HL Deb 26 November 1998 vol 595 cc133-230

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Clinton-Davis—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".

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn)

My Lords, part of the area to be discussed this afternoon is foreign affairs. I need to mention to your Lordships that the case of Senator Pinochet remains sub judice and, under the rules of the House, no reference should be made to that case in this debate.

3.8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert)

My Lords, I am about to entertain your Lordships with discussion of one or two other matters that I am not going to talk about this afternoon. That is not out of any discourtesy to your Lordships, but because we have already considered certain defence matters fairly recently in this House and I hope that we shall debate them again in the near future.

As your Lordships will be aware, we debated NATO expansion not so long ago; we have twice discussed the future of the Territorial Army, and I hope that very shortly there will be time for a full debate on the Strategic Defence Review. The fact that I do not propose to refer to any of those matters in detail does not in any sense mean that I regard them as unimportant or that I would want—if I had the power, which, of course, I do not—to indicate that your Lordships might want to keep off those matters.

I thought that I should give your Lordships a brief tour d'horizon as we see it from the Ministry of Defence. I start with a brief résumé of the current activities in which Her Majesty's forces are involved. As your Lordships will know, we concluded in the Strategic Defence Review that we were not prepared to stand idly by; we are prepared to take a lead in the international community and to live up to our responsibilities. The clearest examples of that are found in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

We consider that the United Kingdom, under this Government and their predecessor, has made a considerable contribution to ensuring peace in Bosnia. The British Army has been there since 1992. We are the second largest contributor to SFOR. We have about 5,000 troops there and considerable air assets. We are the second largest contributor after America. We are, of course, extremely proud of our servicemen and women who play a vital part in creating and maintaining a secure environment in Bosnia. That has enabled the Bosnian people to start rebuilding their country. We hope very much that the first SFOR review will provide scope for force reductions in that unhappy country. However, I emphasise that I do not want in any sense to prejudice the outcome of that review which will, of course, need to be agreed by our allies.

In Kosovo we have responded quickly to a fast-moving situation. I am told that some 60 UK verifiers, many of them service personnel, are currently in the region. More will follow, and we expect to provide up to 200 personnel to the OSCE verification mission. We are also making available two Canberra PR-9s to the NATO air verification mission and have provided the head of the Kosovo co-ordination cell which is to be set up in Macedonia.

I turn briefly to Iraq. Your Lordships will be fully aware of the latest developments there. Many noble Lords will shortly receive yet another letter from my noble friend Lady Symons and myself. That letter will bring noble Lords up to date, should any details have been missed. I assure the House that our forces in the Gulf remain on high alert and on station, and that the military option is still in place. Looking at the response from Saddam Hussein in the past few days, the inconclusive exchange of letters between Iraq and UNSCOM last weekend is a very bad omen. It sits very oddly with Saddam Hussein's undertaking to provide full and unrestricted co-operation with the UNSCOM team. If we are forced to take military action, there should be no doubt whatever where the blame for that will lie. I very much welcome the recent attitude of the overwhelming majority of governments in the immediate region in the run-up to the latest crisis.

I now turn to some more fundamental matters arising from or in the context of the review. I was waylaid—if I may say that of so gentle a Member of this House—by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, asking me why there was no reference to nuclear matters in the gracious Speech. I thought it appropriate to address a few remarks to that question. As I am sure noble Lords will understand, it is not because Her Majesty's Government regard nuclear matters as unimportant. We have said that we are reducing the number of missiles and nuclear warheads to what we consider to be the minimum for a sustained, credible deterrent.

There will never be few enough missiles and warheads for some of my noble friends. Understandably, they want a nuclear-free world. I think I can say without hesitation that we should all like to see a nuclear-free world. We should like to see a world free of bombs, torpedoes, missiles and mines, not to mention light arms and bayonets. However, we do ourselves and the public no great service to talk in such language in a world in which, sadly, weapons of mass destruction are constantly proliferating. A nuclear-free world is not just round the corner—and that is not due merely to the indifference, idleness or incompetence of this Government, predecessor governments or governments in other countries.

This Government, like their predecessors, believe firmly in the deterrent power of nuclear weapons. They also believe in them as weapons of last resort. The question then arises: how does one reconcile a belief in the value of nuclear deterrence with a desire to see a world free of all weapons of mass destruction? Why can we not set a timetable for the elimination of our nuclear weapons if we really want to see a nuclear-free world?

I offer two answers. First, there are other countries which are now friendly but which have struck hostile attitudes towards us in the past, and which have, or could acquire, the power to deliver nuclear warheads on to our soil. Secondly, for a country with as small a nuclear arsenal as ours, we must wait until the conventional weapons accumulated in malevolent hands are reduced to levels where they pose no threat to ourselves, our friends or our interests around the world before we can safely undertake further disarmament ourselves.

On the question of proliferation, it is a sad fact that there are some 15 to 20 countries which have, probably have, or possibly have a chemical warfare capability at this time. By that, I mean a capability to deliver chemical weapons. It is also our assessment that there are some 10 to 15 countries of concern around the world which have, may very well possess, or we believe are trying to possess, the same capability in respect of biological weapons.

I see no threat to this country today from hostile intercontinental ballistic missiles. I see no threat from Russian forces driving westwards. I see no threat from backfire bombers coming at us from over Ireland. I see no threat from Spetznatz forces landing on our shores. There are, however, many other possible dangers that we face, some of them even from our friends, quite innocently. Some arise from matters about which your Lordships read every day in the press. One example is the millennium bug—not just in terms of what it might do to other countries' weapons systems; in that respect we are relatively relaxed, because if the millennium bug does strike other people's weapons systems the great likelihood is that they will be neutralised rather than becoming active. However, there are other dangers, such as power supplies going down and serious potential difficulties with both conventional and nuclear generating stations in many other countries around the world.

That is not the only threat from which we suffer indirectly in regard to nuclear matters. Noble Lords may like to know some of the ways in which we are co-operating with our friends the Russians on improving national nuclear material accountancy and control arrangements. We have provided 20 nuclear weapon transport vehicles and 250 secure containers to help Russia transport weapons quickly and safely to dismantlement sites. We are exploring with Russia whether we can offer any practical experience in dismantling its chemical weapons stockpile. An expert MoD team visited Russia in September to look at possible options. With the United States and our European partners and others, we contribute to the funding of the International Science and Technology Centre in Moscow which provides research opportunities in Russia for former military scientists.

Last but by no means least, we have taken a number of steps to share information on our own appreciation of the Y2K problem with our Russian friends, as have the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our American allies. The defence aspects of the year 2000 problem were discussed in the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council with the specific aim of anticipating and forestalling potential problems that might arise from the impact of year 2000 on key military systems.

Looking more widely, the United States in particular—and this is very much an American-Russian matter in which we have a great interest—has been active in raising a range of issues from the safety of ageing nuclear power stations to the continuity of supply of natural gas to central and eastern Europe. A great deal of progress has been made, including agreements to exchange key personnel between the United States and Russia who would work in the respective Year 2000 management centres over the millennium period.

Further work is being carried out to ensure that senior Russian political leaders are fully aware of the risk that the Year 2000 problem poses. Her Majesty's Government are providing active support to our American friends in all those measures.

There are other dangers that face this country and they face us directly in the years ahead. As your Lordships will be aware, the battlefields of the future will bear very little resemblance to the ones we are used to seeing on our television screens, dealing with wars gone by. The increasing dependence of all countries on high technology has encouraged some potential adversaries to look at alternative means of opposing us. Asymmetric threats to this country come at us in many forms. I list but a few. The challenge of a hostile biological or chemical environment is one of which we are keenly aware. We recognised in the Strategic Defence Review that a coherent national response was required to the threat from chemical and biological weapons. We have to maintain a balance of capabilities to deter, counter and defend ourselves against the use of these weapons. Protective measures play an important part, including above all detection capabilities.

Among the measures we have already taken is increased procurement of land-based biological detection equipment. To help protect our deployed forces, we have established a joint Army and Royal Air Force NBC capability available at high readiness. In addition, a detailed review of our national defence response to the risks posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons has been undertaken. We hope to announce its conclusions shortly.

Another area in which we shall have to get used to the need to defend ourselves is in our national information infrastructure. We are well aware of the risk of attacks on our information networks, not only the networks of government but of the economy and the private sector as a whole. We are determined not to underestimate the potential that threats of this kind have to degrade our fighting effectiveness. It is, of course, not just a defence issue about Y2K, it goes much wider than that. We are working across government, with our allies and suppliers of key services, to put in place security measures and technical solutions to defend our information infrastructure in both military and civilian fields. We will be working to ensure that we improve our ability to protect defence information networks, to deter those who would attack them and to provide us with the earliest possible warning of attack. In all those matters we are co-operating extremely closely with our American friends.

We shall have to test those arrangements and train our people to assure the security and availability of information vital to the conduct of defence and also to the wellbeing of our national economy.

Finally, I thought I should say a word about European defence. Your Lordships will be aware that the Prime Minister recently made some remarks on the subject which were welcomed throughout Western Europe. He has spoken of the need particularly to improve Europe's defence capabilities within NATO. I cannot emphasise too strongly the importance of those last two words "within NATO".

We remain quite open-minded about institutions, but we are determined to do what we can to improve the output that we get for the input. There is one well-known statistic which is bandied about. I cannot vouch for its accuracy but it gives your Lordships a sense of the task in front of us when I tell the House that it is widely believed that Europe spends about 60 per cent. of what the United States spends on defence, but obtains only about 10 per cent. of the capability. We must somehow or other address that shortfall.

We are in the early stages of the debate, but at least it has started and it was started by Her Majesty's Government. The last 18 months have been a challenging period for Her Majesty's Government in the development and application of our policies in the areas of foreign affairs, defence and international development. The next 12 months are unlikely to be any less challenging. In my view, the Strategic Defence Review has given us an excellent platform from which to meet the country's security needs. I personally am grateful to noble Lords in all parts of the House who have written generously to us at the Ministry of Defence about the review. I look forward to debating it further at your Lordships' pleasure when we can review some of the many matters which I have not had time to discuss with your Lordships today.

3.27 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, today we have the opportunity to raise some of our on-going foreign policy concerns and to look ahead to the future, to anticipate the political landscape of the 21st century. Perhaps we may also reflect a little over the past 18 months on the Government's implementation of their foreign policies and on their handling of the shifting sands and, on occasion, the quicksands of international affairs.

Your Lordships' House needs no reminding of the challenges presented to the government of the day by the theatre of world events. Today is no exception. We are caught in the grip of a global economic downturn. In the Far East, the world's second largest economy, Japan, is deeply embedded in a stagnant economic rut, unable to kick-start its powerful economy. The ripple effect of this recession continues to be felt far beyond Japan and the immediate region. In south-east Asia, the Asian miracle has turned sour, engulfed by last summer's tidal wave of financial turbulence from which it has yet to recover, depressing some expectations that the 21st century would be the Asian century.

In Indonesia's struggle for democracy, the death toll continues to rise as this huge nation is threatened by disintegration under the pressures of deep-seated ethnic and religious tensions, with unrest, looting and violence now all too regular occurrences.

In Africa, while regional efforts to resolve the conflict between President Laurent Kabila's government and rebel forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo seem doomed to failure, the threat that the deadly contagion of instability will spread from border to border and will create an epidemic of violence across the whole of central Africa draws ever nearer.

In Europe, this month Russia received international food aid for the first time in seven years. The situation there continues to look bleak. That was underlined only this week by the horrifying murder of the Russian member of parliament, Galina Starovoitova. Russia can ill afford the loss of this ceaseless advocate of democracy. In these difficult times for Russia, when politicians are sometimes silenced for their beliefs, we have a duty to keep faith with those who follow in her footsteps.

In the Middle East, the Wye River Memorandum breathed fresh hope into the seemingly moribund peace process whose obituary had already been written by many pundits. The continued glasnost in our relations with Iran is encouraging. Yet while Iran continues to support terrorist groups and to seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction there can be no appeals to lift its pariah status.

In a debate as broad as this it is all too easy for speeches to turn into travelogues with two sentences for each region of the world. I hope to avoid that pitfall today. Therefore, I wish to concentrate on three particular areas: the crises in Iraq and Kosovo—they are mentioned in the gracious Speech and continue to present major challenges for the Government, having tested their skills of international diplomacy to the limits—and the problem posed by the crisis in Central Africa.

I begin with Kosovo. In Kosovo, President Milosevic's regime of brutal repression threatens to turn a political problem into a severe humanitarian crisis. Following the crackdown by Serbian security forces against terrorists of the pro-independence KLA in March, the world was shocked and revulsed by the subsequent explosion of violence in the province. In the month-by-month, sometimes day-by-day, revelations of atrocities, the names of previously unfamiliar Kosovo towns and villages brought a tragic familiarity to our lips. Those names are now synonymous with death, destruction and grief.

NATO air strikes against Serbia were narrowly averted. We on these Benches welcome the agreement reached, in particular the work done to ensure full and verifiable compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1199. We commend the Government for the part they played in averting the crisis. It is a pity that the situation was allowed to deteriorate for so long before action was taken. Yet fears remain that Kosovo is an example of the "crisis averted, problem postponed" school of foreign policy. These fears have increased as a result of the news received from Kosovo in recent days, which I regret to say has not been positive. There are signs that the security situation in the province is deteriorating. Several Serbian policemen have been killed, allegedly by KLA separatists, while the number of Serbian special police in the province is increasing. There are reports of Serb road fortifications.

In winding up, perhaps the Minister can inform the House whether she accepts that continued ceasefire violations at the present level threaten to unravel the Holbrooke agreement. Moreover, what steps are the Government taking together with their NATO allies to break the deadlock on negotiations on political autonomy for the province, given that for the seventeenth consecutive occasion the ethnic Albanian leadership has failed to attend talks with representatives of Belgrade on the ground that talks should be held only through the mediation of the US envoy, Christopher Hill? Belgrade has refused on the basis that it constitutes international interference. Does the Minister agree that the publication last weekend of Serbia's own proposals for the future of the province, which the EU special envoy for Kosovo has criticised and the Kosovar Albanian leadership has rejected, was a far from helpful step?

Kosovo is not the only country in which in the past months the challenge to the will of the international community has been laid down. For seven years, Saddam Hussein has failed to comply with the terms of the ceasefire agreement which ended the Gulf War. For seven years, he has attempted to dictate his own terms to the international community, while forcing the UNSCOM inspectors to participate in round after round of his tortuous game of hide-and-seek. For seven years, he has shown himself willing to gamble with the lives and health of the Iraqi population in order to keep his weapons of mass destruction. All the while, the menacing threat of those weapons continues to cast dark shadows over peace in the region and in the world.

In the past year, confrontations with Iraq have multiplied as Saddam Hussein continues to ride his reckless rollercoaster of defiance in an attempt to wriggle free of the sanctions of the international community without surrendering his arsenal of biological and chemical weapons. In winding up, can the Minister give an assurance that while Iraq continues to dodge rather than comply with its obligations the Security Council's comprehensive review of Iraq's compliance with its resolutions will not take place given that at the moment we do not have co-operation, let alone compliance?

UNSCOM inspectors have been unable to carry out their job effectively for eight of the past 12 months. The chances that they will be able to continue their work with full and unfettered access are remote. Once again, mere days after the "shoot first and negotiate later" policy of the US and UK forced Iraq's climbdown, we are facing another crisis. The prospect of Iraq's complete and unconditional compliance with UN Security Council resolutions seems as distant as ever as the familiar merry-go-round of Iraqi accusations, obstruction, blocking, conniving and lies begins again, this time over the release of documents requested by UNSCOM.

Less than two weeks ago, President Clinton told the world that Iraq must fulfil five obligations or face the consequences. Your Lordships will be well aware that one of those obligations was to, turn over all relevant documents". Can the Minister confirm two critical points: first, whether in the opinion of the Government this refusal to hand over sensitive documents constitutes a breach of Iraq's latest commitments; and, secondly, that it is not up to Iraq to dictate whether or not UNSOCM's requests are relevant?

We may be slipping back into the depressingly familiar pattern of repetitive crisis syndrome, where the international community is forced to respond to yet another Iraqi-engineered crisis. Having overplayed his hand once already by withdrawing all co-operation from UNSCOM—a decision that united the international community in universal condemnation—Saddam Hussein is again using his familiar tactic of salami-slicing erosion of the UNSCOM inspectors' ability to do their work, stopping just short of providing grounds for military action. Of course, professional and technical judgments must be made by Richard Butler and his team of experts to determine the extent to which the work of the weapons inspectors has been undermined. Nevertheless, when at the beginning of this week the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, insisted that, It is crucially important that Iraq honours its commitments … If those commitments are not honoured then Saddam Hussein understands very well the consequences that will follow", what guarantees can the Government give that Saddam Hussein will be inhibited by the consequences, if those consequences do not follow?

While we have been firm supporters of the Government's robust line towards Iraq, there are three logistical questions that I believe it is important to raise. Clearly, the safety of the UNSCOM inspectors is paramount. First, can the Minister confirm that contingency plans have been drawn up to remove the UNSCOM inspectors in Baghdad to safety in the event of unannounced military action? Secondly, have discussions been held between the United Kingdom and the United States as to how this will be achieved without alerting the Iraqi regime to the prospect of imminent action? Thirdly, how long can the Government maintain the ability to strike immediately, given that this requires a high state of readiness which is burdensome on manpower, morale and equipment; and how is such a state of alert to be sustained indefinitely?

While the first flickers of hope in the Middle East process for peace are fanned, in Africa it seems that the contagion of violence is spreading. In Sierra Leone, despite the restoration of the elected government, the country remains wracked by a conflict bordering on out and out civil war. And your Lordships are well aware of the potential for the fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo to destabilise the whole eastern African subregion, risking a devastating humanitarian disaster. These fears were recently expressed by the Presidents of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Given their foreign policy, do the Government still consider that those problems are, regional in nature and therefore require a regional approach wherever possible"? The Foreign Secretary has said that the Government will make it a priority of their diplomacy in Africa to build peace and prevent conflict since, without peace nothing else is possible". How is that being put into practice in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sierra Leone?

Will the Minister join the UN Secretary-General in condemning the extrajudicial executions in Sierra Leone which are a clear breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Can the noble Baroness tell the House, first, what conditions were laid down by the Government when they pledged £6.5 million to help resolve conflict by supporting the disarmament and reintegration of ex-combatants; secondly, whether those conditions have been met; and, thirdly, if in the future the government of Sierra Leone fail to ensure fair trials and a proper appeals process for all those accused of treason for their role in the junta, will that have any affect on future pledges of assistance?

I have been able to touch on only a few of the vast array of issues which we on these Benches believe will be of critical importance to the United Kingdom and worthy of the Government's immediate attention. In today's world, the champions of peace, democracy and security remain beset by great obstacles. The Government will need all the skills of leadership, diplomacy and statesmanship available to them to rise to the challenges ahead. I wish the Government well in their programme for the coming year and I look forward to the Minister's response.

3.42 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I congratulate the House on the fact that the debate is described as a debate on defence, international development and foreign affairs. I understand that in another place international development will not he addressed in its debate. That exemplifies how modern and in touch the Upper House is as regards affairs of the world globally.

I welcome, too, the one proposal for legislation in the field of international affairs; namely. that which touches on the CDC. I make it plain that Members on these Benches will do their very best to examine carefully and speed up the passage of the Bill—a Bill which is badly needed. My noble friend Lord Redesdale will say more on that later.

As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, the challenge would be to try to touch on the many crises in the world in a few minutes. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said that the times were challenging. Indeed, one might say that they are tumultuous. I intend to devote my remarks largely to the serious global situation, touching in particular on Asia and Russia, to say a few words about some of the current crises in Europe, and to speak on enlargement, an issue that we cannot possibly avoid.

I begin by referring to the serious continuing global economic position. In the quarter that is concluding, the United States economy is expected to grow at a continuing figure of 3.9 per cent. annually. So far the West has not been affected seriously by the scale of the global economic crisis. But when looking at the American figures we must consider alongside them the Japanese figures. I believe those figures to be frightening. The latest OECD projections indicating a decline in growth of 2.5 per cent. in the coming year suggest that the East Asian countries, which are so heavily dependent on Japanese purchases of their exports, will continue to be unable to look forward to any great prospects of growth. We have gone far beyond economic setbacks, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said. In countries such as Indonesia and Korea we are looking at the meltdown of early attempts to establish democracies and the rule of law. That is very serious.

However, equally serious is the situation in Russia. Noble Lords who care to consider the stabilisation programme proposed by the new Government of Mr. Primakov published on 20th November will see the scale of the crisis we now face. For reasons of time I shall quote only one paragraph from that stabilisation programme. It states: The socioeconomic situation worsened in 1998. In the first six months, the growth of nonpayments accelerated. export earnings started to decline, the budget crisis became acute, and all segments of the financial market were destabilised".

Lord Hoyle

My Lords, perhaps I may draw the attention of the noble Baroness to the intervention by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn to clarify to the House that the matter of the requested extradition of Senator Pinochet continues to be sub judice. Under the rules of the House no reference should be made to the case in the debate.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I apologise. I thought that I was addressing the economic situation in Russia. So far I have said nothing whatever about Pinochet and do not intend to do so. I always take the greatest possible notice of the highly thoughtful remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I am sorry for the intervention. I think that a piece of paper probably went astray. It was not the fault of my noble friend Lord Hoyle, and was certainly not the fault of the noble Baroness either.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I am more than delighted invariably to pick up pieces of government paper which go astray, and I shall watch carefully for the next one!

Without boring the House—I believe this matter to be not only of great importance but one that will overshadow the next six months—I return for a moment to the economic situation in Russia, about which I was speaking.

I quoted from the stabilisation programme. I might have made one other comment: that Russian taxation revenues are now running at 6 per cent. of gross national product; and the minimum required simply to keep going the functions of the state is estimated by Russia to be between 10 and 12 per cent. According to my most recent information—I should declare an interest as President of the Britain and Russia Society—population movements from the east and north of Russia are already occurring because the Russian Government believe that they will be unable to supply even the basic necessities of life to some parts of their huge country. I fear that by the end of this winter we may be looking at starvation in parts of Russia, and a situation much closer to the terrible situation in the 1920s than most of us can bring ourselves to believe.

I make one final point about the international global crisis. I quote the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr. Gordon Brown, at the Birmingham Summit of last spring. He said: It is essential to limit the impact of economic crisis on the poor and the vulnerable". Let me echo those words. In recent bail-outs, in particular in Indonesia and Russia, most of the funds from the international financial institutions have not gone to the poor and the vulnerable but to commercial banks which are themselves corruptly run and in many instances have simply absorbed the taxpayers' money from the Western world.

In the gracious Speech, I note the reference to reform of international financial institutions as one of the objects of Her Majesty's Government. Nothing is more important than to reform those international financial institutions and to put the needs of ordinary human beings first. Indeed, those people must be given a much higher priority in IMF bail-outs. Those bail-outs should not be in the form of money from the World Bank. That money should rightly be spent on restructuring economies and on long-term development.

Secondly, I turn to the Prime Minister's speech in the North Atlantic Assembly to which the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, referred. The Prime Minister came out very clearly in favour of a much stronger approach to a common foreign and security policy for the European Union. In that, certainly on these Benches, we strongly echo what he said.

But of course, unless we pursue sensibly, honourably and reliably the process of enlargement of the European Union throughout central and eastern Europe, the common foreign and security policy will be seen not as an object for further integrating European defence, but rather as an alternative route to that of enlargement.

Many of our colleagues in countries like Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have come to depend on enlargement and have made huge transformations of their own internal structures, civil services and laws in order to meet the European Union's requirement with regard to the acquis communautaire. If those countries believe that we are slowly slipping away from any reasonable timetable, I fear that we shall feed great insecurity and concern in their midst.

I say that primarily because the budget that was drawn up for the transitional costs of enlargement—that is, 3 billion ecus per year for pre-accession work and 40 billion ecus for structural and regional funds over the six years from 2000 to 2006—was based upon the assumption of a 2.5 annual rate of growth in the European Union for the next six years. We are already falling below that figure, down to about 2.1 per cent. Therefore, I ask the Government whether they consider the better approach, should we not be able to meet that budget, is to lengthen the period in which we consider enlargement to be achieved or whether they would consider the possibility of some additional resources being transferred for the purpose. The Government may not yet be ready to reply. However, since the gracious Speech makes specific reference to the high priority given to enlargement by Her Majesty's Government, I wish to flag up the difficulties which may arise if the rather optimistic scenario is not realised.

I wish to say only a few words about two current crises since the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, dealt with them in great detail. I wish to ask one question about Kosovo. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned that monitors are being slow to be deployed. My latest information is that so far, virtually none has been deployed. They are still being trained. I fear that many of them appear to be not very experienced at all in the work that they will shortly be called upon to do. Will the Government tell us what they regard as the probable timetable for deployment given that, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, already there are considerable signs that the Kosovo Liberation Army in some areas and Serbian police in others are beginning to go outwith the bounds of what was agreed in the Holbrooke agreement? In that context, it is particularly worrying that as far as I can see, no progress has been made at all in relation to the prospects of a long-term political settlement based on the recognition of the autonomy of Kosovo by the former Republic of Yugoslavia.

I wish to follow what the noble Lord said about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This weekend, there will be a Franco-African summit. That summit will address the problems of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But many of the governments involved in that summit are members of the Commonwealth rather than members of the French-speaking community. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that the situation is now shaping up to become, prospectively, a major war in Africa. It is capable of destabilising the remarkable achievements of South Africa, one of the few countries on that continent genuinely trying to give a constructive lead towards peace as well as destabilising our Commonwealth friends in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. What steps, if any, are the Government taking to try to involve in particular the United Nations Security Council in finding a solution based upon peace talks in that region of the world? Are Her Majesty's Government prepared to assist, through the Commonwealth Secretariat, in providing the resources, whether for peacekeeping or other requirements, which will almost certainly be needed?

Lastly, I turn to the issue touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. I listened carefully to what he said about nuclear weapons. In particular, he referred—and this is very important—to the probability that the United States will now review the level of its own nuclear missile holdings and is even considering taking those missile holdings below the levels required by the SALT regime. I believe that that is 6,000 missiles on either side.

In view of Russia's serious economic position, she may well follow suit. Indeed, she would have a great interest in doing so. Following from what the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said, will the Government be prepared to give a guarantee that there would be no increase of any kind in our own holdings of nuclear weapons should Russia and the United States both agree to move below the SALT levels? In view of the fact that India and Pakistan are both nuclear powers, I believe that it is of vital importance that we, as an official nuclear power, should not at any point be able to he presented as a country which is slowing down nuclear international disarmament on an agreed basis because, in the end, I believe that that is the way to try to control the dangerous potential of other nuclear powers in our very dangers world.

3.57 p.m.

Lord Bramall

My Lords, I should like to concentrate on defence because, sadly, I shall not be able to speak in the defence debate which has just been organised for early next month. Sadly, too, I deeply regret that other duties will take me away before the end of this debate and for that I apologise sincerely to noble Lords.

There is nothing in the gracious Speech to indicate that the Government do not want this country to play its full part and punch its full weight in international affairs; indeed, just the reverse. There is mention of strong defence arrangements and a determination to maintain the resolutions of the Security Council. In recent crises in the Balkans and in the Gulf, both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have gone out of their way to talk this country into the centre of international action or, at least, the threat of such action, even to the extent of incurring some criticism that constant repetition of threats, without the action itself, risks some loss of credibility.

Be that as it may, in the world as it is, positive diplomacy and aspirations to deter or correct aggression or other forms of international evil-doing are meaningless without viable and balanced forces which are seen to be capable of making a military contribution to the international good at the appropriate moment. The Government clearly realise that. As I have said previously, both inside and outside your Lordships' House, the Government are to be congratulated on the way in which, in a well-handled strategic defence review, they have given this country a realistic defence policy. That has been somewhat lacking in the past. With one proviso and one possible exception, this country will have viable armed forces which, incidentally, are as much as those forces themselves could possibly have hoped for.

The proviso is—if the efficiency savings of 3 per cent. compound over the next three years, imposed by the Treasury as a Parthian shot, do not, after all the similar exercises over the past 14 years, cut too deep into SDR's aspirations and intentions. I fear that it is a rather big "if" and will need careful watching. But the Strategic Defence Review was a much better exercise than earlier ones and approached the problem strategically from the top downwards rather than, as so often in the past, from the bottom line financial restraints upwards.

Having given those sincere compliments, I wish that I could be as enthusiastic about the possible exception I mentioned; that is, the reserve forces and, in particular, the Territorial Army. I am not criticising Ministers for the outcome. I certainly do not blame the last Minister for the Armed Forces, Dr. Reid, now moved to other things. He realised only too well the vital quasi-social as well as military role of the Territorial Army throughout the nation, the chronic shortages in the regular infantry, now between 5,000 and 10,000, and thus the heavy reliance on the TA to make up the numbers in Bosnia and elsewhere. He realised also the fact that in such an uncertain world and a declining regular strength, the Territorial Army is virtually the only reliable and enthusiastic reserve we have for whatever emergencies come along.

As a result Ministers have consulted and, up to a point, listened. They have done their best to counter some of the departmental advice they were receiving, based, over-simplistically in my judgment, on the passing of the so-called home defence role and pushing up significantly the numbers from the original 30,000 or even less to the present 41,200. That is very good. The question is whether it is good enough.

The home defence role, such as it was, may have gone. But the need to encourage a volunteer adventurous spirit; to have a trained body of patriotic disciplined manpower as a general reserve for any emergency, natural or man made, expected or unexpected; and to provide a framework for any future expansion are as necessary as ever. In some cases they are being weakened by the new arrangements. Moreover, when we go in detail into how the greatly truncated Territorial Army is to be deployed throughout the country, it is difficult to see how the well-meant and totally unexceptionable principles, capabilities and aspirations with which Ministers found it necessary to justify the new arrangements will be achieved any better than at present. In a number of cases the result will not be as good as it is now.

The improvement in call-out legislation has already made reserves more usable in emergencies, as in the Falklands and in Bosnia. There has been a steady improvement over the years in equipment, though the claim that there can now be greater integration with the regulars is highly questionable. The term "one army concept" was invented many years ago.

The nub of the problem—this must be recognised—is that in the latest exercise, having at one fell swoop cut the Territorial Army establishment by at least 15,000; the infantry (the heart and soul of the Territorials) by 50 per cent.; and, in that truncated infantry, having removed all regimental battalions, only loosely but inflexibly linking cap badge companies into 15 or so regional groupings based in some cases on nothing more inspirational than administrative tidiness in arbitrary and probably only temporary TA brigades, the Government, whatever their good intentions, will have disrupted links with the regimental system which Ministers purport to support—those with the Regular Army which the TA plans are meant to foster. We will be left, in relation to combat arms, with no more than token forces scattered throughout the country. That constitutes a far greater blow to morale than certain TA units not having a defined home defence role.

When one adds to all that the closure of 80 TA centres, many of them new, including the possible complete alienation of the Duke of York's, the flagship for the Territorial Army; the extraordinary abolition of no less than five Royal Engineers regiments with all their most appropriate skills for national emergencies and humanitarian operations abroad—I was always brought up to believe that there were never enough sappers—and the extra impact that that will have on morale, motivation, recruiting and links from the Armed Forces into the civilian population, there is a real danger that the stuffing will be knocked out of the Territorial Army.

It will be knocked out just as the last government, despite warning after warning, also with plans hatched in the Ministry of Defence, justified with exactly the same exhortations about modernisation and relevance in the modern world, virtually destroyed the Armed Forces' Medical Services with disastrous consequences which this Government are now desperately trying to tackle. I only hope that I am wrong. I hope that the analogy will not prove to be too close. But that will only be if Ministers do not consider the matter of the Territorial Army to be completely closed and if they have the courage to show some flexibility in the implementation of the new arrangements. If not, in certain areas, they must think again, as many of the responsible newspapers seem to be urging them to do.

Most importantly, whatever is now going to be the new establishment must be fully funded so that commanders are free to recruit right up to their establishment and receive the money to train everyone they recruit. In the past—this is one of the reasons why the Minister has been able to say that he is only cutting 12,800 and not 15,000—establishment has been steadily eroded both by imposed under-implementation and, further, by only granting enough funding for a limited number of those recruited. That inexorably forces the strength down. I hope Ministers will at least give a firm assurance on the valid and vital point of full funding.

Finally, it would be sad if this Government were to spoil the good ship SDR and the goodwill and plaudits that it rightly generated for a ha'p'orth of tar when, with little extra money, perhaps only 2,000 to 3,000 extra men and greater flexibility in real estate organisation, much of the damage that so many of us fear can at least be mitigated. Without that flexibility the damage caused may be found to be irreparable and leave us with too little for any sudden expansion that the future may demand.

If any Ministers or other noble Lords are tempted to say that as president—which I am for the next two to three weeks—of the Greater London TAVRA, "I would say that, wouldn't I?", I say only that my support for the Territorial Army has equally as much, if not more, to do with my own experiences with them in peace and war over 50 years and my study of military history which tells me of the invaluable, sometimes incalculable, part that those reserve forces and their predecessors have played throughout this century in South Africa, in two world wars, and, more recently, in the Gulf and in Bosnia. I would not want the lessons of history, which seem to have been taken into account in the rest of the SDR, to be forgotten in this case, especially when the remembrances of the eleventh day of the eleventh month are so recently in our minds and when yet again conflict may be looming in the Middle East.

4.9 p.m.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, with your permission I shall confine my remarks during the debate this afternoon to those aspects of the gracious Speech that relate to our membership of the European Union. Early in the gracious Speech was the statement of belief that, the historic decision to give the Bank of England the power to set interest rates has been crucial to the meeting of its inflation target and credibility in the system". I applaud that sentiment and assert that independence of the European Central Bank is equally necessary for very much the same reasons: for the reasons of maintaining our treaty obligation to meet price stability—itself an imperative basis of competitiveness, growth and jobs—and also of maintaining credibility in the European monetary system. I note that the Government, in the words of the gracious Speech, will encourage preparations in the United Kingdom for the introduction in other member states of the euro". Such a statement is patently sensible. However, I hope that the Government will also regularly monitor the progress that we are making against the criteria laid down by Mr. Gordon Brown, so that we can make a judgment about the desirability of our joining the euro and perhaps being able to do so sooner rather than later.

While I have every confidence in the Government, I must confess to a slight nervousness when I hear of promises such as that which appeared in the gracious Speech, to promote with their European partners the economic reforms which will help to create growth and higher employment". If those reforms are to be the essential structural reforms in the labour, product and financial markets I warmly welcome the commitment. But I believe that we must resist any attempt to use the limited European Union budget as some kind of state supplementary benefit to industry and I am sure that I can rely on Her Majesty's Government to do so. In order to create growth and higher employment, the Government must both promote the structural reforms to which I have referred and resist as firmly as possible the current fashions which seem to be constantly demanding the harmonisation of both personal and corporate taxation.

I turn to the enlargement of the European Union. I believe that this Government have a most applaudable record as regards their role during the period of the British presidency. In March alone we saw the opening of the European Conference; we secured an agreement on the accession partnership regulation; and we saw the launching of the accession process and the accession negotiations. All that occurred in fewer than three weeks.

However, enlargement is going to be an extremely costly process and unless the European Union budget is to expand exponentially—and I do not believe that it should—then agricultural reform must move from the area of rhetoric to that of reality and budget discipline must be strengthened within the framework of the 1.27 per cent. ceiling. Unless that happens, the imperative resources for the priority of enlargement will not be available. Enlargement will require not only substantial resources, but substantial institutional reform. That reform needs to be in place as a prerequisite of enlargement in order to prevent decision making in the European Union grinding to a halt.

Enlargement also demands a continuation and an expansion of the programmes of applicant countries in order to help them to consolidate their economies, on the one hand, and to buttress their institutions on the other. I strongly commend the Government's approach to the enlargement process; an approach which I believe can heal the divisions of the 20th century and make us all stronger as we approach the new millennium.

Finally, I want to turn to one aspect of the gracious Speech that was tacked on at the end of a sentence. It referred to the United Kingdom's abatement of its European Union budgetary contribution. The gracious Speech makes it clear that the abatement will be maintained. To change the abatement requires change to the own resources decision. As a change in that decision requires unanimity the abatement is secure as long as the Government wish to maintain it. But what we need to be doing while asserting the need to maintain the abatement is to pursue the policy of diminishing its significance. Those changes are clearly in the area of agricultural reform. Despite the fact that people can point to the diminished proportion of the European Union budget that now goes on agriculture—it has dropped to just under 50 per cent.—in real terms the increase in agricultural spending is 34 per cent. higher than it was at the time when the Fontainebleau agreement was negotiated.

We have to prepare for that reform by finding the resources in the European Union budget for an imperative such as enlargement. We must also prepare ourselves properly for the next WTO round, where even if the European Union has not adequately focused on agricultural reform the WTO will force it so to do. In relation to the rebate, we must make it quite clear that we are a significant net contributor, and despite the rebate we remain a significant net contributor. We are more significant in that regard than some countries with a larger capacity to pay. The best way is to keep the net contribution down by keeping spending under control. In that regard, agricultural reform is imperative. As I have said, in that area of agricultural reform we must move from rhetoric to reality; otherwise our rebate, if it continues, will dominate the European Union budget.

On the basis of the remarks made in the gracious Speech concerning our membership of the European Union, I warmly welcome it. I believe that its positive and pragmatic approach to Europe and to our European partners should be welcomed not only in your Lordships' House and in the country, but far beyond. It should be welcomed throughout the European Union and of course in the wider world, including those countries whose aspirations to join the European Union we wish to see come to fruition.

4.17 p.m.

Baroness Young

My Lords, I should like to take the opportunity presented by this debate today to raise once again the issue of the Caribbean and consider some of the great political and economic problems that that region faces. The situation is, if anything, far more serious today than it was even six months ago. As I have observed before, small islands, when things go wrong, have the capacity to cause quite disproportionate crises. I think particularly of the Falklands and, more recently, of Montserrat. The Caribbean is a part of the world which can easily be forgotten in the course of considerations of all the other big issues which have been touched on this afternoon.

I should like also to touch on the role that Cuba can play in the region and the development within that country. I speak in my capacity as president of the West India Committee. In the foreword to his book, The History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago, Eric Williams, the late Prime Minister, set out clearly a theme which has been an abiding preoccupation throughout the region. He said: Separation and fragmentation were the policy of colonialism and rival colonialisms. Association and integration must be the policy of independence". Today it is possible to look back and recognise that legal independence was not an end in itself but a very first step on the difficult road to political and economic self-sufficiency. Indeed there are some who would argue that the period from independence to the end of this millennium was simply a false dawn, during which time the Caribbean came to recognise that its destiny was in its own hands. The negotiations for a successor arrangement to Lomé IV may be proof of this

At the end of September this year Ministers representing the EU and the ACP states met in Brussels to open formally the negotiations for a successor arrangement to the Lomé Convention. These negotiations will continue through 1999 and probably as far as post-2005 when the EU/Caribbean relationship is fashioned. But it will be made much more complicated by the need to take account of the World Trade Organisation millennium round, the reform of the common agricultural policy, the enlargement of the EU and the Generalised Scheme of Preferences review in 2004

As if all this was not difficult enough, the background against which the post-Lomé negotiations will take place is not encouraging. The old certainties have gone. The Far East, which has already been referred to and which was regarded just months ago as a powerhouse for global economic growth, is now in a much more uncertain state. Moreover, the priorities are changing in Europe, with the existing countries of the EU looking much more at economic integration. Many thought that the original Lomé Convention and its forerunners were conceived as a way over time to redress the imbalance caused by colonial history. With hindsight it is now clear that those then at the highest levels in Europe and the West were concerned with different issues. Their overriding concern was more focused. As a result, a system evolved whereby colonies and dependencies were replaced by what might be described as sovereign nations in a state of dependency on Europe or the West. Political independence was underwritten by linkages through Commonwealth preference; for example, the banana regime in anglophone Caribbean, or, at a later stage, more complex arrangements with Europe through the Lomé Convention

However, this time around, Europe's negotiators are likely to be thinking about very different issues. In the final EU negotiating directive the logical conclusion is that, some time after the year 2010, the EU expects to re-order its priorities in a way that removes any distinction between ACP and non-ACP countries. The fact is that the end of Lomé IV may mark a real turning point in the history of the Caribbean

If one looks at the very long road down which the Caribbean has to tread, it will be seen that the idea is being promoted by a number of small Commonwealth states that there are alternatives to a free trade world, but that it will require the smaller countries to convince the United States, the European Union, the World Trade Organisation and the nations of the G7 group of industrialised states, that vulnerability should be recognised as requiring special and differential treatment. Today's trade negotiations, both in the Americas and with Europe, will make urgent the need to determine whether small states are to have a special place in the global trade environment or will simply be written off and lost

In all this, the Caribbean negotiators will have to attain, both from Washington and Brussels, viable arrangements that will ensure a secure economic transition period. Perhaps I may voice my concerns. The first is that the United States and, to a much lesser extent, some of Europe's member states, have not recognised that their present approach may not facilitate this transitional period but rather create further problems. These may result in high levels of economic and political instability, especially in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and the more so if policies are developed and implemented on the basis of short-term trade advantage. If instability occurs in the Caribbean region as a result of poorly thought-through measures aimed only at encouraging trade liberalisation, this may lead to a direct threat to all our interests and may make some of the smallest island states in the Caribbean economically unviable

It is simply not rational for the US administration to try to bring to an end the EU's banana regime while at the same time placing an ever-increasing demand on the region for co-operation on narcotics interdiction. The consequences of the collapse of the banana industry in the eastern Caribbean as a result of actions at the WTO will lead to an upsurge in the use of these islands as centres for the trans-shipment of drugs. The new industries which will be required will need stability. Tourism, the single largest industry within the Caribbean region. the financial sector and information technology can only flourish and attract investment against a background of economic certainty

My second area of concern is that a precipitate end to existing arrangements may cause the region's economies to fail before they can change to these newer industries. My third area of concern relates to the continuing isolation of Cuba. The integration of Cuba into the region and into the global economy on terms acceptable to the people remains, in my view, the most challenging question facing the Caribbean, Europe and North America in this region. The decision by the Cuban Government to seek, first, observer status and then to become a signatory to a successor arrangement to Lomé IV is far-sighted. While no one should underestimate the difficulties of integrating the Cuban economy first with the Caribbean and then with the ACP, or underestimate the political conditionalities that some EU member states may seek to place on Cuban entry, it is an important step forward. As Sir Shridath Ramphal said at the Eighth European Caribbean Conference last December, it is an essential step in completing the Caribbean. I also welcome the closer links between Cuba and the anglophone Caribbean countries

However, the US attempts to isolate Cuba are not, in my view, likely to bring about change. Dialogue, investment and the development of new forms of co-operation are more positive ways to draw a nation into the international community and towards international norms, something which all friends of Cuba must surely wish to see

Perhaps I may conclude by touching on the visit that I made to Cuba last month—my fourth visit. I should like to say, first, how very grateful I was, as always, for the tremendous help that one receives from the staff of the British Embassy there. I should like to place on record my thanks for the great help which I believe all of us who travel round the world receive from our embassies, wherever they may be. I was delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, who is to conclude the debate, has paid a visit to Cuba; indeed, the first one by a Foreign Office Minister for many years. I was also delighted to note that her colleague Mr. Brian Wilson, the Minister for Trade, was able to go to the opening of the Havana International Fair

The most important issue outstanding between our two countries is that of debt. It will be very difficult to increase trade between Britain and Cuba until something can be done on that issue. I hope that through the Cuban initiative we may make some progress on the commercial debt. The discussions that I had during my visit were promising. I also hope that now Ministers are visiting Cuba—and I believe that others will be doing so shortly—there will be a much greater understanding as regards the need to deal with the other official debt. I found it very puzzling that the French and Italian Governments and, I believe, the Spanish Government, are able to make an arrangement with Cuba while we seem totally unable to do so. I very much hope that that may he put right

There is also an opportunity opening up for a great many exchange visits. I am very glad that representatives of the Cuban National Assembly are to visit London next Spring. It will be the first such visit and is certainly much welcomed by the Cubans. I hope that it will be of real value to both countries in coming to a greater understanding of our respective political systems and that there will be the opportunity to discuss some of our common problems

In the context of today's debate, this is perhaps what must often appear as a relatively small part of the world, but it is a part of the world that is very important to us in Britain. If anything goes wrong there I believe that it could have the most serious consequences. In the context of considering all the great and difficult issues of the world I hope that this area will not be forgotten. We owe it to our long links with the Caribbean to do what we can to help and support it. I hope that we shall continue to do so

4.30 p.m

Lord Owen

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness and to the House that I shall not be in my place tonight when she winds up the debate. Today is Thanksgiving Day. As many of your Lordships will know, I am married to an American, so there is no alternative but to be at home with the family

I personally am very afraid that it will not be a matter of more than a few weeks before we are once more engaged in conflict with Saddam Hussein. I cannot myself believe that the latest challenge that he has mounted in the United Nations can be left unchallenged. We have discussed this issue before in this House. On the last occasion I mentioned my hope that we would look very seriously at dealing with the opposition parties in Iraq and helping them far more than we have done hitherto and, in particular, at the whole question of the Kurds

I am very pleased that both the United States and the United Kingdom Government have clearly made considerable strides in that direction. I note that Congress has made an authorisation of money, not yet appropriated, for help to Iraqi opposition parties, particularly the Kurds. The State Department has brought together two of the Kurdish leaders, who must co-operate far more than they have done hitherto if there is to be any sensible policy in Northern Iraq. I note, too, that Turkey put considerable pressure on President Assad to expel the PKK leadership from Damascus

It ought now to be quite clear that, if we have to take action against Saddam Hussein, the moment we do so we should extend the "no-fly" zone in the north to cover all military and vehicle movements there which have not been authorised. We should effectively begin to create a "no-go" area in the area where there is a "no-fly" zone. This time we must learn from the mistakes that we made between 1991 and today. There can be no helicopter gunships going into the north, or Saddam Hussein's forces

I believe that there is an historical issue that we must reopen: the question of the commitment made in 1919 to search for a homeland for the Kurds. It cannot be in Turkey or Iraq. That is the reality. It can only take place in Northern Iraq. The Kurds must discipline themselves and come together to co-operate in order to achieve that which is feasible and possible. I believe that that would be one of the most significant things that we could do, in addition to military action, to destabilise Saddam Hussein's regime. Military action on its own, particularly from the air, will be insufficient. We saw that in the way he treated the marsh Arabs as well as the Kurds

It is regrettable that the European common and foreign security policy has been unable to hammer out a consensus on how to deal with Iraq. It is a great tragedy. We should bear in mind in this House, when we hear constant demands for qualified majority voting in foreign policy, that on quite the most dangerous and serious challenge to the world at the moment—the necessity to grapple with Saddam Hussein's relentless pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons—we cannot get agreement. It would be absolute folly if we did not remember that lesson. We must never accept qualified majority voting in the pursuit of a common foreign and security policy. We should pursue consensus at every step and try to get agreement on a common foreign and security policy among 15 members at all stages. I agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said about the need to extend co-operation and enlarge the European Union to 20 or even 25 or more states. But we must never surrender the sovereign right to make decisions in rare cases where consensus cannot be reached and where one can decide for oneself

I pay tribute to the Prime Minister's determination and strength in giving his full support to the United States, not in a relationship of total subservience. Of course, there is a massive difference between the military strength of the United States and our own, but in consistent and coherent support for a firm policy he has been able to demonstrate that our voice is listened to in Washington. We have had considerable impact on the political problem in the Security Council. The Russians have very different interests in Iraq. Its Prime Minister has always made that quite clear. He has been much more open in his dealings with the Americans and the British in the Security Council than some of our European colleagues. But there is no option but to take this stance

There are other constitutional implications that need to be considered when we look at a common foreign and security policy. I have been a supporter of this Government's constitutional changes throughout. I have always believed in an assembly for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I argued in the previous Labour Cabinet for the European Convention on Human Rights to be made justiciable in the courts. I was supported in that by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams

We have made significant and important constitutional changes. Quite frankly, we are in danger of constitutional indigestion. We have to take it steadily and step by step. We need to be very wary when we hear references to creating a new defence structure in Europe. I have always called for a strengthening of the WEU. I do not believe that one can have a coherent common foreign and security policy without being able to add the stiffening of a security element. Had we had that in place in 1991 the EC diplomacy over the break-up of the former Yugoslavia would have been much more effective. The fact is that the WEU could not intervene credibly in 1991. But when one looks at what has happened in the WEU and the relationship that has now been established, particularly for sharing key equipment in NATO when the WEU is undertaking a peace-keeping operation in which the United States does not wish to be involved, we are talking about a far more effective WEU in 1998 than existed in 1991

I want that military capacity, particularly in circumstances where the United States does not want to make a military contribution, particularly perhaps in peace-keeping, on the European continent or elsewhere. But we should be very wary about creating a new defence organisation completely sui generis without the WEU. For example, its treaty contains one of the strongest commitments—stronger than the North Atlantic Treaty—to come to the defence of a member state under attack. The WEU also has an organisation for bringing together parliamentarians from the national parliaments. It is inconceivable that we could enter into a defence organisation associated with the European Union, or even incorporated within the treaties of Europe, where democratic scrutiny lay with the European Parliament. The democratic scrutiny for defence must lie with the national parliaments. It is a very good thing to tie them into some European initiatives and not abdicate everything to the European Parliament. The two have to work together. That is important, particularly in a case where the foreign and security pillars are inter-governmental for they are not under the Commission, the European courts or the European Parliament. It is extremely important that that should remain

But the WEU needs to be brought much closer to the European Union. When we consider appointing now a senior individual to speak for the common foreign and security policy, there is a very strong case to consider that that person should be double-hatted and also have the role of Secretary-General of the WEU or at least some greater linkage, But a new defence organisation I view with great concern

As for Kosovo, many have mentioned it and I will not speak long on it. All through the spring and the summer I watched exactly the same inability to act as we saw in 1992 over Bosnia. It was as if we had learned no lessons. The honest answer, I believe, is that the UK Government did want to take more action but they could not reach a consensus on it. It is not an easy issue. In many respects it is the hardest of all the problems that we have had to deal with in the break-up of the former Yugoslavia

The agreement made by Richard Holbrooke with President Milosevic has, I believe, saved us from an appalling humanitarian disaster. Just as we needed the UN in Yugoslavia in September 1992, especially in the case of the French and the British—and undoubtedly that UN force prevented a humanitarian disaster in the winter of 1992–93—so it is to be hoped that this agreement and the presence of OSCE verifiers may help to avoid this crisis.

That is not going to solve the political problems. Although I like to see OSCE used—and I understand why OSCE is being used—it is a difficult organisation from which to get a large number of verifiers on the ground. It does not have the infrastructure of NATO or the European Union, or, if I may say so, even the WEU. We have already seen a tragic delay in the introduction of people on the ground. In my view, a force similar to the stabilisation forces in Bosnia should have gone into Kosovo. I think that we will live to rue the day that we ended up with this extremely inadequate compromise.

There are tremendous problems in Kosovo. We often talk about the Kosovo-Albanian leader, Rugova, as a moderate. He is moderate in the sense that he has been utterly consistent in not wanting to use force, and I greatly admire him for that. In that sense he is a Gandhi-like figure. But, just like Gandhi, he is no moderate. He is absolutely adamant that they should have independence. Almost every single one of these people—particularly after the events of the summer—are adamant that there will be independence. We can go on hiding away from this for another two or three years and postponing the question, but we have to face the fact that there comes a moment when people will not live within the international rubrics that you cannot ever have independence.

We see this in Bosnia. The Bosnian Serbs—particularly those in eastern Bosnia, in Pale and elsewhere—have simply refused to accept being integrated into Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is as clear as daylight that they are going to go on refusing. There will come a time soon when we will have to open up the question of the boundaries of the former regions within Yugoslavia.

The Dutch Government, during its presidency in 1991, asked the European Union to look at the question of making changes in the boundaries of the former regions in Yugoslavia. Foolishly we said that those regions should suddenly become internationally agreed boundaries of nations. Thereby we sowed the seeds for most of the fighting that has taken place ever since. We must be prepared to look again at this question. In my view, at the end of the day, there will be a hectare for hectare exchange, Kosovo going independent and some parts—not all by any means—of Republica Serbska being given independence. For example, Banja Luka in the West would be integrated into a viable Bosnia-Herzegovina. There will have to be real European Union pressure on the Croatians to co-operate fully in Bosnia-Herzegovina and not, as at present, keep themselves apart from the integration process.

I shall speak no further on those questions. On the constitutional issues, yesterday the world looked at this House, many people perhaps for the first time, and understood the significance of the House of Lords as a judicial chamber. This House is a very delicate mechanism. We need changes in the composition of the House. Changes may now have to be made in two stages. All I can say, as a politician who spent 26 years in another place, is that this House must tie down all governments, of all political persuasions, so that if they change the composition of the House in one stage they will be bound hand and foot to make changes in a second stage. I do not know if it is possible, but there will need to be a legislative amendment that insists that, at least within ten years, the issue of the composition of the House of Lords comes back to both Houses of Parliament for legislation, even if a government had the audacity to come forward with the proposition that the House of Lords should continue to be an entirely appointed House. Your Lordships should not miss the opportunity to impose your ultimate sanction of ensuring that this issue of a wholly appointed House of Lords cannot be swept away for years, decades or maybe centuries.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, after that fascinating and wide-ranging speech from the noble Lord, Lord Owen, like the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, I want to concentrate on the relatively narrower issues of the Government's policy towards Europe as set out in the gracious Speech. For my part, I start from a conviction that an effective European Union—and by that I mean a European Union that is effective not only in terms of economic integration but also in terms of political integration, a common foreign policy and a common defence policy—with the United Kingdom playing a leading role, is the best way forward, not only for British interests in the years that lie ahead but for the countries of Europe. It would enable us to play the solid role that we should play in international affairs.

The shape of the century that lies ahead of us is already very clear. It was described in grim and absorbing detail by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. We now have a hi-tech world on the economic side that has produced a global, almost seamless, economy so that what happens in Malaysia, Mexico or Moscow has an immediate impact on us. Moreover, we have a hi-tech world of international politics that produces the very reverse of a global situation. It is a world that we have had a glimpse of in the speech to which we have just listened—a world of ethnic revolts, bloody civil wars, famine and menacing leaders such as Saddam Hussein and Milosevic in Serbia. There is only one superpower—and thank goodness it is the great American democracy. Alongside that is the United Nations which is simply crying out for reform.

For my part, I believe that a European Union that can make sound progress in the ways that I have mentioned could provide a much more equal partnership with the United States. Between us, in terms of the industrial democracies of the world, we could play an important role in world affairs. I was much struck by the figures which the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, gave. If I remember rightly, he said that broadly the defence expenditure of the European Union and the United States are comparable.

Lord Gilbert

My Lords, I did not wish to give any authority for my figures. I merely quoted the figures in circulation. The European Union spent something like 60 per cent. of the United States' expenditure and reportedly got about 10 per cent. of the capability.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I thought the figures were very vivid and an example of the greater effectiveness that could exist among the countries of the European Union if they could organise their affairs more efficiently.

As far as Britain's part is concerned, to do so requires more than the good intentions stated in the gracious Speech. John Major genuinely tried to turn around the previous Conservative Government that he led and to put it, to use his phrase, at the heart of Europe. He was frustrated by the Euro-sceptics in his own party who now seem to control the Conservative Party. The present Government are plainly serious in their determination to make a success of Britain in Europe but they suffer from being a prisoner of the referendum pledges they made in order to get themselves elected. They are frustrated not by the number of convinced opponents of British membership of the European Union among their own ranks—although there are some of those with a great record of consistency in their views, which I respect—but more by the Conservative press led by two non-European proprietors who exploit the traditional insular instincts of British people for both commercial and political reasons.

At some point, the Prime Minister, like Stanley Baldwin in the 1930s with his remarks about Beaverbrook and Kemsley, will have to treat these press tycoons with the disdain that they deserve. In our democratic society they are a good deal more lacking in legitimacy than hereditary Peers and have a great deal more power.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I presume that he is referring to Mr. Rupert Murdoch and Mr. Conrad Black. I wonder whether the noble Lord has read the Daily Mail today.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I am sorry to be in dereliction of duty. But my reply to the noble Lord is that the Daily Mail is not among my normal reading and that today I had another preoccupation, from which your Lordships' House is now suffering.

In almost every great development of the European Community Britain has lacked the vision and will to be in the first wave. As a result, we have suffered in influence and have suffered from having subsequently to adapt ourselves to arrangements made by others in their own interests. Despite the brave words in the gracious Speech, we are in danger of facing the same situation over joining the single currency. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor, in their various welcome initiatives with the new centre-left governments in Europe on economic, foreign policy and defence matters, are doing their best to keep Britain in the front line. However, I thought that the words from the gracious Speech quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, that the Government, will encourage preparations in the United Kingdom for the introduction in other member states of the euro".

were, as the noble Lord said, sensible words. But, my goodness, they were sad words. As the advertisement in the Financial Times earlier this week by a large number of industrial leaders made clear, it is very important in the British interest that as quickly as possible a positive pro-euro domestic campaign should be mounted to change the climate of opinion in this country. For my part, I believe that a referendum before, not after, the next general election would be best for both Britain and Europe.

The earlier years of such a historic step as the creation of a single European currency and central bank are bound to be very difficult—none of us should be under any illusions about that—but Britain's commitment and our immense financial experience will make a substantial and positive difference once we are part of the single currency. Making a success of the euro should concentrate the minds of the member states in getting their priorities right in the development of the European Union, and in particular in the difficult balance between deepening and widening the Community. Only a strong core economy for the European Union can provide the resources for meeting the costs of enlargement, a point on which I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson.

With the downturn in the global economy that we are now suffering one has to ask whether the financial estimates of the costs of enlargement remain realistic and whether the present timetable is likely to be practicable. Agenda 2000, the European Commission's proposal for a stronger and wider union, admits the European Union's predicament in this respect. It states: "The enlargement will inevitably provoke deterioration in the budgetary position of all current member states".

That was set out before we found ourselves in the present global economic situation. The Commission then argued that the financial framework for the period 2000 to 2006 meant that both deepening and enlarging the Union could be achieved within the 1.27 per cent. European Union GNP ceiling. Its basic assumption was that the European Union's average annual growth would be 2.5 per cent. and that of the 10 applicants would be around 4 per cent. Those were probably arguable forecasts when they were made, but they are certainly very much more arguable and over-optimistic forecasts in the current situation.

The much needed policy reforms themselves—the reform of the CAP and of the structural and cohesion funds—which are a pre-condition for successful enlargement, may well play havoc with the figures. The 100 million people in the candidate countries, whom we very much want to welcome as members of an enlarged European Union, have a living standard of only about one-third of that in western Europe. Therefore, one is bound to ask this question. What if, as a result of the new economic and monetary policies being developed between the Chancellor and his fellow finance Ministers, people want their governments to spend substantial quantities of ecus for assistance in the fight against unemployment in the existing European Union, money which may have been earmarked for enlargement? These issues were mentioned by my noble friend Lady Williams and they really ought to be faced.

The answer to the dilemma—we all want to see enlargement take place and we all want to see a successful enlargement—is probably to look at the timetable. My noble friend referred to the need for bigger budgetary resources. I think that a more realistic alternative in dealing with this situation is to look at the timetable. Those of us who are old European Union hands will remember that timetables in the European Union are notoriously elastic. I can remember times in my own experience when not only the clock was stopped but the calender was stopped.

I think we would all agree that enlargement is an "historic challenge", to use the words of the gracious Speech. For the member nations of the present European Union it is a challenge to make a success of the historic act of deepening that is going on with the single currency and to tackle the deep problems of re-shaping the common agriculture policy and the structural and cohesion funds. It is a challenge on the part of the central and eastern European countries to bring their economies closer to those of western Europe. In the end this might mean accepting a longer than the more optimistic timetable that one has heard in the argument. If that were so, it might diminish the risk of ending up with a larger but more fractious and less prosperous Union and create more realistic expectations, which is part of the art of democratic politics.

For those of us who believe in the historic importance of creating an effective European Union, there is always a temptation, to which I have succumbed frequently myself over the years. to let Euro-rhetoric run away with Euro-reality. It would be ironic if European integration were to falter and the success of enlargement were to be undermined by an over-ambitious timetable.

4.58 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, it is always a good idea to try to remember why we went to the trouble of setting up our great institutions. It is equally sensible to take stock from time to time of the changes that have been made, or have just happened to occur, and to judge.

I shall mention four things, which we seem to have forgotten why we wanted. The first and second are NATO and the United Nations. Those are two great institutions which have undergone either, as with NATO, a complete change of purpose or, as with the UN, a check in development and therefore an erosion of competence. I shall argue that the United Nations is ever more necessary in our changing and ever more unjust world, and NATO must not be allowed to usurp any of its functions. I shall also argue that we have forgotten what our interest was in Iraq, and that we have forgotten what we set up Israel to achieve. I shall take these in reverse order.

We in the United Nations did not set up Israel to turn Palestinians out of their homes or to deprive them of their civil rights in their own country, to invade and bomb its neighbours, to develop weapons of mass destruction at American expense, or to ignore the Geneva conventions and a whole string of UN resolutions. The Government need to revisit their policy towards the Middle East, within which Israel is now by far the greatest military power, but could still become a hugely constructive economic and political presence if it were able. For now, it is urgent and overwhelmingly important to our own future as well as to that of the greater Middle East that we should stop pretending that we see nothing and can do nothing.

The United Nations sent UNSCOM into Iraq—which we in the West had first armed heavily and then driven out of Kuwait—to dismantle its ability again to threaten its neighbours, and we established an embargo for the same reason. After seven long years, if UNSCOM and the embargo have still not succeeded to our satisfaction the likelihood is they will not. UNSCOM's job anyway was to prove a negative, and so it could not possibly truly succeed. As the 19 bishops stated in Tuesday's Independent, it is time to revisit this policy. The embargo allows Saddam Hussein to survive while his people suffer, and one of UNSCOM's side-jobs seems to be to provide Israel with targeting information about not only Iraq but possibly Iran as well.

By now, only the United States and Britain are content with the embargo. We claim that it is Saddam's fault and his alone if the embargo has damaging effects on the population we recognise as innocent. But if children are malnourished and dying because of it, we cannot disclaim responsibility. We cannot disclaim any share whatever of the responsibility.

Quite apart from the embargo, there are the 320 tonnes of depleted uranium-based ammunition which the United States used there in the Gulf War and about which the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, told us in a Written Answer last week—860,000 rounds. What is that doing to people in Iraq? Agent Orange, widely used by the United States for deforestation in Vietnam, is now showing up in that poor country with thalidomide-like damage to the next generation but one. Would our Tomahawks attack targets we think are packed with stuff to fill chemical and biological warheads'? Where do we think that stuff will go? Would we be financially liable to the victims if we had "gone in" without a specific Security Council resolution?

Our declared intention not to go back to the Security Council for approval before some future attack on Iraq strangely states that in order to enforce a Security Council resolution we shall ignore the Security Council. The logic is not too good, nor was it when we used the same argument to attack Serbian targets.

Of course the also strange new doctrine of "overwhelming humanitarian necessity" which, I suppose, had some semblance of good faith in northern Iraq, can have none in Iraq today. I was glad that the Written Answer last week of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, confirmed the flimsy character of the doctrine in international law. No, the real business in Iraq by now is about not allowing Saddam Hussein to cock a snook at American presidents, which is precisely why the US stayed on and on and on in Vietnam. Someone must be taught a lesson. Now we hear of a repetition of the failed and discredited tactics used against Nicaragua by President Reagan—Contra business. I only hope that we have not forgotten the lesson of 80 years that backing some Kurds without intending to give all of them a true Kurdistan will lead into a morass. It was a relief to read that Mr. Derek Fatchett made it clear to the assembled Iraqi opposition that we are not in the unlawful business of removing Saddam Hussein, even if the US Congress is. I hope that Ministers might now reflect on how Clement Attlee somehow dissuaded Truman from using atomic weapons in South-East Asia; how Harold Wilson somehow managed to stay away from Vietnam; and how Mrs. Thatcher managed to stay away from Nicaragua.

When the Americans are wrong, we should not support them. On the other hand, if we can do it, helping them out of the morasses their fallacious sense of "mission" gets them into may be the single most valuable thing we, the British, can do in the world. So let us, for all we are worth, help them out of the mistakes they are already making—worst of all in the Middle East—and those they are proposing to make, with NATO, and now apparently in Korea.

This is what makes the special relationship valuable. And international law has to be our best tool. When we managed at Rome to get the international community to accept the International Criminal Court, that was a great step forward. Until that is set up, partial courts—like our own, and the court ruling on internationally recognised crimes in the former Yugoslavia—must do what they can.

I turn now to NATO. It was set up, with Ernie Bevin to the fore, by the countries of western Europe and North America as a direct and immediate response to the culmination at Berlin of a progression of Soviet geopolitical probings, and to its achievement of nuclear weapons years earlier than United States intelligence thought possible.

The Warsaw Pact was set up after NATO was: Stalin was canny enough—though it is forgotten now—to hold back its signature until the day after the North Atlantic Treaty's. They were mirror treaties: each bound its signatories to come to one another's help if any of them was attacked. No attack was of course expected from anywhere but from the other treaty organisation. There were strong defensive postures, shaded over towards the mutually accelerating paranoias of arms race and first strike. Each side was like a man armed to the teeth, trembling for decade after decade before his own reflection in the mirror.

Then one day this decade, the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist. The adversary pact just disappeared, leaving nothing but a mass of weapons of mass destruction, leaking. The leading state of the pact, the Soviet Union, also just disappeared, leaving a large, broke, nuclear-armed Russia and 13 small, broke countries, mostly in Asia.

Therefore it would have been right to question whether NATO should not continue in its mirror role and dissolve too. The attractions would have been obvious. NATO's original purposes had been over-fulfilled on the grand scale. Not only had the adversary not attacked the West, not only was peace in Europe guaranteed, and guaranteed on our terms, as far as the eye could see, but the adversary itself had ceased to exist. But we did not do that. Instead, at American insistence, a new, transformed NATO began to expand towards the East. Now, in 1999, the idea is that this expanding NATO should be excused from observing the Charter of the United Nations and should be extracted from the rule of international law, including the authority of the UN Security Council. These are the requirements of Senator Helms which the US administration is bound to promote and in which our Government seem tempted to acquiesce. They will, I hope, when I ask them specifically about this in an Unstarred Question in a week or two's time, make no bones about their prime adherence to the United Nations and to international law above their respect for one particular American senator.

Ahead of the three successful east European candidate countries for admission to NATO there now pushes a graded but still soft structure of states which are Partners for Peace. Beyond that there extend yet more partners, with a small 'p', taking part in military and planning exercises carried out in the "spirit" of "partnership for peace", whatever that may be.

There is no longer any pretence of that being for the security of Europe. The extended structure of US alliance policy, civil and military, now stretches not only around the western borders of the Russian Republic but also around its southern borders, covering the new oil province of the Caspian and central Asia. The whole Turkic belt is involved, up to the frontiers of China and beyond, that is where the geographically unbounded US-Japan security zone starts, with 100,000 American troops. That is not quite what NATO was founded for. Are we sure that it is what we want it to turn into? Would Attlee and Bevin have thought it right? Would Macmillan?

I turn now to the United Nations. It was set up in glorious and well founded hope. The important thing was that this time, unlike with the League of Nations after the First World War, the United States was going to take part in the enterprise—potentially by far the most important political enterprise ever undertaken by humanity: a comprehensive system based on the rule of law in which all states and all peoples would take part.

The price of American presence was the absence for some decades of China, as the American political imagination was not yet wide enough to encompass the idea of human universality. The purpose of the UN was simple: to provide a talking shop to discuss the world's differences; to provide a voting shop to settle them and in which to develop international law and procedures to stop such differences recurring, and to provide an infrastructure of global sectoral organisations to do the same, each in its sector.

It is often said that the idea of the United Nations has been around since the Middle Ages, but, as the late Harry Hinsley showed in his great book Power and the Pursuit of Peace, it had actually been around only since the 1620s, when it was invented in—wait for it—Paris; and if the French want to claim the credit, good luck to them. It was invented in Paris—not in Oxford or Heidelberg—and in a monastery, too, as a matter of fact.

Now though, under Senator Helms's plan, which he managed to make binding on the Clinton Administration and is therefore now US policy, NATO, led by the US, would move beyond reach of the UN system and of international law in general. The UN, through US under-funding, will become increasingly insignificant; and the United States will conduct itself in a manner fitting its famous mission and its status as sole military superpower.

None of that bears any relation to what the United Nations or NATO were founded for. So I ask the Government: are they sure that Senator Helms's vision for the 21st century is what Britain wants to take part in? Would Attlee and Bevin have thought it right or sensible? Would Macmillan?

There are signs that that is the way Ministers are tempted to go. I hope and I pray that they will think long and carefully before giving up on international law and on the United Nations and on common justice in the world. It would, of course, also mean giving up on Europe.

5.13 p.m.

Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, I shall probably not surprise your Lordships if I concentrate my intervention on recent developments in the Middle East.

I am sorry that I was not able to be present in the Chamber during and after the Statement which the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, repeated on Iraq on 16th November. That Statement, and the replies which the noble Baroness gave to points raised in the brief debate which followed that Statement, gave a clear picture of the aims and objectives which the Government have pursued, and are still pursuing, in trying to ensure that Saddam Hussein complies with Security Council resolutions obliging Iraq to accept the destruction of all its weapons of mass destruction, and to give immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any places and records in Iraq which the UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors wish to inspect.

I was also glad to see, from an interview given by the Minister of State, Mr. Derek Fatchett, on 23rd November, when he had what I understand was a long-arranged and supposedly routine meeting with some Iraqi opposition groups, that the Government do not regard it as their task to change the regime in Baghdad, nor to organise the overthrow of that regime.

I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that we need to work very closely with our United States allies. However, there is one aspect as regards which I believe that we should distance ourselves. I refer to the impression which the Clinton Administration have given—I believe both wrongly and dangerously—in recent weeks that their aim and objective is to change the government of Iraq. Mr. Fatchett's meetings will have contributed to confusion and misunderstanding in the Arab world about the British Government's objectives.

I have no doubt whatever that we would all sleep happier at nights if Saddam Hussein were to disappear tomorrow, whatever type of regime were to take his place. But I have severe doubts whether it is wise, effective, or, indeed, consistent with international law, to preach the downfall of other people's governments. I hope that the noble Baroness, when she comes to wind up this debate, will give the House some further reassurances on this point. There are, I believe, several reasons why reassurance on these lines is necessary, apart from the need to remove misunderstandings in the Middle East.

First, it is of vital importance to maintain, or try to maintain, the consensus of the Security Council, the Arab world and our European colleagues that our aim and objective is not to remove or destroy Saddam Hussein, but to ensure his compliance with Security Council resolutions—if necessary by the threat of force. I share the pessimism of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, about the likelihood of force having to be used. Nevertheless, I seriously question whether it is consistent with a so-called "ethical foreign policy" that we should attempt to dictate to other countries what kind of government they have, however much we or they dislike them.

I also have a profound scepticism about the ability of the United States—still less of ourselves—to change other peoples' governments. One has only to look at the years of unsuccessful and, I believe, profoundly misguided attempts by the United States to remove or replace President Fidel Castro in Cuba to realise that.

The days of Western protectorates in the Middle East are, I hope, over. But that seems to me to be perilously close to what the United States Administration and Congress appear to be calling for. The British press has certainly given the impression, perhaps wrongly, that the Prime Minister is inclined to follow the United States' lead in this direction. I wish to utter the most solemn warning against doing any such thing.

Meanwhile. I think that we should acknowledge that President Clinton has at last shown welcome signs in the past month or two that he is ready seriously to engage in pressing both the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to an agreement. I have little doubt that it was a realisation of that fact that contributed to the decision of eight Arab governments, to which the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, referred, to issue a statement in Damascus on 12th November, firmly pinning the responsibility on Saddam Hussein for any consequences of his non-co-operation with UNSCOM.

There is no doubt that the Wye River Memorandum, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred, which was signed on 23rd October, represents a welcome breakthrough in the Palestinian track of the peace process. The United States Administration, and President Clinton in particular, deserve warm credit for that, as do the two parties concerned. That makes it all the more regrettable that the Israeli Cabinet decision endorsing the agreement should have been accompanied by an announcement that the Israeli Government were committed to strengthening and developing their settlements.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred to breaches of Palestinian rights in Israel. Israeli Government tenders for the construction of the notorious Har Homa settlement were published on 12th November, and no action has so far been taken to prevent the illegal seizure of five hilltop outposts by settlers.

I hope that the Minister can assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will maintain their position that settlements in the Occupied Territories and in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law and are an obstacle to peace. I also hope that the Government and our European colleagues can do more to convince our American friends to adopt the same position. I can think of few more pressing requirements if the Government are to fulfil the commitment in the gracious Speech to promote peace in the Middle East. Reports in this week's Financial Times that the Israelis are pressing the Americans for a one-off package of 1.25 billion dollars to implement the peace accords should leave no one in any doubt as to the potential leverage which the United States could exert if it could be persuaded to ensure that that type of illegal activity is halted, and not resumed.

5.20 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, on 16th November the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, said that she could not reply to a question from my noble friend Lord Lucas on the desirability of continuing to afford aid to a country that was involved in the Congo war. The explanation, as her words would seem to indicate, for this and all matters of foreign policy lies in the fact that it now has an ethical dimension. I am sure that the noble Baroness was not exceeding her brief, because the Foreign Secretary himself from the beginning of his tenure has talked of an ethical foreign policy.

The matter deserves exploration. It helps to convince one that the primary weakness of the present Government is their fondness for phrases without notable content. The "third way" has become almost a laughing-stock after it was necessary to invite into Downing Street a number of intellectuals (if that is the right word) in order to explain what it meant. It has now been translated into German as the Neue Mitte. No doubt some Germans are now engaged, with their usual thoroughness, in trying to find out what is meant by the phrase.

It is, after all, rather important that we should know the inner content that makes this Government's foreign policy different from that followed by previous governments of this country through the centuries, normally using as their guideline the question of national interest. Is there some matter beyond the national interest that is subsumed in the words "an ethical dimension"?

We know that the Foreign Secretary himself thought some exposition of the phrase necessary. At almost the same time as he declared himself in favour of an ethical foreign policy, he announced the setting up of a foreign policy centre which was in some way to substitute for the normal institutions with which London is enriched where matters of importance regarding foreign policy and defence issues are normally explored and discussed. So far, the new foreign policy centre has made no great mark. The only appointment that has been announced is that of its director, a young man named Mr. Leonard, who comes from an organisation known as DEMOS, a think-tank. It is not very clear what it thinks about and it is less useful than a tank. Nevertheless, it has supplied a number of people who now enjoy the public purse. Mr. Leonard had made a public reputation for a day or two by declaring in a pamphlet that Prince Charles should not be allowed to ascend the throne when his turn comes without a national referendum. I do not think that that proposal was subjected to the scrutiny of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neill.

One begins to wonder what is behind all this. As noble Lords, beginning with the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, have told us, we live in very serious times. I am therefore entitled to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, in replying, to indicate the purpose of the foreign policy centre, the way in which its personnel have been or will be recruited, and the task that the Foreign Office envisages it should fulfil.

But that is only a way into the main features of this debate, in which a number of grave issues have been explored, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. I regret that the noble Lord's thanksgiving duties deprive us of his presence. As we look round the world at the end of this century—the worst century in human history, probably since the 14th, possibly since the fourth—we are struck by the fact that even this exhaustive debate, in which we have heard a number of eminent speakers, cannot list the threats that exist to human prosperity and even human survival.

We have heard about Iraq, Kosovo, and even, alas, again about Bosnia. We know that the war in the Congo, the matter raised by my noble friend Lord Lucas in the question to which I referred, is capable of setting much of Africa ablaze. Even then, we have not touched upon the threat to the Far East based on indications that North Korea, which some thought had been brought to some kind of agreement not to pursue the creation of nuclear weapons, is behaving with a falsity not inferior to that of Saddam Hussein. In other words, my worry about an ethical foreign policy is whether it obliterates or prevents us from dealing realistically with the issues that we confront.

If one looks at the record of history—this is why the matter is linked in my mind—mistakes have been made by governments, both our own government and other powers, which in retrospect the historian can chronicle and explain. They have largely been the result of an unwillingness to delve into the facts of particular situations or the aspirations of particular countries and governments. It may be that other elements go into it. One may have invincible prejudice, such as has been displayed on so many occasions in your Lordships' House, against the state of Israel by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. He manages to dislike Israelis and Americans with almost equal fervour, a position he has maintained over a long period.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt him. I do not dislike either Israelis or Americans. I dislike some of the policies of the present governments of Israel and America.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord's explanation of his own views is the correct one. However, whether he would arrive at that condemnation of policy if he had more affection for, and understanding of, the countries concerned is something one may take leave to doubt.

Perhaps I may give an example. It relates to some remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, with whom, again, I do not always altogether agree and the position of the Palestinians. It is true that the Palestinians are among the most deprived peoples in the third world. They have the disadvantage psychologically of being in a position of poverty up against a society which has a GDP roughly comparable to that of western Europe. So the European Union and other benefactors—some in the Middle East itself—have tried to assist with financial aid. Yet we know that the Palestinian regime, the authority and its leaders, have behaved exactly in the way we have seen in other third world countries. I cite Africa. The aid is scooped up by a small number of members of the elite and the mass of the people whom it was intended to help are no better off than they were before. That is another sad fact about the world we live in. Therefore, one asks: is it ethical to give aid to Zimbabwe in order to enable its army to continue to pursue war in the Congo? Is it ethical to give aid to other elites in developing countries who use it for their own personal benefit rather than for the benefit of the countries they live in?

We come up against the grave problems referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Owen and Lord Wright of Richmond. At what point does the capacity of various governments to do damage outweigh the natural reluctance we have—particularly in an age of modern weaponry—to go to war against them?

I find it difficult to draw an adequate line between the coercion of Iraq to observe the United Nations' demands for destroying its weapons of mass destruction and the conclusion reached by some that so long as it retains its government it is unlikely ever to be so persuaded. Again, if one takes the parallel, the considerable effort which I believe has been made by the Government of South Korea, with American support, to try to reach some kind of friendly relationship with North Korea seems to be faltering. There is in the world no doubt a good deal of feeling in favour of ethics. There is, sadly, a great deal of feeling in favour of malevolence. We must take the world as we find it, alas.

5.34 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, let us go back for a moment to the narrower subject of defence. In the course of my maiden speech in your Lordships' House during the debate on the gracious Speech in 1991, I referred to the special courage which our servicemen and women showed during the Gulf War of that year. I cited the aircrews who had to get airborne and perhaps rendezvous at night in pitch darkness and in radio silence with airborne tankers, to top up their fuel. before flying deep into enemy territory. Each man in his cockpit knew that he would be under constant enemy fire as he approached his targets; yet he pressed on with his mission. I counted it a very special privilege to have been associated with the activity of such brave people who display that special kind of individual courage: to outface danger and conquer fear on their own and often alone.

Only two-and-a-half weeks ago, we had been literally within minutes of expecting our airmen to display similar courage and fortitude. The Prime Minister phones his good wishes to the Tornado crews in Kuwait at the 11th hour, and they are ready to launch into their attacks, strapped into their cockpits and within 15 minutes of take-off. When the attacks were cancelled at the very last minute, the impact on all those who were going to take part must have been dramatic.

Training and professionalism would have been honed to the finest edge. Pin-point attacks would have been expected and after so many months of preparation, they would have been achieved. But I doubt whether anyone was quite ready or prepared for such a last minute cancellation. Modern communications, of course, give governments the chance to make such changes at the very last minute. I am not so confident that the impact on those whom we expect to fight our battles is as simple, easy or straightforward. I do not expect any of them to say so. The "can do", "will-co" attitude will be well to the fore. Nevertheless, I hope that if there are reasons to be concerned, the Government will hear them in mind and not be tempted to try to turn people's emotions and fighting spirit on and off, as though they were a lot of light bulbs. It is not just the servicemen, but their families and friends back home too who are caught up in all this.

One of the other penalties of such last minute changes of mind is that they can all too quickly be likened to indecision and vacillation and perhaps a loss of credibility.

One of the important lessons of that Gulf conflict in 1991, to which I referred in my maiden speech, was the implication of mounting offensive operations at great ranges from these shores and against a numerically stronger foe. Such operations call for a great intensity of effort. Mounted thousands of miles from home, they place enormous demands on logistic support. Fighting forces need large tonnages of fuel and munitions and all the other paraphernalia for waging war.

Since that time in 1991 there have been a number of important changes in our logistic support to all three services. The Strategic Defence Review has taken these forward in a sensible and significant way and once they are in place with the ro-ro ships, the strategic lift aircraft and so on, we shall be better placed than in the past to mount and sustain distant operations.

But they are not with us yet and we are facing serious stretch, trying to be ready to fight in the Gulf once again, as well as dealing with the troubled regions of Serbia and Kosovo, Bosnia and the like. I hope that we do not get caught out trying to do too much too soon. As the Strategic Defence Review so rightly said: We need to solve the problems of under-manning and additional overstretch which comes from overcommitment". I doubt that the Government have yet heeded their own wise words.

There is another aspect to the changes to logistics support foreshadowed in the Strategic Defence Review about which I have misgivings. The concept of a chief of defence logistics, admittedly yet to be spelt out in any detail, is far removed from that of a chief of defence procurement. The latter provides for the services in the future, but logistics is for the day-to-day running and operation of a service. Because of their different methods of operation inevitably there are different approaches to the logistic needs of frontline forces. The SDR acknowledges this but then speaks of developing the three single service logistics organisations into a single organisation. Of course, if Royal Air Force Harriers are embarked alongside Royal Navy Harriers both will need to adopt the naval way of spares provision and on-board storage of them when at sea, but the exception does not always provide the best basis for a general policy. I believe that to argue that more joint operations equals more joint integration is to over-simplify a very complex area. We have long had successful joint operations with our current logistic style. I wait to see how this concept develops. I hope that if there were problems it would be possible to return to the present arrangements that serve the individual frontline well.

The support of operations, particularly when they are far from home, needs a dedicated and expert service understanding and approach that has been honed and developed over many years. I hope that all of that will not be lost in whatever new arrangements Ministers insist upon. I should welcome it if in the course of the defence debate next week the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, assisted the House on the justification for introducing what appears to be such a major shake-up in this key operational support area particularly when we are so much involved in ongoing operations.

Finally, as they say, has the Ministry of Defence any concerns about the future training of our forces carried out in Wales and Scotland? Defence remains a national responsibility and has not been devolved to the Welsh Assembly or the Scottish Parliament but other responsibilities like tourism and the environment have. While one wishes and expects the regional organisations to work with the grain of national defence policy, what would happen if there were acute political differences between them and Whitehall? Might training and low flying be restricted because of the alleged adverse impact on local tourism, the environment or whatever?

Arrangements for officials to mediate differences—the so-called concordats—are provided for in the Acts, but who has the final say? The Acts do not readily provide for the Secretary of State for Defence to rule on this matter. The services need confidence that their essential training and exercises are able to go ahead as planned; so, too, do those foreign forces, for example the United States Air Force, who operate as does the RAF over wide areas of the whole of the United Kingdom. Armed forces need to be trained properly if they are to be committed to operations in the Gulf or anywhere. I hope that none of the many constitutional changes now in hand will add to the problems that our forces already face in finding adequate training in and around our shores. If we want servicemen to fight for us they must be properly trained. Their challenging skills need to be honed to the sharpest of edges in realistic training for such operations.

5.44 p.m.

Lord Sandberg

My Lords, while I welcomed the reference in the gracious Speech to the commitment to economic policies to build stability, the way to achieve this was rather conspicuous by its absence. I mention this because I hope that recent polls which suggest greater public confidence in the economy will not induce apathy on the part of the Government in what still remains a very grave problem in the Far East and Latin America. With a relatively good economy here, and even more so in the United States, it would not be difficult for complacency to creep in. This the world simply cannot afford.

It may be that the worst is over in Asia, but I would not want to hold my breath on it. We should not forget that, for example, Japan suffered an abrupt end to its post-Korean War boom as long ago as the end of 1990 when its stock market crashed dramatically. It still has not found a successful way to bring confidence back to the market. That was eight years ago. Nor has it solved the loan problems of its banking industry. Japan's resurgence is vital to the recovery in Asia in general and Korea in particular. It is to be hoped that the visit by China's President Jiang to Tokyo will focus upon economic as well as political problems in the region. Elsewhere in the area, political instability in Indonesia and Malaysia must be resolved before there can be any upturn in their economies. I do not believe that this country has yet felt the full burden of Asia's economic difficulties.

Latin America, too, has yet to regain confidence, and the terrible damage inflicted by Hurricane Mitch in Central America has only exacerbated its problems. I must declare an interest as a stockholder in a small trade bank with interests in the area. I was heartened to hear in the gracious Speech reference to the Commonwealth Development Corporation. The name of this admirable corporation is misleading as CDC no longer confines itself to emerging Commonwealth countries. During a visit I made earlier this year to Nicaragua, I was very impressed to discover that the CDC had made a foray into what had become a very successful poultry industry. I am very glad that the Government will encourage the CDC, whatever structure emerges from the public/private partnership, to continue to assist the development of the poorer countries in Central America and the Caribbean, including Cuba.

I was particularly intrigued by the reference in the gracious Speech to the decision taken last year by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to transfer to the Bank of England the power to set interest rates. That was a very brave decision which as a former banker I applauded. But it would be wonderful if well over a year later one could see the Bank leading rather than following. One did not need to be a financial genius to be aware many weeks ago that interest rates must start to come down, but it was not until the Federal Reserve in Washington reduced its rates that the Bank of England took any action. Not surprisingly, the Federal Reserve's move resulted in an increase in the strength of an already overvalued sterling. This overvalue—to some extent now reversed—has been very largely blamed for the difficulties faced by our exporters as dramatically illustrated by recent figures.

If most of us had foreseen that, the Bank of England should certainly have done so. Its position is not helped by the cumbersome procedure under which the committee of wise men which advises the Bank meets only once a month. I suggest that if a public limited company were able to take its important decisions only on a fixed monthly basis it would be in dire trouble. One also wonders whether the make-up of the wise men is entirely satisfactory. That they are men of eminence and integrity is not in question, but I do not believe that the committee should be made up entirely of what may be called professional economists. The trouble is that tertiary educational institutions do not award degrees in common sense. I believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the country deserve more speedy and pragmatic decisions by the Bank.

Finally, I support the anxieties that have been outlined by my noble friend Lady Williams about the appalling corruption in what appears to be a leaderless Russia. In expressing that view, I do not merely join the cynics who complain that the cost of chartering large luxury yachts in the Mediterranean has been pushed up to unacceptable levels by the crime bosses of Russia. I am genuinely worried by the prospects of violent unrest in Russia if that country's economic problems are not faced and corrected.

5.50 p.m.

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, I hope that I may be forgiven if I start with a purely personal reminiscence, but its relevance to the theme I propose to develop will be apparent soon enough.

For the past 50 years or more I have had a contact, in varying degrees of personal unimportance, with both this place and another place. Indeed, I was sitting in the Official Box in this very Chamber when Dr. Hugh Dalton pioneered the present Government's approach to the management of important items of news by informing the press of the contents of his Budget before he got round to informing the House of Commons. Clearly Mr. Alastair Campbell has still quite a way to go. But enough of that.

The one thing that this long experience has taught me is that the capacity of politicians for self-deception knows no limit; and that nowhere is clearer than in the case of our relations with the European Union. The latest and sorriest example was in the Queen's Speech on Tuesday of this week. At col. 5 the Official Report of 24th November states: My Government will play a leading role". That repeats the sentiment which appears in the Prorogation Speech last week, reported on 19th November at col. 1176 of the Official Report which staked out the vainglorious claim that, My Government have taken a leading role in the European Union". To some of us who had hoped that new Labour represented a break from the past so far as concerns our relations with Europe, and would mark a turn for the better, those words brought back ominous memories of Mr. John Major.

If I may be so unkind as to remind the House, he returned from Maastricht declaring that he had won,"Game, set and match". Very wisely he did not specify which particular game he had in mind. The truth of the matter was that he had sabotaged the efforts of the other 14 member states of the European Union. That accomplished, he then proclaimed that he was "at the heart of Europe", a statement that was clearly accurate if he were wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Against that background let us come to Mr. Tony Blair and new Labour. The claim to take "a leading role in the European Union" is based on the claim that, They negotiated —that is, the present Government— and signed the Treaty of Amsterdam".

They signed it alright, but to say that they "negotiated" it is complete nonsense. On 1st May last year when the Labour Government took office the treaty had been fully negotiated and was only being blocked by the Major Government on a number of issues, some good, some bad. What the Labour Government did was to surrender, both where it was justified and where it was not. They cite the decision "to opt into the social chapter" to justify their claim. But that was simply Danegeld paid to old Labour without any regard to Britain's interests or the wider interests of the European Union as a whole. And now we find Mr. Mandelson, for whom otherwise I have neither sympathy nor admiration, attempting to extricate this country from the resulting mess that has been created.

On the basis of that long list of non-achievements, Mr. Blair then proceeded to claim that he was the leader of Europe. The reaction to that ranged from anger to contempt—and in some quarters worse. One would have thought that even Mr. Blair, after 18 months in Government, would have learned better. But not a bit of it. Now we find him closeted with the other Socialist leaders of Europe hatching plans to undermine the European Central Bank and thereby the euro itself; and to substitute discredited and long since discarded plans to boost employment by the device of accommodating inflation, or indeed creating it. Such policies have been tried before and they have always failed, and they will fail again.

I suppose the kindest thing that can be said about Mr. Blair's concept of leadership is that encapsulated in the apocryphal story of Robespierre's reaction when from his study window he saw the mob following the tumbrils on the way to the guillotine. He exclaimed, "I must follow them. I am their leader".

The simple truth, and we need to accept it, is that this country is unlikely ever to exercise a leadership role in the Union—not in this generation, and possibly not in the next either. That may well be not only in our own interest but equally in the interest of the other member states as well. Our attitude and outlook are too much at variance with those of most of the other members of the Union for us to take a leading role in the growing political integration which is the objective of possibly a majority of the other members of the Union. I must stress that I refer to political integration; economic integration is a different matter. I am referring also to the claim of taking a leadership role. We can and indeed should always co-operate where it is in our interest and the general interest so to do.

Membership of the Union is of immense value to this country, and we can still be effective and valuable partners in what is unquestionably the greatest development this century has seen in the governance of the people, by the people and for the people. With a modicum of modesty we can play our part—a valuable part. We can benefit. We can contribute. But that can only be on the basis of recognising that we are but one of 15, possibly soon one of 20, and ultimately perhaps more; and that the somewhat exaggerated opinion of ourselves held by successive governments—it is why I quoted the record extending over this Government and the previous government—needs to conform to reality.

On some future occasion I shall seek to speak to your Lordships about enlargement where under the unenlightened leadership of the present Commission we are all deceiving ourselves, and in the true spirit of Mr. Micawber we are dependent upon "something turning up". On the euro, the Government are telling us the truth, half the truth and anything but the truth about the real motives why they are dragging their feet. But that must await a future occasion.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, was I right in thinking that he separated economic union from political union? If so, is he saying that economic union does not lead to political union?

Lord Cockfield

My Lords, the answer to both questions is yes.

6 p.m.

Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield

My Lords, a number of noble Lords have drawn attention to the financial turmoil in east Asia. I should like to dwell on that for a few moments because it is a deeply worrying development. It is certainly worth a good deal more attention than this House, the other place or British media have accorded it.

What began as an apparently small financial crisis in Thailand spread, at great speed, throughout the region and is evolving now into an economic crisis which brings in its train a dangerous wave of political and social turmoil, most notably, of course, in Indonesia. The shock waves have spread still wider. No economy is likely to remain unaffected, particularly as, in my view, the crisis in east Asia is far from being over. At the very least, the economies of the region will need three or four years to begin proper recovery and that means that things will get worse before they get better.

The causes of the crisis have been analysed extremely extensively. International banks in Europe and the United States did not look closely at the credit worthiness of individual borrowers. They lent in large measure to domestic banks which in turn lent on without a proper assessment of risks and all too often on a basis of relationship, not on analysis. Combined with inadequate local business and banking structures, a lack of transparency and proper regulation, that meant that borrowers in Asia and lenders in the west were involved in a process which, with the benefit of hindsight, was set to produce grave problems.

The question is whether the west—the United States and the countries of the European Union—can do anything to help and, if so, what. There are a number of actions which we can and should take although it is important that we should neither overestimate nor underestimate our ability or influence. We should not overestimate our capacity because many of the remedies lie in the hands of the regional countries. They will have to devise the solutions to improve the regulatory systems and increase the transparency and accountability of their corporate structures.

It is most definitely not a question of western or eastern values, expressions which, in my view, seem to be almost entirely devoid of meaning and unsusceptible to sensible definition. Indeed, in the European Union and the United States, we cannot claim to know the answers. As recent events have demonstrated, far from it. Therefore, we are not in a position to preach even if that were likely to be diplomatically wise or practically effective, which it is most certainly not. However, by working discreetly with our friends, we can help them devise new systems which stand a chance of re-creating a confidence without which recovery will be very difficult.

Japan is critical, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, made clear. It is still the second largest economy in the world and accounts for somewhere between 70 per cent. and 75 per cent. of the total Asian economy. While it is not true to say, as some have alleged, that Japan was a link in the causal chain of present distress, its own severe difficulties mean that it is not in a position to play a part in the recovery programme within the region—the very role which, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandberg, said, its position, size and importance warrant. Its own recent package of measures to stimulate demand, large as it is—198 billion US dollars—may not be the right answer, or at least the whole answer. In a sense, it is a larger dose of old medicine. It does not address the key questions of credit worthiness; nor does it tackle the necessary reform of the banking and corporate sector. The British Government must make every effort to discuss those issues with Japan. They most definitely must not hector through microphones but must build on the relationship of trust and frankness which has been developed so successfully over the years.

It is absolutely vital that every effort should be made to preserve the recent achievements made in the international trading system. It would be tragic, would it not, if, after all the progress made in the Uruguay Round and in the creation of the World Trade Organisation, the current crisis in east Asia led to a reversal in the trend to open and barrier-free trade. It is quite wrong to blame, as some have done, global free trade for the crisis in east Asia. Indeed, the chances of recovery will depend on maintaining and strengthening it. Here again, I believe the British Government have, as indeed they have always had, a central part to play. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us that the British Government, acting not only in conjunction with their partners in the European Union but also in their own right, will do their utmost to ensure that present difficulties in east Asia do not become an excuse for retrograde action in the international trading system.

6.8 p.m.

Lord Hughes of Woodside

My Lords, I wish to concentrate my remarks on the relationships between the United Kingdom, the European Union and international policy towards southern Africa.

The region of southern Africa has vast human capacity and tremendous national resources. It has the potential for extremely strong development and growth. If it were successful in that, the region could be the catalyst for economic growth and sustainable development wider than the region and, indeed, across the whole of Africa. But in order to succeed, the region needs very strong international support to help it to overcome the legacies of apartheid—poverty, the lack of education and the lack of a proper health service.

However, at present, despite the kind words of support on the assumption of President Mandela to the leadership of the country, when it comes to issues such as trade, peace in the region, stability and debt, I believe that much more should and could be done by the international community. We are now at the final and critical stages of the negotiations between the European Union and South Africa on a free trade area. Many promises have been made, the latest being at the Cardiff European Council, to conclude the free trade agreement discussions by autumn 1998. It is said that as one gets older, the blood gets thinner and one feels the cold more. I am bound to say that the weather outside feels a little bit more than autumnal to me. But it is necessary and vital that the pledge should be kept. The successful conclusion of agreement is important not just to South Africa itself, but also to South Africa's neighbours in the Southern African Customs Union—Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia. A successful conclusion to a fair agreement will have implications for the wider discussions on the African-Caribbean and Pacific group in the renegotiation of the Lomé Convention, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, spoke so eloquently earlier in the debate.

The talks virtually broke down in September and there were subsequently crisis meetings between Alec Erwin of the South African Government and Commissioner Pinheiro. They thrashed out a compromise deal on 5th October which the South African Government were prepared to accept. Unfortunately, Commissioner Pinheiro was having a great deal of difficulty in persuading other members of the Commission to go ahead and attempts have been made to unpick it.

Basically, there are three sticking points. The first is the continuing protectionism of some EU member states over allowing South African agricultural goods better access into the European market, especially in the context of CAP subsidies. There is a problem, which may not be very serious, in relation to the appellation of South African port and sherry. The EU wants to ensure not only that South Africa does not use those terms in the EU market, but also that it should not be allowed to use them in third country markets or even within the South African development community.

Finally, there is a continuing insistence that there should be some discussion about the Spanish gaining access to South African fishing waters. My experience of the Spanish and the coastal waters of the UK is that they break every rule; they take no account of fish stocks; but I had better not go too far down that road or we shall be here all day. However, I know that in order to gain access to Namibian waters, the Spanish—they had some fishing rights further north—used to paint out the names and numbers of their vessels, go in and fish, then go out again and paint in the numbers when they went home. That must be bad.

The European Union insists that free trade is the way forward for developing countries and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, made that point, too. It also pointed out that it needs to be a two-way process: it is not free trade for the European Union into third world countries and their access being blocked into Europe. South Africa wants a fair deal and a quick deal. It is necessary for it to have that deal if it is to tackle its problem of poverty. I believe that at the stage we are now at in those negotiations it is necessary for political clout to be used by the member states to compel an agreement to be signed to fulfil the pledges. I am sure that my honourable friends in the Government will provide that.

I should like to turn to the situation in Angola and I mention that because it may be that some of my remarks will be taken out of context. We live in a complex world and I am not sure that we understand the dynamics of international affairs. When the Cold War ended, many people expected there to be great international benefits to the world at large; sadly, those have not been seen.

It is worth reminding ourselves that in those bad old days each side had its "client" states and "client" dictators; each side tolerated human rights abuses provided they were carried out in the name of "socialism" or "the free world". I welcome the demise of those simplistic international politics which were so damaging to so many people. But the instability which followed the collapse of the Cold War raised its own problems. We heard today of the problems in eastern and central Europe; there have been a couple of mentions of the problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaïre) and those arise from the instability of people not knowing where they are going.

I want to refer specifically to the situation in Angola. Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the rebel movement UNITA, used the old Cold War dynamics. He exploited them to the full in order to obtain arms, equipment, and money and to do what he liked. It was said—and is probably true—that the MPLA Government was strongly Marxist. Even after the end of the Cold War the fact is that Savimbi remained a favourite of the United States. The dreadful consequences of the years of civil war were finally comprehended and the UN took steps to try to bring about an end to it. It did finish with the Lusaka accords of 1994. But where are we now?

Once again we are on the brink of an all-out war. There is serious fighting in the northern regions of Angola and UN monitors who were sent to oversee the peace process have had to withdraw from the UNITA-controlled areas. There is an increasing refugee crisis with severe humanitarian effects on the people of the region. The lack of world attention to that situation, particularly to Jonas Savimbi's blatant disregard of the peace process, is extremely serious. Savimbi never actually signed the peace process, but I am glad that the Government recently said, through Mr. Tony Lloyd, that there is no doubt that the main obstacle to the peace process is Jonas Savimbi.

The gracious Speech states: They [the Government] will work to maintain the authority of the Resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations, including in relation to Iraq". There have been UN Security Council resolutions in abundance on Angola and most of them have been honoured in the breach rather than in the actual carrying out. The latest batch of sanctions prohibited, for example, the sale of diamonds from UNITA-held areas of Angola. Industry sources say that Angolan diamonds are now readily available in the international markets and freely available in Amsterdam. It is possible to tell broadly the region from which diamonds come. De Beers, which is one of the largest buyers of diamonds, say "We are not buying diamonds any more from UNITA". But if they are mixed up among other diamonds, then the trade can go on.

The British Government endeavoured to apply sanctions. At this stage, I wish to record my satisfaction that at last, one year after the Government told the United Nations Security Council that in pursuance of the sanctions resolution the UNITA representative (Mr. Kindeya) had been ordered to leave the country, the Home Secretary has said that he must go. I understand—although it is uncomfortable for me to accept it—why he is still here. I was one of those, and I am sure that there are many in your Lordships' House, who argued very strongly that immigrants to this country who have certain rights of abode should not simply be thrown out without the right of appeal. Then we find that that is being used against compliance with Security Council resolutions.

I am glad that Kindeya has now been told that his appeal to remain has been refused. However, he will undoubtedly exploit the appeals procedure further and all I ask is that my noble friend persuades the Home Office to speed up the process a little. I do not say that we should not carry out the immigration laws, but that we should not let the issue drag on. Dragging it on does two things. It may appear to be a minor issue and therefore not to matter, but delay sends the wrong signals, first, to Jonas Savimbi that we are not serious about applying sanctions and, secondly, to the Angolan Government that we are not interested in bringing Savimbi to heel. We are right on the edge of a very serious conflict.

What else can we do to try to bring Savimbi to heel? He has been given opportunity after opportunity. Kofi Annan has seen him and he has made promises. Everyone who goes to see him comes back saying, "He really means it this time"; but he does not. Again he lets loose the dogs of war.

There are calls from the southern African countries for Savimbi to be indicted as a war criminal and I certainly believe that his actions warrant that. I agree with those people who say there is no point in applying sanctions unless they are credible. One thing we can look at very seriously is cutting off his satellite communications facility. Someone may say that he could still use a mobile phone system, but that is not quite the same as using a satellite communications system in his headquarters. I do not think he knows what is happening outside. I think that if he were faced with the cutting off of this international satellite communications system he would know that we were serious.

So what do we do? Do we still speak to Savimbi? One part of me says that we should totally isolate him and have nothing more to do with him. As several successive United Nations reports have stated, he still commands a large number of well-trained troops and he is still in command of very sophisticated equipment. The stuff that he handed over under the Lusaka protocols was ancient and not much good to anybody. So the dilemma is whether if he is compelled into isolation he will go back into the bush and start fighting. If he is brought back and makes more promises, will the Angolan Government finally lose patience and try to end this by a military solution—in which case he goes back to the bush? I do not believe there can be a quick surgical way of ending the situation in Angola.

What is at stake are the lives of human beings. Many thousands died in the last civil war and we certainly do not want to see another one. I hope that at the end of this debate and in the days to come the Government will make it clear that they will use every possible means to bring Savimbi to heel. If we are saying that the United Nations Security Council resolutions must be adhered to and that if they are not we will send in the bombers, other people will be entitled to ask, "Why do you ignore Africa?". I believe that there is a huge possibility of great development in southern Africa. It is time that our promises were fulfilled and I am quite sure that this Government will see that they are.

6.22 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, one viewpoint that has, mercifully, been entirely absent from your Lordships' debate this evening on foreign policy has been the very fashionable contention that nation states can no longer manage foreign policy and that the whole matter must be delegated or assigned to higher, supranational and new globally constructed bodies, and that the days of clearly defined national interests have been lost in a whirl of interdependence and globalism. It is very wise of your Lordships to avoid going all the way along that track.

I should like to give a memorable quotation: There has never been a greater need in human history in this impersonal and fragmented world for the individual to be identified with the sovereign state and with the nation state. That is not a quotation from some narrow nationalist: it is from the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, for whom I had a lot of time. I believe he was a very wise man, grossly maltreated by the Washington Administration, and obviously a person in a position both to see the worth of the nation state and the worth of the international order which he struggled to maintain and administer at a very difficult time for the United Nations.

Nor am I trying to rubbish the whole concept of a common foreign and security policy in the European Union. It has value. I think that collaboration and close alliance with our leading continental allies is extremely valuable in certain circumstances, but it can only take us so far. As the noble Lord, Lord Owen, demonstrated, when we get to Iraq the whole thing falls to bits because France is going in another direction. There are many other instances where there are bound to be differences and delays which could damage foreign policy purposes. The classic case, of course, was the premature recognition of Croatia, which led to much bloodshed; and there will be many more such instances in the future.

Nor am I seeking to discard the important central tenet to which we have clung for many years: that we must be very close to our American allies and work with them on every possible occasion for the security of the globe, and particularly of Europe. But they, too, pursue policies which can become extremely fragmented. The idea that there is a single American foreign policy is, alas, not true. There are many, even in the town of Washington, and it is quite often very hard to pin down who is in charge. There, too, there is a great deal of fragmentation. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said in a fascinating article he has written in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, this random quality of American policy, although we try to follow it from time to time, leaves much to be desired. Certainly it does not justify our American friends constantly criticising the Europeans and the British for not having a clear foreign policy, when their own policy is very far from clear.

So I am not rubbishing any of that, but I recognise and indeed am warming to what I sense is the position of the Government: that we do still need an agile, subtle, very clearly defined and diamond-edged foreign policy of our own, which we must pursue in very rapidly changing world conditions. They have been changing so much even in the past year that many of the things we have talked about, such as the line-up in the Middle East and the modalities of European policies, which have completely changed, need redefinition all the time.

I should like to suggest two areas where 1 believe we could bring reinforcement to the tasks of redefining our national foreign policy and of supporting the appropriate international bodies, and to do so in a constructive way which would not necessarily put us, as my noble friend Lord Cockfield mockingly suggested, at the very heart and leadership of Europe. That is not the right language at all, as he rightly said, but we should try for a position where we could make extremely constructive contributions to the development of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Europe. We could also make extremely strong contributions to the stability of the wider world.

First, I should like to say a word about the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth gets one mention in the gracious Speech, rather by a side wind. I am pleased about that: I am grateful for small mercies. I also see in The Times today, although it may not be reliable, that the Republic of Ireland is thinking about joining the Commonwealth. That at least should make people open their eyes, whether it is true or not, to the fact that the Commonwealth is a remarkable thing. It is a new resource; it is not an old sentimental club. It is a fantastic network, which corresponds much more to the nature of the real new world order than people realise, and possibly more than some of the great centralised trade blocs, which of course are based on a different pattern of trade and global investment. There was a good start, when the Foreign Secretary announced the new mission for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and its foreign policy at the beginning of the present Labour Government, when the Commonwealth got quite a good mention. Then we had the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting when everyone made a lot of speeches. However, now the subject seems to be disappearing again. That is a great pity and a real neglect of a very powerful resource of this country which can be developed as a network.

Let me detain your Lordships for another second or two with some figures, though figures are often tedious and many statistics are suspect. Over the past ten years. from 1987 to 1997, Britain invested abroad about £210 billion and received back over that same period in dividends about £172 billion. In return, foreigners invested here about half that: £85–£86 billion. So here was a huge "value-added" for the nation. Most of that investment was not in the European Union, and so while concentrating on getting things right in Brussels, we must not, for heaven's sake, make that the only policy. Other pillars of policy are needed. Eighty-two per cent. of the direct foreign investment from this country, which forms our overseas assets, is in non-European Union countries. There is a very large chunk of it in the other great English-speaking nation, the United States, and about 30 per cent. of it is in other Commonwealth countries, together with about 18 per cent. in the European Union. The earnings from these investments roughly correspond.

Therefore, however strongly we may feel that the European policy must be right, that we must have good relations with our continental neighbours and strike the right balance between being absorbed into an over-centralised political union while at the same time playing a very active part in Europe, the realities—and realities are a very hard business—suggest that we should also be attending to our global relationships and to our relationships in the rest of the Commonwealth.

I hope that the Commonwealth will play more of a part in that aspect of our foreign policy concerned with our business interests and our links with other nations around the world, which are interested in good conditions for investment, one of which is the political condition; namely, that there should be good governance and democracy and proper concern for human rights in those countries. If they do not get that right the investment will not go there. That is one pillar that I should like to see put in place in our foreign policy. It does not seem to be very evident in the gracious Speech, but I hope that more can be made of it.

The other pillar relates to the European scene. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, raised the question of enlargement, as have many other speakers. They were right to do so; indeed, enlargement is the whole purpose of Europe. It is why the war was fought. Unfortunately, it was found in 1945 that the battle for the reunification of Europe had been lost, but then we fought the battle all over again and virtually won. The idea that the whole process should be delayed by endless negotiations about Bulgarian strawberries or Polish shoe leather, and so on, is most disappointing.

I believe that the British Government should make their own distinctive contribution to European policy by being the real champion of enlargement. Indeed, far from getting off to a flying start, I fear that the latter is rapidly running into the sand. One has only to visit the capitals of eastern and central Europe to hear the gloom with which they report their preliminary discussions with Brussels. Endless difficulties are being raised there of the kind which, in many cases, are literally insoluble. They are certainly insoluble until magic has been done in relation to the reform of the CAP, and other such measures.

We should recognise that Britain has always had very close friendships with eastern and central European countries. We helped little Estonia get its independence. We helped Hungary, which wanted a British leader, between the wars. Indeed, the other countries of eastern and central Europe looked again and again at Britain for an example and for support. We went to war for Poland. All the time those countries are looking back to us and asking, "Where's your help? We realise that you're busy in Paris, Bonn and Brussels sorting out your affairs, and so on, but you were our friend". At this very moment the Estonians are celebrating the 80th anniversary of what? I dare say that no one in the Chamber has the slightest idea. Actually, it is the 80th anniversary of the British Government and the British Navy coming to the aid of Estonia and creating a new independent state.

What is our policy towards those three gallant Baltic states? As President Clinton said only the other day, there will be no security in Europe unless there is security in these three little states which have had such a tragic history. Is it our policy to see them divided? Estonia is apparently to be invited to the application process of the EU, while the other two are to be left out. Are we arguing any differently? Are we saying that they should be treated as one, which I think would be a better approach? Are we encouraging them into the World Trade Organisation? In short, are we working with the people who regard us as their friend and look to us for using our, in the European context, big-power status to see that their interests are carried forward in Brussels?

There are two areas where we could have a far stronger foreign policy without in any way upsetting the major thrust of our policy in relation to the EU, the Atlantic alliance and the wider world. As other noble Lords with much greater experience than I have said, we are moving into an extremely dangerous period worldwide. The turmoil is not over. The stock market thinks that it is, but I suspect that those concerned will receive a nasty surprise. The major crisis points of the world are getting worse. The economic crisis of east Asia, as the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore, very eloquently said, is leaking into politics and tensions are rising between China and Japan, which is extremely worrying. Indonesia is in chaos and we do not know where Malaysia is going. There are very difficult times ahead. Our bilateral relations with these countries and our experience in dealing with them in the past, especially Japan which regards us as a special friend, will be absolutely vital in ensuring that there really is a new and stable world order. We should keep our eyes very firmly on that goal.

6.34 p.m.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

My Lords, we sometimes seem to talk as if war and peace were one of only two positions that we could adopt; that is to say, either the one or the other. I want to suggest that there is another state in between which people living in conflict times and conflict zones experience. It is one of survival and one of rebuilding their lives after peace is declared. My few remarks tonight are dedicated to the making of the culture of peace, which I see as a condition which can be fashioned and experienced throughout war and after war has finished her bloody business. I believe that much can be done. The United Nations is our major instrument for this. It offers mechanisms if we care to take them up, but only if we do.

One of the major problems during and after war is the plight of refugees or displaced people. The major instrument for dealing with that is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I look now to Iraqi refugees inside the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran has half a million Iraqi refugees and 1.5 million Afghanistan refugees. Iran receives 11.4 million dollars from the UNHCR to look after those refugees. There are officially 2 million refugees but, unofficially, I think the figure is 2.5 million. Noble Lords should be aware that the amount I have mentioned is less than 1 per cent. of the whole UNHCR budget. The total budget of the UNHCR is 1.2 billion dollars a year. That is meant to cover the plight of 22 million people, 13 million of whom are refugees—that is, 58 per cent. of the total. Twenty-one per cent are displaced people, 15 per cent. are returning refugees and 6 per cent. are others. Iran is given less than 1 per cent. of the UNHCR budget to cope with 15 per cent. of the refugee population of the globe.

So much can be done, but only if we look at the situation constructively. Will the Government press the UNHCR to give considerably more of its budget to Iraqi and other refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran? I refer particularly to the excellent beginning of a new relationship between Her Majesty's Government and the Islamic Republic of Iran on which I congratulate them.

The United Nations has been exceptionally taken up over the past eight years or more within Iraq itself. Recently, a letter to the Independent on 24th November of this year from Church of England leaders and other religious leaders and signed by Bishops, together with a leader published in the Independent at the same time, seemed to suggest that the suffering of the Iraqi people is caused by the United Nations. Perhaps I may swiftly put that misconception to rest. I do not even need to refer to yesterday's debate in another place when some very curious misconceptions were put forward, but correctly combatted by Her Majesty's Government and other speakers.

I should like to remind the House that Resolutions Nos. 706 and 712, which are the resolutions which allow Iraq to have oil for food, medicines and other essential civilian needs, were passed very early in August and September 1991 and that Saddam Hussein's rejections of those resolution lasted nearly six years. I recall it well. It was only after the resultant hardships began to spread well within the tentacles of his own regime that he accepted their implementation.

Despite the distinction that the UN properly makes—and which our Government have always made—between Saddam Hussein's regime and the Iraqi people, I suggest that Saddam Hussein has been determined to use their suffering as a propaganda tool and as a means of blackmailing the UN into lifting sanctions before he complied with other resolutions, especially as regards his weapons of mass destruction. I suggest that the arguments of those in the other place and in the United Kingdom who blame UN sanctions for the misery of the Iraqi people, show that they have been brainwashed into accepting Saddam Hussein's propaganda. It shows that he has succeeded in shifting the blame from his shoulders to those of the outside world. I remind noble Lords that the delay in processing Iraqi purchases under the current oil-for-food scheme, which is due to vigilant vetting by the United Nations, has been made necessary by the continual attempts of the regime to buy material for the security services or luxury items for Saddam Hussein's cronies. I use that word properly. Commodities such as whisky, marble for his palaces, equipment for cosmetic surgery or military use constantly have to be weeded out of purchase orders. The regime uses the extensive oil smuggling operations to fund such purchases. It is clear that Saddam Hussein values his weapons of mass destruction more than the welfare of the Iraqi people and I ask why? Who is he planning to attack next? He has decimated one group; that is one in 10 people. He has virtually wiped them out. In the words of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iraq, Saddam Hussein has practised genocide on the marsh people of southern Iraq as well as on the southern Shia, the Kurdish people and on the people in the centre of Iraq. It has involved the entire population.

I believe that the lifting of sanctions would be a betrayal of the Iraqi people themselves—they have suffered three decades of rule by the present criminal clique—unless we have something to offer in its place. Will the Government make it a condition of lifting sanctions to restore the Mesopotamian marshlands of Iraq? I believe that scientifically it is a feasible solution. It is a physical possibility. The damming of the Tigris and Euphrates was a massive exercise. It can be stopped by demolishing the dams. The Tigris and the Euphrates could then flow back again into those ancient marshlands, which pre-date the last ice age and which contain so much human history and did contain 750,000 people. They are a lost tribe. Many of them are now dwelling as refugees in Iran. I expect the Government to make it a condition for the lifting of sanctions or discussion about that, to force Saddam Hussein to restore at least a part of the marshlands of Iraq so that the historic marshland people can be returned after the war is over.

Will the Government fully commit themselves to supporting the Iraqi opposition in its wish to remove Saddam Hussein? It is wonderful that Her Majesty's Government twice this week saw a number of the opposition groups. Who else might Saddam Hussein attack? I remind the Government that it is nearly 100 years since Britain signed a treaty in 1899 to protect the sovereign state of Kuwait from outside invasion. Next year marks the 100th anniversary. Will the Government re-confirm the United Kingdom's commitment to defend the sovereign nation of Kuwait which remains so highly vulnerable to Iraq which still contains weapons of major mass destruction?

On 5th October this year the US Congress passed the Iraq Liberation Act to support the Iraqi opposition with military assistance and training. I am suggesting that the UN organisation, properly supported, had the requisite force to bring democracy to the Iraqi people. UNSCOM has had wonderful successes. While the USA has passed that law offering military intervention, it does not support one of the major UN organisations, which is a proponent of peace; namely, UNESCO. I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on re-joining UNESCO and for the modest progress that has been made subsequently. It is clear why there is no commission as there is in other countries. The reason is that the Secretary of State for International Development is committed to conquering poverty. In place of a commission a more modest exercise was proposed which would be cheaper to run. It would be a network within the various ministries plus a secretariat.

However, the great gap in the membership of UNESCO is the USA. It is a gap in terms of the English-speaking world being a part of the United Nations scientific, cultural and education organisations. The President of the United States, Bill Clinton, wrote, Today, the work of UNESCO plays an ever more valuable and meaningful role in shaping global peace and security. UNESCO's contributions to the free flow of information across boundaries, natural and political. are integral to the success of global democratization. It continues to play a critical role in breaking down obstacles to information sharing, enabling citizens an equal opportunity to take on the responsibilities and reap the rewards of international citizenship". He wrote that to Frederico Mayor, the Director-General of UNESCO on 3rd November 1995. But he has not made further progress despite the fact that the US recently fielded its largest and most senior delegation to UNESCO last month in the context of the World Conference on Higher Education. There was an Assistant Secretary of Education; senior representatives of USAID, the US Department of State; a civil society delegation including the President of the University of Minnesota; the President of the International Association of University Presidents who is himself President of the California State University; the President of Iowa State University and other major education leaders. I believe that they have the full support of the US Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, in sending a message to the President now to bring the United States back to membership of UNESCO.

Will Her Majesty's Government press President Clinton to rejoin UNESCO for the sake of the culture of peace which UNESCO promotes and for the sake of the English language, which is part of UNESCO's remit? We need the United States of America in UNESCO. The United Kingdom was the penultimate country to rejoin UNESCO. It is best placed with the continuing special relationship with the US, particularly at this moment, to press the US President to rejoin UNESCO now.

Finally, I ask the Government to work hard in the United Kingdom and in the European Union to forestall the culture of war. The White Paper on strategic export controls has not yet been put into legislation. There is much that our Government should and can do to enhance the European Union code of conduct. We are in a special position now in that we have opened the debate on European defence. I quote the Government's own phrase. Surely that is an end to the isolation and it is effectively Britain's breakthrough. The negative has become the positive, offering a step towards a European defence agency and common European defence programmes. I believe that that is a true and proper integration pointer for the European Union. The previous policy, promoted by successive governments under the Conservatives, was against the WEU and in favour of NATO. It is now more broadly understood that Britain is at last in a position to significantly affect the European Union defence policy including arms control. Will the Government agree to take up that cause more firmly?

6.50 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, it is not fashionable—nor even considered rational, perhaps—to continue to see Russia as one of the serious threats to the peace of the world. It will be said, with truth, that she now has a working relationship with NATO, through the Founding Act, she is an active supporter of the OSCE, she is part of the NATO operation in Bosnia, she works with the G7 and so on. There is, too, the sad fact that Russia is in a severe and continuing economic crisis. The soldiers have not been paid, but there is no electricity to supply the bases. And, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, rightly and movingly said, the people face hunger and privations this winter on a tragic scale. How can such a country be a threat?

What makes Russia, as a state, a threat and dangerous is her major and continuing contribution to proliferation. I was very pleased to find that proliferation was one of the main themes of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. The SDR recognises that the greatest risks to international stability lie in the Gulf. Although the use of biological and chemical weapons is banned by international law, there are some opponents who may be tempted to regard their use or threat as a counter to superior conventional forces, and there is worrying evidence of wider proliferation. The Minister gave us some telling statistics. The paper on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction recently circulated to us by the two Ministers speaking in this debate, gave us some idea of the potential threat from Iraq alone. I look forward to receiving the summary of the conclusions on our national defence response to proliferation.

So where does Russia come in when we are considering the growing menace of proliferation, ranging from missile delivery systems and weapons of mass destruction to biological and chemical know-how? Russia is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a noble people and a state apparatus which has changed very little in the past 10 years. Jekyll, on the 27th October, was discussing with President Clinton's representative for non-proliferation the Russian Security Council's active role in creating an effective mechanism in Russia for control over dual-purpose technology export. The relevant law was to be reviewed by the Duma. In passing, I may say that the Duma is still considering the Start II Treaty, years down the line, and Russia's signature of the Chemical Weapons Treaty was only ratified this year by the Duma and has not yet led to the destruction of most of her chemical weapons despite extensive financing by the West. Her signature to the Wassenaar Agreement, replacing COCOM, was promptly reneged upon.

So what is Hyde doing meanwhile? One of Mr. Primakov's first acts was to appoint his First Deputy as head of the newly-created interdepartmental council for military-technical co-operation with foreign countries and to require that the new head of the state arms company should be a former member of the Foreign Intelligence Service—his service. Primakov's longstanding relations with the Middle East make it unsurprising that, since he came to power, Gaddafi, who has been trying to resume co-operation with the Russians on atomic matters, has had a message from President Yeltsin discussing the prospects for bilateral relations. Syria, whose forces are 90 per cent. equipped with Soviet and Russian weapons, has been visited by the Russian Defence Minister, who regards her as a reliable partner with whom Russia will develop military and military technical co-operation. The Algerian Army has been receiving training in Russia, including missile exercises using the Smerch missile system.

The Russian Atomic Energy Minister is to visit the Bushehr-1 nuclear power station being built by the Russians in Iran. The Ministry is also hoping for a contract from the Kudankalam nuclear power station in India. There is of course no reason whatever why Russia should not tender for civil nuclear contracts. But we should not forget that, without the cryogenic rocket motors which Russia sold to India some years ago, after giving a commitment not to do so, India would not have the means of delivering her nuclear missiles and becoming a nuclear power. It is scarcely reassuring that, according to a Russian official discussing the export drive for the X-35 anti-ship missile, Russia may adapt for carrying X-35 missiles all the 40 SU-30 MK multi-role fighters that India is to receive before the year 2001—with an increased range of 300 kilometres, and the prospect of a shore-based version for use in the tropics.

Last month the Russians demonstrated their improved Grad and Smerch missile systems to the attachés of 30 Middle Eastern and Far Eastern countries. They are still building Topel missiles. However, what must and should concern us most perhaps is what has been delicately described in Russia as, Deliveries to a number of countries that traditionally categorically object to the divulging of information regarding their arms purchases". Russia, despite having signed the treaty banning biological weapons, went on producing them—and may still be doing so—and selling them. Despite the fact that much foreign aid has been given (200 million dollars from the US alone) for the destruction of chemical weapons, which include nerve gases—and we too have offered help, as the Minister told us—little has been destroyed. It is presumably still highly saleable, as is Russia's military nuclear know-how, to which we owe the threat from North Korea. This is why I welcome the recognition throughout the SDR that proliferation and arms control, as well as the training of highly-skilled personnel able to produce and conduct an effective defence are vital areas for action. I was delighted to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, had to say.

I hope, incidentally, that support will be given for the dangerous, difficult and sophisticated intelligence-gathering operations that will be needed. Intelligence in this area will be one of the most important weapons in our defence strategy.

But I have something more positive to say about Russia. Mr. Primakov has great influence with Saddam Hussein and in such other potential areas of trouble in the Middle East as Syria, Algeria, Libya and Iran. Russia, as a state, has always given priority to supporting its defence industry, and that industry remains a vital money-earner and a weapon of influence. Soldiers may not get paid, but the research laboratories, working on Smart technology, will be supported and there will be new nuclear weapons and the new SU-37 aircraft, as well as the new generation of nuclear submarines.

But the Russian people have changed, more than perhaps Mr. Primakov and the nomenclatura may have realised. The Russian Government will need help to confront the terrible human problems that the country will face. We should give that help—but with a price. Instead, therefore, of proposing—as I believe has been suggested to the Iraqi so-called dissident groups in London—that the UN should set up a tribunal to try Saddam Hussein, we should, I suggest, be exerting the strongest possible pressure behind the scenes on Mr. Primakov to make Saddam comply with the UN resolution on inspections, and to ensure that the inspections are carried through to the end. Russia has a particular responsibility in this area because of her disregard of non-proliferation. I believe, with regret, that to call Saddam to a tribunal—satisfying as it would be in many ways—would unite his people behind him and give him the status of a martyr in the Arab world. Do we want that? Primakov needs our help. This should be the quid pro quo.

I would have liked also to see a Berlin airlift-type UN humanitarian operation mounted in Iraq, Kosovo and Sudan. But I recognise that the issue of territorial sovereignty would ensure that neither the Russians nor the Chinese would ever support it. What is important is that we should use Russian leverage to the full rather than dissipate our overstretched forces in another Gulf war which might not end quite so quickly or cleanly as the last. I feel great concern about the way in which our forces are used as a kind of political football, which we do not seriously intend to kick.

I have another, quite different, concern about which I would like briefly to speak. That is the war in the Congo, where I served from 1959 to 1961. I was there when the mutiny happened and when the country fell into disorder and turmoil. I am concerned about the part being played there by the unfortunate Zimbabwean troops despatched there by Mr. Mugabe. The troops must be absolutely disoriented. They will have no common language; they are far from home without logistical support; they are demoralised, and they may well find themselves fighting other Commonwealth troops from Uganda. Indeed, I believe that Mr. Mugabe wants that to happen. They will certainly be surrounded by totally undisciplined and unfriendly tribesmen, and this war, so far from Zimbabwe, is costing their country millions.

Meanwhile, at home, Mr. Mugabe is breaking his word to the IMF and to us and is seizing farms without compensation. He will very soon have utterly destroyed the economy of his country. Is there to be no Commonwealth meeting? I strongly support the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, in deeply regretting that the issue seems to be being left to a French initiative. The French have very considerable interests in the Congo but I doubt that they are interested in looking after the welfare of our Commonwealth troops. South Africa has tried to bring good sense to the situation but has failed. We should surely take an initiative.

7 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, I am encouraged to see that international development has taken precedence over foreign affairs, at least in the title of today's debate. Perhaps this demonstrates a new emphasis in Her Majesty's Government's policy.

This Government have taken a huge stride towards the United Nations GNP target in international development spending and intend to reverse the decline under the previous government. Last week saw the all-important IDA 12 replenishment in Copenhagen which is a significant increase in the World Bank's lending to the poorest countries. If, as I suspect, UK officials had a lot to do with that increase, this is a time for congratulation after many years of retrenchment.

As we inevitably become more critical of this Government over time, as policy is turned into practice, we must not forget that the present Secretary of State for International Development has won more Cabinet support and Treasury backing than any other aid Minister. Long may she and her junior Minister continue to reflect many of the concerns which the NGOs and Churches have wanted to impress on the Government for some time. Let us recognise that Britain has a lot of influence on the course of international development and is in a strong position to lead the campaign against world poverty. Because of this, and because of the commitment of so many people in this country, I should like to see an even bolder public stance towards aid in general.

I should declare an interest as a new board member of Christian Aid and a confirmed supporter of CARE International and Save The Children. I was in Uganda recently on behalf of three local Ugandan charities and in a moment I will give an example of Britain's support for African development.

One important reason for celebration is that the ODA, now the DfID, as an agency of development, is held in high regard by the international aid community. With proper funding and direction it can wag the dog; it can influence aid and foreign policy harmonisation in the Community and among some of the more sluggish OECD donors, notably the United States which still seems to need geography lessons and in many respects has not yet even understood what the United Nations is for.

This does not mean, however, that Britain has got it all right. Some say that we are already depending too much on rhetoric—for example, of meeting the international DAC targets. Few NGOs are satisfied with the quality of British aid on the ground and its ability to reach the very poorest people. I am not clear how governments are going to respond to the new international criteria for aid effectiveness and good governance. On this point, two things have happened in development finance. First, more IDA lending, perhaps even 50 per cent., is going towards poverty reduction, basic needs and micro-finance, all of which will be welcomed by the poor if the money is genuinely reaching them through popular institutions. Secondly, country performance assessments are going to be applied more rigidly from now on and so-called "bad" governments which fail to meet the criteria will not qualify for future lending. Perhaps the Minister can say whether this new policy is not penalising the poor in those countries and whether the World Bank has a formula for supporting good projects under "bad" governments which do not pass the test.

I am pleased that our Government will continue their support for NGO humanitarian work in Africa, especially to help women and children and the victims of AIDS, which, as we have heard from the UN this week, is on the increase in Africa. In Uganda I visited the Ugandan Women's Efforts to Save Orphans, headed by the First Lady of Uganda, the Women Prisoners Resettlement Project beside Luzira Prison, and the integrated health project near Jinja, which helps AIDS victims and works for prevention of the disease.

I believe that in our secular state we still underestimate the value of Churches in development. In many poor countries, especially those of Africa, the Churches are the most active in the campaign against poverty. My wife and I attended a service in Kampala's Pentecostal Church and were amazed at the attendance, commitment and content of the service. AIDS is still a greater enemy of the people in east Africa and southern Africa than any of the political or rebel movements, and people in Uganda are constantly exhorted by their clergy, teachers and health workers to take more health precautions.

British aid agencies are active in the campaign against AIDS, supporting a range of small initiatives to spread education and awareness, care for the sick and dying, and prevention of further outbreaks. I attended the opening by the Princess Royal of the new Mildmay International AIDS Centre near Kampala which will train health workers and give advice to up to 100 outpatients a day. The DfID is behind this as well as several initiatives by British NGOs like Christian Aid and Save the Children to combat the AIDS epidemic alongside the Ugandan health services.

Britain is also involved through UNAIDS, the Medical Research Council and local Ugandan charities in the monitoring and control of the disease, which is now actually on the decrease in Uganda. There has been a progressive decline in HIV prevalence rates in ante-natal clinics since 1995, especially in urban areas. This is good news which we do not hear from other parts of Africa.

On Uganda's western borders, the civil war in the Congo, which has been mentioned many times, still threatens to spread into east Africa and elsewhere, although for the time being it has been contained. The international agencies are sustaining new waves of refugees in Tanzania and Burundi. As Oxfam points out, the new fashion for "African" solutions should not be an excuse for Britain and France to draw back from this region where we have had, and still have, so many interests. South Africa continues to play a trenchant diplomatic role but we must not leave it to them. I hope the Minister can confirm that we are still actively encouraging dialogue between the various parties in the Congo, restraint in other interested neighbouring nations, and the strengthening of internal civil structures in the Congo, including NGOs, which will increase the participation of the people in their own society. In a ravaged country like Kahila's Congo—I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, about the middle way between war and peace—this is easier said than done, but we can be sure that if it is not done we will be in for a more expensive humanitarian exercise.

Finally, I turn to Iraq. I firmly believe that, while standing firm on weapons' inspections, we should pay more attention to the plight of the Iraqi people. In an age of satellite communications it is perhaps more possible to keep humanitarian lines open to ordinary people than it was under Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. We should recognise more publicly that, in spite of the propaganda war on both sides, there is suffering in many sections of the community. British NGOs working there testify to the breakdown in many essential services and we must continue to demonstrate to them that on a human level we are doing what we can to help.

There are signs that sanctions are hurting the Iraqi people more than they are hurting Saddam. While it is true that food rations are being distributed more efficiently, nutrition levels are still low and protein foods are expensive. For example, a small chicken costs a monthly salary. Health services are declining and drinking water is often unsafe. Partly for these reasons, and also to earn extra income, more children stay away from school. I am not certain that we are hearing enough about this in government statements where it may be seen as weakness to feel too much concern for victims of Saddam's hideous tyranny. On the contrary it is a strength to demonstrate our continued support, whether through oil for food or charities, for a people who are at the mercy of such a dictator.

I ask the Government only whether they are doing enough to support British and Iraqi organisations which are genuinely working day and night to help the Iraqi people through this crisis, and to ask them whether they can do any more to improve the somewhat inadequate means by which the UN agencies are delivering aid.

7.10 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, the noble Earl is widely respected for his sustained interest in the poor, the suffering and the starving in many parts of the world. I shall not follow him down that path partly because I do not know enough to do so and partly because I want to refer, if I may, to the comments of my noble friend Lord Gilbert. My noble friend opened the debate in his usual competent fashion. He said that as a result of remarks I had made to him he had altered his entire speech. I have had to alter my entire speech because of the remarks he made in response to my remarks.

I had asked him why there was no reference to nuclear weapons in the gracious Speech. My noble friend said that he would take that into account when he introduced the debate. He did so but he did not answer the question which I had put. I believe that my surprise at there being no reference to that matter was justified. After all, the Labour Party manifesto stated that we would pursue the elimination of the nuclear weapon. That confirmed what was stated in a previous gracious Speech. In replying to questions that I have put to my noble friend Lady Symons she has made it clear that this is a primary interest of the Government.

It is interesting to note that there has been much activity in this area but none of it is mentioned in the gracious Speech. Therefore we still ask ourselves why there is no reference to this matter. I rather believe that we are being prepared for a profound change in the wrong direction in the Government's policy. It seems to me that the elimination of the nuclear weapon is on the backburner. If the Government had wanted to mention anything about nuclear weapons in the gracious Speech, they could have suggested to Her Majesty the words, "My Government have decided not to take any steps to implement the manifesto policy of seeking the global elimination of nuclear arms. My Government demonstrated the firmness of their decision in this matter when on Friday 13th November the vote of the United Kingdom was cast against eliminating the nuclear weapon at the United Nations and against an attempt to move positively in the direction of elimination".

The new agenda coalition resolution calls on the nuclear weapon states to demonstrate an unequivocal commitment to the speedy and total elimination of their respective nuclear weapons, and to pursue without delay and in good faith, and to bring to a conclusion, negotiations leading to the elimination of those weapons. The resolution was put to the vote. It was carried by 97 votes to 19. We were among the ignominious 19 who voted against the elimination of nuclear weapons. This could hardly have been included in the gracious Speech, but it is what happened and it is what is happening.

This is a profoundly serious matter. If, indeed, the close association of our Government with that of the United States—which, of course, has never declared itself in favour of the elimination of nuclear weapons and is to all intents and purposes determined to remain the nuclear boss of the world—means that on all occasions when, as in this instance, a resolution for elimination arises, we follow the United States into the negative area, although we may declare ourselves to have an ethical policy, our position is far from ethical. That ethical policy was called into question a little earlier in a different context by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff.

What is to be done under these circumstances? It seems to me that we must ask the Government to pursue their own policy in this matter and not to be guided always by the question of what is big brother, the United States, going to do. It is time we set out on our own. We should have supported the resolution. The resolution has now to be resubmitted to the United Nations. It would be splendid if, on that occasion, we decided that we would not only declare ourselves in favour of the elimination of nuclear weapons but would associate ourselves with the large majority of the nations in the General Assembly who want to declare themselves and to move physically and practically in that direction. Having said what I wanted to say, as there are other speakers to follow and time is getting on, I shall now sit down.

7.17 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, the gracious Speech gives us the opportunity to debate again what is perhaps the greatest issue facing the country today; our relationship with the European Union. After our debates last summer on the Amsterdam Treaty, this is an opportunity to take stock, to keep our feet on the ground and to ask the Government a few questions.

However before doing that, I want to put a point to your Lordships which has occurred to me only recently, but which I believe may be fundamental to our discussions on the future of Europe. I refer to the ambiguity in the word "Europe" itself. The word "Europe" has come to have two completely different, indeed contrasting, meanings and this is causing great confusion when we argue about the Treaty of Rome. On the one hand, the word "Europe" means the Europe of different nations, each with its different history, with its different and glorious culture, and each now—thank God!—with its own democracy. This is the Europe which we Eurosceptics know and love and which we wish to see continue and flourish, with the nations of Europe freely trading together. We would certainly see the United Kingdom as part of that Europe, inevitably and proudly.

But now comes the problem. Those who benefit from the Treaty of Rome have not only hijacked Beethoven's 9th Symphony to be the anthem of the superstate they plan to create. They have also hijacked the word "Europe", so it has now come to mean everything which stems from that treaty—all the stultifying bureaucracy and socialism and fraud which daily pour forth from the Commission and the other institutions of the communities. Thus the "European ideal" has become the whole terrifying plan to subject our national democracies to Brussels and the Luxembourg Court, conquering us by obfuscation and stealth.

So, we have to be very careful when we use the word "Europe". Do we mean the collection of different democratic nations which should be freely trading together, each inspired by its past, and free to guide its own future? Or do we mean the emerging superstate controlled by central bureaucracy in Brussels? I submit that it is this ambiguity which allows those who wish to see the superstate become a reality to accuse those of us who do not of being "anti-European" or even "Euro-phobic", or "dangerous nationalists" or "Little Englanders". For instance, it is surely the confusion created by this ambiguity which inspired the noble Lord, Lord Razzall, to describe my Starred Question about the proposed takeover directive on 5th October of this year, as "Euro-phobic"; and the noble Lord is not alone. His noble friend, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, makes the same mistake whenever he gets the chance.

So, I urge all Eurosceptics, at least, to use the word "Europe" only when they mean the Europe of nations which we know and admire and to use the expressions "Treaty of Rome" or "EU" or quite simply "Brussels" when we mean the dangerous venture upon which our politicians have so foolishly embarked. Let us be quite clear: we love Europe, but we hate the Treaty of Rome.

This brings me to perhaps the central deception practised by those who support the treaty, which is to pretend that the EU has done anything significant to promote peace in Europe since the last war or that it is likely to do so in future. Of course, if that were true, it would be worth putting up with almost any bureaucratic interference and economic disadvantage. But, as I have tried to point out before, it is not true. NATO kept the peace in Europe throughout the Cold War, and NATO will continue to do so, provided that it is not elbowed out of Europe by a jealous and incompetent EU which now, I fear, is a real danger.

The trouble is that the EU longs to be a superstate, and one of the essential attributes of a superstate is a foreign policy. So the EU has to have a foreign policy which means that it goes round poking its nose into conflicts in which it has no genuine status or interest. and where it is not welcome either. Croatia, Albania, Cyprus, Liberia and the Middle East come to mind here. The truth is that if Germany and the other European nations can keep their democracies, their people are most unlikely to allow their leaders to provoke a war. Democracy is the guarantor of peace in Europe, not the EU, which is scarcely a very democratic set-up, as we know.

To put this vital analysis to the test and to find out whether the Government agree with it, I wonder whether I could ask the Minister two related questions. First, can she tell the House of any instance when a truly democratic nation has ever provoked a war? Secondly, does she agree that conflict often arises in forced conglomerations of disparate nations, especially when the lid is eventually forced off? I submit that the answers to these two questions go to the heart of the claim that the EU somehow promotes peace in Europe, which is by far the most important claim made by those who promote the treaty.

Perhaps I could give your Lordships just one example of how crucial the Eurocrats regard this claim to be. Your Lordships may remember when the Commission refused to reveal how much mere money each member state was contributing net to its coffers, saying that EU membership was so valuable that it should not be subjected to such vulgar questioning. When pressed on this response on 19th October, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, M. Jean-Claude Juncker, defended the Commission's stance thus: How can you put a price on one hour of peace in Europe? The cost of even one hour of peace is nowhere attributed in the Budget".

So I look forward to the Minister's replies, which I hope will finally expose the emptiness of the claim that the EU promotes peace in Europe or, indeed, anywhere else.

The gracious Speech reflected the Government's misplaced enthusiasm about several aspects of our relationship with Brussels and the Treaty of Rome. For instance, the Government appear still to think that enlargement of the EU is not only a good thing, but actually possible through adequate reforms of the crazy common agricultural policy and of the structural and cohesion funds. I would point out that there is a perfectly respectable case for saying that it is not in the central and eastern European countries' interests to join the EU, which would handicap their growing economies by forcing them to accept the 3,000 pages of the acquis communautaire and all the rest of the EU's red tape and waste, (but, of course, I admit that the CEECs like the subsidies they get while they are queuing).

However, I fear that there is not much point in asking the Minister how the negotiations to achieve those reforms are progressing, because I suspect that I will be given the same answer that I have always been given for the last eight years; namely, that the negotiations proceed hopefully. So, may I ask the Minister a slightly different question? Can the noble Baroness tell the House the date when we shall know whether those negotiations to reform the common agricultural policy and the structural and cohesion funds have succeeded or have failed? Is that date by any chance supposed to be March next year, 1999, or are we to spend another 20 years pretending that the voting structures of the Treaty of Rome will indeed allow the common agricultural policy to be reformed?

I know I must not ask the noble Baroness too many questions, but one more is important here. Can the Government confirm that they will not support the increased national contributions to the EC's budget, which will be requested to permit enlargement if agreement is not reached about these reforms? Other noble Lords have suggested that the alternative to such an increase in the money supply might be to delay the timetable for enlargement, which would, of course, be an excellent idea because it would probably mean that enlargement never takes place.

Apart from their support for enlargement, perhaps the Government's most glaring over-optimism about our relationship with the EU is contained in the following quote from the gracious Speech: My Government will continue to promote with their European partners the economic reforms which will help to create growth and higher employment". This is a truly extraordinary statement. I can only admire the Government's nerve in trying to reconcile it with signing up to the "new European way" only last weekend.

As I move towards my conclusion, I would point out that there is another deceptive claim, which is put forward by those in this country who support the treaty, and which confuses our national debate about it. This is the claim that "the majority of our trade takes place with the EU". This untrue statement beguiles many people, including leading businessmen, into believing that there can be no escape from the treaty or from economic and monetary union, which is perhaps its most dangerous aspect.

So, I hope it is worth putting on the record once again that at least 70 per cent. of our trade, or of our economic activity, takes place within the United Kingdom itself. Up to perhaps 30 per cent. of our trade goes to export, and government figures show that less than half of our overall exports go to the EU. So, less than 15 per cent. of our trade takes place with the EU. That means that at least 85 per cent. of our trade is done outside it, either here or elsewhere overseas. That 85 per cent. is the dog which is constantly wagged by its 15 per cent. tail, and one has to ask yet again whether it is any longer worth it. Why should the 85 per cent. dog go on putting up with all the destructive bureaucracy of the EU's acquis communautaire and with all its fraudulent waste? Why should we continue to stand idly by and see dozens of British interests destroyed, from our fishing industry to our international art market, from our working week to our system of mergers and acquisitions? If the Government are going to blandly reply, as did the previous government, that our membership of the EU is self-evidently a good thing, then I have to ask again why they do not call for an objective cost-benefit analysis of that membership. The answer, one can only conclude, is that they do not dare to do so because the result would go against their political rhetoric over many years.

If the Government do not dare to order such an objective cost-benefit analysis, they might at least attempt to reply to the highly respectable academic and economic studies which show how the UK could indeed be better off outside the Treaty of Rome. I refer here again to such studies as There is an Alternative by Baimbridge and others at Bradford University, and Better off out? from the Institute of Economic Affairs written by Hindley and Howe. Both of these studies have been published for several years now, and as far as I know no one has disagreed with them in detail or in general.

If the Government refuse to follow either of those courses, I fear I must accuse them of joining the conspiracy of silence among our political and bureaucratic classes which obscures the truth about the purpose of the Treaty of Rome. That purpose is and always has been the economic and political union of Europe, to the detriment of our national democracies; but our political leaders have either not understood that, or have lied to us about it. To appreciate the accuracy of this accusation, may I suggest that the Government and noble Lords read the article in today's Daily Mail by my good friend, Mr. Christopher Booker, entitled, Our leaders, Europe, and damned lies". Even if our leaders do not want to face what Brussels is really up to, several Eurocrats are at last now openly saying that tax harmonisation must follow economic and monetary union, and indeed is even necessary for the proper functioning of the single market. Only yesterday. the German foreign minister, Herr Fischer, confessed that his ultimate ambition is indeed the European superstate which successive British governments have always said is not the object of the EU exercise.

If the British Government are telling the truth about not wanting the United Kingdom to become subservient to such a superstate, I would have thought that the time has come when they must start to look seriously at the many attractive alternatives to the Treaty of Rome.

7.32 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, will forgive me if I do not follow him on the European Union. I say that because I have noted with care what was said earlier from the three Front Benches and by some other noble Lords on the subject of Russia. I wish to continue where those speakers left off.

In recent months we have seen a sharp drop in the value of the rouble, default on some internal debt, the collapse of some banks, and attempts to renegotiate external debt. Many state salaries and pensions in Russia are in arrears. Currently, inflation is officially forecast at 5 per cent. or more each month and at 30 per cent. for the whole of the coming year. Commercial firms often pay their workers in kind and exist by barter. Isolated villages in the Arctic Circle are reported to be cut off, with no food and no helicopters to come to their rescue. In the big cities there are political and sometimes economic murders—one was mentioned earlier in the debate. Crime is rising, and with it the influence of the Mafia. A weak criminal justice system can barely cope, leading to long delays in the courts and overcrowding in the prisons. Those economic problems are adversely affecting neighbouring countries, notably Moldova, the Ukraine and the Caucasian republics. In addition, the harvest has been poor and serious food shortages are likely. There is a need to renegotiate substantial amounts of external debt. Meanwhile, the Russian armed forces are demoralised, perhaps understandably so, in the wake of failures in Afghanistan and Chechnya. It may well be that the conventional forces are weaker than they have been for a number of generations.

We are thus faced with a paradox: a weak state, yet one that is heavily armed with nuclear weapons; a country with a large space programme and some continuing development of advanced military equipment. Russia still has a seat in the United Nations Security Council and quite often sees itself as a world power. Yet on the very day that resolute and almost warlike words were used by Russia in relation to Serbia and Kosovo, she was applying to the European Union for food aid.

In these circumstances, I believe that the Western powers should adopt creative and imaginative policies towards Russia. Mutual arms reduction should be the objective, carried out in a balanced but not necessarily completely symmetrical way.

We should consider the cancellation of Russian external debt in exchange for verified destruction of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. That may perhaps bring some comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. However, I would point out that such an approach is very much in line with ideas expressed from what is possibly the opposite end of the political spectrum by Senator Lugar of the United States, who recently visited the Ukraine and Russia. If the size of Russian external debt, at some 160 billion dollars, is too small in exchange for nuclear weapons, then perhaps some extra cash payment could be made. All reductions in weapons of mass destruction should be matched by the Western powers in a balanced way. The risks of harm to the environment and possible misappropriation of existing weapons might thus be greatly reduced and a large measure of disarmament might be achieved.

Secondly, the question arises as to whether the European Union should provide food as a form of aid. Might it not be better to provide food now in return for long-term contracts for the supply of oil and gas from Russia. Such contracts might be at gently rising prices to encourage further exploration and new investment.

Finally, consideration should be given to reaching agreements limiting and controlling Russian arms exports to the rest of the world. Such exports can be very destabilising and thought may have to be given to how to convert and adapt existing arms factories within Russia. I hope that it will also be possible to include in future discussions the question of compulsory national service in Russia, so that we take into account the real needs of Russia and of the whole of the rest of the world. With goodwill on both sides, I hope it will be possible to work towards what might be called win/win outcomes which will benefit all the nations concerned.

7.38 p.m.

Lord Shaughnessy

My Lords, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was created by the Treaty of Washington, signed on 4th April 1949. Hence, next year will mark the 50th anniversary of its existence.

The alliance embodies the transatlantic partnership between the European members of NATO and the United States and Canada. The objectives of the partnership between Europe and North American members of the alliance are primarily political, underpinned by shared defence planning and military co-operation, and by co-operation and consultation in economic, scientific, environmental and other relevant fields.

Throughout the years of the Cold War, however, NATO focused above all on the development and maintenance of collective defence and on overcoming the fundamental political issues dividing Europe. Today its focus is on promoting stability throughout Europe, co-operation, and by developing the means of collective crisis management and peacekeeping.

It was encouraging to hear the reference to the close liaison with our American friends by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, when he opened the debate. I hope that his reference included Canada, a founding member of NATO and a participant in many of its peacekeeping operations. For example, between 1964 and 1988, 58 Canadian contingents served in the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus. More recently, Canada has contributed peacekeeping contingents in central Africa, Bosnia and the Arabian Gulf. It also had a contingent in the Gulf War. Currently, the development of the European Community commands a significant focus of British policy. Continued integration and development of the European enterprise will undoubtedly result in greater economic expansion and strategic stability for this country and world-wide.

However, I submit that our North Atlantic heritage will continue to remain the cornerstone of stability for the foreseeable future.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his acceptance of the nomination for President of the United States in 1936, said: This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny". We in Britain, beyond doubt, have a similar rendezvous with the destiny of the unfolding development of the European enterprise. But I suggest that this goal will not be fulfilled without the preservation and extension of the enduring benefits, both economic and strategic, that derive from the North Atlantic connection.

7.42 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle

My Lords, it is a pleasure, as always, to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shaughnessy, who dealt with NATO. The Minister, Lord Gilbert, informed us that there would be a debate on the Armed Forces and our role in NATO later. Therefore, I shall hold my fire on that subject for another day.

I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in this debate on the humble Address and the gracious Speech, although it is late in the evening. Having listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, I feel no compunction on this occasion in drawing your Lordships' attention yet again to the Baltic region. We have heard of the direst problems of the Russian federation. I was in the Baltic states last weekend. My prognosis of the situation in the Russian federation is that it has collapsed. There is hunger and, although I do not relish it, I expect riots in the street this winter unless something happens. I expect the army to mutiny and civil war to break out shortly. I believe that the world is faced with the prospect of a collapsing Russia. I hope I am proved wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, suggested buying up the nuclear arsenal. I advocated that eight years ago and so did others. It is a great pity that it was not done then because the money could have been put into capital investment to restructure Russian institutions. Others have advocated great food aid mountains going to Russia. Before that takes place, perhaps noble Lords and Ministers would bear this fact in mind: the collectivised farms collapsed, so did the privatised farms. The banks, controlled by robber barons, have foreclosed and bought up that food. Instead of selling it cheaply to the starving Russian people, they have exported it at higher prices across the borders into the Baltic states and elsewhere. They have seriously undermined the agricultural economies of those nations. So if we send food to Russia, I suspect it will be taken up by robber barons and sold outside the borders of Russia for profit.

I very much welcome the words in the Queen's Speech: My Government will play a leading role in preparing the European Union for the historic challenge of enlargement". I listened with great care to the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said that there was a touch of mockery in those words. I hope that is the case, because there are 100 million people still in eastern Europe, many of whom have not even started negotiating for entry into the European Union. Most of those governments—and I give the example of Estonia—are, first, trying to create stable, democratic and parliamentary governments in their nations. They find it difficult as some have not had a government and opposition like ours for 30, 40 or even 60 years.

Secondly, some of the nations such as Estonia and Latvia are trying to bring to fruition the long protracted and sometimes painful process of negotiating border treaties with a reluctant and broken down Russian federation. The signing of those agreements, which I think is imminent, will give great satisfaction to all. I hope that our Government will encourage both sides, Russia and the Baltic states, to sign the agreements. Estonia and Latvia need no encouragement. Thirdly, they need to pave the way for full accession to the European Union of the five plus one.

From these Benches, all seven speakers have consistently welcomed the Government's desire to play a leading role in preparing the European Union for the historic challenge of enlargement. But I suggest as a corollary that I wish to see the Government play a leading role in preparing those nation states who have sought accession to the European Union to help them with the historic challenge of enlargement.

The Government are a listening government. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is a listening department of state. I notice clearly the difference between the Foreign Office of 18 months ago and this one. I congratulate them. If they are prepared to listen, I believe that not only must they listen to us here, but their Ministers and top civil servants must, before Vienna in December or after Vienna in January, February or March, visit the capitals of central and eastern Europe. Sir John Kerr has already been to Tallinn. We welcome the appointment of the honourable lady in another place, the Minister for Europe, Miss Joyce Quin. I hope she will visit those nations as soon as her programme allows. I shall tell the Minister in this House why. They want to see her, they want to listen to her, question her and reassure her in person and not just the ambassadors out there, well served as we are by them. The nations want to tell her the problems so that when she meets her opposite numbers within the European Union she can explain that she knows the problems personally.

Perhaps I may offer a few points on the Vienna Summit. We wish to learn, this evening if possible, how the Government intend to act at the Vienna Summit. Will they give an assessment of how the negotiations, commenced on 24th March with what is known as the five plus one, are progressing? Will they give any clues as to when the nations not in the five plus one may be allowed to start negotiations? Will they press for that at the Vienna Summit? Far too often I have heard complaints from all sides of the House that certain nations have not reached the required standards in respect of citizenship laws, the environment, banking and financial and market systems et cetera. While those are valid criticisms, having lived in those countries and visited again and again the nations in the central and northern parts of the continent I can assure your Lordships that amazing progress has been made. I suggest that the Government should offer encouragement rather than just a blanket condemnation of what has gone wrong. Let us look at the good side. Although there is a downside, we must encourage them.

We are told rightly that we are not one of the superpowers and cannot achieve anything. On what should we concentrate? I believe that we should concentrate on what we do best. First, we have that priceless asset, the British Council. Recently I have received two Written Answers from the Minister on the British Council. I was saddened that its director-general, who began with such promise, resigned after nine months. I welcome the fact that a new director-general of the British Council is to be appointed. I am not happy that the British Council receives only £133 million per year which represents 30 per cent. of its budget. It has been cut to the bone. Can the noble Baroness and her colleagues in another place think again about whether the council can be given more? In central and eastern Europe the British Council is the lifeblood of our work in explaining to those nations our culture, heritage and language that they want to follow.

In conclusion, I believe that only second in importance to the British Council is the work of our military training teams. As the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, is aware, the nations of central Europe regard our military training and advisory teams as second to none. We have had the Strategic Defence Review. Let us consider this important service to central Europe for four reasons. First, it is an obligation. They remember the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact which I suggest would not have come about unless the Munich agreement had taken place. Therefore, we owe them an obligation. Secondly, this is a way of influencing their development along democratic paths. Thirdly—note the order in which I put it—it is a way of enhancing their security. Fourthly, we should do it for our self-interest.

7.52 p.m.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I welcome the explicit reference in the gracious Speech to the Government's commitment to the effective promotion of human rights worldwide. In so doing I wish to focus upon two areas of concern which stem directly from my work with the organisation, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW). I should therefore declare my interest in CSW and explain briefly that it is an inter-Church organisation that works for victims of repression regardless of creed. We never proselytise. We try especially to reach people who are cut off from other aid and advocacy organisations. Rather like the advertisement for a certain lager beer we try to reach the parts that others do not reach. Therefore we work in places where repressive regimes victimise minorities within their own borders and deny access to major aid organisations such as those that operate under the auspices of the UN or the ICRC.

These victimised peoples are frequently the target of military offensives, are completely isolated and suffer acute deprivation. They tend to be the forgotten peoples. Indeed, they have been largely forgotten in the debate in your Lordships' House so far. Our experience of working in these areas makes us aware of many problems of both principle and practice.

I deal first with Sudan. I begin by congratulating the Government on their robust position in support of the cruise missile attack by the United States on the chemical factory in Khartoum. The Sudanese democratic opposition parties who comprised the democratically elected government before it was overthrown by the military coup of the National Islamic Front are deeply concerned that the NIF is working closely with Saddam Hussein to develop chemical and biological weapons in Sudan and also with the notorious terrorist bin Laden to instigate new terrorist attacks in other countries in the not too distant future. There is considerable credible evidence to suggest that these anxieties are well-founded and that the American response was entirely appropriate. I welcome and support the Government's endorsement of the actions taken by the United States.

However, there are other respects in which I should like Her Majesty's Government to be rather more robust. As I hope to have the opportunity soon to table a Question on Sudan in your Lordships' House, I shall not dwell on details today. However I should like to raise in this debate a point of principle which relates to other situations as well as Sudan. I refer to the challenge posed by repressive regimes who victimise minorities within their own borders and simultaneously prohibit major aid organisations from taking essential supplies to those whom they victimise.

In Sudan this strategy is adopted by the NIF regime with its policy of declaring many no-go areas for Operation Lifeline Sudan and other major aid organisations working under its umbrella. A similar situation pertains in Burma where the SPDC, which, like the NIF, is a brutal regime that seized power by military force, victimises within its own borders ethnic minorities such as the Karen and Karenni peoples. The civilian minorities suffer military offensives, forced labour, use as human minesweepers, torture, murder or (for the Karenni) relocation in what are little better than death camps. Both the NIF and SPDC regimes refuse access by aid organisations to vast areas within their own countries and leave the victims of their military offensives and violations of human rights entirely bereft of aid and advocacy. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians suffer and die. They are cut off from any assistance that can alleviate suffering or save lives.

Will the Government pursue more robustly policies designed to require these regimes, and those in other countries with similar track records, to open up all of their territory to aid organisations? Additionally, or alternatively, will the Government adopt more vigorous policies to support organisations that are prepared to go into these no-go areas to take essential supplies and save the lives of innocent civilians who are now dying from lack of food and medical supplies? Clearly, here I must declare an interest in my work with CSW which is one of these organisations. But as a point of principle I find it disturbing that the Government appear to defer to these regimes by accepting their dictates and/or defer to organisations such as the United Nations Operation Lifeline Sudan who work in conjunction with those regimes and accept the policy of no-go areas, thereby indirectly condoning those regimes' use of the politics of hunger.

I turn briefly to another area of continuing concern: the Transcaucasus. I refer in particular to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The ceasefire that has held since 1994 is warmly welcomed. There are many positive developments that give cause for optimism. However, the situation is still precarious and a number of unresolved issues cause suffering both to Azeris and Armenians. The occupation by Armenian-Karabakh forces of the buffer zone around Nagorno-Karabakh was necessitated by Azerbaijan's continuing violations of previous ceasefires, with renewed bombardment of towns and villages within Karabakh. I was present on one such occasion when Azerbaijan suddenly renewed bombardment of the Karabakh capital, Stepanakert, within days of signing a ceasefire agreement. Azerbaijan denied the bombardment; but I can testify to the reality. I was there and brought back fresh shrapnel to prove it.

While it is important to look ahead positively and not to re-open old wounds, I mention that incident to highlight the reason why it was necessary for the Armenians of Karabakh to occupy that buffer zone, and to emphasise that they did not wish to extend the war outside their own territory. Therefore they do not deserve to be condemned as aggressors, as they have been, for their occupation of those areas of Azerbaijan. It was a matter of survival for the Armenians of Karabakh.

It is of course a cause of great concern and regret that many Azeri civilians have been displaced from those areas and now live in very poor conditions in camps in Azerbaijan. But the Government of Azerbaijan are using their discomfort as political propaganda. It seems strange that Armenia, with an equal number of its own people displaced from Azerbaijan by pogroms and massacres in Baku and Sumgait, and by the war, can find accommodation for their own displaced Armenians, despite problems caused by the appalling earthquake in 1988 and the blockade still being imposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan.

By contrast, the Azeris, without earthquake or blockade, and with massive help from oil investing countries, are still keeping displaced people in tents. A pertinent question might be to ask what the Azeris have done with UNHCR money and other massive resources available to them from oil investing countries.

I ask the Minister three related questions. First, will the Government endeavour to prevail upon Turkey and Azerbaijan to lift the blockade of Armenia which they are maintaining despite the ceasefire? It is a serious violation of the rights of Armenia and totally unjustifiable, especially as Turkey was never officially a party to the conflict between Azerbaijan and the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. Secondly, will Her Majesty's Government use their influence to encourage United Nations organisations such as UNHCR to provide assistance to the Armenians of Karabakh? Karabakh was devastated in that war. I used to count 400 grad missiles every day pounding in on the capital city of Stepanakert. Other towns and villages were similarly pulverised by missiles and aerial bombardment. The infrastructure of Karabakh was destroyed. The Armenians there are trying to rebuild their land and their lives. But United Nations organisations are still not doing anything to help them, despite the fact that the UN works in other disputed territories. That discrimination in deference to Azerbaijan is unjust and unjustifiable. I hope that the Government will endeavour to correct this asymmetry of principle and practice.

Thirdly, can the Minister say whether there is any truth in the reports that the next OSCE summit meeting may be held in Turkey? If that is the case, will the Government vigorously oppose the suggestion? Turkey's role in the conflict between Azerbaijan and the Armenians of Karabakh, and its continuing blockade of Armenia, a fellow OSCE nation state, make Turkey an entirely inappropriate location. Also, Turkey's continuing record of gross violations of human rights of its own people who oppose it politically, and of groups within its borders such as the Kurds and the Assyrian Christians, should rule Turkey out of court as a host to the OSCE summit at which a security model for Europe is to be discussed. Therefore, can the Minister either reassure your Lordships' House that there is no substance in the concern that Turkey may be hosting a future meeting of the OSCE; or, if it is true that Turkey is being considered as a host, will the Government give an assurance that the United Kingdom will strongly oppose the proposal?

I hope that the issues I have raised which have direct implications for the relationship between foreign policies and human rights will elicit positive responses from the Government. Such responses would demonstrate the Government's seriousness of intent in promoting human rights worldwide and would simultaneously save the lives of countless people in Sudan, Burma, Karabakh and many other countries where repressive regimes are getting away with murder behind closed borders with impunity.

Therefore I hope that the Minister will be able to give those principled assurances for the credit of her own Government and for the comfort of many of the most deprived and acutely suffering people throughout the world.

8.4 p.m.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, as a new Member of the House, perhaps I may say what a privilege it is to take part in such a varied and reflective debate, packed as the House is with experts in the international modalities. I shall limit my remarks to two aspects of the European references in the Queen's Speech: enlargement and the introduction of the euro.

In Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, our new constructive leadership role in Europe was reaffirmed. In saying "leadership", I look toward the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, whom I remember as an excellent commissioner in the European Commission. He made slightly heavy weather of the word "leadership" in Her Majesty's Speech. I remember distinctly that the noble Lord played a leadership role in introducing the European single market, for which we are grateful. Therefore, I am glad and proud that my Government have talked about a new constructive leading role in the European Union.

Since coming to power 18 months ago, and more recently since the successful completion of the British presidency, the Government have been determined to be a full player in the new Europe of the 21st century. Not any more the rehashed, reheated point scoring of the 1970s referendum platforms, or the massive attack of xenophobia that strained to breaking point our European Union relations in the 1980s. Nor any more the political impotency of the 1990s, of being afraid of our own European shadow while the rest of the world wanted us to be a force to be reckoned with in Europe.

This Government are fully aware of their responsibilities in mapping out the new European agenda which will encompass up to 27 countries—not that far into the next century—declaring central and eastern Europe open for business, open to democracy. Only 10 years ago the prospect of the countries of central and eastern Europe being in a position to prepare for accession to the European Union would have been pure fantasy politics.

Successful enlargement of the European Union will stimulate economic growth and competition by boosting the single market through the addition of 100 million consumers. European Union enlargement has been seen as a great opportunity for British businesses because it offers the tantalising prospect of truly continental economies of scale, enhanced by technological transfer and improvements in the organisational skills of British businesses. Those are all derived from the creative pressures of expanding markets.

The more sobering financial consequences of enlargement—they were referred to by my noble friend Lord Tomlinson and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas—exist and have to be met full square. They relate to how the structural funds, in particular the CAP, are reformed and how those structural funds are spent within a tight budgetary framework. And while many regions of Britain have benefited enormously from those European structural funds, including my own region in the West Midlands, we have now to plan for a new Europe with reordered priorities while continuing to lobby for the best deal we can achieve for those in greatest need.

In Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, reference was also made to the Government's determination to encourage preparations in the United Kingdom for the introduction of the euro in other member states. As noble Lords will know, there are barely 25 shopping days to the introduction of the euro. Eleven of the 15 countries of the European Union will soon be locked in common cause and common currency. A whole new euro zone will be created. Even though Britain, along with Portugal, Denmark and Sweden, will not join the euro, British businesses will find seriously irresistible the force of what has become known as "euro creep".

Very soon, within many of our most important business sectors, firms will begin to issue invoices and make payments in euros. Whether as a business person you own a small company with one or two continental customers or a large multi-national with subsidiaries across the whole of Europe, the euro is definitely coming to a bank near our British businesses.

I have never hidden my view that the euro can potentially bring great benefits to British business and jobs but it will represent a test of our willingness to adjust and to exploit new opportunities. The euro will inevitably make the whole European market-place more transparent and more competitive. That will be good news for British consumers as more downward pressure is put on price. It will be good news too for those businesses which invest wisely, train consistently, prepare diligently and innovate constantly.

Many of us will rightly argue that the macro-economic benefits of the euro are clear enough: ending exchange rate risks and costs; strengthening the single market; driving down inflationary pressures; encouraging investment and growth. But we must adjust to the new commercial climate and culture which will define our presence in Europe over the decade to come.

The European references in Her Majesty's gracious Speech make possible a further progressive stage in our new constructive relationship with all our European partners. I am sure that that will be welcomed by all far-sighted noble Lords.

8.11 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, I shall start with Africa and two conflicts there and some of the reaons that I believe are the causes of those conflicts. I shall then go on to my hopes for a way forward in relations between the government of the Sudan and Her Majesty's Government. Finally, I shall look at progress with some of the intentions which the Government made explicit in the White Paper on international development.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby both made reference to the conflict in the Congo. It is necessary in studying the origin of the conflict to look at the recent history of the region. After the chaos of the post-Amin and post-Obote period the world breathed a sigh of relief when President Museveni came to power, anticipating a period of stability.

But stability is what we have not had. President Museveni has actively played a conspicuous role in destablising both the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes region. In fact the only country where, as I understand it, he has not done so is Tanzania. He overthrew the government in Rwanda and was implicated in putting a leader of his choice in Burundi. He has also been implicated in border incursions against Kenya and I have been told, fairly reliably, that lieutenant-colonels from the Ugandan army have been killed on Kenyan soil.

It was against this background and despite that record, or perhaps because of it, that in 1996 the American Government publicly announced that they were giving 20 million dollars of military aid to President Museveni with encouragement to continue destablising the biggest country in Africa; namely, Sudan. How much covert assistance accompanied this public display of generosity it is impossible to gauge. I do of course accept that mutual destabilisation is an age-old tactic of unfriendly neighbouring states but it is irresponsible of a powerful country to meddle in the politics of an already unstable part of the world.

It is true, however, that the present conflict in the Congo follows on from the situation I have just outlined. President Kabila came to power with the help of President Museveni. Once in power, President Kabila made it clear that he would not do the bidding of his sponsor. The resulting conflict has involved the forces of President Musevini and Rwanda, on the one hand, trying to unseat President Kabila and on the other, in support of President Kabila, the forces of Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and, I believe, Botswana. Perhaps the Minister will be able to tell the House how far she agrees with this analysis of the origins of the conflict in the Congo.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, suggested we try to help the Americans out of the morass into which their voracious sense of mission leads them. I wholeheartedly support that sentiment and my comments about American foreign policy are made in sadness rather than in anger but this is not the only time that the world has reaped the harvest of the dragon's teeth sown by our powerful ally. The United States used Osama bin Laden as their conduit for funds to the mujehadeen fighting to remove the Russian-backed regime in Afghanistan and have presumably come to regret their choice of partner in that endeavour.

I do not need to rehearse the events of Friday, 20th August, but the effects of the American attack with cruise missiles are not only felt in the unfortunate but predictable interruption to British-Sudanese relations. The Al Shifa plant was, at the time of the attack, supplying, I believe, a large proportion of the human and veterinary medicines consumed in the Sudan. The attack was thus an act of unbelievable, and cynical, cruelty against a country struggling to achieve development for its people, a country struggling, with valuable assistance from the people and Government of this country, to cope with famine superimposed upon and made worse by the effects of civil war.

Nobody seriously believes, now, that the Al Shifa factory was producing chemical weapons. The Prime Minister's reaction to support President Clinton was unwise, as I am sure he was informed in communications from the FCO to the Prime Minister's Office. A friend in need is a friend indeed as the saying goes but if, to alter the wording slightly, the deed is insupportable and designed merely to divert attention from—shall we say?—more domestic concerns, then such expressions of friendship should be tempered by a greater awareness of the broad sweep of policy issues for which the Prime Minister is ultimately responsible.

I have, since my first visit to Sudan in September 1994, hoped for the peace and development that are a precondition for good human rights practice for that country and also to help achieve improved understanding between our two countries. I was therefore saddened by the reaction of the Sudanese Government to the Prime Minister's statement and I am ready to help in whatever way I can to re-establish full diplomatic relations and to continue the improvement that was already occurring in our relations with that country before 20th August of this year.

The United States still condemns the present government of the Sudan as one who supports international terrorism. My Lords, this policy position should be studied in the context of the report in an American publication that the State Department has withdrawn a hundred reports that support this contention. Ex-President Jimmy Carter asked the State Department in 1993 or 1994 to show him the evidence. He had the necessary security clearance and was able to discuss the situation in detail with officials. Afterwards, he said that he had seen no evidence. The State Department had no evidence, only "strong allegations".

In concluding my remarks about the Sudan I turn to the Department of International Development and, like my noble friend Lady Williams, I welcome the inclusion of international development in the title of today's debate. The Minister for International Development has started well. She has shown compassion and concern for the people of Sudan. Food aid is reaching Bahr al Gazal by a number of routes, according to the answer to my recent Written Question from the noble Baroness, Lady Amos.

In the development White Paper the Government state that they, will seek to build on the skills and talents of migrants and other members of ethnic minorities within the UK to promote the development of their countries of origin". I believe that there are about 300,000 African professionals of all disciplines and about half of those are in Africa. The other half live in other countries and many would like nothing better than to be involved in the development of their countries of origin.

I have to declare an interest here as a patron of the Black International Construction Organisation. BICO, in its acronymic form, is a non-profit organisation dedicated to exactly the aim I have quoted from page 68 of the White Paper. I am concerned to see that intention come to fruition. BICO consists mainly of African professionals in the construction industry—architects, surveyors, quantity surveyors, civil engineers and so on—all extremely keen to play a part in developing the developing countries in Africa. Its members are planning a conference on Good Governance in the Construction Industry in Ghana for February of next year and hope to encourage British civil engineering companies to participate in the conference.

I should like the Minister to tell me what progress has been made in giving effect to the undertaking in the White Paper and what more the department feels it could do to strengthen the involvement of migrants and ethnic minorities in the development process.

Finally, after previous personal remarks I should like to say how pleased we are on these Benches at the Government's initiative to end racial discrimination in the Armed Forces, particularly the Army. My noble friend Lady Williams told me that she was present at a seminar addressed in forthright manner by Colin Powell, the American General (perhaps he has now retired; I am not sure). I understand that General Guthrie responded in equally forthright terms that from 0800 hours the following day there would be no more discrimination in the British Army! That is excellent news and I hope it means that the mind of the MoD is now even more focused on this matter than it was already.

8.21 p.m.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, my brief remarks should not be interpreted as trespassing on yesterday's Law Lords' decision. Indeed, I sought sound advice this afternoon and will keep within approved parameters.

That said, almost every point made will have major consequences; not only the relationship between United Kingdom and international law, but matters in relation to the international criminal court and beyond to the immediate conduct of relations on a global scale. It will now be essential to distinguish carefully between crimes committed against humanity, sanctioned at the highest level of the state, and those crimes which might be of a similar scale committed within a state but without sanction from its head.

Britain has recognised principles of immunity and in so doing addresses international human rights—

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, I feel that at this point I must remind your Lordships of the statement made at the beginning of the debate today by my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn when he clarified to the House the fact that the matter of the requested extradition of Senator Pinochet continues to be sub judice and, under the rules of the House, no reference should be made to the case in the debate. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, has not in fact mentioned the case; but he will admit that he is sailing in waters dangerously close to it. I know that he will bear in mind carefully the sensitivity of the whole area in which he is speaking.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, I concur with the noble Baroness.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. I realise that I am touching on delicate ground and because of that I took the opportunity of the advice of the Chief Clerk today and am keeping well within the parameters of an already approved text. I am delighted to go no further if that is the will of the Chamber or to halt at any time if any noble Lord in the Chamber so wishes, if that is acceptable to the noble Baroness. I take the point and I realise the sensitivity of this matter, but I wish to address it in a responsible and sensitive fashion.

If I might continue, Britain has reconsidered principles of immunity and in so doing addresses international human rights, crimes against humanity and torture commitments. While this area of the law is embryonic and the principle of international prosecution exists, the machinery to provide international jurisdiction at present does not. I trust that we can now hasten the establishment of the international criminal court and that the United States will come alongside as a team player and stop looking for iron-clad guarantees for US soldiers and policy makers.

The ruling might have an effect on General Banzer of Bolivia and possibly Alberto Fujimori who visited the UK this week.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, the noble Viscount has referred to rulings in the case he is not supposed to mention. Can he not observe the position outlined several times today by those in charge of the House?

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, I take the point and shall continue no further. I have been trying to keep within the parameters in the best spirit, but with the greatest pleasure I will go no further.

8.26 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, the noble Viscount has caught me quite unawares. I begin this debate by echoing a sentiment expressed by my noble friend Lady Williams and by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in saying that it is superb that international development has been added to the title of this debate. However, it must be pointed out to the noble Earl that alphabetical considerations rather than the importance of international development as opposed to foreign affairs might have influenced the matter, though many of us in this place rather feel that international development should come first.

I am particularly pleased to speak in this debate because the gracious Speech introduced the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill. That is a remarkable step forward, as the CDC has done a great deal to increase investment in developing countries, especially in countries which rarely received investment from private sources, particularly in Africa. It was believed that it was going to be a privatisation measure. I take the point that the Government put forward that it is not a privatisation; it is a public-private finance initiative with private investors. I admit that the last government caused some surprise when they privatised the Crown Agents rather than taking the course that this Government have taken; that is, to move the Commonwealth Development Corporation more into the private sector.

The Commonwealth Development Corporation is the jewel in the attic. I understand that there was some difficulty in valuing the assets of the CDC but I was interested to see in the Bill the figure of £1.5 billion given as the investment portfolio. One of the interesting factors about the Bill is that there is no indication that the name "CDC" is to be changed. That is extremely valuable because it has been in existence since 1948 and is a well-known commodity. It also shows the worth of the word "Commonwealth" and the value that that institution, especially over the past few years, has been gaining.

The noble Lord, Lord Hughes of Woodside, mentioned that the Irish Prime Minister is considering whether or not Ireland should join the Commonwealth. That is a generous gesture to the Unionists. It also shows that Ireland sees the Commonwealth not as a British institution but as an institution that encompasses many countries that span the world.

Lord Hughes of Woodside

My Lords, in the interests of accuracy, it certainly was not I who raised the issue of the Irish joining the Commonwealth.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I believe it was me.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I offer apologies to the noble Lord.

The content of the Bill is also well received. In the provisions, one of the great worries of any privatisation of the Commonwealth Development Corporation is that it would be at risk from changes in the situation in the emerging markets. I particularly welcome the provision which states that the best and most profitable time for this move to take place will be judged and that no action will be taken until that time.

The CDC Bill is one that is uncontroversial. Indeed, it was so uncontroversial that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, failed to mention it in his speech. In the interests of this measure, I hope that the Government will agree that it would benefit from the Grand Committee procedure—that is, that its proceedings can be conducted in the Moses Room. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, would agree that this is the perfect Bill for such a procedure—

Lord Burnham

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I would just point out to the House that this was a Conservative measure.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I had not heard that. I am grateful to the Conservative Party for their action. I am obviously far behind the times as regards this measure and I will say no more about it, having been completely caught off guard there.

This second day of debate on the gracious Speech gives the opportunity for those of us who are particularly interested in international development to look at the position of the former ODA—now the DfID, following the promises made in the White Paper. I hope the Government will accept the praise that we on these Benches give them on converting the ODA into a department and on reversing the cuts that had been made to its budget. I believe I am right in saying that DfID was given in the last Budget a proportionately higher percentage than any other department.

This has been an interesting debate, which has spanned many countries around the globe, including Iraq—I will come back to that country later—Nicaragua, Honduras, Japan, the Middle East, Russia, Kosovo, Cuba and even the Caribbean. I hope the House will forgive me if I do not touch on all those areas. However, one aspect was particularly interesting. It is gratifying to these Benches, where we are all confirmed and committed Europhiles, to hear that hardly any of the speeches—very, very few indeed—were actually Eurosceptic in nature.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

My Lords, I wonder if I may point out to the noble Lord that the best wine does not always go into the biggest bottles.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, rather than following the drinking analogy, I would say that I believe it to be a positive step that for once a Europhile voice could be heard far more loudly than the far more vociferous minority view which is often expressed in this House.

I did say I would return to Iraq and I would wish to congratulate the Government on their handling of the situation. In a Statement which was given to the House recently but before the events of the last few days, the Government took a particularly hard line and I believe that we on these Benches were seriously concerned about the aftermath of the actions. However, the Government have been proved to be successful and I am particularly pleased that the success was achieved without actual bombing. The success of the policy can be judged by the fact that the monitors are back in Iraq. Indeed, I should like to pay tribute to the courage of those monitors, who found themselves in a particularly difficult position.

One of the aspects of the situation in Iraq which particularly concerned us was the "morning-after syndrome". I believe that, by taking the hard stance that they have, the Government have achieved the compliance of Saddam Hussein. Although he is obviously still causing difficulties, he has actually backed down from his previous position. However, I want to go on to say that the position taken by Britain and the United States in moving to implement measures to remove Saddam Hussein caused some concern on these Benches. It is not that we do not believe that he is probably one of the most dangerous individuals in the world—a threat to his own people and to all his neighbours—but that the precedent set by such actions by the West might be misinterpreted by other countries who do not share our political stance.

Many other issues have been mentioned, including natural disasters. I know that Nicaragua and Honduras were brought up in the context of aid. In a Statement made recently, the Minister pointed out that moneys were to be made available through the NGOs and through the EUAs. I would ask the Minister to say whether this money has been spent, because there is some talk about moneys that were desperately needed being impeded by bureaucratic delays. I hope that the Minister can give us some assurances that the money will reach those countries as soon as possible.

I would also say that, as the Government were very forthright about debt payment relief in respect of those countries which have been hit so badly, I wonder whether they have any comment to make on France's call to suspend debt repayment.

Many noble Lords mentioned Africa and the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore, mentioned Angola in particular. However, the Congo is one area which has been—

Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield

My Lords, I did not actually mention Angola.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I will rewrite my notes immediately! I was about to say that the situation in the Congo, and, in particular the presence of the Zimbabwean troops, is one that I believe should cause us a great deal of concern. I spent some time in Zimbabwe and I do not believe that the troops are there for any other reason than because of the political turmoil that President Mugabe is facing at home. When we discussed the issue of the Great Lakes two years ago, the dangers that could be associated with the former country of Zaïre were mentioned. I wonder if the Government will feel able to back any call by the South Africans for peace talks. I hope they will give that project all the support that they can.

Before leaving the issue of the DflD, I should like to mention the British Council. Good government programmes are one optimistic area of conflict prevention that are being funded by DflD through the British Council. In this respect, I mention particularly such programmes as the Palestinian Legislative Council. It is quite clear that funding such projects, however expensive they may be in the short term, may prevent major difficulties and destabilisation from arising in the future.

My noble friend Lord Carlisle—I believe I have got his name right—mentioned that the British Council is facing restricted funds. However, I recently visited the British Council and for the first time in a number of years its outlook seemed far more optimistic because there had been quite an increase in its budget. I believe that for the first time there was optimistic talk about the future rather than the possibility of shedding posts.

One issue that was left out of the gracious Speech was the mention of legislation to ratify the statute of the international criminal court. I wonder if the Minister can give any indication as to whether that legislation will be brought forward. I am not sure whether it can be brought forward if it has not been mentioned in the gracious Speech. In view of recent events, I very much hope that that can be brought forward.

I should very briefly like to mention the area of defence. I know that the subject has been mentioned in many speeches. I should like to focus briefly on the Territorial Army. The SDR has gone through and I believe that that has been quite a successful move. The TA has survived in a better format than might have been the case. However, I should like to raise one issue which is the cause of much concern. I have been a serving officer in the TA for the past seven years and have served overall for 10 years. I am on the point of resigning my commission. The reason for my resignation is due to nothing other than that actually arriving at the TA centres entails so much travelling that it is becoming almost impractical.

That is one of the big problems which arises with the closure of many TA bases. I know that the changes have gone through, but I have the following plea to make. As someone who has actually had to prepare his unit for the closure of a base which did not ultimately take place, I very much hope that the Minister can give us some assurance for the future that the need for a period of rest and consolidation will be taken into consideration. Having been in a position of actually telling people that they have to move out of their TA centre, I know that there is nothing more damaging to morale. Now that the cuts have taken place, I hope not only that the units will feel more secure but also that they will be able to undertake proper training.

8.41 p.m.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, after Prayers this afternoon, which seems about a week and a half ago, I entered the Chamber side by side with the Minister. He said that he would not pay much emphasis in his speech to the Strategic Defence Review due to the fact that we will be having a debate on the subject in 10 days' time. I totally accept what he said. However, I have to say that it has led to a good deal of wasted paper as regards some parts of my speech which I wrote over 24 hours ago and long before I knew that we were likely to have the debate next week. Nevertheless, I think that I may have occasion to touch upon the subject.

Although we have heard a great many speeches today on foreign affairs, a number of speeches on international development, and a few on defence, we have, to my very considerable surprise, had hardly any on the inter-relationship of foreign affairs and defence, subjects which seem to me inextricably linked. Defence policy must be based on an appreciation of foreign policy requirements. While it is true that internal security and Northern Ireland, where it cannot be taken for granted that the need for a substantial defence commitment has yet been totally eliminated, are purely domestic matters, the need is for defence policy to be based on what is happening or what is likely to happen abroad. It is therefore very good news that we will get the opportunity to discuss the SDR on 8th December. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, that this is not the appropriate time to talk about the SDR in any detail.

The noble Lord pointed out that there was nothing in the gracious Speech on nuclear policy. But in response to what he had already been told, and because he knew that there would be a further reaction from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, he commented upon it. The noble Lord complained about the fact that there was nothing about the elimination of nuclear weapons and said that it was in the Labour Party manifesto. I should not have thought that such a distinguished, senior and experienced Member of your Lordships' House as the noble Lord would have expected anything that was in the Labour Party manifesto to be stuck to so closely.

On defence matters, the gracious Speech merely says: My Government will ensure strong arrangements for defence based on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation". It is very necessary to take a careful look at the role of the United Kingdom within NATO. Undoubtedly and properly Britain has stood behind the United States, but it should not do so too automatically. This is an alliance of allies and not of clients of the United States. President Clinton has shown that he wishes to move the body bag shifting out of America's hands and concentrate on the use of long-range missiles so that the risk of causing death to American citizens can be as nearly as possible eliminated.

This country and the rest of Europe must be prepared to play their part but they should not play more than their part. In order to play its part the United Kingdom must be in a state of constant readiness. The Treasury, among others—although chiefly the Treasury—must understand that we no longer have any time for planning when a problem is upon us. We must be ready at all times. By being ready at all times we will avoid the danger of crisis fatigue. There remains a faint memory of the infamous 10-year rule of the 1920s and 1930s, but with the immensely increased sophistication of weapons, the danger is, or can be, immediate.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, underlined the evils of Saddam Hussein and his reign, and was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and others. However, with the true instincts of a converted Tory on to the Liberal Benches, the noble Baroness was prepared to underline evil without knowing what to do about it. I give way to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

My Lords, I am much obliged. I should be fascinated to hear the perfect solution from the noble Lord to the problems that Saddam Hussein's threats pose to the outside world, as well the cruelty to his own people, given the fact that it was a Conservative government who, without telling the House of Commons, lifted the guidelines on selling weapons to Saddam Hussein in the late 1980s. That was a shocking thing to do. I do not believe that the noble Lord has a leg to stand on in that respect.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, I have two. However, I must confess that I do not know the answer. As regards Iraq, I would be grateful if the Minister in her summing up could clarify what appears to be a contradiction in government policy. Ten days ago she told the House: I ask your Lordships to believe me when I say that [overthrowing Saddam Hussein] is not our objective"— I emphasise that— I am not suggesting for a moment that tears would he shed if he were toppled from power, but it is a question of whom the Iraqis want to be their leader … I stress to your Lordships that ultimately the leadership of Iraq is a matter for the Iraqis themselves".—[Official Report. 16/11/98; col. 1029.] However, on the very same day the Prime Minister told another place: Of course we want to see the Iraqi people governed by a regime other than that of Saddam Hussein. We are looking with the Americans at ways in which we can bolster the opposition and improve the possibility of removing Saddam Hussein altogether.— [Official Report, Commons, 16/11/98; col. 611.] I share entirely the sentiments that President Clinton has expressed on that point. When she comes to reply, I ask the noble Baroness, who has much to respond to, to tell us which of those inconsistent statements best reflects government policy.

It is not only what happens in Iraq. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, touched on a vital point when she referred to the desperate economic situation in Russia. The Cold War is over, but, as other speakers have said, the situation in Russia today may lead to a desperate political reaction. Indeed, a civil war was mentioned at one point and reference was also made to some form of aggression. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, sees "no threat". No, not now, but will there be in a year, two, or three, years' time when the situation in Russia is even more desperate than it is now? The political situation seems to carry very much the same metaphor as the share index. Over the past three to four months it has been roaring up and down, but no one today can be happy at where it stands, whether it is up or down.

All this underlines the case for a defence budget higher than may seem to be immediately necessary. The long-term nature of our defence commitments and planning is shown by the delivery date of the two new aircraft carriers, given as the year 2012 or possibly 2022, depending on whether one has looked at the advertisement asking for tenders for the refit of the existing carriers. But in a much shorter time than 2012, all three services must have the equipment to carry out operations on more than one front at a time. None of this comes cheap, but it is not acceptable to cut corners based on the argument that the money will be better spent in other ways. The long-term future of this country lies in its ability to defend itself at all times from any conceivable danger.

In a few days we shall have the opportunity of discussing defence policy. I was heartened by the categorical assurance given to me in the summer by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, that the two aircraft carriers would be built. The summer was a long time ago. We have heard many, admittedly totally unofficial, suggestions that so categorical a statement cannot be justified. I appreciate that noble Lords on the Government Front Bench answer for the whole Government. It is possibly a little unfair of me to expect an answer on that point from the noble Baroness, but no doubt in due course, and certainly in the debate on the Strategic Defence Review, I shall be grateful for an answer.

By and large in the Strategic Defence Review, the Navy has suffered less severely than the Army, but it has suffered and it has been harsh. It is being asked to do more with less, which is bound to have an effect on morale, recruitment and retention. It is rather worrying that in the past two years 12,000 men and women have left the Navy out of a total strength of 44,000 and only 8,500 have joined.

There is another question to which we shall be looking for an answer. It is the curious matter of HMS "Spartan", whose refit is due to cost £200 million. One must bear in mind that the savings from the Territorial Army are £70 million. HMS "Spartan" will cost £200 million with, at most, four years extra service. I am sure that that has nothing to do with the fact that she is to be refitted at Rosyth, which is Gordon Brown country and where many of the workers are his constituents.

On the assumption that the Navy will get the aircraft carriers, what is it going to put on them? It seems it is not likely to be the Eurofighter because the degree of change to the design, particularly the main frame, would make it a difficult and costly exercise. The noble Baroness courteously gave me a full reply in a letter, assuring me that the fire power currently able to be exercised in Iraq is the same as it has been in the past. It is undoubtedly different. It is more fire power from fewer aircraft. One of the problems we shall have to face is that with fewer units of whatever it may be, if one of them is out of action for any reason, it is then much more difficult to make it good from reserves or anything else that one has. More than that, there will be the problem of transport aircraft where we are largely dependent on the United States. Going back to my statement that we should not be too much in the hands of the United States, to rely on that country too heavily for procurement is to play into its hands if at any time Her Majesty's Government disagreed with American policy.

To many the cuts which we are seeing, particularly in the Territorial Army, seem shortsighted. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, to repeat in the debate on the Strategic Defence Review his reasons for leaving the Territorial Army. I am sure that it is true and sad that the cuts in the number of TA centres will have the most serious effect on the efficiency of that service. But that again will be a matter for the debate. Many of the cuts seem shortsighted, if not blinkered, even if they may be logical in the light of immediate needs. Each year 1,000 recruits from the TA join the Regular Army and 3,000 come from the cadet forces. These are significant figures, but more important is the ability of the TA to constitute a reserve for the Regular Army in time of trouble.

My noble friend Lord Cope has pointed out that he does not believe that the Territorial Army will be very efficient around Bristol with half the battery in Bristol, half in Croydon and the headquarters in Luton. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, made a remarkable speech in which his great expertise on Yugoslavia showed itself to very good effect. He pointed out the dangers that we have there. I am sorry that he is not here and that he had to go to a Thanksgiving dinner. I went to one last night. I have to tell your Lordships that I would rather listen to 30 speeches in your Lordships' House than eat pumpkin pie.

Kosovo, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, and other matters, are very serious problems for defence. At the moment there is not an immediate danger, but it is short-term. We may have an explosion at any moment. The Treasury must be made to understand that we are no longer faced with the possibility of a neat little war—or is it a neat big war?—with a convenient and conventional declaration of war. There will be no warning time in which to build up our strength. It would be disastrous to fail to recognise that despite the end of the Cold War we are still in a state of continual conflict, the intensity of which may increase or diminish at any time. Ministers have been constantly reminded of that by their military advisers with emphasis on the fact that inadequate investment in preparation, including war maintenance reserves, will result in the response, when it comes, being belated and therefore much more expensive. False economies are the icons of the Treasury mind. It lives in a blinkered world of its own. The school report on the Defence Ministers at this end of term will include the phrase, "Tries hard". They will have the full support of the Opposition in insisting on preparedness and in trying even harder.

When we come to discuss the Strategic Defence Review, noble Lords will insist on a reasoned exposition of foreign policy in the modern world. It will be necessary to set out more decisively and precisely the input which the United Kingdom is to make to the efficient working of international organisations. NATO and the United Nations in particular. It is necessarily expensive, but the long-term benefits will justify money and effort spent now. We believe that we are ready for one crisis, but it is quite possible that we shall have two or three at a time. For that we are not ready. This country is not yet in a position where it can put its head in the sand and let the storm rage about its other end. I look forward to comment and reassurance on these points from the noble Baroness.

9 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, it is a privilege for me to close this foreign affairs, defence and development debate on the gracious Speech. It is also a very great pleasure. I am very grateful to noble Lords for the valuable contributions that they have made on very many different subjects. This has been a very rich and a very wide-ranging debate. I will try to respond to the questions which noble Lords have posed during the debate. Where I am unable to do so, I assure the House that my noble friend Lord Gilbert or I will write to the noble Lords concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, has, of course, been taking a note of the very many points raised on defence issues—particularly those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, and others—and I know that he will make a point of trying to answer those in the debate which will be forthcoming in your Lordships' House.

Since taking office, this Government have been determined that the people of the United Kingdom should share in the benefits of a soundly based foreign policy, in increased security and prosperity, and in respect of issues of mutual concern throughout the globe—our environment, the fight against crime and the promotion of fundamental humanitarian principles and rights, including democracy and the rule of law. The Government have delivered and are delivering on these areas which were set out in the FCO mission statement.

On security issues, we were among the first to sign and ratify the Ottawa Convention banning landmines. We succeeded in securing a new EU code of conduct on arms sales which sets high common standards governing the export of conventional arms. Perhaps I can remind my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney that the United Kingdom and France were the first nuclear weapons states to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I assure my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, that the Government do not depart from our election manifesto promises on nuclear disarmament. We believe that these initiatives have helped to lay the foundations for a more secure Europe in a more peaceful world.

On the question of nuclear disarmament, we have made clear on many occasions our commitment to the goal of total global elimination of nuclear weapons. When we are satisfied with verified progress towards that goal, we will ensure that British nuclear weapons are included in multilateral negotiations. We look for further bilateral United States and Russian reductions through the START process. We would welcome Russian ratification on START II and we hope to see progress towards reducing the thousands of Russian shorter-range weapons.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, raised the question of arms export controls. I should point out to the noble Baroness that Her Majesty's Government have an excellent track record in this area. New arms export licensing criteria were announced in July 1997 and they represent a clear strengthening of previous criteria by specifying that a licence will be refused if the proposed export might be used for internal repression or international aggression. I hope that the noble Baroness will not forget that point when she raises the very important issues that she raised during the course of her contribution.

We have also banned the export of certain types of equipment, such as electric shock batons, where there was widespread evidence that such equipment had been misused for torture, and the export of anti-personnel landmines and their component parts.

When we took office, we committed ourselves to enhance Britain's prosperity. We have put this commitment into practice with our economic reforms and policies at home. We have also pursued prosperity through our diplomatic missions abroad, with over one third of our front-line diplomatic effort now devoted to trade and investment.

As many of your Lordships have pointed out this evening—notably the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby—we recognise that the world economy has of course been slowing in 1998. But some of the more alarmist concerns over recent months now appear to have subsided. We will continue to play a leading role in managing any new problems as key members of G7 and the international financial institutions. We have played, and will continue to play, a full part in the efforts of the IMF and the World Bank to assist countries which are facing financial difficulties and contagion.

It is important to note that the Asian crisis economies are showing some signs of external stability. They have stable exchange rates and rising international reserves. But their domestic economies do of course continue to contract. The risk of the contagion spreading to Latin America has fallen with the announcement of the 41 billion dollars of IMF support for Brazil. I will say a little more about Russia later in my contribution.

I would like to pick up on the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield, in relation to Japan. In large part I agree with the noble Lord's analysis of Japan's role in the Asian economic crisis. I assure him that we are working with Japan as a member of the G7. We are talking bilaterally to the Japanese Government about the role Japan can play in alleviating the region's problems, which so many noble Lords have referred to in their contributions.

The Government's foreign policy has also concentrated on improving the quality of life of people, both here and abroad. We have signed the European Union Social Chapter, as we said we would in our manifesto. People who work in Britain now have the same rights as those enjoyed by workers elsewhere in Europe. At the Buenos Aires conference on climate change, Britain, led by my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, played a pivotal role in the cliff-hanging final hours of negotiation. The successful outcome of that meeting kept the climate change negotiations moving forward.

The Government believe in the importance of mutual respect between the peoples of the world. They are spreading the core values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. We have taken forward these principles bilaterally in our discussions with other governments, and multilaterally through our work in the United Nations, the OSCE and within the Commonwealth. I agree strongly with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, that the United Kingdom must continue to stress the importance of our membership of the Commonwealth. Our objectives of promoting prosperity, human rights. democracy, good government and the rule of law are part of that dialogue with the Commonwealth. We successfully hosted the Edinburgh CHOGM in October last year, which was chaired by the Prime Minister, where the heads of government confirmed their commitment to the 1991 Harare principles on democracy and good government. I agree very strongly that the Commonwealth provides, through literally hundreds of different associations, extensive links covering all sections of society—education, legal, scientific, environment, sport and the arts. It is a very important part of the Government's foreign policy. I say to those noble Lords who raised the question of Ireland's possible interest in joining the Commonwealth. that that of course is a matter for the Irish Government.

Her Majesty's Government welcome expressions of interest from suitably qualified countries and, indeed, Ireland would appear to meet the membership criteria.

The Government have also worked hard since taking office to press ahead with our new vision for international development and, very importantly, to turn that vision into reality. I thank noble Lords, particularly the noble Lords, Lord McNair and Lord Redesdale, for their kind remarks. But the fact is that too many people in the world—1.3 billion too many people—live in extreme poverty. We have published a White Paper on international development, the first White Paper on international development for some 22 years, setting out our key objectives and placing the elimination of poverty at the heart of our efforts on international development. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said, the Government have delivered on our manifesto commitment to start to reverse the decline in aid spending. We have announced an increase of £1.6 billion over the next three years. Programmes have been reviewed to ensure that resources are focused on the Government's over-arching goal of eliminating poverty and the promotion of sustainable development.

The Government are working closely with multilateral institutions, developing countries and other donors committed to the international development targets, not least the halving of the population of the world living in extreme poverty by the year 2015. The Government are placing greater emphasis on our work with the multilateral institutions—the UN system, including the World Bank, the IMF and of course the EU. We are working to ensure that the grinding poverty suffered by so many people is a key focus in their programmes. But we also recognise the greater need to ensure real coherence across governments and internationally on issues affecting developing countries, issues such as debt, agriculture, investment, the environment and trade. The Government are also working to build greater awareness of the need for international development and the issues involved. We are actively engaged in dialogue in the public and private sectors.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord McNair, that we have been trying to raise the awareness of global interdependence over these issues. We recently held a series of policy forums across the United Kingdom, culminating in the national forum in Birmingham on 9th November. There was a very wide participation in those forums, including consultation with the ethnic minorities. We will be producing a public report and hope to learn lessons from that valuable exercise.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for the welcome he gave to the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill. We hope that the Bill will pave the way for the creation of a public-private partnership which will benefit from its association with government and of course its participation with the private sector.

In the FCO we, too, are pushing forward with our programme of modernisation. It includes greater openness, better information technology and better communications between the Foreign Office and our overseas posts. We must concentrate on professionalism and improved efficiency. We also want to see more family-friendly policies. We are increasing our resourcing in key areas. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that these include the EU applicant countries, as well as in China, the Caspian area and in our priority export markets.

Many noble Lords raised issues around Europe. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, said, this Government have made a step change in Britain's commitment to Europe. Our relationship with the rest of Europe has gone from self-imposed isolation to real co-operation. I make no apology, not even to the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, for saying that we are making Britain's voice count as a clear and strong one, a voice which really counts now in Europe.

In this parliamentary Session we shall continue to work to achieve a Europe which delivers for the people of this country and for the people of our partners too. It is an agenda we shall be taking forward at the European Council in Vienna in two weeks' time. I assure the noble Earl, Lord Carlisle, that the Government will work with our partners to improve our economies and deliver better economic performance. We shall also work for a successful euro. We want to make the preparations to ensure that Britain is in a position to join a single currency, should we wish to do so, in the next Parliament. As my noble friend Lady Crawley said, the fact is that the single currency will affect Britain, whether we join or not, and it is in Britain's interests that that single currency works.

Let me turn to enlargement. EU enlargement is on track. We have now opened substantive negotiations on the first seven chapters of the acquis with Cyprus, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. The Commission has also published progress reports on all the candidates. We shall continue to press for early successful enlargement. We are firmly opposed to artificial delays. But we have to be realistic. We are not setting target dates and certainly not blindly optimistic deadlines which will not help any of the candidates in the EU. That said, the working assumption underlying the Commission proposal for Agenda 2000 is that accessions will take place in the year 2002. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and others who raised the question of financial resources for enlargement, that current spending is well below the own resources ceiling. There is already some margin available for enlargement and that margin will, we believe, grow as the own resources ceilings increase.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, also raised questions about the Baltic states. The UK is playing an important role in promoting integration of the Baltic states in the EU and indeed in NATO. We launched a new phase of EU enlargement during our own presidency and we are backing EU accession not only for Estonia but for all three of the Baltic states. Latvia and Lithuania will begin accession negotiations as soon as they are ready to do so. In answer to another point the noble Lord raised, we support WTO membership for all three Baltic states on terms which give genuine market access and which strengthen the multilateral trading system.

Her Majesty's Government have also been keen on CAP reform. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, that 1 do not really think he expects me to give him a date for reform from the Dispatch Box now, but I give him the assurance that this is an issue which Her Majesty's Government have taken, continue to take, and will continue to take, seriously.

Of course we also have the issue of strengthening the EU common foreign and security policy. The fact is Europe needs a coherent voice in world affairs. I am pleased to tell the House today that we have put forward Sir David Hannay as our candidate for the positions of CFSP High Representative and Deputy Secretary General of the Council.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I am glad to hear that measure of support from around your Lordships' House. He is indeed a worthy candidate.

A number of points were raised on the WEU by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who I see is not in his place at the moment, and therefore I shall deal with those points in correspondence. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister launched the debate on European defence at the Poertschach meeting a few weeks ago when he said that he wanted European foreign policy to be more effective. The important thing for us to concentrate on here is that this is an issue that concerns policies and not institutions. Furthermore, I assure the House, as indeed did my noble friend Lord Gilbert, that my right honourable friend made it clear that NATO will continue to remain the cornerstone of our collective security.

Many noble Lords—too many to mention—referred to Iraq. I must say something about that. On 14th November Iraq gave an unconditional undertaking to resume full co-operation with UNSCOM and the IAEA. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made it clear that we now expect Iraq to fulfil this undertaking. We are prepared to take military action if Iraq does not. Iraq has refused to hand over certain documents requested by UNSCOM. This is a bad start as the Security Council assesses Iraq's behaviour. While they are there the monitors are reporting back. The provision of information, including these documents which have been requested by UNSCOM and the IAEA, is an important part of the demonstration of Iraq's commitment to the undertakings made on 14th November. The Government of course share international concern at the suffering of the people of Iraq. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said that sanctions were hurting the poor more than they hurt Saddam Hussein. It is Saddam Hussein who is hurting the poor in his country. That is not rhetoric. It is, alas, a demonstrable fact. As the UN special rapporteur has said, Iraq holds the primary responsibility for the precarious food and health situation in that unhappy country.

The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, asked about support for the opposition. Her Majesty's Government would shed no tears if Saddam Hussein were no longer the leader of Iraq. No doubt Iraq would be better off without him. However, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, that the position remains that Her Majesty's Government believe that it is up to Iraq who its leader should be. We have consistently supported the Iraqi opposition since the end of the Gulf War. It is important that the people of Iraq and indeed the rest of the world hear an alternative voice from Iraq. I am sure that the noble Lord did not mean to be a little mischievous. I advise him that there was no contradiction between what I said and what my right honourable friend said in another place. I was dealing with the objective of military action, or potential military action, in Iraq. I said then—

Lord Burnham

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for giving way. I was present when she made that reply. I recognise that she was answering a specific question—it was a perfectly good answer to the question—but I respectfully suggest that it conflicts with what her right honourable friend said.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, time is getting short and I do not want to waste your Lordships' time with what I believe is a fairly tangential point. I was answering a point then about the objectives of military action, but I reiterate that nobody would be sad to see the end of that regime.

Questions were asked by the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, about the Middle East peace process. The UK position on settlements is well known. We regard the settlements as illegal under international law. However, I believe that we should concentrate on the important point raised by the noble Lord, that the Wye River Memorandum, signed in Washington on 23rd October, offers the best prospect for peace. The UK, both bilaterally and through the EU, will do everything in its power to ensure that we facilitate implementation of that very important agreement.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne

My Lords, I apologise for intervening at this late stage. Before the noble Baroness leaves the question of Iraq, as she is clearly not able to answer my question on the marsh lands of Iraq and the conditions for lifting sanctions, will she agree to grant me a meeting to consider that case, given that there are no marsh people outside the Gulf to put the case themselves?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, the noble Baroness knows that I am always delighted to see her. I cannot give her any undertakings. I expect she realises that this issue is outside my immediate ministerial remit, but I should be delighted to see her and to talk through the important points that she raised.

Many noble Lords raised the issue of Kosovo. The agreements reached in October following the negotiations between US Ambassador Holbrooke and President Milosevic have created a new climate in Kosovo. There is now a real opportunity for a peaceful settlement offering the people of Kosovo genuine self-administration including, crucially, control of local police.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, that we fully support the continuing efforts of Chris Hill and Wolfgang Petritsch, the US and EU Special Envoys, to mediate a political settlement.

To answer the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, about the negotiating track, we believe that it is vital that the cease- fire is observed. The record over recent weeks has been worryingly patchy, with faults on both sides. We have called on both sides for compliance and the utmost restraint to avoid provocations.

We have committed £3 million to the international aid effort in Kosovo. The EU has separately committed over £13 million. The OSCE Kosovo verification mission is now gearing up and will soon be fully operational. I am pleased to tell noble Lords that the first 50 British monitors are already in Kosovo. We expect the deployment to approach full strength over the next few weeks. I hope that that answers the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan.

We welcome the significant improvement in the humanitarian situation, particularly the return to shelter, if not yet in all cases to their homes, of those displaced by the conflict. We fully support the continuing efforts of the UNHCR and others who are bringing much needed relief to those affected. We have called on both sides to co-operate fully with the humanitarian relief effort and to allow displaced people to return home in conditions of safety.

I turn to some of the important questions asked about Russia. We will remain engaged with Russia and with the Russian Government. It is in our interests that Russia continues to support reform. We are ready to give help when that can support real reform in Russia. Parliamentary contacts are very important. Russia must do its bit, however, including having sensible economic policies.

We recognise that there will be localised food and medicine shortages in Russia, but we do not believe that there is likely to be any famine. We have given extra humanitarian assistance and we are considering food aid further with our EU partners. That aid has to be well targeted. It must not damage market structures in Russia or indeed among Russia's neighbours. And it certainly must not create any sort of dependency culture.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised important questions about military conscription. As part of a programme of reform currently in progress, Russia aims to move to a more professionalised army by the year 2000. But the programme is behind schedule, not least because of the acute economic and budgetary difficulties in the country. The UK is assisting with various aspects of Russia's military reform through the MoD's excellent diplomacy programme. The MoD programme retrains 2,000 redundant officers each year and helps in finding civilian work.

The noble Lord also raised a question about warhead swaps for what might be called aid and debt forgiveness. Using loans, debt forgiveness or aid to buy warheads would cut across our efforts to link assistance to economic reform. It would play to Russian suspicions that we want a nuclear advantage. Together with our G7 partners, we are looking at how we might alleviate Russia's debt burden. We are also contributing to an EU programme to provide technical assistance. With our EU partners we are considering providing the food to which I referred. We have of course already provided a certain amount of assistance.

Perhaps I may also say before I depart from this question on Russia that we share the outrage expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, as I am sure all noble Lords do, about the assassination of Mrs. Starovoitova last week.

Many noble Lords raised questions about the position in Africa. In the Great Lakes region Britain is working hard for peace, actively encouraging all regional states to pursue a negotiated settlement based on acceptance by all parties of sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly in the very troubled area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are taking into account the security concerns of neighbouring states and the right of all sections of the Congolese people. The UK has already committed approximately £500,000 in emergency assistance to relieve humanitarian suffering. We are ready to look at further United Nations appeals.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, raised particular questions about what is happening in Sierra Leone. The aid to which he referred, the £6 million grant for rehabilitation, is not yet disbursed. We await the appointment of an agent to manage the financial and procurement unit, and that agent will be responsible for the accounting of those funds.

My noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside raised the issue of Angola. We remain concerned by the impasse in the peace process and the deteriorating security situation in that country. As my noble friend pointed out, UNITA, under the leadership of Savimbi, must take responsibility for the present crisis. Only unconditional implementation of its obligations under the Lusaka principle, in particular full demilitarisation and the extension of state administration, can resurrect the peace process.

My noble friend raised other questions relating to Angola and some relating to South Africa. I hope he will be satisfied if I write to him on those matters.

I now turn to questions raised in relation to a completely different part of the world by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I assure the noble Baroness that my right honourable and honourable friends and I have supported the arguments of our friends in the Caribbean in relation to bananas at every possible turn. We do so in Europe and, importantly, we do so in America. I discussed the matter most recently in Jamaica, and in this country with members of the United States Administration. I am acutely conscious of the possibility of diversification of those fragile economies in the Caribbean into exactly the kind of trade mentioned by the noble Baroness in relation to drugs trading and money laundering. We lose no opportunity to make those points to our friends in the American Administration.

As for Cuba, the noble Baroness rightly referred to my visit which was, I think, the first visit of a Foreign Office Minister since the Cuban revolution. It was followed by the visit of my honourable friend the Minister for Trade and Industry. We are discussing the important issues which the noble Baroness raised in relation to debt. I hope that we shall be able to follow through those points and I thank her for the positive contribution she has made, particularly in relation to commercial debt with regard to Cuba.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is not in her usual place, but is nonetheless welcome in the Chair. She raised questions about the Sudan. We continue to stress to the Government of Sudan and to opposition groups our concern to see a negotiated end to the civil war. We want a negotiated end that respects the right of all Sudanese people. A peace settlement is the only long-term solution to that humanitarian crisis. We are working to strengthen Operation Lifeline Sudan in order to give it a more powerful voice and to ensure access to areas where there are acute humanitarian needs. I hope that that answers the point made by the noble Baroness about access.

The noble Baroness also raised issues in regard to Nagorno-Karabakh. We fully support the efforts of the three co-chairmen of the OSCE Minsk group, the United States, Russia and France, to seek a just and lasting settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We are concerned at the lack of progress to date. We urge all parties to show their good will. The noble Baroness is also right that there is a proposal for the 1999 OSCE ministerial meeting to be held in Turkey. We have discussed the issues with the Government of Armenia who have announced today that they will raise no objection to the meeting taking place in Istanbul. I hope that to a certain extent that will calm some of the fears raised by the noble Baroness in relation to Armenia.

I have trespassed on your Lordships' time for longer than I had intended, but I have tried to cover the waterfront without doing too much of a travelogue round the globe. Noble Lords raised important and interesting points and I hope I have been able to deal with most of them at least to your Lordships' satisfaction.

The Government intend to show leadership in the international community and in international organisations serving that community. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, felt it necessary to be a little derisory, a little sneering, about the Government's efforts to make British foreign policy count. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister told the United Nations General Assembly in September, we believe in the United Nations. We believe in a modernised United Nations. The Government will build on the success of the Edinburgh Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting last year as well in regard to our relationship with the Commonwealth.

I hope that I have been able to cover most of the important points raised in your Lordships' House today. I hope too that I have been able to describe to the House how we are putting into action the Government's commitments, the commitments we made in our manifesto and the commitments we made in the FCO mission statement which my right honourable friend made after taking up office. I am proud of this Government's record, a record of real achievement, a record that we shall continue throughout this parliamentary Session.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Blackstone, I beg to move that this debate be adjourned until Monday next.

Moved, That the debate be adjourned until Monday next.—[Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale.]

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

House adjourned at twenty-six minutes before ten o'clock.