§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:
"With permission, I should like to make a Statement on Kosovo and the G8 Summit in Cologne. Copies of the documents issued at the summit are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
"Ninety days after our military action began I can now tell the House that all Serb forces have withdrawn from Kosovo. This is a huge achievement. Many observers in this country and this House were sceptical it would ever be achieved. NATO's unity, the determination to prevail and the professionalism of our forces under General Sir Mike Jackson have proved them wrong. Milosevic's forces are out. Our forces are in and soon the refugees will go home. Some are already returning, despite the risks. I met the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the margins of the summit. The organised return of the refugees will begin on 1st July.
674 "Kosovo was discussed extensively at the G8 Summit and two important advances were tied down during the weekend. First, agreement was reached on Russian participation in KFOR. Russia will supply up to 3,600 troops for a force which is planned to reach some 50,000. They will have areas of operation in three different sectors rather than being concentrated in one area. Russia will provide a deputy to the commander in each sector where they are at present and Russian troops will be integrated into the unified force with command and control arrangements very similar to those for Russian troops in the NATO-led forces in Bosnia.
"Secondly, late last night the Kosovo Liberation Army signed an undertaking with the KFOR Commander General Mike Jackson to hand in their weapons and to demilitarise their organisation. I want to pay tribute to John Reith, the British NATO general in charge of the NATO force in Albania, who conducted these difficult and complex negotiations so well. The KLA has agreed that within seven days its forces will gather in assembly areas. Within 30 days, all prohibited weapons, with the exception of automatic small arms, will be handed in. Automatic small arms will be handed in in phases over 90 days, after which time the assembly areas will come under the full control of the KFOR commander and all KLA members have to cease wearing their uniforms and insignia. The KLA will then be demilitarised.
"The progress made in the few days since Milosevic finally caved in has been extraordinary: on the withdrawal of Serb forces; on the deployment of ours; on the role of the Russians; and now the agreement to demilitarise the KLA. This is a remarkable story. Britain and British forces can be very proud of their role in it.
"But another far worse story is unfolding as the true horrors that Kosovo has lived through come to light. I warned the House that we would be shocked by what we found when we finally entered Kosovo. So it has proved: torture chambers, organised rape, the butchering of children. Massacre, after massacre, after massacre. If ever justification was needed for the military campaign, the whole world has seen it now. The war crimes investigators have a massive task before them. But let no one think that Serbia can regain a place among civilised nations while it is led by an indicted war criminal.
"And I say this to the Serb people: the world cannot help you to rebuild your country while Milosevic is at its head. And nor will the world understand, as the full extent of these atrocities is revealed, if you just turn a blind eye to the truth and pretend that it is nothing to do with you. This is your country. The evil was carried out by your soldiers and by your leaders.
"But to the rest of the region it is clear from the G8 Summit that the international community will stand by the promises we made to them. The countries of the region stood with us, without compromise, during this conflict. We owe them a debt. We made a pledge to help rebuild the regions, and we will stand by that pledge. We want to rebuild the Balkans, 675 integrate the countries one with another and with the rest of Europe. We cannot afford another conflict like this one. We must invest now for peace in Kosovo arid in the Balkans as a whole. At the G8 we agreed that there should be a Balkans summit in the next few months at which we and the leaders of the democratic countries of south-east Europe would plan the way ahead for the region and mobilise the necessary support.
"I met President Yeltsin and the new Russian Prime Minister, Mr Stephashin, at the summit. President Yeltsin and I agreed to put our recent difficulties behind us and, in his words, make our relations stronger together. Russia played a vital part in the successful resolution of this conflict and I am sure that this House will join me in thanking Russia's leaders for the part they played.
"Events in Kosovo inevitably dominated the media coverage. But the summit at Cologne covered a range of other issues which are of huge political and economic significance for all of our countries, including the environment, non-proliferation and the killer diseases of AIDS and malaria.
"But for me most important of all was the progress we were able to announce on third world debt. Britain has long been in the forefront of the international effort to release the poorest countries of the world from the chains of massive debt. At Birmingham last year we pledged to support the speedy extension of debt relief to more countries. My right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for International Development have worked hard with Church leaders, Jubilee 2000, Oxfam, Comic Relief and others to secure the most generous package possible.
"The measures leaders adopted in Cologne mark a significant step forward. They will reduce the debt of the world's poorest countries by an extra 70 billion dollars, on top of further traditional debt relief of 30 billion dollars; and help more countries to qualify for highly indebted poor countries' debt relief, by making the debt sustainability criteria more generous.
"We also took steps to ensure that the new HIPC scheme will deliver debt relief more quickly. We will ensure that countries feel the full benefits of debt relief after a maximum of just three years, rather than six as now. We have agreed that the World Bank and the IMF should take steps to ensure that at least three-quarters of eligible countries get the benefits of debt relief by the end of next year: and in principle we agreed a new public-private partnership in the fight against poverty in the developing world by inviting the private sector to contribute voluntarily to a new millennium fund.
"I would like to see us go further still on debt. It is an issue whose time has come. I will personally do whatever I can to make it happen, But the impact of the agreements we reached this weekend should not be underestimated. Over two-thirds of the official debt owed by the world's poorest countries will now be completely written off.
676 "Most countries at the summit were able to report improved economic prospects for the year ahead, particularly Japan. But the lessons of last year's financial crisis must be properly learnt. We were able to announce at the summit a six-point plan for strengthening the international financial system, including measures to increase the effectiveness of the IMF and the other international financial institutions; proposals to promote transparency and best practice, with the IMF monitoring compliance with new codes and standards; and a new framework for involving the private sector in crisis prevention and management.
"Many of these proposals reflect ideas that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I have put forward over the last year. Once fully implemented, they will transform the rules of the game in the global financial markets. Taken together, I have no doubt that they will greatly strengthen the efficiency and robustness of the international financial system.
"These reforms will need to be accompanied by a continuing world-wide effort to reduce barriers to trade. The millennium trade round to be launched at this year's WTO ministerial meeting in Seattle represents a key opportunity. We agreed at Cologne that the new round should be broad-based and ambitious. It must also deliver substantial benefits for the developing world.
"We also committed ourselves to a science-based, rules-based approach in dealing with the impact of biotechnology. As part of a joint initiative including the UK, the G8 agreed to ask OECD experts to study the issues raised by recent developments in biotechnology and other aspects of food safety. We need to look at whether the current regulatory and institutional framework can be strengthened. Next year's summit will return to this.
"Finally, I was pleased that we were able to spend some time at the summit on the key domestic policy challenge of our time—how to equip all of our citizens to survive and prosper in the knowledge-based economy of the future. Education and lifelong learning are the passport to success in today's global economy. They are also the foundations of a prosperous and just society, so I was delighted that other G8 leaders agreed to support the idea of a G8 charter on aims and ambitions for lifelong learning to underline our strong personal commitment to raising educational standards, not just in our own countries but across the globe.
"The summit in Cologne was attended by eight heads of government, but its significance was of much wider international importance. It was a meeting at which we were able to declare at last that the barbaric regime in Kosovo was at an end and that international peacekeepers were in place. It sent a message to the world that the forces of democracy and freedom have the will to face down tyranny. It was a meeting in which important opportunities were taken to reaffirm, in the aftermath of Kosovo, our close relationship with Russia; and it was also a 677 meeting at which the richest countries of the world focused their attention and offered solutions to debt problems in the poorest countries of the world. In these crucial respects, it was both a successful and a significant summit".
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Lord Strathclyde
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made earlier by the Prime Minister. There is much in the Statement that we welcome, such as the commitment to enhancing world trade, and the promotion of non-proliferation and arms control. We on this side of the House would also like to join in the congratulations to the United Kingdom Armed Forces on the skill and steadfastness they have shown since this conflict began in Kosovo. I fear that they will need to draw deeply on those qualities in the weeks and months ahead. Can the noble Baroness undertake to the House that her noble friend Lord Gilbert will keep the House informed at all times of serious incidents involving British troops and, equally, that he will inform the House of any major changes in deployment or alterations to the rules of engagement? If the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, is not available, perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, can deal with these matters.
We also welcome the news of the demilitarisation of the KLA. Surely that is an essential feature of the re-establishment of the rule of law in any territory in which paramilitary armed forces have been operating.
Can the noble Baroness give the House an assurance that the handing over of heavy and light weapons will be enforced uniformly on the ground? Will she also accept that we join her in outright condemnation of the atrocities committed by Serb elements in Kosovo? If the Kosovar Albanians are to have confidence in the restoration of the rule of law, they must see that those responsible for these horrific crimes are swiftly brought to justice.
What information is there on the current position and numbers of Serbian refugees from Kosovo? To what extent can NATO offer those refugees a security guarantee; not least because of the strong line taken by the Serbian Orthodox Church against Mr Milosevic? Will the noble Baroness assure the House that the Orthodox holy places and ancient monasteries in Kosovo which are, I gather, world heritage sites, are under protection and will continue to be protected from any attacks?
Turning to the wider issues discussed at G8, is the noble Baroness aware that we welcome the rescheduling of Russia's debt repayments? Can she tell the House what is being done to assist reconstruction in those Russian provinces which are leading in implementing market reforms? As regards international debt, the Government are themselves indebted—at least they should be—to the leadership given by my right honourable friend Mr Major who secured the Trinidad terms during his government.
678 Is the noble Baroness also aware that we welcome responsible progress in that area? Can the Government ensure that those who benefit from the latest agreement are the people who live in the countries affected and not the many politicians in the political establishment, who run those countries and who caused many of the problems in the first place?
The summit set up two studies on GM foods. Why did the Prime Minister have to be bounced into these studies by other G8 countries? Has the noble Baroness drawn the Prime Minister's attention to the important recent debates which have taken place in this House on GM foods? Furthermore, is it not surprising that the Government have agreed to international studies, but have said that they cannot agree to the very simple Bill introduced by my noble friend Lady Miller of Hendon, which would strengthen our own parliamentary scrutiny over the planting and commercial release of GM seeds and crops, and which urges a moratorium until current research is complete? Given that the Government have agreed to these international studies, it would have been wise to accept my noble friend's modest Bill to reassure people here at home and to give it the support that I believe it deserves not only in this House but also in another place.
I turn to the confused position of the Government on the question of the euro. In the past the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have both said that they want, in principle, to abolish the pound. Is that still the case, or is this Labour Prime Minister belatedly discovering that the British people value the pound in their pockets? Did not the Prime Minister cause confusion at the Cologne Summit when he said that it would be daft to join the euro now and daft to set a time limit on entry? In other words, the Prime Minister is definite about being indefinite and undecided about whether to decide.
I also wonder whether the Prime Minister's Statement is a declaration of a policy of "dither and drift" on one of the most important questions before the nation. The noble Baroness will know that I do not always agree with the Prime Minister—in fact, I do not often agree with him at all. However, I believe that the spin around this summit shows that Mr Ashdown, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, was right to say that the Prime Minister had abandoned any pretence at leadership on this issue.
Will the Government do anything to persuade the British people to join the euro over the next two years and, if so, what? If the Government will not be persuaders for the euro, will the noble Baroness confirm that spending on a national hand-over plan, which the British people do not want, will be shelved in favour of the British people's priorities?
Finally, what do the Government mean by their new condition on entry to the euro, that there must be reform in Europe, and to what reform do they refer? Perhaps the noble Baroness could write to me setting out this new condition in detail and place a copy in the Library of the House for the benefit of all noble Lords. Which regulations must be dropped? Which taxes should be lowered? Will that include, as I believe it should, the total rejection of a withholding tax? I wonder whether 679 the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, heard about that new condition when last Friday he resisted the excellent Bill of my noble friend Lord Waddington. If the Prime Minister now says that he has spent the past two years fighting to steer Europe away from over-regulation, why did he sign the Social Chapter, why did he agree to the mass of regulation hitting British business? Is not the reality that his bid for leadership in Europe has utterly failed.
Will the noble Baroness agree that, if he had spoken to small businessmen and businesswomen recently, the Government would not be trying to take refuge in empty and increasingly incredible words about flexibility which are totally at odds with the daily reality of small business life in this country? I welcome the noble Baroness's replies to these questions.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank
My Lords, I too welcome the Statement made by the Prime Minister in another place and repeated here by the Leader of the House.
In May 1998, just over a year ago, I remember that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, the then Leader of the House, described the Birmingham Summit as moderately successful and useful, which I thought was a fair summary of a rather stalemate occasion. Judged by that description, I believe it is reasonable to call the Cologne Summit encouraging and better than most and, at a pinch—although time will show—I go along with the Prime Minister's own description of it as being successful and significant.
The noble Lord, Lord Richard, also said that the G8 Summit,is not an executive body taking decisions".—[Official Report, 20/5/98; col. 1687.]Whether he was right or wrong about that, it appears that the summit of 1999 has been a little more positive. Looking back at the weekend's events, we must all admit that they turned out rather well, owing in part to the appearance of President Yeltsin on Sunday morning in what one can best call a genial mood.
I welcome, as I believe the whole House does, the agreement on Russian participation in KFOR. However, I have one question. Will the areas of operation in three different sectors, to which the Prime Minister's Statement refers, be separate or contiguous? It is an obvious point to which I assume the answer must be separate, but they could be in three different sectors and yet contiguous. I believe that that would create the situation that we have been trying to avoid.
I also welcome, as do we all on these Benches, the understanding signed with the KLA. Can the noble Baroness say who will run the assembly areas for 90 days? Will those areas be free of Serbs and, if not, what protection, if any, can be expected from NATO? I believe that the noble Baroness will agree that it is very important to avoid further ambiguities in arrangements of this kind, there having been several in the past.
680 I agree almost entirely with the Prime Minister's assessment of NATO's achievement, an achievement accomplished not only by our own forces, but by all the forces of NATO. We must pay due tribute to what they are all doing at the moment in what are difficult circumstances. That achievement has been as remarkable since Milosevic's agreement as it was in the preceding period. We note what the Prime Minister calls the "true horrors" of Kosovo that are revealed every clay. In our view, they entirely justify NATO's military campaign, painful though that was, involving the loss of innocent lives, as wars inevitably do.
As I understand it, the distinction was made by the Prime Minister—although he did not use such words—between humanitarian aid and aid for reconstruction. I believe that the Prime Minister was ambiguous or vague in his Statement on this matter. Will the noble Baroness make it quite clear, as we have been led to believe, that Serbia cannot expect any aid for reconstruction as long as Milosevic remains in power? If that is the case, how will the distinction he drawn between humanitarian aid and aid for reconstruction, to avoid arguments and the ambiguity to which I have already referred more than once?
The other main issue was that of world debt. I believe that last year there was a great deal of rhetoric. There appears to be some reality about the decisions that have been made this year. Perhaps I can ask the noble Baroness to explain what practical steps will now be taken to implement the decisions of the weekend and where precisely those costs will fall, as neither matter was mentioned in the Statement.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, ventured into the margins of the summit and remarks made by the Prime Minister on other matters. If they were properly reported, we on these Benches are much less happy about them than we are about the Statement as a whole. I await with interest the noble Baroness's reply to the question of whether the remarks mean a change of direction. I hope that the noble Baroness will say that they do not and that the Prime Minister remains committed to a referendum on the euro—sooner rather than later—and will play his full part now, as he should have done before, in trying to make clear to the country as a whole that there are strong arguments for joining the euro which have not been put in the past two years. That is one of the reasons why I believe that the elections 10 days ago were disastrous for the Government in an important respect.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for their broad welcome of the Statement. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, for his generosity in some of the comments that he made about the leadership of the past few weeks, notably by my right honourable friend. I join, once again, both noble Lords in congratulating and expressing our gratitude to the British forces on conducting themselves so well during the previous period. As the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said, they may well be entering the period of maximum danger and 681 potential concern to us all with regard to their safety, as they take part in the serious peacekeeping operations within Kosovo.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked me to maintain information to the House on the basis of the organisation of those peacekeeping forces, particularly our own forces within the NATO command. He will know that it is not usual practice for details of the rules of engagement to be discussed in an open forum, but I hope that he will accept that over the past few weeks my noble friends Lord Gilbert and Lady Symons have been assiduous in keeping the House informed as events progressed. I am sure that we shall be able to continue to do that, although the detailed arrangements will naturally be made through the usual channels.
Both noble Lords asked about the specific position relating to the Serbs in Kosovo. The latest estimate is that there are around 200,000 Serbs in Kosovo, although the number who have left in the past few days is extremely fluid. It would be stupid of me to hazard a guess as to the numbers in that regard because, as both noble Lords pointed out, there is a flow backwards and forwards across the border between Kosovo and Serbia. As they both said—again, rightly—there has been important encouragement, notably from the Church in Serbia, to encourage those Serbs who have left, or feel that they are under pressure to leave, to stay put in their homes.
I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that the KFOR protection already in place has enabled Serbian people to go back to where they originally lived. That force understands that it has a responsibility to protect the Serbian population and to try as far as possible to maintain an ethnically multi-cultural Kosovo rather than to play into the hands of the original policy of the Serbs; that is, to establish a single ethnic body there. Those involved are doing all that they can, within the bounds of the peacekeeping operation, to maintain civil order and, indirectly, to try to rebuild a civil society in that extremely sad and unhappy place.
Both noble Lords asked about the situation with regard to the KLA. As the Statement said, there is a precise and detailed timetable for disarming the KLA. It is down to a number of days and weeks and perhaps I can briefly repeat it:Within 30 days, all prohibited weapons with the exception of automatic small arms will be handed in. Automatic small arms will he handed in in phases over 90 days, after which time the assembly areas [into which the KLA forces will have gathered] will come under the full control of the KFOR commander".Again, it would be foolish to make exact prophecies about the precise way in which that will be achieved, but noble Lords will no doubt agree that this is a practical and well-formulated plan which takes us through the various stages of the demilitarisation of the KLA leading to the complete demilitarisation within an exact timetable.
Noble Lords asked about the situation in relation to the Russian troops. I can say that there has been an undertaking that they will not spring any more surprises like the one at Pristina airport, and that they will fulfil the roles I set out in repeating the Statement within the 682 three separate command areas. As I understand it, this is still somewhat fluid in terms of the exact geography of the presentation of those troops, but there is no suggestion that they should create an enclave of Russian activity by simply operating on the borders of three contiguous separate command areas and therefore forming a solid group of people in the middle of other national command territory.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, asked about the way in which the Russian participation and the more general concerns discussed at the summit related to economic reform in Russia. It was explicitly agreed that there needed to be more economic and political developments within Russia and that a great deal of the debt rescheduling in relation to Russia should be an urgent topic for the Paris Group in looking again at the way in which that could possibly be rescheduled in the future.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, mentioned the specific circumstances of those regions within Russia which have already demonstrated considerable initiative in some of the economic reform areas. One of the specific undertakings of the summit was that economic reform was one of the subjects which would be looked at in terms of specific working parties which would themselves have a focused agenda relating to individual regions within Russia. So there was already an understanding that there were identifiable differences between different parts of the country and that those should be acknowledged in specific geographic working parties.
The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, asked what specific plans had been made in the general area of debt reconstruction and the overall position vis-à-vis the highly indebted poor countries and the way in which their position could be improved. The number of countries which are now deemed unsustainable within the terms of the debt repayment and possibly qualifying in the context of the highly indebted poor countries has now been increased by an extra seven countries from 29 to 36. That brings more of them within the umbrella of the more favourable terms for debt cancellation.
The other practical plans which have been made on the basis of suggestions put forward at G7 and G8 is to give a substantial reduction in debt service repayments. The G7 report makes it clear that the international financial institutions will front-load some of the debt reduction so that debt service repayment can be reduced substantially in early years, allowing extra resources to be focused on anti-poverty spending and, we hope, overcoming some of the problems about structural adjustment which have clouded the picture of international debt in the past few years.
International financial institutions are also involved in strengthening the link between debt relief and poverty reduction where the IMF and the World Bank will be asked to listen to the poor countries and work with them to protect their investments in social policy areas, such as health and education, so that those links are strengthened between the bank fund programmes and the international development target to halve world poverty by 2015.
683 We moved then from the broader subjects of the Statement to points being made rather specifically, and perhaps a little narrowly, in the context of our domestic politics about biotechnology and the EMU. I do not believe that EMU was mentioned in the Statement; none the less noble Lords thought it was important to raise it.
The Prime Minister was certainly not "bounced" into making a decision about study groups on biotechnology. In fact, another G8 member proposed the setting up of what would have been a regulatory international scientific council which would have imposed strict guidelines on international countries. We considered the proposal and suggested that rather than proceeding to a council with those sorts of strict rules which had not even been investigated in terms of the scientific research, it would be much more sensible at least to have the research in front of us before we proceeded to set up any regulatory bodies which would have influence or direction over our own scientific research. In this matter we are proceeding as we have done consistently; that is, on the basis that we would achieve a science-based approach to regulation. That has lain behind all our proposals, our position on biotechnology in general and on the GM foods situation in particular.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, remarked on the opposition of the Government in this House to his noble friend's Bill on this matter. That would cut across this much broader approach which we have consistently attempted to achieve, which is to depend on science and on evidence and then to develop regulations as it seems appropriate. I point out also that the Food Standards Bill, which will cover the area of concern around the GM foods issue in particular, is having its Second Reading in another place this afternoon. That must advance our understanding and ability to regulate some of the areas about which noble Lords expressed concern.
I did not hear the Prime Minister say what noble Lords quoted him as saying, but his position remains unchanged. He was saying that it was daft to adopt a position where one went into the European monetary system in the way noble Lords are trying to prevent us doing by their extreme statements; that it: was daft to go into this immediately; and that it was daft to say we would never go in. Indeed, he stood by his original position, which was that we need to achieve the relevant economic criteria before that decision is made.
The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, mentioned the "new" conditions. If he refers to the Statement that was made and repeated in this House about the changeover plan, he will see that there were specific references to economic reform in Europe in the context of adopting that changeover plan before we adopt the euro.
Perhaps I may summarise those points. There is no real change to the Government's position. I hope that that reassures the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers. The quote that was made about it being "daft" was about going in either immediately or sealing off the possibility of going in ever; neither of which position the Government adopt. I have to say that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, devoted an enormous amount of time to the euro, despite the fact that the Statement did not refer to it. In the context of these very broad, global policies, which 684 the summit successfully agreed, I really do not think Mat it is all that significant once again to indicate that his party has become a single-issue party.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Lord Clinton-Davis
My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister indicate whether there was any discussion at the summit on measures to try to deter the United States from taking any more premature action on a variety of issues at the WTO, especially those affecting GMOs and other matters? In that context, my noble friend referred to the involvement of the private sector as being desirable. Can she enlarge a little on that? For example, in what respect do the Government contemplate that moves can be made to enlist the support of the private sector, and are any developments planned in this regard for the near future?
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. As I understand it, there was no specific discussion at the summit of the issue lie mentioned in relation to the USA. I believe that many of these issues were deferred for the WTO ministerial meeting in December in Seattle, to which the Statement referred. My noble friend also mentioned the involvement of the private sector. I think that he may have assumed that this related to the trade issues when, in fact, it was more concerned with trying to involve the private sector in the international financial stability forum, in which attempts are being made to enable the global markets to resist some of the tidal waves of instability which affected them last year; in which, naturally, the private sector was very important and where simply the decisions of individual governments on public sector finance would not be sufficient to contain the problems that were seen last year and which people are trying to prevent for the future.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness could clarify one or two points for me about the very interesting Statement that she has just repeated, which we all welcome. My first question is about the KLA. The noble Baroness used the word "demilitarisation" at one stage and later referred to "disarming". In so far as the KLA is able to keep its side arms, or small arms, that is, from its point of view, an important step toward becoming the shadow administration. Are we quite certain that that will be avoided, with no pre-empting of the future?
Secondly, are we to understand that the international aid for the reconstruction of Yugoslavia, where the infrastructure has been enormously damaged by NATO, will now be held up unless or until there is a change of government in Belgrade? Is it not the case that there is no simple means within Yugoslavia for changing the government, let alone getting rid of Milosevic? Are we to take it that so long as Milosevic is there, there will be no help toward reconstructing all the bridges and railways that have been damaged, or rebuilding the precious bridges across the Danube that have been destroyed, affecting east European trade in a big way? Must we wait until there is some new upsurge within Serbia that throws Milosevic out, of which there has 685 been no sign as yet? Indeed, rather the reverse. Finally, perhaps I may join other speakers in thanking the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement, not least its encouraging reference to third world debt.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am especially grateful to the noble Earl for the points he made about third world debt. I know of his concern in that area. However, on the question of the KLA, the distinction as I understand between "disarm" and "demilitarise" is that the latter is a broader word which includes the matters to which I referred when repeating the Statement; for example, not wearing uniforms and insignia, and dispersing from the assembly areas in which those soldiers will be gathered for the next few weeks.
As regards the KLA's small arms, it is true that the Statement simply refers to automatic small arms. I am sure that there will be attempts to ensure that the military activity, even if it involves simply side arms, is greatly reduced under the terms of the agreement. The noble Earl will recall that the KLA did sign, and was prepared to agree to, the Rambouillet agreement on additional autonomy for Kosovo in the earlier months of this year. Therefore, the military situation having been resolved to some extent, we have to hope that the KLA will return to those principles, although the noble Earl is right to point out that the situation there is extremely delicate and could become unstable.
On the question of reconstruction aid for Serbia, I can say that, yes, it is true that the G8 leaders were agreed that while Milosevic was in power they did not intend to contribute to reconstruction of the type mentioned by the noble Earl, such as bridges and similar infrastructure. However, there is no denial of humanitarian aid to the Serbian people. Clearly, there will have to be international involvement in that respect to ensure that that humanitarian aid was being appropriately handled and was going to the people most in need. The noble Earl said that there is no sign of any kind of upsurge of anti-Milosevic feeling within Serbia. However, as he pointed out in our previous debates on the subject, that has been because many people, especially in Belgrade, have simply not had the information about what has been happening in Kosovo—
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, there is no machinery. There is plenty of feeling there, but no constitutional machinery for a change of government.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, three or four years ago I believe that there was almost a sense, if I may so describe it, of a revolution of popular opinion and certainly a great deal of anger against the regime. There must be a system for getting rid of Milosevic in the way that the Statement suggests is appropriate before any kind of reconstruction aid will be delivered to the Serbian people.
§ Lord Tordoff
My Lords, I revert to the question of the bridges over the Danube. One of the problems with 686 the destruction in that area has been the impact on other countries in the Balkans and the effect on trade and transport along the Danube. In using this leverage against Milosevic, can we be sure that we are not damaging other friendly nations in that area?
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that a delicate balance has to be struck by the international agencies, and, indeed, by the international and financial institutions in this area, in organising a genuine reconstruction plan with the use of the Balkan stability pact to provide an umbrella to achieve such reconstruction and economic renewal in that area. I repeat: it is not the case that the G8 agreed to contribute any reconstruction aid to Serbia. However, we recognise the problem of the interdependence of economies within that region. That is something that I know the international financial institutions and the broader alliance will be taking forward.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lord, can we go a little further into the question of the KLA? Can my noble friend the Minister say what the KLA is supposed to do within the next few months? At the end of that time the KLA will emerge as a force armed with machine guns—presumably, every single man—in what is still one province of the sovereign state of Yugoslavia, where there will also be an allied occupation army. What are the relationships to be between those three powers; namely, the KLA, NATO and the Yugoslav Government? Is it not time for broad, strategic political planning on these relationships?
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I have to say to my noble friend that it might have been more appropriate to congratulate General John Reith who has negotiated this extremely difficult and sensitive arrangement for demilitarising the KLA over the next few weeks, and to be grateful for such a arrangement which will at least enable some stability to be achieved in the locality. As I said in reply to the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, we recognise that the KLA was a partner to the Rambouillet agreement, which took forward a political settlement that could at least have produced a solution over a three-year period to achieve greater autonomy for Kosovo. We have to hope that the political responsibility which led them to that positive position at the negotiating table at Rambouillet will continue.
§ Lord Biffen
My Lords, I join those Tories who have congratulated the noble Baroness and the Government on the skill and the success with which the whole enterprise against Serb aggression has been conducted. I take up a point that was made earlier about the proposed embargo of trade and assistance to Serbia as long as Milosevic is leader. Does the noble Baroness agree that in those circumstances there will be continuing hardship, and perhaps severe hardship. in Serbia, making it into something of a sink economy in a part of Europe which needs reconciliation and revival? What are the circumstances which lead her to think that there can be an early demise of Milosevic, because that cannot be other than just an act of faith if he stays on for 687 a week or a month—who knows?—while the country, including the many who have no sympathy with him, is trapped by the military power that he still has which enables him to have authority?
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the kind comments he made about the skill of the Government. I shall certainly pass those comments to my right honourable friends in another place and to other colleagues. On the question of the balance between the need for humanitarian aid—which, as I hope I made clear in earlier responses, is understood by the international community—and the reconstruction aid, as I said in my earlier reply, it is a difficult balance to achieve but it is one which the international community feels is appropriate. Although it could not, of course, countenance a situation in which there was great humanitarian suffering in Serbia, and would provide humanitarian relief in that situation along the lines which I discussed in response to the noble Earl, it does not feel it is appropriate to put international financial resources into the infrastructure and general economic reconstruction of Serbia while Mr Milosevic is in power. That is why my right honourable friend included in the Statement the words which he addressed directly to the Serbian people when he asked them to consider the international community's view of them as members of a civilised community in the light of the extent of the atrocities which have now been revealed. I repeat his words. Addressing the Serbian people he said that they could not,just turn a blind eye to the truth, and pretend it is nothing to do with you. This is your country".That, I think, is the answer to this issue. I take the point which was raised about the structures for democratic change within Serbia and the difficulties associated with that but I re-emphasise the point I made earlier; namely, that three or four years ago we saw an uprising of popular feeling against President Milosevic. We have to hope that we see that again and that it produces a political change.
§ Lord Sandberg
My Lords, we are all delighted that an agreement has been reached on reducing the debt of impoverished countries, but I think that there should be some safeguards here. I have a nasty feeling that after a decent interval—or, more likely, an indecent interval—those countries which have had their debts reduced will rush off to their bankers and say, "Have we not been very good and very clever? We have reduced our indebtedness by about 80 per cent. Will you now start lending us some more money?". I think there should be some safeguards against that happening because otherwise in a few years' time we shall face the Oliver Twist situation of these countries asking for more aid.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I think that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has become well known for his important remarks—not only in this context but also in the domestic context—namely, that the giving of money must be accompanied by reform. that is the simple message behind the complicated package of measures which has been drawn 688 up. It is an attempt to balance the tight purse strings and conditions which have been imposed in the past by the IMF and the World Bank—which have led to some of the unfortunate side effects of structural adjustment in some of these countries—against appropriate financial regulation, and it is particularly an attempt to achieve a lack of corruption in those countries. As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, one of the concerns which many people have both as regards bilateral arid multinational aid programmes is that they are directed to the right places but never reach the right people. What is intended to be achieved by this complex series of developments—which has the important effect of reducing the debt of the highly impoverished poor countries which makes them unable to develop at all—is a general civic renewal and a general approach to political as well as economic reform which we hope will produce better results. But of course all of these things. have to be seen to work in practice as well as being agreed in theory.
§ Lord Blaker
My Lords, after my twice expressed concern about the matter last week, is the noble Baroness aware that I warmly welcome the fact that a solution has been found to the problem of the Russian occupation of Pristina airport? It has removed what could have been an obstacle to the successful performance by KFOR of its role, which it is performing extremely well, and could also have brought back an era of colder relations with Russia which would have been to no one's advantage.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising this point last week with some concern, as he said. I am glad that he now feels able to accept what has been negotiated with the Russians. As I understand the position, they will contribute about 750 troops to Pristina airfield for the logistic support of operations there. All KFOR participants will now have appropriate access to the airfield. That will be established under the general command of KFOR. I repeat what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers; namely, that the Russian troops will contribute one or two battalions to the US and German sectors and one to the French sector. The total Russian strength of these battalions is expected to be about 3,000 troops.
§ Lord Harding of Petherton
My Lords, will the noble Baroness assure us that scenes such as we saw last night on our television screens of British and other KFOR troops standing by while Albanians looted Serb houses—I know how badly they feel as their own houses were looted and burnt—will not be repeated?
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, the noble Lord raises the sensitive and difficult issues which arise in this area where feelings run extremely high. As I said earlier, I think that the troops there certainly understand that they need to be involved in peacekeeping and in some aspects of maintaining civil control of a difficult situation which might be outside their normal rules of engagement and their normal responsibilities as armed forces. On the whole, things have worked well. I did not 689 see the news bulletin the noble Lord mentioned, but I am sure he will understand that in the circumstances which prevail in Kosovo there are bound to be isolated incidents where perhaps things do not go smoothly; but on the whole arrangements have worked well. It is important to note that General Sir Mike Jackson has assured the Serbian people who seek to leave Kosovo that NATO troops will protect them.
§ Lord Wallace of Saltaire
My Lords, will the noble Baroness say a little more about the proposed Balkan summit mentioned in the Statement? Will this be EU led, as we understand that the EU countries are expected to pay most of the costs of reconstruction of the region? Will this be closely linked in with the promises which the British Prime Minister and the German presidency have made in the past two or three months of a long-term prospect of EU membership for all of the countries of the region? If so, is that part of an overall EU strategy?
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, over the weekend the G8 Summit agreed only in principle to hold this summit on reconstruction. The EU would be responsible for organising that summit and indeed for organising reconstruction in Kosovo with support from the World Bank and other international financial institutions. I think it is too early to make an assessment of the precise organisation of that broader reconstruction plan. That is why the Balkan summit has been called in the form that it has. However, as I say, it is agreed only in principle but I am sure that everyone will hope that it works out effectively in practice.
§ Baroness Strange
My Lords, I thank the Lord Privy Seal for her Statement. Perhaps she will convey to her right honourable friend the Prime Minister and to all our forces in Yugoslavia our congratulations on their tenacity and sensitivity in dealing with everything and that our thoughts and prayers are still with them.
Perhaps I may ask a short, quite separate, question about debt relief. Last week, I was a member of the welcoming committee for representatives from Mozambique; can the Minister say whether Mozambique is to be included in the debt initiative? Although trade, elections and economy were on the agenda, the only thing they could talk about was debt relief.
§ Baroness Jay of Paddington
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, for her remarks. I will of course pass them on. As I said earlier, we need to continue our support to the Armed Forces operating in this very difficult situation. Indeed, as my noble friend Lord Gilbert has said on previous occasions, they may now be entering a particularly dangerous phase of operations in Kosovo at this time.
As to the point about Mozambique, as I understand it, the extra countries which will be included in the impoverished poor countries initiative are Benin, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Honduras, Laos, Senegal and Togo. They can benefit from HIPC for the 690 first time. I will ask a specific question about Mozambique, but it is not included in the list of countries mentioned in the statement issued from the G8 Summit.