HL Deb 12 December 2000 vol 620 cc225-354

3.9 p.m.

Adjourned Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by the Lord Graham of Edmonton—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

My Lords, it is a privilege for me to open this important debate on the gracious Speech. I am sure that the House is looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft.

The gracious Speech contained a number of commitments which demonstrate that this Government are determined to continue to deliver a radical, modern and forward looking foreign and security policy and international development programme.

That programme requires full and active engagement in the international community. It can be pursued only in partnership with others. Through our membership of the European Union, the UN Security Council, the G8, NATO, and the Commonwealth, Britain can exercise far more influence over events in the world than we ever could by acting alone.

Britain is in a unique historical position to be a force for good in the world. But in an increasingly interconnected world old ways of working, such as traditional diplomacy, are no longer enough. The Government need to be able to act coherently in a world in which international events touch on the work of every government department and influence the lives of every individual. It is a world in which NGOs, civil society groups, and businesses increasingly operate across borders and a world in which people travel more than they ever have before.

The Government are determined to use Britain's position and influence to the full, drawing upon our diversity, our active NGO and business communities and our overseas contacts and friendships to help build bridges to a better future. Nowhere is the need to work with our partners clearer than in Europe. The contrast between the leading position and influence that Britain now has in Europe and the splendid isolation of four years ago could not be more dramatic.

Since 1997 the Government have amply demonstrated the benefits for Britain of constructive engagement in Europe. The issues at the top of the EU's agenda are Britain's priorities: economic and institutional reform, enlargement, and European security and defence policy. We are making significant progress in all those areas.

I am also pleased to be able to tell the House that only last month the Development Council agreed that EU aid should in future be focused more closely on poverty reduction. The UK was again a driving force behind that agreement.

The outcome of the Nice European Council was a tribute to four years of active engagement and hard work in building common positions and common understanding with our partners. Working together, we secured three strategic goals: by agreeing reforms to European decision making procedures, we opened the door to enlargement, thus paving the way for Europe to be re-unified after over forty years of artificial separation; by securing a re-weighting of votes, including more votes for Britain, we secured Britain's influence in the wider Europe of the future; and by securing agreement to the new security arrangements for European crisis management, we guaranteed a safer continent embedded in the transatlantic alliance.

This is the first time in an IGC that an increase in Britain's voting weight has been agreed. Although the weight of the smaller member states has been reduced, I can assure the House that Britain will remain a friend and a champion of their interests. I hope that those achievements will be welcomed by all in this House.

Recently in the press there has been much comment about the European security and defence policy and much scare-mongering by the party opposite about its implications for the transatlantic partnership. Let me make one thing clear: this Government want to see Europe's military capabilities strengthened so as to improve Europe's contribution to the collective security provided by NATO. NATO is, and will remain, the cornerstone of Britain's defence and security.

But we also want to give Europe credible military options where NATO as a whole is not engaged. Let me stress, there is no question of a European army. We are working with our partners for a progressive modernisation of European armed forces so that they are more deployable and sustainable. The recent Capability Commitment Conference identified a pool from which forces can be drawn on a case-by-case basis. Europe needs the capability to take military decisions and to take political control of crisis management operations where NATO as a whole is not engaged. We therefore welcome whole-heartedly the agreements reached at Nice.

The Government will continue to improve the effectiveness of our own Armed Forces. This year's three-year spending review includes the first real terms increase in the defence budget each year for over a decade. The Smart Procurement Initiative is driving down costs and cutting the time for new technologies being introduced into the front line. We have announced a massive building programme for warships and are looking forward to the roll-out of Euro-fighter.

Britain has a vital interest in strengthening the international institutions and the framework of international law. Together the international community can achieve far more than any one country acting alone. Environmental degradation, crime, disease, and financial instability know no national boundaries.

The Queen's Speech underlined the practical steps that this Government are taking to reinforce our partnership with the rest of the international community. We are committed to improving the United Nations' capacity to undertake peace-keeping operations. The Government have made it clear that they will work for the implementation of the Brahimi Report. We shall also continue to work to make the UN Security Council more effective and representative.

The trafficking in weapons must be brought under tighter control. The Government have already acted to tighten criteria for arms export licences, banned the export of landmines and torture equipment, and significantly increased transparency by publishing an annual report on strategic export controls.

As a further step, this Session the Government will publish in draft an export control Bill. That Bill will replace legislation that has been in place since the 1930s. It will introduce controls on trafficking and brokering in weapons, prohibit trafficking and brokering of equipment used in torture, and introduce controls on the transfer of technology by intangible means, such as e-mail or fax. The Bill will also strengthen controls on weapons of mass destruction.

Acting together, the international community must prove that the writ of international law runs even where chaos and lawlessness have had the upper hand. That is why the Government will bring the International Criminal Court Bill before this Session of Parliament. Passage of the Bill would allow Britain to be among the first 60 countries to ratify the treaty and thereby bring the court into existence. It is no longer acceptable to claim, as Milosevic and many others have, that crimes against humanity can ever be a purely internal matter. We need a new architecture of international law and practice that allows us to deal effectively with war criminals. Under this Government, Britain will be at the forefront of efforts to construct it.

Playing an active role in world affairs sometimes means talking to people with whom we do not share a common purpose. Even though we may have profound disagreements, where we believe that dialogue can produce benefits, we have followed a policy of critical engagement. Unfortunately there are still regimes whose values are so repugnant and whose repression of their people so cynical that serious dialogue is impossible. Continued isolation and international pressure are the only way to force a more responsible attitude from the rulers of Burma and Iraq.

But with Libya, with Iran and with Cuba we have upgraded relations and broken the logjam of diplomatic disputes left over from the previous government. That has brought benefits, including the extradition of the Lockerbie suspects and the lifting of the death threat against Salman Rushdie. While securing tangible benefits for Britain, we have put across our concerns on human rights issues and will continue to do so.

Today we have announced the opening of diplomatic relations with North Korea. We are following the advice of the South Korean President, Kim Dae-jung, who deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize this year for the way in which he has put into practice his firm belief in democracy and in pursuing peace through dialogue. I hope that we shall make our own contribution to easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

We in Britain, in Europe, and in the international community must reach out to embrace the people of the Balkans now that they have put conflict behind them. By clearing the path for the next waves of EU enlargement, the Nice European Council has brought them, too, closer to the goal of full reintegration into the European mainstream. There is now new hope, following years of anguish and suffering for the people of the region.

Milosevic was wrong to think that he could get away with the ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians. The NATO action halted the tide of hatred and helped to turn it back so that public anger eventually consumed Milosevic himself. But it is, above all, the courage and determination of the people of the region themselves which have opened up the prospect of completing the democratic map of Europe. Even a few months ago, a summit of EU and Balkans leaders similar to the one we have just had at Zagreb would have been unthinkable.

The Government have watched with grave concern the deterioration in the Middle East peace process since 28th September and the resulting escalation of violence. There can be no doubt that at the end of the day the only way the participants can settle their differences is through negotiation. We have been actively involved in urging the parties to step back from violence and return to negotiations on the basis of UNSCR 242 and 338.

When we sent British troops to Sierra Leone earlier this year, the rebels were threatening to take Freetown and once again plunge the whole country into chaos and anarchy. Within days, we had got British nationals out, got the UN troops in and driven the rebels back. I have no doubt that we did the right thing.

The Government had hoped that all sides of this House would agree on our responsibility to help save a Commonwealth country from falling under the control of people who commit horrendous crimes. But in this, I am sad to say, we have been disappointed.

Let there be no doubt about the purpose of our presence in Sierra Leone. We are standing up for the old core British values of common decency, humanity, fairness and justice. Make no mistake; we will not abandon those values.

Our efforts in Sierra Leone are an excellent example of how we are maximising the impact of British assistance through the close co-operation of the FCO, MoD, and DfID on the ground.

As Minister responsible, I am particularly heartened by the success which we have had in strengthening the partnerships between Britain and the countries of the Caribbean. The second UK/Caribbean Forum took place in London earlier this year. This led to several new initiatives which will be undertaken in partnership, including on inward investment, law enforcement and the establishment of a UK/ Caribbean Jurists Association. I was particularly struck by the open, friendly, and constructive exchanges that took place.

We also held the second Consultative Council with the Oversees Territories this year. I am particularly proud of the way in which we have forged a partnership not only between the Foreign Office and the territories, but a partnership across Whitehall in dealing with the territories and a partnership between the territories themselves offering mutual support, advice and expertise.

I would like to express my understanding for the disappointment that will be felt about the absence of the Overseas Territories Bill from this Sessions' legislative programme. I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm that the Government remain committed to introducing this legislation as soon as possible to ensure that our offer of citizenship, outlined in the White Paper, is delivered. We recently initiated a consultation process with the Overseas Territories on issues relating to the Bill and its implementation. This process puts us in a prime position to act as soon as the Bill becomes law.

Of all of the challenges facing the world community, the task of eliminating poverty must surely be one of the most daunting. The Government have increased their assistance for programmes in reforming countries. We are working to improve the quality of public expenditure management and reduce corruption. Yesterday the Government published a second White Paper on International Development entitled Making Globalisation Work for the Poor.

If globalisation is to work for poor people we need not just strong and vibrant private sectors, but also effective governments and strong and reformed international institutions. We need to work collectively to tackle the problems of conflict and corruption, boost investment in education and health, spread the benefits of technology and research, strengthen the international financial system, reduce barriers to trade, tackle environmental problems and make development assistance more effective.

The White Paper sets out the Government's policies in all these areas. It also announced the untying of all British development assistance. This will increase its effectiveness and put pressure on other countries to follow suit.

The Government share the deep concerns of the hundreds of thousands of people who have campaigned on debt, demanding that the rich countries address the huge mountain of unpayable debt carried by some of the poorest countries in the world. The UK has played a leading role in agreeing such action—we were a driving force behind the G8 debt initiative, agreed in Cologne last year, to cancel 100 billion dollars of debt. Twenty countries are expected to have qualified for the exceptional debt relief provided under the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative by the end of this year. This would mean debt relief of around 50 billion dollars being agreed.

In today's dynamic and fast moving world, government must have a modern policy-making process in order to be able to deliver our objectives effectively. Success is dependent upon working closely with other government departments and non-government actors, both in the UK and abroad. This requires an approach going beyond traditional diplomacy. One concrete example is the establishment, together with MoD and DfID, of two joint conflict prevention funds; one dealing with Africa and the other with the rest of the world. This is a new approach to pooling resources and will lead to more effective programmes.

The Foreign Office is opening up its policy-making process to benefit from the expertise which exists in the wider community. We have brought in experts from leading NGOs, including Amnesty, Oxfam, Save the Children Fund and WWF, to bring fresh thinking and expertise on cross-cutting issues. We are also increasingly involving NGOs and the business community in setting the agenda for the G8 and other international fora.

Diversity is one of Britain's greatest strengths. This is an asset, which can be used abroad as well as at home. We are working to strengthen linkages with ethnic minority communities in the UK in order to feed their views and concerns into the policy-making process.

We are also seeking to increase recruitment from the ethnic minority communities. The Foreign Office should reflect the face of modern Britain. I am pleased to say that the number of ethnic minority staff has risen by 50 per cent since 1997. And there are now more women ambassadors and heads of post and more women at director level than ever before.

The early 1990s saw the end of the Cold War. New states sprang up all over Europe and beyond, and with them new tensions and rivalries. The same period saw a revolution in globalisation with explosive growth in world trade and investment flows. The response of the previous administration was to squeeze the Foreign Office budget, cut staff and spread resources ever more thinly across an ever expanding network.

Things have changed under this Government. We are determined to give the Foreign Office the resources it needs. The latest spending round devotes an extra £¼billion for our diplomatic effort. This includes £64 million for the BBC World Service, which will allow it to expand and innovate; World Service Online now receives more than 31 million page impressions a month. We have also agreed a real increase in resources for the British Council of 9 per cent, £40 million in current terms, over the next three years. Together this represents a significant boost to public diplomacy.

Increasing resources and improving working methods has one goal: improving the standards of service that we can offer. Consular work is the main point of contact between the Foreign Office and the public. Every day, British people turn to our embassies for help when they run into trouble overseas. We take our obligations to them very seriously.

We are helping parents whose children have been abducted overseas to get them back. We are encouraging states to join the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction and to fully meet their obligations under it. But often the hardest abduction cases are with countries not party to the Hague Convention, particularly Shari'a law states such as Pakistan, Egypt and Lebanon. We are in the process of negotiating limited bilateral arrangements with these countries. Following an initiative through our embassy in Cairo, we are now working to improve the advice we give to those who wish to marry in other Shari'a law states.

We work with minority ethnic communities in the UK, human rights groups, the courts and the police to help young people who are forced into marriage overseas to get back to the UK. We have established a community liaison unit and launched an action plan with the Home Office. I take this opportunity to thank my noble friends Lady Uddin and Lord Ahmed for their work and support in this difficult area.

We are standing up for the human rights of British nationals in prison overseas. We have improved the quality and speed of our travel advice so that British people know that they can rely on it. We make increasing use of the Internet and have established call centres so that the public can expect help 24 hours a day. We offer a consular service that meets the needs of all of the people of Britain regardless of race, colour or creed. This year we became the first historically Christian country to open an office for the benefit of the 20,000 British Muslim citizens making the hajj. It helped over 2,000 of them directly.

The Foreign Office must continue to change to reflect the way that Britain is changing. I hope that all sides of the House join me in recognising the qualities of the Foreign Office which have not changed: the resilience, courage and professionalism of its staff. In October we unveiled a plaque to Brigadier Stephen Saunders, the defence attaché at our Embassy in Athens who was murdered by terrorists earlier this year. This was a tragedy for his family and a reminder to us all that the staff of our overseas posts are often in the front line of any threat to British interests abroad.

This Government have enhanced the respect in which Britain is held as a partner around the world. We have built on Britain's natural advantages as a pivotal player in the world's key networks: the EU, the G8, the Commonwealth, NATO and the UN Security Council. We lead the way in developing a true partnership with developing countries in the fight against poverty. Our influence makes us a key partner in western Europe for Russia, China and Japan. Our influence in the EU makes us the bridge between America and Europe. This Government will not opt out of Britain's international responsibilities or surrender its national interests. It is this Government who are equipped to lead Britain into a confident future.

3.32 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, clearly this will be a mammoth debate with the usual input of experience and wisdom that your Lordships bring to bear on world and international issues. I join the noble Baroness in saying how much I look forward to the first speech of my noble friend Lord Ashcroft. I also congratulate the noble Baroness on the huge coverage of her speech in a reasonably short time. I shall not be so successful because I intend to concentrate on the four issues mentioned in the gracious Speech in the order in which they emerged: the EU, NATO and defence developments, international peacekeeping and globalisation. Those are more than enough to fill any speech, and I hope that mine will not be too long.

I begin with the European Union which we discussed yesterday in considerable depth. One difficulty about further comment is that we still do not know the details. I do not believe that the draft treaty is available: certainly, I have not been able to lay my hands on it. Therefore, no one, including the Government, knows the full detail of what was agreed at Nice. Our debate will be somewhat limited by that lack of knowledge.

Clearly, what occurred over the weekend was only the prelude to a prolonged and massive debate that may go on for years about the future shape and structure of the enlarged Europe which we all hope lies ahead. I reiterate what I said yesterday. If the treaty which emerges consists only of the mechanical and institutional details necessary to facilitate that part of the enlargement process, which is not the major part, it is probable that we shall have quite a quick agreement without any particular worries. However, from what has already been said about the events at Nice, it appears that the treaty, which will certainly be full of integrationist baggage, will delay enlargement.

It is also fairly clear—we cannot be absolutely sure at this stage—that the decision-making procedures, far from being simplified, which was necessary, we were told, to streamline the sausage machine of more regulations, are to become more complicated. One does not know whether to laugh or cry about what emerges. It is difficult to determine whether it will make life easier or more difficult for the bureaucrats. What is certain—I and other noble Lords of my party on this side of the House have said as much—is that the integrationist model, in the sense of ramming more and more matters together and centralising decision making, is out of date. That belongs to a previous era of politics and management and will not produce the results we all want to see in the Europe of tomorrow. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr Mandelson, said yesterday that he thought the whole thing was dead and we could say goodbye to ever-closer union and the sacred words of the original Treaty of Rome. I believe that he is wrong. Although it is out of date and will not work, it is not dead. There is an apparent wish around to push people deeper and deeper into a sea of controls. It is completely Alice in Wonderland to describe that kind of development as "progress", "advance" or "faster track": it is slower track, regression and is certainly not an advance.

The other great debate concerns whether or not there is to be a superstate. The Prime Minister has assured us that that will not happen. Commissioner Chris Patten, my former colleague, has stated with his usual elegance that such a suggestion is bilge. I hope that those gentlemen are right and that they and others will help in the struggle to prevent the creation of a superstate, which is an out-of-date concept in the network world of tomorrow. The concept of a superpower, which crept into the Prime Minister's speech at Warsaw, also belongs to yesterday's thinking. Tomorrow's network world probably does not need superpowers—we already have a vast one—any more than it needs superstates.

The point that must be grasped by those who always seek to complete Europe, find solutions to it, achieve finalité and so on, is that there is no completion. The process of modernising Europe in a world of global information and networks will be subject to constant debate and negotiation. The task of those concerned with the interests and democratic values of this country and the free and independent set of states in Europe is to keep fighting, as far as possible, for an open Europe and a modern intergovernmental approach, which is what we favour.

As I said yesterday at this Dispatch Box, I confess to a little unease about the fact that somehow the big boys have ganged up on the small states. I am not sure that that is a healthy position from which Europe should develop. I am glad that Germany did not push its insistence on having a dominant position in the voting system. It was unwise for anyone in the Germany policy-making system to suggest to the Chancellor that that should be so. The German Chancellor was wise enough to withdraw the suggestion.

There is no doubt in my mind that the net outcome of the weekend is not very good for Europe. This morning many commentators in newspapers throughout Europe, including those in Germany and France, have said what perhaps should have been said more frankly yesterday; namely, that Europe is the loser from the developments over the weekend.

I move to the next issue on which the noble Baroness spoke at some length: NATO and the new European defence initiative. Obviously, the two issues are closely related. It has been made clear again and again, not in your Lordships' House, or in London at all, but elsewhere, that this is necessary for the further development of the political dimension of the European Union. I believe that the greatest worry of the military is that that somehow, quite aside from the intense need for better European co-operation and interoperability which we all recognise, is being used as part of a political chess game which does not necessarily relate to better defence for Europe.

I pointed out yesterday that so far as we can work out what was decided at Nice, the issues posed by Secretary Cohen about the future of defence in Europe seem to remain unanswered. I asked whether we were going to have a single command structure, a single operational planning system and a single headquarters; without those, as Mr Cohen observed, NATO becomes a relic.

This morning I had drawn to my attention a remark made by General Wesley Clark in the Washington Post last week. He said: At best, the Europeans will remove the deputy commander, planners and key staff from the NATO chain of command headed by the American supreme allied commander, Europe, in order to plan and head missions by a purely European rapid reaction force... At worst, the Europeans will create a new headquarters with additional planners that will simply be redundant and competitive to those within NATO". We can all produce quotations on what the Americans have said about the matter. This shows that the Americans are extremely worried. It is a little naughty of Ministers to mislead us into believing that the Americans are absolutely on board and not worried at all. They were worried; they are worried. That should be recognised. Perhaps it would have been better if it had been recognised from the start.

There is then the answer I received yesterday to the questions I asked concerning what Secretary Cohen had asked in a more public way. The answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, was, No, no. no".—[Official Report, 11/12/00; col. 129.] I am not sure whether I have heard that phrase before, but that is what she said. I accepted that at the time. However, as the papers began to appear from Nice, I received a document which is Annex VII to the Presidency Conclusions about the defence arrangements—Standing Arrangements for Consultation and Co-operation between the EU and NATO. That document appeared today. It is signed by the Prime Minister and other European leaders. The document states: The entire chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation, after consultation between the two organisations". That is NATO and the EU. So there is to be a separate chain of command. It is not accurate to tell me that the answer is No, there is not to be one. With all fairness to your Lordships' House, that needs correction. I am sorry to have to identify that clear error.

Perhaps I may strike a more constructive note. We need to recognise that NATO is not perfect or entirely attuned to the needs and defence problems of the next 20 or 30 years. As no doubt experts in your Lordships' House will tell us today, there has been a revolution in military affairs which means that, among other things, new technologies can completely undermine the traditional assumptions upon which defence is organised. Our enemies will be completely different. They may not even be nation states. We are left wondering how vulnerable Britain is today to the latest missile technology which may be deployed not by openly hostile power blocs or even by nation states. Are we still safe under an umbrella where we have lived in safety for 50 years, or should we join the Americans who, under President-elect Bush—if that is the outcome—or President-elect Gore, are bound to push ahead with SGI? That seems to be overwhelmingly agreed. Is our plan to give them facilities at Fylingdales and Menwith Hill, or would we be better defended if we joined with them in the new strategic technology? These are issues that those concerned with defence policy in the Government should be addressing and possibly sharing with us. They are not tomorrow's issues; they are today's issues.

I want to say a word on peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions referred to in the gracious Speech. Here the international debate is in fascinating turmoil. We have moved into an era of humanitarian warfare and intervention in domestic jurisdictions. That takes us well away from the traditional stance of the UN and indeed the UN Charter. The decisions to put troops into Kosovo and then bomb Serbia were turning-point decisions in the handling of international peacekeeping and affairs. In my view, and it is the view of many people, the intervention changed everything. It changed everything because it raised the question of what is lawful. If it was lawful, what was the basis of the legitimacy of the Kosovo intervention? I share the view of the noble Baroness that it was the right thing to do and that the outcome, although it will be a long time before we see it fully, will be a positive one.

But it was not the UN Security Council which gave us that authority. To get that authority 19 NATO nations had to be called together by Washington on the initiative of the State Department. They agreed that it would have a go at the project. The UN Security Council could not do anything. It was paralysed, as it had been throughout the Cold War when China and Russia took a different view and were not going to play. Therefore, it was a decision taken without any UN resolution behind it: it relied only on an interpretation of Article 32, which really stretched the point. It was quite unprecedented. It was a clear invasion of nation state sovereignty. The question that we have to ask is whether it is none the less a precedent for the future.

It is easy to describe why intervention might be necessary—genocide, massive human rights abuse, the atrocities that were going on in Kosovo and threats to international stability. The criteria for intervening have been spelt out again and again. They were spelt out by a committee I chaired in 1994. They were repeated last year by the Prime Minister in Chicago and also by the Foreign Secretary. We can all list the reasons why good and well-intentioned people should intervene in the horrors of the world. But who will decide when intervention is justified if the UN cannot get its Security Council act together, unless we reform the Security Council, which many hope will happen?

Every situation is different. The noble Baroness mentioned Sierra Leone. We are there. We are not part of the United Nations, although one government department wants us to be and another department does not. At the moment we are not, although, as we have been told by the noble Baroness, our job is to ensure that the UN activity is a success. It is also our job to retrain the Sierra Leone army and we have various other tasks. It must be a good thing. As the Foreign Secretary candidly said, if people go around cutting the limbs off children, that revolting action must be stopped. One cannot disagree. In the future we shall need to think more carefully about the basis of collective action, bearing in mind the lessons of Kosovo.

In Zimbabwe matters go from bad to worse. There we have probably rightly decided to do nothing, certainly nothing on the military side. But we also decided to say nothing. I feel less happy about that. The group of gangsters formed around Mugabwe do atrocious things and defy the rule of law. Perhaps the Government, who rightly pride themselves on their concern for human rights, should speak out more clearly.

The whole question of the legal basis for intervention is made more crucial now that we have, or it looks as though we shall have, a new player, the European rapid reaction force. By what criteria, and under what law, will it intervene with the Petersberg tasks? That will be very difficult. I note the allusion of the noble Baroness to the Bill on the International Criminal Court. We are not opposed to that but we shall need to look carefully at the details to ensure that it does not generate huge expense and add to the existing efforts to chase after the criminals and international atrocity-mongers who certainly should not escape.

I have a further point to make on international intervention. In his final days in office, President Clinton is moving on to the world stage. Only yesterday the White House put out a huge fact sheet on President Clinton's foreign policy, reminding us of all the achievements of American foreign policymaking. In a way it is a disturbing document because it is entirely American. It does not seem to recognise that this is now a collective business in a global setting and that almost every move—even for a superpower like America—has to be closely co-ordinated with the rest of the world. I suspect that this "America first" idea of projecting its policy and bringing along the allies afterwards may not be the best approach for calming the deteriorating Middle East crisis, to which the noble Baroness referred, where the real trouble is that there are no leaders. Both sides are now leaderless. The grim thought emerges that the only leader who is leading in the Middle East is our old enemy, Saddam Hussein, who is mounting new efforts to disrupt the entire Middle East scene, beginning with Jordan. We need to focus on that very worrying development.

Finally, I turn to the huge, almost theoretical, area of globalisation in the new foreign policy context. The White Paper on the elimination of poverty, although it does not contain many policies, strikes some rather good chords, at any rate for me. It recognises that globalisation is not divisive or polarising in social terms. At worst, it is neutral; at best, it can be a great leveller and a vast instrument for overthrowing caste, class, status and vast poverty disparities and bringing help, benefit and prosperity to the 70 per cent of the world who are not in on the global act at present and are not even in on the legal global economy in most cases. They have assets but they do not have the means to turn them into wealth or to attract the foreign investment that is flying around the rest of the world.

I agree with the White Paper that globalisation does not create poverty. The World Trade Organisation is the engine that should be supported, although it has not been very skilfully run so far. The White Paper is also suitably critical of the European Commission's efforts at dabbling in overseas aid. It does not quite go as far as Clare Short's earlier observation that the European Commission is the worst aid agency in the world, but it gets very near it. I believe that it is on to a good point.

The same forces that are driving globalisation are putting more power than ever in the hands of a mass of lobbyists, interest groups, giant transnational pressure groups, overnight alliances, web-linked communities and informal organisations—some good and some very bad and very sinister. We have seen the first fruits of that; in Seattle, Prague and the City of London, in our home-grown tax revolt and in Nice over the weekend. What we are seeing is the world's new nervous system—the constellation of world-wide and continuous communication—which is not under media or government control or indeed anyone's control. That, in turn, creates a new texture of international relations in which it is immediately apparent that the linkages are no longer confined to officialdom and formal relations between foreign ministries and government bureaucracies.

The international background to our discussions is changing its shape. Asia is rising again after the turmoil years, although Japan is still stagnating, and geographical blocs and alliances are beginning to lose their meaning. In this new world, the conditions are especially favourable to bodies such as the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, which we used to regard with affection but not as a major resource, actually turns out to be ideally organised as a network—a mass of non-governmental as well as official bodies stretching across 53 nations—to suit the age of information technology. In this new and different world a clear alternative vision is badly needed for protecting our country, projecting our influence, furthering our interests and networking with our friends, who are many, although some are sadly neglected.

I conclude on this note. In the new conditions imposed by the global network, the first priority of national government leaders must be to define with much greater clarity and national confidence those interests which involve our absolute territorial security, which is in question, those which offer maximum commercial advantage and those which offer the most effective and practical contribution to the international order through the transgovernmental network. Given the enormous dispersal of contact points between nations which make up the modern patchwork of international relations, a government who can refine, contain and focus their aims in that way will have their work cut out. The underlying principle to which to adhere is that clearly defined national interests, soberly but firmly pursued, reinforce rather than weaken the global order. It is the nation state which wants to do everything, which sees everything as a challenge, which intervenes on every issue and which pronounces great principles and then cannot follow them up, which makes the poorest contribution to international peace and stability and to the open markets and trade we all want to see. A foreign policy which starts from that hard truth will capture respect and democratic support.

Contrary to the conclusions of many pundits who profess expertise about public opinion and foreign policy, people know perfectly well what is realistic and what will be effective in today's world, and they will support it. They are ready for illumination of an immensely complicated and fast-changing world, but that illumination must be open and accurate and not smothered with generalities or submerged in spin. Nowhere is the need for this light and realism greater than in the European Union, of which we are a part, and its institutions. Nowhere is there more need for a new vision which accords with the characteristics of a network world.

3.58 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, like the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, I look forward to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, whose maiden speech will follow very soon and who has great knowledge of foreign affairs. Perhaps I may also apologise to the House if I am absent for about an hour. I greatly value these occasions and try to be present the entire time, but I must attend a memorial service for a very close friend. I hope that the House will forgive me. I shall return as soon as I possibly can.

We have heard a remarkable tribute to the Foreign Office, paid appropriately by one of the Foreign Office's outstanding Ministers. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, will forgive me if I turn to some questions about the record which she set out, although I share much of her enthusiasm for what her department does. I should like also to commend the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on a thoughtful speech. I shall do my best to comment on it as I follow the same structure that he laid out—the structure within the Queen's Speech.

I begin by referring briefly to the Nice Summit. The Nice Summit achieved the minimal requirements necessary for enlargement. I do not think that any noble Lord who has carefully read the Nice statement and the various items and annexes that go with it could believe that there has been any long step forward in the integration of Europe. What we have seen is a painful, difficult and extremely long-winded effort to agree on what is necessary simply for enlargement to take place and, when it does take place, to ensure that it is workable.

I deeply regret the position adopted by the Leader of the Opposition in another place. For the UK to refuse to ratify the Nice treaty at a time when countries which have emerged from the shadows of communism are waiting impatiently to be allowed to join Europe, have swallowed the acquis communautaire, have devoted themselves for several years to trying to meet the requirements that we have laid down—incidentally, those requirements have been difficult and tough—as regards human rights, democracy and opening up free markets, is wrong. Suddenly to slap them across the face by refusing to ratify Nice would be an act of breathtaking irresponsibility. I hope that, on reflection, the Leader of the Opposition in another place will perhaps more closely pursue the more thoughtful and measured position taken by his colleague in this House. I commend the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on that wisdom.

I cannot pretend to be anything other than rather disappointed by some of the outcomes of the Nice Summit. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said that Europe was possibly "the loser". I believe that there are two ways in which Nice was not quite as good for Europe as perhaps it was for some of its larger member states. First, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that it is damaging to leave out the smaller countries of Europe, whose record of working towards a sound basis of union and co-operation within Europe has been outstanding. Countries like the Netherlands, Ireland and, more recently, Portugal have pursued these aims. It is not, I think, helpful to leave them with a sense of deep injustice. I cannot help but feel that they might have been dealt with somewhat more diplomatically.

Secondly, I regret the language adopted by our media. Their words would be more appropriate to celebrate the outstanding achievements of the British cricket team in Pakistan than to address a sensitive and difficult area of international politics; that is to say, their use of the crude language of victory and defeat. Surely the whole purpose of the European Union was to recognise that, after two centuries during which balance of power politics had brought us into war after war, we needed to find a politics of mutual advantage in which we no longer sought victories or feared defeats, but rather pursued policies that would bring a win-win situation for a large number of countries. It would be better for our media to seek to break away from the traditional language of adversarial politics and to address instead the new politics upon which, in the 21st century, we need to embark.

I shall make a few further points about the Nice Summit. I wish that our Government, who rightly lecture us all on the need for transparency and openness, would address the issue of the continuing secrecy surrounding the Council of Ministers in its legislative form. It is simply outrageous that only in North Korea and in the Council of Ministers of the European Union is total secrecy the rule by which everyone tries to abide. That is deeply inappropriate to a Union which is attempting to become more democratic and to act more in league with its own people. I plead with the Government and press the Minister to respond to this. We need to hear from her a little more as regards our policy towards the secrecy that still obtains in the Council of Europe.

We on these Benches agree that taxation is primarily a matter for nation states. As regards income tax, that is overwhelmingly the case. However, I should like to offer a word of warning: the crimes of fraud and money laundering are now becoming widely extensive within Europe. That is also the case outside Europe. Where there are proposals directed at trying to prevent fraud and money laundering, which is getting out of control—anyone may read, for example, the Congressional study of the money laundering of Russian assets, or for that matter, the more recent accounts of General Abacha's success in removing billions of dollars from Nigeria, the second poorest country in the world, to spread it around for his personal benefit and for that of his family in Swiss and London banks—the Government need to think very seriously about whether an ethical foreign policy can totally disregard such aberrations and the proposals to deal with them. I find it appalling that, while the Swiss banking association has named 29 banks involved in handling Nigerian "bad money", those responsible in the Home Office in this country for pursuing that money—national funds stolen by Mr Abacha, one of the world's more disgusting dictators until his recent death—have not been able, so far, even to offer any indications of help to Mr Obasanjo, the President of Nigeria, a man who has suffered infinitely for his own belief in democracy and human rights.

In my final point on Nice, I should like to commend the proposal for a new IGC in 2004 and I pay tribute to the German Government for their part in pressing for that. Why? To put it bluntly, as the Prime Minister has said, setting out the respective competences of the European institutions and of the nation states, and below them of the regions, is absolutely vital in order to deal effectively with the suspicions, threats and stories that abound, many of them without any foundation. We need to be clear about the position as regards the "no man's land" that exists today between the powers of Europe and the powers of the nation state. I believe that, in setting out the competences, we would progress a long way towards the aim of consoling and comforting those who do not want to see the nation state disappear. Indeed, there is no need for the nation state to disappear; rather, it is necessary only for the nation state to co-operate on issues such as the environment and global financial movements; namely, areas of policy where no individual country can act effectively on its own.

I turn now to the matter of the row on defence and security. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, referred to Ministers having been "a little naughty" for suggesting that there was no great degree of American concern on this matter. Although I have already indicated my respect for the noble Lord, Lord Howell, perhaps I may in this case describe him as "a little naughty". He quoted extensively from an article written by General Wesley K. Clark, the former supreme commander in Kosovo and the leading American general during that confrontation. The article appeared last Saturday in the International Herald Tribune. Under the heading, US Actions Push the EU to Its Own Military Force". General Clark stated, in the early part of his article: Let's face it. We Americans encouraged the Europeans to believe that in future security crises in Europe, we might not be there to help". He went on to say that, we are now arguing about how to plan and organize for future crises in which the Europeans will send their forces but we won't participate". The balance of the article forms a plea for the United States to be more willing to continue to intervene in European crises, but it is expressed in the tone of voice of a man profoundly disappointed. Indeed, he even states that in Kosovo, the United States deliberately chose—that is his comment rather than mine—to police the easiest sector and was, as we all know, reluctant to involve any ground troops at all until the end of the campaign.

We must be absolutely honest about one of the issues that confronts us. I speak as someone who has worked for years in the United States, lecturing from California to Massachusetts, and as someone who is the only British adviser to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and the Century Foundation in the same city. On those occasions, both of which took place within the past month, the issue at stake was US unilateralism. I heard Americans deplore the fact that the US Congress held up the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; the fact that the US Congress has not found it possible even to suggest that it might ratify the International Criminal Court—I am delighted that that court has been mentioned in the gracious Speech; the fact that the United States appears to have launched on a national missile defence plan without, to be frank, consulting its allies in any detail on the impact of such a plan on the whole fragile structure of arms control, peacemaking and so forth.

I do not condemn the United States—it is a great country; the greatest democracy in the world, in my view—but I would be misleading the House if I failed to recognise that, since the end of the Soviet threat, there is a very different mood in the United States. There is a sense that that country can retire within its own sacred borders and wash its hands of what it sees as the squabbles and silliness of a Europe that it has been used to watching as a source of major wars. We would be making very foolish mistakes if we did not recognise that the next administration will pull back from its commitments in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

No one needs to take my word for it. The article in Foreign Affairs by Mrs Condolezza Rice, who is likely to be the senior adviser to any Bush administration, sets it out as clearly as anyone could, in effect saying, We do not believe the United States should be involved in rows in Africa, in rows in the Balkans'', and she then set out certain other parts of the world. How are we supposed to deal with such rows if we have no effective way of providing, at least for the "Petersberg" tasks, peacekeeping, human aid and disaster relief? Are we going to sit there, washing our hands like Pilate, and say, "There is absolutely nothing we can do"? That would be an utterly irresponsible and unsatisfactory position for a British government to adopt.

Let me very quickly turn to the issue of peacekeeping. We see a world in which ethnic conflicts, failing governments and more and more battles for land and resources are creating a whole new threat: not the old threat of a great power enemy—the Soviet Union—but the new threat of desperate peoples who do not know where to look for the way out of their difficulties and their problems.

As to the globalisation White Paper, I do not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in saying that globalisation does not itself bring poverty. But one of the points that was made by the Secretary of State for International Development last night in launching the White Paper was that the imbalance between the poor and the rich in this world has doubled over the past 30 years. The top 20 per cent now enjoy an average income 74 times greater than the bottom 20 per cent. One cannot divorce the issues that flow not only from poverty but also from desperation from the issues of order, law and democracy in the world. That is why there is a seamless dance between foreign policy and international development policy, as the presence of the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, clearly indicates.

All of that feeds into areas of strain and crisis. I want to mention briefly a couple of them. The EU is paying heavily for the Balkans stability pact; it is paying more than any other country in the world or any other group of countries in the world. But next to the Balkans stability pact we desperately need a Balkans political plan, which treats the Balkans not as a set of separate countries but as what it is, a region whose future depends on the ability of those countries to work together.

In that context, perhaps the Minister can say something about the very troubling problems that have arisen on the Albanian/southern Serbian border, particularly in the Preshevo Valley. I believe that we must make it clear that we do not play ethnic favourites and that we do not accept a Kosovan incursion into Serbia at a time when the Serbians have, for the first time—by electing Mr Kostunica—broken away in the direction of a genuinely democratic state. From these Benches, I commend Mr Kostunica on the extraordinary restraint that he has so far shown.

In the case of the Middle East we face a terrifying situation. Again, we must be honest. It is very troublesome that in Israel's budget for next year more money is put by for settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. All of us in this House—certainly including me—deeply believe in Israel and the brilliance of its people. But they cannot establish settlements in an area which will one day be the Palestinian homeland and hope for peace—because peace must depend on two genuine states being able to co-exist side by side.

Lastly on the issue of troubles—my noble friend Lord Avebury will say a good deal more about the recent peace in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere—I commend the Indian Government on having proposed a cease-fire in Kashmir. I hope and pray that the Pakistani Government will respond in a way which will bring peace to that very troubled part of the world.

Let me say this in response to the great statement made by the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland. It is of course the case that all of us in this House would support the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development in arguing that debt, disease and war must be prevented; in arguing for support for the United Nations, peacekeeping and the "Petersberg" tasks. But two things need to be said. First, we need in this respect joined-up government. To put it very bluntly, some of the Home Office responses to these very fine, splendid and inspirational objectives are, to say the least, falling a bit short. I shall say clearly and loudly that today it is almost impossible for a genuine refugee, who has suffered for his beliefs, to get to this country legally in any way.

Finally, I remember a time, years ago, when I was visiting a remote part of Romania. I came across a distant hotel and handed over my passport, which indicated that I was a Member of Parliament. The clerk behind the desk looked at the passport, held it up and said, "Magna Carta liberorum". I was profoundly touched. He turned out to have a PhD from the University of Vienna, and was exiled in a distant part of the Carpathians. That is what I want our country to be—Magna Carta liberorum. That is the influence I want it to have on the European Union. That is why I believe that Britain within the European Union can be a very great model for freedom and peace in our world.

4.17 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, the prominence of international development in the title of the debate properly recognises its significance as an effective contribution to world poverty elimination within our national budget. I have only one regret today. Although the speakers' list again shows the wide interest that there is in overseas subjects, this House has again decided not to have its own committee on foreign affairs and development. I very much hope that this decision will be reconsidered in the future.

I congratulate the Government on their White Paper, which shows that at least two lines of promises in the gracious Speech have been kept in less than a week. The White Paper again reflects widespread public support for the Government's commitment to halve world poverty. This is a most urgent priority—much more so than anyone here can appreciate. We are enjoying unprecedented prosperity in western Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, said List week that we were a "seriously rich economy", which could well afford to look after the poor in the United Kingdom. I know that the noble Lord is generous. He would, I am sure, enlarge that statement to include the still growing number of poor around the world, now about 1.5 billion, living at a level below one dollar a day. They are the most exploited, marginalised, vulnerable and oppressed in society.

The proportion of the very poor has fallen very slightly in Asia—China included—but the absolute numbers continue to rise, as does the gap between rich and poor. The World Bank has said that the average income in the richest 20 countries is now 37 times the average of the poorest 20. This is double what it was in 1960 when the world first woke up to these problems.

Such growing inequality is immoral, in my view. It is an uneasy prospect for a government whose aim is more equality, if not redistribution. Our leaders spend a lot of time in places like Nice worrying about how many will sit around the European table. Has the infatuation with European wealth become so absorbing that we are ignoring the very real dangers which follow world poverty, starvation and migration—dangers that are bound to affect our own future?

The White Paper is, of course, designed to widen the canvas of development, and this must be welcomed. World trade will have increased by 10 per cent in volume this year and the WTO forecasts strong growth next year. We must, we keep saying, ensure that developing countries receive a larger share of this growth. But we must not delude ourselves that an EU trade initiative like the Cotonou agreement is more than a tiny step towards redistribution. For instance, the White Paper states that ACP exports under Lomé fell between 1985 and 1994. Unpayable debt relief, however important, is hardly a step forward in aid or investment.

Growth is, of course, essential—but it depends what is growing. It is oil exports, manufacturing, office equipment, telecommunications and IT—not the items which the poor themselves need, but things other people want them to make, preferably under licence and at minimum cost.

Who exactly are the poor? On the Dickensian world model, they are the families who are forced to send their children aged between five and 14 out to full-time work. That was known in this country not so long ago. There are 120 million such children world-wide: 32 per cent of all children in Africa and 61 per cent in Asia. Like it or not, we have to accept that on the backs of many of these young people sit the new idols of free trade and globalisation. Let us admit that it will be a long time before globalisation reaches them or until per capita GNP in those regions rises sufficiently for those families to escape from poverty.

Educational enrolment, another requirement for greater wealth, will rise only as the necessity for child labour declines. We must press governments through the UN and the WTO to implement the regulations. But no international conventions or core labour standards will have as much impact as the strength of the economy in which these families live. This is not always an effect of freer trade, more of inward investment, entrepreneurial skills, local labour conditions, rising private consumption and other economic factors within that community. DfID is doing a great deal to encourage microcredit in the poorer communities, to support women in small businesses and to promote new enterprise, especially in information technology. But even with the backing offered by the new White Paper, the Government will have to move mountains to make a real difference to world poverty and attain those not very distant 2015 development targets.

Many of these families live in Africa. Two weeks ago, the Financial Times backed up the initiative by the South African President and other African leaders for African recovery, calling for new efforts to attract foreign trade and investment and to speed up debt relief. One vital sector is agriculture and the need for Europe to ensure wider access for African products. Unfortunately, the history of investment in African agriculture is not encouraging to Africans. It shows that in a country like Tanzania, donors still tend to favour their own interests. Even the World Bank, under its post-HIPC lending programme, has been unable to give up a grandiose about-to-be-privatised 270 million dollar power project in favour of schemes which help the rural poor. Studies by the FAO and the Churches in 1999 found that trade liberalisation in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana had helped exports, but they had had a negative impact on the incomes of small farmers. The White Paper is ambiguous on this, but it does admit that trade has adverse effects on some people. DfID may claim that everything will change in the wonderful new world of poverty reduction strategies. I hope that that is the case.

Meanwhile, aid and diplomacy will have to focus on the groups which globalisation is unlikely to reach, especially the victims of AIDS, floods or conflict. The Government have taken several new initiatives on conflict and arms control in Africa, notably their venture in Sierra Leone. I wish them success with these. I merely add a word of caution. Sierra Leone is looking a little like a shop window of ethical foreign policy in which some of the goods further behind, such as our policies in the Congo or Sudan, or even Zimbabwe, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, are less shiny. What has happened, for example, to our support for the facilitator in the internal dialogue in the DRC? Should we not admit that Lusaka has been a failure? Why have we been so reticent in the diplomatic manoeuvres over Sudan? Is it because we are still holding the hand of the US? I strongly agree with the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. If so, why do not we, like the US, support development in the south—which, as I learnt from a recent visit on behalf of Christian Aid and Save the Children, we have long neglected?

I know that the Foreign Office has been working on this matter and that we shall return to it in a future debate, but these may be positive issues which the Government could highlight in future. Similarly, we are in danger of over-promoting a few favoured HIPC or "post-conflict" countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Mozambique where grave internal problems persist. We all hope that the visit of President Chissano today will renew our friendship and solidarity with that country, which has, as it were, risen directly from the ashes of civil war and then floods. But we must also recognise the limits of his democratic mandate and support his efforts towards reconciliation.

In northern Uganda—another of our aid favourites—the Acholi people have suffered silently under the present administration. What is our Government doing to promote development in Gulu and Kitgum, along the DRC and Sudan borders, where conflict has left whole communities displaced and impoverished in so-called protected villages. This is the area where the Lord's Resistance Army has recruited thousands of child soldiers—some of the 300,000 soldiers aged under 18 who are under arms world-wide.

Last week, Trevor Phillips handed the annual award of Anti-Slavery International to George Omona, an aid worker from Gulu whose organisation has rehabilitated hundreds of these children, many of whom have committed appalling atrocities. Such valiant work on the ground must be backed up by measures such as the UN's optional protocol which sets the minimum age of soldiers at 18, and which Uganda has not signed. The FCO's human rights report is full of such promises and I shall only remind the Government of their opportunity to sponsor an EU resolution in March on bonded labour, following our debate last January.

I shall he glad when the fog of catch-all globalisation passes over and we return to actual development policy. I welcome the untying of aid, the drive against corruption and the renewed commitment to the UN target, or at least half-way to that target—but we have been trying to do that for about 30 years. I wish the Government success.

In conclusion, I understand the point of the White Paper, the critical role of trade in development and the advantages of joined-up government, which I do not minimise. However, I look forward to a more positive declaration in the manifesto in which the Government can demonstrate how they are actually changing the lives of people in the third world. The public will, as always, want to see fewer policy statements, less gloss and more visible and genuine results.

4.28 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

My Lords, perhaps I, too, may say how much we look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, and to his adding wisdom to our debates.

Her Majesty's Government have chosen to pursue an ethically based foreign policy. Although such an aim opens them easily to ridicule and the charge of hypocrisy, the alternative for the Government and for us is far worse. Unless public policy is directed towards a proper moral vision, it will collapse into shallow self-interest and short-term pragmatism.

This House needs to know that the Christian community across the world judges our policies here in the light of our Christian history. It was surely not for the sake of rhetorical flourish that Her Majesty's gracious Speech ended with a prayer for God's blessing upon us as we deliberate the policy aims it contained. It is, therefore, part of the task of this House to scrutinise policy in the light of moral principle. It is especially the duty of those on these Benches to offer reflections and experience rooted in our Christian faith and our profound sympathy with all other faith communities.

I want to comment on two broad areas that raise several matters of policy. First, with regard to the White Paper that was published yesterday, I declare an interest as chair of the board of Christian Aid. I congratulate DfID on it and I add my own voice to those who call for time to be given to its study and hope for a full debate on it in this House.

The commitment to work on the issues of trade, investment and international finance, with a view to their contributing to the aim of reducing absolute poverty by at least 50 per cent by the year 2015, is bound to be welcomed by the churches. The Government have made a strong response to the deep commitment of large numbers of Christian people to the task of removing the intolerable burden of international debt on the poorest nations of our world. I warmly thank them for their endeavours in that direction in recent times.

That, as we all know, can only be a first step. The moral duty that we hold for the poorest must be met by a concerted reform of the imbalance of trade and opportunity in our world. I hope that the Government will not yield to the notion that the liberalisation of trade is a substitute for giving the poorest opportunities to produce their own food and to be protected from the imbalances of present trading relationships. As we have already heard, the gap between the richest and poorest nations is growing larger. It is also growing larger in this country. Free trade cannot be allowed to mean the unfettered right of the strongest to dictate the terms of economic relationships between rich and poor. Trade can be truly free only if it is conducted between partners among whom power and opportunity is shared. The jury is out on whether the present structures of globalisation and the liberalisation of trade will deliver for the poorest of our world. But we look forward to working with the Government in the pursuance of those objectives.

Secondly, I hope that the House will forgive me for commenting on our policy on the Middle East. In the gracious Speech, Her Majesty spoke of the Government's intention, which I am sure we all share, of making the United Nations Security Council more effective and representative. However, the question that I want to ask is whether there is any moral or ethical coherence to our policy in the Middle East. In the faith communities of the Middle East, there has been a severe loss of confidence in western policy. They fear that there is a weakness in our commitment to the United Nations resolutions with regard to the rights of the Palestinian people, and an excess strength as regards the impact of United Nations resolutions on the people of Iraq.

Such has been the loss of confidence among ordinary Palestinian people in the effectiveness of the international community to defend their basic human rights that despair is setting in. Despair leads young and old alike to think that the only way to protest their dignity and to keep hope alive is to throw stones at the might of the tanks and sophisticated armour of Israel. The stones represent a moral protest by people who feel so disenfranchised and oppressed that they know not what else to do. If the throwing of stones and the firing of bullets is to stop, we need to hear their voice and to act on it. Such damage has been done to the peace that there are now many in the Middle East and in Israel and Palestine who think that Oslo is dead and cannot be brought back to life.

Last week I received a copy of a letter from the Bishop of Jerusalem, who had sent it to one of my own clergy in the Diocese of Guildford. It states: Last week a delegation of clergy, mission workers in the Diocese and members of the Arab congregation of St George's Cathedral paid a visit to the village of Beit Jala, just minutes from Bethlehem. Israeli helicopter gun ships and tank mortar lire have attacked this picturesque Christian village 15 times in a three week period. In a community of 15,000 people, over 200 homes have been damaged—some so badly that they must be destroyed". The Bishop goes on to say that, despite reports to the contrary, United Nations vehicles carrying humanitarian aid have been refused entry to the Gaza Strip.

There is now a deep doubt in the minds of ordinary Palestinian people—a doubt that feeds their persistence in an unequal struggle on the streets—as to whether the United States of America and its western allies have the will to use their undoubted influence on the government of Israel to continue moving down the courageous road of establishing a just peace with their Palestinian neighbours. We know that such an endeavour is bound to involve the complex business of diplomacy, but we need reassurances that those efforts will be vigorously pursued.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, spoke searchingly and deeply about the impact of questions of law. In her opening speech, the noble Baroness spoke about the need to add to traditional diplomacy. It seems that in Iraq diplomacy has been abandoned. It has been replaced by a policy of sanctions and bombing. Building on other people's contributions, it is important that moral questions are raised about these policies.

In January 2000, the Select Committee on International Development in another place, reporting on the future of sanctions, said: We find it difficult, however, to believe that there will be a case in the future where the UN would be justified in imposing comprehensive economic sanctions on a country. In an increasingly interdependent world such sanctions cause significant suffering. However carefully exemptions are planned, the fact is that the UN will lose credibility if it advocates the rights of the poor whilst at the same time causing, if only indirectly, their further impoverishment". The moral question is whether it is right to punish the people for the sins of their leaders. After the 10 years in which this policy has led to the degradation of the economic and social life of this people, with no sign of anything but the strengthening of its leadership, the utter demoralisation of all opposition and the collapse of all serious weapons inspection work, what have we to show for our policy? Moral debate is bound to raise questions of proportionality. Does the end justify these extreme means, especially if there is no sign of that end being reached? The Government will know that the Synod of the Church of England passed resolutions on these matters at its session in November. That occasion was informed by the reports of delegates from the Church who had visited Iraq earlier in the year.

By scrutinising policies in these ways, we are underlining our shared commitment to the pursuit of policies that are ethically and morally defensible. In this second week of Advent, as the churches prepare themselves penitentially for the message of the coming of the Lord, I am conscious that we still seek to join those Wise Men who came from Arabia and Africa to follow the star that led them to, of all places, Bethlehem. There, may we seek today the wisdom that leads us away from death and seek instead a renewed vision for policies that bring Shalom, Salaam, the peace of God, to our global village.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Ashcroft

My Lords, I am grateful for the honour of addressing this House for the first time. I am also grateful for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in a foreign affairs debate, as it gives me a chance to speak about Britain's four overseas territories in the eastern Caribbean—Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

I should point out, lest anyone should not have noticed, that I have certain business interests in the Caribbean, including interests in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where I am proud to be able to say that I am a "belonger". I should perhaps explain that "belongership" is a privilege normally reserved for those born in the Turks and Caicos Islands, but which is granted to those individuals from outside who are considered to have made a contribution to the islands. I am also proud of the Ashcroft School in the Turks and Caicos Islands, which has state of the art computers in order to give the children in that school the ability to learn the technology that is necessary in globalisation.

Following a lengthy review, the Government last year announced their intention to extend British citizenship to all those from the four territories that I have mentioned. At the same time, they renamed them Overseas Territories, rather than Dependent Territories, along with the Falklands and Gibraltar, which already enjoyed rights of citizenship, and the seven other territories, such as Bermuda, which did not. As part of the review, all the Overseas Territories had confirmed that they wished to retain their constitutional links with Britain. None preferred independence.

Speaking at the time, the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, stressed the underlying relevance of security to everything in the White Paper. She said: The world is a threatening place. Especially if you are from a small territory with a narrow economic base, vulnerable, as so many of the Overseas Territories are, to the vagaries of fashion in international tourism, the impact of information technology, the spread of global business the threats from drug traffickers and other international criminals. And, as was seen so dramatically on Montserrat in 1997. the dangers of natural disasters". The Minister was right to highlight the importance of security, and we in Britain face, I believe, a difficult and considerable question—that is: to what extent are we prepared to recognise and live up to our responsibilities as a Caribbean power?

The Foreign Secretary has said that Britain, will not shirk its responsibilities". to the Overseas Territories. But he has also said that he is looking for a "modern and efficient partnership", which some might interpret as a desire to reduce costs.

Britain has for some years maintained the West Indies Guard Ship in the Caribbean. In normal service, this splits its time between exercises against drug traffickers and the provision of training to the defence and law enforcement offices of the Caribbean Overseas Territories. It has also proved invaluable in assisting with natural disasters, such as the Montserrat emergency and the havoc wrought by hurricanes. But the presence of the West Indies Guard Ship is, I would suggest, barely enough. If the people of these islands are British citizens, Britain has a responsibility to defend them—and not just, as in the Falklands, against the threat of invasion.

The Caribbean Overseas Territories are not drug-producing countries, but they do sit astride some of the most prolific drug trafficking routes in the world. The threat of powerful, organised crime is ever present. Those who deal in drugs are a cancer on the societies in which they operate. Through my business interests in the Caribbean, I am mindful of the constant vigilance that is necessary to interrupt the supply line; and from my work in Britain as founder and chairman of Crimestoppers and formerly as chairman of Action on Addiction, I see the damage done by the drugs that manage to slip through the net.

As a personal aside in my maiden speech, perhaps I may, wearing my hat as chairman of Crimestoppers, acknowledge the help that I have received from two Members of this House as trustees of Crimestoppers. I have in mind the noble Lord, Lord Merlyn-Rees, from the Benches opposite, and the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, from the Cross Benches, who I am very pleased to see in the Chamber today. Over the past 10 years, both as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and as a trustee of Crimestoppers, he has given me incredible support. On a personal level, I should just like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, "Peter, you are a great pal".

Britain should recognise that its responsibilities in the Caribbean are important, and must be taken seriously. We, after all, expect a good deal of the territories themselves. As the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, said in this House last year: Partnership is fundamental to our relationship with the Overseas Territories. We have obligations to them which are central to our foreign policy. They enjoy security, protection and prosperity from the United Kingdom. However, partnership is a two-way street. Partnership brings with it expectations and obligations on both sides". The obligations are clear. The Overseas Territories are required to respect basic human rights, to adhere to the rule of law and democratic government, to fight international crime, to adhere to international standards of financial regulation and to apply British standards of public service and law enforcement.

These are reasonable obligations, judged against the standards of contemporary life in Britain. But one must measure these obligations, and the changes that must be made in order to meet them, against the religious, social and political convictions of the territories themselves. We should recognise that, in creating these obligations, we are asking in some cases for change which is causing profound political discomfort.

All the more reason, I suggest, for us to be serious about our commitment in return, and all the more reason for Britain to be reconsidering its attitude to recent proposals from Brussels. The proposals in question, known as OCEAN 2000, would change for ever the relationships that both Britain and the Netherlands have with their respective overseas territories.

In stark contrast to the continuing absence of UK legislation, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, earlier, to modernise the relationship with our Overseas Territories—legislation which was promised by the Foreign Secretary almost two years ago—we now have a draft decision of the EU Council which, if agreed, could take effect at the end of March. The OCEAN proposal would establish a direct relationship between the Caribbean and the European Commission, requiring the Overseas Territories to manage their relationship with Brussels direct. It would in principle provide financial support but, at the same time, would require the territories to make fundamental choices on trade relationships arid on currencies. In short, despite Britain's continuing responsibilities in the Caribbean Overseas Territories, Britain would no longer be in the driving seat in terms of its relationship with them.

On the one hand, Britain appears to be encouraging self-determination for the territories and, on the other hand, could be ceding to Europe an ever-increasing responsibility for our relations with them. I suggest that this recipe for confusion should be avoided. As Britain discovered in the I 970s with the Caribbean Associated States, having power without responsibility does not work. Retaining responsibility for foreign policy, defence and good governance, while encouraging territories to act in almost every other sense as sovereign, is a path to independence. That is not what any Caribbean Overseas Territory wants and, I hazard to suggest, would not be in Britain's long-term interests in the region.

In my experience, too many people consider the Caribbean nations to be of little or no account—bankrupt, populated by the indolent, and useful only for the acquisition of a suntan. That is not my view, neither it is my experience.

I mentioned the Turks and Caicos Islands earlier. Its people are proud and hard working. With limited natural resources and with the odds and scale of global food production stacked comprehensively against them, they are adapting their lives, sometimes painfully, in order to guarantee the future of their economy. It is my belief that we should recognise their value, and work with them.

In conclusion, I should say that Britain is uniquely advantaged to play a major role in the future of the Caribbean region—to the benefit of British citizens wherever they may live. Now, I suggest, is perhaps not the time to accede to yet another territorial initiative from Brussels.

4.50 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, it falls to me in accordance with the traditions of this House to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, on his interesting maiden speech. The noble Lord. Lord Ashcroft, comes to this House with a formidable record of work in political and public service and clearly has a great deal to contribute to our debates. I am sure we all look forward very much to hearing from him in the future.

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate on foreign affairs and defence. I have always supported the declared aspiration of the Government to operate an ethical foreign policy. This aspiration has from time to time been ridiculed in certain sections of the media, but it is an honourable aspiration nevertheless, even though circumstances may sometimes make it difficult to fulfil.

I believe that it should involve a refusal to supply oppressive regimes with weaponry. I am glad that the gracious Speech indicated that there will be a draft Bill designed to control arms trafficking, including dealing in small arms. I understand that some 500,000 people are killed each year by small arms. My concern is that it has taken such a time to introduce and operate such legislation. I know that bans on the sale of weaponry to regimes regarded as undesirable could have an effect sometimes on jobs in Britain, but nevertheless it is right and should be done. The Government are to be congratulated on facing up to this difficult problem.

I understand that the European rapid reaction force, to which the Government are committed, is to be used for peacekeeping and humanitarian functions only. NATO apparently is still to be relied upon for more warlike purposes. NATO clearly had a Cold War function but it was supposedly entirely defensive. What about the new European force? Will it have a role outside Europe? What will be its role? When and in what circumstances would it intervene—this question has already been raised sharply by the noble Lord, Lord Howell—and under what law? Would it be bound by UN resolutions; in other words, would it be bound by international law? My next point is important. What about relations with Russia? It is surely important that Russia should not imagine that the new force represents any kind of threat to what may be perceived as Russian interests. Will there be any effect upon the conflicts which, unfortunately, are still with us?

It is clear that, whatever the outcome of the present problems with the United States presidency, there is little enthusiasm in the United States for what the public see as overseas intervention. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, dealt with that at some length in her powerful speech. I agree very much with what she said. This is particularly the case if it is felt that US troops may be at risk. This is entirely understandable as memories of the Vietnam war are still strong in the public mind.

The reluctance to put troops at risk is shared, I believe, by our European partners. Again, this is understandable. However, it has one unfortunate consequence for civilian populations. In recent years military interventions have tended to be carried out by high level bombing. We saw examples of that in the attack on the former Yugoslavia. My noble friends on the Front Bench will know that I and some other noble Lords were critical of that involvement, and I remain so. It turned out eventually that little harm was done to Serbian military forces, tanks or installations, but a great deal of damage was done to civilians and the civilian infrastructure. Moreover, the objective of a multi-ethnic Kosovo seems a long way from being realised—one kind of ethnic cleansing seems to have been exchanged for another—as non-Albanians are now under threat from the KLA or its breakaway now operating in southern Serbia.

Of course, I applaud the speed with which the EU has undertaken to repair bridges on the Danube and to provide funds to rebuild the shattered infrastructure. However, the new President will need all the help he can get from the EU and compensation really should be paid to the civilian victims of NATO's acknowledged "mistakes".

Another major conflict that is still with us is that of Iraq. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford has already referred to that. Other noble Lords may speak of that from a greater base of knowledge than I possess. Nevertheless this is another instance in which Anglo-American aircraft have conducted a bombing campaign with hardly any notice being taken by the British press. Some 6,000 sorties are said to have taken place by the end of 1999 and thousands of bombs have been dropped. There is currently a campaign afoot opposing the continuation of sanctions and I must say that I am inclined to support it. There seems ample evidence that the sanctions have led to illnesses and deaths among children at a truly horrifying level. However, Saddam Hussein continues in power with no sign of any viable opposition.

Again, the tactics adopted, while claiming to be directed not at the people but at their rulers, have had the effect of damaging the civilian infrastructure and destroying civilians. It also seems fairly clear that our European partners are not particularly keen on the policy being followed by ourselves and the USA. It seems likely that if we and the USA were to change policy, this would meet with approval from our EU partners. Why are we continuing with the bombing? Do we know what the cost is in terms of civilian deaths and injuries? Is it not apparent that bombing from 15,000 feet is unlikely to be extremely accurate and that the amount of what is known as "collateral damage" is likely to be great? I say here that I am the widow of a former RAF pilot and the last thing I want to do is to put pilots' lives at risk. But on the other hand I query whether this should be done at all. These two conflicts highlight some of my doubts about intervention.

I hope that the Government may feel that the time has come to review policy, particularly in regard to Iraq. This should not be taken to mean that I in any way support the present Iraqi leadership, any more than my opposition to the Kosovo policy implied support for Milosevic. It is simply that intervention of this kind can end up making things a great deal worse for the unfortunate civilian population, who then have to bear the brunt of the horrors that modern weapons of war can inflict upon them.

An example of how interventionist policies can go wrong is Afghanistan. Under the former pro-Soviet regime women at least had the right to education, healthcare and childcare and had the right to work. They have none of those rights now under one of the worst regimes in the world, yet the rebels' success in that country was due in no small measure to the covert assistance, including weaponry, received from the West, notably ourselves and the United States, and conveyed to them via Pakistan. Of course, the present Government had no role in that but it highlights my view that interventions can sometimes have unlooked for results.

As I said earlier, I fully support the aspiration of the Government to operate an ethical foreign policy. I know that my noble friends on the Front Bench are motivated by humanitarian concerns and I would never dream of suggesting anything different. Certainly the Government's record, as recounted to us this afternoon by the noble Baroness, has a great deal to be applauded. But, on the other hand, some of us have worries of the kind that I have voiced this afternoon and I hope that they will receive consideration.

4.58 p.m.

Lord St John of Bletso

My Lords, although the gracious Speech makes scant reference to Her Majesty's Government's foreign affairs policy, I wish to devote my brief remarks to current developments in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Last year much world attention was focused on the escalation of unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Sierra Leone. This year the run-up to the elections in Zimbabwe was marred by mass intimidation of the opposition MDC and the onslaught on white farmers by the so-called "war veterans".

President Thabo Mbeki's statements earlier that there was no proven link between HIV and AIDS, as well as his lack of condemnation of the invasion of farms in Zimbabwe, resulted in widespread disillusionment within South Africa as well as among members of the international community and resulted in the exodus from Zimbabwe of much-needed professionals—doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers. President Mbeki has, thankfully, now clarified his statements on AIDS and satisfied many concerns, but the damage has been done.

Her Majesty's Government, in particular DfID, have played an invaluable role for many years not only in accelerating the process of bringing democracy to South Africa but also in promoting greater economic, social and political co-operation in the region. When South Africa became a democracy and emerged from isolation, it was widely expected to become Africa's superpower. The hope was that its new rulers, using the country's muscle, would lead the continent towards a new era of peace, democracy and growth. The world marvelled at the manner and style with which Nelson Mandela took over in South Africa, preaching reconciliation and implementing comprehensive, structural and political reform. And what a messiah he is. After so many years of incarceration and with apartheid having inflicted massive social, economic, cultural and psychological damage on black South Africans, Nelson Mandela's vision and leadership led to massive inflows of capital into the country.

Since he stepped down, there have been a number of negative features. I, having spent most of my life in South Africa, always like to look on the positive side of things. There is no doubt that the finance Minister, Trevor Manuel, and the governor of the Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni, have been extremely successful both in keeping down inflation and in implementing fiscal and monetary discipline which has led to ongoing investment in the country. However, the investment has been mostly in bonds and equities rather than in much-needed capital infrastructure which is so desperately needed in a country with almost 40 per cent unemployment.

Sadly, my optimism does not extend to the style and manner in which Thabo Mbeki has taken over the presidency. Signs of alarming racial polarisation are emerging from his leadership. There is growing frustration among many black South Africans that expectations have not been met coupled with a sense of lack of action and insufficient redistribution of economic wealth.

On the other side there is much fear and anxiety among many white South Africans over what I might call dramatic reverse discrimination and the fact that President Thabo Mbeki has been playing the race card. The recent local elections in South Africa showed a clear shift in support away from the president's leadership. Most South Africans of all racial denominations applaud non-racial democracy. The country desperately needs top level international policy advisers on healthcare, urban regeneration, education and other sectors needing structural reform.

One of the greatest tragedies affecting the region is the dramatic increase in the spread of AIDS. According to a recent United Nations report, in South Africa alone over 4 million people are HIV positive. That figure is the highest of any country in the world. Within 10 years it is estimated that it will take 17 per cent off the GDP, with disastrous economic implications. Up to 20 per cent of the population are likely to die from AIDS within the next 10 to 15 years. Sadly, there is no united or co-ordinated government programme to tackle the problem. The issue is far too politically charged. The South African Government appear to be in a state of denial with few death certificates acknowledging the cause of death as AIDS. It is largely a hidden disease. Can the Minister enlighten the House as to the measures Her Majesty's Government are taking to assist in tackling the problem?

I wish briefly to touch on current developments in Zimbabwe, mentioned by the noble Lord. Lord Howell. Until a week ago, there was a strong rumour that President Robert Mugabe would be standing down at the ZANU congress meeting. As a result of this speculation the opposition MDC agreed to call off the national strike and mass action day. However, quite the opposite option has emerged. It looks highly likely that Robert Mugabe plans to stand again in the next presidential election which invariably, I fear, will result in another spate of mass intimidation of opposition supporters, invasion of farms by the war veterans and the corruption that follows.

Only one word describes the country that I know so well—catastrophic. In a country blessed with high educational attainment, a recently stable economy has been devastated and destroyed by the greed, corruption and personal aspirations of one man, Robert Mugabe. I do not refer just to the mining or tobacco industries; I refer also the tourism industry and the basic economic infrastructure of the country. In her closing speech, can the Minister outline what measures, if any, Her Majesty's Government are taking or plan to take to assist in achieving democracy, respect for human rights and stability in Zimbabwe?

In conclusion, I fear that the gap between the developed and developing world is widening rather than closing. Sadly, President Thabo Mbeki's vision of an African renaissance has not yet materialised. I believe that President Thabo Mbeki, whom I have known for many years, can turn the tables and achieve long term stability in South Africa but he must be receptive to the concerns of his critics and the international community. Africa's economic development is inextricably linked to political development and peace.

I applaud our Chancellor's recent announcement to write off third world debt, as well as the publication of yesterday's White Paper on eliminating world poverty. The challenges facing southern African are enormous. The Department for International Development will play an important role in meeting those challenges. I still believe that Thabo Mbeki's African renaissance will not turn out a pipedream but could ultimately be a reality.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Dahrendorf

My Lords, I am more than usually pleased to address the House from the Back Benches today, because my comments on Europe will be rather less stateswomanlike—or statesmanlike—than those that we heard from the Front Benches this afternoon.

The trouble with Europe—I mean organised Europe; the European Union—is that it produces visionaries and plumbers, but very few in between in the sphere of democratic politics. The visionaries fire the dreams or nightmares of those who are so inclined, while the plumbers work away at the mechanics of the pipes and valves of Brussels, if not at a directive for clean bathing water.

Sometimes the visionaries try their hand at plumbing. The result is Heads of Government solemnly trying to work out how many Commissioners are one too many—26, 27, 28? By way of compromise, they settle for 27.

A little while ago, I asked one of the cleverest Europeans, the former Belgian Vice-President of the Commission, Etienne Davignon, how many Commissioners a community of 20 members needed. He replied like a shot, although not without irony, "Three". When I told former Commission President Jacques Delors the story a couple of weeks ago, he said, "Davignon is too strict. There is enough to do for seven Commissioners, though not for more". Both responses were more appropriate than that of the visionaries, who want a Commission president chosen by Europe-wide direct elections, or that of the plumbers, who settled for 27 Commissioners.

Between the visionaries and plumbers, one simple question gets lost: what is it all about? Why should there be ever-closer union? When I first heard that question, almost half a century ago, the answer was not so difficult. I was living in Saarland in the years before the referendum on whether the territory should return to Germany or be Europeanised. I was for the latter and lost, which may explain in part my aversion to referendums.

At the time, the integration of the Saarland in the young Federal Republic of Germany was an even more effective expression of the fact that Germany and France—and the Europe that they had created—had put an end to a century and a half of what now can be called civil war.

Similar arguments are still used, but times have changed. Even when Britain joined the European Community in 1973, the decision had more to do with the future than with the past. Spain and Portugal, as well as Greece, became members not to bury an ancient hatchet, but to stabilise their new-found democracy. At the beginning of his first term as Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe Gonzales said that he had looked at the international bodies on offer and found that the European Community was the only one that had never tolerated a member violating the rule of law or the principles of democracy. It is not irrelevant to add that he later came to regard Spain's membership of NATO, which has had members of dubious democratic credentials, as at least as important. The countries of east central Europe have followed him on that and sometimes wonder why NATO found it possible to take them in while the EU prevaricates over secondary matters.

When the countries freed from the yoke of nomenklatura communism in 1989 thought about their future, the people said that they wanted to return to Europe. They meant a Europe that represents and defends democracy, the rule of law, a rule-based market economy and openness to the world.

Does the European Union offer that? It is difficult to answer that question with a straight "yes". The Union has done two sets of things. First, it has created a common market, which was redefined in 1985 as a single market. Almost everything that emanates from "Brussels", including the supranational institutions, belongs in that category. The other development began in 1969 and has led to a number of mostly intergovernmental ventures: with economic and monetary union straddling the two, but elements of a common foreign and security policy, and most recently co-operation in justice and home affairs, largely belonging in the inter-governmental category.

What does that add up to? Not, I suggest, to a superstate. I have not mentioned money so far, but it is striking that no one at Nice asked for the ceiling of EU expenditure to be raised. It remains firmly fixed at 1.27 per cent of gross domestic product. It is laughable to describe an entity responsible for a mere 1.27 per cent of GDP, half of which is automatic—it is agricultural expenditure—as a superstate. Real states account for 30 or 40 times that share of GDP.

Nor does Europe show signs of being a superpower. Statistics—adding up people, GDP or anything else—may produce size, but not power. The euro has no political power to back it up. That is one of its weaknesses. Who would Mr Greenspan be without a president? Some have asked that question during these weeks of uncertainty in the United States. He would be no more or no less than Mr Duisenberg. Similarly, who would Mr Kissinger have been without a president? Mr Solana is an impressive man, but his presence at important events does not mean that he can muster great power.

It may be unkind, but not false, to say that in so far as Europe is "super", it is a supermarket. However, that is not my main point. The European Union does not comply with the values sought in its candidates for membership. It is sometimes said that if the European Union applied for accession to the European Union, it would have to be rejected. I am actually ashamed to belong to a community in which legislation is not subject to democratic control. I agree with every word that my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby said on that subject.

The conclusion is clear and simple. Democracy in Europe is the biggest medium-term task for the Union. Nice has contributed little, if anything, to that task. Those who, like me at the time, advocated British accession expected a more democratic Europe. The issue is now indissolubly linked to the forthcoming enlargement. We have to make sure that concern with an acquis communautaire about packaging waste, rules governing nursing and midwifery, gambling and machine games, or even cinematography—all those are quoted from the recent Polish position paper—does not destroy the hopes of those who want to be a part of a peaceful, free and open Europe. I quote from the recent bulletin of the Centre for European Reform: The EU has an accession process, but still needs an enlargement strategy". This must include not only an early date—certainly one before the EU once again changes its own institutional structure—but, above all, a joint effort by old and new members to democratise Europe.

5.20 p.m.

Lord Ahmed

My Lords, the gracious Speech states that the Government believe that those who commit crime against humanity should be brought to justice. I welcome the Government's commitment to ratifying the statute of the International Criminal Court.

Today, dozens of conflicts are occurring within the boundaries of individual states. Many, such as Kosovo, Xiuxiang, Chechnya, Palestine and Kashmir, are concerned with self-determination. Many brutal, tyrannical dictators and even so-called "elected" governments are engaged in the elimination of their political and religious opponents.

I am sure that your Lordships will agree that war criminals, such as Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic should have no place to hide and should be brought to justice forthwith. But I would urge the international community seriously to consider the prosecution of people who are responsible for the crimes against humanity in Chechnya, Palestine and Kashmir and in other places, too.

My noble friend Lord Judd, rapporteur on Chechnya to the Parliamentary Assembly o f the Council of Europe and chairman of the Assembly Sub-Committee on refugees, recently wrote in the House Magazine that in Chechnya: There are still indiscriminate bombardments, even if more limited in number; there are too many checkpoints where harassment and extortion are the norm; there are reports of secret prisons, holes in the ground, abuse of detainees and torture; disappearances still occur. The conditions faced by refugees and displaced people is deplorable". Amnesty International has reported beatings, rape and torture of detainees in the most notorious camp of Chernokozovo, where Chechnyans have no access to relatives, lawyers or the world outside. The most common methods of torture are beating, including the use of hammers and clubs, rape and the use of electric shocks.

A Russian non-governmental human rights group, Memorial, estimates that only 10 per cent of those detained by Russian forces in Chechnya are officially registered. The other 90 per cent are kept in milltary detention centres, secret locations or have been extra-judicially killed. Although Russia claims that it is fighting terrorism in Chechnya, the brutal and illegal methods being employed by its forces can only be called "state terrorism" on an unprecedented scale.

I make no secret of the fact that I am a Kashmiriborn British parliamentarian. I have visited the line of control in Azad Kashmir and the refugee camps and have met with hundreds of families who have been victims of oppression in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Your Lordships may have seen the Human Rights Watch annual report last week which pointed out that Hindu nationalist policies of BJP—the party in government—encourages attacks on lower caste individuals and minority Muslim and Christian communities.

Attacks against Christians have increased significantly since the BJP came into power in 1998. Ministers, including the Home Minister, Mr Advani, were responsible for inciting and encouraging the destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya and for killing scores of Muslims. I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister whether she is prepared to say whether charges can be brought against politicians who deliberately encourage and order the killing of innocent civilians.

The US State Department report on India, published earlier this year, noted that: Serious human rights abuses included faked encounter killings and death of suspects in custody throughout the country and excessive use of force by security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Problems are acute in Jammu and Kashmir where judicial tolerance of the Government's heavy handed anti-militant tactics, and the refusal of security forces to obey court orders have disrupted the system". In 1997 the UN rapporteur on torture noted that: Torture methods used by India in Jammu and Kashmir included beating, rape, crushing the leg muscles with a wooden roller, burning with heated objects and electric shocks". Recent developments—for example, the ceasefire called by the largest militant group inside Jammu and Kashmir, Hizbul Mujahideen—offered hope to the long-suffering people of Jammu and Kashmir. The ceasefire was to be three months long but lasted two weeks because India refused to accept the call for inclusion of Pakistan in tripartite talks.

The ceasefire offered hope after the terrible events of 20th March this year in ChittiSinghpura, near Anantnag, Jammu and Kashmir. There, on the eve of President Clinton's visit to India, 36 Sikh men were butchered. The killing of the Sikhs was blamed by India on "Pakistan-backed militants", to use the Indian phrase. The fact that the massacre came so close to the presidential visit was extremely beneficial to the Indian Government.

I myself sent your Lordships a report by the Punjab Human Rights Organisation which squarely pinned the blame for the atrocity on Indian-sponsored militant cadres known as "renegades". The renegades are former militants who are armed and paid by the Indian authorities in Jammu and Kashmir. Amnesty International also reached the same conclusion in its investigation, as did the Guardian newspaper in an article called "Valley of Death". Will the perpetrators of this crime against humanity ever be brought to justice?

On a more pleasant note, I welcome the recent Indian Government ceasefire announcement and the reciprocal Pakistani gesture urging maximum restraint along the line of control. For that gesture to become more meaningful, perhaps I may call upon the Indian Government to announce a permanent end to the policy of repression and violence, a reduction in armed forces, respect for the fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people and the release of all detainees.

I hope that the Ramadan ceasefire announced by India and the Pakistani response—the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, referred to that earlier—will lead to a true, meaningful and lasting dialogue which will end with a settlement that is acceptable to the three parties in the conflict: Pakistanis, Indians and Kashmiris. I am hopeful that the recent talks announced in New Delhi between representatives of the APHC and the Indian Government will reinvigorate dialogue and diplomacy between the parties to resolve the conflict.

The people of the British Kashmiri community, along with myself, have decided to start our own confidence-building initiatives here in the UK. We hope to run a bus service from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar from outside this Parliament. I hope that in her reply the Minister will endorse the British-Kashmiri community's efforts to bring peace and prosperity to that part of the world.

My last point concerns the crisis in the Middle East. I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford about Palestine and Iraq. The current uprising was initiated by the deliberately provocative visit of Ariel Sharon, the Likud leader and alleged war criminal, who, escorted by hundreds of Israeli soldiers, went to the Haram Al Sharif on Thursday, 28th September. It was clearly an effort to gain support within his party for fear of an impending leadership struggle against Benjamin Netanyahu. In the current atmosphere, Sharon's typically insensitive actions made it almost a certainty that violence would follow.

The Israeli armed forces have adopted disproportionate means to quell the uprising. There was no excuse for the use of tanks, missiles and helicopter gunships. There has also been an excessive use of live ammunition, including the often lethal rubber-coated metal bullets.

The actions of Israeli Jewish settlers in the violence are also disturbing. Many have been given further weapons and ammunition by the Israeli army over the past two and a half months. Settlers do not have the same operating restrictions as do Israeli soldiers and are largely immune from legal proceedings for violence against Palestinians.

The Israeli Government have failed to acknowledge that only by withdrawing from the occupied territories could there ever by any chance of a fair and sustainable peace. The maintenance of policies such as settlement building—and I remind the House that there has been a dramatic rise since Ehud Barak was elected: 13,600 more settlers last year alone—demolition of houses, use of Israeli undercover assassination units as seen most recently in August of this year, the detention and torture of political prisoners, the closure of the entire Gaza Strip, the cutting off of Jerusalem from the West Bank, the withdrawal of Jerusalem residency rights from over 3,000 Palestinians, the theft of Palestinian resources, especially water, the failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for over 4 million Palestinian refugees.

The Oslo process has not led to an improvement in the situation for Palestinians in terms of national and human rights, nor their economic condition. The current crisis has its roots in one more dominant, powerful side, attempting to impose a peace agreement on the other party. That has cemented Israel's position as occupier of Palestinian land and still subjects the Palestinians to humiliation and poverty.

The policies of Israeli governments over the past 50 years towards their Palestinian Arab citizens have led to violence inside Israel itself. As at 3rd December, 13 Arab citizens of Israel have been killed. That follows the continuing confiscation of their land and resources.

Furthermore, the Arab sector still receives less funding per capita than Jewish areas and has a far higher rate of unemployment. Human rights agencies have pointed to rampant discrimination for non-Jews. Unless that is redressed, there will be increasing tension and clashes.

There should be a serious independent inquiry into the recent clashes. That does not mean a US-led inquiry but an impartial team of experts, preferably a UN-led investigation.

Israel cannot object on the grounds of sovereignty as it does not have sovereignty over Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel has failed in its legal duty to provide security to the people of the territory that it has occupied illegally for 33 years. It is legally incumbent, under the fourth Geneva Convention, for the international community to intervene.

The British Muslim community remains concerned that Her Majesty's Government have not seen fit to condemn or deplore the Israeli disproportionate use of force. I should like to see a serious re-evaluation of the Middle East peace process, whereby respect of international law, Security Council resolutions and human rights law were paramount.

It must he remembered that the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including East Jerusalem, remains territory under belligerent occupation. Israel, as the occupier, is responsible for the welfare of the occupied. It is now time for the international community, especially the European Union, to insist that Israel must abide by the principles and resolutions of international law, and also that Israel, in co-ordination with the Palestinian authorities, should, with immediate effect, make every effort to calm the situation through non-lethal means.

Finally, I am sure that Her Majesty's Government are using their good relations with the Israeli Administration to encourage confidence-building measures to produce a climate of calm in the region. In my view, a complete freeze on settlement building, including in East Jerusalem, should be enforced until the implementation of a permanent status agreement. Israeli leaders must desist from any provocative actions over the future of the Haram Al Sharif. Such measures should be encouraged.

While I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on and thank them for the excellent way that they have shown leadership and interest in international affairs, I remain cautious about the role of other international players. I hope that the Minister will assure the House that more will be done to support the oppressed and those who are seeking the right of self-determination from oppressive regimes.

5.35 p.m.

Lord Carver

My Lords, I intend to speak about only one issue: the European rapid reaction force. Ever since the strategic threat to Europe was totally transformed by the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the centre of Germany and the break-up of the Soviet Union, I have advocated, in this House and elsewhere, a fundamental reorganisation of NATO's armed forces.

My suggestion has been to organise them into three elements: first, the United States forces stationed in or assigned to Europe under their own national command, as in fact they always are, although that is camouflaged by the existence of large headquarters, manned by inflated allied staffs, most of whom have nothing significant to do, and every expansion of NATO makes that worse; secondly, an integrated European organisation capable of exercising command and organising common training, preferably backed by common logistics and procurement. Germany, ourselves and France must be included in it. Other members of the alliance could join it if they wanted to—I expect most would—but they need not do so. Those who did not would form the third element. Their forces would remain under their own national command, as all would, and are, under NATO, until committed to an operation. But they could always commit their forces to the integrated command if they wished to take part in an operation.

I envisaged that integrated European command as part of NATO, rendering the large bureaucratic allied headquarters superfluous. If the Americans were participating in operations, the integrated organisation would act under their overall command, as every member of NATO would in fact have done if NATO had been engaged in operations. American command is the price that one has to pay for their support, as we did in Korea, in the Gulf and in Kosovo. But if the Americans did not participate, I envisaged the integrated organisation taking its orders directly from the NATO council because, of course, the standard NATO command system could not apply to orders coming down from the Supreme Allied Commander Europe because he is the commander in chief of the United States forces in Europe.

I favoured that organisation not only in order to meet the persistent American demand that the Europeans should make a greater effort—they have been saying that since the alliance started; I know because I was there—but because I believe that it would give better value for money and manpower devoted to the defence and security of Europe than the existing system, which is out of date.

However, I have come to recognise that, unfortunately, the French, unable to escape from their anti-American obsession, would not agree to participate in such an organisation, although it would meet many of their objections to NATO. Nevertheless, I am convinced that there should be some such European defence organisation which must—I repeat, must—include the French. Therefore, I accept the proposed European rapid reaction force as the best practical way of involving them.

It has a further advantage. Previous attempts to bring together the European members of the alliance, such as Eurogroup, for various purposes, including response to American pressure that they should carry a larger share of the burden, have failed for the lack of any political body to back them partly, ironically, because of American suspicions that the Europeans, if organised together, would gang up against them.

While I support the European force, I am convinced that its development must be kept under firm control. In this respect, I welcome the proposal which I understand has been adopted, that the national military representatives in Brussels of the 11 nations which are members of both NATO and the European Union will be accredited to both organisations and that NATO's deputy supreme commander Europe will attend the European Military Committee. The more double-hatting in this field, the better. I regret to see yet another military bureaucracy established, but I hope that, as it develops, the inflated NATO headquarters will be significantly reduced.

My second anxiety is that the new organisation, and especially its political masters, should not be too ambitious. It must remain restricted to the "Petersberg" tasks that were defined as humanitarian intervention, crisis management and peacekeeping. In Bosnia we have seen how those matters can creep and stretch to peace-enforcement and in Kosovo to more than that. I am seriously concerned about the wording in the Helsinki resolution that the force must be capable "of the full range" of those tasks, including the most demanding in operations up to corps level (up to 15 Brigades or 50–60,000 persons)". If that is to be interpreted as implying that all that force might be deployed at the same time in the same operation, it should come under the responsibility of NATO.

As I understand it, the forces that have been declared as our contribution represent the maximum that the force's planners can assume that we would commit to an operation, but that, unless committed, they remain under national command and available for other tasks. I hope that in reply the Minister can assure the House that that is the case.

What are the operations in which the Americans would not want to participate and in which we would not want them to participate? Apart from the Balkans, what could those operations be? In anything that could cause serious concern to Russia or that affected the Middle East or North Africa, the Americans would be concerned and we would want them to be.

What about the Balkans? The impetus for such a force came from the difficulties in which Europe found itself in Bosnia. There is no doubt that we shall be stuck in Kosovo and Bosnia for quite a long time. When the force has developed sufficiently to do so, should it take over responsibility from NATO in that area? That would please the Americans and it would make it easier to co-ordinate with the European Union's efforts in other areas there. However, I believe that we should be cautious in suggesting that. We do not want a repetition of what occurred in Bosnia before Dayton, when the Americans were not involved, but pursued their own policy of favouring the Croats, to Europe's considerable embarrassment.

One further advantage of the development of a European security and defence identity is that it will be possible for European nations which are not members of NATO to participate, if they wish to do so, in "Petersberg" task operations, replacing NATO's rather dubious association known as Partnership for Peace. That should relieve some of the pressure for a further expansion of NATO, which I view with considerable misgiving.

I welcome the establishment of the force, and the political means of controlling it, as a first step in generally the right direction. It does not call for the rabid reaction that the Conservative Party leadership has displayed. However, its development will require careful control, which those nations which are members of both the European Union and NATO should be able to exercise. They seem to have done so fairly successfully at Nice.

5.44 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I take his general position as a guarded welcome to the development to which the Government have put their hand.

The matter of nuclear weapons appears to have been put on one side. The countries that will make up the new organisation comprise some that have nuclear weapons and some that do not. The Government have not mentioned the issue of nuclear weapons at all. One may say, "Why should they?" If I am asked to say what is the single most important change that has taken place over the past century, the greatest change affecting the future of mankind, I would say—I know a number of others would too—that for the first time in human history mankind is now in a position to destroy itself. In other words, we live in a highly dangerous world. In our efforts to create new organisations that will in some way preserve the peace, inadvertently we may create a situation in which that peace may be destroyed.

I venture to doubt whether by entering into a peacemaking war, peace can be created by that war. In Sarajevo we were supposed to be involved in peacemaking, and ultimately we killed many civilians and left behind a situation about which most of us are unhappy.

We do not always achieve the results to which we put our hands. One has to face the possibility that in the new set up that we are discussing, matters may go the way we expect and want them to, but equally they may not. The dire situation that may arise in Europe between countries both of which are in possession of nuclear weapons is one that can barely be contemplated—and the Government have not contemplated it. Possibly the reason that they have not mentioned nuclear weapons is that they have no answer to the problem.

I bring to the proposals before the House tonight the same rather guarded welcome that has just been expressed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. To that I add another one. I would give priority to nuclear disarmament. I do not believe that it is safe to try to transfer political influence and military control when many of the countries concerned are armed to the teeth with weapons that, once exchanged, may lead to a loss of control. In other words, we are creating a new situation and we do not know the effect of that in regard to nuclear disarmament.

By all means let us proceed carefully and slowly with organisational changes, but similarly and simultaneously let us proceed rapidly towards nuclear disarmament. I do not believe that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, would disagree with me on that point. I do not believe that it would be sensible to proceed rapidly and to create uncertainties in relation to the new situation while nuclear weapons proliferate all over the world.

I must pay tribute to the Government. They have made a change to their position in the United Nations which is not widely known—and that is partly their own fault. Perhaps they are not as proud of it as they should be. They now support, and have supported, the new agenda. I was not aware of that; neither was the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I believe that he wanted to table a Question to ask whether the Government would pursue the new agenda, which is a more hopeful and a more constructive movement towards nuclear disarmament, but my noble friend on the Front Bench was in a position to claim that they have just done it.

Within the United Nations, we are in a more constructive position than has been the case for some time. Nuclear nations and non-nuclear nations are together able and willing to proceed in the direction of nuclear disarmament.

That process must continue. We have the structure, but we are not moving forward. The new agenda, which we support, has a series of progressions which lead to nuclear disarmament. We must continually move along that route before we can safely make the structural changes which might leave us unable to control the consequences. In other words, I am anxious about the change of the present shape of power in Europe in particular and about the consequences of that across the world and on America. Incidentally, its policies have broken away from the other nuclear nations and no one can foresee the consequences of that.

For those reasons, I take the view which I have already expressed; softly, softly and go carefully. By all means proceed along the lines which the Government are now recommending but, alongside that, and more urgently, let us proceed towards the goal of nuclear disarmament. While that threat remains over the world, together with the power which the nuclear weapon gives us to destroy all that we have created, we must be careful about what we do so as not to end up with a situation we did not intend when we began the discussion.

5.52 p.m.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, I want to concentrate my brief remarks on two issues which have been raised tonight; the European Union in the wake of the Nice summit and greater European defence capability.

In plain sight of the historic enlargement of Europe, Europe stands at a crossroad. As the work programme of the French presidency acknowledged, it is a crucial point in the development of the EU. The question is not whether Europe needs to change but rather how it will change under the guiding light of democratic accountability.

From these Benches, I have always been a passionate and vigorous supporter of European enlargement. It is clear that what was truly required to drive forward the enlargement process was agreement on the "Amsterdam Triangle" of issues; namely, the future size of the Commission, the weighting of votes in the Council of Ministers and the extension of QMV. On that note, the Government's deal on the reweighting of votes in the Council guarantees the legitimacy of Council decisions and is to be welcomed. However, I share the unease of my noble friend Lord Howell that our failure to act as champions to the smaller countries of Europe could upset the delicate scales upon which the European Union has been balanced.

At Nice, the Government had a golden opportunity to put forward the kind of far-reaching and visionary changes needed to speed up enlargement and to accommodate the inherent diversities of national interest in a European Union of perhaps 27 members or more without undermining the spirit of the European project but at the same time without attempting to shoehorn Europe into a rigid straitjacket of uniformity.

A two-way street made up of interlocking and overlapping groupings, of nations combining in different combinations for different purposes arid to different extents, as in the case of the present opt-outs on borders and the single currency, would enable that to happen and would strengthen Europe by finally allowing it to move away from the damaging cycle of "lowest common denominator" negotiations which hamstrung the European Union and continue to do so.

Last week, the Economist asked why such two-way-street flexibility should pose a problem. I ask the same question of the Government tonight. Yet the Treaty of Nice did not rise to the challenge, for while it paves the way for enlargement to happen it does not pave the way for it to work. The distinction is critically important. For example, during the weekend no mention was made of CAP reform. It was not even on the agenda. The Minister may say that a treaty is not required for CAP reform and so it did not need to be discussed under the auspices of the IGC. Yet plenty was discussed at Nice which did not require an IGC and, even more seriously, was not critical to the enlargement process.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights was on the agenda. The rapid reaction force was on the agenda, as was the European social agenda. All were discussed but none will make an iota of difference in hastening enlargement. The omission of CAP reform was a serious one. It was not discussed at Nice; it should have been discussed at Nice.

Before the summit, the Government promised to protect and promote Britain's national interest. That brings me to the second topic on which I want to focus tonight; namely, the establishment of the European rapid reaction force, which of late has been the subject of debate and much newsprint. The preservation of the stability of Europe and a stalwart commitment to defence have always been proud and strong Conservative traditions. I want to make one thing clear from my perspective. Greater European defence co-operation is not optional; it is obligatory.

A stronger Europe through a stronger European commitment to NATO is vital if we are to have a more balanced transatlantic partnership, able to address real security challenges in the 21st century, particularly in view of the increasingly isolationist post-Cold War America. Recognition of that fact was indeed the raison d'étre for the creation of the European Security and Defence Initiative in 1994.

I respect this Government's ability to create a starburst of favourable publicity at the time of major political events, but it has been notably weaker once that detail has emerged, is analysed and questioned, not least in your Lordships' House. We have two of the Government's finest Ministers participating in the debate, but tonight even they may have difficulty in arguing the case for Annex VII. Yesterday, we were told that the next step is for the European Union and NATO to agree on the necessary arrangements for planning and operational procedures. That next step is a crucially important one and it is far from clear that whatever ultimately emerges will be consistent with NATO.

The documents which emerged from Nice, which the Foreign Secretary was proud to state took only eight minutes to agree, do little to allay my concerns. Most particularly the standing arrangements for consultation and co-operation between the European Union and NATO (Annex VII) declare that there must be "full respect" for the "autonomy of EU decision-making"; that each organisation will be, dealing with the other on an equal footing"; and, to reinforce the quotation of my noble friend Lord Howell, that, the entire chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation", after consultation between the two organisations. That is exactly what the French wanted.

In that framework, the operational commander will report on the conduct of the operation to European Union bodies only. NATO will be informed of developments in the situation by the appropriate bodies. That hardly sounds like European defence co-operation under the NATO umbrella.

In the light of President Chirac's remarks last week, and in the absence of hard fact, reassurance is urgently needed—to these Benches, to the United States and to the six non-EU members of NATO, in particular Turkey. The statement signed at the summit might be bland enough, although much of the detail of the lengthy annexes is still not available. But there is ample reason for concern. It should not be forgotten that three years ago similar reassurances were asked for, and given, that the WEU would not be merged with the EU because, in the words of the Prime Minister, that would undermine NATO. Yet the WEU is now to be wound down and the rapid reaction force will be under the aegis of the EU.

A separate strategic and operational planning capability outside NATO which duplicates resources is pointless. Why reinvent the wheel by developing such a capability? It is unnecessary, undesirable and unaffordable. Yet the draft presidency report on European security and defence policy, which speaks of the establishment of a political and security committee, a military committee of the EU and a military staff of the EU, states that, the strength of the resources needed for the operation of such bodies, in particular the Military Staff, will have to be increased without delay". At the end of the day, every nation has but one defence budget and one set of forces. There is only one pool of resources from which NATO and the European Union can draw in future military operations and to asset-strip the one to clothe the other is absurd. The Government are proud to boast that Britain took the initiative in proposing the rapid reaction force and have kept the lead throughout. Yet last week the International Herald Tribune reported that in American eyes Britain was blamed for endangering NATO's role for the sake of a British voice in the European Union. I am sure the Minister agrees that that is a most damaging perception. In conclusion, I hope that the Government will be able to act to rebuff it, in particular at the NATO ministerial meeting this week and the summit between the European Union and the United States next week.

6.2 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, in the brief time at my disposal I should like to concentrate on one sentence in the gracious Speech: My Government will continue to ensure that NATO remains the foundation of Britain's defence and security". That is an unexceptionable sentiment, but how much does it really mean in the current political environment? As the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, suggested, we have witnessed a radical transformation of the international structure which involves the gradual disappearance of the sovereign nation state as its basic building block. That has an inevitable effect on the role and relevance of regional pacts of sovereign nation states. My reaction to all this is very different from that of my noble and gallant friend. The United Nations now believes that the international community has not only the right but the duty to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign states. In turn, that gives rise to, or is reflected by, a new NATO strategic doctrine. If one goes back to the 1999 summit, the doctrine envisaged that the alliance, which used to be purely defensive in nature, might have to deal with a wide range of contingencies, including humanitarian emergencies. Therefore, NATO has already changed out of all recognition as the international structure is transformed.

The concept of a new world order now emerges as the main rationale for the famous—or infamous—European security and defence initiative and the European army, or rapid reaction force, as its military manifestation. To what is the reaction force intended to react? It is not to react to any attack on its members because that is a function of NATO, which we are repeatedly assured is the linchpin of our defence arrangements. As Romano Prodi has clearly said, the force is intended to be a joint effort for peacekeeping missions. Others clearly see it, in the words of a document published recently by the Institute for Public Policy Research, as, a rapid reaction humanitarian force, able to provide humanitarian and other resources at overnight notice". The Prime Minister confirmed in his statement yesterday that that was the main aim of the rapid reaction force.

Unlike my noble and gallant friend, I do not welcome this development. The arguments against this half-baked and ill-conceived project have already been canvassed widely, and I do not take up your Lordships' time in any detailed repetition of them. Briefly, it will be costly in manpower and resources, so much so that it will probably never materialise unless European countries spend far more on their defence budgets than they seem prepared to do at the moment. But, if it does materialise, all the rhetoric about an autonomous European capability will be seen to be empty because it will have to use NATO's resources for weather reconnaissance, electronic warfare, satellite imagery and all the other things which European countries, separately or in concert, cannot provide for themselves. If it tries to acquire its own capabilities in all those fields, it will seriously undermine the cohesion of NATO and our relations with the United States of America. I hope that no government Minister will say again that the Americans are comfortable with that. William Cohen, US Defense Secretary, has comprehensively blown that fiction out of the water. The Americans regard the European strategic defence initiative as having no military credibility or use. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, suggested that the Americans regarded it as a political manoeuvre with some very obvious motives.

One may differ fundamentally on the general approach to this issue, but on whichever side of the argument one may be there are some practical matters which need to be examined, as the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said. The words of the Prime Minister following Nice about NATO's role in European defence was a statement of principle with which few could disagree, but behind the attractive headlines there is a great deal of small print which we should study very carefully. In that context, perhaps when the noble Baroness replies to this debate she will tell us a little more about the interim European Union military staff, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred, that has been set up apparently to prepare for the introduction of a permanent military staff of the European Union. What is to be the exact relationship between that military staff and the military staffs of NATO? What will be its links with national governments? As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, suggested, is it to be part of a completely separate chain of command? We need precision as to that. That is especially important in the field of intelligence.

I ask the noble Baroness to go into a little more detail about how all this is to be organised. I understand that the intelligence division of the European Union military staff is to have at least one intelligence expert from each member state. Apparently the task of that expert is to contribute defence intelligence from the member states to the European Union and to provide a channel from the European Union back to national defence intelligence organisations. Have the Government really agreed to that arrangement and to provide such an intelligence expert? If so, what access will he or she have to our total national intelligence product?

What is the function of the division? I understand that the Foreign Office has said that the EU military staff is a secretariat, not a planning organisation or command staff. If so, what is the secretariat doing with an intelligence division? Intelligence is not some kind of exotic activity that is carried out in some shady and mysterious vacuum; it is central to almost all external political activity. No coherent foreign or defence policy can be formulated without effective intelligence machinery. That truth is at the heart of our relationship with the United States of American. I hope that no one will forget that. It is at the heart of American concerns about the European security and defence initiative.

It is one matter for the Americans to have special bilateral relationships in the intelligence field, as indeed they have with Japan, with Israel and with ourselves, but alarm bells start to ring in Washington when the possibility arises that Britain might become a channel for passing intelligence to the European Union and its member countries. I repeat—I ask this question genuinely for enlightenment and information—if the European Union military staff are not to be involved in military planning, why does it need an intelligence input from its member states?

Britain has one of the most sophisticated intelligence capabilities of any European country. Its effectiveness depends to a substantial extent on our special relationship with the United States. That is a highly sensitive and explosive issue. There are those in Europe who believe that the new European army can have a free ride on the back of the British intelligence capability. The Americans will not tolerate that. Nowadays there is a good deal of facile and ill-informed anti-American sentiment. We have heard some in the debate today. But the Government, whatever those sentiments may be, will have to make up their mind about the matter. Are we really willing to jeopardise a relationship which is vital to our national security in order to contribute to a project which has nothing to do with national security at all and everything to do with European political empire-building? Perhaps the noble Baroness can give the House some reassurance on that matter.

I have a final point. I return to the transformation which is taking place in the global structure and in its strategic doctrine. We know that our Armed Forces are professional, committed and highly effective. They are among the best in the world. We know that and do not need to be told it quite so often. Even among those who are complimentary about our Armed Forces there is a mindset which believes that we can enjoy all the self-indulgences of ethical foreign policies and global humanitarianism without having to pay for them.

In conclusion, I should like to say that if we want to posture on the world stage and despatch expeditionary forces to deal with ethnic cleansing, oppressive regimes and the denial of human rights, then expenditure on our Armed Forces and their equipment will have to have a much higher priority than it has had for many years.

6.13 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I should like to take this opportunity to mention a common interest between myself and the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, and to depart most emphatically from what he has said. Both he and I had the honour of serving on the European Commission. He was then a Free Democrat from Germany. I was a Labour Party member. I was nominated by Neil Kinnock, himself a Commissioner.

The noble Lord has forgotten substantially what was said at the Commission from time to time. Certainly I do not know exactly what happened in his day; but in mine it was not uncommon for criticism of the Commission to be taken on board and to be the subject of discussion and debate among the Commissioners. I wish the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, was here: he served with me. He could back up what I say.

To say that the Commission is not subject to democracy is impossible to sustain. I speak only of my own experience. There was plenty of criticism of the Commission from the noble Lord. Some of it was justified, but in large measure it was not. There is no alternative to there being a Commission. That should be said loud and clear. One can criticise it. One can say that it does not have its finger always on the pulse. But to say that there is no case for a Commission, which is what he was saying. The noble Lord shakes his head. That is how I interpreted his view. A Commission does count.

My noble friend Lady Scotland spoke about the role of the organisations within the Commission. If I criticise at all, it is that the Commission was partially left out of the discussions which have taken place. As time goes on, I hope that the Prime Minister will show by his words—he is not incapable of expressing himself—that the Commission has a vital role to play.

If the Commission fails in its duty, I believe that the Prime Minister has the duty to inform this country and the wider world where it is going wrong. He has not done that effectively.

I do not propose to enter into the arguments about a rapid reaction force. But I do not think that it undermines NATO at all. That is all I have to say about it.

I was delighted that my noble friend Lady Scotland spoke about ratifying law enforcement. That is desperately needed. I believe that the Commission should pay more attention to that issue. Nevertheless, we are making progress—and thank heaven for that.

The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was in marked contrast to that of his Leader in another place. I am glad that it was, because if the Leader of the Opposition in another place has any role to play he has determined that it should be a destructive one. That is not the role that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has chosen for himself.

What has emerged from Nice is far removed from the bogey of a monolithic superstate with which the Eurosceptics tried to scare the public yesterday. If anything can be read into the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in another place, it was that. What has emerged of course is compromise. All successful summits have to end that way. Ever since I was a Commissioner, the Commission has not had the last word in anything. That is in the very nature of things when 15, let alone 27, nations participate in international debate. The question is whether the outcome advanced or retarded the European Union, not whether all outstanding questions were satisfactorily dealt with. Judged from that point of view, the Nice Summit was a success. Tony Blair has not been mugged, as the Opposition predicted.

The wider interests have triumphed over the essentially nationalistic ambitions of some. For example, Chancellor Schroder—this is not the first time his name has been mentioned in the debate—deserves our congratulations, rather than our condemnation, on his abandonment of the reweighting of votes in favour of Germany. Logically, the reweighting was sound, but it was unacceptable politically to France, Spain, Italy and ourselves; and so it was not pursued. Why should we not congratulate Chancellor Schrõder on being more pro-European than some of his friends?

Britain has set out where the veto can be used. For us, for example, the issues of taxation and social security are essential. But others have had their say. The fact is that Europe today is determined to work towards a stronger, more democratic and greatly enlarged Community. That is the big picture which has emerged from the summit. Emerging from the summit, too, is a more constructive engagement, which all of us should welcome.

Of course, I should like to see some different policies. I should like to see a more co-ordinated immigration and asylum policy. That is what I would have argued for as a Commissioner. It is clearly needed in the interests of all member states. It is something that we in this House should debate before the next summit. There are problems for Austria and Germany from the east. Italy, Portugal and Spain face similar problems from north Africa. These issues will not easily go away. Debate is of the utmost importance. I hope that, in this place at least, we shall avail ourselves of that opportunity.

We need a common and planned policy based on fairness. We also have wider interests within the OECD as well as in the EU. We have to achieve a more effective diminution of poverty in the world. We can help to reshape international markets. I welcome what Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, has set out in her White Paper. What are the essential issues? In an interview with the Guardian, she said: The goal is to ensure aid is well spent and [to] help developing countries to build successful economies, not waste money on goods and services which are overpriced, unsuitable and supplied with national contracts in mind rather than the needs of the poor". She went on to say: We want aid donations to be seen as investment in the future of developing countries, not charity". That is the case for which she and the Government stand in international affairs.

We have made a start. We have already reduced from 30 per cent in 1997 to 8.5 per cent in 2000 the amount of financial aid tied to the purchase of British goods and services. Yes, we have tied in consultancy work worth about £200 million, but we use local consultants where we can; and from April 2001, it will all be untied.

Will not this help us in the OECD? When I went to the OECD, I had a hand tied behind my back because I could not say all those things. They were not all in my brief. Today, I am glad to say that they are. As Minister of Trade, I wish that I could have said all that mattered in that respect, but I could not. Are the donee countries likely to benefit? Of course they are. I welcome what the Government have said in that respect.

In conclusion, we have made some progress in the EU. We have taken a bold, perhaps unilateral, initiative in international aid. That is a considerable advance. I welcome it unreservedly.

6.27 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, the gracious Speech says little about defence, but I welcome the Government's commitment to ensure that, NATO remains the foundation of Britain's defence and security". I shall say more about that in a moment.

First, I wish to refer to some defence topics, at least some of which should have a place in any Queen's Speech if only to underline the key role defence plays in the nation's affairs. One of the helpful and informative documents which the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, sent to me a couple of weeks ago is the Defence Investment Strategy document. I thank the noble Baroness very much for that and for a stream of informative letters and briefings which she has kindly provided.

The Defence Investment Strategy document contains a host of encouraging and informative nuggets about future procurement and investment strategies. I was pleased to note that the MoD is actually valuing its assets and depreciating them over time rather than following the former long-term costings approach where the newly acquired ship, tank or aircraft effectively had no financial value from the day it entered service.

Ten and more years ago, during the last five years of my time in the Ministry of Defence, I tried, as we embarked on what was then known as the new management strategy, to persuade those who looked after our financial affairs to develop ways to show what our in-hand asset values were, instead of effectively writing them off financially from the day they entered service. I was unable to move the MoD financial dinosaur then. I am pleased to see that at last this more logical and coherent approach is now the practice.

I was interested in the development of public/private partnerships which is reported in the strategic document. So far this arrangement seems to be giving satisfactory results, so much so that it is to be taken much further into programmes as large and critical to frontline needs as the future strategic tanker for airborne refuelling.

To be attractive to the market, a PFI deal must give the private sector participant added value. Effectively, this will be their return, year after year, of a lease or rental value over the operational life of the programme paid to them by the Ministry of Defence. In other words, there will be an unavoidable sum to service the private funds for which the MoD must budget over many years. In the old Long Term Costings regime, and still today of course, a significant percentage of the annual defence budget is committed from the very first day of the financial year. That cannot be avoided; pay and allowances, pensions and, of course, payments for contracts already entered into for new equipment. After taking all these into account, there used to be only a relatively small percentage of the annual budget which could be "veered and hauled", as it were, to accommodate unexpected or new higher priority needs.

I wonder what additional constraints PFI deals will impose in the years ahead? Perhaps the Minister will be able to reassure noble Lords that the further loss in flexibility, which is one of the disadvantages of the new investment strategy, is not going to be a major problem for the future. Regrettably, the controls on capital funds are already causing problems in funding the running and operational activities envisaged in the Strategic Defence Review and in the essential training which all three services must undertake if they are to sustain their quality and cutting edge for the operations they face.

I regret that no reference is made in the gracious Speech to the operational deployments which the Armed Forces are engaged in to further Her Majesty's Government's policies. Many servicemen and women are involved, or are likely to be involved, in live operations. These continue almost daily in the skies over Iraq with aircrew who have not had extended training, such as Green and Red Flags, which the US Air Force and Navy learnt from bitter experience were vital in Vietnam if they were not to take heavy losses. A shortage of operational crews affecting both the RAF and the Royal Navy may account for some of these problems.

But it is frankly unacceptable to be committing to the exposure of live operations individuals who do not have the benefit of extended training, which is so essential to their effectiveness and their self-confidence. Is it a lack of funds for the training, or is it the pressure of overcommitment and undermanning which is causing these problems? I hope that the Minister will be able to say that there is no restriction on the essential training for their varied live operational roles anywhere in the three services.

None of the operations to which the Armed Forces are today committed can be said to be of such overriding national importance, so critical to the safety and defence of this country and its people, that short cuts in training and preparation for live operations have got to be forgone or curtailed. We have been lucky in the past with live operations; thankfully, over the past decade, casualties have been very few. But even a peacekeeping or a peace-enforcing operation can descend into conflict with casualties and losses on both sides. If, tragically, that were to happen, I do not want it to happen to those who have been short-changed on their preparation and training. That would be a moral outrage. Ministers must ensure that they are aware of the extent of the preparation of those they seek to involve in operations. It is difficult for the forces themselves, if tasked to meet a political commitment, to try to back off because they have not been fully trained for the missions which will confront them.

In response to a Written Question from the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, about the European rapid reaction force, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, stated: European Union nations and others (including European members of NATO and EU candidate countries) are making forces available and improving their capabilities for possible EU-led crisis management operations (e.g. humanitarian relief and peace-keeping). They will act militarily only where NATO as a whole is not engaged. They will not act in collective defence, which remains for NATO".—(Official Report, 29/11/00; col. WA140.] I had to read the Answer several times because I thought its message confusing. One construction seems to be that if a Petersberg operation degenerates into conflict, the Euro nations involved will act militarily if NATO as a whole is not engaged, but they will not act in collective defence. The outcome of Nice seems to support this concept, as reported by the noble Baroness the Lord Privy Seal in yesterday's Statement.

I hope that, in any thinking and planning for Petersberg tasks, there will be the closest interchanges between the FCO and the MoD. The latter must stress that it would be foolish in the extreme to plan on the assumption that there is never a risk of Petersberg tasks degenerating into conflict. The highest military levels in the MoD have put this point across graphically by reminding us that the Armed Forces must be trained and prepared for war and that training suitable merely for handing out aspirins and TLC to refugees will not suffice.

In the event that the Euro nations were caught up in military action, by which I mean conflict, I hope that the necessary contingency planning for such an eventuality will have been done. Indeed, if those with whom we may be collaborating on Petersberg tasks are not prepared to think and act in this way, then there must be very serious reservations about the whole idea. It is not merely an increase in military spending which this whole process is supposed to encourage, but a willingness to contemplate and plan for the unexpected. In all that I have read and heard about this new initiative, there still seems to be a lot of fuzziness—fuzziness which does not arise if the activities are shared beneath a NATO umbrella. Much work is still required to turn this very political EU aspiration into practical military sense.

I worry, too, at the assurance that there is no new burden for the Armed Forces. Surely, there is a risk of that. A collective approach brings its own obligations which may be impossible to resist or resile from without the most serious political consequences. While I do not doubt that there are many political imperatives to this latest attempt in a very long list of past endeavours, spreading back over many years, to bring greater strength and value to a Euro contribution, I am not so confident in its success. How often has it been tried and, so far, how rarely—even at much lower levels of complexity—has it achieved anything of lasting value?

While it is no doubt politically desirable to continue to try and try again, all these efforts must not undermine or weaken the strength, value and transatlantic commitment which is embodied in NATO. This is a difficult circle to square. It will need constant vigilance and the closest co-operation at all levels of government. Reading what has been said in recent days by Ministers and by the Prime Minister about European defence co-operation, I sense that there is still room for refining their mutual understanding and commentary on the way ahead. The message is not yet clear. Many noble Lords, in what they have said today, have underlined that only too clearly.

6.38 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury

My Lords, in the gracious Speech we were told that there was to be a White Paper outlining how the Government would work to shape the forces of globalisation to benefit the world's poor. I am among those who were delighted to see that paper published yesterday. I warmly welcome the paper and the statement written by the Secretary of State for International Development, with its particular pledges to untie development assistance, to help eradicate disease, to support world environmental initiatives and to tackle intellectual property rights and stolen assets.

What concerns me most, however, is what the White Paper says about trade strengthening initiatives in developing countries. What kind of globalisation are we seeking, and how might we be able to hallow and direct it aright', as some of us might say in other contexts?

The definition of globalisation with which the aid agencies work is the, "increasing inter-connectedness of individuals, groups and communities". But others see the world as a single market without barriers. There you can see the reason for my concern. While the aid agencies' definition reflects something of the mutual interdependence that I long for—reflecting that interrelationship of the persons of the Trinity at the heart of the Godhead—the single market language of John Madeley's definition, a single market without barriers, should give us cause for concern.

If globalisation is essentially about the market, it has signally failed to achieve improvements in equality or mutuality. Here I disagree with the comments made in paragraph 27 of the White Paper. The World Bank's development report for 2000 to 2001 indicates that the average income in the world's 20 richest countries is 37 times the average in the 20 poorest, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said. Like him, I believe that this increasing gap is immoral. It is growing, and what are we doing?

The gap is dangerous because it undermines trust and, without that trust, there is no hope of the partnerships we must seek to build between those who live on different sides of the world, who have access to different standards of justice and different ways of entering the global market. This gap, which has doubled over the past 40 years, shows us that the benefits of globalisation appear to have gone very largely to those who have the most already, while the poorest have failed to benefit fully or, in many cases, become poorer.

The Human Development Report 1997, published by the UN Development Programme in New York, states that the prescription of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation is, presented with an air of inevitability and overwhelming conviction. Not since the heyday of free trade in the 19th century has economic theory elicited such widespread certainty". This certainty has been expressed more confidently since the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 and the retreat from the so-called socialist models of economic organisation since then.

But we have to recognise that the main beneficiaries of the trend towards globalisation have been the big trans-national corporations, largely based in the countries of the north—that is, western Europe, northern America and Japan.

In the area of the developing world that I know best—the Sudan—there is a new oilfield now in production. The securing and opening of that pipeline in September 1999 was achieved only by a large-scale clearance of tens of thousands of people from their homes in Upper Nile state. The principal beneficiary is a consortium of Canadian. Chinese and Malaysian companies, which has brought in Sudapet, the Sudanese petrol company, and given it a 5 per cent stake. Noble Lords may remember that there was an attempt to engage British business interests in this project as well.

The majority holdings in this venture are looking to take profits outside the country to their shareholders. Will what is left for the Sudan—a tiny 5 per cent in rare foreign currency earnings—bring any long-term benefits to the country as a whole? There are fears that this currency is not being used for healthcare or education but to resource the continuing internal conflict with the south. Global integration at this level will not help the Sudan's people.

For me, that raises the question of what kind of globalisation the Government have in mind. Globalisation is a given, but who is driving it and for what reason? Many trans-national corporations are far wealthier and more influential than Third World governments. Their interests are in those who can buy their goods and services, not in those who are without purchasing power. The aid agencies believe that the current strategy of "third way" globalisation—market liberalisation accompanied by more attention to human capital formation—is insufficiently redistributive to reverse the trend of rising inequality.

How will governments, including Her Majesty's Government, encourage—even make—the transnational corporations address these important questions of equity? What voice do we have where it counts most? How is the World Trade Organisation to monitor and regulate the global financial architecture so as to maximise its impact on poverty reduction? How can we encourage our partners in the European Union, of which we have heard so much in the debate, to support the development of an international agreement on competition? According to the White Paper, that is why it is so important to design economic strategies. Yes—but who is to do it and how can we take part in it?

How do these questions relate to the announcement that a new infrastructure financing facility for Africa will complement the Department for International Development initiated World Bank facility to encourage public-private investment in infrastructure? Will these links with domestic and international partners be on terms that are fairer and more generous than the package put together to exploit the Sudan's oilfields?

Will the Government tell us how they can influence the forces of globalisation so as to benefit the world's poor—so that we have a visible, practical and honourable strategy around which we can unite—as well as taking the welcome practical steps proposed? Unless we have that visible strategy around which we can unite, we will not be delivering to them the model of co-operation and trust they badly need—and the lack of which will divide us even further.

6.47 p.m.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, the interconnectedness referred to by the right reverend Prelate is interrupted in many parts of the world by conflict—not least in the area of Sudan where the oil companies are busy developing the projects he mentioned. If we are to have globalisation that benefits everyone, we have, first of all, to solve the conflict situations which prevent those in southern Sudan, for example, from obtaining the benefits which accrue to the richer countries.

Perhaps I may begin by referring to another conflict in Africa where we have been successful in bringing the fighting to an end—that is, the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. That conflict has caused immense loss of life and destruction of property, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and I saw when we were there last January. We visited the front line near Tsorona, where dead bodies were spread out all over the front. There were burnt-out tanks and destroyed villages on a vast scale. The conflict was similar to those in the First World War. Tens of thousands of men attacked on both sides—particularly the Ethiopians, who used the human wave tactics of the First World War.

It is an enormous relief that the conflict has now been brought to an end. Yesterday the peace efforts of President Bouteflika of Algeria were finally crowned with success when the two countries signed the Algiers agreement for a permanent end to hostilities between the two countries and the appointment of a neutral boundary commission to demarcate the borders.

The first point I should like to put to the noble Baroness about the lessons of this conflict is that the OAU needs better indigenous conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms of its own. President Bouteflika is to be warmly congratulated; he has done a tremendous job. But that was partly with the help of the United Nations and of the US, which put a lot of technical resources and manpower into the background. The OAU needs to have this capacity for itself. I hope that the international community will see that need and that the Britain might take a lead in offering to assist the OAU in that respect.

It was also very encouraging that Mr Ian Martin, who had given the United Nations such invaluable service in East Timor and before that in Haiti, is now the deputy special representative of the Secretary-General in Asmara. I hope that we shall continue to give full support to the reconstruction effort, as the Secretary-General has requested. The noble Lord, Lord Rea, will agree with me that Eritrea suffered disproportionately in the war because the whole of the west of the country was occupied by Ethiopian forces in the final offensive and they destroyed a large number of towns and villages there, displacing a quarter of a million people. The total number of people displaced in Eritrea as a whole has been estimated at 750,000—something like a quarter of the population. The scale of the problems that they face is enormous. But the Eritreans are amazingly resilient; given the support, they will recover. To evaluate their needs effectively, we need a permanent representative in Asmara. If Foreign Office resources will not allow a full embassy to be opened there, will the Minister at least assure the House that the embassy in Addis Ababa will make available a permanent official at senior level to stay in Asmara the whole time, instead of visiting it once a month or thereabouts?

I turn now to another area of conflict which has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed; namely, the state of Jammu and Kashmir. I visited Azad Kashmir in April, and in November I spent two days each in Jammu and Leh, talking to leaders of political parties, the military, minorities, students, humanitarian agencies, journalists, academics and people in the street. There was an almost universal demand for peace. Even the leaders of the political parties which are opposed to Indian rule were positive about the Ramadan cease-fire, although as one would expect they wanted it to be followed or accompanied immediately by talks on a political solution to this 53 year-old problem. Others said that they wanted the cease-fire to be made permanent. A group of young unemployed men said that their main anxiety was the lack of economic activity—an effect of the tension between India and Pakistan which erupted into an armed clash across the Line of Control in the spring and summer of 1999. A military source in Kashmir told us that 100,000 shells were fired by both sides in the course of the conflict. At a cost of 150 dollars each, the shells fired would have been worth an enormous amount. In Jane's Defence Monthly last June it was estimated that the Indians had spent 49 million dollars on replacing the shells fired. If we double that figure, taking the Pakistani contribution into account, we see that 100 million dollars went up in smoke on shells alone, to take no account of the loss of life and the other damage caused.

The only elements which did not approve the ceasefire in Kashmir were the armed groups. They have continued their operations and have recently been hitting soft targets, civilians and members of minority groups. Among the recent victims have been Agha Mehdi, the distinguished leader of the Shi'as in one part of the territory, five Sikh lorry drivers and five Hindus from the Doda area. The noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, mentioned an earlier case, the massacre at Chitti Singhpura, where large numbers of Sikhs were killed. This is a new phenomenon in the territory. Until recently, members of minority groups were immune. Those crimes are not calculated to end Indian rule in Kashmir, but serve to intimidate those who want to engage in a political process. Yesterday, Mr Abdul Ghani Lone, one of the Hurriyat leaders, said that militants should respond to the cease-fire and that, in any case, all foreign mercenaries will have to leave Kashmir once a dialogue has started. I hope that the violence does cease; but, as we learnt in Northern Ireland, if people want peace badly enough, they are not going to be deterred by atrocities or by the few bombs and bullets that the armed groups continue to fire.

I hope that we shall now see inclusive round table conferences of Kashmiris, first in Srinagar, then in Muzaffarabad, to enlist the forces of the whole community on either side in taking a political process forward. If there is a permanent peace, there is no reason why the Line of Control should not be opened, as the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, suggested; not just one bus, but a regular service, might be opened between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar. We shall have to see how best we can help these processes, while recognising that any decisions are entirely a matter for the people of Kashmir themselves. There are possibilities for "track two" initiatives, such as the conference which I had the privilege of attending in New Delhi, organised by the International Centre for Peace Initiatives. Meanwhile, we should encourage India and Pakistan to extend the cease-fire and to compete with each other in devising new confidence-building initiatives that would help to give some momentum to the development of a purely Kashmiri process, to enable the people themselves, as the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, said, to take part in these initiatives.

My third area of concern is the troubled province of Aceh in northern Sumatra. It seems a long time since your Lordships debated Indonesia, in April 1999. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then: President Habibie has disappeared and East Timor is on the way to independence. But a year after President Abdurrahman Wahid was elected, there is still widespread violence in Indonesia, in West Timor, Maluku and West Papua as well as Aceh. Aceh has the worst record of human rights abuse of any province in that vast state. The Aceh Human Rights Care Forum reports 841 deaths in the past 11 months, including 676 civilians. The latest victims, last Wednesday, were three humanitarian activists working for a Danish-funded NGO on the rehabilitation of torture victims.

President Wahid probably wants to stop the human rights violations in Aceh as much as we do; but I suspect that he is no longer in full control. When the army said on 5th December that troops would be deployed into the villages in Aceh (and in West Papua) for what were described as "social programmes" but what in fact represented a further crackdown against the pro-independence movement, the President's spokesman said that he was concerned about the army's motives but he had no choice but to agree. The spokesman said, "It's really hard not to allow the military to do anything".

The "humanitarian pause" agreed between the government and the Free Aceh Movement has not led to any reduction in the violence, and another 2,500 troops are now being deployed to the province, ostensibly to provide security for president Wahid when he visits Aceh on 19th December. The local commander said that before the arrival of these forces, 10,000 troops and police were already engaged in a crackdown on the separatists. That does not sound like the cessation of military activities that was projected in the "humanitarian pause".

If the Indonesians are serious about a political solution to the problems of Aceh's constitutional status, they must first address the disjunction between the elected leadership and the TNI. The lack of control over the military which resulted in the total devastation of East Timor, necessitating a huge international operation to put the embryo state back on its feet and left 130,000 refugees in the camps of West Timor, will, if not corrected, lead to similar emergencies in Aceh and indeed West Papua.

I have three suggestions. The first is that Britain and the EU work towards a resolution at next year's Human Rights Commission on Indonesia in general and Aceh in particular, starting with the joint declaration by four rapporteurs and the working group on arbitrary detention. The second is that the UN Secretary-General should be asked to consider sending a special representative, who might be a military man, to Indonesia to discuss the growing levels of violence in many parts of the country and in Aceh in particular, and to see whether the United Nations might be able to offer help in restoring peace and stability. The third is that the Indonesian Government should be asked to extend the ICRC's mandate so as to cover observation of the military's compliance with common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, and inspection of places of detention.

As my noble friend Baroness Williams has said, we cannot do these things by ourselves. I strongly endorse her suggestion that we should, in partnership with the rest of Europe, pursue all the issues of peace in the world, so as to prevent and resolve conflicts, wherever they occur, and promote human rights and democracy throughout the world. Only by enhancing our own capacity through joining with the rest of Europe can we make a positive contribution to that end.

7 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld

My Lords, the domestic political crisis in Israel, against the background of an escalating second intifada, might prove a complicating factor, but it might also reopen a narrow window of opportunity for a resumption of peace talks.

The paradox of the situation is that Ehud Barak has gone further than any previous leader, and further than any future prime minister of Israel on the horizon, in meeting the Oslo terms. Already 98 per cent of Palestinians from the West Bank live in territories assigned to Palestinian authority rule. Between 92 and 95 per cent of the West Bank land had been reliably held out to become an independent state of Palestine. Some thoughtful arrangements on the refugee question, some notions of shared sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem, were believed to have been traded at Camp David in exchange for a peace treaty, for normalisation and for a declaration to end the conflict. Even the vexed question of the settlements was and is open for debate and compromise.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was seriously concerned about the budgetary provisions for further settlements or for the extension or security of settlements in Israel. She is well informed about the domestic politics of Israel. The present government of Ehud Barak has a very precarious majority or no majority at all, but he has on very many occasions made it quite clear that the public must prepare itself for very hard facts and difficult decisions. Given good faith on both sides, everything is open for negotiation, including a settlement.

I also recall that not only was it a Likud prime minister, Menachem Begin, who, when he saw and realised the good faith on President Sadat's side, ordered the razing of the settlements in Sinai, but the man who dynamited the largest of them, Yammit, was General Sharon, the leader of the Likud of today. As for Lebanon, Israel withdrew in accordance with UN resolution 425, which was acknowledged by the United Nations. Even the Golan Heights were to be returned to Syria through the personal intervention of President Clinton with late President Assad.

None of these concessions was taken up and responded to by Arafat or by President Assad senior or President Assad junior. On the contrary, as Ehud Barak advanced step by step towards a solution, his Arab interlocutors turned into increasingly combative adversaries. Far from conceding that the Israeli side was ready in negotiations, however tenacious, to address every single issue, a new perception seemed to have gained ground in the Arab streets and mosques, and certainly in the militant movements throughout the Arab world, all fanned assiduously by the rogue states of the region—a perception that the Jewish state was perhaps now more vulnerable than ever, more susceptible to pressure and surrender.

By internationalising the conflict, and thus downgrading the United States as the main peace broker, by demonising the Israelis as the perpetrators of crimes, by organising terror within Israel and outside, a Palestinian state could be born not at the conference table but on the battlefield. Even the more moderate version of these strategies relies on a combination of creating a hostile international media climate around Israel, combined with diplomatic pressure, in the hope of producing a kind of mid-eastern Munich, followed by the erosion of the Jewish substance of the state with the help of a hostile Arab minority. The more radical rhetoric calls for the total elimination of the Zionist entity.

The illusion that Israel would allow itself to be cornered without robust resistance is a dangerous one. If the international community, especially Europe, is to intervene in any range of contingencies, from observing to peace-keeping, it can do so only with the overt agreement of the parties and in the full awareness that the United States remains the chief protagonist capable of brokering either an interim agreement or a final accord.

I have recently returned from the United States. Once the delay caused by the electoral deadlock has been overcome, I believe that Washington is determined to continue its efforts. What Europe could and should do is act with compassion and evenhandedness in the evaluation of these tragic events. Whatever one's views are of the history of the Holy Land in the past 50 years, or in the 19th century, we must now focus on the present, on the future and on the chances of peace.

So far, the Oslo process has been not only the best but the only avenue for a final agreement. When we look at the events of the last phase, there is no doubt that the Palestinians, as well as Hezbollah, have initiated the violence and that the Israelis have reacted. Whether or not they have over reacted may be established by the Mitchell commission, a team of distinguished observers due to start their work on the spot.

I should like to mention an argument that seems to weigh heavily in the discussion and figure regularly in United Nations and European resolutions—namely, the perceived imbalance and the asymmetry of casualties between Palestinians and Israelis. Statistics of terror have to be weighed very scrupulously. We must surely condemn murderous intent, meticulously planned and calculated terror, as well as the end result, or else we could come to wickedly absurd conclusions. Would we feel less distressed about this asymmetry of casualties if, for example, the young Hamas suicide bomber on his bicycle, instead of blowing himself up, had succeeded in his mission and had massacred all the inmates of a hospital or mid-day shoppers in the marketplace, thus bringing the total of Israeli casualties up to a higher percentage, or would we feel more sympathetic towards Israel if last Sunday's ambush had ended with the murder of Israel's chief rabbi?

This is not a conflict between the burghers of Luxembourg and the farmers of Belgium. It is a conflict between a country that tries to be democratic, warts and all, and neighbours who—and I say it in the most complimentary sense—have an emergent civil society. The stark fact is that on the Israeli side there is much heart searching and frank discussion, open debate, self-criticism, and a genuine will to walk more and more miles towards the peace goal. Alas, on the Palestinian side Chairman Arafat now sports his sub-machine gun as his new symbol. The leader of the militant Tanzin, Barghuti, proclaims open war. The imams preach jihad and sanctify assassination by all means—by knives, by bullets, by bombs.

In various declarations, the European Union has urged the parties to return to the conference table. Under the French presidency in Biarritz, Marseilles, Paris and Nice, they have reiterated this appeal. The Israelis are aware that Her Majesty's Government and the government of the Federal Republic of Germany are among those who generally wish to achieve a just peace and who recognise America's role. But it cannot be denied that Israel and her sympathisers perceive the posture of the French government, especially that of President Chirac, as distinctly less friendly—partly, as they see it, because of their desire to distance themselves from everything that smacks of American influence.

In Israel, and also in America, it is noted that the French, who had promised peace-keeping personnel in Lebanon, did not live up to their promise. Nor have their interventions with the governments of Lebanon and Syria been very effective. The Lebanese frontier is still hazardous ground; Hezbollah still dangerously roams around. The present violence in the region could either become a chronic state of affairs, a killing ground, which, as one military critic laconically put it, could last up to six years, as did the first intifada, or could lead to a regional war with incalculable consequences.

The British Government are pursuing a very responsible and constructive policy. It must be acknowledged that they are trying to convince the parties to return to the conference table. But the opinion-forming media have to face up to their grave responsibility to report the conflict fairly and not let objectivity be obscured by sensationalism. The challenge of the next 60 days, the existing opportunity, must not he missed. The struggle for peace must never be abandoned.

7.10 p.m.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I shall refer to two aspects of the gracious Speech that I welcome. First, like the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, I shall refer to the commitment to bring those charged with crimes against humanity to justice. Secondly, I shall refer to measures to improve the transparency of export controls. I shall link these to the Government's commitment to an ethically-based, human rights oriented foreign policy. I base my concerns on direct evidence of recent visits to the Karen and Karenni people in Burma and in the camps on the Thai-Burmese borderlands; and to Sudan. I understand that an Unstarred Question may soon be tabled on Sudan. However, I believe that it is appropriate to refer today to those issues relating to the gracious Speech, as they are important and urgent.

I begin with the tragic plight of the people of Burma. The military junta with its Orwellian name, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), is eloquently challenged by the courageous opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Less often heard are the voices of the ethnic minorities in eastern Burma—the Karen, the Karenni, Mon, Shan, Chin and Arakan. Just three weeks ago I and colleagues from Christian Solidarity Worldwide, or CSW, were with the dignified, gracious Karen and Karenni people in the camps for those who have had to flee across the border into Thailand. We also crossed into Burma and saw the conditions in which the internally displaced people (IDPs) were hiding in the jungle.

The SPDC claims that it has achieved significant improvements in its human rights record, in response to an investigation by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). But the evidence gives the lie to those claims. The tragic litany of abuses continues unabated. Widespread use of forced labour, involuntary relocation, military offensives against civilians, murder, torture and rape, as well as the destruction of crops and livestock, have all combined to force tens of thousands of Karen and Karenni to flee their homes and homelands.

Many of these people are condemned to a fragile and uncertain life as IDPs in the jungle, with only temporary shelter, insufficient food and virtually no medical care. They dare not build permanent homes, or even light fires, as detection by government troops will bring death and destruction. Those whom we met had suffered attacks by ground troops and shelling twice this year. Those who have fled to the camps in Thailand are demoralised because of lack of employment opportunities; denial of any legal status or formal recognition as refugees; and the Karenni are deeply worried by Thailand's stated intention to repatriate them within three years.

Sometimes individual stories illustrate reality more powerfully than generalities. I shall give the House just one example. An Indian Muslim ethnic community in Burma was attacked just four months ago. A mother and her six-year-old daughter had to flee after their village was destroyed by a bulldozer. The mother said that the trouble started when they were told they had to eat pork and convert to Buddhism. Her husband died after a severe beating. She said that government troops had placed heavy bamboos on his chest and jumped on them, resulting presumably in internal injuries. She also spoke about the SPDC's policy of forced labour, describing how women are used as porters even when pregnant—and children, too, if they can carry a minimum of two kilograms. Soldiers beat women, children and old people if they try to rest.

Many people who have just fled to IDP locations inside Burma or crossed the border into Thailand told us that the situation with regard to forced labour in Burma is getting worse. We therefore strongly endorse the ILO's criticisms and its commended measures. We suggest that it is particularly important to support these signals, as Burma is enjoying strong support from China and may, therefore, feel able to continue its brutal policies with impunity. Moreover, the China-Burma connection should worry the Government beyond the implications for human rights. From Burma in the west to southern China and the South China Sea in the east, China can threaten with a pincer movement the Straits of Malacca that are crucial to world trade, as well as the stability of such close allies and important commercial partners as Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The Chinese presence in Burma is crucial for its grand design in this strategically crucial and energy rich region. Beijing is all too happy to secure its presence in Burma by shielding the Rangoon regime and its abhorrent record in human rights from Western pressure and sanctions.

Therefore, perhaps I may ask the Minister just three questions. First, can the noble Baroness say what steps the Government are taking in view of the ILO report? Secondly, can she say whether the Government will urge the SPDC to ensure that the whole of Burma is opened to human rights monitors and humanitarian organisations, to allow aid to reach IDPs? Thirdly, can she say whether the Government will consider bringing the leaders of the SPDC to account for their continuing crimes against humanity?

I turn now to Sudan. The Islamist National Islamic Front (NIF) regime is generally referred to as "the government of Sudan". However, it took and retains power by military force; it represents no more than about 7 per cent of the people of Sudan, and it is deeply loathed and feared by the vast majority of Sudanese people. It continues to bomb civilian targets, including hospitals and schools, and is still carrying out massive ground offensives against innocent civilians, with mass murder, abduction into slavery of women and children, scorched earth policies and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Africans who live around the oil fields. That point was also made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury and by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

A few weeks ago, the United States authorised a visit to southern Sudan by Under-Secretary of State Dr Susan Rice. She saw the evidence of these crimes against humanity. Her experiences are entirely consistent with those we have had to endure on numerous occasions. In August, I and colleagues from CSW were near the area visited by Susan Rice. We obtained totally convincing evidence, yet again, of the barbaric practice of slavery endorsed and encouraged by the NIF regime. President Clinton subsequently condemned the NIF for its brutal policies, including slavery, and said he hoped that European nations would do the same.

Therefore, it is my fervent hope that the Government here will prove themselves to be a listening government by changing their policy towards the murderous regime in Khartoum. In stark contrast to the robust stance taken by the US, with its adherence to the spirit of the current UN Security Council sanctions, the United Kingdom has been implicitly and explicitly encouraging trade with Sudan, thereby enhancing the legitimacy of the NIF regime, promoting its economic well-being and enabling it to use its resources more effectively to kill its own people. This summer, for example, the Government invited the NIF Foreign Minister to London, gave him red carpet treatment and encouraged commercial transactions. The DTI has produced a publication, which provides very helpful information for British firms interested in investing in Sudan.

But perhaps most puzzling of all, permission has been given for exports to Sudan of potentially dual-use materials and equipment that could serve civilian or military purposes. They include chemicals that are known precursors for chemical weapons. This is despite a great deal of circumstantial evidence that the NIF regime may have used chemical weapons. In a recent film, which was the runner-up for the prestigious Rory Peck award, a leading expert on chemical weapons, Julian Perry-Robinson, emphasised his concern over the serious nature of the evidence and his strong conviction that there should be a full investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons by the NIF.

By contrast, earlier this year the Government were very pleased to announce and to publicise widely the fact that samples from areas where possibly unconventional weapons had been used did not produce evidence of the presence of toxic substances. But I should stress that the samples in question were collected, stored and handled under harsh climatic conditions for a long period of time before they reached Britain. Therefore, the "no find" could be attributed to deterioration over time. There are also many other reasons why the samples may not have tested positive.

That is why independent experts have emphasised that those negative findings do not in any way prove that the NIF has not used non-conventional weapons. That is why it is so deeply disturbing that there has been no investigation into the cumulative, consistent and convincing reports of unusual types of shells, associated with pathological effects on humans, animals and the natural environment and consistent with scientifically known consequences of the use of chemical weapons. This relates to areas where both local people and Western humanitarian workers have reported unusual military activities and air strikes by the Sudanese Government's military forces.

Therefore, given all this, perhaps I may repeat that it is particularly surprising that the Government authorised the export to Sudan of dual-use toxic chemical precursors that can be used to manufacture mustard gases. Moreover, when I tabled a Written Question seeking information on end-user accountability and assurances that these chemicals would not be used for the manufacture of chemical weapons, I was informed that confidential information is involved and that disclosure would depend on the consent of the companies concerned. Two of the companies have objected to such disclosure.

This lack of commitment to obtaining information is most peculiar given the nature of Sudan. There is virtually no civilian industry or industrialised agriculture in the country. Moreover, the oil industry and related infrastructure development are all in foreign hands that take care of their own importation of technology and material. Thus the legitimacy of any major purchase of dual use chemicals and other technologies should be easily verifiable and, if not, promptly blocked.

I am almost lost for words. I am amazed how a government who pride themselves on their commitment to an ethically based foreign policy and concern for human rights can so flagrantly violate these commitments in their relationship with the brutal regime in Sudan.

I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I speak with passion. I do so because in the 1980s I worked as a nurse among the Arab Muslim people in northern Sudan, in remote area desert work, living with the local people as friends and developing an immunisation programme. Subsequently since the NIF took power and declared its jihad against all who oppose it, I have visited many other parts of Sudan: Bahr el Ghazal, where I have seen how the people suffer from the brutal slave raids; Western Upper Nile, where the African tribes who have lived there from time immemorial are being subjected to ethnic cleansing for the sake of oil; the Nuba Mountains, where just a few days ago a school was destroyed by aerial bombardment; southern Blue Nile where the NIF carries out scorched earth policies; and the desert areas in the east where the Beja Muslims, driven from their own fertile lands, have to scavenge for a living in harsh conditions. I and my colleagues have witnessed the suffering inflicted by the NIF on all these people of Sudan.

We may soon have an opportunity to discuss more aspects of this suffering in the near future, assuming that I survive the hate campaign being waged against me by the NIF with all that that means. But in the meantime I finish by asking the Minister two questions which follow directly from Her Majesty's Government's commitments in the gracious Speech.

First, will they provide a more satisfactory answer to the question of export controls and end user accountability for the export of dual use materials to Sudan? Secondly, will they reconsider their overall policy towards Sudan? In addition to the so-called "critical dialogue", which seems to be long on dialogue and short on effective criticism, will they consider a stance more in line with that adopted by the United Nations Security Council and by the United States? Might they even consider the possibility of helping to bring to account, as being guilty of crimes against humanity, those responsible for the genocide, the ethnic cleansing and the slavery which are well and widely documented in Sudan today?

7.22 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I welcome the coming Bill to ratify the statute of the International Criminal Court. I regret, however, that the gracious Speech said nothing about the present situation in the Middle East which, not for the first time, is dangerous and threatening not only to the local inhabitants but also to British interests and to world-wide peace.

I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Weidenfeld that no one on either side should be demonised. Too many Israeli and Palestinian lives have already been lost or injured for any complacency to be permissible. If any noble Lords were surprised at the sudden new eruption of violence, fear and hatred, they should reflect that it is eight years since the Madrid Conference and seven years since the Oslo Agreements. We still seem, alas, to be no nearer to a permanent and comprehensive settlement. Final peace agreements have yet to be negotiated between Israel and Lebanon, between Israel and Syria, as well as between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and people. We should reflect also on the fact that East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza have been for 33 years now under military occupation. The difficulties of living under occupation are almost unimaginable in Britain which has not suffered a successful enemy invasion since the Norman Conquest.

Some noble Lords may have thought that the Israeli offer at Camp David last summer was generous and that Mr Arafat was unwise to reject it on behalf of the Palestinians. I regret that I cannot agree. The West Bank and Gaza comprise as little as 22 per cent of old mandated Palestine. That area would have been diminished by four small localities to be removed from the West Bank. The remaining land would have been split into five by roads remaining under military and settler control. Israel's forces would have stayed in the Jordan valley.

Since Oslo, the settler population has increased by some 50,000, almost as fast under Mr Barak as under the previous Prime Minister, as was noted by the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed. A system of control is still in place confining 1 million Palestinians to Gaza without even access to their airport. In Hebron, 40,000 Palestinians are under curfew for the benefit of a mere 500 Israeli settlers. Jerusalem remains closed to most Palestinians. The settlements control the water supplies so that the average Israeli consumes nearly 30 times as much water as a Palestinian, The Palestinian economy is in tatters, with unemployment rising towards 50 per cent. In real terms, the Palestinians are worse off than before Oslo. As a member of the Knesset recently told us in London, the safety of 6 million people in Israel—including, of course, 1 million of Palestinian origin—is being put at risk for the sake of some 200,000 settlers.

Underlying the sudden upsurge of violence, however, is the humiliation of continued occupation and military control. A Bantustan existence must be deeply offensive to a proud people who have been mocked by endless haggling over the details of partial withdrawal. When any people's identity is denied, we know that they are likely to become violent.

On a more positive note, in 1977, in his historic speech to the Knesset, Anwar Sadat spoke of a peace agreement based on, ending the occupation of Arab territories, the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and their own state, and the right of all states to live in peace". Those are the first principles to which we must return. They were, I am glad to say, accepted and recognised in 1988 by the Palestinian National Council when it accepted UN Resolutions 242 and 338. They were recognised again in 1992 at the Madrid Conference.

I believe that there has to be a real, independent Palestinian state, sovereign, democratic and probably virtually demilitarised. Such a state must control its own roads, frontiers and share of water supplies. As the latter are a tangible asset, their use should be the subject of binding arbitration in the absence of agreement. I believe that the United Nations was wise as long ago as 1947 when it proposed the principle of a "corpus separatum" for Jerusalem. That principle should endure in the form of independent international control and supervision over the sites sacred to the three great monotheistic religions. That is the principle wisely upheld by successive Popes.

The way forward has to be based on clear principles, universally acceptable and to some extent applicable to all conflicts. I am very pleased that Her Majesty's Government have confirmed that big majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians want serious negotiations for permanent solutions. I welcome the Government's commitment to facilitating such a process. I want to see everything possible done to reduce the current level of violence. Will the Government consider whether some change in the existing mediation would be helpful, with perhaps a long-term contact group made up of more than one nation? Might conflict analysis and assisted conflict resolution assist the achieving of the essential United Nations principles? Professor Arnon, speaking for Peace Now, an Israeli group, said recently, Most of the settlements will have to be dismantled. The Oslo accords promoted the illusion that we could have both settlements and peace". A considerable number of other groups work alongside Peace Now. I commend particularly the constructive efforts of the New Israel Fund and of the Israel-Palestine Centre for Research and Information whose specialist publications over a number of years have been excellent. Professor Goldblum declared recently: Most Israelis do not regard the settlements as security assets any more, contrary to what the settlers' leaders say. Most Israelis don't regard them as home. Most of them must be dismantled". The present stalemate cannot be allowed to drift on, poisoning all relationships. I ask Her Majesty's Government to bear in mind the total disparity in negotiating strength between the parties. It may account for the length of the negotiations. The balance has somehow to be redressed. The economic power of the EU may provide a means towards that. I urge the Government to work consistently towards a two-state solution, with a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem and special arrangements for the holy places. Of course we must recognise how real and genuine are the fears of many Israelis but, equally, we should seek to end the injustices which Palestinians have suffered for far too long.

7.32 p.m.

Lord Tomlinson

My Lords, I warmly welcome the gracious Speech, in particular the commitment within it by Her Majesty's Government to international development. I especially welcome yesterday's White Paper entitled Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor. By way of comment I would say—in the hope that it may be taken up at some other stage—that the White Paper is worthy of a more extensive debate in its own right. I hope that that can take place. I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Howell, agrees with that proposition. It is an excellent paper.

Globalisation is a challenge for the poor countries of the world but there are opportunities as well as risks. Those who seek to present globalisation as the enemy of the poor are in danger of short-changing the very poor for whom they profess concern. Those who, like some latter day Canute, would try to stop the tide of globalisation will succeed only in making world trade less liberal and more protectionist—and that inevitably to the disadvantage of the poorest people and the poorest countries.

Globalisation must be managed, therefore, in order systematically to reduce poverty. Economic growth must be promoted on the basis of it being both equitable and environmentally sustainable. The White Paper is not only one of the most comprehensive ever produced; it is one of the most radical. It remains constantly focused on poverty elimination while addressing the whole panoply of issues which need to be resolved. Respect for human rights and combating corruption are tackled in the White Paper. Investing in people and harnessing private finance are dealt with alongside the need to use trade to reduce poverty by promoting a pro-development European Union policy on trade involving fundamental reforms of the World Trade Organisation.

The White Paper addresses our responsibility to global environmental problems and the need to strengthen international systems. I particularly welcome the attention in the White Paper to the imperative of using development assistance more effectively. The White Paper goes through the panoply of issues. Debt relief, aid delivery systems, the untying of aid, reform of the European Union aid system, and reform of the World Bank receive welcome attention.

My right honourable friend Clare Short deserves our congratulations on pushing forward the poverty-oriented programme. But equally important is the support of my right honourable friend Gordon Brown the Chancellor of the Exchequer. By his priorities for government spending, we also have the means to implement the imperative programmes of international development. Gone are the days when international development was an uneasy and rather dishonest combination of sympathetic rhetoric on the one hand and spending cuts on the other. This Government are delivering both on the policy and the resources necessary to put the policy into practice. In that respect I believe that they deserve the support of all Members of the House.

On matters relating to Europe and the Intergovernmental Conference, it is clear that the Intergovernmental Conference was badly run. Poor preparation and clumsy handling are charges which can easily be laid at the door of the presidency. We must all agree that it is in no one's interest for any other IGC to drag on for quite so long over key issues which had already been left over from a previous IGC. However, despite the problems, the overall outcome is positive. Enlargement is set to proceed. European unification is set to become a reality. The basis for an enlarged single market securing not only our peace but our prosperity is agreed. Enlargement can now be foreseen for some applicant countries, with negotiations being completed by the end of the year 2002 and entry into the EU of those countries in time for the June 2004 European elections. I was pleased that when discussing today the outcome of the IGC with the Select Committee my right honourable friend Mr Keith Vaz was able to confirm that timetable.

Against that background, I believe that the Leader of the Opposition fails to recognise the historic opportunity or grasp the seriousness of the failures that could come from an IGC were we so misguided as to listen to his advice. I would not presume to judge whether in that respect he is a fool or a knave. All I know is that by his words and deeds he disqualifies himself from serious consideration as a national, let alone an international, leader. Mr William Hague would refuse to ratify the Treaty of Nice. No treaty: no enlargement. That is a simple consequence, one on the other. Of course anyone can quibble with the details of the agreement of Nice. I would have preferred to see a reduction in commissioners agreed now rather than postponed until we have 27 member states. I do not welcome the breaching of the 700 ceiling for Members of the European Parliament. Seven hundred is already too high a ceiling. To breach it sends out entirely wrong signals. But such niggles are small by comparison with the framework for enlargement, the progress of Europe, and the simultaneous defence of our national interest that was secured in the Intergovernmental Conference.

There has been too much hysterical response from parts of the Opposition—mostly in another place or outside your Lordships' House. I welcome the much more reasoned and moderate approach of the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I hope that I do not damage him by saying so, but I think that it is universally agreed in the House that he has taken a much more moderate view, albeit one with which I disagree in some respects. His views have been presented with an element of reason that has been absent in another place, where we hear talk of a secret agenda for a European superstate. Imagine the concept of anything secret emerging from the briefing and counter-briefing that constitutes any IGC, let alone one that lasts for four days. I note that Mr William Hague is still ignoring every fact of the outcome of Nice and talking about a European army.

The Conservatives are most discomforted when they question the move towards qualified majority voting for the election of a Commission president. The veto in that area has been used only twice—both times by British Conservative Prime Ministers. The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, took such exception to that nice Mr Claude Cheysson that he was blackballed and in his place we got Jacques Delors. Mr John Major equally could not stomach Mr Jean-Luc Dehaene and was responsible for getting us Mr Jacques Santer. Which of those two outcomes are the Conservatives most proud of—the deeply integrationist father of the social chapter, Jacques Delors, or the president of the most discredited Commission that was eventually forced into resignation, Mr Jacques Santer? That has been the consequence of the lack of qualified majority voting for the election of Commission presidents.

We are in Europe, of Europe and constructively engaging with Europe. We are building the basis for enlargement and creating institutions for it. I encourage my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to continue to show that we serve British interests best by engaging positively at the heart of Europe and even contemplating further economic and monetary engagement. I hope that now that he has got the IGC out of the way, he can lend his undoubted talents to furthering that debate, which we certainly have to face. I hope that he can start to address once again the problems of CAP reform, without which enlargement will be a financial impossibility. All those things have to be done by a government at the heart of Europe, working in Europe and working for Europe. I contrast that with the attitude of Her Majesty's Opposition, skulking on the sidelines and trying to stop progress on any matter that seems to link our destiny to that of the continent of Europe.

I welcome the Queen's Speech and in particular the outcome of the IGC. I look forward to the progress that we can make on putting the White Paper on international development into full effect as speedily as possible.

7.44 p.m.

Lord Wright of Richmond

My Lords, although there was no reference in the gracious Speech to the Middle East—like other noble Lords I regret that—I join others in drawing attention to the serious and dangerous situation in Israel and the occupied territories. I have listened with particular interest and respect to the differing views of the noble Lords, Lord Weidenfeld and Lord Hylton.

A year ago, many of us—even those of us with long experience of and involvement in the Arab world—were much encouraged by the way in which Prime Minister Ehud Barak, unlike his predecessor, Benyamin Netanyahu, appeared genuinely to be trying to achieve not only a just and lasting settlement with the Palestinians, but even a peace settlement with Syria, under its new president, Bashar al Asad.

Contrast that moment of hope with the situation today. Following the predictable outburst of Palestinian frustration and resentment in the wake of the deliberately provocative visit by Ariel Sharon on 28th September to the Dome of the Rock, the Israeli security forces have exercised an inappropriate use of force. Often that has been done to protect Jewish settlements in Gaza and other parts of the occupied territories, established in flagrant defiance of international law. Hundreds of victims, the vast majority of whom are young Palestinians. have lost their lives in the past few weeks. Of course we deplore all loss of life, Israeli or Palestinian, but many Palestinians have also lost their livelihood, either because they have lost their heads of families or because their homes, their olive groves and their orchards have been bulldozed by the Israeli army. Palestinians, but not Jewish settlers, living in parts of the occupied territories, such as Hebron, have even been subjected to 24-hour curfews for weeks on end. One Palestinian boy was quoted in the Financial Times on 3rd December as saying that his father had not been allowed out to work for two months.

Some of your Lordships have said in previous debates that Israel is the only law-abiding democracy in the Middle East. While I question that claim to uniqueness, I wonder what impression of democracy or adherence to international law is given to Israel's Arab neighbours by its shameful treatment of the Palestinian population under its protection and of its Arab-Israeli population over the past few months. Many would no doubt argue that President Arafat has not lived up to his side of the bargain, by failing to restrain Palestinian attacks against Israelis, but given the way in which their human rights have been violated, is it any wonder that Palestinians continue to air their grievances by violence in the streets?

My purpose in speaking today is not primarily to criticise the behaviour of the Israeli Government—criticism that has been voiced by many Israelis, some of whom have risked their safety by trying to protect the lives and property of their Arab neighbours from attacks by settlers and by their own army. It is more to express my despair that the windows of opportunity that appeared to be opening a year ago have been so brutally slammed shut. All of us must have hoped that President Clinton would fulfil his ambition to go down in history as the statesman who had managed at last to bring about a permanent and just settlement of the Arab-Israel dispute. Although we should acknowledge his attempts to bring about a ceasefire at Sharm al Sheikh, the fact is that successive United States governments have been so blinded by their bias towards Israel—their so-called strategic ally in the Middle East—that they have lost almost all credibility in the eyes of the Arab world. Only one president in recent years—George Bush—has even been prepared to criticise Israeli settlement policies as illegal. I now read in the press, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, reminded us, that, before his resignation two days ago, Prime Minister Barak even set aside yet more millions in his budget for new settlements in the occupied territories.

However politically difficult it may be, the time has come for the Israelis to dismantle all their settlements in the occupied territories, as their earlier settlements were dismantled from Sinai when that occupied territory was handed back to Egypt. Obviously, such dismantling would best be achieved by negotiation and agreement between both parties. But unless the vast majority of existing settlements are removed, I can see no end to violence and confrontation in the occupied territories and no hope for a just and permanent peace in the area. It can certainly not be in Israel's own security interests to allow new settlements to be built.

Therefore, I hope that the Minister can confirm yet again that Her Majesty's Government still regard Israeli settlement policy to be illegal and the Israeli claim to Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel to be unfounded. I hope that she can also confirm that no arms or weapons provided to the Israeli security forces by Britain have been, or will be, used in the present conflict.

More importantly, I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us what the British Government are doing and propose to do, both bilaterally and with our European partners, to bring the present violations of human rights and international law, including the imposition of 24-hour curfews and the refusal of access to the occupied territories by international humanitarian organisations, to an end.

The Government rightly supported United Nations Security Council Resolution 1322, which, called upon Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War". Is it not incumbent on us, as a high contracting party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to act now to ensure the protection of these civilians from excessive and inappropriate use of force?

I hope that the Minister can also confirm that Her Majesty's Government are ready to take action, both in the United Nations and with our Americans friends, to respond to justified Palestinian resentment at the way in which their rights and livelihood are being eroded. We must all hope that there is still a slim chance—or an open window, as the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, referred to it—that peace can be restored, even in the present political uncertainty in Israel and the United States, and that urgent progress can be made towards a peace settlement before the prime ministerial elections which Mr Barak has now called. However, it will require a more even-handed approach than that followed so far by successive United States administrations.

Britain and the European Union must become more deeply involved. We have an historical duty to do so. After all, it was the Balfour Declaration which stipulated that nothing should be done, Which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish Communities in Palestine". They are being abused daily.

In conclusion, I refer back to those British qualities which the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, mentioned in her opening speech: common decency, humanity, fairness and justice. I can think of few areas of the world where those qualities are more needed today.

7.53 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, among so many and varied contributions, and particularly following the wise and clear words of the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, it is difficult to know what one can add. Much as I would wish to talk about the European Union and Nice, or indeed to deplore the omission of a Bill on the Overseas Territories, we shall no doubt have other opportunities to return to those topics.

Therefore, I shall confine my remarks to Latin America—an important part of the international community, not specifically mentioned in the gracious Speech or, indeed, by the Minister in opening the debate. It was not mentioned other than by reference to Cuba and the upgrading of our relations, about which, I hasten to say, I am delighted and to which I hope I have been able to contribute. I feel sure that we can and should continue to improve and build upon what has been achieved with Cuba.

I must declare an interest as the president of Canning House, the Hispanic and Luso Brazilian Council, and as a non-executive director of a Latin American investment trust.

In numerical terms when we talk of Latin America, we are referring to countries which have combined populations of some 450 million people, from Mexico in the north through Central America and South America to the tip of Patagonia—currently, I am pleased to see, under massive media attention because of the presence of Prince William on the Chilean side.

As an aside, I am happy to say that Prince William is one of a growing number of British students who are completing a gap year in Latin America, either before or during their university careers. That has to be the way forward for better understanding and appreciation not only of the Spanish and Portuguese languages but of the culture and role of a part of the world which is rich in natural resources, rich in its population potential and very European in its inheritance and approach.

However, it is not simply a matter of numbers and populations; it is a matter of growth of the economies. Both Brazil and Mexico figure among the top 10 of the world's countries for the size of their economies. It is an interesting but little known fact that the state of São Paulo in Brazil, one of 11 federal states, has the same GDP as India.

Therefore, the opportunities for trade and investment are huge. It is fair to say that we already have a presence in Latin America. Our traditional industries are as much household names in, let us say, Chile, Brazil and Venezuela, to name a representative three, as they are here. Therefore, ICI, Unilever, Glaxo, BP and the big banks are all there and their brands are well known. Our privatised utilities have also been at the forefront and are involved in some of the joint ventures in water, energy and other projects.

However, an adverse trade balance still exists. Those of us who wish to do more are encouraging not only the big players. We also wish small and medium-sized businesses, professionals and other individuals to get to know new markets by going on trade missions and fact-finding visits. This means providing ready information when it is needed. In that context, I reiterate the hope, expressed on other occasions, that the newly formed British Trade International, which combines the export drive of the Foreign Office and the DTI, will recognise the importance of those markets and will also resolve the future of LATAG, the Latin American Trade Advisory Group, which in the past has forged so many important links and generated many initiatives to improve our trade.

I note the reference in the gracious Speech to a Bill to improve the transparency of export controls. As explained by the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, this sounds a most commendable piece of legislation. Greater transparency is always desirable. However, I hope and trust that such a Bill will achieve its objectives without imposing the type of extra regulation and additional hurdles which can be so off-putting to the potential exporters we are trying so hard to encourage.

While on that subject, perhaps I may commend the Government on the fact that the Foreign Office is now, better resourced than ever before", to quote the noble Baroness. I express the hope that some of the resources find their way to bodies such as Canning House and LATAG, in its new guise, which operate on tiny budgets with ever more restricted government contributions.

If I understood the noble Baroness correctly, I also welcome the fact that embassies and overseas residences are to receive increased resources. That is richly deserved. I cannot emphasise too much the importance of prestigious embassies or praise too highly the support and efforts, particularly of the ever more focused commercial sections of many embassies, which I have experienced not only in Latin America but also in many other parts of the world.

In that context, as the British Council is also to receive an increase in funding, I am all the more sorry that it has chosen this moment to announce the closure of operations in Ecuador. The Guayaquil centre was closed down two years ago; now apparently it is the turn of the main centre in Quito. I only hope that the British Council's involvement with the British School in Quito will continue. Most of all, I hope that this decision may be revised and reviewed.

A few years ago we were celebrating the fact that as well as having successfully fought the battle against galloping inflation, all the countries of Latin America were again democracies. I am happy that that is still the case. But democracy can be a fragile flower. It is vital to recognise that the countries of Latin America need encouragement and need to he aware that they have an important role to play in the international community. In achieving that, we should continue to encourage parliamentary and institutional links, as we do through the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

It is not only important to enhance and improve bilateral relations. The United Kingdom also has a leading role to play in developing relations and being involved in negotiations between the European Union and the region. We can be a bridge to that part of the world, just as Spain is. It seems to me that that is entirely in line with the intention expressed in the gracious Speech to shape the future of the European Union.

A trade agreement between the European Union and Mexico already exists and negotiations have just been completed with Chile for a similar agreement. But there seems to be some delay in the negotiations between the European Union and MERCOSUR, more complex, of course, because four countries are involved—Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The major problem in all those countries, however, is the effect of the common agricultural policy since most of them are primary agricultural producers. I believe that our interests coincide in that regard. We want reform of the common agricultural policy. That is why we see enlargement as helping us in that respect. But we should also see those trade agreements with developing economies as another reason for reform and shaping the forces of globalisation to benefit the world's poor.

I have tabled a Motion for debate on Latin America and the Caribbean and I hope for good fortune in the ballot. We shall then be able to return to those themes and develop them so that we can make the best possible use of Britain's ability to be a bridge not only between the European Union and Latin America but also between the Commonwealth and Latin America. As the noble Baroness said in opening, together we can achieve so much more than one country alone.

8.3 p.m.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, in her opening remarks, the Minister highlighted many matters of import. But it is often those receiving less recognition that have the potential to cause serious future havoc.

This evening, I propose to touch on a few matters which fall squarely into that category: self-determination as unfinished business, the situation in Colombia and Afghanistan, the merits of regionalism as exemplified by West Africa and—dare I say it?—the European Union, all from the perspective of the importance of Britain's contribution as a world-class player in the 1st century.

It is, of course, difficult and unrewarding to ignore the undeniable global trend towards regionalism. Shared responsibilities and shared resources are the only way forward. Yet the European vision is fast becoming an area of competing regions, and rightly so. Erecting barriers to European integration denies the possibility for successful joint action on internal difficulties such as asylum and effectively camouflages such benefits as freedom of movement, employment, business development, trade and a rich culture with everything which flows from it. The long-term benefits of a committed involvement are being held hostage to short-termism.

I am pleased that we appear to be moving away from, or at least diluting, the fixation on per-member-state Commissioner representatives. Our national representatives are our Ministers who man the Council of Ministers with the European Parliament as the scrutinising body but requiring, I believe, a far greater role for national parliaments in general engagement and monitoring. The Eurocrats are there to serve the Union impartially and with transparency and must do so.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that the Council of Ministers must also now conduct its affairs in a more open manner. On the other hand, it could be suggested that the only way that the European Union is now able to offer the very benefits for which we all wish, such as enlargement and the modus operandi to make it happen, has been as a result of a degree of obfuscation.

But one thing is abundantly clear. Taking the hearts and minds of the people of the Union, essential if we are ever to achieve ultimate objectives, can be achieved only by the Council of Ministers promoting debate through transparent and accountable decision-making.

The recent furore about the Eurocorps, I believe, is in greater part ill-conceived. Many consider it to be merely a matter of time before the American people or potential congressional deadlock ensure that the United States' military involvement overseas is reduced to politically and financially affordable levels. First in line for reduction would be regions where the issues fall well within the responsibility and interests of nations possessing the capability and/or the prosperity to cope unaided, thereby leaving the United States, through NATO, for worst-case scenarios. That puts Europe firmly in the spotlight.

NATO has developed and evolved over 51 years. Conducting operations with Eurocorps outside the control framework of NATO could prove to be significantly ineffective. To alienate the United States would also risk losing the ultimate security deterrent and the wherewithal to deal with worst-case, high intensity conflicts.

In principle, Europe must do more, but strategically, with the United States as its principal ally, and efficiently, through NATO. However, before serious commitments are undertaken, it may well be worthwhile to consider the following: British troops pursue national objectives in areas like the Falklands and Sierra Leone; are deployed under the NATO umbrella in Bosnia and Kosovo; and are currently committed to six United Nations' missions around the world. In view of current recruitment levels, to create yet another force might seem like overstretch to some. Will the 2003 targets of assets, human and material, be reached or will capabilities be required from NATO?

The issue of duplication brings to mind another area which has attempted integration. West Africa established an economic grouping of 16 states in 1975—ECOWAS—only to discover that it was competing with at least 30 or more other intergovernmental groupings or organisations chasing the same diminishing resources for approximately similar ends. The risk of atrophy was apparent and rationalisation duly followed. ECOWAS is a grouping rich in mineral and human resources but lacking in political and financial stability. It continues to be plagued by debilitating civil wars in Sierra Leone, an uneasy calm in Liberia, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, a slow-to-recover Nigeria and an ailing Côte d'Ivoire.

Why is the viability of ECOWAS relevant? Britain has long-standing, historical ties with the region. Four countries—Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Gambia—are fellow members of the Commonwealth and boast Britain as their biggest trading partner. The success of ECOWAS would expand and deepen other opportunities across the region. Britain's acclaimed defence of democracy in Sierra Leone has made us a force for good in West Africa. What is vital now is to build on that foundation by helping with democratic transitions across the region and the efforts of those democracies to achieve economic integration.

Britain's leadership in reducing the debts of highly indebted poor countries shows what can be done where political will exists. But the HIPC initiative does not relieve the debt burden of any West African country. There is unfinished business there.

Perhaps ECOWAS, through the European Union that it seeks to emulate, can be helped to achieve much-needed harmonisation between the CFA zone of countries—11 of the 16—and the remaining five. That would, not least, ensure currency stability through being associated with the euro. Those are all much-needed steps to foster West Africa's peaceful and orderly development.

Another area where we must do more is in Afghanistan. The United Nations mediated effort (the six plus two process) to encourage negotiations between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance is in deep trouble and a variety of diplomatic initiatives have made little progress. The Taliban now control over 95 per cent of the territory of Afghanistan.

Several central Asian states now engage with the de facto Kabul regime: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are all in discussions with Taliban representatives, attracted en passant by the lure of future trade routes across Afghanistan. Broader diplomatic isolation of the Taliban has therefore been rendered ineffectual. Do I understand from the Minister's opening remarks that we are now on a course of critical engagement with the Taliban?

Afghanistan is in the grip of a full-scale drought, with widespread famine. Pressure on the Taliban endangers relief operations and the most deprived and innocent in Afghanistan suffer. Importantly, Mullah Omar has issued an edict against the cultivation of the poppy and although that merits closer evaluation, it could indicate an important shift in policy with significant implications for Afghanistan's neighbours and the West.

Britain should take account of the bin Laden issue, but without allowing it to eclipse all other considerations in developing policy towards a state which remains of pivotal importance to central Asian security and to our long-term interests.

In Colombia, where drugs and conflict have also been exported, we are better placed to assist. Colombia needs our support for its investment projects designed to allow the destruction of peasant-owned, small-scale, illegal poppy and coca leaf crops by the police and their substitution with commercial crops. That is an ambitious and expensive undertaking. The scheme needs funding from the international community to supplement the Colombian Government's own outlay.

We have a moral duty to co-operate internationally to deal with the various aspects of the illegal drug problem: production, transportation, distribution and consumption. We know only too well the seeming futility of dealing with only the after-effects of consumption. It is much more effective to deal simultaneously with the problem at source by cutting off supply. Colombia has taken those first steps. We must help her if we are to help ourselves.

It would be wrong to suggest that because those problems are afar we should not do what we can to lay the foundations for a more equitable world, by addressing the complex reasons promoting discontent and eventual conflict. We have begun a new century with all the baggage of the old. It is time to take stock, to delete superfluity and obfuscation and to ring in some changes; for example, the UN charter is in need of modernisation. Of considerable significance is the omission in the United Nations' guidelines adequately to reflect President Wilson's vision of self-determination. Recent reminders make it imperative to send clear messages on the relative importance of self-determination and territorial integrity.

That is dangerous unfinished business, as evidenced in the Balkans and as we see in Kashmir, Nagorno-Karabakh, Irian Jaya and, closer to home, in the Basque area of northern Spain. In the interests of clarity, I put the Minister on guard that I intend to encourage positive government opinion further on that thorny issue. The formula for future conflict resolution is incomplete and governing principles sometimes appear to be a moveable feast.

Why, for example, is Britain a supporter not only of the United Nations' proposed plebiscite for the Kashmiris, but also of bilateral resolution, thereby excluding the Kashmiris themselves, as reflected in the Simla agreement, again in Lahore, and more recently in the G8 Cologne communiqué?

If the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, had been in her place, and before she had become too comfortable, I would have reminded her of the "Tireless" circumstance. In Spain there is disquiet about perceived cavalier British attitudes to safety and territoriality. Perhaps the Minister will use this opportunity to counter Spanish reaction, particularly Andalucian parliamentary opposition, by providing a definitive statement on Spain's preference for Gibraltar—rather than it being a UK base—and explain what understanding, support or otherwise has been forthcoming from the Spanish Government. I do not want to see that matter get out of hand and so harm our hitherto good relations.

Finally, the United Kingdom has an important niche to fill and a lot with which to fill it: an indomitable spirit, solid Commonwealth ties, Security Council permanent membership, the English language, a world hub for communications and finance, but perhaps not transportation just for the moment! While national interests should remain paramount, there is much merit and tangible reward in being focused, targeted and pro-active in forging ahead to develop Britain as a world-class competitor and contributor, a worthy team player in the new globalised world.

8.17 p.m.

Baroness Elles

My Lords, in her speech the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, touched on a wide range of countries, nationalities and international groupings, but for obvious reasons she did not touch on one particular area on which I want to speak: the relationship between the Republic of China arid Tibet.

China has a population of about 1.3 billion people, more than twice the size of the total population of Latin America. Tibet has an overall population of about 6.5 million, and I believe that the country has lost 1 million people in the past two years. Tibet is now included within the boundaries of the Republic of China. In 1949, Tibet was a peace-loving nation with traditions going back hundreds of years, at least to the 14th century which saw the appointment of the first Dalai Lama. Its territory was invaded by 40,000 Chinese troops, against which the Tibetans were able to produce about 400 soldiers to greet them at the frontier. The Tibetans had no chance. From 1950 through to the year 2000 its population has grown by the incursion of about 7.5 million Han Chinese.

The present situation in Tibet is becoming more and more oppressive for the Tibetan people. They now suffer from being unable to run their own country; employment goes to Chinese workers; there is discrimination in healthcare and education and there is the suppression of the freedom of speech. All those rights that we take for granted in this part of the world and which are protected by law are denied to the Tibetans in what was their own country.

That constant repression is typified by the ongoing visiting of Chinese police to the individual homes of Tibetans to check on their conduct and specifically to prevent them hanging pictures of the Dalai Lama on their walls. To that extent, the Chinese police interfere in the daily lives of the Tibetans. There has also been the closing down of schools that teach the Tibetan language.

While in recent years the standard of living has generally been rising throughout China, it remains lower in Tibet than in the more wealthy regions of China, such as the coastal regions, but it still remains double that of the resident Tibetans.

So what is the future for Tibetans still living in the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region)? Unfortunately, in the past two years more repressive measures have been imposed by the Chinese, contrary to what was happening in the late 1970s and early 1980s when there was a more relaxed effort as regards the treatment of Tibetans. Furthermore, there have been systematic attacks on human rights, using torture and indescribably cruel measures. One case in particular comes to mind. Five nuns in Drapchi Prison, north of Lhasa, suffered so much under torture that they committed suicide as a release from further cruelty. Of course, many other cases could be cited.

The change in the tactics of the Chinese Government—an increase in the attacks on individuals—during the past two years must be countered with measures from western democracies, including our own, in the world's international fora.

China has recently embarked on developing international relations through its forthcoming possible membership of the World Trade Organisation. However, it was severely criticised in the recent 10th report of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee. It suggests that pressure can be placed on the Chinese Government through international co-operation. One welcome event has been its signature of the two UN International Covenants on Human Rights—civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights—although neither of those have been ratified. If the provisions of the covenants were recognised in domestic law before ratification—as in the United Kingdom—that would indeed be a major change in China.

The Government are faced with a challenge as to their role in maintaining the dialogue they have been pursuing with China. Should they carry on alone or join together with other EU member states and thereby seek to strengthen the pressure on the Chinese Government? It is sometimes wondered whether it is wise to carry on with dialogue with China while it is behaving in such an atrocious manner to its own citizens, specifically to Tibetans. However, it should be added that in recent years many Chinese individuals have also been tortured and have suffered considerable restraint and imprisonment.

The Government have an opportunity early next year to adopt a resolution by the UN Human Rights Commission. Indeed, other noble Lords have raised other issues which can be raised by the Human Rights Commission in February/March next year. They should seek to pass such a resolution, having failed since 1990 either by losing the vote or by not participating at all. The Chinese threat to withdraw from dialogue with the European Union should that resolution be passed should be overlooked. That should not be a reason for failing to try to carry the resolution. As I said, since 1990, such attempts have been made in that forum but they have never succeeded. By 2001, it is time for the United Kingdom, with its fellow EU members, to try to defeat the Chinese on their own ground.

China is attempting to become a member of the World Trade Organisation—that has been one of its long-time aspirations—as that is essential for the development of its market economy. It will need the support of EU member states and therefore it is worth while to seek to pass a resolution in the UN Human Rights Commission

Just as eastern Europe has evolved in the past 10 years since the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it is not impossible to look forward to a period when a Chinese Government will loosen their hold on people now living within their regime who seek the benefit of a restored autonomy.

8.25 p.m.

Lord Bramall

My Lords, no one listening to this long debate can have any doubt that our Armed Forces are continuing to play a key and indispensable role in this country's foreign policy. Such a commitment represents a proper role for Armed Forces and of course they do it superbly well.

Recently, they have been swept up into a wider political argument because of the Government's initiative over European defence co-operation. And one of the sadder aspects of that has been the vilification in some quarters of the Chief of Defence Staff. I am sure that noble Lords on all sides of the House would condemn that public attack in a newspaper on a most distinguished soldier who has served his country well and who naturally cannot answer back.

There is of course nothing wrong with the CDS having a good working relationship with a Prime Minister or Secretary of State for Defence; in fact, quite the reverse. There have been many good historical examples of that over the years, particularly in and since the Second World War. Moreover, none of those who criticised the CDS can have had the slightest idea as to exactly what advice he had tendered.

It is important to remember the constitutional position. Chiefs of Staff are public servants who can and should advise, clarify any ambivalence, point out implications and caution where necessary. But, ultimately, in our society the political will of Her Majesty's Government must prevail. Chiefs of Staff can of course resign on matters of principle, if they feel strongly enough, but that has seldom been resorted to—and quite rightly, in my opinion—and has never done any good.

No, their job is to make the Government's legitimate policies work. And in any case, the Chief of Defence Staff would, I believe, have had no difficulty at all in supporting European countries using their own national contingents better to get their act together in order to deal with limited military situations in Europe or near its periphery and strengthen Europe's contribution to NATO. All of that, as I understand it, is the basis of the Government's thinking. And that is all a long way off from a European army, which is no more sensible, practicable or necessary in this context than a conglomerate alliance army has been in NATO.

As I have said previously in your Lordships' House, I, too, support that sensible and, some might say, overdue initiative. And not for the first time I find myself in full agreement with my noble and gallant friend. Lord Carver. I do not want to repeat much of what he said. Like him, I do not see that it need be any threat; rather an enhancement to NATO which, as the gracious Speech made clear, must remain the cornerstone of any defence of Europe against a wider threat or any major fighting by any of the nations in the NATO area.

Of course we must be careful not to raise expectations on an improved European capability and then find, because the European countries have not allotted the necessary extra resources, that we have little more than a piece of political symbolism. My noble friend Lord Chalfont made that point. Of course, we must also make sure that we do not waste money on an over ponderous and top-heavy command organisation—using a sledgehammer to deal with a flower, which, as my noble and gallant friend said, has recently beset NATO.

Furthermore, we must be clear—and your Lordships' House will require continued reassurance, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont pointed out—as to exactly how any European operation will be managed politically. Will it, at least initially, be controlled by the NATO Council of Ministers through the NATO chiefs of staff, or their representatives? That would be far the best, as the United States would be kept in the picture and might be able to offer peripheral assistance in the field of logistics and even in the sensitive area of intelligence, even if its combat forces were not involved. Alternatively, at some stage, would it be the European Council of Ministers through the European Union chiefs of staff?

In either case, we must be certain that, just as happens in NATO, a British Cabinet decision would be required before any quick reaction force could be committed to such an operation and kept operating in it should circumstances change. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, will be able to enlighten us on the question of political control which, after all, is the absolute key point.

Above all, at the back of my mind is the belief—I entirely agree with the observations of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby—that in the years ahead some incident may occur inside Europe, or near its borders, in which the Americans, with all t heir other preoccupations, show little interest. They may feel, not unreasonably, that it is Europe's business and it should use its own forces and money to deal with it. There must be the machinery to handle that kind of situation. For that reason, I believe that, if we proceed sensibly, this initiative should be looked upon as a positive step forward in an ever-changing world.

But that is not the only matter for which I believe the Government deserve support. The Armed Forces continue to impress with their efficiency and professionalism. The rescue operation in Sierra Leone was a model of its kind, and the ground forces in Kosovo did more than was expected of them. All of that, incidentally, reflects great credit on the CDS and other chiefs of staff. Then, saints be praised, the Government agreed to discharge the debt of honour to former prisoners of war in the hands of the Japanese and, egged on by the helpful and persuasive powers of my noble friend Lady Strange, to continue to pay pensions to war widows who had remarried. In the case of the former, I had always believed that it was not Japan but the British government, in whose service they had suffered so much and who 50 years ago treated them so inadequately, which should do something about it. They have now done so But it would be helpful if the noble Baroness could make clear whether that debt of honour applies also to former British, Indian and Gurkha members of the old Indian Army, and, if so, how it is to be administered. After all, they suffered equally in the service of our King and country and should not be discriminated against.

All in all, the Government can take pride in some solid achievements. It would, therefore, be particularly unfortunate if they followed the occasional tendency of the late Viscount Montgomery, who, in the midst of overall success, often insisted that everything had gone exactly according to plan when clearly it had not. That caused some loss of credibility. In the case of the present Government, the defence programme and the implementation of the Strategic Defence Review—we have been round this buoy many times—are still manifestly under-funded. The Government lose credibility by failing to acknowledge that; even more so, but with less justification, by insisting that the 3 per cent so-called efficiency saving imposed by the Treasury is not, however it is presented, at least in part an exacerbating and damaging cut when everyone from the Chief of Defence Staff down to the vote holders in all three Services knows that it is.

All that impinges on the equipment programme, service housing, which the Secretary of State has described as totally unsatisfactory, and the medical services which this Government inherited. Some of this was brought home to me and others in your Lordships' House when we visited in the field the British Army's newest and most boasted about formation, the Air Assault Brigade. The men were of the highest quality and were splendidly commanded and led. All showed immense enthusiasm for what they and I believed to be both an innovative and correct concept of operation. But it was also clear that many pieces of equipment were missing, and even when all the Apache helicopters finally arrived—which is still a long way off—there will be inadequate communication equipment properly to control the complicated mixture of helicopter regiments and infantry battalions, the Bowman project being well behind schedule.

The 3 per cent cut in cash flow clearly fell heavily on their shoulders, as did the new disciplinary procedures emanating from the European Convention on Human Rights. As noble Lords are aware, the French secured a partial opt-out for its armed forces. One came away rather mystified as to why the Government did not fight harder to get something for our own forces, which, on behalf of this country, have such unique obligations and duties that must inevitably curtail some personal freedom and place a different emphasis on the enforcement of discipline than would be appropriate elsewhere. A good commanding officer who is capable of creating high morale in his unit will make the system work, but it will complicate the chain of command and the authority of the commander, and will not make military life any easier just at the time when he and his troops are stretched to the limit.

As for accommodation, as expected, the wholesale sell-off of the married quarter estates carried out as a result of an earlier defence cost study has not proved an unqualified success. In any case, it was dependent on a set amount of money being set aside to bring married quarters up to the proper standard. Because of under-funding, that has not been possible; nor has there been enough in the defence vote to bring barracks and single accommodation up to the standard which the Secretary of State presumably considers to be satisfactory.

Finally, much needs to be done to repair the damage done to defence medical services and to restore to them and their reserves in the Territorial Army an adequate capability which can support and sustain the kind of operations which our combat forces are organised and trained to carry out, and, more immediately, can provide timely professional primary, secondary and specialist consultancy for the serving population. The present inadequacy of that provision has greatly increased the number of servicemen who are not fit for duty because of the time that they must wait for appointments, and has exacerbated the serious manning crisis. Much hangs on the new so-called centre of excellence, and I and other noble Lords look forward to visiting it in the early summer to see exactly what it amounts to.

While I congratulate the Government and MoD on what they have achieved, I urge them not to be complacent and to realise that, without obtaining some increase in funding and ensuring that the Treasury small print does not invalidate any improvement which comes their way, the things which so badly need to be done just will not happen when they are needed. Then the admirable Strategic Defence Review will start to unravel; the brain drain, which at the moment is high, particularly at key ages and in key appointments, will continue; and the effectiveness of this jewel in the national crown will gradually erode so that our assigned forces, with their "quick reaction" tag will no longer be able, at the drop of a hat, to support our foreign policy at the time and in the way that this Government so clearly intend.

8.37 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I cannot think of anything more daunting than to follow my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall, if I may so describe him.

I should like to raise three issues: effective scrutiny and accountability in Europe; the need to develop a relationship with Russia that will serve our interests as well as hers; and, not least, how to continue to prevent France and Russia from achieving their common aim; namely, the unravelling of NATO, with all its implications for enlargement. Xavier Solana moved from being Secretary-General of NATO to High Representative of the EU. Since then the EU has established common positions on Russia, the Ukraine and the Mediterranean which are binding on all members. Under the CP on Russia he is mandated to discuss both European security, not just foreign affairs, and the Middle East. I should like to know how, and indeed if, we have any control over what he negotiates, especially with Russia.

The Russians have some very clear objectives: one is the perfectly respectable aim to develop good relations with the EU. But another is to reduce the power of NATO and, if possible, to destroy it. In doing that they automatically bring about the withdrawal of the US as a key element in the defence of Europe. If NATO goes, Russia will become once more a credible threat, not necessarily of outright war but of pressure, for instance on the Baltic states and possibly even Poland and Hungary. The safeguard of Article 5 would no longer exist and that would affect other asymmetric threats. It would remove our strategic defence. The statesmanlike gesture which created the Founding Act and the Russia-NATO Permanent Joint Council and made Russian co-operation in Kosovo possible could thus be nullified.

Mr Solana has moved on to become EU High Representative. Whereas in NATO there was a structure which presumably enabled some control over his actions to be effective, what is there now? Mr Putin and his Foreign Minister may not think, as he apparently told the French at the EU summit in Paris in October, that the time is yet ripe to join the EU, but on the same day he also said that the causes which gave rise to NATO no longer existed but NATO still existed. He evidently wonders why. He does not accept NATO expansion but has no problem with European expansion. President Putin has said that Russia, France and the EU share the same view on the ABM, and Russia offers its own alternative to US missile defence plans, which is the creation of a global system of control over the proliferation of missiles. Meanwhile, Russia constantly increases her nuclear capacity and sells it abroad. Not least, President Putin and the French President discussed "an all-European policy on defence security".

On 20th November the Russian Foreign Minister was asked, "Since the EU had made another move towards setting up its own armed forces", whether Russia would regard the new structure as an opposing or friendly organisation. Mr Ivanov replied that at the last Russia-EU Summit in Paris—presumably the October meeting— a document was approved in which Russia expresses readiness to co-operate with the EU in the fields of defence and security. We think this is very important in order to create a single security system in Europe. The European Union has not yet passed the Founding Document, but when relevant structures are set up"— he continued— when we clearly know the legal basis of the EU in this field, we will start discussing specific spheres for our co-operation". It would be interesting to know at what stage before the Nice conference we were informed and saw this document.

Many noble Lords will wonder what objection there could be to Russia talking about the preservation of peace or to making overtures to Russia to take part in EU peacekeeping operations. Of course there should be none. But my concern is that the present Russian strategy of talking to the EU about defence and security—for example, rather than economic matters—is directed also, and perhaps largely, at weakening NATO. At least, it will have that effect.

If we were talking bilaterally to Russia, as the Secretary of State for Defence has just done, we would be doing so, I hope, with the full advantage of diplomatic and intelligence briefing and in line with our national policy. Why does the High Representative need to talk to the Russians about security and the Middle East? Who briefs him? What detailed knowledge do we, as one of the members of the EU for whom he speaks, have about the conversations? It will be a sad irony if what the Russians cannot learn about our strengths and weaknesses from a NATO well-trained in security, they learn from a largely unmonitored relationship through one man in the EU. I want to know, therefore, what are the formal arrangements for scrutiny and direction of the High Representative's actions under the common position?

It does not seem right or even sensible that we should be bound by understandings or agreements on which there may have been neither prior consultation nor a proper record. That would not be the case in any potentially delicate bilateral relationship.

The whole question of scrutiny and accountability is further bedevilled by the proliferation of new committees, staff, institutions and bodies which have been formed by the CESFP. The only common factor is that these new institutions are to operate through the office of Mr Solana. Who decided what their functions should be? I believe that, if we are to judge by the Prime Minister's reported comments on how EU business should, or rather should not, be conducted, the Government are already painfully aware that the CESFP is a slippery, hydra-headed collection of committees which it will be very difficult to hold to account. But it is our over-committed and, to judge by Kosovo, often under-resourced troops who are to be involved. No one should be allowed to exploit them politically without proper national control.

We have seen the annexes to the Presidency Conclusions on a number of the issues discussed, but not yet the agreed protocol on the defence and security arrangements as distinct from the presidential proposals put forward at Nice. I welcome the Government's success in negotiating to ensure that any significant operation will be planned at NATO by the planning staff at SHAPE. But past experience suggests that the small print may not say the same thing. I hope that I am wrong.

Finally, I think that the Poles and Czechs will be equally anxious to be reassured that there will be no independent, autonomous EU army and that NATO alone, to which they are already signed up, will be responsible for command and control and for defence. As the Poles have already pointed out, if they are to enhance their ability to manage crisis they cannot waste their limited resources on creating new parallel structures. Countries, they say, do not wish arid cannot afford to create two separate kinds of force, one dedicated to the European headline goals, the other to meet NATO alliance requirements. There are, therefore, important implications for enlargement in the need to assure the unquestioned priority of NATO.

When I was learning Russian I lived with a family in Paris. They took me out to dinner. No one was allowed to speak anything but Russian to me. That rather limited conversation. At my first dinner party I sat next to a delightful old Russian. He spoke beautiful English. But under orders, he asked me very slowly, clearly and carefully in Russian: "What is your favourite sport?" I could think of none. Then, less fortunately, I thought of swimming. So I said to him that I was very fond of swimming. He looked absolutely horrified. I thought that perhaps women did not swim in his young days. Then unfortunately I remembered the word for "long distance". So I said that I was particularly partial to long distance swimming. With that he looked so horrified, he turned his back on me and would not speak to me any more. Afterwards, breaking the rules because no one was supposed to speak to me in anything but Russian, my hostess asked me why I had said such an extraordinary thing to poor Count so and so, who was only trying to give me practice in the Russian language. I said that I could only think of swimming. She replied: "Oh, that is what you thought you said!" I asked her what I had said. She answered that I had told him I was very fond of spitting and that I had gone on to say that I was particularly fond of long distance spitting.

I tell that story not only to cheer us up but also because I believe that one of the biggest problems with all these multifarious structures, committees and bodies within the EU is that they are not clearly explained. We do not know enough about what is happening and why it is happening. I hope that something can be done about that.

8.46 p.m.

Lord Roper

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Park, will forgive me if I do not follow the important issues she has raised in her contribution today. We shall return to some of them in the debate on Thursday. I hope that today I may address some wider issues.

The debate has shown that Britain's international responsibilities and the Government's external policies go much wider than our European commitments, important though they are. The debate has, therefore, been a clear answer to those who accuse people within the European Union of merely being inward looking. We have been looking at Britain and Europe's responsibility on the world scene.

I should like to relate my remarks to a number of the aspects of government policies toward Africa and the possible impact of measures in the Queen's Speech on that relationship.

Before I turn to that, however, perhaps I may make a passing reference to the Armed Forces Bill, which has already been introduced in another place. I would ask the usual channels, in view of the expertise that exists on this subject in your Lordships' House, to examine whether the Bill could be considered under the procedures for a Special Public Bill Committee, as set out in paragraph 6.96 of the Companion. I feel that that would be an appropriate way to examine it on this occasion.

In Africa we have both the short-term problems of crisis prevention and conflict management and a number of much longer-term problems of good governance. In particular there is the problem, to which reference has been made by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, of the destabilising influence of the AIDS epidemic.

The Minister in her opening speech referred, as one of the examples of joined-up government which now occur, to the group operating under the leadership of the Department for International Development, but involving the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which will deal with crisis prevention within Africa. As of next year it will have a budget of £50 million per year as of next year for that purpose. The noble Baroness made reference to that body, but perhaps in her response we can have details of how it is developing. How far are the cultures which operate in different ministries in Whitehall working together in practice? Does the organisation provide us with some value added in relation to crisis prevention?

Unfortunately the recent history of peacekeeping in Africa is a depressing one. In spite of the speeches made by almost all the heads of state and of governments at the United Nations Millennium Summit in New York in September, there is still a depressing shortfall of contributions to the various peacekeeping operations in Africa.

The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, referred to our contribution and presence in Sierra Leone. Although part of that is outside the structure of UNAMSIL, it is in a context of a considerable shortfall in the other UN peacekeepers in Sierra Leone and therefore makes the task of British forces much more difficult than it would otherwise would be.

The other example of where the members of the United Nations have willed the end but not the means is the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I did not intend to discuss today in detail the European Union's rapid reaction force, apart from saying that I am not sure if that is a particularly good name for it. I feel that the phrase used by the noble Baroness of "crisis management capabilities" is probably a more useful one. But as the tasks for which it has been set up include the peacekeeping missions within the Petersberg tasks, I wonder whether it will enable the Europeans collectively to make more effective contributions to UN peacekeeping activities.

The European Union countries already contribute financially very substantially to any UN peacekeeping activity. Thirty-nine per cent of the costs of any UN peacekeeping activity is paid for by European Union countries—more than 50 per cent more than what is paid by the United States. But we are not necessarily contributing enough to the UN peacekeeping forces. I hope that one of the early tasks that the new capabilities which we are developing will be able to carry out will ensure that we can go back to the situations where Europeans, including, for example, some of those who are not members of NATO, such as the Finns, the Swedes and the Irish, will contribute to UN forces under the framework of the new European arrangements.

The noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, referred to the United Kingdom's training of the Sierra Leone armed forces. The UK has a long history of training forces in southern Africa, a piece of what is now called "defence diplomacy". Should we not begin to examine whether we could not start doing this task collectively among European Union countries? A few years ago there was discussion within the Western European Union about providing support for crisis management capabilities to the Organisation of African Unity. Could we not consider ways in which that could be done in the future?

The conflicts in Africa depend very much on the supply of arms which either come from this country or are brokered through this country. I was therefore pleased to hear from the Minister that a draft Bill will be introduced. That of course is not the same thing as a Bill. I believe that this House and another place should have an early opportunity to consider and to pass such a piece of legislation to replace, as the noble Baroness said, a law which has been on the statute book since just before the second world war.

I turn to another point covered in the gracious Speech. The private security industry based in this country also operates externally under the name, used somewhat pejoratively, of "mercenaries". Legislation on the private security industry is promised in the gracious Speech. When I heard the reference, I thought that it might include its external as well as its internal dimension. However, on examining the Bill, I see that Clause 24 restricts it for almost every purpose to England and Wales, and for a few others only to the whole of the United Kingdom. In those circumstances, it would be useful if Ministers were able to give some assurance that the Green Paper on mercenaries, to which reference has been made from time to time, could' be forthcoming in the near future.

Europe is very close economically to Africa. As my noble friend Lady Williams said, many of the deposits of President Abacha passed through London or are in London. As a witness to the Select Committee on International Development in another place said recently, if you are in the business of trying to hide needles you look for a large haystack, and the blessing or curse that the United Kingdom [financial markets] have is that they present a very large haystack". The gracious Speech does include proposals for proceeds of crime legislation and to deal with money laundering. But will that include the, restraint of assets at an earlier stage of the investigative process", and the commitment to, greater co-operation with developing and transition countries to help them recover funds that were illegally acquired through criminal activity or corruption and subsequently deposited in the UK", as referred to in the DfID White Paper published yesterday? Is that coming forward? Will this legislation enable us in the United Kingdom to implement the second European money laundering directive?

More generally on corruption, the World Bank provides on the world wide web a list of firms and individuals that are ineligible to be awarded a World Bank contract because they were found to have violated the fraud and corruption provisions of the World Bank's procurement or consultant guidelines. In the most recent list dated 25th October, of the 52 firms, 27 are domiciled in the United Kingdom and a further seven in the Isle of Man. That is a shameful record for this country, even if many of them are rather small consultancies. The Home Office paper last June on the prevention of corruption recognised the need for legislation to criminalise the bribery of foreign public officials and to assume jurisdiction over our nationals for offences of corruption committed abroad. That will enable us to comply with the commitments we have undertaken under the OECD anti-bribery convention. The commitment to legislation is repeated in the DfID White Paper published yesterday, but there is no explicit reference to such legislation in the gracious Speech. Perhaps the Minister in replying can tell us what is intended.

I had intended to say something about the issue of AIDS and the problems that it will cause in destabilising Africa and perhaps having effects further afield. However, in view of the time, I shall seek a further opportunity to deal with that point.

8.57 p.m.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on their emphasis on the importance of NATO. Like many of your Lordships, I have very clear memories of the war which engulfed Europe 60 years ago. Although not old enough to fight, my only brother was killed in Holland. One of my cousins was killed in North Africa; another cousin was shot down over Malta. My marine engineer aunt served in convoys crossing the Atlantic and sailing to Russia. My grandmother ran a convalescent hospital. My other aunts were air raid wardens in Lambeth. My father was a sergeant-major in the Home Guard, my mother packed parcels for prisoners, and I knitted orange helmets for shipwrecked sailors. It is not something through which I would ever like to live again. But it was 60 years ago. And for the past 60 years it is NATO which has kept Europe relatively peaceful.

I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister reiterate the importance of NATO after the Nice Summit. But I am uneasy at the thought of creating a rival to NATO in Europe. So, I believe, is Mr Putin. And so are the Turks, who have one of the best armies I have seen, though not, I hasten to add, anything like as good as ours. Nothing could be. Nor, indeed, are our good friends in America happy about it. My daughter, who lives and works in Washington, has found much in the American press on this subject—in addition to the endless reports about the Florida recounts—which she sends to me.

Nor, indeed, is the US Defense Secretary, Mr Cohen, happy about this proposed development: he has said so in the bluntest of terms. Of course we are all anxious for our European friends and allies to contribute a greater share of men, equipment and money to NATO. But we do not want to create a doppelganger, a twin ghost, with a rival chain of command, rival loyalties and yet, apparently, manned by the same people. Are we, at a stroke, going to increase our Armed Forces in men and equipment to run this new rapid reaction force? From where are all the people going to come? Who is going to pay them? To whom are they going to be responsible? We must remember that our forces comprise splendid and dedicated people. But they are already stretched to the limit. Furthermore, the distance in time between unaccompanied overseas tours is far from the promised 24 months. It is not a game of musical hats: today, NATO; tomorrow, the European rapid reaction force. They are still the same people.

On a visit to NATO headquarters at High Wycombe a few years ago I was delighted to see how well the different European nationalities got on and integrated, even the French—not in fact a part of NATO at all, although they were working with it. On an earlier visit to NATO in Belgium, an enthusiastic civil servant who was not part of NATO nevertheless told us what good contingency plans he had. There had been some internal reorganisation and he feared that he would lose his nice, heated office and car. But he had kept hold of both and there he plotted his very good contingency plans. "But what will you use to implement them?" he was asked. "What forces do you have?". His face fell slightly. "We could borrow them," he said. He had not thought as far ahead as that, but he had very good contingency plans. I fear that by now the office and the car may have multiplied, may have grown like dragons' teeth, with the initiators of very good contingency plans looking around avidly for forces to implement them. They will not be new forces; they will be taken from somewhere else.

Many noble Lords have spoken of the importance of NATO and of the drawbacks of creating a rival force, even if only in name. I can only reiterate and reinforce those sentiments. I fear that I cannot compete with my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth in long-distance spitting, but I can point out that if you want to have a family it is never wise to throw out the baby with the bath water.

9.2 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, and many other noble Lords, I am delighted that Bills were announced in the Queen's Speech to ratify the International Criminal Court and to improve transparency on export controls. The White Paper on poverty and globalisation is also welcome, but I shall reserve judgment until we have an opportunity to debate it fully. By then, I should have been able properly to read and digest it.

In my contribution I wish to concentrate on the Middle East. As my noble friend is aware, I was one of a small group which last month accompanied George Galloway MP on a flight to Baghdad. Tonight I should like to share with the House some thoughts which have arisen from that visit. I should declare at the outset that the flight was financed by two businessmen, one a Jordanian and the other a British naturalised Iraqi of Assyrian Christian descent. I was fully aware that I was likely to hear only one side of the argument.

My noble friend knows, together with many other noble Lords, that I have been asking questions about the humanitarian effect of the sanctions on Iraq for more than six years. She should know also that I am perfectly aware that the current regime in Iraq is one of the harshest in the world. Any opposition to the government is likely to lead to imprisonment, torture and, most likely, execution. In case of any doubt in Baghdad, the ubiquitous portraits of Saddam make it very clear who is in charge. It should be pointed out, however, that flagrant abuse of human rights continues in several countries surrounding Iraq, with which we maintain diplomatic relations or with which we are in "constructive engagement".

I had expected to be shown evidence of the effects of sanctions on the humanitarian situation and I shall discuss those shortly. However, what I had not expected to see was the extent of the reconstruction and new development going on in Baghdad. Several of the much-reported palaces are in fact government administrative buildings built on rather a grand scale. The luxury resort being built on Lake Tharthar, 50 kilometres outside Baghdad, was, we were told, not particularly for Saddam's chosen élite, but to encourage the new rich class of Iraqis to spend their money inside the country, rather than visiting resorts overseas. Some of that rich class, who comprise around only 5 per cent of the population, have made their money out of the misery and poverty of the rest of the population, who have had to sell their homes and possessions. Other members of that wealthy set have been involved in smuggling, with state approval and encouragement.

It is now possible to buy almost anything in Baghdad, if one knows the right person. I was told that the imported technical hardware needed for the new prestigious buildings was all smuggled into the country. When I raised the question of why such buildings were being constructed when pools of dirty, stagnant water were lying in many of the sidestreets in the poorer districts, I was told that so much damage had been done to the infrastructure of the water, sewerage and drainage systems by the Gulf War and subsequent sanctions on the importation of spare parts, that only massive investment could deal with the problem. Thus, funds from the Oil for Food programme were being used for this, but only a fraction of the necessary equipment was getting through, and that only recently. The impressive new buildings were being constructed mainly from local materials and provided employment in a difficult economic climate.

I wondered whether, given that so much smuggling was taking place, perhaps some military supplies were also getting through. However, doubtless my noble friend or her department has more information about this than do I. The House of Commons Select Committee on International Development report on the future of sanctions referred to by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, received evidence about the widespread semi-official smuggling that goes on through Turkey. No doubt other frontiers are also leaky.

Turning to the effect of the sanctions on health, all that I saw confirmed paragraph 8 of the conclusions of the House of Commons Select Committee report to which I have referred. It states: Even those who wish to maintain these sanctions accept that children, the ill, the vulnerable in Iraq society are suffering. It is as obvious that Saddam Hussein and his ruling elite continue to enjoy a privileged existence". I was certainly able to confirm that.

A conservative estimate by UNICEF is that from 1990 to 1998 an additional 500,000 children under five died compared with the number expected according to the pre-1990 improving trend in child mortality. Mrs Anupama Rao Singh, UNICEF's representative in Baghdad, whom I met, described to me in detail how this high mortality rate has come about mainly as a combination of malnutrition, consequent lowered resistance and contaminated water supplies—diarrhoea being by the far the commonest cause of death. This was due very largely to the sanctions, since before the Gulf War Iraq had become dependent on imports for 70 per cent of its food supply. Income from copious oil exports had before the war allowed the economy to depend perhaps overmuch on imports, including technical expertise. So the sudden cutting off of supplies had a particularly severe effect.

Before summing up and putting some questions and suggestions to my noble friend, I should like to discuss another rather controversial area—the possible residual effect of the use of depleted uranium-tipped bullets and shells in the Gulf War on military personnel of both sides and on the civilian population of Iraq.

When it hits a hard object at a high velocity, depleted uranium self-ignites and disintegrates into dust. Some of this dust becomes airborne and can be carried by the wind for some kilometres. Some of these particles can he inhaled; they can penetrate deeply into the lungs and cannot be eliminated by the body; they get stuck there. Although depleted uranium is only 40 per cent as radioactive as uranium—and alpha radiation, which is its main emission, can hardly penetrate intact skin—it can, however, when inside the body, penetrate four centimetres and damage the DNA in its path, potentially triggering malignant change. It also emits small amounts of beta and gamma radiation, which have a higher penetrative power. It has an exceptionally long life of 4.5 billion years and has chemical toxicity as well as radioactivity.

Several doctors I met at the leukaemia ward of the Saddam children's hospital in Baghdad and elsewhere were quite clear that there had been a sharp increase in cancer at all ages in Iraq since the Gulf War, particularly among children, leukaemia being the most common. In Baghdad children's hospital there had been a fourfold increase, comparing the decades before and after the 1990 Gulf War—350 before and 1,400 after, in round figures.

Some of this increase is likely to come from referrals from outside Baghdad, although the medical staff were convinced that there was also an increase in Baghdad City itself, which perhaps raises the possibility that there might be some cause other than depleted uranium. In and around Basra, the reported increase was also about fourfold, with some evidence of a greater increase in districts nearer to the battlefield. The same picture seemed to be emerging for congenital abnormalities in new-born children.

Although I was not very impressed with the standard of the epidemiological reports I was given, I remained impressed by the clinical knowledge and sincerity of the doctors and nurses I met. As well as an increase in incidence, they also reported an increase in severity, of both malignancies and congenital abnormalities. The paediatric oncologists treating the children with leukaemia and lymphoma said that, although they could sometimes get modern chemotherapeutic drugs—they demonstrated a very good knowledge of modern medical oncology—the supply was intermittent, so that often the most effective combination of drugs could not be given at all or not for long enough. Because of a lack of cell separators and transfusion equipment they could not give the life-saving bone marrow grafts or transplants which many leukaemia or lymphoma patients need. Most patients with leukaemia in Iraq therefore die, as compared with the UK where up to 90 per cent survive.

The suggestion that this might be due to administrative delay by the Iraqi government was thought laughable by the doctors, who reported that it was due to the need for the Iraqi Ministry of Health to make new contracts with suppliers every six months, combined with delays in getting clearance from the UN sanctions committee each time. Some of the equipment needed is classified as dual use and therefore not allowed in—for example, radiotherapy machines—and some is put "on hold" for up to six months so that new contracts have to be drawn up and the process started all over again.

UNICEF was not able to give me any data on childhood malignancies in Iraq because any investigation into possible effects on health due to radiation has to be handled by the International Atomic Energy Agency rather than the WHO or UNICEF. I suggest that these findings have a direct relevance to the Gulf War syndrome reported by troops serving in the Gulf War, and at least part of which could possibly be due to exposure to depleted uranium. I have previously asked, and now again ask, my noble friend whether the UK will call for a full expert investigation into the reported increase in cancer in Iraq, to be carried out by the World Health Organisation, not the IAEA. That is important, because the IAEA is an interested party, given that the nuclear industry supplies the depleted uranium as a by-product of nuclear energy or nuclear weapons production. I hope that my noble friend agrees that it is extremely important that these claims should be confirmed or denied by an expert independent team of investigators.

In summing up, I should like to echo the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and ask what we are achieving by continuing with our present policy. The weapons inspectors have been expelled, so we have lost the ability to monitor Iraq's military development on the ground. Mr Scott Ritter, the last but one head of UNSCOM has said that 90 per cent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been eliminated. However, a monitoring role would still be very useful. Iraq has indicated that if the current comprehensive sanctions were ended—not "suspended" as in SCR 1284—and the current over-flying and frequent bombing of Iraq were stopped, it would be prepared for a return of a UN monitoring team of some kind.

With regard to the bombing, perhaps my noble friend can tell me which UN resolution permits the continued low-intensity war on Iraq from a great height, mentioned by my noble friend Lady Turner, in which civilian casualties and damage to property occur regularly. To say that the no-fly zones are for humanitarian protection of the Kurds or the Shias is long out of date. This bombing gains nothing for us, makes ordinary Iraqi people bewildered and angry, and increases rather than reduces popular support for Saddam. It also feeds the smouldering resentment of the Arab world against the Western powers, especially the United States and the UK. The excessive Israeli response to the current intifada in Palestine has a similar effect.

To stop the bombing, to replace the current sanctions regime with something more appropriate and put pressure on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza in accordance with UN resolutions would open up the way for a more permanent settlement for the whole Middle East. This should include an agreement on arms limitation—perhaps making use of our new proposed legislation—especially weapons of mass destruction, although, realistically, I do not see Israel giving up its nuclear weapon until we do. That leads me to support the position of my noble friend Lord Jenkins, who wants the whole process speeded up. I suggest that Britain could take an imaginative lead in initiating this wider process, together with other states in the European Union. To continue with present policies is not only perpetuating the suffering of vulnerable Iraqis—and Palestinians—but is stirring the embers of a more widespread conflict in the future.

9.18 p.m.

Lord Selsdon

My Lords, I suppose that this debate is in reality about the two simple words, "peace" and "prosperity". When I flew back from Nice yesterday, I was reminded of the symbols of peace and prosperity: those great cypress trees, so elegant and beautiful—like the noble Baronesses on the Benches opposite. I thought that that might wake them up slightly—but women have an ability to talk and think at the same time.

Cypress trees were usually planted in pairs in the ancient world, often near graveyards. One grows taller than the other and is normally known as "prosperity". It moves in bursts. "Peace" is usually shorter, is sometimes deemed to be feminine, and moves slowly. They have always been the symbols of peace and prosperity.

In this debate some noble Lords have concentrated on trying to help as regards the poverty and prosperity of others. I want to concentrate on the prosperity and peace of ourselves. The dangers to that peace and prosperity are, above all, politics and bureaucracy.

While I was in Nice—on a private visit, but watching carefully what was going on—I noted first the large columns of dark blue Citroen cars led by dark blue, highly polished motor-cycles, followed by dark blue vans—all French—loaded with security men. At each roundabout there were dark blue Frenchmen, four to a roundabout, all holding sub-machine guns, no doubt of French manufacture, and controlled by plain-clothes Inspector Clouseau look-alikes directing traffic down one-way streets and keeping all those who were not bureaucrats or politicians out of harm's way. I was told that that was because the "Pink Panthers" of international socialism were in town for another socialist rally to decide how the whole of Europe could be bureaucratised.

I wondered what the results were of this great meeting, naturally. I was given by my friends—both French and of other nationalities—and on television, some useful pieces of information. The first was about the weather. Your Lordships may not be aware that there is more rain in Nice than in London, and it all falls in a short period of time. We must think for a moment that often the weather has caused calamities throughout the world. However, the weather is not the subject of my intervention today. Your Lordships may wonder what it will be.

The second was that when I returned I was told by a Frenchman that we had won at cricket. I thought that that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, has pointed out, was not really relevant. But, as a weapon of international diplomacy, cricket is of considerable importance. Very few people in the EU, other than Corfu, play it.

The third point is to recognise that sport has an important role to play. There is no clearer example of that than the remarkable success of our Commonwealth cousins in Australia in bringing the world together in the Olympic Games. We have one thing in commonwith the French, that is that they play rugby rather well. Therefore, sport is another weapon.

I return to the point about where the loyalties and the future of our country lie. Possibly because we are so British, we pretend to be extraordinarily unselfish, whereas the French and our continental allies or friends are overtly selfish, often score points and win. I do not believe that we won anything in Nice. Even when I was there, I suddenly found myself uncharitably thinking of Petain, the great hero of Verdun, of le Pen, of the bombing of the French fleet, and of the divisiveness in war that has been caused by politicians for a long period of time. I was then moved by the reminder of the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, that we have had peace in our time. Many who did not know the horror of war will probably never fully appreciate the value of peace. That point must be driven home.

We need to think forward 50 years. Fifty years in the life of a cypress tree, or any reasonable tree, is not a long time. First, I want to go back 100 years, to 1900, when the population of the United Kingdom was 40 million and the population of the British Empire was 350 million, totalling 400 million people. I then want to move forward 50 years. I think that the current population is 60 million and the population of the British Commonwealth 1.7 billion. Are Commonwealth citizens British? Do we, or should we. have a more special relationship with them than with the continent of Europe? I believe that we should and do.

I then recall the contribution to peace made in the past 100 years by the citizens of the Commonwealth or the Empire: 10 per cent (900,000) of those who fought in the First World War and 3 per cent (350,000) of those who fought in the Second World War were killed. They were great armies—people who gave for a fatherland or another land across the sea; for whatever reasons, they were brought together, fought for us and gave us peace.

I wonder what weapons we have today for peace, other than diplomacy. Of course, we have the problem of bureaucracy, to which I shall refer again and again, but we must look at the role of the armed forces of the world. We will, of course, seek peace in all major countries, but there will always be conflict somewhere. I am told that there are always seven conflicts, one for every day of the week, at any one time.

What defence weapons or weapons of peace are available to us? The United States has armed forces of 1.4 million men. NATO and the EU, excluding the United Kingdom, have armed forces of 1.5 million men. Other countries of NATO, other than the EU, have forces of 1 million men. We have forces of about 200,000 men—fewer than we lifted out of Dunkirk. The Commonwealth has forces of 2.5 million men. But when we look at the expenditure on armed forces, the United States exceeds all of those other countries put together. Is it a matter of expenditure on men or technology?

In terms of expenditure, it is acknowledged that we probably have the best armed and most effective servicemen of any navy, whether it be on the 3:1 ratio, it does not matter. But when we come to the days of peacekeeping, we need men and women, not necessary high-tech equipment. In order to keep peace in many parts of the world, we do not need a few men on the ground; we need hundreds of thousands of them. Where are they available? That is one of the problems about which we may need to think in the future. We need men, but do we have enough?

How do we harness and bring together these men, and what will they become? In the old days, they would have been called an "expeditionary force", in the same way that a cricket team travelling abroad would be called "the tourists" because they were touring. Now, suddenly, such men are called "task forces" or even "rapid reaction forces", which can react rapidly; but I know not whether the politicians and the bureaucrats can react as rapidly as we would like.

Then we come to this doubtful business of change in political thinking, or the "turncoats" of this world—such as, with respect, noble Lords sitting opposite. When we first decided that we would be going into the European Union or the EC under a Conservative government, I well recall that the Labour Party strongly objected and refused to co-operate in any way. It refused to be in the heart of Europe to negotiate and plan and sent no delegation to the European Parliament. However, the Liberals, the Conservatives, and others, were fully supportive. When, ultimately, the Labour Government came to power and decided that they could only support it with a referendum, we had the biggest result in favour than had been the case with any other proposal; indeed, I believe that it even exceeded the support received for the abolition of hanging. That, if anything, is "turncoatery".

As for the Conservative Party, one of the concerns was the surrender of sovereignty and the dominance of bureaucracy. We have seen the most remarkable increase in bureaucracy in our time. We have also suffered because we moved from being a successful agricultural nation to one that is now dying and starving in the rural areas, with minus 9 per cent yield on agricultural land. We were a great industrial nation, but have seen the collapse of manufacturing industry and the inability even to make the necessary equipment for our Armed Forces.

We need to give some thought to the future. I am convinced that we are, arid must be, global. I hate the word "globalist", but I declare an interest as far as concerns relations with the United States. I was exported with my sister to the United States during the war for safekeeping. We later returned wearing labels round our necks. I learned to speak English with an American accent, which it has taken me a long time to change. I was two years old at the time and my sister was aged just nine months. She has just returned from serving with a peace corps in a small village in Senegal. The last job of one of my nephews was to get Senator Glenn into space, another served in the rangers and one heads his own Navy Seal team at the moment. I also have another nephew in our Armed Forces.

My family was brought up to believe in military and public service in the interests of peace. I respect and like the American relationship. A certain comment has been driven home to me: why, in order to be pro-European, is it necessary to be anti-American?

9.28 p.m.

Lord Williamson of Horton

My Lords, in the gracious Speech the Government confirm the United Kingdom's role and practical approach to the European Union in shaping its future, which I interpret to mean that they will continue to build on the strengths of the Union in our national interest. This is not surprising as, for more than half a lifetime, membership of the European Union, with membership of NATO and of the Commonwealth, have been the cornerstones of our external policy.

Since the gracious Speech was delivered, we have had the results of the intergovernmental conference at Nice. I am sure that there will be much more discussion about that because it requires ratification by the United Kingdom Parliament and by all other member states. Therefore, I hope this evening to gain the award for the briefest or, at least, most compact comments on the Nice results.

There has been a good deal of reference to Nice. As far as I am concerned, the results are in line with our pre-announced position on qualified majority voting. In my view it has done enough as regards voting and the commissioners to give impetus to rapid progress on the enlargement negotiations, referred to in the gracious Speech. This is greatly to be welcomed and is definitely a step forward. There is obviously no enlargement crisis and the headline in yesterday's Times was out of date before it appeared on the news stands.

I wish to respond to the question: how do we go on from here? I do not want just to consider what happened at Nice but to look ahead at where we go from here in terms of our relations within the European Union and in terms of the repercussions of our Union membership on some other aspects of external policy. I look at this matter in the framework of the Government's statement of policy in the gracious Speech and the results of Nice.

Despite the actual or alleged disagreements and crises which afflict, or are reported in the media to afflict, our policy within the Union, the principal medium-term objectives of the Union have almost never been more clear than in the past few years. There are three such objectives which are quite evident. Of course, you do not get this impression from much of the comment in the United Kingdom.

First, there is the question of enlargement to include the countries of central and southern Europe which have requested membership. I am not at all sure that the magnitude of this step change has been fully appreciated in Britain. We do not just have to discuss the technical question of when they complete the negotiations, when they come in or how many chapters they have accepted in the acquis communautaire. What we have to consider are the opportunities for British citizens in this huge enlargement. What are the prospects for trade, for commerce and for people-to-people contact? That is what is opening up in central and eastern Europe and in parts of southern Europe. That is what it is all about. There are about 108 million people in the countries I am discussing, so obviously this is a big change. It is not just a change in political terms—although that is important—but a change in terms of direct contacts between Britain and these countries. In economic terms the European Union powerhouse becomes stronger and, more importantly, its responsibilities for the health of the world's trading system and its responsibilities for international development and towards the less developed countries must be even more evidently accepted and carried out. We are a bigger Union and our responsibilities are greater. That should be seen and reflected in all we do in the future years.

In political terms the enlargement is for many in the Union and outside the natural and desired consequence of the end of the Iron Curtain and the return of free democratic societies in central European sovereign states. It is good to see the welcome which those sovereign states gave to the results of Nice. As far as I can see, this is a worthwhile objective which we need to get across to the British people. This is an objective of the European Union which we are proud to support and one which is not technocratic or bureaucratic but which constitutes a link between us and other peoples and other countries to our benefit and to theirs.

I always regret that the sole term "European Community" for the total entity that we are in seemed to be abolished at one stage because the enlargement highlights again that this is for Britain a community, a soon to be enlarged community, of friendly nations. In this, as in all other matters, all the ships will rise with the tide.

Objectively, history may perhaps judge that the changes agreed at Nice are not so important as all that in the pursuit of Union enlargement which is already well and truly launched. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, will get a "wigging" from Sir Humphrey or Sir John or someone if she agrees with me. Therefore I shall not push the point too much. But, objectively, I think that that is none the less the case. However, political perception is everything and that has been achieved. Therefore, in reality, the enlargement is now going forward very evidently.

In the course of further discussions, the real problems relating to some issues will be raised: the movement of people; the length of the transition period; and, to a lesser degree, I believe, although not in the view of some noble Lords who have spoken today, agricultural support. Those problems remain to be settled. I think that as a consequence of what has been achieved in the past week those problems will be solved. That is the first major objective.

The second major objective is to make a success of economic and monetary union, as agreed at Maastricht. The United Kingdom is a full participant in the economic policy of the Community under which member states regard their economic policy as a matter of common concern and co-ordinate them within the Council, although on monetary policy the UK public will decide in due course what they will do about the common currency. However, because of our full role on economic policy, Britain has an important objective: not simply to maximise the advantages from our own continuing sound economic policy but also the consequences of sound economic policies throughout the Community. Whatever their views on the euro, I think that the British public will see that as a worthwhile objective on which we, and the Union as a whole, are engaged.

The third major objective is to carry forward the action in the fields of asylum, immigration and the fight against drugs and crime on which the Maastricht Treaty established a form of co-operation on a broadly inter-governmental basis and on which the Amsterdam Treaty "communitarised" some but not all of those responsibilities. That was probably the most important decision at Amsterdam. It is now moving towards some form of implementation. There is much positive action to come following through the agendas of Maastricht and Amsterdam in the area of justice and home affairs. It is an area where the co-operation between the member states and the Commission seems to be working well. Hidden among the documents that we received recently, in the presidency conclusions, a number of issues are being pushed forward. They are good issues for Britain. I refer, for example, to the area of freedom and security, the recognition of court decisions and greater operational co-operation between member states on the external frontiers.

Those three main Union objectives are all worthwhile. They can easily be sold to the British public. It is important that we make clear those positive points and the direction in which the Union is going. After all, it is our Union; it is not someone else's. It is our Community; it is not someone else's. The British public can easily understand and support that.

Finally, it is somewhat depressing to note how often people in Britain think that in the European Union the most important legislative and policy decisions are taken by bureaucrats. They are not taken by bureaucrats but by the Ministers of the member states, often in co-decision with the European Parliament.

Nice has been described as a circus but the important question is this. Who were the performers? The performers were the Prime Ministers of the sovereign member states. It may help to bring home to the British public and the media that in the European Union it is the member states, their Prime Ministers, their Ministers and, where ratification is required, their Parliaments or their people who "rule—OK".

9.39 p.m.

Lord Grenfell

My Lords, one of your Lordships' House's great oracles on matters relating to the European Union has just sat down, which makes it difficult for me to stand up, particularly at this late hour. but there are still one or two things that could be said, so, with your Lordships' indulgence, I shall get right to them.

The gracious Speech could not have put it more plainly. It said: My Government will continue to work with our partners to shape the future of the European Union". At Nice, Her Majesty's Government gave proof of their determination to pursue that agenda vigorously and achieved most, if not all, of their objectives.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was right to deplore the way in which the European Council is condemned to conduct its affairs and reach important decisions and I am glad that the Government intend to make proposals to reform the current procedures. They would certainly benefit from a good dose of transparency for a start.

At the risk of displeasing my noble friends on the Front Bench—this will not be the first time that I have done so on matters relating to Europe—I have to say that the ferocity with which the Government manned the red veto line around all matters relating to taxation still puzzles me. For example, will we for ever ring-fence such matters as combating tax fraud against public finances? I think that we should not. I would even go so far as to predict that at some time in the future we shall not.

That said, the draft Nice treaty is a big step forward and has helped to allay the worst fears of the candidate countries. Peter Gottfried, who is the chief negotiator for Hungary in the accession talks, said yesterday: There is an overall feeling that the prospect of membership is becoming more tangible, predictable and credible". That is an improvement on what he has said in the past. The Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia, who were meeting in Bratislava, also gave a warm welcome to the result. There seems to have been a collective sigh of relief among the candidate countries that things might be on track.

I was sorry to have to leave the Chamber before the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, had finished her excellent introductory speech. I had to go to the European Union Select Committee, where, as my noble friend Lord Tomlinson said, we were engaged in a conversation with our Minister for Europe. I fully share the incredulity that she and the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, expressed at the unwillingness of the leader of the Tory party to see the treaty ratified. That will have earned him no friends in the candidate countries whose accession his party has so long championed. I am mystified by his approach.

It is equally puzzling that Mr Hague seems so certain that a European superstate is in the making. Surely he cannot be blind to what happened at Nice. If he had been there to see the bargaining that went on, he would have realised that the nation state is alive and well across Europe and shows no sign of disappearing.

We should be grateful to the German Chancellor for his statesmanship in not insisting on more votes for Germany than for France. Of course, he got one or two things in return, but he materially helped to save the treaty. I also take my hat off to the Belgian Prime Minister, Mr Verhofstadt. Not only did he champion the interests of the smaller countries, which were not always treated with great politesse, from what I have heard, but he was prepared to accept a lower vote than the Netherlands even though there had previously been parity. His reported comment as he left the meeting—that it would probably be easier for him to be elected Prime Minister of Lithuania than for him to be re-elected Prime Minister of Belgium—showed his excellent good humour.

Germany got its agreement on the new IGC in 2004. I welcome that in principle. It is right that we should seek to simplify the treaties without changing their meaning, so as to make them more coherent and understandable. It is absolutely right that we seek to strengthen the role of national Parliaments in the affairs of the Union and to look at one of the proposals made by the Prime Minister in Warsaw for a second Chamber for the European Parliament made up of national parliamentarians. Above all, it is right to establish and define precisely the respective competencies of the EU, its member states and its regions. After all, to put it in the plainest language, setting out just who governs whom and from where is simply plain, good common sense.

I very much welcome the Nice decision that candidate countries which have signed accession agreements will participate in the new IGC and that those which have not yet reached that stage will certainly be observers. That is vital. However, even after discussing the matter this afternoon with my right honourable friend Keith Vaz, I confess that I am a little concerned about what happens immediately following Nice where candidates' interests are at stake.

The treaty will contain a declaration that, under the guidance of the Swedish and Belgian presidencies, the European Union will embark on a deeper and wider debate about the future development of Europe, and that at the final Council of Ministers of the Belgian presidency, which will take place in Lachen in December 2001, the content, calendar and working methods of the IGC will be agreed. That in itself is unobjectionable, but the assurance given in the declaration that, candidate countries will be associated in ways to be defined", in the Swedish/Belgian initiative gives me pause for thought. I trust that those "ways to be defined" are as inclusive as possible and not the opposite, but I fear that they may not be.

The Nice Summit confirmed the growing attractions of more inter-governmentalism to the majority of EU countries, particularly to the major countries. Commission President Prodi's disappointment with the results are certainly evidence of that. In our commitments to inter-governmentalism we must be careful not to undermine the institutions of the European Union. The IGC must make sure of that. The smaller countries will surely not want to see the Commission progressively weakened, nor must more inter-governmentalism increase the opacity, already excessive, of the Union's decision-making. That is no way to gain the confidence and support of Europe's citizenry, which is so utterly indispensable.

Nice may have turned out better than many feared, if not as good as others hoped. But the enlargement process, although given a fairer wind, is not out of choppy waters. Perhaps I may mention two problems that I see ahead.

First, will the European Parliament agree to the treaty? Ominous sounds are coming from it already. Elmar Brok, the senior German Christian Democrat MEP, one of the two MEPs representing the Parliament at the Council, together with his Greek colleague, Mr Tsatsos, is reported to have warned that their institution might refuse to vote for the proposed treaty of Nice if the final version did not contain radical measures to extend majority voting and ease decision-making in the European Union. That remark was apparently made after the results were known.

Herr Brok also attacked the decision to raise the numbers of MEPs in the European Parliament, despite the fact that Germany is one of the beneficiaries of that increase. He attacked the idea of going above the current ceiling of 700 when new members join the European Union. I quote him: To raise the numbers means that with further enlargement we might get more again, and end up like the Chinese People's Congress". We must earnestly hope that there will be a good majority in the European Parliament for approval of the treaty.

A second problem concerns agricultural policy. That has been referred to already by a number of noble Lords and was raised pointedly by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, yesterday during the discussion on the Statement. One asks oneself whether a country such as Poland has to be offered second-class treatment, excluding direct subsidies, because of a failure to reform the CAP. Cynics say that that would goad Poland into being a more ferocious advocate of radical CAP reform in 2006. I am not sure that that is the right attitude to take to this. Indeed, I do not really think that we can wait until 2006 for a proper reform of the CAP. It must come much earlier.

An editorial in Le Monde yesterday said that Europe had made formidable progress in many areas, including in the fields of the single currency, defence and others. But it added that it was failing to provide itself with the institutional means to manage itself and that in that area of governance, it had regressed.

That might be music to the ears of the Eurosceptics but for those of us who want to see a more efficient, peaceful united Europe of nation states co-operating ever more closely, it is a warning and we ignore it at our peril. I believe sincerely that Nice was a good step forward but there are miles still to go. I am convinced that Her Majesty's Government understand that, and that is greatly to their credit.

9.51 p.m.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, in the course of her wide-ranging, excellent and entertaining speech, suddenly fired out some extremely useful information about the BBC World Service. She gave the House some very interesting statistics. I may return to that matter at the end of my brief remarks. However, it was interesting to hear the Minister deal with that particular aspect.

The Minister went on to speak about the new concept of the Euro army and the Euro defence initiative and how those had become muddled up. However, the noble Baroness, noble and gallant Lords, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, among others, all stressed what is agreed, I believe, unanimously; namely, that NATO is the cornerstone of the defence and security of this country and that of the other member states of the European Union and NATO. Therefore, I was delighted to hear, in the remarks of the noble Baroness and others, of our strong commitment to NATO.

That is fine. We have discussed NATO and matters military and political at a fairly high level. But when the Minister replies, I hope that she will combine that with the need, stressed by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, to improve our extremely effective and professional forces. We must squeeze out every pound that is needed to help with both the men and women and the equipment required.

I do not believe that any members of our Armed Forces would worry in any way about joint training with other members of NATO and, indeed, other member states of the European Union. But I hope that the main thrust will continue to be that of improving NATO's capability in all fields.

I believe that I alone in your Lordships' House have had the honour to spend nine years as a member of the North Atlantic Assembly. That is the political arm of NATO. It is the unofficial parliament of the member states of NATO. Indeed, in that capacity, I was appointed as rapporteur to two committees which did not deal with major political or military affairs; rather they dealt with how to explain what NATO did in all fields. During my last incarnation there, I was rapporteur to a scientific and technical committee, which was going some since I have not one O-level in science. However, I received some help. At all times it was clear to us that we should stick together and ensure that we made a contribution, both through our own parliaments and personally, to the effectiveness of NATO.

When the Minister replies, I hope that she will take on board the concern which is in my mind and, I believe, the minds of others, that the excellent words which have been spoken both here and outside do not in any way impinge upon the question of overstretch and the capacity of the men and women of our Armed Forces and their equipment.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, referred to a visit made by the House of Lords defence group to 15 Air Assault Brigade. I was honoured to be with him. At one time, such was the keenness of the noble and gallant Lord that I worried whether he would disappear from South Cerney somewhere over the north of England and that I too may be catapulted along to assist him. On that day, sadly, as today, my noble friend Lord Vivian was not able to be with us.

I stress to your Lordships that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, has lost nothing of his effectiveness over nearly 50 years serving King, Queen and country. Indeed, his remarks were particularly relevant this evening. He made all the points in relation to the strength of NATO that I could possibly want to make.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, can reassure me and all members of the Armed Forces that what I understand is called the plot—the rotation in relation to the Army—will not be disturbed by what is planned tonight or in the longer term. The three parts of plot are training, a specific term of duty and what I understand is called "rest and re-assignment" which has to take place afterwards.

I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, referred to the rotation of Army units. As a member of the House of Lords defence group, I have seen rotation, I shall not say strained, but approaching some visible limits. I hope that the Minister will be able to take that matter on board, if not tonight. perhaps over the next year.

Already it is apparent to me that there are one or two major gaps in the Army plot. That was referred to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Braman. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Park and myself have a continuing interest in the Defence Medical Services. I am concerned about the tight schedules and the lean aspect of what I call the paramedics who look after members of the Armed Forces. The paramedics in the Army are dependent on members of the Territorial Army. They are good, tough specialists who fill in in a special area. Perhaps at some time in the future—not tonight—the Minister can tell me how many men and women serve as Territorial Army members of the paramedics with our regular forces and how that affects the overall plot of the defence services.

Some time in the spring I had a quiet word In the Prince's Chamber with the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, and she raised her eyes to heaven and said, "Lyell, kitchens". I do not believe that that was a reference to myself as being a furnisher of excellent equipment. I simply raised the point that had come to my notice the day before on a visit with the House of Lords defence group on board a frigate at Portsmouth. I am grateful to the Minister for taking that on board as I understand that swift remedies were carried out in that particular case.

It will not surprise her that the subject of kitchens also came up in relation to another visit made by the group to Cyprus. That also has been taken care of. My thanks and the thanks of I he battalion on Cyprus go to the noble Baroness and her colleagues, who consider smaller aspects at battalion, at regimental and at ship level. It is good to know that there is support at that level.

In Cyprus, which is just within the NATO task area, one thing that considerably helps members of the Armed Forces is the BBC World Service. I declare an interest as last Thursday I was given a most delightful lunch by that service. I appreciate how hard those in the service work, how successful they are and how grateful they are for every extra pound of funding that comes from the department of the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland.

The department which was kind enough to entertain me covered sport. That was so well referred to by my noble friend Lord Selsdon. The service teaches English and gives lessons in sport. Nothing would be better than for our Armed Forces in Kosovo and Bosnia to be able to give youngsters quiet lessons in English and tell of the great triumphs of our cricket and football teams. The BBC World Service is of enormous help and I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, will continue to give it as much help as possible.

I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, will ensure that the capabilities of the men and women in our Armed Forces are considered first and last during all her waking hours. I also hope that she and all noble Lords will be able to salute the professionalism of our Armed Forces and support them, but above all do so within the framework of NATO.

10.1 p.m.

Lord Owen

My Lords, yesterday I was in Budapest considering an investment in its steel industry. It was a fine day and I was reminded of the traumatic events of 1956 which, as a young student, had a profound effect on my political outlook. I believe that what happened in Nice restored momentum to the process of enlargement. It is true that enlargement has been under way for some time, but it was giving the appearance politically of stalling. It is vital now to build on that.

Furthermore, I do not share the criticisms made about the difficulties and political horse trading which went into the weighting of votes. That was always going to be an extremely difficult issue and a number of countries had to swallow some unpleasant and difficult decisions. It was not easy, but it was the prerequisite to enlargement. I believe that, broadly speaking, the resulting formula is a good one.

I hope that we shall see enlargement in 2004. It would be a great pity if it slipped into 2005. It is vital that all those in the next tranche of enlargement feel that at all stages they have a major say—I agree with what was said about the early stages of the Swedish and Belgian presidencies—in the IGC.

I am pleased that we are beginning to clarify the relationship between the nation state, the intergovernmental aspects of the European Union and the supra-national institutions and elements within that unique Union. I believe that the Nice Summit moved some way forward the case for open espousal of the honourable nature of intergovernmentalism.

However, in the nature of the European debate there will be a backlash, and it will probably begin in the European Parliament. It has already begun, with the President of the Commission being extremely scathing about the retention of some of the vetoes and showing, as he has done in his role during the past year, an extreme inability to understand the democratic pressures which are building up in many of the member states. They may not be building up in his own country—Italy may be one of the few exceptions—but they are building up slowly and steadily in all the other member states. I believe that the Commission must take that on board, particularly the Commissioner for External Affairs.

I looked at what the Prime Minister said in another place yesterday, particularly in answer to questions. It was most revealing and extremely welcome that he said: The important thing about this new debate is that it is about the issue of subsidiarity and the definition of the competencies between the European Union and the nation state". Referring to the European Union, he went on to say, There are, indeed, areas in which some of its powers could be returned to the nation state".—[Official Report, Commons, 11/12/00; col. 358.] I believe that that is so, although its achievement would require some very hard negotiation.

The Prime Minister went on to say at col. 364: we want a Europe of nation states and not a federal superstate. I am wholly confident that that argument can be won. However, to win it, we have to engage in it". That is a very important new statement by the Prime Minister. He admits that there is an argument about the role of a federal superstate and that we must engage in it. What I have sought to do in a modest way in the past two years, particularly in helping to create an organisation called New Europe, is to stimulate that essential debate. If that debate is not being conducted by the political élite it is certainly taking place among the public in member states, including the UK. Often we focus only on our tabloid press and what is said in our debates, but this matter is being discussed in most of the countries of the European Union.

The result of the referendum in Denmark was a wake up call to democratic politicians in the European Union, and in that sense it is a new debate. I am not frightened of the debate. The decision to hold an intergovernmental conference in 2004 is right, but I hope that following it we stop the endless tampering with the constitution and development of the European Union. We shall have four years of fairly intense political debate in which, no doubt, the pressures and arguments will wax and wane.

It is a fairly good time for those of us who hold that the European Union must have limits to its institutional unity. It was clear from the outcome of Nice that neither Chancellor Schröder nor President Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin believed in a single state. Those gentlemen—one German and the other two French—are likely to be still around in the year 2004. There is to be an election in the UK to determine Britain's leadership. But there is clear evidence that some important leaders in the European Union are beginning to define the limits to the ever-growing unity of the European Union. As to the words "ever-growing unity of the peoples of Europe", I believe that Europe can grow and grow. There was deliberately no reference to the ever- growing unity of states, but for all good Europeans there will always be a legitimate question as to where the limits lie. I believe that they will now be defined.

Some of the Prime Minister's comments about taxation were more forthright than any of his previous observations. At col. 361 he said: the levels at which taxes are set … are, in my view, matters of fundamental national sovereignty, which must be dealt with by national governments and national parliaments". I agree with him. The stance of the Prime Minister on social security was part of that. I do not believe that the all-important political debate about redistribution within a country, which after all goes to the root of tax and benefit levels, is a matter to be determined in Brussels or at European level. That is a political decision as a result of debate, classically between left and right, which must take place in the member states. Different decisions will be taken at different times in different countries.

The Prime Minister also referred to the Amsterdam protocol which deals with home affairs and judicial issues in which Britain has a right to determine at what pace it proceeds collectively and to reserve its position. We are beginning to define clear-cut limits. If it goes on like this, by the year 2004 there may even be a fair measure of agreement across the European Union on that matter. If we succeed in that the European Union will be immensely strengthened and well able to take on the challenges of enlargement, which will be extremely difficult.

A few weeks ago I was in Romania looking at a possible investment in the steel industry. We have already taken the decision to do it. There is no question that that country, like many which have emerged from soviet communism, will require a great deal of assistance. We underestimated the cost of absorbing the East into the West—no one more so than the Federal Republic of Germany. I often think it was fortunate that Chancellor Kohl was not very good on economics. To adopt one to one parity between the West German and East German marks was a clear mistake in economic terms, but in political terms it allowed for the reunification of Germany, which was an essential step to enlargement. All of these things are good.

Finally, I turn to NATO and the whole question of the European defence initiative. I have been a strong advocate of such an initiative for more than 20 years. Nevertheless, when I was asked about the initiative of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and to write a letter to warn about the need for utmost caution I was happy so to do because I was getting, as happens, cries of extreme anguish from senior military officers—people in Washington, in Brussels and here in London—and no one seemed to be taking their concern seriously. I kept on saying particularly to Americans that they should go to their politicians. I think that the decision of Defense Secretary Cohen to spell out his anxieties as clearly as he did was a great credit to him personally and will give him an abiding legacy, because that was a warning none of us could ignore. Furthermore, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, the Secretary-General of NATO, wrote to one of the newspapers making it clear that NATO was not yet signed up to this agreement. The Prime Minister, in one of his answers, made it quite clear that NATO is still to sign up to this agreement and that it will take a few months. My advice to the Minister, for what it is worth, is that we should not be hurried on this matter. We should get it right. It is fundamentally important.

We were expecting in the statement to have much greater clarification from Deputy SACEUR. That has not been included in the statement, nor have I been able to track it down. But that is one of the most crucial relationships. What exactly is his role in the planning function, and when will he come in to control this operation if it becomes such a large humanitarian intervention?

These are serious military questions that need to be addressed. If they are not addressed in the next few months and the right decision is not reached, what is a potentially conceptually good initiative will have profoundly damaging consequences. The Prime Minister was right to stand firm when President Chirac tried to use the word "independent". The German influence was very important in the debate. There is still much to play for in this argument. It is not the case that it has all been settled in Nice. We are to have a new American president. But if we are to have a new Republican president, there will be even more questioning of this position. We would be well-advised to wait until the new administration in America has had time to absorb what is going on and to make a firm and clear agreement.

In the process we should also handle Turkey better than we have done. We have never handled Turkey as well as we should. It is a very sensitive question and it needs the utmost care. So, all in all, Nice has been a significant step forward in defining the new Europe with which we shall have to live in this new century. There is not a case for false boasting or anything like that.

Mention has been made of the leadership shown by the Chancellor of Germany in letting his perfectly legitimate claim to a higher weighting of voles fall and also to the Belgian Prime Minister. A number of people contributed to the success of the Nice Summit, not least our own Prime Minister. I think that we can build on it.

10.13 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, this has been an unavoidably broad debate, dealing with British interests and British responsibilities in a rather disorderly world of 190 member states. Last night I warned the Minister who will reply that I would raise some particularly obscure questions and that I would demand a reply on the political situation in Vanuatu and on bilateral relations between Nepal and Bhutan. I see her worried face as she looks at me.

A number of difficult situations have been raised in the debate: the problem of Kashmir, which is a particularly delicate problem because we have communities of British citizens who are themselves engaged in and feel passionately about this issue from different sides; and the problem of Indonesia which I think will trouble us actively in the next two years if Indonesia manages to stay together. Clearly we face an overloaded Foreign Office with overworked Foreign Office Ministers. We have to recognise that the Government cannot handle all these problems always at the same time.

I welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft. I look forward to asking him whether it is true, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, once told me, that the name "Belize" is derived from the plagiarisation of the name of the famous Scottish pilot, Captain Wallace, whose base was on the coast of Honduras in the early years. I must check with the noble Lord whether that is fact.

I agree strongly with the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, that we should take rather more seriously the issue of whether we should leave HMS Tireless" in Gibraltar. After all, if a foreign nuclear submarine was anchored off Devonport for an extended period, one can imagine what the British press would make of that. I agree strongly with my noble friend Lord Roper that we should consider a special committee procedure for the Armed Forces Bill. I note in passing my slight horror that, possibly for the first time, a noble Lord—my noble friend Lord Roper—made a speech using electronic notes.

A number of noble Lords have referred to the treaty of Nice. I welcome the constructive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Owen. I think that we shall move rapidly on to the post-Nice agenda, which is, "What about the next four years?" and "What do we do next time?". The question of enlargement is extremely important. I am sorry that we do not yet have a timetable and deadline for enlargement. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue to press for that. I hope also that Her Majesty's Government will invest more time, even at the prime ministerial level, in promoting the importance of enlargement inside the United Kingdom as well as in Warsaw, the rest of the European Union and in other applicant states.

As a number of noble Lords have said, policy reforms are needed to prepare for enlargement, of which a shift in budgetary expenditure and in agricultural policy is clearly very important. A number of institutional reforms are also needed, of which the most important conceptual shift is to start thinking now about how to manage a Community of 25 to 27 member states and get away from trying to fiddle with a Community still assumed to number 15. As a "plumber", I disagree a little with the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, who thinks that three or seven Commissioners will be enough. I think that there is enough work for nine and possibly even 11, but certainly not for 27. That is a French suggestion which the British should be taking on board. We need a small, efficient, central capability to make a larger Community work. The White Paper on governance, which the Commission is now preparing and which some of us discussed with one of the Commissioners last week, is an extremely important exercise. I understand that it will be presented to the Gothenburg European Council in June next. I hope that noble Lords, and perhaps even your Lordships' European Communities Committee, will want to have a thorough inquiry into the White Paper.

I agree strongly with the noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Howell, about the importance of getting right the relations between large and small states and not moving towards a concert of big powers in Europe. In looking at the French presidency, I wonder whether one of our proposals should be that in future the largest four states should not take part in the rotating presidency. Remembering the 1992 British presidency, I am not sure that we should be entirely proud that we have always got it right, although the 1998 British presidency was a little less accident prone than the previous one.

Relations with the near neighbours—the states that will not be joining in the next five years—are also extremely important. Russia is an important partner. I regret that I shall not be present on Thursday for the debate on the common foreign and security policy report. I shall be at the third EU/Russia forum in Berlin which will discuss how we define a more constructive relationship between Russia and an enlarging European Union.

Relations with south-eastern Europe, in the western Balkans, to which the European Union has committed itself through the south-east Europe Stability Pact to a long-term commitment which will cost a great deal of money and will take a great many people—including British police, whatever may be said by the Daily Mail—over 15 or 20 years, will be pursued to build a peaceful order in that region. That probably will need to end with their eventual membership of the European Union.

Then we need to consider Turkey. That is an extremely difficult issue, because the Turkish Government tend to talk in terms of "all or nothing" rather than in terms of adaptation to Europe. I am afraid that there is also a real danger that the Turkish Government may pretend to move towards the conditions for membership, while governments in the EU pretend to negotiate—with the question of Cyprus rather explicitly left behind. As regards the Mediterranean and Africa, about which a number of noble Lords have spoken, the United States has made it quite clear that it sees the problems of Africa as a part of the global burden which Europe should shoulder alone.

Most important, however, is the transatlantic relationship itself. If I heard him correctly, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, commented that there is a good deal of uninformed anti-American sentiment around, including that expressed within this House. I have spent much of my professional life on transatlantic relations and I hope that the noble Lord does not include myself and some others in that suggestion. Nevertheless, we face a bumpy period ahead. Transitions from one US administration to another are always difficult periods, in particular when it moves from one party to another. Months of uncertainty follow, with hundreds of new appointees coming over to the capitals of Europe to tell us the new message and why we should forget everything we knew before. Indeed, that process has already begun. In the month of October alone, I was invited to three meetings in London, Copenhagen and the United States by teams of Americans who had been advising the Bush team or Congress on what should be the new strategic objectives for American foreign policy.

As I watched television last night and saw the familiar face of John Bolton speaking on behalf of the possible President-Elect Bush about the current court case, I recalled the vigorous way in which he told us that, "A Bush administration would have an Americanist foreign policy rather than a globalist foreign policy. The allies have got to understand that they should follow it". That is an uncomfortable message. However, it is not shared by many others who have been advising the Bush team. Perhaps it will be a comfort to many of us that a number of familiar faces comprise the Bush team, if that is to be the group which we shall face. They know Europe well and we can deal with them. However, we need to remember from times past that new administrations tend to want to launch initiatives in which they can redefine the transatlantic relationship. President Kennedy famously did that in 1961–62; James Baker did it on behalf of the new Bush administration; while the Clinton administration rapidly decided that it would entirely reverse US policy on the enlargement of NATO and launch NATO enlargement.

I suggest that it will be a priority for Her Majesty's Government to invest in building up a relationship with the new administration once it takes office, because maintaining a close transatlantic relationship is one of the keys to a successful British foreign policy. I suggest also that this will have to be a joint European initiative. Furthermore, I suggest that it should respond to a far more important speech made on 18th October by William Cohen in Birmingham, in which he called on foreign and defence Ministers to define a new relationship between NATO and the European Union. I suggest that the British Government ought to propose that the meeting between a new US President, when he comes over, and the European allies should be held exactly in the context of a joint NATO/EU summit involving all 23 member states on an inclusive basis to demonstrate that this is one of the most important ways of redefining transatlantic relationships and not, as has happened during previous transitions, wait for the Americans to take the initiative and then for European governments to fall apart while they decide how to respond.

The main task in transatlantic relations is the successful management of different priorities and different perceptions. It is not anti-American to say that; it merely recognises that, by and large, the American élite—and certainly the congressional élite—see the world differently from the way it is seen by most foreign policy makers in Europe.

As people in Washington clearly state, American security priorities are now largely extra-European. They are to do with China and the Taiwan Straits, with Korea and with what they call "rogue" states in the Middle East, whereas European governments are rather more focused on "failed" states in Africa rather than on the Middle East. America's priorities relate to American perceptions of threats from weapons of mass destruction and, therefore, the need for a national missile defence. I have heard two briefings in the United States in the past year on this. Each time I came away less convinced of the case for a national missile defence than I was before.

There are now a third as many American forces in Europe as there were 10 years ago. Let us look another 10 years ahead. Do we expect there to be more than 30,000 then? Will it matter? Can we manage it? Given the American priorities, if I were a senator I would be arguing to put American troops elsewhere, not defending Europe.

As we have been told, it is also possible that a new administration might go for a "big bang" NATO enlargement. Some advisers of candidate Bush are arguing that at the 2002 NATO summit the United States should present its allies with a plan for all candidates for NATO to be allowed to join.

There is much to manage. It seems to me that it is entirely wise and practical in these circumstances to pursue what was, after all, a British initiative for a European security and defence policy. It is not a French plot. I met the head of the military staff last week, a British major-general. For all I know, he does not even speak French; he certainly does not wear jackboots.

We also have difficulties with the United States in regard to attitudes towards the Middle East. American perceptions are very different from ours. I have been depressed at various briefings to hear several American foreign policy experts refer to the European "bias" on the Arab/Israeli conflict and to the "balanced" American approach. That is, apparently, how they see it. As one sees as one goes across the Atlantic, there is a clear divergence in the way that the media in the United States and in Europe report what happens in Israel and Palestine; and so information and perceptions continue to diverge.

I find that there are worrying misperceptions on oil dependence. The other weekend I heard one of the leading foreign policy advisers of candidate Bush refer to European oil dependence—and thus European vulnerability to the Arab states—as one of the reasons why the Europeans are biased in favour of the United States. He was rather puzzled when I protested that the United States is now more dependent on oil imports than the whole of Europe west of the former Soviet Union.

Europeans also differ from the United States in our interpretation of what is happening in Iran. Increasingly, I suggest, we should be differing from the United States in our perception of whether or not maintaining sanctions against Iraq is worth while. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats now strongly recommend that that policy should change.

The underlying question on globalisation, which many people have raised, is how we manage rules for globalisation and what kind of global institutions are needed to manage an intensely interdependent world. For that, again, the transatlantic relationship is the key. If the United States and European governments can work together constructively, global regimes can be agreed and managed. If we disagree, global regulation becomes very difficult.

Here again, we have to recognise that there are differences to be managed. The American perception of globalisation is, in effect, "Americanisation", whereas the European perception—including the British, as one sees from the White Paper and the Queen's Speech—is of globalisation as moderated by a greater degree of social welfare and social justice. The Queen's Speech said that Her Majesty's Government will work to shape the forces of globalisation. That is indeed what we should be about.

I heard Robert Zoellick, one of the Bush advisers, say to one of these many conferences that he has now discovered the limits to globalisation in the past few weeks in the counting of votes in Florida. "There may", he said, "be a Starbucks in Beijing, but you can't get a decent cup of coffee in Tallahassee".

We had differences with the Americans on climate change and energy conservation; on the United Nations itself and on strengthening global institutions; on controls on arms exports, including land mines; and on the International Criminal Court—on all of which my party agrees that it is correct that Britain should take the lead in pushing ahead with our European partners and ratifying.

The Queen's Speech states: My Government will continue to ensure that NATO remains the foundation of Britain's defence and security". I should like to amend that to read, My Government will ensure that the transatlantic relationship remains the foundation for an open global economy and a stable world, but we recognise that that requires a closer partnership between the United States and Europe, with Britain playing a constructive role as a leading member of the EU and of NATO.

10.31 p.m.

Lord Burnham

My Lords, there has been a small degree of attrition in the list of speakers; but I am still the 38th of 39, and the debate has gone on for seven hours and 20 minutes. I therefore have the utmost sympathy for the Minister, who will have to answer questions on every country and every subject from Kimberley to Kathmandu via Karachi and in both directions! I just hope that she will not keep us here until Thursday—but if she answers all those questions she will have to.

This is a debate on the gracious Speech. However, it has been clear throughout that it has been used largely to debate the Nice agreement. That is unavoidable, I am sure; but I hope that I can concentrate mainly on our Armed Forces and on the Rapid Reaction Force—or, as the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, calls it, the "rapid reactionary force", which I took to apply to these Benches!

The issues arising out of the report of the Select Committee on the European Union on common European policy on security and defence will be debated on Thursday; my noble friend Lord Howell, who was the committee's first chairman, will speak on behalf of these Benches. Nevertheless, it is impossible to ignore the so-called (but not by Her Majesty's Government) European army in this debate.

High on the list of matters that cannot be ignored in today's debate is General Klaus Naumann's emphasis on the fact that what we need in Europe are capabilities, not new institutions. Outside NATO it is difficult to envisage a European force with the capabilities that are required.

In his Statement yesterday on the Nice summit (I am doing it myself) the Prime Minister said that it had been made plain that European defence would operate only when NATO chose not to be engaged. What this means is that the European defence would operate only when the United States chose not to be engaged, since the other EU non-NATO nations can realistically be ignored in military terms.

Sir Michael Quinlan has underlined this point in his memorandum to the committee, in which he states that, the probability that European governments would collectively agree to act militarily in ways running counter to US opinion and preference is and ought to be remote". He too emphasises the need to develop practical military capabilities rather than to debate political conditions, scenarios and goals. NATO proposes; the US disposes. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will bear in mind those points. The gracious Speech refers to the Quinquennial Bill which will need to be enacted by July to allow the Armed Forces to continue to operate. The Minister has been kind enough to write to me, explaining what Her Majesty's Government have in mind for the Bill. It has now been published.

I should also like to second the remarks of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, who thanked the noble Baroness for her consistent help in writing to those of us who are involved with these matters about what is happening and what is about to happen. I am certainly deeply grateful. But we did not and do not like last year's Armed Forces Discipline Bill. The clear promise has twice been made that the Quinquennial Bill will be used to ease many of the difficulties that arose in discussion on that Bill. The noble Baroness has told me that provisions to reconcile the three army Acts will not be included in this Bill. I hope that the promise may yet be met. If it is not, it will be regrettable.

Apart from the necessity to produce this Bill to enable the Armed Forces to continue to operate, the opportunity has clearly been taken to equate non-military political correctness with military activities. In the various debates on the discipline Bill, it was pointed out many times, particularly by my noble friend Lord Renton, that when a man (or woman) enters the Armed Forces, he gives up many of the rights that he possess as a civilian. That must be the case. No point would be served by trying to change it.

When the Quinquennial Bill comes to your Lordships' House, we shall have much to say. The main new points seem to concern "updating", in the words of the Lord Privy Seal. That updating will receive the critical attention of your Lordships. Sadly, for a number of reasons, morale in the Armed Forces is not good at present. Recruitment seems to be satisfactory, retention less so. In the six months to October this year, over 10 per cent of warrant officers class 1 and 5 per cent of warrant officers class 2 left the army—20 per cent of warrant officers class 1 in a year. Of course, many will be men and women whose service time has expired, but the figures, with 4 per cent for majors and captains in the same six-month period, demonstrate a drain that needs to be blocked.

I doubt whether reconciling the laws affecting civilians and those that govern the activities of the military will do much to achieve this. It is a long term process. It is absolutely necessary that up to date and efficient equipment is provided; that tours of duty should be regular and not prolonged; that pay and conditions should be comparable with those outside and easily understood; that service housing should be at least adequate; and, most important of all, that members of the Armed Forces should feel that they are doing a worthwhile military job, and not merely cleaning up after physical disasters. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, quite rightly added the Territorial Army and the Defence Medical Services.

In his Statement yesterday, the Prime Minister said that European (non-NATO) defence would be limited to peacekeeping, humanitarian and crisis management tasks. I hope that the European Union will be more successful in obtaining volunteers for this than the Prime Minister has been in obtaining volunteers from the United Nations to replace the Indians in Sierra Leone. His phrase, The next step will be for the two organisations, the EU and NATO, to agree on the necessary arrangements". has charm, if only for its understatement. Are they or are they not to have separate command structures, staffs and independent organisations? This looks as if the EU is just planning another set of wiring diagrams. We should be training tigers, not breeding white elephants. I admire the bland optimism of the Government, but I fear that it is not realistic. I hope that the Prime Minister will study the wise words of those very experienced military and political men, headed by Secretary Cohen, who are less than happy with what is planned.

At home it is also essential that sufficient funds should be made available to give the Services enough toys to play with. The Chief of the Air Staff, Sir Peter Squire, has commented on the frustration felt by aircrews because lack of funding has deprived them of necessary equipment to carry out sufficient training. When a senior officer goes to print to express such views, matters must indeed be serious, for normally the party line is universally followed. Our forces also need somewhere to play. If we can open Salisbury Plain to a Belgian brigade, surely the Germans should reopen their training grounds to the British Army?

There remains much else for the Government to do in defence terms. Top of the list must be their consideration of the American anti-ballistic missile policy. As that depends on who is President, perhaps we should not discuss the matter yet. However, I should point out to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that my understanding is that Governor Bush is probably rather more international in his thinking than is Vice President Gore. In any case, the anti-ballistic missile policy will loom very large from 20th January onwards.

We are also told that DERA will have its new organisation fully in place by 1st April, regardless of whether or not Parliament is informed about it. As there is still continuing disagreement on the apportionment of costs, let alone where the two sections of DERA will go (especially the Defence Diversification Agency, which is a profit centre), it seems unlikely that that date can be achieved. Can the Minister say whether the US is fully in agreement with the arrangements for private DERA? Further, can she tell us what are the financial arrangements? What will be the net—I repeat "net"—financial benefits to the Government in general, and how much of that amount will be credited to the Ministry of Defence budget?

There must also be concern about strategic exports. Defence manufacturers must know in advance if contracts are to be placed, or whether there is danger of undercutting probably from government-subsidised foreign manufacturers. Britain needs to look after its defence industry. This is a very wide subject. but there is little evidence to show that this is happening now.

We have a long way to go. The gracious Speech touches only lightly on defence: it mentions NATO and the Quinquennial Bill. Let us hope that we go, and that we go in the right direction.

10.43 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, as is so often the case with the foreign and defence debate on the gracious Speech, we have had a really splendid demonstration of the wide range of expertise, interests and commitments that so many of your Lordships bring to bear on such matters. We have covered many topics, some of which noble Lords have debated over the past year and some of which have brought forward some fresh perspectives. I am sure that noble Lords will understand if I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Burnham—not, I hope, for the only time this evening—that I shall not be able to answer all the points raised in such a long and wide-ranging debate. However, where I am unable to answer specific questions, I hope that noble Lords will be able to accept a response in letter form.

I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, on his maiden speech. I do not know whether the noble Lord is aware of this, but, in mentioning the Overseas Territories, he raised an issue of very great importance both to my noble friend Lady Scotland and myself. I shall return to the points that he made in his very interesting speech later in my remarks.

The gracious Speech sets out Britain's strategic defence priorities; that NATO remains the foundation of our defence and security—no matter how many times we say it, it seems that we must continue to repeat that very important point—that we shall support efforts to make the United Nations more representative and more effective in its peacekeeping operations; and, finally, that we shall continue to work energetically with our partners to shape the future of Europe.

A year ago, when we previously debated a gracious Speech, the Kosovo campaign was still fresh in our minds. I was grateful for the wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who said that in his judgment we did the right thing by going into Kosovo. But there were lessons to be learned from that experience, the most fundamental being the disproportionate extent to which we Europeans had to rely on American military might to deal with a crisis on our own doorstep. That is why Britain has led efforts to modernise Europe's defence capabilities in the same way that we are modernising our own. The essential purpose of these reforms is to strengthen the ability of Europe to act in pursuit of its foreign and security policy objectives. In doing so we want to strengthen Europe's military capabilities in order to make a better and more coherent contribution to NATO.

I agree strongly with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, with regard to the tone adopted in so much of our media on this issue. The win/lose, triumph/disaster rhetoric masks so much of the real issues. Let me be clear: none of what we are doing means weakening NATO, nor building a competitor to the alliance. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and many others that it certainly does not mean a European army. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked whether there would be created a separate command structure or a separate operational planning system. I should make clear again that the EU is not establishing such things. The EU military staff is a body of military experts whose role is to support sensible defence decision making by the EU political authorities. No one could argue that military support to decision making is unnecessary, especially when troops are deployed into areas where they are risking their lives. But they are not a separate command structure—that is the important point—and this is not a separate European headquarters.

The terms of the EU military staff make it clear that it is not an operational planning capability. The Nice documents also make clear that NATO will carry out operational planning for EU-led operations that have recourse to NATO assets and capabilities, but not necessarily, as I think several noble Lords may have thought, for standing assets. Operational planning for other operations will be carried out in existing European national and multinational headquarters. I say once again that we are not establishing a separate European operational planning staff. I hope that that also deals with some of the pungent points put by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan.

What we are doing is to establish a pool of capability from which forces can be drawn on a case-by-case basis for particular operations, accompanied by the progressive modernisation of European armed forces so that they are more deployable, more available and more sustainable. We believe that we are making real progress on that.

As noble Lords know from the Statement I repeated in this House on 22nd November, which covered the capability commitment conference with our EU partners, our planned contribution is up to 12,500 troops, 18 warships and 72 combat aircraft to the "headline catalogue" of forces. I believe, notwithstanding many comments made in your Lordships' House this evening, that our American allies understand and support these goals.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, said that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was a little naughty with regard to some of the remarks he made. She is far more daring than I. However, I certainly appreciated her contextualising some of the remarks made by our American allies. An enduring theme of political debate in the United States over the past 30 years has been that Europe should shoulder more of the burden of providing for its defence. We are now taking real steps towards doing so with Britain very much in the lead. Our American friends are, on the whole, very pleased about that. The US Defense Secretary, William Cohen, has been much quoted of late, frequently, I am bound to say, in a somewhat misleading light. However, I should like to repeat what he said on 6th December in Brussels: I simply made a presentation to my colleagues … stressing that the United States is very strongly committed to the ESDP programme … and wanted to make sure it was properly structured … This is entirely consistent with the British position. And. frankly, I have worked with Lord George Robertson prior to Minister Secretary Hoon and we are in complete agreement that it is important to put capabilities in to our military forces". I believe that that explains his position very clearly indeed. He appreciates, as I am sure we all do, that the alliance's programme to improve the capability of its forces in key areas such as air-to-air refuelling and strategic airlift will enhance the interoperability between European and US forces. He has consistently repeated his support and no selective quotes in the media can shake the basic US conviction that this is the right way forward and that, properly handled—the noble Lord, Lord Owen, made that important point very clear to us—the initiative will strengthen Europe's contribution to NATO. We are in full agreement and will make sure that it is properly handled, as is our duty.

The real issue is to engage the Europeans and Americans in a dialogue about conflict prevention—peacekeeping. The points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, were, I believe, not only responsible and sensible but also showed an understanding of Britain's role in the world.

A number of soldiers were quoted. I am sure that the comments today of the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Carver and Lord Bramall, were noted. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, may have been a little more sceptical in his remarks. But the noble Lord is right, as is the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that there is room for development and we need to take care over the detail, and particularly—although many people sneer at this—to ensure that we present our arguments clearly so that there is no doubt, however misconceived that doubt may be, about our fundamental commitment to NATO.

I could talk more about the command structures. The noble Lords, Lord Howell, Lord Moynihan and Lord Chalfont, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, were concerned about this point. I believe that we shall have a debate on this issue on Thursday of this week. I should like to say a great deal more about the role of DSACEUR. It is a vitally important point. These are long and complicated issues, as is the explanation of what President Chirac and others have been saying. However, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I leave those points to one side for the debate in a few days' time.

However, I wish to pick up one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, about intelligence. The UK will not place our troops in dangerous situations without the best intelligence that is available. Member states will supply intelligence to the European Union as necessary. But the European Union does not need an intelligence collection ability of its own. It will, however, need to receive intelligence assessments from nations and other collection sources, and this will be fed into EU structures as appropriate.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, if the Minister will give way, "EU structures" is a disarming remark. What EU structures will our intelligence be fed into?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, noble Lords will have noted the remarks I made about the military coming together and the committees that will need to be established that I hope will then feed into DSACEUR. That is why it is very difficult to split up the debate without spending a full half hour trying to go through the issues in great detail.

However, the fundamental point has to be that we cannot engage our troops in any position without also ensuring that we are supplying the proper intelligence for the engagement of those troops. I am sure that the noble Lord will want to raise these issues again and I shall be happy to deal with them, I hope, when we speak about this issue again on Thursday.

At Nice the EU met its commitment to complete the institutional reforms necessary for enlargement. It will be in a position to welcome new member states from the end of 2002. The Prime Minister said in Warsaw that he wanted new member states to have a seat at the table at the next IGC. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, and my noble friend Lord Tomlinson that we believe that there is a strong case for setting a target date at the Gothenburg European Council in June 2001. The EU has reiterated its commitment to be ready to welcome new members. That gives credibility to the Prime Minister's call for new members to participate in the European parliamentary elections in 2004. We believe that with good will and real effort on both sides, there is no reason why that should not be achieved. We agree with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and my noble friend Lord Grenfell about the statements of the Leader of the Opposition in another place. I commend the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for his far more sure-footed response.

My noble friend Lord Tomlinson was right that without the Nice treaty there would be no enlargement. I commend the thoughtful contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, and his forward thinking on the implications of enlargement for UK citizens.

The noble Lords, Lord Moynihan and Lord Grenfell, referred to the common agricultural policy. Agriculture policy has presented complex challenges in all previous enlargements, as I am sure that noble Lords are well aware. This enlargement will he no exception. Further CAP reform is clearly desirable, but it is not necessary for enlargement to take place. The UK view is that the terms of accession need to reflect the fact that the CAP is evolving. We should not ask the applicants to take on aspects of the CAP that will change by the time of their accession or shortly after.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, raised questions about decision-taking processes in the EU, including on the Council, which she wanted to be more transparent. We have led a number of initiatives on that, particularly during our presidency in 1998. We shall work with other member states to improve transparency in the EU and to increase citizens' understanding of the workings of the Union. Like my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis, I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorl, was interesting but a little grim and gloomy in his view of what is happening in the EU. Surely the key point is that democratically elected leaders of the EU states set the EU's policy framework and its priorities. They are not set by the Commission. When the UK is fully engaged, as we were at Nice, we can drive forward on the issues that are of importance to us, as can other countries.

I listened carefully to the noble Baroness, Lady Park, as I always do, and to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, about the importance of our handling of issues with Russia. From my right honourable friend the Prime Minister right down to the more junior forms of ministerial life such as me, the Government are all seized with that imperative. Constructive dialogues with Russia are under way. We are building trust bilaterally and through the European Union and the other forums in which we engage. That is an enormously important process. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Owen, about the sensitivity that is required when dealing with our Turkish allies on this issue.

The inadequacy of European military capability was not the only lesson that we learned from Kosovo. We were also quick to identify the lessons of the Kosovo conflict in other ways and equally, if not more importantly, to address those lessons positively. In July we announced some immediate enhancements to the Armed Forces' equipment capabilities. First we procured Maverick anti-armour missiles for the RAF's Harrier GR7s. Trials have been successfully completed and the contracts for the missiles have been placed. I assure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lords, Lord Lyell and Lord Burnham, that equipment issues are never far from my mind. We have also begun work on procuring weapons to provide the RAF with a precision-guided all-weather bombing capability as soon as possible.

We have also announced that we shall be purchasing enhanced Paveway bombs from Raytheon. We shall also enhance the security of our air-to-air communications—I hope that the noble Lord will be pleased to learn this—in order to maintain interoperability with our NATO allies and ensure that our forces can play their full part in future alliance operations.

In addition, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, remarked, we are meeting the strategic air and sea-lift requirements identified in the SDR, initially by leasing four Boeing C-17 aircraft from next year and by purchasing Airbus A-400M aircraft in the longer term. The air-lift package represents an investment of some £4 billion. Complementary to that will be the provision of the six new roll-on/roll-off ferries to provide strategic lift for our forces and the procurement of four new logistic ships to support our amphibious and expeditionary capability.

Those are real benefits and they are happening now. They are part of a huge programme of investment which is under way for our Armed Forces, with some £6 billion being spent on new equipment. Therefore, I assure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, that I am acutely aware not only of the opportunities but of some of the problems surrounding PFI in these respects.

I turn to some of the wider issues raised by your Lordships. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury, my noble friend Lord Ahmed and the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, all spoke with considerable force and passion about the Middle East peace process. The Government are extremely concerned about the violence, deaths and injuries, the overwhelming majority of which have been among the Palestinians.

The UK has supported Security Council Resolution 1322, which condemns acts of violence—especially the excessive use of force against Palestinians resulting in injury and loss of life. However, I say to my noble friend Lord Ahmed on the one hand and to the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, on the other that we do not see any merit in repetitive criticism. What matters is that we look forward and achieve a return to negotiations.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, we strongly support the work of the fact-finding committee which has now been established with the participation of senior international figures, including the EU High Representative, Javier Solana. We welcome its first meeting which took place in New York last month. However, like the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, I believe that it is important that we look to the windows of opportunity that are still open to us.

Tentative contact between the parties has given some cause for hope that there might soon be a possibility of resuming negotiations. Ehud Barak has said that the door remains open for those negotiations. I am happy to confirm the Government's position of principle on some of the points raised; namely, that the only route to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East is in negotiated settlement based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Like the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, we believe that settlement activity is contrary to international law and an obstacle to peace. It continues and it remains a matter of considerable concern, as was made clear by the European Council in its declaration at Nice. We also recognise that there is no sovereignty over Jerusalem.

I can confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, that we have no evidence of British-made equipment, licensed for export to Israel under this Government, having been used by Israel security forces against civilians in the occupied territories or in southern Lebanon. However, the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked whether we could do anything more. The Government are actively engaged. We shall consider any ideas that are brought forward, and I hope that the fact-finding committee, with members from the United States, the European Union, Turkey and Norway, will be able to take us forward on those issues.

My noble friends Lord Rea and Lady Turner of Camden raised issues concerning Iraq. I say to both my noble friends that we must not give too much credibility to the claims of Saddam Hussein. On nearly 30 occasions he complained that we had killed civilians or destroyed civilian infrastructure when we did not drop any ordnance at all, including on several days when we were not even flying. We have reason to believe that he routinely portrays military casualties as civilian; similarly, we have been able to disprove with photographic evidence claims that we have damaged civilian buildings.

We know that some 16 billion dollars will be available to Iraq for food, medicine and infrastructure. However, I can tell my noble friends that Saddam has imported more than 300 million cigarettes and 28,000 bottles of whisky. That money could have been spent on humanitarian issues, on medicine or on food, but it was not.

My noble friend Lord Rea raised some important points about leukaemia. We do not have any evidence on those issues. We do not have any supported research data. But we support the efforts by the World Health Organisation to work with the Iraqis on a proper study. We also support the independent review of depleted uranium currently being carried out by a working group of the Royal Society.

I join the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in condemning the recent attacks by Albanian extremists on the Preshevo Valley in south Serbia. She raised an important point which I wanted to answer.

The noble Lords, Lord Burnham and Lord Howell, referred to NMD. The US has not yet put a request to us to the effect that was suggested, nor do we expect it to do so unless and until it has decided to proceed with the deployment of any such system. It is not reasonable to expect us to say how we would respond to such a request at the moment as we really cannot know in what circumstances it is likely to be made nor, indeed, what form it is likely to take.

The noble Lord, Lord Burnham, raised the issue of DERA. I assure him that all my interlocutors in the United States have assured us that they are now happy with the arrangements. The picture is moving very rapidly on that. I suggest that I write to him with the details and place a copy of my letter in the Library.

I was extremely gratified, as I am sure were others on the Front Bench on this side of the House, by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Guildford and of Salisbury, my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis and the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, about the White Paper from the DfID.

The Government believe that open markets governed by internationally agreed rules are in the interests of developing countries which must be more open to international trade if they are to prosper. The Government are committed to making trade work for poverty elimination. A real study of the White Paper which we have before us makes it very clear that that is an extremely well thought through policy which has been put forward by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development.

The Government will untie all development assistance from April 2001, thus ending that practice which leads to loss of value and of money and to inefficiency. We believe that that decisive action will increase the pressure on other countries similarly to untie. The Government will work vigorously with the OECD and the European Union for others to untie too.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury raised a number of issues about the route map to make the White Paper really work on the ground. I have some quite detailed information about that and I shall write to the right reverend Prelate about that.

My noble friend Lord Tomlinson suggested that there should be a debate on the White Paper. Like most noble Lords, I have an enormous amount of sympathy for that proposal. It is an excellent White Paper, published only yesterday. Much can be derived from it. I am sure that the usual channels will reach a sensible decision in that regard.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, referred to the problem of AIDS in South Africa. In January 1999, the Prime Minister, speaking to the parliament in Cape Town, pledged an additional £100 million contribution from DfID to help to fight AIDS in Africa over the next two years. To date, more than £140 million has been committed. I hope that that meets the issue which the noble Lord raised. We are also giving priority to HIV and AIDS prevention in other parts of the world, including Zimbabwe, where I know the noble Lord has interests which he has described to us.

We do not believe that further sanctions, multinational or national, are the right response to Zimbabwe at this stage. Moreover, when the leader of the MDC called on the Foreign Secretary on 6th November, he reaffirmed his view that punitive measures would strengthen rather than weaken the Zimbabwean government.

Very important questions were raised on Sudan by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I shall write to her. We have had quite an exchange on this subject. I know that the noble Baroness is very critical of some of the controls on exports. But this Government have introduced a far more wide-reaching programme of export controls than we have seen hitherto and I should be very happy to talk to her further about that if she would find that helpful.

A number of issues were raised in relation to human rights. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned Aceh. The European Union issued a statement on 28th September urging the Indonesian government to redouble their efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Aceh problem and to avoid further violence and loss of life.

I shall try to find more information on the issues in Aceh. As always, the noble Lord is quite encyclopaedic in his knowledge of what is happening on the ground. I shall try to do what I can to match him in some of the points that he raised with me.

I can confirm to my noble friend Lord Ahmed that we welcome the Indian Government ceasefire in Kashmir and the Pakistani Government's reciprocal announcement to observe maximum restraint on the line of control. We also endorse any efforts that are genuinely aimed at peace and reconciliation in that troubled part of the world.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, raised issues in regard to Cuba. She will know that my noble friend Lady Scotland and I have visited Cuba in the course of our ministerial duties. I did so when at the Foreign Office and my noble friend has done so recently. We believe that we have begun a frank and constructive dialogue. We have also opened up direct flights from the United Kingdom to Cuba.

I return to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft. I look forward to the negotiations on the new arrangements to associate British and other EU and overseas countries and territories with the Union. The proposals made so far suggest that an institutional framework will be established that will enable the member states, the Commission and the OCTs to work together. I believe that the powers of the respective authorities in those member states will be fully respected.

To the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, I say that we have not ignored Tibet. It is a serious matter. We are considering the rights of individual Tibetans and the preservation of the Tibetan culture and practices. We believe that the signature of the international covenants to which the noble Baroness referred, takes us a step forward. We are urging the Chinese to work promptly to ratify those covenants.

My noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney, as always, was passionate in his exposition on nuclear disarmament. I remind him that this Government have signed a comprehensive test treaty, that we have given up the free-fall bomb, that we have lowered the number of nuclear warheads on Trident to fewer than 200 and that we have greater transparency about our nuclear and fissile material stockpile than any previous government.

To the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, I say that I sympathise with him on the point that he raised about the Gurkhas. The noble and gallant Lord will know, of course, that prior to 1947 the Gurkhas were not part of the British Army, but he raises serious points and they should give us some pause for thought. I shall talk to my colleagues in the Ministry of Defence about them.

I shall write to the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, in regard to the points that he raised with respect to HMS "Tireless". I assure him that we have established an open and constructive dialogue about the situation with the authorities both in Madrid and in Gibraltar and that we continue to do everything that we can to keep them fully informed about what is happening.

Our Armed Forces have had an extraordinarily busy year. As your Lordships will know, we had a successful time in Sierra Leone. In regard to that expedition, I was pleased that the Americans admitted that they could not have reacted so quickly to the situation that developed there, nor so decisively. That is something of which we can be proud.

We cannot afford to be complacent about the costs of our involvement, wherever that may be, around the world. That was brought home in a most dramatic fashion in Sierra Leone when Bombardier Brad Tinnion was killed during an operation to rescue beleaguered British soldiers. We must never forget the less visible but none the less real burden placed on our servicemen and women and on their families by such operations. Of course, the Government recognise the problem of overstretch. It is not a new problem; it will not be solved overnight, regardless of whichever party is in power. The only proper long-term solution is to bring resources and commitments into balance.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, is always vigilant in relation to the budget, but I believe that even he will recognise that a major step in the right direction was to increase the defence budget, as announced in the last CSR. That increase, amounting to £1,250 million after inflation, is the first real increase in spending for over a decade.

In addition, recruitment of men—I remind the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, of women too—into our Armed Forces remains buoyant. Last year 25,000 people joined the Armed Forces, making it the best recruiting year since the beginning of the decade. Many of the initiatives we set in hand through the CSR are bearing fruit.

The recruitment target in the Royal Marines was met for the first time in 1994. In the same year, the naval service enlistment reached 99 per cent of its target; Army enlistment reached 95 per cent; the RAF enlistment reached 96 per cent; and at the mid-year point for this financial year the numbers enlisted had reached 49 per cent.

However, noble Lords are right in saying that the difficult issue is retention. We have done everything we can to try to develop family-friendly policies and we remain open to suggestions about how we may develop those. We have, for instance, increased the telephone allowances; increased the number of Internet terminals used at military bases; introduced Project Welcome, a new communications system; and introduced guaranteed periods of post-operational tour leave. All those measures are important, as is the upgrading of housing, to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, and the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, referred.

What has struck me most of all over the past year is the magnificent way in which our Armed Forces and their civilian colleagues have risen to meet difficult and frequently dangerous challenges. I pay tribute to their dedication and fortitude. They have made a real and vital contribution to international peace and stability. As a result, the situation has improved immeasurably in almost all the areas where they have intervened. The lives of many thousands of people around the world are better as a result not only of the policies which have backed them but of their personal contribution on the ground in the areas where they have operated.

Lord Burlison

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I beg to move that the debate be now again adjourned until tomorrow.

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

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

House adjourned at eighteen minutes past eleven o'clock.