HL Deb 14 May 2003 vol 648 cc245-93

3.24 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

rose to call attention to the case for reconstructing the international order and transforming international political institutions; and to move for Papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we have seen once again today the extreme outrage of another terrorist act, this time in Saudi Arabia, with, again, serious loss of life. Only shortly afterwards, that terrorist outrage was echoed in Chechnya, with further serious loss of civilian life.

What emerges clearly from them is that terrorism is far from dead. It is wounded, as was said by the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, on his visit to Saudi Arabia, but it is far from having been destroyed.

In response to the events in Saudi Arabia, a country that has long been troubled by guerrilla and terrorist movements within it, which have not been adequately addressed by the regime, the US President, George Bush, said, the United States will find the killers and they will learn the meaning of American justice".

What was once again emphasised was the relentless use of military power to destroy terrorism.

Most students and scholars of the subject recognise that military power alone will not eradicate the roots of terrorism. That requires at least three things: first, the belief that the constitutional and peaceful path can lead to results that will not be achieved by violence alone; secondly, that the world is ready to address some of the issues that are the causes of terrorism; and, thirdly, that the world recognises the level of resentment towards the global injustice that still exists so powerfully in our world and that seems so far to have been little lessened by the forces of globalisation.

In Iraq, as a result of the gallantry and courage of our Armed Forces, the war has been won. Clear evidence of the brutality of the overthrown regime was provided only recently by the discovery of mass burials in central Iraq.

However, there are two great problems with the strategy that the British and American Governments have followed. The first is that even today there is little, if any, evidence of the weapons of mass destruction which were again and again argued to be the real justification for the war against Iraq. The second problem is that there has been little opportunity to discuss the preparations that were made for winning the peace. In the war against terrorism, winning the peace in Iraq is as important at least as winning the war, and so far it is not going well.

The most recent reports indicate that looting is continuing; that security does not exist in large parts of the country and particularly not in Baghdad; that water and other essential public services have not yet been adequately restored; and, perhaps saddest of all, that hospitals are still overwhelmed and do not have sufficient medical supplies.

Whatever the details, my most serious point is that it is now clear that the coalition did not have in place adequate preparation for what would happen immediately after the victory and that even now it does not have adequate numbers of police, of engineers or of other people who could rapidly show the people of Iraq that we were serious when we said that we intended to build a model of democracy in that country that would be a beacon for the whole of the Middle East. Many of us found that hard to believe, but I do not think that many of us recognised how quickly our failure to think through our strategy once the war ended would be revealed.

A disturbing report was published in yesterday's Washington Post. It said—and I shall discuss it in greater detail shortly—that the United States Government have no intention whatsoever of placing the United Nations anywhere near the core of the reestablishment of an administration in Iraq. The so-called interim authority currently has no legitimacy. I refer to the arrangements that have been made for dealing with the Oil for Food programme and the administration of the revenues from oil for the benefit of the Iraqi people. Our own Prime Minister spoke in moving terms about oil revenues being held in trust for the Iraqi people. There is no convincing evidence of what the structure of accountability, of development and eventually of answerability to the Iraqi people will be. Indeed, we cannot find any accurate information about the role of Halliburton or the other American contractors who have been uniquely allowed to bid for the reconstruction of Iraq without serious competition.

All of this is profoundly disturbing. To put it very frankly, the language that we have used and heard in this House—I believe presented in all sincerity—is very different indeed from the current language in Washington. In Washington today the United Nations is still being rubbished. It is still being described as a busted flush as something that is essentially over and done with. That is very different from the way in which our Government have presented to us the central role that it hopes to see the United Nations have.

In that context, it is perhaps particularly disturbing that even now there has been no reference whatever to the possibility of United Nations inspectors returning to give credibility to any inspections of weapons of mass destruction. That is disturbing because, bluntly, with the best will in the world, inspection by armies of the coalition will not carry credibility with the international community and least of all with the Arab world.

Only today, in a remarkable coincidence, the highly respected International Institute of Strategic Studies based here in London has produced a strategic survey which states that Iraq may prove to be "an inspiration for terrorists". That report was published only a few hours before the new outrages in Saudi Arabia and in Chechnya.

All of this has caused a crisis of credibility in the world international institutions, in the United Nations and also in the economic institutions, in NATO and elsewhere. How can we address it? First, we cannot simply rest upon complaining about the way the world is and about the new threats that have emerged.

In this context, it is important that we look at the analysis presented by the United States. It is of course the case that the United States today is economically relatively less powerful than she was when the world's political institutions were born in the period immediately after the Second World War. In the early 1950s the United States was responsible for something like half of the world's output of goods and services. Today that figure is just over a quarter. But militarily, as we know, the United States bestrides the world and now spends on defence more than the next 10 biggest spenders in the world—a position of unreachable superiority. The National Security Strategy 2002 sets out the current administration's view that the United States should preserve its dominance in the world scene and, in particular, its military dominance.

However, the United States has rightly analysed the technological advances in weapons development in the world and shown the way in which they enable and empower whole groups of small states, collapsed states and. indeed, private actors, to have access to weapons, if not of mass destruction, then of very substantial destruction. It is a fair challenge by the United States to the rest of us that we have failed to take this threat seriously and that, indeed, we have failed to uphold United Nations resolutions.

The United States was like the rest of us until about two or three years ago. It also allowed one UN resolution after another to be flouted. But those of us who believe in multilateralism must face up to that challenge and must find answers for it. In that respect we should consider the possibility of a new mechanism to deal with what are two real challenges in our world. One is, of course, the possible use of weapons of mass destruction which, even if they may not prove to be the case in Iraq, could certainly prove to be the case elsewhere—North Korea springs to mind.

The second challenge is the importance of looking at systematic breaches of human rights—genocide, torture, actions against humanity. In my view, most of these cry out for a mechanism which would enable nations which are believed to be about to threaten either the use of weapons of mass destruction or systematic breaches of human rights to be brought within the multilateral framework. By that, I mean that I believe the United Nations must look at how it can create mechanisms for dealing in advance with some of these challenges.

Perhaps I may mention to your Lordships' House an example that is with us right now—the gradual collapse of parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo into serious indications of genocide which so far have not been dealt with in any way, or even contained, by the international community. That is only one of many such examples.

Next, we must look at the role of the multilateral organisations in respect of how to deal with the desperate and desolate third of the world that still lives on less than one dollar a day. In that respect we need also to transform the world's global economic institutions. It is simply unacceptable that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the G8 do not represent some of the largest and most significant countries in the world. Countries such as India, Indonesia and Brazil do not find any position on the governing body, for example, of the G8 and do not find a very serious position on the governing bodies of other international economic organisations. We cannot any longer go on with an economic structure in which the voice of the developing world is so much weaker than that of the developed world.

In that context, I should like to pay a proper tribute to the recently resigned Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, who, together with Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has done remarkable work in trying to build up the multilateral structures of international development. In that context, one can mention everything from the issues of debt to the issues of an international financing facility—and many other areas of work. One need only call into DfID to see how deep is the commitment to dealing with these terrible issues.

But, bluntly, Britain on her own can do only a very small amount in this economic field. Until now, Britain has consistently relied on the support, help and financial assistance of her EU neighbours to bring some of this about. It is the EU that finances the Palestinian Authority. It is the EU, with Britain very much a leading figure in it, that has assisted in the redevelopment of Africa and in setting up some of the new development programmes. Without this alliance, it is unlikely that we will see much advance in economic development. However, I must make one large exception for, in my view, the disgraceful continuation of the common agricultural policy in its present form—the single most damaging act that could be taken against the prosperity of the world outside.

I shall conclude with this. Multilateralism is at the very heart of the best of British policy and it always has been. I refer to the commitment to the UN; the commitment to international approaches to world development; and the commitment to an approach to trying to get a world of law based upon human rights. I am profoundly concerned that we may be moving away from our crucial support for multilateralism. Little by little it is being undermined and weakened. A huge—and fateful—amount depends on the ability of the Prime Minister to persuade the administration of the United States, which shows over and over again its contempt for multilateral institutions, that it should be brought back to the path of international law. I can think of no greater cause that could lie before the Government, but I must say that recent events, including the almost certain decision that will be made shortly to postpone once again the issue of the euro, are likely to push Britain in a different direction.

One of the most important parts of this debate is the examination of the United Kingdom's relationship with, on the one side, her European neighbours and, on the other side, her American ally, to see how that bridge can be strengthened and to ensure that Britain keeps the balance and does not shift too far away from the multilateralism that is so important to the peoples of the world.

My Lords. I beg to move for Papers.

3.40 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, along with all noble Lords, I have enormous respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. It is a great pleasure to follow her very interesting speech. Nevertheless, I hold certain fundamentally different views which I think I should set out at the outset of the debate if only to offer your Lordships a form of punch-bag to use in the no-doubt excellent debate to follow.

I agree that in these troubled times our aim should be to avoid the development of a lawless world and to maintain a law-abiding world, but I want to argue two points. First, the nature of the states we now live in has altered over the past decade or more. Therefore relations between our states, looking outward at the international order we are now debating, have also changed. All nations now have new inward-facing and outward-facing profiles.

Secondly, I want to challenge the popular and widely-held view reflected in the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that there is a form of unacceptable American hegemony which the rest of the world should not tolerate and that somehow a counterweight to it must be constructed. I believe that perspective to be totally false, and I believe that I have the support of the Prime Minister in saying so.

With the ending of the ideological wars of the 20th century, the institutions which tried and largely failed to hold that world together all now face the need for urgent reform and rebuilding. That is, I believe, widely agreed. Those institutions certainly include both the United Nations and. closer to home, the European Union, which now has to restructure itself to meet completely new world conditions far removed from those under which it was founded. Indeed, in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, there is now a crisis of "credibility" in those two institutions and in others.

The old world came to an end when the Berlin Wall fell; it came to an end in the bloody shambles of Srebrenica, in the Kosovo intervention in the sovereignty of another nation, in the rise and spread of global terrorism through the 1990s, in the horrors of 9/11, and in the second Gulf War, just over, when extraordinarily accurate precision missiles were fired from outside Iraq, replacing artillery and destroying the regime which has now come to an end in the killing fields of Baghdad which even at this moment are being uncovered.

All these events told us and continue to tell us that the international institutions could not and cannot cope and that internal sovereignty as envisaged or described in Article 9 of the UN Charter is no longer sacrosanct. The events tell us that old military and defence ideas no longer work, that enemies are everywhere but no longer so visible, and that nations can no longer deliver security to their people by thinking only about borders and territory. They also tell us that the world has new standards and principles to which our institutions, at all levels, must adjust.

That serves to explain why Britain, along with other nations, has embraced, for example, a revolution in military affairs and why we are examining our own very great vulnerabilities from the ground up. It also explains why all kinds of conflicts, issues and tensions which once seemed so remote because they took place in far-off countries are now our priorities. I cite the large-scale movement of people in the form of migrations, the ins and outs of Islamic politics, antimissile defence systems, nuclear proliferation—which, regrettably, is carrying on apace— and concerns about weapons of mass destruction, also mentioned by the noble Baroness, which, in the case of chemical and biological mixtures, almost any state can manufacture and hide away. I believe that, at present. some 25 countries are either seeking to become, or are already, involved in biological weapons manufacture. Above all, I cite human rights abuses in distant regimes and states and what we do about them. These are the new priorities.

I would argue that this also explains why modern governments, again including our own, have had increasingly to mobilise non-governmental agencies and commercial enterprises to meet those challenges and to deliver both the internal services and support which the citizen expects, as well as delivering foreign policy and foreign activity.

All this may be obvious to your Lordships. As the noble Baroness reminded us, in its many manifestations terrorism almost anywhere in the world threatens us all. This morning's grim news from Riyadh makes that clear, as did the news from Bali and, alas, as will other horrors to come. Terrorism is blind to national borders. Similarly, any banker will tell you that global financial markets and capital flows ignore boundaries. Any computer nerd will explain that global information networks penetrate all borders and cultures, while any doctor or conservationist knows that threats to our health or to our environment can come from anywhere in the world. The saga of the SARS threat is such an example.

This debate could not be more timely. We are entitled to ask, given this completely new set of world conditions, how we are to organise a new constitutional order within our country—it is happening already—and a new international order outside to meet these totally unfamiliar problems.

When facing the outside world, it must first be understood that our interfaces with other nations and other societies are not just governmental. The notion of our relations with other countries, even those with our near neighbours, being conducted entirely through head-to-head governmental officialdom is, I think, outdated. Non-governmental organizations, corporations, regulators, judges and other professional bodies all have their own trans-national links and, increasingly, common agendas that seek to open up societies, uphold respect for human rights, free markets and trade, and share intelligence and techniques in the face of new outside threats.

Obviously, this raises complex new questions about whether the old institutions such as the United Nations really can get to grips with the new pattern. I have to say that a body like the United Nations, in its present form, which is apparently neutral as between authoritarianism and democracy, will certainly have to adjust radically in order to meet the new principles which the modern society of nations is seeking to uphold. One must ask, as did the very learned and able commentator, Frank Vibert, the other day: in its present form, can such a body really be the source of final legitimisation? I know that that puts a question mark over a central concern and belief of the noble Baroness, but I ask the question all the same.

I do not know the answer to all these issues, but one thing is clear to me. The attempt to replicate the old, protective, inward-looking, centralised nation state on a European scale is doomed to failure. In my view, that is why the current Euro-convention, with its itching desire to give more power to EU central institutions, has completely misjudged the situation. It has failed to adjust to the new architecture. By the same reasoning, the obsession with what it calls American hegemony, or hyper-power, and the reaction to it by trying to create a rival power bloc are truly yesterday's responses rather than those of today.

In a fascinating speech last week, my noble friend Lord Hurd pointed out that while America may have the military power physically to destroy any regime at the press of a button, when it comes to building democracy and stable societies America needs allies and not rivals. However, I did not agree with everything that my noble friend said. He also remarked that, for a smaller country, its relationship with the United States was like that of a penny-farthing cycle. With respect, that overlooks the fact that, although it is possible for a circus performer to ride a single-wheeled cycle, it is very difficult to do so. Without the farthing, the cycle is completely directionless.

The new order has to start from an understanding that the world is being upheld by United States power and military predominance; it is not being threatened by it, as so much rhetoric and oratory seem to imply. I happen to believe firmly that, in the new order of things, America cannot go it alone. In that sense, the "Neocons" in Washington who proclaim that America can do so and that the rest of us are merely ancillaries, wimps and so forth, are wrong. But then so is President Chirac wrong when he denounces American hegemony. Today's network world entirely outdates the concept of rival power blocs trying to match each other militarily.

Today our welfare and security depends on keeping our markets as wide open as possible in the WTO negotiations; on intimate international co-operation on defence and missile technologies; and on strong and friendly partnerships, not only with the US and not only with our European neighbours in NATO but with other responsible major powers such as Japan and our Commonwealth colleagues.

This is the emerging new society of nations, working in agile and adaptable relationships—the new order to ensure our security against utterly novel threats. It is a far cry from the narrow plans for Euro armies and rival command headquarters.

These are not new thoughts. I put most of them in a book I wrote five years ago. No one took the slightest notice but events are now doing the work and conveying the message, prompting many new hooks on the themes. There is indeed a new international order to be obtained and sustained—but it cannot he built on old foundations and on dreams of remote federations or universal government. The sooner the thinkers and policy makers in all governments and international institutions grasp that fact the better.

3.51 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for introducing this timely debate. In my remarks I shall try to respond to what has been said by both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I agree and disagree with both of them in part. I dread to say that I shall propose a third way.

I do not want to comment in great depth on Iraq or Saudi Arabia because I do not believe that that is part of the process. I will merely say in regard to weapons of mass destruction and their non-discovery that before the war started the argument was that the UN weapons inspectors would need months, not weeks, to find them if they were there. I do not know why people believe after the war that we should have days rather than weeks or months to find them. I am trying to be as non-controversial as possible.

I wish to concentrate on the reform of the United Nations. Before the Iraq war started, I said that we had missed a golden opportunity to reform the United Nations on its 50th anniversary and that it was very important that we should do so. I begin with this issue because I agree with much of what the noble Baroness said. Multilateralism is essential in international affairs but, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, we cannot continue with the old structures. We need new structures.

To begin with, the Security Council must be reconstituted. We cannot have another 1945 settlement based on the concept of Europe and the great powers looking after the world. I make two suggestions in that regard. First, membership of the Security Council should be expanded from its five permanent members to include Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and perhaps South Africa. Secondly, there should be no veto. We should adopt the practice recently started in the European Union of qualified majority voting, with different voting rights for different countries. So it would not be one country, one vote. The voting ratio could be decided, for example, by income, population and territorial size. That would give poor but populous countries some weight and rich but not very populous countries another kind of weight.

I am sure that it would not be beyond human imagination to devise voting procedures whereby a majority of votes and a majority of population, for instance—double conditions—would ensure that whatever the Security Council decided was based on a broad consensus of opinion. We cannot ignore the militarily powerful, but nor should we ignore the populous and the poor. Both conditions must be satisfied. So we must start with reform of the Security Council.

Reform of the United Nations Charter will also be required. I agree with the noble Baroness, but my priorities would be the reverse of hers. My first priority would be human rights protection across the world. If there is one cause that should define a new United Nations it is human rights protection.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that we have now gone beyond the notion of a sovereign nation state, especially in regard to human rights violations. We are all agreed that we cannot allow a nation state to be sovereign to slaughter its own people. I have said on previous occasions in your Lordships' House that my support for the Iraq war was not based on whether weapons of mass destruction would be found but more on the human rights violations practised by Saddam Hussein. I am therefore unreservedly glad that he has gone.

If there is to be a human rights focus in the United Nations, we shall have to amend both Article 2, Principle 4, and Article 51 of the charter and so on. We must allow the use of force on certain declared grounds where human rights are being violated by a sovereign state to an extent that the international community finds intolerable. Such matters should be not only decidable in statute, I am sure that we can devise procedures whereby the Security Council, perhaps expanded, could decide that such a violation has occurred.

Over the past 13 years we have, on an ad hoc basis, increased the scope of intervention, with or without UN authority. I do not complain about that. I was happy with the action taken in Kosovo and Bosnia because what matters—I may have become a consequentialist in my old age rather than a proceduralist—is that the outcome was good. Although the procedures may or may not have been legal, the legitimacy of the act was defined by the quality of the outcome. That, of course, is not the way lawyers think about such matters. So the charter will have to be revised.

We have to go further. When a country joins the WTO it signs a treaty by which it has to abide. The rules lay down that a country has to change its policies and structures in order to abide by the rules of the WTO—there are appellate procedures and so on. But some countries have joined the UN and have not abided by its charter—and there have been no sanctions. As I said in your Lordships' House on a previous occasion, we cannot continue with the chaotic conditions under which the charter had been violated on more than 100 occasions by 1971.

We must have a charter which countries not only have to sign but by which they have to abide. This will place limitations on national sovereignty. If they want to join, countries must abide by the charter, or they need not join. If a common vote can throw countries out of the Commonwealth for not abiding by the standards it places on democracy and human rights, why cannot the United Nations do that summarily? We should not admit any and every country that is willing to sign the charter; a country must satisfy minimum standards of human rights performance and democracy before being allowed to join.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union, which has existed since 1888, insists on certain democratic practices by which each member country has to abide. I do not see why the United Nations cannot do the same. We cannot have the peculiar situation whereby the UN Commission on Human Rights consists of a majority of countries which score very low on any human rights performance index. That is the politest way I can describe what is happening. It brings the UN into disrepute. A body such as that cannot confer legitimacy. Merely because many people do not like the United States it does not mean that everything the United States does is good or everything it does is had. Life is not that simple.

As regards the EU, in constructing a multilateral world there is a great desire to create a multipolar world. We have to be very careful about whether a multipolar world is necessary to create a multilateral world, as it may not be so. Even if we wanted to create a multipolar world, I do not believe that the European Union is currently ready and willing to build itself as an independent military power.

Here, perhaps, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. I should prefer a stronger EU, but the EU has not had the will to make itself into a strong federal state since German reunification. We have wasted 10 years in not constructing a strong EU, and still there is no willingness or leadership in Europe to do so. We can forget about Europe being a rival military focus or rival power unless we have a considerably larger budget at federal level, most of which would have to be devoted to military spending. I do not think that the European Union is ready for that, so it should abandon any boast of creating an alternative force. The EU has gained a lot from American defence spending. It should say, "Thank you very much. Your defence spending is our peace dividend. You do the cooking and we shall wash the dishes. If we break a few along the way, so be it".

However, my last thought is a worrying one. The common tension between the EU and the United States relates not only to Iraq but to international trade. There are considerable doubts about the continuing expansion of the globalised pattern of trade and capital movements. I worry about tensions in the latest round of WTO and the likelihood that the Cancun conference might fail. That should give us all pause for thought. The quarrels about GM foods, steel tariffs, or income tax concessions to American exporters are not worth the price of the continued expansion of open economies and free movements of capital. If only we could add the free movement of people to the free movement of capital.

4.2 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle

My Lords, I am grateful to all the staff and attendants for their unfailing kindness and help to me during those rather bewildering days immediately prior to and following my introduction to the House. I am also grateful to you, My Lords, for the warmth and friendliness of your welcome.

I am grateful, too, to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for giving us the opportunity of so timely a debate—a debate that recognises the complexities, challenges, difficulties and dangers of the present time in our world's history.

The conflict between Iraq and the international community has raised the questions that have been at the heart of international affairs since the end of the Cold War: how should the international community deal with rogue regimes; when is it right and when is it ethical to intervene in the internal affairs of another nation state; how useful are sanctions as a policy of containment; how should the threat of weapons of mass destruction be managed; perhaps above all, how are we to live together peacefully in a world where the military and economic power of the United States remains unrivalled.

Can we still find a way to resolve disputes through co-operative behaviour that is structured by international institutions such as the United Nations? The national security strategy of the United States of September 2002 is one of the key statements in this debate. The basic premise of the strategy is that: the US possesses unprecedented and unequalled strength and influence in the world".

The document continues: Whilst the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone if necessary, to exercise our right of self defence by acting pre-emptively against such terrorists to prevent them from doing harm".

That strategy helps to explain the differing reactions of the European nations to the second Gulf War and the means by which our own Government have sought to influence US policy through negotiation and dialogue. That process of constructive engagement and dialogue must go on, despite the failure to secure a common European position on Iraq.

Global issues and the problems facing our world cannot be solved by the United States alone. Other nations must be involved, not least through strengthened international institutions. Developments in nuclear weaponry, globalisation of the economy and the information revolution have radically challenged traditional understandings of the nation state. Not only that; those developments have challenged the way we think and act. They have challenged the traditional reflections of the Christian Churches, especially the theory of a just war, which locates legitimate authority for the use of force with a sovereign state. But with the erosion of national sovereignty, we may need to move to what we could call a "theory of just intervention", which recognises that in the modern world sovereignty is diffuse, and to press for a greater regulation by transnational institutions.

Christian and other faith communities will need to contribute a vision of human kind made in the image of God that always seeks to promote a collaborative approach. In thinking about a theory of just intervention, I am not limiting the concept to military intervention alone. I include economics, aid, healthcare and debt relief—a systematic intervention to help the millions and millions of people living in abject poverty and despair across our world.

We need a new way of viewing the world based less on national interest and more on a global common good. For national interests cannot hut be intertwined with, or be inseparable from the common good. It is that kind of dialogue, engagement and discourse that is so necessary today. That is the engagement and discourse that I believe must lie at the heart of our Government's policy.

What happens at international level has also to take place at local level too. I live in the city of Newcastle, which like all cities in this land, is becoming a very cosmopolitan place. I rejoice in that.

For the past five years I have been engaged with the leaders of all the faith communities in the city in continuing debate about the common good. We have met regularly and prayed together in our own traditions, especially at times of international tension and conflict. We are now embarked on a process to establish a council of faiths, which will become a publicly recognised and elected body to speak and act on behalf of all the faith communities in our regional capital.

It is the result of years of patient meeting and talking. It has required the building of trust and sometimes a willingness to challenge and to be challenged. And it has involved the taking of risks. In a very small and local way it points to the continuing necessity of an international order and international institutions that exist for the well-being, peace and safety of all God's people.

If I may, I shall leave your Lordships with one final reflection. If the United States is to be acceptable as the world's chief police officer, it must, like all good police officers, observe the law, which the police are expected to enforce; otherwise it ceases to be a policeman and becomes something like a vigilante. To carry out that role effectively, it needs the understanding, support and co-operation of others, and must seek those things.

Is there a case for an enlarged United Nations Security Council, able to authorise military action by majority vote? Is there a case for an enlarged NATO, transformed into an alliance for peace, whose forces would carry out the tasks authorised by that enlarged Security Council? We urgently need a new kind of order. Above all, we must find a new way of resolving disputes through co-operative behaviour and structured by strengthened international institutions.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, it is my first and most pleasant duty to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle on his distinguished and moving maiden speech. Many years ago, when I visited the United Nations on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, my colleague, Lord Caradon, used to remind us constantly that all policy—international and national—should have a moral centre. It is good to have the introduction of that moral dimension into our debate by the right reverend Prelate. I hope that he will bring it to our debates many times in the future, and I congratulate him most warmly on his maiden speech.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, I have great respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. I am delighted that she has introduced the debate today. However, the noble Baroness will not be surprised to hear that, also like the noble Lord, I find myself in disagreement with her about several things. The main point that I want to mention by way of introduction is her implication that problems cannot be solved by military force. Of course, problems cannot be solved by military force alone, but we should also remember that there are few problems, especially in the international field, that can be solved without not the use of military force necessarily but the threat and existence of military force.

That leads me to say that many profound matters relating to the international structure and what is sometimes called the "new world order" seem to be stuck in a time warp. Many who are ready to celebrate the fact that the Cold War is over still seem to talk and think in Cold War terms about such things as international institutions and, for example, the interdependence of the United States of America and Europe. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire—I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment—said in a recent article, those days are over, and the thinking and calculations of the Cold War have gone. The noble Lord went on to draw conclusions in his article with which I found it difficult to agree.

One of the first facts that I like to underline is that the United States no longer needs Europe as much as the nations of Europe need the United States. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said, the structure of world politics has changed irrevocably, partly, but not entirely, because of the events of September 2001—"9/l1", as it is sometimes called—and partly because of the war in Iraq, which was, to some extent, a consequence of those events. It can be argued persuasively and with some force that some of the major international institutions, familiar to us for many years, have, because of that irrevocable change in the world structure, ceased to be entirely relevant to the construction of a new world order.

I shall refer briefly to three institutions: the United Nations, NATO and the European Union. With respect to the noble Baroness, the crisis of credibility in the United Nations cannot be dismissed lightly by referring to rubbishing in Washington. The United Nations—the Security Council, at least—has been shown to be impotent when faced with a real problem of international conflict. It is widely accepted, not only in the United States, that the main function of the United Nations in future may well be through the activities of its agencies and such bodies as UNESCO and UNICEF and that the Security Council has become irrelevant in the calculus of world power. No amount of new mechanisms or tinkering with existing mechanisms will alter that. Whereas the United Nations has, in the past, been an important international institution in the past, there is now a sense in which it is irrelevant to the future.

Then, there is NATO. Much of its original reason for existing disappeared with the dissolution of the Soviet empire and the consequent disappearance of the military threat from the East. However, NATO is more than a simple military defensive alliance. Its future role in the world order may still be significant, but only if its members face the urgent task of reassessing its role, composition and functions.

Finally, there is the European Union. It has been fatally damaged by the behaviour of certain members, especially in the events leading up to the war against Iraq. It must be clear to anyone but the most unreconstructed Euro-fanatic that any possibility of a common foreign and defence policy for the European Union is the purest fantasy. Recent events have proved that beyond a doubt.

The basic reason that those institutions have ceased to be crucial and, perhaps, even relevant to the emergence of a new world order is, however, of a more profound kind. They represent what has been called "soft power" in international relations—that is, the use of diplomacy, negotiation and talk as instruments of international relations. The future world structure, mentioned by the noble Baroness and by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, will be one in which terrorism and weapons of mass destruction will be dominant features of our life. The solution to such problems is more likely to be a matter of "hard power", and that, of course, means, in effect, the United States, the only remaining superpower.

Whether we like it or not—I know that some people do not like it—the future world structure is likely to be dominated for some time by American military and economic strength, exercised, more and more frequently, unilaterally. There is strong evidence that the United States is, as the right reverend Prelate said, bent upon a foreign policy based upon pre-emptive action when it perceives its interests to be threatened. In fact, the future of American foreign policy might fairly be described as neo-colonial or imperialist. I do not use those words pejoratively. The United States seeks, in the words of one of its distinguished analysts, Paul Nitze, to create, a liberal international order under which our free and democratic systems can live and prosper".

To some extent, that might be an undesirable, even frightening phenomenon. I must confess that it does not frighten me in the slightest, although I sometimes fear that it might be over-ambitious. I understand that my view will not be universally shared, but I propose that anyone who thinks that we can solve the problems of the new world order with the Cold War instruments of soft power is living in a dream world.

Whether we like it or not, we are almost certainly about to enter into a period of Pax Americana, and this is a reality we must take account of if our foreign policy is to be effective and realistic. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States should be a central plank—I would even go so far as to say the central plank—of our foreign policy. We share, more than any other European country, the values, political priorities and historical perspective of the United States. As Sir Malcolm Rifkind wrote in a recent article, we are an Atlantic and not just a European nation".

One of the often repeated fallacies of the current debate is that we have no need to choose between Europe and America in our foreign policy. It has been repeated over and over again until people have come to believe it. It may well be that recent and current events are making it clear that we shall indeed have to make that choice, and we may be very close to the time when it will have to be made.

4.21 p.m.

Lord Dahrendorf

My Lords, like others who have spoken, notably my noble friend Lady Williams, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for introducing this debate, I believe in a world order in which the rule of law domesticates and civilises power. If notions of globalisation and world civil society—indeed, cosmopolitanism and world citizenship—are to make any sense as opportunities for advancing universal liberty and welfare, there have to be rules by which all abide at the risk of incurring sanctions by the international community.

While some progress has been made along this road since the days of Dumbarton Oaks and Bretton Woods—in other words, since the end of the Second World War—we still have a long way to go to reach that objective. Some believe that the diplomatic disaster, military success and peace-building quandary of the Iraq war is the moment to take a great step forward in the construction of an international order of law. I wish I could share this belief. There are at least two reasons why I find it difficult to do so.

The first is the evident power of the United States of America on the global scene, referred to by almost everyone who has spoken. I say this without resentment, as a statement of fact. If there has to be a hegemon, let it be a free country which retains its openness and attractiveness as a country of opportunity, even at a time when the role of the neo-conservative clique casts doubt on its adherence to its own values. In my view, it is shortsighted and counterproductive to hope for a bipolar or multipolar world. Europe has not had very happy experiences with such alleged balances of power. It is even more unfortunate to think of the European Union as a "counterweight" to the United States. The idea is hopelessly unrealistic and merely serves to split what L in a slightly old-fashioned way, still regard as the West. But all of us in the West have to take up the challenge of what I called the domestication and civilisation of power. It would not surprise me if the great struggle between the use of hard power and the gradual development of law was to be the main theme of international relations in the years to come. If this were the case, I should be clearly on the side of the rule of law.

If US hegemony is one reason why there is no imminent chance of reconstructing the international order, the second is the vested interest in the principle of the sovereignty of states, coupled with the insistence on non-interference in their internal affairs. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, in his immensely thoughtful maiden speech, referred to this condition much more ably than I could. This is, of course, the principle on which the post-war international order was based. One effect of the evident role of the United States is that countries will insist on it because they believe it protects their integrity. The UN Security Council bears witness to this approach in its composition, rules and decisions.

In fact, if not in law, many inroads have been made into the acceptance of unrestricted sovereignty. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, pointed this out, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle. Indeed, even in the Iraq case, diplomacy might have led to a second resolution which would have given the blessing, at least, of the Security Council to intervention by a coalition. In my view, intervention in the affairs of member states of the world community is the single most important issue to be dealt with in reconstructing the international order.

We now accept a high degree of intervention with respect to the exercise of the allegedly "soft" power of international economic institutions. Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of addressing the executive directors of the World Bank in Washington and discussing with them strategic issues of the institution, so ably led by James Wolfensohn. They all agreed that the days of helping poor countries by simply giving their governments money are long past. They have also moved on from what is sometimes called the "Washington consensus" of imposing a neo-liberal blueprint of economic policy on recipients of international support. My argument—that cushioning the trek through the valley of tears which the process of development inevitably involves is the most important task—met with considerable support. This means, however, that international organisations impose—if that is not too aggressive a word—measures of social policy on countries which may have wished to avoid such costly measures in the interest of rapid growth. This is intervention, if ever the term had any meaning. Yet it is necessary and. I believe, acceptable, so long as there are rules which guide it and restrain the intervening international bodies.

It is worth mentioning in this context the extraordinary interventions of the European Union in the administrative and political structures of countries which seek membership of the Union. The accession countries had to introduce swathes of legislation within a timespan which made proper democratic scrutiny very difficult. They also had to be seen to comply with the so-called Copenhagen criteria laid down by the European Union for adherence to the principles of democracy and the rule of law. I do not say this critically; indeed, I believe that in this regard the EU has played a highly constructive role and perhaps shown the way for methods—and limits of—intervention which could one day be applied on a wider canvas.

The most visible, and controversial, interventions are of course those relating to countries which threaten others, and, even more controversially, through their domestic regimes, violate the principles of human rights and liberties enshrined in the UN Charter and other international agreements. I was very pleased by what my noble friend Lady Williams and the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said about breaches of human rights and international obligations in relation to them. I do not propose to go over the ground of the Iraq debates again in your Lordships' House, but I shall repeat what I said at the time: how much I would have wished to see international intervention in Germany after September 1938 in order to prevent the murderous events set in motion in September 1939.

The gist of these somewhat philosophical reflections is simple. This may not be the time to engage in the reconstruction of the international order, but it is definitely the time to produce building blocks—in some cases mere ideas, in others examples—for a new order that does not stop short of intervening in the affairs of sovereign states but takes the rule of law seriously, all the way to forms of intervention that aim at the roots of threats to peace under the rule of law.

I have one final thought. I have indicated my hope for a civilised world society and also my doubts that we shall reach such a state of affairs in the lifetime of even the youngest among us. This is a familiar dilemma, in which one can do worse than to follow the advice of the great enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant. If we cannot achieve a world society under the rule of law today, we should nevertheless act in such a manner that the road to that end is not blocked. The objective of the international rule of law is the yardstick by which current policies and actions can and should he measured. That we can begin to do without waiting for others here and now.

4.31 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, for introducing this debate, and in particular for the forthright and challenging way in which she put the case to us. Certainly, today's grim and sad news from Saudi Arabia and Chechnya underline its relevance.

I do not want to be melodramatic, hut it seems to me on occasion that the world is in a classic pre-revolutionary situation. We have unrivalled concentration of power and wealth, and the control of that wealth is in very few hands. We have millions of socially and economically deprived people across the globe. However, it is not simply a matter of economic and social exclusion. We also have increasing numbers of highly educated, extremely able and sometimes, in personal terms, not particularly economically deprived people who feel excluded from the political systems and the crucial decision-making in the world.

If that is not a classic pre-revolutionary situation, I wonder what is. In the midst of all that, we have a constituency of ambivalence—the large numbers of people who are economically and socially deprived but would never themselves participate in an act of terrorism. Indeed, they would probably be appalled to see one at close quarters but, because of their deprivation, they do not wake up every morning saying that their priority is to get rid of the terrorists. Sometimes they can be forgiven for being ambivalent, at least, and just wondering on occasion whether the rhetoric of the terrorists is not actually on their side.

How do we respond to that challenge? First, there must be a redefinition of security. We have to recognise that, in the highly complex globe on which we live, environment, finance, economics, trade and migration all come together in the management of human affairs. What matters is not only the terrorism itself but formulating our approach to how we co-ordinate the arrangements for those aspects of life. They are parts of security—if we do not get that management right, there will be a security problem.

Then, of course, there is the issue of governance. On this occasion, I am glad to find myself in a great deal of agreement with what my noble friend Lord Desai has said. Obviously, there must be reform of the Security Council. If we were creating the Security Council today, it would not be set up with the power structures that it has at the moment. However, as it exists at the moment, we must be careful about contradictions in our position. It is not convincing to argue that in no way will Britain contemplate giving up the veto and then to complain when the French exercise theirs. Either we must accept the principle of the veto, or we should say that the time to think about how we might emerge from the veto is upon us.

It also seems to me that we should consider the reform of the secretariat. There should be a greater emphasis on professionalism and less on using it as a means of putting people into positions for political purposes alone. We should consider the selection of the Secretary-General. That is one of the most important tasks in the world. I shall never forget, when I was director of Oxfam, talking with humanitarian ambassadors in Geneva along with the heads of several other agencies. We asked what the criteria were, on which the international community had agreed, for the selection of the next Secretary-General. There was a hilarious half-hour as everyone tried to avoid answering the question, until the French ambassador looked at me directly and said, "You know perfectly well the one criterion on which we are all agreed. On no account must we have a strong Secretary-General". That may have been leg-pulling, but there is an essence of disturbing truth in that analysis. Do we want a strong United Nations, or do we not?

In discussing this issue, we must face the matter of the multilateral financial institutions. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, referred to that matter. It is not satisfactory that they seem to live a life of their own while the political life of the United Nations goes on separately. I am not suggesting for a moment—it would be madness to suggest—that the Security Council should take over the economic and financial co-ordination of world affairs. However, there should be some way in which the IMF, the World Bank and the G8 report to the Security Council from time to time, so that it can consider the security matters of the world intelligently, taking into account the financial and economic realities with which we are confronted.

The noble Baroness spoke powerfully about the United Nations and Iraq. Of course, the rule of law matters, but I have always believed that what mattered as much as the rule of law was the authority of the global community. In the situation that I have been describing, what matters is that the world can see that what is being done is being done not by a partial grouping of nations—not by an unrepresentative grouping of powerful nations—but with the authority, endorsement and involvement of the maximum possible cross-section of the global community. If we do not take the challenge of the authority of the international community seriously, we play into the hands of the extremists, who say, "There you are—there is another example of power being wielded by the unrepresentative minority. We are the people who will look to your interests and fight for you. Come to our side". The ambivalence is there to be exploited. The authority, as much as the law, matters in the deployment of the United Nations.

Of course, the noble Baroness was right to refer to the weapons of mass destruction. I have immense respect for my noble friend Lady Symons, who is to reply to the debate, and she knows that. However, I was sorry when, the other day, she was a bit dismissive of the points coming from the Liberal Benches, because we have to look at the matter as the world is looking at it. If the global community is not involved in the issue of how we get rid of the weapons of mass destruction, there will he suspicions and doubts to be exploited by the extremists. Therefore, it is practical politics to ensure that the wider global community is involved.

The same point applies with even greater significance to the whole issue of reconstruction. We must not create a situation in which the extremists can say, "This is just the power brokers of the world—the unrepresentative rich of the world—organising Iraq from their point of view in the way they want". It has to be seen as something that is taking place with the engagement and the involvement of the global community. That is why the United Nations is indispensable in this context.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, spoke of his doubts about the United Nations and the international institutions. He was very honest—he said that he did not know the answers, but he had doubts. I wonder whether he would agree that we all have to be very careful when we talk about the weaknesses of the United Nations. The United Nations is not something separate—it is us and all its other member countries. When we talk about the weaknesses of the United Nations we are talking about our own weaknesses. I fear that, although there has been a commitment of intellectual rhetoric to the multilateral institutions over the years, the driving force has always been to put our narrow national interests at the forefront when it comes to the point. I believe that we have to make that international rhetoric—which is sometimes based on an intellectual conviction that we have failed to apply—central to our policy. We have to seek always to strengthen the multilateral institutions. We need a conceptual design in which European institutions, for example, or other regional institutions play into the global situation and are not in rivalry as regards that situation.

We also have to look very seriously at the issue of a philosophy which maintains, "Do as we do", rather than, "Do as we say". In talking about nuclear proliferation, weapons of mass destruction or chemical weapons, the conventions matter tremendously. The conventions may need to be strengthened, but the conventions must be there. Our commitment to those conventions must be second to none.

I conclude with this point. I am fortunate in my life to have had many highly enjoyable and stimulating visits to the United States. I am glad to count many of my best friends as Americans. We may not think so at the moment, but pluralism is still alive in the United States. Our job is to strengthen the debate within the United States and the position of those who challenge the narrow perspectives that currently have the ascendancy and who see the relevance of multilateralism and the rest. We need to let those brave people in the States who are trying to advance that argument know that they have friends abroad, in Europe and the United Kingdom, who are with them.

If there is one potential major tragedy, it is that the grandchildren of the current generation in the United States will wake up and say, "What did you do with your supreme power when you had it? It was in our interests as much as anyone else's to have strong multilateral institutions. Why were you not using that strength to build strong, effective multilateral institutions instead of turning your back on them and marching off in a unilateral direction?" There are those in the States who believe that as strongly as I do or as any other Member of this House does. We need to be with them. In our concern about terrorism and for the future, we all know that, although we must have multilateralism, the ultimate battle is in the realm of hearts and minds.

4.44 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for starting this debate and choosing the subject. I do not intend to go, as she did, into the current situation in Iraq, but to move to the wider subjects of the United Nations and associated institutions.

Those institutions were established after World War II by and with the United Nations Charter. Since 1945, the Security Council has had the task of preventing another world war and has provided a lightning conductor in crises. The veto was included in the charter for the use of the five major powers who had been victors in the 1939–45 war, in order to avoid confrontation between the United Nations and one of the live, a situation that could in itself have led to war. The charter also allowed for regional security arrangements additional to those of the United Nations itself. Those provisions have been used. For example, NATO has seen Europe through a dangerous period in and after Stalin's time. The United Kingdom should, in my opinion, continue to support the United Nations as the supreme international authority for the whole world, dealing with threats of serious warfare and outbreaks of armed violence. My contribution to this debate is mainly to record post-war efforts in the past 50 years or so to preserve peace.

I would remind your Lordships that the first real test of the United Nations occurred in June 1950 when North Korea attacked the south—on a Saturday afternoon, following the precedent set by the Italian dictator. Although it was a tough campaign—the United States of America in particular had many casualties—the United Nations' action in countering an act of aggression successfully served as a warning to any country contemplating an attack on its neighbour.

I well remember that episode because I was then a professional diplomat. I was at the time on a three-year posting in the British permanent delegation to the United Nations in New York. So I was in my seat at Lake Success at the emergency meeting on the Sunday morning when the necessary resolutions were adopted, without the risk of a veto, the Soviet delegation having boycotted meetings owing to disputes over who should occupy China's seat in the council.

During the period 1948–52, I served—and sat behind in the council—two permanent representatives of the United Kingdom: Sir Alexander Cadogan, and then Sir Gladwyn Jebb, who later became Lord Gladwyn and a Member of this House. I am giving this account of those early days because they set a salutary pattern of United Nations conduct for consideration by any rogue state considering mischief. I speak as someone who took part, in New York and Paris, in United Nations negotiations over 50 years ago.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the general public had great hopes of the United Nations, especially in the United States. I was a passionate enthusiast myself. Some regarded it as a world government, but that was never the intention. Sovereign states would continue to take their own decisions. The United Nations' role was to serve as a vital and necessary meeting place for nations where they could negotiate for the peaceful resolution of disputes. My noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford said that the United Nations must change with new situations. I agree entirely. I agree also with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that the authority of the Security Council has diminished. That is sad, but other means are now needed to police the world. The United Kingdom should continue to support moves to strengthen international order and the institutions involved.

4.49 p.m.

Earl Russell

My Lords, I would like to begin by making my apologies to the House, and especially to my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby and the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, for arriving late at the debate. I was warned that the debate might start shortly after half-past three. I was in the Peers' Entrance at 3.35. We all know that that would normally give us several hours in hand. It goes to show quite how dangerous prophecy is, which is a salutary warning for the debate.

I am most grateful to those on all three Front Benches for having encouraged me to speak when I otherwise might well not have done so. The twin poles of what I have heard so far have been the speeches of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle and the noble Lord, Lord Judd, on one hand, and of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on the other. My praise for the right reverend Prelate must be limited only by the fact that in praising a maiden speaker one must not render his remarks controversial. I look forward to being able to do so on another occasion. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that America is pluralist on the matter. I was entertaining recently a former American Fulbright scholar for whom I was host. I asked him if he knew any American academic who supported the policy of President Bush on Iraq. He replied instantly, "No".

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, whom I of all people cannot reproach for not being in his place, is obviously to an extent right about the coming period being one of a pax Americana, and about the importance of hard power. However, if he looks at some medieval history, he will appreciate that hard power is not quite as simple as it seems. There are few clearer symbols of hard power than a medieval battleaxe. It had few tougher practitioners than King Henry II but, in the conflict between him and Archbishop Becket, in the long term I do not think we can say that King Henry II was a winner.

People have a great weakness for being liked. Medieval political theory constantly stressed the importance of rulers having counsel from people who would tell them things that they did not want to hear. That was salutary. It is a paradox, and one from which we can learn something, that the man who carried the guilt for the death of Becket is also the man who carries the principal credit for the origins of English law. In that paradox, we have the friction between hard power and soft power, as it has always been. It is not quite as simple as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, suggests.

My particular concern is the movement of peoples, on which the noble Lord, Lord Desai, touched very briefly. I remember watching television film in the early 1990s of one of the many occasions when Saddam Hussein was targeting the Kurds, who were crawling on hands and knees over the tops of the mountains into Turkey—not the friendliest place of refuge for a Kurd. In that moment, I realised that sending a large quantity of destitute people out of one's own country into a neighbouring country is as much an act of aggression as firing guns at them. We must have some orderly way to arrange the movement of people, and we must not think that we can stop it.

People often point out that the movement of peoples in this century is far easier than it has ever been hut, for exactly that reason, it is far easier to control. In fact, there is a possibility of control that has not existed in any earlier century. When my ancestors came over here from Bordeaux, they did not have to ask anyone's permission, and no one thought that they could have stopped them. However, when an airliner comes down out of the sky. it is visible for miles around. In the 20th century, it has been possible to attempt a degree of control of which people have not even dreamt in centuries gone past. We are only just beginning to learn how to use that power.

We have a very newly published report on the subject, States of Conflict, which appeared yesterday from the IPPR. It is by Professor Stephen Castles of the University of Oxford's centre for refugee studies, and others. The report is very powerful, and calls for a good deal of fresh thinking on the subject. Its first part, which so far has had all the press and publicity, is reasonably familiar to those who are used to following briefings from the UNHCR and similar bodies. It stresses that there is a very clear correlation between the top refugee-producing countries, oppression of minorities, abuse of human rights and abuse on grounds of gender. That is familiar territory.

It is also familiar territory that most of the world's refugees are going to the poorest countries. One of those that comes near the top of all the tables is Guinea, but because Africa comes very low on journalists' beat, with the prominent exception of my former pupil Richard Dowden, we do not hear as much about it as we should. We come somewhere right down at the bottom.

Although the correlation between human rights abuses and the production of refugees is fairly simple, the overall picture is a great deal less clear, as always. No clear correlation with poverty was found, but it was extremely difficult to make an absolute separation between poverty and human rights abuses. I can understand the reasons for that difficulty.

If any matter needs to be approached on a multilateralist basis, this does. After all, the United States is itself a country of refugees. My late wife once described it as the only country in the world where the majority of the population is homesick. They might dispute that in Australia. The US should understand the need for some international standards but, recently, moves to investigate causes have turned into a competitive struggle to divert refugees elsewhere.

The report describes that as a strategy of diversion, with, an increasing emphasis on policies designed to place responsibility for processing claims and providing protection on other countries".

It suggests that the policies are: Non-arrival policies…measures designed to prevent people without adequate documentation from entering".

Of course, one does not usually apply to tyrants for visas; they tend not to like it. The report concludes: The refugee regime of the rich countries of the North has been fundamentally transformed over the last 20 years. It has shifted from a system designed to welcome Cold War refugees from the East and to resettle them as permanent exiles in new homes, to a 'non-entrée regime', designed to exclude and control asylum seekers from the South…These changes to policy and procedures have made it virtually impossible for forced migrants who are genuinely in need of protection to enter the EU and claim asylum".

That is the situation, and we have not only airliners that are easy to control, but borders such as the Greek-Turkish border in the Dodecanese, which is almost impossible to control. Three miles in a rowing boat in the middle of the night and someone is across the border of the EU, and no one is likely to spot them. No wonder that the report points out that there is a diversion from legitimate refugees into a new underclass of anonymous migrants who do not declare or regularise their existence.

That trend interferes with the stability of the free market. A market must depend on the ability of capital and labour to find their own level. But if capital can migrate at the drop of a hat and the migration of labour is so insuperably difficult, it must have a large depressing effect on wages, which must have a depressing effect on purchasing power, and therefore ultimately on the whole economy, to everyone's detriment.

It states that the best solution to all this is global free trade, but not on what it calls the "Washington consensus model" which goes with restricted social expenditure and privatisation. It states that there is a danger of economic interests pushing policy in the direction which is not in the interests of peace or stability. That is the policy of sealing up a kettle. I do not recommend it.

5 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

My Lords, the recent war in Iraq, the diplomacy that preceded it and the consequences that will flow from it make it necessary and urgent that we take a new and wider look at questions of international order and at the political institutions that underpin it. I therefore join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for having given us an opportunity today to do precisely that.

It would of course he futile to deny that in the past few months a number of those institutions—the UN, NATO and the EU in particular—have taken some hard knocks and have suffered considerable collateral damage from the paralysis and marginalisation that flowed from the divisions within each of their ranks over how to handle Iraq. Whether one deplores that and regrets it, as I do, or whether one glories in it and seeks to rub salt in the wounds at every opportunity, as do the neo-conservatives in Washington, we need to come to terms with the consequences and to learn and apply the lessons from our failures. And we need to recognise that some of the worst damage inflicted has been to the credibility and wider public support for these institutions. Support for all of them has tended in the past to be broad but relatively shallow, as has understanding of their workings. If we are to restore that credibility, we will need to address those politically intangible factors as well as the nuts and bolts of how those institutions work.

I would argue that it would be as unwise to overstate and exaggerate the damage caused by recent events as it would be to deny or belittle it. For one thing, we are much too close to events to be able to draw far-reaching and definitive conclusions with any confidence. One can usefully remember the sequence of the debate during and following the Bosnia crisis in the mid-1990s. Then, too, many observers and commentators were ready to write off the prospects of those same three key institutions as being irremediably damaged. But it was not so. And the concerted efforts of the international community ensured that at different moments all three of those institutions bounced hack and have since achieved much.

Perhaps I may give one example of the way in which the significance of this present crisis seems to me to be being overstated: it is the question of international law and the policy of pre-emptive action to deal with threats to international peace and security. To most of the opponents of the use of force, the action taken by the US/UK-led coalition was simply illegal. From this, they draw the conclusion that the rule of international law has been flouted and that a whole string of other pre-emptive moves are now in contemplation. But if they had listened a little more carefully, they would have noted that those coalition allies situated their action quite firmly within the framework of international law as they understood it and made it clear that it was designed to enforce existing mandatory Security Council resolutions which had been evaded over a long period.

One can dispute that view, but it is not altogether sensible to ignore its implications, which are that those precise parameters for action cannot easily be replicated elsewhere and are not currently replicable in any other part of the world. The precedent created by the humanitarian intervention in Kosovo in 1999, without any Security Council authority, was far more ground-breaking than the invasion of Iraq, but it was debated in much less apocalyptic terms, perhaps because it was less contested both within and between the main contributors to international debate on these matters in Europe and North America.

Rather too much, in my view, is being made of what is depicted as a titanic struggle between unilateralism and multilateralism. Of course there is a real tension between these two methods of dealing with international challenges. Of course the proponents of a multilateral approach to the solution of the world's problems—among whom I number myself—are those who believe that from trade to the environment, from weapons proliferation to the fight against terrorism, from security to human rights, the multilateral ways of dealing with them are better than unilateral ways. We take a much more extensive view of the application of these methods than do those who prefer to put their faith in the strength of the nation state and the virtues of ad hoc combinations.

However, we are talking about methods; we are not talking about religion. We are talking about approaches neither of which can purport to have the answer to every threat and every challenge. So it surely makes sense to apply a more utilitarian approach to the discussion and to try to avoid a complete polarisation of the debate. We need to discuss what works and what works better. I do not believe that the multilateralists have much to fear from such a discussion, but I sometimes worry that an over-dogmatic approach from that side of the argument could be just as damaging to the prospects of the international institutions we value as can be the wilder sallies of the unilateralists, which must certainly be rebutted and resisted.

We and our other European partners are not going to resile from our support for multilateral solutions to many of the world's most pressing problems—nor should we. However, when addressing those less convinced than we are, we should give more weight to the pragmatic and utilitarian argument and in so doing be more willing to address the shortcomings of multilateral institutions than we have been in the past.

Now for a few thoughts about those three specific political institutions and one not mentioned so far; the G8. The indispensability of the UN remains, in my view, as evident as are its recent setbacks. In Iraq, we need to move away from a sterile discussion of whet her the UN's role should be "a" or "the" vital one; whet her the UN or the coalition allies should be "in the driving seat", or some other such phrase; or whether indeed the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's obnoxious regime should in some way be given a stamp of approval. We need to focus rather on aspects of post-war Iraq which the UN can handle more effectively than any single state, however powerful, and where a failure to engage the UN fully will only damage the legitimacy and the prospects for the emergence of a prosperous, representative and stable society in Iraq—on issues such as facilitating and legitimising the establishment of democratic institutions; ensuring that the proceeds of Iraq's oil wealth go to the people or Iraq; validating and monitoring Iraq's abandonment of programmes for making weapons of mass destruction; coordinating the massive international effort of reconstruction that is required; and trying those who have committed heinous crimes. We should be asking ourselves how well the new draft resolution tabled at the UN meets those criteria—to which my answer would be, "Good in parts but not in others"—and remedying it where the latter is the case.

More widely, we should be cautious of too many radical prescriptions for reforming the UN's institutions, and there I am afraid I differ from a number of previous speakers. Is it seriously likely that agreement could be reached to reform the charter to include, or to preclude, concepts such as pre-emptive action or humanitarian intervention? And if not, would the UN not be more damaged by trying and failing? Do we really want to set off in pursuit of the great white whale of international diplomacy and Security Council reform and to what purpose? Would it not be better to focus rather on repairing relations between the five permanent members whose breakdown was at the heart of the debacle over the second resolution on Iraq and to avoid in future such diplomatic monstrosities as the long succession of public debates at ministerial level, which systematically polarise positions to the point of no return?

There is a good deal of loose talk, too, about NATO being an organisation whose time has passed. I find that unconvincing. Can we really see clearly enough and far enough into the future to be sure that we will never again need NATO's guarantee of mutual defence? Is it not irresponsible to start questioning the viability of NATO just when we have welcomed in a number of central and eastern European countries for which it is a sheet anchor of their newly re-established independence and security? NATO won its peacekeeping spurs in Bosnia and Kosovo and is about to be involved in Afghanistan. It remains, too, the indispensable basis from which to develop Europe's own security and defence activities. It is the only viable partner in a dialogue on security issues with a nuclear-armed Russia. Surely we need to strengthen and adapt NATO to the challenges of the future, not to question its utility and undermine its credibility.

The Iraq crisis could not have occurred at a worse time for the European Union, just when the whole question of the future development of its common foreign and security policy is coming to the fore at the intergovernmental conference. Plenty of voices are raised in this country and in this House arguing that the experience of Iraq has proved definitively that CFSP is an impossible and, indeed, undesirable objective. Plenty of other voices—far more, I believe, and this is likely to be a more Europe-wide view—argue that Europe should learn the lessons of our powerlessness to influence US policy and the actual course of events so long as we remain divided, and that we should press on with determination to construct and execute a common foreign policy.

After all, Europe already has an effective common policy in the Balkans. Europe is united in its approach to the Arab/Israel problem, the next massive challenge to the international community. There is no reason why Europe should not pull together over post-war Iraq. The alternative of continuing as an economic giant but a political pygmy is not attractive nor in the longer run sustainable. We need now to give Europe the tools it needs to do a better job and we need to get Europe's nations working together to protect and further their shared interests. We also need to find a better way than exists at present for Europe to work together with the United States when it is in our overall interests to do so and to argue with it when it is not in our interests to do so. The details of that are for another day and another debate.

In conclusion, the G8 summit is not really an institution but an annual fixture in the international landscape about to meet in Evian in June. I suggest that it is time for the G8 to return to its original focus, which was economic, and to cease duplicating foreign policy debates, which are better handled elsewhere. The war in Iraq has tended to obscure the fact that the world economy is not in brilliant shape and urgently needs leadership by the large nations. The Doha round of world trade negotiations is approaching deadlock. The task of bridging the gap between developed and developing countries is as far from achievement as ever. Why not turn the G8, once and for all, from a club of rich countries into a group which includes the main players in the developing world—China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria—and by so doing give a new impetus to the work that must be done if we are to ensure that globalisation is a force for good and for the greater prosperity of nations?

One can see clearly from all that that no amount of tweaking the institutions is a substitute for making them work when they are most needed. One can take a pessimistic view on that last point and one would if one listened to some of the ideologues of neo-conservatism in Washington. But to take their more extreme views as a given, as a fixed point, would indeed be a counsel of despair. It would be far better, surely, to work for an outcome which does not allow all that our countries have striven for so successfully since the Second World War to atrophy and slide towards irrelevance.

5.13 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has again presented us with a timely debate, in this case no less than the re-ordering of our international affairs. That is as broad a canvass as your Lordships' House could ever face. The brave title of this debate reminds me of the talk after the 1973 oil price hikes of the need for a new international economic order. We are less starry-eyed today.

Nevertheless, despite all the political confusion, the Iraq war has provided this new opportunity to discuss the effectiveness of our world institutions. I admire the noble Baroness's faith in change when so many have become cynical. I share her belief in reinforcing the power of national parliaments to influence international bodies.

However, my starting point is not the Middle East but the least developed countries and the willingness of the international financial institutions, the OECD and the UN to lift those countries out of poverty, protect their agriculture, strengthen their institutions and develop their economic base. The world's institutions must reform themselves further before they can claim to improve those poor economies. I would, for example, like to see much greater participation by the developing countries in their own development. Here, I declare an interest as a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of NGOs and the Churches and as a trustee of Christian Aid.

We need to ensure that internal changes in the World Bank and in the IMF—especially the involvement of civil society in decision-making—are not just on the agenda, which is a favourite trick of institutions, but are actually taking place. Poverty reduction strategy is one obvious area. Debt sustainability is another, in which various national bodies can play a key role alongside their government in establishing targets and monitoring systems. I agree with the noble Baroness that it is not only governments but the many organisations which make up civil society which must be involved. The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, made that point very well in defining the concept of intervention under the rule of law. I cannot follow the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in his interesting comments on migration and free trade, but there is obviously a close connection there.

There is a parallel attempt to make the WTO more representative and accountable so that it neither reflects powerful lobbies in rich countries nor degenerates into overregulation and internal conflict. That process is a slow one because the vested interests of trade protection, notably the CAP, are unwilling to give up territory. The Doha round has produced little progress in TRIPS or agriculture, although I believe that the EU has made a new offer on trade in services. It would help if the EU could get its act together on the CAP. Equally, the US has no right to complain about EU protection or GM food labelling or anything else when it refuses to co-operate with the international community in so many other departments. The only genuine advances I can see are not in the WTO but in some of the corporations, even the pharmaceutical companies, which genuinely see the advantages of fairer trade, codes of conduct and opening up markets—entirely in their own interests—with benefits for the poor.

Because of those frustrations in reaching longer-term reforms, the UN system has tried to create more momentum in the advocacy of the millennium development goals and the Monterey process. Here, they are working much more strictly to a G8 and OECD timetable. That has become a new way of working to deadlines which has brought a temporary stimulus but will increasingly frustrate the developing countries as they get agonisingly close to 2015, recognising only then the rhetoric which donors use to disguise their actual contributions. The simultaneous process of doubling development aid, as admirably pressed for by Gordon Brown, has demonstrated the need for donor-led rather than UN-led reform.

That is really the nub of the argument for any change in our international system, whether we are talking about the UN or the EU. Unless the central players are given a fast track procedure, no amount of highly-paid bureaucracy in New York will ever make any difference.

I was going to talk about peacekeeping in the Congo, but I think I shall curtail my remarks on that except to say that I am very pleased that the noble Baroness has raised that subject. There is a grave situation there and I am not sure that there is likely to be any real change, but it is surely time for us to shore up the UN in the eastern Congo as well as in Kinshasa where the national dialogue is now coming to a head.

Once it has identified a problem, the Security Council can and should move quickly. It works on the principle of effective engagement by the major players with the acquiescence of the minor ones. Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Desai, I do not see how that could change. I agree with my noble friend that we should improve the present situation rather than attempt to enlarge the council. However, we have seen, over Iraq, how the various safeguards can slow down the council to the point where it can he ignored altogether. That is where we arrive at the impotence, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Chalfont. I am one of those who did not believe that we had international law on our side. I believe that the UN was seriously undermined by the coalition with ominous consequences.

I turn to the role of the UN in Palestine. We need to reinforce the role of the UN, which has been all but ignored by Israel with calamitous results—the shattering of lives by Israeli armour and the under-funding of the UN agency which we set up to help. The role of our ally in this affair has been shamefully self-interested. That is another reality which governments must tackle within the UN system.

The US is not the world's policeman, still less a vigilante, as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate, and nor is NATO. We must somehow strengthen the role of the Security Council and improve its credibility in the eyes of the rest of the world, including, I must say, the average US citizen who is unaware of international affairs. It is our job to help make that citizen more aware through our connections with the United States.

Afghanistan is a much better example than Iraq of how the international community can respond. In Iraq the interim administration should now move faster towards a government that is recognised by the Iraqi people, working closely with the United Nations. We need to restore confidence in our international institutions but at the same time make certain that the people they serve are in the front line of their work.

5.21 p.m.

Lord Haskel

My Lords, I warmly congratulate and thank the noble Baroness for moving this Motion. It is timely and urgent. Of course we need strong international institutions which give authority and legitimacy to international actions—the rule of law and the moral basis called for by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle. Of course we need institutions for international decision-making. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, that we need international institutions where we can air our differences and iron out our disputes. Other noble Lords have spoken about difficult and disturbing matters that need to be sorted out.

I am not sure that I agree that those matters have so destroyed the integrity of these institutions that they need to be rebuilt. If these institutions fail to produce international agreements, it does not mean that they have collapsed. It means that they are imperfect. And if they are imperfect they need nurturing or modernising, but not necessarily rebuilding. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, spoke about them bouncing back.

At present we are concerned about the credibility of the United Nations and the Security Council. But these institutions have stood the test of time. They have been put together with painstaking negotiation and consensus building over a number of years. They have outlasted governments and will outlast the idealogues in Washington. Because the Security Council failed to produce a unanimous decision to go to war does not mean that that institution has collapsed.

I can think of two occasions only when the Security Council agreed to go to war. They were—grudgingly—in the 1960s against Korea and then in 1991. So things really remain much the same.

It simply means that some nations were unhappy about a pre-emptive strike against Iraq—what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, described as a "colonial act". But that failure does not mean that they now think that the United Nations and indeed, the Security Council are redundant. It means that the United Nations is also a forum for voicing our differences.

It is reasonable only to expect that differences will arise. In fact, I challenge the assumption that we have to conform and not rock the boat by voicing our different opinion. In real life there are different points of power in the world, but it does not mean that every dispute has to be polarised along the same lines.

We are committed to the principles that are important to us, but the circumstances around these principles change. We are certainly influenced by decisions made in the past, but we cannot be locked into them. Indeed, that is where we look to politicians for a lead, for guidance. We want them to lead us into alliances within which we can differ, where we can influence and not just be locked into collective action.

The UN and NATO are not perfect. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, sensibly called for caution. That is why we must depend upon them to do what they can and not denounce them for failing to do what they ought.

Meanwhile, there are many other national institutions getting on with what they ought to be doing. The World Health Organisation is lighting SARS and other infections, acknowledging that disease does not recognise international boundaries. The world continues to co-operate on science. On 23rd April a Soyuz rocket provided a lifeline to the international space station after the shuttle disaster. Even the United States needs international cooperation.

Perhaps the most important international institution for decision-making and national interdependence is the one which regulates world trade—the WTO mentioned by many noble Lords. We should all be concerned whether the WTO is up to the job of regulating world trade, because that is where most disputes arise. Few governments will compromise where their economic interests are concerned; partly because they run the risk of not being re-elected and partly because they cannot afford the financial loss.

Furthermore, world trade is the key to helping poor people in poor countries. That is of enormous political importance. If those countries want to earn and trade their way out of poverty, instead of being trapped in dependence on aid, it is the WTO that has the means of delivering this. To appreciate how liberal and well-regulated world trade can do that, one has only to compare the progress made by many African countries over the past 25 years, compared with the progress made by many countries in South East Asia. That is how the developing world will gain a voice in international economics, for which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, called. This is the economic development about which the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, spoke so movingly.

History is littered with examples of trade disputes which have stood in the way of real peace. Raising trade barriers in order to protect domestic producers and retaliate against other barriers in the past has caused endless economic hardship. Helping trade to flow smoothly and providing a means of dealing fairly with disputes over trade issues must lead to international confidence and co-operation. A system based on rules rather than power must be in all our interests.

Not only does the WTO benefit developing countries, it also benefits developed countries such as ours. We are the fifth largest exporter of goods and the second largest exporter of services. That means that one in four jobs in Britain is linked to business overseas and so we are very dependent on the WTO for our standard of living.

Europe may not be able to balance the United States in military power, but we can balance it in trade. We have three disputes with the US at the moment. Handling a conflict between two economic superpowers is of enormous political sensitivity. It even worries my noble friend Lord Desai.

Lord Desai

My Lords, it must be serious then.

Lord Haskel

My Lords, the United States imposed tariffs on steel imports last year, which have been declared unlawful under WTO rules. The WTO has also declared tax breaks allowed to large US exporters to be illegal. Then there is the dispute over GM crops which we discussed earlier today.

The EU and the US are talking, and we shall have to see what happens, but my point is that having a mechanism and a forum to deal with such disputes is too precious to be abused or sidelined simply because there are other disagreements in the UN. We just have to work harder at it. I know that my noble friend Lady Symons and her team are working hard to ensure that the conference in Cancun in September will be successful. It is important that she should not be distracted, because, if successfully concluded, the WTO Doha development agenda will have an impact way beyond Iraq. It will have an impact on the world's economy, on prosperity and on peace and security. Success at Cancun would be a major step in putting those differences in the Security Council behind us.

In the end, most of the world's urgent challenges can be tackled only through international institutions: the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan; poverty in Africa; the fight against terror; weapons proliferation; and, of course, the Middle East process. No country, not even the US, can tackle those matters single-handed; it needs allies, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said. International organisations are the fulcrums of power. In order to exercise that power, we must all nurture those institutions, however imperfect they may be.

5.31 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth

My Lords, I suspect that few members of your Lordships' House could arrange and then initiate a debate on the future of the world, and I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness for managing to do so at such a critical point in our international relationships. Following the example of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, I apologise to the House for missing the beginning of her speech—for similar reasons; perhaps less baroque but credible none the less. It is also a pleasure to take part in this debate because it has included the maiden speech—a speech both wise and apt—of my noble friend and colleague the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle.

The term "balance of power", to which the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, referred—or, rather, the lack of it—has produced much of the context that we are now addressing. From time to time, historians and political scientists use such a term as a recognisable phenomenon by which big powers are checked and are not allowed to develop excessive influence. A balance of power explains the development of NATO and the United Nations in response to the events that led up to the Second World War and its whole, terrible outcome. It can be traced back through several tiers of European history; the study of which I suggest is more than ornamental—through the 16th, 12th and ninth centuries, and even to the bonding of the Greek city states after the Persian Wars.

I wonder whether such a Weltanshauung is any longer possible, because of the combination of two factors: the economic dominance of the world by the United States and the fact that the EU has a strong economic and political unity, albeit in some tension at present, with no real military strength but with a fine track record of overseas development. I do not mean to be critical; I am trying to be descriptive. With the position of the United Kingdom, nervously marooned in the middle of the Atlantic—which is perhaps where we belong, as part of Europe yet tied to North America—a discernible gap in world politics as to what Europe can deliver becomes all the more frustrating.

The United States National Security Strategy, published last September, recognises some of those factors, such as its, unprecedented and unequalled strength in the world—

some would say a strength equalled only by the Roman Empire. It states clearly: while the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defence by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm".

But the same report recognises a wider shift that goes beyond US pre-eminence. It states: The greatest danger lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology".

That is what caused the trauma of 9/11 to produce the view that the US, must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today's adversaries".

One could say that the rest is history. I suppose that the major shift away from a "balance of power" view of the world political, economic and military stage has taken the following specific form. The first Gulf War in 1990 was conducted under the auspices of the United Nations and involved the largest military coalition in history, with clearly defined objectives. Military action was taken only when other options had been seen to fail. By contrast, the second Gulf War amounted to a unilateral or near unilateral action, without the express authority of the United Nations—in the eyes of some, without clearly defined objectives. Some would hold that we have moved from a multilateral to a unilateral world order, with all the potential dangers involved.

Those remarks are not intended to be anti-American. I lived in the Mid-West 20 years ago for five months as the visiting professor at a university, and met the youth and young graduates from all over North America—a testing encounter as well as an enjoyable one. Only last Thursday I returned from a fascinating and most agreeable lecture trip to Georgia in the deep South. Over there, things feel different. There is no doubt that the soul of the United States was deeply wounded by 9/11—having, on its own terms, held out through the Cold War. But as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has pointed out, and as I know myself from my personal contacts and conversations in Atlanta, Savannah and elsewhere, US citizens are themselves debating their action over Iraq—more than is perceived over here.

In that context, our Government's policy of, shall we say, tempering United States enthusiasm, is deemed by many, although not all, to be an appropriate response—the defence being, "Who else would do it?"—although how it will turn out in future is hard to say. As a nation, we probably find that role easier because we once had an empire. But we need to be more aware than we often are of how the big and powerful, or the small but once upon a time powerful, are perceived by small countries.

Lithuania is a nation in which I gather that the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, has his roots. I visited the small Lutheran Church in the west of Lithuania the weekend following 9/11, and I found the way in which people in a nation that has suffered so much from different kinds of imperialism over the centuries viewed the events in New York sobering. Terrible, they said, yes, but big nations occasionally need to be stood up to. They did not condone what the terrorists did; they were simply offering a small nation's perspective. As the world has more small nations than large ones, we must take that perspective on board.

However, political, economic, military and, we could add, cultural power is not enough either to change the world, if we wanted to, or to explain the complexities of globalisation. For many key issues—from international financial stability to drug smuggling, global climate change, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—those powers alone cannot ensure success.

I draw those remarks together with three observations that appear to me to have a bearing on the context of post-Iraq conflict as a test case for world stability. First, unless Saddam Hussein's lasting legacy is to be a severe, if not near-fatal, weakening of the EU, to the point where it has no serious political role on the world stage, relations within the EU must be renurtured. I think we are aware that, beneath the rhetoric associated with the French President, there are many in France who want this to happen, and who understand our mid-Atlantic position as not an "either/or"—that is to say, either us and the EU, or us and the US—but, dare I say it, a good, Anglican "both/and".

Secondly, the role of the United Nations needs to be reinvigorated so that it does not, by default, go the same way as the League of Nations did in the 1930s, with tragic consequences: in effect, a talking shop ignored by the serious players. That is why we need to get the UN into the political saddle over Iraq, over and above its more morally obvious role in humanitarian aid. International institutions can so easily shrink in influence, and quite quickly, never to recover their original purpose. It seems to me that the UN is the only organisation that can call into account the unilateral actions of the US. I am pleased that we are in there working hard at it.

Thirdly, the role of the Churches and faith communities, to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle referred in local terms, needs also to be recognised more fully, as they are members of already existing international networks that can be forces for stability and change. The most obvious is the Roman Catholic Church, with its specific face in the form of His Holiness the Pope. Others, for good theological and historical reasons, are less personally focused and more dispersed. The Church of England is part of the Anglican Communion, which includes the Church of the Province of South Africa, led by the Archbishop of Capetown, and the Episcopal Church of the United States of America. The Lutheran World Federation has contributed considerably to post-perestroika recovery in parts of the former Soviet Union, not just the Baltic nations. The list is endless and includes the role of religious communities on a whole range of issues, such as debt relief, HIV/AIDS and trade, all of which reflect positively on the phenomenon that we call globalisation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Dimbleby lecture, posed the question: If states cannot provide the security for their people, in what sense have they a right to be obeyed?

That brings us to the basic ethic of restraint—not, "I can therefore I must", but, "I can yet is it right to do so?", echoing the words of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. The doctrine of restraint is an uncomfortable companion to speedy decision-making, especially in the context of aggression and fear.

I conclude by quoting some words, to which bishops keep returning as we reflect on our ways of leadership, from the Rule of Saint Benedict on the role of the abbot: He must so arrange everything that the strong have something to strive for and the weak nothing to run from.

There is, I suspect, more in those words than their originally envisaged, mid-6th-century Italian monastic context. They could also refer to governments, international organisations, world religions and even, I suggest, the so-called superpowers.

5.43 p.m.

Lord Brett

My Lords, many noble Lords have expressed their appreciation to the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for initiating the debate. I, too, can express my appreciation with great sincerity, as I have two interests: I am the chairman of the governing body of the International Labour Organisation, which is a United Nations agency. I am also a member of the World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalisation, which is co-chaired by the presidents of Finland and Tanzania. At our fifth meeting of the World Commission this weekend in Geneva, lo and behold, we are looking at recommendations that we will make to the international financial institutions and the United Nations system. For me, the debate could not be more timely. I am very grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions. They have helped me in my thinking. I have, therefore, little to add other than comments.

First, we have had 30 dialogues, internationally and nationally. to find out what governments, employers, trade unions, civil society and faith organisations feel is wrong with the world in the context of the globalisation that has taken place over 20 years. There are many criticisms of the United Nations system. The half of the world's population who will go to bed tonight having earned no more than 2 dollars a day will not lie awake worrying about the veto, the General Assembly or the Security Council. They worry about health, jobs, education and water. Let us not forget that one fifth of the world's population has no access to clean water. It is for that provision that they look to the United Nations system.

We talk about the UN General Assembly and Security Council. The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, mentioned other agencies, such as the World Health Organisation. UNESCO and UNIDO, which are part of the United Nations family. The only element that is not part of the UN is the World Trade Organisation. In our 30 meetings, criticism tended to be directed at the World Bank, the IM F and the WTO. The rosy view of the WTO expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, is not one that I have heard echoed too often in the developing world.

I have also gleaned that, in the past 20 years, globalisation has weakened the nation state and strengthened multinational enterprises, of which there are some 65,000, with 850,000 foreign affiliates employing some 54 million people. The UN is an international system geared to security, through the Security Council and General Assembly; economics, through the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and trade, through the WTO. We do not have a social policy pillar. A series of United Nations agencies, such as the World Health Organisation, UNCTAD and the ILO, deal with different aspects of social policy. But, in decision-making at international level, social policy comes far down the ranking order. That is why some of the social policy decisions that we have made internationally have been a dereliction of the creation of the kind of society that we want.

I therefore hope that the World Commission, when it publishes its report at the beginning of next year. will have something to offer the system of international order. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and those who are cautious and say that we should not try to rewrite the charter. The ILO's charter, for example, refers to "the chairman", and some of my colleagues want it changed to a non-sexist title. We resisted opening the 1919 charter, because to do so would be to invite everyone else to tamper with other parts of it. Despite all its imperfections, the UN system needs reinvigorating, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth said, not reinventing.

5.47 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, in addressing this important subject I make clear that the views that I express, while my own, as always, are also the policy of the Green Party, of which I am a member. When I was young, and for a long time after, I fell into the trap of believing that the sooner we achieved world government the better. Some in your Lordships' House may still believe so, but I hope not. I have come to believe that I was incredibly naive. I now believe that we should strive for government at the most suitable level for the subject dealt with. In Roman Catholic social teaching that is referred to as "subsidiarity". But that is a most misleading term. as it implies power travelling down, whereas the reality should be power travelling up and being given to more complex bodies only where essential.

In a complex world with almost instant communications, it is essential that power be given to bodies such as the UN in some matters. The main one of those is the preservation of world peace. Not the least of the recent crimes of the United States is that it has gone far to destroy the power of the United Nations to perform that function, just as it destroyed the power of the League of Nations 80 years ago. We have been accomplices in that later crime and must now do our best to repair the harm that we have done.

Another area where a supra-national body is needed is the environment. With climate change now an established fact, the challenges it offers can be met only by large-scale international co-operation. The same is probably true in the field of health. But in most other areas international bodies given large powers do more harm than good. Although there have been signs recently of change for the better, the World Bank has on the whole in its history done exactly that. In its misguided endeavours to impose corporative capitalism on all parts of the world, it has destroyed indigenous agriculture in the third world and driven millions from the countryside to the cities to become landless, workless and, it must be said, lawless.

Another body which has done immense harm, I believe, but which shows no signs of amendment is the World Trade Organisation. Perhaps I may pick out just one major area in which, to me, it seems to be a completely evil influence—I use the word advisedly. I select animal welfare. I believe that there is not a single religion in the world or any philosophy that has ethical pretensions which does not regard kindliness to our fellow creatures as essential to our full humanity. But we live in a world in which the European Union hesitates to pass laws in which it fully believes for fear that the WTO should decide that they are in breach of free trade and are therefore illegal.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and the Liberal Democrats, for having made this debate possible. I also thank the speakers who have illuminated us today—particularly the speeches made by the noble Lords, Lord Judd, Lord Hannay of Chiswick and Lord Brett. I hope that it may he a step on the road to re-establishing the United Nations and to restructuring all international bodies—or, as has been cogently argued, if restructuring is not on the agenda, at least to administering them so that they are democratically accountable to nations and not just to international corporations and are allowed, nay required, to respect ethical and humane standards.

5.52 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, this has been a very interesting and, in many ways, outstanding debate. I have listened with fascination and I have learned a lot. I say this as someone who teaches a 20-lecture introductory course on the structure of the international system. Therefore, I am forced to delve deeply into some of these issues.

The acceptance around the Chamber has been that the international order has already been transformed in a great many ways and that we now need to adjust, as far as we can, international institutions and international law to this transformed world. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred to the passing of the Cold War. I was sitting in Moscow two days ago listening to people being nostalgic about the good old balance of power and the days when we kept order in the world. But that has gone.

We have a proliferation of new, weak and very often corrupt states—the majority of states in the United Nations. We have had a doubling of world population with all the impact that that means in terms of the movement of peoples. There is both the unpushed movement of people—people trying to better themselves from the poor world in the rich—and forced migration, on which my noble friend Lord Russell spoke so movingly. There has been the revolution in communications and these astonishing years of growth in the global economy which so far have avoided a depression since 1945.

Let us recognise that we all now depend upon the international economic institutions, from the G8 through to the IM F, to ensure that we do not slip back into a deflationary spiral, which it would be very easy to do if governments, central banks and economics ministries fail to get together. Many noble Lords have recognised that the UN Charter, international law and sovereignty and non-intervention do not entirely fit the world we now have.

A number of noble Lords have spoken about the problem of American hegemony and that we now live and are likely to go on living for the foreseeable future—at least in military terms—in a world of Pax Americana. We may agree with my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf that the United States is the best available hegemon that one might have. One has only to think about the possible alternatives to recognise that we are better off with the United States than anything else. It was the great legacy of President Roosevelt and of a previous generation of Americans that they gave us the structure of international institutions from which we now benefit so much. This was a deliberate effort to build institutional constraints upon American power.

We also recognise the depth and bitterness of the revolt within the United States against the whole structure of multilateral institutions that a previous American generation created. I have been shocked at various meetings with American neo-conservatives during the past few weeks by the depth of their bitterness and by the depth also of their ignorance about global interdependence. Ten days ago, at a meeting, I heard someone ask, "I do not believe that a structure of international institutions effectively exists. Why does it matter to the United States what you Europeans think?". If one asks that question one demonstrates the depth of one's ignorance about the way in which the international system operates.

But it is there. It is there built inside the current Administration in what one must call the bitterness of the disputes between the Pentagon and the State Department and, so I understand, of the personal relationships between Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell. The National Security Strategy, mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, sets out a definition of the world in which hard power is all that counts, the United States is justified in operating pre-emptively and, as a number of neo-conservatives would say, the United States is the righteous power—that religious language is often used—and is thus entitled to reform the world in its own image.

As some noble Lords have said, within the United States thankfully there are many self-correcting mechanisms of American politics and of American society. Business interests know very well that the United States needs international economic institutions. It needs the World Trade Organisation. The US Administration, even while Mr Rumsfeld is so busily attacking the need for these, is demanding that the International Atomic Energy Agency be allowed to conduct intrusive inspections in Iran because there are some questions about the Iranian nuclear programme.

The US Administration is also taking the whole issue of genetically modified foods to the World Trade Organisation and asking NATO to take over nation-building and security in Afghanistan. My noble friend Lord Russell commented that people in America do not like to be hated; they like to be liked. There are other self-correcting mechanisms in any liberal democracy which mean that we should he engaging as actively as possible in the American domestic debate.

One of my criticisms of the British Prime Minister over the past 18 months is that while he has worked extremely hard to provide public support for the US Administration and private influence in Washington, a major element was missing: namely, to persuade the American Congress and the American public that they must take this transformation of the world more seriously and that they must take the need for multilateral co-operation more seriously.

We need, all of us—diplomats, scholars, parliamentarians, members of government—to be playing a much more active role in what has become an astonishingly introverted Washington debate. We certainly need to get out into Atlanta, Savannah, Texas and Louisiana from where America is now being run.

Several speakers have pointed out that we must also recognise the current weakness of many intergovernmental organisations and the sheer difficulties of reform. I am not sure that United Nations reform is quite the great white whale of international diplomacy, hut if I had been the Permanent Representative at the UN, then I might well have regarded it in that light. Nevertheless, after almost 60 years, the structure we have inherited is no longer entirely appropriate and it is right now for us to explore the landscape for necessary change before the coming 20 to 30 years slip by.

I would cite for reform the irresponsibility of so many weak and failed states inside the UN and other international institutions, the caucus politics through which chairmanships are designated and elected, the scandal that Libya has been elected chair of the UN Human Rights Commission, and the previous scandals over UNESCO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. I could mention many others. All those demonstrate that, as the British Government and as people working in this area, we ought to be criticising the current structure and asking how it should change. Of course there will he deep resistance to change, and some of those changes will have to he effected through other ad hoc institutions such as the G8 group of countries, now G9—although I understand that the Chinese have already been invited to attend part of the coming G8 meeting—through the EU as it gradually enlarges, through the OECD as it gradually enlarges, and through initiatives such as the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development, which is struggling hard to introduce political conditionality into the principles of economic and social development in Africa.

What is the British role in Iraq? The immediate British role should he to insist that the phrase, "a vital role for the United Nations", is carried through in the wake of those in Washington—thankfully not the whole of the Bush Administration—who wish to prevent the UN assuming any authority whatever. That means putting UNMOVIC back in and insisting that the other half a those promises made by President Bush in Belfast regarding the roadmap for Israel and Palestine is followed through.

The British Government have a great opportunity to work with other European states, if only they can learn to work together in a multilateral world and not—here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Desai—in a multipolar world. After all, four members of the UN Security Council are currently members of the European Union, or five if one includes Bulgaria as a candidate state. Some 40 per cent of the UN budget comes from EU members, along with 50 per cent of the UN peacekeeping budget. Collectively, the European states punch well below their weight.

How the European nations should use their influence within these institutions is a delicate issue, as is criticising the current American approach. Of course we need to promote our values—we are interested in promoting the values of western democracy—but in that role we need to avoid the "white man's burden" approach being called for by the Washington "neo-Conservatives" in persuading the nations of the developing world to move towards our values. We should not push or bully them.

Finally, what is the role for the House of Lords? I suggest that there may he a theme here for a sessional committee. If we accept what was said by my noble friend Lord Dahrendorf in his speech, now is the time to produce building blocks, new ideas on intervention and the rule of law. If we accept the power of ideas in getting things under way, then we may have some small role to play in pushing forward the case for strengthening the structures of international order and for transforming international institutions, in spite of the enormous obstacles to reform and the prejudices and vested interests that block the way forward.

6.4 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for securing a debate on this very important subject and for what I thought was a tremendous opening speech. It gave us much to kick off on and to discuss as the debate continued. I should also like to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle on his maiden speech. Not only was it very thoughtful, but I am bound to say that it was also thought-provoking. We look forward to hearing more from the right reverend Prelate in the future.

Our debate has spanned a wide range of global challenges. If a central theme has emerged from the many interventions, it is that of course the world is evolving and the international order has to change along with it. In a sense that is always true. It is also always true that such international institutions as we have must also change if they are to remain useful and relevant.

The international institutions are certainly capable of change. Over the past few decades, new circumstances, ranging from the end of the Cold War to an increase in concern for the environment—so ably argued by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley—have fundamentally altered the international landscape. Bodies such as the European Union and NATO have changed significantly in terms of their membership and role in order to reflect that.

Many of those institutional changes have come about through what might be described as an evolutionary process rather than through radical restructuring. That incremental approach should not undermine either our real ambitions in regard to the tasks that lie ahead for the international community or our enthusiasm for making some of these changes rather more quickly.

We are faced with modern threats and uncertainties. For many, collective security is at the top of the international agenda. New threats have emerged—terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, rogue and failing states and massive human rights abuses—all of which require a new response from international bodies. Reforms aimed at enhancing international security, but which are also aimed at our prosperity and sustainable development, are absolutely crucial. The United Kingdom has been at the forefront in addressing these threats, refocusing the international agenda from traditional concerns with territorial defence to what is perhaps a broader concept of collective security—a collective security also informed by tackling some of the issues around poverty.

Perhaps I may say that the noble Baroness, in her very powerful opening speech, concentrated heavily on the perceived shortcomings of the United States. I do not suppose she will be surprised that I have remarked on that. I understand why she sought to concentrate her remarks in that way, and of course it was a theme taken up with considerable passion by my noble friend Lord Judd. However, I was left with the impression that both of those superb interventions about the most powerful country in the world—while many players on the world stage matter a great deal, the United States is most powerful in economic and military terms—left many questions unanswered. The problem for us all in the international community is that, while we have the institutions that reflect the will of the nations as we move into the 21st century, we must also have the means in the international community to enforce that will. We must enforce it diplomatically, through international law and, if it should come to it, militarily as well.

The noble Baroness was unhappy about the response of the United States to the outrage this morning in Saudi Arabia. I take that up because it is something that has happened today. However, we have to acknowledge that the greater part of enforcing the will of the international community does fall, over and over again, to certain nations of the world. That needs to be addressed. In this respect, I agree with many of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. He addressed the question of how we should enforce the international will when our diplomatic institutions fail us. This hugely difficult question has to be addressed if we are truly to get to grips with the new world order.

The statement of fact about the pivotal role of the United States was very clearly articulated by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, in his well-argued speech. It provided much of the energy in our debate this afternoon. However, when listening just now to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I was not sure how much of his argument was directed at the current Administration in the United States—or perhaps even at certain individuals within the Administration—and how much of it was a fundamental argument about the institutions and the culture of the United States itself. On a future occasion that may provide us with a very interesting debate.

I want to take up some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, about Iraq. I did not quite understand her comment about the draft United Nations resolution not addressing the point about the interim authority in Iraq. It is addressed in operative paragraph 9 of the draft resolution. Perhaps we can discuss that issue later.

I should also say to the noble Baroness that, while I absolutely acknowledge that there is a very difficult situation in Iraq and huge shortcomings, the almost unremittingly gloomy picture she painted was not quite fair. Much is improving. Water is being reconnected; sewage plants are being repaired; electricity is being restored; most of the hospitals are working, even in Baghdad; and the schools are functioning. Most importantly, mass graves are being discovered and recorded—but they are not being dug and they are not being filled with new victims. That has to be an improvement.

I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that it is the role of the British Prime Minister to intervene in US thinking about its own attitudes. It is the role of the British Prime Minister to put forward British Government policy and to try to persuade others to our view. At that, if I may say so, he does rather well.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was particularly concerned about the role of the United Nations, a theme taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and my noble friends Lord Desai and Lord Judd. We remain committed to UN reform to make the organisation more effective and, indeed, more representative of the modern world. We support an enlarged Security Council, expanded to 24 seats, including an enlarged membership of both its permanent and non-permanent parts.

The United Kingdom has backed Germany, Japan and India in their bids to become permanent members of an enlarged Security Council, and we have said that countries from Latin America and Africa should choose two further permanent members. So, in answer to the point raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, we very much support these reforms.

The reforms, of course, will require the approval of two-thirds of the Security Council, including the P5, if they are to go forward. No such agreement exists at present. We shall have to work very hard to secure that support. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, that the United Kingdom wants to see a strengthened UN based on real political resolve to deal with rogue states and proliferators.

But the UN's pre-eminence can be maintained only if there is genuine political will to tackle the new threats we perceive in WM D and rogue states. The Security Council needs to adapt to these threats. It is not only a question of institutional reform but of really addressing the issues. I strongly agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Portsmouth in that regard.

My noble friend Lord Desai raised the issue of the veto. That will no doubt be considered in any enlargement of the Security Council. However, it is unlikely that there will be a consensus for change. The UK believes that the veto should be used with restraint and in accordance with the principles in the UN charter.

There is much in the UN Secretary-General's reform initiative with which we can work. I can assure my noble friend Lord Judd that we are by no means complacent. We recognise that a great deal more work needs to be done in regard to the problems of UN bureaucracy, over-manning and the budget. Perhaps more importantly, we need to focus on areas such as counter-terrorism, human rights, poverty reduction and sustainable development, a theme to which many noble Lords referred.

As to the question of the mechanism for responding to human rights abuses—or the "just intervention" articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, my noble friend Lord Desai and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle—the United Kingdom participated very actively in the debate on humanitarian intervention which followed the Kosovo conflict. We drew up principles to guide the Security Council in deciding when to intervene but we were unable to secure the agreement of other permanent members. So I am sorry to say that, with some reluctance, I have to agree with some of the caution expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay.

The debate has been reinvigorated by the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, an initiative of the former Canadian Foreign Minister. The principles published last year on the responsibility to protect are now on the agenda for the United Nations General Assembly. We intend to work closely with our Canadian counterparts to try to build consensus around the difficult issues referred to by the noble Baroness.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was quite right to caution us that the circumstances of these conflicts are all different. I agree that the reasons for intervening in Kosovo were in many ways far more ground-breaking than the issues surrounding the more recent intervention in Iraq. The emergence of the doctrine of overwhelming humanitarian need or overwhelming humanitarian disaster now seems to be a well-accepted basis for such intervention.

As many noble Lords have remarked, some of our institutions are already adapting. The UN is not the only multilateral forum that matters and it would be a shame if we were to allow that impression to prevail. Of course the UN matters in economic terms and in what it is able to do through its various branches and diplomatically, hut it has much to learn from the developmental changes of other organisations.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, made an important point about NATO's role. NATO is indeed an example of how reform is working. At the Prague summit in November 2002 NATO leaders agreed to transformation of the alliance to meet new threats, including the threats posed by WMD and terrorism. NATO agreed to develop more flexible forces, able to deploy more rapidly wherever they are needed. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, the recent decision to enhance NATO support for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan exemplifies NATO's relevance and its ability to take on new tasks. So NATO is already engaged in a process of reform.

We are also working hard to match the EU's undoubted economic and political muscle with a security role, without of course cutting across NATO's role. We have put into place institutional arrangements which guarantee that the EU will not duplicate NATO's assets and will act only when NATO as a whole is not engaged.

The EU operation in Macedonia, which took over from NATO on 31st March this year, is a good demonstration of how the EU can have a real security role in an area where it is already very active on other fronts. The integrated EU effort in the Balkans has also been strengthened by the deployment of a civilian police operation under the new ESDP arrangements.

More widely, we are working to increase the EU's influence on the international stage through a strengthened common foreign and security policy. I recognise that for many noble Lords this is a controversial matter. The aim is not that we should always agree on every aspect of foreign affairs or give up our right to pursue a national policy. But where we do agree, we should be able to exert greater influence by working together on the world stage.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that what happened over Iraq was a blow to European decision taking—of course it was—but Iraq is not the whole picture. Noble Lords should reflect on what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said about the recent example of the EU contribution to the publication of the road map. The EU, in partnership with the United States, Russia and the UN, has played a crucial part in offering at least some hope of a way forward in the Middle East.

I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai and the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that we need new structures. But we can have them through reform of existing structures if we have the courage to reform them properly. In the case of the EU, both the unprecedented expansion through the accession of other countries and the discussions on the convention will provide us with further means of doing so.

As to regional organisations playing an increasing role in the maintenance of international security, in our own region the OSCE is a very good example of an organisation that has adapted to a changing security agenda. It did so in meeting the challenges in the Balkans. It now takes a more comprehensive approach to security, addressing the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms, economic and environmental co-operation as well as more conventional military issues.

This is not a question of Europe v. the United States or the countries of the Middle East. Multilateralism is growing in the world in the form of evolution of regional bodies. I ask your Lordships to reflect on that. Look at what is happening in Africa. The African Union, established last year, has an explicit mandate to maintain peace and security among its members. Its intervention in Burundi is a sign that it will take this responsibility seriously. Similarly in West Africa, ECOWAS is playing a major role in maintaining the fragile peace agreement in Côte d'Ivoire.

I ask your Lordships to think about Latin America and Mercosur, which is well on its way to building a single market in an area four times the size of the continent of Europe, with a potential market of 200 million people and a joint GDP of more than a trillion US dollars.

I ask your Lordships to look into Asia and the UN-ASEAN agreements and dialogues that we have going there with summits, inter-regional links, and discussions on important issues such as HIV-AIDS. It is important to look not just at Europe, the United States and the Middle East, but at the whole of the rest of the world and the way in which those countries build multilateralism through their regional relationships.

Let us consider, too, the important organisation of the Islamic conference, which promotes solidarity among its 57 members and consolidates their cooperation in economic, social and scientific fields. Again, that is a very important issue.

I am pleased to say that my noble friend Lord Desai, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford and the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, concentrated very heavily on the World Trade Organisation. At Doha, WTO members agreed that the new trade round should result in benefits to all member countries. Surely the international community learnt some lessons from what happened in Seattle. A great deal of work was done to get this round launched. I agree with my noble friend Lord Haskel, to whom I am grateful for his support, that we have a testing time ahead. The agreement that we are seeking is vital, not just for us in the developed world, or for those in emerging economies, but for developing countries.

Most of your Lordships talked about the importance of tackling poverty. If this trade round can only halve the tariffs in the world, we could increase world trade by 400 billion dollars. The World Bank has said that 150 billion dollars of that would be trade with developing countries—a sum that is three times what the whole world spends on aid. Trade is a much better, long-term, sustainable answer than just giving aid, as my noble friend Lord Haskel recognised.

My noble friend Lord Brett was right that millions of people around the world do not have access to much of what we all take for granted. A debate such as this would seem very far from their daily lives. Their agenda is about food, water, fuel and health.

However, the key, as pointed out by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is agriculture. The noble Baroness was quite right. Of course, the United States, Japan and the EU must all address the issue, but let us be frank. The EU is the worst offender. We subsidise our agriculture more than any other trading bloc in the world. We subsidise every cow in Europe to the tune of two dollars a day. We subsidise—give in aid—one dollar a day to the 1.8 billion people in the world who do not have enough to eat. That is a disgraceful statistic.

I am sorry, but I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. I think that WTO is the way to change that position, not a way of sustaining it. It is the one mechanism that we have that will make a difference. I agree so strongly with the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about not reverting to protectionism. I hope that his speech will be read by many of our friends in Europe.

We have talked about the international financial institutions, which have a very important role to play, as evidenced by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. The millennium development goals give a clear mandate for working to eradicate poverty.

The UK is very active in the financial action task force and similar regional bodies such as the eastern and southern Africa anti-money-laundering group in promoting international anti-money-laundering standards. Those are important points about which I have to speak briefly, as I do about the important role of the OECD on issues of bribery and what individual governments do to try to deal with corruption at home.

I was taken by the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about opening up the G8 to developing countries. I agree with much of what he said. He may be interested to know that developing countries are being asked to the G8, and so too, is the director general of the World Trade Organisation.

I cannot close without saying something about the importance of the Commonwealth. I think that it is doing rather well. It is already engaged in the process of transforming its international role following the 1999 call by the Prime Minister for a high-level review. The result has delivered a 21st century Commonwealth that is leaner, better focused, more effective, and which has not duplicated the work of other international organisations. It is important to make that point.

I shall write to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about the IPR report. I agree with him that there is more to be said about that, but I hope that he will forgive me, as he was the only one of your Lordships to raise that issue, if I deal with it separately in a letter, which I shall place in the Library.

I shall say something in closing, not from the brief given to me by the department, but from my own thoughts. That is what is called courageous. Of course the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, is right. There is a new situation and it is enormously difficult for us to focus on how to make our multilateral organisations work better, accurately to reflect what the nations of the world think, yet being able to deliver. Although the noble Lord, Lord Howell, addressed that point, he was one of the few of your Lordships who did so. There is a problem about delivering on fine words. The noble Lord is raising his eyebrows—I do not mean his fine words, but the fine words of the international community.

On occasion the international community talks big but is not prepared to follow through on some of the issues. I hope that in trying to look more broadly than the United Nations, NATO and the institutions that are closest to our hearts, together with the Commonwealth, we can recognise that multilateralism has taken a formidable hold. Countries are coming together and seeing what can be done if they open the door to engagement instead of slamming it and saying that as they do not agree, they will not talk.

I refer to the regional organisations in Asia and Africa. I could have said what was happening in the Caspian; I mentioned Latin America where we are seeing a move towards multilateralism. Working with that is hugely important. I thank your Lordships for a tremendously interesting debate.

6.27 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby

My Lords, it is often a pleasure to take part in debates in the House of Lords, and occasionally it is an absolute privilege. This was such an occasion. For me, it was a great privilege to be here and to listen to your Lordships. I believe that there were some remarkable insights and ideas, which would take far too long for me to repeat, but I am grateful to have heard them.

I should also say that in every possible respect our new maiden Peer, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, rose to the challenge of that standard with total and complete competence and confidence.

There are not many Ministers of any party who have the command and understanding attributed rightly to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. She and I do not always agree, but today, as on many other occasions when the entire world was thrown at her, she caught it and dealt with it in the most remarkable and competent way. As she spoke so passionately at the end, having thrown away her brief, which is something that she can do easily at any time, she indicated that she wanted us to suggest ways in which we could deliver on the fine words. I shall commend to her in a very quiet voice the thought of my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire when he suggested that it was a matter that could be considered by a Lords Committee as there is great experience and competence in this House.

Finally, it was a great pleasure to pick up the bouquets from all sides of the House about the subject of the debate, but I admit in all humility that the original inspiration came from my formidable and noble friend Lord Roper.

I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.