HL Deb 06 May 1999 vol 600 cc795-910

3.48 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert) rose to move, That this House takes note of the situation in Kosovo.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it might help if I were to put the present situation in Kosovo into some form of proportion by reminding your Lordships that what we are dealing with here is a piece of real estate no bigger than the size of Northern Ireland—in fact, not very much bigger than the area inside the M.25.

We have been engaged exclusively in an air campaign now lasting just over six weeks. Your Lordships would expect me to give you some indication of how the campaign is going. What I can tell your Lordships is that over 15,000 missions have been flown by NATO forces; some 5,000 of them have been strike missions, in the new sense of the word; we have lost merely four or five aircraft; and of the two aircraft which went down in Serb territory, both crews were recovered uninjured.

I believe that this is a quite remarkable piece of evidence of, first, the brilliant planning that has gone into this campaign and, secondly, the professionalism of the air crews that have been executing it.

Your Lordships will have noticed that the other day General Naumann said that we did not start off this campaign as he would have liked us to have done. Frankly, I do not believe that many people in the British Ministry of Defence would disagree with General Naurnann's remarks. It was very difficult, starting a campaign with 16 countries (becoming 19 with the three new member states) to get political agreement on targets to be attacked and the kind of weapons to be used, and to get total unanimity, which is a NATO requirement. We have succeeded in doing that. I submit to your Lordships that it is a tribute to the very good sense of the political leadership in all the countries within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I remind those of your Lordships who felt uncomfortable when you read what General Naumann said that he has also said that he sees no need whatever to change the present NATO strategy.

As a result of the weather, we have suffered a severe reduction in the number of sortie raids that we would like to have flown. As I may have said to your Lordships before, it has been frustrating at the morning briefings at the Ministry of Defence to read the number of missions that have been flown and then to see in the final column that the number of targets attacked were only a fraction of that number of missions, and were very often nil, because of the weather and because our troops and airmen either could not see the target because of cloud or because the target was obscured by smoke from a previous attack.

However, even the weather does not inhibit the most sophisticated modern precision guided missiles. Your Lordships will, I am sure, be glad to know that NATO has been pressing home its attacks with certain types of air assets, virtually whatever the weather conditions have been.

We have done serious damage to Serbian lines of communication, to their aircraft numbers, to their telephone communications, their radio relay stations, their radars and we have knocked out many of their surface-to-air missiles. Battle damage assessment is always very risky and in a few moments I shall come on to what I can usefully tell your Lordships about the state of Serb military capability as we know it today.

I have been asked many questions privately in the Lobbies of your Lordships' House and on other occasions about when it will all end. The answer is that nobody knows when it will end. Anybody who gives your Lordships a date is, in my judgment, very unwise.

We are asked whether it will be over by the winter. I certainly hope it will be over by then, but we can never give any firm undertaking that it will be. I am asked whether we are planning for it to be over by the winter. I assure your Lordships that we are planning for the possibility of our troops having to be in either Macedonia or Kosovo right through this winter and possibly several more after that. I am asked whether we shall have to send ground troops. I am always surprised by that question. Of course we intend to send ground troops and have always intended to do so. That is why we have the first battle group already in Macedonia and the second battle group almost completing its deployment there. There has been no change whatever in either NATO policy or in the United Kingdom policy in that respect.

But then I am asked whether we shall send ground troops even if Mr. Milosevic refuses to agree to our terms. The answer to that question is that we do not know what position Mr. Milosevic will be in. It is quite possible that there will be a military coup in Yugoslavia. We do not know whether Mr. Milosevic will be alive in a few weeks' time. We all know that he has a very unfortunate family history in that respect. Will people still be taking Mr. Milosevic's orders in a few weeks' time? We do not know the answer to that question. Will he have forces of which to dispose in a few weeks' time. We do not know the answer to that question either.

But even if we go in in what we hope will be a permissive environment, as the phrase is these days, it will never be a wholly risk-free environment because any peacekeeping force going into Kosovo must face landmines laid, probably, indiscriminately throughout the countryside, booby traps in the villages and the possibility of snipers who will disobey any orders that the Serb authorities might have given to desist from hostile action towards NATO forces.

All those matters are unknown and cannot be known until we finally confront the political decision which will be taken on military advice as to when we should move forces into Kosovo. For that reason, I cannot tell your Lordships how many troops we expect to send in. But I assure your Lordships that those matters are matters of active discussion between us and our leading allies, both bilaterally and within NATO. Just because I cannot give your Lordships any figures does not mean that preparations are not being made, as they are at the moment with respect to a whole range of possible contingencies.

The last question which I cannot answer is how much it will all cost, and I cannot answer it for the same reason as I could not answer the other questions to which I have referred in the past few minutes. There is total agreement on the part of Her Majesty's Government that the resources required will be made available for whatever operations are necessary in and around Kosovo.

On the last occasion that I was at this Dispatch Box talking about Kosovo, I gave the House full and comprehensive details of our military dispositions at that time. I do not propose to repeat them today. Your Lordships may wish to know that in addition to what I was able to tell the House on that occasion, the Secretary of State for Defence, in the past day or so, has authorised the additional deployment of four more Harrier GR7s to Gioia del Colle, four more Tornado GR1s and one additional Tristar refuelling aircraft. I believe I am right to say that the GR7s are deploying at this time.

As I said, a second battle group is almost entirely in place. As your Lordships will be aware, we have had some difficulties at the port of Thessalonika and we have had some additional difficulties deploying into Macedonia, but I am glad to say that that task is almost entirely completed. In addition to the extra aircraft which I have just mentioned, since I last spoke in your Lordships' House, we have deployed a second nuclear submarine on a I and W patrol.

It may be of interest to your Lordships to know that to date the Royal Air Force has flown over 500 attack sorties which represent about 10 per cent of all NATO attack sorties, and the Royal Air Force tankers have provided fuel to more than 600 aircraft of 16 different aircraft types from six different nations. I am glad to be able to emphasise that because so often one gains the impression from discussions in this country about what is happening in Kosovo and Serbia that it is almost exclusively a British or Anglo/American operation. We have no fewer than 13 NATO air forces involved regularly in the air campaign. That is a great tribute to the resolution of our allies.

I said that I would say one or two things about Serbia's military capability, as we see it. I want to emphasise again what I said a few moments ago. I am sure that I carry all your Lordships with me who have experience of these matters when I say that battle-damage assessment is extremely imprecise. I do not propose to deal in figures of the number of oil bowlers that we have hit or the number of tanks that we have hit because I should not wish to rely on the figures which I have.

However, we are slowly, inexorably, tightening a stranglehold on Serbia's POL—petrol, oil and lubricants—capability without which no army and no air force could move. The shipments up the Danube have come to an end. The Croatian pipeline has been closed and very little is proceeding through the port of Bar.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, before he leaves that matter, will the Minister say whether there are any plans to attempt an oil embargo?

Lord Gilbert

My Lords, I was coming to just that point. If the noble Earl will be patient, I shall certainly deal with it.

As regards an integrated air defence, it is fair to say that the Serbs still have elements of an integrated air defence. One reason for that is that they have used it so infrequently. The people manning their radars have been extremely reluctant to switch them on except for very short periods of time. As a consequence our strike aircraft, because they have been so brilliantly escorted by air defence aircraft capable of what is called SEAD, suppression of enemy air defence, have been able to roam the skies above Serbia and Kosovo with almost total impunity.

However, we recognise that the Serbs have a very considerable and dangerous capability in manned portable surface-to-air systems which could be very dangerous to our aircraft if they were to engage in the sort of low-flying tactics that have been recommended to us by some people who, frankly, do not understand some of these matters.

I said that I would not deal in statistics, but I will say that at least nine of the military airfields in Serbia and Kosovo have been damaged, most of them severely. At least 10 surface-to-air missile sites have been destroyed and many bridges have been damaged or destroyed. Your Lordships will have seen vivid testimony to that on your television screens and in the newspapers from time to time.

The other military issue that I wanted to touch on—and I come immediately to the point that the noble Earl raised—is the question of stop and search. This is still being debated in the North Atlantic Council, and no decision has yet been taken, but I can say that very little in the way of petrol, oil or lubricants is getting through Montenegro into Serbia now, or, to the best of our information, has done so at any time over the past six weeks. We have an active programme of attacking the bridges outside Montenegro on the roads leading from Montenegro into Serbia and into Kosovo.

We have, as I am sure your Lordships will appreciate, been extremely sensitive to the vulnerability of Montenegro, which has an entire Yugoslav army camped in its territory. There are frictions between the police force in Montenegro and the Serb 2nd Army, and of course we fully realise that Mr. Milosevic thinks that it might very well be in his interest to try to destabilise the government of Mr. Djukanovic. However, Mr. Djukanovic has so far survived, I am glad to say. He is, I know, extremely anxious that we do not attack the port of Bar, and so far there have been no NATO attacks on any installations there. The only installations that I am aware of that we have attacked on any regular basis in Montenegro have been some radio relay stations, Podgorica airfield, which has suffered severe repeated attacks, and some radar installations. I was invited recently to approve a radar target right on the coast of Montenegro, but we eventually did not attack it, for tactical reasons.

The next matter that I should like to discuss is the state of Serbian morale, a matter in which we in the Ministry of Defence are extremely interested. Of course, it is a subject on which it is very difficult to get absolutely unambiguous and non-contradictory evidence.

When we are considering the state of morale of the Serbs, we have to start with Mr. Milosevic himself. It is very difficult for us to assess the state of his morale, because on any normal basis that we would understand the man is behaving totally irrationally. It is possible that he thought that we were not going to attack, or that we would not sustain our attacks, but how he can possibly sit in his hunker and contemplate the damage that is being done to his country, from one end to the other, and think that the game is still worth the candle, completely defeats me. One of the matters that concern us for the future is whether or not he will try to lay waste to Kosovo, if he is forced out of there, in the same way as Saddam Hussein laid waste to Kuwait.

Moving on from Mr. Milosevic to the business men and politicians who are close to him, I have to say that I think their morale is showing considerable signs of cracking. Certainly, the business men who see factory after factory destroyed are very unhappy about what is going on. Your Lordships will have seen remarks in the media by Serb politicians who have demurred from Mr. Milosevic's policies in only the last few days or so.

The citizens of Belgrade and other cities have suddenly realised that, as Mr. Jamie Shea, the NATO spokesman, has said, we can turn the switch on and off in their cities at will at any time. That must be demoralising. We have reports that food rationing has been introduced. We have reports that cigarettes are in extremely short supply, which is a matter of no small importance to citizens of that country. I do not know whether they are yet starting to blame Mr. Milosevic for their condition, but I would be very surprised if, as the NATO campaign progresses, they did not come to do so.

But most interesting of all is the state of morale of the army. Here I think we need to divide our assessment into three parts, starting with the generals.

The generals know how much damage is being done. The generals know that they are impotent to do anything about: it. The generals are quite amazed at the precision of our attacks. And the generals, above all else, are startled at the quality of our intelligence, which enables us to go into a huge barracks area or an airfield and bomb precisely the buildings that matter to them. This must be a cause of increasing concern for them as the weeks go by and they see no let-up in a campaign which they never thought would go on so long.

The middle-ranking officers must be even more concerned. They are the men who thought they had a career in the Serbian Armed Forces. They thought they were important representatives of the state, part of the cement that held the state together. They now see the assets which they were going to command being relentlessly destroyed, day after day, night after night—and not only being destroyed; these officers know perfectly well that they will never get them back again, because Serbia's economy is now back to that of 1945, at the very best, and there will be no money at all for rebuilding barracks, getting new fast jets, getting new surface-to-air missiles. These middle-ranking officers, whose careers depended on the welfare of their Armed Forces, must be feeling very sick indeed.

As regards the troops on the ground, I have no figures for the number of casualties that they have suffered so far. It is quite possible that their morale is being maintained if they believe what their authorities tell them is the number of NATO aircraft shot down. They are told that Serbia has shot down over 70 NATO aircraft. Your Lordships know perfectly well that it would not be possible for NATO to conceal the loss of seven aircraft, let alone 70. It is quite possible that stories of this sort are having an invigorating effect on the troops in the field. But when we move to that stage of the campaign when the weather gets better and better, and more and more often are we able to bomb in daylight, when we attack Serb assembly areas and concentrations of Serb troops in woods, and they realise there is nothing whatever they can do about it, their morale will also inevitably suffer before very long.

I am sure that your Lordships appreciate that we in NATO owe a very great deal in the current circumstances to the assistance of non-NATO states, particularly in south-eastern Europe. In many cases the governments of these countries are being extremely brave in supporting our activities, against political opposition, and obviously with a population which is suffering severely from the effects of NATO activities, the kind of matters referred to in the amendment to be moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. They have lost a great deal of their export markets. They have lost the use of the Danube. They have lost their tourist trade and yet they have been extremely helpful to us. Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria have been staunch friends in the present circumstances.

I believe that your Lordships will agree, echoing what the Prime Minister has been saying recently, that all of us in the West must appreciate the need to assimilate the countries of south eastern Europe, including the Serbs, into our wider European family as soon as possible so that we can put these terrible events behind US.

Lastly, I want to touch on the question of the refugees. As your Lordships know, the numbers are quite horrific. The figures that I have, as of yesterday, from DfID is that 400,000 have entered Albania; another 200,000 or more into Macedonia; 62,000 into Montenegro; and 48,000 into Bosnia. We have no reliable estimates of the numbers moving around, homeless, inside Kosovo. I am reluctant to give the estimates as they vary so widely. The figure varies around half a million.

It behoves those of us who live in a fairly comfortable country to recognise the scale of such a movement of people, first, on the host governments. People have been critical of the Government of Macedonia. In a very few weeks they have had to accept an increase in their population of over 10 per cent. That is the equivalent of 5.5 million people coming into this country. Not only is Macedonia a poor country, but the refugees affect the racial balance of the country to which the Macedonian people are very sensitive. Macedonia has been a tolerant country. There have been no problems with racial matters in Macedonia. We should salute them. It is not only in our interests, but it is our duty to see that we make things as easy as we can for them. I am very proud of the contribution that British troops have already made to the setting up of the refugee camps in Macedonia.

One can easily be numbed by the numbers of refugees. My research shows that some 400,000 people have entered Albania. That is roughly the equivalent, I am told, of the population of Manchester, Bristol or Edinburgh; 200,000 people into Macedonia is roughly the equivalent of the population of Swansea; 48,000 into Bosnia is roughly the size of the city of Antrim.

The nature of the evil that is being carried out in that part of the world comes home to us more vividly if one considers the impact on one family. So many terrible stories have been told to our troops, to British Ministers and to visiting parliamentarians. Consider what it means when a man comes into your house and points a gun at you and tells you to get out immediately. Your first instinct is to pick up those things most valuable to you, things that you treasure the most, and you put them in a little bag and walk out and the man with the gun steals them from you. He takes your wedding photographs; he takes them because they have silver frames. You offer him money. He takes the money, but he still kicks you out.

What is taking place in Kosovo is not just a piece of obscene political dogma; they are the most vulgar criminal activities that one can imagine. Most of all, I think of the children who have lost their toys, their pets, their friends and who are in a strange country. They may be separated from their parents; they may have lost fathers; they may have lost uncles; they may have lost brothers. They have very little hope. In fact, they are seriously traumatised. Occasionally, it is wonderful to see how life returns to them when somebody gives them new toys to play with.

The events in Kosovo are terrible. I understand that the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, feels strongly about the effects that NATO forces have had on Serbia my noble friend Lady Symons will talk about his amendment at the end of the debate. I hope that the noble Earl will not find it necessary, having registered his view, to press his opinions to the vote. However, he is perfectly entitled to do so if he chooses. I also hope that noble Lords will not follow the noble Earl in his lonely position and that noble Lords will support the Government in the Lobby, not least to demonstrate our support for our brave young men and women out there, to let them know that we are proud of them and to make it clear to them that we are confident that their cause is just and that it will prevail.

The Earl of Dudley

My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, sits down, as I have not wanted to add to the length of the debate by putting my name down to speak, can I ask him if he or his colleagues can give us some information about the propaganda war, if any, against Yugoslavia? Are we dropping leaflets, as we were in the last war against the Germans?

Lord Gilbert

My Lords, I deliberately did not discuss such matters with your Lordships. I am happy to tell the House that the last time I enquired into that matter, something like 13 million leaflets had been dropped. There is a PSYOPS campaign taking place. We have an internet site at the Ministry of Defence. We are also making special broadcasts into Serbia. Yes, a psychological campaign is taking place. I commend the Motion to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the situation in Kosovo. —(Lord Gilbert.)

4.16 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for opening the debate and setting out the Government's current policies.

As we speak, the Foreign Ministers of the G7 countries have gathered to meet the Russian Foreign Minister in Bonn. There is little doubt that the outcome of that meeting will have great consequences for the prospects of peace—or otherwise—in Serbia and the negotiation of a political solution for Kosovo.

The meeting in Bonn comes at a critical time for the crisis in Kosovo, in a week when NATO has apparently adopted a twin-track approach in pursuit of the intensification of the air campaign on the one hand, while participating in a flurry of shuttle diplomacy by the Russian peace envoy, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, between Moscow, Belgrade and Washington, on the other. There is a glimmer of hope, albeit very faint, that the chinks referred to by the Minister are beginning to appear in President Milosevic's hitherto apparently impenetrable armour of defiance.

In this House, there is a wholehearted consensus that, together with our NATO allies, we must break through the political deadlock which doomed the Rambouillet negotiations and which threatens to prolong indefinitely NATO's bombing campaign, which is now in its sixth week.

In that context, I want to take this opportunity to join the Minister in saluting the courage and dedication of our servicemen and women. I want to assure them of the unwavering support and gratitude from these Benches for the task that they are undertaking.

Noble Lords on these Benches have continued and will continue to support the Government while they maintain clear and consistent objectives. We share the Government's view that now that we have embarked on the NATO operation in Kosovo, it is critical to the people of Kosovo, and to the future of NATO, that the operation succeeds. Yet, six weeks after the NATO air operation commenced, as the number of civilian casualties rises and, excepting the outcome of today's G8 meeting, the campaign shows no sign of a breakthrough, I believe that a more sombre mood of uncertainty now prevails in this House and the country as a whole.

For that reason, we seek assurances that both military and political tactics have been thought through in depth by the Government, in unity with our NATO allies, with fully fleshed-out strategies in place. kept constantly under review, for every conceivable contingency.

Despite the Minister's repeated assurances that NATO has consistent and quantifiable objectives, lingering doubts remain that NATO governments have clear, agreed, united political and military objectives. Those lingering doubts have been fuelled by the repeated intensification of the air operation, suggesting both an initial miscalculation of the military capability required to degrade Serbia's military capacity and, equally worrying, the development of "mission creep" which, if left unchecked, could lead us into a ground war by stealth.

On a number of fundamental issues since the NATO operation began, confusion and uncertainty (rather than the "brilliant planning" referred to just now by the Minister) have prevailed, obscuring the Government's objectives and calling into question the unity of NATO over the means by which those objectives may be achieved. The use of ground troops, a comprehensive humanitarian strategy for the refugee crisis, the planning for an EU and a NATO oil embargo, the issue of the removal of President Milosevic from power, even whether or not NATO is at war with Serbia, have all been the subjects of prevarications, retractions and sadly, on occasion, even U-turns, leaving the impression of the lack of an agreed strategic plan.

During the course of the campaign, the Government's aim s have seemingly shifted from averting a humanitarian disaster to the suggestion made by both President Clinton and the Prime Minister that President Milosevic should be removed from power—a suggestion which the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, last week rejected in stark contrast to President Clinton's words in the Sunday Times that Serbia needed a democratic transition, for the region cannot be secure with a belligerent tyrant in its midst". The Government have rightly presented President Milosevic as a dangerous and evil war criminal, a "belligerent tyrant" in pursuit of a fascist ideology of ethnic intolerance and racial genocide, who must be brought to justice and from whose malign influence Serbians must be encouraged to break free. Paradoxically, however, he is also Serbia's elected leader, with whom NATO countries are prepared to conclude a settlement. When summing up, can the Minister confirm what she said on Monday 26th April, that it is not an aim of this war to see Mr. Milosevic fall from power"?—[Official Report, 26/4/99; col.38.] Can she confirm also that this Government will negotiate with him if he fulfils NATO's five demands? In short, can she confirm that it is NATO's objective to negotiate with President Milosevic, not to oust him as President Clinton and the Prime Minister seemed to indicate?

Rightly, the Minister has repeatedly stated that the Government's objectives are those five objectives which were set out at the meeting on 12th April by the NATO Foreign Ministers, and that they are "basic and unalterable demands" which will not be compromised. However, the "clear" objective referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, on 24th March, when he said, NATO's position is clear… We seek to bring an end to the violence in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and support the completion of negotiations on an interim political settlement", —[Official Report, 24/3/99; col.1388.] does not appear within NATO's current set of objectives. Indeed, six weeks later, no one would deny that a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented proportions in Europe in the past 50 years has taken place; nor should anyone doubt that the responsibility for this lies entirely on the shoulders of President Milosevic, or that atrocities and ethnic cleansing were clearly under way and clearly planned before the bombing started. However, it remains the case that NATO's initial primary objective—to avert a humanitarian catastrophe—has far from been achieved.

I shall attempt briefly to assess NATO's objectives one by one. The first of NATO's demands, quite rightly, is that there should be an immediate cease-fire. However, that raises the question, not as the Minister said, of the eventual use of ground troops, but of the circumstances in which ground troops might be deployed given that the Foreign Secretary, while ruling out an armed invasion of Kosovo, referred to the possible provision of ground troops to ". secure" a cease-fire. "Securing" a peace is very different from "maintaining" a peace.

At the beginning of the campaign, the Government appeared to rule out the deployment of ground troops in any kind of war situation. It is certainly true that military situations develop and, as the noble Baroness herself put it, the situation is not now as it was when we began the military encounter. But to what extent does the Minister—indeed, the Government—consider that the apparent ruling out of ground troops at the outset of the campaign, other than in a peace-keeping role, diminish the NATO threat in President Milosevic's eyes? To what extent does the Minister believe that it has now been made clear to him that, Nothing is ruled out in terms of ground troops"?—[Official Report, 26/4/99; col.43.] The Prime Minister appeared to give a clear indication that he was prepared to consider the introduction of ground troops into Kosovo when Serb troops have been sufficiently degraded. The Prime Minister's words, combined with his strong line in Washington at the NATO summit on 23rd to 25th April, described by many as "hawkish", led to much speculation on whether the Government had changed policy away from the use of ground troops only as a peace-keeping force in a permissive environment. Given that no mention was made of the possible use of ground troops in the statement on Kosovo issued at the summit, to what extent has the "review of all options", to which the Prime Minister referred on 21st April, been agreed by our NATO allies, in particular the United States?

In that context, and of the greatest importance, can the Minister give an assurance that we are not in a situation where the Prime Minister thinks that we should use ground troops, in circumstances which are far from clear, but was unable to secure the support of our allies, particularly the United States, and therefore the Government are not pursuing their preferred strategy? The noble Baroness has rightly said that no option should be ruled out. Given that military experience so far has suggested that an air campaign has never won a war, can the Minister clarify the Government's position on the deployment of ground troops other than as a peace-keeping force in Kosovo?

I turn to the second objective; the removal of Serbian troops from Kosovo. On the demand that President Milosevic must withdraw his troops and paramilitaries on a verifiable basis, can the Minister confirm that that relates to all his troops and paramilitaries, unlike the Holbrooke October package which sought to have them return to pre-March 1998 levels in the province, as referred to by the Prime Minister on 23rd March when he said that, in order to avoid NATO action, Milosevic must do what he promised to do last October—end the repression, withdraw his troops to barracks, get them down to the levels he agreed"?—[Official Report, Commons, 23/3/99; col.162.] Thirdly, there is NATO's demand that an international military force must be deployed, likewise to ensure that the refugees have the confidence to return home. However, the NATO statement merely said that President Milosevic must accept the stationing in Kosovo of an international military presence. Yet again, yesterday Serbia's Foreign Ministry insisted that it would not be prepared to admit anything other than an unarmed UN force. Can the Minister provide more information on the nature of the force that will ultimately monitor and police the situation in Kosovo? Is it still the Government's position that any future peace-keeping force must be NATO-led, or does the Minister agree with the French Defence Minister who has said that it is possible that, a future peacekeeping force for Kosovo may not he under NATO's direct control"? Indeed, does the Minster agree with the US State Department spokesman, James Rubin, that in such a force the command and control responsibilities would have to be such that NATO had the lead command and control of any American forces that participate and that, it is NATO and only NATO, with American participation … that can achieve the objective"? Do the Government therefore rule out a dual key decision-making process with the UN, for example, in such a force, or with a bolt-on Russian command structure?

I should like to turn to the issue of Kosovo Albanian refugees whose return to their homeland in peace and security is NATO's fourth demand. One million people have been forced to leave their homes while mass deportation has caused over 600,000 people to take refuge in countries beyond their native border of Kosovo in the past six weeks. Estimated figures from yesterday indicated that over 400,000 people have fled to Albania; over 48,000 to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and over 211,000 to the former Republic of Macedonia.

On the subject of Macedonia, it is surely vitally important to recognise that that country is on a knife-edge of instability and in need of substantial and urgent financial support to a level considerably greater than that currently proposed.

It is the Government's policy to secure the return of all refugees to Kosovo. We should consider the lead that the Government have taken, together with our NATO allies and European Union partners, to draw up a comprehensive plan of assistance for the Kosovo refugees, with the ultimate aim of their safe return to Kosovo. We need an assurance, which we have yet to hear, that the Government have a detailed strategy by which to achieve that.

The precedent of previous wars in the former Yugoslavia is that few of the displaced return home. In Croatia, several hundred thousand ethnic Serbs were forced out in 1995, and the majority have not gone back. The Bosnian war caused a vast exodus of Moslems to the West and to Turkey; 350,000 went to Germany alone. Many have resisted repatriation. Does the Minister agree that if the thousands of Kosovo Albanians currently in the camps in Macedonia and Albania are forced to spend the winter as refugees, many will never return to their homes?

I turn to the fifth objective set out at the meeting of NATO's Foreign Ministers on 12th April: a credible assurance of willingness to work on the basis of the Rambouillet accords in the establishment of a political framework agreement for Kosovo, in conformity with international law and the charter of the United Nations. Does that objective remain the same, in the light of the statement made by the Foreign Secretary on Monday 19th April in another place? He referred to the need for the international administration of Kosovo, which was in direct contradiction to the Leader of the House who told noble Lords only one week before, on 13th April, that the Rambouillet accords must remain our touchstone for further discussion about the future Kosovo, and that the idea of any further developments—that is, beyond the arrangements for the autonomy agreed at Rambouillet—is not being considered at the moment.

From these Benches, we have repeated and consistently emphasised the critical importance of Russian involvement in finding a solution to the crisis. On occasion we have had fears that the Government have under-estimated the extent to which the Russians may prove to hold the diplomatic key to unlocking a settlement in the humanitarian tragedy in the Balkans. The Prime Minister has said that Russian efforts to find a diplomatic solution to this crisis are welcome. From these Benches, we believe that they are not just welcome, but essential.

My final point concerns the long-term stability of all the Balkan states. The issue of the economic future of the Balkan countries and the need for a post-war reconstruction plan has been raised by a number of noble Lords from all sides. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House has said that some wider rebuilding of the region on an economic basis, akin to the Marshall Plan, was something that the whole of the western alliance and others would need to consider in a peaceful situation. It is the contention of these Benches that it should be considered now.

The current IMF estimates for the reconstruction of the region stand at approximately 30 billion dollars. The region is being destroyed economically, as growth and prosperity are maimed by the conflict. The region will be safe, transformed from the continent's primary source of instability into an integral part of the European mainstream, with a solid foundation for a new generation of peace, only when poverty is addressed, when people are rehoused and when the economy has recovered.

If history has taught us anything, it is that, post-conflict, the vanquished must be made viable. An economically depressed, bankrupt Serbia spells untold future disruption for the region. Now is the time to ensure that in this confrontation between barbaric tyranny and necessary force, between vicious intolerance and respect for human rights, between tyranny and democracy, the values of NATO must prevail.

We support the Government in them vigorous pursuit of a diplomatic solution, while maintaining military pressure on President Milosevic.

4.36 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for introducing the debate and for the details that he provided, not least about the actions that our forces are taking with regard to Kosovo. I should like to add our great praise for our troops, not only for their military action but also for the remarkable work they have done in helping the refugees, in building camps and in arranging for humanitarian aid to be delivered. We cannot put on record too strongly our thanks to them for that activity as well as for their normal professional duties.

I also emphasise, as strongly as I can, echoing the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, that we on these Benches believe that the Government were absolutely right to insist upon intervening against what President Milosevic was attempting to do in Kosovo.

It is important to remind noble Lords that the attempted ethnic cleansing of Kosovo began a very long time before the NATO intervention. It is worth putting again on record that President Milosevic's behaviour goes right back to events in Croatia in 1990; it was repeated in Bosnia two years later; it was repeated with the terrible massacres at Srebrenica three years later; and that many voices as long ago as 1995 and 1996 repeated over and over again the warning that this behaviour might be copied yet again in Kosovo.

I hope that any noble Lords who consider supporting the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, will think very hard indeed about this repeated record of behaviour that simply cannot be accepted in Europe at the end of this millennium.

I think that we will see the difficult but painful birth of a new legal and moral order in Europe in which we begin to recognise at last that the rights of individuals to their own lives, freedom and responsibilities, must be recognised by any country that wishes to be a full member of the European region and of the European institutions that are being created. President Milosevic's behaviour is incompatible with any such emergence of a legal and moral order.

Having said that as strongly as I can—and I believe I speak for everybody on these Benches—I must now be more critical. I believe that there was almost certainly too hubristic and optimistic an estimate of how quickly the massive and sophisticated force of NATO could break the resistance of President Milosevic. It is always a mistake to underestimate the capacity of the Serb people to endure, which they, too, have shown over and over again through the centuries. In some ways, I believe, NATO was not a wholly appropriate organ to bring about this kind of intervention, relying as it did so heavily on massive air power.

We on these Benches believe that it was a grave strategic mistake for NATO to indicate al the very beginning of its intervention that there was no possibility of the intervention of ground troops. We are not saying that there should not have been such an intervention; that is a matter that must be decided in the light of political and military events. We do say, however, that to rule out that option completely from the very beginning gave President Milosevic the opportunity to turn round and loose his troops and the still more fearsome troops of the Interior Ministry, the MUP, on the hapless civilians of Kosovo

With hindsight, we now know that it will take much longer than many people expected or hoped to bring about a victory in Kosovo. I have no doubt—the Minister would rightly interrupt me if I had—that, at the end of the day, NATO is certain to be victorious. But the phrase is "the end of the day", for this whole war will be much more prolonged than some of us might have hoped at the beginning. That means tremendous pressure on what military people call the "rear theatre"—that is to say, the in-depth defence. In using that phrase, I am of course referring to the very heavy dependence of the whole NATO structure on two fragile pillars. One of those is Macedonia, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred, and the other is Albania.

I shall not repeat what the Minister said—indeed, it would try the patience of the House—but already there are 210,000 refugees in Macedonia and 410,000, or a figure very close to that, in Albania. I shall only say that, even now, the balance of those coming in far exceeds the balance of those going out. On 4th May, nearly 8,000 additional refugees either attempted to enter or did enter Macedonia, while a few hundred left the country. The balance is still one that is putting greater and greater strain on a country that can hardly sustain it and whose Prime Minister, Mr. Georgievski, has time and again warned us in the West that his country cannot sustain it.

I share the respect of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for the Government of Macedonia, and even more for the Government of Albania which, as the poorest country in Europe, has now absorbed nearly 400,000 refugees, more than half of them being housed in ordinary and often very impoverished homes. It is an amazing story. It is a story of courage and determination which ought to be widely recognised and applauded.

However, there is a limit. In the case of Macedonia, it is estimated that what was expected to be a growth rate of 5 per cent in 1999 will now be a reduction of 4 per cent. It is expected in Macedonia that the sum of money made available by the World Bank will go only a quarter of the way towards meeting the new deficit on its budget. I repeat: this is a poor country.

I am concerned—I shall put this strongly; supporter of the Government's action though I am—that it is simply not enough to believe that the Department for International Development can redivert some of its not very large budget to humanitarian needs in the Balkans. That will simply be insufficient. This is an international crisis which needs a national government response. I have the greatest respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, but I have to say that I do not believe she was the right person to answer the Question tabled by my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire about the effects of what is happening on the fragile economies of these Balkan countries. Even the Prime Minister's £40 million would only sustain 40,000 refugees to the extent of £1,000 each for a few months. That is 6 per cent of the current estimated number of refugees. It is not enough.

However, perhaps more encouragingly, I should like to say that the long-term plan that has been proposed—again, we should give credit here to the German Government who originally put it forward as president of the European Union—is both far-reaching and visionary. Indeed, our own Prime Minister has described it as a "Marshall Plan". It holds out the hope of actually pulling the Balkans out of their position on the margins of Europe into the full mainstream of ultimate European Union membership.

In my view, and in that of my colleagues on these Benches, the hope of bringing the Balkans back into that mainstream—that is, the mainstream of democracy, of plural economies and of a decent and independent system of courts—is the lantern that shines in the current darkness of south-eastern Europe; in other words, the one hope of actually bringing from this terrible crisis a greater and better outcome.

I wish I could stop at that point, but I have one more set of observations to make briefly. They echo some of the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. We have seen the communiqué from the G8 this afternoon. It leaves a great many questions unanswered. Perhaps I may simply mention one or two of them. As the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said, the communiqué refers to the deployment in Kosovo of effective international civil and security presences. References to either NATO leadership or NATO corps have disappeared from that language. That may not be significant, but let us consider the situation if you were a member of a Kosovar family, driven out of your home by Serb police or military. How could you be expected to go back, unless you had the absolute certainty that you could trust the forces that will oversee your return and provide an absolute guarantee of safety? No one will risk their children twice—that is to say, no decent man or woman. Therefore, if I may say so, this is frighteningly ambiguous language.

The other piece of frighteningly ambiguous language is the reference to the, principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia". Most of us accept that Yugoslavia has the right to its sovereignty, but I thought that we had talked for a long time about an international protectorate in the case of Kosovo, which, to say the least, is a pretty qualified form of sovereignty; and, indeed, ought to be so.

I have to say that I, at least, found profoundly distressing the fact that the brave resolution of Senator McCain in the US Congress was rejected by a substantial majority. That resolution called upon the President to have all necessary powers to bring the war in Kosovo to a satisfactory end. Even more depressing was the fact that the White House lobbied strongly against a vote in favour of that resolution.

I conclude with a small story. Nine years ago, in the summer of 1990 at Aspen in Colorado, I heard the news of the invasion of Kuwait by President Hussein. Shortly after that news came through, I saw, at a lunch in Aspen, the then British Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher (now the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher,) walk across the room and say in a voice loud enough for people like myself who were merely guests to hear, "Don't wobble, George". He did not wobble; he then entered into the successful Gulf War. We do not have to say that today to our own Prime Minister, but perhaps we should say, "Don't wobble, Bill". For, if he wobbles, what I believe has been a brave and, in many ways, principled intervention in the affairs of Kosovo will turn into a shabby compromise. I, for one, very much hope that that will not happen.

4.48 p.m.

Lord Bramall

My Lords, noble Lords will note that I am speaking from a sound foundation, with a firm military base sitting on either side of me. I fully accept the argument that it would have been wrong for Europe to ignore what had happened on its own doorstep, and what was likely to happen, in Kosovo, with its sinister echoes of over half a century ago. Certainly, now that NATO's aerial war over that unhappy country and the plight of its people, is in full cry, there can be no going back. The penalty for failure would be considerable all round, so the conflict must be won or negotiated through to a successful conclusion.

Only time will tell, as was made abundantly clear by the Minister, whether bombing alone will achieve all NATO's strong demands. Historical experience might suggest that it will not; but after a slow start the Serbs are becoming increasingly isolated and they have had, as we have heard, massive damage done to their whole infrastructure, their oil supplies, their air fields and now their electricity supply—I must say that bomb is a completely new one on me—and therefore indirectly to their war machine, now declared to be the aim of the six weeks' bombardment. The pressure on the civilian population from the relentless and unnerving accuracy of high technology weapons must be immense, while the Apache helicopters with their formidable low-level performance have still to make themselves felt.

Who knows therefore whether al: some moment, perhaps unexpectedly, suddenly, Milosevic, or someone in his place, under pressure from the people or from the army, might not sue for peace unconditionally. We can only fervently hope that this will be so because it would clearly be the quickest, perhaps the only quick, way to re-establish sanity and humanity on all sides.

One thing, however, is absolutely certain and that is that ground forces, including a significant contribution from ourselves—since our Government have taken much of the lead in all this—will, if our aims are to be met, be required in the area in considerable strength and for a considerable time. They may, in some shape or form, have to be engaged more actively and dangerously than they have been so far, either around the edges of the conflict or even in parts of Kosovo itself. If this happens, I know that our forces, who yet again at a drop of a hat and far from home, are ready to lay their lives on the line, will acquit themselves well, as we have seen so often before. They will, I know, be able to count on the continuing support of your Lordships' House and indeed of the whole country, who should never forget their professionalism and dedication to duty.

I make two pleas to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, whose sense of realism I have always much admired. The first concerns whether it is anticipated—I use that word advisedly—that the forces which are likely to be required to bring everything to a successful conclusion or to consolidate the peace exceed either in terms of strengths or length of deployment those which have been budgeted for under the recent Strategic Defence Review. I remind noble Lords that this amounts to, in addition to the forces engaged on everyday commitments such as Northern Ireland, one brigade on peace-keeping duties (as we have now in Bosnia) and one brigade in a war fighting mode for six months (as presumably we have already deployed to Macedonia), or one complete division for war fighting, also presumably for six months. Also one must not forget the latent threat in the Middle East and the fact that formations have to be relieved from time to time. If that is exceeded—as I suspect it will be—I hope that the Government will have the courage to scrap, or at least put firmly on the back burner, those parts of the Strategic Defence Review which are no longer valid, just as the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, did away with the defence review, current at the time, when the Falklands War started.

If we mean business, we really must start matching resources to rhetoric not only in terms of the refugees—which of course is vital—but also in terms of the military. There is always a price to pay for intervention on this scale. I have in mind, for example, the Army's manpower ceiling—for a long time this has been set too low and it is still set too low—and the number and strengths of units or sub-units both in the regular Army and in the Territorial Army (the only real reserve we have).

I hope that the Minister will forgive me for raising my next point. After well over two months I still await a promised reply from the noble Lord about the future of the Gurkhas, who would prove most effective, not least as an important deterrent threat in the southern Balkans, as they were in the Falklands and are now in Bosnia. That threat might well force the Yugoslav Army more into the open and therefore make it more vulnerable to NATO air attack.

Finally, there is the annual budget itself, which is already under severe strain and, as far as I know, is still being eroded at 3 per cent compound interest per annum. The budget will, of course, need to he increased, not contracted, if the other restraints are to be removed and our ground and tactical air forces are to be provided with proper strengths, logistic backing and sustainability, and support from our reserve forces. I hope the Minister will not take the view that we can cross that bridge when we come to it because, as he knows so well, these things take a considerable time to adjust and Ministers and their NATO colleagues should know well in advance what can and cannot be provided before decisions are taken on how the campaign should develop.

Besides, it is only right that commanders and staff back in the United Kingdom should expend all their energies on realistic provisioning for our forces in the front line in the Balkans and elsewhere, and should not: chase probably now unobtainable, and certainly unacceptable, bottom-line financial targets. Indeed, one of the many sad things about all this is the number of times in my experience that defence reviews and their aftermath have, under intense financial pressure, been based slavishly, even during times of conflict, on strategic parameters which have proved, in a short time, to be utterly incorrect and indeed inconsistent with our rather grandiose foreign policy aspirations, as many at the time warned that they would be.

My final plea is that if our forces are ever to be committed to ground operations which may involve some degree of opposition and resistance, even of the greatly written down variety, great care should be taken over the command arrangements. Of course, not being privy to either the intelligence on the opposition nor the details of topography, I can offer no Worthwhile views on whether such an intervention, and under what circumstances, would or would not constitute a sound military operation with calculated risks which are worth taking, as in the Falklands and the Gulf. Control from Mons involving 19 different nations may or may not be the way to deal with a politically sensitive air bombardment, but it is certainly not the way to direct land operations involving surprise, the concentration of force and indeed all the established principles of war, even if—as I welcome—there is a heavy international content.

Only a commander-in-chief on the ground, operating within a firm political aim, but with full authority over the land and tactical air forces with whom he would be in close physical touch—all of which occurred in the Gulf War—will suffice. It would be highly desirable for a senior British officer to be commander-in-chief. After all, we command the Rapid Reaction Corps. But if lie must be American, there should be a senior British officer at his right hand, as occurred in the Gulf War. If the Minister thinks that I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, I can say only that in these highly politically sensitive days, when rhetoric, press releases and high profile public relations occasions sometimes seem to be considered a substitute for hard pounding, military realism may easily be forgotten.

We now have to win what we have started. If we get the command and control machinery right, everything else may well click into place. But if there is a hydra-headed arrangement which that great professional, the late noble and gallant Lord, Field Marshal Montgomery, would undoubtedly have described as a "dog's breakfast", it will be a sure recipe for the kind of disaster from which the British Army has certainly not been immune—particularly in the early stages of the war—and from which, happily, we have been spared during the past 50 years. I am sure that the Chiefs of Staff will be making exactly the same point but, in this highly political war, it is especially worth stressing in your Lordships' House.

5 p.m.

Lord Merlyn-Rees

My Lords, I support the policy of the Government as they work with their allies to end the bestial Serbian policy of ethnic cleansing. That must be our main aim at all times. I wish to comment and ask questions about our future policy as it unfolds.

In the time I have been a Member of your Lordships' House I have often asked myself what we are here for. We are certainly not here to be another House of Commons. The speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, reinforces my view that we are here to draw on experience. I wish to draw on my own far more limited experience to offer a few comments.

When I was a young RAF officer I spent three years of my life working with the Army. Our aim was to work with and sustain the Army on the clear understanding that the battle could be won only by the Army. Air power was vitally important. If we took prisoners, the German PoWs always said "It was air power that defeated us". But they were wrong. Air power was a major factor but the battle was won by the Army. That lesson must be remembered in Yugoslavia. We provided close support in Sicily and Salerno. When I see the news dealing with the war in Yugoslavia, I often wonder what the media, with their television cameras and reporters asking soldiers what they think and so on, would have made of Salerno—a shambles in its early days if ever there was one. At Anzio, the south of France, back up into Austria, marginally into Slovenia and into Croatia, air support was vital to enable the Army to win the battle.

As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said. Yugoslavia was a place apart. A separate air force was built up to deal with the Balkans. The Balkan air force on the east coast of Italy dealt with Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was different from Italy. As the noble and gallant Lord said, to try to run the battle from Belgium is a mistake in terms of command structure.

Eventually we ended up on the Yugoslav border. Our Yugoslav allies were completely unco-operative. What they did to each other was unbelievable. They had done it before. What Croat did to Slovene, what Slovene did to Serb, what they did to children was not new. It will not stop. It will not be stopped by the words of western politicians. It is something that is built into the south Slav mentality. I spent 18 months in that area and I have never forgotten. I had of course read European history. A few days spent in that part of the world enabled me to understand European history far more clearly. The First World War was started when an Austrian Archduke was killed by a Serb. That is the key point: he was killed by a Serb. These problems will not go away and we must be ready for a long haul.

In August 1946 I was the operations officer of a fighter wing which was occupying a Hungarian airfield when our allies shot down two American aircraft. We were re-armed in August 1946 with clear instructions not to seek a battle but, if it happened again, to shoot them down. They were completely unco-operative, which in my view is endemic in the Yugoslav mentality. Lack of co-operation will be there if allied forces have to go into Kosovo, or wider, even if they go in not to fight a battle but to try to keep the peace. It will not be easy. It is early days to talk about that but the rationality is important.

As to NATO, there is much talk at the moment about handing over to the WEU. I am not against the Anglo-French European defence capability, which is an aspect of that, but the Americans control all three services: the intelligence, the signals communication and the transport facilities. NATO is dominated by America and we should face up to that fact. We supply 7 per cent of the bodies offered by NATO; the Americans supply 86 per cent. When one talks of what should happen, one has to convince the Americans of what should happen. I do not object to that because the size of the force is determined by the resources available.

I wish to say a word about targeting. Targeting such as we read about in the newspapers and see on the television is not new. For two years before D-Day in 1944, the RAF from new airfields in the south of England targeted railways, engines and bridges in northern France, just as such facilities had been targeted by both sides in North Africa during the North African campaign and up into Italy. Targeting is a vital part of tactical air force work in aid of the Army. It is not new but it is important.

Who determines the targets? How is it done? Does the targeting come from Brussels? Do the pilots of the fighter bombers, I suppose one should call them in the new terminology, stationed in northern Italy have to get permission from a distance away or are the targets chosen by the pilots, by the squadron commanders or by the wing commanders?

Mistakes will always happen. My war was not particularly distinguished but, like many of my friends, I have been shot at by the Royal Navy and the American navy. I did not blame them. In 1944 a friend from one of the squadrons was strafing a row of motorised and horse-drawn vehicles in the Rhone Valley. He suddenly then realised that he was strafing an ambulance. He did not do it deliberately, but a mistake had taken place and he and others reported it. In the Telegraph or The Times today I noticed the obituary of a distinguished RAF officer who had bombed British forces in Iraq in 1941. I read in the papers about mistakes being somehow a dereliction of duty, but mistakes happen and cannot be avoided. However, targeting is important and I wonder how it is decided.

One difference from 1944–45—long before NATO—has been the work of NATO in providing aid, food and shelter to the refugees, a point highlighted by the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. NATO's role has changed; additional work has been given to it. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is right: such work must be done on a far greater scale. But NATO should not do it. NATO may be an engine by which it can be done but it is time now to introduce a Marshall Plan or something like that.

I am glad that the Foreign Secretary said two days ago that the aim is to get the refugees back to their own country. That must be right. Placing refugees in not derelict but empty Army camps is good in the short run but no good in the long run. The aim must be for the refugees to return to their own country and nothing else.

As regards the wider scene, western Europe has been deficient politically. One of the big mistakes of the past 10 years has been the recognition of the independence of Croatia and Slovenia. The Serbs are not fools. Once that had happened, they wanted their own independence and they knew what they had to do. What are the aims of western political policies with regard to the south Balkans and the south Slav territories? What are the aims for the KLA? We are supplying arms to the KLA; will it return them afterwards? Will we have the same story as Northern Ireland'? Will there be decommissioning and arms handed back? Will our policy be exercised through the KLA? If so, the Serbs will not give in easily.

The South Balkans could flare up at any time. There are Albanians in Kosovo and west Macedonia, as well as in Albania itself. There is the wider Macedonian question. There is the Greek-Turkish rivalry. Kosovo is only part of a wider problem. It is time that the western European countries put their mind to a wider problem than Kosovo. In the short term I support the Government; the long run requires a great deal of questioning. I hope that the Government are taking part in that questioning. I hope that the Western European Union, the western allies, are thinking hard about the long term. Was a mistake made in 1918 when Yugoslavia was created? That was a long time ago, but would it have been better to have done things differently? What is the long-term political aim arising out of the Kosovo question? In the short run, I support the Government; in the long run, we shall have to see.

5.10 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I recognise that one ought not to speak about peace at such a generalised level that one misses the opportunity and the challenge that are presented by the continued ethnic cleansing, just as with the invasion of the Rhineland by Hitler—a challenge which I clearly recognise must be met with force. I recognise, and am deeply grateful for, the professionalism of the Armed Forces involved in the action. Rather than recapitulating on matters in which other noble Lords are far more expert, perhaps I may speak as the Bishop responsible for relations with the Orthodox churches.

The noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, spoke about his personal experience of the spirit in Yugoslavia. There is another side to the story. There is a democratic opposition in Yugoslavia, and there are people who are very clear about the nature of the challenge facing those societies. It is good to note that just before this action took place, religious leaders of the three main faith communities in Kosovo—the Moslems—the 60,000 or so Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church, were trying to promote grass-roots dialogue. Centres such as the Decani monastery have been havens and centres of relief for victims of the fighting, irrespective of ethnicity or religion.

It will be difficult to move towards any kind of settlement. It is obvious that, however justified. violence radicalises the situation. It brings the extremists on both sides to the fore. Bishop Atremije of Prizren, in a letter to Madeleine Albright before the bombing began, predicted that the action would provide a pretext for the Milosevic regime to move against the democratic opposition and to, delay the democratisation of Serbia, a pre-condition for a stable peace in the Balkan region". But the effort to find democratic partners in building the peace is inescapable and the role of the faith communities in doing so—Moslem, Roman Catholic and Orthodox in particular—will be recognised, as it could be vital.

The same is true, to echo a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, of the Russian role as mediator in this crisis. I was immensely heartened by the Prime Minister's statement that the Russian diplomatic effort is receiving the serious attention here that it is receiving in Germany.

The expansion of NATO to embrace former Warsaw Pact countries, effected with so little turbulence, was a huge achievement. But it was an achievement built on the doctrine that NATO was a purely defensive alliance. We may not see matters this way, but Russia has centuries of experience of invasion, not least from the West, and has a sense of vulnerability and a corresponding determination to ensure its own security which it would be unwise to underestimate. There is unanimity right across the Russian political spectrum that the NATO attack on Serbia introduces a dangerous unpredictability into relations within Europe. Many Russians are asking, "Are we next?".

I am certain that nothing could be further from the minds of NATO strategists. But as we look to build a stable peace in Europe, it is vital that Russian anxieties should be respected and its aid in peace-making should be actively enlisted. Again, the potential role of the hugely numerous and significant Russian Orthodox Church in this peace-building effort should riot be, underestimated.

As we look to the future and seek ways to assist the refugees who have been so barbarously driven from their homes, certain questions and challenges arise. Even though the situation has been radicalised by the violence, I can understand why Her Majesty's Government are still persuaded of the undesirability in such a volatile part of the world—we have heard about the tensions in Macedonia and Albania—of altering the international borders of Kosovo. Now is the moment for spelling out more clearly what our hopes for the future of Kosovo really are. Is the cantonisation of the kind recommended by the Peace Mission of the Orthodox Church in Kosovo an option?

At the same time our own Prime Minister has insisted on the need to act in defence of the growing consensus on the inviolability of human rights and to act in a way that is transnational. That represents a new development in the practice of diplomacy. The nature of conflict has changed, and it is clear that the practice of diplomacy must also develop.

In this context there is a clear need to look urgently at reform of the United Nations. If it is true that the Security Council is paralysed by its present structure, then surely there must be pressure for change, led by the governments of the democratic world. Cynicism about the UN is a luxury that we cannot afford. A global trading system and global communications call out for global institutions, which can be powerful advocates and protectors of the human rights and obligations of all world citizens.

I am convinced that future historians will look back on our time with one major question: "What did they do to build the conditions for world peace with justice and stability?". They will look to see whether we have learnt any lessons from the present crisis, which is a vital test of our determination to manage conflict in the new world order.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, perhaps I may ask him to enlarge on one matter. There are reports in today's press about contacts between Lambeth and the Orthodox Church. Has there been any contact, not only with the Greek Patriarch in Thyatera, but also with the Serbian Patriarch at Sremski Karlovci?

The Lord Bishop of London

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his inquiry. I assure him that contacts with the patriarchate of Belgrade, with Istanbul, and indeed with Moscow, continue.

5.18 p.m.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. For some years, to my great advantage, he was my vicar at St. Stephen's, Rochester Row, which is not far from here. It was inherent in our respective positions that I was unable, publicly at least, to comment immediately on what he had said. Today, I am delighted that I can do so, not least because he is even more persuasive now than he was then.

Perhaps I may take up a particular point that he made. He spoke about the desirability of reform of the United Nations, if that can be achieved. One of the great strengths of our position in the Gulf War was that the United Nations Security Council was so made up that it was able unanimously to produce authority for the action that was taken in Kuwait against Sadam. That is not the position today. Fortunately, international law does not require the consent, authority or mandate of the United Nations for action of this kind to be taken in these circumstances. However, it would be far better if the United Nations could be reformed along the lines suggested by the right reverend Prelate.

I am most grateful for this debate because it gives each of us an opportunity to state and review our position and perhaps counter some of the recent and extraordinarily shallow and harmful criticism of what our country with its NATO allies is engaged upon.

Much has been said with which I agree. I very much agree with the observation of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, about the mistake inherent in stating at the outset that a ground attack was not contemplated in any circumstances. I also agree with the comment of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, about the desirability of revisiting the cuts in the Armed Forces.

For my own part, it is not enough simply to reflect in a short speech that what we have heard already illustrates the extreme difficulty and complexity of the situation with which we are confronted and it is all too difficult. One must take a view. Our country is engaged in a campaign that is both honourable in its inception and very dangerous in its potentiality. It is honourable because its purpose is to deter crimes of inhumanity, reverse them as far as possible and restore to their birthright those who have been evicted in hideous circumstances from their homeland. Our purpose is and should be to prevent these crimes being replicated elsewhere if it should he seen that NATO is now an alliance of straw.

I strongly believe that our purpose is honourable. But it would not be sufficient for it to be honourable in its inception if it was impracticable because it could not succeed. It is here that the bulk of the criticism—although not in this House today—arises, largely because the success of the air campaign is not nearly complete. It is quite common to hear people who should know better say that NATO is simply stimulating what it says it wants to stop. I do not believe that that is a fair assessment of the heretofore and I dissent from that criticism as strongly as I can.

This campaign can and will succeed, but the challenge that we face is very different from those acts of aggression in the Falklands and the Gulf with which we are fairly recently familiar. On those occasions the acts of aggression were very quickly established as a fait accompli and that gave us time to build up our response. I believe that those campaigns and their successful prosecution have induced some to suppose that war can frequently be brought to a speedy and clear-cut victory; in most cases it cannot.

Here the choice that has lain before us has been, on the one hand, to keep supine observation while Milosevic pursues in full international view his ethnic cleansing campaign, including mass murder—I very much agree with other noble Lords that this was planned and began long before any NATO counter-moves—and, on the other hand, to continue to reduce his regime's capacity to act in this way so long as his crimes continue and until he agrees to the restoration of the Kosovans and their protection under a military force.

Surely, international law cannot require us to take the first course. I believe that if we did so it would be profoundly immoral. Generally speaking, international law does not countenance immorality. I believe that international law permits what we are doing and that today moral law demands it. I do not know—because I do not have the experience of the military junta that confronts me on the other side of the House—whether a ground assault will be necessary to achieve full success. I believe that there is a realistic possibility. It has always been on the cards. I would be very surprised—I am confident that it was not the case—if the Chiefs of Staff had somehow concealed from Ministers what they truly believed.

Instinct tells me that a ground assault would have formidable, but not insurmountable, difficulties and challenges. I do not know the answer to that question. I realise that we would not seek to occupy the former Yugoslavia as a whole but only Kosovo with the assistance—which I do not believe is negligible—of the KLA.

However, I know three things, and when I have dealt with them I shall sit down. First, if such an assault is required, and occurs, the air attacks of the past six weeks, both strategic and tactical, will not be found to have had a negligible, let alone negative, effect; rather, they will be found greatly to have diminished the ability of the Serb Army to resist a ground attack. If I had a son who might shortly be called upon to take part in such an attack I should feel pretty resentful about any suggestion that the earlier air attacks should not have been authorised. I have seen no report of any criticism whatever from Kosovan refugees of the attacks that have taken place; on the contrary, they have been fervent in their applause. I believe that to be significant.

Secondly, if NATO is to be seen to win the campaign and a ground attack is needed, that assault must happen. NATO now must win. Thirdly—but admittedly hypothetically—I believe that the mood of this debate and the country would be very different today if over the past six weeks, in full international view, the Serbs had been allowed with impunity to get on with their butcher's business while we and NATO did nothing. The words of Mr. Chamberlain about Czechoslovakia in 1938—they are too well known to need reciting—would be frequently in our minds. The only difference is that on this occasion we and our allies certainly have the means to do something about it: the means to fight. Only our willingness to look the other way would be the same.

Diplomacy must certainly be persisted in, but it is absolutely essential that we and our allies keep our nerve and maintain our just position. There is no place at this juncture for back-biting. That has not happened in this House today, and I am sure that there will not be any. We have a Prime Minister who leads from the front with great resolution and conviction. One hopes that some of it will rub off in Washington. British servicemen and servicewomen are showing indispensable commitment, professionalism and courage in a just cause. I congratulate them and give credit where credit is due. For what it is worth, I also offer my support to the Prime Minister.

5.29 p.m.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, as others have done. perhaps I may declare my absolute and natural support for what my noble friend Lord Gilbert said about our military people in the theatre and my absolute agreement about the horrible actions of the Milosevic regime in Kosovo. However, in the nature of things I stand further back than he can. I hope that my noble friend and others will realise that I speak from a desire that peace should be restored and civilised life resumed in that unhappy country, and that wrongdoers should be deal: with as soon as possible.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been preparing for two simultaneous regional wars: one in the Middle East; and one in the Far East, on the Korean Peninsular. They have not happened because the Arab states and Turkey on the one hand and South Korea on the other prefer more peaceful ways. There has thus been no recent planning for war in Europe. So what we see is an improvised American war with a small British expenditure of expensive weaponry, failing to achieve its stated aims. We see that "smart" weapons do not necessarily make for a "smart" war. High tech does not beat low tech—a forgotten lesson from Vietnam; and whoever told the President that air war would succeed, and that he could safely assure the Europeans that it would succeed, has a lot to answer for. All the military in Washington, although not yet here, are letting it be known that it was not they who advised him to that effect. So who did? Presumably, they were the same forces which, acting privately, persuaded President Reagan that total protection against nuclear weapons was possible, to the horror of his Secretary of Defense who knew nothing of it. The world had to take a year or two off intelligent work to persuade President Reagan that "star wars" was a pipe dream.

The pie in the sky this time seems to have been success in Kosovo in time for NATO's 50th anniversary here in London, as Mr. Strobe Talbott was implying at the NATO at 50 Conference in London. That great jamboree was of course largely funded by the arms industry. And now the US Air Force, with our small help, has been shown unable to succeed without the US Army on the ground. The Balkans are not an Arab desert, and the US Army cannot be there because there cannot be American body-bags.

Now a second humanitarian catastrophe on a scale difficult to imagine and impossible for us to know is being added to the original one; and that is ours. The civil infrastructure of Serbia, and perhaps the historic heritage of Serbia, are being bombed—and bombed without, apparently, any thought for the morrow. With that comes the ruination of part of Europe. War has become its own justification.

What professional military judgment decided to destroy important international bridges, and to block the Danube, one of the principal international thoroughfares of European trade? Who decided to cut off the power and the water supply and to destroy the television centre? Is that consistent with the rules of war? What political judgment allowed the bombing of Montenegro?

Behind all these questions lies the new NATO strategic concept, adopted in Washington a week or two ago. It seeks, in often ambiguous language, to establish NATO's right to legitimate its own use of force, and this seems to be what is claimed for the present operations. If a number of NATO allies agree to attack another sovereign state, it cannot but be lawful, even in the absence of a specific Security Council resolution. Is this now generally believed within NATO? Are the Government content that all other states or groups of states in the world should be able to make the same claim? Alternatively, are we still legitimising our attacks under the rubric of "overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe", not under the new NATO strategic concept, since that had not even been agreed when we began bombing? Are we claiming that one catastrophe justifies the infliction of another?

International law about "overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe" is unwritten and still uncertain. I have a note of a question and answer exchange between myself and my noble friend Lady Symons last November; but I shall not weary the House with it. I expect that the noble Baroness would agree that the position is uncertain, although we would part company on the best interpretation to put on the uncertainty. In her last answer she concluded that a decision on whether or not it was right to invade a sovereign state on these occasions would depend on the relevant decisions of the Security Council bearing on the situation in question. Where are the relevant decisions of the Security Council in this case; or has something changed since last November which makes it no longer necessary to answer that question?

The escalation is now "in support" not of any UN resolution but of NATO's credibility, "in support" of the mere determination of our leaders; and that only too human purpose has had the effect of reduplicating the horror of the humanitarian catastrophe we went there to avert.

But we have an ethical dimension to our foreign policy and must recognise that the bombs are ours and the targets chosen by us. Milosevic—we must face the fact—has not broken the provisions of the United Nations charter, but we are doing so. He has indeed broken the international conventions on civilians, proportionality, human rights and much else, but we have now in large respect followed suit. On the last charge, we even hear from Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, whom I hope the Government still feel we know and should listen to. We have been rebuked.

As the World War II generation passes away throughout Europe—and in America the Vietnam generation too—so the memory of real war is fading. What today's leaders seem familiar with are computer war games, whether those run by the military or those produced for profit. They do not much resemble real war. War is of its nature cruel, long, uncertain and indiscriminate, and that is why the generation who experienced the last war made it its business to prevent it happening again. In Europe we had succeeded until now. But today's generation is seduced by bloodless victories on monitors, by the sight of planes flying and munitions hitting their exercise targets on bright, sunny mornings while it watches from platforms raised for its convenience.

War is also phenomenally expensive. Britain was financially ruined by World War II. As less world history is taught, and taught more narrowly and subjectively, so the knowledge not only of other times but of other countries and civilisations dims. No, Saddam Hussein is not like Hitler; nor is Milosevic. No, the blitz on London did not make Londoners rise to embrace Hitler.

Going to war in, or even for, or for the sake of, the Balkans has been avoided by the European powers with justified care between 1918 and last month. We should have remembered the depth of hatred and contempt, unparalleled in Europe, in which the many different peoples there hold one another, and the unparalleled degree of ethnic and religious cohabitation.

We should also have remembered that those peoples have the shortest experience of all European peoples in self-government, and the most recent memory of imperial domination. They also have the only European memory of a non-European imperial domination in a thousand years. We should have understood that a history like that produces not only cruelty and unreason, but also a stubborn and reckless courage which is unknown to the rest of us. And have not the Croatians been guilty of ethnic cleansing, and the Albanians in Albania, and the Kosovars themselves?

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord for giving way. He referred to Croatian ethnic cleansing. Is he not aware that the Serbs who were recently in Kosovo were resettled there, having been driven out of Croatia two years ago from an area known as Krajina by a Croatian Army trained by the Americans and supported by the Moslems? I stress that point.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, that was the episode to which I referred when I mentioned that Croatians had also practised ethnic cleansing.

So we now have an American president as usual hamstrung by the polls and a Congress looking to the next election. They have given us a war of bombardment which has not prevented our international military chief, the outstandingly intelligent General Naumann, from effectively disowning it the day before his retirement. We hear military voices in this country, voices which we have grown to respect and trust over decades, stating more quietly the same truths as General Naumann did: wars cannot be half-waged.

As one American defence official is quoted as saying in Aviation Week: 'We thought this could be done with a drive-by shooting off a few, cruise missiles, and we grossly underestimated". But this is not supposed to be war; this is supposed to be the prevention of "humanitarian catastrophe". We are supposed to be doing good.

One good thing has possibly come out of it. It is a little refined, but perhaps I may mention it. It concerns the Rambouillet conference. What happened there is not very well known by the general public. The proceedings were unusual, to say the least. It may be that part of the harm was sown there, but also something good was achieved.

The Cambridge international lawyer, Marc Weller, has 'provided an extremely interesting account of much of this in the current issue of the Chatham House journal, International Affairs. He concluded with the words: The connection of the legal justification of humanitarian action with the aim of achieving FRY/Serb acceptance of the Rambouillet package in its entirely, if it is maintained, would represent an innovative but justifiable extension of international law". "Innovative", certainly, but after the horrors that have been triggered by NATO's "humanitarian" efforts, which have presumably happened since Mr. Weller completed his article, not, perhaps, "justified".

The requirements of this may-be desirable extension of international law—averting—humanitarian catastrophe—may be in need of assent from the international community, as it is not enough to have the limited membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation decide what catastrophes shall be averted.

5.43 p.m.

Lord Inge

My Lords, much of what I wish to say has already been said by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and that is not surprising as he was my commander on many occasions. The Armed Forces will welcome the strong support spoken of in the House today.

I begin by commenting briefly on the key factors that we must consider. First, I should have been surprised if the Chiefs of Staff had not said that the Kosova crisis was much more complicated than anything we have faced in the Gulf, the Falkland Islands or in Bosnia; and that if Milosevic were not prepared to give way quickly we should be faced with a situation which would require considerable resilience and political will and be likely to continue for a long time. We have been reminded of some of the realities of war which the Gulf War in particular, and the Falkland Islands and Bosnian wars to an extent, allowed us to forget.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, spoke of the need for some ground force operation. I am concerned that although we understand the importance of that I do not see as much support for it as I would wish from across the Atlantic and from some of our European allies. Unless we can get a ground force there which is truly militarily capable and commanded in a way described by the noble and gallant Lord, it will not be effective. I believe that it is a major priority to put that force in place.

I also pay tribute to the air campaign because we could not have assembled a force sufficiently quickly to respond to the atrocities that President Milosevic was committing. We had to begin the air campaign whether we liked it or not, but I should have liked to see the ground force build up more rapidly than appears to be the case.

I strongly emphasise the importance of getting right the command and control of that ground force and not only in theatre. There must be a proper commander-in-chief, properly supported with proper authority. I sense that some nations may not be prepared to give a multinational force commander that responsibility, which would be a mistake. We must also give it a proper, responsive and robust chain of command which is able to give proper strategic political military direction. I believe that NATO is the only organisation which is capable of providing that. If we try to do what we did in Bosnia and leave it to the. United Nations, although it has an important role to play, we shall find that it cannot produce such command and control.

The debate has also brought out what I call "the. realities of alliance warfare". Obtaining consensus among 19 nations, as we must, to run a complex and difficult operation, particularly when the vital strategic interests of those nations are not involved, is a remarkable achievement. It is remarkable that we have got as far as we have. The noble Lord, Lord. Kennet. referred to what was indicated by General Naumann, but I read the general in a different way. I argue that his comments about going for the lowest common denominator undoubtedly had some impact on the effectiveness of the military campaign.

I also believe that it raises questions. because in a successful multinational operation a lead nation is necessary not only in terms of command and control but in order to provide such military capability that it h as the right to be that lead nation. Of course, at the moment only one nation can begin to produce that capability; that is, America. However, that raises questions about the military capability which Europe is able to put into the field and sustain on operations, and that raises questions about a European security and defence identity.

I turn to what it means for our own Armed Forces, and this is perhaps the most important point that I wish to make today. We are extremely lucky to have such Armed Forces and they are an example to many. But we all know that they are grossly overstretched. Kosovo, which will require a strong major contribution from us, will increase the problem. The trouble is that the word "overstretch" means different things to different people. Individual overstretch is considerable, but there is an overstretch of matching capabilities to responsibilities, as mentioned by the noble and gallant Lord. Lord Bramall. I too hope that the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, will take away the very important message that we need to revisit not only the Strategic Defence Review but also the cuts which have taken place in the Armed Forces since 1989. Unless we do that, they will not be able to provide the support that I believe is necessary to sustain our foreign policy. If we do not do that, I also believe that we shall have considerable problems retaining top quality servicemen and service women right across the rank structure. If that happens, and it is already beginning to happen, it will have an effect on the quality of our Armed Forces, which will in turn have an effect on the effectiveness of their operation.

Finally, although I have talked about the military aspects of this campaign, the military forces are in a way a very small part of this. Only the political and diplomatic efforts will truly produce a solution to the problems of Kosovo and the neighbouring countries. One of the lessons of Bosnia was that although there was a military capability when NATO was deployed, the civil structure in support of that military effort, which should to an extent have led the way, was a long way behind the power curve.

I hope that the Government and others will seriously address the problem of what they are going to do if we are militarily successful in Kosovo, supporting it with the right, strong military civil organisation.

5.51 p.m.

Lord Blaker

My Lords, I wish to pay tribute to our Armed Forces. I was the Army Minister in the 1970s and the Armed Forces Minister in the 1980s, including during the Falklands War. Therefore, I have seen our Armed Forces at work at close quarters. I believe that they are unsurpassed in their military skills and courage and in the more frequent humanitarian role that they now have to play.

I agree with the noble and gallant Lord who has just spoken that the present situation in Kosovo is more complicated than it was in the Gulf War or the Falklands War. I support NATO's aims. I believe, as the noble Lord the Minister said in opening, that our cause is just.

I would like to make a criticism of governments, including our own Government. The criticism is that I believe they have failed to think far enough ahead. I will give the House a number of examples.

The first example relates to the recently announced proposal for an embargo on oil. On 29th April, I asked the noble Baroness the Minister a question about why the legality of this embargo had not been considered well beforehand. I asked why, instead of being considered after the decision in principle was taken by the NATO Heads of Government meeting at the end of April, this matter was not considered a long time ahead. The noble Baroness replied as follows: as I told the noble Lord last week, as situations develop so does the planning". —[Official Report, 29/4/99; col.437.] I do not know whether the noble Baroness meant that. In my view, that is not the way that planning should be done. There should be contingency plans which are put in place not as the situation develops, but months ahead. Perhaps the noble Baroness would therefore like to reconsider her statement. However, if it is the way that planning has been done, it will help to explain some of the problems that I am about to mention.

The second example is one that has been frequently mentioned; namely, that the bombing was threatened for about a year before it began. The NATO activation order was made last autumn—not recently but months ago—and we could have been bombing at any time after that order was made. Milosevic has therefore called our bluff many times, and that cannot be good.

The third example is that the NATO Ministers failed to perceive that, instead of there being a crumbling of Serb morale as a result of the bombing, the Serb morale would be reinforced and the determination of the Serb people to support Mr. Milosevic would be increased. Two years ago there were demonstrations in the streets of Belgrade against Mr. Milosevic. We do not see anything like that now. I have a feeling that there was a belief on the part of NATO that we would continue to see opposition to Mr. Milosevic.

The fourth example is that we seem to have expected that the bombing campaign would be successful in a short time. I believe that that has been denied by the Government. Mr. Solana, the Secretary-General of NATO, said early in April that he believed that the bombing would be over well before the NATO 50th anniversary meeting to be held on 23rd April. I suspect that he was reflecting the general view of NATO at that time.

I believe that another failure has been to foresee that Mr. Milosevic would use the bombing as a pretext for stepping up ethnic cleansing. I agree that ethnic cleansing had taken place before the bombing began. There were 200,000 refugees created before the bombing began. The moral responsibility for the ethnic cleansing lies with Mr. Milosevic, but he has used the bombing as a smoke-screen to confuse the world about why all the refugees have been created.

I also believe that the fact that the bombing started in a phased manner has helped Mr. Milosevic to achieve his objective of cleansing virtually the whole of the Albanian population out of Kosovo while the bombing was going on, so that he could present the West with a fait accompli when we came to the negotiating table.

The sixth failure is one that was highlighted by the International Institute of Strategic Studies only two days ago. I believe that the statement made by NATO at the beginning of the bombing campaign that we were not going to use ground troops in an offensive role was a grave error. It was said by the institute that it broke two of the cardinal principles of war: first, that the element of surprise was lost; secondly, that we should keep our opponent in doubt about our next step.

Seventhly, there does not seem to be any agreement on the part of NATO about what should happen if the bombing campaign does not succeed. It is a very difficult question. I understand that it is very difficult to achieve agreement about what should be done. Nevertheless, it seems to me that it weakens our situation.

Finally, as an example, there was no plan to deal with the refugees. It is still a matter of dispute whether the policy should be that the refugees should remain in South-East Europe or should be removed to other countries in North America and Western Europe.

Our troops have done wonderful work in looking after the refugees both in Albania and in Macedonia. The Government have now responded to some extent by saying that we will take 1,000 refugees per week. However, ethnic cleansing has now been going on in this enhanced way for six weeks. It is significant that a Foreign Office spokesman said, as reported on 4th April: We did not expect Slobodan Milosevic to move the levels of population that he is moving—perhaps that was a failure of imagination". Some of the examples that I have given may be the result of the inability of NATO governments to agree. The noble Lord the Minister referred to that problem; it is a real problem. However, they are not all examples of failure of NATO Ministers to agree. Quite a number of them are failures of imagination, as referred to by the Foreign Office spokesman. I hope that NATO will work out, as a result of the lessons it is learning, better methods to deal with situations of this kind. Governments do not get things 100 per cent right. That is impossible in war. But I do not believe that the record which I have described—and I could give other examples—is good enough.

I conclude by raising another point about which I hope there is very serious and careful planning. The noble and gallant Lord who has just spoken referred briefly to this issue. We want the refugees to return to Kosovo. In order to persuade them to do so, we need to achieve much more than the five basic NATO objectives. If one puts oneself into the mind of a refugee, wherever that refugee may be, whose family has been shot, women raped, home burned, children beaten and livelihood lost, he will need a great deal of convincing to return. It will not be enough simply to have an international force with NATO at its core, which. I support because it is essential. We need a lot more than that.

Such a refugee, whom we are trying to persuade to go home, will ask, "What about the police force? Will there be a Serbian-dominated police force, as we have had in the past? Can I be sure that I can rely on the police force? Will there be hospitals and schools? What about housing? My house was burnt down when I was forced to leave it. What about electricity? What about food because there will not be much of a harvest in Kosovo in 1999? What about government structure?" We need to be ready to answer all those questions.

The military exercise is vast enough, but I am talking about the situation after the military action ends. This is bigger than Bosnia and certainly bigger than Cyprus. We have had troops in Cyprus since 1964. When the protectorate is established, I believe that we shall have troops in Kosovo for a very long time.

In the Second World War, when we were considering the future civilian reconstruction of Germany, there was a planning group involving many departments in Whitehall which worked for years on the civilian management of the problems of Germany after the war. That group was brilliantly successful. Do we have such a unit now? How big is it? What is its budget? How fast is it working? Unless we get the civilian reconstruction right, we may win the fighting but lose the peace.

6.3 p.m.

Lord Sandberg

My Lords, in the debate on Kosovo about six weeks ago, I said then, inter alia, that I had no constructive alternatives to suggest. That remains my position today. I support the Government in what they are doing.

Therefore, over the past few weeks, I have listened with some surprise to some of your Lordships criticising what we are doing and saying that we should be talking to Milosevic instead of bombing him. We should all like that to happen, but we tried that and it was a failure. It did not work. I am delighted that the Russians are involved and I hope that they become more involved. Even they have found it impossible to reach any sort of terms with Milosevic. Any sort of talks initiated at this stage by NATO are absolutely bound to fail. Until the Serbs seek talks with real intent for peace, I hope to hear no more of that defeatist talk here.

Talks continue—we have heard a lot about them today—on the question of land forces. Those can take two forms: offensive or defensive. By offensive forces, I mean those who may be used to invade Serbia. I do not believe that we have reached that point yet; I hope that we have not. By defensive forces, I mean soldiers who would be there to protect the refugee camps and, perhaps, the borders. Many troops are in the area. They should be reinforced, primarily in a defensive role, but in a position to take an alternative role, if that becomes necessary.

We must be prepared. We must face the unpalatable fact that troops may be needed to bring about peace. A build-up will take another message to Milosevic, who must have got the wrong message in the past, of our determination to bring about an acceptable solution. In other words, as we have heard from other noble Lords today, we must have a realistic plan B if plan A, to bomb Milosevic into submission, does not work. A publicly established plan B would suggest again to Milosevic a determination to get on with it.

I agree very much with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, that it would be a good idea to bring in the Gurkhas. That would mean less pressure on our own forces and would be of great interest and support to the Nepalese Government who have found that, with the disestablishment of the many Gurkha regiments in the past, their income has decreased enormously.

I welcome, as do most of us, the announcement by Her Majesty's Government to allow entry to the UK to a growing number of refugees. But we must face the fact that, once here, it will become increasingly likely that they will remain here permanently. That will apply also to other western countries which give them hospitality. The original NATO demand for return to their villages must be in increasing jeopardy. After all, one must wonder whether the refugees will want to return to destroyed houses; whether families will wish to return to places where their most vivid memories will be of husbands, fathers and brothers being murdered. We must sympathise with the women, both young and old, who cannot stand the thought of return to a place where their memories are not only of murdered relatives, but also of personal humiliation, rape and violence.

On that point, in the previous debate on Kosovo, the question was raised as to what steps could be taken to make sure that the Serbian people are aware of the appalling atrocities taking place in Kosovo. We know only too well that Milosevic's propaganda machine puts the blame for the misery of the refugees on NATO. Will the Minister tell us what is being done in that regard and how effective it is, or can be?

Lastly, we must give an absolute assurance to Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania that there will be real and generous aid if those countries are to continue accepting refugees without devastating results to their economies. We now have the spectacle, as we heard yesterday, of refugees being turned back and forced back into Kosovo. Although that shocks us, we can hardly blame the authorities there who realise that they simply cannot cope with the influx of people which threatens to overwhelm them. We may have to make promises to neighbouring countries—for example, Bulgaria—which see a continuing conflict which is affecting them adversely. In the meantime, I seek assurances from the Minister regarding real and effective aid for Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, spoke briefly of the possible morale of the Serb forces. Under the noble Lord's leadership, a small number of your Lordships went to north Italy to visit the RAF there. It was with some pride and pleasure that we could see that the morale of the RAF there was extremely high. We also took pride and pleasure in the fact that many of the senior US air force officers there spoke of the high regard they had for the RAF.

6.9 p.m.

Lord Hacking

My Lords, like many of my generation, I was conscripted into national service, and I clearly remember that day in October 1956 when I reported to the Royal Navy Barracks in Portsmouth. I was already in uniform, having done pre-national service training, and after reporting to the guards at the gate I was directed across the parade ground. I put my large and heavy kitbag on to my shoulder and walked across the parade ground.

I can remember my thoughts to this day. First, I was worried about small matters, such as my uniform: Were the creases in my bell bottoms smart enough? Were my boots sufficiently polished? Did I have the lanyard—the white cord worn around the sailor's neck—in the right position?

I was also wondering—and worrying—because it was a long walk across the parade ground, about events in the Middle East. As I was to learn very shortly, it was two weeks before Suez. Nasser had seized the canal to finance the Aswan Dam, and that region of the world was clearly turbulent. I was worried about what I was going to do. Would I go to war, as senior boys from my school had gone to war in Korea? Would I take part in military action—in Malaya, for example, under General Templar?

As it happens, I never went to war. I took part in interminable NATO exercises in the north Atlantic, but I never fired a gun at an enemy, and rarely fired live ammunition. But that experience created a great impression on me. I developed close friendships with fellow members of the lower deck. I learnt discipline. I learnt to make decisions in difficult circumstances.

But then events moved on. I left national service and went to university. I started practising at the Bar. Therefore, when I came here in 1972, for what I thought was going to be a very short spell, my interest and, more important, my expertise lay in the law and the functioning of the criminal code. Therefore, in 27 years in this House, until today, I have never spoken upon military or defence matters. Today I break that 27 years' silence because I passionately believe that the Government's policy, together with the policy of our NATO allies, is right. I passionately believe that that policy should be supported by all quarters of the House and the country as a whole.

On any view, a very serious human catastrophe has unfolded yet again in the Balkans, and in Kosovo there have been perpetrated the gravest breaches of human rights. We cannot stand by and watch these awful events and do nothing. As in the biblical story, we cannot walk by on the other side of the road.

Air strikes may have accelerated the so-called ethnic cleansing. But we should remind ourselves, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, reminded us, that ethnic cleansing started a long time ago—10 years or more—and by October 1998 250,000 Kosovars had been displaced by the military activity then taking place in Kosovo. And I remind your Lordships of one other event that clearly took place before the air strikes started: the murder of 45 Albanians in the village of Racak on 15 January this year.

Moreover, nobody can pretend that the massive expulsion of Albanian people from their homes, the scorching of villages and the widespread genocide was somehow dreamt up after the commencement of air strikes. It had long been planned, albeit it may have been accelerated by the air strikes.

In participating in this debate I have not altogether shed my expertise as a lawyer. I have been pondering hard during the last 24 hours about how international law properly applies to current military action in Kosovo. What is international law, and how is it breached? I decided this morning that the only thing I could do was to dust down from my library a text book that I had used 40 years ago at university, a text book written by Mr. J. L. Brierly and entitled The Law of Nations. I read from the first chapter, as follows: The Law of Nations, or International Law. may be defined as the body of rules and principles of action which are binding upon civilized states in their relations with one another. Rules which may be described as rules of international law are to be found in the history both of the ancient and medieval worlds; for ever since men began to organise their common life in political communities they have felt the need of some system of rules, however rudimentary, to regulate their inter-community relations. The learned author goes on to identify the more recent development of international law, saying that it dates from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for its special character has been determined by that of the modern European state system, which was itself shaped in the ferment of the Renaissance and the Reformation. It follows, therefore, that the development of international law well preceded the formation of the United Nations in 1945, and that United Nations resolutions, important though they are, are not the sole depositories of international law. There are treaties, there are conventions and, most important of all, there is the progressive development of a law of nations which is respected and honoured by nation states.

That is very important, because hitherto it has largely been unnecessary to identify separately acts of genocide within a state to give grounds for other nations to take military action into that state. That is because states which have carried out genocide within their own territory have almost invariably invaded neighbouring countries, which gave those countries the right to declare war on the grounds of territorial invasion, against the invading country.

Let me cite a few examples. Let me start with the commencement of the Second World War. At that time genocide was already contemplated in Nazi Germany and certainly there were grave deprivations of human rights. However, Nazi Germany's invasion of Czechoslovakia, followed by the invasion of Poland, was the right under which we declared war on Germany. There is a second example in Africa. The overthrow in 1979 of Idi Amin by Tanzania—and the anti-humanitarian policies that his government had perpetrated in Uganda—was in response to Uganda's invasion of Tanzania. We might also cite the Gulf War as an example. This was brought about by Iraq's invasion of the Gulf States although it must be said, alas, that we did not succeed in overturning the anti-humanitarian policies of Saddam Hussein.

It follows, therefore, that international law in no way impedes what the Government are doing and that they are in no way in breach of international law by the actions that they have taken with their NATO allies. Moreover, in acting in the way that the Government and their NATO allies have acted so far, they are in the vanguard—and should be praised for it—of the development of international law and the law of nations. How could we possibly have allowed in Kosovo the atrocious genocide and expulsion, now of over half a million people, to go on unrestrained by other nations of the world?

I return briefly to my memories of the commencement of my national service so long ago in October 1956. It so happens that I recently interviewed six young former Army officers. They had all taken short service commissions and were now back in civilian life. Although the reason for my interviewing them was not to trace their military career, they told me about their service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and the Gulf. From these conversations I have no doubt that all Army personnel—officers, warrant officers and other ranks—know the risks to which they are exposing themselves in joining and serving in the military. They are aware of the dangers and the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.

I do not believe that it is for this House to propose the correct military strategy. I believe that should be based entirely on the military advice given to the Government and our NATO allies. Therefore, a decision on whether there should be an invasion into Kosovo of ground troops should rest exclusively on that military advice.

However, I should like to observe, as other speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, have done, that I know of no war that has been won exclusively by attacking the enemy from the air. While bombing may be accurate, it must also be scaring the living daylights out of the civilian population, and hence giving support to Milosevic where previously there was not support.

So far I do not believe that the name of Slavko Curuvija has been mentioned in this debate, but one cannot pass from this point without remembering him. He was the brave editor of the Belgrade daily newspaper who wrote an open letter to the president. In that letter he concluded with the words: Your excellency, your country, your people and your compatriots have been living for years in a state of fear, of psychosis, with nothing but death, misery, terror and despair around them. Serbia is being stripped of territories and riches as it she were dead already. Serbia has fewer and fewer children, and vies them up too easily". We must remember the civilian population of Serbia; we must remember those who are suffering under Milosevic.

Having said that, I go back to the main point, that the decision of a military invasion must be based on military advice. From my conversations with young Army officers and former Army officers, I know that the young service men and women will give all, and risk all, to achieve the necessary military objectives. Neither they nor their families are deterred by the awful thought of the military bags bringing back the dead. Therefore, if we have to ask them to enter into combat in Kosovo, they and their families have the right to ask of us, nay demand of us, complete support and a just cause. Clearly, we have already provided them with the just cause. We must also, unhesitatingly, from this debate, from this House, from this Parliament, from the 'worth on the Scroll in the Royal Gallery, from the nation of England, from the action of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, give that unhesitating support.

6.23 p.m.

Lord Crickhowell

My Lords, when the country is at war there is a proper reluctance to be even mildly critical of the Government or to say anything that may make matters more difficult for our men and women who may be engaged in the conflict.

On the occasion of the last short debate on Kosovo in this House, it was just such a reluctance that held me back from expressing my anxieties about the way in which I thought matters were developing. At the end of that debate, I leant forward, over the shoulder of my noble friend Lord Carrington, and thanked him for saying all the things that I would have wished to say, but with much greater authority than I could have achieved.

From the outset, it seems to me, first, that for entirely noble motives we had stumbled into a war in which there was no clearly definable end-game; secondly, that it was extremely improbable that we could achieve our declared objectives by means of an air war alone; and that, thirdly, far from helping the unfortunate people of Kosovo, there was a grave risk that, at least in the short term, we could make things worse for them. All such fears and predictions have proved correct, but we cannot stop. We now have to see it through.

It is the cruellest of delusions to imagine that time is on our side. It is certainly not on the side of the suffering hundreds of thousands who are fleeing, or the slaughtered relations whom they leave behind.

The Minister's remarks about the timing of future events seemed to be dreadfully casual against that background. I found his remarks about the "brilliant planning" of the conflict or the original intentions about the use of ground troops less than convincing. The Minister's "I don't know what happens next" replies to his own questions hardly fill one with confidence.

The alliance made foreign policy commitments without adequate preparations—that now seems clear—apparently in the belief that the war would be brief. It underestimated the scale of the refugee crisis and initially it deployed inadequate resources. NATO appears to have acted in the belief that it was possible to win a war from 15,000 feet, without incurring significant casualties on either side. I find it hard to believe that the service chiefs shared those illusions and did not warn their political bosses about the realities.

Of course, I do not challenge the need to use airpower, but we have to recognise that the kind of war that has developed, with its widespread destruction of the economic infrastructure—destruction which is damaging the economies of much of middle Europe as well as Yugoslavia—may bring down the regime in time. However, it is not the sort of war that brings speedy relief to the Albanians; nor is it the kind of war likely to permit the building of a stable settlement. Now it gravely threatens the stability of several neighbouring countries.

Our longer-term objectives still remain uncertain. To denounce Milosevic is not enough. It is by no means clear that our troubles will be at an end if he is removed. There are probably others, even more extreme—hard though that may be to contemplate in the face of the evils that Milosevic has perpetrated—to take his place. There is a danger that the Serb people will seek revenge, in their own way, against NATO.

The history of the Balkans suggests that the period of revenge will be long-lasting and its nature vicious. Equally, it may be difficult to prevent the revenge of the Albanian people against the Serbs. The experience of Bosnia and Croatia does not give us much ground for optimism at the present time.

Surely it should have been obvious, from the outset, that we would need to involve Russia in a search for a settlement. Our treatment of Russia in the early stages of the conflict was an astonishing error. The remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London about the importance of the Russian contribution cannot be overestimated.

Now we need a hard-headed reassessment of objectives and actions to match our rhetoric. The most immediate need—there are welcome signs that it is happening—is to change the character of the war so that it concentrates on the job of destroying the Serb army, rather than the economy of the region. We need to make it clear that Rambouillet, with its now unacceptable concept of ultimate Serb control over Kosovo, has been abandoned.

The case argued by Noel Malcolm in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, that we must go for an independent Kosovo, is powerful. Whatever the limitations of the previous status of Kosovo, the events of recent weeks have surely destroyed the possibility of a return to past constitutional arrangements. My noble friend Lord Moynihan was right to ask where the Government stand on those questions.

Whether Kosovo is partitioned or made independent, it will have to be protected by an international force prepared and ready to fight. It will be no good having blue-helmeted police who withdraw when the going gets rough. As Bogdan Bogdanovich, once Serbia's leading architect and a former mayor of Belgrade, observed in a remarkable article written as long ago as 1991 and recently republished in this country, The people of the Balkans have become addicted to guns, in the same way that we have drug addicts in other parts of the world … This is true not only of Serbs, Croats, Albanians or Moslems, but of all the Balkan peoples". That reinforces the comments on the same lines made earlier in this debate by the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees. We can be certain therefore that the difficulties of maintaining peace after the war will be formidable. History suggests that order can be maintained between warring peoples in the Balkans and places like it only by the exercise of imperial power. But I know of no example in history of imperial power exercised effectively by an alliance of many nations.

In the short term, to win the war, we are dependent on the United States; in the longer term, I do not believe that we can leave them to shoulder the major burden of what is likely to be a long and unpleasant job. European nations which have painful experience of trying to maintain imperial order over hostile populations will have to commit very large resources. That means that the British Government, if they mean what they say, will have to undertake yet another reassessment of defence policy and reinforce our now desperately over-stretched forces, as the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Inge, so cogently argued.

Surely there will also have to be a major reconstruction programme. In the article to which I referred, in looking back to the independence of Serbia from Turkey since 1819, Bogdan Bogdanovich comments that A feeling of failure lies at the very heart of Serb nationalism". It arises from their economic failure to match the successes of their neighbouring countries. We can be certain that after the destruction that has taken place there will be a need for major reconstruction if we are even to undermine that deep-seated sense of inadequacy and failure that is one of the root causes of the situation in which we are now involved.

The price of the kind of policies to which we have committed ourselves is going to be very heavy. Like events in Kosovo, time is not on our side and we must hear from the Government what their longer-term plans are as well as their immediate objectives in Kosovo.

6.33 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, one of the many surprising things about the Kosovo operation has been the almost complete absence of aircraft losses. In over 15,000 sorties and more than 5,000 strike missions over hostile territory, NATO has only lost two (as it happens United. States Air Force) aircraft over the past six weeks. Given that the Serb air defences were assessed to be potentially effective, that is truly remarkable. It would be surprising in any peacetime exercise of such a scale and with live ordnance if there had not been some failure of flight safety. Given the pressure of operating in a hostile environment, this achievement marks a very professional standard of aviation by the Royal Air Force and the other nations involved.

For many of us, the fact that our aircrew were embarked on active service inhibited questions about the proposed campaign and what our military objectives might be. We did not have information on which to make our own judgments. I accepted that those who did, in government and in the Ministry of Defence, were reaching the right conclusions. Now that we seem to be able to operate without loss and with the benefit of hindsight, we can start to examine the judgments made at the outset.

I argued, when we debated Kosovo on 25th March, that we had to assume that the intention to use only air power and no ground forces meant that NATO's military objectives were judged to be achievable in that way and, in achieving them, the Serbian Government would accede to the political objectives. The military objectives, we were told, were to degrade their fighting capability and to avert Milosevic's ability to inflict horror on Kosovo. But as General Naumann said only last week, an air campaign is always a. race between destruction and reconstruction or resupply.

What we have seen in the past six weeks has been an air campaign dogged by poor weather and by early weakness in NATO's direction of it. Indeed, there are still weaknesses; for example, what has been happening over the intention to impose an oil embargo. Weather problems should have been foreseen arid factored in. More significantly, NATO has not practised such a major offensive operation ever before. Commanders and nations have been learning on the job and that too should have been allowed for. Whether Milosevic's reluctance to agree to NATO's political demands is entirely due to the inadequacies of the early days of the air campaign or to Serbian determination not to give in is far from clear.

The assessment of the ease with which Milosevic might back down has clearly been misplaced. Serbs may not have shown the grit and determination in earlier fighting with Croatians and in Bosnia, and I listened with interest to the Minister's assessment of Serbian morale. But there is a wealth of evidence of Serbian toughness going back over centuries. Kosovo is the very cradle of Serbian culture. In 1389 Sultan Murad massacred the Serbian army on the Field of the Blackbirds in the heart of Kosovo. Over 500 years later, in 1911, a Serbian army marching south to engage the Turks paused at the border of Kosovo and removed their boots. They would only cross Kosovo barefoot so as not to disturb the souls of their slain ancestors. Anecdotal maybe, but memories are long in the Balkans and we would be wise to factor those attitudes in as well.

Meanwhile, as we see increasing numbers of aircraft being added to NATO's operation and at long last targeting more directly the Serbian units in Kosovo itself, it seems evident that NATO still believes that it should be possible to bomb Milosevic into submission. But I am not clear why marginal increases in the weight of attack, the better weather and the greater concentration on Kosovo-located targets will guarantee that.

The Prime Minister has spoken of the only exit strategy being to get Milosevic to agree to NATO's demands. But we are not there yet, even though the solidarity which NATO nations have sustained is impressive. Moreover, in press briefings we seem to judge and publish our successes by measuring the degradation of Milosevic's ability to wage war. But ethnic cleansing and the other atrocities in Kosovo do not really equate to the waging of war. As the Minister said, they are criminal atrocities; they are barbaric. So I ask: are we now after military victory? Will we use ground forces? What are our military objectives? What are we at? Where is the consistency in all of this? With every passing day we are becoming embroiled in there being an increasing number of civilian non-combatants being killed by NATO weapons. There are still civilian trains and buses in Kosovo with fuel available to move around and they are getting hit.

Ministers repeatedly say, "We are confident in the accuracy of our ordnance and we would not use them unless we were confident". Then, when a munition goes astray, they say that they regret the loss of life, that this is war and that anyway it is all Milosevic's fault; he has deliberately killed far more in Kosovo than NATO has killed by accident. Am I alone in finding this particular spin, which is so sickeningly mirrored by IRA apologies for killing and maiming with their own bombs, unhelpful and unworthy of our Ministers? 'We must find a better way to deal with this situation. A score pad of non-combatant deaths on the one side and on the other is not edifying.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, wrote to a number of noble Lords on 12th March about the Government's goals and the possible outcome al: Rambouillet she stated: Belgrade may choose to reject the agreement and/or launch a major offensive, leading to an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe". Please note the use of "and/or". She went on to say that Britain was prepared to take the necessary action to avert that catastrophe. Therefore, not only were the Government aware some two weeks or more before NATO air forces attacked that the catastrophe which we have now seen was going to happen but we now know that our plans to forestall or avert it have been ineffective. The humanitarian catastrophe is still with us two months or more after we had intelligence about it.

The original statement on Kosovo by the Prime Minister said that NATO action would be in the form of air strikes. He stated that it would have the minimum objective of curbing continued Serbian repression in Kosovo in order to avert a humanitarian disaster and it would therefore target the military capability of the Serb dictatorship. Sadly, we have not averted that which we feared and expected; the Government and NATO got this very wrong.

What is important now is to look to the future. How do we move forward? We now promise the return home for the displaced. Two points about that promise are of particular importance, as other noble Lords have indicated. What future status do the Government wish to see achieved in Kosovo when the bombing ends? Are we still seeking a semi-autonomous region within Serbia? Are we now looking to a partitioned Kosovo or planning to establish a protected and ultimately independent state? If it were the first, would we be prepared to negotiate with Milosevic and his government in Belgrade? Ministers have veered in their language about Milosevic from talking about degrading his war machine to saying that we are attacking key elements such as television stations which keep him in power.

The second point is this: do we expect to see him still in power, or will it be essential that he is gone before we strike a negotiated future for Kosovo? The lack of political clarity is a weakness in the otherwise robust, if over-ambitious, position which NATO and Her Majesty's Government have adopted about the future for the Kosovars. We lacked clarity about the future for Saddam Hussein at the end of the Gulf War: look where that got us. We should learn the lessons from that.

If we are to persuade displaced Kosovars and presumably Serbs and others who have fled to return to their homes in Kosovo, they too must know their future status and what sort of government they will enjoy. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, made some telling points in this regard.

The protection force, while initially essential, is not a lasting answer. I hope that the Minister will be able to help us about the future status of Kosovo.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, I feel inhibited to some extent in the debate by avoiding saying anything that might make more difficult the tasks of the alliance's servicemen now engaged in operations or give the impression that those operations, or future ones, do not have our support. Also, the Government have to preserve secrecy about military operations and intentions, and I would not wish them to reveal anything about military plans or sensitive information that could be helpful to Milosevic.

I was encouraged to take part in the debate because of an association with, and interest in, former Yugoslavia. As a professional diplomat I spent three years in the Foreign Office department dealing with the Balkans, and two of those, 1947–49, were at the Yugoslavia and Albania desk. That was a long time ago, but during that period Tito had his quarrel with the Soviet Union, in June 1948, and we did our best to prevent him and his country from becoming part of the Soviet Empire. He had very bad relations with the United States because of the trigger-happy shooting down of the two American aircraft that were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees.

I received informal and valuable advice at the time from my friend Fitzroy Maclean, who was then a Member of Parliament.

If one has been engrossed in a country, as I was for two years, one follows its fortunes for years afterwards. It should be remembered that the Soviet army did not occupy Yugoslavia, as it did other eastern European countries. Tito ruled Yugoslavia before and after 1948 with, it must be said, police state methods. That was one way in which he kept together the several disparate parts of Yugoslavia, stretching from Slovenia to Macedonia. I would add that his personality and skill also counted. It was predictable after he died that the components of Yugoslavia would seek to go their separate ways.

For reasons that I have given, I will not criticise the handling of the Kosovo crisis so far. I understand the problems of consulting 18 NATO partners and taking them with us on decisions.

I will comment that, as the Kosovo saga has unfolded, the stages and results of decisions were predictable but that British Ministers seem to have been taken by surprise. I suggest that the Prime Minister missed an opportunity two years ago when he was appointing the Cabinet because he could have made as Foreign Secretary someone who had great experience of foreign affairs and military matters, the noble Lord, Lord Healey. He would have been Foreign Secretary when Tony Crosland died in harness if he had not been indispensable as Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, dealing with serious economic problems. Whether he describes himself as old Labour or New Labour, he has been saying very sensible things on television and radio about the Balkan situation now. I remember when he was secretary of the Labour Party International Department, before he entered Parliament, at the time when I was in the Foreign Office's Balkans department; Mr. Ernest Bevin and his Foreign Office Ministers valued his sound advice.

Now I turn to the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Lauderdale. I, too, regret the destruction of the transport system and communications in Serbia and Kosovo and the loss of life, made necessary by Milosevic's genocide and ethnic cleansing. Many times more lives have been deliberately ended by his army and police—I add to what the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said—the unleashing of brutality, including rape, and the shooting of men of military age.

The wording of my noble friend's amendment speaks of a sanction "either in international law" or, by resolution of the United Nations Security Council". That raises two vital issues of recent times. The first is intervention in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state; and the second is the veto in the Security Council. On the first, paragraph seven of Article 2 of the charter prohibits the intervention of the United Nations in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state. If that had been scrupulously observed, the world would have had to stand by helpless and inactive when genocide and appalling atrocities were being committed inside a single country.

A consensus has been forming that those who framed the charter did not intend humanitarian horrors to be perpetrated unchallenged, especially when huge quantities of refugees create problems for neighbouring countries and destabilise a whole region of the world. On the second point—namely, the veto—NATO members would have risked meeting vetoes in the Security Council by Russia and China if they had raised the matter there.

My memory goes back to June 1950 when I was a member of the small British Mission at the United Nations in New York which was called to the emergency meeting of the Security Council on a Sunday morning when North Korea had invaded South Korea on the previous afternoon. By a fortuitous and still unexplained lack of co-ordination, the Soviet Union was absent, boycotting meetings of the council over the issue of Chinese representation. Had a Soviet representative been there, the inevitable veto would have made the UN operation in Korea appear contrary to the charter. The Soviet Union had disintegrated by the time of Kuwait and Russia acquiesced in the action against Saddam Hussein. I wish the present negotiations involving Russia which I understand are taking place today well, and I hope that the shape of a settlement can emerge soon.

We are not now involved in total war as in World War II, but in a limited punitive and liberating expedition. Delicate decisions are needed in these circumstances. Our chief ally, the United States, will have the shadows of Vietnam and Somalia foremost in its mind.

I shall end my remarks with another reminiscence. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, told us that the bombing programme had been curtailed by bad weather, despite all the modern technology. The noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, spoke about air/army co-operation in World War II. I am still invited to speak at staff colleges and in Normandy on "Operation Epsom" which happened in June 1944, the reason being that the first part of it was successful, even though there were crippling casualties. I am still a survivor of that operation, despite those casualties.

I had to record that during "Operation Epsom" the whole first stage of the offensive was cancelled—namely, the preliminary air bombing in the early morning. It was cancelled because of fog over the airfields in southern England. On two occasions after I had been speaking, senior RAF officers have come up to me and said, "You know, that could still happen today". Indeed, despite all the modern technology, we now find that this has happened. I believe that the Government and the services were absolutely right not to proceed if they could not carry out accurate bombing. So my sympathy goes to the present Chiefs of Staff and those working for them, some of whom may have had to study "Operation Epsom" in past years.

6.54 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I believe that the Kosovo crisis is an unprecedented catastrophe. I also believe that President Milosevic is solely responsible for it and that the NATO campaign is both honourable in its inception but dangerous in its potential. I further believe that the amendment which has been tabled tonight is misconceived. It is easy to regret bombing, but I believe that the amendment can only lend sustenance to President Milosevic.

Tonight I want to talk about the institutions involved, both in the war and afterwards in building the peace. Yesterday in this House we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Council of Europe. During lunch yesterday in the Foreign Office, I sat next to the ambassador to Slovakia and the leader of the parliamentary delegation of Slovakia. As noble Lords will know, Slovakia is a small country which has recently been through a happy divorce. Indeed, it is a new member of the Council of Europe.

Both the ambassador and the politician with whom I had lunch were young men. They were both in their early to mid-30s. All their political life they had seen tremendous changes in their own country, spanning the events in 1989 to the huge changes of recent times. The point which they made to me was that what they see as stability is the involvement of the institutions of the West and of the leading countries within those institutions. Of course, the main debate today has been about NATO, but they also aspire to join the European Union; they were members of the OSCE; and they were very proud of their membership of the Council of Europe. However, it was made very clear to me that they looked for leadership to the established countries of the West within those institutions. They looked for firmness and resolve in the action that is currently under way.

It is important that we do not support only the institutions which are currently conducting the war; we should also support the institutions which will be used to build the peace. Perhaps I may repeat a statistic which the noble Lord, Lord Russell-Johnston, gave to the House yesterday. I have not had time to check the information, but it appears that the annual budget of the Council of Europe—about £104 million—is equivalent to the cost of two hours of the Kosovar war. I found that to be a startling statistic.

The other people whom I had the privilege to meet yesterday were the representatives of Bosnia-Herzegovina. That state wants to join the Council of Europe. It sees its future as lying within the international family. Those people were very proud of their ethnically balanced delegation and were doing their best to ensure that they were meeting the standards set down by international institutions.

Winning the peace is about pulling the Balkans back into the mainstream. I was extremely glad that the Prime Minister spoke about a Balkans "Marshall Plan". Indeed, I believe that to be of immense importance. However, I should like to add one note of caution; namely, the excellent reports made in this House about the lack of effectiveness of both the PHARE and TACIS programmes due to excessive bureaucracy. Nevertheless, it is a very noble and right ambition.

Last Friday in Strasbourg we had a youth parliament of the Council of Europe: 36 nations were represented and 250 young people attended. Those young people insisted on debating Kosovo with passion and commitment. Resolutions were moved by the Russian delegates and by those who might be described as supporting NATO. The vote indicated support for the NATO actions. However, what is much more important than the result of that vote is the fact that almost every single one of the young people made the same point; namely, that their future as young people within a wider Europe lay within the institutions of the family of the Council of Europe and that that was the only future for Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. That point was reiterated by the two young Kosovo delegates who took part in the debate.

Today we have had a serious debate. I believe that most noble Lords have expressed doubts about what the future holds. However, one question has not been asked. It has not been asked because its consequences are beyond imagination; namely, what happens if NATO fails? It is quite right that that question has not been asked. The consequences are beyond contemplation and it is right that no one has gone down that road.

This debate has been not only about winning the war, but also about winning the peace. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. I have one final point for my noble friend on the Front Bench. We are all talking about the importance of NATO, but many other international institutions must also properly be used to build the peace once the war is over.

7.1 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, the mention of the Council of Europe makes me realise that we have had 50 years of peace in Europe. I rise to speak in the debate today because I have a passionate fear of war. All the troubles and the local difficulties of the past 20 years have begun because of a lack of understanding, foresight and knowledge of what the end-game should or could be.

This is one of those occasions when I feel a ghost passing over my grave. I refer to 1st April 1993. I remember a debate in this House initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, in which the noble Lords, Lord McNair and Lord Hylton, and the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, took part. The noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, spoke of his experience in a gentlemen's harem in Albania— although I have never come across a female harem in Albania! We talked about Kosovo and the fear of a war and ethnic cleansing. We asked what the then government intended to do about that. They did nothing. I feel a sense of shame that I did not do anything.

I want to try to convey to your Lordships the feelings of people outside this closed shop. I fear the spread of tribalism. I fear the break-up of the Union as tribes fight against tribes in new elections. I am a Scot and I still somehow remember Glencoe. As your Lordships will know well, the original name for Scotland was Albania. That was what first led me to Albania in 1993. I was encouraged to go there by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe who had popped over there to see whether there was any sugar which might be of interest to Tate & Lyle. My noble friend on the Front Bench who spoke earlier may remember that. In his typical fashion my noble friend Lord Jellicoe returned from that trip and patted me on the shoulder. Two years later I noticed that my arm had gone!

I went to Albania to try to help that country because it is a part of Europe. I also went to the Ukraine. Albania and Ukraine are the alpha and the omega of Europe. I wondered where Europe began and where it ended. I was not sure. There was a fear that if we extended the interests of Europe without those institutions mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, we would experience the same problems that confronted Fitzroy Maclean in Eastern Approaches. I commend that book to your Lordships.

We in this country are lucky in that we have not been "beaten up" like some people in eastern Europe. We should remember that, in the Ukraine, Stalin wiped out 6 million people by starving them and that 6 million were lost during the war. Albania held out against the Ottoman Empire for 30 years with only 300 people. As I have said on previous occasions, 200 Albanians became top generals in the Ottoman Empire.

Albania is a strange country. I believe that I have been there 20 times. I first went there on a trade mission. I discovered that there was chrome in Albania. By mistake, I obtained support from the Know-How Fund. Her Majesty's Government sent someone from the Department of Trade and Industry down the mines with me. I led a British mining expedition. I also wanted to save a mine in South Crofty, Cornwall. In Albania, everyone has been down a chrome mine. Chrome is, or was, the lifeblood of Albania. As your Lordships know, stainless steel cannot be made without chrome. No country in Europe has any viable reserves of chrome and the last chrome producer in the United States has closed down. Chrome is, however, a strategic material.

I have travelled throughout Albania. Your Lordships may find my next remark rather trite. The Albanians are highly intelligent people. I speak of the whole Albanian race. They have a high level of literacy and a thirst for information. They had experienced problems with their dictator leader who believed that in order to unite a nation you must create fear of the leadership in a totalitarian state. If a leader wants to stay in power, he must create an enemy. The Albanians created an enemy, the United States of America. Black and white television photographs were shown of the Anzio landings and of American troops beating everyone up. This was all part of the propaganda of that time. Some 600,000 bunkers were built in villages, on hillsides and in orchards. They looked like daleks out of "Dr. Who". They were about six feet high. Every Albanian was given a Chinese Kalashnikov which probably did not work. They told me that a baseball bat would be a more effective weapon as they had no ammunition. The weapons were pointed towards the sea to meet any American invasion.

Although the Albanians were a persecuted people, they had a great sense of humour. They had a strange hero in Norman Wisdom. I did not realise this until I went to meet the president one day arid was told that he had gone to the airport to meet a VIP. That VIP turned out to be Norman Wisdom. Norman Wisdom's films were shown throughout Albania and the Albanians identified themselves with that slapstick humour of a door slamming in one's face or slipping on a banana skin. As I say, the Albanians had a sense of humour. They told me that it was always Buggins' turn in Albania. We discussed who Buggins was. When one is swapping whisky for raid in Albania, one has nothing to do but to listen to people's conversation. If noble Lords think that Irish jokes are bad, they should listen to Albanian jokes for 11 hours non-stop.

I asked my Albanian friends about the situation in Kosovo and Macedonia. They said that they both belonged to Albania. The Serbs have now found religion again. They had forgotten it for a long period. Albanians do not necessarily follow the Orthodox or Moslem religions. As the Albanians explained the situation to me, the Serbs want more room and that is why they want all ethnic Albanians to return to Albania. The Serbs tell the Albanians that they want peace and that the Albanians should hand over their weapons.

However, if the Serbs encounter an Albanian who has no weapons, they tell him that they will be back in the morning and that he had better get some weapons. They return and then they search the house; they pull everything out and take what they can. The next time round, they take the women and children out and search them; they strip them, if necessary, in the street. Then, after the pressure mounts, they are given a way out, 30 or 40 kilometres away—and so, with their luggage and with their families, into the buses they go. Half-way down they may stop, and the young men are taken out and never seen again; sometimes they are even shot in public. As the bus gets near the border, some of the young girls are taken out; then all the furniture; and then everything else, even the gold out of people's teeth. This is not me speaking; this is my Albanian friends telling me of the horrors that they were facing years ago. Some of the horrors that we now see on the faces of people as they appear on television are even worse.

These people are from the Balkans; they are tough, they are resilient. There is hope that they will want to return; they will not want to come over here. They even suggested to me at one time, "If you can help us a bit more, we might get back many of the Albanians who have escaped". I said, "What do you mean?" They said, "Those who have gone to Italy. Give us a bit of money and we will get them back. We know where they all are".

Albania is full of information and knowledge. I have received many Albanian delegations over here: they have to go to London, they have to go to various places. I said, "But really you are meant to be seeing our industry". However, when they return to their villages and their families, they describe what they saw. They were starved of knowledge and information for a long period of time. They are now receiving their cousins, families and kinsmen and, with hardly any resources, looking after them. But they have a strange kind of resource.

We must remember what happened to the Chinese in 1978, but they have hydro-electric power. They can make do even under the most incredible difficulties. They can turn seven broken-up cars into a lorry. That is the way they work.

If an Albanian does not have any bread, he will get an old lorry and go off and get some corn from somewhere, which he will swap for something else, come back and set up a bakery. The same man will then go off in the van to see whether he can get some chocolate. If he forgets to look at the weather forecast and all the chocolate melts in the back of the van on the way back, he will use it in the bakery to make chocolate cake. These are strange thoughts. But these people have had a tough time and they are resilient.

In the past, the Serbs have had a tough time; the Balkans have had a tough time. These people will not be quashed by military force. I have listened to young noble Lords and to those who speak about aeroplanes. Aeroplanes are far, far removed from life on the ground in what could become a guerrilla war of immense proportions.

When we were looking at the mines and wondering how we could make the mines more productive—each miner carried up every day only as much as he could put in his pocket; he went into the mines because it was warm—the miners themselves made a suggestion. As they had had their little troubles, there were guns hidden in the mines. They read about the Bill in your Lordships' House and the other place to get rid of handguns and that the Government were prepared to hand over money for them. They suggested to me that they should hand over all the Kalashnikovs—we had a debate about whether they were handguns because they were held in the hand—and asked whether they would then be able to use the money to buy mining equipment.

They are great people from a great nation. We shall not quash anyone in that area by force of arms We know that eight attack-helicopters can take out 100 tanks; that the tanks have a range of 2,000 yards and the helicopters have a range of 3,000 yards. But one might down even a helicopter with a catapult.

When we tried to get rid of the miners, they said, "Please, what did you do when you had your problems in the empire?" I said, "We went out and we built an infrastructure. We built roads, bridges and railways and we raised regiments". They said, "Ah! Why do you not raise a regiment? You can call it the Selsdon Light Foot or, if necessary, the Light Horse, because horses and men on the ground are worth far more than tanks or anything else".

The problem will not be easily ended. The way we are going is possibly the right way to begin—but the people of the Balkans will never be crushed only by force of arms.

7.14 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I follow the consensus of the debate by supporting NATO's stated war aims. I do so strongly and wholeheartedly; I could not possibly bring myself to support the amendment to be moved by the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale.

I object only to the sixth of NATO's aims; namely, that a political framework for the future of Kosovo should be based on the Rambouillet accords. In my view, Rambouillet is now obsolete. Kosovo should be independent in the same way as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia are independent. Those are the successor states that have emerged since the almost total break-up of a federation that began in 1989 when Mr. Milosevic revoked the autonomy previously enjoyed by Kosovo. Independence is, therefore, the conclusion of a process that Mr. Milosevic precipitated, but yet has throughout violently resisted. He has failed so far and I think that he will fail again. Independence should not be seen as a precedent for ethnic splits throughout the rest of the world but as something which was overlooked at the time of the agreement made at Dayton, Ohio.

Above all, in my view, the partitioning of Kosovo should be resisted. Why should Mr. Milosevic be rewarded for his fourth war in a row? Why should he be given the mines, the power stations and the better land that lie in northern Kosovo? To do so would prevent many Kosovars who are now displaced or refugees returning home.

I come now to the issue of self-defence for the Kosovars. After what they have suffered, I do not think it reasonable or right to deny them the means to defend their families and neighbours. Denial of arms was perhaps right when negotiations were still going on; now, the negotiations have failed. Your Lordships will recall that both the Croats and Bosnians received arms for their own defence once the moment had come. In my view, now is the moment to arm the KLA.

Having said that, I want to look forward to the time after the Kosovars have been enabled to go home—and here I follow the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. Of course, there must be arrangements enabling Serbs to visit their historic sites and revered monasteries in Kosovo. Similarly, Montenegrins must be able to visit Macedonia in safety.

However, far more important is the need to consider the future of south-east Europe as a whole. We need a coherent, democratic plan for the entire region along the lines mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. I should like to stop calling the whole region "the Balkans"—a name which refers to a single mountain range in Bulgaria. To my mind, that name has unpleasant overtones of Ottoman, fascist and communist misrule. Instead, let us think of "the south-east of Europe".

Let us now consider communications. As has been mentioned, the Danube bridges will obviously need rebuilding. Not altogether unlike the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, a few years ago I stood on the shores of Lake Ochrid and saw the need to reconnect Turkey with Albania by rail. Indeed, most of the tracks are still in place. Road connections will also be essential. Frontier crossings will have to be made user-friendly. That was my main thought in the early hours of the morning when last year I was travelling by coach from Bulgaria to Moldova via Romania.

Democracy requires an economic base. The region cries out for internal and mutual development, supported by judicious inward investment. Free but regulated trade and markets are essential. They will have to be buttressed by honest civil and police services, providing justice for all.

Some may say that that is a tall order. I reply that if states based on the rule of law are possible in such places as Slovenia, Hungary or Greece, why cannot the same be done throughout the region? Countries such as those I have mentioned on the fringes of the region are beginning to prosper. Their development needs widening, and we have the international organisations to assist the process. The challenge will lie with the OECD, the OSCE, PHARE, and the Council of Europe, which was debated only yesterday in this House. Here I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede. Will the Government strive to ensure that all those bodies are adequately funded to meet the likely calls that will be made on them?

Perhaps I may refer to experience gained over the past seven years in Moldova. That country was formerly in the Soviet Union. It experienced a civil war in 1992. In that same year, a cease-fire came into being and has been effectively maintained by a joint peace-keeping force. Russia and the Ukraine acted as mediators, and were soon joined by an OSCE peace mission. Nevertheless, there is still no overall agreement between the two sides, which remain divided. The governments I have just mentioned and the mediators have been assisted by a voluntary partnership between the United Kingdom and a joint Moldovan committee, using both community development and conflict resolution methods. Those means have reached all levels of society in that country and have on occasion helped to "unstick" the official negotiations. There have been good relations between the official and unofficial processes, and some modest movement has been achieved in the direction of conflict resolution. Community development has provided valuable information into the real economic and social situation.

I conclude that that experience could prove useful rather more widely in south-east Europe. It indicates how different methods and tracks can work together, and how the rebuilding of civil society depends on co-operation between governments and NGOs. I trust that these ideas may be helpful to the reconstruction of Kosovo, to the re-integration of Serbia into Europe, and to positive developments throughout the whole region. Written agreements such as we have seen at Oslo, Belfast and Wye River, show that almost infinite, skilled patience and hard work are necessary if full implementation is to follow on from agreement. I suggest that the underlying needs, problems and identity questions will have to be analysed with the participants both before and after any agreements have been reached.

7.23 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, in a powerful conclusion to his speech, my noble friend Lord Gilbert described in graphic terms exactly what is happening to men, women and children. Against that background, the Government were of course right to take action. Their courageous decision deserves support from all of us. Anything that I say this evening is in the context of wanting to see that brave action brought to a successful conclusion.

History will judge everything that is done in terms of how it protects those at risk, how it contributes to viable long-term stability in the region as a whole and how it enables an alternative, decent leadership to emerge in Serb Yugoslavia itself. We have to win the war. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, wisely said, the even greater challenge is to win the peace.

The gravity of the situation demands the language of sober moderation and humanitarian resolve. We may decide that it is necessary to bomb party headquarters and broadcasting centres, but we have to win the battle of ideas, values and integrity. Reason and honesty have to be the underlying disciplines at all times.

As those of us who are concerned about the situation debate this issue today, our thoughts must go out to the hundreds of thousands of displaced people within Kosovo itself. I hope that my noble friend the Minister, in replying, will be able to tell us specifically how all minds are being bent to bring relief and assistance to those people in their plight. I have been told that there is a danger in, for example. parachuting aid to people in such a situation. As we have seen, there are dangers and mistakes in bombing. We are not always totally accurate. I have been told that people might be injured in trying to collect supplies as they are parachuted. But this is a life and death situation for many hundreds of thousands of people. It is important to know how the Government are concentrating on trying to bring relief.

However, no more than will the bombing, will humanitarian assistance alone build a viable future. It is essential to engage the positive commitment of all those with a stake in the future to a convincing political strategy. It must be one that recognises the historical, religious, cultural and ethnic realities of the Balkans as a whole. It will need to involve all of former Yugoslavia, as well as Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey, Romania, and more besides. And it will obviously need to involve Russia. The issues are central to her own internal politics and stability. Russia has a vital part to play, not merely as a messenger but as an architect and guarantor of the solution. There are no quick, managerial, easy fixes. The demands on statesmanship and vision are immense.

That brings me to the issue of refugees. They present a huge humanitarian challenge. But they present a far greater challenge than one that is humanitarian alone. The dangers of destabilisation are there. I recently visited Macedonia and Albania with a mission from the Council of Europe. I was deeply struck by the reality that in Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro in less than a month there has been more than a 10 per cent increase in population. As has already been asked during this debate, what would happen in this country if, suddenly, between 5 and 6 million people arrived on our doorstep destitute in less than a month. Let us compare the economic well-being of this country with the economic fragility of Albania and Macedonia.

It has been said that it would be psychologically damaging to move refugees too far from their home countries. But that is said by people who have not been to look at the reality. I draw on personal experience as a former director of Oxfam. I have seen many refugee situations in the world, but few worse than this. When you see the plight of the people in this situation. simply to say that to move them might be psychologically damaging is just not to face the reality of the plight in which they presently find themselves.

It has also been said—and this disturbs me more—that to move them might send the wrong message to Milosevic in Belgrade. I become concerned because we could be slipping into the error of reflecting his fault in beginning to use the refugees as a political weapon. These are men, women and children with immediate social needs. We should be concerned with them as human beings.

Meanwhile, the plight of the refugees is appalling. It is difficult to imagine, when the summer heat comes, how they will cope. If they are still there in those conditions in the winter, it will be a tragedy unequalled in recent human history. The dangers of disease are ever-present.

Each day I was there the United Nations High Commission for Refugees issued a checklist of what was being done about the refugees. Imagine how I felt in the presence of other European colleagues on the mission when I saw that on the checklist that recorded movements, scheduled movements and quotas to which countries were committed the only nation to score a blank under all three headings was the United Kingdom.

Of course we are concerned about the closure of the border by Macedonia, but what credibility do we have when we lecture Macedonia on its responsibilities if we do not shoulder our own? For that reason, I am glad that in the past few days the Government have changed their position from an unjustifiably negative reaction to a. highly positive plan as to how we should play our part and more. That is to be welcomed. I hope that this debate will send out a message of encouragement and endorsement of that position and that the Government will have support from all parts of the House in taking that line.

In the meantime, we must recognise that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is barely coping, despite valiant work by its staff, NGOs and the armed services that work closely with it. One of the specific issues that needs to be addressed is registration. Many people are without papers of any kind and there are insufficient arrangements on the ground to ensure that they can be properly registered. UNHCR has an urgent need for more support.

But if our resolve is measured in history by how we respond to the refugee crisis, the Prime Minister is certainly right to recognise that it will also be measured by how we respond to the economic needs of the region as of now and in the post-war period, especially in Kosovo itself, Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro. We must also recognise that there will be tremendous challenges in Serb Yugoslavia. Even before these events unemployment in Macedonia stood at 40 per cent. Now Macedonia has lost the markets for her agricultural produce and trade routes out of the country. Surprisingly, few questions have been asked about the expense of the bombing. I hope that we shall see the same Treasury solidarity in building the peace.

Inevitably in this debate reference has been made to a military presence in Kosovo to protect people when they return to their homes and to the need to take the necessary action. In such an operation Russian involvement is indispensable. Whether or not there is UN endorsement is not just a nice theoretical notion; a very important principle is at stake here. It must be demonstrably clear that any military presence in Kosovo is there because of certain universally applicable principles, not just those identified as a priority by any one military-political alliance. That is the importance of UN endorsement.

However, I am a realist. If we do not get that endorsement we shall have to face that situation, but we should strain every sinew to ensure that we obtain it not only for the sake of Kosovo and the region itself but for the future of humanity. What will be the lesson of the future order of world affairs if the message begins to go out that if there is no UN endorsement one can invent one's own authority for taking action in one's own region? I do not believe that that would be a good development for the future of humanity. The United States may not always enjoy the paramount position that it now enjoys. China may become a much more significant nation than it is even now.

Yesterday in the Guardian there was a very interesting article by the Foreign Secretary in which he spoke of two Europes. I was impressed by the theme of his article. As a member of the delegation of the Council of Europe I was glad that he underlined the relevance and significance of that body in this context. My noble friend Lord Ponsonby has rightly taken that as his main theme in the debate.

But we must take a very hard look at ourselves. The credibility of our unqualified condemnation of Milosevic's sinister and evil ethnic cleansing will inevitably be related to the effectiveness with which we combat racism and prejudice in society in the United Kingdom and apply humanitarian principles in asylum and immigration policy. The clear message that must go out is, "Do as we do", not simply, "Do as we say".

The Earl of Dartmouth

My Lords, does the noble Lord equate ethnic cleansing and genocide with immigration control? That is what it sounds like.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Earl raises that point. Unless it is clear that our guiding principle in immigration and asylum policy is the fulfilment of our humanitarian responsibilities, inevitably the strictures that we may address to other parts of the world are undermined.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, concluded with an anecdote. I do likewise. The mission of which I was privileged to be a part went to the border of Albania with Kosovo and visited the impoverished town of Kukãs. The mines had been closed and the local population, which was in a disastrous situation, was dwarfed by the refugee population by seven to one. We were in a little office of the prefect who sought to cope with his team. The rain was pouring and mud was everywhere. In the midst of all this I noticed a television in the corner of the room. Displayed on that television was NATO's daily smart, crisp and clinical briefing of how the technological dimensions of warfare were being pursued. The contrast could not have been greater. If we are serious in our commitment we must keep our eyes on those men, women and children in the mud without shelter, or if they are lucky in flimsy tents, and remember that the heat of the summer and cold of the winter are not many months away.

7.37 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, we are at war. That prevents me from asking the questions that I would like to ask for fear of putting our forces at risk. Yet this war is like no other in that so much of it appears to be conducted through (and evidently sometimes, they think, by) the media, who both demand to know more than they have any right to know and are often the first people—not Parliament—to know what our next actions will be and why. Managing the presentation of the facts—a feature of government to which we have become accustomed—extends even to NATO. Mr. Alastair Campbell was sent there to set up a team to show how news should be presented. Fortunately, Mr. Shea, whose style is rather different, seems to have survived.

Russia is emerging from all this smelling like roses. She is the virtuous mediator who wishes to fight the UN corner against a predatory colonialist aggressor, NATO. She is successfully indulging in what the old communists called "splittist" tactics, speaking willingly in the ear of the Germans, Italians, Greeks and the Czech Republic. She has succeeded in securing her IMF loan and the agreement of the Paris Club over her debts, meanwhile seizing the occasion of NATO's "aggression" to delay yet further her accession to the START treaty. Her excuses for that are legion. She also queries her future adherence to the Founding Act.

Russia can he sure of having a large contingent in whatever form of force Mr. Milosevic graciously eventually allows to enter the ruins of Kosovo. Who knows? She may end with a treaty with Yugoslavia that gives her the access to the Aegean that she has long sought. Her peace objectives and ours, sadly, do not coincide. Her interest lies in preserving Milosevic and giving him credibility, ours in ensuring that he does not continue as a head of state. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, said, at the G8 meeting Russia's formula was for a civil and security presence and for the preservation of the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia. It does not include, and never has, a military NATO presence capable of protecting those who return—and they will not return without it.

The Russian press knew that Rugova was going to be in Rome because they are expecting Mr. Chernomyrdin to meet him there. Presumably he agreed that with Mr. Milosevic.

I know that what we are trying to do is right. However, I question whether we can take the ineffable President Clinton with us. Without America we cannot, in the end, act effectively. Let us by all means involve Russia. In the long term that is a wise act. But let us not expect that the results will be in favour of our needs.

Russia's long-term threat to NATO is not at present military but political; it is none the less dangerous for that. Moreover the Kosovo campaign, as the Minister indicated, has exposed many weakness in NATO. There are a great many grand front-doors with no house behind them.

Since I am not prepared to offer solutions without having the facts on which to base them, I wish today to address myself to this question. What do the Government intend to do now to strengthen the Armed Forces and ensure that we are able to deal with future unexplained and unforeseen commitments? The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, stated this far better than I can, but I intend to say it again.

Whichever way things go, whether we have to invade or are part of an accepted force of peacekeepers, we are committed to maintaining a sizeable presence in Kosovo for an unforeseeable period in what may be dangerous circumstances. We are already committed to what seems to he an entirely open-ended position in Bosnia meanwhile those troops are waiting in Macedonia and our air and sea forces are engaged. There is a considerable logistical commitment, to say nothing of the number of expensive missiles being fired daily.

The Government knew of the Kosovo commitment before the Strategic Defence Review was completed. Their political campaign included threatening military action. They refer to Kosovo as a threat to stability in Europe. Yet the scale of effort defined in paragraphs 88 to 90 of the SDR states clearly that, apart from Northern Ireland, we should be able to respond to one major international crisis on the scale of the Gulf War or two more extended overseas deployments on a much smaller scale. The SDR states: We would not however expect … to maintain them simultaneously for longer than 6 months". I wonder whether that would be true any longer.

The SDR recognises that since 1990 defense expenditure has fallen by 23 per cent and our forces have been cut by nearly a third; and that we have faced a series of new and largely unexpected challenges. It recognises that the Armed Forces, face serious problems that carry increasing risks'", and that, there are personnel shortages in important areas which, with the high level of operational commitments are creating excessive and unsustainable pressures on many of our people". That was stated last year. The review acknowledges that the increased operational pressures of the past few years have shown up weaknesses in our ability to sustain forces deployed overseas, particularly where local facilities are limited. That must be true of the present situation. In particular we would face serious difficulty in supporting two substantial operations at once. The pressure on our logistical services has been so great that specialists in key areas have only 14 months between periods of service overseas.

The review states, too, that above all we shall need highly skilled and adaptable personnel. It recognises the disincentive of overstretch as it affects training and retention. If our troops are to be bogged down indefinitely in open-ended peacekeeping commitments, if there is no time for training and more or less permanent separation from families because of roulement difficulties, that, too, will be a strong disincentive to stay in the forces, splendid though their spirit is.

The promise of a 24-month gap between deployments and operations for units seems to have gone by the board. Most of the Kosovo intervention force in Macedonia served in Bosnia the year before. The Government must no longer expect the forces to grit their teeth and manage indefinitely. Families are a powerful force nowadays and there will be rebellion there. It is not good enough for the review to speak of a "Policy for People" and even, rightly, to recognise that, it is also vital to the confidence of the forces that the plans are properly resourced"; and then to say, the plans set out in the White Paper require substantial investment…The resources needed will come from savings generated from within the review". Incidentally, paragraph 170 tells us that over the decade efficiency savings have accumulated to over £4 billion annually. I wonder whether the social security budget, which receives 12.4 per cent of GDP, or the health budget, which receives 4.7 per cent, compared with the defence share of 2.7 per cent, due to fall to 2.4 per cent by 2001–02, is required to make such savings. No one would even ask it.

However, the Treasury has not finished with the forces yet. The review states: The Ministry has the target of achieving a 3 per cent annual efficiency saving in operating costs over the next 4 years". The Government cannot have an ethical foreign policy at the expense of our service men and women. I believe that the Ministry and the Armed Forces should stop gritting their teeth and managing somehow—because that is what they have always done—and should start reminding government (and so should we) that. strong defence is the essential underpinning of a successful foreign policy". Those are the Government's words, not mine. We shall find that we no longer have a strong and committed professional army if we do not do something about it.

Money will certainly be found for the new Marshall plan we shall have to have to help finance the reconstruction of the Balkans. That is absolutely right. I strongly support what has been said about Macedonia. But money must be found for the services too. Without them the Government will have neither an effective NATO nor even a common European defence. Money and resources must be found for better conditions of service, better roulement and time for training, and now in order to allow for the placing of defence orders. An awful lot of missiles, with which one has to wage a war, have vanished; they have been used. There needs to be money for the services and plenty of resources. Otherwise I believe that the Government can say goodbye to any hope of retention of one of their best assets—the Armed Forces.

7.47 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. We on this side of the House have some sympathy with what she said about the dangers of cutting the Armed Forces. The Minister has heard the noble Baroness. Professional chiefs of staff will no doubt advise him when the situation affects our Armed Forces in relation to their operational duties; and I am sure that he will listen to their advice. However, the Motion before us is about Kosovo, so I shall not labour the noble Baroness's point.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for introducing the debate. I am grateful to the noble Lord and his department for the material that I and other noble Lords who serve on the House of Lords' Defence Committee have received. I noted the map of Kosovo which show the displaced persons at one glance. I fear that that map is not complete and that the situation will become worse. I hope that the noble Lord and his department will continue with the excellent way in which they have informed us and the general public of what is going on, in so far as they know, without damaging the security of the forces engaged in this operation.

I have heard many interesting speeches today but I should like to draw attention to the outstanding speech of my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby. Two points arose. First, it is vital that the American Congress, having allowed the President to launch its air force into battle, continues with that to the end. I hope that anyone who has friends and acquaintances among the Congressmen and women will be in contact with them. I shall play my part, as will other noble Lords, when in June we visit Washington as part of your Lordships' Defence Committee. We shall tell them that if the air force and possible ground force operations are not seen through to the end, Europe will lose a great deal of confidence in the Americans.

Secondly, we owe another debt to my noble friend Lady Williams. Two weeks ago today she arranged for us to meet, listen to and question in a Committee Room two outstandingly brave Kosovar Albanians who had come from Kosovo. They were Professor Kelmendi, a highly experienced and well respected journalist and broadcaster on Radio 21. She told us how at the outset of the cleansing her radio station was invaded by army and police from Serbia. All the records were destroyed and she was ordered out of the country at gunpoint. She had a car and she drove to the border and escaped. She was one of the lucky ones.

The second speaker was Dr. Dobruna, director of the Centre for the Protection of Women and Children. She told us the most harrowing stories. She was looking after small children and infants in incubators in her intensive care department. She, too, was ordered out at gunpoint.

President Milosevic is responsible for murder. He is a murderer. Those two ladies when questioned were adamant on two points. First, they, like us, were very grateful for what our servicemen, in particular our airmen, are doing to halt the ethnic cleansing. Secondly, after close questioning they informed us that under no circumstances would they return to their homeland, as eventually they must. unless they were protected. I take those points on board. I am grateful to the honourable Member for Weston-Super-Mare, Mr. Cotter, for drawing that point to the attention of the Prime Minister during Prime Minister's Question Time.

We must take action in three important areas: military, diplomatic and social. First, as regards the military issue, we are told that the Serbs have a great warrior history. Let us be careful. I say with irony and great distaste that the current Serbian army is very good at murdering women and children. I am sure that all noble Lords who, like me, have had the privilege of serving in the Armed Forces know that bullies and cowards have no place in our Army. They do not make good servicemen, especially when the going gets tough in either counter-insurgency campaigns or conventional war. Let us not overrate the Serbian army.

Furthermore, I believe that an international protection force will be needed. We are told that it might not have to fight its way in. I hope that that will be the case. I emphasise the word "international". The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, told us that he sees the need for all the nations of south-east nations of Europe to be brought into our Western institutions. I also note that the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic states have offered to take refugees. I am sure that once they have secured the consent of their parliaments, they will wish to contribute to the international peace-keeping force.

Secondly, as regards the diplomatic aspect, I should like to see the involvement of Russia. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what state the diplomatic contacts with Prime Minister Primakov have reached.

Thirdly, by the "social" aspect, I mean the economic support of the refugees. I am sure that we can do more. In particular, I welcome the constructive suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that we consider how to get supplies to the hard-stricken people living in the hills in Kosovo.

In conclusion, we must help the Serbian people to rid themselves of this tyrant and his henchmen because they cannot do so themselves. Once that has happened, we must welcome them back into the civilised European and world community. I offer a word of caution, "humiliation". Let us not humiliate the people who have done these dreadful deeds once they have been cleansed of their democratically elected government who have greatly let them down.

I recall two incidents during this century. The first occurred in 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Representatives of the four great powers sat down so that the Germans could sign the Treaty of Versailles. Clemenceau, who was the host, said, "Faites entrer les Allemands", in a harsh and brusque voice. It means, "Bring in the Germans". They came in and they felt humiliated. Fifty years later when the Council of Europe was set up, Winston Churchill, then Leader of the Opposition, looked around the seats of the Assembly and asked, "Where are the Germans? 'We need them". I hope that Her Majesty's Government, together with their allies, will say when this dreadful conflict is brought to a halt, "Where are the Serbians? We need them".

7.57 p.m.

Lord Belhaven and Stenton

My Lords, in case I should send the wrong message to your Lordships, I beg in by saying that I support everything that has been said about helping the unfortunate refugees. Like every other noble Lord in the House, I deplore ethnic cleansing whether it is against Kosovars, Serbs or anyone else. However, I support my noble friend Lord Lauderdale and should he choose to divide the House I will be in the Lobby with him.

According to the Daily Telegraph, this country has been at war for 43 days. Apart from Statements, this is the first opportunity that the House has had to debate the subject. In my view, that is a grave discourtesy to the I-louse. To my recollection, it is the only war in which this country has been involved when the Government have not allowed full parliamentary debate at the outset. It seems to me and to most of the people to whom I have recently spoken, that the Government are at pains to suppress so far as is possible—though, happily, we still have a free press—all debate on a most sombre sequence of events in the second half of this century. Furthermore, it has not escaped my notice that this debate is taking place on the day of the local elections and elections to the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, which will certainly keep the media busy without bothering about us. The stark fact is that this country and its allies have attacked a sovereign state without a declaration of war and without a mandate from the United Nations.

Almost at the same time as this attack took place, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were admitted to NATO membership. NATO was not formed, as the Secretary of State in another place said on 19th April, out of a desire to secure a just settlement in Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. In effect an extremely unjust settlement, whereby the three countries which I have mentioned were consigned to a communist tyranny, was reached before NATO was even thought of.

The point of forming the NATO alliance was to prevent the Soviet Union from further enlarging its empire at the expense of the members of the alliance. It was pre-eminently a defensive alliance and remained so until the attack on Yugoslavia.

It was at this point that the three new members of the alliance were admitted. One wonders what they were supposed to make of it. I have spoken to Polish people both official and unofficial. The official ones, army and navy diplomats, are naturally cautious. The unofficial ones, as Poles tend to, say what they think. To say that they are unhappy with the situation would be an understatement. Indeed that has also been my personal experience in discussing the war with my British friends.

It is not my business to discuss the conduct of the war. There are plenty of ex-field marshals in this House who can and are able to do that. We are obliged to support our Armed Forces who are being presented with an extremely difficult and potentially dangerous situation, with which I do not doubt they will deal with their usual courage and professionalism.

That said, I believe that we in this House and those in another place are perfectly entitled to discuss and criticise the actions of those of our rulers which have led us into this deplorable situation. There is a long and honourable tradition in this country. Charles James Fox is an exemplar of this. He attacked the policies followed by the British Government and its allies consistently throughout the early part of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

I have supported the actions of successive British Governments which have led this country into conflicts of varying severity, and it is a cause of great sadness to me that I cannot support the present attack on Yugoslavia. I have never before found myself on the same side of an argument of this kind as the noble Lords, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and Lord Kennet; unfortunately, I do now.

There is a bee buzzing in the bonnets of our present rulers. Its origin is in all the talk and legislation about human rights. The general idea seems to me to be that if any national government breaches human rights or has in the past done so, NATO has the right to bomb and attack them. The decision as to whether human rights have been breached rests entirely with the governments who make up the NATO alliance, pre-eminently Britain and the United States. They are prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner rolled into one. International law as we have hitherto understood it no longer applies in these cases. This is the new Brezhnev doctrine writ large. Brezhnev only justified attacks on what he called socialist states whose rulers were considered by Moscow to be guilty of back-sliding.

As we saw, the attack on and occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968 gave rise to this convenient document. That operation was bloodless compared to the savage aerial onslaught that we are witnessing today. People in Belgrade and elsewhere, who have nothing to do with the clearances in Kosovo, are being killed, maimed and having their lives and livelihoods ruined by the continuous bombardment of their towns and cities. As we have heard, communications by the Danube are totally disrupted, thus partially cutting off trade between Romania, Bulgaria and central Europe.

Of course, that is not all. All the Balkan states, as we have recently heard, especially Macedonia, have been severely destabilised at a time when their economies are only beginning to recover from the blight of communism. All this massive disruption of human life and the stability of the whole of Europe is being carried out in the supposed interests of humanitarianism.

I have tried to gather together a few facts which have come out of this conflict. It is taking place in an area which is and has been constitutionally unstable for 2,000 years. Had any of those in authority thought about it, an understanding of history might have helped.

Coming to recent events, I must ask a few questions. It is reported that the Foreign Secretary said in January that the KLA had killed more Serbs than the Serbs had killed Albanians. Is this a true reflection of the situation before the bombing started?

Is it true that on 29th April the Foreign Secretary warned Russia that she risked isolation if she continued to support Serbia? If so, what exactly did the right honourable gentleman mean?

Why were the airport and other installations in Podgorica bombed when we were hoping to keep Montenegro on our side? Was the risk to a large number of refugees who had fled to Montenegro taken into account when this operation was planned? Was the further destabilisation of the situation in Montenegro taken into account?

United States Secretary of State Cohen warned that there would be economic and political consequences if Moscow defied the embargo on Serbia. What precisely did he mean by that?

Is it correct that it is said in the annexe to the Rambouillet agreement that NATO personnel would be permitted to enter Yugoslavia from any border—Bosnia, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia—with machinery, arms, ammunition and men, and, furthermore, that they must be given all assistance from the military and civilian authorities throughout Yugoslavia and would be able to leave their arms in Yugoslav army depots or where they please?

If that is the case, it is, as Mr. Benn in another place said, an ultimatum. It is on a par with the Austrian ultimatum to Serbia in 1914, which I have taken the trouble to read. In fact, it is rather worse than the Austrian ultimatum, and it is not a demand to which, in my opinion, any sovereign state could submit. Have our diplomats and statesmen given this any thought?

Is it true that as long ago as last October the Vice-President of Yugoslavia—I gather a very nasty man— promised that as soon as the first NATO bomb dropped the Albanians would vanish from Kosovo? If that is true, why were we taken by surprise?

No one can defend the appalling clearances which have taken place since the bombings started, but they were predicted. I would put in an historical marker here: columns of refugees follow a continental war as night follows day. We only have to remember France in 1940, Poland in 1939 and Belgium in 1914. In 1914 there were many stories about "German frightfulness" which bear a remarkable similarity to what we hear today.

It is in the interests of governments to spread atrocity stories about the enemy, which does not mean that many of them are not true. This is no doubt why NATO is at pains to destroy television transmitters and other media communication within Serbia. In spite of this, we have a fairly good picture of the situation in Serbia under NATO bombing. As we have heard, a train, a bus, and columns of refugees have been bombed. How is it that one bomb went so far astray from its target as to hit Sofia, 50 miles from the Serbian border and in the wrong country? Is that precision bombing?

A columnist called Andrew Roberts in last Sunday's edition of the Sunday Telegraph proposed the dropping of a small nuclear bomb on Serbia. His article was a serious one. I could not believe it. I have to ask Her Majesty's Government to assure the House that there is no intention of carrying out such a deranged policy.

To conclude, bombing Serbia has not succeeded in saving a single Kosovar life or home. Two wrongs do not make a right. It has destabilised the whole of the Balkans and put NATO's credibility at risk. It also runs the risk of war with Russia, which, however slight, is there and whose attempts to defuse the conflict have not, to my mind, at least until quite recently, been treated with the seriousness or courtesy that they deserve.

8.8 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I know that it is impossible to make an omelette without breaking eggs. The trouble is that the end result may so easily turn into scrambled eggs rather than a neat, tidy omelette. The aim of our omelette-making in NATO is to end the humanitarian disaster in Kosovo. My noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall spoke of grandmothers sucking eggs. Some grandmothers are not very good at sucking eggs, and we do not want to end up with egg on our face. Also, the Balkans is not a very lucky place for starting a war. We are all in what we believe to be the civilised part of the world, although sometimes, with nail bombs going off indiscriminately in city centres, good people being shot dead on their own doorsteps and even football fans becoming rather too violent, it is difficult to believe so. But we all suffer when we see on television the sad eyes of old women shielding their bewildered grandchildren as the huge tide of suffering humanity struggles out of Kosovo.

I do not like the pretty euphemism "ethnic cleansing". It refers to killing, murder, torture, atrocity and total barbarism. We all felt that something should be done and I applaud the courage of our Prime Minister and our Government for taking that steadfast action with the rest of NATO. We have struck a blow for decency, democracy and humanity. We could not just stand by and let this horror happen.

This situation is not new, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, said. For six or seven years now, I have been receiving newsletters from Kosovo detailing all the ways in which the very large ethnic Albanian population has been mistreated. It started in a small way—breaking up furniture, requisitioning valuable goods, attacking schoolboys, imprisoning people on trumped-up charges, small acts of violence and discrimination—but it grew. Good and evil are like yeast. They feed on themselves and they grow out of all proportion to the original mixture. When the violence finally erupted, we had to do something.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, has kindly sent me a fascinating map listing all the atrocities committed in every town and village in Kosovo in the past two months. It was a horrifying document—and difficult to see the map for all the horrors marked all over it. I am only a little confused about the acronyms for which there is no translation. I imagine that IDP stands for "itinerant displaced persons", but my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig of Radley believes it to stand for "interminably displaced people". With VJ, however, we are both totally mystified.

Like all speakers, I very much applaud also all our brave servicemen who are flying sorties constantly over hostile territory or helping with the refugee camps. Our hearts are with all our forces whose courage and dedication is second to none, particularly those of us who have been lucky enough to visit and meet some of the men and women now serving in the Balkans.

I also agree with every single word of my noble and gallant friend Lord Inge and the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth.

We also think much of the suffering refugees. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, wrote in the House magazine most movingly of his personal experiences in the refugee camps in the past two weeks and we listened with much fascination to his speech today.

Your Lordships may have noticed that there was a lack of flowers last week. That was because I was at home in Scotland all week for the AGM of the War Widows Association and 250 of them held their lunch in our home so, as you can imagine, I was busy washing up, cooking, doing flowers and generally organising. It all went well: the weather was perfect, the house was filled with shoals of cold salmon and meringues. The very few Territorials left in the Black Watch lent us chairs and tables, cutlery and crockery and also produced a splendid piper. When he came down from piping on the battlements, he piped and posed with all the ladies in the garden. Mr. Soutar of Stagecoach lent us his real stagecoach, called the "High Flyer", which used to ply from Leeds to York, drawn by four matching Gelderlanders. All the ladies had rides in it and on top, trotting through the blossom and daffodils with the post-horn playing a fanfare.

But war widows, from all wars and of all ages, are ladies who have lost the most important person in their whole life. They have lived with grief and have come out the other side. They all know what it is like. One lady was in tears, thinking of her grandson, a captain in the Territorials, who might possibly have to be sent out to Kosovo. They all felt as I do that we have done what we set out to do. We have shown steel and courage and a concern for the refugees and for the battered and bewildered people of Kosovo.

Now we must concentrate our efforts on feeding and housing the refugees. Perhaps with the sanctions and more diplomatic initiatives, we shall be able to sort out the mess that Slobodan Milosevic has made. We shall have to send in a ground force to keep the peace and to help people to go back and to try to rebuild their homes and their lives. But we must draw back from a total offensive with no end in sight. We are, after all, the peacemakers who should inherit the earth. We do not want any more war widows.

8.15 p.m.

The Earl of Lauderdale rose to move as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert ("; but regrets that bomb attacks on the sovereign state of Yugoslavia have resulted in killing and maiming of civilians as well as damage to the economy of Eastern Europe through blockage of the Danube. without clear sanction either in international law or by resolution of the United Nations Security Council."). The noble Earl said: My Lords, the hidden cabal of the usual channels having denied me the opportunity of moving my amendment earlier in the debate, I must repeat it and beg to move it now. The amendment was correctly tabled yesterday and was being discussed in the Lobbies last night but, as speaker No.24, it is rather late now for me to start again.

So at this late hour, I shall not take up your Lordships' time by reading out at length important quotations from the European edition of the Christian Science Monitor dated 3rd May. They draw attention to economic damage suffered by Croatia and Slovenia in their tourist trade and the effect, by the destruction of bridges over the Danube, of blocking traffic on Eastern Europe's longest waterway which is hurting trade in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

The Monitor quotes European bankers as saying that apart from damage to the economies of Albania and Hungary, the impact on the economy of the Soviet Union has been considerable and its ramifications have been felt even throughout Belarus, the Ukraine and central Asia—Kazakhstan, Turkestan and other countries.

What is not clearly understood today is that the Serbs who in the past few years have been living in. Kosovo were transferred there, having been driven out of the Krajina area of Croatia by the American-trained Croatian Moslem Army where they were exposed to just the same humiliations and mistreatment as is now laid to their charge in Kosovo. That does not excuse their behaviour but it may help to explain it.

What do the sanctions on Serbia mean? According to a report of the Prime Minister's speech to the Romanian Parliament a few days ago, the NATO aim is to "beat them into the ground".

What about some of the implications of this? When electricity is cut off in Belgrade, for example, what about the hospitals and operating theatres, which are immediately halted? What about new born-babies needing immediate incubation when in the middle of the night all electricity is stopped? That is not a civilised weapon of war; it is a disgraceful aspect of aerial bombardment. What about depriving hospitals and private users of pumped water supplies? If electricity is cut off, water is cut off. That, too, is not a humane arm of warfare. It may be effective in destruction terms, but it does not go well with the high-minded sentiments of sympathy that we have been hearing today and elsewhere about the wickedness of the Serbs and the loveliness of the Albanian people.

One of the many muddles in this dreadful story is talk of a sea-based oil embargo. No doubt the Minister in winding up will explain what is meant by it. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said that the oil embargo project was now being "examined". How on earth can one by sea stop oil going from Ploesti in Romania overland to Pancevo? There is no sea route; it is land all the way. Blocking Salonica does not stop oil going from Romania. If the idea is to block Salonica, does that need the goodwill and consent of Greece, whose port it is?

What about some of the other things that have been going on? I have to thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for a letter that she kindly wrote to me about the legality of all this. She wrote to me on 16th April and placed a copy of her letter in the Library, so I take it that I am free to quote it here. I had asked—as reported at col.644 of the Official Report of 13th April—what was the legal basis for military action against Yugoslavia. The noble Baroness wrote: I replied that, in exceptional circumstances, the use of force was justifiable when that was the only means to avert a humanitarian disaster. However, I mistakenly gave the impression that this [new] basis was also set out in a United Nations' resolution. It is not. But the force being used on the grounds of humanitarian necessity is in support of purposes laid down by the Security Council". That is very different from having a direct mandate from the United Nations. I must thank the noble Baroness for her letter to me. As I have said, I hope that as she said that she would put a copy in the Library I have not breached any confidence in reading it out.

When we last had a debate, on 25th March, the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, promised to write to me about targets attacked and any collateral damage in Novi Sad. Today, three weeks later, I received a letter, not from him but from his secretary. I am grateful to have even that. He said that his office did not have any information about collateral damage at Novi Sad. Perhaps I may I stress to his office that if it does not have information of its own it might find it worthwhile to listen to Radio Cologne, which, after all, is a NATO broadcasting station. Every night it broadcasts details of damage done in Yugoslavia. The Radio Cologne list of damage is not the same as the official TANJUG list; this is a list from NATO sources. The noble Lord's office might find it worthwhile to tune in to Radio Cologne to learn what is going on, if it does not know from its own sources.

Collateral damage is a tricky subject. I refer your Lordships to yesterday's edition of The Times, where a headline reads: Allies risk crimes tribunal over civilians".

The article under that headline reads: NATO risks investigation by the international war crimes tribunal if its bombing attacks are found to have caused unnecessary civilian deaths or injuries. Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights the former President of Ireland in a direct reference to recent attacks on bridges, water supplies and electricity stations, said yesterday that more should be done to avoid such casualties. 'It is a very important principle that if civilian casualties can be avoided they obviously must be avoided' she said on a visit to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. … if it is not possible to ascertain that there are civilian buses on bridges, should bridges he blown in those circumstances?". Her questioning of the legality of the bombings echoed her remarks to the closing session of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva last week. She said: 'These are very important questions because people are not collateral damage, they are people who are killed, injured and whose lives are destroyed, and we are very concerned about the way in which civilians are so much in the forefront of modern warfare.'

What about the astonishing bungling of the NATO operations? The noble Lord referred obliquely to General Klaus Naumann's comments as retiring chairman of the NATO military committee. He is reported in Monday's edition of The Times to have said: the air war was now working, but Serbia could still achieve its aim of mass deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo.

The Times reported that he gave his unvarnished account of the campaign on the eve of his retirement this week.

NATO had previously reported only engine failure as a cause of aircraft losses. The quotation from General Naumann continues: quite frankly and honestly, we did not succeed in our official attempt to coerce [President] Milosevic through air strikes to accept our demands. Nor did we succeed in preventing Yugoslavia pursuing its campaign of ethnic separation and expulsions.

I wish to draw the noble Lord's attention to that passage in The Times, which he might have overlooked.

My final quotation is from the Daily Telegraph: 'Blitz spirit' is boosting Milosevic, US admits".

These quotations, idle and scattered as they are, do little to bolster the Government's claim to be conducting a satisfactory campaign. But, with our service men engaged and having been unable to deploy my arguments at an earlier stage in the debate, I will, when the time comes, beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, at end insert ("; but regrets that bomb attacks on the sovereign state of Yugoslavia have resulted in killing and maiming of civilians as well as damage to the economy of Eastern Europe through blockage of the Danube, without clear sanction either in international law or by resolution of the United Nations Security Council."). —(The Earl of Lauderdale.)

8.29 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, I am pleased that the noble Earl will not feel it appropriate to press his amendment to a Division as I do not feel that this is a suitable occasion on which to do so. Nevertheless, if he were to, I should feel it necessary to follow him into the Lobby. I take a similar view to that which he has expressed and which has been expressed latterly in the debate on all sides of the House.

I begin by reading a letter sent to me by a friend who has been in communication with Belgrade. It is from a Mr. P. R. Adzic, of the VINCA Institute of Nuclear Sciences, Laboratory of Physics, in Belgrade. It reads as follows: Something which we feared that might happen, seems very likely. I can confirm now we expect that NATO planes will bomb VINCA Institute. In the passed several days we received this warning, but today we got this information as serious threat from the highest authority. Our reactor is not working for more than 15 years, hut the significant amount of 235-U enriched and unused fuel is still in its interior. Highly radioactive material for everyday activities is also located in several research laboratories. I fear that a big disaster may occur. In the worst case, no Balkan and even European country would be safe. Not to mention ecological catastrophe. I still hope that this disaster could he avoided, unless we are already late. I would appreciate if you succeed in informing as many people as possible on the eventual tragedy. God bless you". I sent a copy of the letter to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, who opened our debate. I am not sure whether he has passed it on to my noble friend who will answer the debate. If so, she will refer to it. If not, I hope that she will ask him about it and request him to investigate whether it is a serious threat or whether it is no more than an attempt to avoid the bombing that they fear. I considered it sufficiently authentic to send it to my noble friend and to mention it tonight.

As I have said, I am of the same view in this matter as the noble Earl who has said that he will withdraw his amendment. That position is not unique. It is not just the fact that some of us feel that the whole operation is a mistake; this is an issue on which there is a variety of opinions. There are those who feel that, and others who feel that it has gone wrong in the middle and some who believe that it has gone correctly all along. I take the view that this operation was an error and illegal from the beginning. I believe that it should never have been embarked upon.

There are ways other than war. War cures nothing. There are methods, short of war, by which pressure can be brought to bear upon governments without resorting to a cure that is worse than the disease. That is not to say that one is immune from pity. However, one has to evaluate whether going to war is worse than the existing situation. One cannot attempt to cure by inflicting something even worse on the patient.

Perhaps I may inject a personal note. There is a point at which one has to decide what will be done as a war comes to its end. I have some personal experience of that, having been posted to Burma towards the end of the Second World War. I was due to join an operation, which by that time had reached Rangoon. By the time I arrived in Rangoon, the bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima and there were no more operations in which to take part, so I was seconded to the civil affairs government of Burma, the British temporary government before we handed over to the Burmese. Hence, I have some experience of the complications and difficulties of such a situation, particularly as in Burma there were tribal or international difficulties such as we encounter in the Balkans. The Serbs and the Croats are in a similar position to that of the Burmese and the other nationalities surrounding the Burmese borders.

That kind of complication often exists when a war comes to its close. The winning party has to deal with it. We messed it up in Burma, although not deliberately. We were not quick enough. By the time Lord Mountbatten got to work, he shared my view that the only man worth talking to in Burma at that time was Aung San. The old hands who had returned to Burma wanted to talk to the people who were there before they left and. quite frankly, they were no good at all. Prime Minister Attlee came to share that view, but by the time we got around to it, it was too late. I am not saying that if we had acted quicker the murder of Aung San could have been avoided, but if it had been avoided the history of Burma, lamentable though it has been since, would have been quite different.

These are crucial times, when actions taken affect the future history of the country. Whether it is true or not, I am not certain, but it can be said that because we did not get around to recognising and establishing Aung San at an earlier date—sharing the opposition view which he regarded as fascist—the murder took place and that changed the situation. Several experts on Burma—more expert than I shall ever be—took the view that the history of Burma was altered by that tragic act.

I mention that in passing to show that I am not unaware of the difficulties that will face the former Yugoslavia as and when this matter comes to a quick conclusion. The quicker, the better, as far as I am concerned.

In this age of new weapons, as the matter to which I have just referred emphasises, we must learn that war is no longer an adventure or a cure for anything. We must be patient and use methods other than those of warfare if we want matters to be brought to a conclusion with which we can live in the future. If we do not learn to eliminate war, war will eliminate us. Weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, chemical or biological—will make our world uninhabitable by mammals. As I said, if we do not eliminate war, war will eliminate us.

The present conflict is, of course, illegal. It was started by a non-European state—the great and only superpower—chiefly supported by its main satrap, the Labour Government of the United Kingdom, who can and did start a war without consulting Parliament.

My old friend Robin, our Foreign Secretary, knew that to be legal wars need the unanimous support of the Security Council. To do him justice he tried very hard to secure that support. Only when he failed did he decide that a majority, backed by earlier unanimities, would have to do. He decided that if all those joining in the conflict agreed to it and said it was legal, it became legal. But of course it did not—and it remains illegal.

Even if that point was arguable, the way in which the: war has been fought has become hopelessly illegal. The question of whether or not the war was legal was raised a little earlier in the debate. I recommend that noble Lords read the Rambouillet agreement and the Geneva conventions. Those who are interested will be able to obtain copies of the Rambouillet agreement from the Library, but I understand that Appendix B is not always included. It is important to ensure that it is attached because it is an incredible document.

Appendix B led me to the conclusion—a conclusion I believe to be inevitable—that the agreement is not an agreement at all and was never intended to be one; it was an excuse to go to war. No government could conceivably have accepted the conditions laid down in Appendix B and elsewhere in the document relating to NATO's powers when occupying the country after the war. The agreement insisted that NATO could occupy the whole country; it could utilise all the machinery of the country; it could travel anywhere in the country without payment; it could use the radio and television and must not be questioned. All that is laid down as a condition of agreement. Needless to say there was no agreement. No sane person would ever sign such a document. I came to the conclusion that it was never intended that it should be signed; it was an excuse to go to war. Noble Lords may disagree with that view, but if they read the document they may come to the conclusion that there is at least a possibility that I am right.

Once we started the war, we got into a situation of making it more illegal. We had signed the Geneva conventions. When we accept a convention in this country, we do not just accept it like some do and do nothing about it; we incorporate it in an Act of Parliament. I am holding a copy of the Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Act 1995. Under that Act what we are now doing in Yugoslavia is illegal and must not be done. So we are breaking not only the Geneva conventions, but also our law which implements those conventions. We are therefore doubly guilty of breaking the law and the war is doubly illegal.

The Geneva conventions are not only international; they are also part of our own law. We introduced Acts of Parliament such as the 1995 Act to ratify the conventions and in doing so we agreed not to do exactly what we are now doing and admit doing. The only lip service we pay to the law is that we call the civilian economic structure we agreed not to attack—the bridges, radio and television stations, oil refineries, car factories and so forth—part of the military apparatus. Frankly, the Geneva conventions would not permit any such nonsense because they say quite clearly that if there is any doubt in any matter, one assumes that the target is civilian and not military. That is entirely opposite to the assumption that we make in carrying out our operations in Serbia.

We are also killing and maiming civilians, including women and children. In the places we are bombing there are usually more women and children around because the men are more often out at work. Our Secretary of State for Defence has at last admitted that, but of course said it was accidental. It is not accidental; it is incidental; it is consequential, which means deliberate and intended. In short, it is murder.

It is said that we will go on as we are—that is, burning to death more and more babies, blinding, maiming and killing people as well as destroying the structure in which they live, all of which is illegal—until Milosevic gives in. But what can the people of Yugoslavia do about that? Pressure is not being brought to bear upon the people who are responsible; it is being brought to bear, by and large, upon the people who are not part of the governmental machine. It is no wonder that they are not quite sure what our eventual aim is. I can see noble Lords on the Front Bench becoming restive; it is perhaps time that I sat down, and I shall. Are we saying that the innocent are to suffer until the guilty become good? A distinguished Conservative Peer described it to me in one word: madness. Let us stop it as soon as we can.

8.48 p.m.

Lord Eden of Winton

My Lords, a short time ago, in his interesting speech which certainly merits careful reply, my noble friend Lord Belhaven and Stenton reminded the House that this is the first debate that we have had on this subject since these hideous events began.

I agree very much with him that that is a poor show, and I put down a marker that I should expect another debate before too long on this topic, because this is not the right moment to engage in any detailed analysis or to pass judgment upon what has been taking place.

I was encouraged by the article which appeared in The Times today by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I very much agree with his view that the campaign by NATO against strategic and military targets in Serbia is fully justified.

There have been doubts expressed about NATO action, and they are due in large part to the wrong signals having been given at the outset. In his powerful speech my noble friend Lord Moynihan reminded the House that NATO's declared objective was to avert a major humanitarian catastrophe. For very good reason, that quickly won popular support in most NATO countries; there was a groundswell of revulsion. It was that, I believe, which enabled the alliance to keep together. The public reaction was understandable and creditable. No one could have ignored the scenes of human misery, suffering and degradation that were daily projected into our homes. However, we should take heed that media-led decisions are an inadequate replacement for measured judgment and clarity of purpose.

NATO duly responded, but initially not very decisively. The bombing began almost half-heartedly. The trumpet gave an uncertain sound. Evidently, NATO hoped that by demonstrating a willingness to bomb, and by inflicting a degree of damage, Milosevic would be brought back to the negotiating table. But I have to ask: on what evidence? It is certainly not by the example of his previous conduct.

There was a grave miscalculation and one that ignored the lessons of history. Far from crumbling, as we know, in the event the very reverse happened. With a cold-blooded ruthlessness that is impossible for us to understand, the regime in Belgrade scaled up its campaign against the Kosovars, showing a total contempt for life and bringing about a massive humanitarian catastrophe which it had been NATO's publicly declared aim to avert. This has hurt NATO's credibility, and some responsibility for that must lie directly with the Prime Minister and with other leaders in the alliance who have presented the case for bombing solely in the context of the unfolding humanitarian disaster.

I do not in any way discount the patience and persistence of the negotiators at Rambouillet, but the tactics seem to have been flawed in this respect: they failed to secure Russia's commitment to compel Milosevic to stop his dreadful deeds against the Kosovars. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, reminded us, Russia had, and still has, great influence over Serbia.

At the end of the Cold War much effort was made to bring Russia into a closer relationship with the West to allay Russia's fears about any possible threat to her boundaries. NATO brought Russia more closely into partnership.

What has happened to the concept of partnership for peace? During the course of the tragic events in Kosovo, of what value has been the founding Act of May 1997 which was designed to promote better co-operation, harmony and understanding between NATO and Russia? Instead of co-operation it seems that Russia gave moral and practical assistance to Milosevic and then threatened to frustrate the more effective prosecution of the war by NATO.

Although Russia is now more directly involved in the search for a solution, towards which the GA meeting could certainly be helpful, the differences that have arisen should never have been allowed to fester. The real underlying purpose of NATO surely should be, and one hopes is, to ensure that the evil being unleashed by Milosevic does not precipitate a wider conflict which could engulf other countries in the region. That always was, and to some extent still is, a very real threat. If nothing had been done, it could have led to NATO member nations opposing each other with the almost direct, inevitable involvement of Russia as well. The consequent disruption would have been far more severe and extensive than anything we have seen so far. The ultimate result would have been the re-opening of old divisions in Europe, the destabilisation of the newly emerging democracies and the collapse of the credibility of NATO as a force for peace. The true justification and purpose, in my view, of NATO's actions is to prevent just such a disaster. It is for that objective that the alliance nations must continue to work together.

Our immediate short-term goal has been made clear and has often been re-stated by Ministers: it is for all Serb forces of repression to be withdrawn from Kosovo and for a credible international protection force to be put in place so that those refugees who wish to will feel safe to return to their country.

In the longer term it is in the interests of every member country and of Russia that NATO is seen to prevail. A strong NATO spells stability in Europe. For that to happen, those who have taken the lead in the military campaign must maintain control over the ensuing diplomatic processes. I think we are entitled to seek assurances from Ministers that there will be no weakening; that they will show no irresolution at this time. In the event that any settlement might be brokered, there must be a strong NATO military presence. To agree to anything less would be a betrayal of our fighting services who, despite the politically imposed handicaps under which they have had to operate, have carried out their task with the professionalism and dedication that we have come to expect. The British servicemen in particular have earned our admiration and respect. We will be letting them down and failing to achieve NATO's objectives unless we can be sure that any peace settlement secures the dispersal for all time of the monstrous Milosevic terror machine.

8.56 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, a number of different opinions have been expressed in the debate. The ones with which I felt most in sympathy were those of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and my noble and gallant friend Lord Craig of Radley. A view that is shared by all noble Lords is that the problem of how to handle the Balkan imbroglio since the break-up of Yugoslavia has been one of exceptional difficulty. It has seldom been obvious what not to do and it remains very difficult to decide on the right thing to do. It is, however, clear that many noble Lords of different political affiliations are unhappy about what has happened. They are greatly distressed about the present situation and are deeply apprehensive about the future.

I do not wish to spend too much time crying over the spilt milk of the past, but I believe that there were two major errors which have been influential in leading to the present situation. The first was to recognise Bosnia Herzegovina as an independent sovereign state, although it met none of the criteria normally applied for such recognition. That almost inevitably led to intervention, step by step, until it culminated in the Dayton Agreement brought about under military pressure. Anyone who thinks that that agreement will last once SFOR is removed—whenever that may be—and that Bosnia will then remain a single sovereign state, viable in every respect, is, in my view, living in Cloud-cuckoo-land.

NATO's air action, which its supporters believed led to that agreement, was the second major error. It persuaded some of the policy-makers, especially in the United States, to see it, or the threat of it, as the answer to the major Balkan problem—Milosevic's determination to create a greater Serbia, free of other ethnic elements. Of course, everyone rightly felt that something had to be done to try to stop him being beastly to the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo and from planning an even more beastly fate for them. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, said. it was a major error of politico-military judgment to think that that threat, or, if it failed, its implementation, would quickly lead to his capitulation. It would be interesting to know what advice our embassy in Belgrade gave about his likely reaction.

So what should be done, or not done, now? It is clear that the Government believe that continuing and intensifying air strikes will result either in persuading Milosevic to accept NATO's five conditions or in his removal and replacement by some other Serb political figure who will accept and implement them. Many speakers seem to believe that that will happen, but at present it seems to me to be only a slender hope. To a large degree, hope must rest on the diplomatic mediation of Russia, and, if that is to succeed, the alliance, I am sorry to say, may have to modify its insistence, expressed in paragraph 4 of the summit meeting press release of 23rd April, that, There can be no compromise on these conditions". However, if we assume that, whatever route is taken, somehow or other most of the refugees return to most of Kosovo, what then? That same statement talks about, an international provisional administration of Kosovo under which its people can enjoy substantial autonomy within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia", secured by an international force, of which NATO forces would form the core. I believe that much greater thought is needed about what form this should take. For example, to cite only one problem: what law should operate and who would enforce it? I believe that no British forces should be committed to it until it is much clearer than it is now what its functions would be and how it would operate. But whatever form it takes, it is likely to be there for a very long time. I hope that the Government can give the House an assurance that on no account will we contribute to a force which attempts to force its way into Kosovo and maintain itself there against the active military opposition of the Serbian forces. That could lead to a situation like that hinted at to a certain extent by the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, which the Russians faced in Afghanistan.

Intervention in the Balkans is gradually creating a quasi-imperialism, a sort of NATO empire, there. Empires in the past, however much resented, have at times been beneficial in creating a form of regional peace; but they have depended on the authority exercised by a sovereign power. An alliance of 19 members, which intends to increase its numbers further, cannot effectively do that. The North Atlantic Alliance must not go down that road.

Finally, I strongly support the views expressed by my noble and gallant friends Lord Bramall and Lord Inge that the Government must be careful, by giving way to popular and media pressure or to the pressure of allies, not to over-commit our forces. They must tailor their commitments, which still include a sizeable one in Northern Ireland, to the cloth which they have themselves cut.

9.5 p.m.

Lord Hamilton of Dalzell

My Lords, I ventured to speak in this debate because I found that the developing affairs in Kosovo touched me in a number of unusual ways. One of my four boys is a financial journalist in Sofia in Bulgaria. His job is to explore financial opportunities for people from the West to invest in. There are a number of extremely bright people, headed by a Bulgarian ex-patriate from America, who have been beavering away for a long time.

When Bulgaria escaped from the clutches of the Soviet Union, there was a colossal feeling of optimism there. The crisis in Bosnia, and now in Kosovo, has cut off its trade with the West. When I was there a year ago, I found that there was beginning to be a feeling of despair. I heard the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, say that Yugoslavia has been reduced to the state of 1945. It strikes me that much of Bulgaria is still in the state of 1945.

When the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, answered a Question earlier today, she said that the European Community was looking forward to the moment when the democratic systems in Bulgaria will enable it to be welcomed into the European Union. I think that it is the other way round. We have been responsible for impeding Bulgaria's progress by this war, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. The Bulgarians are innocent parties. I think that we should compensate them for this; indeed, they have never been compensated for Bosnia. We should take an active interest in their financial affairs. Otherwise I think their politics will go wrong and they will never be in a position to join the European Community or anything else.

My journalist son visited Kosovo between a year and 18 months ago. Travelling on a bus among ethnic Albanians he made a derogatory remark about the Serbs, only to be turned on by its occupants and told that, on the contrary, the Serbian police were the only people to protect them from the activities of the KLA. In civil wars there is seldom a clear-cut line between right and wrong.

My youngest son is newly commissioned in the Coldstream Guards and may well find himself involved in this conflict. Members of my family have served their country as soldiers over many generations; at least three were at the Battle of Waterloo. We understand the sayings, "Theirs is not to reason why", and, "My country right or wrong". It is only afterwards that the debate should begin on whether the cause which induced the politicians to commit them to the field was sufficient and what made the sacrifice inevitable. History delivers its verdict. But those of us who are closely involved in this affair have the right to feel that the Government have a strategy. But I was far from convinced of that fact when I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. I endorse the views expressed by noble and gallant Lords who emphasised the point I have just made; otherwise, you will not keep the support of the people for the war.

When you hear the recording of the haunting voice of Chamberlain declaring in 1939 that, "We are, therefore, now in a state of war with Germany", it is possible to understand the impulse that made thousands of people flock to the colours and the sensations that my father and his generation must have felt when they opened the brown envelopes recalling them to their regiments. Nowadays we go to war with less emotion.

I heard that we were at war with Serbia on my short-wave radio in Zimbabwe where I visited the farm that I jointly own. It was a simple announcement that targets in Serbia had been attacked by NATO missiles. Zimbabwe was an interesting place to hear that announcement because a major topic of the conversation there concerns its own war. It too is fighting a war which, with no viable parliamentary opposition, the country has never been given the opportunity to approve or disapprove. The war is in the Congo. It is a civil war in a sovereign state between rival tribal factions, neither of which has any claim to humanity, trying to wrest the government of a benighted country away from each other. Zimbabwe shares no common boundary with the Congo but they are both in Africa and the war is causing unbelievable cruelties.

As Zimbabwe does not have the US as an ally, it is fighting on the ground—no cruise missiles or laser guided weapons for it. The country has no money and the war is unpopular with the people. To save money and to keep the number of casualties from the public view, it is alleged that the war dead are decapitated and only their heads are returned to the families from which they came.

This horrific and unnecessary involvement of a poor country with an unpopular and undemocratic government in a battle which should be none of its business has, quite rightly, been condemned by the international community and Zimbabwe finds itself with all sources of aid cut off and the support of the IMF withdrawn.

Of course I fully understand that Africa is not Europe, with all the politically incorrect sentiments that such a statement assumes; that NATO, supported by the United States, is rich and powerful, while Zimbabwe is a struggling third world country; and that President Clinton and the Prime Minister are not President Mugabe. Kosovo is a war where we are promised that a moral right can be enforced by technical might and there will be no grieving at home. But is not that where the difference ends? Who is the pot and who the kettle in these similar affairs across the continents of the world? What precedents are we setting? We need to be able to distinguish our actions on a better basis than just who we are if there is not to be anarchy in the world.

9.12 p.m.

Baroness Ludford

My Lords, I shall try not to be repetitive, particularly at this late hour. I have agreed with many comments that have been made today, in particular with everything that my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby said and also with much of what the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Hylton, have said.

With John Austin MP, I am the co-chair of the newly registered all-party parliamentary group on Kosovo. We of course welcome new members. I entirely support what the Government have done in this matter. NATO military action is the regrettable result of the refusal by Milosevic to sign up to the Contact Group's peace proposals at Rambouillet, and it will stop when he complies with NATO demands. The responsibility for the outbreak of war lies entirely with Belgrade. NATO action did not provoke Milosevic; it just showed him up as a war criminal. It was not NATO air raids that triggered the wave of refugees but violence by Serbian forces. That has been attested to by the refugees, whom surely we should believe. NATO has acted to protect the rights of people. It has not acted over claims to territory or to resources; this is not a militaristic or imperialist adventure. The unity and political leadership shown by NATO has been impressive.

International law is in evolution but it does provide for action on humanitarian grounds. I am persuaded by the arguments of Professor Christopher Greenwood, Professor of International Law at the LSE. He says, Nato is not asking the world to accept its own assessment of the humanitarian situation. It is acting not in a legal vacuum but to address a humanitarian disaster"— created by the Yugoslav government— which the Council has characterised as a threat to international peace". So, although there has not been a specific resolution authorising the use of force, there have been resolutions by the Council characterising the situation in Kosovo as a threat to international peace.

When I make comments under three headings—how to deal with the refugees; how to end the crisis and get people back into Kosovo; the future and how to prevent a repetition—I will not be trying to score political points. I will be trying to express some concerns, drawing some lessons and perhaps urging the Government to carry through with the best of what they have done so far, and to be consistent.

Perhaps I may pray in aid the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and speak in the same spirit, about the refugees. It must be admitted that we were not prepared to deal with the scale of the humanitarian disaster which has occurred. The UNHCR is under-funded. The figures I have seen show that the UNHCR launched its first appeal for contributions specifically for Kosovo on 1st April; the appeal was repeated on the 6th and 22nd April. As at the 29th April, a week ago, of the 275 million dollars that the UNHCR requested, member states have so far promised to contribute only 105 million dollars. It is obviously of prime importance that further assistance be speedily given. Perhaps there will be an opportunity in the months to come to review the way in which the UNHCR functions and the further resources which are needed to enable it to fulfil its task as the lead agency in major refugee situations.

I will not repeat what others, and particularly my noble friend Lady Williams, have said about the need for urgency in airlifting refugees out of Macedonia. We may be talking about several hundred thousands. I will also not repeat what others have said about the 10 per cent increase in the populations of Macedonia and Albania that the refugee influx has created. It might help to understand the situation by imagining that that 10 per cent would represent an increase of five to six million in the population of the United Kingdom or eight to ten million in the population of Germany. Albania's generosity must be recognised.

It is obvious that the Immigration and Asylum Bill currently passing through Parliament—and here I am being more explicit than the noble Lord, Lord Judd, although I think he was hinting at it—is totally inconsistent with the current response to the plight of the Kosovan refugees. The Government are now acting to receive probably thousands of refugees; local communities and councils are being generous. Perhaps I may refer to a letter from my colleague, the deputy leader of Liverpool City Council, Councillor Richard Kemp, who, a couple of days ago, said: Since Liverpool Council informed the public three weeks ago that we would be helping asylum seekers and refugees from Kosovo, we have been inundated with offers of help from local people…A multi-agency steering group has been established with support from more than 30 organisations…If a relatively poor city like Liverpool can open its heart and its homes to asylum seekers and refugees then so can and should the rest of the country. Perhaps where Liverpool leads today the government and other cities will follow tomorrow. What we are setting up is (as I hope) a Rolls-Royce welcome for the early Kosovar refugees, but perhaps a rickshaw for the others. Refugee organisations in this country are concerned that two parallel systems will operate, with Kosovar refugees being placed in reception centres while asylum seekers, even Kosovars who come clandestinely in lorries, or, let us say, those from Sierra Leone, will have to survive on vouchers and £1 a day. Indeed, the carriers of those who come in lorries will be fined if caught.

I believe that the citizens of Britain understand what a real refugee crisis is, and that we have a responsibility to take our fair share of refugees. I hope that that will track through to the Government, and that they will perhaps reconsider the situation as regards the Immigration and Asylum Bill. The Home Secretary said yesterday in the other place that the exceptional leave to remain being granted to the earliest refugees provides a passport into the normal benefits system and the right to work, but Kosovars who arrive in Britain by their own means will continue to be able to apply for asylum in the normal way. I am afraid that we are setting up what a colleague of mine has called a Jekyll and Hyde approach, a two-tier approach in which we surely cannot persist given our experience of the current crisis.

Perhaps I may comment briefly on how the crisis might be ended and the people returned. The news of a statement from the G8 meeting on principles of a political solution evokes some hope, but also some concerns. Perhaps I may take up a phrase cited by my noble friend that deployment in Kosovo would be of an effective international civil and security presence. I should be concerned that the composition and operational deployment of an international force as described should avoid aiding or encouraging partition. It should also inspire confidence in the Kosovar Albanians whom we want to return to Kosovo. We have learnt from them that NATO leadership of the force is essential to such confidence. Furthermore, the implementation of a peace agreement surely cannot depend on the goodwill of President Milosevic, such that he is protected from prosecution for war crimes.

I was slightly concerned on hearing the phrase used by President Clinton. He said that there could be an agreement without Mr. Milosevic being forced from power. I hope that does not mean that we shall consolidate his grip on power. Surely we want to loosen it. It would be rather ironic if we were to treat President Milosevic yet again as the solution, as a factor for stability, and treat the KLA as a factor for instability. These are sensitive matters, but perhaps the KLA might also claim to be as much part of the solution, or at least more so than President Milosevic.

We must also be concerned about the status of Kosovo. Surely President Milosevic has lost the moral authority to rule there. The reference to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia rings hollow when President Milosevic's expression of sovereignty has been to strip his own citizens of their passports which attest to that citizenship. Any sovereignty must be heavily qualified, and probably not permanent. We must not rule out, even if it means in the medium rather than the short term, the possibility of independence for Kosovo. We have been talking about an international protectorate in the short term to guarantee an interim political settlement allowing the Kosovars to run their own affairs. But we must not close doors at this stage.

Finally, perhaps I may repeat the comments of other noble Lords regarding the need for a Marshall Plan for the Balkans. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. Perhaps we should refer to south east Europe rather than the Balkans. Without any plan, which must include a democratic Serbia, we risk creating a situation like that in Germany under the Weimar Republic rather than the post-Nazi Federal Republic. We must not prolong the instability that arises from lack of democracy and repression in that part of Europe. Therefore, we need a Bretton Woods, not a Yalta, and there must be no carving up of territory on a map.

The ultimate future of south east Europe, including a democratic Serbia, lies with the European Union. All efforts should be devoted to ensuring that there is stable democracy and social development in that region to prepare for its engagement in the European main stream. As the Treaty of Amsterdam came into force a few days ago we should redouble our efforts to achieve a coherent common foreign and security policy in the European Union and a defence capability within NATO.

We should have heeded the words of Ibrahim Rugova 10 years ago. It has been said that the war in Kosovo is one of the most predicted in history. The Government must be consistent. Progress has been made in talks about the substance of defence co-operation led by the Prime Minister. I am not sure that that has tracked through to the institutional structure of the European Union so that it acts under a common policy rather than just co-ordinates national policies. If we do not learn those lessons for the future we shall go back to where we started. I hope that we do not do that.

9.26 p.m.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, on becoming a co-chair—whatever that may mean—and equally for reviving something that I thought had died in the early part of the 19th century when Chamberlain became a Liberal imperialist, saying of Kosovo and Serbia that we should do this and that. It is worth pointing out to the noble Baroness that Mr. Milosevic is elected by popular mandate and is a socialist and has very little in common with Adolf Hitler. He is an unattractive Balkan thug enthusiastically put into power by his fellow Serbs. Adolf Hitler was an Austrian house painter elected by proportional representation, so beloved by the Liberal Party. He was anti-smoking, anti-fox hunting and a vegetarian, all of which are equally beloved by the Liberal Party. I accept that then he went slightly astray. But Mr. Milosevic does not have at his disposal 20-odd panzer divisions that can go on the rampage all over central Europe. He is a Balkan thug.

Afghanistan, Burma, the Caucasus, Indonesia, Iraq, Kashmir, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Rwanda, Sudan, Zaire and Zambia are the ABC of nastiness in this world. Even with the limited resources available to NATO we cannot go round the world putting down unattractive regimes because we do not like them. That is a form of imperialism out of which I thought we had grown. Unfortunately, we must live with the beasts and brutes of this world. There is nothing that we can do about it.

However, I believe that Kosovo may be slightly different. This was explained to me by a South African friend whose reasoning was as follows. If there is rape in your own flat you do something about it; if it happens at the other end of the passageway it is nothing to do with you. I believe that Kosovo comes under the heading of rape in your own flat. It is undoubtedly an example of quite appalling behaviour. We have said that we must do something about it, but we cannot do much about it. The only possible way that the Kosovar situation will be resolved is by Rifleman Bloggins on the cross-roads in Pristina. It will not be resolved by fusing the lights in Belgrade with a graphite bomb. The only way that those people can go back is by having infantrymen on the ground. This has been true since Thucydides, Xenophon and Alexander the Great. It does not matter whether you are Rifleman Costello on the walls of Badajoz, or a hoplite on the walls of Persepolis.

There is no other way known to military science of controlling the ground other than by infantry on the ground. As the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, said, everything else is subsidiary or an aid to getting those people on the corner of the cross-roads so that the man who has been pushed out of his shop can go back to his shop and sell his goods under the protection of infantrymen.

The Government have not realised this. When the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, made the announcement, I asked her what will happen if Mr. Milosevic does not react. She said, "We'll go on being beastly to Mr. Milosevic". I think that those were her words. Quite understandably, and in my view correctly, the Government have said that something must be done. But they have not thought through the consequences.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that they come round and realise that the former second lieutenant Viscount Cranley in the Lifeguards in 1960 is a military genius and they will take his advice and understand about infantry on the ground. We will have created this wonderful imperium advocated by the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. How long will it last? How long shall we be there? It may be of interest to your Lordships to know that Mr. Gladstone said that we would be out of Egypt after he bombarded Alexandria. He was another Liberal imperialist.

It is essential to know what we are thinking of. Do we say, "We shall have an imperium and a protectorate"? We must think through the consequences of that. I do not think that anything has been thought through. It has been reported that Mr. Clinton takes poll soundings almost twice daily as to what to do. How to be a leader, my Lords! "What shall I do?" he says to the pollsters. Surely he should say, "This is what I think we should do. This is the policy I propose, and if you don't like it you must say so", but it should not be the other way round it. I do not think that we have thought through the consequences of what we are doing.

I accept that the Government were right to intervene, but they should have been upfront and said, "This means infantry. It means casualties". The European Union has been pathetic. The only people who have really good troops on the ground are ourselves and the Americans. I looked at some Italians and thought, "Caporetto, Sidi Rezeg", but did not allow the thought to go much further. There are not enough Germans. For heaven's sake, come back 90th Light and 21st Panzer—all is forgiven. That is what one wants. The European Union is not putting in enough force and it should do so if it wishes to be grown up and behave on the world stage. It has to be able to behave in its own backyard and not have 86 per cent of its work done by someone else. I feel that not enough thought has gone into this issue.

I accept that the Government have a great problem. I accept that the Government are trying to do their best, but they have not done enough joined-up thinking. I therefore worry very much for the future.

9.35 p.m.

Lord Shore of Stepney

My Lords, the Government have faced a great problem, as the noble Earl. Lord Onslow, stated. It would be sensible to begin by touching on some of the special difficulties and features of this crisis and, in my judgment, tragedy.

We have become used to a world in which, if one nation aggresses against another and crosses its frontiers in a hostile way, it has committed an international crime. We then rally together, as we did in the recent case of Kuwait, to resist and punish the aggressor. That is a great step forward in the story of mankind. But Yugoslavia—the collapse of a state! The Serbs have not crossed anyone's frontier and that is the beginning of the difficulty. My noble friends have had to face the new problem of dealing with an internal catastrophe and how the international community should deal with it. That is a big problem to which I shall return at the conclusion of my remarks.

I believe that my noble friends, and certainly the Prime Minister, deserve far more of our praise than our blame and criticism—much more. The moral force which the Prime Minister has brought to bear in facing such disastrous conduct and appalling treatment of a helpless minority people in Kosovo has been outstanding. He has identified the evil and spoken against it. He has insisted on action against that evil.

Of course, it is one thing to identify, condemn and act, but, unfortunately, the tragedy is that one's actions do not always meet the needs of the situation. The tragedy is that, for the best of all possible motives, we have failed to achieve the central objective with which we started the whole affair: it is the answerable call from the Kosovar people to be rescued and helped and that the Serbian attempt to drive them into exile should be resisted and stopped. That was our number one war aim and it is precisely that aim that we have been unable to achieve.

Instead of being able to rescue the Kosovars and resist the Serb oppression, what was already a serious problem of exodus has turned into a flood of refugees. Seven hundred thousand people have been driven into the surrounding territories. We have not heard the end of the problems, particularly of Macedonia.

It can be said of my noble friends—it is probably the only accusation that the debate has brought against them—that they might have foreseen the appalling Serb reaction; a reaction which turned what was a flight into a flood. I am not so sure. Frankly, it took a bit of imagination to conceive of the wicked continuing actions that Milosevic has inflicted on the people of Kosovo.

Against that, I must strike a balance. We heard some relevant contributions today from those who know about Balkan history, what went on under the old Ottoman Empire and the hatreds which were generated. My good friend Lord Merlyn-Rees spoke about that earlier today. Those hatreds are formidable. They are not merely the meeting point of religions but of different linguistic, cultural and racial groups clashing together.

When I think about it a little, I would quarrel with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, whose speeches I generally agree with entirely, when he uses the word "genocide". It is not genocide. Genocide is the deliberate destruction of a race. By God! we saw it under Nazi Germany dealing with the Jews, as they did in their Holocaust. It is not that. It is ethnic cleansing. We are seeing a deliberate expulsion of people, triggered by deliberate terror, resulting in mass migration. It brings with it slaughter and wickedness of all kinds; but the aim is to expel. Frankly, that is part of the history of the Balkans.

One thinks about the Armenians in Turkey at the beginning of this tragic century; the expulsion of the Greeks from Asia Minor at the end of the First World War; and more recently the expulsion of the Serbs from the Krajina. That was very serious. It was a major factor, of course, and it does influence their behaviour and thinking. Although not on the same scale, what about Cyprus? People there could not live together any more, resulting in division, partition, separation. That is one of the ways in which problems are solved. We know that from our own experience. Heaven knows, when we gave independence to India, the Punjab erupted into hatred between Hindu and Moslem and the populations moved out into Pakistan and India respectively. Perhaps we might have had that a little more in mind, even though the behaviour of Milosevic was almost unbelievable.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that matter, perhaps he cares to recall with regard to the expulsion of Serbs from Krajina that there was no great sentimental uproar in Britain, Germany or Europe stating that this had to stop. It all happened in silence. People looked the other way.

Lord Shore of Stepney

My Lords, I agree. That is an important point about not having politics absolutely dominated by the camera. The camera cannot be ignored. The cameras were not there showing what happened, but they were there in Kosovo, and we reacted because we are basically decent human beings. Our whole instinct is to try to help our oppressed fellow men and women.

The truth of the matter is that it is a tragedy. The tragedy is that we tried to stop it, could not stop it and this great dispersal has taken place. Frankly, bringing people back under armed guard to a province from which they were expelled, in which their villages were burned and their community structure destroyed is not the same thing as preventing them from being expelled in the first place. That is what gives me doubt and worry about how long the whole thing can be maintained by us in the interests of the Kosovars.

What does that lead me to? It is not enough simply to say that it is a tragedy. We have to prevail. NATO must not be put in a position where its credibility and authority are undermined, because it will have great purposes in the future to perform, greater frankly than we have had in Kosovo. I am sure of that. It is the great instrument that the world has for enforcing peace against aggression. Do not let us destroy it if we can possibly avoid it. I am sure that NATO should insist on and will get the larger part of the five conditions, but do not let us be over-rigid about the negotiation.

We must bring in the Russians. That is essential not only in this regard but for the whole peace of Europe, looking much further ahead than Kosovo. It is absolutely right to bring in the Russians. We must renew the Partnership for Peace. There cannot be peace in Europe without the Russians. There must be a democratic Russia or one that does not feel humiliated and destroyed.

I hope very much that we are able to do that. We need to negotiate with the Russians and show a certain flexibility. Clearly, the people must go back to their homes and they must do that with the protection of an international force.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Is he aware that there was a G8 agreement in Bonn today which involved the Russians?

Lord Shore of Stepney

My Lords, there is so much going on and we have not really had time to deal with it in this debate. That meeting of G8 is extremely important. I should love to hear later from the Front Bench about the appearance in Rome of the gentleman who is a moderate among the Kosovar leaders and any other information which up-dates the situation.

We must think very hard indeed about a future in which we have started to say that we shall not tolerate unacceptable internal repression inside the different states. The noble Earl reminded us of a long list of villains in the world today. We cannot interfere and deal with them all. There must be strict criteria and we must think very hard indeed before we use anywhere the military weapon.

The Prime Minister—and I recommend this to the whole House—delivered a quite remarkable speech in Chicago on 22nd April in which he tried to spell out what, in a new world setting, is required. He listed various criteria which should limit action and should lead to only the most selective occasions on which we should intervene.

However, I add two points to that. First, if we are to have a world in which we intervene more in internal affairs than we did before, in spite of what the charter said, we must have it very clear in our minds who is to give authority for those interventions. It cannot just be NATO. It must be the United Nations, and if we must reform the United Nations in one way or another, then we must do that. That is from where the authority must originate.

Secondly, we must look carefully at the criteria, including to what extent internal repression has been triggered by the kind of IRA activity of the KLA and other bodies. We cannot ignore that and it must be in our minds.

Thirdly, we must look carefully at all other sanctions—diplomatic, economic, oil and so on—before we think about military action.

Fourthly, in thinking about military action, we must take account of the forces available to this country. We are putting an incredibly disproportionate military capacity of our country into a tiny area. I am in favour of doing what we can to help, but, good God, there will be other events. As our learned military friends told us, we shall have to be there for decades in order to keep the peace. That is no good. That will deny us the freedom of action and movement to deal with other crises in different parts of the world.

We must have more members in our Armed Forces. I take that for granted. We shall have to have a review of the defence review, which will not cause great unhappiness to some of my noble friends on the Front Bench.

That is all I want to say. I do not advocate in any way that we should shrug our shoulders about intolerable behaviour within the frontiers of sovereign states. But unless we are to be faced with the charge that, in the words of Tacitus, They make a desert and they call it peace". we must think carefully about the relationship of means to ends, and we must above all encourage the spread of democracy as the greatest defence against tyranny that mankind knows.

9.49 p.m.

The Earl of Dartmouth

My Lords, I normally listen to the noble Lord, Lord Shore, who speaks with clarity and precision on the subject of the European Union. I am delighted that we have had a full demonstration that his knowledge and clarity of thought are not restricted to that important subject.

First, I want to thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for moving the Motion. As I have said in the House before, I have the honour to be standing on behalf of my party for the European Parliament for my home region of Yorkshire. In the first part of what I have to say I shall be fully reflecting the views of my party and my noble friends, but subsequently I shall be speaking only for myself.

As a party, we unreservedly support the brave men and women in our superb Armed Forces. Further, we strongly question the erosion of the Territorial Army, which, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said earlier from his unique perspective, is our only reserve. The erosion of the Territorial Army is taking place at the same time as the Government are imposing ever more obligations on the Armed Forces. When the Armed Forces go into action they are entitled to expect that the Government will have defined and attainable war aims. attainable by clear and consistent objectives. So long as that applies, so long are the Government entitled to expect the Opposition's unconditional support.

I should like to permit myself some personal but relevant observations, one of which echoes the noble Lord, Lord Shore. First, it is very hard to sustain the proposition that the bombing has done much to help the Kosovo Albanians in their plight, which was, and is, its primary purpose.

Secondly, NATO was, as I understand it, formed originally as a defensive alliance, and it is highly questionable that NATO is a suitable instrument to prosecute a moral foreign policy defined by Britain and the United States outside the borders of NATO. Indeed, it is rather likely that this war will result in possibly lethal stresses and strains on the NATO alliance. Already one NATO member, Greece, has made it very clear that it will not provide any facilities for NATO ground troops to go into Serbia.

Thirdly, if we are indeed engaged on a moral foreign policy, by definition that moral foreign policy cannot and should not stop at the borders of the European land mass. Many noble Lords, like me, feel strongly about Kashmir, an area where, unlike Kosovo, Britain has historic links and, deriving therefrom, a historic responsibility. By comparison with Kosovo, the Government seem to be showing very little interest in Kashmir and in other problems in other parts of the world.

Fourthly, the Government have many times made clear to this House their contempt for history. But those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. The problems of Kosovo and elsewhere in the region are not solely the product of Milosevic or anyone else; but, more especially, are the product of 1,000 years of Balkan history. Such problems are unlikely to be resolved rapidly by the simplistic solution of bombing.

Fifthly, the Government are rightly impressed by science, but they should therefore remember the scientific axiom that for every action there is an equal and opposition reaction. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, in a typically eloquent and statesmanlike speech, the Government do not seem to have considered fully the collateral effects of the damage done by the bombing of Serbia on the fragile economies and even more fragile newly democratic and partly pro-Western governments elsewhere in the region—for example, Bulgaria and Montenegro, although there was a brief mention of Montenegro in the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert.

Sixthly, as others have said, the Government seem to have made a classic error in ruling out the use of ground troops from the outset. I know that this Government are suffused with a strong Christian ethos, but, on the face of it, it is rather surprising that nobody appears to understand that you should not show your hand to your opponent before you begin.

Seventhly, another lesson of history is that bombing hardly ever works in terms of removing an established regime. It did not work during the Blitz in London and Coventry; it did not work in Germany; and more recently it did not work in North Vietnam with the constant bombing of Hanoi. Widespread bombing seems to have the opposite effect. It unites the civilian populace behind the existing military and political leadership.

Perhaps I may permit myself a party point. I find it utterly bizarre that the same people who favoured one-sided disarmament for this country in the Cold War, in 1999 are almost completely in favour of bombing defenceless TV stations in the Balkans. That is a bizarre irony which has not been properly addressed.

I hope that the Government have fully considered the effect of the bombing of Serbia on the struggling and fragile pro-Western and democratic forces in Russia. Pan-Slavism is a movement with deep historic roots and it is hard to envisage NATO's attacks on Serbia doing anything other than playing into the hands of the revanchist and former communist forces in Russia. The possible effect on Russia of the bombing in Serbia is more than worrying. We may yet be living dangerously all over again.

I want to raise a point that, I fear, will make me rather unpopular in the Chamber, if that is possible. It is a point of great concern to the electors of Yorkshire and will be of concern to all electors in this country. Originally, we were told that there would be an absolute ceiling of 3,000 refugees admitted to Britain from Kosovo. Now we are told that we should expect 1,000 refugees a week. Can the Minister tell the House whether there is to be a new ceiling for refugees from Kosovo and, if so, what that ceiling is? If there is to be no ceiling, can we be told?

I also want to draw the Minister's attention to an article in today's edition of The Times. In quoting the article, I want to make it absolutely clear that in no way do I endorse it. The article written by John Laughland is headed as follows: In spontaneously opening our hearts to these Kosovan refugees, we are opening our country to organised criminality". On the face of it, that statement seems totally libellous, but such assertions need to be thoroughly investigated. I ask the Minister for some assurances on that point.

Finally, for the Government to maintain the national support that they now enjoy, and which they need to achieve their desirable and laudable objectives, they must demonstrate an absolute clarity in their aims and their thinking, and, I dare to suggest, a greater degree of clarity than has been exhibited thus far.

10 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, I am glad that on 25th March I dissociated myself from the military action—the bombing—against Kosovo. Indeed, I said then that it was a deadly venture from which there was no quick exit. In fact, so it has proved.

I want to make it clear that I take this position not because I am a pacifist or a peacemaker; indeed, I supported the retaking of the Falkland Islands, though I was in complete disagreement with my local Labour Party. As a result I faced de-selection, though in the event I was not de-selected. I was supportive of that campaign to retrieve British sovereign territory and to rescue British citizens from the vicious Argentine dictator, General Galtieri. I felt that we had a duty to do that because British sovereign territory was at stake. I am not sure that the present Prime Minister was as supportive of the action as I was at the time.

I want to say also that I supported the Gulf War. I felt we had a duty to prevent a dictator taking over somebody else's country and to protect Saudi Arabia. Incidentally, some of the present Cabinet did not support the Gulf War. I hope therefore that I shall not be accused of being an appeaser, especially by the Secretary of State for International Development, who demands free speech—very free speech—for herself but apparently not for others who might disagree with her.

The fact is that what many feared would happen in Kosovo has happened; it has been a disaster. The campaign which was expected to last seven days is now in its seventh week. Until the beginning of this debate we did not seem to be making any progress. I hope that since then, and throughout the day. some progress is being made. I fervently hope that it will result in the end of the hostilities and indeed the return of the refugees to their homes, though I doubt that that will happen.

A humanitarian tragedy has turned into a humanitarian catastrophe as a result of NATO intervention. Let us make no mistake about that. And anybody reading the debate on 25th March will realise that there was no mention in that debate of any mass exodus. So the mass exodus has taken place since 23rd March when the bombing commenced and we should keep that in our minds.

There was also a failure properly to negotiate with Mr. Milosevic. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, criticised Milosevic as being some sort of Hitler figure. I do not believe that that is so. We have extremely short memories. Noble Lords may remember that Mr. Holbrooke said that Mr. Milosevic was a man with whom we could deal. Indeed, he dealt with Milosevic, and without dealing with him he would not have got the Dayton Agreement. We must therefore refresh our memories before we start demonising the Serbs and Mr. Milosevic. We dealt with him and shall have to deal with him again over the negotiating table.

In the Rambouillet agreements we presented Mr. Milosevic with an ultimatum and timescale which he could not possibly accept.

At the same time we encouraged the KLA to believe that: NATO was on its side, and if its representatives would only sign up to the agreement, then things would go well for them and they would eventually get the independence that they wanted. This has brought about untold misery for the Kosovars, death and destruction to Serbia and the destabilisation of the region, especially in Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania, which have had to absorb the refugee out-flow.

As the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, pointed out, we said to Milosevic: "Unless you give us the whole run of our military machine throughout Yugoslavia, we will start bombing you". No leader of any country could accept such a demand and ultimatum. It was that failure to negotiate on a proper footing and on reasonable conditions that has brought about this tragedy. I hope we will learn a lesson from that.

It has also undermined the authority of the United Nations. There has been some loss of NATO's credibility and it has exposed some of its weaknesses. President Clinton today has said that the main war aim is to return Kosovar refugees to their land and their homes. However, but for the impatience of NATO and its leaders and their underestimation of the staying power of Milosevic and the Serb people, it is unlikely that the refugee flood of 680,000 people would have occurred in the first place.

NATO leaders also made the mistake of ignoring Russia's pleas for a peaceful settlement and offers of diplomatic assistance, in the belief that a few days of high -level bombing would force compliance with their demands in a short space of time. Now, they are having to turn to Russia as the last hope of achieving a peaceful settlement and avoiding further escalation of military action, including low-level terror bombing.

All this shows that the policy of ultimatum and belligerence has failed, as it always does, and that the likely outcome is very much worse than could have been obtained by realistic and patient negotiation.

We are now told by the World Bank and others that we shall have to pay billions of pounds, perhaps hundreds of billions of pounds, to re-build the property and infrastructure after the damage that the bombers have wreaked in Kosovo and Serbia and to re-build their shattered economies and those of the countries adjacent to Yugoslavia whose economies have also been shattered as a result of the war.

Can the Minister give a realistic estimate of these costs? I have heard estimates as high as a £1,000 billion. The Government must have made some estimate, so perhaps the Minister can let me have that this evening. Can she say what are the costs to British taxpayers of re-building the region and stationing British troops, perhaps for as long as 10 or 20 years, in Kosovo?

We should remember that troops sent in to police Bosnia were intended to be withdrawn after one year. Three-and-a-half years later they are still there and likely to be there for many, many years to come, and there are still 1,200,000 refugees who have not yet returned to their homes. That is the scale of the problem.

We are entitled to ask whether the Armed Forces can cope with these tasks, with their numbers reduced—shamefully reduced, in my view—and their resources cut to the bone.

What is to happen to the 50,000 Kosovars who may come to Britain? Will they be allowed to re-settle here permanently if they so wish, or are they to be forcibly repatriated when their year's stay is up? I think we need an answer to that question.

Finally, I ask the Minister whether we can expect further actions of this sort by NATO concerning the internal affairs of other sovereign states—actions which, incidentally, would be against the UN Charter. If so, how will we determine which countries they are to be? After all, Turkey ethnically cleansed 1,200,000 Kurds. Is it a target for NATO intervention? It has not been up until now, but is that the sort of thing that we have in mind? I believe that the British people and the world need an answer to that question. What about the United Nations, which has been ignored and sidelined? Has it any future at all, or is the new world order about which we hear so much to be determined not by the comity of nations but by NATO on the basis that might is right?

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, I believe that this venture has wreaked all sorts of harm from which we will suffer for a very long time. I urge the Government, and all NATO countries, to seek peace as soon as they possibly can. Indeed, to do so, they must be prepared to soften the demands that they made at Rambouillet, which were unreasonable and could not be met by the Serb leader. In fact, had he met them, he would probably not now be in power. Therefore, I urge the Government to do things properly this time and try to get a peaceful settlement and one which proves to be long term in the Balkans.

10.10 p.m.

The Earl of Drogheda

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for initiating this debate. The noble Lord treated us to some fine warlike oratory. However, I find the implicit appeal to withhold criticism of the Government out of respect for our troops an invidious one for two reasons. First, our troops are highly efficient and professional soldiers and will perform their duty, even if its demands are distasteful to them. Secondly, we were not given an opportunity to express our opinions before this wild adventure was embarked upon and it is quite right that we should be allowed to do so now, and to do so without reservations.

I have great sympathy for the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean. She has the unenviable task of justifying the Government's actions when she replies to the debate. She will doubtless tell us what the legal basis for our intervention in the former Yugoslavia was. Our security was not threatened; Serbia had not attacked the United Kingdom, or any other country; the United Nations had not sanctioned the attack; and NATO had not even been "invited" to intervene by an opposition group within the former Yugoslavia. We are behaving as policeman and law in one—an attitude that violates one of the fundamental principles on which a free and democratic society is based. Our justification seems to rest solely on a sense of moral outrage compounded by frustration. That is not a sound basis on which to start a war.

Moreover, the place NATO chose to start this war could hardly have been less well chosen. Kosovo holds a particular place in the Serb consciousness. It was there, in 1389, that the Ottomans defeated the Serbs in a battle that resulted in 500 years of Ottoman domination. It has immense religious and cultural significance and the idea of its loss or secession is inconceivable to the vast majority of Serbs. It would have been hard to have found a worse starting place for NATO's bombing offensive. With complete disregard for history in choosing Kosovo as the starting point for the war—the "conflict", as the Americans euphemistically insist on calling the dropping of tens of thousands of bombs on a country that cannot retaliate in kind—NATO achieved precisely the opposite of what it had intended; the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo was accelerated dramatically and horrifically; hundreds of thousands of refugees poured out of Kosovo into Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro, and Milosevic, who had had his problems in holding onto power, was able to "giddy busy minds with foreign quarrels" and boost his own reputation within the country.

Until the Rambouillet meeting, a substantial contingent of United Nations observers was stationed in Kosovo. After Rambouillet, provoked by Milosevic's refusal to accept what was an unacceptable ultimatum—as the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart and Lord Jenkins of Putney, have pointed out—those observers were withdrawn and the bombing commenced, supposedly to compel the Serbs to respect the Albanian population of Kosovo and to withdraw their troops. However, as might and should have been anticipated, that precipitated a massacre and resulted in the desperate exodus that took place; an exodus which should have been foreseen and for which no contingency plans were made.

Add to this the accidental but predictable bombing of innocent civilians, both Albanian refugee and Serb, and the irreparable damage to the country's physical heritage and modern infrastructure, and one has some idea of the appalling and catastrophic tragedy that has been created.

It is as if television and newspaper images of refugees and victims of Serb forces have conspired to give us a sense of moral superiority vis-à-vis the Serbs. Let us not forget that we are responsible for the accidental bombing of a civilian bus, the accidental bombing of a column of refugees that NATO was supposedly there to protect, and the deliberate bombing of the Belgrade television station which caused the death of innocent civilians. That is to name just some of the disastrous incidents that have occurred.

Moreover, originally the Government quite clearly expected the bombing to be over in a few days. They, and the Americans even more, seemed to view the action as some kind of video game—with this difference: that although there was no danger of casualties on our side, the enemy were flesh and blood and might be blown to smithereens. Surely that is an obscene idea. On the other hand, if, as we were assured at Question Time last week, the Government always knew that this would be a long haul, why was Parliament not consulted before we were led into this quagmire?

One thing is absolutely certain: this war cannot be won by either side. In the end, the only beneficiaries will have been the arms manufacturers. In addition to the billions of pounds that will have to be spent on the rebuilding of the former Yugoslavia and the resettling of hundreds of thousands of refugees, if peace is concluded on terms that are totally unacceptable to the Serbs, the deep resentment that will result will ensure that the instability that has plagued the region for centuries will continue.

10.18 p.m.

Lord Vivian

My Lords, I rise to speak drawing on some 37 years of military experience and a sense of outrage at this horrifying matter of ethnic cleansing and mass murder of the Kosovar people. I never thought that such a holocaust would take place in a civilised Europe. Such appalling atrocities, brutal killings, rape, pillage, the destruction of villages and forcing people to flee from their own homes, towns and villages to other countries have created conditions of a world disaster. NATO should carefully scrutinise its procedures to ensure that a similar situation can never occur again, but the immense difficulties of obtaining unanimous agreement among 19 different countries, with 19 different heads of state, 19 different foreign secretaries and 19 different chiefs of staff should not be underestimated, as many of your Lordships have said already.

Since the ethnic cleansing started just over a year ago, it has been estimated that some 1,200,000 Kosovars have become homeless and are now displaced people as a result of the most cruel savagery and barbaric acts. I am under no misapprehension whatever that this unacceptable brutality has to be stopped in a civilised Europe. If the tool to achieve this is NATO, so be it. I believe that intervention by NATO is justified, not only on humanitarian grounds but because a destabilised part of Europe, albeit outside the NATO area, is a threat to the stability of NATO itself.

It was quite clear that diplomacy failed at Rambouillet and that Milosevic had been given every chance to accept a proposed solution to this terrible situation in Kosovo. If NATO was to retain its credibility, it was necessary to take military action in order to attempt to prevent Milosevic's killer squads, the paramilitaries and the army from committing any more atrocities in Kosovo.

There is no doubt in my mind that a state of total war exists with Kosovo and Serbia and, from my studies of war some many years ago, there are two types of war. Limited war is similar to the Falklands, with limited aims and the avoidance of civilian casualties as far as possible. Total war is akin to the Second World War; the objective is to overthrow the enemy with no holds barred. It is to weaken his resolve and diminish the morale of the civilian population; to destroy his economy and wealth by the destruction of his industrial power; to deny his communication and to prevent propaganda to the people by the destruction of his radio and television stations; and to weaken and degrade his military capability by the destruction of his infrastructure and logistical systems. When this has been achieved—and not before—the enemy may then have been so weakened that the conditions should have been created to start an offensive with an intervention by ground troops. For NATO to win this conflict, a total war strategy has had to be adopted, but it should be understood that total war takes time to work. People must not be impatient but become resigned to that fact.

There are many examples of people saying that the political aims of this war are not clear. I have found them quite clear—and I agree with them. They are that there should be an immediate and total cease-fire—that is very clear; that Milosevic's killer squads, paramilitaries and army should completely withdraw, under verification, from Kosovo into Serbia; that conditions should be created for the return of the Kosovar refugees to their homes and villages in Kosovo; and that an international peace enforcement force, led and commanded by NATO, should be based in Kosovo to guarantee the safety of the Kosovars. I believe that Kosovo should become a United Nations protectorate with full independence.

As diplomacy has failed, military force has had to be used in an attempt to force Milosevic to accept NATO's terms. I fully support the action being taken. This action will lead to the severe degradation of Milosevic's military forces and should provide an opening for ground forces to intervene at a time of NATO's choice. At this juncture, Milosevic should come to terms with the situation.

Any open criticism is helpful to the enemy and most unhelpful to our own servicemen and servicewomen whose loyalty and courage should be praised whenever possible. Some editors of newspapers and television and radio stations have been of little assistance to our Armed Forces in this dangerous and difficult operation. I am surprised at the whingeing and whining attitude expressed by many people. Who are these commentators who have never smelt a sniff of gunpowder nor fired a shot with an automatic rifle in danger? Do they consider them selves to be more proficient and knowledgeable than the Chiefs of Staff? Do they know how to pilot an aircraft on a strike mission? Do they know how to manoeuvre tanks and to fire tank guns? Do they know how to command ships and submarines? It is high time that we heard no more from these commentators who have had no proper military experience or training.

I am sure that your Lordships would not want me to comment, criticise or speculate on our military strategy and tactics, as to do so would be assisting the enemy. Furthermore, to let the enemy know when we are going to start bombing and that their television stations are going to be a target on a particular night is nothing short of treason. Surprise is a very important principle of war.

However, there is one matter that I should like to address, and that is to inform your Lordships that I believe that the allied bombing campaign has been highly successful. Out of 15,000 missions, some 5,000 have been air strikes, of which 500 have been by the Royal Air Force. NATO has lost a total of only five aircraft in the whole theatre, with three pilots being recovered. Half the Serb fighter planes have been destroyed; elements of their air defences are no longer effective; a number of their SAM3 and SAM6 sites have been destroyed; oil; power; infrastructure; logistical installations; communication centres; and radio and television stations have all been targeted successfully. Military barracks and equipment, airfields, and even Milosevic's party headquarters have been successfully hit.

Some people have expressed their doubts as to whether this appalling slaughter on the part of Milosevic would have taken place if the air strikes had not been authorised. To those, I would say that the systematic and careful way those actions have been executed indicate that they were planned well before any NATO action and were not a panic reaction to the air strikes. There is no doubt that Milosevic was massing his tanks and troops around Kosovo before and during the Rambouillet talks. In fact, I believe it was the Germans who obtained what is now called the "Horse Shoe Operation", which in my opinion shows that this was no new plan, but something that had been carefully worked out before the first killings in February last year. However, it is probably true to say that Milosevic realised that he would have time to complete his ethnic cleansing programme as he knew that it would take some time for NATO to intervene with ground troops.

Perhaps I may now bring your Lordships' attention to future events. The first most important and critical fact or is that NATO must win. NATO will win, but it will have to involve an intervention by ground troops after Milosevic has been softened up sufficiently. The Serb soldier is not 10 feet tall, and by Western standards is very poorly equipped with out-of-date equipment and not a good record of standing and fighting. He gave in quickly in Bosnia some recent years ago, and it was the Croats, not the Serbs, who harried and held up the Germans so well during the last war. It is essential that we accept only unconditional surrender from Milosevic and ensure that we achieve all our political aims, which include a fully independent Kosovo and not a partitioned state.

Even after Kosovo is declared a UN protectorate and Milosevic has withdrawn all his troops, there is likely to be a protracted terrorist and guerrilla campaign against the UN, which will be denied by Milosevic and with which the United Nations, with the help of the KLA, will have to deal. In these circumstances it may be worth considering the construction of an "iron curtain", similar to that which existed between East and West Germany, to surround Kosovo. That would extend for a distance of only some 350 miles. After the situation in Kosovo has settled down, with the terrorists in captivity, the patrolling of the iron curtain and the policing of the protectorate may be undertaken by other NATO and UN members, not the United States and the United Kingdom which can be released from that task to recover, reform and retrain; UNFICYP (United Nations Force in Cyprus) is a very good example of that.

In conclusion, I emphasise that only a few years ago the West prevented the attempted ethnic cleansing of Bosnia by Milosevic and now it sees a repeat performance of butchery in Kosovo. Is it possible that NATO can forget the lessons learnt in Bosnia so quickly? Any force other than a NATO one may well be doomed to failure, as was the UN force deployed in Bosnia in the first instance. At the introduction of properly equipped NATO ground troops Milosevic promptly gave in. That is what he is likely to do if we intervene with a properly balanced force with sufficient troops to achieve our objectives at the time of our choosing. There must be no negotiation over any form of partitioned state: Kosovo must be fully independent.

Finally, I place on record noble Lords' immense gratitude to our brave and courageous servicemen and women, some of whom face death daily and yet are quite prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for their country to ensure that their own countrymen can live in peace. It is to these very special people that I give all my support and sincere gratitude. I wish them good fortune and pray for their eventual safe return to this country.

10.32 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, first, I join the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, in the sentiments expressed towards the end of his speech. I, too, honour and salute the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. As I am the 36th speaker there is very little new to say. However, I begin by recalling that in 1931 Mahatma Gandhi visited London and during a round table conference he was asked what he thought of European civilisation. His response was that it would be a good idea. At the end of a century in which we have witnessed the most amazing violations of human rights and appalling genocide in Europe it really is time to say that these kinds of things should not happen.

All our consciences, including mine, are troubled by this, but I have no hesitation in supporting the Government and the alliance in what they seek to do. I shall try briefly to explain why. I am not a soldier and have never fought. I have never even been conscripted. Therefore, I have no expertise in military matters. However, we often speak of globalisation. It is now accepted that in economic terms we are becoming very interdependent. In economic terms countries accept that their sovereignty is seriously compromised by, if not the market, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and so on. But we are still reluctant to accept that doctrine in political and international matters.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, in a very remarkable speech that reflected the sense of today's debate, said that we could not accept the UN Charter as it is today because it places too much importance on national sovereignty and not enough importance on human rights. If we believe that human rights are universal, we should be able to enforce them.

Until recently we took for granted that the best protector of a people's interests is the state in which they live. I think that we can no longer continue to believe that. We have seen far too many examples of states violating the rights of their own citizens. When that happens we have to decide whether or not to intervene. I agree that there is no consistency in our position. We have not intervened every time we have seen violation of human rights. We let the genocide in Rwanda go without intervention. Pol Pot killed one seventh of his population and was still recognised by NATO and allies for a seat in the UN. Consistency is not the problem in this instance.

Within the borders of Europe there is a violation of human rights. It is not recent. It has been going on in Yugoslavia for the past nine years. We missed earlier chances. We were too late to intervene in Bosnia. We have intervened earlier this time.

I am clear that this is the new order, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said. No order is easy to establish. Establishing order is a violent act. In order to establish order, you go through the violence because you hope that at the end you will establish peace and order. In order to establish a framework of law and order, and the protection of human rights, you may have to bomb. When one bombs, mistakes are made. No perfect war has yet been designed.

There are no saints on either side. The human rights of these people had been violated before NATO started bombing. Mass graves were discovered in Kosovo before bombing started. The human rights of those people had been grossly violated. Therefore, it was right to intervene.

I am also somewhat pessimistic. I think that it will take a long time even to gain cessation of military hostilities, let alone peace. I know of no dispute, for example, in which the UN has intervened where the problem has yet been solved. I refer to Kashmir, Cyprus and Palestine—I could go on. We should not think that if the UN had been asked to intervene we should have had a swifter settlement of the dispute. But the UN is a flawed organisation, as the right reverend Prelate said. It gives too much power to the five Permanent Members of the Security Council. It creates a community of unequal nation states. Until we create a community of equal nation states with some kind of majority voting for some of these actions, we shall not have a framework of global governance. We have to work towards that framework because we cannot continue to behave as though we are a community of sovereign states. That model was broken long ago. Therefore we have to re-think these matters.

I am surprised at the unpreparedness of NATO. I thought that when there was no war military planners sat round with scenarios and simulations. Someone should have foreseen the perhaps small probability that if bombing began a mass exodus would commence. It is not the first time it has occurred; it has happened before. Someone should have worked out that bombing may not yield immediate returns and that we may have to be there for a long time. Someone should have worked out not one but many exit strategies and then chosen one. I am somewhat surprised that there has been such a lack of forward planning, but, as I said, I am not a soldier.

Finally, I turn to reconstruction and development in what we should call south-eastern Europe and not the Balkans. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in that respect. Reconstruction will be required in the medium and short terms. After that, development expenditure will be required. While 'we do not have to do that yet, we should have larger scale planning than was discussed by the World Bank a week ago. Pitifully little preparation is taking place. If we can find 54 billion dollars for bank mislending in Korea—just because a bank misbehaved we had to stump up 54 billion dollars—we can think more ambitiously. The money can be raised not by taxpayers but perhaps on the markets. We ought to think comprehensively for the entire region of south-eastern Europe. Paradoxically, the World Bank was first set up primarily for the reconstruction and development of south-eastern Europe.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, might I ask him a question on the interesting comments he has just made? Between now and the achievement of whole-world government, does he believe that any particular machinery is needed to decide when and when not to attack a country which is doing wrong internally, or would he allow a complete free-for-all, with each country in the world being free to decide whether or not to do so?

Lord Desai

My Lords, we have some case law on this. The humanitarian intervention which took place in Somalia was the first intervention which occurred without the invitation of the local government. There was no local government to invite intervention. We then learnt something about the limits of intervention. What happened in the Gulf War in 1991 and what happened last December in the Gulf are examples of full and partial UN support.

What will happen, but not quickly, is that we will reform the United Nations with a Security Council on which there will be proper representation. I might mention qualified majority voting or some such structure whereby we will have broad support from the world community establishing a new framework. It is arbitrary because there is no one else to do it. But we cannot allow the United Nations to do so because it is not a "quick acting" body nor, under its present structure, a democratic body.

Lord Judd

My Lords, will my noble friend agree that if we had all been working flat out to achieve the reforms in the United Nations system which he advocates, our reservation about that system would be a good deal more convincing?

Lord Desai

My Lords, I know that my noble friend has written a report on the reform of the United Nations, but I believe that we should forget about the past and think about the future. There are problems to be overcome and I do not have the answers to all the questions. Sooner or later this lecture must end and it ends now.

10.43 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld

My Lords, what has made this debate so very important is that most if not all of us are convinced that Kosovo is a watershed in history. The Prime Minister said that this is not a battle for NATO or for territory; it is a battle for humanity. It certainly is. But it is also a battle in the national interest, in the interest of all democratic states, for the achievement of our avowed aim would have a definite deterrent effect on other transgressors, whether on the banks of the Tigris, in the Afghan hills or indeed in the Colombian jungles. It is a war, not a "conflict" or a "campaign", a war in defence against a threat to peace in a region within an hour's flying time from the heartland of Europe. If we fail or succumb to an unworthy compromise, fudge or split the difference, we shall leave a legacy of slaughterhouses, bonfires of inanities and a record of self-deception or even hypocrisy in the annals of history.

Having listened to the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, the noble Lords, Lord Shore and Lord Stoddart, I shall think twice before drawing historical parallels or indulging in terminological exercises comparing holocaust, genocide. ethnic cleansing, Hitler versus Milosevic. As someone, who has had more than tangential personal experience and indeed a lifelong involvement with the exploration. of the horrors of the Third Reich, I say with diffidence that, although Milosevic, Mladic and Karadzic lag behind the Nazis in the thoroughness and sophistication of mass destruction, some of the Serb soldiers and police, and certainly the para-military gangs, have nothing to learn from the panzer movement of the SS In fact, I dare pay them the ghoulish compliment that, in relation to sheer brutality, inventiveness and the minutiae of torture, slaughter and rape, they are a notch higher in the league table of evil.

It is gratifying that our Government have so far never faltered in their resolve, and I hope that they will not yield to false blandishments or fallacious compromise. The main allies hold fast so far: President Clinton is by now used to fighting simultaneous battles on different fronts quite deftly, but it is to be hoped that—and here I agree with and share the hope of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, whose speech I found very inspiring—our Prime Minister will use his influence to stiffen the President's resolve. Let it never be said that where there is no will there is a third way.

France has closed ranks; the red/green German coalition is still holding. There is some irony in the fact that the Conservative opposition in Germany is far less committed. Mr. Oskar Lafontaine's re-entry into German politics via militant pacifism reminds one rather sadly of Britain's Old Labour, indeed very Old Labour, when George Lansbury, in the years of Hitler's rise, led demonstrators against fascism in the morning and voted against the defence budget in the afternoon.

Who would not want a negotiated settlement rather than a continuing war? Such obvious mediators as Kofi Annan and Mr. Chernomyrdin must be left in no doubt about their brief. After all we have heard today, I do not consider that the Rambouillet terms are realistic. They are not real; they are surreal. An autonomy that forces Kosovar Albanians to live under the sovereignty of a regime that has perpetrated so much terror is unthinkable.

I agree with the commonly held thesis that the Russians have an opportunity to display moderation, skill and real statesmanship. However, in order for the Russians to be effective, they must have their hearts set on an outcome that also benefits their real interests. Therefore, they must be reassured that NATO's powers have no enduring political ambition in the Balkans that are exclusive or against their interests. The United States, as we all know, has no interest in staying there. The US would rather be shot of the whole thing. But the taxi driver in Moscow and the housewife in St. Petersburg do not think that. They are afraid of NATO.

There is much pseudo-historical argument mindlessly repeated about the whole region, full of half-truths. Of course the Russians have feelings of pan-Slav affinity and religious solidarity. However, in my view, those are secondary to the primordial fear that a NATO victory would set a precedent for future interventions in the innermost enclaves of the Russian Federation or heavy-handed action in parts of the former Soviet Union which are of vital importance to them for economic and strategic reasons, areas which border on the Russian heartland.

As for pan-Slavic feelings, I remind your Lordships that much of the glue that kept Tito's Yugoslavia together was the fear and suspicion of Stalin's Russia, which was only marginally assuaged in the Kruschev and Breshnev eras.

If Mr. Primakov or Mr. Chernomyrdin wanted to earn history's acclaim—granted that they have weak cards on the international game table today—they should emulate that great statesman Talleyrand, of whom it was said that he entered the chamber of the Congress of Vienna naked and emerged at the end with a velvet cloak. If a Russian leader now were to persuade a future Serb government that it should come to terms with the West and with NATO, then that Russian statesman could leave the negotiations with a sable coat. The Russians would then obtain rich rewards for their work and Russia would resurface as a truly important, constructive great power.

I believe that it is very important that we are aware of not just being engaged in a quixotic enterprise, insufficiently prepared and inadequately thought through as it may be. We are here concerned with proving to the Milosevics and Saddam Husseins of this world that, however cumbersome NATO's procedures may be, the perception that NATO is a bloated giant weighed down by sophisticated armour is mistaken.

Lastly, appeasement was a term first coined two generations ago in a situation in which a British Prime Minister may possibly have been excused because he wished to gain time to catch up with a better-armed opponent. Still, that appeasement did not stop a terrible war and ultimately, systematic genocide. Ever since then we have been debating about whether we did or did not know about Hitler's Final Solution and who were the guilty men and willing helpers: we are still arguing about those questions 50 years later.

Today in Kosovo we know the facts. We see them daily on our television screens. Many a foul deed is corroborated by countless testimonies. Are we to compromise? Are we to pulp all the books and video cassettes about the 20th century and displace the events of Kosovo in our consciences? Are we to leave Stone Age barbarism unpunished and condone the survival in power of heinous malefactors, now, in the last few months of a century in which man has cracked the secret code of life and set foot on the moon?

10.52 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, it has been a long and fascinating debate. It is now very late. Perhaps I may say to the Whips that it may have been fairer to have suggested a 10 minute advisory limit for speeches. Having said that, I shall now try to keep my closing remarks to within 10 minutes.

I agree strongly with what my colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said about limitations on sovereignty. The Prime Minister has been talking rather explicitly in some of his recent speeches about the doctrine of a just war. The doctrine of a just war was always a limitation on sovereignty. The doctrine of just resistance comes in against unjust sovereigns. It is extremely odd that we see in the UN at present China and Russia as the defenders of the principle of absolute sovereignty against those in the world who recognise that government is also a contract and that contract can be broken.

There has been a lot of talk this evening about rhetoric and action and how far we need to make sure that the actions which governments take now match the rhetoric. I agree strongly with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that there have been a number of mistakes. He mentioned Dayton and went back to the recognition of Bosnia. I would go back further to the summer of 1991 when the European Union, lightly and without thinking through the implications, thought that it could manage the problem of the break up of Yugoslavia and the Americans signalled that it was nothing to do with them and they would leave it to the Europeans. There was a lot of rhetoric without thinking through what the implications were.

A few people within the European Union said at the time that we should contemplate the break-down of relations between Croatia and Serbia and in particular in relation to Bosnia that a small number of troops on the ground was what was needed. Had we put in a small number of troops on the ground in the summer of 1991, we might have averted a great deal of pain, agony and casualties since then. That would have been a just war and proportional force.

What have we learned? We have learned clearly that we need a far more coherent European framework for foreign policy and defence. If we had had one in the summer of 1991 we would have been able to do more. My party has for a long time been committed to the principle of a stronger European defence initiative, and we welcome the extent to which—now covered over by the immediate crisis—the Franco-British initiative is moving forward to provide just what we did not have at an earlier stage in this long and painful crisis.

It is also clear to me that we need to redefine the transatlantic partnership by recognising that there has to be a greater European share both of the burden and of the responsibility in the European region. Many of us have some doubts about the consistency of American leadership in this crisis, but at the same time we recognise that it is entirely reasonable for American senators and congressmen to ask why Kosovo is their responsibility and their quarrel and why the Europeans cannot play a larger role.

The noble and gallant Lords, Lord Inge and Lord Bramall, the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and others have said that the implications for British defence needs and capabilities, manpower and reserves also need now to be reconsidered. The SDR was very worth while under different circumstances, but some of its conclusions now need to be reopened, not just within a British context but also within the European context, moving on from the Washington NATO communiqué, with its welcome for a stronger and more cohesive European contribution, to the Cologne European Council in June.

Where do we go now? I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that time is not on our side. We have refugees in tented camps. There is a hot summer coming up, in which disease may well spread rapidly through those camps, and after that a bitter winter, in which the refugees may suffer in all sorts of other ways. Roads will become impassable, first through mud and then as the snow comes down. If we are to do something before the winter, we shall need forces on the ground earlier; we need to try to get some of the refugees back into Kosovo before next winter.

I must express my surprise, and the surprise of some of my colleagues, that we have not seen more in the way of pre-positioning of forces and equipment in the region, both as a signal to the Government of Serbia and as an indication that we can act quickly when necessary. I must also express my surprise that a second battle group has been put into Macedonia, when we know how difficult it is to move from Macedonia into Kosovo, rather than its being put into northern Albania, where one might have thought it would now be useful to have rather heavier British as well as other forces, and indeed to he doing something about the appalling state of the roads, transport and equipment there.

The Minister may be able to tell us what role is seen for the KLA in the resolution of the conflict. The KLA is clearly part of the problem, but it may also, as with the Croats in Bosnia, have to be part of the solution. The KLA originally had many dubious connections, particularly in northern Albania, but it has been recruiting a large number of new recruits from among the refugees, and therefore it perhaps provides part of the solution.

It is important that we do not demonise the Serbs and Serbia. I felt uneasy as the noble Lords, Lord Merlyn-Rees and Lord Crickhowell, talked about the lessons of the history of the Balkans, the extent to which these people have been killing each other for years and years. I remind the House that in 1990 the most predicted conflict in the region was over Transylvania, between the Hungarians and the Romanians. It was in Transylvania in 1990. One has only to go into Orthodox churches in the region to see murals of wicked Catholics slaughtering the Orthodox people to recognise how close to the surface some of the hatred was between the two religions and ethnic communities.

That conflict did not break out because political and military leadership in those two countries worked hard to prevent it. The conflict broke out in Yugoslavia because particular political leaders—Milosevic, above all, must share some of the responsibility—worked to use ethnic conflicts to maintain military power.

It is important that we construct a civil society in Serbia after the war. I speak with some passion on the subject, having taught a number of Serbs over the past five years. I do not demonise all Serbs. It is important to keep avenues open and to recognise that Britain and others have a large role to play in retraining afterwards.

We should not compromise with Milosevic. note that the Prime Minister has used extremely strong words in that respect and that the NATO Washington statement on Kosovo says that there can be no compromise on those conditions and that we hold Milosevic and the Belgrade leadership responsible for the safety of all Kosovar citizens. I am a little nervous of the rather more wobbly language of the G8 communiqué. We succeeded in getting General Meciar out of power in Slovakia by maintaining a level of sanctions rather lower than those we are currently maintaining on Serbia. That should be part of the way in which we approach the resolution of the Serbian conflict.

Lastly, we need to think much more clearly about our preparations for the situation once the conflict is over. We should recognise how wide a commitment western Europe and NATO are making to the whole of south-eastern Europe. The language of the Washington communiqué, of the German presidency proposal for a stability pact for south-eastern Europe and of the speeches of the Prime Minister in Chicago, Skopje and Bucharest, with their references to a Marshall plan, is strong. We are talking about extending NATO and EU membership over the next 15 to 20 years to all the countries of that region. Many are extremely weak, scarcely viable states such as Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia. There is the issue of what we do with Kosovo, the need to rebuild Serbia and to make Croatia a state with which we can live within the European Union. We must also do something about Bosnia, and Romania and Bulgaria are not yet entirely stable.

That is not just a British task; it is a massive reconstruction of European order over the next 15 to 20 years. That needs a great deal more thought, sober debate and recognition of the long-term implications, political, institutional, financial and military, of the commitments that our governments are now making as a response to the immediate crisis.

11.2 p.m.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, local elections apart, the timing of this debate is immaculate. I am sure that the Minister will welcome the opportunity of explaining to your Lordships exactly what happened today at the G8 summit in Bonn. The Russians appear to have gone at least half way towards the NATO view with regard to an immediate end to violence and the withdrawal of the Serbian troops from Kosovo.

Clearly, NATO and the Russians are not entirely at one on that, but I hope the noble Baroness will be able to explain the situation. Of course, we wish to know whether the bombing is to continue, and to what degree NATO will be able to protect refugees.

A further point is what is the reasoning and effect of the fact that Milosevic has "let out" Mr. Rugova, who must be assumed to be a quietening influence on Serbian activities? Also, it is reported that Milosevic is saying that he will accept the deployment of international forces inside Serbia and the withdrawal of Serbians from Kosovo. I hope the noble Baroness will be able to help us on those points.

This has been a fascinating debate. We have heard every opinion from the hawk to the dove in a big way. Speakers divided between the ethical and the strategic in their discussion of the problems of Kosovo, and so much the better for that. One of my noble friends, on a brief visit to the Front Bench after listening to one noble Lord speaking, said to me, "He would never he allowed to get away with that in another place". That is probably correct and, without saying which noble Lord it was, the speech was fairly notable.

At this stage I should say how grateful I am, as are many other noble Lords, to the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, for the help he has given us in informing us about affairs in Kosovo; for giving us maps of Kosovo which show—something which, naïvely, I never knew—that Kosovo is almost exactly the same size and around the same shape as Northern Ireland; and for the many other briefings he has given us on events as they develop. He has taken great care to do that for a number of noble Lords.

Nearly 200 years after Clausewitz educated the world in the principles of warfare, it is still necessary to quote him to solve our political problems. At the beginning of the crisis in Kosovo the leaders of all the countries which were to be involved should have been repeating Clausewitz, as Sir Michael Howard emphasised, when he said, Nobody starts a war, or rather no one in his senses should do so, unless he knows what he intends to achieve by it". There is little doubt that the NATO countries failed adequately to think through the consequences of their actions. That, combined with the militancy of the former peaceniks in this country—many of them now sitting on the Government Front Bench in another place—who were, not surprisingly, shocked at the activities of the Serbians against their neighbours, together with the political problems at home of that known military expert President Clinton, have brought us to the terrifyingly dangerous position we are in today.

But there is no point in saying, "I told you so" or arguing that a different policy should have obtained. This is the position we are now in and the only sensible thing to do is to know what to do next. We now have a clear statement that the NATO objective is to make possible the return of all the Kosovar refugees to their homes under effective international protection, and it looks as though the recent action of the Russians may help some way towards that. But it will never be simple. There seems no doubt that, barring the elimination of Milosevic, we shall have to negotiate with him. He is not only a war criminal; he is also the possessor of a very dodgy negotiating record.

The political problems are of immediate urgency and seem intractable. Even if they are solved, there will remain the longer-term problems of reconciliation and reconstruction. And "longer" is something we do not have. By October of this year, as a number of noble Lords pointed out, the weather will be deteriorating to the stage where the Kosovars who have been thrown out of their homes and are now either in refugee camps or hiding in the hills, will find it difficult to survive.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, said that we are planning to have troops in Macedonia throughout the winter. It seems that there are two alternatives. Either the war has to accelerate so that the refugees are back in their homes before the winter, or the camps have to be winterised to cope with the conditions which will inevitably exist. That point was emphasised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who made it clear that if the latter alternative is the answer, work would have to start now. If work starts now, it will give an immense boost to Milosevic, who will know that NATO recognises that it is unlikely to win at least in the short term. The scale of the humanitarian disaster we see at the moment is nothing to what it will be if the war—for war it is—drags on into the winter and beyond.

What has happened so far has been entirely predictable. It may be that those who criticise the Government for their lack of foresight are being unfair, for they were able to know, and possibly did know, exactly what would happen. The increasingly vicious ethnic cleansing could not have been prevented by NATO and the surrounding countries making preparations to receive its victims. My noble friends Lord Crickhowell and Lord Blaker criticised the lack of long-term planning, and that is undoubtedly a justified criticism, but the Government are probably right to believe that that would have endorsed and underwritten the process and encouraged Milosevic to proceed with his plan. On the other hand, there is a valid criticism that, since a tragedy can seldom have been so predictable, the failure to appreciate what was bound to happen was inexcusable.

A number of noble Lords have commented on the failure of strategic, or indeed of blanket bombing to successfully defeat, or even to demoralise, an enemy. My noble friend Lord Dartmouth made this point. Coventry, London, Stalingrad and even Dresden survived in spite of the thousands of tons of metal which were poured upon them; neither did the bombs succeed in unseating the countries' leaders.

The morale of the Serbian army was touched upon. It is probable that the intelligence available to the Serbian generals and their knowledge of the precision bombings that would take place must have made infinitely depressing reading.

Tough as were the people of London in 1940, they are probably scarcely in the same league as the Serbians. Their devotion to Churchill was similar to that of the Serbians to Milosevic. However heinous Milosevic's crimes, the effect of the bombing seems to have been to bind the people more closely to him. Spinning worthy of Mr. Blair himself will be necessary to untie the bonds between Milosevic and his people.

In this sense, I should like to ask the Minister to tell noble Lords the degree of penetration into Serbia of NATO-based television programmes, such as those put out by CNN, and radio. How far are the Serbian people aware of what is going on? Are they aware of what is being done in their name? If they are aware, is there any indication that they mind about it?

If the minds of the Serbians are being fed with news from NATO, what about their bodies? No doubt the bombing is being carried out with commendable accuracy, and there is obviously a shortage of oil, however much is slipping through from countries sympathetic to the Serbs, but how long can the country continue without such essential supplies in a land as basic as Serbia? If this was the Serbia of 1942, there is little doubt that the armed forces would decamp to the hills and fight on from there. Is that action practical today? If it is, then it is estimated that NATO will need at least 150,000 men to go in on the ground, but NATO has not got anything like those numbers.

Obviously, I would not expect the noble Baroness, or indeed the noble Lord on another occasion, to give details of strategic plans, but there is no doubt whatsoever that we are not in a position to really get at the Serbians on the ground. The noble Lord castigated me in our last debate for even suggesting the possibility that ground forces might be used. Doubtless the work has now been done to evaluate all the alternatives, and maybe the noble Baroness will be able to tell noble Lords which of the alternatives is the least depressing.

As I said earlier, this has been a fascinating debate. I should like to comment particularly on what I would describe as "the gang of four"—namely, the noble and gallant Lords. Unfortunately, I did not hear the speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who I see is not now in his place, because I had left the Chamber in order to listen to the 9 o'clock news broadcast. However, I found the expertise and professionalism of the other noble and gallant Lords, especially the tough stuff given to us by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, most impressive. I hope that the advice that these noble and gallant Lords have been giving your Lordships and the Government will be listened to.

Many noble Lords talked about our lack of personnel and of people who can conduct such affairs on the ground. The SDR cannot be made to take all the blame for the shortage of front line troops, but what seems to be an inadequate strategic appreciation of demand has not helped. The assumptions about the duration of expeditionary involvement have immediately been overridden by the open-ended military commitment to Kosovo, including the commitment to continuing military supervision to give effect to whatever settlement is reached, when it is reached. We just do not have the men to do it.

The fundamental problem which the SDR failed to address was overstretch. It was always serious, but the problem of insufficient numbers has now been accentuated by expanding policy objectives. The SDR took place not so long ago and the planners, then largely concerned with Bosnia, must have appreciated that Bosnia was not the only country in the Balkans with problems. Is it disingenuous to suggest that the end of the Cold War led the planners to think that any other major conflict was unthinkable?

The United States is showing itself to be less than sympathetic to the objectives of its rulers. Here in this country the British Government are assured of continuing support in Parliament, but that support cannot be unconditional. Indeed, a number of noble Lords made that point clear this evening. Apart from the problems of the refugees, we are entitled to ask what more we in the Alliance can do to bring these military operations to an acceptable conclusion and, as importantly, when we can do it, certainly before the winter. If we are to do it, how are we, the NATO Alliance, even if we can keep all 19 countries on board, going to man the borders and the streets of the towns of Kosovo?

On a previous occasion I reminded your Lordships of the early days of the Northern Irish problems in the late 1960s. We went in with the Army to protect the Catholic population. Within months they were shooting the soldiers in the back; and continued to do so for 30 years. What assurances can there possibly be that the same thing will not happen in Kosovo? It looks as if what we have is ethical imperialism. I do not know whether this is desirable, but it is not going to make the life of anyone concerned with our military commitments and our military forces any easier.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lauderdale for stating that he will not divide the House on his amendment. I am sure that that would have been of no benefit to anyone. We do appreciate the concern that he and other noble Lords have expressed, but I believe that we should tonight give our wholehearted support, in general, to the Government in what they are doing.

11.18 p.m.

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

My Lords. I should like to thank all noble Lords who participated in today's debate. It has been a wide-ranging, comprehensive discussion covering many aspects of the current situation, not only in Kosovo, but also in neighbouring countries. Many opinions have been expressed about how and why this campaign began and about how we should proceed; and, indeed, about what may eventually happen. However, I believe that the House is largely united on one point; namely, our condemnation of the murderous brutality of the Milosevic regime. We are also united in our repugnance and loathing for the ruthless oppression and in our disgust at the daily reports of forced evacuation at gun point. of the murder of men, some of whom are very young—boys in their early teens—some of whom are very old—men far too old to fight—and, of course, of the outrageous rape of women and teenage girls.

When NATO action began against Belgrade my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said, Britain is a peaceful nation. We are a peaceful people who take no joy in war but we know from our own history and from our own character that there are times when we have to stand up and fight for peace". Some noble Lords have expressed doubt about the clarity of our objectives. Some have said that we have not thought through what we are doing. That point was made notably by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, and certainly not for the first time. I am bound to say that I continue to find that hard to understand. From the outset our objectives have been clear. They have not changed. They were set out by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on 23rd March when the campaign began, and reiterated by him on 13th April, and again by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on 19th April, and several times since. The whole of NATO reaffirmed them at the Washington Summit on 25th April. They have been made clear not only in another place but also in your Lordships' House and to the British public.

As to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, of course there are contingency plans. That was made clear earlier by my noble friend Lord Gilbert. But I stand by what I said; namely, that of course situations develop, as do plans. That was an entirely reasonable, and—if I may say so—a not very remarkable point to have made.

There are others—notably the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney—who seem genuinely to believe that if only we had tried harder and if only we had gone that extra mile diplomatically, military action could have been avoided. As the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, said, memories sometimes are painfully short. Let us not forget the enormous efforts made only last year to avoid military action through negotiation. In June, and again in October, President Milosevic gave his word that he would stop his ruthless and murderous oppression. He gave his word not only to us but also to President Yeltsin in July. Again and again he broke his word.

Let us not forget how hard we tried to solve this crisis diplomatically. The diplomatic path was followed as far as it could lead us. The Contact Group, comprising France, Germany, Italy, the United States, the EU Presidency, and, crucially, the Russians, as well as ourselves, worked month after month to pave the way for the text that was drafted at Rambouillet in February. The two sides were closeted together with the negotiators for two-and-a-half weeks at Rambouillet, and again the broad outlines of an agreement were reached.

The Kosovo Albanian side committed themselves to consult. When the talks reconvened in Paris they were ready to sign the agreement. When Milosevic's negotiators returned it was to go back on the undertakings they had made at Rambouillet. Let us not make any mistake about that. Even then we could not trust Milosevic to honour his word. We knew that while he had been pretending to negotiate he had been assembling 40,000 troops and 300 tanks in and around Kosovo. I say to my noble friend Lord Stoddart of Swindon, we went the extra mile at every single stage doing what we could to negotiate a way out for Milosevic, trying to find a way for him to back down. He refused on every one of those occasions.

I understand the points made so eloquently by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London about the fears of some of our friends in Russia. However, I hope that they, and indeed he, and the noble Lords, Lord Campbell of Croy, Lord Eden of Winton, and Lord Shore of Stepney, will take heart from the statement issued in Bonn, as we have been debating this matter this afternoon. The statement includes an immediate and verifiable end to violence and repression in Kosovo; the withdrawal from Kosovo of military, police and paramilitary forces; the deployment in Kosovo of effective international civil and security presences endorsed and adopted by the United Nations capable of guaranteeing the achievement of the common objectives; the establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo, to be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations, to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants in Kosovo; the safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons and unimpeded access to Kosovo by humanitarian aid organisations; a political process towards the establishment of an interim political framework agreement providing for a substantial self-government for Kosovo, taking full account of the Rambouillet accord and the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity for the FRY and other countries in the region; and the demilitarisation of the UCK, otherwise known as the KLA. It is a comprehensive approach to the economic development and stabilisation of the crisis region, which is very important in view of what the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said.

In order to implement these principles, the G8 Foreign Ministers instructed their political directors to prepare elements of a United Nations Security Council resolution. The G8 presidency will inform the Chinese Government about the results of today's meeting. We are asking the political directors to draw up a road map of further concrete steps towards a political solution and Foreign Ministers will reconvene in due time to review the progress.

This is a very good outcome and a significant step forward. We are clear—"we" are clear—that the presence in Kosovo will be a military one with a NATO core. The House and the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, may like to know that Dr. Rugova, speaking to the press in Rome, has said that a military force would be necessary for the return of refugees and that the military force would include NATO and Russian forces.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. I shall not intervene again. What reassurance can the Minister give the House about the element she mentioned with regard to a NATO core of support. That does not appear in the communiqué that we have received.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, it does not. That is why I stressed the "we" in the way that I did. It is not in the statement; it is a point that I wanted to make on behalf of Her Majesty's Government. I am glad that the noble Baroness asked for clarification. I would not like to think that there is any doubt on that point.

We believe that the statement is entirely consistent with what we in NATO have put forward, otherwise we would not have agreed it. We believe also that this is something which clearly sets out to Mr. Milosevic how he can end this crisis.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, perhaps I may ask my noble friend a very quick question. She said that there will be a NATO military core. Does that mean that the force will be NATO-led?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I did not say that there will be unequivocally. I made very clear to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, what had been said in the communiqué from Bonn, which was that there would be a force of the kind I have described. I then made it clear to your Lordships—it was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, had specifically asked me to address—that, as far as concerns Her Majesty's Government, we would expect there to be a NATO core. I have also made it clear to your Lordships that political planners will now carry forward this work and that Foreign Ministers have agreed to reconvene. We have made substantial progress. I do not for one moment think that the work is completed, otherwise we would not be asking our political planners to come back and put more flesh on those points.

Lord Eden of Winton

My Lords, in relation to the NATO military core, the noble Baroness says that this is what the British Government hope will happen. Do the Government have any view on the extent of support they would be likely to receive from the other governments of the G8 nations?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, we have asked the political planners right across the G8 to go on working on the programme I have outlined. As noble Lords will appreciate, I have been sitting on the Front Bench all afternoon listening to the very interesting contributions from your Lordships. Noble Lords may have seen me darting backwards and forwards to the Box, but the fact is that I do not have full background briefing. I have been able to give your Lordships a full account of what I know so far. I very much hope that on a future occasion, probably very soon. I shall be able to put more flesh on the bones that I have been able to outline to the House. For moment, I think it would he unwise for me to go any further than I have been able to go.

Of course—

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend. But can she be clear? When she talks about a NATO "core", is she talking about a "c-o-r-e" or a "c-o-r-p-s".

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

"C-o-r-e", my Lords. I wish all questions were as easy to answer.

Of course the United Nations is involved as well. The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and we have kept the UN fully informed on developments over recent months. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, stated, last year's resolutions warned very clearly of a threat to the regional peace and security and of a humanitarian catastrophe if Milosevic did not stop the repression in Kosovo. The noble Baroness made those points very clearly.

I know how passionately my noble friend Lord Judd made his point. But perhaps I may remind him, too, that this year, in late March, UN debates showed strong support for NATO action. A draft resolution proposed by the Russians on 26th March condemning that action was heavily rejected by 12 votes to three. The UN remains involved. I stress that very forcefully. The UN Secretary-General rightly continues his involvement. We welcome his initiatives and in particular his strong statements in support of NATO action. His appointment of Special Envoys to Yugoslavia will further bring home to Milosevic the UN's deep concern at the situation in Kosovo and the need for him to accept NATO's entirely justified demands.

But some noble Lords have questioned the legality of what NATO is doing—in particular the noble Lords, Lord Kennet, Lord Belhaven and Stenton and Lord Jenkins of Putney, and the noble Earl, Lord Drogheda, and of course the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, in his amendment. Let me be clear on this point. Every means short of force was taken to avert military action. When it became clear that every other possibility was exhausted, then, and only then, was action taken. In these circumstances, and as an exceptional measure on grounds of overwhelming humanitarian necessity, military intervention was and is entirely justifiable, as my noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede emphasised.

Let me reiterate the reply I gave in a Written Answer on 16th November: Cases have … arisen … when, in the light of all the circumstances, a limited use of force was justifiable in support of purposes laid down by the Security Council hut without the council's express authorisation when that was the only means to avert an immediate and overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe". — [Official Report, 16/11/98; col. WA 139.] I stand by that Written Answer.

This action is supported by the 19 countries of NATO, 19 democracies with independent judiciaries who believe in human rights and the rule of law, and many like-minded countries besides.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, raised questions about the United States. Of course there are disagreements in the UN Congress about the way forward in Kosovo. But what is clear is that the United States Government are as fully committed as we are to pursuing NATO's action until our objectives are met. The Russian Special Envoy. Victor Chernomyrdin, was received at the highest level in Washington last week, and President Clinton is again demonstrating that commitment during his visit to Europe this week.

Many noble Lords have understandably concentrated on the difficult questions surrounding refugees. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was in Macedonia on Monday. He had the opportunity to visit one of the main refugee camps there and was strongly impressed by the determination of refugees to return home to Kosovo, a point about which many noble Lords expressed some doubt. Those refugees urged the Prime Minister to continue his support for the NATO action until a comprehensive and fail-safe political settlement had been reached allowing them to return safely to their homes. The Prime Minister made clear to the refugees that we would not let them down. I repeat that assurance to your Lordships. We shall not let them down.

At the same time, my right honourable friend asked the Macedonians to maximise the care and protection that they could provide in the region by keeping the borders open and allowing the building of new camps. Some 675,000 refugees have now left Kosovo. We should not forget the vast number of people inside Kosovo who are displaced from their homes.

I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, that we do not expect the countries neighbouring the FRY to support the refugees without considerable international support. That is why the Prime Minister announced that our bilateral aid since 24th March would be doubled from £20 million to £40 million. The noble Baroness may also wish to know that the donor conference yesterday pledged 250 million US dollars of immediate budgetary and balance of payments help to Macedonia. It agreed to meet again in the early autumn to review future needs. We made a new pledge of £5 million to strengthen the capacity of the Macedonian Government to take forward reform and mobilise promises of aid from the international donor community. I hope that that news from yesterday reassures the noble Baroness, who raised important points.

We are working alongside UNHCR to ensure that refugees from Kosovo receive care and protection. Our preference is for this to be in the region. This is also the preference of most of the refugees. But where care and protection are not available we have promised to respond to the requests of UNHCR to relocate refugees in the United Kingdom.

I remind noble Lords that over the past three to four years 8,000 Kosovar asylum-seekers have been in the UK. The Government have long said that they stand ready to receive thousands of refugees from Kosovo, and we have begun the process. There will be further flights next week and they will build up in the following weeks to five to seven flights per week, leading to a weekly total of about 1,000 in-comers.

No Kosovar Albanian who is in the UK, or who arrives here independently, will be sent back to the region while the conflict lasts.

The Home Office is working with the Refugee Council, its partner agencies and the local government associations to identify suitable accommodation for the evacuees. Naturally we are anxious to keep family units together, as noble Lords would expect, and we shall ensure that the choice of reception centres reflects this.

Our objectives in offering assistance to the region are to save lives, protect the rights of refugees, encourage tolerance in host countries towards refugees, plan for new contingencies, including access to Kosovo when the security situation allows, and to plan for refugee return. The Department for International Development has already committed over half of the total £40 million.

In answer to the particular point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, the United Kingdom is funding radio stations and recording special programmes for refugees to keep them in touch with events and family members. In co-operation with UNHCR, we have supplied 5,000 wind-up radios to enable people to receive programmes in Albania and Macedonia.

The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, asked about the extent to which we were able to penetrate the region. The BBC World Service has extended its coverage in Serbian, Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Greek, Romanian, Hungarian and English in that area. I can give details, but the clock is somewhat against me. I shall write to him with those details. In addition to the 13 million leaflets mentioned earlier by my noble friend Lord Gilbert, the FCO and MoD website has had 95,000 hits a day since the beginning of April and over 1,000 a day from Yugoslavia. That website is also being used very extensively.

We have provided direct support to Save the Children Fund, Oxfam and UNICEF. To reflect the priority we attach to keeping families together, we have also committed £2.5 million to the British Red Cross for issues to do with family reunification. Our aid has not just been in money and goods but has encompassed expert technical support on the ground. The Department for International Development has sent personnel to logistic cells on the ground to help distribute supplies. The 4,200 UK troops in Macedonia as part of the NATO force there are doing everything they can to assist the refugees. They took the lead in establishing Brazde refugee camp, which serves as an important transit area for people leaving Pristina for Skopje. NATO's ability to deploy personnel and resources at great speed has been an essential source of support to UNHCR.

As reflected in questions in your Lordships' House today, I should also say something about the countries neighbouring Kosovo. Some most directly affected have had to cope with enormous numbers of refugees crossing their borders. Others have been affected by economic and political fall-out of various kinds. We have given our full support to those countries which have taken the refugees, and shall continue to do so.

In answer to points raised by my noble friend Lord Desai and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, it must be self-evident that a major reconstruction programme will be needed as soon as the conflict in Kosovo is over, not just to rebuild the physical infrastructure damaged in the conflict—the destroyed homes, schools and public buildings—but also to make good the damage done to the economies of the region. The process is some time into the future.

Yesterday's donors' conference was a useful step along that road. But we are working hard with our partners in all the relevant organisations—the EU, the OSCE, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund—to take the planning forward. In particular, we are working on the stability plan for south-east Europe. I look forward to giving your Lordships more details of those important issues as the work proceeds.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, felt that we had been over-optimistic about how quickly the campaign might be resolved. The point was echoed by the noble Lords, Lord Blaker and Lord Burnham. I ask noble Lords to reflect on the wise words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, who spoke about the differences between the individual campaigns at different times, in different parts of the world, in different territories and with different objectives. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, for his words of understanding about how we have not bombed at times when we thought that civilian casualties were very likely indeed. His speech showed a good deal of insight.

We never expected to achieve our military objectives overnight. It will take time. But the Washington summit showed that the allies are united in their resolve to proceed with the air campaign and to intensify the pressure that is being put on Milosevic.

The noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, and others, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, asked how targets are chosen. I cannot go into details about a target policy any more than my noble friend Lord Gilbert was able to do; but I can say that all targets are selected and approved at the highest levels in NATO and that rigorous criteria are used to assess the suitability of any target, including its military utility and the risk of environmental damage or civilian casualties.

In response to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, NATO has no intention of bombing Vinca. But I was concerned--and I must raise this with the noble Lord—about his accusation of NATO having committed what he termed "murder". I have the greatest respect for the noble Lord—I hope that he will not mind if I say that I have a good deal of affection for him—but I must say that accusations of that kind really are way over the top and I hope that he will reflect on them in due course.

I believe that our military action is consistent with achieving our objectives. We are not attacking wholly civilian targets to kill, maim and demoralise the people of FRY. We are attacking oil supplies. communication links—including media links, as many noble Lords said—and other targets. But they are targets which help Milosevic to prosecute his war against the Kosovar people. The Government never believed that this could be a bloodless conflict. We cannot guarantee—we never tried to guarantee—that civilians will not be hurt or even killed. Such casualties are a source of genuine regret. The military conflict has yet to be fought that does not involve the risk of hurting the innocent. That is why the prosecution of war is such an awesome responsibility for any government.

Several noble Lords referred to what they termed "collateral damage". Like the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, I loathe that term. "Collateral damage" is a nice way of talking about unintended casualties, about killing people you are very, very sorry to kill. NATO action is in strict accordance with the rules of international law applicable in armed conflicts; and it is strictly limited to what is necessary to achieve our humanitarian objectives. I give the noble Baroness that assurance.

The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, in a contribution which I hope was largely rhetorical, said that he would like to know when the bombing would end. NATO will suspend its action when Milosevic meets our conditions, not when we meet his. The Balkans are littered with his broken promises.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, and the noble Lords, Lord Belhaven and Stenton, and Lord Shore of Stepney, raised questions about whether we had made things worse. I ask them to recall that in the summer of 1998 Serb security forces drove at least a quarter of a million Kosovar Albanians from their homes. They destroyed villages and crops; 2,000 civilians died between March 1998 and before the air strikes began. During the winter, we had information that the Serbs planned to destroy the KLA. Raca was an early example. Noble Lords will remember that on 15th January more than 40 people were killed. Before NATO started bombing on 24th March, the Serbs had destroyed many villages as well as their inhabitants.

With or without our air campaign, Belgrade would have moved fast to carry out its ethnic cleansing before we mobilised. But with our campaign, Milosevic is under pressure to stop his door-to-door brutality. Not taking action would have been worse and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, for her forthright points.

Many Americans are involved in the NATO operation, but I must tell my noble friend Lord Merlyn-Rees that more than one-third of NATO aircraft are from European and NATO countries—from 11 European countries in addition to the UK. The UK and France are providing about 20 per cent of alliance air assets. The European allies are also providing naval assets; 95 per cent of the troops on the ground in Macedonian are European.

Let us turn to ground troops. We said before the Rambouillet talks that an international military ground force would he necessary to secure long-term peace in Kosovo, to guarantee a cease-fire and to ensure a secure environment in which refugees can return to their homes. We are concentrating on what can be achieved through an effective air campaign, but I remind your Lordships that the NATO Secretary General, Mr. Solana, has been tasked by the NATO military authorities to update the planning for the ground forces in a variety of environments. Therefore, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, as he asked me to do, that no option has been ruled out. We have made it clear that Mr. Milosevic does not have a veto over our decisions. I have said that to your Lordships before, and I say it again with all the emphasis I can muster.

The gang of four was referred to: the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall, Lord Inge, Lord Craig and Lord Carver. I would add a fifth: the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. She spoke as forcefully about the forces as any of the noble and gallant Lords. A change in our force structure as a result of the SDR is designed to deal with crises of exactly this kind. The deployment to Kosovo will affect the state of implementation of some parts of the SDR, but it will not invalidate the SDR. If anything, events in the Balkans demonstrate that the results of the SDR are fundamentally correct, but I am sure that my noble friend Lord Gilbert and his colleagues in another place will study carefully all the points made tonight in your Lordships' House.

Important points were made, too, about the oil embargo. I propose to write to the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, about the points that he raised as regards the EU and a NATO maritime operation.

We have dealt today with the objectives of the action; with diplomacy; with legality; with the statistics of refugees and of aid; with the perpetrators of the action; with the military impact; with the politics of decision-taking; with the impact upon the economies of those countries most closely affected; and with our own military personnel.

What we cannot and what we must not forget is the point made by my noble friend Lord Hacking and the noble Baroness, Lady Strange. I refer to the people who are involved. Mrs. Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees briefed the Security Council again yesterday. As she said, the root cause of the crisis was the systematic and intolerable violence being waged against an entire population; nor was the refugee outflow new, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, told us. Last year more than a quarter of all asylum requests in Europe came from Kosovars. Until its withdrawal from Kosovo on 23rd March 1999, the UNHCR had been providing assistance to 400,000 displaced people or people otherwise affected by the fighting in the province and up to 90,000 refugees and displaced persons outside Kosovo. As of 4th May, she reported that there were 404,000 Kosovo refugees in Albania, 211,000 in Macedonia and 62,000 displaced persons in Montenegro. They show up as statistics but they are people. They are individuals. They are people with families.

I do not need any persuading, but I think that the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, was an enormously powerful one. There is nothing justifiable in taking unarmed people from their homes at gunpoint, separating husbands from wives, fathers from children, sons from mothers. There can be no reason for killing those husbands, those fathers, those sons in front of their anguished and terrified families or taking young girls to be repeatedly abused and raped by so-called soldiers and militiamen. Two thousand were killed before the bombing ever began. We simply do not know how many have been killed since.

These are not the terrible events of 50 or 60 years ago. They are happening now, they are happening this week, they may have happened today. We cannot and must not give any solace, sanction or excuse to those undertaking such terrible, inhumane and deliberately methodical acts.

I thank the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, for indicating that he will withdraw his amendment. I know from his contributions in the past how obviously sincerely he holds his views, but I honestly believe that he has made the right decision.

The conflict in Kosovo is not of NATO's making. We spent months trying to secure a political settlement, but Milosevic refused every opportunity for a peaceful solution. While he negotiated at Rambouillet, he built up his military forces. The humanitarian catastrophe that we had hoped to avert by prompt action has indeed happened. I pay tribute to all those who have worked to relieve the worst consequences of humanitarian disaster. I also pay tribute to our brave service men and women and give thanks to them, although I cannot emulate the eloquent way in which the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, did it. They have worked hard, risking their lives, to relieve the worst consequences in terms of human misery.

It is clear that with or without an air campaign Milosevic would have moved fast to carry out his ethnic cleansing plans before we could mobilise to stop those atrocities. Without the air campaign, he would have been under little pressure to stop the brutality.

Taking no action was not and is not an option for us. Military action was truly the last resort for NATO. If Milosevic continues to reject the path of peace and pursues his scorched earth campaign in Kosovo, NATO must see the job through until our objectives are fully achieved. Her Majesty's Government believe that this action is just. We are committed to it, but in no less measure are we committed to a just peace for Kosovo and for her neighbours.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, with British servicemen currently engaged, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Motion agreed to.