HL Deb 16 November 1995 vol 567 cc24-122

Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Denham—namely, That an 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".

3.10 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, it is an honour to open your Lordships' debate on the gracious Speech. I look forward in particular to the maiden speeches of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Carew.

This is an important debate. I shall only be able to touch on some of our foreign policy concerns. Those will include the Commonwealth and development. My noble friend Lord Howe will concentrate on defence and security policy.

I begin with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference from which I returned yesterday. The suspension of Nigeria's membership showed the Commonwealth standing up to a government who continue to defy the Harare Declaration on good government. Nigeria's abuse of human rights has been persistent. Her suspension of habeas corpus is unprecedented in the Commonwealth. The execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight co-defendants was a callous act by a government who have repeatedly failed to observe normal civilised behaviour. Nigeria presents a crucial challenge to the whole international community. Britain is therefore consulting closely with partners about how best to encourage fundamental changes in the governance of Nigeria. But there is a long way to go.

CHOGM also took important steps to ensure that Harare principles on good government are applied throughout the Commonwealth. We established a standing group of eight foreign ministers, including Britain's, to advance Harare Declaration principles. That work must demonstrate the continuing value and relevance of the Commonwealth for its members.

In Auckland the conference endorsed the view that the rule of law and autonomy are essential ingredients for Hong Kong's continuing success after 1997. Recent proposals to amend the Bill of Rights caused justified alarm there. The British Government will continue to work with the Governor to encourage China to provide the people of Hong Kong with the reassurance that they need.

Finally, at CHOGM, as elsewhere, much was made of Britain's refusal to join in condemnation of France's current series of nuclear tests. Our position is clear and consistent. We share with France a belief in the continued need for deterrents. We share responsibilities as a nuclear weapon state. We are not prepared to criticise France for a decision which she deemed necessary to fulfil her responsibilities.

Let me turn to Britain's wider role in foreign affairs. It shows our unparalleled ties throughout the world which are crucial in maintaining our position as the fifth largest economy and the fifth largest trading nation. Equally, our membership of all the major international groups, including the Security Council, means we have a wide range of international responsibilities. We respond to those responsibilities with substantial and help. We are the fifth largest development provider in the world and currently the second largest contributor to UN peacekeeping efforts.

As the noble Lord, Lord Owen—whom we welcome to our debate today—will know well, Britain has done as much as any country to limit the fighting in Bosnia and bring help to the victims of that war. Alongside a massive humanitarian effort, masterminded by ODA, we have worked with our allies to push the parties towards peace. The London conference in July highlighted the consequences of any further attack on the safe areas. In August we were obliged to carry out that threat, through the UN's Rapid Reaction Force and NATO airpower.

While the prospects for peace look more promising at this moment than at any time in four years, there is still a great deal to be done. A settlement will demand compromise from all sides. Last weekend's agreement on eastern Slavonia is an encouraging sign; but there are many more tricky issues to be discussed and developed. Implementing the settlement will involve rebuilding not just the shattered economies, but also the shattered lives and shattered trust that one sees as one travels from town to town in central Bosnia and wider; even in Croatia and, I am told, in Serbia. Those tasks will require the support of NATO and non-NATO countries in a military implementation force; the assistance of the OSCE in arranging democratic elections; and the help of the international financial institutions and countries around the world in the job of reconstruction. That job of reconstruction will be enormous. Britain will continue to play a major role in that effort. But we cannot begin until there is peace, otherwise the work will simply need to be repeated.

This House knows as well as any place that Bosnia has shown the continuing need for Europe and North America to work together to uphold international security and stability. The Cold War threat has gone, but the reinforcement of the transatlantic partnership remains one of the Government's highest priorities.

As the world's two largest trading blocs, Europe and North America have a common interest in an open international trading system. Together we must build on the conclusions of the Uruguay Round; together we must ensure a strong, effective role for the World Trade Organisation; and together we must establish a multilateral agreement on investment in the OECD. That way we can lead towards multilateral trade liberalisation by working to create a transatlantic open market, which will benefit all those involved.

A revitalised Atlantic partnership will also promote security in Europe and beyond. The NATO Alliance is central to that work, and US engagement in Europe essential to our security. That is why strengthened defence co-operation between Europeans must reinforce not weaken the transatlantic link. That is the key aim of our presidency of the Western European Union which begins in January next year. We shall work to enhance WEU capacity for crisis management, peacekeeping and humanitarian operations; and to thicken the WEU's links with the alliance.

Britain will support wider partnerships between Europe and North America. That partnership will promote democracy and development around the world; it will fight the scourges of drug peddling and terrorism; and must reach agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty in 1996.

A revitalised transatlantic partnership is not an alternative to European Union membership. Both are vital because we are both an Atlantic and a European nation. Indeed, our commitment to Europe makes our role proactive. We work to improve Europe; to address the needs and concerns of Europe's people; to stimulate economic activity in order to bring more jobs. I know that Britain sometimes attracts criticism for pressing our approach rather than simply accepting other people's without question. When I hear this I often wonder what the critics would prefer. Do they wish us to subordinate the interests of Britain to those of other countries? I think not. Britain must never be afraid to question if we think a policy is wrong, and indeed to fight that policy advance if we believe it not to be in Britain's best interests. That is exactly why we declined to sign the social chapter and reserved Britain's position on a single currency. Today the need for labour market reform is increasingly accepted across Europe; and the difficulties and uncertainties of economic and monetary union are increasingly recognised.

Our approach in the Inter-Governmental Conference that begins next year will be similarly pragmatic. We shall seek reforms that are in Britain's interests and in Europe's: a more effective common foreign and security policy; efficient institutions ready for further enlargement; more emphasis on subsidiarity; and improved co-operation in the fight against drugs and crime. We hope, too, that, through Europe, we shall be able to take that fight against drugs and crime to other nations and help them, because this problem knows no boundaries.

There is a wider common challenge facing Europe and the transatlantic partnership. It is to extend eastwards the security and prosperity we have built over five decades in western Europe. A strategy to meet this goal includes enlargement of the European Union and NATO. But this enlargement alone cannot be a sufficient answer. In the first place, it will be some years before new members could join either body. In the second there will be countries which do not join in a first wave; and some may never join. So we need a wider strategy. In this, three priorities stand out.

First, we must support the efforts of central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to build their own future prosperity. Their greatest need is the market access which is within Europe's gift. Secondly, we must build up the network of partnerships available in bodies like the OSCE and the Council of Europe; with NATO through the Partnership for Peace; and regional co-operation such as that around the Baltic and Black Seas. Thirdly, we must forge an even stronger partnership with Russia. We already work together in the UN Security Council, in the Contact Group, and in the G8. But we must now develop more regular and formal consultation between Russia and the North Atlantic Council. We want to work closely with Russia in implementing the Bosnia peace settlement; and in the implementation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. Today is the implementation date for the CFE. Up to today nearly 50,000 pieces of heavy military equipment will have been destroyed—one-fifth by Russia alone. There is much more to be done, but we shall work together to tackle the problems that remain in order to make this a real success for peace.

In the Middle East the welcome progress over recent years towards peace was tragically disrupted by the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin. This is a terrible loss for the people of Israel but it must not be a loss for peace. The Government's firm hope is that all leaders in the Middle East will resolve to take forward the peace process for which Yitzhak Rabin gave his life. We shall now work with Prime Minister Peres, who deserves all our help. I hope he will get it from every nation which believes in peace.

In the West Bank the redeployment of Israeli troops is continuing. Britain is working to support the Palestinian elections due in January. Since John Major's visit to Gaza in March, Britain has committed more than £8 million in new aid to Palestine. We hope to see progress soon on the Syrian track too, so that the benefits of reconciliation may spread still further. But the recent bombing in Riyadh was a further sign of the costs of extremism in the Middle East. That, on top of the tragic assassination, shows that we can never afford to be off our guard.

The aid programme is one of the most vital parts of the web of links of which I spoke earlier. Britain will continue to maintain a substantial and highly effective aid programme. We gain widespread recognition for the valuable contribution development makes to reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development in the poorest countries, especially in Africa and south Asia.

Long-term development depends on creating the right political and economic framework. When providing aid we shall continue to bear in mind recipient governments' determination not only to use it effectively; but also their own behaviour at home; their human rights record, their levels of military spending and their will to tackle international problems such as drugs trafficking and money laundering. The determined efforts of Britain's aid workers, official and through the NGOs, who are engaged in long-term development projects deserve to be rewarded by the active participation of the recipient countries. But they also deserve much more positive media attention in this country for the tremendous job that they do overseas in so many difficult circumstances.

Our emergency aid is always in demand. This autumn saw the most difficult hurricane season in the Caribbean for several years. The ODA provided £1 million to deal with the effects of the hurricanes, and £3 million in response to the continuing volcano threat in Montserrat. These are but small examples of work that goes on all the time, usually unsung and certainly only publicised in disastrous situations.

There were also exceptional rains in Asia. Britain provided flood relief to eight countries, from Pakistan to North Korea—that was only on humanitarian grounds. In Africa there are still substantial needs in the Great Lakes region. We shall continue to respond to such disasters quickly and effectively. The drought is still causing immense problems in southern Africa. We are responding there, too.

Our aid programme is wide and effective. It needs to respond not only to the short-term disasters but to do its long-term preventive work. This year our multilateral contributions have exceeded our bilateral contributions for the first time. Our rising contribution within the Edinburgh ceiling to the European Union means that this trend will continue. That is why we are determined to ensure that all multilateral institutions are as efficient and effective as possible. We are determined that EU aid spending will be as effective as bilateral spending, and that the UK should receive just credit for the substantial contribution we already make and will continue to make over the years to come.

We have a similar determination in the United Nations to gain reform and greater efficiency. Your Lordships will recall the Halifax summit communiquére recently, the Prime Minister's speech at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the UN. He made it clear that the time has come for a thorough review of UN bodies. I can tell your Lordships that Britain is not alone in calling for that. There is a close identity of views on this issue not only among the G7 countries, as might be expected, but in Russia and most recently at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting—now with 53 members including Mozambique. Therefore, we know that most of the world sees a great need for greater efficiency in the United Nations, and the United Nations must take a more targeted and a better managed approach in all UN programmes. We in Britain shall be doing our best to help that reform forward because the United Nations must modernise if it is to do the job for which it was set up 50 years ago.

In a short time I have touched on some of the vital world issues in which Britain is involved. There is no way in which I can touch upon them all. Our foreign policy is proactive and it is dynamic. Both bilaterally and multilaterally we are respected and trusted. We remain a powerful contributor to solving global and regional problems. We intend to go on doing so because it is through such a foreign policy that we shall continue to promote the best interests of the British people and when the best interests of the British people are being promoted, it is actually very good for the rest of the world, too.

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, I too very much look forward to the maiden speeches of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Carew. In the search for peace and prosperity in the world, the coming year presents us with many challenges. The progress that has been made in the Middle East must continue without losing its momentum, following the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin. The fragile ceasefire in the Balkans must be sustained and a peace must be negotiated. Long-term solutions must be found to the tribal conflict in Rwanda and Burundi and the ethnic strife in Sri Lanka. The pointless civil wars in the Sudan and Angola must be ended before more lives are lost. These are just a few examples of the many intra-state armed conflicts—27 at the last count—in the world today.

Closer to home, the IGC, to which the Address refers, will raise a series of vital questions about our future in Europe. The future role of NATO in a world changed beyond recognition since the end of the Cold War must be resolved under a new Secretary-General. The newly democratised countries of eastern Europe will seek our help in sustaining democracy, ensuring their security and building market economies through the enlargement of the EU. The campaign must go on to put pressure on those countries—and there are still far too many of them—whose human rights records are indefensible. The development of those countries which have been left behind in the material progress that has benefited so many others during the 20th century perhaps poses the biggest challenge of all.

In nearly all these matters the United Nations will continue to play a vitally important part. During this year we have celebrated its 50th anniversary. I fear that few of us will be around for its 100th anniversary, but we must work together to ensure that our children and grandchildren can benefit from a body dedicated to the international resolution of conflict and the eradication of poverty and disease, which is both effective and properly resourced to do its job. The failure to pay their dues on the part of a number of nation states, including the USA, means that the UN is now bankrupt. No new appointments are being made, wages and salaries are frozen and no new research is being initiated. While of course accepting the need for reform in the interests of efficiency and greater value for money, referred to in the Address and by the Minister, the Labour Party deplores the failure of the Americans to fund the UN adequately. Of course, the UN is not always successful and some operations fail, but the world would be a far more dangerous place without it.

In the debate on the Address last year I referred to the need for greater clarity on where and how the UN should intervene in conflicts and the need to avoid muddled mandates of the kind we saw in Bosnia and Rwanda. I also spoke of the importance of creating a more efficient peacekeeping apparatus which is ready to be deployed when needed, and asked whether the Government could not take steps to shift some of the defence budget towards peacekeeping, given the very small part of it dedicated to that activity. Sadly, the Government still seem to be locked into the defence priorities of the past. Another year has passed and little progress has been made. But my noble friend Lord Judd will say more about defence, including the proposals for legislation in the Address, when winding up.

It is not only the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UN. On this very day, 16th November, 50 years ago the first meeting of UNESCO was held in London. Is it not high time that the Government recognised that UNESCO has put its house in order and that the UK should now rejoin it? Is it not an important part of our international obligations to support the education, scientific and cultural work of the United Nations? Eminent people working in these fields from every position in the political spectrum have been calling for us to rejoin. Given that UNESCO has fulfilled the conditions we set it, can the Minister tell the House what is preventing the renewal of our membership? Can the Government perhaps display a little independence in these matters for a change? It may be that they can see a way forward now that President Clinton has indicated that it is a priority for the United States Government.

During the past year we have discussed Bosnia on many occasions in your Lordships' House. We on this side continue to believe that the part the UN has played in trying to ensure a peaceful resolution to the conflict there and in providing peacekeeping troops and troops to ensure the passage of humanitarian aid, has been an honourable one. Failures there have certainly been, but to blame the UN rather than its member states that have sometimes put impossible requirements on it is mistaken. Above all, it is the intransigence of the various parties that must be blamed for earlier failures to end this war. Fortunately, a ceasefire is holding out and there now appear to be better prospects of peace under the American-led negotiations than there have been since the war started. I hope that in the year to come we shall not again need to be called to the House for an emergency debate on Bosnia and that there will be no further need for frequent Statements on that subject. There are at least some grounds for optimism.

Perhaps I may now turn to a happier subject—at least for some of us—the European Union. It is of course not a happy subject for the party opposite because of its deep divisions. At the Conservative Party conference last month we heard one of the most disgraceful speeches made by a senior politician in this country on foreign and defence policy in my memory. Mr. Portillo, the Secretary of State for Defence, treated us to a nationalistic, rabble-rousing rant, designed to stir up mistrust and dislike of our European neighbours as the Prime Minister looked on, smiled and applauded.

It was a speech which saddened many people in Europe and of which Mr Portillo and the Conservative Government that have promoted him to high office should be deeply ashamed. But he showed no shame, nor any understanding of the damage he had done to Britain's standing. The universal criticism of his speech in the responsible press and among people who believe members of the British Cabinet should be above the kind of cant to which he treated us produced only arrogant self-justification on his part. Perhaps the Minister would tell us, when he winds up, whether or not he endorses the views expressed about the European Union by his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence. Perhaps he could also comment on the prospects for sensible co-operation with our European partners on defence matters while we have a Defence Secretary who throws insults at Brussels and seeks to give his opinions an ersatz heroic stature by associating them with the SAS.

The Minister will of course be aware that the Maastricht Treaty commits us, as a member state of the EU, to working to develop a common foreign and security policy and to the development of a common defence policy which might in time lead to a common defence". The Labour Party believes that concerted action by European Union members, with all the diplomatic and economic weight that they represent, should be deployed to promote our shared values of democracy, respect for human rights and the peaceful settlement of disputes. We hope that at least one outcome of the IGC will be the establishment of some form of capability responsible to the Council of Ministers to analyse foreign policy and security matters and to suggest appropriate action. That is a prerequisite to an effective CFSP. It is particularly important that a planning capability of that kind will address the proliferation of intra-state conflicts. Those conflicts not only undermine our security; they also lead to massive human suffering, involving huge numbers of civilians, and to population displacement and all the costs entailed in catering for refugees. A CFSP should be supported by the capacity to undertake preventive diplomacy. Concerted European action on conflict prevention is desperately needed.

We share the Government's view that the IGC should endorse the need for most CFSP decisions to be unanimous. Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether the Government believe that it is possible to take action on foreign and security policy in the name of the European Union without the support of all the large member states. Is there a danger that opt-outs by large member states, such as the UK, would undermine joint actions? Can the Minister also tell the House whether or not the Government favour the IGC agreeing to a treaty amendment specifying ways in which the European Parliament should be consulted on foreign and security issues?

The Labour Party is fully committed to NATO remaining the military instrument of collective defence in Europe. However, we should be foolish to ignore the pressures within the USA on the American Government to reduce their commitments to Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. For those reasons, Europe must work to create a capacity to co-ordinate military operations in support of common policies. We support the Petersberg Declaration on the WEU. While opposing the incorporation of the WEU into the European Union, we hope that the IGC will examine ways in which links between the WEU and the EU can be improved.

The past year has seen the successful enlargement of the European Union. We welcome the further eventual enlargement of the Union, not just to Cyprus and Malta, but also to the new democracies of eastern Europe. We are very pleased that Her Majesty the Queen will be visiting Poland and the Czech Republic. Everything possible must be done to help the countries of central and eastern Europe to play their full part in Europe and to achieve the economic growth which will in turn help to secure long-term political reform there. Their stability is in our interest as well as theirs. However, it is difficult to see how that enlargement can take place without reform of the CAP and the structural fund.

Again, in the debate on the Queen's Speech last year, the Minister said that we must reform the CAP, but another year has passed and the Government have singularly failed to use their influence to make progress on CAP reform. That regrettable fact will hardly surprise your Lordships since our Foreign Secretary thinks it appropriate to accept a loss of influence in Europe, apparently to protect our interests. How he thinks those two goals are compatible is a mystery to the rest of us. I suspect that he, like the Prime Minister, has fallen into the trap of putting the needs of the Conservative Party before the needs of the country. Meanwhile, the CAP goes on with all its attendant waste, environmental destruction and fraud. While on the subject of European Union fraud, I note that the Court of Auditors' recent report severely criticised the UK. In that context, perhaps the Minister could explain why the UK Government have not even taken up their full allocation of EU funds for anti-fraud work.

While countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic work to create the economic conditions that would make possible their membership of the Union, we must work to create the conditions within the Union that would make it possible. Meanwhile we can try to extend the European agreements we already have with them by creating a European political area—rather like the European Economic Area—to allow prospective members to take part in EU deliberations prior to their eventual accession. We also need to try to help and encourage them to work with each other.

What those countries also want, with a varying degree of intensity, is membership of NATO. Understandably they see that as guaranteeing their security. The Russian Government, however, perceive it as a threat in which the barrier between eastern and western Europe is simply shifted to the east and they are left isolated on the wrong side of it. While NATO enlargement must surely be on the medium-term agenda, it is difficult to accept that membership in the near future for Poland, for example, is in the interests of either existing NATO members or the Poles themselves. Given the unstable political climate in Russia with an ailing President, and a presidential election next year in which communists and nationalists will compete in exploiting xenophobia, NATO enlargement to the east poses huge risks by playing into their hands. Meanwhile we must do all that we can to promote and support economic reform in Russia, the only route to the prosperity for which the Russian people yearn.

In the third world there are still millions of people, not only denied the fruits of prosperity, but only just surviving at subsistence levels. In these circumstances, is it not our duty as a rich developed nation to do far more in providing development aid? Can the Minister tell us how she defends this Government's lamentable record with respect to spending on aid? In 1979 we were spending 0.5 per cent. of GNP; today we are spending only 0.3 per cent. Leaks claim that the aid budget is to be cut again. We all sympathise with the Minister in dealing with the Treasury in the context of a Government obsessed with tax cuts as their only hope of re-election. But leaks suggest that many other departments are not going to sustain such proportionately high cuts, so why should the ODA? Altruism, as well as our long-term interests, dictate that it should be otherwise. Is the Minister going meekly to accept a further cut in the aid budget, when four out of five people in this country say they want it to stay the same or even be increased?

May I also ask the Minister what, if anything, the Government have done to encourage Britain's defence industries to find alternative markets? Selling arms to poor countries often far beyond what they need for defence purposes is a major source of their debt problems: estimates suggest that nearly a quarter of all third world debt has been incurred by the purchasing of arms. I congratulate the Government on the lead that they have taken in promoting debt-forgiveness in sub-Saharan Africa and on the role they played in formulating the Trinidad Terms. But would it not also be sensible to try to deal with the causes of debt and prevent it occurring in the first place? The excessive sale of arms to third world countries has also helped to fuel some of the most damaging internal conflicts, exacerbating the destruction of housing and crops and increasing loss of life.

The sale of arms to repressive regimes is cause for even greater concern. The Government's duplicity in relation to arms for Iraq has long been exposed and received further confirmation in the recent judgment in the courts on the use of "gagging orders". We on this side of the House look forward to seeing Lord Justice Scott's report, when we shall return to this matter.

Perhaps I may say, however, that I was staggered by the complacency of the Minister's reply in this House the week before last on the granting of export licences for the sale of CS gas and rubber bullets to the Nigerian police. Given the human rights record of General Abacha, I cannot see how the Government can have been so confident that those purchases would not be used by the Nigerian security services for illegitimate, repressive purposes. As the Minister said, the judicial murder last week of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others has led to a wave of revulsion around the world. We strongly endorse the Commonwealth decision to expel Nigeria. By its own actions, Nigeria has condemned itself to pariah status. We also welcome the Prime Minister's call for an embargo on arms sales. Does that now mean that there will be no further UK sales to Nigeria? I hope, incidentally, that in the course of the coming Session we can have a full debate on the sale of arms, in all its ramifications, including human rights.

In looking forward to the coming Session of Parliament, the House will all too often need to be reminded of human rights violations in many parts of the world. We in the Labour Party salute the work done by Amnesty International in fighting to protect the rights of minorities and those in opposition to regimes which pay scant regard to democratic freedoms. In the past, the most common form of human rights violations involved authoritarian governments locking up those who opposed them; today the world is scarred by new forms of violations in which ethnic conflict, accompanied by serious human rights abuses, has grown in the context of weak governments unable to contain it. I hope that we can agree on the need to take a firm stand against such abuses whenever they occur and to support a strong role for the UN human rights machinery.

It is in all our interests to want a safer as well as a more just world. A comprehensive test ban treaty next year is of great importance for the safety of us all. My only regret is that the Government dragged their feet for so long over this measure. Nor can I accept what the Minister has just said about French testing. The Labour Party condemns the Government for the isolated stand they took at the Commonwealth Conference in failing to join every other Commonwealth country in criticising French nuclear tests in the Pacific. The other 51 members of the Commonwealth were right to condemn the testing.

Let me end where I started, with the Middle East, where I believe there is plenty of common ground between us. The peace process must go on, as Yitzhak Rabin would have wanted. Indeed, if following his death it can gather extra momentum, he will not have died in vain. The campaign of hatred, sustained by religious dogma, mounted by extremists on the far right in Israel, must not go unchecked. The vast majority of Israelis want to live in peace with their Palestinian neighbours. As they know, withdrawal from the West Bank is a precondition to Palestinian self-rule and long-term peace. Now is the time for action, with renewed negotiations between Mr. Peres and Mr. Arafat. As the Minister said, further dialogue between Israel and Syria is also needed to resolve their differences. I believe that the Government support that view. In the words of Mr. Rabin himself, there has been: enough of blood and tears".

3.53 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I join with the two noble Baronesses who have spoken from their respective Front Benches in saying how much we look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who will follow me, and of the noble Lord, Lord Carew. My noble friend Lord Mayhew will speak on defence and my noble friend Lord Redesdale will speak on overseas aid. In the time available to me, I propose to concentrate on Britain's relations with the European Union, and to follow up, rather more fully, the brief comment made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, about the curious speech of the new Foreign Secretary, Mr. Malcolm Rifkind, a few weeks ago at the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House.

Mr. Rifkind took the opportunity, very sensibly as the new Foreign Secretary, to set out how he saw the role of British foreign policy as we approach the end of the century. It was an interesting speech—I commend it to noble Lords on all sides of the House—and, as one would expect of someone of Mr. Rifkind's intellectual quality, an able analysis. Since a great deal of foreign policy is bipartisan in Parliament, there was much within it that can be agreed. But at its heart, as the noble Baroness indicated, there was, as regards our relations with the EU, an important and fatal flaw. Mr. Rifkind used the words, "In some areas,"—he mentioned specifically a single currency— it may be sensible to accept a reduction in our influence in order to protect our interests. Influence can never be an end in itself, and we should not be obsessed with it". In the immortal words of the grandfather of the noble Viscount the Leader of the House to Mr. fain Macleod on a famous occasion: This is too clever by half". It rests on the basic fallacy, in relation to our membership of the EU, that the best way to look after our interests is to sacrifice our influence. When will we ever learn about our relations with the EU? Many of the special problems for Britain in the Community (the CAP, which the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, mentioned, is a prime example) arise from the fact that we were not in the Community from the beginning, using our influence to shape policies that took account of our legitimate interests. Mr. Rifkind himself is too intelligent not to recognise that. He conceded in his lecture that our long delay in joining the European Community did in fact do us much damage.

The new emphasis of Britain's new Foreign Secretary surely flies in the face of the Prime Minister's original aim, now largely unfortunately overtaken, of keeping Britain at the heart of the Union. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for whom I have the greatest respect and whose views on Britain's relations with Europe I have known over many years, called the attitude proactive. It is difficult to see how that description fits what has happened over the past year or two in the conduct of our policies. The view also flies in the face of Mr. Rifkind's own aim elsewhere in his analysis when he said: We must build a new partnership between Europe and North America", That was also mentioned by the Minister in her speech.

Noble Lords may remember that the retiring United States ambassador to Britain pointed out recently that the US saw its principal diplomatic relationships now as being collectively with the EU and not bilaterally with Britain. If we wanted, he said, to influence American policy, we had to do it through our influence over European policy.

The Foreign Secretary's gurus in deciding to go down the strange road of being ready to sacrifice influence in what Mr. Rifkind regards as our interests form a curious collection— Palmerston, President de Gaulle, and the Swiss confederation. I would argue that Switzerland, that splendid, prosperous, small, neutral country, has sacrificed both its interests and its influence by not joining the EU with other EFTA partners and that the obstacle to its taking such a momentous decision, which large numbers of its leaders wished to take, was its excessive devotion to local referenda. I must not, however, be tempted down that lane.

I am certain that Palmerston would turn in his grave at the idea that the UK, with its worldwide interests, its leading role in the Commonwealth, its seat on the UN Security Council, its high quality Diplomatic Service and defence forces, should model its world role on the Swiss confederation. As for President de Gaulle as a role model, the Prime Minister has many engaging and indeed admirable personal qualities, but President de Gaulle he is not!

No one suggests that Britain should not fight its national corner in the Union. Goodness knows, there is plenty that is wrong with the EU, as the report on fraud, in the publication of which your Lordships' House played a leading role, revealed just a few days ago. There is much that needs to be put right, and there are many issues in terms of shaping the EU's future. There is everything to be said for fighting our corner but what matters is the way it is done. Being a wet blanket in the Maastricht reflection group, which is the report that I receive of the British position, is no way to support British interests and being ostentatiously the odd man out at this week's WEU meeting simply diminishes our influence. No one, except possibly Mr. Portillo, believes that a European army in European uniforms is on the cards. Most of us would agree with Mr. Rifkind that a single foreign policy may evolve one day but that we do not have it yet and are not likely to have it in the foreseeable future.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, emphasised, Britain has an influential part to play in developing positive European co-operation in both foreign policy and defence. I do not believe that in creating a European Union Palmerston would have been content to hand over the leadership to France and Germany, with Britain standing on the sidelines. The reality is that for a country such as Britain, it is a major national interest to seek a major influence over European Union policy-making. Sir Leon Brittan, vice-president of the European Commission and a distinguished former Minister in the Conservative Administration, put the matter plainly at a recent CBI conference. He said solemnly, from all his long experience in Brussels: The safe working assumption was that there would be an economic and monetary union in Europe by the end of the century. If, as the Euro-sceptics urge, the UK turned its back now on EMU we would certainly lose any further influence over the process of setting it up". I cannot believe that it is remotely in Britain's interest to put itself in a position in the EU of abdicating the kind of leadership role that it should be undertaking and in particular of getting into a position of supporting competitive devaluations and running a real risk of returning to the beggar-my-neighbour cut-throat and national economic policies which did so much damage and were such a contributory factor to the coming of the Second World War.

I have concentrated on the views of the new Foreign Secretary because the way in which he set them out in the lecture was important; they were considered views. He is not a Euro-sceptic and there is a simple explanation for his new gloss on Britain's European policy. He is using his considerable intellectual ingenuity to try to give an intellectual respectability to the policy that the Government have been developing during the past year or two; that is, of increasingly being the odd man out in the European Union.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said in her final remarks, the purpose of that policy is to appease the minority of Euro-sceptics in the Conservative Party. The Government have become more concerned with influencing their own rebels than with influencing their European partners. They are more concerned with domestic party interests than with Britain's international interest. It is a pathetic fallacy that Britain's national interest may be best served by sacrificing Britain's influence in the European Union. Exactly the reverse is the case. The sooner that we have a government which takes its proper share in shaping the future of the European Union the better for Britain.

4.4 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity of speaking for the first time today. I feel quite at home in this debate, having spent most of the past 30 years working mainly abroad with non-government organisations such as Christian Aid, Save the Children and CARE. I know that they are well-known names, but I can confirm from direct experience that they are highly professional bodies which do a lot of valuable work without public acknowledgement.

Over the years, I have seen how small aid projects can transform people's lives. During my last visit to India, for example, I saw how easily savings and loans schemes give the poorest a chance to free their families from the hideous grip of moneylenders or bonded labour. In other countries, such as South Africa, I know how critical the work of the Churches and the voluntary agencies has been, and remains, to the struggle for democracy and human rights.

During the same period I have watched the British Government, as part of a reassessment of their responsibilities to the third world, opening up to the voluntary sector to become more a partner than a post-colonial proprietor. I am proud to say that, thanks to all our propaganda in the 1970s and 1980s, the Government now regard voluntary agencies as an essential channel of aid and development, last year providing £158 million through the Joint Funding Scheme and other programmes to British and local NGOs.

When overseas I have tried to look at Britain from the outside. Diplomats know full well that our most persuasive foreign policy is not through NATO, or the European institutions, or even the corridors of Whitehall. We command respect in the world because of our democracy, our language and our culture, our legal system, our broadcasting and our aid and technical assistance programmes.

We all know that a lot of aid, both government and non-government, is inappropriate. The Pergau and Narmada dams are two widely-accepted examples of official aid going wrong. Non-government aid has many advantages but it also suffers from bureaucracy and other innate problems of aid-giving. Development economics is a sophisticated science, but it does not necessarily teach experts how to manage a good project. This comes mainly from a philosophical understanding of what local people want and need, and with a minimum of outside technical input. Britain is getting better at it, but I believe that we still have a lot to learn.

However, our own world understanding has to come before our desire to adjust other people's lives. I have had a growing conviction that, as a nation, we are relatively uneducated as regards understanding the third world and, indeed, the second world. Very few people have heard of the ODA let alone of the problems that it is trying to solve.

Development education is not secondary to our support for other countries; it is a part of it. We need more world awareness in our national life and in our education. We need to promote the longer-term aims of development. Some companies have made major contributions through education, training and sponsorship. The charities, assisted by the media, have worked overtime in order to improve public understanding of aid and the environment and to explain what they have been doing.

I recently helped to produce new teaching materials on India for 11 to 14 year-olds, published by the educational charity Worldaware. I am frequently struck by how little first-hand information and education on developing countries exists in UK schools. And yet young people are continually asking about these countries and a wealth of information exists. It requires special skills to produce this material and not many organisations are equipped to do it well. The best are the various charities which draw on their expertise and on information from projects on the ground.

We are still not doing enough for our 16 to 19 year-olds. The GAP agencies have been very successful in attracting the interest of young people and placing them abroad in temporary teaching and other voluntary work. I welcome the new initiatives taken by the Development Education Association, with ODA support, by the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges, now part of the British Council, and by Education Partners Overseas to improve opportunities for young people. International links and exchanges are time-consuming and expensive. But when sponsorship is organised and there is a good project link, young people have experiences which they never forget and which are always useful in later life.

I believe that our educational publishers could produce more high quality materials for older children within the curriculum. Through the ODA, the British Council and the DTI, there is a massive export of education and training from the UK, but relatively little import into British schools of the cultural wealth and experience of developing countries, unless a teacher, pupil or returned volunteer has actually been there. We are a multi-cultural society and it is time that we made a bigger national effort along those lines to stimulate that work through the charities.

Let us not pretend that overseas aid is just giving something away to others, as some of its critics say. It means a more equal sharing of ideas, more understanding, advocacy and educational work, and diplomacy through involvement. And of course, it means also more jobs back home. All those who go out to give, find that they return with more. It is the educational equivalent of debt repayment which, like the loaves and fishes, can bring back more than the credits themselves. The NGOs, including their local counterparts in host countries, are well placed to assist with that process, but they should not have to do it on their own.

We all know the moral case for aid but I shall summarise it. The world is becoming richer and more technologically equipped; and yet 1 billion people are beyond the reach of global economic modernisation, and will need other forms of support. Of the 13 to 18 million who are dying each year, according to the UNDP, over 85 per cent. die not in emergencies but because of poverty, ill-health and all the long-term problems that the world has not yet solved.

I do not mean to be controversial but there is some alarm about our Government's present intentions. UK bilateral aid to Africa and the Middle East will decline 16 per cent. in real terms over the four years to 1998, although in July, the Minister hoped that it would be less.

The Treasury is taking a tougher line against aid cuts, more than the Minister had been expecting, possibly as much as 12 per cent. That could mean a bilateral cut of up to 40 per cent. which is equivalent to cutting the whole of bilateral aid to Africa. Ten organisations lobbied in September not for more aid, as one might expect, but simply to ensure that aid remained the same. They are not whingeing; they are supporting the status quo.

There are a number of other concerns but I shall mention only one. Debt, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is still a high priority for the poorest countries, as the Government well know. A multilateral debt facility is needed urgently. One example from Oxfam tells us that Uganda spends only 2.5 dollars per head on health and 30 dollars per head on debt servicing.

For all those reasons, I hope that we can keep the level and reputation of our aid programme, especially its valuable support for the NGOs, and at the same time keep our young people informed and aware of the world around us, because they will be the voters and future taxpayers who will ensure that that process continues.

In conclusion, I should like briefly to thank the House for welcoming back my family which has been represented here for 11 generations. On my father's behalf, I should apologise for a gap of more than 30 years. As your Lordships will know, my father (who was known familiarly as Hinch) made an outstanding contribution in the other place. Many of your Lordships, some of them here present, tried in vain to keep him there when Central Office had clearly had enough!

4.14 p.m.

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, it is both my pleasure and my privilege to congratulate the noble Earl on a most distinguished and interesting maiden speech. Odd though it may sound, I actually knew the noble Earl's father when he was a Member of another place and when I was one of Her Majesty's Commissioners of Inland Revenue. We shared many a long night in this House, because at that time another place sat in your Lordships' House and the Government sat where the Opposition now sit. The officials, of whom I was one, sat in what is now Black Rod's Box. Everything was topsy-turvy. But the noble Earl's father had the reputation of a man of great convictions but unfailing courtesy. I am sure that the noble Earl himself has richly inherited those characteristics. He said that we have a lot to learn and indeed we have. We look to him to assist us in that process of learning.

Overseas aid and overseas development is a particularly difficult field because there is a clash between the very limited resources available and the very large demand which exists. Reconciling the two is an exercise requiring great intellectual ability and integrity. We shall look to the noble Earl for advice on those matters in the days that lie ahead.

Technically, this is the second day of debate and not the first day, despite what is said on the list of speakers. Once again we have to discuss the European Union in the same debate that deals with foreign affairs, defence and to which overseas aid was added last year. In some ways, that reflects a position which exists in the European Union itself where the heads of government are accompanied by their foreign ministers to form the European Council, which is the supreme body in the European Community, now the European Union. We have the immense advantage of having my noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey to steer us in her opening speech in this debate.

But I recognise at the same time that the main interest will centre inevitably on foreign affairs in the narrower sense of the term. I was astounded when listening to the gracious Speech yesterday—I shall not say I was dreaming but if I had been, this would certainly have woken me up—when I heard the following statement: In the European Union, my Government will participate in the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference". What on earth were they expecting to do? Were they expecting to stay away; in which event, what do they think would have happened? I admit that in some quarters there would have been a sense of great relief, but that is not something from which we should extract much satisfaction. Or does this represent a major change in government policy? Was it that at 11.30 a.m. yesterday morning, the Government suddenly took a major decision that they would now participate?

That is not unprecedented because when my noble friend Lady Thatcher was Prime Minister she tried to veto the inter-governmental conference which led to the Single European Act. Unfortunately, the only allies that she could find were the Danes and the Greeks, and I have always said that if I were going into battle, they would not perhaps be the first allies that I should choose. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, she changed her mind and participated in the debates which led up to the inter-governmental conference and the Single European Act. Thereby, if somewhat belatedly and in repentance, she made a significant contribution to the progress of the European Community as it then was.

Whether that is the explanation for what occurs in the gracious Speech or is it that the Government did not really know what to say and thought that they had better say something? That reminds one of what Fowler in his Dictionary of Modern English Usage described as meaningless words and phrases. It is interesting to see what he added to it. He said that this is a phenomenon more suitable for the psychologist. I am not a psychologist and I do not propose to pursue that path.

However, whatever the Government feel about the European Union and the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference, the prosperity of this country is inevitably tied up with our membership of the European Union. About that there can be no argument whatever. Sixty per cent. of our external trade is now with other members of the European Union. As the European Union expands and, I hope, increases in prosperity, our economic link with it will become more and more important. It is vital that we should foster and further that link.

I turn to the Inter-Governmental Conference which is to be held next year. Although I know the Government wish that all these things would only go away, nevertheless the Inter-Governmental Conference will not go away. Unfortunately, at the moment they are going down very much the wrong path. The Maastricht Treaty sets out very clearly the terms of reference of the IGC. They are to be found in Article N(2), to be read in conjunction with the fifth indent of Article B. I explained this matter at considerable length in your Lordships' House on this very day of the same debate last year, at col. 72 of Hansard of 17th November, 1994. I repeated it on 9th January, 1995, at col. 24. On the principle enunciated by the Bellman in The Hunting of the Snark, I repeated it once again on Thursday, 30th March, 1995, at col. 1709.

The remit of the IGC is to consider the effectiveness of the mechanisms and institutions of the Community. Admittedly, there is a reference to a revision of the policies, but that is specifically tied to the effectiveness of the mechanisms and institutions. This is not to argue about words; it is of critical importance. Unless one's mechanisms and institutions work properly, one cannot properly and efficiently get one's policies carried into effect. At the moment, the mechanisms and institutions do not work properly and efficiently. The primary job of the IGC is to get that right.

In the years that have passed since the Maastricht Treaty was negotiated everybody of good intent and otherwise has tried to add further items to the agenda. The appalling situation that has resulted can be seen from the interim report of the Reflection Group chaired by Mr. Carlos Westendorp. That is a most horrific document. Quite deliberately and properly, it makes no recommendations. It sets out all of the issues that have been raised and the considerations affecting them. It is an object lesson on the way that matters go wrong. Fortunately, it is reported that the Reflection Group is to produce a final report that is much more focused on what really matters. Let us hope that it does.

If one has a policy and one wants it to succeed, one has to define it clearly. One has to define the steps that need to be taken to achieve that policy and ensure that one advances on a narrow front. The moment one allows all kinds of people to board the ship, one ceases to make progress. This was the battle that I had to fight over the Single Act and the single European market. I had to stop all kinds of boarders who tried to add this, that and the other. Had I not stood firm, ultimately with the support of the Commission and Council, the single market would never have been achieved, because energies would have been dissipated over a wide field. I do not say what the policies should be, because it is a very wide debate. However, as far as the IGC is concerned, every effort ought to be devoted to try to make it do the job that the Maastricht Treaty says it is to do.

Beyond the IGC, the most important issue that now raises its head—and every effort has been made to shuffle it back into the shadows—is the financing of the Union. That issue has been cheerfully postponed until 1999. Just as unless one gets the institutions right one will not be able to go ahead with enlargement, so unless one gets the finances right equally it will block the process of enlargement. I am sure that we all agree on the desirability of enlargement, which appears in the gracious Speech. That issue has to be sorted out urgently.

At the centre of this process rests the common agricultural policy. However justified the CAP was at its inception nearly 50 years ago, when Europe had gone through a period of starvation and self-sufficiency in food was an enormously important objective, it is widely accepted that that was a long time ago and today the CAP serves no real economic interest. It has become essentially a welfare system for the farming community. From the economic point of view, it does far more damage than help. It pushes up the price of food, thereby pushing up the cost of living. The cost of living is a major factor in wage negotiations, and so it pushes up wages. If wages are pushed up, competitiveness is reduced, and thereby the industry of the European Union is damaged. But that is not the end of the story. If it pushes up prices, it pushes up all government expenditure on welfare benefits. That is also a negative aspect.

One also has appalling scandals. Not only have we had the tobacco scandal, to which my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter has repeatedly drawn attention, but also the scandal of vast quantities of wine that never see a bottle but are distilled into alcohol for industrial use. One has large crops of vegetables and fruit—oranges and nectarines—of every description, which are grown only to be bulldozed into the soil before they get anywhere near a consumer. The nearest those crops get to a customer is to draw subsidy from Brussels. All those matters have to be addressed, not just because of the budgetary effect, but because they will be a block to enlargement. They have to be dealt with if we are to go ahead as we wish.

I raise these matters, not in any criticism of the Union, but because I want the Union to be a success. It can succeed only if it works efficiently, is run properly and citizens have confidence in it. At the moment, it is difficult to say that they have at least unalloyed confidence in it.

I conclude with a brief word on economic and monetary union—in effect, the single currency. Whether deliberately or by accident, we have manoeuvred ourselves into a position where the heat and burden of the day are carried by other people and at the end we decide whether or not to come in. Many people would regard that as a most astute manoeuvre. I shall not argue about that. The position is that we wait and see whether or not the single currency is a success.

In fact we simply need to make the single currency legal tender. If we did that, it would be totally unnecessary for the Government to do anything else at all because the decisions would then be taken by the market. The Government as a great supporter of market forces ought surely to support that sort of approach to monetary union. Indeed we would be in the position where we had distanced ourselves from the heat and the burden of the day and, at the end, if it was a success, we could come in without having to do anything about it at all, as the answer would have been found by the marketplace. Once the single European currency was made legal tender, it would be the market which would sort out the problem; it would not have to be sorted out by government. I leave that thought with the Government.

4.31 p.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, on his excellent maiden speech. It was knowledgeable and timely and was based on his own personal experience. I know that we all look forward to hearing him again in the future.

I often ask myself whether affairs in the international field are better or worse than they were, say, five or six years ago. Is the world a safer place now than it was then? Is the third world more content and better off than it was then? Is the United Nations more effective in maintaining world order? Are we as a country doing all we can to preserve world peace and assist the poorer nations?

There is, of course, a limit to what Britain can do. We no longer rule the waves. We must work assiduously through the organisations which have developed over the past 50 years; that is, through the United Nations, the European Union, NATO and the Commonwealth. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work through these important bodies. The British Government have an enormous responsibility in doing so.

We are fortunate to be members of the Security Council. That gives us the opportunity to promote practical policies relating to all the problems which concern us, from Bosnia to Rwanda. Are we making full use of that opportunity? I am not fully satisfied that we are, although I believe that on the whole Britain has been reasonably constructive over the years.

Then there is the European Union, dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield. Here, over the years, we have never succeeded in establishing ourselves as a leading nation. That is a tragedy. We have too often appeared to be "the odd man out". This does not mean that we should be trotting along after France and Germany on every issue, but I wish we were a little more skilful in our treatment of major policies. We shall have the opportunity to influence events next year in the Inter-Governmental Conference, referred to by the noble Lord, and we must take advantage of it.

We all hope that the conference will be a success with constructive results. However, I shall be grateful if the noble Earl, Lord Howe, will give us some information as to what the Government hope to achieve on this occasion when he replies. The Prime Minister has said that, the Government can and should usefully improve the way in which Europe operates". What does that mean, and what subjects will be discussed? Will enlargement of the Community be one of them, and will the CAP be another? I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, said about the failings of the common agricultural policy. The single currency, as he indicated, is also in everyone's mind and one assumes it will also be on the table at the conference. We need to know a little more about the Government's views on these matters. The gracious Speech refers to enlargement. I am in favour of enlarging the Union with membership from eastern Europe, provided the change is most carefully planned and that the leaders across the board understand the implications of such a change which will be profound in so many ways. It will not be the same Union as before with the addition of a number of nations, including the nations of eastern Europe.

All this change has been made possible by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Berlin Wall and the emergence of the old Soviet satellites as independent countries. However, enlargement will bring its own problems. The gracious Speech refers to government action against fraud. We have noted the report published this week by the Union's Court of Auditors which states that £400 million has been lost due to mismanagement and fraud. Some say that the figure is much larger than that. I cannot be precise but perhaps the noble Earl can enlighten us. I hope he can confirm that this matter will be considered at the conference next year. If we are to welcome new members we should make sure in the first place that they are joining a well run and fraud free Union. That should certainly be given priority.

It is sad that criminals should be milking the European Union when so many people throughout the world are dying of disease and starvation. I shall deal briefly with one of those areas. My noble friend Lady Blackstone and the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, mentioned the large region of central Africa known as the Great Lakes; that is, Rwanda, Burundi and the neighbouring states. The genocide in Rwanda and the massacres in Burundi have left those countries in an appalling crisis. I shall give some figures. More than a million refugees remain at this moment in Zaire. They have been told that they will be forcibly repatriated if they do not return to Rwanda by the end of this year. In Tanzania acute tensions exist between 700,000 refugees and local people. That may lead to further tragedy.

Ethnic cleansing continues in Burundi and deaths there are estimated at 800 people a month. We are advised that the key priorities in this area, as in others are justice, relief assistance and economic rehabilitation. It is a grim state of affairs and clearly a matter for the United Nations. As noble Lords will remember, that body set up an international tribunal to try those responsible for violations of international law but up to now it has not announced a single indictment. That is a great misfortune. The fact is that the Security Council has passed resolutions calling for co-operation with the international tribunal I have just mentioned but there has been no real response to that. One thing is clear; namely, that there is urgent and acute need for funds for relief and reconstruction in Rwanda, Burundi and the neighbouring countries.

I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, has studied the problem and visited the area and that she has deep sympathy for the communities there. But I am bound to say that there is widespread concern lest the Government cut overseas aid. We are on the threshold of the Budget and we know that the Chancellor and his colleagues have an eye on the election. The gracious Speech refers to the Government's substantial overseas aid programme. But the reality is that the Government are sadly not over-generous in the field of aid. As a percentage of GNP it stands at 0.3 per cent., under half the recommended target of 0.7 per cent. Cuts by Britain now would be a terrible blow at the very time of most acute need in the areas I have mentioned.

I say to noble Lords opposite that if we fail to meet aid targets our country will be denying its responsibility towards poorer countries and damaging its influence in the Security Council, the G7, the Commonwealth and the European Union. I appeal to the Government to think very carefully before they take action which will damage our influence and our reputation.

These are very difficult times, but there are also promising developments which we must not overlook. Apartheid has ended, and we have a new South Africa under a great leader. The Cold War has ended although there are political difficulties and uncertainties on the horizon. The peace process in the Middle East continues notwithstanding the tragic death of Yitzhak Rabin. Is this not the time for the Government to show that they can give a lead by placing principles before contrived policies in the hope of winning an election?

Today the Independent carries an article that we should all read. In it the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that a record total of 27 million people around the world have fled their homes because of persecution and war. Twenty seven million people in the world are suffering terribly at this moment. It is on that that we should concentrate our attention. The Government can be assured of our support if they make a greater effort to help them. They will have the approval of the British people who are as concerned as we are about this matter. They can be assured of our support if they leave income tax as it is and apply our resources to help the world's poorest countries and their suffering millions.

4.41 p.m.

Lord Carew

My Lords, I am most grateful to have the great honour to be able to make my maiden speech in reply to the part of Her Majesty's gracious Speech in relation to foreign affairs with particular reference to Ireland.

I must declare a special interest in that my peerage is one that is both of the United Kingdom and of Ireland. Although my family home has always been in Ireland, I was educated in England, and from the late 1950s until 1965 I had the great privilege to serve in the Royal Horse Guards, the Blues, Her Majesty's Household Cavalry. During my time in the Armed Forces I represented Ireland in international equestrian sports with the full agreement, encouragement and support of my regiment.

My late father dedicated many years of his life to the work of the Royal British Legion and had the honour to be its chairman in 1963. He made his maiden speech exactly 20 years after taking his seat. The subject of his speech was ex-servicemen living in Ireland and the bettering of relations between these two islands. It is that latter object that I should like to make the subject of my contribution to the debate.

My father's speech, which was praised for its brevity, lasted two minutes. He may well have been aware of a comment once made by a 17th century French duke who said: No man should speak longer than the period for which he can sustain the act of love". Although I am several years older than my late father was when he made his maiden speech, I feel able to continue for slightly longer than his two minutes.

Perhaps my speech so far could be regarded as rather egotistic—for that I apologise.

I should now like to concentrate on Ireland. Without question Article 10 of the Joint Declaration of 15th December 1993, signed by both Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Government, must be respected. That includes the handing over of arms, or whatever similar terminology is used. There can be no question of a temporary cessation of violence by the paramilitaries to see what the political process will offer.

Throughout the troubled political years the peoples of both the United Kingdom and the island of Ireland have remained firm friends. Family relationships play a large part in that, as indeed do the many sporting activities between these two islands. I remind your Lordships of one special occasion when sportsmanship was seen at its very best—the occasion when the English rugby team came to Dublin to play Ireland at the very height of the troubles. The crowd of some 45,000 gave the English team a six-minute standing ovation as they ran on to the field of play. It was a very moving occasion. The other great sporting occasion—an annual one—is the visit of the British showjumping team to the Dublin Horse Show. The British team is very popular with the Irish public.

I remind your Lordships also of the occasion in 1991 when Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, in her capacity as president of the International Equestrian Federation, paid a visit to the European three-day event championships at Punchestown, some 20 miles from Dublin. There was an attendance of 100,000 people, and throughout the day the Irish crowd continually thanked her for coming to Ireland.

A few months ago His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales paid a visit to Ireland and was warmly welcomed by the Irish people as well as the politicians.

Only very recently Her Majesty the Queen met Ireland's President, Mary Robinson, who was on a visit to London. On her return to Ireland President Robinson said that she felt an extraordinary deepening of relations between the two countries. I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will be able to further develop the significant relationships between the two countries and to build on all the links and interests that have recently developed between them.

The ceasefire continues and although the peace process may be difficult and slow what matters is that the final outcome is a lasting peace and that there will be no repeat of the last 25 years of violence. To that end, the greatest possible praise is due for the time, effort and priority that is being devoted to the peace process by both Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Government.

In conclusion, I am sure that your Lordships will join me in wishing both governments, as well as the political parties in Northern Ireland, a successful outcome which will lead to that lasting peace to which the people of both these islands so look forward.

4.48 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Oxford

My Lords, on behalf of the whole House I should like to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Carew, for his six minute maiden speech. The fact that his peerage is of both the United Kingdom and Ireland is an apt symbol of the important theme of his speech, and we much look forward to hearing him speak on that and other subjects in the future.

Like the noble Lord I much welcome the continuing commitment to peace in Northern Ireland expressed in the gracious Speech. Getting where we are now, with more than a year's cessation of violence, has taken a great deal of skill and determination. We cannot take that position for granted. No less skill and determination will be needed for the next phase to make peace permanent. I know that we also welcome the continuing support for the Middle East peace process. As Mr. Rabin's tragic assassination has reminded us, making peace involves not only sophisticated negotiating skills but courage. Indeed, making peace involves no less courage than making war.

It is good too to note the continuing pursuit of a comprehensive test ban treaty and a determination to develop the capacity of the United Nations and regional organisations to prevent conflict. It is easy for people to be critical or even cynical about the performance of the United Nations. But, as its recent 50th anniversary celebrations reminded us, its achievements are both many and significant. If we wish to avoid a new imperialism on the one hand, or endless conflicts on the other, with states breaking up into smaller and smaller entities, there is simply no other alternative. Regional organisations and the United Nations can and must be supported and made more effective in their role of preventing conflict.

There is one point in particular in the gracious Speech that I wish to single out. I refer to the words: A substantial aid programme will be maintained, focused on the poorest countries, to promote sustainable development and good government, including respect for human rights". Aid is not a particularly glamorous subject. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get it seriously debated at election time there being a widespread feeling that there are no votes in it. It is therefore particularly appropriate and important that this subject should be one of continuing and crucial concern to this House. I know that we were all particularly grateful for the contribution of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. It was good to hear about his personal experience of working overseas. We all recognise and respect the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for her personal commitment to that cause and her desire that aid should be well targeted and of the highest quality. However, the world's need is so vast that quality must not be set up in opposition to quantity.

People are sometimes sceptical about whether aid really does any good. Perhaps I may quote some words of James Speth. Speaking in 1995 to the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States, he said: Average life expectancy in the developing world has increased by over one third in the last 30 years. More than 70 per cent. of the population in developing countries now has some access to health services. Primary school enrolment has increased by up to 80 per cent.". Those are profound achievements which should not be downplayed even though aid is only one factor in a mix of elements that has made so much progress possible in so short a time. Looking back, the international movement in support of development may come to be seen as one of the defining features of civilisation during the second half of the 20th century.

Aid is still desperately needed and the job is far from completed. I quote Mr. Speth again; he is administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. He said: Some 1.5 billion people live in poverty … The conditions for twice that number are deplorable, with 13–18 million people—mostly children—dying from hunger and poverty-related causes each year. That computes to 1,700 people an hour—with only 10–15 per cent. caused by emergencies. Tomorrow, as on any given day, about 67,000 babies will be born into families earning less than US$7 a week. That's almost 25 million people born into a prison of absolute poverty each year". Against that background it is utterly dismaying to hear rumours, and more rumours, of savage cuts in the aid budget. I do not believe that income tax should be reduced at the expense of the most vulnerable people in the world.

The other aspect that I wish to mention briefly is debt relief. The Government have been associated with several important initiatives on debt relief, but the problem is still enormous. On 1993 figures, the least developed countries owed 127 billion dollars, amounting to 67 per cent. of their combined GNP. Many of those least developed countries owe an even higher percentage. It means in practice that money desperately needed for basic development, healthcare and schools goes instead on interest payments. The genuine concern of this Government on that issue, and their real achievements, should not blind us or make us in any way complacent about how much more still needs to be done.

Perhaps I may give just one example. This year the Jamaican Government will pay back in international debt service four times the amount spent on their health service. At the moment churches are turning their vestries into clinics staffed by volunteers on Saturday mornings. But that is no substitute for a proper health service—and Jamaica is relatively well off. As we have already heard, Uganda pays back in interest about 10 times its health spending.

The main issue of the moment is multilateral debt. It represents a substantial proportion of the debt that is being repaid from 25 or so countries, including Jamaica and Uganda. Currently there is no method of reducing that debt stock. The British Government have taken a welcome lead in pressing the World Bank and the IMF to bring proposals for multilateral debt relief for decision to the spring meeting. That is the right spirit of urgency.

A key problem in multilateral debt reduction is where the resources will come from. Experts believe that some could be found from sales of IMF gold and some from the World Bank's reserves or net income. It is very welcome that the British Government have also pressed for the IMF to sell some of its gold in order to fund its structural adjustment facility. It would be extremely useful if Her Majesty's Government would widen their proposal so that IMF gold sales could be used to fund multilateral debt relief more generally.

As we have heard, there are always competing claims for our attention and many pressures on the budget, but in the scale of human need those 1.5 billion people living at or below starvation level must, I believe, have continuing priority.

4.58 p.m.

Lord Healey

My Lords, I propose to concentrate on those issues which are correctly identified in the Queen's Speech as central to British foreign policy: the maintenance of international peace and stability; the relationship between NATO and Russia; the fight against terrorism, organised crime and misuse of and trafficking in drugs; and of course the United Nations itself. Bearing in mind the advice of the French duke who was referred to recently, I fear that I shall not have time to talk about aid problems. I believe that they have been well dealt with by my noble friends Lady Blackstone and Lord Cledwyn, the right reverend Prelate, and above all in the excellent maiden speech from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. He expressed—rightly in my view—the important role which NGOs should play in those operations abroad and the importance of educating our own people, in particular our children, on the problems with which they have to deal. I fear too that I shall not be able to talk about the Irish problem. I am therefore delighted to find that I share an Irish ancestry with the noble Lord, Lord Carew. I have always felt it a great advantage to be able to dilute my Yorkshire muck with a little Irish magic.

The end of the Cold War has produced a new world disorder. The collapse of the Soviet Empire, like the collapse of all empires throughout history, has led to an appalling series of armed conflicts at a time when the conflicts produced by the collapse of the European empires 50 years ago are still raging in Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia. Indeed it could be argued that the problems we now face in the Balkans result essentially from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire which started well over 100 years ago.

The problem is that colonial powers have always drawn frontiers of states with little regard for ethnic realities and the feelings of the peoples who compose them. So it is no surprise that at the present time, of the 82 armed conflicts at present in train, 79 are taking place inside national frontiers. Some are appallingly bloody. One million people have already died in Afghanistan; another million in Rwanda; and, it is believed, perhaps a million in the Sudan as a result of civil war and consequent famine. As my noble friend said, the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees just announced that some 27 million people have been driven from their homes across frontiers, or to other parts of their own state, as a result of the type of armed conflicts I have mentioned.

Even in the western world, nation states as they emerged in the 19th century are now threatened both from inside and outside. Internally, minorities are demanding more autonomy: in Scotland; in Quebec; in the Basque country and Catalonia in Spain; in Corsica in France; and in northern Italy, which wants to secede from the rest of Italy because it does not want to pay taxes that go straight into the pockets of the Camorra and the Mafia. The American revolution is a great warning to us all that when a demand for autonomy is made, if it is not met at least half way, it may be followed by secession.

In addition to those internal problems, the authority of nation states is now being threatened by the globalisation of many key activities in all societies. Finance is now globalised. The latest figure quoted is that £1,300,000 million dollars a day cross the exchanges almost entirely in search of speculative profit. These capital flows are far more important than what governments do for exchange rates, the flow of trade, investment and output. I have never been able to understand why so many of my friends in the other House are so exercised by the possibility that Jacques Delors or M. Santer might rob Britain of its sovereignty when George Soros did it in a day three years ago. They did not even seem to notice and nothing has since been done about the problem. I am glad to see that the noble Lord whom I regard as my noble friend in these matters agrees with me.

In addition to the globalisation of finance, there is the globalisation of business. Forty-seven of the biggest economies in the world are not the economies of nation states but those of trans-national companies. There is the globalisation of investment. People now put up new plants wherever the relevant skills are cheapest and closest to the market for their output. There is the globalisation of pollution. We were warned the other day by the European Commissioner for the Environment that there are 100 Chernobyls waiting to happen in the Kola Peninsula alone. We received sombre warning of that in the black farce of the nuclear submarines in Murmansk a few weeks ago.

Crime is now globalised. It is estimated that 1,500 billion dollars a year are laundered as the proceeds of crime, one-third of them being the proceeds of drug trafficking. So far, the criminals are co-operating across frontiers far better than are the governments who are supposed to control their activities. Indeed, it was stated at the conference on crime that took place in Naples last year that the Sicilian Mafia forges dollars for the Russian Mafia, who, as I am sure noble Lords know, spend them to buy properties in Chelsea, Kensington, and even, I hope, Pimlico, where I happen to live.

Most important in some ways is that information technology, which made possible this globalisation, is now undergoing an explosive expansion. Satellite television and the fax are already destabilising governments from Saudi Arabia through Iran to China. But it looks as though the Internet may threaten the stability even of governments in the western world unless some means can be found to control the information spread by it. So far, nobody has even suggested a way in which it might be controlled. These global problems defy all attempts at national or even regional solutions.

For solutions we shall have to turn to global organisations such as the specialised agencies of the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank and the GATT. We may even have to create new global organisations to deal with some of these problems.

At present all these problems are left to regional superpowers. But that is clearly not enough. We see the total failure of the Russian Government to control the fighting both inside and outside Russia, in the Caucasus area. We see the failure of the western superpowers to control what happens in the Balkans, and even more so in Africa, in which the western world shows very little interest at the present time.

As was said by other speakers, the 50th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations led to a flood of whingeing complaints from representatives of governments all over the world about the failures of the United Nations. However, the fault lies not with the institutions, which have no powers except those given to them by national governments, and whose powers have to be exercised at present through national governments. The fault lies with national governments, and above all in the field of security with the so-called big five, which enjoy the veto in the Security Council.

Bosnia is a very good example, At first, Britain and France were allowed by the United States, Russia and China to take the problem on. They treated it as a problem of peacekeeping. But of course there was no peace to keep by the time that the United Nations, led by Britain and France, began to intervene. When the Security Council decided that UN forces in Bosnia should establish safe areas, instead of providing at once the 35,000 troops that were known to be needed to keep those areas safe, they provided only 7,500, and those very slowly indeed.

The noble Lord, Lord Owen—perhaps I may yet call him my noble friend; no, the noble Lord (well, he may come back again, you never know)—with his American colleague, Cyrus Vance, produced a plan to stop the fighting two years ago. I believe that it might have worked if the United States had supported it. But the United States Government deliberately preferred to prolong the war by talking of ending the arms embargo on Croatia and Bosnia and by bombing. In the end, the United States took over from the United Nations under cover of a NATO organisation. To my amazement—I hope that there will be some comment from the noble Earl when he winds up this debate—the British Government agreed to a total reversal of their policy in Bosnia. The two pages of the Defence White Paper which dealt with peace-keeping were simply torn up and thrown away.

The fact is that the United States and its allies intervened in the civil war on behalf of the Croats against both the Serbs and the Bosnians. That is a point which becomes clearer with every day that passes. I hope that when he winds up, the noble Earl will explain why the Government decided to cross the Mogadishu line which General Rose, its very able commander in Bosnia, had insisted should not be crossed in a peace-keeping operation.

In fact, the United States, even before it intervened directly, had been helping both Croatia and Bosnia to break the arms embargo. Croatia now has a massive army which is very well equipped and which is costing 12½ per cent. of its GDP. It has built that army with the help of United States instructors and United States advisers. I learnt the other day that the Croatian Tiger Brigade, when it invaded Krajina recently, were wearing American uniforms.

Surely the British Government should have taken some notice of what was happening. Or did they not know? Or were they not told? What was their view of all that? It is now two years since the Americans wrecked the Vance-Owen plan; and now Ambassador Holbrook, on behalf of the Clinton Administration, is trying to impose an American plan for peace at Dayton, which is far less fair to the Bosnian people than was the Vance-Owen plan. In fact, it is the effective partition of Bosnia between Serbia and Croatia. In the meantime, 100,000 more people have been killed there. The invasion of Krajina meant that there were 200,000 Serb refugees; the invasion of western Bosnia meant that there were 100,000 Bosnian and Serbian refugees; and the invasion of eastern Slavonia, or its occupation even if it happens peacefully—it is far from clear that the agreement which was trumpeted in some of the newspapers the other day was reached—could lead to another 150,000 Serbian refugees.

The hero of that tragedy, applauded by the United States Administration and Opposition together, applauded in Britain by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and—I hate to admit it—by some of my Left-wing friends in the Labour Party in the other place is a man called Franjo Tudjman. He is a former communist general, who, when he became the leader of Bosnia, adopted the flag and insignia of the wartime fascists who fought with Hitler against the allies. He has just demonstrated his contempt for his admirers by promoting a man called General Blaskic the very day after he was indicted at the Hague for war crimes against the Bosnian Moslems at Mostar. Could cynicism go any further? Can the noble Earl, when he winds up the debate, explain why the British Government have done nothing whatever to complain about that? Or did they not even know that it was going on?

The Holbrook plan, nevertheless, despite all that I have just said, seems to be hopelessly stalled in the talks in Dayton and the American Congress has said that it will not allow the American President to send 20,000 American troops to police an agreement, if an agreement is reached. I honestly do not believe that it would be possible to find a clearer condemnation of the concept that we can deal with these new global problems through intervention by regional superpowers, if only because—as has turned out to be the case with Bosnia—American action threatens to revive the Cold War with Russia. General Grachov is saying that he will arrange an alliance with China against the west. I do not feel that we need take him too seriously or that he will be there very long—I am delighted to see that my undercover friend the noble Baroness, Lady Park, agrees with me about that.

The plain fact is that the only answer to these global security problems is the United Nations. The question is: how can we give the United Nations the powers of its own that it needs to do something effective? Certainly it cannot solve all the problems of the world in the foreseeable future.

I suggest that there are two or three urgent steps that could be taken. First, the United Nations, as an organisation, should be given its own intelligence and conciliation machinery, so that where possible it could pre-empt conflict. It should be given a permanent small volunteer force, perhaps 10,000, with the transport to move it in days, to deter military conflict, being backed by forces earmarked by the big five and other members of the United Nations. Those proposals have been put forward very persuasively, in my view, by two exceptionally experienced British people: Brian Urquart, who for most of the post-war period was the main peace-keeping expert at the United Nations itself; and Sir Anthony Parsons, who was one of our ablest ambassadors at the United Nations, having to cover the very difficult period of the Falklands war.

What is terrible is that most of these proposals have been made by the United Nations Secretary General. They appealed to and were supported by many of the smaller countries; but they were vetoed by all five of the big powers. Making progress on those issues is far more important and possible than reaching agreement on reconstructing the Security Council, which I suggest—I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, would agree with me—is more likely to take years than months to achieve.

Meanwhile, there is the risk of the total collapse of the United Nations in the next year or two, if the United States pulls out, as some leading members of the majority party in the Congress are proposing. The central problem—I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, that it is always the central problem in an organisation and not the final problem—is financing. At the moment, the cost of all the United Nations operations, including peace-keeping, is about 10.5 billion dollars a year. Incidentally, we British spend three and a half times as much on alcoholic drink alone. The members of the United Nations spend 75 times as much on national military forces. So it is no good pretending that the money is not there. What we need to do in the very short run is to redistribute the national contributions so that the American contribution is brought down to about 10 per cent. and the contribution of the rich states which produce very little now—like the Gulf states, South East Asian states and the white Commonwealth—is increased to take up the difference.

If the United Nations takes over some of the other problems that I have mentioned, it will need financing on a very much larger scale to deal with the financial and economic problems, pollution and crime. It will need an independent source of its own. I believe that there is growing support in the world now for the tax proposed by the Nobel economics prize winner, Jim Tobin, in the United States 20 years ago: financial transactions of a speculative nature should be taxed. A tax of only 0.1 per cent. on those transactions would bring in 80 billion dollars a year, which is 10 times the total annual cost of current United Nations operations. If we include taxes or the other activities which add to our problems—polluting activities such as the use of carbons, the arms trade, and so forth—then we could obtain even more.

I am not suggesting that that will be easy to achieve. That is why it is important in the short run to redistribute national contributions. But from now on we must regard the United Nations as central to our foreign policy. It is the only potential answer to the problems which we, in common with the rest of the world, now face.

5.20 p.m.

Lord Finsberg

My Lords, I do not speak as often as I should like—your Lordships may not endorse that—though I count myself lucky today to be sandwiched between the noble Lords, Lord Healey and Lord Owen. I imagine many noble Lords will wait for tea until after the noble Lord, Lord Owen, has spoken.

My duties in leading the United Kingdom delegations to the Council of Europe and Western European Union keep me away from this House a great deal. Today's debate covers those two subjects and I should like to say something on each of them. But first, I pay tribute to my colleagues in both Houses, especially my noble friends Lady Hooper, Lord Newall and Lord Dundee, and the noble Lords, Lord Mackie and Lord Kirkhill, who, outside this Chamber, are also noble friends.

In the Council of Europe—mention of Russia has already been made today—the major issue is Russian membership. She has been a guest member for some time and now wants full membership. There are two courses open. First, we can wait until she reaches the standards of the Council of Europe in relation to human rights and democracy—standards strongly endorsed by the Vienna Council of Europe summit. That may take five or more years.

Perhaps I may tell your Lordships as an example that in Russia today, if one is a prisoner, one will be put to work making cane furniture. One will be permitted neither to stand nor to sit; one must crouch. If one is an accused on remand in prison, one may have to wait up to two years for one's case to come to trial. There are no defence lawyers because there is no money to pay them. And one still cannot move freely from city to city inside Russia. It will therefore take at least five years for Russia to attain our standards.

The other alternative is to admit Russia now, when she is far from attaining acceptable standards, in the hope that she will improve. Behind, and in many cases in front of, the scene, governments are urging us to take the latter course of action on political grounds; namely, that it is better to have Russia inside than outside and that, if not admitted soon, she may go off in a huff and withdraw into some other organisation.

If we accept Russia now we will—not may—lower our standards immensely and will not be able to ask any future applicant to hold any higher standards. Our monitoring of countries like Romania and Bulgaria will be useless. Earlier this month the chairman in office of the Council of Europe Ministers—then the Czech Foreign Minister—said he hoped that we would admit Russia as soon as she met our standards. If she is admitted, she will be monitored to ensure that the undertakings she gives are honoured. But what if she fails to keep them? We have the power to suspend or expel a member. But would we dare, once Russia was inside?

Both courses are fraught with peril. I hope governments—I include all governments—will stop fudging the issue and come out into the open and say firmly (if they want it said) "Let Russia in now in spite of her standards, for reasons of politics and security". I ask my noble friend, when he sums up the debate, to come clean on that point and tell us whether or not that is the view of Her Majesty's Government. That will help those of us who will soon have to take decisions in the Council of Europe on Russian membership.

I turn now to the Western European Union which I am glad to say has become, over the past couple of years, the "flavour of the month". It was a Sleeping Beauty until it was reawakened some years ago by my right honourable friend Michael Heseltine, and has now been re-revived as the only sensible defence organisation that Europe can have. It is a vital component of an Atlantic alliance. Whatever may be said about defence in Europe, if we lose the North Americans, we are in real trouble.

How do we see European defence fitting into the new NATO concept? We must retain American support and American forces in Europe. On a recent visit to Washington I found somewhat conflicting views, not merely among members of the Congress, but also between the state and the defence departments. Two separate briefings left me wondering whether I was in the same country. We do not yet know therefore what the Americans want. But I am certain that placing defence under the aegis of the Europe Union, first, will not work; and, secondly, will be wholly inimical to NATO interests.

Somehow security must be given some form of substance and that substance must lie with NATO and the concept put forward 18 months ago at the NATO summit, but which seems to have stalled badly; namely, the combined joint task force. Again, I ask my noble friend to tell us why it stalled. The rumours are that it is because the Americans are blocking it. However, as the American President was part of the summit that endorsed the concept, I cannot believe that he is permitting his generals to block it. I should like to hear from my noble friend because we all find it to be extremely important.

The relationship between NATO and the Western European Union is important because of the recasting of NATO with its Partnership for Peace programme and the concept of the combined joint task force. The Baltic states are desperately worried about their future. They are members of the Council of Europe and keep quoting statements from Russian generals that they are in real danger because there are minorities in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia that some Russians want to embrace ,again. What does that mean? It may mean the end of democracy in those countries.

The Council of Europe is 50 years old and is made up of 38 member states. I have had the pleasure of being a member of its delegation since 1983 and of leading the delegation since 1987. It has now reached a crossroads, not merely in terms of Russia but also in terms of finance. In the light of what some governments said less than three years ago in Vienna, are they prepared to give it the resources it needs? It is the one body that is teaching democracy to the ex-communist states. No one else is doing that. We have brought into membership countries as diverse as Albania and Moldova. They are passionately keen on democracy. In passing perhaps I might say that the only embarrassing occasion I encountered occurred around 18 months ago when I was talking in Tirana to the Constitutional Committee of Albania about constitution making. Someone said, "Tell me, Lord Finsberg, how can you talk to us about a constitution when you do not have one in the United Kingdom?" I fudged my response; but they were very much aware of what was needed.

Two weeks ago I returned from monitoring the elections in Croatia. The noble Lord, Lord Healey, was right about Mr. Tudjman, whom I first met when I monitored the elections some two years earlier. He is not a man with whom I should like to have dinner. He is certainly not a man who should be president of a country whose parliament is trying to be democratic. There is a very real difference between Tudjman and his parliament. At the end of the recent elections I issued a press statement to say that they were basically free and fair in spite of a flawed election law. They produced a reasonably democratic parliament in spite of Mr. Tudjman's wishes. There is hope but the problem is that the parliament does not always exercise its strength sufficiently.

When we are looking at these broad issues we have to try to decide where the interests of the United Kingdom lie. Of course they lie in the United Nations; of course they lie in the European Union; but when one comes to consider issues of defence one must not subordinate the interests of this country. I should like to ask one question of the Opposition spokesman when he comes to speak. Do the Opposition support the view that the Western European Union should not become a part of the European Union? That is the view of my delegation, including my Labour colleagues, in Strasbourg. It would be helpful to know so that one could say to Mr. Westendorp, whom I have now heard twice, that in the view of the United Kingdom, irrespective of which government are in power, the WEU should not be subordinated to the EU. I agree very much about what was said about Mr. Westendorp's Reflections document, which has a couple of paragraphs on defence. No member of the Reflections group has any connection with defence. It would be helpful to hear whether the Opposition go along with that view.

If one looks at the whole issue of defence, one is forced to accept that the situation now is more dangerous than when we had the Warsaw Pact and NATO glaring at each other. In our heart of hearts we realise that both feared what would happen if they clashed. What is now more dangerous is having a collection of individual states and in Russia a collection of generals who are gaining more and more power. The elections we shall see in December may give us a duma that will be highly unpleasant and highly dangerous to the concept of security in Europe. As long as we can remain firm, as long as we can try to involve the Russians, as we seem to have done in the "peace" process now going on in Dayton, Ohio in terms of the way in which we have separated NATO command of any Russians going there from the Russians themselves, we may be able to reach the year 2000 without further trouble. But I would say that within a decade, whatever decision is reached in Bosnia, we will have the same trouble happening all over again, because nothing will keep those three disparate parts together for very long.

5.34 p.m.

Lord Owen

My Lords, when we last debated the former Yugoslavia at the end of May many of us feared that the situation would get worse before it got better. None of us expected it—certainly I did not—to get as bad as it did in July and in August. It is not often recognised quite how much ethnic cleansing went on in the summer months. Fifty thousand moslems were forced out of the eastern enclaves of Zepa and Srebrenica in appalling circumstances—very likely savage massacres—and 150,000 to 200,000 Serbs were forced out of the Krajina where they had lived for more than three decades. There has been created over a concentrated period of time a pool of refugees in former Yugoslavia, the worst that we have seen since the war started in 1991. I very much hope that we will see a peace settlement come out of Dayton, Ohio, and I believe that we will. But there will be exhaustion, a map forced by soldiers and a degree of ethnic partition that most of us must—and certainly I must—see as a failure and feel ashamed of participating in anything that has produced such a mess.

However, the story is not all bad. The humanitarian mission remains important and will remain important through this winter. But I wish to try to draw some lessons from the former Yugoslavia because I believe that they are urgent. The most important one relates to NATO, since in all probability it is going to be asked to take the main lead role in implementation. Perhaps I may first say a few words about NATO. It is an organisation which I have supported all my political life. I do not believe that internally it has ever been as fraught as it is today. That a European of such distinction as Ruud Lubbers, 12 years prime minister, a prime minister who actually managed to convince people in Holland of a need to deploy cruise missiles and showed immense courage and loyalty to NATO, should have been treated in such a way is absolutely indefensible. We must ask quite openly how this could have occurred.

In 1978 I remember approaching the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and asking him whether he would consider being the Secretary General of NATO. I cannot believe that things are that different. I did so then on behalf of the then American Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, the then French Foreign Minister, M. Guiringaud and the then German Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher. He was not being asked to put his name forward to go for interviews or being asked to put his name forward to have a possibility of a job. He was being asked to take the job knowing full well that if he said yes he would get it. I have to say that he asked permission to go off and speak to his mistress, as he affectionately called her. When he came back from having talked to the future Prime Minister, with a smile broadly across his face, he refused. I said, "I think that means that you have been promised my job if your party wins the election", to which, of course, the answer came with the election. He later served with distinction in the role of Secretary General.

It is a crucial post and people are now talking perhaps of the Spanish Foreign Minister, who is extremely able and whom I would in many ways like to see in that post. But in this present fraught situation, with the United States having real difficulty in Congress over NATO implementation of any peace settlements, surely this is a time for Europeans to say to the United States, "If it would help to have a Secretary General from the United States, let it be done". There is nothing sacrosanct in having to have a European as the Secretary General nor, in the present circumstances, is it vital to continue always with an American General as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. We ought to be thinking very imaginatively and quickly about this situation.

There is a real problem in Congress at the present moment over NATO. Incidentally, many of us feel that a very eminent senator, Sam Nunn, who has announced his decision not to stand for the Senate again, would make an extremely good Secretary General of NATO. I urge the Government and European Foreign Ministers and heads of government not to stay in a trench on this point but to think imaginatively about the Secretary General. It is very important. There are real tensions between the military commanders.

I do not know whether noble Lords have read the article by General Boyd in the summer edition of Foreign Affairs. He served for three years as the deputy American commander in Europe. His condemnation of what has been going on and outspoken criticism are very important for realising the tensions that developed as NATO officers serving in the UN became convinced, rightly or wrongly, that NATO was conniving at breaking the arms embargo in terms of air drops; in breaking the "no fly" zone in terms of landings being made or drops being made on airfields inside Bosnia Herzegovina, and planes coming in under the shadow of NATO planes. These are serious allegations which were widely believed. They began to erode confidence in the integrity of NATO. I really believe that there is no organisation whose authority and credibility it is more important to restore. NATO has done so much in the past and can, in my judgment, do much in the future. On the positive side, it looks as though it will be possible to have implementation by NATO of any peace settlement in Bosnia Herzegovina, which may go even wider into Croatia and eastern Slavonia that also involves the Russian Federation. It will be very important for all organisations to handle the Russian Federation with considerable skill over the next few years. No organisation does that apply to more than NATO in the way it approaches enlargement.

Here again, having achieved Partnership for Peace, and having pursued it carefully, with a great deal of skill shown by the European Union, particularly the Federal Republic of Germany, we suddenly have a change of policy from Washington and we are suddenly into wholesale enlargement.

I believe that we have to listen carefully to the anxieties of the Russian Federation about enlargement. Poland is the crucial geo-strategic country in Europe and it must become a member of NATO. We must explain to the Russian Federation why that does not challenge or threaten its stability but, rather, enhances it, as will be the case throughout the whole continent. I cannot understand why NATO membership should be chosen as the lead item for Poland's stability. I cannot understand why America does not say, "We shall enlarge as fast as the European Union enlarges its membership", and so put the onus on the European Union to find the money and to make the internal reforms in order to make it possible for Poland and the Czechs to join NATO on or before the year 2000. We shall make a great mistake if we do not go ahead with EU enlargement. Under the present financial arrangements it is expensive to do, particularly with the unreformed common agricultural policy, but it is of great geo-strategic importance. It would be far more effective and sensible to enlarge NATO and European Union membership simultaneously, with the addition of those two countries. It will do a great deal to allay the justified anxieties in the Russian Federation that it does not face wholesale enlargement. It will understand if it is done in the context of European Union membership.

I now pass to the European Union itself. The noble Baroness gave me every possible support over the three years I was in the former Yugoslavia. I would like to make it clear publicly how much I value that personal support and also how impressed I was that, although she may have had problems with her aid budget, she found money, often at very short notice, for essential UNHCR operations. I always knew that I could come to her and get money. I know also that that is a feeling held by Mrs. Ogata and others associated with the UNHCR.

I now turn to the European Union and how it faces these problems. The noble Baroness used the word "proactive" of the Government's European Union policy. I would like to take her up on that and see an example of it. I make no secret of my opposition to federalism or a United States of Europe. I am a life-long believer in the European Community and now in the European Union. Nothing I have seen in the past three years as a European Union negotiator has diminished my belief in that organisation or in its essential nature in the area of a common foreign and security policy. It is utter nonsense to believe that that will be achieved by any form of majority voting, qualified majority voting, or 15 minus one, or any formula that one likes.

There is only one way in which a common foreign and security policy can be achieved. That is by inter-governmental consensus and a discipline that when governments do not feel very strongly about something they take a back seat and allow the majority view to take place, but also there is an inherent acceptance that a nation, however small, with a vital national interest has to be accommodated if the European Union is to achieve a sustainable, viable common and foreign security policy, over a period of years. There is no bureaucratic fix for a common and foreign security policy, and let us have no more nonsense talked about such fixes. Frankly, I am beginning to believe that the Federal Republic of Germany is understanding this as it develops its own foreign policies, as it has every right to do as a serious, new democratic country in which most of us have total and absolute confidence. I do not always agree with those policies, but the Federal Republic of Germany is entitled to hold them whether they concern Croatia, eastern European countries, Russia or whoever. It stands up for those policies and fights for them, as France and Britain and other countries will.

Therefore, to get a common foreign and security policy it is necessary to tackle the hinge at its weakest point, and that is between the heads of government in the European Council and the Foreign Affairs Council, which is within the treaty. The European Council has been included in the Maastricht Treaty, but it is essentially still an inter-governmental organisation. President Chirac has made an interesting speech arguing for a secretary general to be appointed by the European Council. I do not see that as a threatening move towards a federalist United States of Europe, but as a sensible way of preparing the European Council and trying to develop a leadership role for the heads of government at that level.

The powers of the secretary general should be no more than those that we give to the Secretary General of NATO. The task is to try to achieve a consensus. There has never been a vote in NATO and it has not needed majority voting or anything like that. Furthermore, the secretary general should be appointed by the heads of government and not fall within the other institutions of the European Union. He should not be answerable to the Commission or in any way linked to it. He should not be under the European Court and should not be answerable to, or appointed by, the European Parliament. He should be the main link between the WEU and the European Union through the heads of government. I personally would not object if that person was double-hatted and was also the Secretary General of the WEU. If there is to be a secretary general for the European Council, I believe that he should have close links with the WEU otherwise we shall have endless overlaps which we need to avoid.

The other institutional change which must come about is in the United Nations, which others have mentioned. The Security Council makes decisions about the lives of the troops that wear blue berets. It is high time that every single ambassador or permanent representative in the Security Council for that period of rotating membership, knew that the decisions he took could affect troops in his own country. Membership of the Security Council would require a country's commitment that a UN rapid reaction force should be at the disposal of the Security Council when it makes decisions in the first instance to put troops in. That would concentrate the mind of the Security Council wonderfully because it would have to match its rhetoric to the realities on the ground. No decision is taken more carefully or after more thought by the British or French Cabinets or the American President (or however it is done in any of these countries) than the decision to commit troops to risk their lives.

Frankly, the way in which the Security Council makes those decisions is too far removed from reality. One reason for that is that very frequently only three or four members of the Security Council actually have troops involved in the operations on which it is making the decisions. It is that mismatch that has bedevilled the problems of Bosnia Herzegovina. I believe that its decisions would be very much enhanced if there were a direct link between the Security Council and on-the-ground peacekeeping.

Perhaps I may make a final point. There is currently much controversy brewing up around the war crimes tribunal that has been set up in the former Yugoslavia. The London conference asked Mr. Vance and myself to look at the question. We were conscious of the advantages of amnesties in Rhodesia when it became Zimbabwe, in Namibia and in South Africa. Our intention and inclination was, if at all possible, to leave open the possibility of amnesty. We eventually concluded that it was not possible to do that in these circumstances and recommended the establishment of the war crimes tribunal. That tribunal has now been established. I find it very hard to conceive of circumstances in which the tribunal should not continue with its work for at least a period of time. The fact that it was set up by the Security Council allows for political decisions. I have never believed that such things should continue indefinitely; they may need to run for a fixed time, but fixing that time should be a political judgment. That judgment should not be made now.

Some of the people who are subject to arrest orders and who are under investigation should continue to come under investigation. Those arrest orders should be held over, even if the countries concerned will not voluntarily give up those involved so that they can come to the Hague Court. Governments change and time changes, but let those people at least be pariahs in the world, unable to move outside the enclave in which they can have temporary security. Although it is difficult in Dayton and elsewhere to achieve a peace, I do not believe that that peace would be enhanced by abandoning the war crimes tribunal.

5.51 p.m.

Lord Hooson

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will greatly have appreciated the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, particularly as it dwelt on his experiences. I was particularly interested in his earlier remarks about NATO and the importance of the appointment of the next Secretary General. I did not entirely agree with the noble Lord's observations on the European Union. It seemed to me that the noble Lord was falling into the trap into which so many British statesmen appear to have fallen in the post-war period. They have failed to distinguish between the short-term and the long-term interests of this country. It may be that the short-term solution which is so conditioned by reality is often in conflict with the long-term advantages of certain other developments.

I shall not follow what has been said so far, except on the issue of Europe. One looks in vain in the Queen's Speech for any meaningful sign of a "strategic vision" from the Government with regard to this country's future. It was said yesterday that we shall have simply a continuation of the policies of the past 15 years. However, that really means a temporary loitering in a wistful "little Englander" approach while failing to give a lead and positive guidance in the inexorable progress towards an integrated, entwined and interdependent western Europe which is itself the foundation of any real economic progress during the past 25 years.

Let us consider the boasts that are often made about inward investment in this country. The sums are indeed considerable. But how much of that inward investment would have taken place if we were not a member of the European Community—and a fully committed member at that? The belief of the Euro-sceptics, more and more reflected in government pronouncements, that we can tactically achieve a European free trade association in the whole of western Europe while preventing further economic and political integration is just a pipedream. Many of the Government's tactics are widely interpreted in Europe as stances or proposed measures designed to delay real progress in Europe. But for what purpose? To pursue outmoded nationalism and independent nation states when we should be thinking of how we can have the maximum benefits of economic potential and military and political integration while at the same time retaining and devolving as much responsibility as possible at national, regional and local levels.

Subsidiarity is a concept with which we can all agree, from whatever viewpoint we approach the European problem. However, subsidiarity within the European context will also necessitate subsidiarity within the national context. European laws and regulations will have to apply all round, but they will surely have to be administered and applied at the closest possible level to the lives of the ordinary citizens of Europe, including in the United Kingdom. That is why the constitutional issues which the Labour Opposition are now highlighting more and more—and which my party has always highlighted—are so important for our country. They relate also to our foreign policy and to the future of Europe. They are of great practical importance, but scant appreciation of that point is apparent in the gracious Speech.

I hope that your Lordships' House will take the lead in counteracting what I regard as the baleful influence of the Euro-sceptics on the Government. If our European partners called our bluff and put it to us bluntly that the stark choice facing us is to accept the inevitability of the implications of the Treaty of Rome and the eventual integration of the European Union—it will take a long time—or to give up membership and to withdraw from its benefits, there would be a dramatic change in the political climate here. The threat of the inward investment of the past 30 years being dramatically withdrawn would also concentrate the mind on the real foundation of our present prosperity.

It seems to me that aggressive and self-glorifying nationalism is still one of the great curses of our century, as we see to our cost. I speak as one who represents a minority culture. I have always been proud of my Welsh identity and anxious to maintain Welsh culture. All the countries of Europe will have to face the fact that English will probably become the commercial language of Europe. Every country in Europe will eventually face the problem of how to maintain its national culture and language while accepting an international commercial language.

It seems to me that nationalism, even at the end of the 20th century, has an undoubted power and force which, unless controlled and modified, is almost bound to be totally destructive. Therefore, I trust that we shall recognise that we have to dampen down the nostalgic yearnings, so apparent at the Conservative Party conference this year, for a return to the age of nation states in this age when, as the noble Lord, Lord Healey, pointed out, world communications at all levels have made them impossible to sustain. Changes occur every day in our commercial life which show the degree of integration that already exists. International companies are no longer really subject to any national control. We have to live in, and plan for, that kind of world. This is a time to stand back and look at our own institutions and to ask how on earth we can adapt our national institutions for both our international and regional needs in the next century. It is a great problem.

I turn to what I regard as two incompatible propositions in the gracious Speech. They have already been mentioned, but not together. The gracious Speech states: My Government will continue to pursue the objective of transatlantic free trade in the context of world trade liberalisation". The very next paragraph goes on to state: In the European Union, my Government will participate in the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference and contribute to preparing the Union for further enlargement". We have been invited to have regard to reality and we should look at the reality of those two propositions. It is highly desirable to have an Atlantic free trade area eventually. No one can dispute that. But looking at the reality of American politics and the economic condition of eastern European countries today, it is impossible, whatever our hopes, to have an enlargement of the EU embracing countries such as Poland, Slovakia and so forth, unless we have an associated status.

It is useless to think that our partners within the EU will change the CAP basically within the next five years. They will not do so. I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, that the justification for the CAP in the early days was—if I may use the term—entirely social. The policy prevented the migration of millions of people from the agrarian lands of Europe into the great cities, which could have caused an enormous social problem. It still would, even if it were abrogated to a large extent. Therefore, in reality, I do not believe that our European partners will agree to extend the CAP to the eastern European countries.

What approach would the US take if, within the next five years, we were to succeed in having an enlarged EU with all the benefits that that enlargement would bring? How would it envisage a free trade area with that in it? In time, that will come about but it is entirely mistaken to put such propositions forward at the moment. I cannot believe that they are intended seriously. They are a cloak for what is happening in Europe. The enlargement will come about in time. There will be an intermediate phase in the early days to accommodate the eastern European countries. There is hope for an eventual Atlantic free trade area some time during the next century. Those issues are highly desirable.

The real progress that will be made in the next few years will be, first, the European currency. I was much taken, although I had never thought of it, by the solution advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, of leaving it to the market. Whether we like it or not, the European currency, in one form or another, will be achieved by the end of the century. We have to face the reality of that situation. The easy way out for our country may be to follow the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, and let the market take over, because it undoubtedly will. Within a short time, the integration of Europe will follow as day follows night.

The gracious Speech fails to show that the Government have strategic aims. I was reminded of a phrase used by my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead in his memorable book on Gladstone, which I have recently finished reading. He describes Gladstone's dedication to home rule and his failure to carry the Home Rule Bill which was defeated in your Lordships' House over 100 years ago. I was reminded, when I heard the remarkable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carew, that Gladstone failed to get his Bill through. My noble friend Lord Jenkins attributed the failure—I am paraphrasing—to the fact that, for all his determination, Gladstone's tactical dexterity did not match his strategic vision. I have the impression that the Government have any amount of tactical dexterity but no strategic vision.

6.6 p.m.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, when I first read the agenda of subjects for debate on the various days, I had some difficulty in deciding, first, whether to speak at all, and, secondly, what to speak about. There are a number of subjects about which I should like to say something—my interests in housing, health, social security and so forth—but I felt that because of a recent experience I should deal with a problem which is with us, and has been with us for a long time, and which we should look at in depth. I refer to the problems of the island of Cyprus which I visited recently. I had a couple of nasty experiences in the city of Nicosia.

I was heartened to hear previous speakers recognise the problems that exist and the need to support the UN and to strengthen our influence at the UN. At the same time they mentioned the problem of human rights, ethnic cleansing, unlawful occupation, refugees and so on. All those ingredients exist on the island of Cyprus; they have existed for a long time.

The Queen's Speech makes no direct reference to the problem of Cyprus. I do not know why. It is a continuing problem, which should be at the forefront of many people's minds. However, there is mention of the need to support the UN. There are 100 resolutions before the United Nations and the Security Council, and in relation to the Geneva Convention, all of them saying much the same about the situation in Cyprus, all of them condemning the occupation of northern Cyprus and calling for the demilitarisation of the island. The resolutions are repeated annually. Speeches are made. Everyone agrees. Nothing happens. They are repeated the following year. It has been going on since 1974, not quite so long as the situation in Northern Ireland, referred to by one of your Lordships, but getting on that way. It may even be heading in the same direction unless we can put a stop to some of the activities in northern Cyprus.

I mention demilitarisation because that is an important aspect of the whole issue. I was glad to read the other day a speech by the President of the Republic of Cyprus at the 50th plenary session of the UN. He referred to his own proposals for the demilitarisation of Cyprus. He proposed the complete demilitarisation of the Republic of Cyprus, the withdrawal of Turkish occupation forces, the disbanding of the national guard of Cyprus, the handing over of all arms and military equipment to the custody of the UN peacekeeping force, and the placing into the UN account of all moneys saved from the purchase of arms which would be used for infrastructure development projects beneficial to both communities. Unfortunately, that proposal was rejected by Turkey. But it should be and must be endorsed by Her Majesty's Government. It has already been endorsed by the United Nations and the United States.

We talk about demilitarisation but not enough urgency has been given to the proposals made, not for the first time, by President Clerides. His recent repetition of the proposals gave a clear outline of the way in which he sees progress being made. We must respect that because of his close contact with the situation.

The noble Lord, Lord Carew, mentioned Northern Ireland and the need for some decommissioning of arms before we sit down to talk about peace. It is said that if we do not talk about the decommissioning of arms we do not need to talk about peace.

As regards Cyprus, someone has offered to decommission all the arms, to withdraw, to finance a national peacekeeping force, and to place all the money saved into an infrastructure development project. Why do we not grasp that offer and say, "Obviously, it is an ingredient that we need if we are to get a peaceful solution in Cyprus."? We are being given the opportunity to say, "We believe that that is a necessary ingredient before any peace talks can take place, so let us take it and begin the urgently needed talks".

I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, has returned to his place. I had not intended to mention the noble Lord but I wish to refer to his comments about the report from the Council of Europe. When I was in Cyprus I heard many people express concern about recent developments in the Council of Europe. They believe that by going outside the protocol and the organisations that have been set up and by taking almost unilateral action the Council has acted in a manner that is a little off-putting. They also believe that an invitation addressed to the president of the Turkish authorities in the north of Cyprus indicated a recognition of the regime that exists there, which is in opposition to all United Nations' resolutions stating that it shall not be recognised by anyone. When I was in Cyprus I read reports of worries that the Council's action appeared to be elevating the position of those who have taken control of northern Cyprus beyond the wishes of the United Nations and the international communities. Therefore, I was disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, did not take the opportunity to put the matter right because he must be aware of some of the concerns expressed.

Lord Finsberg

My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned my name. The actions taken by the Council of Europe were endorsed by every single member other than the two Cypriots. The press reports which appeared in Cyprus were malicious and false.

Lord Stallard

My Lords, that was not what was felt by the two Cypriots who were members and who would know what they were talking about. I believe that the matter could have been put right and should have been put right.

If when one is in Cyprus one looks across the buffer zone into what was the beautiful city of Famagusta one sees the dereliction. Huge hotels and buildings have been looted and abandoned and are now falling into decay. One can speak to people who will say, "See that building over there. My father had a small hotel next to it and it was our home and our business. Now it is not ours." Someone else will say, "See over there. My grandmother lived there." When one hears people talking in that way and when one sees the Turkish flag flying over such property, one asks, "Why hasn't more been done about it?".

If the Turks are serious in their intent ever to solve the problem they could solve it now by agreeing to hand Famagusta back to the republic in line with Resolution No. 550. I asked that that matter should be raised by the Prime Minister at last week's Commonwealth conference in Auckland and I am waiting for a reply about any report he may have received. Such action would be a sign of willingness to sit down and talk. Mr. Clerides has thrown in his proposal, among many others, for disarmament. The Turks could quite well throw in their proposal to hand back that derelict area. It gains them nothing; no one is there. They are making nothing from it; they are doing nothing with it; and they are allowing it to fall into complete and utter disrepair. "Ethnic cleansing" is not too strong a phrase to use. They have pushed all the Greek Cypriots from the area. Those people have disappeared to Australia, the United Kingdom and all over Europe. Thousands are still missing. The United Nations has passed resolutions asking for their whereabouts and for information about what has happened to them. The situation would be helped if the Turks said, "We will hand that part of the island back to the Republic of Cyprus as a sign of our intent to do something constructive about the problem".

My first suggestion related to disarmament. My second suggestion was to put pressure on the Turks to consider a constructive proposal. My third suggestion is a further measure of pressure. It is to take whatever steps we can to help to speed up the entry of the Republic of Cyprus into the EC. That would be to the benefit of Greeks and Turks alike and it might well put pressure on those in the part of Cyprus that is occupied by the Turks to reach a peaceful settlement within the European context. I do not say that I have always been a convert to the European Community but I believe that there is a real need, desire and determination to make a go of such membership. It must be viewed with some urgency, together with the other issues I mentioned.

We must inject a new urgency into all our deliberations. It is not good enough to say that we will support whatever the United Nations suggests. That is almost like a trade union branch meeting where one resolution after another is passed deploring, demanding or insisting on something. It merely goes in the bin wherever it arrives but we can always say that we have supported an issue. The same is happening as regards United Nations resolutions. This Government state merely that they will support them and do what they can. But they do nothing.

Now the Americans are pulling us by the nose. They have appointed a special representative who states that when he is finished in Bosnia he will make Cyprus his next priority. I hope that he does and I hope that we support him in his efforts because we have made none. If we support him in whatever effort he makes we shall make progress towards a peaceful solution. The northern part of Cyprus is being resettled by Turks. Turkish nationals are being sent to replace Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The figures are staggering. Obviously, that is an attempt to say in future, "Look, it is as good as Turkish now. We may as well accept the situation as it is and partition the island". That is a solution that Britain has used in Northern Ireland, which is a perfect example. It was wrongfully partitioned. It was partitioned originally by settlement mainly from England and Scotland. Ultimately, it was partitioned 70 years ago and we have not yet solved the problem.

Therefore, the situation in Cyprus will develop in that way unless we recognise the problem as it is. It is a serious problem. It is a powder keg in that part of the world. We must do something about it. We must discuss seriously the propositions that I have put forward which are supported by the United Nations and its General Assembly as well as the population of the Republic of Cyprus.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, your Lordships will not be surprised that as a member of the Jewish community, I find it difficult to speak in this debate on any subject other than that raised by the assassination of the late Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. It was gratifying that in the gracious Speech, there was reference to the desire and intention of Her Majesty's Government to assist in pushing forward the peace process. Indeed, as we know, the present Foreign Secretary has undertaken recently a mission, the ultimate success of which we are not yet certain, to try to bring about a movement on the Syrian front. That would be of considerable importance because if Syria enters the peace process, so inevitably will Lebanon and at that point, Israel will not, at any rate on its land borders, feel the degree of isolation which has been its lot.

Apart from what might be done by a roving Foreign Secretary, who is clearly involved in other important matters, the question is then as to what else the British Government can do to forward the peace process.

It must be admitted that Britain starts with something of a handicap as regards influencing Israeli policy. So long as any of the survivors of the creation of the state of Israel are still around, the memory of Ernest Bevin and his efforts to strangle the nascent Israeli state will not be forgotten.

Therefore, although much goodwill has been created, in particular by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and the present Prime Minister, in their visits to Israel, it is still worth remembering that it was not until 30 years after the creation of the state that a British Foreign Secretary, in the person of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who made such an important contribution to our proceedings this afternoon, visited the country.

But I think that there are ways in which Her Majesty's Government could assist the process. Perhaps I may indicate the way in which I approach the problem. It has been said in the press and elsewhere that the problem is now an internal one; that it is a matter of the serious conflict that exists within Israeli society and politics about the peace process and its ultimate possible outcome. Although the fact that the assassination has now been shown to have been the result of a conspiracy rather than an isolated act is very important, it remains the case that one cannot understand the psychological atmosphere in which those rooted objections to peace flourish unless one recollects that even assuming that Israel's arrangements with its immediate neighbours are satisfactorily resolved—and that is a big "if'—Israel is still a country under a major threat.

That is a major threat from two quarters. In the first place, it is under threat from—and various incidents have shown this—those elements in the Arab world among the Arab peoples and the Palestinians themselves who repudiate the whole idea of making peace; who stick to the original wish of the Palestinian national movement that no Jewish state should exist on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.

Your Lordships may say that, as is bound to be the case in a matter of this complexity, there are many ancestral memories, hatreds and regrets. But it should not be impossible to convince those Arab countries which are also threatened by those movements, including, for example, the Gulf states, with which we have close associations, that we do not tolerate that kind of activity in our capital city. It is wrong that Hamas should make London its capital and be able to publish here newspapers which advocate the destruction of a friendly state. It is wrong that another organisation, whose translation is, I believe, the Liberation Party, should take a leading role in trying to dragoon Islamic students on our campuses into a single camp and to threaten the activities of Jewish students and their organisations.

The attention of Her Majesty's Government has been called to that more than once by the National Union of Students and it is surely within our power to do something about it. I was glad to notice that we set an example by agreeing to the French request that persons involved in planning bombing campaigns in France should not be given automatic asylum in this country and a position from which to further their activities.

But France can survive. France will not be overthrown by Algerian militants planning or plotting from outside the country. Israel feels itself vulnerable in a way in which France will never feel itself vulnerable. Israel is small; it is surrounded; and it has, beyond those movements, two major powers which are dedicated to its destruction. One of those powers is Iraq. We have learnt recently of the role which British forces played in diminishing the threat to Israel from Scud missiles during the Gulf War. But even those brave activities could not wholly remove the threat. Israel was the first country to be the victim of a Scud missile directed from a foreign country with which it has no border. The memory of that is likely to remain powerful.

As we know, Iraq is a threat also to certain countries in the region, notably some of the smaller Gulf states which are entering into both economic and now diplomatic relations with Israel. It is important that they should have assurances that we are not thinking of bringing back Iraq into the community of civilised nations.

The threat from Iran is worse. Though Iraq may have planned to have nuclear and biological weapons—from the investigations of the United Nations we still do not know the full truth—Iran is a much larger and more powerful country. Despite its appalling record, internally and externally, it has apparently managed to escape some of the isolation that has befallen Iraq.

It may have passed unnoticed—there were only a few sentences on this topic on the radio the other day—that the German Parliament, which is not the most vigorous of legislatures (as Germany's best friends will admit), has come out against continued toleration by the German Government of the activities of Iranian agents in that country. Indeed, it has questioned the unwillingness that Germany has shown to go along with its European partners in trying to prevent the escalation of Iran's military power. That was one of the reasons why noble Lords, who spoke earlier on more general subjects, were so right to emphasise the importance of improving our relations with Russia, if possible. If under pressure from the west and Russia, Iran will have to cease threatening its neighbours through either subversion or violence. It seems to me that the peace process in the Middle East is closely linked with the general way in which we look at the development of the country's foreign policy.

There is another aspect to it. It is not only psychologically overwhelmingly important that encouragement should be given to Israel to accept that peace will not be dangerous; it is important to help the nascent Palestinian authority. The Minister referred to the amount of money that Britain had already directed to the Gaza Strip. Clearly, there is need for a considerable further infusion of foreign aid of various kinds, primarily into Gaza but possibly into the less fortunate parts of the West Bank eventually. While no one will wish to press necessarily the claims of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip against those of other countries, whose ill fortune has been so eloquently described by a number of noble Lords, there is a source of revenue, not in this country, but in the Arab world, which with a little prodding may usefully be directed towards assisting the Arab inhabitants of the Palestinian entity. The amount of money spent on house property in London by Arab potentates would go some way to relieving the misery of the Gaza Strip. Although we are in no position to tell Arab potentates how to spend their money, we claim to have influence in the Arab world. I believe that influence in that respect can be exercised to good purpose.

Ultimately, one must hope that the interlocking mechanisms for development in the region, which were outlined at the recent conference in Amman—in which I believe the United Kingdom took a constructive part—will in the end make the inhabitants of Palestine no longer an object of assistance but contributors to the prosperity of the region. I believe that we can assist in the peace process, but only if our analysis of what needs to be done is accurate and our understanding of the circumstances in which it is being carried forward is full.

6.35 p.m.

Lord Jakobovits

My Lords, the gracious Speech, as has just been mentioned in a splendid contribution, pledged the Government's continuing support for the Middle East peace process. Reference has been made to this in several contributions this afternoon, most notably the speech to which we have just listened. That dealt primarily with foreign policy elements on which I do not claim to be anything like equally competent to comment. Therefore, I speak on the same subject overall but without overlapping what has just been communicated to us.

Unfortunately, I was unable to add a few words to the moving tributes paid in your Lordships' House and in another place to the memory of Prime Minister Rabin on the day of his funeral a week ago on Monday. As President of the Conference of European Rabbis, I had to conduct an urgent meeting of the conference in Zurich that day. Allow me, therefore, to take this opportunity to speak of this awesome tragedy and its traumatic after-effects. In the Jewish tradition anything that disgraces Jews or Judaism is called a desecration of the Name of God. Anything which does honour is called a sanctification of the Name of God. The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, particularly because the crime was perpetrated by a Jew claiming to act out of religious motives, was perhaps the greatest desecration of God's Name in Jewish annals. Conversely, the unprecedented honours shown to the bereaved family, the stricken Government and people of Israel at the funeral, attended and addressed by scores of world leaders, constituted an unparalleled sanctification of the Divine Name. The presence of the Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister, the leaders of the opposition parties, the President of the United States, the leaders of virtually all the European countries, and also King Hussein of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt and other Arab leaders, was profoundly appreciated and offered real comfort to a nation still stunned by shock, grief and anxiety.

As happens so often with perpetrators of evil, in the long run they achieve the opposite of what they intend. For the maintenance of civilised life, it is vital that terrorism and acts of violence must never succeed. There are indications that the peace process, far from having been sabotaged, will be given new momentum by Prime Minister Peres, co-architect with Mr. Rabin of the historic agreements so far reached. Very recent visitors to Israel have reported Israeli taxi drivers—usually the best barometers of public opinion—saying that they have been adamantly opposed to the peace process out of fear that the Arabs can never be trusted, but now that they have seen the sincerity of the sympathy expressed at the funeral by some Arab leaders, perhaps past attitudes will have to be revised. For no section of the Jewish people has the blow been more devastating than for the religious community. At the same time no fanaticism is more irrational and more deadly than religious fanaticism.

There is little comfort in the knowledge that other great faiths, too, have manifested murderous fanaticism. In the name of Christianity the Crusaders in the Middle Ages carried out their campaigns of massacre and pillage against scores of Jewish communities, and religion proved the ultimate source of implacable and bloodstained hostility in Northern Ireland. Among Moslems the very term "Jihad" or "Holy War" points to the ingredient of religion in the cocktail of war and violence.

Religious Jews had thought themselves immune until the dreadful massacre of Arab worshippers in Hebron early last year, now followed by that black day 10 days ago. Once again we are warned how easily even people who until recently were held up as the finest examples of idealism, selflessness and moral virtue, can be seduced by a few extremists. I speak not only of the events of comparatively recent times but also of those who have in one form or another condoned the crime. For them the unity of the land of Israel under Jewish control became a supreme article of faith, obscuring the most fundamental teachings of Judaism. The inflammatory attacks on the peacemakers turned into virulent and irresponsible charges of treason, construed by some fanatics as a licence to kill. What fearful power attaches to words when uttered by purveyors of extremism of any kind.

Of course, as in most human conflicts, this is not a black and white situation, with the onus only on one side. The apparent official unconcern with the fate of the settlers certainly generated much resentment. More importantly, the fiercely secularist policies pursued by members of the Israeli Government increasingly alienated wide sections of the Israeli public from all traditional Jewish values. It widened the cultural gulf and accentuated the bitterness within the land.

These ominous tensions might have been reduced had spiritual leaders of the more radical groups not turned to ultra-nationalist politics but instead demonstrated by precept and example the splendour of truly Jewish life; how it could have cemented the unity of the Jewish State by common ideals, reducing the curse of crime, vice and broken homes, thus helping to create a model society of Judaism in action. Such pristine ideals once inspired these pioneers, and one hopes the present tribulations will restore that vision. There can be no Jews without Judaism, any more than Judaism without Jews.

The challenge to Jewish spiritual leaders is now grave indeed. My successor, Chief Rabbi Dr. Sacks, in his resolute Albert Hall address on Sunday, spoke of hanging his head in shame. For my part the resolution which I drafted and which was adopted unanimously at our European rabbis' conference in Zurich proclaimed: We call upon Jewish religious leaders and teachers not to tolerate fanaticism and blind intolerance … More important than an undivided Land of Israel is an undivided People of Israel. We appeal to all responsible leaders in Israel and in the Diaspora to maintain the spiritual and moral values of Judaism as the indispensable link binding the Jewish people together and justifying our claim to continued national survival". In an agonised burst of soul searching and contrition, some disciples of the very teachers who began to worship the Land of Israel even more than the God of Israel have turned to me, as to other rabbis, in a quest for atonement. They realise they have been misled on the true priorities of Judaism. Some are even considering a public fast to demonstrate their striving for a faith of which the Book of Proverbs states: Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace". Let this be a warning to all religious fanatics on how easily unguarded speech and inflammatory teachings can lead to the worst sacrilege, turning even the most pious idealists into murderers.

Jews have prevailed over immense adversity in the past. Sustained by our faith and encouraged by our friends, I am confident the present grave crisis will be overcome to bring stability and moral strength to Israel, and to inaugurate an era of enduring peace with all her neighbours through moral rectitude and a passion for justice.

6.48 p.m.

Lord Bramall

My Lords, I warmly welcome what there is in the gracious Speech on foreign affairs and defence. There is, for instance, the emphatic statement that national security remains of the highest importance. The Government will continue to support NATO, promote Britain's wider security interests by contributing to the maintenance of international peace and stability and strengthen the effectiveness of the UN in this respect. On that matter I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Healey, in what he said about the UN.

Indeed, Who would question that at the heart of our foreign and, where necessary, an appropriate defence policy, should be the constant seeking after honourable and lasting peace in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, in former Yugoslavia and in Africa, to mention just some of the areas of conflict in this still dangerous world? I was also pleased to see a reference, albeit brief, to the development of more effective European defence arrangements under the WEU, because, whatever may have been implied, or perhaps misunderstood, at Blackpool, we must, if we are ever to match our resources and commitments, have greater co-ordination and harmonisation of our defence policies with our European partners. Nothing else is possible or makes sense.

Of course we do not want, and I am glad to say are unlikely ever to have, a Maastricht Rifles or totally impractical and unnecessary mixed manning; but our research and development and equipment programmes need to be developed on a European basis; we need, through the WEU, a strong European pillar in NATO; and we need some combined command machinery to allow joint operations to take place on a European basis should such situations be judged on either side of the Atlantic, as one can so easily envisage, as being more of a European than American concern. None of that would weaken NATO, which is the ideal machinery for military action if everything is in place, although the command machinery for it may be a bit top-heavy at the moment.

I was also pleased to read of the Government's intention to encourage a co-operative relationship between NATO and Russia. That is very important, and we must pick our way carefully because I can see countries in eastern Europe, particularly Poland which has been so badly abused and dealt with in the course of this century, being both considerably alarmed about what may emerge in Russia after the Yeltsin era and also wanting firm military guarantees from the West should they feel threatened. The lesson of history must be that getting the balance of power right is what will produce stability and peace. In the 1920s we got it wrong in one direction and that led to getting it wrong in the 1930s in the opposite direction, particularly after the Soviet-Nazi pact. If the NATO commitment, let alone NATO troops, were ever pushed forward to the eastern borders of Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, I believe that that would be seen by the Russians and Ukrainians as tipping the balance of power too far against them, with some obvious potential dangers of reverting to the Cold War. Some form of mutual guarantees on the integrity of Poland and other eastern states, as perhaps implied in the gracious Speech, may be a better way of dealing with the real anxieties of eastern Europe.

I was delighted to hear of the Government's intention to introduce a Bill on the legislation governing our Reserve Forces. Over the years those forces have provided a significant contribution to the effectiveness of our Armed Forces and continue to do so. Even within the existing legislation reservists are supporting current operations, and I should like to take this opportunity to acknowledge their professionalism and dedication. The changing international security environment means that wider powers are now required if the reserves are to continue to play a full part. Those wider powers are welcomed by the volunteers themselves and by all those who care for the Reserve Forces. Therefore, I hope that that important Bill can be enacted as a matter of urgency.

I am perhaps more concerned with what was not in the speech but which is fundamental to our defence policy. History must have taught us that the price of the peace we all seek is not only eternal vigilance but also a clear commitment and a balance of power which is seen to be acceptable. That inevitably requires sufficiently strong military forces to give credibility to our foreign policy and to our good intentions. There are a number of matters which should still be of concern to your Lordships' House if our Armed Forces are to continue to make a contribution to that commitment.

In an era of manpower-intensive peace-keeping and humanitarian operations, perhaps I may concentrate on the very important subject of manpower and recruitment in the British Army, where the chickens are coming home to roost with a vengeance, as so many of us have for so long warned that they would.

The fighting arms are massively under strength. That much-respected defence correspondent Robert Fox, in an excellent article on 21st October in the Daily Telegraph, quoted a shortfall of 8,000 recruits to produce even the planned trained strength for the combat arms. That may be an exaggeration, as I am sure the noble Earl, the Minister, will point out, but the number runs into thousands and the shortfall is steadily rising. There are not enough gunners to man all of even the reduced number of guns in a battery; too few tank drivers to man all the considerably reduced number of tanks in a regiment; and, on average, there are two platoons short in each infantry battalion, whose overall establishment is in any case too low, making it impossible for them, without outside reinforcement, to deploy the fourth company which my experience as an infantry officer tells me is essential.

All that is happening at a time when the Army has already one-third of its barely 100,000 trained strength on operational duties, and when we may be required to provide up to 15,000 men for an indefinite period to monitor peace in Bosnia. That would put the ratio up to 50 per cent. In short, whoever can or cannot tell us to fight, the truth of the matter is that, unless we do something about it very soon, we shall no longer have the strength to make a worthwhile contribution in any conflict situation worthy of the name which lasts more than a few weeks. My own feeling is that we have reached that stage now.

So, to what should we attribute this increasingly serious state of affairs? Are we to believe that we have suddenly become a nation of wimps, in which our young men have no interest in serving their Queen and country and are not robust, enterprising and adventurous enough to undertake the undoubtedly arduous training required? That is not borne out by the performance of our forces in Northern Ireland, the Falklands and the Gulf and, more recently, in Bosnia. Our young men and women, once they are recruited, compare most favourably with any past generation, and their reputation throughout the world with friends and potential foes alike has never stood higher.

No, my Lords, the cause is much more likely to lie in the precise way the Armed Forces have been handled politically over the past five to six years, which have seen, year after year, savage financial cuts and literally scores of studies and reviews following each other in bewildering succession, on every conceivable area of activity (some of them with the most obscure rationale), so that no one in the Armed Forces knows where they stand or what is coming next. The overriding imperative of trying to save money, come what may, is there for all to see, but in all these exercises it has been almost as if the Government did not really know what the British Armed Forces were for. They may not have been alone in that.

First we had Options for Change—in reality "options for cuts"—which, however sensible it may have been in the political climate at the time, with all the euphoria over the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and strong political demand for a peace dividend (even if we were about to embark, with some difficulty I may say, on a full-scale war in the Gulf), manifestly overdid the cuts in Army manpower, with a Treasury imposed shortfall of 7,000 on the Army manpower ceiling below that which Ministers and the General Staff had agreed was the optimum figure.

Two years later there was the defence costs study (because the Chancellor required still more). This, under the catchy, but not completely accurate, marketing title of Front Line First, spawned some 30 to 40 more subsidiary studies which, although they produced savings which allowed the services to afford to purchase better equipment than otherwise might have been the case, added to the general upheaval, turmoil and uncertainty, even in the front line which it was supposed to safeguard.

Now we have the Bett Report on the whole structure of the services, among other things, advocating bringing service life more into tune with civilian practice. All the time, these studies apart, every devolved budget was being squeezed and squeezed so as to get down to some entirely bureaucratic perception of what constituted the essential core of defence forces activity.

The problem was that, whereas there were some good points in all of those studies, the cumulative effect has been that the core ethos of what makes a fighting force tick has been inexorably eroded so that few serving in the forces now have confidence in what will happen in the future. For instance, they have seen military music, which although apparently peripheral is in fact very important for morale as well as public knowledge of and esteem for the Armed Forces, needlessly cut to the bone and beyond, as they have the education services which are so helpful in building up usable qualifications, which are a strong factor in retaining people in the services. They have seen the medical services, so vital to the morale of families as well as servicemen and women, brought to a parlous state, particularly in the field of surgery, and unable to function properly in peace or in war. The latter could have very serious consequences if we had to mount another operation like the Gulf. And they have seen so much always considered to be an essential part of man management within the chain of command impersonally privatised or made into agencies, with lines of responsibility becoming blurred. Above all, in the so-called rationalisation of the training machine, many of the links and much of the motivation of the regimental system have been lost, further impersonalising service, which undoubtedly affects commitment and desire to serve, all of which so much depend on loyalty to the regimental family. Sad as it is to say, it is not Brussels which is likely to tinker around, rationalise our cap badges and regimental system, and degrade our spirit of service. It is this Government who have actually done so. The money may have been saved but it is producing totally the wrong climate in which to attract and hold recruits.

What can and should the Government be doing about it? I have no doubt that the noble Earl will be able to tell us some of the steps that the Ministry of Defence is now taking, rather belatedly. But in general it should be leaving the Armed Forces more to their own devices for a period of consolidation. You cannot easily recruit people into a manifestly contracting occupation, which is ever in the news as being cut, here, there and everywhere; and you do not exactly make it easier to persuade potential recruits to take the initiative and make the difficult initial step, first, by rationalising all the specialised recruiting offices and lumping them with the ordinary Jobcentres, which may or may not be interested, and, secondly, abolishing the young soldier units which were always a great source of adult recruiting.

You certainly do not gain recruits when you have insufficient numbers of units for the commitments undertaken, when everyone is so overstretched that spare time and family life go out of the window. If the present commitments, in particular those in Bosnia, continue as at the moment, and perhaps even increase as predicted, we might need more units but we certainly need stronger establishments in the units that we have in order to relieve the internal overwork and overstretch. Moreover, we certainly do not want to persist in the redundancy of those who want to serve merely because of some theoretical and wholly inadequate manpower ceiling figure insisted upon by the Treasury. Indeed, the turning off of recruiting in order to remain within that figure has contributed much to the present position. Experience has shown that once you cap recruiting you cannot easily turn it on again, so the Ministry of Defence has only itself to blame.

Nor do you keep up the strength of your fighting units by excessively cutting such strong runners in the motivation and recruiting stakes as the Guards (with a cut of 45 per cent.) the Gurkhas (with a cut of 65 per cent.), and other regiments which have the potential to recruit very well in the areas to which a healthy regimental system links them.

On 14th July I said in your Lordships' House that it would be madness to make redundant a large number of Gurkhas—well over a thousand—who are trained in a wide variety of skills, including parachuting, when the infantry and the Parachute Regiment are so much below strength. I am delighted that the Ministry of Defence has now decided to retain for three years after 1997 at least 400 Gurkhas who would otherwise have been made redundant. That is excellent news because it provides the most immediate economical and short-term palliative for the strengthening of our front line.

But that does not mean that we should not put a high priority on getting the right number and right quality of recruits for the future. If the Ministry of Defence is to do that, it cannot go on looking at the services as just another occupation in which profit and loss are the primary considerations. What you are looking for, what you need to reward directly or indirectly, and certainly to encourage, is total commitment to the primary role of fighting the Queen's enemies. Those you are looking for are unlikely to engage for peacekeeping duties and nothing else, important as those duties are. In any case, to be good peacekeepers they have also to be trained for more general combat, otherwise they will deteriorate as peacekeepers. General Rose will tell you that absolutely adamantly. As was quoted by Robert Fox in his excellent article, they have to be ready to cross that start line in the cold light of dawn, come what may, and to show the true spirit of the warrior—the will to face danger, the will to take risks, and the will, if need be, to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Morale, motivation and dynamic leadership as opposed to cautious financial management, are the key to success if the problem is to be solved. If it is not, as we approach the millennium, we shall either not be able with confidence and a high morale to meet all the commitments which the country's role as a leading international power (as in repeated White Papers Her Majesty's Government proudly boast) and as a member of the Security Council, invariably places on them; or we shall once again experience the traumas of military defeats and disasters such as we have been able to avoid for the past half century.

7.5 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, it is my great misfortune once more to follow a splendid act. It happened in the defence debate in July. I was deeply impressed. I am sorry to say that I shall say a little of the same but nothing like so well.

The noble Lord, Lord Healey—the only Member of this House who calls me "gorgeous"—made an impressive and fascinating global speech. I must continue to stick to my more limited last. I have to say, as I have been saying for five years in this House, that because Russia's leadership and ideology have not fundamentally changed, its instability and nostalgia for the past remain a potential threat to peace. Unless NATO and its members retain the power to deter, the future for peace continues to be at risk. There is a phoenix rising from the ashes which may not be a friendly bird. While I understand the arguments for bringing Russia within Europe rather than excluding it, we have to remember (if I may change my metaphor) that even the most high minded geese rarely succeed in influencing a fox once he has been invited in and that Mr. Churkin is a master of the old Russian tactic of neutralising the enemy. That is one more reason for relief that the ineffably awful Secretary General who was especially vulnerable to Mr. Churkin's undoubted charms should have departed. I may say that I find it disgraceful that Mr. Claes should ever have been appointed. We could hardly have chosen a better way to demean the role of NATO; and I am not ashamed of saying that.

I am therefore not reassured by our present state of defence. Russia has a military strength of 1,800,000 men supplemented by a further 2,250,000 men—the border troops, the MVD and KGB troops, all those charmers who operated in Chechnya—together with heavy equipment and air and sea power. There are in addition the forces of the CIS which is now developing a single air defence system and integrated equipment. The strategic rocket force is the priority. Russia has developed a new ICBM, the TOPOL, a new operational tactical missile, the FAKEL, demonstrated to foreign buyers at Kapustin Yar, a new tank, the T90, and a new SU 35 superfighter. The Russians plan to sell 400 of these. What if the Germans prefer that to the Eurofighter?

In reply to helpful overtures from NATO, no doubt part of our declared wish to encourage a co-operative relationship with Russia, Russia has served notice that she will not adhere to the flank limitation clauses of the CFE treaty if they do not suit her. Forty tonnes of chemical weapons have not been destroyed and are described by a Russian general as "a time bomb waiting to go off"; and Russia continues to make biological weapons. The defence budget has moved steadily upwards from 900 billion roubles in 1992 to 78,900 billion this year, over 17 billion US dollars. The army is demanding over 90,000 billion next year plus extra money for research. Not least, the army is moving into politics with 123 candidates in the election, 23 of whom are generals, all with a defence agenda. General Lebed, the most prestigious, has the support of the Communists, perhaps so far the most potentially powerful group. Russia is selling nuclear arms to China, the Far and Middle East, is now regularly sabre rattling in the context of NATO expansion, and is doing all it can to neutralise NATO from within. Does this all augur a safer world? I do not say that Russia will again be the enemy that the USSR was, but she will often need to be deterred quite as much as she needs to be reassured.

Let us look nearer home where the Treasury's chickens, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said, are coming home to roost. It seems that—surprise, surprise—recruiting for the services through Jobcentres does not work. It does not bring in recruits. Abolishing recruitment centres saves money in the short term but something has gone wrong with what our business oriented White Paper calls the customer supplier chain. Would-be recruits have questions to ask about the difficulties as well as the satisfactions of a service career which only servicemen can answer. So a short-term economy has proved a long-term disaster, as has the abolition of the junior leader schemes. Is it true that the teeth arms of the Army are 2,000 short—I understand, again from the noble and gallant Lord, that it may be more—and the infantry 5 per cent, below establishment? I rejoice that one result has been to keep some Gurkhas. But anything less like, Stable Forces in a Strong Britain", it would be hard to imagine.

As for what is laughingly called strategic planning and management of defence, it seems that out of the 50 military tasks defined in the White Paper, task 3.7 (contribution to operations under international auspices)—in this case Bosnia, an open-ended commitment if ever there was one—and task 1.5 (military aid to the civil power in Northern Ireland) between them account for 50 per cent. of our trained manpower of 106,500 men. Bosnia is clearly the larger part of that 50 per cent. No wonder there will be even less time for training an Army whose strength has hitherto been its high professionalism.

However, I am forgetting that invaluable resource of our planners, multiple earmarking. I quote: Multiple earmarking is an essential component of our force planning process … to get maximum value for money from the resources allocated to the defence budget", which are, of course, becoming more and more invisible. The secret is to earmark one man for all, or nearly all, the tasks and hope that they never conflict. Why bother to recruit any more real people, or spend our valuable money on offering bounties to serving soldiers to persuade their friends to join? Would it not be excellent value for money to produce some cardboard cut-out figures wearing appropriate multi-hats? They would not need training and would not be troubled by the constant extension of their tours without rotation.

I quoted the steep increase in Russian defence spending. Ours is expected to decline by 14.5 per cent. in real terms from 1992 to 1997, and down to 2.8 per cent. of GDP. We are told proudly that this is above the average GDP spending on defence by our European allies—the Greeks and the Portugese, I suppose. That is very relevant since they are our allies, not potential adversaries. National security remains of the highest importance to my Government", says the gracious Speech. I should like to believe that; and so, I am sure, would the services. But is it really so? Does anyone understand the problems of morale and the importance of service? I remain to be convinced that the Government truly feel this way. I greatly respect what my noble friend the Minister had to say about Britain's unique influence in the world. But it is not enough to speak softly. One must also carry a big stick. At the moment, if I may say so to the noble Earl who will reply, we are reduced to waving a very small swagger-stick.

7.12 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Park: she always makes it abundantly clear why it is that I disagree with her. There can be no doubt in the matter. In a situation in which there is a great deal of doubt, it is sometimes refreshing to know where one stands.

The gracious Speech has been given rather a hard time. That is understandable when one considers such blind and bald statements as, The United Kingdom's minimum nuclear deterrent will be maintained". That seems to obscure another fact; namely, given its maximum possibility, Trident could destroy much of New York or Moscow, and most of their people, at one stroke. So we have not a minimum deterrent, but a flexible machine with a variety of uses, and that is regarded with considerable satisfaction. I suggest that that satisfaction is misplaced.

However, not all of the gracious Speech deserves to be opposed. It contains some phrases with which I find myself in very considerable agreement. I quote, for example, from paragraph 5 on the first page: Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remains a priority. My Government will introduce legislation to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. They will pursue negotiations on a verifiable comprehensive test ban treaty and a convention to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive purposes". There is not much wrong with that, is there? It shows a Government approaching the question of peace.

I want now to complain, not of a matter that is in the gracious Speech but of one that ought to have been included and is not there. I just quoted a paragraph that shows the Government in a peace seeking mode. The most important development in that area is not mentioned at all in the gracious Speech; namely, we could be in sight of a nuclear weapons convention. Last December, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution asking the International Court of Justice urgently to render its advisory opinion on the question: Is the threat or use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances permitted under international law?". The United Nations Secretary General immediately passed the resolution to the court. Last February the court announced that it had invited states to make submissions by 20th June 1995. Oral proceedings are now being held at The Hague and are, I believe, about to reach a conclusion. The court is expected to give its opinion early next year.

Some 43 governments have made submissions. The rumour is that a clear majority came down in favour of making nuclear weapons illegal. I do not know what the British Government said. Perhaps we shall be informed when the noble Earl replies to the debate—at least, I hope that we shall; I am sure he will say something on the subject. I shall listen with great interest. At the moment, my information is not very good. I understand that the Government are trying with the French to scupper the whole thing. I hope that is not true. If they are, they should bear in mind that opinion polls show that 80 per cent. of Europeans are against French testing, and 76 per cent. of British are of the same mind. So the vast majority of us believe that it is John Major who is wrong, wrong, wrong. Perhaps his listeners thought he was reminiscing.

The leaders of the small minority of nuclear weapon holding states—which, as was pointed out, command the Security Council; I believe that most are nuke-holders—each possess the ability individually to start a nuclear war. Such a war could destroy civilisation, if not life on Earth. The nuclear states are under pressure from the non-nuclear states to support the General Assembly resolution.

Since other, less lethal, weapons are already categorised as illegal, and the Government are about to ratify such a convention in respect of chemical weapons, it seems to be at least possible, perhaps even probable, that the court will agree with the General Assembly resolution and will declare nuclear weapons to be illegal. We shall see. Perhaps that explains the tactic of the nuclear powers, which seem to concentrate not on arguing the impossible argument that such a weapon can be regarded as legal while, for example, a laser weapon, which can only inflict a minor amount of damage compared with a nuclear weapon, is regarded as illegal. So it seems that the nuclear powers, faced with that impossibility, are concentrating on urging the court not to give an opinion rather than argue for the legality of a weapon which is illegal by all previous standards.

If the court decides to give an opinion early next year, which I understand to be its present announced intention, and if that opinion is in accordance with the General Assembly resolution, that would not he the end of the nuclear threat but it might well be the beginning of the end. Surely we must all agree that that would be "a consummation devoutly to be wished".

The court's opinion is advisory. It carries no enforcement powers. But a positive opinion might reasonably be expected to bring a fresh urgency and reality to the aim of ridding the world of this menace. While nuclear weapons abound, a future Saddam must eventually acquire the power to terminate a civilisation that he despises. Action which might reasonably be expected to follow a positive opinion from the court is exemplified by the START agreement between Russia and America and, as I said, if there can be a convention outlawing chemical weapons, there is no reason why nuclear weapons should not follow.

What is the Government's position? Will they remove any objection that they may have had to the court reaching an opinion? If, by a declaration of illegality the court condemns the nuclear weapon, will they take part in seeking urgent agreement to bring its testing and deployment to an end? Will they support a convention to ban nuclear weapons, to make them illegal? What is the position of the Opposition? I do not know that either. Will my noble friend join me in urging that course upon the Government? Let us have an opinion against nuclear weapons and then we can all work to give peace a chance. I hope to hear from my noble friend Lord Judd, when he makes his speech towards the end of the debate this evening, that he will join me in making that request to the Government. I need hardly say I hope that the Government will accede to the request But I hope equally strongly that my noble friend will join me in making it.

Let the world agree to lift from the conscience and consciousness of humanity the shadow of extinction by nuclear explosion. We may not get another chance.

7.25 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, the gracious Speech mentions new Reserve Forces legislation and ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention. I very much welcome those and look forward to debating them in this House.

Tonight, I should like to concentrate on some other important defence aspects which concern our air power capability. Last month there was considerable speculation in the media about the Royal Air Force getting American F16 fighter type aircraft. I was grateful to receive a reply from the noble Earl, the Minister, to my Question for Written Answer on that subject. He reassured me that there were no plans to acquire that well regarded but now dated aircraft. I hope that he can also reassure the House that the potential damage that that piece of news could do to our industry and the Royal Air Force is now better understood by the new team of defence Ministers. If such an order were ever placed, it could decimate and perhaps destroy our own advanced aerospace defence industry. It could threaten to deny the Royal Air Force a high performance air superiority fighter, which it has lacked for over a decade and which will only be put right when it gets Eurofighter.

So much depends on successful completion of the long and protracted development phase of Eurofighter. It is incredible that the Government, despite later protestations to the contrary, should have given even the slightest indication that they were not seriously and wholeheartedly committed to the project. What a slap in the eye for our European partners in this programme! What a chance for its detractors to pull the plug on Eurofighter! What a golden opportunity for the United States' aerospace industry to sell us, as a loss leader, an aircraft which will be no match for Eurofighter when it comes. But would the same supplier be so generous with support costs through the F16s 10 or 20-year life? It does not take a specialist in logistics or training to realise that the costs of support over and above the price of the air frame can amount to very large sums.

There are also serious operational drawbacks. For example, the F16 cannot be refuelled in flight by our tanker aircraft. It carries a different range of weapons from our current fighter, the Tornado F3. Even as a stalking horse attempt to squeeze a lower price out of the Eurofighter consortium, it looks very thin to me.

There will be some in the services who would like an air superiority capability now, which the RAF has lacked for far too long. But they need to be aware of the side effects that such a deal could bring in its wake. It is instructive to ask why the Royal Air Force still lacks the ability to match the air superiority performance of many of today's air forces.

The answer lies in part almost two decades ago. Then the RAF, faced with ever more sophisticated Warsaw Pact air defences, lacked the ability to penetrate them to reach their ground targets. We desperately needed the bomber variant of Tornado. But if we were to get it and retain our industrial place in the development and manufacture of that very successful aircraft, we had to take over 150 of the fighter variant of Tornado. Today's discussions about upgrading the Tornado F3, which is not an air superiority fighter but an all-weather bomber destroyer, need to be seen against that background. It is a salutary lesson about the significant downstream legacy of a major procurement decision taken over 20 years ago.

Nevertheless, much can still be done very well (and even better after their upgrade) with those F3s. In the hands of their highly trained and dedicated air crews they have shown on many occasions in Bosnia and in the Gulf that they are able to operate against opposition which those in other aircraft types find hard to tackle. I hope therefore that Ministers will now concentrate their efforts on the political and international collaborative arena to ensure that Eurofighter reaches frontline service as quickly as possible. It is very disturbing that it is not yet ready for production and appears to be running well over estimates. If he has time, perhaps the Minister can say when a production order will be placed.

I make much of this one issue because it relates to a key ingredient of our national capability to engage in high or low intensity conflict. It is not exclusively an RAF issue. It goes to the heart of the Government's intention to remain a world player in peace-keeping and now in peace-enforcing operations. If we are to do that successfully and not put at unnecessary and morally indefensible risk, the lives of our aircrews, they must be provided with the right aircraft and weapons to undertake their tasks. Fighter v fighter engagements are a battle of wits and tactics and part of the struggle for air superiority. But they are also a battle between the performance and agility of the aircraft involved. If we ask aircrews to engage in a joust to death, we can only honourably do so if they have the equipment which gives them a much better than evens chance of winning the fight. For that the RAF must have Eurofighter.

Some defence commentators still find it hard to accept that the contribution of air power to military and political success has taken such far-reaching strides in the past few years. For many years, going back to the immediate pre and post World War II years, and the writings of Douhet and Mitchell, and many others in the earlier days of air power, aspirations far outreached the technical ability of air forces to achieve what was claimed for them.

Only recently have we seen technology make possible the amazing accuracies now widely seen on our television screens; effectively (in the jargon) putting the "bomb in the bucket". In spite of this, much is still made of the assertion that air forces cannot hold and take ground, as though to infer that they are not really what matters. I agree the assertion; but I strongly object to the inference. That does no credit to the commentator's understanding of modern conflict, nor to the key place in it of offensive air power.

If Her Majesty's Government want to maintain their position as a major contributor to conflict resolution, if necessary by military means, then they must equip the services with the right air power capabilities to carry that out. In agreeing to the mid-life update of the Tornado bomber variant, the previous ministerial team in the MOD clearly understood that and reached the right decision.

Recent experience in the Gulf conflict and in Bosnia demonstrated more vividly than any words of mine what a key role and contribution modern offensive air power now has to offer. The Gulf War did not last just a hundred hours—the hundred hours that it took the coalition ground forces to achieve all their main battle objectives. It was the concentration of force, skilfully directed and applied from the air, which ensured that even the most elite of the Iraqi forces did not have the stomach to fight, even to defend their own country from our attacking formations. They were quickly beaten in the air. Weakening their ground formations from the air took longer, but the swift victory of our ground forces owed much to the air supremacy so effectively won by the coalition's air campaign.

So too in Bosnia: when military advice to use heavy force was politically accepted, we saw the impact of a well directed and flown air campaign. Indeed, it is the combination of wills, of both military and political wills to mount hard-hitting operations which tells the opposition that we are serious, and really mean what we say.

If governments are to make it clear beyond peradventure that they mean what they say, and seek to say so with military forces, then they must have at their disposal not only first class equipment, but also fighting men and women who will ensure through their training, their dedication, their loyalty and their courage, that they are able to deliver what the Government seek. Attempts to provide the second rate, to cut far into uniformed support and sustainability, not only endangers those we expect to fight for us, but also puts at risk the whole strategy that this Government are seeking to follow. To remain a world player in the field of defence is a political aspiration and one which sits well with this country's proud heritage and experience and our own all-professional forces. But it is in danger of slipping from our grasp. My noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall made some telling points about studies and their impact on morale.

Defence ministers seem to have started to heed too many dubious nostrums which would treat our Armed Forces as though they can be run on the same basis as some reasonably successful business or industry. Businesslike and industrious you will find our services; but to be successful in operations they need to be inspired, well led and prepared, if necessary, to put their lives at risk. We do them and our national interest little good if we think on them as just another world-class company driven by a profit motive and cash accountability. Their motivation is ethos, not cash. Their bottom line must be victory, not profit. They must be allowed to keep those worthy and timeless attributes throughout these changing times.

7.37 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I was hoping to be able to welcome back the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, hot foot back from CHOGM, badly jet-lagged. But, like the aid budget, the Government are putting her under too much pressure.

The reply to the gracious Speech allows me the opportunity to discuss the implications of any reduction in the aid budget. It seems almost certain that although the gracious Speech mentions a substantial aid programme being maintained, focused at the poorest countries, even a minor cut in the aid budget would have a significant effect. The Minister gave no indication that cuts will take place. But it is clear that any cuts that are made to fund the tax cuts bonanza being played on in the press will have to come out of the bilateral budget. As usual, I do not expect the Minister to give details about any proposed cuts. However, I am sure she is aware that there would be an enormous public outcry if money directed to the poorest countries in the world was to be redirected into tax bribes.

When I first heard of the leaked document referring to proposed cuts in the aid budget, I launched a petition against those cuts which I hope to present to the Minister before the Budget. Considering that the petition had little publicity, I was extremely surprised by the response. It is clear that it is an issue that large numbers of people care deeply about. I sincerely hope that the Government are not mistaken into thinking that cutting the Overseas Development Administration's budget would be either popular or go unnoticed.

Although the recent tragedy in Nigeria focused many people's minds on the remaining political dictatorships and human rights abuses that take place in Africa, it would be wrong not to mention the remarkable wave of democratisation that has taken place in southern Africa over the past couple of years. It is easy to forget that there is an optimistic mood in large parts of that continent. It is not just South Africa that changed its political landscape; peace and democracy have come to Mozambique, a country which for many years was afflicted by one of the most bloody civil wars. Malawi embraced democratic elections, replacing a one-party state with that rare and wonderful thing, a liberal government. Zambia has moved to multi-party politics along with, most recently, Tanzania. The ODA and the Minister have played a leading role in assisting the process of democratisation. Recently I had the privilege of monitoring the elections in Tanzania as part of the Commonwealth observer group, the first multi-party elections held there in 30 years. Although the election process broke down in Dar es Salaam, the ODA showed its flexibility by having ballot papers printed which will allow the elections in Dar es Salaam districts to be held again this Sunday.

The problem many African countries face now is that these fragile, new democracies inherited a legacy of misrule, corruption and debt. It is now that they need assistance more than ever. To cut our bilateral aid budget now, as I am sure the Minister is only too aware, would be a sad betrayal of the democratic process. However, future development for these countries will rest on private investment and trade to a far greater degree than aid. The major obstacle to development for the poorest countries has to be debt to the multilateral institutions. Reform of the multilateral institutions which would allow them to write off debt is a policy that I hope the Government will pursue with every possible means.

Good governance and human rights can no longer be ignored as they have been in the past. I therefore commend the governments on calling for the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth. The suspension for two years, which could lead to expulsion, will show the military dictatorship in Nigeria the disapproval of the other members of the Commonwealth. However, such measures do not go far enough. Effective sanctions against Nigeria would very possibly have economic implications for Britain. I hope the Government will not use that as an excuse for failing to act against the Government of Nigeria who have shown such contempt for human rights and their political opponents.

While Britain acted promptly over Nigeria at CHOGM it must have been embarrassing for the British delegation that the Government showed implicit support for French nuclear testing in the south Pacific. We on these Benches were extremely disappointed that the Government failed to use their influence to stop those tests taking place and to show support for other members of the Commonwealth. The call for a test ban would have had far greater weight if Britain, as a nuclear power, could have taken the lead in condemning the tests in the south Pacific.

Legislation to ratify the chemical weapons convention is a welcome measure. However, I would urge the Government again to look closely at their policy on landmines and to take a lead in breaking the deadlock when the inhumane weapons convention resumes in January. Perhaps it is time for the Government to change their position on the issue of landmines and support an all out ban.

I now wish to turn to the Reserve Forces Bill. At this point I must declare an interest. I am currently an officer in the Territorial Army, serving with 103 Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. As I am paid as a member of TA I suppose that I must also declare a financial interest. The Reserve Forces Bill is a piece of legislation that can be looked at in two ways. If the aim of the legislation is to increase the effectiveness and ability of the British Army to use the talents, knowledge and experience of the Territorial Army, as I believe is the aim of the Bill, then it has the wholehearted support of these Benches. The danger is that this might be looked at as a piece of legislation that will save money or, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, pointed out, the Territorial Army might be seen as a way of filling the gaps left in the Army through its inability to recruit up to strength.

The Army, through the recent cuts, has been reduced to a minimum strength to meet its commitments. This piece of legislation has the danger of replacing regular soldiers with a cheaper TA equivalent. If that danger is avoided the Bill will be advantageous to the Territorial Army, which will be given a new sense of purpose, and will also greatly aid the regular Army in technical and skilled areas such as medicine, mechanical engineering and transport that are always in such short supply during any large operation.

One of the major benefits of the Bill will obviously be that members of the Territorial Army will be able at some point in their career, if they so elect, to perform a role in real operations, such as the humanitarian work in Bosnia. That will give a focus to their training which was difficult when the activities of the Territorial Army were so limited. The benefit of that will surely be seen in the increased retention of members of the Territorial Army which at the moment has such a high turnover rate. I speak from the experience of one who has actually been on recruiting stands around the country.

Areas of the Bill that cause me specific concern are the relations between Territorial Army soldiers and their employers. In the units I have served with I have often come across cases where soldiers failed to tell their employers that they were members of the Territorial Army, believing that it would be detrimental to their promotion prospects. That is particularly the case for people in small companies where replacement of an employee who is called up may be almost unacceptable to a firm. In those cases many members of small companies might feel it impossible also to be a member of the Territorial Army. For the Bill to be a success, accurate and understandable information will need to be available about the commitments and duties of members of the Territorial Army, specifically the high readiness reserve volunteers, so that employers are able to understand the commitments that each member of the Territorial Army is expected to undertake.

Problems could arise if employers, as is often the case, do not understand the varying levels of commitment to which individual members of the Territorial Army are subject. I realise that a large and comprehensive consultation process has been undertaken and that the reactions of many employers have been extremely positive. However, I am sure that this will be the area of the Bill that is most closely scrutinised and I believe that in many areas the legislation will need to be clarified. That is especially the case for self-employed members of the Territorial Army. The Bill has to be far more specific about rights to compensation for losses sustained by their businesses in the same way as happens for large employers. If that is not the case, many self-employed people will feel themselves financially unable to undertake the major commitment that the Bill implies. Considering the skill base of those who are self-employed, that would be an unfortunate loss.

The package of measures unveiled in the gracious Speech has been criticised for its lack of depth and content, although I believe that there is enough here to keep us busy until the next election.

7.47 p.m.

Lord Greenhill of Harrow

My Lords, it is getting late and I shall therefore be brief. I shall concentrate for the most part on the future of the United Nations.

First, I should like to repeat a proposal which I made when the Chamber discussed on 22nd March the 50th anniversary of the UN Organisation. The discussion on that day was for the most part laudatory and somewhat self-congratulatory, but at that time I took the liberty of saying that I was more pessimistic than the majority of those who spoke. I said I did not believe that the present United Nations was capable of reforming itself and that the problems of its future needed intense and merciless examination. I suggested that a modest sized, independent, talented international commission should be set up to plan and recommend how the UN could be made to function effectively and that the conclusions and recommendations of that commission should be the subject of a special meeting and debate by the existing membership.

That suggestion did not commend itself to the House and the noble Baroness the Minister said that she preferred to continue with the existing moves cautiously to reform. I well understood that, but I was disappointed. I was therefore surprised and pleased when the Prime Minister spoke in New York on 23rd October at a full meeting of the membership of the United Nations. His speech received little attention here: indeed, I found difficulty in getting a copy. I would like to know how many Members have actually seen it. The Prime Minister listed very clearly and critically the present state of affairs which needed tackling and proposed that a special session of the General Assembly should next year address these issues.

Personally, I find it very difficult to believe that a full session of the Assembly can produce the answers we need without special preparation. I recommend therefore that the commission which I outlined in March should be established as soon as possible and should ultimately produce an agenda that the full meeting of the Assembly, which the Prime Minister proposed in his speech, can consider. I see no better way. I do not believe that our political parties will find it too difficult to agree how the United Nations should be reformed. It will of course be extremely hard to get a measure of world agreement.

However, it is not only the future of the United Nations which must greatly worry us. It seems to me that it is certain that the last years of this century will be profoundly critical for the future of this country. I doubt whether that is fully realised by the average person. What is needed as soon as possible—it may well be quite impossible—is a British foreign policy which is common to our political parties. We should, in my view, all work towards that.

7.52 p.m.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton

My Lords, in view of the recent resolution of your Lordships' House I suppose I should declare an interest although I have declared it before. My wife is Polish and she owns a house in Poland and naturally I do not want her to lose it. Taking your Lordships' resolutions to their logical conclusion, it could be—but I hope it will not—that your Lordships will be allowed to speak only about matters of which your Lordships are wholly ignorant. Then we shall be on a level with much of the press and the media.

As I shall be speaking of central and eastern Europe, I should like to declare no interest in the Polish presidential election. I hope that the best man wins; but it disturbs me that I was told the day before yesterday that the Guardian supports Mr. Kwasniewski. There must be a great deal to be said for his opponent, Mr. Walesa, in that case.

To cover the whole field of global politics and national defence in one day's debate is an ambitious project and one which your Lordships endeavour to achieve at the beginning of each Session of Parliament. It is a pity that we do not have more debates on foreign policy. Those of us who are concerned with particular areas often find that even when these areas become widely reported in the media, there is little opportunity to discuss them here except in the very brief question and answer sessions at Question Time.

The war in Chechnya is a case in point. However, I was fortunate enough last summer to be able to bring that situation to your Lordships' attention by means of an Unstarred Question. The situation in Chechnya was not referred to by my noble friend Lady Chalker or by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, albeit the noble Baroness was eloquent, and rightly so, on the matter of human rights abuses in Nigeria and elsewhere. I have to ask my noble friend Lord Howe, who is to reply, this question: does that mean that this matter of the war in Chechnya is, as many of us feared it would be, to be brushed under the carpet not merely by Her Majesty's Government but also by Her Majesty's Opposition? What I do not understand is why it is that Russia under any guise, Soviet or otherwise, always seems to get away with it, while lesser countries like Nigeria, Indonesia and Burma get it in the neck and quite rightly, as they should. I do not understand why Russia always gets away with it.

I believe that the situation in Chechnya required more attention than it was given in your Lordships' House over the past Session. The whole development of international relations in central and eastern Europe is too often relegated to the sidelines though I can think of no area which is more important to our future. Those of us who are old enough—and that means most of your Lordships—remember all too well that it was in that area that the seeds of the Second World War were sown. The collapse of the Soviet Union has given central Europe a breathing space which in my opinion it is making very good use of.

What we should realise is that it has also given us a breathing space. So far as I can see, we are not making anything like full use of it. Economically—and I speak of Poland which I know—its transformation since 1989 is completely breathtaking. In 1989 Poland looked like a country which had just survived a war and been defeated in it. There was very little in the shops and what little there was attracted long queues. Petrol was hard to come by and the telephone system was a disaster. Now when I go to Poland I have to rub my eyes to remember what it was like. Much remains to be done and there are serious problems, but there are serious problems everywhere. They are rebuilding an economy which was ruined by 50 years of war and foreign occupation; and we all know, to use a trite expression, that Rome was not built in a day.

The future looks bright enough, but there is one cloud on the horizon which we in the west ought to dispel and in my view we ought to act immediately. This question has been raised today already. I am referring to the present turbulent situation in Russia and the frightening reappearance of classical Russian jingoism and xenophobia. The west has, on the whole, preferred to look the other way while the Russian army continued its brutal campaign in Chechnya. They have taken refuge in the comforting legalistic conception that Chechnya is an internal problem, ignoring the fact that Chechnya has never willingly submitted to Russian rule and that it was occupied 700 years later than English-occupied Ireland.

We ignore at our peril the fact that Russian nationalism works on the theory that the whole of the former Soviet Union, including the Baltic states plus at least Poland and part of Romania, are an integral part of Great Russia. Mr. Zhirinovsky has stated that in an extreme form, but his views are not far removed from those of many of his compatriots. The fact is that the invasion of Chechnya is perceived as a threat by all the countries which were formerly occupied by the Red Army. The incompetent brutality of the campaign brings back memories which most people in those countries would rather forget, but they cannot forget them when they see once more the Russian military behaving, as they see it, normally. We have seen on our television sets what passes, or apparently passes, in Russia for a peacekeeping operation. If what we have seen in Chechnya is the Russian idea of peacekeeping, I wonder why the West is so keen to have Russian troops in Bosnia. How many of the Russian soldiers at present deployed, or to be deployed, in Bosnia are veterans of the Chechnyan campaign? Perhaps my noble friend the Minister will enlighten us on this.

Furthermore, it is also a fact that the merciless invasion by the Red Army of Poland, the Baltic states, Romania and Finland are still within living memory in those countries. The Russian Government do nut wish us to include the Visegrad states—Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary—in NATO because they say that they fear for their own security. They fear that Russia may become encircled though how you encircle a country that stretches from the Baltic to Japan beats me. But are not Poland and her neighbours entitled to some security, too? There may be disagreements between Poles, Germans, Lithuanians and the rest, but I have found that the one thing on which those countries agree absolutely is that they do not want the Russian military back under any guise whatsoever—and certainly not as peacekeepers.

Would it not be a good idea for the West to stop beating about the bush? As your Lordships may remember, one of Professor Parkinson's laws was, Delay is the deadliest form of denial". Delay in extending the boundaries of NATO at least to the Visegrad countries is the greatest perceived threat to the future of those countries. Three out of four of them were our allies in the last war. Poland, in spite of her terrible sufferings in the common cause, was betrayed and handed over to the rule of a group of vicious Stalinist carpetbaggers as a reward for her not inconsiderable contribution to the defeat of Germany. Those countries are now free and starting to flourish. Do we not owe them something? Something more than we owe to east Germany, which is already in NATO and the EC? I am not against that, but we should and ought to go further.

When I was in Warsaw last September, I met the deputy manager of the Bank of Poland, Mr. Kozinski. I asked him about the problems associated with EC membership for Poland and he replied that he would much rather have Poland in NATO. That is the view of a bank manager and it is easy to see why he holds it. Everything gained since 1989 is at risk should Russia become imperialistic and aggressive once more. As I understand it, there are more Russian troops in the Kaliningrad area than in the entire Polish army. I should like to ask what they are there for. People know perfectly well that if that army were to attack Poland, or more particularly if it were to attack Lithuania, the West would call a meeting of the Security Council and make an awful lot of noise. They might even send humanitarian aid and invoke sanctions; but, practically, they would do nothing.

I am not saying that that is likely to happen—I hope that it will not happen—but I do say that it could happen. The Poles and Czechs in particular deserve more from us than mere expressions of goodwill. Their airmen and soldiers helped to save our liberties from 1939 to 1945, but not theirs. We now have the opportunity and I believe that we ought to use it.

8.2 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I listened with sympathy to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and my noble friend Lord Jacobovits. I hope that what I shall try to say about the Palestinian people will complement those previous speeches.

The Palestinians remain the key to lasting peace in the Middle East. There are now some 7 million of them and that total is expected to rise to 8 million by the year 2000. As a people, they are fragmented and scattered as a result of wars. Over 800,000 live within the recognised boundaries of the state of Israel, while a further 2 million exist in the occupied territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. A larger proportion still is found outside the limits of historic Palestine, nearly 4 million, of whom some 2 million are in Jordan where they benefit from citizenship and voting rights. The precarious and vulnerable condition of many of the ex-patriate Palestinians can be seen from what happened to them in Kuwait during the Gulf War and even more recently this year to those who were then in Libya. To be a "guest worker" in the Middle East is not an enviable position.

My thesis tonight is that any peace settlement will have to do justice to the Palestinians if it is to be a lasting one. In order to be seen as equitable and fair, it will have to make adequate provision for items including refugees, Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories in the light of international law, the future of Jerusalem, and of land and water resources.

Refugees are those people and their descendants who were driven out or who fled from their homes in Palestine in 1948 and 1967. They have been meticulously enumerated by UNWRA, whose 1993 figures showed a total of just under 3 million. This to my mind is a humanitarian, not simply a political, issue. The most urgent humanitarian point, as so often, is the reunion of divided families. Families living in Israel or the Occupied Territories having a spouse or children outside the former Palestine are believed to number over 100,000 and many of them have not yet applied for reunion. As regards displaced refugee families, in December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly determined in Resolution 194, paragraph 11, that: The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so … and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return, and for loss or damage to property". I suggest that if Jews are to have rights of return (aliyah) to Israel, so should Palestinians to their former homes. In Israel, Palestinians now make up 18 or 19 per cent. of the total population. By 2020 they are likely to constitute a quarter. The Basic Law of Israel of 1985 discriminates against non-Jews. Many Palestinian local communities are not recognised and therefore lack basic services. Much Palestinian land has been confiscated and prospects for the social and professional advancement of Palestinians are poor.

The necessary remedies include recognition of the Palestinian community as a national minority, and a new law of citizenship; the participation of Palestinians in all areas of national life within Israel; a review of all land expropriations since 1948 and the allocation of national resources equally and without regard to ethnic origin.

I come now to the matter of the territory occupied by Israel since 1967. The relevant international law is contained in the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which was ratified by Israel, Jordan and Syria. The land in question was seized by military forces and has been under military occupation and administration since then, until the beginnings of the new Palestinian authority in Gaza and Jericho. To call the territories, including the Syrian Golan and parts of southern Lebanon "disputed" is an equivocation which sets at nought the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and the principles of the Helsinki Agreements. It follows from the above that all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory are illegal and must be removed unless any of the settlers agree to live under the jurisdiction of the new Palestinian authority. In the interim, all forms of collective punishment of the inhabitants of the territory must cease, and both Israel and the PLO must comply with human rights norms under Clause 14 of the Cairo Agreement.

In November 1947, the UN General Assembly in Resolution 181, which was confirmed by Resolution 194 in the following year, laid down that Jerusalem and its surroundings should be a corpus separatum under permanent UN administration. Resolution 194, in paragraph 8, specifically mentioned and based itself on the association of the Jerusalem area with three major world religions. Both resolutions provided for free access to the holy places in accordance with time-honoured practices. I regret to say that free access is at the moment somewhat hampered by identity card rules imposed by Israel and affecting residents of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, by the closing of borders and by curfews.

It follows from the resolutions already mentioned, from the fourth Geneva Convention and from Security Council Resolution 242 that Israel's annexation of north and east Jerusalem and declaration in 1983 of a vast Greater Jerusalem is wholly illegal. Recent attempts to dissuade visiting Ministers from other countries from calling on Palestinian representatives in Orient House, east Jerusalem, were a flouting of international law. Efforts to establish an Israeli majority in Palestinian east Jerusalem are deplorable and should cease. I very much regret that planning law has been abused to favour developments benefiting Israelis and to hinder or prevent developments for Palestinians.

The UN should lay down principles whereby the City of Jerusalem can be shared as the capital both of the state of Israel and of the Palestinian authority and eventual state. There is ample space for both purposes. Full access to the holy places for all bona fide visitors must continue to be guaranteed.

I have already touched on the question of land. It is inadmissible that the territory of recognised states should be acquired by war. The UN and the great powers should uphold that basic principle. Israel of course has security needs, but if it wishes to protect such needs from outside its recognised boundaries, it should be obliged to compensate the elected Palestinian Government, either in territory or by other means.

Water is another key to peace. In the past, the Sea of Galilee has been dangerously depleted. Israel is thought to be drawing 40 per cent. of its consumption from aquifers in the West Bank. In 1990, Israeli hydrologists themselves warned that consumption was exceeding replacement by 15 per cent. per year. Israel's use of water per head was recently 170 cubic metres per annum compared with only 35 cubic metres for Palestinians. I suggest that it is the duty of the UN and the great powers to obtain agreement on equitable formulas for sharing the water resources of the whole area for the benefit of all its inhabitants.

Your Lordships may think that I have asked a lot of Israel and not enough of the Palestinians. I reply that the founding covenant of the PLO has to be amended to recognise the existence of the state of Israel. Such a move has been promised but must soon be implemented. All symbols claiming Palestinian possession of the whole of historic Palestine should be removed. Any other asymmetry merely reflects the fact that Israel has been in occupation of all the former Palestinian lands since 1967 and that there is no comparison in bargaining strength between Israel and the PLO.

The UN and the great powers, including the EU, have the right and the duty to redress the balance and to ensure that the eventual agreements are just ones. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have shown good intentions by their recent visits. I urge them to use all the means at their disposal to achieve a just settlement—one that can lead to a new era of harmony and prosperity throughout the fertile crescent.

8.13 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, the debate on the gracious Speech on foreign affairs and defence is rather like Christmas. It comes round with amazing regularity, and it does not change much from year to year. What I mean is, the same people say the same things—well, pretty well so—every year for ever, which is very reassuring in a world of change. Of course, everything in this world being finite, that is not so. But it sometimes seems so. And that is very reassuring.

It is uplifting and humbling to be among the great and the good, as one is in your Lordships' House, or perhaps I should phrase it, "the wise and the wonderful". Either would be true. What is encouraging is the kindness and courtesy with which those of us who do not fit into either category are consistently treated. Which is a third reason why I always try to speak briefly—well, a fourth, if you count that I prefer listening to other people to hearing my own voice. The other two are that I have only one or two small points to make, and that by this time everyone else has said everything anyway.

I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and my noble kinsman Lord Carew on their splendid maiden speeches. It was good to hear both speak on subjects of which they are so knowledgeable. It was particularly good to hear my noble kinsman who is in some discomfort after his accident in the United States last June when he punctured his lung, broke several ribs and has since had three serious operations. My godmother and his noble grandmother, Lady Lauderdale, would have been very proud of him.

For all of us in Britain, 1995 has been a year for looking back, for remembering old friends, and for those of us not born then a way of looking back through other living eyes at our past in which, as always, lie the seeds of our future.

I should like on behalf of the War Widows Association of Great Britain to thank Her Majesty's Government for what they have done for it this year, especially my noble friends Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish and Lord Howe for their patience in listening to all our representations. We were delighted to have my noble friend Lord Mackay and both our vice presidents, the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, and my noble friend Lady O'Cathain, and also the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, marching with us at our own service on the 11th and lunching with us over the weekend.

It was a great and proud day of remembrance for all of us present at the Cenotaph this weekend. My husband met a man in a wheelchair who said, "I know your face. I last saw you directing guns as we crossed the Rhine. And you spoke to me." Fifty years on they had both survived and were speaking again. But, as I said, it is not just 50 years ago. Our newest war widow who was with us lost her husband on his second day in Bosnia last year. She was so brave and beautiful when she marched with us; she said that the encouragement and support of the older ladies had given her strength.

The other point I wish to make is a simple and a short one. Ever since I have been in this House, our Armed Forces have been cut and pared. Reliance on part-time or territorial forces is of course historical. No war could be fought before the harvest was in. While I welcome the extended use of the territorial reserves, I only hope that this will not mean the hard core of our services is to be further eroded.

Those of us who have been on defence visits, and those who know the services intimately like the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Craig of Radley, or the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, who always speaks so robustly for the senior service, have for long advocated an end to the whittling down of our services—from Options for Change, to Frontline First, or whatever stalking horse the cuts have come under. As the intention to send yet more British forces to reinforce the UN peacekeeping presence in Bosnia demonstrates, there is now, and will be in the future, a far, far greater use for such brilliant, excellent and highly trained personnel than we can yet foresee. We must continue to think and plan for tomorrow, and not for yesterday. There is no peace dividend.

As Lord Home of the Hirsel said in a debate on the Queen's Speech in 1989: I have no more to say today. I was brought up in the political school which held that if you had nothing to say, do not say it. With that I shall close". So shall I.

8.20 p.m.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, I welcome reference to the Commonwealth in the gracious Speech. Please allow me a brief comment before I turn this evening to my principal remarks. The Commonwealth has shown herself, once again, through actions and reiterations at Auckland, to be a world-class performer with real convictions and usefulness. I commend the Mill Bank plan of action as essential reading. Membership will become increasingly more sought after, and it would be appropriate carefully to consider issues such as future role, admittance and expulsion criteria and the cost and source of funding management. The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who is in his place, spoke about getting the EU finances right. The same applies to the Commonwealth, as indeed it does to the United Nations.

Clearly, the Commonwealth must use its influence, as with Nigeria, but where is the line to be drawn before punishing the greater majority for the actions of the very few? The people or the government? After all, is not the Commonwealth all about the ability to choose and are we not assuming that, given the choice, Nigerians would choose democracy? Certainly Auckland, together with Harare, is destined to enter the history books when considering the affairs of the Commonwealth.

It is appropriate to remind ourselves—indeed I believe that we in this country should take pride in reminding ourselves—again of the wisdom of Mr. Arnold Smith, the first Secretary-General, when he remarked, A few hundred years from now, historians will consider the Commonwealth the greatest of all Britain's contributions to man's social and political history". We must all work hard at this legacy and look forward to the next Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh.

Perhaps I may turn now to events which took place earlier this month. The signing in Mauritius of the mid-term review marked the second stage of Lomé IV. This will be a testing time in the life of the convention and it is how those active in the development debate respond that will determine future policy. What is this convention? It establishes the trade and aid relationship between the European Union and 70 signatories of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group. Commonwealth nations make up more than half the membership. It is the most comprehensive—some would say the most progressive—treaty arrangement between groups of developing and developed nations in existence.

ACP states determine national priorities and implement programmes while the EU states provide agreed levels of funding, technical assistance and preferential trade access; shared facilities, shared responsibilities. The long-term future of the Lomé Convention is far from certain. Only a short time exists before successor arguments will be debated; and time moves on.

How will the convention be overhauled to address the development philosophy of sceptic members of the Union and countries such as the United States? The individual position of the French, British and German Governments in particular and the regional interests of the African, Caribbean and Pacific states will need to be carefully considered. Export losses as a result of the GATT will have to be addressed, as will the conflicting relationship between the GATT and the Lomé Convention. How will taxpayers of donor nations become better educated in order that it be understood that the cost in real terms will be much greater in years to come unless appropriate development policy be adopted today?

Lomé does have its critics though. Future debate will target the effectiveness of the agreement. Is there clear evidence that Lomé has made a special contribution to ACP countries? How effective is Lomé on poverty alleviation? Has the Lomé Convention failed to have a marked impact on ACP exports? From an ACP point of view, Lomé has not, in the face of debt and deteriorating trade terms, been able to boost growth and trade capacity. Economic development is the long-term solution to the difficulties of the developing world. Trade not aid is what is required. How, then, is inward investment going to be encouraged?

The Commission has been criticised for, for example, its lack of transparency, delays in making payments and the difficulty in getting hold of EU documents on development. It has put forward no specific ideas on improving programming in the areas which are critical to poverty reduction, such as rural credit, basic health, primary education or adult literacy. What criteria do the Commission propose by which ACP performance in relation to new priorities be transparently judged? From the Commission's perspective, Lomé has inadequately respected EU priorities in areas such as economic and political reform, human rights and the rule of law.

Since the mid-term review, however, respect for human rights is central to the convention. The European Community can now suspend or terminate development co-operation programmes with governments which fail to respect human rights. Suspending Nigerian development aid illustrates this. Has the time come for the Commission increasingly to bypass recipient governments by funding NGO activities? There are valid questions as to whether there is sufficient focus on addressing grass roots issues; taking Lomé to the people who really need it. NGOs have that ability. If so, how are the activities of NGOs, both national and international, to be co-ordinated to ensure maximum effectiveness? What mechanisms should be implemented to agree strategy and ensure non-duplication?

There are more questions than answers. It is for these essential reasons that national parliamentarians from both ACP and European Union member states should be ready to contribute to the debate. To this end, I have formed an international Lomé Parliamentary Association in order to bring a sense of awareness of the issues and to ensure that the best of Lomé is carried through into a successor agreement. Indeed, my thanks go to the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, who is not in his place, who as president of the EU/ACP joint assembly, generously invited me to attend a recent week-long meeting as an observer. This gave me the opportunity to meet parliamentarians from all regions, and many returned home to set up groups in their parliaments.

Indeed, yesterday I returned from Burundi where, I am delighted to inform your Lordships, a Lomé group has been formed consisting of six members; three from the Frodebu party and three from Uprona. That means three Hutus and three Tutsis working together, illustrating that economic development is a concern that transcends party and ethnic lines. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, spoke about concern for Burundi. I shall not comment this evening on the points raised as the hour is late and I hope to return to the subject soon.

In conclusion, the Lomé Convention might not be perfect but it exists.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Willoughby de Broke

My Lords, having just returned from a visit to Hong Kong, I was pleased to note that the gracious Speech contained the words: My Government will work for the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. In the interests of the Hong Kong people, they will seek to co-operate with China on the basis of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in order to promote a smooth transition in 1997". I am pleased also that that commitment was underlined today by my noble friend Lady Chalker in her opening speech.

Hong Kong is perhaps our greatest responsibility in the next year and a half, and indeed beyond. Our responsibility to Hong Kong will not end on 30th June 1997. And I am slightly surprised that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, did not mention Hong Kong at all in her remarks. For there now remain only 592 days before Hong Kong is formally handed back to China at midnight on 30th June 1997. On that solemn occasion we shall be handing over not only Hong Kong, its infrastructure, its real estate and its wealth but also its people—nearly 6 million people who look to Britain and China for their future wellbeing. It is those people who matter and to whom we must listen.

I am sure that none of your Lordships needs reminding that under the terms of the declaration, Britain and China promised Hong Kong one country/two systems, a high degree of autonomy, a legislature based on elections and Hong Kong run by Hong Kong people. Those are not empty phrases, mere mantras engraved on a prayer wheel to be spun when the occasion requires. They are some of the vital foundations of Hong Kong's future.

Until 1990, political parties were illegal in Hong Kong. I admit that I find it perplexing, astonishing and demeaning that until very recently the population of the eighth largest trading nation in the world, with a GDP per head higher than our own, should have no say in who would represent it in the future—a future agreed on its behalf between Britain and China.

In accordance with the timetable agreed between Britain and China, elections were held last September which should allow the present legislative council to run on until 1998. Nearly 1 million people turned out to vote in those elections. As we know, the result was a triumph for the United Democrats led by Martin Lee and other independent candidates, while the pro-Peking parties managed to win only seven out of 66 seats on offer.

But China has stated that it will dismantle that properly elected legislative council on 1st July 1997. Why is that and to what end? We must ask how it will be replaced and with what. Long and loud questions must be asked which need clear answers from the Government of China. At present, the legislative council is entirely in line with the agreements reached between Britain and China. It has 20 members returned by geographical constituency. To how many has China agreed? It has agreed to 20. It has 10 members returned by an election committee. How many were agreed to post-1997? Ten have been agreed to. It has 30 members returned by functional constituencies. How many were agreed post-1997? Thirty were agreed to.

It will not be as easy as China may think to turn back the clock to before the 1995 elections. After all, it has agreed to the present number of directly elected seats and destroying a democratically elected legislature is no way to win friends and influence people in the 1990s. The eyes of the world will be on China and Hong Kong in 1997. Thousands of press and television representatives will be there. The International Commission of Jurists has put Hong Kong on the top of its watch list for the next two years. Taiwan too will be watching closely to see what kind of fist China makes of developing Hong Kong as one country/two systems. The commitment is to one country/two systems and not to one country/one system or to one country/one and a half systems.

Why is China so obdurate in its determination to abolish LegCo? But it is not only China's attitude to LegCo which is gumming up the works. In spite of the apparently successful meeting this autumn between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and his Chinese opposite number, the fact is that almost no progress seems to have been made in the recent meetings of the joint liaison group on any of the vital matters which need to be settled in the 592 days remaining to us.

Indeed, another spanner has been thrown into the works at that meeting; namely, China's attempt to emasculate Hong Kong's Bill of Rights. That incorporates into Hong Kong law the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and includes such fundamentals as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. China's objections contradict Article 39 of the Basic Law which provides explicitly for that covenant to remain in force and to be implemented through the laws of the Hong Kong special autonomous region.

China's foot-dragging on those matters is to the advantage of no one. It is not to the advantage of China or Hong Kong. Hong Kong is still booming. There is growth of over 5 per cent. per year. More than 500 banks are represented there, and there are 1,000 British companies with investment running into tens of billions of pounds, and it has thousands more foreign companies and investors. Hong Kong represents 26 per cent. of China's GDP, and the Bank of China itself admitted recently that 80 per cent. of its profits are earned in Hong Kong. China has enormous corporate and personal investment in Hong Kong. It will inherit Hong Kong's reserves of some 100 million Hong Kong dollars, which is five limes more than the sum previously agreed. It will inherit the new airport due to come on-stream in 1998. Above all, it will inherit the people of Hong Kong. It is those people who count because if they lose confidence, Hong Kong's position as the world's most successful economy will crumble.

How can we encourage China to be more constructive in preserving Hong Kong's special qualities? Perhaps I may suggest one way which may be helpful. China has introduced recently the special autonomous region passport which will come into force on 1st July 1997. That is a passport designed specifically for qualifying residents of the new special autonomous region who do not hold other passports.

I understand that China may like us to lead in the matter of helping that passport to gain international recognition by granting visa-free access to the UK to holders of that new passport. I believe that we should give that serious consideration because it would be our vote of confidence in what we have done in Hong Kong and in the status of Hong Kong as a special autonomous region of China which is our joint creation. Secondly, where we lead, it is likely that others will follow. Conversely, if we do not give that lead, other countries would be unlikely to offer visa-free access when we do not have the confidence to do that. Thirdly, refusal to grant visa-free access to those passport holders could have an adverse effect on holders of British national overseas passports. I could even envisage a reciprocal situation in which the administration of the SAR would require British citizens to obtain visas to travel to Hong Kong.

underline that that is a no-risk option. We are not—emphatically not—talking about nationality or the right of abode. We are talking only of visa-free access. That will not alter the demography of a single British parliamentary constituency.

Such arrangements could be conditional. If abuses or problems arise, which on past record I believe is highly unlikely, then a visa regime could always be introduced. But let us give visa-free access a chance. By helping China, it would also help Hong Kong.

I should like to make one further point on passports. Recently this House passed, without a dissenting voice, a Private Bill in the name of Lord Bonham-Carter, which would give full British passports to non-Chinese ethnic minorities in Hong Kong. He was supported by two distinguished former governors of Hong Kong, by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur, who had past ministerial responsibility for Hong Kong, by the noble Baroness, Lady Dunn, who has unrivalled experience of Hong Kong, and by all other noble Lords present at the debate. It also had the support of the Governor of Hong Kong and the Legislative Council. The arguments put forward then still hold good and I urge the Government to take another look at their position in this matter.

Hong Kong is nothing if not resilient. When I visited it recently, the cranes and jack-hammers were still as noisy as ever. Acres of land were still being reclaimed from the sea. I met many people with many different opinions on Hong Kong's past and on its future. If there was gloom, it was nearly always from expatriates. The people of Hong Kong themselves are pragmatic, hard-working, able and brave. I am proud to call some of them my friends. In spite of the difficulties ahead, I remain optimistic about Hong Kong's future, because of its people who have made it such a success and who care so much about its future and because of the commitment of its admirably dedicated and independent civil servants. They are the unsung heroes of Hong Kong's success. They are the glue which holds the fabric together. Much will depend on them.

It is a supreme irony that at a time when nations all over the world are discovering that democracy, the rule of law and human rights are directly relevant to economic success, the city state of Hong Kong, the twentieth century epitome of that success, is finding that those values are in danger of being undermined. The prizes are still there for Hong Kong, for China and for Britain, but with only 592 days to go, we must do our very best to make every day count. The people of Hong Kong deserve no less.

8.40 p.m.

Lord St John of Bletso

My Lords, in the debate yesterday on the gracious Speech, the noble Lord, Lord Richard, referred to the legislative programme as thin to the point of anorexia. However lacking it may be in its legislative programme, I commend and welcome warmly the gracious Speech for its commitment to promoting Her Majesty's Government's foreign affairs policies.

At the outset I join in congratulating my noble friends Lord Carew and Lord Sandwich on their maiden speeches today. I hope that we shall hear a great deal more from them in the future.

In my contribution to today's debate I should like to touch on two issues: first, my old chestnut, that being the current developments in South Africa; secondly, the horrendous developments that have been unfolding in Nigeria and the infringements of human rights in that country, to which several noble Lords have spoken today.

Following Her Majesty's most successful and well-received state visit to South Africa earlier this year, I was delighted to hear confirmation in the gracious Speech of the state visit to this country next year of President Mandela. Despite the many concerns before the ANC and the Government of National Unity took office in April last year, what President Mandela has managed to achieve, through his policy of promoting a culture of reconciliation among the peoples of South Africa is remarkable, if not miraculous. Predictably, many of the expectations of the electorate during the election have not been met. Many of them, such as the promise of houses for all, were totally unrealistic in the short term. The much-lauded Reconstruction and Development Programme as the basis of the Government's social and economic programme has been slow in getting into gear. Nonetheless, I believe that it is far more prudent of the Government to have a well thought out, practical and accountable programme than to have rushed into the implementation of the reconstruction and development programme without due planning.

South Africa's largely unskilled labour force is marked by a low level of productivity which has restricted much of the international inward investment. It is only through increased training and the attainment of skills that the position will be corrected. Here, Her Majesty's Government have played an extremely important role, not just in promoting inward investment, but in assisting in many diverse training programmes in both the public and private sectors. It must be emphasised that Britain remains South Africa's closest trading partner.

A major problem that faces the new South Africa is the continuing wave of crime and the abundance of fire arms, mostly held illegally. Burglaries, car hijackings and muggings have increased and the police force has proved to be inadequate in terms of numbers to deal with the situation. The number of police per population is far below that of the ratio in most European countries. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that the recent successful local government elections held just a few weeks ago will greatly help the Government's attempts to get to grips with much of the localised crime. The local government elections effectively completed the process of democratisation which started with the elections last year for regional and national government. They will play an important role in social and economic development in the country. The absence of elected leaders at local level and legitimate government structures has been one of the reasons for the stagnation in implementing much of the reconstruction and development programme. I believe that now the local elections have been held, local projects will be more effectively implemented.

A major question mark still hangs over the forthcoming local elections in Kwazulu Natal, where Chief Gatsha Buthelezi has threatened to withdraw local policing if Inkatha does not win those local elections. This is a major problem spot in South Africa where political violence has continued since last year's general election. There have been frequent calls for international mediation in an attempt to reconcile the differences and resolve the situation.

Another issue which has been raised recently is the arrest and prosecution of 11 former South African Defence Force members, including General Magnus Malan, the previous Minister of Defence. This has caused alarm in that it may result in a backlash of Right-wing violence in South Africa. It is my hope, and the hope of many others there, that those prosecuted will see reason and make their submissions to the Truth Commission which will give them amnesty from prosecution.

As the Minister mentioned in her opening speech, a major problem facing Southern Africa is the continuing drought. In South Africa this has accelerated the drift to the urban areas of many families. The rapid process of urbanisation has led to difficulties in terms of social services and accommodation in most of the metropolitan areas. Another concern is that despite the high unemployment situation, South Africa is seen by many citizens of other African countries as a Utopia. Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants have been streaming into South Africa to look for employment and a better style of life. The figures for immigrants range from as little as 3 million to as many as 8 million. This poses a major problem for the Government of National Unity.

Despite these concerns, the Government have followed conservative fiscal policies. For the first time in many years, inflation is below 10 per cent. and foreign debts are being serviced and paid on time. That is a record of which many other African states cannot boast. It is my hope that South Africa's reconstruction and development programme will be directed not only towards welfare and social benefits but also wealth creation, and that much of the foreign aid which has flowed into the country will be directed towards sustainable development programmes.

It is also worth mentioning that excellent progress has been achieved in the negotiations for a new constitution. Earlier this morning I met Cyril Ramaphosa who confirmed that the first draft of the final constitution will be released next Wednesday. All in all, there is a great deal to be confident and optimistic about for the future of South Africa.

However, these sentiments cannot be applied to the horrendous developments and infringements of basic human rights that have unfolded in Nigeria. The execution last week of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders not only shocked the international community but exposed the sheer brutality and lack of any respect of human rights by the Nigerian military regime. Nelson Mandela said that it put into question the commitment of the Nigerian military regime to the democratisation of Nigerian society. That was a commitment given by General Abacha on 1st October when he set a timetable for the institution of democracy and commuted the death sentences of the convicted coup plotters. General Abacha's statement that the main objective for him is to achieve national unity almost defies belief. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, commented earlier, the human rights record of the Nigerians is totally indefensible.

Apart from my concerns for the plight of the Nigerian peoples, having recently seen the chilling film, Delta Force on Channel 4 and having interviewed several Ogoni leaders, I am particularly worried about the position of the Ogoni people who have been systematically attacked and deprived by the military regime.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, had hoped to speak on this issue today and he particularly asked me to make reference to the recent report by Amnesty International. I wish to quote from one section of the report which in my opinion summarises the position well. It states: Ken Saro-Wiwa successfully articulated Ogoni concerns in the international arena, reflecting also the concerns of many small ethnic groups in Nigeria but particularly in the oil producing regions of the south east about environmental degradation of their land and their continuing poverty and powerlessness … By killing Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nigeria has silenced one of its most effective critics and we urge world leaders to maintain their pressure on Nigeria in the face of its government's continuing contempt for human rights". Certainly, I was pleased to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, reaffirm Her Majesty's Government's commitment to the principles of the Harare Declaration, and to the need to place increasing pressure on the Nigerian military regime to expedite the process of introducing democracy in the country. Nigeria's suspension from the Commonwealth and the targets given by the Commonwealth leaders to the military regime are to be welcomed. But do they go far enough? As one who has always believed in the carrot and stick approach to sanctions, having spoken on this issue as regards South Africa for many years when sanctions continually threatened its economy, I have mixed views on the point. If oil sanctions could bring about a quick fix in Nigeria, I would wholeheartedly support them. But would they bring about a quick fix? I am afraid I feel that sanctions busters would invariably be rife.

There are also the obvious fiscal ramifications for Britain in imposing oil sanctions. Last year the United Kingdom enjoyed a £333 million surplus on its visible trade with Nigeria, and total British company investment in Nigeria is estimated at almost £3.5 billion. Many believe that imposing oil sanctions would affect Nigerian civilians worst. That may be true, but I firmly believe that the military would be just as hard, if not worse, hit.

In summary, I believe that the crisis in Nigeria is a humanitarian one and the solution is political. The first phase must be to endeavour to get the military back into their barracks, and the second phase must be to get democratic government installed. There are two elements to this strategy. First, there is already a democratically-elected president in Chief Abiola, who was elected in 1993. He is trusted by the Nigerian people. On the other hand, there is the belief that to get the military back to their barracks, they must not feel threatened. If they continue to feel threatened, they may become even more brutal.

From a recent discussion I had with Chief Abiola's daughter, I learnt that her father believes that full punitive sanctions would not be the most effective solution in the short term. He believes the Nigerian people can only win if the political impasse is resolved through dialogue and discussion, and that in this way a permanent and constructive resolution can be sought. His suggestion and recommendation is that an international mediation committee should be established to endeavour to initiate this dialogue with the Nigerian military. I have spoken for far too long as one of the last speakers in today's queue. My final comment, and my hope, is that at all costs Her Majesty's Government should use all efforts to avoid a civil war in Nigeria. In my opinion a civil war could only result in Nigeria being divided and would result in massive carnage.

8.55 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, I am sure that my noble friends would want me to start my speech by congratulating the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Carew, on their exceptionally attractive and persuasive speeches. I knew the noble Earl's father for some years in the other place. In my view the House of Commons was a much better place then than it is now, but even so the noble Earl's father stood out for the independence of his views and the courage of his convictions. I believe that we recognised the same qualities in the speech of the noble Earl today.

One comment I most profoundly agree with was that of the noble Lord, Lord Belhaven. We must stop trying to combine the whole of foreign affairs and defence in a single debate. I particularly sympathise with his view as one who is winding up this debate and who is faced with the possibility of trying to do justice to the huge scope of opinions which have been expressed. Most of the discussion concerned Bosnia, the WEU and NATO but a whole series of other important subjects were touched on by various speakers. A number of speakers mentioned the Middle East. We on these Benches share the sadness and sense of outrage at the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. I particularly noticed the well-informed speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, who came close to saying something which I believe needs to be said at this time, and that is that not all Israeli settlers are religious fanatics. Many of them chose to live in Palestine because housing was cheap and available. The trouble comes from those other settlers who are violent, racially prejudiced, religious fanatics. It is clear to me that we must not let the peace process be destroyed by those people. Fortunately, their cause is now somewhat discredited and some of the myths on which their cause depended are becoming discredited, for example, the myth that they have a divine right to land which belongs to another people. That is a fairly simple matter, but it is a myth.

The peace process may not have reached its most difficult stage; the stage discussed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, which concerns the future of Jerusalem. However, it has in the meantime made solid progress thanks to the strength and courage of the Israeli leaders, Yitzhak Rabin and Peres, and also the Palestinian leader, Mr. Arafat. Real progress is being made and we look to the Government to do everything possible to encourage it.

There has been mention in the debate of the reference in the Queen's Speech to the need for a comprehensive test ban treaty. If the delegates at the successful non-proliferation conference had known in advance that as soon as the agreement was signed two of the nuclear powers would start testing nuclear weapons, the non-nuclear powers would never have accepted the agreement as they did. Indeed, the whole concept of a comprehensive test ban treaty might well have been destroyed. We condemn the actions of those two nations and we criticise the Government strongly for not joining in the worldwide condemnation of the two testing nuclear powers. Fortunately, in the event, it may well be that the comprehensive test ban treaty has not been endangered. Such has been the scale and intensity of the protest that there is much less inclination now, both among the non-nuclear and the nuclear countries, to stick on the possible causes of delay and difficulty such as the scope of the treaty, the funding, verification and other such matters.

I am told that there is a considerable change in atmosphere in favour of going ahead as quickly as possible to reach agreement on a clean treaty next year. Therefore, perhaps we should not despair of progress. Certainly, we should hope that progress will be made because the proliferation of nuclear weapons is probably the greatest danger facing civilisation at this time. Although stopping testing is by no means watertight prevention, it certainly carries the process a long way forward.

Reference was made to the chemical warfare convention. The Queen's Speech tells us that the Government are ready to ratify the treaty. On these Benches, for a couple of years or more, we have been criticising the Government for delay. The Official Opposition have done the same. I now feel that we were rather misled by the Government. We were told consistently that the only problem was lack of parliamentary time. None of us took that very seriously since we agree with ratification. In September last year the noble Lord, Lord Henley, wrote to me saying that legislation would be introduced as soon as parliamentary time permitted. It would have been better if the Government had explained that the real problem was how to ban the chemicals required for chemical warfare while protecting the interests of companies manufacturing the same chemicals for peaceful purposes. That was really the difficulty. Some misunderstanding might have been avoided if the Government had been a little more frank if it was that rather than the lack of parliamentary time which caused the delay.

As a result we shall have to look at the Bill more carefully than at one time we thought necessary. In the Committee stage we shall have to ensure that the Bill will achieve both the aims of preventing chemical warfare and of safeguarding the legitimate rights of manufacturers. We shall also have to ensure that the Bill makes provision for Parliament to monitor what is happening.

I am sorry to have missed the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I am told that, predictably, he spoke eloquently about what is now the greatest problem in our defence affairs, namely the lack of Army manpower. That is something which could and should have been prevented. It is a direct result of government policy. On these Benches we did not oppose Options for Change in principle, unlike many noble Lords who argued that continuing uncertainty and continuing Soviet strength should rule out major defence cuts. However, we attacked specific recommendations in Options for Change. In particular, we attacked the disproportionate cuts proposed in Army manpower. It proposed manpower cuts of 13 per cent. for the Navy, 16 per cent. for the RAF and 27 per cent. for the Army. That was sheer folly. I am told that by next April Army manpower will have fallen to 106,500. That is not enough for our commitments. That is the biggest and most damaging mistake that one could make in defence planning. When the Minister replies I hope that he will tell us exactly what the Government will do about it. I cannot understand why they closed the recruitment offices. What are the Government doing to reopen them and change recruiting propaganda to exploit the possibilities of Ghurka support and long-term re-engagement bonuses? The Government have created the crisis and the Government must find the remedy. In the months ahead in the new Session we shall be watching to make sure that the Government exert themselves.

The main subject of the debate has centred around Bosnia and the European and NATO contributions. There has been a vast improvement in the situation since our last debate. That debate on 15th July coincided with the lowest point of United Nations humiliation and failure. There was talk in the debate of the UN's powerlessness, of the need for withdrawal, of the vulnerability of our forces in Gorazde and the uselessness of air strikes. Ministers went along with that talk.

In the event, as we now see, under pressure from the United States, the Government reacted to the crisis with some spirit. The RAF participated with skill and courage in successful air strikes against the infrastructure of Bosnian Serb forces. Our gunners were sent to help open up the Mount Igman route to Sarajevo and to help lift the siege of Sarajevo. That was a decisive turning-point. I can fairly and properly say that it largely vindicated the advice consistently expressed by my own party on the subject.

Now all our efforts must be directed at making the peace stick. I trust that the Government will exploit to the full the possibility of helping to keep the peace with large-scale and conditional reconstruction aid with strong strings attached dependent on the good behaviour of the recipients.

I hope that the Government will also learn the wider lessons of the Bosnian crisis. In the end the contribution of the United States proved indispensable. Yet all the signs today are of an ever-decreasing interest in the United States in European defence. We cannot wish that away. That fact will remain and we have to adapt to it. Europe must therefore become more capable of handling, and more willing to handle, its own defence problems. It is not a matter of surrendering sovereignty in defence to the European Union. The European NATO members have already pledged themselves to come to the defence of each other. That is the big step as regards sovereignty. What is needed are practical steps to increase the capability of the WEU: joint planning, joint training, joint procurement of necessary but hideously expensive new weapons systems, and perhaps a secretary general for the Council of Ministers. We all listened with particular attention to the extremely interesting and bold speech of the noble Lord, Lord Owen. That, too, should be seriously considered. None of it should bypass NATO but should ensure that Europe can act promptly and effectively in crises where United States participation cannot be assumed.

Between them the European NATO countries can call on nearly half a million regular soldiers. They are not conscripts but regulars. The countries are big enough and rich enough to take on those new responsibilities. What is needed is the political will to do so. We ask ourselves whether the Government have the political will to launch themselves in that direction.

Next year we take over presidency of the WEU. Before the Conservative Party conference, in our debate on 14th July in welcoming the noble Earl to his new office, I said: The noble Earl's main task will be … to keep his Secretary of State in line with Government policy on matters such as the common European defence policy".—[Official Report, 14/7/95; col. 1951.] That was his main task. I have no doubt he tried hard; but he did not succeed. He must try again. With the responsibilities for our country next year, it is a tragedy that at this time we should have a Conservative Government so bitterly divided on Europe.

9.10 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, at the outset I must declare an interest. After a short, brief period of service in the Royal Air Force, all my professional work outside Westminster has been in the realm of humanitarian and international affairs, and so it remains.

It has been a good debate. It will make for an excellent edition of Hansard and I hope that it will be widely read. Indeed, some of the points have been so well made that it is clear we need a succession of specialist debates on foreign affairs in the year to come—on Hong Kong, Nigeria, and South Africa—and I hope that time will be found for those.

In post-imperial Britain overseas and defence policies become more important, not less. None of the major economic, social and environmental or indeed security challenges facing us as a nation can be successfully tackled on our own in isolation. We can only serve the interests of the people of the United Kingdom by working for relevant and sensible international co-operation.

That was what was so sad about the recent excesses of the party opposite at Blackpool, to which my noble friend Lady Blackstone drew attention. It was not just the cheap nastiness. It was the aggressive insularity almost designed to alienate the world, to reduce our influence and thereby betray the British people. Of course we must not have illusions de grandeur. We cannot run the world on our own. But it is because our interests are so bound up with the world as a whole that we have no option but to work out the answers with others. That is why the European Union, the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, NATO, the Western European Union, the OSCE, the Commonwealth and the others are so important.

As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, and others have reminded us, for historical reasons we have inherited a permanent seat on the Security Council. We have to justify that seat. If we want convincingly to retain it, we cannot dip in and out of global responsibilities. It means that we are positively opting for a lead role in global stewardship. Genocide in Rwanda or Burundi, massacres in former Yugoslavia—the noble Lord, Lord Owen, spoke powerfully of them tonight—not least in the safe havens which we ourselves were party to designating, should lie heavily on our national conscience.

The gracious Speech announces the Reserve Forces Bill. We shall also have the Army Bill. I can assure the Government that our approach to both will be supportive and constructive. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, expressed concern about shortfalls in recruiting for the armed services. There are no gimmicky solutions. Indeed, that road is to trivialise the significance of service. What matters most is clarity of purpose, a sense of personal significance and a feeling of belonging, to which he so ably referred.

The purpose of defence cannot be based on memories of a glorious past. It has to be a convincing response to the challenges of the century ahead. What are the real situations, the real crises and the real threats for which we must be prepared? In constructing our responses, we must never forget that no defence system will ever be better than the calibre, professionalism, motivation and morale of the individual men and women of whom it is comprised. That involves being properly equipped and supported. It involves pay and pensions. It involves family housing and job security. But above all it involves that clear sense of purpose and feeling of personal significance and belonging to which the noble and gallant Lord referred this evening. The ship's company, the squadron, the regiment—not least the community-based regiment—have been concepts that we should be foolish to under-rate.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there have been far-reaching changes. Since 1990, Army and RAF presence in Germany is down from 70,000 to 30,000; submarines are down from 30 to 16; frigates and destroyers are down from 48 to 35. In broad terms, front line units have been reduced by 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. Altogether, the reductions in force sizes, coupled with other stringent economies, have brought the defence budget down by 18 per cent. (some …4.4 billion) and have reduced service personnel by 24 per cent. and civilian personnel by 20 per cent. This means that defence now stands at a smaller proportion of our national resources than at any time since the 1920s.

The financial savings must give great satisfaction to Treasury Ministers. But they leave one set of fundamental questions totally unanswered. What exactly was the defence analysis that provided the defence case for these changes? What exactly is the defence analysis that brings our defence bill to its current …22 billion? What exactly is the defence analysis that has led to our defence forces being structured in the way that they are?

It is simply not acceptable to base defence policies in effect on the line: "After a lot of haggling with the Treasury this is what we have managed to preserve—now what shall we do with it?". We have the vivid experiences of former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, the Gulf, the Middle East, Somalia, Sudan, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria and Nigeria; of Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Taiwan-China and the Spratly Islands; indeed of Ireland. The essential discipline must be to analyse what we see as the risks to world stability and to the security of people, and then, while maintaining flexibility, to deal with the unexpected, to work out what collectively needs to be done to meet those risks and what a reasonable contribution by the United Kingdom should be.

There will of course be special British needs, ranging from support of civil government in Northern Ireland and defence of the Falklands through fisheries protection to ceremonial duties. These may account at most for 20 per cent. of defence spending. When lasting peace comes to Northern Ireland it will be considerably less. But the overriding question remains: just exactly what is the analysis behind the other 80 per cent?

Do the Government, for example, see any future possibility of a revived threat to the European Union and NATO from Russia? If so, in what form? What would be required collectively to meet it; and what would be an appropriate share of the task for Britain? What of central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean? Do the Government see these as primarily a European responsibility, albeit within NATO? If so, what are the implications for our defence policy? As a permanent member of the Security Council, what do the Government see as our defence contribution in the future to global peacekeeping, pre-emptive action, peace enforcement, the protection of humanitarian operations and to humanitarian work itself?

Do they envisage increased special training? Do they see our role as one of self-contained contributions alone; or do they see us also providing logistic support and other specialist services for other United Nations contingents? Already, British personnel of all ranks have won an outstanding reputation for their service to the United Nations, frequently in the most difficult circumstances. It is a record in which the service personnel concerned rightly take great pride.

We on these Benches are glad to see the Government's commitment to NATO undiminished. We are also glad to see the Government reaffirming the importance of the Western European Union as the alliance's European pillar. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, who made a particularly interesting speech, that we, like the Government, are convinced that any European defence identity must be along intergovernmental lines. It is not in our view an appropriate function for the European Union, let alone the Commission.

The Western European Union should take seriously its so-called Peterburg tasks of crisis management, including the full range of activities associated with peacekeeping, such as sanctions monitoring, airlifts and humanitarian support. These could provide a motor for a culture of closer European co-operation, both within the European Union and between the European Union and the candidate countries of eastern Europe. All this can also help to speed up the essential processes of standardisation and familiarisation.

We on these Benches believe that the expansion of NATO eastwards is inevitable and welcome. But Russian sensitivities must never—I repeat, never—be ignored. Every possible avenue must be used, especially that provided by OSCE, to develop understanding between NATO and Russia. Partnership for Peace has a vital role to play. When the noble Earl deals with all these points in his reply, I hope that he will also let us have his evaluation of NATO's rapid reaction corps, which we of course lead and to which we make such a significant contribution.

Steady progress toward disarmament and responsible control of the arms trade are also indispensable elements in global security policy. I am sorry to say that, like my noble friend, I search in vain to find the driving commitment which should be there in government policy. The obstinate defence of the indefensible French nuclear tests hardly boosted the cause of arms control or a comprehensive test ban treaty. Why have the Government sat on their hands for over two years, since they signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, before they introduced the enabling legislation to make ratification possible? It will be a sad day for United Kingdom credibility in these matters if we are not among the first 65 nations to ratify and thereby bring the convention into force. We on these Benches will do all that we can to expedite the legislation but not, I must emphasise, like our Liberal friends, at the expense of careful scrutiny on such a vital matter.

My noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney raised, with his characteristic persistence, the International Court consideration of nuclear weapons. It is by definition, I think he will agree, now a judicial matter. For that reason I believe that we should do well to wait and see what the court has to say.

In the conflicts currently raging in the world, it is conventional arms which are fuelling the slaughter of the innocents. The House needs to know exactly what the Government are doing to promote control and accountability in the international arms trade. Do they see a future role for a common foreign and security policy of the European Union in that respect? If not, why not?

The gracious Speech spells out a determination to work with the United Nations and regional organisations in the prevention of conflict. As my noble friend Lady Blackstone indicated, we applaud that. It is obscene that the world continues to spend 250 times as much on arms as it does on peacekeeping and only a fraction of what it spends on peacekeeping is spent on conflict resolution and pre-emptive diplomacy. It defies rational explanation that we divert development resources to relief and have legions of humanitarian agencies coping with the grim consequences of conflict but that only peanuts are devoted to preventing it. What precisely will the Government do to meet the point made by my noble friend Lord Healey and put enhanced capacity for conflict resolution and pre-emptive diplomacy at the centre of their approach to United Nations' reform? Again, do they see that as a priority to which a common foreign and security policy in the European Union could make a contribution? Will it be on the IGC agenda? If not, why not.

If we want a secure world, we must be prepared to pay for it. In an age of international terrorism, coupled with advanced information technology, that is truer than ever. Fairness and social justice are crucial to global stability. Without them, ethnic entrepreneurs and opportunists get to work. Yet we see aid programmes falling at a time when needs are dramatically increasing. Frankly, despite her own personal qualities, to which the noble Lord, Lord Owen, referred this evening, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, has totally failed to stop that rot, with aid down from 0.5 per cent. of gross national product and rising in 1979, to 0.31 per cent. of gross national product and falling in 1995. Worse, aid is increasingly under pressure to give priority to backing trade, even in arms, rather than constantly to prioritise the needs of the poor.

The last DAC report of OECD revealed that for the first time in a generation aid from OECD countries to the world's poor fell from 61 billion US dollars in 1992 to 56 billion US dollars in 1993—a fall of 6 per cent. in real terms. Even if the aid budget is not cut any further this year, the truth is that because of multilateral commitments, bilateral aid will be cut by some 14 per cent. in real terms over the current three-year planning period. However, it should never be a matter of multilateral versus bilateral aid. There is much to be said for good and effective multilateral programmes. It is a matter of sufficient resources for both our multilateral and bilateral commitments.

Where is the post-Cold War peace dividend? Instead of turning guns into ploughshares, the richest nations are shamefully turning their backs on the poorest. And now, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford made plain this evening, the Government have meanly been considering taking money away from the poorest people in the world to help finance a pre-election tax cut bribe. But it will not work. The electorate will see it for what it is. They will refuse to be bought off in this sordid fashion.

I sometimes wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, recognises that overnight she could escape from her unenviable role of a warm hearted but thwarted Minister to become a respected major stateswoman of enormous standing, if only she made it absolutely plain that under no circumstances will she ever again be a party to any further cuts in the proportion of our national wealth devoted to aid or diversion of aid from the battle against poverty.

In conclusion I say only this. We would all argue that defence is about preserving peace; but in a sense we have all failed whenever war, with all its brutality, breaks out. But what is peace? The dictionary defines it as freedom from war or strife. Such a course was the peace of Pax Romana or more recently of the Soviet Union and its satellites. I was reflecting on this as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, shared with us his experience and predictions of and for the former Yugoslavia.

In "The Bride of Abydus", Byron puts it well: Mark! Where his conquests and his carnage cease He makes a solitude and calls it peace". Contrast that with the words of Brian Wren: Say no to peace If what they mean by peace is the quiet misery of hunger, The frozen stillness of fear, The silence of broken spirits And the unborn hopes of the oppressed. Tell them that peace is the shouting of children at play, The babble of tongues set free, The thunder of dancing feet, And the father's voice singing". Why cannot we all take that as our vision for the century ahead?

9.27 p.m.

Earl Howe

My Lords, it is a privilege for me at the end of such an absorbing and multi-faceted debate to bring today's proceedings to a close. The ground we have traversed over the past six hours has indeed been extensive; from the Middle East peace process to the Lomé Convention; from Rwanda to Cyprus. As ever, I must ask for the House's indulgence as it will be impossible for me to do justice to all noble Lords who have contributed; nor will I have time to reply this evening to every question asked of me. However, those of your Lordships whose questions do remain unanswered may count on hearing from me or my noble friend Lady Chalker before too long in writing.

I should like first to mention two particular beacons in the debate—the maiden speeches by the noble Lord, Lord Carew, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carew, was everything it should have been; concise, well informed and witty. I do not doubt that his theme was one with which we can all identify. I hope that, distinguished equestrian sportsman that he is, he will feel satisfied at having cleared his first fence with consummate ease.

Bouquets of a similar sort are due to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. As an experienced journalist, he amply demonstrated his felicitous way with words; but I believe we heard this afternoon a speech on overseas aid which the House will remember with particular pleasure for its perceptiveness and wisdom. I congratulate the noble Earl and hope that he too will grace our debates often.

Looking at the Session ahead, I realise that it is likely to prove, for me at least, an unusually busy one with two Bills to bring before the House. Quite soon we will see in another place the introduction of an Armed Forces Bill, the legislation which continues in force the single service Acts which provide the framework for the system of discipline in the Armed Forces. Those provisions need to be renewed every five years and we have, therefore, to pass an Armed Forces Act before the end of August 1996 in order to maintain the system of discipline in the services beyond that date. The link between a firm but fair disciplinary framework and the superb qualities of our Armed Forces should not be overlooked. It is a system which serves the Armed Forces well.

I understand that it is the custom in another place to commit Armed Forces Bills to a Select Committee. This procedure illustrates that the five-yearly Armed Forces Bills are not merely about extending the life of the legislation. More importantly, they give Parliament a full opportunity to review discipline issues in the Armed Forces in the round. Your Lordships will have a full part to play in this review. However, I can predict with some confidence that it will be some months before the Bill reaches us.

The gracious Speech mentions that the Government will be bringing forward a Bill in the current Session concerning the reserve forces. I am pleased to have been able to fulfil that commitment almost immediately with the introduction of the Bill this afternoon. Like many noble Lords who have spoken, including in particular the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I look forward to an early opportunity to debate its provisions but it may be helpful if I say just a few words about it now.

In essence the Bill aims to bring the law on reserves up to date. It has four main new provisions. First, it has a new power of call-out for humanitarian, disaster relief and peacekeeping operations which will enable the United Kingdom to contribute more readily to the relief of human suffering anywhere in the world. Secondly, it creates two new categories of reserves: the high readiness reserve, comprising individuals who, voluntarily and with their employers' consent, accept an increased call-out liability; and the sponsored reserve, comprising civilians belonging to a contractor's workforce, who would accept a reserve liability to continue to provide the contracted output in an operational environment. The Bill also provides an opportunity for reservists to volunteer to undertake productive tasks other than training, including periods of full-time service, without either being called out or joining the regular forces. This will simplify current procedures. Finally, the Bill includes important new safeguards for both employers and reservists.

We have consulted extensively on the Bill. I know that many reservists have responded enthusiastically to the policy of using reserves more flexibly and that they welcome the opportunities that the new legislation will offer them.

I turn now to the larger themes in today's debate. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, among others, spoke about the desirability of developing closer European military co-operation. We recognise the benefits of greater convergence of membership between NATO, the WEU and the EU. It would help to clarify today's complex network of European security guarantees and relationships, although all three organisations make their own distinctive and valuable contributions. But we should not aim inflexibly at congruence of membership as distinct from convergence. Not least it makes no sense to put new defence hurdles in the path of prospective new EU members. What we cannot do is accept a merger of the WEU into the EU at next year's Inter-Governmental Conference. On practical grounds alone it clearly makes no sense to subordinate a European defence capability to an organisation which includes several neutral countries. We have no intention of taking any step towards subjugating individual nations' defence policies to a supra-national European body.

The common foreign and security policy is a relatively new mechanism. It is making steady progress. At the IGC we will be looking for practical ways to make it more effective. But it must remain inter-governmental, with member states in the driving seat. We do not believe in an extension of Community procedures, in particular qualified majority voting, to the CFSP. As my noble friend Lord Finsberg emphasised, it is NATO which remains the bedrock of our security and an essential force for stability in Europe. It is the only organisation able to back up its security guarantees with an effective structure of political consultation, assigned forces and integrated command and it secures the vital link between Europe and North America in political and military terms.

The noble Lord, Lord Owen, spoke about the desirability of NATO enlargement. Other noble Lords, including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, stressed the need to take account of the concerns of the Russian Federation. A constructive and co-operative relationship between Russia and the alliance is a key element for security and stability in Europe. It is important that NATO's approach towards Russia is long-term and not determined by short-term events. The final form of the relationship will take time to work out. Our view is that at this stage it is more important to focus on its substance rather than on its form. I say to my noble friend Lord Belhaven and Stenton that we need to strike a balance between genuine consultation with Russia on matters of mutual concern and avoiding any suggestion of Russian oversight or veto over NATO's decision-making.

While adverting to Russia, perhaps I may touch briefly on the question of my noble friend Lord Finsberg as to the Government's position on Russian membership of the Council of Europe. In doing so, perhaps I may pay tribute to my noble friend's admirable work in the Council of Europe. We and our European Union partners support Russia's application for membership, and we hope that a final decision can be taken soon. As my noble friend said, it is in the end up to the council's membership to decide. We cannot prejudge its deliberations. We would expect Russia to meet the democratic standards set by the council and to observe its commitments to guarantee human rights and those are solemn undertakings.

My noble friend Lord Cockfield, with all his wisdom and experience in Europe, spoke about the EU Inter-Governmental Conference planned for next year. It is perhaps no surprise that I found much in his speech with which to agree. Let me reassure him, if he needs reassurance, that the United Kingdom has a package of realistic, practical proposals for the IGC designed to enable the EU to meet the key challenges which face it over the next few years.

Our priorities are these: more co-operation in common foreign and security policy, justice and home affairs and defence; further entrenchment of subsidiarity; better quality and a reduced quantity of European legislation; better financial discipline and effective action against fraud; a greater role for national parliaments and a fairer voting system in the council. As my noble friend said, the EU has to work more effectively and efficiently. I can assure him and other noble Lords that we wish to see the conference focusing on measures which will further European prosperity and security and rebuild public support.

I mentioned just now the important subject of fraud. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked why the UK had not taken up its full allocation of EU funds for anti-fraud action. As she will know, the United Kingdom already undertakes extensive anti-fraud action. The UK draws on EU funds where they can be usefully deployed and we shall continue to do that. That may mean that the UK will not take up its full allocation under every Community programme, but that only means that we do not spend money just for the sake of spending it. There is no question of the Government going soft on fraud. Indeed, the United Kingdom is in the forefront of the fight against fraud and poor financial management. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was instrumental in winning for the European Court of Auditors a key role in this area at Maastricht. Nobody underestimates the work ahead and much remains to be done. The Government look forward to renewed discussions about the fight against fraud and waste at the Madrid European Council.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford devoted much of his speech to the subject of overseas aid, as did many other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale and, as I have said, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. At over …2.3 billion in 1995–96, the United Kingdom has the fifth largest aid programme in the world befitting our status as the fifth largest economy. We make a substantial and effective contribution to sustainable development and reducing poverty through our highly praised bilateral programme and the increasingly important contributions we make multilaterally. In recent years about 40 per cent. of total resources were spent multilaterally and 60 per cent. bilaterally. The exact figure varies from year to year. In 1993–94, 45 per cent. was spent multilaterally and 55 per cent. bilaterally.

As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, pointed out, both types of aid have their place. Bilateral aid can often be more closely targeted, effective and identified as British. Sometimes it is useful for multilateral agencies to co-ordinate assistance. They can mobilise a critical mass of finance and exercise more leverage in support of an important objective, for example, economic reform. Forty per cent. of our bilateral aid—that is, over …363 million in 1993–94—went to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. We also make a substantial contribution through multilateral aid. The EC's aid programme to sub-Saharan Africa for 1990–95 is equivalent to …7.6 billion and the United Kingdom's share of that is ߪ1.25 billion.

The large and populous countries of Asia, whose needs have sometimes been overshadowed by those of Africa, also require substantial aid if they are to overcome the problems of poverty. The largest number of poor people are to be found in South Asia. Some 25 per cent. of our bilateral aid goes to countries in the subcontinent.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and other noble Lords expressed concern about possible cuts in the aid budget. I cannot prejudge the outcome of the Budget, but we are confident that Britain will retain a substantial and highly effective aid programme. The British programme is internationally recognised as one of the best and it is one of which we can all be proud.

The noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, spoke movingly of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and its after-effects. There is no doubt that the death of Yitzhak Rabin is a grievous blow, but as the noble Lord said, the peace process continues. Indeed, Arab reaction to Mr. Rabin's death—for example, the attendance of Arab leaders at the funeral—is a mark of how far the process has come. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated UK support for the peace process during his tour of the Middle East last week. We can only be encouraged by Mr. Peres's commitment to press on with the redeployment of Israeli forces from the West Bank. It is clear that the Palestinians and the Israeli Government are firmly committed to the Palestinian elections on 20th January. We have every reason to believe that the Israeli Government under Mr. Peres have every intention of following through with the implementation of the interim agreement.

I advise my noble friend Lord Beloff that for our part Her Majesty's Government will do whatever we can to support the peace process. In Gaza my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary announced several new projects of practical help for the Palestinians. If we look at multilateral aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, we see that the total EC package amounts to 500 million ecu over five years.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, referred particularly to Jerusalem. Our position on Jerusalem has not changed. It is a matter to be determined in the final status talks between the parties. It is vital that neither side should do anything to pre-empt the final status agreement. With regard to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, we regard all such settlements as illegal and an obstacle to peace. We have raised the issue directly with the Israeli Government.

We listened with great attention and respect to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, on Yugoslavia. I mean no criticism of his untiring and distinguished work in that troubled region if I say that there are now better prospects for peace in Bosnia than at any time since the conflict began. That has resulted from patient diplomacy and determined military action. We greatly welcome the ceasefire that came into effect on 12th October. It is an important step forward and, thankfully, the situation on the ground is much quieter following the ceasefire. Dick Holbrooke and the EU envoy, Carl Bildt, are to be congratulated on what they have achieved. All eyes are now on Dayton, Ohio. We can be cautiously optimistic, I believe, for the future. The door to peace is now open, but there remains much to be done. The region is littered with broken promises and failed ceasefires. I note the pessimism expressed by my noble friend Lord Finsberg, but we can only hope that now, finally, the parties realise that negotiation is the only way forward. On Russian involvement, I would only say to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that we welcome Russia's full participation in the peace process and would welcome, and hope for, a corresponding role for Russia in the proposed implementation force.

The noble Lord, Lord Healey, suggested that the UK changed its policy over Bosnia at the start of the Holbrooke peace initiative. That is just not the case. The UN and NATO have consistently made it clear that they were not taking sides. The London meeting in July convened by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister agreed that further attacks on civilians in UN safe areas would be met with a firm and effective military response. The Bosnian Serb army was informed directly of that decision, and the use of NATO air power and UN artillery in support of operations in Bosnia is fully authorised by UN Security Council resolutions and the North Atlantic Council.

Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Greenhill of Harrow and Lord Healey, emphasised the need for reform of the UN. The 50th anniversary of the UN was an opportunity to reaffirm our steadfast commitment to it, but it was also a fitting moment to take stock to see where UN performance can be improved. We want a serious debate on reform. Our aim is to set the UN to work effectively and efficiently. Effectiveness means tackling conflicts earlier and with determination. There should be greater emphasis on conflict prevention in an effort to reduce the number of situations where peacekeeping operations are required. Efficiency comes from the need to reduce wastage and duplication of effort and to see where the work done in the UN might be better done elsewhere. The UN must not fight shy of scrapping unnecessary bodies, as the Prime Minister said at the anniversary. Costs can be cut without affecting performance. In the first few months of a scrutiny of costs, the UN has identified potential savings of about 16 million dollars. There will be more to come as the reform process continues.

I should have wished to respond more fully to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, my noble friend Lady Park and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, about Army manning and recruitment. Let me just say that the Government remain totally committed to Armed Forces which are properly manned, well equipped and supported. We plan to maintain and, indeed, to enhance our front line capabilities. We will also provide the necessary support to allow the Armed Forces to carry out the wide range of tasks in which they are currently engaged. We believe that we have the best Armed Forces in the world. Their professionalism, leadership, training and equipment are second to none.

Equally, I cannot do justice tonight to the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig. I shall just take the opportunity to make a brief comment on the Eurofighter. The Government remain firmly committed to Eurofighter 2000 and our priority is to bring that aircraft into service as soon as practicable. Eurofighter will provide the cornerstone of the RAF's future capability from early in the next century.

I should have wished to cover many other subjects tonight—nuclear deterrence, Nigeria, eastern Europe, Hong Kong, and South Africa—but time and regard for your Lordships' patience prevent me.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, before the Minister sits down perhaps I may ask him to comment on the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Judd that we await the opinion of the International Court on the question which I raised. Have the Government intervened to prevent such a response being made? Will they undertake not to do so?

Earl Howe

My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, I believe it would be better if I responded to that concern in writing. I am well aware of his concern on the matter. I shall ensure that a letter reaches him.

As I close, it is perhaps appropriate to reflect briefly on our nation's history and heritage as a world power. We are, and must continue to be, a major participant in world affairs, willing and able to lead decisively and not afraid to rise to the challenge, using our assets and vast experience for the benefit of our own people and for the international community.

These are grand statements, but a snapshot of current and recent activities clearly demonstrates the vital part that we are playing in building peace and stability around the world. The tasks which our Armed Forces undertake are now more diverse than at any other time in our history, from nuclear deterrence to counter terrorism, peacekeeping and our assistance to other countries. And wherever our Armed Forces operate they are held in the highest respect. They reflect enormous credit on the United Kingdom.

In the Gulf, RAF Tornados contribute to the no-fly zone operations over north and south Iraq. The Royal Navy continues to enforce United Nations sanctions at sea. The United Kingdom has been a leading contributor to peacekeeping operations in Africa. Earlier this year, British forces joined an international task group to protect the United Nations forces withdrawing from Somalia. A British logistics battalion recently returned from a three-month deployment to Angola where it set up the logistic infrastructure for the United Nations Angola verification mission. On the other side of the Atlantic, the United Kingdom contributed to the United States-led multinational force in Haiti. The Armed Forces also provided extensive assistance in the Caribbean during the summer to local communities in dealing both with the threat and aftermath of natural disasters. And, of course, no discussion of our Armed Forces' contribution on the international scene would be complete without mention of current operations in the former Yugoslavia which has dominated our thoughts and where our forces continue to do such an outstanding job.

We have seen over the past six years a dramatic change in the political context. Our former adversaries are now our partners in promoting stability and prosperity. This has required us to reassess our policies and priorities and we have restructured our Armed Forces accordingly. This, to be sure, has meant some reduction in their size. What it has not meant is a reduction in their quality or in their importance to this country. It is thanks to their professionalism that Britain's reputation as a promoter of understanding, reconciliation and peace stands high.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until Monday next.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until Monday next.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Monday next.

House adjourned at eight minutes before ten o'clock.