lord Caithness will write to the noble Lords concerned.
134 However, I intend to answer two of the questions asked by my noble friend Lord Fanshawe. He asked about the Household Cavalry. The structure of the combined regiment will mean that the Household Cavalry mounted regiment will be made up, as it is now, of one Life Guards and one Blues and Royals squadron. As there has been no change to the Household Cavalry mounted regiment, there is no need for an increment to assist with public duties.
My noble friend also spoke of the problems of a territorial yeomanry unit in northern England and the simulation of gunfire at Sandhurst. Both those situations have been caused by a problem in the supply of some types of training ammunition. Supplies do not currently exist in the quantities required to meet the demands of all users. However, our aim is to rectify that as soon as possible.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lords, Lord Callaghan, Lord Chalfont and Lord Greenhill, all spoke of the need for more resources to meet our future commitments. They suggested that we would have insufficient resources to meet our future commitments once reductions under Options for Change had been implemented. The programme to restructure Britain's Armed Forces arose as a direct result of the wide-ranging political, strategic and military changes which have taken place in Europe over the past three years. Once again, I can assure your Lordships that it has not been driven by some financial, arbitrary target. We are planning for prudent and measured change.
The opportunity to realise savings on expenditure must be taken but not at the expense of our determination to maintain strong and flexible forces which will be able to meet fully all our operational commitments. We are fully satisfied that there will be sufficient capacity within infantry role units and other arms to meet the full range of peacetime operational commitments while permitting adequate training in wartime roles and meeting readiness requirements of the RRC.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the Leader of the Opposition, and my noble friends Lord Fanshawe and Lady Strange spoke of the Scottish regiments as well as other regiments and the amalgamations. I can confirm that all decisions on the amalgamations of the regular regiments, including the Scottish regiments, are final and that these amalgamations will be implemented over the next three to four years. Of course if, over that period, we find that we have taken on a large number of extra commitments for one reason or another which the Army at its then size cannot meet, we shall clearly have to look again at the decisions that have been taken.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, went on to speak about the reserves. As I have said before to your Lordships' House, it is our intention to retain strong professional forces supported by well trained reserves. Although a Statement on the future of the Reserve and Territorial Army is not expected until next month, I can say now that the essential role of the reserve forces will be maintained in our new force structure. The reduced threat from the Soviet Union will allow them to carry out substantial portions of the 135 defence of the United Kingdom currently sustained by the Regular Army. That will both increase the role of the reserves and reduce the overstretch on regular infantry battalions. I can also confirm that we shall provide the necessary funding to sustain the strength of the TA which emerges after the restructuring.
My noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth pointed out the extent of change in the military in the Soviet Union. I agree that the Kremlin wants to end East-West confrontation, but the process of positive change is beset by uncertainty. The future is not necessarily benign. We must maintain our guard against instability in the East just as we did against hostility from the East—again as outlined by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Cheshire.
Moving on to foreign affairs, in particular I should like to start first with Maastricht, on which many differing views and opinions were expressed, including those pat forward by my noble friend Lord Cockfield. I should like to re-emphasise what my noble friend Lord Caithness said in opening the debate. We want agreement but not at any price, as my noble friend Lady Elles pointed out. Now that we are in the thick of negotiations, your Lordships would not expect me to divulge the detail of our negotiating position. But we are working hard to reach agreement. The treaty will be in two parts: that strange bird the EMU; and a bird as new to politics as to ornithology—the EPU. On EMU it looks as if finance Ministers will thresh out a good agreement. The economic and monetary union should help business and the general public and will be based firmly on economic convergence. The anxieties of this Parliament will be respected. When the time comes to move to Stage 3 and to a single currency, only then will the British Parliament decide whether or not to join. It makes no sense to decide now something which will not happen for half a dozen years.
The prospects for EPU are more mixed. We want a common foreign and security policy which helps and streamlines the current system of political cooperation. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, that this is not in any way the final summit determining the Community's final shape. There are many challenges ahead beyond the scope of the Maastricht agenda, as my noble friend Lord Pym reminded us. Next year we must build on the reform of the CAP and prepare for the next phase of enlargement. As the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said, we must agree what we can at Maastricht so that we can move on.
The noble Lord, Lord MacLehose, asked about the United States' attitude to the return of the Vietnamese boat people. The United States' position is well known. They are signatories of the comprehensive plan of action and accept a provision in the CPA that non-refugees must be returned.
Many noble Lords again expressed profound anxiety about events in Yugoslavia. Again the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the Leader of the Opposition, asked what further steps Her Majesty's Government have in mind. We supported the mandatory arms embargo adopted by the United Nations. Last week, the Secretary-General's report made it clear that the 136 embargo has been breached. We want the embargo to be strengthened and extended. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has proposed an oil embargo but he stresses the difficulty of agreeing such an embargo. Many UN members were unhappy with the original arms embargo. To get them to go further may prove impossible.
However, it is clear to us that we should now begin to think in terms of differentiating between those parties who are helping and those who are hindering the peace process. The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, speculated on the outcome of the crisis. He suggested that it might be six independent republics. However, such a solution would not be clear-cut or easy. Any solution must deal with the rights of minorities. The new six states would not be homogeneous. The noble Lord was absolutely right to say that a solution, although it may be assisted from outside, must come from inside.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, mentioned Britain's aid as a percentage of GNP. But the most important figure is the absolute figure. This financial year Britain is giving £1.8 billion. Britain is still one of the biggest half dozen aid donors in the world. As important as the absolute figure is the quality of aid. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and echo his praise for my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development. She has played a key part in ensuring high quality aid confirmed by the development assistance committee of the OECD in its report earlier this year. Britain's aid is carefully and effectively targeted. It maintains its focus on the alleviation of poverty.
My noble friend Lord Beloff asked whether it was time that we think again about the EC. The noble Lord, Lord Moran, was sceptical of the advantage of EC membership. While we join him in welcoming the agreement with EFTA of a European economic era, I point out that those in EFTA do not regard EFTA as the last word. Two of them, Austria and Sweden, have already applied for EC membership. Others—perhaps all the others—will follow. It is clear that if we had not joined the Community in 1973 we would be clamouring for EC membership; we would form part of a queue already five strong.
The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, asked about the IAEA. The Government support the aims and work of the IAEA. We are grateful for the noble Lord's most authoritative view.
My noble friend Lord Alport will not have forgotten that my honourable friend Mrs Chalker, in a reshuffle of FCO portfolios, took on Commonwealth responsibilities. I hope that both he and my noble friend Lord Auckland agree that she fills the task he outlined with vigour, dedication and success. I particularly thank my noble friend Lord Belhaven and Stenton for his moving description of the latest developments in Poland. I can assure him that the visa regime is under constant review but I cannot promise him immediate movement. His arguments should, however, weigh tellingly in future deliberations.
137 In closing, my noble friend Lord Caithness and I have spoken of the need for more openness, co-operation, trust and confidence in the conduct of international relations. My concluding theme and watchword for the future is preventive diplomacy. Prevention is preferable to cure; deterrence to war. That is our aim. But the world, as so many noble Lords have said, remains an uncertain place and always will be so. Thus we must retain the capability to maintain our security and national interests from wherever challenges may come. More often than not we will act in concert with our allies as in the Gulf and on occasions alone as in the Falklands. We plan for a wide range of contingencies but equally we shall ensure at all times the mobility and flexibility to cater for the unexpected.
§ 10.49 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)
My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Baroness Trumpington.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.