HL Deb 28 October 1996 vol 575 cc114-220

3.3 p.m.

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by Lord Gray of Contin—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".

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, it is an honour to open this debate on the gracious Speech. It is always a most important debate. I shall touch on some of our most important foreign policy concerns, including development. My noble friend Lord Howe will concentrate on defence and security policy.

The extensive network of British High Commissions and Embassies across the world and their crucial work are an investment for the future. Our investment in development is equally important. Our economic, educational and political partnerships are key in securing greater prosperity, stability and peace across the wider world. All this is in Britain's interests.

First, I want to talk about two issues of immediate concern. Let me begin with the tragic worsening situation in the whole Great Lakes region. Through our permanent membership of the UN Security Council and the European Union, Britain continues to be closely involved in the search for a solution. These are very complex problems which, despite all efforts, will continue to horrify us until the countries themselves will the peace to happen.

Events this weekend have further increased the need for an urgent but lasting solution. Every day we are in close contact with the non-governmental organisations, international organisations and regional governments. Britain has already spent more than £130 million in the region, but we are ready to assist further, both to help the vulnerable and to find a lasting solution. I will say more of this on Thursday when the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has a most timely Question down on the Order Paper.

All Members of your Lordships' House will also share my deep concern at the deterioration of events in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Hope born of the peace process since the handshake on the White House lawn in 1993 is in peril. The renewed fear of conflict, the dangerous propensity to provocation and retaliation and the vicious influence of extremism are all too clear. Despite all this, the prospect of lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians must not be allowed to dim. We are all deeply aware that it takes years to build hope and peace yet only days to disrupt them. Peace must encompass the needs of both sides, for a one-sided peace will not last.

Today's humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza gives particular cause for concern. The repeated and prolonged closures of the Occupied Territories cause extreme daily hardship for ordinary Palestinian people. That makes the Palestinian people more than usually dependent on help from outside donors to maintain survival, let alone begin to build a decent standard of living. The current difficulties that the United Nations Refugee Welfare Association and other aid organisations are experiencing in delivering help in Gaza and the West Bank have to end. Aid personnel are being subjected to long delays at border crossings and checkpoints. I am compelled to ask what good reason there is for repeatedly holding up vital staff and convoys of food and medical supplies; what good reason there is for severely delaying the journey of ambulances carrying sick people, whether Palestinians or non-Palestinians, to hospital.

Britain is a major bilateral and EU donor to the Palestinians. We call upon Israel urgently to ease the passage of aid personnel, food, medical supplies and development assistance in the Occupied Territories. This call is not a new one. Our concerns have been repeatedly raised with Israel. It is in the interests of all those who want to see peace in the Middle East, the Occupied Territories and Israel that this call is heeded now.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will travel to Israel shortly. He will emphasise that the peace process must continue. The commitments entered into by the PLO and the Government of Israel must be respected. Redeployment from Hebron, required under the interim agreement some months ago, must take place quickly. That will be only the first necessary step in rebuilding Palestinian and international confidence in Israel's commitment to the peace process. Further redeployment from the West Bank, as detailed in the interim agreement, and the resumption of final status talks, as required under the declaration of principles, is also necessary, very soon. Without such movement, the risk of further confrontation will surely deepen.

Nor must we forget the Golan. It is not constructive merely for the Israelis to say that they are ready to negotiate with Syria without preconditions. Peace and security are likely to be achieved on Israel's northern borders only if the problems of the Golan and South Lebanon are solved on the basis of "land for peace" and if Resolutions 242, 338 and 425 are respected.

Now let me touch briefly on a number of issues which are crucial to our future security and prosperity elsewhere in the world. In December, we expect NATO Foreign Ministers to announce a summit in spring or early summer of 1997. This will be the time when a number of countries will be invited to begin negotiations to accede to NATO.

Britain is fully committed to NATO's enlargement. The alliance has provided the foundation of western Europe's post-war prosperity and security. It is right that this should be extended to the new democracies in the east. We aim to have those first new members of NATO with us at the table when NATO celebrates its 50th anniversary in 1999.

Enlargement of NATO must not mean a reduction of security for those not invited or the creation of new dividing lines in Europe. Britain is thus committed to NATO's parallel work—to broaden and deepen the military and political dimensions of Partnership for Peace. This enhanced Partnership for Peace must become an integral part of the security architecture of Europe.

In the European Union too, the United Kingdom has long been the foremost advocate of enlargement to the East. It is the most important task for the European Union in coming years. We look forward to accession negotiations starting with the best prepared candidates six months after the intergovernmental conference ends. Our task is to create conditions for the central Europeans to join the European Union at the earliest date. This means that the CAP and structural funds must be reformed if enlargement is to be successful. Britain will continue to champion vigorously the cause of the central Europeans through practical actions such as improving market access for agricultural products and our continued assistance through the know how funds (some £86.5 million last year).

The Florence European Council called for the intergovernmental conference to conclude in mid-1997. The Prime Minister is looking forward to substantial discussion of suggested treaty changes at the December European Council. Our White Paper, Partnership of Nations, has highlighted the changes we seek for which there is considerable support. Where change is against the UK interest, we shall continue to oppose it, whether or not we are in a minority. This IGC is essentially internal housekeeping. It must clear the way for the far more significant challenges of enlargement and competitiveness, where we continue our efforts to reduce the regulatory burdens of single market legislation and to press for further progress in the liberalisation of world trade through the WTO.

Earlier I mentioned the global spread of our foreign policy. There are a number of areas where our interests are directly at stake.

In Iraq, Saddam remains a threat to the Iraqi people and to the security of the region. This threat was vividly demonstrated recently by the Iraqi attack on Irbil, which represented a clear flouting of Security Council Resolution 688. The British objective in northern Iraq is the peace and well-being of the people living there. We have been speaking with the leaders of both PUK and KDP about how to achieve that. We are pleased that they have now agreed to a ceasefire, which appears to be holding. We shall continue to urge both parties to exercise restraint and work at peace. But we also give fair warning that further Iraqi military intervention would be a serious and unjustifiable escalation of the situation.

The need to keep up the pressure on Iraq remains. Iraq must comply with all the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. It is far from doing so. Iraq's programme of weapons of mass destruction is of great concern. The UN Special Commission has compiled a catalogue of Iraqi deception, obstruction and lies. There is little doubt that Saddam retains the ambition to develop weapons of mass destruction and dominate the region.

It is no pleasure to observe the suffering of the Iraqi people prolonged by Baghdad's policies. The attack on Irbil forced the UN to delay the implementation of Security Council Resolution 986 (Food for Oil). Iraq is further delaying its implementation by reopening points already agreed in May this year. We can only regret Iraq's intransigence in blocking this avenue to improving the well-being of the Iraqi people.

In early December the United Kingdom will host in London a conference to map out the priorities for peace implementation in Bosnia next year. We shall pull together the promises of continued international involvement linked to firm commitments and undertakings by the parties for 1997. We shall take decisions on the various strands of the international civilian effort, including the economic reconstruction of Bosnia, human rights and other humanitarian issues, such as the condition of refugees.

The political framework being developed for the London conference will also inform work under way at NATO on the security needs of Bosnia in 1997. IFOR has been an outstanding success, both in its mission in Bosnia and in bringing NATO together with partners from central and eastern Europe and beyond. IFOR deserves credit not only for its miliary mission, but also for the widespread support it has provided to the civilian effort, in particular to the elections on 14th September. The NATO military authorities are now looking at the options for 1997. A decision will be taken next month on how best to plan for a successor to IFOR, building on its success, with all major NATO allies contributing. But the fundamental principle remains that Bosnians must take on more and more of the responsibility for their own affairs. We shall help them to do so, but it has to come.

I now turn to Nigeria. The suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth by Heads of Government in Auckland in November 1995 was a difficult and unprecedented decision. So far, the Commonwealth is the only international organisation to have taken that step. The suspension responded to serious violations in Nigeria of the principles set out in the Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991, culminating in the shocking execution of Saro-Wiwa and his associates after a flawed judicial process.

At the same meeting in Auckland, Heads of Government created the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which comprises Foreign Ministers of Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. CMAG's mandate is to recommend how to deal with persistent violations of the Harare Principles in Nigeria, The Gambia and Sierra Leone. I am pleased to report that since then Sierra Leone has returned to democratic government. It still has problems but it is now democratic and working at its problems. CMAG's work with Nigeria and The Gambia has to continue.

CMAG left the Nigerians in no doubt that it expected firm actions, including the immediate review of the cases of all prisoners held without charge, the release of the alleged coup plotters and of Chief Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential elections.

Since my right honourable friend Malcolm Rifkind and I met a Nigerian delegation in June with our CMAG partners there has been only slow progress. CMAG will soon visit Nigeria as part of the continuing process of dialogue and assessment. CMAG has made it clear to the Nigerians whom it wishes to see during the visit to complete its assessment of Nigeria's commitment to the Harare Principles. If the Nigerians restrict CMAG Ministers' access during the visit, the group will reflect that in its assessment and draw the appropriate conclusions, including measures. We shall use the visit to press once again for the release of political prisoners and for a review of prison conditions.

Britain will continue to play an active role in the work of CMAG as part of our wider efforts to encourage greater respect for human rights and a return to democracy in Nigeria and elsewhere.

I turn to Hong Kong. Hong Kong remains one of our highest foreign policy priorities. With the transition now in sight, we are into the final, critical phase. There has been useful progress this year with the Chinese, particularly last month's meeting in New York between the Foreign Secretary and Qian Qichen, following which agreement was announced on the handover ceremony.

But the success of the transition after 30th June next year depends on developments over the next few months, including a number of important decisions to be taken by China. Britain is committed to ensuring a successful transition and will remain committed to a stable, democratic and prosperous Hong Kong.

The United Kingdom has been a major contributor to the UN peacekeeping operations for much of the 1990s, in keeping with the P5 membership. For much of 1995 the United Kingdom has been the largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, mainly in the former Yugoslavia. In Cyprus, the United Kingdom has provided forces since the beginning of the UN operation in 1964. In Angola and Rwanda, British logistic batallions laid the groundwork for incoming UN operations, helping ensure that subsequent troop contingents were able to deploy rapidly and efficiently. There have been valuable contributions too to UN peacekeeping in Kuwait, Georgia, Cambodia and the Western Sahara.

British troops have been praised widely and are respected for their professionalism and dedication while working under often difficult circumstances and earning them a warm reception from local populations. They have rebuilt schools, maintained roads and provided much needed medical care in Bosnia, Rwanda and Angola. In Bosnia they are working jointly with ODA on a highly acclaimed programme of infrastructure repairs. The blend of ODA money and guidance with the troops' "can-do" attitude and enthusiasm is restoring the fabric of life. Villages are seeing a gradual return to normality, with water, gas and electricity available once again.

I turn now to development. Development assistance is not just about helping people in poorer countries to achieve a better quality of life. It is also about investing in our own future. Global peace and stability, a healthy common environment and combating illegal drugs are in all our interests.

The prime responsibility for development must always rest with developing countries themselves. We want to see a new partnership between the developed and developing world. The G7 Summit set out the framework for that partnership, addressing trade, development and debt and the environment. Our development programme aims to create the conditions necessary for profitable trade and sustained long-term investment. But donors must ensure that their assistance is properly targeted and effectively managed.

We work hard at all we do. Our purpose is to improve the quality of life for people in poorer countries by contributing to sustainable development and reducing poverty and suffering. But we also have responsibilities and, with the rest of the developed world, we must face up to those responsibilities. We must pursue sound macro-economic policies and work towards more open markets for capital and trade. The private sector will drive economic growth in developing countries and trade is one of the most effective engines for development. Britain is the third largest source of private capital to the developing world.

Private investment flows for 1995 are estimated to be £7.4 thousand million. Our development assistance must help developing countries to attract those flows of investment. But that alone is not enough. The poorest countries which do not attract private flows will still need concessional assistance. Britain will continue to play a decisive role in moving forward international discussions on debt. The World Bank and the IMF have been asked to begin implementation of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Debt Initiative before the end of this year. That initiative, based on proposals put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, aims to reduce the debts of highly indebted poor countries to a sustainable level. The initiative will give the poorest, most indebted countries their first real chance to escape from the shackles of their debt burdens.

I look forward to the contributions of so many Members of your Lordships' House. In the short time available and with many speakers to come 1 can only touch on a few of the vast array of issues of importance to Britain. But underpinning all the issues is the continuing drive to give the best value for money possible in all the work done by our diplomatic and development staff. Their work is an invaluable investment for Britain now and for decades to come. Through our policies outlined in the gracious Speech we will make sure that that continues.

3.24 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, this is the fourth year in succession that I have opened the foreign affairs and defence debate on the Queen's Speech for the Opposition. I hope that it will be the last time for some years that I do so on behalf of the Opposition. The election can be no more than seven months away and I anticipate, with the evidence of the polls to support me, that we on this side of the House will be introducing this debate next year and the party opposite will be responding to it. I hope that the Minister will enjoy the change, if it happens. I wish her well in the new experience that awaits her.

In the last of such debates before an election it is appropriate to give some indication of where the Labour Party stands on some of the crucial issues that face us in foreign affairs and that I shall try to do. In that context I shall say something about our international economic relations which I take to be a central part of our relations with other countries. Before doing so, I want to pick up on a number of references made to specific parts of the world in the Address—parts of the world that are giving us cause for concern or could do so in the coming year.

The Labour Party supports the Government in their efforts to achieve a successful transfer of sovereignty to Hong Kong in the summer of next year, and I want to say a little mere about that than the Minister did. We also endorse what is said in the Address about the need to preserve the way of life of the people of Hong Kong and the need to promote the territory's continued stability and prosperity founded on a high degree of autonomy and the rule of law. While it is possible to be optimistic about the future of Hong Kong—China will surely not be so foolish as to jeopardise business confidence there by initiating political changes that go back on earlier agreements—there are some worrying unresolved problems.

The future of Hong Kong's ethnic minorities is not secure. It is clear that they will not enjoy the same rights as the ethnic Chinese majority when Hong Kong reverts to China. They will not be able to become Chinese nationals because of the race-based nature of Chinese national law arid only Chinese nationals will be eligible for certain political offices under the Basic Law in the post-1997 constitution.

China's record on human rights, as I am sure we all agree, is poor. It is not a signatory to the UN covenants on civil and political rights and on economic social and cultural rights whereas Hong Kong has been covered by those covenants since Britain ratified them 20 years ago. Since the Join': Declaration made absolutely clear that they should continue to be in force after 1997—that is embodied in the Basic Law—arrangements now need to be made for Hong Kong to report direct to the UN human rights committees. That is a minimum safeguard which should be provided for the people of Hong Kong. I raised the matter when we last debated Hong Kong in this House and I would be grateful if the Minister can say whether any progress has been made.

There are other anxieties in relation to the timetable for the new elections to replace the Provisional Council after 1997 and about how the Provisional Council and LegCo are going to work between now and next July. It must be hoped that difficult and unsettling conflicts do not occur. Given some of the uncertainties it is vital to preserve the neutrality of the civil service. Without it morale in Hong Kong would be lowered and the whole transition could be at risk. The appointment of the first post-1997 chief executive has still to be announced by the Chinese Government. I understand that the identity of that person is likely to be known before the end of November. He or she must have the right experience and skills to maintain confidence and help ensure a smooth transition.

This time last year when we debated the Queen's Speech we hoped that the terrible conflict in Rwanda and Burundi had come to an end. Sadly, instability in the region has continued and ethnic conflict has now spread into neighbouring Zaire, with a looming threat of more atrocities and ethnic cleansing. Half a million Rwandan and Burundian refugees are reported today to have abandoned their camps in eastern Zaire and are now on the move, many of them without access to either food or water. More refugees are being created every day within Zaire. The problems for the UN and its staff on the ground in trying to stop more suffering on a vast scale are enormous. The fighting in eastern Zaire means that the UNHCR has had to start evacuating its humanitarian staff from the region. Since the Prime Minister of Zaire was in London last week, perhaps the Minister can say something about the outcome of those talks as well as telling the House what the UK Government and the international community are doing to avert further disaster there.

The Labour Party welcomes the visit of the President of Israel to the UK next February and hopes that it will provide an opportunity to discuss ways of making progress in the peace process. Like the Minister, we cannot hide our dismay about the way things have turned for the worse since the election of Mr. Netanyahu in Israel. After so much optimism last year, it is terribly disheartening to see the hardening of positions and the confrontational approach adopted by the Israeli right-wing beginning to destroy the progress made. We support the position that M. Chirac took on the renewed building of Jewish settlements on the West Bank when he visited Israel last week. Nor do we believe it right to recognise Israel's claim to sovereignty in East Jerusalem. As the Minister indicated, the sealing off of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, barring Palestinians from their jobs in Israel, can only create great discontent and fears for their livelihoods among the Palestinian population. The changes made by the new Israeli Government in negotiations over the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Hebron and their attempt to extend the area of Israeli control and to retain the right of pursuit into Palestinian areas have also unreasonably damaged progress. The withdrawal from Hebron was agreed by the previous government and is now three months overdue. The breakdown of the latest talks is deeply disappointing.

The great majority of Israelis, I am sure, want to see the spirit of Oslo maintained and further progress made towards peace. Many will be justifiably concerned by the way their new government have handled negotiations with the Palestinians. They also recognise that peace and security can be achieved only with a just settlement for the Palestinians. I believe from what the Minister has said that this view is endorsed not just by the Labour Party but also by the Government. It is something on which the Minister and I can agree, but I hope that the Government will ask the United States to do more to persuade Mr. Netanyahu of its importance.

Looking round the world, as one civil war ends another seems to flare up. In Afghanistan we have seen in recent weeks the frightening spectacle of Islamic fundamentalists establishing themselves in the country's ruined capital and imposing brutal new laws in the name of religion that are an affront, in particular to the civilised treatment of women. In Bosnia there now seems some hope of long-term peace even if what has been achieved can hardly be described as reconciliation between the formerly warring parties. Like the Government, we on this side of the House support the Dayton Agreement and hope to see full compliance with what was agreed.

As the Minister said, the role of NATO in implementing the peace has been successful and I should like to record our gratitude to the British troops who have played such an important part in the exercise. I have raised before the question of IFOR's failure to arrest Mr. Karadzic and I make no excuses in raising it again. Mr. Karadzic is wanted as a war criminal. Until he is arrested and tried for the atrocities of which he is accused, there is a risk that the genuine reconciliation we all want to see in Bosnia will be unattainable. Moreover, if atrocities go unpunished in Europe, what hope is there that in other parts of the world where civil wars take place those who order genocidal killing will hold back?

We on these Benches are glad to see in the Address that support for the UN remains a priority. If that is the case, can the Minister tell the House why the Government have not announced that the UK will be rejoining UNESCO? Their failure to do so hardly ranks as support for the UN. The Government want a more effective, efficient and responsive UN. UNESCO has worked successfully to meet those goals. It is hypocritical of the Government that they refuse to recognise the achievement and announce that the UK will become a member again.

Reform of the United Nations as a whole is now very much on the agenda. The Labour Party strongly supports the Secretary General's efforts to tackle not just the reform of the secretariat, over which he has some control, but also the improvement of intergovernmental structures on the economic and social side of the UN and of arrangements for financing the UN and of co-ordination within the UN system as a whole. We regret the unjustified criticism of Mr. Boutros Ghali by the United States' Government and its ambassador to the UN. Perhaps the Minister, in summing up, will say where the UK Government stand on his reappointment. We must in this context never forget that it is the member states of the UN who determine how and whether it is reformed. With the exception of the secretariat, they decide, not the Secretary General. They have the powers to see through the reforms he has proposed, including much-needed changes to the Security Council. They must do so in order to preserve the vital role of the UN in furthering global interests against the narrower and often self-seeking interests of nation states. Without a strong UN the world would be a far worse place than it is today.

Turning to the international economy in the global world we now occupy, the UK must be outward looking. If we are not, our economy will be bypassed and our ability to bargain for the best deal for Britain will be undermined by coalitions between other nations which have formed closer partnerships. Membership of the world community also carries with it responsibilities as well as rights. We reject as cynical and shortsighted the approach to foreign policy that regards it only as a matter of realpolitik. Of course foreign policy must have the objective of advancing national interests. It is, however, in our national interest to be respected abroad. If we apply double standards to the values we demand of ourselves, compared with the treatment we are prepared to condone for the citizens of other countries, we only bring our nation into contempt. That is one of the reasons why we attach so much importance to overseas aid and deplore the Government's relentless cuts to the programme. The fact that 80 per cent. of the world's population live in developing countries highlights the enormous untapped potential that can be raised by a balanced programme of development aid and trade. In that respect I agree with the Minister. My noble friend Lord Judd will say more about this later.

We must work for economic as well as political stability around the world. Britain can, and should, play a leading part in efforts to create a stable international macro-economic climate. To achieve this, Labour wants to see more effective co-operation on monetary and fiscal policy in the G7 to encourage compatible national economic strategies and promote growth and jobs. If we are returned next year, we shall try to ensure more effective regulation and supervision of the currency and financial markets so that we can reap the benefits of developments in financial instruments without destabilising world capital markets. We shall encourage reform of the IMF so that it can identify problems before they develop into speculative crises. An unstable international environment, characterised by exchange rate volatility, makes returns on investment far less certain. It deters companies from the long-term planning needed to develop new products and new markets. In turn it damages investment in both capital and skills, a situation which Britain, more than anyone else, can ill afford.

It is vital for the UK economy that the European Union as a whole prospers. For that reason I cannot over stress the need to work with our European partners rather than against them. We export nearly as much to Germany alone as to the whole of NAFTA and twice as much to Denmark as to China. Does the Minister agree that it is partly because we are part of the single market that Britain wins millions of pounds of inward investment each year, a simple fact which the Eurosceptic members of the Cabinet and their friends in the Conservative Party fail to understand? It is therefore essential that, whether or not we decide to join EMU, if EMU goes ahead it too is a success. British industry and finance must also be ready for EMU. It is worrying to read reports that British industry is ill prepared, particularly in data processing. It is, however, hardly surprising, given the total failure on the part of the Government to take the lead on that preparation.

I was in Brussels a couple of weeks ago. I was struck by the terribly low standing of the British Government among our European partners and in the Commission. The Minister mentioned the IGC. The common view in Brussels is that no progress can be made on the IGC until after the British election. So other member states now reluctantly accept that it may have to be delayed. The handling of the BSE crisis has heightened the disdain with which we are now regarded. Our influence in Europe, which ought to be as great as that of France and Germany, has fallen to an all-time low. Is it not a disastrous position to be left in?

Let me make it clear: a Labour Government next year will restore our position in Europe. Unlike the Conservatives, we shall not put party interests before those of the country. We shall abandon the destructive and negative stance taken on so many European matters by this Government and in so doing make the fight for British interests within Europe a successful one rather than the failure that it now is. And, yes, we shall sign up to the social chapter and endorse what some of the biggest and best employers in Britain are already doing to promote good relations with their employees.

The Queen's Speech says that the Government will promote policies designed to increase the Union's economic well-being. Unfortunately, any policies promoted by this Government do not stand much chance of getting any where in Europe. A Labour Government will change this so that the soured atmosphere that now exists between Britain and our European partners vanishes. We look forward next July to being part of the troika and to Britain's presidency of the Union in the first six months of 1998. We look forward to working for the eventual accession of the countries of central and eastern Europe to the Union.

I have not been able to cover the enlargement of NATO, nor other defence and security matters. I will leave that to my noble friend. I want only to record the relief we feel that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty has now been agreed. This is a treaty Labour pressed for—for many years—long before the Government conceded its importance. We look forward to its ratification. But, as my noble friend will indicate later, there are still unresolved problems. It is only the first step towards the non-nuclear world we in the Labour Party want to see. I look forward very much to hearing the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, on the subject.

A successful international infrastructure can develop only in a healthy and stable international community, one where nations recognise that the rights they gain from agreement and co-operation also give them the responsibility to play a part in the promotion of stability, prosperity and partnership around the world. That is why a commitment to the success of the United Nations and to a properly targeted and resourced aid and development programme is inseparable from a commitment to a strong and prosperous international economy. We need a government that can give leadership to Britain and that can focus their mind on the future—and our future—in a global world. We intend to provide such a government.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will want to thank the Minister for the way in which she introduced the debate and covered such a number of subjects. She said that this is always an important debate on the gracious Speech. That is no doubt true, but I have always found it an unsatisfactory debate because so many different problems have to be covered. That is why I always feel pity and sympathy for the Minister who has to wind up. For my part, I hope to deal briefly with three specific topics and not to cover the world. My noble friends beside me will deal with the important issues of human rights and development aid, which the Minister covered, and my noble friend Lord Mayhew will deal with disarmament and NATO when he winds up.

The first specific matter that I want to raise with the Minister is the future of the BBC World Service. In a similar debate to this in another place the Foreign Secretary said that one of the basic pillars of British foreign policy lay in what he called, promotion of the extraordinary asset that we have in the English language".—[Official Report, Commons, 24/10/96; col. 139.] The cuts that the Government are presently imposing on the BBC World Service and, incidentally, on the British Council, are a curious way of caring for that asset. I begin by pressing on the Government the hope that they can be persuaded to reverse those cuts in the forthcoming Budget. In today's turbulent post-war world, the BBC World Service has in many ways a different role from in the past—and an even more important role. The BBC World Service is a very important weapon in terms of Britain's influence. It is also a most economical weapon. It represents good value for money when compared with sophisticated modern armaments. In parenthesis, I should declare an interest in the BBC World Service as a member of my family works for it.

The structure of the World Service has recently been under threat from some ill thought out management proposals which, as your Lordships will remember, aroused the outrage of your Lordships' House before the Summer Recess. I believe that we contributed to the welcome initiative that the Foreign Secretary took in establishing a working party of independent members to consider such matters. The working party has now produced its report in which there are a series of assurances about the future. Among the most significant is the aim of continued co-location under the same roof for the English language and the vernacular services and the plan that one member of the board of governors should be designated the duty of looking after the interests of the World Service.

However, perhaps the most important decision taken by the working party will be to monitor, and to report back in due course on, the way in which those safeguards are implemented. Some of us—including members of all parties in your Lordships' House—will be watching vigilantly and awaiting that report.

The ending of the cold war, with its bi-polar balance of nuclear terror as the basis of world peace, has produced an immense change in the world scene. In the debate in another place the Foreign Secretary remarked very vividly that during the cold war no single NATO or Warsaw Pact soldier lost his life in European conflict—contrast that with the slaughter that took place in Bosnia and which has been taking place in Chechnya and elsewhere. That was a vivid illustration of the way in which the world scene has changed. Globally, it is now a multi-polar world, with a single superpower, the United States.

Against that background I do not believe that the various international organisations that together make up this somewhat vague entity of an international community that media commentators are often keen to talk about rather simplistically and glibly—whether it is NATO, the international economic organisations or the United Nations—have fully adapted themselves to the challenges of this new situation. Of those organisations I believe that the most important is the United Nations. I was very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, referred to it in some detail. I wish to say a word about what seems to me to be the central issue there. In doing so I am conscious of the absence from this Bench of Lord Gladwyn. He was here on the last occasion when the United Nations were debated. I confess that I spoke using his advice to a very large degree. He gave outstanding service to this Bench of your Lordships' House over a number of years. His death is a very great loss to us.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

In a world with a single super power, the essence of making the United Nations more effective as the central international organisation of the international community is that the United States should be right at the heart of the United Nations. When the Minister replies I hope that he will be able to tell us the latest position as regards the US vendetta, in many ways, against the present Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who has given very distinguished service. However, I put that as a second matter to getting the future of the United Nations right.

I consider the heart of that matter as being able to ensure that the United States, as the single super power left in the world community, conducts its responsibilities in that respect from the heart of the UN, so that when it has to take a lead, as it is very often bound to do in world peacekeeping operations, it should do so within the resolutions and under the authority of the United Nations. The starting point for that is for the US Congress to meet the American arrears for the US organisation. A corollary of that is that the United Nations should then undertake a much more radical programme of reform than has been faced up to until now. I believe that there is a need to shape a more effective peacekeeping organisation with its own staff college developing both preventive and enforcement techniques. That is needed in order to do the world's duty by the very many dedicated relief workers, peacekeepers and development aid people who risk their lives going to the trouble spots of the world. They deserve to have behind them a much leaner and more incisive peacekeeping and humanitarian body at the United Nations. I hope that some of the staff problems and extravagances of the United Nations can be dealt with very radically indeed.

The international community will also become a more effective entity if the countries of the European Union are able to act more cohesively together both at the UN and elsewhere. The countries of western Europe, which are at the heart of the European Union, have a great deal of experience of international diplomacy. They also have historic links with their former overseas empires, which are of great importance in terms of dealing with the problems there.

That brings me to the biggest single divisive issue of British foreign policy. I am glad that the noble Baroness dealt with it in the final part of her speech because it is also the final part of mine. She said that by the time of the next debate on the Address the general election will have taken place. The government that emerges will immediately face fateful choices in their relationship with the European Union. I believe that the timetable is now very well known. The British Government take on the presidency of the European Union for the first half of 1998. The decision as to whether the British Government will exercise the Maastricht opt-out has to be taken by the end of 1997. In the meantime there has to be legislation about the creation of an independent central bank. The moment for deciding whether the United Kingdom meets the convergence criteria comes during the period of the British presidency.

I hope that the Government Front Bench will not feel offended—perhaps they may feel a little relieved—if I say that I am going to give up trying to persuade them that Britain should be among the first wave of member states joining the single currency. I am prepared to devote my main remarks to seek to persuade the alternative government—we heard a little from the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone—that that government should take Britain in the first wave. Judging from the headlines I read in the newspapers today arising from the remarks of one of the leading members of the alternative government, we are entitled to some further reassurance on this matter.

As regards the Conservative Party, I admire the courage and clarity with which some members of the Government, like the Chancellor of the Exchequer—I do not wish to embarrass the noble Baroness who opened the debate in any way—have kept the Government's options open. From the point of view of British interests that has been extremely important.

What the British electorate need to take on board is that if the Conservatives were to win a further term of office they would be incapable of making a choice on the most important issue of British foreign policy without tearing themselves apart. In their own interests and in the British general interests as well, they need a long period of reflection in opposition to seek reconciliation of positions which are at present irreconcilable. Fortunately, that is an opportunity they are likely to enjoy within the next few months.

However, as regards Europe, the new government will face a deplorable legacy of distrust of Britain. From the first hopeful days when the present Prime Minister spoke differently from his predecessor of putting Britain at the heart of Europe, Britain's capital of goodwill has been steadily run down. There has been a negativism about their approach, which has shown up in the sterile conference so far of the IGC. There has been the sad saga of the serial vetoes over BSE, with the Government going back on their promises as regards the Florence agreement. That was claimed to be the way of lifting the ban on British beef.

It is against that background that the new government—if the Labour Party wins the election—will need to face the situation. Apart from the recent record of the present Government, I must say to the Labour Party that it must bear in mind the historic view of Britain through continental eyes. From the days of Winston Churchill's Zurich speech, it has been the habit of opposition parties of all kinds in this country to engage in very promising European rhetoric about unity when in opposition and then to fudge the issue very greatly when they gain office. I beg that that does not happen if there is a change of government in the forthcoming general election.

In view of the timetable I have just described, the wisest course for the British opposition parties is the course that this party will follow; namely, to make it absolutely clear to the electorate before the general election that if Britain is in a position to conform to the convergence criteria to become a member of the first wave joining the single currency, we should seek to do so. Nothing would do more to restore Britain's reputation in the rest of Europe and serve the best interests of the British people if that kind of clear commitment were given in the next Queen's Speech.

4 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Worcester

My Lords, as this is the last opportunity that I shall have to address your Lordships' House before I retire, I should like to express gratitude for the enjoyment I have had in taking part in the business of this Chamber and for the courtesy that has been shown to Members of this Bench.

I welcome the broad-based and wide-ranging speech of the noble Baroness at the beginning of this debate and rejoice with her—indeed, with all Members of this House—that in the gracious Speech it is said that Her Majesty's Government will continue to support the United Nations. There is an awesome view of the 21st century, of regional wars in which atrocities are committed which may cause some to say that they make Hitler appear mild and where people are forced to stand by and do little about it. Unless there is a strong United Nations I believe that that will be a fairly accurate description of the situation. The United Nations, like any other institution, must adapt and reform if it is to be fit for the tasks of the new century.

I share with the noble Baroness the hope and prayer that the peace process in the Middle East will not be delayed and will go forward; similarly, in sub-Saharan Africa. I also hope that positive strides will be made in achieving peace in the former Yugoslavia. I am delighted that the Worcestershire Regiment has played such a large part in rebuilding schools and, like all the services of today, has a very large humanitarian role that it will undoubtedly perform.

I wish to reflect for a moment on the success of overseas aid—for some time I was chairman of the Church of England Development Affairs Committee—for example, the mortality rate for young children has been halved; the number of people with access to clean water has been doubled; smallpox has largely been eliminated; deaths from bitter diseases such as polio and measles have been sharply reduced; and literacy and attendance at primary schools have been significantly increased. I also express gratitude for the work done by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in seeking to reduce the debts of the poorer nations. I wonder whether there will be an opportunity at the millennium to cancel those debts, because it is unlikely that they will ever be paid.

We owe a great deal to a long line of Ministers who have worked to maintain the contribution of this country to overseas aid and development, but none has surpassed the labours and courage of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. However, she would be the first to agree that there are no grounds for complacency. One billion people (one in five of the world's population) still live in absolute poverty. Of those, 500 million are chronically malnourished. Another 2.9 billion do not have access to safe sanitation. The number of refugees worldwide has risen ninefold in the past 30 years to 27 million. It is important to realise the way in which absolute poverty causes migrants to roam the face of the earth, their cattle overgrazing as they go, in search of food and employment.

There is a direct link between the poverty of some nations and the growing affluence of others. It causes immigration and asylum problems and kindred challenges. Undoubtedly, in the 21st century fundamentalists, zealots and terrorists will feed on the outrage of the disadvantaged whom they claim to represent. It is not in our best interests to be inactive and inert in the face of so-called third world poverty. A mean and curmudgeonly attitude will not be in our best interests. I repeat a phrase that I have quoted before from the late Archbishop Temple: Self-interest so often dictates that which justice demands". That being so, it is regrettable that the real value of aid has probably been reduced by between 5 and 6 per cent. in the past four years. Aid is always the first casualty when governments seek economies. Noble Lords have been talking about which government will be in power next time this subject is debated. Let not any government cause aid to be the first casualty when seeking to make ends meet.

The value of our aid relative to national wealth has fallen significantly. I am informed that many official donors are similarly reducing their expenditure on overseas aid. Furthermore, I understand that the proportion of aid given to sub-Saharan Africa is minute compared with that given to other nations. One should regard that as regrettable and impolitic. Recently, my friend the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: I have seen repeatedly on my travels throughout the Anglican Communion what a vital contribution the British aid programme makes in developing countries". It works. Let us not grow weary of well doing. This is not the time to reduce the United Kingdom's commitment to overseas aid, not least because surely we all seek a foreign policy which in its expansiveness creates a coherent world at peace with itself. We should be peacemakers, not just peacekeepers or peace-guarders. In the face of our much reduced Armed Forces, is there not a double need to be proactive in those matters which will make for peace? If swords are to be beaten into ploughshares, let the ploughshares get moving.

All of this indicates a massive need for development education if the citizens of tomorrow's world are to understand the human, social and moral ecology of their times. I refer to that interrelatedness and interdependence envisaged by Brandt and Brundtland more than a decade ago. If human eco-systems are to be effective, much firmer policies must be hammered out by wealthy nations to control the sale of arms to irresponsible and ruthless governments. There are aspects of the arms trade which are as reprehensible as drug-pushing and drug-peddling.

Perhaps on this occasion I may speak more generally as I bring my speech to an end. Nowadays not infrequently reference is made to young people. The wish is expressed that they may grow in responsibility and participation in national and international life. I believe, as we all do, that they are every bit as adventurous and concerned for this one world as any of their forebears. However, they need a vision of hope for a better world in which our priorities are clearly stated and how we spend our affluence is clearly delineated. They do not want a world in which those who are affluent have only one concern, and that is to become more affluent. They need a vision of hope—a vision of a world at peace based on justice.

If we can put the whole of the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica on one silicon chip and convey the whole contents of the Bodleian Library in 44 seconds flat, we have no business to have a world so divided between the poor and the rich as we have today.

Can we not, with our European partners, play a part in global affairs, not with guns but with ideas, with moral and spiritual initiatives? We who are European have a common faith, a common culture and to a certain extent a common experience of democratic institutions. The young do not want to see us like characters in a Chekhov play discussing insoluble problems. They want from government, of whichever colour, a proactive, expansive foreign policy which gives a vision of hope and purpose which will appeal to their own very best instincts.

4.10 p.m.

Earl Jellicoe

My Lords, I have to begin with three confessions. The first is that I shall not be following the theme which the right reverend Prelate so eloquently addressed. It is sad, if I understand him correctly, that this is the last time that he will be addressing your Lordships' House. My second confession is that owing to a very longstanding commitment I shall not be here for the latter part of the debate and for the wind-up speech by my noble friend the Minister. My third confession is to a longstanding, albeit amateur, interest in Eastern Europe, above all in Russia. That originated in the dark ages perhaps when I was a very junior diplomat and an equally junior member of the British delegation to the Council of Foreign Ministers in Moscow in 1947—a mission led by that great man, Ernest Bevin.

However, it is not of Russia, for all its importance, that I wish to speak this afternoon, but rather of a country (Ukraine) which was an integral part of the Soviet Union until its independence in 1991, nearly five years ago.

Ukraine is a country which I was lucky enough to visit this summer. I was invited, for some unknown reason, to preside over an international conference on the future of the Ukrainian sugar industry. My only qualification, apart from having known a bit about sugar in the remote past, was that I knew nothing about the Ukrainian sugar industry and therefore that my chairmanship of the meeting was bound to be impartial.

I can only say that Ukraine has made a deep impression on me. I have in mind its long history: the fact that the foundations of Russian Christianity were laid in Ukraine. I have in mind its sufferings—the man-made famines of 1932 and 1933 in the Ukraine and its neighbours, with their death toll of some 7 million people, and the ghastly consequences of the German invasion in 1941. I have in mind, too, its rather long historical connection with this country, symbolised by the fact that a Grand Prince of Kiev was married to Gytha, as I am sure all your Lordships know, the daughter of our very own King Harold who was killed at the Battle of Hastings in, I think it was, 1066, and symbolised also by the active involvement of British entrepreneurs in Ukraine in its late 19th century industrialisation. Its capital, by the Dnieper River, despite the ravages of the Russian civil war in which it changed hands 15 times in two years and the damage inflicted upon it in two world wars, is still in my view an incomparably beautiful city. It is right that Kiev should be twinned with another most beautiful city; namely, Edinburgh.

With all that in mind, it is odd to me that that country—the second in size and the fifth in population in Europe—with its 51 million people, its educated (it is educated) workforce, its energy industry potential, its considerable agricultural and industrial wealth—all that in addition to its crucial geographical and historical position vis-à-vis Russia—seems to qualify as one of those faraway countries about which we know and hear very little. I can understand why that was so in the early days of Ukrainian independence. In those early years, Chernobyl and our desire that Ukraine should become a non-nuclear power dominated the West's preoccupation with the Ukraine.

There was considerable uncertainty about Ukraine and its future—what sort of country it and its rulers desired it to be. However, since the election of President Kuchma in 1994 things have changed. True, progress has been slow. True, the president still meets a good deal of opposition in the Rada—the Ukrainian Lower House. Certainly, Ukraine lags way behind its neighbour Russia in structural and economic reform and in privatisation. Yet certainly there is now a quite new sense of purpose in the Ukraine under President Kuchma. Inflation is now under control. The new currency is holding its value. The slowdown of the economy is slowing significantly and with it foreign interest in a very substantial potential market is growing.

Given the potential of that major European country, I hope that we can look forward to a strengthening of our bilateral links with it. It is good that there has been a plentiful exchange of high-level visits, with President Kuchma and his former prime minister visiting the UK and with short visits by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and two notable visits by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary, both in his capacity as Defence Minister and more recently as Foreign Secretary. It is good that the Lord Mayor of London paid a successful visit to Ukraine this summer, and that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales will be visiting Ukraine shortly (next week in fact) and that, apart from other clothing, he will be wearing the mantle of his Business Leaders Forum.

It is good that the Know How Fund, with an annual contribution of some £9 million per year, is constructively active in Ukraine. It is good that the British Council is now active there, with four major centres. It is good, too, that the Foreign Office's Chevening Scholarship Scheme is open to the Ukraine. I can think of no better long-term investment, although I should like to see the number doubled or trebled. It is good also that co-operation on the military level is so positive, with UK experience available for training and defence restructuring—a co-operation symbolised in a joint exercise á trios this summer in Poland with Polish, Ukrainian and British participation. Finally, it is good that Ukraine is a member of IFOR, and that a Ukrainian battalion has played its part in the British sector in Bosnia.

All that is fine. Yet, all that said, I am concerned that in trade our bilateral relationship with this major European power is far weaker than it should be. True, there is a growing interest of British companies in the service sector. True, British exports to Ukraine increased by some 30 per cent. in the first half of this year. However, they amount still to only a little more than our exports to small but progressive Slovenia. They rank far behind the exports of some of our major European partners.

It is a sad and curious fact that only a handful of major British companies in the agricultural and industrial sector have shown a real interest in Ukraine's potential. My noble friend Lord Selsdon is a notable exception. Given that rather disappointing background, I hope that we can maintain the rhythm of high-level visits both ways, including a visit by a senior DTI Minister and visits by British trade missions—visits rather sadly lacking at present. Above all, given the potential of this market, I hope that those concerned will look again at the provision of adequate export credit for Ukraine; a provision, as is all too often the case, where we lag behind our trade competitors.

In conclusion, I do not wish to dwell on our bilateral relationship—although that relationship is important—but rather on the wider European and international aspect of our relationship with Ukraine. In a noteworthy speech in Kiev last year, the Foreign Secretary remarked: Ukraine's size and strategic position make it one of Europe's pivots. Ukraine is crucial to our joint work. If structures can be devised to ensure prosperity and security here, we will have established arrangements which will work for Europe as a whole". I could not agree more strongly. It is good, therefore, that Ukraine is now firmly looking westwards. It was the first former Soviet country to sign a Partnership for Peace agreement with NATO. As agreed, since May there have been no nuclear warheads on Ukrainian soil. Furthermore, Ukraine was the first former Soviet country to sign a partnership and co-operation agreement with the European Union and it is good that since then an interim agreement with the European Union to widen trade links has also been signed. Ukraine is now a member of the Council of Europe.

All that is for the good. Ukraine now qualifies for substantial assistance from the Group of 7, from the IMF, from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and, of course, from the European Union. All that is fine as far as it goes. However, I am convinced that far more important in the long term for Ukraine—and of course the same applies to the other countries of Eastern Europe, including very much Russia—is access to the international markets of the world and not least to the countries of the European Union. I very much hope that in reply my noble friend the Minister will be able to assure us that securing and ensuring that access will remain a major British priority. It is on that matter that, in the last resort, we in the West will, above all, be judged. This will be not only in our economic interest but also in the interest of European security.

I have to confess that I am not really quite so happy about some of the current political signals, and specifically the implications of early NATO enlargement. I talk about a subject on which I am not an expert but I shall give my views. In my view, the last thing that we want to do is to provide ammunition to those in Russia or elsewhere who would like to turn the clock back to the days of the Cold War. I know that perhaps I am speaking to the converted when I say that it is vitally important for us to get this right. We must reach the right agreements in the Partnership for Peace with Russia, with Ukraine and with other countries not now perhaps seen as early candidates for NATO membership. We must reach agreements which contain real benefits to all parties; agreements which attract rather than repel; agreements which do not preclude eventual incorporation; and agreements which do not purport to cast relationships in concrete for all time.

I believe that that is particularly relevant to Ukraine, the country which I have made the theme of my remarks today. It cannot afford to be a NATO front line on Russia's border. Equally, a decision that Ukraine's position is so difficult that it must preclude membership could leave that major European country in a new Russian sphere of influence. I believe that Ukrainian independence matters to all of us. I conclude that that is best assured by concentrating on doing all we can to consolidate this major country's economic strength, in particular through her incorporation in the international economic community. That should go in parallel with and perhaps in front of moves on the security front, and certainly not after such moves.

It used to be said that Ukraine was the touchstone of Russia's acceptance of the end of the empire. I believe that still to be true. I also believe that Ukrainian independence and prosperity are a measure of our determination to help to create a lasting and peaceful new intra-European matrix of relationships and that as such they merit our very particular attention.

4.25 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, I intend to limit my remarks to two issues of foreign affairs and defence which are closely linked and to what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. They are the elimination of nuclear weapons and the enlargement of NATO.

During the past year I have been a member of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, established by the previous Australian Government but given the continued support of their successor. Our mandate was to, develop ideas and proposals for a concrete and realistic programme to achieve a world totally free of nuclear weapons". We presented our report to the Australian Prime Minister on 14th August and his Government published it on that day. His foreign minister stated that we had carried out our mandate successfully and that our report was realistic, practical and constructive. He presented it to the UN General Assembly on 30th September.

In our report we listed the many reasons why it is urgent that a major effort should be made now for a real, genuine and unequivocal commitment by the declared nuclear weapon states to the target of total elimination and for them to demonstrate that by a number of steps which we listed. Why is it urgent? First, the destructiveness of nuclear weapons is so great, and their use so catastrophic, that they have no military utility against a comparably equipped opponent other than the belief that they deter such an opponent from using his nuclear weapons. Therefore, their elimination would remove that justification for their retention. Their use against a non-nuclear opponent is politically and morally indefensible, as history has shown.

Secondly, it is urgent because the indefinite deployment of the weapons carries a high risk of their ultimate use intentionally, by accident or by inadvertence. We are lucky that since 1945 no nuclear weapon has been exploded, except in tests, either intentionally or by accident. But there were occasions when the world came close to it, notably in the Cuban crisis. Furthermore, there have been some 100 accidents involving US Air Force aircraft carrying nuclear weapons which could have had disastrous consequences but, fortunately, did not. We owe that good fortune to the fact that nuclear weapons have been held only by nations with strong and efficient governmental machinery and access to the latest technology. Today, with the break-up of the Soviet Union and the actual and potential proliferation of nuclear weapons to states, or even possibly to groups within states which could not be so described, the risk of intentional or accidental use is higher. So long as nuclear weapons exist, and certainly if their possession proliferates, that risk will not only continue but will probably increase.

Thirdly, it is urgent because the possession of such weapons by some states stimulates other nations to acquire them or to want to acquire them, reducing the security of all. Far from contributing to stability, as the Government always claim, it has the opposite effect. We devoted a chapter of our report to rebutting the arguments of those who argue for the permanent retention of nuclear weapons. They argue that they have prevented and will continue to prevent war between the major powers; that they protect the credibility of security assurances to allies; that they deter the use of other weapons of so-called mass destruction; that they confer political status and influence; that they provide effective defence at lower cost; that they can defeat large-scale conventional aggression by regional powers; that agreement on elimination could never be reached, and that in any case an agreement could not be verified to an acceptable degree of certainty. Those are the arguments they use.

We believe that we have provided effective refutation of all those arguments, either by exposing their basic invalidity or by showing that, whatever may have been the case in the past, in present and future circumstances the desired outcome could be achieved without nuclear weapons. We devoted a considerable proportion of our report to a description of what a verification system would have to cover and an annex to the legal backing it would need. We did not attempt to produce a blueprint for such a system. If the United States and Russia cannot be persuaded to make the commitment we seek, a blueprint invented by others is irrelevant. If they do make the commitment they themselves must devise the methods, including verification, by which, stage by stage, they reduce from their present levels to zero. Any system that satisfies them should also satisfy the other declared states, the threshold and potential threshold states and the non-nuclear weapons states. The last must never be forgotten.

We accepted that no verification system could be 100 per cent. effective, but if sufficient effort was put behind it we reckoned it could be about 85 per cent. effective. Whether or not that is acceptable is a political judgment to be taken at the time you are nearing zero. It is not an excuse for not trying to start the process. What we must do is compare the risks between the present and a possible future situation where there are a large number of weapons in existence and the possibility of proliferation and lack of control and one where there has been a progressive and verified reduction to zero and the political or military advantage of retaining or attempting to develop a few weapons is doubtful. There can surely be no doubt that the latter would involve less risk and would mean a safer world for us all.

The commission was not a body of airy-fairy academics or pious pacifists. It included a former defence secretary of the United States and a former commander-in-chief of its Strategic Command, a former prime minister of France, the Russian professor who was Mr. Gorbachev's science adviser and who now heads the East-West Space Centre in the United States, a former prime minister of Brazil, and experts in nuclear affairs or arms control from China, Japan, Sweden, Egypt and Sri Lanka. A very valuable member with practical experience was the Swedish diplomat, Rolf Ekeus, who heads UNSCOM, the United Nations mission investigating Iraq's mass destruction weapon programme. The members from this country were Robert O'Neill, professor of the history of war at Oxford, the former director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Professor Joseph Rotblat, who worked on the original atom bombs and who has since devoted his life to getting rid of them, and myself.

The report of that very varied group was unanimous and without any form of qualification. We did not call for any nation to disarm unilaterally. We believe strongly that because there is at present no major source of tension between the great powers the opportunity exists, which may not last long if it is not seized, to make a new and clear choice to enable the world to conduct its affairs without nuclear weapons. We gave no time scale because we realised that unless Russia and the United States can be persuaded genuinely to drive together towards that target it will never be achieved at all. However, if they can be persuaded, and if they put anything like die effort into it which they have expended on building up and maintaining their nuclear arsenals, matters could move much more quickly than most people imagine possible. We have listed a number of steps which, if they made such a commitment, they and all other nuclear weapon states could take without any prejudice to their security. Those steps would demonstrate their commitment and also make the world safer. They include such measures as taking weapons systems off alert status and removing warheads from delivery systems.

This brings me to the enlargement of NATO. Fears of what that means to her is one of the main reasons why Russia is hesitating over the ratification of START II and progress towards START III. The Russian military now use the same arguments for retaining nuclear weapons that NATO formerly used for developing and maintaining them—that they face superior conventional forces, from Europe to the Far East, to counter-balance which they need nuclear weapons. There is little hope of persuading Russia to make a commitment to total elimination so long as those fears persist. They are not unreasonable fears given the devotion to nuclear weapons of NATO's American-dominated military organisation combined with the uncompromising and unqualified terms of Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty.

That is not the only reason why I believe that enlargement of NATO, in its present pattern, would be a grave mistake. It would encourage new members to model their armed forces on the American design which would inevitably pose a potential threat to their neighbours. They need to be persuaded to adopt an entirely different approach which would pose no such threat. For several years, in this House and elsewhere, I have expounded my views and have proposed an alternative. I will not trespass further on the time of the House by repeating them, but recent correspondence in The Times on the subject revealed that I am not alone in holding those views. The Times itself, in its second leader on 30th September, described NATO's policy on enlargement as one of "historic irresponsibility".

On these issues of nuclear weapons and NATO enlargement, it needs a major effort of intellect and political will for the foreign and defence establishments, both political and official, to escape from the grooves into which they have become comfortably and complacently stuck. The Canberra commission has signposted the intellectual escape route. If it is dismissed as too difficult, future generations will condemn us for not even making the effort to rid the world of these horrible weapons.

I hope—I have to be optimistic—that the Government or at least their successors, of whatever political colour, will study the Canberra commission report seriously and do their best to persuade the United States and Russia to make a reality of the commitment that they and Her Majesty's Government made, in signing the non-proliferation treaty, to total elimination of nuclear weapons, and to take the measures to demonstrate that which we recommended.

Lord Annan

My Lords, before the noble and gallant Lord sits down, and speaking as I do as an "airy-fairy academic", would he not agree that he can see no possibility of this country using nuclear bombs in any circumstances? It could only do so in agreement with the United States, and if that is so why do we not leave it to the United States at least for the immediate future? We would therefore give the lead in exactly the course that he has been advocating.

Lord Carver

My Lords, the noble Lord says exactly what I have been saying for about the last 30 years.

4.39 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I wish to focus on three areas where there has been positive development since the House sat previously. The three areas are anti-personnel landmines, tied aid and debt. The issue of landmines has been debated frequently in this place. However, often discussion has led to stalemate as no real progress ever seems to have been made. Real progress was made, however, at the beginning of this month at the Ottawa Conference. The ultimate goal of that conference was a total ban on the use, sale, stockpiling and production of anti-personnel landmines. The Canadian Government who hosted the conference should be congratulated on the leading role they played at the conference. I find that hardly surprising as there is a Liberal government in Canada.

However, the British Government seem to have done everything in their power to delay the progress made at Ottawa. Indeed the position of the United Kingdom has not moved an inch since April 1996, and hardly at all since the international community began to deal with the landmines problem. The United Kingdom now runs the risk of becoming virtually isolated within the Ottawa process, just as it was during the United Nations negotiations. The added risk now is that the UK might be disregarded. The Ottawa Conference has begun a parallel fast-track initiative towards a total ban in December 1997. Should the UK not meet those criteria, it will be left far behind. For those of us who find these weapons morally repugnant, that has to be unacceptable. The United Kingdom should be the first country to react to Canada's challenge and declare a total unilateral ban on the production, stockpiling, export, trade, transfer and use of all anti-personnel mines, and should be the first to support Canada, positively and actively in the process of drawing up and discussing the new treaty, and should pledge now to sign the treaty in December 1997.

I wish to refer the Minister to a matter which I know has caused a great deal of concern recently; namely, an article in the Independent on Sunday of 20th October which alleged that a British company, Londesborough, is suspected of exporting anti-personnel mines. I know that the Government are initiating an investigation into those allegations, but will the Minister assure us that the Government will publish their findings?

I now turn to the second issue of tied aid. The Overseas Development Administration has recently published a review of the United Kingdom's aid-tying policy . The review was funded by the ODA and comprised three studies, the results of which were extremely interesting but came as no surprise to those of us who have been attempting to untie all aid. It is suggested that it would be marginally beneficial to the United Kingdom economy bilaterally to untie all aid. However, a far more significant effect would be achieved if all aid was untied unilaterally. I believe it would be extremely difficult to convince other countries within the European Union to undertake that as they stand to gain less from the untying of aid than we do. However, it would be helpful if we could make a stand and take the lead in untying all aid. The report recommended that the untying of aid would be beneficial to the United Kingdom economy and would be especially beneficial in reducing the cost of administration for the ODA. It is extremely gratifying that the Government have undertaken that survey and I hope that they will act upon its results.

The third issue I wish to discuss is that of debt. It would be wrong not to support the stance taken recently by the Chancellor in taking a lead on debt negotiations. He should be supported in his efforts and in all the work he has done on that matter. However, concluding negotiations is one thing, but as the Trinidad terms have shown, the devil can often be in the detail. We support the Chancellor in any further moves he makes to bring about a solution to the debt crisis which affects so much of the world, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out.

I wish to finish on a positive note. Recently I was in Estonia which also has a government comprising a main element of Liberals. When I returned to this country I was interested to discover that the know-how fund is stopping its funding to Estonia not for any negative reasons but because Estonia is not seen as being in need of that funding in the future. That is the whole point of aid. We saw nightmare images on the television at lunchtime as regards the destabilisation of the Great Lakes region. That leaves one with the impression that aid is almost hopeless. However, I refer to the case of Botswana which is not mentioned in the press. For many years Botswana was a recipient of aid but for the first time this year it is considering contributing to funds.

4.46 p.m.

Lord Kingsland

My Lords, my sole reason for wishing to intervene in the debate on the gracious Speech today is to say something in support of the recent attempts to establish a permanent international criminal court of justice and to urge my noble friend the Minister to support those attempts in the context of her work in the United Nations. However, before I say something about that, I should say that I was struck—as I believe were my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver—by the strength with which the Minister made a commitment to the expansion of NATO to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. I support that commitment; but it has to be realised that the 20th century is littered with security commitments that have not been met—most recently, I am sad to say, in relation to the sovereign state of Bosnia.

There is no doubt that if we make a commitment to extend NATO to those countries, they will believe it; and the consequences of our not delivering, in circumstances where the treaty obliges us to deliver, will be catastrophic for them. If we are to make that commitment, therefore, we must mean it. But do we mean it? We are a democratic country. To what extent are we to debate this issue before we enter into a commitment? This is a serious abrogation of national sovereignty—some might say it is more serious than the abrogation of national sovereignty that is involved in the commitment to a single currency. I do not much like referenda; I find them a rather unattractive continental import. I have supported the Prime Minister's commitment to a referendum on the single currency, despite my doubts. But is this not a matter that at least merits the same serious treatment as that of a single currency; and would that not include, in the context of our commitment to a single currency, a referendum if we were to expand NATO? I make those remarks not to embarrass the Minister but simply to underline the seriousness of what she has said in this afternoon's debate; and the seriousness for us as a nation which is every bit as grave as any financial commitments we might give in the context of the European Community.

My remarks on the permanent international court of justice are not in any way original. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, in the 1940s, following the adoption by the United Nations of the international convention on genocide, which declared it a crime to seek to destroy or to destroy an ethnic or religious group, made an important contribution to the attempt to incorporate the Nuremberg principles into an international Treaty and have them administered in the form of a permanent international court of criminal justice. Alas, that came to nothing following the development of the Cold War. However, in 1989 Trinidad and Tobago again proposed the establishment of a permanent international criminal court of justice. As in 1948, the United Nations tasked the International Law Commission, which is a subsidiary agency of the United Nations, to draft an appropriate protocol. It had completed its work by 1994. The matter has been further considered on two occasions by a specially constituted preparatory group which is now due to deliver its final report.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give this initiative their utmost and total support. There are great matters of detail to be resolved. What crimes should be included in the convention? Should it be limited to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide; or should it be extended to other offences such as international drug trafficking? Who should be allowed to initiate cases in the court? There are some suggestions that the United States Government are thinking in terms of limiting the right of initiative to the Security Council. I think that that would be a mistake. One of the great successes of tie international criminal court established to deal with war crimes in the former territories of Yugoslavia has been the independence with which Judge Goldstone has been exercising his mandate and the success that he has had in pursuing investigations in a professional and thorough way, and bringing issues to indictment. I hope that any protocol on the international criminal court of justice would follow the model established by the Yugoslav court.

The most difficult issue to confront is this: once one indicts, how does one get hold of the accused? That was not a problem in Nuremberg; but it is proving a problem in Bosnia, and it will prove an even more challenging problem if the court's jurisdiction extends worldwide. I have no simple solution beyond the fact that once an individual is indicted by the court there should be an obligation on every single system of municipal law in the world to pursue that person if he does not give himself up voluntarily, and, if necessary, have him declared an outlaw. Beyond that, I do not pretend to have any easy solutions today to that most difficult problem.

All I ask is that Her Majesty's Government support the initiative and pursue it with the utmost vigour and determination. If evil men know that they will be called to account personally for their evil acts it will constitute a great deterrent. Why should the biggest criminals in the world get away with it? I can envisage no moral reason for allowing that situation to continue. The best example that we can set for the establishment of this new court is now to do our best to apprehend those indicted in the context of the former states of Yugoslavia and bring them to justice in The Hague.

4.53 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, I should have liked to follow some of the threads which have been so importantly drawn in the debate—the Middle East peace process, the future of the BBC's World Service, the future of the United Nations, and so on. However, I cannot let this occasion pass without commenting on the important speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. As he knows, I have always had a great admiration for the noble and gallant Lord both as a distinguished soldier and as a writer on military matters. However, there is one subject upon which I have always disagreed with him and I feel that I must express again that difference of opinion today.

The noble and gallant Lord was kind enough to send me an early copy of the report of the Canberra Commission. He urged me to take it seriously; indeed, he reminded me that when I first entered the political world in the 1960s it was to take a part in international negotiations on arms control and disarmament. I must tell the noble and gallant Lord and your Lordships' House that I do indeed take this report very seriously. I go further and say that I regard it with some alarm. In some respects I believe that it has some dangerous implications. I make that judgment on the basis of an experience in arms control and disarmament of which the noble and gallant Lord was kind enough to remind me. The history of disarmament negotiations for the past 30 years and more is a witness to the very real dangers that can arise from over-optimistic approaches to the problems of nuclear weapons. I wish to use the short time at my disposal this evening to caution against the enthusiastic and uncritical endorsement of what I regard as a utopian concept of a nuclear weapons free world.

It seems to me that the report of the Canberra Commission—I have studied it carefully—advances many of the arguments which have been familiar over the years through the activities of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and other so-called peace movements. I need hardly say that I do not suggest for one moment that the approach of the noble and gallant Lord is in any way comparable with this. His motivations are different. Indeed, it is true that the report of the Canberra Commission to which he has contributed to a large extent has a degree of intellectual rigour which is lacking in the somewhat simple-minded approach of the peace movements and single issue campaigns for nuclear disarmament. However, I make a point which I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will accept: that the dangers are the same whether those arguments are advanced by distinguished military and political figures of the status and distinction that he has mentioned this evening, or by Monsignor Bruce Kent or the ladies of Greenham Common.

Let me begin by saying that the report of the Canberra Commission strikes me as being, and I hope that I do not exaggerate, a classic example of a logical fallacy. It starts with a vintage example of the assumption of the basis, the term used in logic to denote the mistake of founding a conclusion on a basis that needs to be proved as much as the conclusion itself. For example, the report begins with an Executive Summary, and on its first page there appears the following statement which was echoed by the noble and gallant Lord this evening: Nuclear weapons have long been understood to be too destructive and non-discriminatory to secure discrete objectives on the battlefield". That is an argument. It may be a widely held view but it is by no means universally held. It has certainly not been proved and it does not therefore provide a sufficient basis from which to construct a convincing and logical argument. The report continues: The only apparent military utility that remains for nuclear weapons is deterring their use by others". Again that is an argument. It is an opinion sincerely held by some people but strongly contested by others, including me. It is, for example, arguable that the possession of nuclear weapons, despite what the Canberra Commission may say, may be a deterrent against use by others, not only of nuclear weapons but of other weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological agents. It may even be—I say it with respect to the noble and gallant Lord; no one has yet proved it although some will suspect it to be true—a deterrent against the aggressive use of manifestly superior conventional forces.

Yet the report goes on to argue from what I regard as somewhat unproven and debatable assumptions that as the only purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter their use by others that purpose would disappear altogether if nuclear weapons were eliminated. That sounds very simple, very clear and almost incontrovertible. But even if we ignore the logical fallacy that lies behind it which I have already pointed out, the conclusion is still unsafe. The value of possessing nuclear weapons would disappear only if they were eliminated and—a qualification that was missed by the Canberra Commission—we could be certain that their elimination was permanent and irreversible. That can never be. The genie cannot be forced back into the bottle. It is not possible to disinvent nuclear weapons or the method of making them. We cannot consign them to some historical oubliette and at the same time erase permanently the knowledge of how to make them. Therefore, we have to address ourselves, as the Canberra Commission did, to the central problem of verification of any agreement of this kind.

The Canberra Report concedes on several occasions that the elimination of nuclear weapons will not be possible without the development of adequate verification. Yet there is no evidence in the report to suggest that adequate verification is either technically or politically possible. In my view the Canberra Commission asks for a very considerable leap of faith when it suggests that, a political judgment will be needed on whether the levels of assurances possible from the verification regime are sufficient". The difficulties of verifying any treaties, but especially nuclear treaties, are well known to anybody who has been involved in the problems of nuclear testing or nuclear arms control. One important problem is that because of the secrecy that has always surrounded the whole subject throughout the nuclear weapons age, it is virtually impossible to know what stockpiles of nuclear weapons and fissile material now exist in the countries that have either an overt or a clandestine nuclear weapons capability. It hardly needs me to point out that if the starting-point for the elimination of nuclear weapons is unknown it will never be possible to be 100 per cent. certain when they have been eliminated.

Another problem concerns the difficulty of locating and identifying modern nuclear weapons which, in many cases now, are small and very easily concealed. The fissile material cores, especially if their manufacture has involved the radioactive isotope tritium, are even easier to conceal than the bombs themselves. Indeed, the Canberra Report reaches a very significant conclusion; namely that, even with a highly intrusive verification regime, detection of a well-shielded weapons/fissile material cache would be difficult with today's technology". With that I wholeheartedly agree. The risk of what is known in the jargon as "breakout" would therefore be enormous in the scenario outlined by the noble and gallant Lord. In this context the conclusion of the Canberra Report is that, some risk will have to be accepted if the wider benefits of a nuclear-free world are to he realised". That must surely rank as one of the most startling understatements of the whole of the nuclear debate. The risks would not be marginal; they would be appalling.

Before I conclude, I should like to make a brief reference to the approach of the Canberra Commission to the moral issue involved in nuclear strategy. In arguing the case for a nuclear weapon-free world, the commission makes the following statement: Use of the weapons against a non-nuclear weapon opponent is politically and morally indefensible". The noble and gallant Lord repeated that point in his speech. I regard that as a dubious, unsupported proposition. It begs important questions which have exercised the minds of moral philosophers and theologians ever since the nuclear weapon was invented. Most of us are familiar with the standards of proportionality which are an essential element in the Christian doctrine of the just war. According to that doctrine the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear adversary would be widely considered to be immoral and indefensible. On the other hand there is a powerful body of opinion among Christian authorities, which I have taken the opportunity to test, that the possession of nuclear weapons as a deterrent is governed by a concept known as "conditional intent" which leads one to conclude that, while the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear adversary would be immoral and indefensible, the threat to use them is not, especially when that threat is used to deter a potential aggressor.

There is no time today to examine that complicated argument any further. I mention it only to illustrate the dangers of simple and optimistic propositions about the use of armed force in general and specifically the possession or use of nuclear weapons.

In conclusion, I do not believe that the permanent elimination of all nuclear weapons is a realistic possibility given, as I said, that the knowledge of how to make them is widespread and there can never be any guarantee that, in the future, some malevolent or mentally disturbed dictator might not choose to ignore or defy any international agreement which might exist.

Even if it were possible and practical to eliminate nuclear weapons is entirely, I remain to be convinced that it would be desirable short of universal general and complete disarmament under international control—a goal which is as far off today as it was when I first made a speech on this subject in 1962. With the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—not only nuclear but chemical and microbiological—and the ability to deliver them by ballistic missile, which is in the hands of a great number of countries today in the Middle East and Far East, the possession of nuclear weapons remains a powerful deterrent against the use of other forms of weapons of mass destruction. Whatever the Canberra Commission in its wisdom may say, they remain a powerful deterrent against the possible use of overwhelming conventional force in a nuclear-free world. It may be true to say that there would be a reluctance to use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear enemy, but no potential aggressor could ever be certain of that. As everyone who has been involved in the strategic argument knows, it is the very uncertainty of the deterrent posture which is the strongest element of deterrence.

There seems now to be the emergence of a new phase of anti-nuclear campaigning which should be a matter for some concern. In this context I ask the Minister, in replying, to say what verification safeguards will be put in place to ensure the integrity of the comprehensive test ban treaty. As the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said recently in Geneva, this treaty represents a genuine sacrifice for the United Kingdom as it limits our ability to develop new weapons or modernise our existing stocks. Personally, I doubt whether that is a price worth paying. Even if it is, the comprehensive test ban treaty will certainly need the highest standards of verification. I hope that Her Majesty's Government can reassure the House on that point.

The Government's stated policy on the nuclear weapons issue is to maintain a minimal nuclear force consistent with national security requirements and the UK's commitment to NATO. I hope that that position is unchanged and that the Government will demand a much more rigorous analysis of this complicated issue before following the noble and gallant Lord, the Canberra Commission and others down what I regard as a dangerous and uncharted road.

Lord Carver

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he answer one quite simple question? If nuclear weapons are so very important to defence, why should not everybody have them?

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, there is an argument in the proliferation debate that possession of nuclear weapons by some countries encourages other people to possess them, as indeed it has done. As we now know, there are probably three or four other nuclear powers and a number of near-nuclear powers other than the five admitted nuclear powers who are permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations. My practical argument is that nuclear weapons exist; some people have them; and those who have them should think very carefully before getting rid of them.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, the fallacious nature of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was exemplified by his last words: we keep them and you do not have them. That is not a permanent position which can be sustained. It is not reasonable to expect that a certain number of nations will have a weapon which they apparently regard as something that they cannot do without, while it is assumed that everything will become unstable if other nations were to enjoy the stability that comes from having nuclear weapons. This only has to be examined to see that it is sheer nonsense.

Another point that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, makes is that the nuclear weapon cannot be disinvented. Neither can anything else be disinvented. Biological weapons cannot be disinvented; chemical weapons cannot be disinvented. But that does not prevent us from prohibiting their use; it does not prevent us from having a convention to outlaw these weapons. We could do exactly the same with nuclear weapons, with equally beneficial results, if we had the guts to do so.

I think I have already made it clear on which side I stand in this argument, if your Lordships did not already know, but there is one further point I wish to touch on before I leave the matter. I think noble Lords will all agree with me that we heard a remarkable speech from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I believe that we will wish to think about it and perhaps have a copy of the report to which he referred. I have an address from which copies can be obtained and I propose to read it out so that it can be included in Hansard. It is the World Court Project UK. Its chairman, Commander Robert Green, is an ex-nuclear submarine commander who, like many military people who have been in close contact with nuclear weapons, wants nothing to do with them again. His address is 2 Chiswick House, High Street, Twyford, Berkshire RG10 9AG.

There has been much talk recently about the moral standards of our country but none at all about the greatest loss of all. The nation does not want to know about it; certainly the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, does not want to know about it; political leaders act as if it does not exist; the gracious Speech always ignores it. In all the years which have passed since the end of the last war no government have ever asked the monarch to say something like this: "My Government are gravely concerned that the rules of war which have for so many years protected non-combatants were totally breached by both sides during World War II. It is the view of the Government that it is essential that these rules shall be reinstated and that the United Nations shall be charged with the duties and means of verification and enforcement. My Government believe that all weapons of mass destruction are immoral and that there must be an international agreement that they shall be destroyed and that an agency shall be created with powers to ensure that weapons which threaten our very survival shall be prohibited".

Most people today are not aware that at the beginning of World War II international law existed—it still exists—and was obeyed until the Nazis broke it by bombing, first, Rotterdam and then Coventry. We responded and broke it ourselves by blockbusting, where the target was not only buildings but also the non-combatants inhabiting those buildings. At the beginning of the war Britain observed the international law. Until 1941, if British bombers could not find their exact military target they were ordered to drop their bombs in the sea rather than drop them with the chance that they might accidentally kill non-combatants. We kept it up for a while, but we lost it completely after we went into blockbusting by burning women and children to death in Dresden.

In 1941 when I was commissioned in the Royal Air Force I was given a little booklet called What Acts of War Are Justifiable? It was written by the celebrated authority on international law, Professor Goodhart, and was one of a series called Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs distributed in the forces by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. Goodhart began by pointing out that the distinction between combatant and civilian had been firmly drawn in the 19th century and that it was still effective international law. The allies, he said, must keep civilians sacrosanct. Nothing that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said has touched on the subject. The problem about nuclear weapons is that they inevitably kill civilians wholesale; they inevitably kill non-combatants. They are the greatest killer of non-combatants that has ever been invented. Thus they are totally hostile to what Goodhart regarded as the greatest invention of international law, which is the separation of combatants from non-combatants. We finished up with the hell of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If a prime minister or potential prime minister today says that he will continue to harbour this means of killing thousands of non-combatants and will be ready to authorise the use of this ultimate weapon of mass destruction, what will he do? As I understand it, the leaders of the major political parties are now in the same boat. They have all said that they will be barbarians, as Goodhart described people who kill non-combatants. They will keep Trident and be ready to authorise its use. Is relatively minor killing wrong and to be stopped while major killing is all right for a sane Christian to add to his list of possible actions? Can he then sleep? If he can, he has decided in his heart that he will never be able to do what he says he will do. The Prime Minister and his potential successor would not hurt a single child, but they have both committed themselves to an action which means, among other horrors, that they would perhaps be setting fire to 10,000 babies. Would either of them really do that or might we just as well have marzipan as a nuclear missile in our submarines?

The problem with the mass destruction of human beings is that the larger it gets, the more incredible it becomes, until it ceases to touch us. I was in India en route to join RAF Operations Unit No. 6 in Burma when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. We did not know what had been done, but there were rumours. I have always remembered a corporal saying to me, "You know what I think, sir? I think they have now saved our lives at the cost of our children's". That was perception for you, was it not? He said that back in 1945 and it stuck in my mind.

But it was not until I spoke to some damaged survivors from Hiroshima a few years ago that I was truly hit in the heart. It happened again quite recently when I was supplied with some detailed information about the Hiroshima casualties. The total death roll, including deaths since, was estimated at 150,000. That is impressive in one way, is it not? But it did not hit me quite so hard as some of the details which I came across. One can say that the people who dropped those bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not know what they were doing. They could not have guessed, could they, for example, that of the 277 first-year girls at the Hiroshima Municipal Girls' High School not one survived? However, at the Third Primary School—again, a girls' school—where there were 139 children, 68 survived and 71 died of burns. That is more lethal than a handgun, is it not?

But the prime minister who gives the order today or tomorrow cannot plead ignorance. He knows that he is ordering wholesale death far beyond Hiroshima. Will he do it? Since he is not a criminal lunatic, I beg leave to doubt it. Almost immediately, the situation would be beyond political control. Communications would be among the first things to go. Would any prime minister authorise Armageddon? Possibly. But the first casualty in modern war has to be the amputation of the imagination. If you were to permit yourself to know what you were doing, you could not possibly do it. Hence, World War II was the triumph of the euphemism: "wizard prang" and all that.

Similarly, if a prime minister authorising the use of Trident thought for one moment of the thousands of eyes to be blown out of a thousand heads or even gave a thought to what happens when a single child is set on fire, he could not lift the telephone to give the order, could he? I hope that the present Prime Minister—still less the potential one, who recently declared that he would—could bring himself, in practice and in effect, to choose to risk that terrible end to the human experiment. Instead, they should pledge themselves to take a leading part in discussions with other nuclear powers and propose a date to start the countdown to a nuclear-free world, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, suggested.

If I had a vote, I should, as usual, certainly vote Labour. Both Labour policies and personnel seem to me—it is not surprising, I suppose—to be superior to those offered by the present administration, except in respect of my present subject, in which the Opposition apparently seek to match themselves with and to be as blind on this issue as the Government. Nevertheless, I confess that sometimes I ask myself what happened to all those in the Shadow Cabinet and Government who shared my passion for nuclear disarmament and my horror at the prospect of nuclear war. Have they all changed their minds? Have they been subjected to mass lobotomy? No. We must reject the ultimate immorality of nuclear weapons. We must do it.

I too have a dream. In fact I have two dreams. One is that at the first meeting of the Cabinet of the new Labour Government the Prime Minister will say, "First of all, I must tell you that during the election campaign I have come to the conclusion that we must take nuclear disarmament urgently and seriously", and they all agree. The alternative is that the Cabinet collectively tells him.

In conclusion, I recall towards the end of the war in Europe a song of brief popularity which went: I'm going to pt lit up when the lights go up in London". If we do not get rid of the bomb, it will get rid of us and those lights of London will go out, never to come on again.

5.26 p.m.

Lord Bridges

My Lords, in our debates in this House on foreign affairs over the past few years we have had extensive discussions on European policy. I have some hesitation in returning to this topic again, particularly after the elegant and fascinating nuclear exchanges between my noble friends, but I feel it is necessary to do so, partly because I have been greatly concerned by the changes which have taken place in this country in public opinion in recent months but also because there can be no other single issue of greater importance to the Government. Evidently, they themselves have difficulty in maintaining a common position while their party is clearly divided into separate factions on the same question. Similar differences are to be seen elsewhere in Parliament and the country at large. Therefore, I hope that I may be forgiven for referring to the subject again.

I should make it clear that I do not disagree very much with the Government's position, although I believe that their commitment to a future referendum on the single currency may turn out to be unwise. I can think of few issues less suited to such a form of public consultation. But what concerns me greatly is the effect on the evolution of the rest of Europe of non-participation by Britain in EMU. It is on that topic that I shall speak particularly this afternoon. I propose to do so by examining briefly the attitude of the other member states. Instead of looking at the situation as it appears from London looking outward towards Europe, I shall attempt to look at it the other way round. I believe that it can be quite an instructive way of examining the question.

French public opinion is probably the least surprised and the least worried about the effect of our current activities. France has always believed, with some reason, that the British wanted a free trade zone rather than a more ambitious political structure in Europe. It sees the latest twist in our policy as a reversion towards a long held aim. Of course, it is impossible to achieve now what we failed to create in the 1950s and 1960s, unless we accept the French alternative for a two-tier Community in which the rules and most important decisions are taken by an inner group, clearly led by France and Germany, with the outer group accepting the consequences, both financial and otherwise. France may well feel that the apparent evolution in our government thinking now opens the door to that line of policy as a real possibility, which it would of course welcome as being of significant benefit to it.

The situation in Germany is much more complex and is also undergoing considerable change just at present. The Federal Republic in the past was a staunch and steady supporter of our entry into the original Community of six. It believed that our pragmatism, our attachment to free trade and our wider political interests would be of benefit to the Community as a whole. On many international subjects—in fact, I think on most international matters—London and Bonn had very close, perhaps identical, views and we steadily supported the reunification of Germany.

I served in Germany in the 1950s in Bonn and Berlin, and the sense of growing partnership and mutual trust between Britain and Germany at that time was palpable. It was however seriously damaged when the British Government of the day failed to give early and full-hearted support to the peace reunification of Germany, which occurred so suddenly in 1990. Since then Germany has been puzzled by British attitudes to Europe.

The Germans are justly proud of the democratic republic created in the past 45 years, believing, among other things, that they have found a good balance between the authority of the national government in Bonn and that of the regions—the Länder—established by the Basic Law in 1948. The state is formally described as "die Bundersrepublik"—the Federal Republic—thus using the very word "Bund" which is employed to describe the intended European Union. By contrast, the British hate the word "Federal", which we see as meaning an over-centralised superstate. So there is a fundamental difference between the British and Germans, since we interpret the key word "Bund" or "federation" in exactly the opposite senses. To the German speaker, "Bund" means decentralisation on their model.

The other great attachment in the German mind so important to them is to their currency. It was the solidity of the deutschmark and the excellent performance of the German economy, carefully nurtured by the Bundesbank, which so attracted the East Germans in 1990. The achievement is the pride of every German citizen, who has an instinctive worry that a European monetary authority would be open to devious political pressures and less immune to such influence than the Bundesbank has been. There are also concerns that the strict financial criteria for membership will be massaged for political reasons, to the disadvantage of the deutschmark. Also, it will not be easy for Germany itself to meet some of the criteria, given the heavy burden still imposed by financing the modernisation of the East German economy. There are therefore apprehensions in Germany that economic and monetary union will not work to their advantage.

The chief external pressure on Germany comes from France. In this country we do not find it difficult to understand why France, after the disasters she has suffered since 1870, should regard the closest possible accord with Germany as the chief element in her foreign policy. I believe that the Germans understand that also, and that they will be willing to pay heavily in the future, as in the past, to maintain the close understanding and collaboration with France which has developed steadily since the Elysee Treaty was signed in 1963. But, as I have described, there are worries about the price to be paid. That issue should be manageable, but one cannot be sure.

I believe that many Germans would regret a decision by this country to opt out of the EMU; they would value our continuing partnership, not least as members of the European Monetary Institute. It is relevant that the reputation and international standing of the Bank of England remains strong, indeed somewhat stronger than the past record of our own economy and currency justifies.

But I believe also that many Germans are puzzled and concerned by the change of British public opinion on European affairs, which to their way of thinking is quite incomprehensible. Indeed, we are in danger of becoming, in German eyes, unreliable—one of the worst adjectives in the German political lexikon.

The Italian attitude is quite different and also interesting, as Italy desperately needs to be a member of EMU for a variety of reasons. The discipline of membership appears to offer the only route to a restoration of financial stability, while the EU's political institutions have a strong attraction for Italians, who contemplate the constitutional and political mess in their country after the collapse of communism and the revelations of tangentopoli. What matters to them is that EMU should happen quickly and that they become members of it at the earliest possible date. It is hard to see that happening without a major change in the attitude to public finance in Italy, but also without a major massage of the criteria to help Italian requirements, such is the inherited burden of the public debt in that country. But Italy will not be pleased if the British are a cause of delay in the launch of EMU.

I suggest also that there will be much interest, and some anxiety, in the smaller states which are members of the European Union should we decide to delay our entry into the EMU, or, still more so, if we turn away from it. I was impressed recently by a series of conversations with a former Ambassador of Denmark, an experienced and reliable person and a long-term friend of this country, who told me of the attention being paid in Copenhagen to recent developments in London. Denmark, as many will know, guards her parliamentary sovereignty more jealously than any other member state, including Britain, and opinion on European affairs is keenly divided there. The same may be true, but perhaps to a lesser extent, in Sweden; and I have noticed press reports that Austrian opinion is disappointed by the economic results to date of her membership of the EU and the stringency which may be required in Austria to meet the Maastricht criteria.

I do not propose to continue longer with this Cook's Tour, having already spoken for long enough. But we would do well to contemplate the effect of any British decision to turn away from Europe. France may see some advantage in that, but the general impression on the Continent would be of dismay and anxiety about the result for the other European countries. The EU would probably divide into "ins" and "outs", something which would alter drastically the evolution of political Europe in our generation. Some people here may not be unduly concerned by that. But we could not readily avoid the criticism that, by pursuing her own interests, perfidious Albion had deliberately divided Europe, reverting to the outmoded imperial maxim of divide and rule. We may think such comments unfair, even grotesque, but we should be prepared for them.

5.37 p.m.

Lord Willoughby de Broke

My Lords, I warmly welcome the strong commitment in the gracious Speech to a successful and smooth transition in Hong Kong in June next year. I was encouraged to hear from my noble friend Lady Chalker of the recent constructive meeting in New York between my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his Chinese opposite number.

Your Lordships debated Hong Kong a few months ago in this Chamber and I do not propose to cover the ground that was so ably dealt with on that occasion. I should like to concentrate on one specific matter which is a purely British responsibility and which has not yet been satisfactorily resolved. I refer to the question of the non-Chinese ethnic minority in Hong Kong—a rather cumbersome term—because those people are British subjects, but British subjects without British citizenship.

When Hong Kong reverts to China on 1st July 1997 the non-Chinese ethnic minorities—some 4,000 to 5,000 individuals, mostly of Indian descent—will be left in an invidious position. They and their descendants risk becoming stateless. They have a strong claim to be granted a full British passport before the handover to China because they came to Hong Kong when it was British and many of them are second or third generation Hong Kong residents. Those people had full British passports and the rights that those British passports gave them. Those rights were removed in the amendments made to the Immigration Act 1962 and subsequent amendments which left them in a defenceless state.

Unlike other Hong Kong residents, those people will not be eligible to hold the new Hong Kong SAR passports. Chinese nationality is based on ethnicity and non-Chinese will therefore not qualify for those passports. The British National (Overseas) passports which those people hold is little more than a travel document. It gives no right of abode anywhere at all. The minorities' right of abode in Hong Kong is written into the 1984 Joint Declaration between Britain and China, not into the BN(O) passport. After 1997, the BN(O) passport's credibility will depend on the state of Anglo-Chinese relationships. It very much looks to me as though the credibility of a British travel document will depend on how China decides to regard it.

The handover of Hong Kong to China is a unique event. Hong Kong will not become independent, but will become part of China. Thus, unlike previous holders of British Dependent Territory passports, the Hong Kong ethnic minority will not have the option to take up passports of a new independent state. Therefore, giving passports to these 5,000 or so individuals can in no way be considered a precedent, which I gather is one of the reasons why the Home Office is playing such a dead bat to this question. It is not an immigration issue. It is about treating fairly British subjects in Hong Kong.

This ethnic minority's appeal for full British nationality and passports has been supported by the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, by the present Governor of Hong Kong, by the Hong Kong Legislative Council and by all participants in the debate on the House of Lords Motion on this subject in July 1993, as well as by two very distinguished former governors of Hong Kong, the noble Lords, Lord MacLehose and Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, and by a former Minister with responsibility for Hong Kong, my noble friend Lord Glenarthur. So it is true to say that it has strong cross-party support.

It is true that this minority was given assurances by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister during his visit to Hong Kong in March this year that if they come under undue pressure to leave Hong Kong they will be given the right of abode or the right of entry into and settlement in this country. I do not believe that is quite good enough. It really is not. The view from Hong Kong on what constitutes pressure will be very different from the view from Westminster.

The entire populations of two other British dependent territories—namely, the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar—have been offered full British citizenship. If we are under an obligation to allow 100,000 citizens of Macao who have been given Portuguese nationality to settle in this country because of our membership of the European Union, surely we can do no less for these few thousand people in Hong Kong to whom we owe a duty of care.

5.42 p.m.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, will agree that another matter has been left unsettled in the negotiations between Britain and China on Hong Kong. I refer to the question of whether or not the Chinese feel themselves bound by the reporting obligations in the international covenant on civil and political rights, a matter which has been taken up with us by a number of activists in Hong Kong and about which they feel deeply concerned. Since Ministers are always telling us that they raise human rights questions with other governments at every opportunity, and since on Saturday the Chinese vice-premier, Mr. Li Lanqing, is coming to Britain for a week's visit, that gives the Government an opportunity to express our concerns on this issue and to attempt to get a reply out of them—with fewer than nine months still to go before the handover.

There are other issues which I hope Ministers will raise with the vice-premier. There are the individual cases in China itself of the detention of dissidents. There is the case of Liu Xiaobo, who was arrested on 8th October by the Beijing Public Security Bureau and, without judicial process of any kind, sent to a labour camp for three years on account of criticisms that he had made of Jiang Zemin. There is the detention of Wang Dan, arrested on 21st May 1995 and held incommunicado ever since, after he signed a petition calling for tolerance and the release of political prisoners. The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN has nine pages on China in its current list of cases.

Ministers might also ask Mr. Li whether the authorities in Beijing are considering any changes in their own law in the direction of greater freedom of expression and whether they would at least co-operate with the UN rapporteur on freedom of expression, Mr. Abid Hussain, who at the time of writing his reports in March 1996 had still received no replies from the Chinese to the cases he had taken up with them. I hope Ministers will also raise the question of Tibet. The Dalai Lama has offered discussions on the status of the so-called autonomous region within the framework of Chinese sovereignty but the leadership in Beijing has continued to pretend that he is demanding total separation. Could we ask Mr. Li to confirm Deng Xiaoping's assurance that, anything except independence can be discussed and resolved", and, if so, to modify the aggressive response which was made to the latest offer of talks by His Holiness?

The enormous number of human rights issues which come to our attention, not least via the BBC World Service, whose pre-eminence has been threatened not by the foreign dictators it so effectively opposes, but by Mr. John Birt, as my noble friend Lord Thomson of Monifieth has already mentioned, means that we need to look for new ways of dealing with these problems in Parliament. We are not well equipped to do it. I have suggested on occasion that this House should have a Select Committee on human rights. The suggestion was not particularly well received by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, but I think it bears consideration. Some of the issues that have been mentioned this afternoon would lend themselves ideally to the work of such a Select Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, mentioned the possibility of an international criminal court and several of your Lordships dealt with the work of the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. That tribunal ruled, in the case of Tadic, that war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the course of an internal armed conflict were justiciable. Since almost all the armed conflicts in the world today are domestic, this opens up the possibility that in other countries where soldiers have murdered or raped civilians, for instance, they could be brought to trial in third countries.

This development was reinforced in the land-mines agreement in Geneva, which my noble friend Lord Redesdale mentioned, which, although not going as far as many people wanted, did make it a criminal offence of universal jurisdiction to use these weapons in a non-international conflict. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell the House whether the Government will commit themselves to extending the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 to reflect these advances in international law. It would also be useful to know whether the Labour Party will do so when they come into office next year, as forecast by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone.

If the war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda are to act as deterrents to others who may commit similar crimes in the future, I agree with the noble Baroness that much greater determination has to be shown in apprehending those already charged—Karadzic and Mladic in particular. Your Lordships will have noted the remarks of Judge Antonio Cassese last week which amounted almost to an ultimatum that if the two principal accused are not arrested he will ask the Security Council to close down the tribunal, which he said was becoming an "exercise in hypocrisy". If the commander of IFOR advises that he could not do it with the forces at his disposal, then let him be given whatever additional troops he thinks are necessary. Judge Goldstone said last April that he was given 24 investigators for Rwanda, and that if he had 124 it would still be inadequate. What thought is being given to the establishment of an investigative agency to serve the international criminal court if it comes into being? Should not the planning of such an agency be proceeding in parallel with the drafting of the court's statutes. What progress is being made in these tasks, and are they being hindered by the financial stringency besetting the United Nations as a whole?

This financial crisis definitely hampers the work of the UN Centre for Human Rights. The working group on arbitrary detention was considering a visit to Bahrain but has had to defer the project because of lack of money. The International Red Cross was also meant to be going there in October, according to the Minister, Mr. Jeremy Hanley, who was in Bahrain earlier this year, but it says that it has not yet received an invitation.

One would like to know what other UN centre work has had to be postponed or cancelled and whether our own Government are pressing for improvements in the funding arrangements. It appears that over the years there has been a steady growth in the demands made on the special rapporteurs on thematic issues and on the working groups and also in the number of country rapporteurs, without a corresponding increase in the centre's budget. The figures are, however, not readily available. I hope that we shall use our influence to see that the budgets are prepared on a basis that identifies the funding of particular elements within the special procedures section of the UN Centre for Human Rights.

I now turn to the OSCE, whose human dimension review conference is about to convene in Vienna. The UK will be playing the lead role there on the question of freedom of expression and we will be drawing attention to countries whose actions have given cause for concern, including Turkey. It is a fact that Turkey has by far the worst record of any country in OSCE, not only on freedom of expression, but on torture, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention, forcible displacements and other human rights violations.

That is not the only reason for highlighting the case of Turkey when there are so many other deplorable human rights situations in the OSCE region. What makes Turkey unique is that the internal arms struggle, which has led to the forcible displacement of 3 million people and the destruction of 3,000 villages as well as large areas in the bigger towns such as Sirnak, Lice, Cizre and Yuksekova, have escaped the attention of the OSCE conflict resolution mechanisms; that the oppression of the Kurds in the south east, which is the cause of the armed struggle, is not within the terms of reference of the High Commissioner for National Minorities, nor is it dealt with as a gross violation of the Copenhagen Declaration; that literally hundreds of cases arising from breaches of the European Convention are now winding their way through the European Commission and Court; that hundreds of writers and journalists are being tried before the state security courts in Turkey for their articles and books.

Confronted with this mass of evidence and the knowledge that Turkey's policy on the Kurds is made by the National Security Council—a body which is dominated by the military and not by the elected government—Foreign Office Ministers still say that Necmettin Erbakan, the new Prime Minister, should be given time to implement human rights undertakings, which are no different from those made by his predecessors, Mesut Yilmaz and Tansu Ciller. They say that they have no plans to raise Turkey's non-compliance with the OSCE's code of conduct on politico-military aspects of security at Vienna although this agreement, which requires participating states to use the minimum degree of force in internal security operations and to avoid causing harm to civilians and their property, is one of the few means of calling the Turkish military to account in a semi-public forum.

Turkey's interests are inextricably linked to those of her neighbours, Syria, Iraq and Iran, rather than to Europe, as they are generally seen. That is not because of fraternal bonds between Islamic neighbours as Mr. Erbakan would have it, but through the necessity of road and rail links and the need to collaborate with their neighbours in developing oil and' water resources. The oil pipeline to be developed between Iran and Turkey is an example of how local commercial imperatives contradict the American policy of dual containment. We will also see Turkey joining in the pressure to implement Security Council Resolution 986, which the Minister mentioned in her introductory remarks. It allows Saddam to sell 1 billion dollars' worth of oil every 90 days without the guarantees of equitable distribution and international monitoring specified by the UN.

The so-called "safe haven" of northern Iraq, supposed to confer western protection of the Iraqi Kurds against the oppression of Saddam Hussein, has been exposed as a total sham. It never provided the people with any security against their own warlords, and particularly Massoud Barzani, whose act of treachery in opening the gates of Kurdistan to the man who tried to exterminate the Kurds in the infamous "Anfal" of 1988 seems not to have been envisaged by the United States or the Europeans. Supported by Iraqi tanks, he now controls Arbil, but without them he would be swept aside by the wrath of his own people.

In the latest fighting the KDP had 15 Katyusha rocket launchers, 40 armoured personnel carriers, several 130 and 155 mm artillery pieces, all given by Saddam after the initial fighting. So when the Minister says that firm action will be taken against Saddam if he intervenes again in the conflict in northern Iraq, she has a little explaining to do about why this second initiative by Saddam to help his allies in the conflict there attracted so little attention from the West.

As regards Resolution 986, how are international agencies going to operate in this precarious and unstable situation? How will monitors be able to work not only in the Kurdish region but in the south of Iraq, parts of which have been totally closed to foreigners for years?

Perhaps I may turn briefly to Iran. For the first time Foreign Office Ministers have argued that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the regime is engaged in planning and instigating the murder of opponents abroad. Witness C in the Mykonos trial in Berlin has given new information about the involvement of President Rafsanjani and Foreign Minister Velayati in planning these crimes, as did President Bani-Sadr in his recent evidence to the Mykonos trial. That says nothing about the Interior Minister, Ali Fallahian, for whom a warrant has been issued by the German court.

The US excuses Iran of being the instigator and paymaster of international terrorism. I suggest that it would be prudent if Europe faced this reality as well by using every gram of economic and political leverage we possess to promote change from within towards ending the mullahs' oligarchy and the promotion of pluralism in that country.

Perhaps I may conclude with a word about the Commonwealth and, following the Minister's remarks, about the activities in West Africa to try to bring Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia back towards democracy and human rights. I join with her in congratulating the people of Sierra Leone on the successful elections and the restoration of a form of peace, although fighting still continues on such a wide scale that we cannot say that the problem has been solved.

The achievement of the Commonwealth is to use the Harare Declaration as a yardstick against which to assess the compliance of members with a set of human rights and principles. In particular we are looking at the cases of Nigeria and The Gambia in terms of the work of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and how we can assess the progress they are making towards meeting those objectives.

In The Gambia and Nigeria the Commonwealth has been decisively rebuffed so far. The Gambia has followed the Ghanaian pattern of stage-managed elections to confer spurious legitimacy on the military government. Nigeria is following its time-honoured path of evasion and procrastination. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has merely exposed the reluctance of the international community to take any measures that would really hurt the regime in Nigeria. Finally, in the case of Cameroon, which is also a matter for scrutiny by the Commonwealth, there are local, regional and presidential elections scheduled next year and already there are allegations of irregularities in the preparation of the new register. That is a matter in which the Commonwealth Secretariat has yet to show any interest.

I commend the work of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group as at least a step in the direction of securing compliance with the Harare Declaration. I wish it well in its work and I hope that the Government will continue to give their full support to that initiative.

5.57 p.m.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, this summer has served to illustrate the complex and dangerous world in which we live: Israeli intransigence towards the peace talks necessitating stark choice between peace or continued enmity; Kurd in-fighting; ethnic war possibly to encompass all central Africa; uncertainty in the Kremlin and long-term anxiety in the Chinese seas are all examples.

But it is to two equally important, yet until recently comparatively unreported issues, that I wish to turn. First, I refer to the civil war in Afghanistan and, secondly, I wish to consider the effectiveness of current United States policy towards the state of Colombia and British interests in the light of that policy. I was in Afghanistan last month and met the contesting factional leaders together with the United Nations special envoy, Norbert Holl, to whom we should give unconditional support for without it he will fail. I have also recently returned from Colombia.

The Afghan question is complex. The country is in a desperate state. Arguably, the situation is now more dangerous than ever, with long-term regional implications. Afghanistan is currently two-thirds in the hands of Pakistani-trained purist Islamic students, known as the Taliban, with the northern remainder effectively controlled by General Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek. The speed of the Taliban's military advance into Kabul took the people of Afghanistan and the world community completely by surprise. Kabul is currently being defended from the combined forces of General Dostum and Commander Masoud, the military leader of the ousted central government. General Dostum's proposals to demilitarise Kabul—already 60 per cent. totally destroyed—were rejected by the Taliban.

It is possible that a stalemate has been reached and it is therefore impossible to predict an outcome with any certainty. Although there have been longstanding exchanges of delegations between all opposing sides, I see little chance of conciliation. They are ideologically poles apart. I quizzed the Taliban leadership and General Dostum at some length about this. The Taliban are enforcing their own version of strict Islamic codes: closing girls' schools; restricting the movement and rights of women; and imposing harsh punishments, including executions and amputations. Not surprisingly, peace and order are restored quickly once an area has been overtaken. General Dostum's agenda is for peace, retaining control in his provinces, recognising rights for women and deploring Islamic extremism. While wishing for a united Afghanistan, he considers that it would be difficult to have a central government and feels that a federal system is the only workable option. All sides consider that the deposed President Rabbani is an obstacle to peace.

Peace in Afghanistan would benefit not only the people of Afghanistan, but would be in the interests of the majority of neighbouring states and the broader world community. A Western concern should be the increased regional instability associated with the spread of Islamic extremism. The right reverend Prelate, who is not in his place, touched on such matters, but I should like to draw his attention to the importance of understanding the difference between extremism and fundamentalism. I suspect that the right reverend Prelate was referring to extremism.

Russia is attempting to resurrect a military presence in Central Asia once again on the pretext of regional security. That is certainly against the wishes of the newly independent states and is, I believe, against the interests of the West. Additionally, the West wishes to exploit the vast oil and gas reserves of Central Asia. Equally important, however, is that while the distribution route to the warm-weather port of Karachi remains closed, the development and economic growth of the central Asian republics is severely restricted. The only practical route is through Afghanistan. All that is yet another element of Kipling's Great Game.

The question is how to engineer peace. Other than outright military victory, only the people of Afghanistan, in my view, can achieve a settlement. Much is made of external influences. There is clearly an essential role for the neighbouring states and the world community—but only one, however, and that is to encourage the Afghans to a conference of national reconciliation—that and no more. There will never be peace while neighbouring states jockey to have their respective interests factored in. Those arrangements must, however, be chaired by the United Nations as a neutral observer. Ex-King Zahir Shah, currently in exile in Rome, stands ready to return as a figurehead, if that is the general will. His only wish is to bring peace and constitutional order. His name was raised in a number of different quarters and possibly his time has come.

A realistic proposal is to establish an inter-Afghan meeting, a Loya Jirgha, between influential individuals and groups with a view to forming a provisional broad-based government. The main task would be to work out a new constitution and electoral laws. Once achieved, it will be essential that two issues be included in the settlement: the safe return of refugees and the protection of women's rights. I believe that this House should send a clear signal that Western governments will not tolerate abuse of women's rights. Additionally, the large opium production and the revenues generated from that will have to be addressed. The latter will give the West long-term problems.

Afghanistan is a beautiful country, with fine people. It is a nation that has known little other than conflict and, with it, has inherited 10 million unexploded landmines throughout its cities and farmlands. Let us all pray that peace will come—and soon. I have one question for the Minister. What is the approach of the ODA in relation to humanitarian aid given the rapidly changing circumstances in Afghanistan?

And so to Colombia. Recent killings in the southern coca-growing regions have highlighted the essential need for world sensitivity to what is an international social menace. Countries caught up in the drugs scourge, whether it he at the production, distribution or consumption stages, all suffer. What is not generally known in Europe is that Colombia is being castigated by the United States, placing it in a category of pariah states, for not doing more to curtail the export of drugs. On 1st March, the United States Government decertified Colombia, which rightly feels that that is a kick below the belt. Certification is a unilateral annual review procedure under which the United States Government decide which of the producing or transit countries have co-operated fully in the fight against drugs. That policy against Colombia, instigated by the same Jesse Helms of Helms-Burton fame, has three mandatory effects: all aid except anti-drug is automatically stopped; Eximbank guarantees are no longer issued for transactions, and the United States will vote against loan requests by Colombia to the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank—in other words, yet more misery for the majority of law-abiding citizens.

It has to be said that the United Kingdom shares similar concerns and objectives to those of the United States, but we differ in approach. I believe that our policy of active and genuine co-operation in the drugs field is effective and is likely to yield the best practical results. That policy also helps to keep Colombian drugs out of the United Kingdom.

I am satisfied, however, as indeed is the American ambassador in Bogota, that many positive steps are being taken by the Colombian authorities. The anti-narcotic police can be singled out for their effectiveness and bravery, yet they are required to carry out their work with scant resources and a shortage of equipment and facilities. I have visited the coca-growing regions on patrol, landing by helicopter to flush out narco-guerillas who intimidate and manipulate peasant farmers. I have been briefed about the supply of essential chemicals for production that come principally from Europe and the United States.

I have spoken to bankers about money-laundering in the face of a singular lack of action by Western governments. I have seen how ineffective is the United States as the principal consuming nation in deterring domestic abuse. Yet, in the fight against drugs in Colombia 20,000 have lost their lives, including judges, members of the police force, journalists and innocent citizens. It has spent 14 times more than the amount allocated by the international community via the United Nations for combating illicit drugs.

Although Colombia has to address certain issues, the war against drugs must be a team effort, with every country, particularly the rich developed nations, working together in a constructive way. President Samper-Pizano has defended accusations by proposing in the United Nations a number of positive measures as to how the world community should combat drugs. I believe that those proposals deserve international consideration.

I regret that many governments pay only lip service to measures for purely domestic political expediency. The anti-narcotic police singled out the United Kingdom as being particularly effective in areas such as intelligence co-operation and other matters. The reality is that the eradication of coca plantations is only part of the solution. Crop substitution and ensuring distribution mechanisms in domestic or international markets, combined with a formula that ensures a fair constant price to farmers, is equally part of that solution.

In the light of what I have explained to your Lordships, the Colombian authorities, who historically are dependent on relations with the United States, have taken the decision to diversify future relations and focus on the European Union and the United Kingdom in particular. I believe that one indication of that relationship is the fact that the Colombian Ambassador to London, who also holds the post of vice president, continues to serve in this country. For example, United Kingdom exports to Colombia have increased by 50 per cent. over the past 12 months.

In conclusion, I believe that for economic, political, military and intelligence co-operation the United Kingdom should recognise a close ally and rise to the challenge.

6.13 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, in 1979 many of your Lordships who are in the House today received letters from me regarding the BBC World Service. Those letters were part of a campaign at a very sensitive time to stop the Government's plan to cut £4 million off its £40 million budget. For many reasons that would have been a disaster. We won our campaign and the Government abandoned the cut. That happened thanks to the support of many of your Lordships hut, most of all, to the courage of my noble friend Lord Carrington, the then Foreign Secretary. I suppose that that marked the start of my involvement in politics. I tell your Lordships this because, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, has said, once again the BBC World Service is, alas, under threat. This time it is due for a £10 million cut. Taking into account inflation and the operating consequentials of the PFI, this adds up to nearly £20 million.

We have heard many speeches in this House lauding the unbiased high standard of the BBC World Service. We know the influence that it enjoys worldwide and the respect in which it is held. It is acknowledged internationally as the best broadcasting system in the world. It is one of the prides of Britain and one of our best ambassadors. Yet it is threatened once again. Surely we cannot allow these cuts to happen.

In the present climate I should perhaps declare an interest. Like many others, I listen to the BBC World Service every right wherever I am. Some may call us insomniacs. It is a sad condition when one cannot sleep except when it is time to get up and one keeps innocent sheep jumping over a fence all night. Luckily, the BBC World Service comes to the rescue. Last night, I heard the results of the first round of the Bulgarian presidential elections held yesterday. That reminded me of the time when I went to canvass in that country in the first free election after the fall of the Berlin Wall. On discovering that I came from Britain, people came up to me not simply to speak but to thank me for the BBC World Service which was their lifeline.

As H.L. Menken said: Most people want security in this world, not liberty". When it was not jammed, the BBC World Service gave people who were able to listen security, as they knew that the information that they received was sound and fair, but it also gave them the strength with which they eventually gained their liberty.

In the gracious Speech we heard that the Government would further reduce the share of the national income taken by the public sector. That is surely right, provided it is not part of the agreed grant-in-aid of the BBC World Service. The BBC World Service is funded by a parliamentary grant-in-aid through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but remains managerially and editorially responsible to the Director General and Board of Governors of the BBC. Many of your Lordships will know the figures. However, for those who do not, I remind them that the World Service—our flagship abroad—was started in 1932. It reaches 140 million listeners a week and is heard in 42 different languages. It would be a tragedy if we were to broadcast only to countries which for the moment we felt needed the security of hearing the unbiased truth. It is just as vital to broadcast to those countries that today we feel may no longer need that security. Who knows what will happen tomorrow in this ever-changing world?

There are rumours that the Finnish service may be cut as that country is now part of the European Union. But 32 per cent. of the people of Finland listen to the World Service which is still the principal provider of international news. As we look around the world today without the cold war, it may seem to many to be a safer place. Sadly, I am less certain. As we have heard in two eloquent speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and my noble friend Lord Kingsland, Russia has changed dramatically since Stalin and Gorbachev but the situation is as fragile today as at any time in its turbulent history.

Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan are examples. I could mention many other places where we would wish for more peaceful and stable situations and where people long for security. In the encouraging and inspiring speech of my noble friend Lady Chalker we heard about the importance of stability, which is in Britain's interest, as is the future security and prosperity of all the countries of the world. We cannot deny that the BBC plays a crucial part in this equation. The World Service has always played an important role worldwide because of its credibility and globality.

Mrs. Thatcher (as she was in the 1970s) so rightly said: There are two great challenges of our time—the moral and political challenge, and the economic challenge". I believe that these challenges aptly apply to our external services. I hope that my noble friend Lord Howe will be able to provide an assurance that he will press the Chancellor on this subject. The BBC World Service must continue to be fully funded, and remain the BBC World Service.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld

My Lords, I should like to speak briefly about an issue which is not only central to our European policy but which should be high up in our thoughts on our role on the world stage; that is, our trilateral relationship with Germany and France.

The importance of nursing and improving our relations with either bilaterally is too obvious to be stressed, but I believe that the axis Paris-Bonn is an axiom of European politics. A forum where all three can meet and consult overtly and regularly is urgently needed. It is needed irrespective of whether or when we join a single currency or opt in or out of this or that component of Maastricht. For there is hardly a single international issue which does not affect our three countries jointly and where our resources and experiences could not complement and enhance the triangle. If the European Union is to be enlarged, such a forum would be even more essential—a forum for consultation and constant monitoring and not a European directorate or executive committee. If France and Germany were able to forge a solid, complementary link, Britain for her part would bring to the table her permanent membership of the Security Council, her nuclear status and her staunch Atlanticism, which, while it might mildly disquiet the French, must reassure the Germans.

In that context, President Clinton's commitment to NATO enlargement implies continued American involvement and should allay fears of isolationism and an American retreat from European crises. But there are, alas, serious obstacles to a close, trilateral understanding—obstacles which are not only of a substantive political kind but also largely of a psychological kind, and some of them are of our own creation. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, initiated a debate on Anglo-German relations a few months ago, where forthright voices criticised the harsh and shrill anti-German tone pervading the European debate in this country, ranging from tabloids through broadsheets, from the Back Benches right up to the Front Bench of the Government.

Eurosceptic extremists continue to use language not heard since the Second World War, exuding bile and bias, distorting argument and, if it were not so serious, I would say farcically demonising the head of a German Government, who more than any of his predecessors distanced himself from the idea of a centralised superstate or the loss of cultural and indeed political identity of the member states of the European Union.

Yet it was Chancellor Kohl and Germany which were the butt of the attacks in all the speeches of the much advertised Referendum Party conference in Brighton. All the ills of the Union were blamed on Germany; its very creation was said to have been a German plot. The names of Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann were never mentioned. With its populist speeches and bizarre historical analogies it represented a nadir of political discussion and may, as such, earn a footnote in British political history. But I think that some of the rankling misgivings among ourselves about France and Germany could still be allayed. I was much impressed by the trenchant and lucid analysis by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, of the differing conceptions in Britain and Germany of the nature of federalism—differences which are both semantic and deeply philosophical. That is just one example.

If the European debate were to be put on to the right rails, and if the British Government and their successors were to face the challenging opportunity and the duty to raise the quality of the European debate, that could help a great deal, and the British public deserves it.

To try to harmonise the perceptions of enlightened national interest among the three European neighbours does not mean to surrender distinctive preferences or abandon initiatives, but serious consultation could avoid dangerous aberrations. We could learn a good deal from Franco-German relations. They have, of course, occasional turbulences and there is an underlying wariness, but there are mechanisms for constant discussions and exchanges and frequent realignments of policy.

Though public discussion is now centering around the ERM and the Euro, I find thorough discussion of European attitudes to crisis areas, such as the Middle East, most important and as it is a worrying situation. That is why I believe that President Chirac's visit to that troubled region was neither happy nor helpful. I do not question the fact that, like his predecessor, President Mitterrand, he wanted to help the peace process along and raise Europe's profile, but, unlike his predecessor, he exchanged the role of umpire for that of partisan. He arrived with a rolled European umbrella which when unfurled turned into a French parasol. He stiffened, in consequence, intransigence on both sides. He gave little comfort to the moderate Israeli camp, yet warmed the heart of President Assad, whose dour negativism contributed decisively to the Israeli election result, and he had a crumb of comfort for Saddam Hussein.

But, above all, the main perception of the visit, as it has been seen by most people in the Middle East and elsewhere, has been a clear attempt to undermine the role of the United States as the chief mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Sir Leon Brittan's statement distancing Europe from President Chirac's anti-American sallies were timely, as I think also were the remarks of the right honourable gentleman the Foreign Secretary.

The thesis that the American mandate should be diluted sent dangerous signals yet further afield. Why should not Russia accept with alacrity the idea that America must not be allowed to play a pre-eminent role? Enter Mr. Primakov, a lifelong ally of President Saddam Hussein and supporter of President Assad, from the Andropov and Brezhnev days. Before we know it, we might well be back at the power poker game in the Middle East of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

We all know that peace-making is a delicate affair. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, Europe has a legitimate claim to be consulted, but it must be done discreetly, even-handedly, and compassionately. The Germans have an impeccable record: they are dispensing financial and technical aid in Gaza and the West Bank efficiently and yet keep a low profile; they have been helpful with prisoner exchange and the search for missing persons. Europe must play an important part—and indeed Russia and Japan might have much to contribute—during the later phases of negotiations, but only the United States can effect breakthroughs; and therefore an erosion of American influence or reputation in the region is a serious threat to the prospects of peace. In that region, as indeed anywhere else in our troubled world, Britain, France and Germany, working together trilaterally and harmoniously, could facilitate real progress and build enduring bridges.

6.28 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I realise that there are many still to speak. I shall therefore try to keep my speech relatively short. I wish to support the World Service, which means it already has the support of three speakers. I believe that my noble friend Lord Howe will deal with the subject in his reply.

The Treasury always thinks up tame ideas for new Ministers. When I arrived at the Admiralty the budget was being discussed. I was quickly told that we could save a great deal of money if we got rid of the Gurkhas. I said, "But the Gurkhas are the people we need to fight terrorism." If we had enough Gurkhas in Ireland, I believe that terrorism would disappear very quickly. The Treasury tries it on everyone who arrives there. People are always told, "Get rid of the Gurkhas." Anyone who has any sense or who has any knowledge of the Gurkhas and how they operate says, "Don't get rid of them. They are the one group of people whom we need above all else for this sort of terrorist war we are now coping with".

We should not cut the budget allocation to the World Service. I can think of places in the BBC where there could be cuts. Do we really need local radio when it is duplicated by commercial stations? I lived at Newbury at one time and listened to two stations. The BBC had something like 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. of the listeners; the other had something like 10 per cent. Why try to cover the whole of the waterfront when one has specialisation?

I query also whether the BBC has a surplus of staff, even today. I know that several thousand jobs have been axed but judging from the credit titles one sees there is room for manoeuvre and economy. I am cynical too about the digital expansion. I wonder whether the BBC is right in believing that 50 television channels will be taken up by the populace. Television sets used to need replacing every three years; now they are very good. I wonder whether millions of people will spend money unnecessarily buying black boxes to put on top of them.

The document published by the BBC and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office runs to some 16 pages and patience is needed to read it. However, it appears to be along the right lines. It contains many assurances that, "We will do this, that and the other". But we need to keep a check. Such undertakings are easy to give but sometimes that is the last one hears of them. We must carefully monitor the situation.

Perhaps I may give an example. One keeps cuttings because they can come in useful. I found one relating to Mrs. Bottomley answering a Question in the other place. She said: He will know that the introduction of the Broadcasting Standards Council, which combines the strengths of its two predecessor bodies, is intended to ensure that with the greater freedoms that come out of the digital revolution there will also be an enhanced sense of responsibility in the interests of audiences and the public". The punchline is: I am determined that the BSC's work will be strengthened. There will be a requirement to keep a note of the steps that programme makers take as a result of complaints that have been upheld".— [Official Report, Commons, 18/12/95; col. 1210] We have just had a long Summer Recess. That is the time to read the complaints bulletin. Each copy takes a great deal of reading. It is published each month. There are those who say that approximately 40 per cent. of the public's complaints are upheld. If that is so they are not printed in this document. Sometimes there are a host of complaints; sometimes there are only one or two. According to a recent bulletin, out of 92 complaints eight were upheld. That is ridiculous. Why do we have a so-called strengthened regulatory authority if that is the success that is achieved?

For some time I have been pressing for a new code in order that we do not have the bullying of Ministers and shadow Ministers by people at the BBC, particularly those on the "Today" programme. The interviewer, talking about BSE, repeatedly said, "Answer the question". I believe that he said it eight times, but the Minister said, "I must first get the scientific report from the Minister of Agriculture". The codes to which I refer laid down strict conditions and were called producers' guidelines. I have met producers who ask, "What is that code?". The person who ran the organisation said, "They are just guidelines. They are voluntary. You don't have to obey them."

When one takes a job with the Ministry of Defence one has to sign the Official Secrets Act. Why should not those who broadcast to millions and who have considerable influence on the public in this country sign a document stating that they have read, marked, learnt and inwardly digested the material in the producers' codes? Why are they not compulsory for all those who have such influence?

I am told that the codes have been drafted and redrafted and that they will appear on 11th November. The new Agreement and Charter came into effect on 1st May—a significant day for Members opposite—and therefore there has been no compulsory code for five months. It is surprising that we should have done away with the old code without working out what producers should produce in the interim. That depends on the governors. We in this House were somewhat sceptical about whether the governors would have the power, influence or determination to rule the 20,000 people who work for the BBC. Certainly those at the top end have a high opinion of their ability and what they are worth in terms of the money they draw in expenses and salaries. I wonder whether the governors will have the guts, courage and firmness of purpose to carry out the recommendation of this House and the other place concerning impartiality. The Select Committee strongly emphasised impartiality. Most of the recommendations were set aside by the Government, possibly with a little nudging from the BBC and its staff.

We wish the governors well, and we wish them firmness of purpose. But we do not want secrecy. The one flaw in the World Service drama is the fact that it was kept completely secret not only from the governors but from those in command of the various sections of the BBC. Amazingly, the information did not leak out. Normally, such information "comes into our possession", it being a secret document presumably from the Cabinet. One always wonders whether such a document is genuine or whether someone has been persuaded to release information.

We wish the governors well. We wish them firmness of purpose and dedication to the principle which has long been spoken of in this House and another place. We know that they comprise strong people and that they set good and high standards. I wish that those were a little more universal. I support the report from the FCO and the BBC but I believe that the assurances need monitoring carefully. We must also monitor the financial control in that powerful corporation.

6.38 p.m.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton

My Lords, I wish to concentrate my few remarks on women and overseas aid. I decided to speak on this subject because it is just over a year since I had the privilege to attend the fourth UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing. I led the delegation from the Council of Europe and so represented the 39 member countries. A further reason for speaking tonight is that I wish to put on record the continuing plight of women.

At that world conference 189 governments subscribed either wholly or partially to the Beijing Declaration and the 345 clauses of the Platform of Action. The UK Government made no reservations. The aim of the conference was to set out the strategies for the future in the years up to and beyond the year 2000. Those strategies were drawn from the UN conferences and summits held during the previous decade and all were designed to improve the lives of women throughout the world, but primarily in the developing countries. I am anxious to assess progress.

In making my comments I wish to make it clear that I welcome the Minister's support on gender issues. The Minister's speech to the Beijing Conference recognised women's right to freedom of choice not only as regards sexual and reproductive health but also work, education, politics and the management of household resources and expenditure. In that speech the Minister committed the UK Government to the centrality of women to the aid programme when she said: If improvements in women's lives are to be seen, governments and non-governmental organisations must give priority to tackling the problems of women within their regions. The UK aid programme is ready to help; Making Aid Work for Women". It may be that the role of women in developing countries is not seen to have the same level of importance as some of the weightier issues that we have been considering this afternoon. I would therefore wish to remind the House of some of the current facts. The Human Development Report 1995—the United Nations Development Programme—documented these in great detail. This annual publication analyses the performance of each country in the world, measured not just by traditional measures of economic growth but by what the economic growth is doing for people, for human development.

The report demonstrates that the causes of growing impoverishment in the poorest countries in the world are the same as the causes of growing inequality within the richest countries. The result is that poverty grows, illiteracy spreads and children die of preventable illnesses. The stark fact is—and I quote: that in no society today do women enjoy the same opportunities as men". Adult women suffer more than men from malnutrition. For example, of adults suffering from iron deficiency anaemia, 458 million are women and 238 million are men. Of the world's 900 million illiterate people, women outnumber men by two to one. Girls constitute the majority of the 130 million children who are without access to primary school. Because in some developing regions population has grown faster than women's education has expanded, the number of women who are illiterate has actually increased. Of the estimated 1.5 billion people living in poverty, more than 70 per cent. are female and in the last two decades the number of rural women living in absolute poverty rose by nearly 50 per cent. Globally, women's participation in the labour force has risen by only 3.5 percentage points in the past 20 years, to 39.5 per cent. in 1990. That compares with the participation rate for men of 58 per cent. Similarly, women's wages are on average considerably lower than men's.

So, one year later, how has aid worked for women? How much progress has been made by the United Kingdom aid programme in promoting gender equality? I await with interest to hear the strategy that has been adopted post-Beijing, together with the results of the consultation with a wide range of experts, NGOs and parliamentarians. In the meantime and, I hope, in a constructive spirit, I would like to ask a number of questions. I appreciate of course that, given my failure to give notice of these questions, they may not be replied to today, but I hope that they will be replied to in the future.

I would like to ask if there has been any increase in the level of aid specifically for projects designed to address the needs of women and, if so, at what level and how that extra funding has been used. As the United Kingdom Government committed themselves in Beijing to a policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes, what is the strategy for integrating the gender perspective into all aid activities? Further, are there any specific initiatives to enhance women's empowerment as a key area? I appreciate that women's empowerment has been a key element in many speeches made by the noble Baroness, and not least in her speech to the overseas development group at the end of 1995. Finally, if there are positive answers to these questions, how is the progress being monitored?

The European Union has a key role to play, as a large and increasing proportion of our overseas aid is distributed through the European Union's aid and development co-operation programmes. Consequently, the European Union's Development Council resolution on gender equality, which received positive support from the United Kingdom Government, should make a material difference to programmes for women in mainstreaming and targeting activities to reduce the gender gap, which must be an integral part of all aid activities. I believe that to help to implement that resolution, the ODA is proposing seconding to the European Union a social development or population adviser. Appreciating the present complex organisational structure of European Union development assistance, is it possible for such a secondment to be truly effective without there first being some streamlining of the European Union structure? In this context I would be interested to learn how many United Kingdom advisers have been seconded in the last two years to the European Union. Were they effective and how was their effectiveness measured?

I acknowledge the commitment of the ODA to putting more effort into programmes to reduce poverty and the suffering of the poor, for better primary health care and primary education. However, again I need some answers. What criterion will be used for measuring improvements in education quality? Will it be based on a simple reduction in illiteracy among women? What are the targets for reducing the level of maternal mortality? Is the: target set in Cairo of a reduction to half its 1990 level by the year 2000, and half again by the year 2015, realistic and obtainable?

As I have said, I do not question the commitment of the ODA but, as my noble friend Lady Blackstone said, we must start to reverse the relentless cuts in United Kingdom aid spending, and dramatically shift resources towards targeted programmes to help the poorest people in the poorest countries. I appreciate that aid is not a complete strategy for reducing poverty but any increase would be fundamental in helping the 1.5 billion people who live in poverty. I would again remind your Lordships that 70 per cent. of these are women. It would help to reduce tie number of people who die each year of poverty or poverty-related causes, which is estimated at between 13 million and 18 million people: mostly children. That represents 1,700 people per hour and in fact, if we think about it, during the time we have been debating this subject 6,000 people will have died of poverty. It will help the billion people who live in households too poor to obtain the food necessary for normal work. It will help in developing more programmes on preventive health, on providing clean water, on family planning and reproductive healthcare: programmes which take account of the enormous contribution that women make.

We must never ignore that contribution. Many of the structural causes of poverty cannot be tackled without recognising and addressing gender inequalities. The participation of women in decision making is crucial, particularly in determining country aid strategies. We must put the rights, needs and interests of women at the heart of aid and economic reforms. We must also continue to audit all aid programmes for their impact on women, children, the poor and the environment. I should like to end by quoting from the 1995 United Nations Development Programme report: Investing in women's capabilities and empowering them to exercise their choices is not only valuable in itself but is also the surest way to contribute to economic growth and overall development".

6.48 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso

My Lords, the fascinating speech just made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, would have been music to the ears of the great author Laurens van der Post, who for many years has been petitioning for the improved plight of women in Africa.

Her Majesty's Speech committed the Government to their continued contribution to the maintenance of international peace and stability and the maintenance of a substantial aid programme to help improve the quality of life in poorer countries, thereby contributing to sustainable development and the reduction of poverty and suffering.

In my few remarks today I should like to focus on a subject which has not been raised so far but which has always been raised in previous foreign affairs debates: that is, the current situation of South Africa. The historic state visit here earlier this year of President Nelson Mandela was without doubt an unqualified success. Certainly his address from Westminster Hall, which many of your Lordships attended, will be a lasting memory for all of us.

There is no doubt that Nelson Mandela has achieved the political miracle in South Africa, not just by succeeding in bringing back democracy to his country and his peoples, but also in his success in managing to promote a culture of reconciliation among all the peoples of South Africa. However, this slogan of the South African miracle is true but also beguiling. It is true because the transfer of political power was unexpectedly smooth, but it is also beguiling because it drew attention away from the country's immense economic challenges. Many fear that if the economic challenges are not met and if economic policy is not transformed, the world will forget about the political miracle and before long will see South Africa as a failed economy.

It is no secret that the expectations of the emancipated have been extremely high and that there has been slow progress in meeting those needs. There were high hopes that the reconstruction and development programme would provide jobs, houses and education. The reality has been that the RDP has been slow and erratic. Social and economic improvements particularly for the majority of the black peoples must be visible and must be sustained. Researches estimate that 65 per cent. of those unemployed in South Africa are under the age of 30 and that fewer than 5 per cent. of about 450,000 school leavers every year are able to find jobs after completing their schooling in the formal sector. However, I am pleased to say that up to 25 per cent. of that number find employment in the informal sector. Many commentators believe that the high unemployment rates among the youth of South Africa are the major source of the crime problems in the country. Many have lost faith in the ability of both the Government and the police to curb crime, with the result that vigilante forces such as PAGAD (People against Gangsterism and Drugs) have taken the law into their own hands in Cape Town.

During President Mandela's recent visit here, I was interviewed by a major radio station and asked whether the president's successful visit would lead to a, tidal wave of inward investment into South Africa". In the few minutes before I was on air I could not help but listen to what was being discussed. Almost all the news revolved around car hijackings, murders and organised crime. I could not help saying that while I believed that the opportunities for inward investment in South Africa were enormous, a number of preconditions, such as a committed drive to curb violence and create economic certainty, were essential before there could be any sustained inward investment.

The Economist of 12th October has a picture of Nelson Mandela on the front cover. It aptly summarised the three new anxieties that stand out in South Africa as lawlessness, unemployment and political accountability. A number of outspoken comments from politicians and trade union leaders there have also scared off not just potential inward investors but have also led to a brain drain which the country can sorely afford. Nicky Oppenheimer, deputy chairman of the Anglo-American group, De Beers, said, in an economic world without boundaries, politicians can no longer afford the luxury of different voices for different audiences, different strokes for different folks". Many believe that without new industries and jobs South Africa's historic prosperity might slide into a permanent third world status. With crime statistics at an all time high and with the rand having collapsed over 25 per cent. against the dollar this year, there is a desperate need for a calm yet firm resolve. There is a wide and strong consensus among all South Africans that the time for decisive action is now. I still remain optimistic that the current impasse and deterioration in South Africa can be resolved. It has been no small order for the ANC to take over the reins from the Nationalist Party and to endeavour to address the many demands placed on it. I have been particularly impressed by the calibre of the new Cabinet ministers and their openness in seeking advice and assistance from foreign governments. I firmly believe that the low ebb of confidence in South Africa is a transitional phase and that the Government have the resolve and also the ability to restore confidence. However, that will require full co-operation between government, the private sector and civil servants.

One of the major challenges facing the ANC will be to deliver an improvement in education and training. There is no doubt that one of the major reasons for the dilemma in the job market in South Africa is the inferior education that was given to the blacks during the apartheid years of the previous government; the so-called "lost generation". While unskilled black labour is cheap but unproductive, skilled labour is scarce and extremely expensive. Many parents have become disillusioned with the education system, claiming that it is only of an academic nature and that it does not provide any entrepreneurial or technological skills to give students more opportunities in the job market. In Gauteng—which was formerly known as the Transvaal—only one school offers both entrepreneurial and technical skills. A number of British charities, such as the SAN Foundation—of which I am a trustee—have sought to assist the South African Government in addressing these needs.

However, Her Majesty's Government have played a full role in promoting political and economic prosperity in South Africa. Apart from the many government initiatives, the work of the many NGOs that have effectively been operating there for many years needs to be commended. I wholeheartedly endorse the accolades of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester—I am sorry that he has made his last speech in your Lordships' House—for the tireless work of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, who is not in the Chamber at present, in seeking a peaceful resolution to conflicts in many of the trouble spots around the world. I particularly commend her successes in South and southern Africa.

Earlier this year I initiated a debate in your Lordships' House calling attention to political and economic development in southern Africa. There is no doubt that southern Africa has undergone a form of metamorphosis over the past 10 years, propelled in part by the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War, but also by the final ending of minority rule in South Africa. Southern Africa appears to be more united and resolute than ever in confronting the problems it must solve in the region. However, there are obviously a number of hiccups. The spectre of the renewed civil war in Angola, and an upsurge of ethnic violence in Burundi and Rwanda—that has been mentioned by many noble Lords this evening—have heightened the need for regional security in southern Africa. There have been recent calls for the establishment of a 10,000 strong African crisis reaction force. Much of the backing for that initiative would come from the United States, with Britain, Canada, Ireland and Belgium all offering their financial support too. Clearly peace and stability are essential for social and economic development in southern Africa.

In conclusion, the political miracle of South Africa must be complemented with a socio-economic miracle not just for South Africa but also for southern Africa. My hope is that Her Majesty's Government will continue with their commitment to meet that end.

7 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, it is generally believed that the purpose of this debate is to discuss Her Majesty's gracious Speech. I shall, therefore, begin with a quotation from it. It sets out Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards Europe as, an outward-looking, economically liberal and flexible Union based on a partnership of nations". That, I believe would and does command the entire support of the Conservative Party and, I would think, of many of no party.

I would at one time have thought that it might also have commanded the support of Her Majesty's Opposition. But I had not then heard the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, who seems to have been converted by her visit to Brussels to a stance of welcoming a much tighter and closer form of European integration. Indeed, at one moment I wondered whether she was going to make a sideways move in the House and find herself on the Liberal Democrat Benches, where that stance is common and accepted. But things go on at present between the Opposition parties as the public opinion polls begin to call into question the optimism that the noble Baroness showed about her access to office. But perhaps I am being unduly cynical. What was characteristic of the noble Baroness's speech was not so much political calculation as that customary innocence of hers about the realities of international politics which is delightful to listen to and which makes me glad that we shall see her in her place on the Opposition Front Bench for many years to come—more years perhaps than I have left to live.

Let me take one example of that innocence. She referred to the mission of President Chirac to the Middle East. As the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, pointed out in his rapid transit through the House earlier, that visit was an almost unparalleled disaster. But the important point is that the noble Baroness does not seem to see that what President Chirac was interested in was not ameliorating the plight of the Palestinians, with which we must all have sympathy, but simply trying to reassert a longstanding wish on the part of France to be the dominant country in Syria and the Lebanon. If the noble Baroness had studied the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the origins of the Crimean War or any of the other material which is essential to understanding the situation in the Middle East and the policy of France, she might have taken a different line.

However, I use that only as an example. The main point surely about Europe—it is becoming increasingly evident—is that it is not only Britain which has a Government who put their national interest first but that that is equally true of all European governments, and of the larger ones in particular. I suspect that when the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, found Britain unpopular in Brussels, it was not among the inhabitants of the European Continent but among the commissioners and the officials of the institutions of Europe—the so-called European Union—who by their actions and policies have done more to damage good relations between the countries of Europe than any other single set of persons. I speak as a Europhile, although I have no doubt that the noble Baroness thinks of me as a Eurosceptic. But it is, after all, good relations with all the countries of Europe which concern us. There was a particularly interesting contribution earlier in the debate about Ukraine.

What is happening? We see the desperate desire of the important countries in central Europe, recently freed, to our applause, from the thralls of Soviet-imposed communism, to have the advantages of belonging to Western Europe and to have their economies embraced by Western Europe. What do they face? They face the protectionism of German, French and Italian agriculture putting up absurd barriers to trade in the products which they can produce more cheaply; therefore violating the whole notion that the European Union as it now stands is for the benefit of Europe as a whole.

I believe that there is also a great error—it comes up in speeches in your Lordships' House and in other places—in talking of Europe meaning the governments at present in power in the European countries and the Civil Service elites, or sometimes the industrial elites with which they are aligned. But we see almost daily that from the point of view of the peoples of these countries the European Union, whatever its appeal may have been in earlier years, no longer commands respect. The German people as a whole quite understandably reject the idea of monetary union which is said to be the indissoluble part of the next stage of European integration. No doubt the French Government are so far committed to that prospect. But the French people, witnessing mounting unemployment, and the social unrest that comes from unemployment, through trying to meet the so-called Maastricht criteria are of a different opinion.

As was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, the Italian Government, incapable of running their own affairs, wish to put them in the hands of Brussels. There is no evidence that the Italian people who once fought for a united and independent Italy take the same view. In other words, Britain has revealed herself to be honest about something over which other countries are now beginning to be honest.

The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, lives in a world so remote from the one that I recognise that I find our debates across the Floor rather difficult. Let me take one example. He raised the notion—it has been raised in this House many times—that the words "Blind" and "federation" mean different things to the Germans and the British. That is nonsense. The Germans understand the logic of federal government in the way in which the British, the Americans and others who have experienced federal forms of government, or have imposed them on others, understand it. The difference is not in understanding what a federal system is; the difference comes from the point at which one starts. The Germans, having started from a century of highly centralised government, culminating in the tragedy of Nazism, naturally welcomed a federal system because to some extent it reversed the centralising elements of that century. But for countries which have been independent, to enter a federal system means sacrificing that role for an approach with which they have no automatic sympathy. It may well be that the Liberal Democrats really do welcome the idea of this Parliament being no more or less important than the state assembly of Schleswig-Holstein. However, I doubt whether even they would go to the country on that platform.

I am sorry. I have bored the House with this subject before, but it is a serious matter. The logic of the whole movement towards European integration piloted by the Franco-German alliance has been towards a federal system. Indeed, it is extraordinary that people argue about the single currency from any other point of view. As any economist of repute will agree, you cannot have an area which has a single currency and does not have a government who are in the last resort responsible for maintaining the value of that currency and ensuring its free circulation. But you also cannot have a system with a single currency, such as that of the United States of America, without mobility of labour of a very considerable kind in order that the different impact of a particular monetary or fiscal policy on different parts of the country can be met. Also, and perhaps even more importantly, there must be a taxation system which enables people to move resources to the weaker or poorer parts of that conglomeration. It is done in the United States—

Lord Bridges

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I think the difference between us is rather less than he makes out. The point that I sought to make was that in the German experience that country's federal system has worked very satisfactorily. The Germans give a certain word to that. They are therefore inclined to feel that when the same word is used in connection with a wider European construction, that must have some good points too. We have not had that experience, so we approach it from a different angle and therefore have this misconception. I am not sure that the noble Lord is saying anything different from what I said.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I believe I am. The Germans might say, "Look, we do frightfully well under a federal system; why don't you have one United Kingdom? Why don't you have Scotland, Wales, Mercia and Northumbria like the German Länder? It's a much better way than having a centralised government". It would be a piece of advice which we might or might not take. But they do not say that. They are saying that the United Kingdom as a whole must have the same experience and the same position as a German Land, and that is a very, very different matter.

It might work, let us say, three or four centuries from now. Economic and cultural intercourse between the states of Europe may develop such links across the borders that all feel themselves to be Europeans, as all Americans feel themselves to be Americans. But at the moment the idea that the Danes are willing to be taxed to support the social services in Greece is rather far-fetched. It is essential now that this subject be properly debated. One of the great difficulties is that, while in this House we have a chance to discuss it once or twice a year, there has never been an issue of such importance to the future of this country that has been so little debated in public. That is perhaps because the arguments have been whirling round inside political parties. But until the debate becomes public and until people appreciate what it is they are being asked to do, it is an extraordinary void in our concept of parliamentary democracy that we should think that the matter can be decided by the CBI or any other non-elected bodies which claim to hold views on this all-important subject.

Baroness Blackstone

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he accept that while I do not particularly mind being patronised by him and told that my position is one of an innocent, I do rather dislike being misrepresented? Will he accept that my only reference to M. Chirac was to say that we on this side of the House support the stance he took in relation to the building of further Jewish settlements on the West Bank? I made no comments about his motivation, nor about any European initiative in the Middle East and whether it would work. The position I took was the position of the Labour Party. It is one that is also taken by the Government which the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, from time to time supports.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I am very deeply affected by the thought that I could have intentionally misrepresented the noble Baroness. I can only say that the trouble with these debates is that even when they are not time-limited we feel that there is a time limit. My point is that, had it not been the intention of France to re-establish its position in reference to Syria and Lebanon, the question of Jewish settlements on the West Bank, important though it is, would not have figured much in M. Chirac's pronouncements.

7.17 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, I rise with some hesitation to follow the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, since much of what I first learnt about British foreign policy—learnt, I hope, as well as I could—was from the then Professor Beloff at Oxford. I also learnt much about federalism from the then Professor Beloff, who was at the time chairman of the Liberal Party's "machinery of government" panel. As I recall, he was in favour of a federal structure for Britain. I still look forward to a time when Scotland may have as strong a position as Schleswig-Holstein in a federal European Union. I indeed look forward to the time when a partnership of nations may apply as much to a United Kingdom of several nations as the British, or English, Government that we now have wishes to apply to the European Union itself.

I wish, however, to follow the noble Lord's suggestion that the exam question set was that we should discuss the Queen's Speech. I shall confine myself to several of the statements made therein. I wish to discuss in particular the commitment to the enlargement of NATO and of the European Union.

I noted with some hesitation that the implied commitment to the enlargement of NATO seemed to be stronger and more definite than the statement that Her Majesty's Government, will work towards the opening of accession negotiations [to the European Union] with countries of Central and Eastern Europe". That prospect is not very distant. Potentially we are talking about new members joining NATO in April 1999 on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Atlantic Treaty—that is, in two-and-a-half years' time. We may conceivably be talking of the first new members joining the European Union by the year 2000, or certainly by 2001. Four years from now, 2001, is the most likely eventuality. That represents a fundamental process in the transformation of Europe. It is not just a set of minor arrangements. It is about the reunification of Europe and therefore also about Europe's transformation. The process should therefore be one of the most important priorities of British foreign policy and one about which the Government should be making a major effort to inform and educate the public. I regret that fewer British Ministers have been travelling round the applicant countries in the last 12 months than have those of our partner countries. I recall that some years ago the British Prime Minister invested time and effort symbolising the importance of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and elsewhere. I wish that the Government would, within the next few months, return to emphasising to its own domestic public how important this is.

The two processes must be seen together, not as an American-led process of NATO enlargement and a German-led process of EU enlargement, with Britain following the Americans loyally and faithfully and the Germans reluctantly. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, that the significance of NATO enlargement in terms of adding to Britain's military commitment is such that the Government should explain fully to the public what the intention is. I agree with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that enlargement must also involve the transformation of NATO, not simply the extension of the alliance in its current form to include Poland and one or two other states. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that the largest risk is to those countries like Ukraine which are likely to be left outside.

I read the reports of the Bergen NATO ministerial meeting with some puzzlement. It seemed to me that the US Secretary of Defense acted remarkably unilaterally not only in his dealings with the Russians but also in his announcement to the representatives of the Baltic states as to why they were not to be considered as members, at least not within the foreseeable future. I was relieved to see in the article in The Times last week by the Secretary of State for Defence that he sees more than one round of NATO enlargement. The fear of other east European states is that Poland will come in with one or two others and that will be all. I hope that the Minister will reassure us that it is indeed the commitment of this Government that NATO enlargement will not stop with the first two or three to enter.

I was also relieved to see in the Secretary of State's article a strong commitment to partnership with Russia. If the enlargement of NATO is to involve at the same time a negotiation of partnership with Russia of the sort which Bill Perry was talking about, perhaps involving a treaty, then we are indeed talking about the transformation of NATO. We need to talk about the way in which NATO and the OSCE combine together in the future. We should perhaps ask the Government for some further explanation of how they see the security organisations operating in a future organised Europe.

However, I see the enlargement of the European Union as much more fundamental, important and difficult. It is clear that the Baltic states will come into the European Union. As we advance towards the first enlargement, it is important that we think about how we can take into account the more difficult states which are unlikely to join immediately. It would be extremely easy to leave Romania and Bulgaria outside. Many of us would happily leave them outside for a very long time. Albania, Slovakia and Croatia also create real problems for us all. But, if we are talking about the future security and prosperity of Europe as a whole, then we need a concerted policy towards all of them. That is not something which Britain can do alone. It is something which any British Government must work out in the closest possible concert with its partners—Germany, France, Italy and other countries.

The second point I wish to raise is what seems to me to be the illusions in the Queen's Speech about Britain's role in Europe. It suggests that what Britain wants to see is an outward-looking, economically liberal and flexible union based on a partnership of nations, implying that the continental countries are inward looking, economically protectionist, corporatist and deeply inflexible. As it happens, the European Union has in the last two or three years been edging much more firmly towards economically liberal policies and further away from corporatism. I welcome that. It seems to me to be something which a British Government ought at the very least to acknowledge. I regret that one still hears portrayed in Conservative circles the image of a corporatist Europe versus an Asian/US model of free trade, as I remember the Prime Minister saying not long ago. The idea that the United States and the east Asian economies somehow represent the same model of free trade is something I have great difficulty in grasping—as much difficulty as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, has in grasping the concept of federalism for the United Kingdom.

We are a European country and our economy has rather more European aspects than perhaps the Government are prepared to accept. The Government are in favour of a flexible Europe. "Flexibility" is a deeply ambiguous word and, as the Government are discovering, a double-edged sword of a word. The British Government are in favour of a Europe which is flexible just so long as it does not exclude Britain from any of the things we do not want it to be flexible about. The word is being increasingly applied by other governments to a strategy in which the purpose of a flexible Europe will be precisely to exclude those awkward British.

I am sorry to have to agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that the reputation of Britain on the continent, not just within the European institutions but within other governments and other capitals, is currently low. British influence in the European Union is sinking and British Ministers are becoming less effective, sadly, in some cases, even cordially disliked, just as the European Union is moving towards preferred British approaches to economic policy.

My wife spoke at a conference in The Hague some weeks ago on the triangular relationship between Britain, the Netherlands and Germany. One of the guiding lights of the Conservative Right spoke alongside her. After this man had finished speaking, one of the most distinguished experts on Dutch policy, much respected throughout the Netherlands, said to my wife, "Did he set out deliberately to be rude to all of us or is he slightly mad?" If British Ministers and others leave that impression on their continental colleagues, then they are not serving Britain's national interests. I make that comment very soberly and strongly. I am conscious that it is a strong criticism to make of one's Government, but Ministers have to recognise that that is the impression that is sometimes given.

The next paragraph of the speech says: My Government … will continue to work for transatlantic free trade". I have spent time professionally in the last three years working on the question of transatlantic free trade. I should declare an interest. I was for some time employed as the research director for the Transatlantic Policy Network. I became increasingly convinced, as many of us did, that the idea of transatlantic free trade as a transatlantic free trade area, much beloved of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, is a will o' the wisp. One slips very easily into the idea that somehow we white industrial nations have closer relations with each other than we have with the Asian industrial nations. At the same time the United States is investing immense effort in developing the Asia-Pacific Economic Council. Indeed, American economic interests are as strongly engaged in relations with China, Japan and ASEAN as they are in relations with us. It is very important to keep the United States economically and politically engaged with Europe, but we should not invest time and effort pursuing the idea that there is somehow an alternative to closer involvement in Europe. The three most important countries for British foreign policy have for the last 100 years been Germany, France and the United States. They remain Germany, France and the United States, and we should ensure that we cultivate good relations with all three, not attempt to favour one at the expense of the others.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Bethell

My Lords, I welcome the turn that the debate has taken and in particular the speeches about Britain's membership of the European Union and the hope that we shall eventually be able to establish a partnership of nations therein. As my noble friend Lord Beloff pointed out a few moments ago, the matter is seldom debated. If it is debated, it tends to be in 500 well chosen words straight from the shoulder in a newspaper such as the Sun or the Daily Mirror. We have very few chances in Parliament, the broadsheet press or the tabloids to discuss this most crucial of matters for our country. It is good that we have a moment to do so this evening in your Lordships' House.

The Government are to be congratulated on the efforts they are making to try to build that partnership. But I am afraid that they have been swimming manfully against a rising tide of europhobia, which in some cases has reached the level of a hatred of foreigners and in particular a dislike of Germany. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, a few moments ago and in a debate not so long ago in your Lordships' House. It used to be the French but now it seems that the Germans have taken the honoured place of the people we most like to dislike. The question of Germany is again and again to be seen on our television screens and in the media, and is discussed by various Members of another place and in your Lordships' House.

I imagine that it is very difficult for the Government to try to face that question soberly when every few weeks they see yet another explosion of anti-German feeling. I have in mind, for instance, the recent football competition which was seen by the Daily Mirror in terms of a blitzkrieg; and references to Huns and Krauts are commonplace in the tabloid press. It was seen in the recent controversy about British beef and those responsible for the crisis about British beef. The blame was laid fairly and squarely at the door of Germany, as though Germany was the first country to have banned British beef. As I am sure your Lordships know full well, British beef was banned in the United States and Canada some years ago. If it were not for the European Union we should be very hard pressed to sell any beef at all beyond our shores. The question of compensation would also be a very difficult one to try to resolve.

The question of a single currency is very important and that, too, is hardly debated, except in terms of "Are the Germans trying to abolish Her Majesty the Queen?" or "Are they trying to do what they failed to do in 1945—take over our Parliament with their tanks?" That is the message that one sees again and again in the Daily Express or indeed in the broadsheet newspapers. If my noble friend Lord Beloff wants to see this matter debated more responsibly or carefully, I hope in all honesty that he will talk to some of his friends in the broadsheet media so that a fair range of arguments can be discussed, particularly on the question of a single currency.

Like most of the British public I am simply unable to make up my mind yet as to whether we should have a single currency and whether or not it is in Britain's interest to have it. Will being inside a single currency add to the influence that Britain wields over our own economy or will it detract from it? Some say one thing and some say another. Instinctively, most British people feel that we shall lose a measure of our own economic sovereignty, but I am not sure that that is the overbearing argument on this very complicated economic point.

How important is it for us to have control over our interest rates? In the past we have used control over our interest rates to devalue the pound. We all remember that a few years ago £1 was worth 12 deutschmarks. It is now worth little more than 2 deutschmarks. We have used the "weapon" of devaluation—if that is the right word for it—in order to keep our export industries alive. But will we always need in future to be able to devalue our currency or will we be able to find some other way of exporting, manufacturing and making profits? How far will it compensate us for loss of monetary sovereignty to be dealing in a serious currency, a currency with solid value rather than—I am sorry to say—the pound sterling (or at least the pound sterling as it has been in the past)? Will it give us more or less, if we go in? I have yet to see this matter properly debated in layman's terms.

Would the establishment of a single currency based on the deutschmark make Germany more powerful? It seems that there are many people in Germany who feel that the opposite is the case, if the words of my noble friend Lord Beloff are anything to go by. He said that there is now a widespread point of view in Germany against a single currency. If that is the case, Chancellor Kohl will have to answer for it the next time that he seeks re-election.

I know that there are those who believe that the establishment of a single currency based on the deutschmark would tie down Germany, as the Lilliputians tied down Gulliver, making it less likely that Germany would ever again set off on some central or east European adventure into their traditional economic space. That is seen as the political argument for a single currency. Many Germans I know share that argument. They cannot stop their inward-looking concern over their recent history. But, so much of what we read and see in Britain about this question is put in simple terms of World War II, of good against evil, of them against us and of Hitler somehow managing to rise from the grave and occupy the House of Commons. Virtually all the press, with the exception of perhaps the Independent, Guardian and Evening Standard, as well as one or two specialist bodies, share that point of view and proclaim it vociferously throughout the land.

In recent days there have been serious additions to that particular paranoia from which we seem to suffer. The famous 1990 Chequers seminar on Germany has again reared its head and been given a lot of press exposure. It is shocking to think of a seminar—I am not sure whether or not the record of the seminar was accurate, and there is a separate debate on that matter—which seemed to discuss the question of whether the German people are inclined by their nature and racial characteristics to be bullies and paranoiacs. So far as I could see, that was the gist of the report and the feeling of one or two of the people who participated in that seminar. We read that the paper was circulated to Ministers.

A recent book by Dr. George Urban described the phenomenon in great detail. It was approved by the then Prime Minister and I suppose that to some extent it became government policy. I should be very grateful if my noble friend the Minister—I am sorry that I did not give him notice of this matter—could say something or write to me about this point and tell me whether the result of that seminar, the draft report, remains government policy or was ever government policy. It happened when Germany was in the throes of unification and at a very sensitive time.

I am afraid that we have to take on board the fact that all the press reports in which Germany is taken to pieces are repeated and translated into German and many other foreign languages. They make a very loud noise throughout the world. The echoes of our generalisations on such matters reverberate throughout the world and may cause us great harm in our relations with other EU countries. Some of us saw a few days ago how the Referendum Party went to extreme lengths to show its distaste for the German Chancellor. Outbreaks of hissing and booing when Chancellor Kohl's image was flashed on the screen reminded me of nothing less than a hate session from George Orwell's 1984.

I believe that this debate is valid; but the campaign of insults on questions of single currency and others is not. We do ourselves no good by insulting our partners in the European Union or the heads of government of countries like Germany. By referring to the Second World War in terms of triumphalism we do no service to those who helped us to win that war so that democracy could triumph. It is all recycled in the German press.

I suggest that it is very un-Churchillian to take that attitude. He believed in magnanimity and was one of the first who wanted to bring Germany into the community of civilised nations as soon as possible after the war was over. Such an insulting tone, if used against any other race, would be a matter for referral and possible police prosecutions. I say that in no way to conceal or diminish one's outrage at the gruesome behaviour of the German people 50 or so years ago, but it makes no sense to see this matter in terms of racial stereotypes.

There is much that we have to proclaim about our good relations with Germany today. We are the two largest contributors to the EC budget. We have an interest in seeing sound accounting and our contributions to the budget kept within reasonable bounds. For that we need good relations with Germany. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Kingsland will confirm the fact that in the European Parliament, when we were looking for allies on any specific point, it was to our German friends among the Christian Democrats that we looked and often we found that we had interests in common.

Germany is our greatest export partner; 13.2 per cent. of our exports go there—a full point higher than our export percentage to the United States—with France coming in third at around 10 per cent. Large numbers of British working people work in Germany and Germany is the most important political force vis-à-vis our relations with the Russian Federation. In short, I believe that we have achieved an end to the hatred associated with the Second World War that used to be so powerful between us; that should have been laid to rest last summer when we celebrated Victory in Europe Day together with Chancellor Kohl, and he and his country should now be our friends.

7.43 p.m.

Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield

My Lords, of necessity the gracious Speech touched on only a few of the challenges and opportunities facing British foreign policy and diplomacy in the next two or three years. The agenda is of course far wider, as a number of stimulating and thoughtful contributions to the debate in your Lordships' House this evening so vividly demonstrated.

I should like to focus on one specific aspect of British diplomacy, if only because, for all its importance, it is rarely mentioned; for example, it has not been mentioned by any noble Lord this evening. That is odd, on the face of it, because it is the largest single activity of British missions overseas. I refer to the commercial and economic challenges—above all, the opportunities—which lie ahead and to the Government's decisions on the resources they deploy in the pursuit of our interests.

The assertion that the United Kingdom is and should remain a nation with global interests has often been greeted with titters of sarcasm by those who see in that statement a form of pretentiousness on the part of a small clique of foreign policy experts and practitioners who live, so the allegation runs, irrevocably in the past and who have not caught up with a changed world in which British power and influence are vastly diminished. They are quite wrong. First, they confuse power with interest; secondly, it is they who have not kept pace with change. To demonstrate that that is the case I pray in aid not theory, prejudice or surmise, but facts—stubborn, but I hope not too indigestible.

In 1995 the UK's visible exports amounted to £152.6 billion—an increase of 13.5 per cent. over 1994. For service exports the figure was £45 billion, which is 9 per cent. more than the year before. We export more per capita than either the United States or Japan, and exports account for a quarter of our gross domestic product—more than for any of our major competitors. In the past 15 years the volume of our manufactured exports has grown faster than those of France, Germany or Japan.

The United Kingdom invests across the globe. In 1995 the stock of British overseas investment was 319 billion US dollars—second only to that of the United States itself, more than half as much again as France and over 35 per cent. more than Germany. That outward investment, if we include bank lending, brought returns in 1995 of £93 billion. In the other direction no less than 40 per cent. of North American and Asian investment in the European Union comes to the United Kingdom. As the Minister said earlier, in the last financial year alone inward investment was £7.4 billion and created 48,000 jobs.

In 1995 the British financial services sector earned £20.3 billion. The London foreign exchange market is the largest in the world with a daily turnover of 464 billion US dollars, which is more than New York and Tokyo combined. There are more foreign banks in London than in any other city in the world and the London Stock Exchange handles a greater turnover of foreign equities than all other financial centres in the world combined.

I apologise for boring your Lordships with facts. My purpose is simply to demonstrate that even if our global political and security interests, great as they are, are left to one side; even if we ignore all the other critically important issues on the foreign policy agenda—our role in Europe, the management of a volatile and unstable Soviet Union, how to bring the countries of central and eastern Europe back into the family of western nations, the future of the Balkans, the Middle East and Hong Kong, aid to the poorer countries of the Third World, together with all the privileges and responsibilities which derive from our permanent seat in the Security Council, all of which have been mentioned by your Lordships—the United Kingdom is a power with global economic, financial and commercial interests. It is surely right, then, to ask how we prosecute and defend those interests.

The front line is in our 220 overseas missions in 188 countries. Thirty five per cent. of the staff in those missions are devoted to helping British businessmen develop their overseas activities, the largest single overseas diplomatic activity. In 19 key locations posts seek out potential inward investors. How successful are they'? The figures I have already quoted speak for themselves. But it is worth noting a report by the National Audit Office in April of this year which showed for example, that in South East Asia support from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Trade and Industry helped stimulate exports worth almost 80 times the cost of those services; and a recent survey of 150 leading companies revealed that 80 per cent. used the assistance provided by missions overseas and that 57 per cent. confirmed that they had won business as a direct result of that help.

So far, my Lords, so good. But there is an altogether gloomier side to this picture. The cloth of our diplomatic effort—I note that the Minister described this as our investment for the future—is stretched precious thin. In places it is downright threadbare. In spite of the heavy cuts in the staffing of some of our larger missions, 108 of those posts—almost half—have four or fewer UK based staff, 22 have only one and 21 have none at all. Meanwhile, unavoidable demand-led work grows at a rapid pace. Consular work is expected to rise by 28 per cent. over the next few years and the demand for visas by 35 per cent.

But of far greater significance than any of those factors are the cuts imposed on the diplomatic vote at the last PES settlement. The total Foreign Office budget, including the BBC World Service and the British Council—which together account for around £258 million—is about £1.2 billion. That is about 0.4 per cent. of total public expenditure. In November last year in the Chancellor's Budget that vote was cut by £82.5 million for each of the three survey years. In other words, before the end of the century expenditure on our diplomatic vote is, under the Government's present proposals, to be reduced by one-fifth; and this in order to achieve yearly savings which I calculate roughly to correspond to what we spend every two working hours on social services. I understand that the closure of overseas posts has so far been avoided, but that will not be the case if the cuts imposed in 1995 are maintained; and still less will it apply if there are to be further reductions this year.

The stark fact is that we face the prospect of becoming a nation with global interests without the means to prosecute or defend them. I find it impossible to believe that any other country in a situation similar to ours would choose to act in this way. It is notoriously difficult to obtain accurate comparisons with our chief analogues and competitors. But in round terms, even before the cuts I have described, France was spending about 100 per cent. more on its diplomatic effort than the United Kingdom and Germany more than 50 per cent.

I trust that it is not simply because of my previous professional association that I find this state of affairs—this contradiction between our interests and our willingness to recognise them and act accordingly—so profoundly depressing. And I am absolutely certain that it is not out of some romantic nostalgia for the past that I insist that the United Kingdom is a country with global interests and that a large part of our wealth and fortune, as well as our levels of employment, depend upon our ability—and, above all, on our will—to fight for them. No institution is perfect; none of our systems is infallible. But in recent years our performance as a world economic actor should be a source not of complacency certainly but of a modicum—just a modicum—of modest pride. I fear, though, that unless something is done to reverse the present trend we shall deprive ourselves of the weapons we need.

I hope, therefore, that on the issues I have raised the noble Earl, Lord Howe, will be able to give your Lordships some reassurance. I confess that, for my part, I look forward to his response but with some anxiety.

7.56 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, all three Front Bench opening speakers today emphasised the importance of our relationship with the European Union. So it is not surprising to find the Government's policy towards Europe set out in paragraph 4 of the gracious Speech, immediately after the welcome paragraphs which refer to the defence of the realm itself. That paragraph reads as follows: In the European Union, my Government will work for an outcome to the Intergovernmental Conference which supports an outward-looking, economically liberal and flexible Union based on a partnership of nations. They will promote policies designed to improve the Union's competitiveness and economic well-being. They will work towards the opening of accession negotiations with countries of Central and Eastern Europe". These are indeed laudable and honourable ambitions, but I fear that the Government have little chance of achieving any of them. Let us take the first sentence, which suggests that the present IGC might agree to amend the Treaty of Rome so that the Europe it has created might become, an outward-looking, economically liberal and flexible Union based on a partnership of nations". I should perhaps remind any of your Lordships who have not yet indulged themselves in the pleasure of actually reading the treaty that amendments to it require unanimity among its signatories. So, to start with, we would have to get the unanimous agreement of all the other signatories to support a union based on a "partnership of nations". But that is not what the majority of our partners wants, which is instead reflected precisely in the wording of the treaty which we have so unfortunately signed. Article A of the Treaty on European Union, which was signed at Maastricht, clearly states that the purpose of the treaty is to create, an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe". Now I know that I may be accused of semantics here and that "an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe" simply means more "inter-railing", more student exchanges—even more cocktail parties in Brussels and around the capitals of Europe. There are those who pretend that this vital phrase does not mean our governments getting together in ever closer political union. The trouble is that most of the other signatories are aiming at precisely that closer political union. If my noble friend the Minister thinks I am wrong, would he care to ask the other countries for their interpretation of Article A of the treaty; better still, would the Government table an amendment to the treaty at the IGC taking out the words "ever closer union among the peoples of Europe" and inserting instead the words "partnership of nations"?

Lord Bethell

My Lords, will my noble friend allow me? I am sure that he knows that that vital phrase is included in the preamble to the Treaty of Rome and that our Government signed it in 1972, as did all the other governments. There is nothing new about it.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I never suggested that there was anything wrong with that. If my noble friend bears with me, he will find that I am indeed coming to the text of the treaty itself. I quite agree with what he says. However, it is Article A of the Treaty of European Union, which is sometimes referred to as the Maastricht Treaty.

The rest of the first sentence of paragraph 4 of the gracious Speech and the whole of its second sentence look just as difficult to achieve. The Community's determination to go ahead with its social policy and with its plans for monetary union clearly demonstrates to all but the most starry-eyed Europhile that it has no intention of becoming outward looking, economically liberal or flexible. Nor does it have any chance of improving its competitiveness and economic well-being under these policies.

To support these statements I pray in aid the Government's excellent attitude to and their opt-out from the Community's social policy. I pray in aid the landmark publication of my right honourable friend Mr. Heathcoat-Amory at the end of July, A Single European Currency: Why the United Kingdom Must Say"No". As far as I know, no one in government or elsewhere has put forward any reasoned or detailed disagreement with Mr. Heathcoat-Amory's pamphlet, which shows forcefully why the UK must refuse ever to join the proposed single currency and also why we should do so now. My right honourable friend writes with all the authority of a former Minister for Europe and, until his resignation, the Minister in the Treasury responsible for following our negotiations on EMU. So I submit that this is not a publication which can just be ignored.

I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Bethell has actually read the publication. If he has not, I shall be happy to give him a free copy and I hope that it might inform his views on the single currency. I shall of course put a copy in the Library in case any other noble Lord would like to read it.

I come then to the last sentence of paragraph 4 of the gracious Speech which foresees enlargement of the Community by including countries in Central and Eastern Europe. On 15th October your Lordships debated the excellent report from the Select Committee on the Community's enlargement and the common agricultural policy. There was general agreement that enlargement cannot take place on anything like existing treaty terms without reform of the crazy and ruinous common agricultural policy. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Chalker stressed that again this afternoon.

However, in our debate several of your Lordships confirmed the widespread resistance to such reform from the other signatories. The Government believe that the necessary reform of the CAP could be achieved by a qualified majority vote rather than by the unanimity which will be required for the treaty changes to which I alluded earlier. In my brief intervention on 15th October (at cols. 1631–32 of the Official Report) I set out how the qualified voting majority system works under the treaty. I asked my noble friend the Minister to agree that it made reform of the common agricultural policy, and therefore enlargement of the Community, well nigh impossible. My noble friend did not answer the point then and the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, who followed me in the debate, was good enough to say that he had not been able to understand it. Since I was unlucky enough not to receive an answer to the same question in our debate on the IGC on 15th April, I fear that I must repeat the question again.

Under the Treaty of Rome there are at present 87 qualified majority votes among the 15 member nations. Sixty-two are required to carry a motion and 26 to block one. The United Kingdom has only 10 votes. The principal paymasters of the CAP are Germany with 10 votes, Denmark with four votes and ourselves with 10 votes, which makes 24 votes in the hands of those who pay the piper. There appear to be 54 votes in the hands of recipient countries under the CAP, which must explain some of their reluctance to reform it. But Germany, although a paymaster, is also surprisingly against reform. As far as I can understand, that leaves only Denmark and ourselves as enthusiastic reformers, with all of 14 votes between us, which is a long way short of the 62 votes required to carry reform. Indeed, as many as 64 out of a possible 87 votes appear likely to be ranged against reform, which is why I keep putting to my noble friends on the Front Bench that reform of the common agricultural policy and the enlargement of the Community which it might make possible at best look unlikely.

As I have put this point several times to my noble friends on the Front Bench, I should be very grateful for an answer today, or at least some time later in writing. My noble friend may be able to go some way towards agreeing with me, in which case he may say that the difficulty over the reform of the common agricultural policy and enlargement suggests that new members of the Community should be admitted on varying terms under the doctrine of "variable geometry", as it is known, so wisely espoused by the Government. But here again, alas, we come up against exactly the same difficulty: a large majority of the signatories to the Treaty of Rome are federalists and so do not agree with variable geometry either.

Before I leave the question of enlargement, there is one other question that I have been putting to the Government for some time without receiving an answer. It is whether in their view any enlargement of the Community is likely to increase the power of the centre—that is, of the Commission, the Court and the parliament—towards member nations or whether it is likely, as I believe the Government originally hoped, to diminish that power. The Eurocrats in Brussels clearly hope for an increase in their powers, which they claim will be made necessary by all the extra languages and different legal systems which will have to be absorbed. I wonder whether the Government have given any thought to what is actually likely to happen. Again, of course, one fears that the United Kingdom will be more or less alone if it wishes to see enlargement leading to any reduction in the power of the Commission or the Court. But I hope that my noble friend can set my mind at rest.

Before leaving the detail of the gracious Speech as it affects our relationship with the European Community, I would very much like to welcome paragraph 5 in which the Government say that they will continue to pursue the global liberalisation of trade. Indeed, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the World Trade Organisation are steadily making the Treaty of Rome and the single market redundant from a commercial point of view. The WTO aims to have removed tariff barriers entirely by the year 2020, and already some 44 per cent. of all goods which are traded in Europe do so at a tariff rate of zero. Average tariffs on the rest now stand at some 3.5 per cent.

But the treaty still retains its original political intention, which is an ever-closer union between the peoples of Europe. It is here that the real controversy starts, because a growing number of people in this country are beginning to see that the United Kingdom might do better to leave the treaty altogether. Among all the controversy which surrounds this suggestion I single out three contentions which those of us who wish to withdraw have to face. The first two go something like this: our inward investment only comes to us because we are members of the Union; our European partners would victimise us out of existence if we left the treaty. I notice that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, took this position quite strongly in her opening remarks today.

Since we last debated the European issue generally two publications have emerged which refute both these contentions. The first was written in April by Messrs. Burkitt, Bainbridge and Whyman, who are respected academics at Bradford University. It is entitled There is an Alternative (to our membership of Europe). The second was published earlier this month by the Institute of Economic Affairs under the title Better off out? I shall put copies of both publications in your Lordships' Library also. As far as I know, no one has taken serious issue with the detail of their findings or with their general conclusions. These are that most of our inward investment comes to us because of our good labour relations, low inflation and low tax rate, because we speak English and, yes of course, because we have access to the single market. But they see no reason why we should not retain amicable access to that market if we withdraw from the treaty itself. Since we trade in deficit with Europe, we could easily negotiate a position such as that enjoyed by Switzerland, which still exports more per capita to the Community than we do, even leaving out her banking side. In short, both publications lead one to conclude that we might be rather better off economically outside the Treaty of Rome.

That brings me finally to the most important contention of all. That is that blood may flow again in Europe if Chancellor Kohl is not able to achieve his dream of a federal superstate. I am sure that Chancellor Kohl is in good faith when he says things like, European integration is in reality a question of war and peace in the 21st century", as he did at the University of Louvain on 2nd February this year. I regret that my noble friend Lord Bethell has left the Chamber because I wish to share everything he said about the anti-German feeling which appears to erupt in various broadsheets, which I do not make a habit of reading.

Herr Kohl's spokesman, Herr Karl Lamers, has been even more precise. He said: Never again must there he a destabilising vacuum of power in Central Europe. If European integration were not to progress, Germany might be called upon, or tempted by its own security constraints, to try and effect the stabilisation on its own and in the traditional way". Those of us who wish to leave the Treaty of Rome do not share Herr Kohl's and Herr Lamers' apparent lack of faith in their own people. I note also that younger Germans of my generation and younger do not seem to share it either. We fear that what they are trying to build is more likely to lead to the Balkanisation of Europe than the Europe of nation states, the "partnership of nations", so wisely favoured by Her Majesty's Government. After all, when did a truly democratic country, such as the modern Germany, last cause a war? I wish that Herr Kohl would reflect on that question, but it seems that he and his European friends are in much too much of a hurry to do so. So, I believe that eventually we shall have to let them go ahead without us, perhaps in some form of union less drastic and dangerous than the one that they now contemplate. Then, not for the first time, Britain will have saved herself by her exertions and, let us hope, Europe by her example.

8.10 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, on the whole this has been an outward-looking debate, but I wonder whether in our obsession with sovereignty inside the EU we have become too Euro-centric. Like others, I want to see the strengthening of our economic partnership and greater political co-operation, especially in foreign affairs, with the minimum loss of national identity. I am also pleased to see develop a new form of Ostpolitik, if not enlargement or association, which will shake up the common agricultural policy and loosen the grip of central bureaucracy.

However, I am mainly concerned about the gap between fortress Europe and the rest of the world, especially those Commonwealth countries with which we share common experiences. I believe that there is a reawakening of interest in the UK of the potential of our bilateral aid and trade overseas. We have just heard the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield, speak on that in enthusiastic terms. To that end I am pleased to know of Her Majesty's forthcoming visits to Pakistan and India. Such visits will undoubtedly bring further mutual understanding. Trade with India is already flourishing, thanks largely to Indian deregulation, and with the vast potential market there I hope to see a renewed commitment to our varied aid programme.

There is always a nice mixture of altruism and single-minded ambition in Britain's foreign policy motives. It is an ambiguity of which we have accused the French since before the Napoleonic wars but which we rarely admit in ourselves. It stems from our colonial history, but continues in many new disguises. We would like to turn our present aid beneficiaries into our future trading partners. We would like to use our diplomatic skills to further our economic advantage. We would, of course, like to sustain our English language and our culture overseas.

But whatever our economic motives, aid is also a responsibility. As one of the developed nations—we heard from the Minister that we have the third largest source of private capital—we have an obligation to the weakest populations in those other countries. Pakistan, India and Nigeria, for all their wealth, are still among the lowest 48 on the UN's human development index. They join poorer countries on the list such as Tanzania, which is suffering from the Great Lakes disaster at the moment, the Sudan, Nepal, and Uganda, still recovering from its old crises, with which we still have strong ties, and countries in considerable distress like Afghanistan about which we heard earlier and which is now almost the lowest on the scale.

I welcome the ODA's renewed emphasis on the poorest groups, but I wonder whether the Treasury—now allowing less than 0.3 per cent., the lowest-ever proportion of our national income and that at a time when we have commitments to eastern Europe—has really grasped the importance of overseas development within our foreign policy. The Chancellor's initiatives on debt, which have even won him admiration from the aid agencies—not short-lived, I hope—show that there is a glimmer of hope on the issue.

I wonder also whether we have appreciated the vast human resources displayed by our aid agencies, voluntary organisations and churches which, incidentally, form a significant constituency in this country as well as overseas. Have we recognised that they, too, are our representatives abroad and agents of a new kind of human foreign policy? Have we evaluated their role alongside the United Nations and conventional armed forces in international security? Occasionally we read of the plight of an individual aid worker in Somalia or Rwanda, but there are thousands of expatriate staff and their co-workers who are seeking to improve conditions overseas. We do not give their work nearly enough recognition in public life, however hard the ODA is helping to promote them. I congratulate the ODA on its openness towards those organisations and on its willingness to consult them. Through a small charity working in Afghanistan, I have come to see that co-operation first hand and I hope that it continues through the present crisis.

Social development is now an accepted office in embassies and provides valuable links with the voluntary sector on issues such as poverty and human rights. That is another reason for supporting the Foreign Office and the diplomatic community. But the non-governmental organisations have a wider agenda than aid and one which goes beyond the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and affects other departments also.

Recently 10 such organisations issued a powerful joint manifesto on development and the environment. I should like briefly to mention a few of the key issues with which they are concerned. They coincide with the wider framework of development to which the Minister referred. They would like an expanded, better targeted, more visible aid programme which reaches beyond aid to social and economic development. They would like the acceleration of debt relief programmes through the new World Bank and IMF initiatives, with particular reference to the poorest and most indebted countries, such as Uganda, to which the Government are already committed. They would like more shared understanding of the effectiveness and long-term advantages of aid, based on evaluations of successful, sustainable programmes which help the poor and protect the environment. They would like greater awareness by the public and consumers of the origin of food and the many other imported goods now in supermarkets to remind trading companies of their responsibilities to the producers of those goods. They would like UK legislation which will help to end sex tourism, commercial exploitation of child labour, and other abuses of the UN conventions on the rights of the child, on slavery and on the rights of indigenous peoples.

In conclusion, I hope that the Government will stand firm on the principle of gender equality, which has already been mentioned and which is now being challenged by the Taliban, among others, in the name of Islam. I hope that the Minister can confirm that the Government will support United Nations agencies in continuing wherever possible to give women's rights and education the highest priority against that difficult background. I know that the views held on that and many other issues by the development agencies have helped both to reflect changing public opinion and to shape and influence the development of our foreign policy, and I am sure that they will continue to do so.

8.18 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, today's debate gives me an opportunity to tell the House about a visit to Germany which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, Professor Antony Flew, Dr. Dennis O'Keeffe, Mr. David Rosser Owen and I returned from on 2nd October. The reason for our visit was to take evidence from witnesses who represent religious and ethnic minorities in that country. In the space of a week we met people from 17 different groups.

We think of Germany as a modern, progressive industrialised and democratic country. Indeed, it is all of those things, but by the end of the week we had the feeling that behind all that was another reality. As I recount some of what we discovered, the House may come to understand why we came to feel that Germany, in parallel with all its great achievements, is moving perceptibly in the direction of becoming a highly conformist, theocratic state.

Apart from the Turks, Kurds and a group called VPM, which has a philosophy of education and socio-ethics, all of the other groups interviewed were solely religious. The Turks and Kurds have religious as well as ethnic affiliations which can complicate their international and inter-community relationships in Germany. For example, in Britain we take for granted that if someone is born here he or she is automatically British. In Germany that is not the case.

One oddity brought to our attention by the witness from the Centre for Turkish Studies was that university applicants of Turkish origin had to attend an office at the university which was different from that used by German students. I was not sure whether that separation applied only to Turks or to all non-Germans. In any case, it applied mainly to Turks because they were Germany's largest minority. All of the members of the committee were already aware in general terms of the difficulties faced by Turks and Kurds. However, they were astounded by reports received from representatives of smaller religious groups, including new Christian denominations and religious movements.

The first group on which I touch briefly is the Charismatic Christian Church in Cologne. We took evidence from Pastor Terry Jones and co-Pastor Charles Robinson. That active Charismatic Christian Church has been administering to people in Cologne for many years. Over the weekend it has an attendance of about 1,200 people. That church reported an intense media campaign to discredit it, coupled with an attempt to remove its tax-exempt status. The most disturbing matter described was the attempt to reduce the charitable status. The Church received a de-registration order which stated that it did not contribute to the cultural, religious, social or spiritual value of German society. That appeared to the committee to be a rather arrogant position to adopt in respect of someone else's religion. It certainly goes beyond the limits of state neutrality in matters of religion. Pastor Jones and his colleagues are now engaged in a court battle to reverse the decision.

The VPM is a group that consists mainly of professionals such as teachers, lawyers, theologians, doctors, psychologists, people from other callings and parents interested in the psychology of education. That is a secular pressure group which is perhaps comparable with the British Campaign for Real Education, with which it has close links. It has been swept up by a network of sekte priests and sekte commissioners, largely because its stand against drugs runs counter to the views of powerful proponents of drug legalisation. It has been viciously attacked in the media as a sekte. In summary, its opponents have stigmatised VPM by the label of sekte and the authorities, media and public appear to have accepted that.

The committee also spoke to Herr Ignatz Bubis, chairman of the National Council for Jews. He told us that there had been an increase in the number of attacks on Jewish property and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. He also clarified the difference in the meaning of two German words. I do not attack Germany. I want to see an improvement in the situation. He said that one had to listen carefully to the language used and there were graduations of dislike. The word auslander literally means a foreigner. For example, that term is applied to the British, Swiss and French. Non-whites are Fremde or strangers. Presumably, this means that the non-white minorities in Britain would count as Fremde even though they were mainly British citizens by right of birth.

Next, I deal with the situation in which the Church of Scientology finds itself in Germany. That seems to be the most frequently attacked group, perhaps because it is also the biggest. The attention devoted by the German state and certain officials to eradicate scientology (in the words of one CDU Young Union official) is extensively documented. The placing of Scientology in the cross-hairs was commented upon by the witnesses from the Unification Church and Sri Chinmoy. It was suggested to us by witnesses from those groups that the state and churches targeted Scientology as a prelude to, and an excuse for, the destruction of religious freedom for all religious and philosophical minorities in Germany. We were presented with a detailed and well researched briefing which included a sampling of incidents of discrimination. That briefing provided 60 examples.

We also received a copy of the application form to become a member of the Christian Democrat Party. There were two pre-conditions for membership. One was common to all such application forms known to the committee and my colleagues. It stated that the applicant was not a member of any other political party. The other was a declaration that the applicant was not a Scientologist. We were informed that all other major political parties took the same line; in other words, a German scientologist may not participate in the democratic process as a member of any of the main political parties.

Next, the followers of Sri Chinmoy express devotion to their leader's quest for peace in the world by organising concerts, marathons and other athletic events. Almost all of these facilities are within the gift of local authorities. They recounted instances where concert venues and sporting facilities are closed to them for no apparent reason. On one occasion they organised a marathon run only to find that they were not allowed to use the showers. The City Council of Cologne has decided that no public rooms are to be let to Sri Chinmoy groups.

Another group whom we met and interviewed was Orden Fiat Lux, a Christian healing group. Enormous efforts were being made to close it down. There is also a resurgence of cultural discrimination, which echoes German history. In the late 1990s attacks on artists who are members of an unfavoured sekte appear to be gathering pace. The technique employed is a refinement and intensification of the procedure in Germany known by the English word "outing" which is applied to professionals in any field, as the witnesses have clearly showed. In addition to the artists we interviewed, we were given documentation which described quite unacceptable discrimination. Reports in the media about two recent situations highlight the absurdity. In August 1996, as the release date of the Tom Cruise Film "Mission Impossible" approached, a spokesman of the Youth Union of the CDU issued a statement urging Germans to boycott the film because Tom Cruise was a Scientologist. The same fate was supposed to be meted out to John Travolta's film "Phenomenon".

We decided to try to find out from where this discrimination was coming. We concluded that there were several interconnected and mutually reinforcing sources of discriminatory attacks on the groups we interviewed. These can be distinguished as follows. Within the political and administrative structure there is a network of sekte commissioners, known in German as sektebeauftragter. Their task is similar to a network of religious sekte commissioners, to which I will turn later.

It was also reported to us that approximately 20 per cent. of elected German politicians were trained priests or pastors. There is a very close interconnection between church and state. From the evidence given, it appeared that the German state was spending millions of deutschmarks every year on anti-sekte personnel, propaganda and related actions. Some estimates are as high as 100 million deutschmarks.

Another example of direct discrimination by government is the state of Schleswig-Holstein. The state parliament has recently amended its data protection law to create a document centre containing information about individuals connected to sekten. That law is a specimen of selective legislation which strips away the fundamental privacy rights of members of groups labelled as "sekte" by excluding them from the data protection safeguards enjoyed by all other German citizens.

The Lutheran and Catholic Churches have a network of 140 sekt priests and pastors throughout Germany. Their function is to disseminate unproven, negative generalised propaganda about any group they choose to categorise as a sekt. In fact Pastor Terry Jones of the Christian Church of Cologne told us that the Lutheran and Catholic Churches categorise any group of which they disapprove—almost any group that is not Lutheran or Catholic—as a sekt to be closed down or disposed of.

We were astonished at the millions of deutschmarks and the thousands of man hours being poured into the campaign against minority religions. Our inescapable conclusion was that significant elements within the state and church apparatus have been brought to bear on these minority religions in an attempt to destroy them, but nowhere in our report do we suggest that events will inevitably follow a similar pattern to that of the 1930s. That would be unthinkable and quite impossible. However, there are unquestionably comparisons that can be drawn regarding the persecution of minorities, and those are of considerable concern to us.

I have gone some way towards introducing our report to the House. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news when there is already so much bad news in the world. It is, I believe, a great strength of our House that we have such a diversity of preoccupations. The committee's report will be launched officially at a press conference tomorrow morning. It will be widely distributed thereafter. I shall of course send it to the Minister who so ably introduced the debate and to those noble Lords who were kind enough to wish us well on our mission. I hope that this will be the beginning of a focus on this aspect of political and social life in Germany which will bear fruit by changing the situation that I have described.

8.32 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, it is always an honour to speak in your Lordships' debate on the gracious Speech, and although you might not think to look at me that I resemble a very small minnow in this august pond, it is nevertheless a perfectly apt simile. Although it appears that there are sharks about waiting to eat me up, I continue to have confidence that they may not have the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, I do not believe in any of the derogatory remarks which were made earlier about Great Britain, because they are simply not true. In its own way, our country is as good and as great as she has ever been.

It is, I think, significant that the gracious Speech begins with two vital aspects: National security continues to be of the highest importance". and the emphasis on the importance and enlargement of NATO.

I should like to speak briefly, and indeed will do so, on these two points. I would just like to mention en passant that the War Widows Association of Great Britain, which exists to pick up the pieces left by wars, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and I would like on its behalf to thank my noble friends Lord Cranborne, Lord Henley, Lord Astor, Lord Howe and Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish for all their help and encouragement to these ladies during the years which I have been associated with them. They have all been so kind.

National security must always be of prime, indeed, vital importance to any nation which wishes to continue to exist. Our security lies in the safe hands of our three services. I think that all your Lordships would agree that we have the best Armed Forces in the world, and although, unlike many of your Lordships, I am unable to speak from personal experience of the services, I have family connections and have also been fortunate enough under the auspices of the all-party Parliamentary Defence Study Group to visit and meet many of our servicemen and women, both serving in this country and abroad. We have all, as I know my noble friend the Minister, Lord Howe, will confirm when he winds up, been overwhelmed by the splendid calibre, unselfishness and downright decency of our British forces.

But even the best apples will fall off a tree if you shake it long enough and hard enough. Our forces have been buffeted by the winds—or should I say "options"—of change and successive White Papers so that there are now far fewer of them than there should be to maintain our defence commitments. Those that are left are in danger of being demoralised by the continuous uncertainty. The latest gale has come from the sale of married quarters. We shall have to see—though in 25 years many of us may not be able to—whether the many guarantees which have been written into the sale terms will hold. We should always have a tree-planting mentality, and we should be planting oak trees, not Christmas trees. My plea is that we should let the winds of change die down and give our Armed Forces a decent period of stability.

Many of our Defence Study Group have gone to SHAPE today, are going to NATO tomorrow, and will return with more up-to-date information for our next defence debate. I much enjoyed our visit to High Wycombe in April with Air Marshall Sir Richard Johns and his European team, one of whom was French, which was encouraging. It was good to see such an important NATO establishment on British soil, having come from Norway and seen the Norwegians, like the splendid sports they are, bearing up well, with the change.

We discussed the possibility of Sweden joining NATO, and on my two visits to that country this summer I gained the impression that this was very much nearer, despite their historic neutrality. The three Baltic states still have a large Russian population and have other difficulties with old atomic installations. I cannot speak on Hungary or the Czech Republic. However, we had discussions with the Polish parliamentarians who visited the IPU this summer, and I was impressed by their anxiety to qualify both for the EU and for NATO membership. My youngest son has recently been working in a bank in Warsaw and his impression of Poland confirmed my own of the Poles that we had met. However, I think much must depend on what happens in Russia during the next 12 months. Our historic links across the Atlantic with our American allies have helped above all to make NATO the strong force for peace that it is. In these still uncertain times, it is reassuring to know that there is a strong force in place which can preserve our peace.

8.38 p.m.

The Marquess of Tweeddale

My Lords, I propose to speak briefly on one subject; that is, Bosnia. I regret to say that I cannot share very much of the optimism, muted though it perhaps is, which the Government seem to possess concerning the chances for peace following the Dayton agreement. Whatever the agreement says on the subject, many of the hundreds of thousands of refugees will not in fact be able to return home. Let us just look at the situation in Mostar, for example—a city which is split along ethnic lines but which is part of the Moslem-Croat Federation. What is worse still, the Serb part of the Dayton entity—Republika Srepska—is almost certain sooner or later to secede and to merge with Serbia proper.

That eventuality may not be envisaged by the agreement, but I fear that it is there, between the lines, as it were. That development will benefit not only the Bosnian Serbs; it will make Serbia, which—whatever the politically correct talk of warring "parties"—stoked up the Bosnian conflict up and ran the Bosnian Serb war effort, a winner. I ask myself whether it will be a satisfied winner in the long term. I have my doubts. Unlike Bosnia, whose history and boundaries have been surprisingly stable, Serbia has been on the move for the better part of two centuries.

The Bosnian Moslems are the losers here and have a perfectly justified grievance which will not go away. Earlier the Minister urged, the Bosnians to take more and more responsibility for their affairs". That exhortation comes strangely from a spokesman of a government who, by keeping the arms embargo in place for three years of the war, prevented the legitimate Moslem-led Bosnian Government from doing that very thing. I am afraid the result has been the kind of one-sided peace which, speaking in the Israeli context, the Minister said will not last.

8.40 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, at this time of night it is almost easier to look backwards than forwards. Indeed, as one gets older it is easier to look backwards and more difficult to look forwards. I shall begin by looking backwards and wondering whether we have sectional interests in the world which revolve around the word "tribalism".

The time has come to nail one's colours to the mast and I stand before your Lordships today as a Goidel, like my noble friend Lord Lyell. As your Lordships will know, the Goidels were one of the earliest tribes in this country. The Bretons, who inhabited Cornwall, Wales and even parts of Aquitaine, Bordeaux and Brittany, were second, but it was really the Celts of Scotland and Ireland who made the world and developed the British interest.

Many of your Lordships may have come from other tribes; from those of the south east or northern Europe who crossed the Channel and developed. But those of us from poorer nations were forced to think of two things: migration and immigration. Your Lordships may find it strange that I should begin a debate on foreign policy and defence with those two words. The history of our nation has depended on importing people of calibre and quality with new technology and new investment, while at the same time exporting those from the poorer parts of our country or domain to develop and pursue our interests abroad.

It would be reasonable to say that, internationally, the British are more powerful in appearance than in reality. As we divide the world into the component parts of Europe, which we were told was to be the home market but which has suddenly become foreign parts, and as we look back at the history of our trade and development we realise that the United Kingdom has and will always have a world-wide role. It has nothing to do with the Channel nor our geographic location; it has something to do with our past.

If we review our assets and liabilities we will conclude that we are, internationally, perhaps the most successful nation in relation to our size. Our assets were mentioned by the Minister tonight. We are the third largest investor of private-sector capital in the third world. We control the second position in terms of capital investment worldwide. We are the largest dealer in foreign exchange, which makes one wonder whether the concern about entering the EMU is real or perceived. We have attracted more foreign investment than any other single country in the EU.

We have a remarkably stable government. Perhaps the weakness is that both Houses of Parliament sit too long and that there has been too much immigration from the other place and not enough migration in that direction from your Lordships' House. Those of us from ancient Goidel tribes who suffer from the concern of the hereditary principle know that never having a vote yet having to pay taxation—no taxation without representation—makes one realise that democracy does not exist here at home.

What is the point of a debate such as this? In 1974 my noble friend Lady Macleod and I had the privilege of responding to the Queen's Speech. I had to say that the linchpin of our defence policy was NATO. The linchpin of our defence policy is still NATO. But we seem to have moved ahead and seek to defend other people from each other rather than defending ourselves. We have no concern about the defence of the realm.

What is our foreign policy? No one has asked that question tonight. I once asked those in the Foreign Office what was our foreign policy. They asked, "Where, my dear chap?". I named a particular country and they said, "We always have a policy when we need one. We have several alternative policies and when a policy is needed we can bring forward the right one, but there is no such thing as a general foreign policy". My noble friend nods her head but we might look back and ask, who had a foreign policy and why?

Initially, foreign policy was always determined by the private sector. I speak not of Livingstone, Rhodes or Brazza, who I always thought was Italian rather than French, or even of King Leopold. They all went out into the world to gain, but they recognised that they had to do good and to get rid of slavery. Having listened to your Lordships today I know that the belief is that we should do good for other people as part of our duty in life. However, most people have forgotten what we should do in order to do good for ourselves. If we confine our interests to the European Union, which we do not, we shall be limited by the economic strength of those countries. We have a deficit in manufactures with Germany of £6 billion a year, even though it is our largest trading partner, but I believe that one should trade with people at a profit. There should be a balance of payment in one's favour rather than against one.

Our competitors in the European Union—every nation is a competitor—have ideas and foreign policies of their own. I suggest that Germany's foreign policy is not actually a foreign policy but a policy directly related to its nearest neighbours. In general and for one reason or another, Germany has not sought to pursue a worldwide economic policy. On the other hand, France changes a little with governments and uses lovely Gallic expressions of, "On the one hand", "On the other hand", and "Somewhere in the middle is the right idea but we are never sure where the middle will be". France is looking for her own international developments.

We should have our own free, independent foreign policy while at the same time supporting international agencies with aid. If 50 per cent. of all our aid goes to multilateral agencies and the amount of spend which comes back to this country is not so great, there are two solutions. We can change that policy or increase the level of aid. I prefer the second alternative. Equally, if we are concerned about our own political and economic future we must acknowledge that the world is not necessarily our oyster but that we are a free bird which may fly as far and as wide as it wishes.

As we move forward we are using the terrible modern word "collectivism". I recall some of my Ukrainian friends recently pointing out that I was a lackey of socialist bureaucracy; that I had no idea of how to get things done; that for money I relied entirely on governments and international agencies; and that there was no initiative. At the same time, this nation's greatest service has been to roll back the frontiers of collectivism.

I do not like the word "privatisation", but I shall pay lip-service to it. Privatisation has done so much to introduce freedom and to encourage investment and development. Whether one uses the term BOT or PFI, historically the private sector built the roads and the railways and developed the mines and the ports. Here we stand today with the greatest collection of capital in the world and the greatest foreign exchange dealings. Probably—dare I say it?—we are the most trusted nation and the one which within the European Union has the greatest political and foreign policy power should we wish to or know how to use it.

The Government are there to serve the people. The problem is that there are not enough Goidels or those of the Bretonic origin who go out into the world, either to the West or to the East to pursue and develop British interests because it pays them so to do. We have become a little inward looking but at the same time we have made our country the most attractive in the world for non-British people to live in. The low level of taxation for foreigners has attracted new investment. Ours is a great country in which to live.

There are moments of faint amusement, and I suppose the most anti-Germanic statement made today in the press was the decision of the Inland Revenue to tax the German footballers on their profits from the recent football challenges, which I think was unfair, but perhaps in order. The Government have done a lot. They do not really need a foreign policy. I do not believe that there is a need to do anything other than to react and to pursue our relationships, which we have done very actively.

Like my noble friend Lord Beloff, I find that there is a two-tier system. The private sector on the Continent of Europe does not necessarily follow the views of government. There is no problem in the relationships between those who trade, those who buy and those who sell. There is a great understanding, but ultimately there are different cults and different opinions in our blood. We have a good opportunity ahead of us. I would not like it to be squandered by collectivism and too much bureaucracy.

8.51 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I am fascinated by the speculations of the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, but I would like to be rather more specific. I am glad that the gracious Speech mentioned the search for a durable peace in the Middle East. I wish to concentrate on one part of that region, namely Israel and its immediate neighbours. At the end of last August a large group of Jews, Christians and Moslems from Israel, Palestine and some other countries met in Greece at Thessaloniki. After five days they issued a message of concern and encouragement from which I should like to quote: Creating a climate favourable to negotiations is the common responsibility of Israelis and Palestinians. Both parties need to build trust by faithfully implementing past agreements and by NOT predetermining future negotiations by changing the situation on the ground. The collective closure of Jerusalem endangers prospects for peace. We are pained when people are denied access to places of worship, employment, education and health care. We urge the Israeli Government not to confiscate land, expand settlements, demolish Palestinian houses or revoke the residency rights of Palestinians from Jerusalem. Jerusalem is called to be a city of peace, but there is no peace now. Confidence-building requires that Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem and elsewhere be maintained". The message concluded by proposing the widest possible peace education. Nobody will quarrel with that. It urged the Government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority to regain momentum towards peace in accordance with United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338, the Oslo agreements of 1993 and subsequent agreements. I quote again: Joint action in the name of our Abrahamic heritage is essential to turn principles into reality … so that our peoples may enjoy their natural and human rights as God meant it to be. The point of this rather long quotation is that it shows how, in spite of atrocities, hatred and fears, reasonable people from the three great religions centred on Jerusalem, many of whom had come together in Switzerland only three years ago, can meet and agree. They identified the key issues. Their approach was a problem-solving one which, if more widely adopted, can only lead to net gains for all concerned. I pray that their example may become contagious, together with that of another mixed body known as IPCRI, or the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information. I have met with this body in both Jerusalem and London. It has always rejected violence and can draw on a wealth of expertise—political, civil service, military and academic—from both entities. It has already produced agreed documents on such difficult issues as the equitable division of water supplies or the future of Jerusalem. I believe that we should support all such bridge-building work.

I want next to mention places of pilgrimage. Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and certain places in Galilee attract several million visitors each year. The United Nations has accepted that there should be unrestricted access to the holy places of the three great monotheistic religions. Such access, of course, must be unarmed and be in a spirit of pilgrimage. That principle is at present contravened because Israel, as the occupying military power, does not allow free access to Jerusalem for residents of Gaza and the West Bank. The principle has also been breached almost since partition in 1948 as regards bona fide Jewish access to the Temple Mount. There is a worldwide interest in upholding the principle of unrestricted access, which in turn will confer huge economic benefits from tourism to both Israel and the Palestinian authority. To implement this principle may well require a degree of supra-national organisation and control. This is not a matter, in my view, which should be postponed until after all other negotiations have been completed.

I turn now to the wider context. Peace agreements have already been reached between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan. That is greatly to be welcomed. In the first case, vast areas of land and several settlements were given up in return for a comprehensive agreement. The second case has already led to the beginning of the rational sharing of the waters of the Yarmuk and Jordan rivers. It is now possible to post a letter or to make a telephone call from Amman to Tel Aviv. However, we cannot be satisfied with partial success and I trust that the Egyptian and Jordanian Governments will use all their influence, diplomacy and persuasion to assist the Government of Israel to negotiate and reach agreement with the Palestinian authority, and then with Syria and the Lebanon.

Greater responsibility still lies with Western Europe and the European Union in particular. Nowhere is a common foreign policy more urgently needed. It is not enough merely to urge the parties to resume talks. It should be made clear that failure to honour the Oslo and subsequent agreements will carry penalties. Agreements on Israeli access to European Union markets could be revoked. Spare parts and military supplies could be stopped. Compliance with Oslo, which in itself reflected much earlier United Nations resolutions, includes the release of Palestinian detainees, freedom of movement between Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Hebron and other parts of the West Bank.

I therefore have to ask Her Majesty's Government: will they take the lead in the European Union to ensure that there is real action and not just correct, pious words? Will they take risks and be prepared, if necessary, for sacrifices in the interests of peace which will benefit all, both in the Middle East and in Western Europe? The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, did not, I fear, go quite as far as I would have liked in her opening speech and I hope that I can persuade the noble Earl who will reply to be even more positive.

Security is mutual. Without peace there can be little security. Everyone remains at the mercy of the bomb and the bullet. Co-existence requires the creation of a common frontier which is mutually and internationally recognised. Peace therefore calls for a Palestinian state, perhaps not tomorrow or immediately but in due course, and not just a series of bantustans divided by Israeli occupied corridors. I emphasise that such a new state need not be a threatening one. It would have only one seaport and no international airport. It would have no army and a large, and I am sorry to say, impoverished population. It is nevertheless the key to peace with honour and mutual respect.

The first stage of such a peace will be two fully functioning states in Israel and Palestine capable of addressing all local needs, including those of the large Palestinian minority within the state of Israel. The next step might then lie with the Jewish and Palestinian diasporas scattered throughout the world who together might join forces with United Nations agencies and other donors to remedy the bad living conditions of those Palestinians who happen to be in Lebanon and certain adjoining countries.

9 p.m.

Lord Mayhew

My Lords, we should all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, not only for the constructive views he put forward but also for his personal participation in what sounded like a thoroughly positive peace initiative. He spoke also of the Israeli participation in the initiative he describes. It is always extremely important and helpful to remember that some of the best supporters of the peace process are Israelis, and that there is a large number of them. Half the voters in the recent Israeli election voted for Mr. Peres and the peace process. A large number of those who voted for Mr. Netanyahu voted for him because he promised to continue the peace process; a promise which, tragically, he has since failed to live up to.

It would be most unfair to identify the Israeli people with the comparatively small number of racial and religious fanatics who, unfortunately, are the mainstay of the present Israeli Government. What the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said was fully in line with the statements on Palestine made by the Minister and by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. Indeed at times this afternoon there seemed to be developing an unusual consensus on the subject of Palestine, interrupted a little by two brave dissenting voices, that of the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, and that of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, who spoke unkindly about the growing European involvement in the peace process. They spoke especially disparagingly about President Chirac. This increased involvement is taking place, and predictably it is opposed by the government of Israel and warmly supported throughout the Arab world, specifically by President Assad, President Arafat, President Mubarak and King Hussein. I was surprised to read the statement reported to have been made by Mr. Rifkind in Thursday's Guardian that: No-one in the region wants Europe to get into some competition with the U.S. for influence". He also said that no one in the region wants the European involvement. But that could hardly be further from the truth. It would be truer to say that everyone in the Middle East wanted Europe to do this except for the Israeli Government.

It seems to me that the consequences can be positive. Of course it is objected that Europe is not united on what needs to be done about Palestine. On the other hand, earlier this month European Ministers issued a unanimous statement of three pages attributing the outbreak of violence to the failure of Israel to fulfil its obligations under the Oslo Agreement. They urged Israel to withdraw its troops from Hebron, to release political prisoners, to lift the ban on Palestinian workers entering Israel, to shut the tunnel entrance near the Temple Mount and to cease prejudicing Palestinian rights in Jerusalem. The statement was unanimous.

It can be objected of course that Europe has fewer cards to play on Israel than the United States. It is certainly true to say that Israel is even more dependent on the United States financially, diplomatically and militarily than on Europe. The Americans have more power than the Europeans to pressurise Israel. They have power to pressurise Israel if they want to, but they never want to—that is the point—and they do not. It is true that 40 years ago President Eisenhower instructed the Israelis to obey the Security Council and withdraw their invading troops from Sinai. They obeyed. However, to my knowledge not since then has any American president come near to showing the same willingness to exercise pressure over Israel, not even when—as over Hebron today—Israel is breaking an agreement signed by the United States. As I believe everyone knows, and as events constantly confirm, Israel is the friend and ally of the United States. The freedom of action of United States governments in the Middle East is strictly limited by the Israeli lobby in Washington. Few people wish to discuss this frankly, but it is an essential feature and everyone knows it.

I wish that the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, was present now. I am sure that, like me, he has spoken to Israeli congressmen and senators about the media and financial pressures put on them in relation to Palestine. He knows of that. It is an anomaly that the United States should monopolise peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. They have done so for decades and it has not worked. Significantly, the only successful intervention in Arab-Israeli relations, the Oslo Agreements, was masterminded by Europeans, with the Americans deliberately kept at a distance.

In that field a couple of unofficial Norwegians proved more successful than half-a-dozen American Secretaries of State. There is hope still of saving the Oslo Agreements. It is to be hoped that the British Government and other European governments—after all, they provide 80 per cent. of international aid for the Palestinian authority and have considerable influence with the Palestinians, which is very relevant—took a higher profile and made a bigger contribution to peace in Palestine.

Another topical subject raised in the debate was that of the elimination of nuclear weapons. It led to a memorable debate between the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. We have to recognise that the desirability and legality of the possession of nuclear weapons is increasingly under challenge at this time, in part because of such reports as the Canberra Report and in part because of a recent judgment of the International Court of Justice.

I thought that the most persuasive parts of the Canberra Report were those dealing with nuclear disarmament rather than those dealing with nuclear weapons elimination. The report concedes that at best verification can only be 85 per cent. reliable. It is hard to persuade the United States or the Russians to get rid of their last 100 nuclear weapons when verification is only 85 per cent. reliable. I should not like to attempt the task myself. I wonder whether one would succeed in persuading Israel to abandon its nuclear weapons when weapons of mass destruction are accumulating in the countries hostile to it in the Middle East, or in persuading India and Pakistan, which, to their shame, have refused to sign the comprehensive test ban treaty. With verification at 85 per cent., I wonder whether one would succeed in persuading those countries to abandon nuclear weapons altogether.

I thought that the case for disarmament put forward in the Canberra Report was very strong indeed. I am sorry that there has been so little discussion of the matter, not only in this debate but in Parliament generally and in the media. How many people know that 158 members of the United Nations voted for the comprehensive test ban treaty and three opposed, including India and Pakistan? But that was a tremendous achievement. Before the Recess I raised the question of trying to appease the Indian Government by taking nuclear disarmament along with signature to the treaty. I have to concede to the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, that, on reflection and in the light of subsequent events, I think she was right and I was wrong. The treaty has been signed, and that is a great advance.

When the Minister replies, perhaps he will respond to these questions. Where do we go from here? What action are the Government taking in relation to bringing the treaty to fulfilment? What other plans do they have to pursue the kind of disarmament and confidence-building measures that are outlined most persuasively in the Canberra Report?

A third major subject raised in the debate is the expansion of NATO. I have to confess to serious concern about the Government's approach. Mr. Portillo is to be commended for thinking hard about the matter and for setting out his ideas quite clearly, both in the debate last week in the Commons and in the columns of The Times.

My anxiety stems from the different priority that he and the Government are giving to NATO's relations with the countries of Eastern Europe and its relations with Russia. From every point of view, NATO's relations with Russia should come first. That must be so. It is the only country which in the future is a potential threat, a country that is divided, uncertain, unpredictable, suspicious, weakened and yet with a strategic nuclear deterrent which is wholly unimpaired. Our first priority must be to improve relations and establish trust.

I am worried that the Government and Mr. Portillo speak most precisely and energetically about NATO's relations with Eastern Europe but only vaguely about NATO's relations with Russia. Mr. Portillo naturally does not raise the question of Russian membership of NATO. Joint command of Russian and Western nuclear and conventional weapons is too remote to be usefully discussed. The best he says is that he will consult with the Russians; and he puts forward plans for co-operation on a number of sensible sounding confidence-building measures. But the rest is vague in the extreme. He wrote in The Times: We need to work with Russia on the architecture of our new security. No one can describe exactly what the building will look like when finished. And for the moment even Russian defence ministers have other things on their mind". Let us compare that with the precision and speed with which Mr. Portillo outlines proposals for extending NATO membership to the Eastern European countries. He writes: At a summit next year, decisions will be taken to invite a number of countries to begin accession negotiations. I hope NATO will be able to welcome the first new members in 1999, its 50th anniversary". The assumption seems to be that this headlong rush to embrace the countries of Eastern Europe will not seriously damage NATO's relations with Russia, which should be the first priority. Mr. Portillo gives no reason why that should be possible. All the evidence shows exactly the opposite. All the evidence is that it will have a disastrous effect on NATO's relations with Russia. The Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Primakov, said: Russia will never accept NATO enlargement, not because it has any right of veto but because it will not tolerate the worsening geopolitical situation and will stand by its interests". The leaders of Ukraine and Belarus have condemned the concept of NATO's expansion in far less moderate terms than that. We were all interested in the remarks about Ukraine made by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. He hinted that the Ukrainians would be upset. Their leaders have said quite firmly that it is something they will not tolerate.

We are dealing here with the leaders. But what about the opposition in those countries: the extremists, the nationalists, the Communists? When American troops appear on the frontiers of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, and the Germans, and perhaps the Poles, with or without nuclear weapons, what are we to predict about reactions in those countries? It will be a godsend to the extremists against the democratic forces. It will be a godsend to the extreme nationalists and extreme Communists. It will be a great blow to the tender plant of democracy in those countries.

What will happen to the Baltic states? Obviously they cannot become members. We cannot put the shield of Article 5 of NATO over countries with huge Russian minorities, countries we have no possibility of defending in any case. They are therefore isolated and the presence of NATO forces on the Russia frontiers will greatly increase the urge of the Russians to exert more authority over the Baltic states.

What will we gain from all this? The Baltic states are only one example of the difficulty of knowing where to draw the line. Hungary joins, but what about Romania? The Czech Republic joins, but what about Slovakia? We risk a great deal of trouble. We are likely to exacerbate the old disputes between some of these countries. The decision-making capacity of NATO will in any case be muddled up by the increase in numbers and it may also have to compete with vigorous internal disputes between the new members.

Who will pay for this expansion? The extra defence commitments will call for extra resources, more resources than those contributed by the new members.

In conclusion, I do not say that the expansion of NATO is wrong in principle. I say that we must put our relations with Russia first. I hope that the Government will note the anxieties expressed during this debate and will agree that further thought and discussion are needed before action is taken as envisaged by Mr. Portillo.

9.23 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I must first declare an interest. I have for much of my life worked—and still work—both professionally and voluntarily in the spheres of international, developmental, humanitarian and security affairs.

This has been a wide-ranging, informed and, I think we would all agree, at times powerful debate. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester bade us a memorable farewell. We shall miss him. I believe we could do with a great deal more of his direct candour in our debates.

At times I thought that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, was going to hijack the entire debate with his powerful intervention. I recalled, as he was speaking, that it was my privilege to be a junior defence Minister when he was Chief of Defence Staff. As I said to him informally earlier today, they were very special occasions when I was allowed to sit in at discussions about strategy which he led. The Canberra Report is worth reading. I commend it to those who have not yet been able to study it. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, demonstrated in his very direct way that there is not unanimity in response to the report. I hope that on some occasion we can have a fuller debate and examine its significance more profoundly.

I listened with some interest to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff—I always do—and to the noble Lords, Lord Weidenfeld, and Lord Pearson of Rannoch. There is one question I should like to put to them at this stage. It seems to me arguable that there is considerable statesmanship, wisdom and courage in German political leadership because the German leadership of the day is determined to lock a powerful Germany into a European Community. The question we have to ask ourselves is: what will be the long-term price should, for example, a young, nationalistic German politician at some time come onto the stage if our only response to that statesmanship is to spurn the imagination at present being shown?

The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, took us a little further in the debate today. I was intrigued. He argued that in perhaps a few hundred years' time the situation may have changed. People in Europe may have come to see their mutual interests and how the things that hold them together across frontiers are more important than the things that divide them. At that stage things which might not be appropriate now would become appropriate. I put this to the noble Lord. Why, with all his powers of debate—we all enjoy his powers of debate—does he not lead in the process of transforming public opinion instead of remaining a prisoner of existing prejudice?

I listened with some pleasure to what the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and others said about the BBC overseas service. All I can say is, "Well said". We on this side of the House totally applaud such sentiments. To undermine one of the hallmarks of Britain at its best and an institution which has won goodwill for Britain right across the world and to introduce divided career loyalties among staff who in the past have guaranteed its success by their undivided commitment to that service is madness.

I must say how much I enjoyed the thoughts of my noble friend Lady Gould. We have not heard from her for some time but her speech was worth waiting for. What she had to say about the importance of women in the international community needed to be said. The power of womanhood in international society could represent a tremendous force for progress. It is sad and worrying that at the moment we see the danger signals that instead of advancing we may be being encouraged to retreat.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, knows better than most that I want only to sing a duet whenever he speaks. I find myself so much at one with his sentiments.

Many of the contributions deserve detailed follow-up but I hope that I shall be forgiven if I concentrate on themes which struck me as the debate proceeded. We live together in a tightly knit, if frequently fraught, world community. It is difficult to think of a significant social issue which will confront our children and grandchildren that can be successfully handled within the context of our nation state or indeed of the European Union alone. The economy, finance, trade, the environment, pollution, global warming, climate, rising sea levels, conflict, refugees, migration, terrorism, the arms trade, food security, health, drug trafficking and crime—the list is formidable. All demand effective and urgent international co-operation and relevant global strategies.

We have been repeatedly reminded that this is the last gracious Speech before the general election. In that election the British people will almost certainly elect a government to take us into the next millennium. Would that the gracious Speech had reflected the vision, the insight, the statesmanship and the courage to face up to the century ahead! I fear that it totally failed to do so in its preoccupation with the short-term game of political tactics. I fear that it will be come to be seen as a historic opportunity missed, one more occasion when politics became still further demeaned by yet another betrayal of future generations.

I am deeply saddened and not a little fearful when I look at decent and imaginative Members of the Front Bench opposite trapped in a morass of popularism, repeatedly entangled with the sinister forces of xenophobia and nationalism within the ranks of their own party. It is not edifying and it does not augur well for democracy. The key to successful democracy is surely creative tension between, on the one hand, yes, accountability; but on the other, strong, firm leadership. Where is that leadership in government today?

Next month the World Food Summit will take place in Rome against the backcloth of one of the most beautiful and magnificent cities in the world. But the real backdrop to that summit is the appalling deprivation to which so many people in the world are still subjected. More than 800 million do not have enough to eat, while half a billion are chronically malnourished. That is despite more than enough food in the world to feed everybody—perhaps one-and-a-half times as much as is required. I hope therefore that the United Kingdom will take a lead in examining the rules of world food trade as well as its volume.

The Uruguay Round forced governments in developing countries to liberalise their agricultural markets but at the same time failed to deal with direct and indirect subsidies paid to northern producers and designed to gain market share. Far from a level playing field, that often presents farmers in the developing world with an impossible mountain to scale. For example, how can the 500,000 corn producers of Mindanao in the Philippines who earn less than 100 dollars a year relish a playing field which pits them in direct competition with US producers who enjoy subsidies 100 times greater than their income? What in fact happens is the destruction of local markets and a vicious circle of declining local production and growing dependence on imports.

In December Ministers will gather for a meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Singapore. The WTO has a vital role to play in opening up world trade, but we must never overlook the social dangers. I hope therefore that in Singapore the United Kingdom will give a lead on the issues of child and forced labour and the denial of the right to free association. The World Trade Organisation badly needs a social convention dealing with those matters. While we must be careful not to use such a convention as our own protectionism by the back-door, it could help to prevent irresponsible companies from travelling the world in search of ever lower social and environmental standards—a practice which compounds the deprivation of other parts of the world, frequently wrecks the environment and also threatens British workers.

More than 1,000 million people still miserably cling to life on less than one dollar a day, 1.75 billion have no access to safe water and more than 35,000 children die every day of every year in painfully distressing circumstances from preventable diseases. In an age of unprecedented wealth, of the most incredibly sophisticated technology, how can we continue to condone that? How can we condone millions more going prematurely to their graves, never having begun to fulfil their potential? That is why the Overseas Development Administration is so essential and why it should have the authority and status of a fully-fledged department of state. The ODA should be there to ensure that the values which ought to be central to our own national life are applied in meeting our responsibilities as members of the global community as well.

Well-targeted development assistance works. I have seen it working often for myself. To provide it is our moral duty. But as so often with sound morality, it is in our enlightened self-interest as well. As the Minister said, it creates markets and investment opportunities; it reduces the breeding grounds of conflict; it tackles at source many of the problems which stem from poverty; and it is altogether more cost-effective than vast expensive relief and reconstruction operations when preventable disaster happens. But quality matters greatly. Why, despite the solemn commitments at the Social Summit in Copenhagen, are we making such slow progress—still little more than half-way toward the target of 20 per cent. of our development assistance for basic needs? Why still so small a proportion of our total aid budget for basic education and health in the poorest countries? Why so much aid to countries which spend so extensively on the purchase of arms, not least from Britain? What of the questionable commercial culture chipping away at the developmental integrity of aid programmes and perhaps inevitably leading to episodes like Pergau? Why, too, no lead on the untying of aid when, extraordinarily, the ODA's own studies have concluded that to give such a lead would be in the UK's interests no less than in the interests of the third world? And what of human rights? How much real significance is in fact given to them in determining aid programmes?

As has already been remarked, with so much of our aid programme now going through multilateral channels, not least the European Union, the need to throw British weight into constantly striving for quality and cost-effectiveness in these programmes cannot be overstated. There is a great deal to be said for multilateralism, but it must be effective. Too often, we have to face it, it is not. It has been distressing to see Britain's commitment to aid declining; down from 0.51 per cent. of our gross national product—our national wealth—in 1979 to just 0.29 per cent. and falling in 1996. And this amidst government claims of economic recovery and strength.

The Minister likes to refer to private investment. But private investment, although vital, seldom targets the poorest. And whatever the Minister may say, it is sad that we now stand at only 14th out of 21 in the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD league table in terms of the proportion of our national wealth we devote to aid. Surely, as one of the only five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, we ought, as indeed should the other four, to put our commitment and our example where we want our status and influence to be. The decline must be halted and reversed. We shall be delighted if that happens in the Budget next month. But if it does not, we on these Benches will reverse the trend when we come to office.

In all this sorry saga there has been one ray of light. The Chancellor deserves the appreciation of us all for the part he has played in achieving international agreement on the alleviation of third world debt. Debt was crucifying some of the poorest countries. What has now been agreed at the International financial institutions will potentially make a powerful contribution to the fight against world poverty. But we shall need to be vigilant. The opportunity could all too easily be frittered away. Everything possible must now be done to ensure that the benefits are effectively targeted on poverty reductions.

The role of the international financial institutions has not always been so helpful. It is no coincidence that the IMF reforms and the consequent deterioration in living standards preceded the genocide in Rwanda. Coming on the heels of the collapse in the world price of coffee, the IMF strategy for change in Rwanda showed a disturbing lack of sensitivity to the tensions and dangers of that country. Prior to the genocide, Western nations showed crass indifference to the tensions of the region, and when civil war erupted and then turned into genocide, Western reaction, to our eternal shame, was studious disengagement while half a million people perished. Over two years later we still remain politically disengaged despite the fact that in the Rwandese refugee camps, in Burundi and now in Eastern Zaire we are witnessing bloodletting and intimidation on a truly dreadful scale. In Central Africa emergency aid has been the substitute for a meaningful political policy. The result is chaos and the sickening danger of the worst and most evil chapter yet to come, with violent human catastrophe overtaking the region as a whole.

Humanitarian action, and when necessary military action, can be part of political action. But as we saw so clearly in Somalia, they can never be a substitute for it. What is needed now, and fast, is a political analysis of the Great Lakes region as a whole and a political strategy for working towards viable stability. We look to the Minister to give us that lead.

Again and again we are seeing that conflicts and their consequences are inherently difficult and exorbitantly expensive to resolve when they have become violent. It really is essential that we make conflict prevention and proactive diplomacy priorities. I am amazed that Ministers of Finance across the world are not insisting on this. We need to equip the international community with the means of identifying potential conflicts before they erupt in violence and we need to follow up that early warning with preventive action. Both the United Nations and the European Union, in its moves towards a more successful common, foreign and security policy, have central parts to play. The Government should be pursuing this within the Intergovernmental Conference on the European Union. An ability to develop this critical work should be high on the list of relevant criteria by which the choice of the strongest possible next Secretary-General of the United Nations is made.

It is almost a cliché to say that the challenges which face us today are totally different from those of the cold war. Yet there is little evidence that that has been grasped by the Government as they have implemented draconian Treasury-driven cuts in our military capability. The defence budget has fallen by 27 per cent. in real terms between 1986 and 1996. As a result, Britain now has a dangerous mismatch between commitments and resources. In addition to ensuring the security of our islands and dependent territories, our Armed Services are being repeatedly faced with challenging new missions as UN peace-keepers and supporters of humanitarian operations, which are tasks in which they have excelled.

Globally, we are faced with changes in the balance of power which will see vastly increased significance for East Asia. Already military spending in East Asia as a whole is equal to that of NATO Europe. At the same time there is the deep and profound crisis in Russia and the former Soviet Union. So far, we have all been pretty lucky, but how long will it last? How do we relate the Russian trauma to the expansion of NATO? How do we avoid provoking what we want to avoid?

The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, are right to be concerned. NATO expansion must at all costs obviously be carefully considered in the context of the need for confidence-building and peace-building in the wider theatre, especially with Russia. The objective must be to bring Russia into the international community and not to exclude her with God knows what consequences. Meanwhile, there is clearly room to continue developing welcome flexibility within NATO as it stands by emphasising the role of the Western European Union, not least in humanitarian and peace-keeping tasks. The growing importance of the OSCE is also significant for Europe's wider stability. It deserves more United Kingdom encouragement.

Against all that I argue that it is inexcusable that, with all the momentous shifts in the global context, there has been no comprehensive review of the world situation and what it means for our Armed Services. Such a review is an imperative. We on these Benches are pledged to undertake it when we come to office. We owe it to the dedicated men and women of our Armed Services and to all who support them, not least in the defence industry. They all badly need to be able to look ahead with confidence to what is expected of them.

The review will obviously have to encompass the vital role of arms control, disarmament and security policy. For now I shall just endorse what my noble friend Lady Blackstone has already said—how much we welcome the Government's commitment in the gracious Speech to ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to negotiations on the convention to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other explosive purposes.

However, we are sorry that the Government did not go on to include among their objectives a freeze on the numbers of nuclear warheads, with no more on Trident than on Polaris; a negotiated multilateral no-first-use agreement among nuclear weapon states, strengthened security assurances to non-nuclear weapon states; more assistance to the countries of the former Soviet Union with the dismantling of their nuclear weapons and with the improvement of safety standards at their nuclear bases and civil nuclear power stations; the effective implementation of the chemical weapons convention; a strengthening of the biological and toxic weapons convention; a European code of conduct to ensure that conventional arms exports from the European Union are not to be used for aggressive purposes, for internal repression or to be purchased at the expense of meeting the basic social needs of the populations of the importing countries and reinforcing the United Nations conventional arms register. We believe all these to be priorities.

In conclusion, the Scott Report underlined the need for greater accountability and transparency in the conduct of arms exports. Parliament must never again be kept in the dark about the destination of British-manufactured military equipment. Unrestrained arms sales can too easily threaten regional security, undermine the goals and achievements of overseas development policy and even, as Saddam has demonstrated, threaten our own security.

Reflecting on our debate today, it is clear to me that we can no longer settle for a purely military approach to security. Security must be seen in a mature and comprehensive perspective. Defence policy and overseas development policy, for example, should not be separate endeavours, each to be pursued in isolation; they should be complementary, reflecting our determination to ensure that we live up to our responsibilities in the 21st century both to the world community as a whole and, by doing that well, to our own children and grandchildren.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, will he tell the House whether, assuming that we arrive in office, the new Labour Government would follow the exact example of the existing regime in retaining Trident and in being ready to use it in certain circumstances?

Lord Judd

My Lords, our policy is absolutely and categorically clear. We shall retain Trident. We shall have no more warheads than on Polaris. We shall embark seriously on comprehensive nuclear and general disarmament policies and as soon as it becomes relevant and practical to do so, we shall make Trident part of that policy.

9.46 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe)

My Lords, it is a privilege for me to close this foreign affairs and defence debate on the gracious Speech. The past few hours have provided us with a most interesting and thought-provoking session. We have covered a lot of ground. Indeed, we have covered so much ground that I feel bound to deliver my usual prefatory remarks with more than usual emphasis. If I do not manage to answer all the points or questions raised by noble Lords, I apologise in advance and, to the extent that I do not manage to do so, either I or my noble friend Lady Chalker will write separately on the specific issues where appropriate.

As today's debate has illustrated, defence and foreign affairs are more closely linked than ever before. The strategic threat to Western Europe has gone. But in its place have appeared a series of more localised threats based on instability, unrest and ethnic and regional tension.

In such a climate the promotion of international peace and stability serves the interests not only of countries like the United Kingdom but the international community as a whole. Our Armed Forces are being used more than ever before to promote our national interests overseas and their professionalism and integrity have made them respected wherever they operate around the globe.

My noble friend Lady Chalker has already referred to the situation in Bosnia and to the priorities for peace implementation. I begin by focusing briefly on the military operations there. British troops are in the fourth year of operations in the former Yugoslavia. They have performed admirably, both as part of UNPROFOR and, since December 1995, as part of the NATO-led implementation force, IFOR. IFOR has been a great success. It has achieved the military aims laid out in the Dayton Peace Agreement. The cessation of hostilities has been maintained. The forces of the former warring factions have been separated; and they and their weapons have been returned to barracks and cantonment sites. Their movement is controlled by IFOR, and IFOR has responded robustly to any non-compliance. IFOR is helping to bring peace and stability to the Bosnian people. It is a credit to NATO and a source of pride for all troop contributors.

Noble Lords are well aware of the UK's substantial involvement. We initially committed over 11,500 troops, with a further 3,000 Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel based offshore and in Italy. We currently have around 9,000 troops on the ground and 500 service personnel offshore and in Italy. We remain the second largest IFOR contributor.

The headquarters of the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps—a multi-national, but largely British-manned, headquarters—has led the overall land operation under the command of General Sir Michael Walker. This has been a powerful demonstration of NATO's effectiveness in the alliance's first ever land operation. The ARRC headquarters has been in Bosnia for almost a year and will shortly begin its handover to the NATO LANDCENT headquarters as part of the IFOR drawdown. I should like to congratulate General Walker and all his staff on their outstanding achievements.

The United Kingdom also leads the multinational division in the south-west sector of Bosnia. That division has firmly established itself on both sides of the inter-entity boundary line and has ensured strict compliance with the military provisions of Dayton. The division has worked closely and successfully with the Overseas Development Administration. Since April it has undertaken over 210 ODA projects costing £5.7 million to rebuild the infrastructure of the area. Such visible and tangible benefits have shown the people of Bosnia the advantages of peace. My noble friend Lady Chalker will be visiting Bosnia next week. IFOR will complete its mission in December but the international effort in Bosnia will continue. As the noble Marquess, Lord Tweeddale, stressed, the primary focus must be the continuing civil operation. Reconciliation and co-operation between the parties is the key to peace. Foreign military forces cannot remain indefinitely in Bosnia. This difficult political problem does not have a military solution.

There has been much speculation about what might follow IFOR. I will not add to that speculation here other than to note what my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary said recently in another place. If there were to be an international force in Bosnia in 1997 we would expect it to be NATO-led like IFOR. That is why NATO has set in train contingency planning by NATO military authorities. It makes no assumptions about the final outcome, which will allow us to keep options open for later political decisions. Equally, I am sure noble Lords would agree that if there were to be such a force this country should play its part alongside its allies.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, spoke about war criminals in the former Yugoslavia. The United Kingdom strongly supports the international criminal tribunal. We have always stressed the importance of bringing to justice those responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia. The United Kingdom has provided evidence, personnel and financial support for its work. NATO and IFOR are similarly assisting the tribunal's activities, for instance by helping to protect the sites of suspected mass graves until the tribunal is able to investigate them. My noble friend will write to the noble Lord on some of the other matters in this area that he raised. In particular the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked about Radovan Karadzic. All IFOR troops, including those from the United Kingdom, have explicit orders to detain Karadzic if the opportunity arises. They have a remit to transfer him to the international tribunal in The Hague to face trial. IFOR patrols maintain a wide presence throughout Bosnia and carry out checks on vehicles and individuals. Karadzic and the other indicted persons are therefore at a heightened risk of arrest.

I should like to touch on the point raised by my noble friend Lord Kingsland about an international criminal court. The Government support the establishment of an international criminal court to try certain of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. Our support for the establishment of such a court is dependent, among other things, on it being a court of last resort in cases where states are unable or unwilling to act. We also feel that a court should be established only if it is generally accepted by the international community.

One of the major themes of today's debate has been proliferation and arms control. Like every other aspect of international relations, these subjects have undergone a change. Together, they are a fundamental element in stability and security both in Europe and wider afield. We are working to develop them further. Last year saw full implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (or CFE) Treaty. With the wider confidence and security-building measures of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, it provides unparalleled military transparency.

There has been progress in other areas. The Chemical Weapons Convention will soon enter into force. We look forward to its early ratification by the United States and Russia. We are working to develop effective verification provisions for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (or NPT) is the backbone of efforts to reduce and limit the spread of nuclear weapons. Only six states have not yet joined. In the spring we signed the protocols to the Treaties of Raratonga and Pelindaba on nuclear weapon free zones in the South Pacific and Africa. Last month as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, reminded us, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Some 130 states have already signed. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that we continue to work to further the process of nuclear non-proliferation and reductions in nuclear weapons.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, asked how the CTBT will be verified. There is provision in the treaty for an international monitoring system consisting of monitoring stations around the world, linked to a data centre which will be situated in Vienna. There is also provision for on-site inspections, if they are necessary, though we should have preferred a stronger regime. We are confident that that verification regime should provide an effective deterrent against further testing.

The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, asked about UK ratification. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made it clear on 11th September that it is our firm intention to ratify but legislation will be required for that. So unfortunately I am not in a position to give a date at this juncture.

We have noted the conclusions of the Canberra Commission to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, referred. He was kind enough to send me a copy of that report, for which I was grateful. The House will have listened to his speech with care. We remain committed to the pursuit of: negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to…nuclear disarmament". My right honourable friend Mr. Hurd, then Foreign Secretary, said in May 1995 that we would be prepared to join in negotiations on the reduction of nuclear weapons in a world in which US and Russian nuclear weapons were numbered in hundreds rather than thousands. More generally, let me say to the gallant and noble Lord and to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, whose consistency of purpose I greatly respect, nuclear disarmament cannot realistically be pursued independently of the broader security context; and we and NATO judge that nuclear deterrence continues to play an essential role in maintaining peace and stability in Europe.

On the issue of disarmament, I believe that the arguments deployed so cogently by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, deserve the closest attention. It is worth reminding ourselves of the simple fact that nuclear deterrence has prevented major conflict in Europe for over 50 years.

Arms control and non-proliferation are complemented by international export control arrangements. Those in support of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention are harmonised through the Australia Group.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred, in particular, to anti-personnel mines. We continue to work towards our goal of a total worldwide ban on anti-personnel mines and are working hard in all the relevant fora to achieve it. If such a ban can be agreed, we will give up our anti-personnel land mine capability and will destroy our stocks accordingly. But unilateral renunciation by the UK would not achieve the reduction of dangers to civilians that we seek. We need to balance the humanitarian concern posed by the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel land mines with a continuing military requirement. If we can convince major producers, exporters and users to ban those weapons then the UK is willing to join that consensus. We will also ban them if suitable alternatives can be found.

The noble Lord referred to an allegation about a particular UK company (Londesborough Security Equipment). My honourable friend Mr. Davis replied to that allegation on 27th October in a letter in the Independent on Sunday in which he said: Any company seeking to export such land mines would need to apply for an export licence. We have received no such application from the company in your article. We have made clear what our response to such an application would be. We would refuse it". The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, trenchantly expressed his views on NATO enlargement. Equally trenchant was the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. Earlier today my noble friend Lady Chalker touched on the enlargement of NATO and its relationships with the countries to the east, in particular Russia. Perhaps I may emphasise what my noble friend said. Britain is fully committed to NATO enlargement and to extending to the new democracies in the East the security and stability that membership of the alliance has helped to secure for the West. I note the concerns that that will unsettle Russia and the Ukraine and the disappointed candidates. Those concerns are well taken. That is why the allies have long recognised that NATO's policy will need to go beyond the question of which countries are admitted and when. Such countries will be few—at least in the short term. For the others—the majority of the 27 non-NATO nations that now belong to NATO's Partnership for Peace—there will need in parallel to be an enhancement of the partnership and there will need to be a more meaningful relationship with Russia and Ukraine.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that NATO's relationship with Russia is a vital element of the future security architecture of Europe, to pick up my right honourable friend's expression. We do not expect the Russians to welcome enlargement of NATO, but I think that the Russian Defence Minister, General Radionov, was surprised to find how open were the allies to the idea of co-operation when he met them in Bergen last month. We can still do more to exploit the opportunities for joint work with Russia offered by Partnership for Peace. Bosnia has shown what can be achieved. We might plan together for future joint military missions. We should make it the norm for the alliance to consult Russia on changes in which it could have an interest. There is scope for discussing together co-operation on countering terrorism, drugs trafficking, organised crime and weapons proliferation. If enough of substance emerges from that co-operation the relationship between Russia and NATO could be formalised in a charter. That could be accompanied by a revised CFE treaty to meet the new strategic realities in Europe.

Implicit in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, was a question about which countries would be invited to join. That question has not yet been decided. As he well knows, a number of countries are enthusiastic candidates for membership. The guiding principle is that the alliance should be strengthened by enlargement. Next year will not be the end of the story. NATO has taken in new members a number of times in its history and will doubtless continue to do so in the future.

My noble friend Lord Kingsland asked how Parliament would be consulted during the enlargement process. Parliament will be informed as appropriate of the negotiations on enlargement. It will be for the government of the day to decide on the modalities. NATO has not yet decided on the precise sequence or content of the process of accession for new members but the enlargement study states that there will be a protocol of accession which will have to be accepted by all allies before entry comes into force. In accordance with established procedures, we would lay that protocol before the House for 21 days before accepting it.

Our Armed Forces and the enlargement of NATO are not, of course, the only means of promoting Britain's interests and influence abroad. My noble friends Lady Rawlings and Lord Orr-Ewing and the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, spoke powerfully about the BBC World Service. As they will be aware, the FCO and the BBC World Service Working Group have agreed a series of 20 measures designed to ensure the continued protection of the World Service's interests and the maintenance of the special character, ethos, style and quality of World Service broadcasts. That is encouraging. We shall, however, be keeping a close watch on implementation. The working group will reconvene in autumn 1997 to ensure that the new measures agreed are functioning satisfactorily and producing the desired results. Meanwhile, my noble friend Lady Chalker recently met an all-party group from your Lordships' House to discuss the World Service. I know that she has made clear her wish to be consulted on any proposals which may affect the World Service in the future.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester devoted a good part of his final and compelling speech to overseas aid. I found myself in agreement with much of what he said. He and your Lordships will understand that I cannot pre-empt decisions by my right honourable friend the Chancellor in his forthcoming Budget.

Let me, however, remind your Lordships that in 1994-95 about three-quarters of United Kingdom bilateral assistance went to the poorest developing countries—well above average for all donors. Eight out of 10 of the biggest recipients were poor countries in Africa and Asia; a substantial proportion of the bilateral programme is devoted to meeting the basic needs of the poorest communities, as well as block grants to NGOs. In 1994–95 about £130 million was spent in this area. If emergency aid is included in the equation, the figure rises to £303 million—almost one-third of the bilateral programme.

The right reverend Prelate mentioned in particular sub-Saharan Africa. Forty-three per cent. of our bilateral aid (over £386 million in 1994–95) went to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa will continue to require very substantial amounts of development assistance. These countries have been and will continue to be a high priority for British help. Many have embarked upon structural adjustment and policy reform programmes, which take time to bear fruit. Their external funding needs are substantial in order to reconstruct their economies and provide for better living standards.

I agree with the right reverend Prelate that desperate poverty is still a problem in many parts of the world. Aid is not the only means of reducing poverty, however. Trade, investment, debt relief and so on must also play a part. I was grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for his perceptive remarks on that score. An important new target has been agreed by all donors this year of reducing by half, by the year 2015, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty. Britain is committed to this target, in partnership with the developing world. Let me say from these Benches how much we shall miss the contributions of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester to our debates. Like the noble Lord, Lord Judd, we wish him well in his retirement.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, spoke about tied aid. I shall not attempt to answer all the points that he made, but the benefits to the United Kingdom from the unilateral untying would be negligible. The benefits of multilateral untying would be much greater. What we must work for is international commitment by all countries to untie aid. The noble Lord went on to speak about debt, a subject which was also mentioned by other noble Lords. The British Government have taken the lead in pressing for a resolution to the debt problem of the poorest and most indebted countries. We were pleased to report that at the recent annual meetings of the World Bank and the IMF Ministers agreed the highly indebted poor countries' debt initiative based on proposals put forward by my right honourable friend the Chancellor for reducing the debts of these countries to a sustainable level.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gould, asked a number of detailed questions about the position of women in regard to development aid, education and the matter of United Kingdom advisers in the European Commission. I cannot answer all her questions now for reasons that she will understand, but I can say that the Government's national report on our response to the Beijing Programme of Action will be published next month. This will show that the percentage of bilateral aid designed to address the needs of women has increased to more than 20 per cent. in 1995-96 from 16 per cent. the year before. The United Kingdom is at the forefront of European Union and OECD work to take these issues further. In this work we are laying particular emphasis on increasing women's literacy. There are a number of ways of assessing progress in that, and I am sure that my noble friend Lady Chalker will wish to inform the House as appropriate when the time comes.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, dwelt on the vexed question of the United Nations' finances. Let me just say very briefly to the noble Lord that Her Majesty's Government believe that member states should pay their dues to the United Nations promptly, in full and without conditions. We will continue to press the European Union financial reform proposals, including the reform of the scale of United Nations assessments, based on the principle of capacity to pay, in order to solve the financial difficulties of the United Nations. However, I would not disguise from him that the situation is still serious. As at 30th September, amounts owing to the United Nations totalled 2.7 billion US dollars and of this the United States owed some 1.6 billion US dollars. We welcome the recent approval by Congress of US appropriations to the UN for 1996, but that will still leave a shortfall in US contributions to the United Nations and its agencies.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, suggested that UN human rights activity was circumscribed by lack of funds. Human rights are a recognised priority for the United Nations but funding provided for United Nations human rights work is nonetheless inadequate. We shall continue to push for more of the regular budget's existing resources to be allocated to human rights.

I noted with great interest the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield. He will understand that at this particularly sensitive juncture of public expenditure planning there is a natural limit to what I can say in response to him. However, there was much in his speech with which I can wholeheartedly agree, not least his emphasis on the United Kingdom's global interests and the excellent work performed around the world by our ambassadors and embassy officials in promoting British exports.

I turn briefly to some of the parts of the world to which noble Lords have referred. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe spoke knowledgeably and persuasively about the Ukraine. The House will be grateful for all that he said. Her Majesty's Government are committed to helping an independent, prosperous and democratic Ukraine play a full part in Europe, including in European security arrangements. The United Kingdom is assisting with political and economic reform bilaterally through high level contacts and our £20 million know-how fund allocation, as well as through action in the European Union and other multilateral fora such as EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development). The World Bank and IMF will also assist. My noble friend mentioned the need to maintain high level visits to the Ukraine. As he said, as a demonstration of the United Kingdom's support, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is to visit the Ukraine on 4th and 5th November.

My noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, spoke with some emphasis of the future of Hong Kong, and in particular of the ethnic minorities there. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced in Hong Kong that we would guarantee to members of that community admission and settlement in Britain in the unlikely event that they should come under pressure to leave Hong Kong after the transfer of sovereignty. That guarantee reinforces the Government's existing commitment to that group and will remove any doubts that might exist about whether they would be admitted to Britain. That group whose families have been in Hong Kong for many generations want to remain in Hong Kong. I believe that our reassurance will give them the confidence that they need to stay there.

The noble Baroness also asked about the outcome of talks with the Prime Minister of Zaire. My noble friend Lady Chalker and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary met the Zairian Prime Minister Kengo during his visit to London on 22nd October. They discussed the recent escalation of the conflict in eastern Zaire. They encouraged him to remain in close contact with all the regional leaders and to do all he can to diffuse tension with Rwanda and among different ethnic groups in eastern Zaire.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to OSCE and the human rights situation in Turkey. Let me simply say that Turkey as an OSCE participating state is bound by several undertakings on human rights. There will be an opportunity at the forthcoming OSCE review meeting in Vienna between 4th and 22nd November to draw attention to countries whose actions have given cause for concern, and Turkey is one of those.

A number of your Lordships have devoted considerable attention to Europe ranging from my noble friend Lord Pearson with his customary counsel of caution to the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, who spoke powerfully about our relations with France and Germany, and my noble friend Lord Bethell who made some telling points about a tendency in some quarters towards unhelpful and inflammatory Europhobia. My noble friend Lord Beloff and my noble friend Lord Bethell presented some contrasting aspects of the debate on the merits of the single European currency. I also listened with much interest to the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, whose experience in these matters is manifest.

In the time available to me I cannot hope to do justice to these important issues. My noble friend Lady Chalker will wish to write to noble Lords wherever that is appropriate, but I wish to reassure my noble friend Lord Bethell that the Chequers seminar plays absolutely no part in influencing our policy towards Germany which remains—as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, rightly observed—one of our most important and closest partners. However, time is now against me and although I had some comments to make about European enlargement, out of deference to the House's wishes at this late hour I shall forgo that part of my speech.

The major part of our debate today has centred on foreign affairs. I have referred to many of the themes raised. I hope that the House will allow me to close by reverting to the debate's other main theme: that of defence. There are three aspects of our policy that I wish to highlight. First, our Armed Forces are undertaking as wide a range of activities as ever before; and their ability to undertake high-intensity operations has not been diminished by their involvement in lower-intensity operations, including peacekeeping and humanitarian aid missions.

Secondly, we have successfully adapted our defence policies and force structures to take account of the new strategic setting. Our investment in mobility, flexibility and rapid reaction has given us forces better able to respond effectively to any challenges that may arise.

Finally, we attach great importance to the continuing drive to achieve value for money for defence. Our efficiency programmes and efforts to concentrate resources on the front line have produced savings that we have been able to plough back into enhancing our military capability.

Our Armed Forces are committed to the protection of this country and the promotion of our national interests. For our part, let there be no doubt, Her Majesty's Government are committed to our Armed Forces.

Lord Chesham

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.

Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(Lord Chesham.)

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