§ 2.58 p.m.
rose to call attention to the international situation; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am not sure whether, like the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, whose presence in this House we greatly welcome, I am making a maiden speech. I must therefore crave your Lordships' indulgence. I have not had the opportunity of asking the right reverend Prelate opposite whether reincarnation involves anything so ghastly! However, I have no intention of making a very controversial speech. After all, foreign affairs should be bipartisan and more often than not is—that is, apart from the European Union, about which it would be extravagant to claim that there is any agreement between political parties or, indeed, within political parties. But that is a debate on its own and I do not propose to discuss it this afternoon.
On many occasions in your Lordships' House, I have listened to noble Lords who have come up from another place say that they are making their maiden speech in this House from exactly the same Bench as that from which they made their maiden speech to the Commons when it sat in this Chamber. But I did not make my original maiden speech in this House; I made it in the King's Robing Room. When thinking about what to say today, I was struck by how different the circumstances were then from what they are now.
At that time, after six years of war, we were, alas, beginning to realise that the so-called agreeable Uncle Joe was not quite the character that the British people had assumed him to be. The dangers that we faced as the Soviet Union subjugated eastern Europe were manifest, not least because of the robust speeches and policy of that great man, Ernest Bevin. We were, although we did not know it at the time, at the beginning of 40 years of Cold War; of threat of a nuclear world war; of vast expense on armaments; and of the deployment of manpower for defence purposes which could much better have been used for other purposes. There were difficult times during those 40 years, but NATO and the resolution of the West prevented a war. And 10 years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed.
628 As a result, today we face totally different problems—not so dangerous, but equally challenging. Your Lordships will remember that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was much talk of a new world order and the expectation that the United Nations would be able to solve any future problems.
It did not happen, partly because two new elements frustrated our hopes and complicated international relations. Whatever the disadvantages and penalties of the Cold War, it imposed on all nations, not just East and West, an imperative to avoid taking any action which would cause either of the super-powers to clash and involve the world in a catastrophic war. A discipline was imposed on everyone. It is, for example, inconceivable to imagine the break-up of Yugoslavia in the days of Mr Brezhnev. It would have been far too dangerous for the Yugoslav people. In those circumstances it would have been most unlikely also that Saddam Hussein would have invaded Kuwait.
Now countries are much more concerned with their own national interest and prepared to pursue policies which, in previous days, would have been considered too dangerous. Furthermore, the United Nations is only the sum of its members and cannot be expected to solve problems on its own without the support, encouragement and sacrifices which that entails. The Secretary-General, for whom I have great admiration, has done his best, but when you look at the problems which face the United Nations, particularly those in Africa—the Congo, the Ethiopian-Eritrean war, Angola and Rwanda, you name it!—it is clear that it has been hamstrung by the lack of support and interest of those not directly involved.
In the days of the Cold War, both East and West would have been so nervous that the other would become influential and dominant in any part of the world that aid, both military and economic, would have poured in. We have only to recall, for example, Soviet aid to Ethiopia and Angola. There are no easy solutions to the lack of political will. I notice that in the Queen's Speech the Government stated that they intend to help to reform the United Nations. I should be interested to learn from the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, exactly what they have in mind.
It seems to me that there are two things which we might do which, in a small way, might help. We should, I believe, encourage and strengthen regional organisations, particularly in Africa, which could act as agents of the United Nations Security Council, in much the same way that NATO did in Bosnia. Regional organisations are much more likely to be aware of the problems which could arise and are much more concerned about the consequences of conflict in their area. Secondly, the Secretary-General should be provided with sufficient staff, either at his headquarters or in the regional organisations, to provide early warning, intelligence and military advice. He is woefully short of all three.
The lack of political will, to which I have referred, has affected the capacity of the United Nations to deal with the various problems which have arisen in the past 10 years. There have, of course, been occasions 629 when the United Nations has become involved and has been successful, or, at any rate, partially successful, as in the Gulf War, but the reason for that success was the wholehearted involvement of the United States, which feared the consequences in both oil supplies and the stability of the region. But as countries have become more preoccupied with their own affairs, and as the dangers of war have receded, so, generally speaking, national self-interest has advanced. If the dangers do not affect the vital interests of most countries, they are prepared to pass resolutions in the United Nations but do very little else about it. The United Nations' involvement in Yugoslavia falls into a rather different category and I shall say a little more about that later.
The second new element in this post-Cold War era has been instantaneous information which is available in every home, every fireside, on the evening news or in the press or on the media. Night after night, viewers can see harrowing pictures of starving children in Africa or the plight of refugees in all parts of the world; the misery and the suffering. Understandably, this has had an enormous effect on public opinion and on media comment.
It is said that "Something must be done", and there is great pressure on governments to do something. However, in some cases, what they are supposed to do is far from clear and, in many cases, those who are asking for action do not see themselves involved in any military or financial consequences. It is very difficult for governments to resist such pressure. The obvious example of the "something must be done" syndrome was the United States' involvement in Somalia, where no United States' interests were involved and which resulted in American casualties and a strong negative reaction in the United States which has had its consequences.
No doubt the noble Baroness will be relieved to hear that I do not intend to speak of an ethical foreign policy. Perhaps I may say that she dealt admirably with that question before Christmas. She said, and I hope I do not misrepresent her, that each situation had to be dealt with on its merits and that we had to choose the best way to do this—as indeed, in my experience, all previous governments have done.
I would, however, make one criticism. I do not think it was wise of the Foreign Secretary to condemn the military coup in Pakistan in the way that he did. Those of us who have been in Pakistan fairly recently know that both political parties in that country were corrupt, incompetent, unpopular and highly damaging to the welfare of the people of Pakistan. Of course, it is undesirable and deplorable that a government regime should be overthrown in a military coup, but provided the intention is to restore a democratic government, condemnation should at least be postponed.
It is, however, in our involvement in Yugoslavia that there are lessons to be learned. There can be no doubt that the European Union, NATO and the United Nations became involved in that country for the very best possible motives. There is equally no doubt that both in Bosnia and Kosovo grave mistakes were made. The initial mistake was the 630 premature recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, a recognition which inevitably triggered the Bosnian war. It is as well to know, if one considers intervention in a civil war, on whose side one stands. In this case, the European Union and the United Nations decided that their role was to keep the peace and not take sides. The result was that the United Nations troops were forbidden to fire their weapons except in self-defence, while at the same time designating safe areas which they were unable to defend unless they themselves were attacked. The result was that all three sides—Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian—felt that the United Nations forces were neither friendly nor helpful.
The fact is that nearly 10 years on the outcome of all this—after much ethnic cleansing and tens of thousands of casualties—is much the same as if we had never intervened at all. There is no real prospect of a federal Bosnia, and the United Nations will be committed for an indefinite period.
Some of your Lordships will remember that when the Government announced their action against the Serbs, as a result of Serbian refusal to accept troops in their country, I felt obliged to say that I thought this was a grave mistake. What was it supposed to achieve? It did not prevent the expulsion of Kosovans, rather it caused it. It did not succeed in getting rid of President Milosevic. He is still there. It did succeed in destroying a great deal of Serbian infrastructure. It did succeed—though, unintentionally, of course—in ethnically cleansing most of the Serbs in Kosovo; not perhaps as effectively as President Tudjman ethnically cleansed the Serbs in the Krajina. The result in Kosovo is alarming. No Serb is safe. In many areas, some of the Kosova Liberation Army, whose reputation is appalling, are in charge. By all accounts—although we hear little about—it the United Nations and the European Union are failing in their attempts to normalise the situation.
In addition, in the long term, we, the international community, are faced either with giving independence to a Kosovo run entirely by Kosovo Albanians—with the gravest possible consequences to the surrounding countries if such a decision were taken—or seeking a solution in which Kosovo remains a part of Serbia, a solution wholly impracticable in the foreseeable future. The one thing that is certain is that United Nations troops will be there for a very long time indeed.
Before such an action is taken in the future, it would I think be well to look far enough ahead and weigh the consequences of what one is about to do. The 19 countries of NATO certainly did not do that on that occasion.
The events of 1989 also had one other very significant consequence and one which I am not entirely sure has been sufficiently recognised. The United States has become absolutely dominant, not just militarily—although it is certainly true in military terms that, with 631 the exception of China and the nuclear capacity of Russia, there is no other country with the capacity to intervene worldwide in a military sense—but in terms of economic and industrial superiority. Unless the United States gives a lead on global issues, nothing much is likely to happen.
From the United States' point of view, the area of the world which it must now consider to be the most important is the Far East; its relationship with China; the problems of Korea and of Taiwan, and its relationship with Japan. These must loom much larger in US eyes than its relationship with Europe which is now no longer a priority. It seems to me that the Atlantic relationship, from our point of view, is as important as ever it was. NATO is the only organisation in which the United States is involved in European affairs. Consequently, it has as much a political importance as a defensive one. We must be very careful not to do anything which damages that relationship. Indeed, the reverse must be true. We must do everything to nurture it and strengthen it.
There has been much discussion recently over the proposals for a European security and defence identity. It is of course as a result of a rather belated realisation by the European countries that their military capacity in Kosovo was woefully inadequate as compared with that of the United States. That is, indeed, true. The amount of money which European countries individually spend on defence is not translated into any collective European capacity to act without the involvement of the United States. It is quite right that the Europeans should address these deficiencies. It is, after all, an extension of the old burden-sharing argument.
I, therefore, have no quarrel with what is intended, although I must tell your Lordships that, in my judgment, the likelihood of this resulting in any significant improvement in European capacity is rather remote. That can be achieved only if European countries are prepared to spend more money on defence. Even the most starry-eyed optimist would feel some misgivings on that matter. We in this country, although we have on the whole been more robust in this than our European neighbours, are in danger of under-equipping and over-committing our much reduced Armed Forces. Nor do I think that the involvement of the European Union or Commission in defence matters is likely to be beneficial. As the membership of the European Union grows and includes more countries traditionally neutral, the likelihood of any agreement to use a European military force will diminish. I hope that I am wrong about this. In any event, it is absolutely essential that the Americans should not feel that the European security and defence identity is either a weakening of our allegiance to NATO or a challenge to it. I should be very grateful if the noble Baroness who is to reply would give an undertaking that American doubts—and there have been American doubts—have been firmly and once and for all put at rest.
It would be wrong to end on too pessimistic a note. How much better off we are in the foreign and defence field than we were 10 years ago. Central Europe is, once again, part of the democratic West. We have had 632 removed the threat of a nuclear world war which hung over us for so long. But there are difficult problems ahead. We in the West must remain capable of playing our part and acting wisely in an increasingly confused world. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for initiating the debate. It is a rare reincarnation and all the more welcome for that. I am glad that the powers that be saw to it that the noble Lord was retained in the House to give us the benefit of his wisdom, as he has done today.
It is also a humbling experience to follow the noble Lord when at least four former Foreign Secretaries and four former Cabinet Ministers are yet to speak. Someone probably does not like me very much, which is why I have been put in this number two slot!
I want to concentrate on two issues, both of which will overlap somewhat with what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said. The first is the reform of the United Nations. It is an important question and has very much to do with what has happened since 1990. When the United Nations was set up there was a presumption that the five big powers would form a condominium to take care of the world. As it happened, they did that, but not in a friendly way because they were antagonistic towards each other. As the noble Lord said, the balance of the cold war kept a regime if not of terror then of some fear. The balance was maintained so that little minnows were not allowed to misbehave themselves, as they have since 1990.
The UN survived the cold war in a peculiar frozen form, but it has not found a better way of operation since the break-up of the Soviet Union and since the break-down of the assumption of condominium in the absence of the cold war. What the United Nations needs first is greater democratisation. By that I mean that the five Security Council permanent powers must he made more subject to the rule of law than they have tended to be. I should like to have the Security Council expanded, keeping the five permanent powers but also adding perhaps seven or 10 more. Much more than that, we cannot have permanent powers defying human rights, indulging in armaments sales or carrying on in international relations as if they were above international law. What the world needs now—there is a great deal of talk about globalization—is a framework of global governance. By that I mean a set of rules to which every country, large or small, will be subject. We should also have some way of enforcing those rules. It is not an easy issue.
The United States is the single most powerful country in the world. I do not have very much against that because, by and large, the US has behaved responsibly in international relations for the past 50 years, has kept the peace and in many instances, as in Somalia, has behaved beyond where its self-interest was involved and has tried to help the world. My worry is that, increasingly, the US may not want to play that role. The behaviour of the US Congress, more than the US executive, is alarming. The failure to ratify the CTBT is 633 worrying. Its behaviour in regard to paying UN dues is worrying. I hope that the next presidential election will produce a recommitment of the US executive to keeping the US's active role, not just as a policeman but as a general worrier and problem solver for the international system. If the US were once again to become isolationist, the anarchy in international relations would be much worse than it is right now. We all have a duty to tell our friends across the Atlantic, as many as we can, that they cannot renege on their responsibilities.
I agree that Europe should do more by way of defence. I agree also that it is unlikely that Europe will do more for defence. There is a great deal of irresponsible talk about the European Community, powered by the euro, being an independent regional economic power. That is tosh. I do not think it will become an independent economic power unless it is willing to pay the price—and Europe is not willing to pay the price of being an independent economic power. Europe may well decide to co-operate constructively and helpfully with the United States and cajole and help the United States to fulfil the role which it has fulfilled so far and which I hope it will continue to fulfil.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, made some very helpful remarks about NATO. There is no doubt that NATO is an effective military arm, but what Bosnia and Kosovo proved is that it lacks a policy-thinking dimension, a point made by the noble Lord. In a sense there is a gap in NATO. There needs to be a political forward-thinking arrangement in NATO so that a view can be taken of the future evolution of the international system. Right now, that task is not being performed in any single place. Every time there is a crisis, there is a temporary getting together of sherpas and their superiors. That will not do.
Perhaps I may give, as an example, the recognition of Croatia, which was a great mistake. I have heard my noble friend Lord Healey, who unfortunately is not in his place, say in this House—I quote him from memory—that the recognition of Croatia was part of a deal to allow the UK to opt-out from the euro system. That may be the case. Deals are always made in politics. But someone should have checked across the Atlantic with the Americans whether that was a good thing to do. What happened? Immediately, Europe receded to its position after the first world war, where the French and Germans could not agree on how to behave in the Balkans and a great many bad things happened thereafter. Therefore, I believe that NATO needs a political long-range thinking arm for itself.
What is puzzling is that, while in the economic sphere we now recognise that there is no such thing as national sovereignty, that no country can write its own ticket as far as concerns its fiscal or monetary policy and that, like it or not, with the discipline of the market, one cannot run untrammelled deficits, there is still a great deal of attachment to political sovereignty and we are still allowing countries to do things within their borders which no bond market would allow in the economic sphere. It is that strong attachment to national sovereignty, especially among newly independent 634 countries, that is causing a great deal of trouble and strife in the international sphere—whether in Azerbaijan, Kosovo or countries in Africa. They are behaving as if having sovereignty means the right to make trouble, not just against other countries but against their own people. The twin problem of interstate wars and states waging war on their own peoples is very serious. Part of a global governance framework will have to be enforcement of a consistent regime of human rights. The UN or some other body will have to take a position that certain kinds of violations of human rights are not allowed, regardless of whether those take place within the boundaries of a country. That will not be easy, but globalisation or a global role—whatever you call it—entails certain kinds of political consequences. If we are to have a world in which capital mobility and labour mobility may be carried on across boundaries, that means also that people's human rights must be safe across boundaries. No matter where people go, they have the right to be treated in a civil fashion and not just to be treated at the whim of the country in which they are.
Finally, I have just been to Sri Lanka, where I spent a week as an election observer and two nice weeks on holiday. South Asia is in an extremely worrisome state. I do not have time to say any more on that subject, but be it India and Pakistan, the Tamil-Sinhala war or the strike on the eastern and western periphery of India and Pakistan respectively, there will be problems. I hope that Her Majesty's Government are aware that there will be expectations of them when the crisis comes. I hope that they are doing quite a lot to prevent a real outbreak of conflict in the region.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Rawlings
My Lords, I must congratulate my noble friend on setting the scene so brilliantly for today's important debate by clearly identifying the crucial issues and widening the current debate further than the European Union. I greatly look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes.
With respect to all the expertise in your Lordships' House on this vast subject, I shall confine my few remarks to the Balkans: the part of the globe which we were all taught at school is the "powder keg of Europe". No event has defined perceptions of that peninsula so profoundly as the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.It is an intolerable affront to human and political nature that these wretched and unhappy little countries in the Balkan peninsula can, and do … cause world wars".That was written by John Gunther in his Inside Europe in 1940, which was part of an immensely popular "Inside" series. Luckily, last year did not produce a world-scale war. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the communist system was the most important political milestone during my time in politics.
I should like to focus on one of the new democracies which then emerged. The Kosovo war had an enormous effect on Bulgaria. It was, after all, in its back yard. Fifty thousand Bulgarians live in Serbia. It was inevitable that Milosevic would put pressure on Bulgaria via 635 them. As a result, many of their exports were, and still are, unable to reach their markets. Tourism was badly hit. Many foreign investors feared to put money in Bulgaria. They rightly now look to us for help.
Early estimates from the Vienna Institute for Economics suggest that as much as 100 billion dollars will be needed to create stability in the Balkans as a whole. The Stability Pact for south-eastern Europe is full of fine intentions, but, alas, promises little or no money. Kruschev said that,politicians are the sane all over, they promise to build a bridge even when there is no river".The Bulgarian Government and Parliament took many courageous decisions in siding with NATO, providing corridors for our aircraft and by supporting the EU oil embargo. Those were not easy decisions.
Bulgaria's adopted ethnic model is one from which other countries in the region could learn a great deal. The Turkish minority is now well represented in both the national parliament and local government. That inclusive approach is a far cry from the forced assimilation used by the former communist regime in the 1980s, and one which has led to a strong relationship between Bulgaria and Turkey. The programme in progress now, of improving conditions for the Roma, will help to create an inclusive society in which they too will have a contribution to make.
Perhaps Bulgaria's greatest success over the past two years has been its progress in promoting regional cooperation and good relations with its neighbours. The signature last year of a joint declaration between Bulgaria and Macedonia is particularly significant. It has effectively put an end to the language dispute and brought about a historical transformation in Bulgaria's relations with Macedonia. All of that progress shows what can be achieved by looking into the future instead of living in the past.
That is the progress that the European Union and NATO want to see in their future member states. The rewards are long-term prosperity and stability. The Bulgarian Government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Kostov, celebrate over two years in office. The efforts they have made to reform their economy and to peg the lev to the euro in that short time is remarkable. It took western Europe decades to build thriving market economies. I know that the process is difficult; that it inevitably involves pain. No doubt the answer is to try to combine the benefits of the market with social justice, not to abandon reform.
I realise that for many Bulgarians, progress towards EU membership must seem frustratingly slow. We in the West must do more to demonstrate clearly that it is an attainable goal, even though many feel that it is increasingly a bottomless source of inaccessible funds. It is vital that the gains they have made should not be lost as a result of Kosovo. We must use the Kosovo conflict as an opportunity to accelerate and entrench the reforms already under way, not as an excuse to delay them.
At the Luxembourg Summit in 1997, Bulgaria was no longer locked into the second-wave countries waiting for entry. At Helsinki in December, the European 636 Council invited Bulgaria to start formal accession negotiations to accede to the European Union. Those moves are unmistakable signals that the European Union is serious about welcoming Bulgaria into its ranks.
Economic integration is one side of the coin; security is the other. In that connection, we should commend Bulgaria on its drive to create a multinational peace-keeping and peace-making brigade with units from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Romania and Italy. The fact that the headquarters of that brigade is now in Plovdiv, commanded by a Turkish general with a Romanian and Bulgarian deputy and a Greek director of political affairs, is a remarkable feat.
We can see the enormous progress that Bulgaria has made, but those advances are not always evident to people for whom daily life is often a struggle. Many people in the former communist world, including Bulgaria—public opinion polls confirm this—are upset nowadays, disappointed, or even disgusted by social conditions. Many people believe that once again, democracy or not, there are people in power who cannot be trusted, who are concerned more and more with their own advantage than they are with the general interest. Many are convinced that honest business people operate at a disadvantage, while dishonest profiteers receive the green light.
After nine years of trying to build a market economy, many people wonder why the economy is not doing better. They wonder why prices, including rents and utilities, are rising faster than pensions and social benefits. They yearn for the good old days when the state nannied everyone. The answer to such criticism is that the time has come, 10 years after the departure of Todor Zhivkov, that Bulgaria must not look to the dark past. A French philosopher said,That all men would be brothers is the dream of people who have no brothers".How easy it is to forget the tragic legacy of 45 years of Soviet socialism: a politically and financially bankrupt state; a devastated economy; and 11 million dollars of foreign debt—much of it untraceable in foreign bank accounts.
Despite this pessimistic note, Bulgaria has managed to remain an island of peace and stability. There are huge social and economic difficulties in transforming its economy and society. A full commitment to reform is the only way.
Finally, I make a brief request to the Minister to urge her colleagues not to react to, but rather to anticipate, future crises. With concentration on Bosnia and Kosovo, there is a risk that we may underestimate the growing pressure for independence in neighbouring Montenegro, the only surviving sister republic in the Yugoslav federation. This could turn the small coastal republic into another Balkan trouble spot, capable of threatening the stability of the whole region.
These are critical times for the rebuilding of eastern Europe. We have profound cause to he grateful for the wisdom and generosity of other nations in the late 637 1940s when western Europe's economies were devastated. We need the same vision, far-sightedness and even sacrifice now in the interests of eastern Europe; otherwise a great historic opportunity may be lost.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Lord Fellowes
My Lords, I am grateful for the honour of addressing this House for the first time, and conscious that I do so at a momentous time in its history. I beg your Lordships' indulgence as one whose previous experience in the world of speeches has been in the field of construction rather than delivery. I am grateful also for the opportunity to make my maiden speech in a foreign affairs debate, since it gives me the chance to speak about a subject which is dear to my heart at least, and which still holds a place, albeit a tenuous one, in the affections of most British hearts—the Commonwealth. It is my subject, not for reasons of sentiment but rather for reasons of common sense and looking to the furtherance of British interests.
Britain's affection for the Commonwealth, to which I referred, has, it is no use denying, cooled in recent years. That has been brought about by a mixture of indifference, of misplaced embarrassment about our colonial history, of disdain for the weaker or less democratic, in our terms, members of the "club", and of irritation with the more moralistic positions sometimes adopted in the past by some Commonwealth leaders. It is not too late, in my view, to reverse the cooling process.
A major factor in bringing about such a change for the better should be a realisation of what the Commonwealth has to offer Britain. It has three unique qualities for us. First, the Queen is its respected head, giving us unique influence in its deliberations. Secondly, its membership links us to every level of international organisation and trade association, containing as it does the Queen's largest realms—Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, some of the most robust of emerging market countries like South Africa, trading specialists such as Malaysia and Singapore, and tiny countries, some poor, some not, but many of whom speak for the third world. Thirdly, the Commonwealth's language, like that of the Internet, is English. In terms of global communication, therefore, this must give the Commonwealth a very real advantage.
At a time when our relationships with Europe and with the United States are under constant scrutiny and when the World Trade Organisation has failed to reach agreement on an agenda for its next round, surely Britain should be devoting more time and resources to developing and nurturing its Commonwealth ties.
The Commonwealth is not perfect. It is not alone in that, but under the lead of its Secretary-General, Chief Anyaoku, sadly soon to retire, it has acquired in recent years a new-found realism and sense of purpose, and we would, I believe, do well to make the most of them.
638 In that context, I was delighted to hear that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has reached agreement on a deal to secure the future of the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington. As a future trustee of the institute, I hope that this is a straw in the wind to show that the Commonwealth still matters to us. Indeed, I hope that it signals a renewed enthusiasm in British Government for an institution which is, in its strange, unpredictable, sometimes exasperating but always generous-hearted way, closer to this country and to its people than most of those other international organisations to which we devote more time and money and which, to say the least, from time to time disappoint us.
On a practical note, I should like to make two points to take us from the general to the particular. First, could not Britain take a lead in giving the Commonwealth a role in solving the World Trade Organisation impasse? As I have said, the membership is unique in its origins and diversity and has an interest in a successful outcome at every level, from the G8 to the third world. The need for a solution is acute and would provide a focus for the Commonwealth which it has sometimes lacked in the past when proposing other initiatives. Furthermore, the Commonwealth is already providing technical assistance to developing countries, giving it a foundation of influence in those countries on which to build. The Commonwealth could ensure that the voice of those most in need of a WTO solution—the poorest countries—is heard at the highest levels.
Secondly, and to finish, would it not be a splendid thing for the Commonwealth to be able to welcome back Ireland as a member? I pray that it may come about, and sooner rather than later.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
My Lords, it gives me particular pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his first speech in this House. As he himself said early on, his recent experiences have been more or less in the drafting than in the delivering of speeches. But in his performance this afternoon I believe he showed that he can do both with an equal understated elegance and effectiveness.
The noble Lord was for almost a decade the Principal Private Secretary to the Sovereign and before that he had been Assistant Private Secretary to the Palace for, I believe, 13 years. Inevitably in those circumstances, a certain patina of the courtier is bound to have been acquired. But in my experience of the noble Lord, which is quite considerable, it conceals an acute probing and even a radical mind. I have long thought that it is no accident that the three Prime Ministers who in modern British politics have presided over the most reforming changes—Gladstone, Asquith and Attlee—were all men who, outside their central purpose, were of a conservative (with a small "c") habit of mind. Perhaps the noble Lord reminds me a little of that. I hope we shall hear him often again, and we shall not mind if he lets some of the radicalism come to the surface.
639 We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for initiating this debate and for the way in which he did so. When the noble Lord last addressed the House—I believe in March of last year—he said:As this is probably the last speech I shall make after 54 years in this House I craw. your Lordships' indulgence".—[Official Report, 29/3/99; col. 27.]Well, I am very glad to say that that was a false prophecy and that today he is an inspiring example of life after death.
The noble Lord was an early advocate of reform of your Lordships' House. I regret that the scheme which he worked out with the then Labour government in 1967–68 did not go through. But I always thought that any scheme for reform of the House of Lords which excluded the noble, Lord, Lord Carrington, would be a mistake. I am delighted to say that that has not been the case.
My particular recollection of him goes back—more relevant to today's debate—to when he became Foreign Secretary in 1979. I was then president of the European Commission. I saw him in action in Council after Council—one might almost say endless Council after Council. He was something of a breath of fresh air. He was eager to create a new atmosphere of British co-operativeness—to put Britain a t the heart of Europe, if you like—and to show a Conservative government, difficult though it is to believe today, putting an end to Labour foot-dragging in relation to Europe.
He did that very skilfully indeed. But that particular phase was brought to an end by a few swings of his mistress's handbag. I need hardly say that I use the word "mistress" purely in a power-relationship sense. She caused quite unnecessary offence in handling the issue of Britain's budgetary rebate. She was right about the money but she could have achieved just as much without causing that unnecessary offence.
That interplay between two conflicting British attitudes to Europe, with the more hostile and suspicious attitude nearly always coming out on top, has been symptomatic of Britain's not very successful attitude to Europe over 50 years now. The amount of damage that equivocation on the issue has inflicted—I leave the country aside for the moment, although that is more important—upon successive Prime Ministers has been immense: Harold Macmillan, in turning it down, marked the end of his successful phase; Harold Wilson, although more in opposition than in government, suffered damage to both his authority and his confidence by his equivocation; the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and Mr Major both suffered. Some were literally brought down by their inability to handle the European issue. They tried to deal with it with too much equivocation and I pray that the same will not be said in the future of the Blair Government.
In the meantime, I note with amusement the extraordinary chassé croisé which has been taking place between the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr Brown used to be the great European and Mr Cook the sceptic. Now it 640 seems to be the other way round. That may be regarded as a singular example of the power over Ministers of those two great departments of state—the Foreign Office and the Treasury. The Foreign Office, at least since the 1960s, has been pro-Europe and the official Treasury, as it likes to call itself, with all its great talents, has been too reticent. But I do not quite believe that that is the explanation. I do not think that Mr Brown takes quite enough notice of the official Treasury, apart from anything else. But in any event, I congratulate Mr Cook on his recent forthrightness, which I greatly hope will continue.
That leads me to the question of a moral foreign policy, about which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, while saying he would not, indulged in a little, perfectly legitimate, tease. What can be said is that, on the whole, a moral foreign policy is better than an immoral foreign policy. It is perhaps also better to let others pin the tail on the donkey rather than announcing it before you have pursued it too vigorously in advance.
In any event, that is not something which can be pursued by any government without regard to consequences. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was a courageous critic of the Kosovo war. I was more of an agnostic and he was, therefore, more courageous than I was. But it is very difficult now to see what good we have done for the Kosovars.
I end with a more sombre thought. It is not clear to me on what basis of morality we bombed Belgrade over Kosovo but do not bomb Moscow over Chechnya. I am very glad that we do not bomb Moscow. I do not believe that there is a single member of Her Majesty's Government—perhaps not even a single Member of your Lordships' House—who would wish us to do so or who would recommend making high-level raids on Moscow. It is really the old Maxim gun jingle, "For they have got the hydrogen bomb and the Serbs did not". Therefore, there are certain hard facts which must be taken into account in any foreign policy dealings. We must temper high ethical foreign policy with reality.
As the noble Lord said, I must not end on too pessimistic and sombre a note. We are probably better off and more secure than we have been at most decade points over the past 50, if not most of the past 100, years. That should be a recipe not for complacency but for dealing as effectively as we can with the real problems which still confront us.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Lord Howe of Aberavon
My Lords, it is my privilege to follow the noble Lord in expressing our pleasure at the appearance in the House this afternoon of the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes. From these Benches, I congratulate him on the quality of his speech. We know of his career of discreet but distinguished service to our head of state, the head of the Commonwealth, as he reminded us. The speech which he made drew powerfully on that experience.
Perhaps I may make a very immodest comparison. I found that one of the better qualifications for my appearance, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the 641 meetings of the International Monetary Fund was the fact that I had always previously been, a few days before, at meetings of the Commonwealth Finance Ministers. That gave one an opportunity of seeing the broad sweep of experience in that organisation of which he reminded us this afternoon. We look forward to hearing from him again in the future on many occasions.
My thanks also go to my noble friend Lord Carrington for initiating this debate and for the way in which he exploited his immense experience to set those topics in the broad sweep of history. Perhaps I may draw on two rather microcosmic episodes which enable me to do something of the same kind. In the past few weeks, two events which are, in a sense, a hangover from my six years in the Foreign Office have occurred.
This week we had present in London the Foreign Minister of Iran, Mr Kamal Kharrazi, and a few weeks ago there was the arrival in Tripoli of our own ambassador, Mr Richard Dalton.
The House will remember that the breach with Libya goes back to the brutal shooting of Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher in 1984. At that time, we had no other option but to break off relations with that country. The breach with Iran came before my time but the provocation was equally serious. Some people have said that it is the first time for 21 years that we have had here an Iranian Foreign Minister. In fact, there was a brief episode in 1989, during my time at the Foreign Office, when I had my second meeting with Mr Ali Akbar Velayati, who was then the Foreign Minister. We met in London and agreed to reopen diplomatic relations with that country. Just one week later, ironically on St Valentine's Day, came the fatwa against Mr Salman Rushdie, and we were back to square one.
I believe that the decision to restore normal relations with both countries, although, as always, a difficult balance to strike, is undoubtedly right after the long interval in each case. It shows that if a week in politics is a long time, a decade in diplomacy is a very short time. One must look at those relationships in the context of the need for continuity. I have no doubt that, on that basis, engagement with countries and regimes even of the kind with which we are now dealing, not for the sake of comfort or cosiness but for the sake of promoting British interests, is absolutely right.
If continuity is characteristic, as I think it is, of foreign policy relationships, it is often necessary, as others have already pointed out, to approach those matters, tempering views of principle with pragmatism. I believe that it was Bismarck who said that any man who sought to pursue a foreign policy founded solely on ethics is like a man seeking to walk through a forest of saplings with a horizontal piece of wood clamped between his teeth. That is not a very happy prescription.
However, it underlines the "unwisdom" of the proclamation made by the Foreign Secretary at the start of his reign. Since then I believe that he has learnt 642 some useful lessons in humility. He now understands better than he did then the need for a Foreign Secretary to have the support, advice and guidance of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and of the Diplomatic Service of which we may be justly proud. I am sure that my colleague predecessor, my noble friend Lord Carrington, and my successor, my noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell, in that office will recollect many of our opposite numbers in other countries saying of our Diplomatic Service that, second of course to their own, ours was the best in the world. Certainly I believe that is true.
That prompts me to ask a question that we should always ask: are those organisations adequately resourced now? The overseas budget, which includes the British Council and the BBC, takes less than one-third of 1 per cent of public expenditure, but the workload has increased enormously. When Ernest Bevin first went to the United Nations, there were 46 member states; when my noble friend Lord Carrington went there, there were almost three times as many; when I went there, there were almost four times as many; and now the figure is about 190.
In that time there have been huge increases in the workload. Since 1950, the world's population has doubled; in the past 20 years the number of Britons travelling abroad has increased five-fold; and our own population has been transformed. In 1951, the ethnic minorities in this country totalled 35,000. That number has now multiplied by 100, and includes many so-called "dissidents" and "refugees" from disintegrating empires besides our own which breed problems on an ever-increasing scale. Over the past two decades, the Diplomatic Service has been reduced in number by 25 per cent so that its total strength is now less than half that of France and significantly lower than that of Germany. It is a question that we must continue to pose in the House as we seek to impose ever larger responsibilities on that service.
If we are to make the most of the talents of that service and of our influence, in a phrase that my noble friend Lord Hurd is always anxious to disclaim, which I am happy to reclaim from him, we have "to punch above our weight" and then to work, so far as possible, by developing closer partnerships with a range of organisations and people—but not in everything. Trade promotion, for example, is essentially national.
Partnership is important in many other areas. In defence, as my noble friend Lord Carrington has pointed out, the NATO relationship is fundamental; it is the bedrock of our defence security, above all because it continues to lock in the commitment of the United States to the security of this continent. Alongside that, and as part of it, our relationship with the European Union is the most important of all our international partnerships because it is the closest, most continuing, intimate and pervasive. Some years ago, even my noble friend Lady Thatcher said:Britain does not dream of some cosy. isolated existence on the fringes of the EC. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of that Community".I believe that that is still true today.
643 For us, transatlantic relations, as Harold Macmillan and Ambassador Raymond Seitz pointed out more recently, are essentially intercontinental. The idea of some stronger, bilateral United States/United Kingdom relationship in preference to, or at the expense of, our relationship with the European Union is negative and damaging. There are many illustrations of why we cannot rest all our eggs in that basket, however important it is. I emphasise the importance of the relationship with the United States.
The role of the United Kingdom is at its most influential, not in an exclusive relationship with the United States, but as part of the European Union/United States relationship. That is enormously important, not least in the context of the European security and defence initiative (ESDI). That first stirred in its present form when Prime Minister Chirac, as he was in 1985, brought the Western European Union back to some kind of life. It was sustained by the government of my good friend John Major and by the then Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo.
In response to the long-felt want on the other side of the Atlantic, Strobe Talbott said:The United States is for ESDI. It's in our interest for Europe to be able to deal effectively with challenges to European Security well before they reach the threshold of triggering US combat involvement".My noble friend Lord Carrington made that clear. The conditions that he outlined are important, but the principle—the need to establish a stronger, more competent European defence performance—is also vital.
Finally, on the United Nations, my noble friend in the work that he produced as chairman of the committee Words to Deeds underlined as he did again in his speech this afternoon, a need for stronger and more reliable enforcement machinery, not for its more frequent over-active use. The goal is to do it better, not necessarily more often. I worry about the contrast between that restrained ambition and the entirely worthy ambition mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, in his speech and the article of the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in the Financial Times in the past day or two in which he said:The principle that massive and systematic violations of human rights—wherever they may take place—must not be allowed to stand".That is a noble sentiment, but in the days when I used to be involved in drafting election manifestos if I saw the word "must", I would say, "Hang on, what is going on?" If I saw the word twice or three times, I thought it was going just a shade too far. Of course, international law like common law is growing. Of course, the power of the United Nations can grow in that kind of way, but we must take care to avoid the real risk of discrediting the United Nations organisation and, indeed, the credibility of international law itself if we over-reach ourselves.
We need to keep our ambition in check otherwise we shall continuously be presented with an infinity of opportunities for the law to be mobilised and for the United Nations to be mobilised in its support. Theoretically, the law can cover most options. The real 644 question—this is the lesson of the Kosovo experience—is: can it do so in practice? The most important matter for me is that we should take great care while we seek to extend the rule of law not to test that rule to destruction. We must harness and cherish that legal resource, rather than risk destroying it altogether.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for giving us the opportunity for this debate. Whatever our political position within the House, many of us have constantly admired his statesmanship and humanity.
From these Benches I want to say how good it has been to hear the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes. He brings to our deliberations a unique experience and perspective. We have heard it well deployed today and we shall look forward to hearing it often in debates of this kind in the future.
Whatever the provocation, Russian punishment of Chechnya has been sickening in its brutality and scale. Nobody with any compassion or humanity could stand idly by and fail to register deep concern and to seek ways of ending the fighting and building peace. However, we must ask ourselves difficult questions. How far, for example, are we responsible for what has happened? Have we perhaps failed to use the past 10 years as imaginatively as we might have done to produce a different situation? Surely the biggest single challenge for foreign policy and diplomacy since the collapse of the Soviet Union was to embrace Russia and draw its leaders into the responsible management of global affairs.
Of course, that was never going to be an easy task. Wounded pride, economic incompetence, opportunism and the Mafia have all been forbidding obstacles. As we sought to expand NATO, to enlarge the European Union and to strengthen still further our ties with Washington, did we put sufficient consistent energy and commitment into our political relations with Moscow? Did our support for Russia show the same imagination as that of the United States for Europe in the aftermath of World War II? Perhaps, in effect, we have humiliated the still massive bear.
The cynical—sinister even—use of a "popular" war by the new Russian leadership to win its election may yet be judged by history to have been a nightmare at least partly of our making. As with Germany after post-First World War Versailles, the possible cost in terms of nationalistic macho may now be becoming clear; and there remains a sobering nuclear dimension.
We all know that what is perceived as "reality", or what is manipulatively presented by those who themselves know better as "reality", can become a political reality however unsoundly based. A widespread perception in Russia, and not only Russia, is that whatever the West's protestations of humanitarianism, the intervention in Kosovo had much to do with power politics and access to Balkan energy supplies. The recourse to NATO for the political as well as military direction of the action is 645 seen as having been a deliberate means of sidelining Russia. We may deplore that—I do—but we have to understand that this perception is there if there is to be any hope of preventing a slide back into international relations reminiscent of the Cold War.
While we may explain them as incidental, we also have to recognise that references at Rambouillet to market economy and access by NATO to all parts of Yugoslavia are frequently used as evidence of a wider agenda than peace-making alone. They are portrayed as evidence of a need to present Belgrade with an unacceptable package because of a prior commitment to military action.
When I was in Albania and Macedonia for the Council of Europe last April, I saw for myself the mud, squalor and acute suffering of the ethnic Albanian refugees. The war had not prevented the miserable flood of people and the destruction of their country. In August, in Kosovo, Montenegro and Yugoslavia—again for the Council of Europe—I saw the Serb refugees and the particularly pitiful plight of the Roma. The war had clearly not stopped ethnic oppression and atrocities. I also saw the long-term cost for the people of Yugoslavia of the large-scale destruction of economic infrastructure. It was sobering to hear an opposition mayor, standing in the midst of industrial devastation, wryly observing that it was difficult to rally pro-Western support against such a background. He also observed that the bombing had given the government in Belgrade an excuse which they could use for all economic misfortune when in fact the economy had been in dire straits before the war.
As we move into the new millennium, what can be done? First, while of course being firm and using all possible statesmanship to bring peace in Chechnya, the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary should set the tone by working tirelessly and transparently for positive relations with Russia. The Secretary of State for International Development should, for her part, look closely at our aid and economic co-operation to be certain that they are geared as effectively as they should be to build upon Russian experience, rather than indirectly promoting dependency and resentment by a patronising culture or an undue bias towards the benefits of British firms and consultants. There has to be a convincing political context with all the authority of No. 10.
As one of only five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, similar commitment and authority must be put into demonstrating our determination to work through the United Nations. The significance of explicit—not implicit—UN Security Council authority for action is that it is there for all to see as action for the application of universally applicable principles and cannot easily be portrayed as partial. If vetoes are exercised, so be it. The world will see who is responsible for them. There then remains recourse to the General Assembly with the hope of securing a "Uniting for Peace" resolution in that wider body. I suggest that only if that fails has the time arrived to contemplate ad hoc action.
646 The Balkans remain as complex as ever. Over simplification would be naive However, lasting stability will depend upon regional solutions. There is no shortage of people in the region yearning for economic co-operation in south-east Europe. But that will depend upon a change of government and policy in Belgrade. For that to be achieved we must, frankly, show more imagination than we have in Iraq. There must be carrots as well as sticks; available benefits to be focused upon by alternative leaders. At all costs, we must avoid shutting down any political dynamic instead of seeking ways to encourage it.
In Kosovo the challenge is to move from de facto international colonialism to genuine self-government. There has to be political accountability. That must mean elections, but not rushed elections which might simply legitimise existing highly questionable power structures. Preparation for the elections will be as important as the elections themselves, not least the development of the media. The rights of refugees will also be critical. In the meantime, the urgency and importance of bringing the number of civil police up to the necessary level and strengthening the administration of justice cannot be over-stressed.
As the common, foreign and security policy of the European Union begins to take shape, it seems to me that the repeated lesson at the end of the last millennium was that conflict resolution and proactive diplomacy must be put at the centre of policy. It would be a grave indictment of us all if we moved into the new age settling for the inevitability of reactive policy with all its humanitarian and economic costs. There were those who saw in good time what could happen in Yugoslavia. They were not heeded. Once more the world only focused when crisis was upon it. It is always easier to concentrate on rapid deployment forces, crisis management and peacekeeping than it is to promote peacemaking as the paramount imperative. It is there that the real challenge to our Government in the new age lies.
Moving about Belgrade and Yugoslavia last summer, I was awed by the technological prowess of precision bombing—the ability to take out exactly that part of a building, industrial complex or power supply which is the target, with genuinely little immediate collateral damage, whatever the long-term cost. That that can be done from a relatively safe height or distance with minimal risk for those delivering the blow has transformed the nature of warfare. There is a danger that powerful nations could move more rapidly into military action than in the past. That must not happen. If we regard war as on occasion part of a necessary political strategy, our generals and the governments they serve must become more, not less, politically accountable.
We live—we constantly speak of it—in an age of globalisation. Internationalism in that age is indispensable. But it is my conviction, after a life in international work, that to be sustained it has to be internationalism rooted in self-confidence and co-operation, not a dogma imposed by autocratic leaders.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Lord Hurd of Westwell
My Lords, I join others in congratulating and thanking my noble friend Lord Carrington for his excellent speech today and for his initiative in creating this debate. Whatever the shape of your Lordships' House in the future, it must be right that from time to time we should be able to look calmly at the present and future of our foreign policy without getting into a lather about party spin or tomorrow's headlines, as we are doing today.
I congratulate also the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his admirable maiden speech. It is something we expected and something we thoroughly enjoyed. I entirely agree with what he said: that is, that the Commonwealth is not always capable of resolving the disagreements of the world. But it provides a forum for wide debate and cheerful, good humoured disagreement which is often an important prelude to getting the thing right. That is a characteristic of the Commonwealth which I have not found in any other international organisation.
Anyone who deals with foreign affairs lives under the tyranny of the unexpected. There is a tradition that a new Prime Minister is briefed by the Chiefs of Staff. If any of the three Prime Ministers whom I served had read an atlas after being told by Chiefs of Staff, "We believe Prime Minister, after careful thought, that what is needed in the British interest is to deploy several thousand troops in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor", they would have supposed that those Chiefs of Staff were temporarily demented, because in none of those places is there any conceivable British strategic or commercial interest. Yet, at the end of last year that was the position in which we found ourselves. Why was that? My noble friend Lord Carrington sketched the reason. Things were happening in all three of those places which not just the Government but also Her Majesty's Opposition and the bulk of opinion found to be unacceptable to the extent that they felt that we should play our part with others in stopping those events.
I do not myself doubt—although I notice a certain revisionism creeping into this debate with regard to Kosovo—that those enterprises were justified. However, as has been said, it is a mistake to elevate this into some universal, ethical rule. There will be plenty of wrongdoing and plenty of cruelty in the world in the next century in which we do not and will not be able to intervene simply because it is unreal to suppose that such intervention would be successful. Therefore we should not put ourselves—and the Government should not put themselves—on a pedestal in these respects. If you climb on a pedestal, your fall if things go wrong is that much farther and that much heavier. What we have to show—and are showing—is that it is the instinct of the people and of Parliament and of government to help where we realistically can.
I wish to develop this by mentioning three more specific points. First, as has been said, it is much easier to get into these situations than to get out. NATO now has in effect, with UN backing and with EU participation and money, two protectorates in the 648 Balkans: in Kosovo and in Bosnia. The Government recently announced a reduction in the British troop presence in both Bosnia and Kosovo. Will the Minister say when she replies to the debate—or in writing—whether she expects the present levels of British troops in the Balkans to be maintained, whether she envisages further reductions or whether the levels will remain stable for the time being? Can she say anything—she probably cannot—about how long the Government now think that they are likely to remain?
I follow that by saying that in my view—it is shared clearly by others in this House—there is more likely than not to be further trouble in the Balkans before too long. We may well see violence breaking out inside Serbia—that is clearly a possibility—inside Albania or inside Macedonia as these are all fragile states. As my noble friend Lady Rawlings has already pointed out, there is a clear danger of conflict arising from arguments between Montenegro and Serbia.
In 1996 when there was a civil war in Albania we stood back and took no part in trying to sort it out. That luxury is no longer available to us. We are involved now, not as a result of any future decisions but as a result of the decisions which have been taken and the presence of our troops and their lines of communications in the Balkans. We are involved. It is important that those of us who on the whole support this Balkan commitment should encourage the Government, and indeed insist that the Government recognise that it is a deep, long and difficult commitment for a good purpose and that it cannot be brushed aside as something temporary and extraordinary. One consequence of the commitment and of the dangers which may continue in the Balkans is that it lessens our ability to intervene in other places, perhaps the Caucasus, the Caspian or Africa, where similar horrors may occur.
Secondly, I ask about authority. The preceding speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, touched on this. The Security Council of the United Nations has a unique legal and political authority. That is to say the Charter states that the Security Council needs to authorise the use of force in international affairs except in self-defence. In the Gulf, in Bosnia and in East Timor that consent was obtained. In Kosovo it was not obtained. Why was that? It was because the Russian and Chinese vetoes sat like a roadblock on the UN road to action. Therefore we went round the roadblock. We are back now with UN authority in Kosovo and the UN resolution, but we circumvented the roadblock. We acted without the authority of the Security Council. That is a weakness in terms of international law and in terms of universal acceptance. What the noble Lord said about Russia illustrates that point. I do not think that it is enough for Ministers to say, as they have, that international law has moved on and that we now all have a duty to intervene where there are humanitarian horrors. If that is so, who is to be the judge? If the Security Council is pushed on one side, there is clearly a danger that everyone will be judge in their own cause and we may not always like the consequences of that.
649 Finally, I wish to say a few words about the European response to these issues. I believe that the Government are right, with the French, to try to encourage our fellow Europeans to act together in humanitarian and peacekeeping tasks. I do not see that enterprise as a challenge or a rival to NATO. If I did, I would oppose it. However, I do not think that that is the case. We are talking about enterprises where NATO may not want to take a hand but to which NATO clearly would not object. I simply make two points. This message must be addressed not just to our continental allies but also to Her Majesty's Treasury, because what is involved is also a commitment on our part to maintain our armed services, their radios and their light weapons—to take account of the revelations of last week—and to make sure that we not only recruit men but can retain them.
I believe that it is a mistake to exaggerate the size of operations which could realistically be undertaken solely by European forces not just because the European forces of the right kind are not there, but because of the nature of the United States as a super-power. It is involved in policy. It is too big to stand aside. One of the difficulties which we faced in Bosnia was that the United States was deeply involved emotionally and politically at almost every stage but was not sharing the risks on the ground. That mismatch produced creaks and tensions inside the western alliance which required difficult remedial action. Therefore we should not let ourselves get into positions supposing that we are able simply as Europeans to act on the ground without the Americans in a major matter.
This leads to my conclusion almost regardless of which part of the world one looks at. We need European/US partnership. Anglo/American partnership is fine and has been a great success on many occasions through the century. However, if one looks at the Balkans, or at the Caucasus where there is likely to be substantial trouble, or at the Middle East, one sees that what is needed is not just Anglo/American but European/American partnership. Where that is lacking at the moment, as it is in our dealings with Iraq, we get ourselves into substantial difficulty and become as a whole ineffective. Therefore I believe that with all the different pressures and difficulties and our world-wide interests and concerns, the main duty of the Foreign Office and of British Foreign Secretaries now and for the foreseeable future is to create and sustain valid European/US partnerships wherever there is danger and tension so that our diplomacy and our Armed Forces, where necessary, act coherently and together.
§ 4.28 p.m
§ Baroness Stern
My Lords, I am glad to be able to speak in this important debate which is certainly something of a challenge before such a distinguished and experienced gathering. I congratulate my Cross-Bench colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on 650 his maiden speech and thank him for what he said about the Commonwealth. I greatly agree with those comments.
I wish to discuss one of the consequences of the events of 1989 and the coming of the new world order that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke of in his opening words. I wish to discuss the widening gap between rich and poor which resulted from that. I wish to speak specifically about one of the consequences and go very rapidly, if I may, from the general to the particular. I wish to speak about something that respects no national borders—that is, the re-emergence of infectious diseases—and, in particular, I wish to speak about the epidemic of tuberculosis that is taking hold rapidly in the countries of eastern Europe and central Asia.
Until 1990, countries in the former Soviet Union were reporting rates of tuberculosis very like those in Western Europe. Since 1990 there has been a rapid reversal. In 1990 there were 34 cases per 100,000 people in Russia; by 1997 the rate had increased to 82. In Azerbaijan, over the same period, the increase is from 37 per 100,000 to 60; in Georgia, from 28 to 155 and in Kyrgystan, from 53 to 120 per 100,000.
This epidemic is particularly acute in the prisons of the region. Most of the pre-trial prisons in the countries of the former Soviet Union are places of unimaginable overcrowding and squalor. Those of us who work in this House may think that we know something about overcrowding. We know about having one square metre in which to work—those of us who are lucky enough to have that amount of space—but we do not have to live here and we do not have to sleep here. Prisoners in these pre-trial prisons have so little space that they take it in turns to lie down and sleep. They sleep in three shifts, and the day sleeping shift misses the one hour in the fresh air every day. The food is meagre and nutritionally inadequate. There is very little natural light. It is an ideal environment for the spread of an airborne infection such as tuberculosis.
Medicines are in short supply; there are not enough for a complete course of treatment and they are bartered for other goods. Many prisoners take their medicines sporadically. This leads to drug resistance and they develop a strain of TB that does not respond to the normal drugs but only to a long course of drugs that are very expensive—too expensive, it is said, for a poor country such as Russia.
It is estimated that 10 per cent of the 1 million Russian prisoners have active TB and that between 20 and 40 per cent of those have a drug-resistant variety. In Kazakhstan, about one in five of all the 83,000 prisoners are infected, many of them drug resistant. In Mongolia, Latvia and Georgia the position is the same.
There are many reasons why this situation should cause concern in the international community. It is indeed an abuse of human rights to subject people to a prison term, or to put them into pre-trial detention, when there is such a high likelihood that they will contract a deadly disease there. Prison is an incubator 651 and creates a pool of infection. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners leave prison every year and take their untreated or half- treated infection with them—and people travel to western Europe and to North America.
Action is needed on many fronts. Prison reform is urgently required so that prison conditions are less conducive to the spread of disease. Criminal justice reform is essential so that fewer people are sent to these overcrowded prisons unnecessarily. The work therefore being done by the Foreign Office under its human rights fund to assist with penal reform in Russia and in neighbouring countries is very worthwhile. I ask the Minister who is to reply to the debate whether she is satisfied that the amounts of money available are enough for this task, and whether she envisages seeking an increase in the fund for this and other similarly desperate situations when she becomes involved with the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review discussions.
Health reform is also needed. It is a reform that must include the prisons. If community health does not include prison health, much money will be wasted. I should welcome an assurance from the Department for International Development that the large health programme aimed at combating TB in Russia will include a genuine attempt to involve the prisons and the prison administration, where many dedicated doctors are working.
Finally, I should like to ask the Government to consider what can be done about the high price of pharmaceuticals. Why are the second-level drugs needed to cure multi-drug-resistant TB, AIDS and other diseases so costly that poor countries cannot afford them? Are they made from very expensive raw materials, or is there some other reason why the price is so high? Can anything else be done to improve a situation that is leading to so much suffering and so much early death?
§ 4.36 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, should like to start by thanking my noble friend Lord Carrington for introducing the debate. This has been, to say the very least, an eventful year for the House of Lords. I share with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, my pleasure, and that of the whole House, that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is still with us—not only for himself but for the great expertise that he brings to the House.
My Lords, that is something that was well illustrated in his introductory speech. If I may say so, it was a very good example of the House of Lords at its best. It is something which I hope we shall not lose, whatever happens in the future.
I also should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his maiden speech. I very much agree with what he said about the Commonwealth. I wish to speak today very largely about one part of the Commonwealth. But before I do so, I should like to 652 support the remarks of my noble and learned friend Lord Howe about the Foreign Service and the Diplomatic Service. I was a Foreign Office Minister for only four years but I came greatly to appreciate the calibre of the people who served and looked after me; and greatly to appreciate the calibre and the sense of service of our diplomats abroad—particularly of their wives, who also played a very real part in the service.
I have been disturbed to hear about the cutbacks in the Foreign Service at a time when, as my noble and learned friend Lord Howe has clearly explained, the needs and demands of the service have expanded. All of us have benefited—far more than most people ever appreciate—from the very high standards of the Diplomatic Service. It is very important that nothing should be done in any way to damage its important role in the world today. Nothing could illustrate better the importance of maintaining the calibre and standing of our Foreign Service than the speeches that we have heard already today.
I said that I wished to speak on one part of the Commonwealth. As your Lordships will know, I have had for many years an abiding interest in the future of the Caribbean and Britain's relationship with that region. I speak as president of the West India Committee and as the chairman of the Cuba Initiative.
In my view the Caribbean is a region which is blessed with outstanding individuals, creativity and the will to succeed. Yet today it is a region which is vulnerable politically, economically fragile, prone to natural disasters and a target for organised crime because of the very small size of most of its nations.
As globalisation proceeds, Caribbean governments and their peoples must identify how the region can become part of the world economy. These small countries are having to determine—often their economies are based on a single crop—how they are to survive in the new arrangements in the world. Will they be able to adapt their agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors to a world where preferences have gone? The challenge that they face is to restructure small and medium-sized enterprises in limited domestic markets in such a way that their industry remains competitive.
That will not be easy and it will take time: it will need rationalisation and alternative approaches to development involving organisations other than government. It will also require the help of friends such as the United Kingdom. Above all, it will require time in which a stable transition can be achieved if some parts of the region are not to descend into social, economic and even political chaos.
I have often remarked before that small states can cause a quite disproportionate amount of difficulty in the world particularly when the eyes of the great powers are focused on what they believe to be far greater and bigger issues. I have in mind such cases as the Falkland Islands and, more recently, Montserrat. I am therefore pleased to learn that the post-Lomé negotiations for a new trade and aid relationship between the African, Caribbean and Pacific states and the European Union have led to agreement on a way out of the policy of preferences.
653 Although some aspects of this agreement have yet to be completed, a basis has been established whereby over the next eight years new, and most probably region-specific trade agreements, will be negotiated. Some time after 2008 this new round is expected to lead to what in all probability will be something close to a free trade area between the whole of Europe and the Caribbean. That will most probably occur in parallel to the economic integration of the region into the free trade area of the Americas.
No one in Britain or in the Caribbean should underestimate its significance. Within a decade our special relationship with the anglophone part of the region will change forever. It will alter our trade and investment patterns in a region which, despite its smallness, remains a market for over £1 billion of direct exports, investment of about £8 billion and an unquantified but very high level of services. It will change forever the special ties we have through our combined experience of history, common institutions and language, to say nothing of family.
It is in that context that I believe it is vital that we redefine Britain's relationship with the region. I am very glad that this process has begun. The noble Baroness who is to reply to the debate has already indicated that that will be so.
In this context, and leaving aside the political issues and our relationship with Europe, I believe that there are areas on which our relationship with the Caribbean should now concentrate. I believe that the most important is education. If the region is to develop new industries based on tourism, information technology and financial and other services and so reduce its reliance on primary agriculture, the pressing need will be for training and education. I believe that Britain can do much to help. We have much to offer. The public service in the Caribbean, political parties, local authorities, the administration of justice, trades unions and employers organisations in the anglophone Caribbean are almost all based on British models. Educational exchanges, assistance with best practice, and training provided directly by such bodies could, if properly co-ordinated, offer a unique opportunity to renew our relationship.
I believe, too, that our business community in the United Kingdom has an important role to play, together with NGOs and other social partners, in helping to support alternative approaches to development. If we are to increase development funds for more advanced parts of the developing world such as the Caribbean, it is clear that the Government here and in the region need to encourage private sector-led initiatives. These issues will be explored at a seminar to be held in St Lucia in March by the Caribbean Council for Europe together with Oxfam and Georgetown University's Caribbean project. I hope that the Government will carefully consider the outcome of that conference.
That brings me to my principal point. I am concerned sometimes at the Government's attitude to how non-governmental change is to be delivered. 654 Despite having a high profile intellectually, most institutions dealing with non-governmental Caribbean development issues are weak and are finding it almost impossible to compete with the ever-increasing demands placed on them by government and international institutions. For example, all Caribbean private sector institutions and NGOs are under-funded and stretched to the limit. That situation will worsen as bilateral and multilateral agencies seek to deliver programmes which depend on the private sector increasing the pace of development.
There is one particular area of very great concern. In its review of all its area advisory groups, British Trade International is seeking to abolish one of the few centres of Caribbean excellence, the Caribbean Trade Advisory Group. Irrespective of the very special work that CARITAG's committee and secretariat are undertaking to encourage trade and investment throughout the region with Britain and countries such as Cuba, CARITAG may be subsumed into an approach that sees the Americas as a homogenous whole. It is not difficult to see that in such a situation the Caribbean could be the last area to be considered although it could be unquestionably the most vulnerable.
I conclude by recognising the noble Baroness's deep interest and concern for the region's future. The framework for change is being established in Brussels, Geneva and in the Americas. The challenge now is to ensure that we in Britain, together with our friends in the region, find practical solutions that can be delivered quickly if the region is to achieve a successful transition to open markets and a new relationship. In that respect I believe that British and Caribbean institutions have a vital role to play. Above all, I believe that the Caribbean is too important to be sidelined or forgotten.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, we are certainly enjoying a feast of oratory. For many years, when people ask me who was the most effective speaker in the House of Lords, I used to say that it was the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. But recently people have asked whether I have heard about the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland. I heard her make a wonderful speech the other day. Now the noble Lord has a rival. We should be satisfied now speeches are sandwiched between those of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland.
If I had been asked who was the most influential speaker in the House of Lords I would have said until now that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Young. She may have lost some of her supporters. I do not know whether she is still the most impressive. At any rate, I would say that that was the situation until now. I shall be followed by a speaker who has a special attraction. I have no idea what he is going to say, which is a great help. Those are the personal issues, and we are very lucky to have such speakers.
We are at a crossroads in foreign policy. I congratulate the Government guardedly on not making up their minds too quickly on how they intend 655 to move. Eventually they will have to reach certain decisions which will affect the lives of the people of this country and beyond for many years. So what is said today will be significant. It may help the Government to have a few reflections from one of the older Members of this House based on experience of life that goes back nearly 80 years. There was the foundation of the League of Nations in 1919. That was certainly an event of limited historical importance. From then on, British governments have naturally been primarily concerned with British interests. But there has also been a search for world peace, which at times has been more intense than at other times. That was a new element after 1919.
In 1935, just before I joined, there was an official decision by the Labour Party to come out against pacifism, which had always been a very strong element in the Labour Party. I attended a Labour conference in 1935 when George Lansbury, then Leader of the Party, declared in ringing tones:As Jesus Christ said in the Garden, those who take the sword will perish by the sword".However, he was overturned and Ernest Bevin said:I am not going to have George Lansbury hawking his conscience all round Europe".From then on Labour was committed to corrective security, even if it involved military action.
In the immediate post-war years the governments of Britain, France, Russia and America were involved in holding down Germany, so one could not have said that any European policy was developing there from the top level.
Winston Churchill, then Leader of the Opposition, looked further ahead. When I was Minister for Germany in 1947 he lumbered up to me at the Buckingham Palace Garden Party and said:I am glad that one English mind was suffering for the miseries of Germany".I did not like to say that I am Irish, but that did not matter. He had the idea. At the same time, he was the leading figure in the development of the European idea.
Labour came to power in 1964. From 1964 to 1968 the Labour Party and the Labour government moved uncertainly towards Europe. It took the Conservative government under Sir Edward Heath in 1970 to come out wholeheartedly in favour of European policy.
The position since 1970 has been totally reversed: the Labour Party is hovering on the brink of a much stronger commitment to Europe; and the Conservative Party, under its official leadership—I do not know about individuals, however prominent—is hanging back.
I have always counted myself as a pro-European. In 1950, when I was Minister of Civil Aviation, I saw Dr Adenauer and he asked me to try to persuade the Labour government, through Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin, to join the Franco-German iron and steel pact. I was laughed to scorn. I was told at that time, in 1950, by the Labour leaders in a statement that was written by a civil servant, that to tie 656 ourselves to Europe would be to tie ourselves to a corpse. That was the official attitude that commended itself to the leaders.
Today, we are hovering on the brink of going into the euro. I have always called myself a pro-European, but I am more cautious now, for reasons that I can set out in a sentence or two. I believe that today, as in the First and Second World Wars and more recently in Kosovo, the peace of the world depends on the United States more than any single power. I would not find it easy to support any policy that would interfere with our complete freedom to act in conjunction with the United States and, if necessary, to give it strong encouragement.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Lord Lamont of Lerwick
My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Carrington for the brilliant way in which he introduced the debate; we are all very much indebted to him. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his striking, eloquent maiden speech.
I should like to address the question that has been touched on by one or two noble Lords of human rights and the new international order and the new approach that was spelled out by the Prime Minister in an article in Newsweek last April. He called for a "new internationalism" which would not tolerate dictators who,visit horrific punishments on their own people to stay in power",Whenever the West sees a tyrant abusing its own people, apparently it should feel compelled to intervene.
In the Government's brave new world, leaders are to be held to account for their crimes committed against their own people.
Those responsible for such crimes",said the Prime Minister,will have nowhere to hide".This is admirable, heady stuff. But will its pursuit increase the sum of human happiness, or does its pursuit possibly carry dangers of its own?
The Government's policy is one that would make Richelieu, Salisbury, Canning or even Bismark turn in their graves. Bismarck, I notice, was dismissed by the Prime Minister with the brief aside, "Bismarck was simply wrong".
The classic doctrine of international relations has always been that aggression is the ultimate crime, no nation can intervene in the internal affairs of another; frontiers are sacrosanct; state immunity is essential for dealings between governments. These doctrines have been called into question not just by the Prime Minister but increasingly by lawyers.
657 The noble and learned Lord, Lord Millett, in his far-reaching judgment in the case on General Pinochet, stated:The doctrine of state immunity is the product of the classical theory of international law … It is a cliché of modern international law that the classical theory no longer prevails in its unadulterated form … the way in which a state treats its own citizens within its own borders has now become a legitimate concern to the international community".The contrary view was stated in the same case, equally trenchantly, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goff, in his dissenting judgment. He stated:Preservation of state immunity is a matter of particular importance to powerful countries whose heads of state perform an executive role and who may therefore be regarded as possible targets by governments of states which, for deeply-felt political reasons, deplore their actions while in office".The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goff, warned of the dangerous precedent that was being set and the danger that it might pose, for example, to Northern Ireland Ministers who might find themselves being extradited. He did not warn, as he might have done, that the same risk, arguably, could be held to apply to President Clinton and the Prime Minister after the bombing of Yugoslavia.
On the argument between the noble and learned Lords, Lord Millett and Lord Goff, I am on the side of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goff, not for legal reasons, on which I am not competent to judge, but simply on grounds of practicality and politics.
International law, I suggest, has gone too far. Too many questions that should be resolved by politicians are now being decided by lawyers. International law is in danger of becoming the enemy of conflict resolution. International law runs the risk of placing a premium on misplaced doctrines such as that of unconditional surrender, a doctrine that tends to prolong bloodshed and suffering, compared with a willingness to negotiate at an earlier stage.
Whatever politicians may say, amnesties, negotiations with terrorists, wiping the slate clean, forgetting the past, are all part of finding the solutions to both international and domestic problems. We, of all countries, ought to understand this, since in Northern Ireland we have in effect put the law to one side and, whatever Ministers may say, we have a de facto amnesty. However, the Government seem to think that anybody can be put on trial anywhere for crimes against humanity, so long as those crimes are not committed in Belfast. If this doctrine were applied universally there could have been no peace process in the Middle East or in South Africa and no reconciliation in post-Franco Spain.
An ethical foreign policy or a policy based on international law must be applied consistently; otherwise it is neither law nor ethics. NATO intervened in Yugoslavia, but not in Chechnya, for obvious reasons. Ironically, the Russians cite NATO's actions in Yugoslavia as a justification for their actions. In Indonesia, a country with which we have no historical connection at all, we intervened only with 658 the consent of the government who had been massacring people in East Timor for over a quarter of a century.
In London, General Pinochet was arrested against the wishes of the elected government of his country, while Jiang Zemin, whose government killed in Tiananmen Square in a single day more people than the government of Chile were alleged to have done over 15 years, was hosted with first growths in Buckingham Palace, demonstrations were ruthlessly suppressed and replicas of the Dalai Lama were removed from Madame Tussauds. There is something not quite consistent here.
The Prime Minister has urged us to treat NATO's action in Kosovo as an example to be followed elsewhere, so it is legitimate to look back and examine it. The question must be asked: was the war in Kosovo even legal? The Government now claim that there is or ought to be a principle that makes it lawful for force to be used against another state without the authority of the Security Council where it is necessary,to avert what would otherwise be a human disaster".Until now the generally accepted view has been that, under both international law and the United Nations Charter, force may only be used against another state in self-defence or under the authority of the Security Council.
On 29th April last year at the International Court of Justice, Yugoslavia brought proceedings against NATO, including the UK, alleging that the NATO intervention was unlawful. In contesting the case, the UK did not address the arguments but rested on a legal technicality. The UK argued that the court did not have jurisdiction because Yugoslavia had made the complaint less than 12 months after accepting the court's jurisdiction. It is a great pity that the Government ducked the issue and deprived the world of an authoritative ruling on this important matter.
There is a considerable weight of opinion against the NATO position. Particularly relevant is the conclusion of the International Court of Justice in the case of Nicaragua against the United States in 1985 where it stated:the protection of human rights, a strictly humanitarian objective, cannot be compatible with the mining of ports or the destruction of oil installations".The Government have tried to justify their action on grounds of urgent necessity. But it is not clear that even that makes the action legal. Was there really urgent necessity? Negotiations with Serbia had been going on for months. NATO had made its threats months before the bombing started. Furthermore, the Government had even published their attempt to defend themselves in international law before the bombing began. The NATO action did not come anywhere near leaving no alternative means or time for further consideration.
The morality of a policy has to be judged not only by its motives but also by its consequences. The dramatic increase in ethnic cleansing only occurred after the bombing started. In a report of NATO to the UN on 23rd March 1999, it was stated that people had been 659 moved at a rate o f around 33,000 per month. During the bombing, the rate rose to an average of around 250,000 per month and much higher in the first weeks after the start of the bombing. The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that NATO probably killed more Serb civilians than soldiers during its 11-week bombardment, with an estimated 1,500 civilian deaths and 8,000 wounded. In addition, there are the civilian casualties after the end of the bombing. According to a report in The Times, there were around 14,000 unexploded bombs in Kosovo. In the first month after the bombing stopped, bombs killed or maimed people at an average of five people per day.
Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, has questioned,the proportionality of NATO's action".Jimmy Carter has described the bombing as,senseless and excessively brutal".President Mandela has stated that NATO's actions were just as criminal as those of Milosevic. All these people are public figures who over a long time have shown a consistent concern for human rights.
The great 19th century liberal, Richard Cobden, himself an internationalist economically, argued against interfering in the affairs of other countries on the grounds that it increased rather than diminished the sum of human misery. He wrote:In all my travels … three reflections constantly occurred to me: how much unnecessary solicitude and alarm England devotes to the affairs of foreign countries; with how little knowledge we enter on the task of regulating the concerns of other people; and how much better we might employ our energies in improving matters at home".We would do well to heed his wise words.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whose time as Foreign Secretary—a time when I first had the privilege of joining your Lordships' House—I naturally look back upon as a golden age. But, of course, in a sense it was not a golden age except in personal terms. As the noble Lord himself has reminded us in his speech today, it coincided with the beginning of the last 10 years of the Cold War, a conflict which, on several occasions, almost erupted into a hot war, in which nuclear weapons would have been used and so probably would have caused a general breakdown. However disorganised and dangerous the present time may seem, and however attractively disciplined the era of the Cold War may sometimes now appear, it seems to me to be foolish to have any nostalgia for that vanished age which was potentially an appallingly brutal time.
Nevertheless, some of our present difficulties obviously derive from the era of the Cold War; for example, the problem of nuclear weapons and their proliferation. It is worth recalling that the Cold War began its dangerous stage in 1946 when Stalin rejected a far-sighted United States plan for the international ownership of all nuclear material. Under that plan, 660 nothing connected with atomic or nuclear endeavours from the uranium mine to the reactor would be owned by independent sovereign states. That US plan—the Baruch plan as it was called, after the United States Representative who introduced it to the United Nations—had one tactical disadvantage upon which the Russian delegation at the United Nations seized; namely, that in any plan to punish an offending state, the veto in the Security Council would not apply. All the same, that Baruch plan, and the Acheson-Lilienthal plan upon which it was based, might now be looked at again in the light of present dangers and, presumably, opportunities.
I believe that one can be reasonably certain that if ever a major nuclear exchange were to take place in war, the world—or what was left of it afterwards—would probably insist on just such an internationalisation as provided for in the Baruch plan. How much better it would be if we could achieve that beforehand and so remove at least that threat from the list of risks in the new century.
Many noble Lords have already pointed out that in this new century Britain has many advantages as an internationally responsible power. First, thanks largely to the achievements of the noble Baroness in whose Cabinet the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, served, Britain now has a strong economy. The sad era of the 1960s and 1970s when every year seemed to register a new decline in our economic performance is now over. I am sure that in consequence British diplomats are the first to feel relieved. Secondly, the Labour Party has abandoned its socialist fundamentalism with the final disappearance of Clause 4. Thirdly, our Armed Forces win golden opinions whenever they do anything, although the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was right to point out that those admirable forces are on a rather small scale. Fourthly, our parliamentary arrangements are admired, perhaps too much given the excessive number of Members in another place where there also appear to be far too many Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries. Fifthly, the BBC World Service continues to be generally admired, although it is not very well funded. Sixthly, we have the Commonwealth to which the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, referred in his splendid maiden speech. Seventhly, perhaps the most important advantage is our great name as a defender of freedom. As the acting-President of Russia, Mr Putin, said in a remarkable declaration a week ago,Russia will not soon become, if ever, a second edition of the United States or England, where liberal values have deep historical traditions".Those seven important trump cards play a major part in our international relations.
On the other hand, there are several weaknesses which affect our international capacity. First, as my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, pointed out, over the past 50 years we have demonstrated continuous indecision in relation to the whole idea of a united Europe. As others have spoken eloquently on that indecision I shall devote no further attention to it. Secondly, I believe that the constitutional 661 arrangements for devolution set on foot since 1997 have not been well contrived within a carefully worked out frame. Those arrangements could, in the long run, affect the effectiveness of foreign policy. Thirdly, we continue to teach languages badly. Fourthly, very often statesmen continue to talk as if there is an endless number of armed forces available for any eventuality. Fifthly, we have a wildly nationalistic popular press whose irrelevance to public policy is not always appreciated abroad where those daily papers, with their appallingly vulgar headlines, are often sold. Sixthly, although I recognise the qualities of the Foreign Service—on many journeys I have greatly benefited from conversations with and hospitality from embassies—we should not forget that the late Lord Franks, in the context of his report on the causes of the Falklands War, remarked that the service was supremely efficient and effective in telling governments what was going on in the world but perhaps a little less effective in suggesting what should be done. Thus, a number of problems remain which could be quite easily resolved by the use of thought and imagination. I believe that Gibraltar is one such problem.
In conclusion, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when in March of last year he questioned the use of NATO to deal with Kosovo. Brutal wrongdoing by a state may at first sight seem a justification for an international reaction, but once it is realised that one cannot react to every such instance the moral premise withers. As any historian of American foreign policy will recall, "brutal wrongdoing" was the wording used by President Theodore Roosevelt in his so-called "corollary" to the Monroe doctrine in 1905 as justification for intervention by the United States in Latin America and the Caribbean. No policy caused so much anguish. President Franklin Roosevelt abandoned the very thought of it with the announcement in 1933 of his welcome Good Neighbour policy. How ironical it would be if historians were to judge that President Clinton's achievement in 1999 was to extend the Monroe doctrine to apply to the very continent which it sought originally to challenge; namely, Europe.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Lord Hunt of Wirral
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Carrington on initiating this debate on the international situation. I agree with those other noble Lords who have drawn attention to the fact that this is just the kind of debate that does much to underpin the work of the House. I hope that it will continue to be a feature of our debates and deliberations in future. I was also delighted that my noble friend referred to the United Nations. Long before 16 years' uninterrupted membership of successive governments, during which time I never managed to convince either Mrs Thatcher or Mr Major that I should serve in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I cut my political teeth as vice-chairman of the British Youth Council before I 662 ascended to the chairmanship and presidency and worked closely with a certain Mr Peter Mandelson. I shall say more about that on another occasion.
I was a participant in the first UN-model assembly. I was very thrilled by that, particularly when I drew the subject of China, a member of the Security Council. I carefully drafted my speech and stood up in front of the 2,500 people present. To my horror, because of the involvement of Nationalist China at the time, everyone left. All the countries walked out, followed by the observers who thought that it was a coffee break. I delivered my carefully honed speech to no one at all. For that reason I am delighted that some of my former honourable friends and noble friends have stayed to hear me on this occasion.
The noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, made an outstanding maiden speech. The fact that he seized the subject of the Commonwealth and highlighted the two enormous challenges which face it—the World Trade Organisation and the Irish question—demonstrates that we shall hear a good deal from the noble Lord. If he maintains the standard that he has achieved today, he will be listened to with great respect on every future occasion.
My noble friend Lord Carrington referred to the bipartisan nature of foreign policy and the importance of maintaining it. I rather hope to do that this afternoon, following the very distinguished historian the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, and the remarkably good speech of my noble friend Lord Lamont. I say to my noble friend that I want time to reflect on some of those important analogies that he drew.
I should like to deal with the whole question of war crimes. Before I do so, perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, that I remember serving with him for several years when I had the honour to be Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I enjoyed that time and had great respect for his judgment. As Treasurer I also doubled as Government Deputy Chief Whip. The only thing I remember about foreign affairs was my concern that when it came to voting, Foreign Office Ministers seemed to follow the advice of their officials that the House of Commons was just another foreign country to be visited from time to time. I, of course, make an exception of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, who was present on every important occasion.
However, the topic throws now into perspective the opportunity to range over a number of subjects. I wish to focus on a case involving a certain gentleman called Konrad Kalejs. This was probably one of the worst cases arising out of the last world war. I was very concerned indeed at the way in which that case was handled. I thank my noble friend Lord Janner of Braunstone, and my honourable friend David Sumberg, Member of the European Parliament, for accompanying me to see the Home Secretary; and my noble friend Lord Merlyn-Rees for coming with us to see the Foreign Secretary. Our concern was emphasised when we realised that Konrad Kalejs had entered this country through Birmingham Airport on 663 his own passport with a valid visa and was not stopped in any way; nor was his entry noticed. I hope that the Minister will pass these comments to the Home Secretary although the issue covers the work of both the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. I was concerned that that name was not on the suspect list. I heard a comment that no World War II criminals were on the suspect list. I want to believe that that cannot be the case. I understand that an inquiry is now taking place. I hope that the inquiry will result in the inclusion on the suspect list of those suspected of serious war crimes who still unfortunately escape justice.
The Special Department in America had investigated Konrad Kalejs over a 10-year period, from 1984–94, and had concluded that his conduct during the last war justified his being deported as a war criminal. The evidence pointed to the fact that he was an officer in probably the most vicious, nastiest and most evil extermination squad of the last world war. Together with Mr Svicoris and Mr Victor Akia, they masterminded the extermination of over 30,000 people. The head of the US Special Bureau said that if the United States had had a War Crimes Act on the statute book it would have prosecuted Mr Kalejs for his war crimes. He was also deported from Canada. He is an Australian citizen. Yet despite that record, he was able to enter this country without anyone noticing until it was brought to people's attention towards the end of last year.
I was concerned to find that there was no new police investigation. There was simply a review of the evidence held on the files of our special unit which was discontinued after the case of Mr Svicoris, two prosecutions and the investigation of 300 people. That rushed review included the evidence that the Americans, Canadians and Australians had—at least, I hope that it did. I am still not persuaded that there was sufficient co-ordination between all the different governments involved. We know that last Thursday Mr Kalejs took the opportunity to move back to Australia. As my noble friend knows, we are putting pressure on the Australian authorities to reopen their investigations to which I hope they will respond positively, and on the Latvian ambassador to do the same within Latvia.
People may well ask, "Why are you so concerned?" Some people have said, "You're not Jewish. Why are you so concerned about the Holocaust?" My reply is this. For most of my political life, in particular the time when I was involved in youth organisations across the world, I have wanted to fight racism, anti-Semitism, and extremism in all its evil manifestations. The atrocities of the last world war were so appalling and so evil that we must never forget them and we must pursue everyone who had any part to play in them.
I come to my recommendation to the Government. I believe that with the special units there should be more effective co-ordination. Why cannot we have a permanent international investigation unit which brings together all those different special departments so that they act with one resolve; namely, to identify and prosecute the individuals concerned?
664 Then we have the concept of a permanent international court which is subscribed to by over 100 countries. In that concept may well lie some solution although I am concerned that the court could be manoeuvred in a political way. That has to be avoided. The fears of the United States have to be put to rest in a considered way. Perhaps I may say this to my noble friend Lord Carrington. We could return to those great hopes and aspirations which followed the last war, in particular that the United Nations would at last give us permanent peace; and that we would never again see the evil atrocities of the last world war. The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials gave us, I suppose, a false sense of hope. That was quickly dashed over the decades that followed. But now we have a new opportunity. There must be no hiding place for the criminals of the last world war. I hope that some form of international initiative will bring that aim to a clear reality.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Lord Biffen
My Lords, the Chamber has been privileged to hear a most compelling maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes. I am certain that his topic—namely, the future of the Commonwealth—should be entertained again and again in the future.
Perhaps I may express a few words of thanks to my noble friend Lord Carrington. Almost all noble Lords have paid tribute to his political work, his preparation for this debate, and his contribution to it. I want to add even more to his embarrassment. In politics one often gains as much inspiration and entertainment from individuals as from political ideas. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, comes top of the list. At the time of the Falklands and his resignation, I admired so much the dignified and selfless way in which he carried out that act of public service. I have since admired the reticence and loyalty to party leadership which has been the hallmark of his later political belief. That is a great inspiration to Tories operating in not always the happiest of circumstances.
Having discussed that, perhaps I may turn to ethical foreign policy. There is little I can add to what my noble friend Lord Lamont said. It was a most fascinating argument delivered in a compelling fashion without emotion. It is a challenge—I do not say this in a controversial sense—in particular to the Government Front Bench because it sets out what will be the guidelines of British foreign policy in this important field. It cannot be left for fractious debates on the "Today" programme. It has to be resolved in the calmer and more measured circumstances of this Chamber.
I shall return to an ethical foreign policy, but I should like to make one point which concerns a developing major world danger. The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, spoke of the Foreign Office being beset by the unexpected. I want to be so arrogant as to say that that is thoroughly expectable. I refer to the dangers inherent in the situation in Indonesia. Already we have in Timor all the evidence of a trip wire of descent and eventually disintegration. We have in Irian Jaya, in Sulawesi, in Maluku and in North Sumatra situations 665 in which there is now open conflict. Some of that, particularly in the spice islands, is of a particularly fierce character. No one can be at all optimistic about the ability of the Indonesian Government to hold the present position.
Furthermore, we in this country have become used to Indonesia being the product of colonial boundaries; just as for years we were used to Africa being the product of colonial boundaries. They provided a degree of security against tribalism and other forces which would dislocate the social and political background. Now all that is disappearing. In Africa, the situation is miserably confused and conflict is proceeding in horrific terms. It would be a brave person who would say that Indonesia would not fall into a situation in which the boundaries secured by Dutch colonialism are replaced by the splitting of the archipelago into a shoal of islands.
Another consequence which flows from that is that the dispute and conflict will be horrific. That is the message from Africa. The break-up of boundaries, the reassertion of old former loyalties, has not been secured by reasonable agreement. It is the consequence of the most fierce and sustained fighting. One might say, as did Neville Chamberlain of Czechoslovakia, that Indonesia is a faraway country of which we know little. That is right, but in today's world we have trading interests in Indonesia and anxieties to see its peaceful evolution.
One has only to reflect on the events of the past few days—how straitened are our forces in the Balkans and how uncertain is the quality of our armaments on any great scale—to realise that there is no possibility of any British involvement as part of a peacekeeping force in Indonesia, even if peacekeeping lay within the keep of the western European countries, which I very much doubt. We may have to learn a disagreeable lesson and witness the dislocation of an area which is vital to world peace and interests because of its strategic identity. None the less, it would be a situation in which there was precious little we could do.
Against that background, I trace the so-called "ethical foreign policy". I do not believe that it is as strong a runner today as it was a few weeks ago. I believe that the Foreign Secretary is a man of great elasticity and will no doubt be able to cope with the situation. Indeed, I can remember when as a lad he was a Eurosceptic and a devotee of green politics. He has moved on from that and I am sure that he can move on from an ethical foreign policy. However, naturally, there is a concern about certain standards which guide our relationships with other countries.
The great danger is that because we are reluctant to be realistic about the situation, we shall become in favour not of an ethical foreign policy but of an ethical foreign noise. In some senses, that is the worst of all. I am sure that we all like to believe that there is a pebble of principle in our foreign policy and in our conduct with our neighbours, but the chances are that if we are not careful that pebble of principle will become encased in the slime of hypocrisy. That is not something which this nation deserves.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Lord Wright of Richmond
My Lords, I recall that on several occasions in the past few years we have been reminded of the rule that only the Peer following the maiden speaker is allowed to congratulate him or her. But as today the rule has been honoured considerably in the breach rather than in the observance, I want to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his admirable maiden speech. He showed admirable judgment in choosing the same subject that I chose for my maiden speech six years ago. Perhaps I may pay him the highest tribute by saying that I am sure his much-loved and much-lamented predecessor, Lord Charteris of Amisfield, would have endorsed every word he said and would have been delighted by it.
It would be impertinent of me to break the rule twice and to congratulate my former boss on his second maiden speech, so I shall not do so. However, I join other speakers in thanking him for giving us this all-too-rare opportunity to debate the broad range of international affairs.
I want to concentrate my remarks on one specific and long-standing issue to which no reference has been made in the debate and in respect of which there is at last hope of a peaceful resolution. I refer to the talks which have been held, and will shortly be resumed, in the United States between Syrian and Israeli delegations. The talks are an attempt to achieve an agreement which will bring to an end a state of war which has persisted between these two Middle Eastern states since the foundation of Israel in 1947, and which will ensure the security and national interests of both parties.
I know that some of your Lordships have taken the view that I have been excessively critical of Israel in previous debates on the Middle East. This is, I think, the first opportunity I have had to speak on Arab-Israeli issues since Ehud Barak became Prime Minister of Israel. It gives me genuine pleasure to be able to give credit to the political courage and understanding which Prime Minister Barak and my personal friend Yossi Beilin have shown in their readiness to deal sensitively and positively with Israel's Palestinian and other Arab neighbours, in marked contrast to what I personally regarded as the negative and counter-productive policies pursued by Mr Barak's predecessor, Mr Benyamin Netanyahu.
Having had the privilege to serve as British Ambassador in Damascus for two years, from 1979 until 1981, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was Foreign Secretary, I know from personal experience the genuine and long-standing hope of President Assad and his government that a just, peaceful and permanent settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict can be achieved. It has also been a self-evident truth for many years that no lasting peace in the Middle East can ever be achieved without the involvement of Syria.
President Assad's first priority is bound to be the restoration of those parts of Syrian territory which were overrun by the Israeli armed forces in 1967, and 667 subsequently annexed illegally by the Israeli Government and made available for Israeli settlement. Nevertheless, the Syrian Government must be well aware of the major political and economic advantages which would flow to Syria and to all the states in the region, including of course Israel, if a just and lasting peace settlement could be reached with their Israeli neighbours. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm in her summing up of the debate my impression that both Syria and Israel are now showing a genuine readiness to make the necessary commitments to each other.
I hope that the Minister can also confirm my impression that the United States Government, and President Clinton personally, are now giving high, welcome and necessary priority to helping both Israel and Syria to reach such an agreement. Press reports of the difficulties which both the parties have found in even agreeing an agenda for their talks underlines the vital need for help of this sort from the US administration. Perhaps of all the global issues to which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred in speaking of the crucial role of the US power and influence, the Middle East is among the most significant and urgent.
Given the long, history of often uncritical US support for Israel in the past, it is a remarkable tribute to President Clinton's political courage if he is now genuinely ready to adopt an even-handed approach in this affair. As President Clinton has been quoted as saying, there will be heavy costs from any peace agreement between Syria and Israel. I hope that we and our partners in the European Union will be ready to share in those costs when the time comes. If the reward is a lasting and just settlement of the dispute between Syria and Israel, leading to developing cooperation between them, it will be a cost well worth paying.
We must also be watchful for attempts by extremists on both sides to undermine any agreement, as so tragically brought to an end the previous round of negotiations. I was pleased, incidentally, to hear Mr Kharrazi, the Iranian Foreign Minister, say at Chatham House yesterday that any agreement between Syria and Israel was for those governments to decide.
I do not know—perhaps the Minister can enlighten us—how much credence should be given to reports which appeared in the Guardian last week that the Israelis are already using the talks with Syria as a pretext for demands from the US Government for cruise missiles as part of a 17 billion dollar security package to "compensate them" for ceding the Golan Heights. I hope that the Middle East specialists, also quoted in the Guardian, are correct in saying that the US administration and even Congress would have serious reservations, if not alarm, at the prospect of giving Israel cruise missiles in view of their capacity to carry nuclear warheads and in violation of the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime. I certainly hope that any such reservations would be strongly endorsed by Her Majesty's Government.
668 As I say, it is encouraging that President Clinton and the United States administration should be concentrating, as they appear to be, on helping Israel and Syria to reach a peace agreement, particularly since it is clear that any agreement is going to require considerable political courage from both parties.
I hope that the Minister may also be prepared to say something about our own role in this affair. I note from a report in The Times of 16th December from Tel Aviv that Her Majesty's Government have been able to use our currently good relations with both governments in Tel Aviv and Damascus to encourage those talks. As the noble and learned Lord. Lord Howe of Aberavon, said, a decade in diplomacy is a short time. But it might just be worth remembering and recalling that 10 years ago we had no relations with Syria either. But in concentrating on current attempts to reach an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement, I hope that the Minister can also confirm that Her Majesty's Government, our European colleagues, as well as the United States administration, will continue to watch developments in the West Bank and Jerusalem and will try to ensure that Israeli efforts to reach an agreement with Syria do not set back the encouraging progress there has been on the control of settlements in the West Bank, on Palestinian access to Jerusalem, and on the Framework Agreement on Permanent Status for the Palestinians.
Perhaps I may formally add a note as a former Permanent Under- Secretary in the Foreign Office and head of the Diplomatic Service in thanking those noble Lords and noble Baronesses for the remarks they have made about the Diplomatic Service. On behalf of my former colleagues, I should like to thank them not only for their tribute to the service but also for their call for adequate resources to help the service to meet the needs that it faces. I have always refrained from speaking in this House on behalf of the Diplomatic Service on the ground that noble Lords might say, as Mandy Rice-Davies said, "He would say that, wouldn't he?". It is, therefore, all the more pleasing for me to hear the tributes that noble Lords and noble Baronesses have paid to the service.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Baroness Chalker of Wallasey
My Lords, it is a very special occasion for me to be able to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his maiden speech. He focused on the Commonwealth part of our responsibilities in the sense of being a partner in the Commonwealth, to which I believe Parliament in general and the nation pay too little attention. So it was a pleasure and a joy to hear him today.
The encouragement of my noble friend Lord Carrington in launching this debate today is just a continuation of the sort of encouragement he has given to those of us interested in foreign affairs throughout our lives. To be speaking in front of two of the three Foreign Secretaries whom I served in nearly 11 and a half years in the Foreign Office as a Minister of State is a special opportunity. During those years I worked mainly on Europe at the beginning, and then on Africa and on the Commonwealth.
669 The first thing I want to do is to echo what my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, have said about resources in the Foreign Office. I still work—and perhaps I should make a declaration here—very much on Africa and the Commonwealth. I am very much aware—perhaps even more so than my colleagues here—of just how much is being demanded of today's young Diplomatic Service officers and their support teams, those also working for British business across the world. I do not believe that they have the resources to meet the demands we are making of them.
I am an advisory director of Unilever, for which I concentrate not only on Africa but very much on the developing world. I have my own very small advisory company, Africa Matters Ltd, which is seeking to help businesses—especially the small, medium and micro-enterprises—to grow against appalling odds because they cannot get the resources with which to develop even when they have the know-how. We are also seeking to help governments to develop their skills—and to do so in a sustainable manner.
Because I am now concerned so much with business, I look very much at what it is that helps business to grow, what it is that makes business successful in different parts of the world.
While I do not intend to speak on the European situation at any length, it is only fair that I should say that, having taken the Single European Act through the House of Commons as a Minister of State and the Maastricht legislation through your Lordships' House as a Minister of State, although I will fully concede that much is wrong and certainly not all is right in the European Union, I do believe that the single market has made it easier for British business to grow. It has certainly made it easier for us to sell goods in Europe. We should be taking a far more positive stance because it is business that makes the world go around despite the difficulties of the World Trade Organisation that have been touched on. It will certainly be the way in which we play our role in Europe that will influence business from this country for the future. As the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, said, "She would say that, wouldn't she?", as my Unilever chairman is Niall FitzGerald who works not only for the company, but also for the Britain in Europe campaign.
I believe that we have to take a medium to long-term view, not a short-term view, of the difficulties of the euro and whether or not we become a member. We have to look also not just to our own attachment to the past, but at what is right for this country through the new century and through those years that lie ahead when we need to work, as a number of your Lordships have said, in regional groupings if we are to have success and, indeed, prosperity in countries across the world.
In all my time at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—nearly 11 and a half years—and indeed since then in business, my first concern has been to see peace and stability grow across the world. We do not seem to have been very good at it, however much emphasis we 670 have put in. That is still my concern. My second concern has been to help capacity building among the governments of developing countries. My third concern has been to encourage democracy, sound legal processes and good governance. My fourth concern has been to see sound economic management and a proper public/private sector partnership in development, especially of infrastructure, across the world. Those are all ideas which this country has espoused. They are the sentiments which we have left across the Commonwealth, in our former colonies. Yet we seem to be doing insufficient to help those countries to achieve that to which we have aspired and to which we encouraged them.
Therefore, I make one plea to the Government. I am not critical; I am very bipartisan about foreign affairs and development. If there is anything ethical about the foreign policy of this Government, they should focus far more on assisting the political and economic progress of the developing world, especially of Africa. I am delighted that Peter Hain has just arrived in Nigeria and will be working hard on Africa. That has been long delayed. But it requires us not just to visit and to listen, but also to transfer the skills and knowledge of the developed world. We need to help those countries to do what they now seem so willing to do—to form public and private partnerships, where the best of the private sector can be shared with the public sector in order to help those developing countries to grow.
My noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell said that we should "help where we realistically can". I have long shared that view. It will be through the developing partnership in the third world that European nations, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the whole Commonwealth can do so much to help. Last year, for the second time since I left government, I was privileged to be present as an observer at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The one thing I have learnt, probably more since we came into opposition than I even knew in my time in government, is that the capacity building and management services which the Commonwealth can provide and its form of technical co-operation to fellow members of the Commonwealth are fundamental and are greatly admired, respected and wanted across the developing world. In Durban last year, the Commonwealth Business Forum set a new standard in its meeting with business people from across the Commonwealth. We have also seen the development of the Commonwealth Association for Corporate Governance. These are areas where the Commonwealth is taking a real lead and where Commonwealth nations join together to make development a reality for countries across the world. My noble friend Lord Cairns and Judge Mervyn King from South Africa are doing fine jobs in helping to push these developments further.
Finally, I should like to say something about that great country, Nigeria. It would be easy to talk about the good things that are happening in Africa, but I want to talk about the challenge of Nigeria. Shortly before Christmas I had the privilege to spend four days 671 back in Nigeria, visiting the President, the Vice-President and many of their senior advisers. I also had the chance to go with my own company, Unilever, and with Shell into some of the problem areas. The World Bank is seeking to build up a major technical assistance project on economic management and capacity building, but it cannot just be left to the World Bank. To combat the endemic corruption in Nigeria, that country needs very active help from this nation and from our partners across the European Community. Nigeria also needs our help completely to reform and retrain its police force. Without that, there will not be peace between the rival groups in Lagos and elsewhere. Nigeria needs our support for health development, for education and for agriculture, which can employ so many.
Nigeria needs our help, too, with the Niger Delta Development Commission. Thanks to Shell, I was privileged to see some of the problems of the Niger delta, having had a relationship with Ken Saro-Wiwa, before he was killed by the late General Abacha. Shell and other companies in the area are seeking to help community development. Nigeria now has an Act of Parliament to develop the Niger delta, an area from which the world has so benefited through its oil and gas. But Nigeria needs a great deal of support if it is to create the benefits for those Nigerian people. We can give a reality to this. I had such a great welcome every time I said, "Maybe so-and-so in Britain will be interested".
Perhaps I may say this to the Minister. When her colleague, Peter Hain, returns, I think that he will be as fired as I am with enthusiasm for what we should be doing there. It is a nation of 121 million—more than a quarter of the population of Africa. Along with South Africa, Nigeria will be a giant in Africa. Together they want peace and stability. Britain should be playing a full part to achieve just that.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
My Lords, I, too, had the honour to serve the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and I wish to thank him for introducing the debate today.
Pace Jane Austen, it is self-evident that a foreign policy requires a foreign service. Today I want to speak on that point; and not on Russia, my usual subject. The Government's new foreign policy centre, under Mr Mark Leonard, said in its mission statement:The old definition of the national interest is too narrow a guide to policy",and that it would,abandon the idea of desk officers monitoring geographical areas and organise its thinking round the cross-cutting issues to come up with joined-up solutions".It would consult not diplomats but opinion polls, focus groups, fieldwork and the Internet. It had a good word to say for the Commonwealth but, sadly, thinks that Britain is the problem for a Commonwealth trapped in its past, which is a little wide of the true situation. It reminds us that we are all global citizens and it regards such concepts as sovereignty or British identity with considerable reserve.
672 Fortunately, it also believes that Europe, as a federal state, would not be just unpopular but very damaging to our economic interests. It states:In the global information age we need national governments that are decentralised, close to the people and in competition with each other, not the lumbering leviathan of a country called Europe".I say, "hear, hear" to that.
I have quoted the centre because this is a Government who sometimes prefer to listen to focus groups and think tanks rather than to the professionals. The centre has excellent access to the media and will be listened to when ambassadors may not. I hope that I am wrong.
I was cheered, although slightly puzzled, by Mr Leonard's views on defence, expressed in a recent BBC discussion on arms sales. He said:We don't need arms or defence. Our influence comes from everyone respecting us".The logic of that argument is that the FCO is doing an excellent job and that we should not be committing large numbers of our Armed Forces to defence diplomacy and humanitarian operations but rather should be strengthening the FCO. Unfortunately, the new MoD mission statement still repeats that part of its task is to support the Government's foreign policy objectives, particularly in promoting international peace and security. I agree with that: it is just the degree to which it is done that concerns me.
We are certainly fulfilling and over-fulfilling that commitment with a quasi-permanent military presence in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Gulf and in East Timor—all open-ended, unaccompanied and demanding operations. We are committed to provide up to 15,000 troops on demand for as long as they are required for any UN operation in the future. We are committed to a major contribution—unlikely to be less than 15,000 to 20,000 troops, fully equipped—by 2003 to a new European Rapid Reaction Force for peacekeeping and humanitarian crises. That is quite distinct, therefore, from our role in the NATO-based Rapid Reaction Force. Presumably it will be run by the same somewhat awkward committee of 23. All that at a time when, thanks to the Treasury, our grossly overstretched forces receive 2.4 per cent of our GDP; less than Greece, Turkey and France and only just more than Portugal.
The Government want an army on the cheap. They will soon have it, if they have an army at all. Defence diplomacy costs money. Meanwhile, the Government are apparently still reducing the Foreign Service, the Diplomatic Service and our whole presence abroad to such a degree that the power of the Diplomatic Service to do the job is increasingly at risk. Like the NHS at present, it is expected to do the impossible.
How do the Government propose to conduct foreign relations, advance British industry abroad and take a strategic view of the future intentions of potentially hostile powers or identify threats to stability? How do they propose to protect British subjects in a dangerous crisis situation? I wonder whether the House realises, in addition to the 673 important point already most powerfully made by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon, that the proportion of the national budget allocated to the FCO, which includes the invaluable World Service and the British Council, is still less than one third of 1 per cent? Do we realise also that, in 1999, 260 established posts were unfilled; that we have fewer posts abroad than either Germany or France; that almost half our overseas posts have fewer than four UK-based staff—23 of them have only one—and that, for instance, while we have two UK-based posts in Tashkent, the French have 17 and the Germans have 26?
The PUS told the Foreign Affairs Committee last year that those small posts did not have critical mass.People come",he said,to learn about Britain. British businessmen come wanting help with visas for their staff, and payments for their contracts. If you are not very careful, if the post is too small you are there inside the building all day. In countries like these we really need to be out and about spotting opportunities for future business and establishing contacts with the people who are in government now and the people who are going to be in government tomorrow".He was not sure that the service could do so at the level of overall staff it had then. There is a real prospect that the service will soon be unable to perform its core tasks as it should.
That monstrous position is of course not new. There were already draconian cuts under the previous government. The then PUS told the committee that there were already a number of posts manned solely by locally engaged staff. They are often excellent people, but foreign governments expect to deal with a UK-based officer and locally engaged staff are necessarily vulnerable to pressure in difficult situations. Posting in someone from somewhere else is no use in a crisis when one needs to know all the key people and does not have the knowledge of the country and the people so essential in getting the British community out of a dangerous situation. I should not have been able to take British subjects in convoys past angry, hostile and often drunken troops in the Congo without knowing exactly how to deal with them. One has to know what triggers them. If time allows, I shall tell your Lordships a story about that at the end of my speech, but there may not be time.
A great deal of nonsense is talked about the need for diplomats to be businessmen. The Government have gone so far as to post businessmen to missions abroad for brief periods and to include them in the all-too-short FCO honours list, thereby leaving even fewer awards for diplomats at every level who have borne the heat of the day, not for a few months but for years in many countries. What businessmen want from our missions is someone to tell them whether there will be a coup, whether it is a good time to invest, who are the key ministers, which rival countries are in the race and what are the local difficulties. Good diplomats do all that as part of the job, but to do so they need to travel within the country and the despised geographical desks in the FCO need to visit the countries they are 674 overseeing. These days there is no money for operational travel, so every one sits with a laptop computer in the office, which must be deeply frustrating. I spent much of my first year in my first African post travelling and identifying the future leaders, so that when independence came I knew half the ministers and most of the opposition. The post in Tashkent should be doing that, but it probably cannot.
How do the despised diplomats do in the business of promoting British exports? The Overseas Trade Services of the FCO, according to the National Audit Office in 1996, helped to generate £345 million-worth of extra business for the UK in south-east Asia alone in 1993–95, at a cost of £4.5 million. That is around £77 profit for each pound spent. In 1998, BOC won a substantial gas contract worth 1 billion US dollars. It said it could not have done so without the help of the embassy in Mexico City. BP acknowledged similar help in Russia. There must be many more examples.
Neither the UN nor the EU can or will protect our citizens when they are in danger in a foreign land. Nor certainly will they advance our commercial interests or our international influence. Our diplomats are best placed through long experience and hard times in hard posts—not soft lying in European capitals—to identify future threats. It will not be much use to have even a splendid NHS if we are vulnerable in a dangerous world. Russia remains unstable, massively increasing its defence spending. It is making and selling new nuclear weapons and a new generation of both submarines and aircraft. It already perceives our NATO capacity and the UK-US relationship as weaker than it was and likely to be weakened further by our unwise commitment to new European ventures where we and the French alone have real soldiers but no US logistical backup.
It is bad enough for our Armed Forces to be used more or less frivolously, but it is nothing short of wicked to have reduced an excellent, highly professional and committed Foreign Service to one-man posts or less in more than half the world in order to save puny sums. We must defend the office and the diplomatic service from the Treasury termites.
§ Baroness Park of Monmouth
All right. The story illustrates why one needs to be there. It happened in the Congo many years ago, but it could easily happen in Sierra Leone and Angola now and probably in many other countries.
A week before independence in the Congo, I was driving through the African city at night. A soldier flagged me down and said that a comrade of his was in trouble. We drove around the unlit, muddy streets, where there were deep storm ditches on either side, until we found a struggling crowd fighting. I got out of the car, flashed my lights and said to them plaintively, "I am a very bad driver. I can't reverse; if I do, I shall fall into the ditch. Please will you all get up and get out of the way so that I can drive forwards?" As I hoped, they all laughed. Men are always happy to laugh at women drivers. In laughing, they released the soldier 675 with whom they had been fighting. I put him smartly in the car and drove him back to his barracks and left him there. That was that.
The morning after the mutiny began, the whole place was in uproar. Troops were driving round the streets, firing off their guns. Most of them were fairly drunk. The local British subjects, mostly small traders living outside Leopoldville—as it then was—came to me as the consul and said, "We want you to drive us in a convoy to the ferry so that we can escape to Brazzaville". So I did. We met whole groups of soldiers. I talked to them and we passed through every time until we reached the ferry. There was a nasty look about the place; there were burning cars and broken heads and a general air of unfriendliness.
I got out of the car and walked up to the extremely large soldier in charge, but before I could open my mouth to say, "I am the British consul, these are British subjects. Please let us pass", he looked at me, gave a roar of laughter and clasped me to his bosom. I emerged and said, "Oh, have we met?"—proper English, I am!—and he said, "Yes, don't you remember? You are the one who can't reverse and I'm the soldier you rescued. You were my friend before independence. Are these all your friends?—because if so they may all pass". I looked at them—I had taken a great dislike to some of them by that time—and said, "Yes, they are all my closest, dearest personal friends". He said, "In that case, they can all get in the ferry, but you can't". I said, "I don't want to—I've got a job to do. I'm staying". S o that was that.
That could not nave happened if I had not known how that particular kind of African reacts. One must be there to know it. It is no use bouncing in from outside. It is no use expecting anyone to do it but a diplomat who has been around.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Eden of Winton
My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend Baroness Park of Monmouth will have recognised how much the House enjoyed her story, not only on account of its content but because of what we have come to recognise in all her contributions: that she approaches such issues with a great reservoir of sound common sense.
The international situation, although mercifully much improved—as my noble friend Lord Carrington pointed out—by the removal of the fear of global nuclear war, is today characterised by a raft of localised conflicts and humanitarian crises, some of a quite horrendous nature. From some of those, we stand aside. Into others we become embroiled, sometimes more deeply than we had originally at the outset thought to have been the case.
When considering what we should do, I believe that there are a number of fundamental criteria which should help to determine the appropriateness of any British response to some event overseas. Those are, first, the extent to which Britain's direct national interests may be engaged; secondly, the possibility of a solution being found by diplomatic means; thirdly, the likelihood or otherwise of other countries becoming 676 involved with us in some joint effort, whether diplomatic or military; and, fourthly, the degree to which resources deemed adequate for the job may be secured from the outset. We cannot be expected to react to or intervene in every crisis or conflict wherever it may occur. Our reluctance—correct, in my view—to become directly involved in Chechnya is an illustration of that.
Clearly, we have an obligation to respond whenever our close allies and fellow Commonwealth nations are affected. If their interests are put under threat then it would be right for us to accept that that places a responsibility on us. Where no such precondition exists, we should be cautious before making a commitment to action.
As other noble Lords have noted, everyone is becoming increasingly familiar with the globalisation of national economies. Given the rapid development and increasing exploitation of the Internet, e-commerce and satellite communications, the impact of events, both physical and financial, is quickly felt throughout the world. In those circumstances, there is a temptation for senior government Ministers and even heads of state to respond too hastily to calls for action. In nearly every case it will probably be wiser to guard against being too precipitate, no matter how insistent the media clamour. Certainly, contemplating the committing of our forces should be seen always as a last resort.
If circumstances allow, time should be given to reflection, analysis and consultation. Ideally, our response should be considered and measured. Here I make a plea that we do not entirely bypass the tried and tested ways of diplomacy. Ambassadors still have a vital role to play, both in the analysis and in the resolution of problems. They and their colleagues are on the spot. As my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth made clear, they know the country and they understand the people where they serve. They are best placed to advise on the potential and likely timetable for a diplomatic solution. So long as there is the chance of a dialogue, we should keep open the lines for diplomacy to work.
As each crisis is different, so the means for achieving its settlement may vary. Of course, it is most important that we work closely with other countries and that we form partnerships, for we gain strength in so doing. But we need not necessarily do so with the same countries on every occasion. As situations and locations differ, the alliance which was relevant in one case might need to be composed differently for the next. We should be careful to avoid binding ourselves inextricably to any one predetermined formula.
This is where I have some hesitation about the proposal, shadowy though it may be at this stage, for the formulation of a rapid reaction force. I believe that from the way in which it has been addressed so far, or, at any rate, as the references made in this House so far would indicate, the proposal seems to pose more questions than it provides answers. I am a little apprehensive because of a comment which was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham 677 Dean, on the first day of the foreign affairs debate on the Queen's Speech. She seemed to identify the role for British forces as being to help to,promote peaceful and stable societies".—[Official Report, 18/11/99; col. 31.]That worries me because I believe that it is too woolly and too open-ended. I believe that we are in danger of confusing roles between military and humanitarian which could lead to a weakening of the fighting capabilities of our military forces. We cannot play the role of world policeman unless we are prepared substantially to increase the resources available to those whom we call upon to discharge those duties.
My final comment is to urge that we retain our closest possible links with the United States of America. In their eagerness to prove their euro-credentials, Ministers may be in some danger of undermining that one firm bastion for peace. In spite of occasional difficulties and setbacks, the United States of America has proved steadfast in two great wars and in other lesser conflicts since. Our friendship with and dependency upon the United States of America is a vital ingredient in our ability to conduct our foreign policy and our defence activities in other countries. As my noble friend Lord Hurd said, that is true not just of us in this country; it is certainly true of Europe as a whole.
No matter how much we try to tip the scales with whatever extra effort may be made in the European context, it is likely that for a long time to come we shall all rely upon the overwhelming military strength, the logistical back-up, and the intelligence provided by a satellite surveillance system of the United States of America. Therefore, that link is most essential, and I hope that we keep the balance between our respective European and trans-Atlantic interests. Flexibility and balance—the two things seem to be contradictory but, in my view, they go very much together in the context of our coping with problems in the international sphere.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lords, I fear that it is as depressing as it is realistic to recognise that the skies of this new century are already clouded with conflict. It is true that they are not the great black clouds of a threat of a world war, which they were for most of the second half of the last century. Nuclear weapons, which I have seen for some while as being God's gift to prevent world wars, kept world peace during the great struggle between democratic capitalism and totalitarian socialism. That was a conflict which was in the end resolved peacefully by economic forces: first, by the unification of Germany and, later, by the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Today, the clouds are smaller but more numerous and widely scattered. They can still rain death and destruction on those below them.
On whom, then, can we rely to disperse those dangers? There are only three possible answers: the United States, as the only remaining superpower; or the United Nations, which was designed for that purpose; or a combination of both. Frankly, I do not 678 believe that the United States would or should take sole or even perhaps primary responsibility. Let us never forget—and, if we do, the experience of a late entry by America into both the world wars will remind us—that the forces of isolationism lurk in most states of the Union, especially perhaps in middle America. Certainly, the recent reluctance to see body bags coming back to America from other parts of the world underlines that. If we have difficult understanding it, let us reflect how distant and how politically remote the whole of Latin America seems to much of Europe, especially northern Europe.
Therefore, the primary answer can only be the United Nations. On the United Nations has descended the mantle of responsibility which has been carried by mutual fears and suspicions of the eastern and western power blocs. Yet the record of the UN has so far been confused and unimpressive. All too recently, those on the top floors of the United Nations Plaza in New York seemed to believe that military vehicles can, at the same time, be presented in both green and white paint. They cannot, as Bosnia has so tragically demonstrated. I understand that the lessons of the Balkan experiences are to be considered this weekend at a Ditchley conference which my noble friend Lord Hurd is expecting to attend.
The first requirement is for there to be proper separation between the provision of military forces under UN mandate and the payment for them. The two are hopelessly confused. All members of the UN, including those who provide forces, should subscribe in proportion to their GNP to the fund from which the providers of military forces are reimbursed. The refund should be 100 per cent with, of course, proper, independent audit to ensure that there are no spurious claims.
It will usually be necessary for the United States to play a part in operations if only because it alone has the intelligence assets on which effective, modern operations depend.
The second requirement, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said, is for the UN to have a proper policy-making capability or, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, said, there must be more pre-emptive thought.
A particular problem, to which my noble friend Lord Carrington referred, is that the pace of diplomacy, and, indeed, the timetables of events are increasingly set by the media.
A third and most urgent need is that there must be proper criteria for intervention. The Prime Minister set out his ideas in a speech in Chicago last April. Again, I believe it is planned fairly soon to have two Ditchley conferences to try to work out something practical on that.
Fourthly, there must be a much better UN administrative capability to follow up once military action has ended. The need for that was demonstrated very clearly by the recent failure to provide the necessary police force to replace KFOR.
679 Where does that leave this country? I accept the Prime Minister's description of the UK as a "pivotal power". We are that for two reasons. First, as a veto member of the Security Council, we could never be involved in any UN military operation of which we disapproved. I should say how relieved I was when the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, told us before Christmas that Her Majesty's Government have no intention of giving up their UN veto seat in any process of reforming the Security Council structure. That puts the Labour Party and my own party on the same side on that issue. I am sorry that there is still some ambivalence on the part of the Liberal Democrats who mutter about EU representation on the Security Council. However, I am fairly confident that French self-interest would see off that idea.
Secondly, we have military forces with standards of professionalism, discipline, diplomacy, integrity and valour which, taken together, are not surpassed by any other country in the world. Since 1989, there have been 35 UN-led blue-helmeted operations in 17 of which there has been British military participation. In addition, there have been five UN-authorised military operations, which are those where proper armed forces in green paint are provided. Britain has provided forces for all of them.
The most recent example of the quality of our military capability has been in East Timor where only a contingent from the Second Battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles almost single-handedly provided for the swift return of more than 100,000 refugees.
The world will increasingly need British military forces. Yet at present the overstretch of international commitments combined with the decline in our domestic requirements means that we run the risk of failing to meet the needs of the world for British military peacekeeping.
Finally, I suggest that in place of the sterile and often hypocritical arguments over an ethical foreign policy, we should recognise that world interests are British interests. That is something which makes us a pivotal power.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Lord Vincent of Coleshill
My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to speak on some aspects of our evolving security and defence policies which, of course, are important supporting elements of our overall foreign policy. Therefore, they have a direct bearing on our contribution to the international situation.
As we move into this new century, it is perhaps also worth reflecting briefly on the effectiveness of our security policies over the past 100 years. On the face of it, they failed us catastrophically twice in the first half of the 20th century, whereas over the past 50 years, despite the largest ever military confrontation in history born of the Cold War, those policies and the manner in which we applied them have secured for western Europe and north America the longest period of peace and growing prosperity in modern history.
There are many complex reasons for that remarkable outcome, not least that rampant nationalism in western Europe has largely disappeared 680 after the bitter lessons of two world wars. Growing economic and political co-operation within the European Union has also made a major contribution to our security in a wider context.
But the unique development that has underpinned western security so successfully for over two generations stemmed, I believe, from the formation of NATO in 1949. That not only preserved our vital security interests throughout the Cold War but eventually it played a crucial part in bringing that hazardous military confrontation to a near peaceful conclusion in the nuclear age.
Regrettably, as we have heard several times in this debate, the aftermath of the Cold War and the demise of the former Soviet Union have now led to different security challenges and risks in a still dangerous and uncertain world. Against that changing background, the question today is whether NATO has adapted sufficiently to remain the most effective multinational organisation for underpinning our Euro-Atlantic security interests or whether some other arrangements are now needed.
Having seen the tragic failure of the United Nations' efforts to bring peace to Bosnia for nearly four years of sustained effort, it can only reasonably be concluded that NATO's military involvement in the Dayton peace progress has been a remarkable success. Although serious concerns have been expressed this afternoon about NATO's strategic approach to events in Kosovo and the legal basis on which it rested, there can be little doubt about the alliance's ultimate military success in that campaign as well.
But NATO's involvement in the Balkans has also reminded us that military operations can only be a means to an end. They are not an end in themselves. So before launching them, we should also be clear about their realistic longer-term strategic objectives and the non-military measures through which we shall seek to secure them. That is a complex matter for which today we often seem ill-prepared and ill-equipped, despite the efforts of the United Nations and other international bodies.
The consequence is that our hard-pressed military forces—and they are very hard-pressed today relative to their size—despite their operational success, often find themselves committed on an indefinite basis because no longer-term political, economic and administrative measures have been adequately planned or brought into effect. Both Bosnia and Kosovo eventually demonstrated the importance of the United States playing a constructive role in European security, as she had done, of course, throughout the Cold War.
However, Kosovo also starkly revealed the growing gap between the military capabilities of the United States and those of other NATO nations. Just a few extracts from the current edition of The Military Balance 1999/2000 makes that point emphatically. The United States provided over 70 per cent of the aircraft to the Kosovo campaign, delivering over 80 per cent of the weapons and bearing a similar proportion of its incremental costs.
681 More widely, there is the concern that European defence capabilities are becoming increasingly inferior to those of the United States, which is not surprising when all the European members of NATO combined last year invested about half as much as the United States in military research and development. Overall, although the decline in defence spending in alliance nations since 1991 has today generally levelled out, the European members of NATO together now spend only half as much on defence as the United States. Regrettably, we in Europe achieve significantly less value for money in that process.
Another key determinant of any enhanced defence capability is the professionalism, training and readiness of the armed forces concerned. As the new Secretary General of NATO, the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, pointed out recently:Europe has over 2 million men and women under arms, but it is hard-pressed to deploy and maintain 40,000 troops in Kosovo".Setting that in a wider context, he added:The time for a peace dividend is over because there is no permanent peace in Europe or elsewhere, and if NATO is to do its job protecting future generations, it can no longer expect to do it on the cheap".In practice, how will the European Security and Defence Identity help to address those key issues that bear so fundamentally on our future security? Certainly based on the hard realities to which I have referred, it is clear that Europe needs to make a much more effective contribution to our collective defence capabilities, particularly if it is serious about its ability to take substantial military action independent of the United States.
The question now is not just whether the recent decisions of the European Security and Defence Identity will actually achieve a genuine autonomous military capability in Europe, but whether they will also start to close the widening gap between the United States and European defence capabilities. If they do not, it will become progressively more difficult for European forces to operate safely and effectively with the United States on demanding military operations.
I believe that those are some of the hard, practical issues that have to be addressed if we are to sustain, with confidence, the remarkable success of our security and defence policies of the past 50 years. In that respect I welcome the brave words in the recent defence White Paper:the fundamental objective of continuous improvement in operational performance and our force structures".However, I regret that it offers no measurable benchmarks for closing our growing capability gaps relative to the United States. It qualifies its own imperatives for improvement by indicating that that has to be achieved within the budget set.
Of greater concern is the fact that some other European members of NATO have a much less impressive record of committing the resources needed even to maintain their current capabilities, let alone to modernise their forces for the future. So the European Security and Defence Identity on its own will surely 682 not remedy those shortfalls without a significant increase in defence expenditure by the nations concerned, combined with much greater efficiency in the way that expenditure is used.
Unless there is a greater awareness of the risks and realities inherent in the development of the European Security and Defence Identity, to which our Government have now added such impetus, I fear it could have the opposite effect to that intended, with serious implications for our longer-term security arrangements with the United States. That is not just personal speculation on my part. But what I judged to be a serious article in the Wall Street Journal last month clearly pointed out the strategic pitfalls of the European Security and Defence Identity if it fails to meet its highly ambitious objectives which it cannot possibly achieve without a larger overall commitment of resources to defence in European nations.
That article concluded:Irreversible decisions are now being made with profound implications for America's relationship with Europe as a whole and Britain in particular. So far few European leaders seem much aware of what it is they are doing—and of how much they are risking. America's Atlanticists, at least, have been assertive in voicing their doubts. It is time for Europe's Atlanticists to do the same".In the past few minutes I have sought to avoid speaking narrowly from either an Atlanticist or a European standpoint. In reality, if we are to secure dependable arrangements to underpin our security in future, we need to do so, as we have done so successfully for the past 50 years, on a Euro-Atlantic basis. The longer-term consequences of moving away incautiously from that highly effective strategic approach in an ever-more interdependent and interactive world could be far more serious than may be apparent at first sight today.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Lord Naseby
My Lords, I want to concentrate my remarks on South Asia and what is known as the SARC region. As many noble Lords will know, I have lived and worked in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka. Most of my remarks will concern Sri Lanka, which I have known intimately for nearly 40 years.
First, I want to speak about the Maldives, one of the smallest countries in the region, a country that has the great benefit of a consistency of government in that Abdul Gayoom and his foreign minister, Mr Fathullah Jameel, have been in power for a great many years, which has given stability to that part of the region.
In day-to-day terms all seems peaceful there, with tourism, fishing and the merchant marine. However, I remind your Lordships that just a six-foot rise in the tide level would mean that the Maldives would disappear altogether as a nation. My first question to Her Majesty's Government is: what are the Government doing today to ensure that the United Kingdom keeps up pressure on global warming? Unless we remain proactive in that field, nations such as the Maldives will cease to exist.
683 I now turn to Sri Lanka, which is one area of the world where there is significant conflict. It has particularly close ties with this country. I do not know whether I should declare an interest, but I am joint chairman of the British Sri Lankan parliamentary group.
I hope that all noble Lords will give unreserved condemnation to the recent acts of terrorism committed by the LTTE. The recent bomb attacks on 18th December—just before Christmas—injured President Chandrika Kumaratunga, killed 21 people and left 110 severely injured. There was another bomb on 5th January outside the office of the Prime Minister, which resulted in the death of 12 more people and injured another 20. Understandably, such acts of terrorism have, for the moment, stalled negotiations aimed at progressing the peace process.
Despite the bomb attack on the president, in which she lost an eye—I do not need to remind your Lordships that her father and her husband have been assassinated—the presidential election went ahead, which is a true reflection of the strength of democracy in that country. Even after that, in her acceptance speech having wan the presidential election, she was brave enough to say,I urge you to use every ounce of influence at your disposal to bring Mr Prabhamaran to the negotiating table without further delay. I urge you to persuade with every conceivable argument anyone who is a member or a supporter of the LTTE to renounce violence and join us in establishing peace".That was not just a message to those in Sri Lanka; it was a message to the world. There are significant numbers of Sri Lankans in the United States, Canada, Germany and not least in this country. I hope that those in this country, who are known to support the LTTE, will heed those words.
In that speech she put out a hand of friendship to Ranil Wickremasinghe whom I have known, I guess, for some 20 years. He is the leader of the main opposition, the United National Party. She sought from him a bi-partisan approach to finding a peaceful solution to the problem. Despite the understandable political differences which we have across this Chamber sometimes, there are occasions when we work together. Her Majesty's Government could help in trying to ensure that that message is conveyed to the government and opposition in Sri Lanka. This country is held in the greatest respect in Sri Lanka and I am sure that we can assist in that regard.
I turn to the international situation in Sri Lanka and the international community and ask the question: is it not now time for the international community to put pressure on Mr Prabhakaran to hold talks with the government of Sri Lanka? And, on the invitation of that government, I feel that the international community could play a significant role to advance the peace process.
Those in government who listened to the interview of the Secretary General of the Commonwealth on the World Service, to which I listened, will know that he was involved in the mediation attempts in 1997, and more recently Norway has been involved. I hope I do not express too partisan a wish in my belief that the 684 United Kingdom could play a significant role in bringing some pressure on Mr Prabhakaran and all other parties to get together. When I read about and listen to the Secretary General telling us that he only communicated with Mr Prabhakaran, I feel that that is not satisfactory. Whoever is in that role must see the man face to face; it is not enough to have an intermediary.
In recent days Britain signed the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Financing. Indeed, I pay tribute to the Government for signing that on the very day it became available for signature. But I hope it is not just a piece of paper but that action will flow from it. In this country it is known that the LTTE is collecting funds. I do not mean a charity day with a flag; I mean protectionism; money being extorted from Sri Lankans living in this country. Unless they pay up, as your Lordships know only too well, their families will suffer. That is the way terrorism works. Many in this Chamber have as much experience of it as I have.
I speak personally now: I find it repulsive that tonight, in Camden, there is an office of the LTTE. That is not acceptable. Given that we passed the new terrorist Act in the last Session, which gives us powers to prevent parties from carrying out, planning or preparing terrorist activities, I hope that high on the agenda—leaving aside the Sikh problem—will be the LTTE. I realise that it is not the responsibility of the foreign minister, but there is evidence that junior officers of the LTTE are seeking asylum in this country in order to keep the conflict going. The Home Office should pay some attention to that problem.
I want to end on a positive note. Sri Lanka is a highly literate society. The people are pro-British. Nevertheless, it is a developing country, though it is not the poorest country by a long shot. However, there are great challenges to be faced in that part of the world. Its growth runs at around 5 per cent a year. Understandably that growth is stifled by the fact that 5 per cent of GNP goes to cover the cost of war. If the United Kingdom, in the international community, could find a solution, it would allow a further 50 per cent growth. That sort of growth is so significant that it would have an incredible effect on all the people of Sri Lanka, be they Tamil, Sinhalese, Muslim, Burgher. That is a power well worth striving for. I ask Her Majesty's Government to recognise that this is a problem to which we must find a solution. It is a key problem. It has been going on for nearly 20 years and urgently needs resolving. It is time that this Government played an active role in the international community to get that moving.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Lord Inglewood
My Lords, I begin as have so many other noble Lords by congratulating my noble friend Lord Carrington on moving this debate, and on having done so in a manner which gives every speaker the possibility of being relevant, while having the opportunity to speak on whatever he or she may want.
685 I should like to make a few remarks about the recent ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation in Seattle. As your Lordships will know, that meeting broke up in disarray just before Christmas. As a supporter of liberalising world trade, I am sure that the Government will be at one with me in being concerned and anxious about what occurred. My immediate question for the Government is: what happens now? Where do we go from here? After all, bearing in mind the political and economic advantages which further trade liberalisation could produce and the aspiration of China to join—something I support—great prizes are at stake.
Given the political events which surrounded the Seattle meeting, I am especially anxious to know about the Government's attitudes towards the possible factoring into the negotiations of environmental and labour standards issues. I do not suppose there is anyone in this House who is unconcerned about those matters and who wishes environmental degradation and destruction on vast parts of the globe, nor for that matter to promote bad employment practices in third-world countries. But traditionally we have, rightly, kept those matters outside the scope of negotiations of this kind. Is that still the position of the Government? I believe that it is, but I shall be interested to hear from the noble Baroness confirmation of that point.
Having begun by focusing on a number of specific foreign affairs issues, albeit they are also commercial points, I should now like to move on to the relationship between foreign policy and domestic issues. In the old days it was reasonably straightforward. This side of the Channel was "domestic"; beyond it was "abroad". That was the way it was determined. But it is not quite like that any more. I suppose it began in the post-war world with the development of the European Economic Community, which has evolved and now incorporates the Third Pillar introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht. We are seeing issues which traditionally were domestic being dealt with in a way which echoes foreign policy practice.
It is important to recognise that this is not simply some kind of European racket. As I said, a number of issues are determined in general terms in the forum of the World Trade Organisation. To take but three—agriculture, financial services and intellectual property—these are all areas of policy which have an enormous importance in domestic politics in this country.
In the case of agriculture, for example, it is probably difficult to conceive of a policy which superficially could be more domestic in its effect. After all, it directly impacts on the appearance and the use of something like 80 per cent of the surface of this country. In reality, agriculture and agricultural policy determine the appearance of most of Britain; and yet the trade aspects of agriculture are in essence determined in the forum of the World Trade Organisation. Many of the purely agricultural subsidy and price aspects of policy are determined by the European Union's common agricultural policy, while 686 the value of the prices farmers receive for their goods, which are after all benchmarked by Brussels, are either enhanced or eroded by the movements of the pound and the euro on the foreign exchanges—and that is determined by the international financial community. Therefore, in reality most of our domestic agricultural policy is not determined domestically at all.
While I am deeply concerned about the plight of agriculture at present, in which I am personally involved, I for my part do not think that in general the kind of changes I have described are by any means necessarily for the worse. On the contrary, we are living in a world of greater economic integration, ever more closely linked by information technology. This should, and I believe will, improve the lot of not only our citizens here in Britain but also many other people around the world. If this is the nature of the society in which we live, I am quite sure that we should not turn our back on it.
I believe that this trend will be speeded up significantly by developments in electronic commerce and the use of electronic money. Certainly it seems to me that the advent of e-commerce will do for the ordinary citizen what the abolition of exchange control did for banks and financial services institutions. If this is the case, more and more decisions which affect domestic policy, and which traditionally were exclusively taken domestically, will be taken outside our national jurisdiction and beyond this Parliament's procedures. Indeed, the policies will acquire many of the traditional characteristics of foreign policy developments. After all, as I have already mentioned, we are already familiar with this process from our membership of the European Union. The processes of the World Trade Organisation, which I have mentioned, show that we cannot turn our back on this by simply walking away from the EU, even if it was desirable or sensible in any form to do that—I do not believe that that is the case—for to do so would simply be shooting the messenger.
What Britain's experience of European Union membership suggests to me is that the scrutiny, or lack of scrutiny, of what is being done by our Government abroad in our name is at the heart of whether or not the British public feel at ease with the process. A failure in this regard has a significant political downside, as can be seen from the widespread concern about European Union membership. I do not think that it is any accident that much of the evidence adduced by those who are disaffected comes from the area of agricultural policy which, as I have already mentioned, is, for good or ill, substantially determined abroad. If I can put it this way, "abroad" seems to be getting bigger and "home" getting smaller, even if it is not being reduced into smaller pieces by devolution.
Yesterday on looking at the quality newspapers, I was struck that even on a day which was probably a little light for news, the main story in all if not most of them concerned the proposed merger between two American companies, Time Warner and America Online, creating a commercial entity which has roughly the same output as Russia. That commercial organisation is accessible to everyone in this country 687 who possesses a telephone line and a personal computer. That phenomenon has an enormous potential impact on what will occur here.
It is obvious that Parliament has much less power and influence over what I might describe as "abroad" as opposed to the power and influence it exercises at home. Therefore, it seems to me to be terribly important both for government and for Parliament—I believe that there is a strong community of interest in this—to find a process whereby they can achieve a state of affairs such that the public have confidence in Parliament's ability to keep tabs on, and to scrutinise, what the Government do abroad in our name.
I do not think is is enough for the executive simply to return from the negotiating halls of the world and say baldly, "Take it or leave it", especially if "leave it" may be in breach of international law or obligations actual or moral into which the Government have entered. At the same time, clearly Parliament cannot mandate our Government—for all the obvious reasons that you cannot negotiate successfully if the other parties to the negotiations know your bottom line. In any event, as we all know, things change in the process of negotiations. Somehow or other we need to evolve an ongoing; relationship between the executive and Parliament which is based on a constructive combination of trust and creative suspicion. I believe that if we do not do that, we run the risk that our citizens will become alienated from these quasi foreign policy processes which I believe are so necessary to deliver the full potential of contemporary commercial technology in the present-day world.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Lord Janner of Braunstone
My Lords, I join in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for initiating this debate. I have always regarded him as an absolute guru of foreign policy genius. Over the years I have had many useful and interesting discussions with him for which I have been deeply grateful. He has given excellent guidance which occasionally I have followed!
I very much appreciated the remarkable maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, especially as regards his visions for the Commonwealth. I recently returned from CHOGM, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, in Durban and rejoiced once again at the extraordinary measure of goodwill and understanding and of corridor agreements and discussions which took place there, often between nations which otherwise had little contact. It is a great organisation.
I join in thanking the departing Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, for all that he and his wife, Bunmi, have done over the years for us. I do so partly in my capacity as president of the Commonwealth Jewish Council which he helped so much and on behalf of all of us in this country who appreciate the Commonwealth. It is a great unity and it has recognised that if you want to get understanding to avoid war and to achieve peace you have to talk and understand.
688 I spent a week during the recent Recess in India. There this vision is not quite the same. I was privileged to meet the Prime Minister and five of his other Ministers. Their position is absolutely plain with regard to talking to the Pakistanis about Kashmir; namely, that there is no point in talks unless they are meaningful and that they cannot be meaningful while the incursions across the border into Indian Kashmir continue and that in the circumstances they will be pleased to talk again—as they were pleased to talk before—when those incursions stop.
This is not entirely the view of the opposition. Mrs Sonia Gandhi and her advisers, in particular Natwar Singh, an old friend of many of us here, told me that while they do not like the Pakistan regime and regard it as a dictatorship, if they want peace they will have to deal with it. However, that is not the view of the majority or of the government.
India is an extraordinary democracy. As has been seen by the frequent changes of government there, if they cannot bring the nation with them their governments will fall. My impression of the present government is that they will be there for a long time and that the Pakistan Government will have to deal with it. It will be for the Pakistan Government to decide whether talks take place because that will depend on whether they will prevent their troops or others from crossing the border.
All that said, I repeat what a marvellous, vibrant democracy India is. If you fly west from India, you do not fly over many others. You cross Iraq, certainly on the map if not in the air. You wonder why its leadership is still in place. You cross Iran. The Iranian Foreign Minister is visiting this country. Iran is not exactly a democracy of the highest order. I and other noble Lords, who have been most supportive on this issue, have tried to persuade the Iranians to release the 13 Jewish leaders whom they have seen fit to lock up and who are likely to be tried and will be lucky not to be executed. So far as we can ascertain, they have committed no crime other than being Jewish.
You then come to Israel. Here I pay tribute to my old friend and sparring partner, the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond. I was happily astonished that the noble Lord has moved so centrally into the area of discussion and almost of goodwill for Israel and its leadership. Certainly he will recognise that, like India—and, indeed, like Britain, as the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, indicated when he spoke about bringing the British people with us—in Israel if you do not bring the people with you, you lose.
In today's edition of The Times there is a very important comment from the Jerusalem correspondent headed "More oppose Golan deal". It states:Last week 41 per cent of Israelis said they would support plans to leave the Golan Heights, home to 17,000 Israelis and 19,000 Druze. This was 4 per cent fewer than a few weeks earlier. Mr Barak will have only a few days to try to improve his position before returning for more talks in America on January 19.The decline in support for Mr Barak's initiative is largely because the Syrians have been perceived as having made no symbolic gestures to help to end 52 years of conflict".689 You do not make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies. But if your enemies wish to make peace, they have to make concessions too. I am absolutely certain that the vast majority of Israelis would gladly give up the Golan if they knew that as a result they would gain security and peace. I also believe that the vast majority would say no to their government if they gave up the Golan without those assurances. Indeed, this Israel Government—who, I am sure, are very pleased to have been praised by the noble Lord, Lord Wright—may not survive unless that happens. Israel is a democracy like our own and like that in India, and if you want to get results there has to be give, there has to be take, there has to be discussion and there has to be compromise.
There is one area in which none of us wants compromise, and that is in dealing with international murderers and people who commit genocide. I wish to pay my personal tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, and to associate myself with every word that he said. I thank him and especially my noble friend Lord Merlyn-Rees for the work they have recently done in the sad case of Kalejs. We were all distraught that this man managed to escape from the United Kingdom after his condemnation by the American courts, his deportation from the United States and from Canada and the clear evidence that he was one of the people in charge of the murder squads that massacred thousands of people.
Happily, in this country, in most ways, we have a decent, honourable system of law which accords rights even to those whom we know very well are criminals—as the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, knew when he ordered the deportation of this man if he did not go voluntarily. They are entitled to the kind of justice that the Nazis and their accomplices did not accord to any of their victims. And justice was done when Sowaniuk was tried for war crimes two months ago and convicted.
Many of us were involved in the All Party War Crimes Group, which will be reformed next week. I suspect that our first visit may be to the Australian High Commissioner. My vision of Australia is a very affectionate one because my late wife came from there. But my latest vision is a very unhappy one of its Minister of Justice, a woman, who noble Lords may remember saying, "We are not going to be pressured into a show trial by those individuals or groups", which all Jewish people in Australia and elsewhere took to mean them.
That is not an approach we would have expected from the Australians. We hope that they will indicate just how unwelcome this man was and that they will initiate an investigation. But that is not what they said to us when we went to see the High Commissioner. He told us that his government are keeping the file open and if new evidence is given to us they will look at it. They should go and look for it.
Here I thank the Latvian ambassador for the warm reception that he gave us and for his assurance that the Latvians would proactively be looking to see what 690 they could find about this man and, if it was enough, that they would seek extradition. This was something of a surprise because since Latvia and Lithuania obtained their independence, as far as I know, there has not been a single war criminal in those lands who has been prosecuted—and certainly there have been plenty of them.
But there is hope. There is hope that the past will be dealt with and also hope that that will be done in the light of the present and future. If we do not look at the past, the future and the present are even more grim than they appear. The genocide that continues today will continue unless the people who perpetrate it know that they will not escape justice. They will not know that they will suffer for their crimes unless they see justice against those who have committed such crimes in the past.
I welcome the work that the Government are doing in this area. I welcome the conference on Holocaust education which will take place later this month in Stockholm, hosted by the Prime Minister of Sweden. I welcome the indications from our Government that there will be a Holocaust Remembrance Day—not because the Holocaust was the murder and massacre of millions of Jewish people but much more to prevent people from forgetting what happens when a country is taken over by a racist dictator; from forgetting what happens to human beings when you allow genocide to affect anyone whose race or religion is different from your own; to encourage people to have decent policies on race relations; and to encourage them to mix, work and build together with people who are different from themselves. That is the international hope; that is our hope for the future. Whether it is in India or the Middle East, or whether we are dealing with war crimes here, that is what we are working for—a better future for us all.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Lord Skidelsky
My Lords, I do not think that anyone who follows international relations with attention can fail to be profoundly disheartened by the turn that they have taken in the last year of the last millennium. I shall not speak about Kosovo—my noble friend Lord Lamont has already done so very compellingly—but I have tabled an Unstarred Question on the human rights aspect of the matter which I hope we shall have an early chance of debating.
I wish to concentrate on the deterioration of our relations with Russia and China and some of the consequences of that for the so-called "peace dividend". I dare say that the hopes of a new international order which dawned 10 years ago were always exaggerated. Some of us who taught international relations at the time were very excited—although not entirely convinced—by the famous thesis advanced by Francis Fukuyama concerning the end of history. Briefly, he argued that the whole world was converging on a norm of capitalism and democracy. With nothing to quarrel about, nations would have nothing to fight about and therefore we could all disarm. A particularly enticing hope was that, for the 691 first time, the United Nations could function as it was intended to, as an effective protector of the security of its members.
In 10 years we have moved from the end of the Cold War to the beginning of what former President Yeltsin called the "cold peace". Today, the old division between the capitalist West and the socialist East is replaced by the conflict between the doctrine of the international community based on human rights and the classical doctrine of non-interference in the domestic affairs or sovereign states. Paradoxically, the former revolutionary powers—Russia and China—have become guardians of the status quo, while the old guardians of the established order—the United States and Britain—have become revolutionary.
It would take far longer than I have to retrace the steps by which this extraordinary turnabout took place. At the root of it was the idea that the West had won the Cold War and was therefore free to reshape the world according to its own standards. This directly led to the decision to expand NATO membership to Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia—and eventually even further east—against the strong opposition of Russia and contrary to the promises given to Gorbachev in return for allowing German reunification.
The attempt to reinvent NATO after its original purpose had disappeared culminated in the "new strategic concept" proclaimed by NATO Heads of Government on 24th April last year in Washington. It claimed that NATO's mission had shifted from defending its members against aggression to preventing conflict and managing crises throughout the Euro-Atlantic area and even beyond. Defence would be redefined to include threats ofethnic and religious rivalries, territorial disputes, abuse of human rights and dissolution of statesas well asnuclear proliferation, terrorism, sabotage and organised crime".That was the new strategic doctrine.
Of course, the Russian response was entirely predictable. Alexander Lukin, the director of Moscow's Institul e for Political and Legal Studies, wrote in the Nezavisimaya Gazetta, on 9th June 1999, that the new strategic doctrine,implied virtually unlimited enlargement of NATO's membershipand its mandate. He called it,a deliberate attempt to destroy the post-war international system".At a summit between President Jiang of China and President Yeltsin of Russia in Beijing on 10th December last year, just over a month ago, the two leaders condemned,attempts to provoke inter-ethnic conflict and involve the international community in them".They restated their support for,national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrityand championed a,multi-polar world based on the United Nations Charter and existing principles of international law".692 At that meeting China affirmed its support for the Russian action in Chechnya.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Kosovo, its undoubted effect, as an article in Foreign Affairs pointed out only last September,was to worsen relations with the only two countries in the world that aim nuclear weapons at the United States".The fruits of this are already apparent in the falling value of the peace dividend. World military spending fell from 1 trillion dollars in 1989 to 700 billion dollars in 1998, a decrease of 34 per cent. Much of that was accounted for by the collapse of the Soviet economy. But US defence spending also fell from 374 billion dollars in 1989 to 258 billion dollars in 1998. Today the military budgets of the United States, Russia, China and even India are all projected to increase substantially, perhaps in the order of 100 billion dollars over the next two to three years. We need to add to that the cost of the Kosovo war and of reconstructing the Balkans. Perhaps that amounts to between another 50 billion dollars to 100 billion dollars. So most of the peace dividend gone.
At the height of the Kosovo war the Prime Minister quoted Bismarck's remark about the Balkans not being worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. He then said that Bismarck was wrong. I contend that in a world bristling with nuclear weapons and wounded great powers, to be a radical in foreign policy is a very dangerous thing.
I want to end by reasserting the tradition of prudence in international affairs. I believe that it is a profound mistake to believe that we in the West have the right or the power to remake the world in our own image. We must remember that the international community—a phrase which trips so easily off the tongue these days—is not the same thing as the NATO alliance. In terms of population, the NA TO alliance is in fact rather a small fraction of the international community.
The Foreign Secretary speaks of an ethical foreign policy. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, talked of a contrast between morality and reality. I would put it rather differently. In a world of competing sovereign states prudence is the highest kind of morality.
There are important things that we can do which are prudent. Genocide has been mentioned this evening on a number of occasions. I believe that it would be perfectly possible to make genocide, properly defined, a ground for military intervention under Article 7 of the UN Charter. I emphasise that it should be properly defined, because if it is not it becomes an unlimited ground. I believe that it would be possible to get the whole international community to agree to that. It would improve state behaviour without offending the maxims of prudence.
In advocating prudence I wish to recall our party to what it is to be conservative in international affairs. I thank my noble friend Lord Carrington for giving such elegant voice to that tradition this evening.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord Avebury
My Lords, in his remarkable opening speech, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that one unwanted side-effect of the end of the Cold War was that the restraints imposed by fear of global conflict had been replaced by the assertion of national self-interest. One example he gave us was Angola. He said that the United Nations had been hamstrung by lack of support and interest by those not directly involved. I would not disagree with that general proposition, but I wonder whether Angola does not show, on the contrary, that some internal conflicts are so endemic that the seismic upheavals in the relationships between the great powers have little effect on them. We have heard two other examples in the course of this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Naseby, mentioned Sri Lanka and the noble Lord, Lord Janner, spoke briefly about Kashmir.
It is worth recalling that during the Cold War the Soviets backed the MPLA in Angola and the United States supported UNITA whereas now at least there is a co-ordinated attempt by the international community to secure peace. Even so, the war started up again in December 1998 after the collapse of the Lusaka accords and proceeds now with increased ferocity causing immense suffering and devastation. United Nations operations in Angola had to be reduced. The outflow of refugees increased: 20,000 have fled into Zambia since last October. That country already hosts 200,000 refugees from elsewhere in the region. Both sides in the conflict regularly violate the laws of war and human rights. Offences by both the MPLA and UNITA are utterly atrocious.
The United Nations has tried to deprive UNITA of its armaments by an embargo and by curbing the elicit sale of diamonds. the money from which was used to finance the purchase of weapons. The head of the UN sanctions committee, Mr Robert Fowler, is in Luanda this week for discussions with the Foreign Minister and other officials. He is due to report to the Security Council next Tuesday.
UNITA's capacity to wage war has been reduced by the efforts of the sanctions committee and with the co-operation of the international community. Ambassador Fowler is to be congratulated on the progress that he has made so far. He has said that he intends to place further recommendations before the Security Council to make it impossible, or at least very difficult, for Mr Savimbi to sell diamonds and to make it even more difficult and expensive for him to acquire weapons. He wants to obtain better information about what equipment is still being encountered in the field, where it is coming from and how best to stop it. I hope that he can rely on the full co-operation of the United Kingdom in these initiatives.
We can also help by clamping down on the activities of arms brokers operating from UK territory who acquire weapons from eastern Europe and transfer them to African countries, including Angola, which are engaged in these conflicts. The United States and Sweden have better mechanisms for controlling arms 694 brokering and shipment than the United Kingdom, and we should strengthen our legislation. I appreciate that in the case of Angola there is a UN mandatory arms embargo so that any company engaged in these activities on behalf of UNITA would be committing a criminal offence under our law; but the fact that we still allow those companies to carry on their activities where there is not a mandatory embargo but where the transfers would not be licensed if they were to take place from the UK encourages those shady businesses to continue in operation.
I should now like to draw attention to another aspect of the Angolan problem which has received less attention but which has now been highlighted by the report of the UK- based NGO, Global Witness: A crude awakening: the role of oil and banking industries in Angola's civil war and the plunder of state resources. Global Witness had previously dealt with illicit diamond sales. It cannot be accused of being anti-Angolan when it focuses on an issue that it is equally important for the Government of Angola and for the international community to address.
At the beginning of the Global Witness report there are two epigraphs, one from Madeleine Albright, who says that the disease of corruption has been a critical impediment to the development of Angola. The other is from Mr Peter Hain, the Minister of State at the Foreign Office:There should be full transparency. The oil companies who work in Angola, like BP-Amoco, Elf, Total and Exxon, and the diamond traders like Dc Beers, should be open with the international community and the international financial institutions so that it is clear that these revenues are not siphoned oil, but invested in the country".Unfortunately, as this report demonstrates, a great deal of money is being siphoned off from Angola's oil revenues, and the arms deals that are financed by those revenues are also generating huge profits for top military personnel and international arms dealers. Global Witness says that Angola's oil wealth is not improving the conditions of life for ordinary people but is leading to further decline.
Responsible companies like BP-Amoco recognise the dilemma, as their submission to the International Development Committee last year demonstrated. The Chairman, Mr Peter Sutherland, wrote to me last June saying that his board had to ask themselves whether their activities in Angola had greater potential for good than harm, but they concluded that disengagement would not be for the benefit of the people as a whole. Taking a long-term view, I think he is right, but only if corrective measures are taken to put a stop to the evils identified by Global Witness. I acknowledge that, although many of its recommendations are addressed to the oil industry, it would need the support of the international community as a whole if it is to prevail upon the Government of Angola to accept its demands.
695 The first of the recommendations is that an independent audit should be conducted of the entire Angolan oil sector, and that this should be made a pre-condition of further investment by the oil industry. Will the Government press for such an audit and seek to line the European Union up behind that proposal?
For several years the IMF has been trying to promote greater transparency in Angola's financial management, but the oil industry and private financial institutions providing oil-backed loans have undermined those efforts. One of the mechanisms cited by Global Witness is the Cabinda Trust, which is run by Lloyds Bank in London. That trust receives revenues from a concession that produces 480,000 barrels a day, which represents quite a lot of money. Will the Government consider what influence they might have on the banks to co-operate in refusing to handle funds diverted from Angola's oil wealth and not subject to independent audit and scrutiny by the Angolan public?
The Global Witness report gives a lot of detail about the corrupt elite. whom it calls "the untouchable oiligarchy", going all the way up to President dos Santos, and the leg man who looks after his interests abroad, Elision Figueiredo, who operates as a diplomat without portfolio, based in Paris.
As can be imagined, these revelations have been greeted with a torrent of abuse and vilification of Global Witness in Luanda, which, if anything, to my mind lends credibility to the allegations: c'est la vérité qui blesse, as the French say.
The Washington-based Africa Policy Information Centre comments that Global Witness's charges against particular individuals are suggestive rather than conclusive, but that few would challenge the general contention that little of Angola's oil wealth—and it is estimated that it will generate 18 billion dollars over the next four years from new investment—goes to arms and not to government services for the benefit of the people.
In Angola, oil wealth has had a corrupting influence, according to the APIC report that has just been produced. APIC states that the idea of peace through a full military victory is an illusion and that a renewed effort to implement the Lusaka peace agreement of 1994 should be an essential element of any medium-term strategy. I agree with that, but I should like to know what the Government are doing to impress this thinking on the leadership in Luanda. If it is said that we cannot pursue the questions of transparency, corruption and arms deals and at the same time hope to be listened to as friendly advisers in Luanda, I would reply that all of these measures have to be done in concert with the international community: we should not do them by ourselves but we should get the European Union to join with us. This is an essential case for that kind of co-operation between the European Union and the United States, to align their approach and to invite as many other friendly nations to join them as possible. If we could bring the Commonwealth into such an initiative, that would be an added bonus.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Cox
My Lords, I join every other noble Lord in congratulating my noble friend Lord Carrington on introducing the debate, which allows the discussion of so many important issues of international significance to be discussed by so many noble Lords, with such diversity and wealth of experience.
I offer my own very humble contribution in an attempt to focus on the tragic events in Chechnya because I have been disturbed by many of the media reports which have often been biased and failed to put that war into its wider context. There have been some notable exceptions, for example Anatol Lieven's article in the Independent on December 13th entitled,It is hypocrisy to condemn Russia over Chechnya",and the article by the then Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in The Times on December 3rd, entitled,Why we are fighting in Chechnya".These articles highlight the key issues: the plight of the Chechen people; the implications of the situation in Chechnya for Russia and for neighbouring countries in the Caucasus and central Asia; and the global implications of Islamic terrorism, which is the primary cause of the war in Chechnya.
No one can have failed to be moved by the scenes of Chechen civilians fleeing in harsh winter conditions to bleak refugee camps, returning to bombed villages or trapped in Grozny under bombardment. I am a trustee of the aid organisation MERLIN, which has worked in Chechnya and still has links there; so I naturally support very strongly any humanitarian aid programmes that alleviate the suffering of innocent civilians; but other deeper problems must be solved if such suffering is not to become chronic or to recur.
I should like to highlight just two of the major problems in Chechnya. The first is internal anarchy and corruption. After the previous war the Chechen people had an opportunity to begin to develop democracy and civil society. Sadly, they proved incapable of so doing. The situation degenerated into near anarchy, with a multitude of kidnappings and killings. The dreadful fate of the three British Telecom engineers who were brutally maltreated before being decapitated is only one example. It is estimated that 1,300 Russians were taken hostage and many were killed.
Then the conflict spread to the armed invasion of Daghestan. The Russian leadership, faced with threats to the security of its own people and threats to its territorial integrity, found no responsible leadership in Chechnya with whom to negotiate. In Vladimir Putin's words:The inability of the Chechen government to stop the republic sliding into armed anarchy—surely the greatest threat to the Chechen people—or to curb the export of terrorism finally forced us to act decisively. For that we make no apology".697 The second major problem in Chechnya is the involvement of Islamist terrorist troops. Anatol Lieven, referring to the terrorist bomb attacks in Moscow which killed over 300 people, claims,It is entirely credible that it was the work of the Arab-led international Muslim revolutionaries who have based themselves in Chechnya and helped conduct the attempted invasion of Daghestan in August".He continues:Last year the Islamists, together with the leading Chechen commanders, formed a congress with the explicit aim of driving Russia from the north Caucasus and uniting Chechnya and Daghestan in one Islamist state, a plan utterly rejected by the great majority of Daghestanis".That analysis leads into my third theme: the global implications of Islamist expansionism. Let me immediately make a fundamental distinction between Islam and Islamism so that nothing I say can be construed as an attack on Islam or as promoting Islamophobia; indeed, rather the reverse. Unless that distinction is made between Islam and Islamism and is highlighted, the growth of Islamism and its associated terrorist activities will lead to an increase in Islamophobia. As more people become frightened by the militant terrorist activities of the Islamists, they may project that fear on to peaceable Muslims, exacerbating racial prejudice and tensions. It is therefore essential to identify Islamist policies and activities, to condemn and to contain them, and to differentiate them from the principles and practices of the great majority of peaceable, law-abiding Muslims.
Islamism is a political ideology rather than a religion. It has been promulgated by the international terrorist, Osama bin Laden, and his accomplices. They have declared a jihad on the West and have been responsible for many of the terrorist attacks killing thousands of innocent civilians. The bitter war in Sudan, responsible for 2 million dead and 5 million displaced in recent years, is caused by the Islamist National Islamic Front regime, which took power by military coup in 1989 and has declared a jihad against all who oppose it: Muslims and Animists as well as Christians; Arabs and Beja peoples as well as Africans. Many Muslims are giving their lives trying to contain a ruthless, brutal, expansionist Islamism, to prevent Sudan from becoming the first Islamist state in Africa and a base for the expansion of Islamism throughout Africa.
It is this Islamist ideology which underlies many other current wars. Islamists extended their militant activities from Sudan to Chechnya, which they chose to be a base for taking over the whole of the Caucasus. Their plan was to take Chechnya, then Daghestan, Georgia, Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Significantly, such an escalation will put the energy resources of the Caspian Sea Basin—which is the Persian Gulf of the future—under the control of bin Laden's allies. The war in Kashmir is another example of Islamist expansionism. That expansionism is also a factor in the current escalation of conflict in Indonesia.
I fear I sound like a woeful Jeremiah. I hope passionately that I will be proved wrong in my fears. But I must be truthful to my perception of the wider 698 implications of the war in Chechnya; that this is a symptom of a rapidly growing Islamist movement which constitutes the gravest threat to global security in the world today. That threat extends to Britain and within Britain. Trevor Royle, writing in the Scottish Sunday Herald on 9th January this year in an article entitled "Jihad all over the World", describes the emergence of an alliance of jihad warriors and how,The situation has been exacerbated by the creation in 1998 of a larger umbrella organisation, the World Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. Led by bin Laden, the group contains representatives from jihad organisations in Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The opening words of its fatwa were starkly simple: 'The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies, civilian and military, is an individual responsibility for every Muslim, wherever possible"'.On 12th November in London, a meeting addressed by Sheikh Omar Bakhri Mohammed called for a jihad against Russia and raised money to support fighters in Chechnya. Also last year, a film shown in the "Dispatches" series on Channel 4 showed recruits undergoing ideological and combat training in a camp near Slough here in England. Elsewhere in England, the Afghan war veteran, Abu Hamza, an imam in north London, was shown teaching recruits terror tactics such as methods of bringing down aircraft flying into Heathrow airport. Even more spine chillingly, each recruit was told to devise similar terrorist activities, for this is a war, a jihad, in which blood will be shed here in Britain.
As I conclude, perhaps I may ask the Minister two questions. My first question echoes the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, for a more sympathetic understanding of Russia's predicament. I should like to ask the Minister if the Government will support the Russian Federation in due course, after the conclusion of the war in Chechnya, in helping the people of Chechnya to rebuild their shattered political and physical infrastructure. Secondly, can the Minister give an assurance that the Government are taking the Islamist threat to international and national security sufficiently seriously?
The people of Chechnya did not want the war they are now enduring. The people of Daghestan did not want the war which was inflicted on them last August. The people of Russia did not ask for war. The tragic sequence of events that we have been witnessing in recent months, together with the horrors of other wars such as those in Sudan and Kashmir, are the results of expansionist militant Islamism, which is extending its ideologically justified terrorist activities further and further afield. I hasten to say that I do not in any way implicate the vast majority of peaceable, law-abiding Muslims. However, I suggest that the expansion of Islamism is one of the most important aspects of the international situation in the world today which we ignore or underestimate at our peril.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Lord Owen
My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate, greatly helped by the quality of the opening contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. Not for the first time the Government have been given a rough ride on the question of talking about a foreign 699 policy with a prefix. I believe that many of us feel that it would be wise quietly to drop the word "ethical". There is no single word that can qualify or enhance such a complex field as foreign policy. In particular, I believe that they would be wise to do so because it is beginning to harm the Government's real priority; that is, to ensure that humanitarianism and human rights are given their proper weight in the balance informing foreign policy.
It was noticeable that the Government also came under criticism for contributing British forces in two fields: East Timor and Kosovo. I should like to make it quite clear that I believe that in both cases they were right to make those commitments. It would be hard to make a serious contribution to the Commonwealth and ignore the fact that Australia was playing such a leading role in East Timor. It needed and wanted some British support. Furthermore, at a time when we are understandably becoming increasingly Euro-focused, it is extremely important that we should also demonstrate that we have a wider perspective. For that reason, it was important that we heard such an interesting speech about the serious problems that are developing in Indonesia.
As regards Kosovo, I believe that we may be forgetting a little what the situation would be like now in that country if there had been no intervention. This winter would have been a horrendous winter and everyone would have demanded action. By then NATO would have looked weak and impotent and lost support. I bow to no one in the strength of my criticism of the Rambouillet Conference. Not much attention was paid to that conference because we went straight into a war. I believe that it was one of the most dangerous and damaging international negotiations to take place for a considerable period.
Just before Christmas, I chaired a conference in Rome on Kosovo. I attended somewhat reluctantly because I had tried to step back from the Balkans. The picture was a sombre one. Most of those involved are now in Kosovo. The unanimous view was that NATO had to do more in the field of policing in Kosovo because of the serious situation relating to law and order and the fact that the human rights of the Serbs were not being protected. I understand the reluctance of the military to become involved in it, but a small police force is needed to try to bring people to justice and to carry out other tasks. I fear that for some time it will be necessary for the military to take a more active role.
I am tempted to go into many other aspects relating to Kosovo. All I say is that we must face the reality that fairly soon a Balkans agreement will be required about Kosovo becoming independent. That agreement cannot be reached without the involvement of the Serbs, for no other reason than that the Russian Federation and China will insist on it in the Security Council. Sometimes one forgets that the fighting was brought to an end as a result of a compromise on the Rambouillet demands and some very good diplomacy by the United States. The United States realised that the military situation was getting out of control and in 700 danger of being criticised for proportionality in what was, rightly, fundamentally a humanitarian intervention.
The biggest issue that faces us in international affairs has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd: European/US relations. He rightly stressed its dimension, which I totally accept. I should like to deal with the European defence and security initiative. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent, spoke far better than I can, and with much better information, about the military aspects. I agree with everything that he said. I shall refer to the political aspects. I have been in favour of this initiative from its infancy under the Treaty of Maastricht to its development under the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Prime Minister's commitment at St Malo with President Chirac. But these are very dangerous waters. If we get it wrong, perhaps in terms of the structure of our relationship with the United States, particularly Congress, or the European Union, we shall pay a very heavy price.
It was understood at St Malo that the new defence identity would not come under the European Commission, European Parliament or European Court. I have said before I think it was a mistake that since that last speech the Government have ignored the view of some that there should be a separate defence pillar and have placed the initiative under the second pillar: CFSP. There are arguments in favour of it but also some problems. Common foreign and security policy inevitably involves the Commission. How could it be otherwise? One cannot have a foreign policy that ignores development policy or trade aspects. But we have always drawn a distinction between foreign and defence policy. Although the two mingle together, I believe it is crucial that this defence policy should remain intergovernmental. Does the noble Lord wish to intervene?
§ Lord Hurd of Westwell
My Lords, the noble Lord is perfectly right to say that it would involve the Commission, but not in the context of its right of monopoly of initiative and execution under the Treaty of Rome. The Commission would, as it were, be sitting alongside in an intergovernmental process.
§ Lord Owen
My Lords, the noble Lord is aware that, according to Article 21 under Title V concerned with CFSP, the Commission is responsible, with the presidency, for informing Parliament. That is fine in relation to foreign policy. I suggest that many of us would be very anxious if the Commission was also responsible for informing the Parliament on defence matters. Further, under Article 27 the Commission is given more powers. The troika which is increasingly used in foreign policy, rightly, involves the Commission. Would we be equally happy to see the troika involve the Commission, admittedly with the new Secretary-General Javier Solana? I do not believe that it is acceptable that the Commission should be involved in troika operations that have defence and military implications. Under Article 23, 701 decisions with defence or military implications are excluded from qualified majority voting, rightly so. Therefore, we have already made that distinction and we need to build on it.
It may be that this is a matter for the intergovernmental conference and the meeting in December in Paris. But at Helsinki the statement of the presidency charged the Council with the task of formulating interim committees and structures by March. Will we see the Commission represented on military committees or committees in possession of intelligence information? That would have considerable implications for the United States. These are important questions.
The Prime Minister deserves support for going that extra step at St Malo, but I worry that as yet there has not been sufficient attention to detail to clarify the picture. This is a matter of fundamental importance to this House. Whatever our views about other aspects of the euro, I do not believe that there are many people here who want to see defence taken out of intergovernmental co-operation and consensus. The noble Baroness will be able to reply. However, as a lawyer she will look carefully at the words of the treaty. The Minister appreciates that very often in the past we have been told that they have no long-term implications but perhaps five, 10 or 15 years later the Court has been able to make an interpretation with profound implications. All I say is that we should watch this area very carefully over the next couple of months.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Lord Howell of Guildford
My Lords, having listened to most of the 29 speeches so far in this debate, to misquote Oliver Cromwell I feel that perhaps I have sat here long enough. We have heard superb speeches. Everyone has thanked my noble friend Lord Carrington, and I heartily join in those thanks to him for getting this debate going this afternoon. The exercise has been a superb one. Everyone has praised the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, even though apparently it is out of order to do so. I was particularly thrilled that he chose the subject of the Commonwealth. Throughout the 1990s some of us campaigned to bring the Commonwealth further up the agenda in British policy and to promote the idea of the Commonwealth as a resource for the future that we would be foolish to put aside rather than an old boy's club or something to join unenthusiastically.
In passing, while many people have made nice remarks about the Commonwealth, the actions of the policymakers in this country have not always been quite as strong as the words. There is a good deal more campaigning to do, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, will join in it.
Listening to these very fine speeches, I wonder whether we are debating foreign policy in an obsolete framework. Have we grasped that huge forces are eroding the power of the nation state, in particular to take a decisive role in shaping its own foreign policy? 702 My noble friend Lord Inglewood made a remarkable speech whose implications are clear. We talk about our foreign policy being this or that but the skills we used in the past to seek to shape world affairs in our interests have to be replaced by completely new skills. I do not refer only to the obvious and significant point that the media stage is central, with the phenomenon of the so-called CNN crises, and that decisions about what is a humanitarian intervention, and responses to the cry referred to by my noble friend Lord Carrington as "Something must be done", all too often are driven by the media. I believe that the media stage is central to all politics and all international affairs. It is not quite as powerful as some of our media friends think it is—not least because they all disagree with each other. Nevertheless, that is a powerful influence on foreign affairs and becoming totally so in the information age.
A further powerful restraint has grown up recently. It is linked to the information network system. It is the growth of the great civic non-governmental bodies like Amnesty, Greenpeace, Oxfam and Médecins sans Frontiéres. Such bodies can now dictate foreign policy. They can so mobilise legitimacy and support publicly in many countries across borders that they, too, can drive policy makers in directions in which they might not necessarily wish to go. While the policy makers may be calling for the caution which my noble friend Lord Skidelsky rightly said should inform all those interventions, the great civic bodies backed by a mass of public opinion—an interactive and digitally driven opinion—may be pushing them in quite different directions.
Further, our nation states, in particular the older ones, are being weakened by pluralism and localism. That may be good for democrats up to a point but it can rapidly boil over into extreme inward-looking tribalism and anarchy and can begin to shatter the whole civic order and compromises on which our nation states were originally put together. That is occurring in many parts of the world, in some parts violently. In our own part of the world, it is happening quietly and we hope non-violently; but it is occurring. It leads great authorities like Professor Norman Davies, who has written a vast volume on the isles, to conclude at the end of the whole history of the British Isles that breaking up is imminent. I think that he is totally wrong. Nevertheless, it is extraordinary that such authorities should air such thoughts. That should send strong alarm bells to all those who talk of the formation of policy to protect our civic cohesion and our nation state and ensure that its interests are pursued.
However, in my scale those are the lesser factors. The major influence that constrains the area in which foreign policy can be formed is that the world stage is now stuffed with institutions all vying to play the global role which they allege the nations can no longer play by themselves. They may be right. We have referred to the United Nations. In the Financial Times two days ago, Mr Kofi Annan said that there is a new norm of intervention. He asked who should decide what the norm was. However, the clear implication 703 was that he thought the United Nations institutions, suitably reformed, should do so. That is the axe he grinds.
The World Trade Organisation tried to please everybody and ended in a spectacular failure at Seattle as a result, mobilising many lobbies hostile to liberalisation of trade yet ignoring the fact that over a third of world trade is not even visible to the statistics of the world trade policy makers, let alone all the capital flows and investment flows which are far more decisive nowadays than old-fashioned movements of goods or even services.
The G8 meets and tries to influence policy with decreasing success because it does not fit into the modern world. The World Bank has decided that it has a new social role. If one reads what Jim Wolfensohn says, it has become an international care counsellor. That has taken it far away from banking projects. Whether it is qualified to do that I do not know. The IMF is completely confused as to whether it should be larger or smaller.
We have not debated the European Union today. Nevertheless, there is the confusion between those who want it to be a superstate—I believe that they will almost certainly fail—and those who think that it should be a looser body.
The defence capability, about which the noble Lord, Lord Owen, spoke with such eloquence, is significant. Underlying it is this chorus that somehow Europe must become a rival to the United States, a superpower on its own: that it must have a destiny, a say in the world, and so on. Behind that is the view that some separate eurotechnology can be devised which will equip the new European capability. It is an absurd notion. In the globalised world the technology of Japan with its microchips, the United States with its surveillance equipment, and Europe with some of its hardware are all wrapped up together. No soldier can proceed on the lowest profile policing operation in Europe without relying on American and Japanese technology. The proposition that there is a separate part to be carved out for European technology and weaponry, or a European defence capability which can act on its own without American infrastructure or air support, is completely absurd; the more so in the global order in which we now live.
Those organisations are vying for the support of the nation states. There are others. We have mentioned the Commonwealth. It is a fabulous trans-regional network, and is growing all the time. It fits well into the new order. It is not a hierarchical organisation. It is part of the network which has no centre. There are NAFTA, Mercosur, ASEAN, APEC, the Nordic Union and an endless string of organisations all wondering whether they can be "the global force" or whether they should merely stick to being associations of member states.
What is my conclusion to all the thrashing which is going on in a turbulent international scene? It is that there will be no world government. There will be no global government to deal with global issues (to use the glib phrase). Nor will there be any demise of the nation 704 state. That is a very fashionable view. Many are the gurus who say that the nation state is too small because it cannot cope with the global issues; or it is too large because it does not tune in to the local sentiments and needs of communities and therefore is finished. The obituaries are written frequently. If we want to start on a sensible line of thought about what influence we can have on foreign policy, far from dismissing the nation state at this stage of our history we should do everything possible to reinforce and strengthen it, and not pull it to pieces from below or above.
Certainly the nation state has to change. We all know that national governments will have a smaller role in society, not least because they will have more and more difficulties in raising revenues, which are their oxygen. We know that national government will be a humbler outfit because their economic pretensions that they can control the economy have been blurred. We know that people increasingly want national governments to concentrate on the core functions of law and order, property rights, competition and ensuring that we have an educated society, and to avoid the more fanciful initiatives that governments like to take.
Above all, I suggest to your Lordships that we need the confidence to ensure that the nation state can be held together and able to perform in the global order: that the nation state, in a sense, is coming to the rescue of the global situation; and that we need great agility and confidence to perform that role.
I conclude with a quotation which comes, oddly, from Boutros Boutros Ghali, who was a wise old Copt, badly treated by Washington, and not necessarily a great supporter of nationalism or mini nationalism. He said;The globalisation now taking place requires a profoundly renewed concept of the State. Between the isolated individual and the world there must be an intermediate element. This element is the State and national sovereignty. They respond to the needs of all human beings for identification. In a world both impersonal and fragmented such a need is greater than it has ever been in history".If we base our foreign policy on that cardinal principle, we shall not go far wrong in an increasingly turbulent and dangerous world.
§ 8 p.m.
§ Lord Wallace of Saltaire
My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate. I have been struck by the broad consensus on many Benches about what the British contribution should be. I want to follow the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, of the international situation in general rather than follow those who spoke of specific regions or countries. However, there is one exception; I want to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said about Pakistan and what the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said about South Asia in general. I remind noble Lords that we are to debate Pakistan next week.
South Asia is an important area for Britain. I have been involved in electoral politics in West Yorkshire for many years, and it is impossible to forget that Kashmir is a local issue in Bradford. Indeed, the 705 Salman Rushdie affair began in the politics of the Asian community in Bradford. We must be involved in the politics of South Asia, for if they go badly wrong it will affect the internal politics of this country.
Following the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, we have seen a fragmentation of world politics in the past 10 years since the end of the Cold War. There has been a decline of outside interest or support to resolve local conflicts, to help strengthen weak states or to put back together collapsed states and societies in the developing world. We see the United States as the world's dominant military power and economy; what American scholars proudly refer to as "the unipolar moment" of American hegemony over the rest of the world. However, we also see within the United States an increasing air of doubt as to how far they accept their role as carrying the burdens of the world; an increasingly irresponsible Congress; and conspiracy theorists within the American Right. Whereas conspiracy theorists among the Right in Britain orient themselves towards the European Union, in the United States conspiracy theorists believe that the United Nations is a threat to American sovereignty.
That means that we in Europe need to engage in an active dialogue with the United States about the problems of the world and how we should share them together. I accept and share the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, about the weakness of global institutions—the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and so forth—now that they lack the active American support which they received in the Cold War years. They do not yet have sufficient supplementary sources of support from European and Asian democracies instead. It is evident that the international situation requires stronger international institutions, both global and regional.
I welcome the broad consensus around the House that the key to the improvement of the international situation is a closer European-American partnership based on a more coherent approach by European governments to share foreign policy, together with a more active European pursuit of a transatlantic partnership. That must be the way forward, rather than the illusions which in the wilder shores of the Daily Telegraph editorial page and correspondence columns suggest that Britain should somehow be sunk into NAFTA alongside Mexico, in order to avoid closer co-operation with the French, the Germans, the Dutch and the Spanish.
Liberal Democrats have actively supported the Government in pursuing closer European cooperation through the St Malo Franco-British initiative and beyond. I wish only that the British Government had been more open in explaining to Parliament and the public just how far and how fast it is moving. In that respect, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on becoming chair of a new subcommittee of your Lordships' European Union Committee, which will examine the development of 706 common foreign and security policy. I look forward to our debate on the first report of his committee which will shed some more light on such rapid developments.
Last week, I read the communiqué of the Helsinki European Council, and was struck by the number of decisions which the Government had not reported to either House of this Parliament. I understand that there is to be a permanent political and security committee in Brussels; a planning unit within the Council secretariat; a military committee also operating permanently in Brussels and a military staff; and that these will begin to operate in March 2000 on an interim basis before the treaty can be amended to allow them. I was also struck by the quiet way in which Javier Solana was appointed Secretary General of the WEU in late November alongside the secretary generalship of the Council Secretariat, thus moving those two organisations much closer together.
All of those moves are taking us towards a position in which we are not threatening NATO—and I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, that we must not overemphasise the ambitions of ESDI—but which we hope will lead to a useful European contribution to peacekeeping and peacemaking alongside the Americans, responding to the longstanding American demand that Europeans should share more of the burden in our region and beyond of keeping the peace.
There is a firm basis for that in having George Robertson as Secretary General of NATO and Javier Solana as Secretary General of the Council. They are two people with whom American administrations are happy to deal, and whom they have dealt with for a long time. I encourage Her Majesty's Government to take a more active lead in pressing our European partners to do more on their own front. I disagree slightly with the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in suggesting that the Commission is the biggest problem in that respect.
The weak commitment of many other governments to translate rhetoric into practice is part of what holds us back. For instance, the Germans have cut defence spending this year and the Italians clearly need to raise the level of theirs. As regards arms exports and controls, we read of the current revelations in Germany and continuing problems in France; we are not entirely sure even about British policy on arms controls. As regards eastern enlargement, the question remains open as to how far the European Union and its member governments are willing to make the necessary trade and agricultural concessions to ensure that we can extend security, stability and prosperity across central and eastern Europe.
During the past week, we have seen the absurd situation in which the South African trade agreement, an important symbolic and practical gesture towards the stabilisation of southern Africa, has been held up yet again after three years by the Italian Grappa lobby, insisting that South African Grappa should not be allowed to be sold on world markets under that name. That is an appalling gap between rhetorical commitment and willingness to translate things into practice.
707 There is still a long way to go before we have an effective European foreign policy, but I hope that this Government will continue to push in that direction. It is important partly because we do not always agree with the United States and we need to represent our interests more actively and energetically inside American congressional politics and within the US administration.
We have looked back 10 years to what has happened since the Cold War. Looking ahead 10 years and asking what we can hope for—what Britain should be doing to try to improve the international situation—I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. I do not believe that we should still be saying that world interests are Britain's interests. Britain lacks the resources to pursue world influence alone. There is no evidence within our public that they would be prepared to pay the additional taxes for a substantial increase in British defence expenditure, in the Diplomatic Service and in development expenditure of the kind that would be required.
§ Lord Marlesford
My Lord, with respect to the noble Lord, the point I was making was that there should be a separation between the provision of military forces and the payment for them. It would not involve us in paying more, but if we are ideally placed to provide forces we should be able to do so.
§ Lord Wallace of Saltaire
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that additional comment. In 10 years' time, only 20 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom will have been born before 1945. And fewer still will remember the Second World War; that brief period when Britain was a super power. I doubt whether the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph will still have such a n easy audience for great power nostalgia. The transformation of the United Kingdom, which is already under way, will have taken us a good deal further.
I was very struck, as perhaps many noble Lords were, by listening to the radio and television on 1st January and hearing the repeated phrase "in each of the four capitals of the United Kingdom" this, that or the other was happening. I was not sure how one had such a multi-national foreign policy from a unified state which is why I was so reassured the other day to hear those wonderful Conservative tones coming from the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, about the defence of the realm and the United Kingdom which reassured us that the old world is somehow still there—the multi-ethnic character of our foreign policy in terms of our engagement with Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia of which others have talked. Increasing engagement with our European partners is year by year taking us further into the idea of shared European interests and British foreign policy expressed through that.
Around what should Britain's contribution to international stability be built? First, I suggest closer co-operation within our own region through playing a constructive role within Europe's regional institutions, which clearly includes enlargement. a neighbourly policy towards Russia and Ukraine and an active 708 Mediterranean policy towards our dependent neighbours in the South. Secondly, a redefined partnership with the United States through NATO and through global institutions. Thirdly, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, suggested in his opening speech, support for regional institution building outside Europe in those areas that are of most concern to us within Africa, within the Middle East, particularly if, as we may hope, the relations between Israel and its neighbours may be placed in a much more favourable and firmer framework through a peace settlement, and within South and South-East Asia. That way, I suggest, offers the most constructive and affordable British contribution towards improving the international situation.
§ 8.12 p m.
§ Lord Moynihan
My Lords, the first maiden speech of a new millennium in Parliament is an occasion to be noted and celebrated. It was wholly appropriate, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, set an example which will be remembered for its content, its eloquence and its delivery for a very long time indeed. I hope that it is in order for me to say that in thanking my noble friend Lord Carrington. For a reasonably young man here to have the privilege to respond from these Benches in a debate of this nature is an honour, indeed. Far greater was the honour afforded to me to listen for some five hours to many of the finest statesmen who have been committed to serving Britain's interests in international diplomacy over the past 20, 30, 40 and in some cases almost 50 years.
To sum up the debate this evening is well nigh impossible, but I shall attempt to do so. We have heard of the manifold challenges. Our responses to these challenges and our foreign policy must surely be shaped in accordance with what has been called the "information age", a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, my noble friend Lord Inglewood and, in some detail, by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford. Through the medium of the Internet and enhanced communications, technological advances have already had a profound and dramatic effect on our society. I believe that they will continue so to do. Our foreign policy challenges can be viewed within the context of the growing globalisation of world finance, economics and politics.
In our increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, many of the problems that face us, and will continue to do so, are no longer open to purely national solutions. In a sense I am speaking of the world bridged by the age of information. But I think it is also possible to speak of a world divided by an age of contradictions. We are faced with many contradictions in global society which impact upon our foreign policy: contradictions between unprecedented peace and prosperity for some and protracted conflict and desperate poverty for others, and between rapid economic globalisation on the one hand and increasing political fragmentation on the other. In a world where globalisation means that our economies are integrating faster and on more levels than ever before, paradoxically, as my noble friend 709 Lord Howell of Guildford stated, the politics of separatism and nationalism are fragmenting societies and in some cases tearing them apart.
My noble friend Lord Carrington set out by looking at the Cold War and its legacy. Although in Western Europe we have basked in five decades of unprecedented peace and security, war and suffering remain part of daily life for too many people elsewhere in the world, including on our continent. Across the globe we can see countless examples of man's inhumanity to man where violence and conflict, whatever their cause, are the harbingers of chaos and carnage, fear and death. We have heard today of some of these issues: the inhumanity that can be seen in the recent separatist and religious violence in Sri Lanka and in the Spice Islands of Indonesia. They can be seen in the diamond-fuelled conflicts of Angola and Sierra Leone. They can be seen in the government-orchestrated oppression of the Karen and the Karenni people in Burma or in the vicious civil war in the Sudan. There are many more examples.
The key point behind those examples is that the majority of today's conflicts, whatever their cause, are now internal. With a few exceptions, such as the territorial war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, wars are increasingly intra-state rather than interstate. Civilians, not soldiers, are today's main victims in the global theatre of war. As my noble friend Lord Lamont noted, this change in the nature of conflict poses a number of critical questions, the answers to which will have profound and far-reaching effects on the foreign policies we pursue in the future. These include questions over the definition of the nation state, the pursuit of foreign policy in the national interest and our legitimate spheres of action, questions of the importance and relevance of national sovereignty, particularly when gross human rights violations have taken place, and the legitimacy and the legality of military intervention under the humanitarian banner in those cases.
Here, the ideas of a permanent international investigation unit and the importance of the international court were interesting themes characteristically developed brilliantly by my noble friend Lord Hunt. A number of your Lordships have commented on the ethical dimension to the Government's foreign policy. The Prime Minister has said that the most pressing foreign policy problem that we face is to identify the circumstances in which we should become actively involved in other people's affairs. It was a view echoed today by my noble friend Lord Hurd, who recognised that we must help while we realistically can. Yet, as the Government's differing responses to the crises last year in Kosovo, East Timor and Chechnya demonstrated, the Government's looking-glass ethical foreign policy continues to obscure the solution to this tortuous problem and to distort the triumvirate of national interest, principle and common sense which influences foreign policy.
710 The Government's rhetoric of high principle in the spring, when we were told that Kosovo's increasingly blood-soaked soil demanded "a battle for humanity" and a "battle for the values of civilisation" began to resemble low compromise in the autumn when terrified refugees were once again in flight—this time Chechnyan ones—and the Government were asked to explain how their ethical dimension to foreign policy was being applied to the crisis in Chechnya.
I make these observations not so much in disagreement with the action the Government have taken, but merely to echo the point made by many of your Lordships this afternoon and this evening and most poignantly by my noble friend Lord Biffen and again by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that the relations between ethics and foreign policy are perhaps rather more complex than the Foreign Secretary's strictly presented admission statement in May 1997 acknowledged. A human rights policy and foreign policy are not the same thing; and while human rights are an important component of foreign policy, and indeed need ardent champions, not everything that is morally unacceptable around the world can be rectified by our Government.
In a world where at the flick of a television switch or at the click of a mouse human suffering and tragedy across the world are accessible in real time and where public opinion can be rapidly mobilised by, as my noble friend Lord Carrington said, the something-must-be-done mentality, the something must be done call to arms of tabloid journalism, governments are put under pressure to take action, particularly governments with ethical dimensions to their foreign policy. But our foreign policies must be formulated to take this into account rather than formulated on account of this.
So we consider what reforms are needed. As the central pillar for international co-operation on peace and security, it was right that the UN's role was a central pivot in this discussion, as it is in contemporary world politics. It is right that your Lordships reflected on today's political realities and challenges rather than on those of 1945. The subject of the reform of the UN is, I believe, a debate in itself. I hope that the usual channels may look kindly on that suggestion, certainly before the UN millennium assembly in September. For we have heard many useful contributions on that subject during this debate: from my noble friend Lord Carrington a range of suggestions, not least about the regional importance and the impact the UN can have and specific suggestions on the early warning military and intelligence advice which is so much needed by the UN Secretary General. We heard from my noble friend Lady Rawlings about the importance of anticipating crises in the world and in the international political climate that I have described. We heard from my noble friend Lord Howell about having more reliable enforcement machinery.
These suggestions are relevant in the context of another key issue, a subject which can be summarised as "winning the war and losing the peace". The United Nations has been more actively engaged in peacekeeping roles in its very recent history than in the 711 whole of its previous history put together. Since 1989 there have been 35 UN-led blue beret operations, with British military participation in 17 of those 35. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our troops for the distinction with which they have served, and continue to serve, in these operations and to record the deep debt of gratitude which we in this country owe them.
The Minister will have heard the fears that have been voiced today that the Government have presided over a spiral of overstretch of British forces, both in financial and human terms, a point made in an exemplary manner by my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth. I hose that the Minister will take back the message to her colleagues, both in the Foreign Office and in the Ministry of Defence, that these fears must be addressed if British forces are to continue to undertake the functions which the Government have set out and which the Government have supported. I do not see this pattern of peacekeeping operations changing. We have heard today of the potential flash points across the world of nationalism, ethnic resentments and separatist tendencies which are simmering, some of which are well away from the beam of the media spotlight but which need only a spark to ignite an explosion of violence.
It has not been possible to respond to the many other issues raised by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, and my noble friend Lord Hurd with regard to the vital importance of the European security and defence identity and the EU common foreign and security policy. On the ESDI, I will simply restrict myself to saying that it is a deeply complex subject which if handled ineptly could impact disastrously on NATO. In terms of the CFSP, we have seen the cracks appearing already. The statements of Javier Solana, as high representative for the CFSP, on the desirability of an EU representation on the UN Security Council, as well as Commissioner Prodi's statements on the need for a European army, raise questions over the extent to which an enlarged Europe of perhaps 27 nations can effectively develop a consensus foreign and security policy without impairing national foreign policy decision-making. The priority must continue to be given to Anglo-American relations and indeed, as my noble friend Lord Hurd mentioned, to the vital importance of European-American relations.
In conclusion, what I can take away from today's debate is that the key challenge for our foreign and development policy will be, first, the building of a structure of global good governance, a point so well elaborated on by y noble friend Lady Chalker in the context of her work in Africa, within which democratic demands from majorities and the rights of minorities can be accommodated and which will ensure that poverty alleviation and debt relief have a real effect; secondly, the defusing of the underlying causes which trigger a particular conflict; and thirdly, the reform of our system of the international institutions to permit quick, effective and agreed humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping where necessary.
712 I should like to join other noble Lords in taking this opportunity to pay tribute to the invaluable work undertaken by our diplomats, at home and abroad, the BBC World Service and the British Council in this country's contribution to the strengthening of global society and global order. Once again, I thank my noble friend Lord Carrington for initiating this debate and my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth for providing us with a magical parliamentary moment to savour.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)
My Lords, it is a great privilege to close the debate, although I fear that it will be a gargantuan task. I am grateful to all noble Lords who spoke in it and to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for tabling the Motion which made the debate possible. Virtually every speaker has referred to the noble Lord's erudition, his value and his unerring judgment. I would not like to detract from any of those comments.
In the debate on the Queen's Speech the House had an opportunity to discuss a number of the current foreign policy issues. I welcome this further opportunity to build on that debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace Saltaire, rightly reminded us, next week we will have the advantage of the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, on Pakistan. I hope that the House will understand if I respond to the comments made by noble Lords about Pakistan then.
I should like to add my congratulations to those of other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes. I refer in particular to the elegant tribute paid to him by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead. The intelligence and wisdom for which the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, is already reputed were clearly shown in his speech. I associate myself with all the comments made in relation to it. I can assure the noble Lord, as one whose heritage is both British and Caribbean, that I share his commitment to the Commonwealth and that we too believe that the Commonwealth is a valuable forum for discussion of issues of world trade and international economics. I was warmed to hear the support for those sentiments which echoed from all Benches. No one in the House will be surprised that my noble friend Lady Amos and I particularly welcomed the glowing comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about the excellence and outstanding quality and talent of Caribbean people. The concerns of the Caribbean are concerns for Her Majesty's Government. I can assure the noble Baroness that her concerns are very much mirrored by our own.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was right to draw attention to the changes that have taken place in the world over the 10 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union. The end of the Cold War brought us all great benefits—in reducing the threat of nuclear annihilation and in bringing new freedoms and opportunities to the people of central and eastern Europe. The relief that we somehow all escaped Armageddon was palpable. The world is also changing in other ways. Many noble 713 Lords have spoken about it. There is the globalisation of the world economy and the information revolution, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, made particular reference. Both, unthinkable 10 years ago, are having a major impact on the way people and governments interact.
The noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Eden, to mention just a few, remarked on those changes. The changes are much more complicated than before. We have more opportunities but we also face new challenges. The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, would have us believe that the world has not changed; that we have remained static; that there can be no change; or that it was something that we no longer had to take into account—we did not have to live in the real world. We have new challenges because we are faced with the need to find new solutions.
Britain's foreign policy has had to adapt. The Foreign Office's mission statement sets out clearly how the Government intend to deal with those opportunities and challenges by promoting security, prosperity, the quality of life and respect for human rights.
It is of course in central and eastern Europe where the changes of the past 10 years have been most widely felt. The people of Europe have been given the historic opportunity to re-unite a continent that had been divided for a generation. A number of noble Lords mentioned the idea of a bipartisan approach to foreign affairs. I was pleased to see such clear recognition from all Benches and from some of my most distinguished predecessors at the Foreign Office that it is vital to Britain's interests that it should play a leading role in the European Union. I assure your Lordships that we shall continue to do so.
I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, and to the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, that we see no dichotomy between full engagement in Europe and strong relations with the United States of America. Those relationships are complementary, not competing. They are mutually reinforcing.
The British Government have long championed EU enlargement and are working closely with the applicants to get their institutions and economies into shape. Accession negotiations with Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus began, as many noble Lords are aware, during our EU presidency in 1998. In Helsinki, heads of government agreed to start negotiations with Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta. The European Council agreed also that Turkey was a candidate and would be treated on the same basis as the others. The advances made by those countries, as the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, highlighted in her speech which laid particular emphasis on Bulgaria's advancement, have been acknowledged. I assure the noble Baroness that we shall seek to anticipate the problems before they arise. I am sure that we all welcome those historic decisions.
Russia, perhaps more than anywhere else in eastern Europe, has changed, almost beyond recognition, over the past 10 years. It is now a functioning democracy. 714 State planning has been abolished. An independent judiciary is emerging. Progress has been made in establishing a functioning market economy. We must recognise that the transition is far from complete, but the direction of change is clear.
That does not mean that we should refrain from criticising Russia when we believe that its government are making serious mistakes; for example, in their actions in Chechnya, about which many noble Lords spoke. It is incumbent on all those in the West who want to see real partnership between our countries and Russia to let Russia know frankly and clearly when we have concerns about Russian behaviour. The Government have repeatedly recorded our concern at the Russian military action in Chechnya. We recognise that Russia faces a genuine threat and we take fully on board the concerns expressed in relation to those matters. We agreed with our EU partners in December to cut EU assistance to Russia and we are continuing to press the Russians to pursue a political solution and to use the good offices of the OSCE to achieve that goal.
We take extremely seriously the comments made by my noble friend Lord Judd about the challenges with which we are presented in that regard. We understand also the anxieties expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox. I assure the noble Baroness that Her Majesty's Government are committed to alleviating human suffering around the world and that the Government take all terrorist threats seriously whatever their origin and are determined that terror shall not prevail.
Many noble Lords—I hope they will forgive me if I do not name them all—have remarked that the most unwelcome consequence of the end of the Cold War has been the re-emergence of extreme narrow-minded nationalism in the Balkans. Those pressures culminated last year in Kosovo. The situation there has been dramatically transformed over the past year. It was right for the noble Lord, Lord Owen, to remind us of the consequences that would have resulted had we not intervened. We must not forget that as we look at the considerable challenges that still lie ahead.
Many noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Judd, have said that the challenges that the UN mission and the NATO-led Kosovo force now face are immense: the physical, political and economic rebuilding of a society which has been oppressed and neglected for over a decade. We do not entirely accept the gloomy picture that has been painted by some, but we should say that they are making progress. The refugees have returned, schools have been re-opened and the basis of a modern market-oriented economy is being laid. Free and fair elections will happen.
There is in the wider Balkans an opportunity now to press home our advantage and push for genuine change across the region. The challenge for the next decade is to help the countries of the region shape their future through political and economic reforms and to bring them towards European integration. The EU, NATO, the OSCE and the countries of the region are all engaged in that process under the auspices of the 715 stability pact and their own programmes. The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, asked about the size and duration of British military developments in the Balkans. I do not have the precise figures at hand. I hope that the noble Lord will be content that I shall write to him.
The challenges are formidable. But so is the prize: lasting peace and stability in the Balkans. It was right that a number of noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, raised the importance and difficulties of the situation in the wider Balkans, but I assure each of your Lordships that we are watching the situation in Montenegro closely and with vigilance.
One of the consequences of the Cold War has been the way in which NATO and its member states have had to adjust their military posture to meet new realities. Noble Lords have commented upon that already. We have already welcomed Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into NATO. At the Washington summit in April last year, NATO reaffirmed that its doors remained open to further new members.
Bosnia and Kosovo have illustrated that Europe needs to develop an effective and flexible military capability. That is why Britain launched an initiative in the European Union to develop those capabilities. The European Council in Helsinki saw a firm commitment from all members. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent of Coleshill, and the noble Lord, Lord Owen, were right to remind us that the military intervention in Kosovo was a success. We welcome the support and understanding of many of the comments made by other noble Lords from all sides of the House; in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and many others.
Our initiative has two key goals: a dramatic improvement in capabilities across Europe and to develop structures for EU crisis management operations in situations where the NATO alliance as a whole is not engaged. That is not a plan for collective defence—that is NATO's role—but rather a mechanism to deal with crisis management operations. It will help to drive change in all EU countries. We need to move away from static territorial defence towards flexible, mobile units.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and the noble Lord, Lord Owen, made specific mention of the European Parliament and the Commission. I reassure them that there is no role in those plans for the European Parliament or the Commission. Defence is an intergovernmental business. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent, the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, the noble Lord, Lord Eden, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, and my noble friend Lord Longford all raised the importance of the attitude of and the importance per se of the Americans in that regard.
We are confident that they share our view that those arrangements will serve to strengthen further the North Atlantic alliance by increasing Europe's capability to act in a crisis. A stronger Europe must mean a stronger alliance.
716 In response to the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, perhaps I may say that it is important that on 15th December 1999 the US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, himself said:There should be no confusion about America's position on the need for a stronger Europe. We are not against; we are not ambivalent; we are not anxious; we are for it. We want to see a Europe that can act effectively through the Alliance or if NATO is not engaged, on its own, … Helsinki represented from our perspective a step, indeed, several steps in the right direction".The Americans are with us. Therefore, we are confident that a strong Europe must mean a stronger alliance. As we consider the next steps in the endeavour, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that we shall pay due attention to the advice and comments which he gave us here today. I can also reassure the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that we, too, see no danger that the nation state will disappear or lessen in significance.
Tonight we have heard views from a number of noble Lords about the Government's policy on human rights. In particular, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, highlighted powerfully the challenges presented by disease, prison conditions and the need for penal reform, and the splendid work being done in this regard by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am happy to tell the noble Baroness that Her Majesty's Government are one of the principal bilateral donors in the area of tuberculosis control in Eastern Europe. We have committed over £1 million in this area in close collaboration with the World Bank and the World Health Organisation. We are committed to protecting and promoting the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the core United Nations human rights instruments.
In looking around the world, there are still many regimes which are undemocratic and engaged in barbarous acts. As many noble Lords said, we cannot right every wrong. There are no magic wands or easy answers to intractable problems. However, working in co-operation with our international partners, we can make a difference. I was happy to hear the understanding of that reality echoed round the House by many, many noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, said powerfully that the world interests are our interests. I know that that sentiment seemed to find favour among many noble Lords this evening. However, we must be realistic about what we can achieve. We need also to be flexible. But that is no reason for us not to be ambitious. I welcome the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Eden, in this regard.
The noble Lord, Lord Lamont, raised the legality of NATO's actions in Kosovo. That subject has been discussed often and at length in your Lordships' House in the past months. NATO's action was legal. It 'was justified as an exceptional response to a humanitarian crisis, and all NATO members agree that the action was necessary and legal.
The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, emphasised the need for prudence. I echo that need. However, in response to the challenges with which they have been 717 faced on the international stage, I say without apology that Her Majesty's Government have exercised that prudence with considerable effect.
Our policy is to take whatever steps are most likely to secure real human rights improvements on the ground. I know that a number of noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, among others—tried to tease me to rise to a complaint about consistency. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, did so more seriously. However, at this late stage in the evening I shall not rise.
We are consistent in the goals which we pursue. But different circumstances require different methods. In extreme cases, where countries abuse all norms and rules of civilised behaviour—in cases like Milosevic, Serbia or Saddam's Iraq—we may have to resort to military action. As your Lordships know, we have done so with a heavy heart and a sense of the responsibility involved in asking our soldiers to risk their lives.
In other cases, we believe that progress is more likely to be encouraged by dialogue and engagement. That is not a soft option. For example, with Libya and Iran we have taken cautious steps to improve relations with regimes which have shown signs of re-engaging with the international community. That policy of engagement has led to positive gains; for example, the handing over of the suspects for trial in the Lockerbie case.
I turn briefly to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in relation to the Global Witness report about oil in Angola. We believe that Angola's oil wealth should be used for the benefit of all her people. That point was made by my right honourable friend the Minister of State, Peter Hain, in his speech at the Annual Conference on Action for Southern Africa on 20th November last year. He called also for full transparency in the handling of oil revenues. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that I shall write to him in relation to the more specific issues which he raised.
The Government are committed to the UN as the central pillar of international co-operation. But, as the Prime Minister said in Chicago last year, we must modernise the UN and find ways to make it and its Security Council work more effectively.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, asked me a number of specific questions. If I may, I shall try to deal with them briefly. We believe that the United Nations Security Council must be made more representative of the membership of the UN, including German and Japanese membership. We have welcomed the internal reforms of Secretary General Annan, and shall continue to discuss with him and others how to enhance the UN's capacities. We continue to encourage all UN member states to meet their financial obligations to the UN.
A key challenge is to define more clearly the conditions and circumstances when it is right to intervene in the face of massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. We cannot 718 expect agreement overnight. But the Government are working actively to develop a broader consensus. Kofi Annan, in his article in the Financial Times on 10th January, commented on the changing understanding of state sovereignty and the increasing weight attached by the international community to human rights. He concluded that:Intervention must be based upon legitimate and universal principles if it is to enjoy the sustained support of the world's peoples".He went on to comment that:Any such evolution in our understanding of state sovereignty and individual sovereignty will, in some quarters, be met with distrust, scepticism, even hostility. But it is an evolution that we should welcome. For all its limitations and imperfections, it is testimony to a humanity that cares more, not less, for the suffering in its midst, and a humanity that will do more, and not less, to end it. It is a hopeful sign at the beginning of a new century".I hope that we can all agree with those sentiments.
The noble Lord, Lord Biffen, spoke eloquently about Indonesia. As he knows, the Government welcome the election of President Wahid following Indonesia's first genuinely multi-party elections in over 40 years. I can assure him that the Government are devoting significant diplomatic and developmental assistance resources to aiding Indonesia in its transition to democratic politics, with greater respect for human rights than in the past.
Perhaps one of the benefits of the end of the Cold War has been the increased chance of lasting peace in the Middle East. I should like to welcome the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wright, on the Middle East peace process on which he speaks with such authority. I welcome, too, the comments made so knowledgeably by my noble friend Lord Janner. The advances made in this area were perhaps best demonstrated by the unity mirrored by those two speeches—something which I dare say many in this House may not have expected to live to see. I can confirm that it is the Government's understanding that there is now a real possibility of peace on the Syrian track.
I fully concur with the noble Lord's tribute to the political courage shown by both parties in agreeing to resume negotiations. The United Kingdom's position on the key issues and our close relationships with all the parties enable us to speak with some authority in the region. It in no way detracts from American efforts to say that I believe that we play some part in facilitating a resumption of the negotiations. I fully agree that the United States's commitment to help the parties to reach agreement is most important. We and our European partners share that commitment and are working closely with the United States towards a comprehensive and durable peace. We are in no way neglecting the need for agreement also on the Palestinian and Lebanese tracks. We hope that it will soon be possible to look forward to a time when Arab/Israeli conflict is behind us.
The Government welcome too the efforts being made in Nigeria to consolidate democracy, eradicate poverty and build prosperity. In particular, we welcome the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, in that regard. The challenges facing 719 President Obasanjo's government are huge. The years of corruption and mismanagement by the previous regime have left untold damage. The Government have drawn up a range of measures to support Nigeria. That includes support for economic reform, security sector reform, reform of the justice system, anticorruption, human rights and good governance.
Notwithstanding the time, I cannot end the debate without making some comment on the fine speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood. He rightly referred to the failure of the WTO meeting in Seattle. I am happy to assure him that the Government share his commitment to trade liberalisation and his caution as to the introduction of non-trade issues to too great an extent into the proceedings of the WTO. However, I should say also that following Seattle, the present time is a good tine for careful and mature reflection about the WTO, its procedures and public perceptions of it.
I assure the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, that we share his concern about the dangers of global warming. We shall continue to urge, as we did in Kyoto, effective action by the international community on that vital issue.
The subject of foreign affairs has been popular because it reflects the experience, interest and knowledge of so many noble Lords in this House. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and I may not agree on everything but I am happy to say that the insight which he brings to foreign affairs is shared by other noble Lords who have spoken this evening. it is a pleasure to reply to such a high-quality debate.
In particular, I echo the appreciative words of many noble Lords, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about the men and women of our Diplomatic Service. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Park, will permit me to say that I was particularly enchanted by the vivid account which she gave. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is right to say that that will remain fresh in our memories for many years to come.
I also share the concern expressed by many noble Lords that the Diplomatic Service, the British Council and the BBC World Service should be properly funded. That is why this Government are providing an extra £219 million to those three organisations from 1999 to 2002. Perhaps I may say what a particular pleasure it has been for me—perhaps the most junior Member of this House—to have the privilege of making this response.
§ 8.53 p.m.
My Lords, it has been a notable debate, not just for its content but for the quality of the speeches. We have heard from four former Foreign Secretaries, three former Chancellors of the Exchequer, if I can count my noble and learned friend Lord Howe twice, about six or seven former Cabinet Ministers, a host of former Ministers, two or three former Permanent Secretaries, one Field-Marshal—and one is tempted to say, "and a partridge in a pear 720 tree". In fact that partridge was probably the disembodied voice audible during the speech of my noble friend Lady Cox, and I was disappointed that it was not on the Speakers' List!
This has been a long debate and this is not the moment at which to make another speech. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, for the trouble that she has taken in answering so many queries. I thank her for the speech that she has made. Once again, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his maiden speech. Although it must be admitted that we have not exactly solved the problems of the world, I hope that we have given the Government something to think about and in some way have pointed out some of the errors which successive governments have committed and which should really be avoided in the future. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.