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Column 176justify putting arms into the hands of murderous dictators. After all, the same argument could have been used in the early 1930s, when the Foreign Secretary of the day might have said that Herr Hitler was trying to build up the German economy and that Germany had suffered many disadvantages after the treaty of Versailles, so we shall provide him with some of our machine tools to get his factories going. There is no justification for selling arms to regimes such as those in Indonesia. There was no justification for selling arms to the Iraqi regime, which later used them against our constituents who were there with our military forces.
The whole of our foreign policy should be aimed at creating a better spirit of humanity so that, when somebody is tortured in Pinochet's Chile, and when whole families are murdered in Suharto's East Timor, it affects us equally. It is sometimes said that man is not an island--
Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr): I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's words when he looks back with sound knowledge at regimes such as those in Iraq and Indonesia and makes judgments on the sale of arms. Will he look forward and name the regimes--perhaps Saudi Arabia and others--to which we should not sell arms in the future? It is easy to make retrospective judgments, but when the Government are making decisions, they must consider jobs and look at current events rather than at what happened in the past.
Mr. Gallie: No, that was not what I had in mind. May I explain to the hon. Gentleman? It is all right to look back and say that we should not have supplied arms to those regimes. Will the hon. Gentleman look into the future and, given different democratic processes and change in Governments, try to determine which regimes should not be sold arms in the future?
Mr. Wareing: I hope that any British Government worth their salt would try to persuade even our "commercial friends" that democracy is the right way forward. I do not excuse the rule by sheikdoms in the middle east. Those countries, too, should come under pressure. It is all very well to say that they produce important raw materials for our industries, but they need customers. If collective action were taken through the United Nations, as the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale suggested, no customers would be willing to trade with dictatorial, autocratic regimes that torture their populations and threaten the lives of people in other countries. That is the criterion on which we should proceed. Someone said to my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) earlier, "Ah, but a Labour Government did so." May I say at the outset that I do not excuse any former Labour Government for their mistakes. Before I came to the House in the 1960s, there was an argument about whether we should maintain a naval base at Simonstown and supply aircraft to the South African regime. We should not have done. We were wrong to do so. Sometimes parties must admit that, yes, they made mistakes. When Labour Governments sold arms to South Africa or to any other dictatorial regime, it was a mistake, and it must not happen again. I am sure that, after the next
Column 177general election, when a Labour Government will further a progressive socialist foreign policy, in the European Community, that will be one of the mistakes that will not be repeated.
Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), especially when he speaks about the former Yugoslavia, because the House appreciates his considerable knowledge of the scene there: he has visited the country frequently, and he has many interesting things to tell us.
I was not quite so happy to hear the hon. Gentleman's opinions about the arms trade, but I shall not take that one up. He asked where the proceeds of North sea oil have gone, and it is worth reminding him of the large chunks of the United States that are now in the hands of English companies, partly as a result of North sea oil.
It is also a privilege to be allowed to take part in this debate on the Gracious Speech about foreign affairs and defence, and one has to start with a self-denying ordinance. There are a hundred and one fascinating topics to pursue. I want to say something about the United Nations, and something--you will not be surprised to hear, Madam Deputy Speaker--about the middle east. However, I shall begin with Europe, because currently the media spotlight is on our European future, partly as a result of the great rebellion--which I think is now dissipated.
I am delighted that the new Minister for Europe, my hon. Friend the Member for Boothferry (Mr. Davis), is here to hear my brief words on the topic. I hope that the Government will help to popularise the European Union, because I believe that the lack of public support for what the Government are trying to achieve puts the brakes on to some extent.
The European Union can help. We are scandalised by the fraud that has been disclosed. I welcome the suggestion that a country that has grossly abused the system should be cut off from European Union aid. I wonder what the Government's position on that proposal may be.
Secondly, the European Union obviously must avoid some of the nonsenses that the media delight in picking up, be they bent bananas or harmonising the noise of lawn mowers. They drive our constituents nuts--quite rightly. My hon. Friend will not be surprised to learn that, in the urban constituency of Bexleyheath--we got rid of our last cow just before I arrived on the scene--my constituents are maddened by the huge subsidies that go into the agricultural system in this country and many others.
The tabloid newspapers look at Europe through the wrong end of the telescope. I am described in one of the parliamentary reference books as a Euro-idealist, whatever that may mean, but, yes, there is an element of idealism in the concept of the Community that we are trying to build up.
Column 178Let me put it this way. My grandfather was in the Navy for four years during the first world war; my father was in the Army for five years during the second world war. Both those wars began in Europe, and they came about as a result of the great antagonism between France and Germany. Now we have France and Germany inside the Union, haggling away about the minutiae of European Union daily detail, and that is splendid. Let no one minimise or misjudge the magnitude of what Europeans have been able to achieve in western Europe. It is a success story.
The problem is that too many countries are trying to join too soon, before they are ready. That makes life difficult. We shall have to change the structures of the Community at the next intergovernmental conference, and I welcome the proposal that we should drop one of our Commissioners. We shall react to change the structure of the Community to deal with the genuine problems of success.
I hope that the Secretary of State has a moment to listen, although I confess that he has heard my opinions in private many times. I support the ideas that Sir Leon Brittan and Lord Carrington have put forward over the years. We simply cannot continue to draw a line between defence and the European Union. Times are moving on. We must build up a European dimension to our defence policy.
At the moment, the Foreign Secretary can talk about European security, but he is not allowed to talk about European defence. How can one have a rational policy for European industries if one totally excludes the defence industries, which are an important part of the whole?
I should like the Government to be more positive about involving the European Union in defence. One of the by-products of the recent, very unfortunate, move by the United States in relation to Bosnia may be that it will draw attention to that argument.
I shall now briefly discuss the United Nations. I happen to be the Conservative representative on the committee that is trying to decide how we should celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. I assure the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), who, incidentally, I welcomed to Hong Kong in 1965 as a Government official in Hong Kong, that that committee is determined not to be complacent, not simply to sit back and say, "How well we have done". On the contrary, we are only too well aware that the United Nations must advance to tackle the new problems that were mentioned earlier.
One aspect, curiously, has not been mentioned--the increase in the number of the permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations, the P5. I am proud of the fact that it was Britain that called a special summit meeting a few years ago, to consider the future of the United Nations, just after Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali had been appointed, and following, thank God, the end of the cold war, which had paralysed the United Nations.
When the Prime Minister made a statement in the House after that successful summit, he said, in reply to a question by me, that he saw no reason to change the number of members who had permanent seats on the Security Council. While we have been away for the summer, the Foreign Secretary has said that the United Kingdom now would welcome Japan and Germany as permanent members of the Security Council.
Column 179I am not criticising the Government. What has changed is that Germany has now sorted out its constitutional problems and, I hope, will start helping UN peacekeeping operations around the world --that help is sorely needed--and Japan has committed troops, first in Cambodia on a small scale, and secondly, more recently, in Rwanda. The Germans are right to resist the call to put their troops into Bosnia. I am sure that the hon. Member for West Derby is only too well aware of how they treated the Serbs in the last world war. However, it would be good to have some German aeroplanes to take part in enforcing the no-fly zone over former Yugoslavia.
Mr. Wareing rose --
Mr. McWilliam rose --
I hope also that the Germans might play a part in Macedonia, and relieve some of the United States troops there.
I hope that the Germans will play a big role in UN peacekeeping. However, I think that there is a danger that, if the P5 turn into P6, P7, P8 or whatever, the Security Council may become unwieldy and unmanageable. God knows, it is hard enough for the Foreign Secretary to obtain agreement over Iraq or Bosnia at present.
We all enormously welcome the cautious progress being made in the middle east. I gather that the Secretary of State, who has recently been there, will make further comments on that this evening. I particularly welcome the comparatively recent move between Israel and Jordan--about time, too.
There is an appalling tendency for our newspapers to suggest that all is now well, and we can turn our gaze elsewhere. That is quite untrue. The Syrian front will be a difficult one for the Israeli Government. Yitzhak Rabin encouraged the settlers to move there, and now he must try to persuade them that Israel is to abandon the entire Golan heights. I hope that the Secretary of State will make it absolutely clear that no halfway measures will be acceptable to the United Kingdom.
The other day I came across a wonderful quote--it must be 20 years old now- -by the late Lord Caradon:
"To imagine that security comes from repression, grabbing and holding territory, from creeping colonisation in Arab lands or from a concrete encirclement in Jerusalem, from domination by forts and outposts, is a most dangerous deception."
Column 180He continued:
"every schoolboy knows that forts in enemy territory are not a guarantee of security, they are a guarantee of insecurity, an invitation to resistance, harassment and attack."
I have two observations to make about south Lebanon. I find it distasteful that, within a few days of Yitzhak Rabin and Chairman Arafat being awarded the Nobel peace prize, certain Shi'a villages in southern Lebanon should be shelled in retaliation against the activities of Hamas in the occupied territories and Israel. Those shells killed innocent Lebanese civilians. The chances of hitting a member of Hezbollah are few and far between.
I wish to draw attention to the horrors of a detention centre camp called Khiam in Israeli-occupied Lebanon. I am told that, since 1985, that camp has held 230 Lebanese Shi'a citizens. There is a dispute between the south Lebanese army--the Israeli surrogate force in that part of the world--and the Israeli defence force over who is responsible for that camp.
Believe it or not, the individuals in that camp are not allowed visits from relatives and the International Red Cross or Red Crescent are not allowed to see them. That is scandalous--I am told that a Foreign Office Minister has raised the matter with the Israeli authorities. When he winds up today's debate, will my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence give an assurance that the British Government will not allow that matter to rest? Gaza should concern us all. Support for Hamas is on the increase. We must remember that it was the Israelis who helped to build up Hamas as a means of countering the influence of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. As long as we ignore the Palestinian problem, or put it on the back burner as Yitzhak Rabin has been trying to do, the more support will flow towards Hamas.
The British Government are playing a useful role and supporting the Palestine police. But Chairman Arafat--who has unfortunately adopted an all too autocratic style in Gaza--needs the help of the international community now. It does not take much imagination to see how desperately wrong things could go if jobs are not created in Gaza and the occupied territories. Individual Palestinians who dream about a Palestinian state must be able to see that the sewerage system is beginning to work, jobs are coming and there is some prosperity. I am a strong supporter of British foreign policy. We are in a unique position as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the European Union, the Western European Union, the Commonwealth and the G7 countries. But that means that we must have an active and constructive foreign policy. We normally do, but this is no moment to sit back on our laurels.
We are privileged to be served by probably the best diplomatic service in the world--a phrase given to me by a United States diplomat in London. He said, "I cannot understand how it is that I read in your papers, day after day, scandalous references to your diplomats, when we are all jealous of their linguistic abilities, traditions and skills." We are lucky that our diplomatic Rolls-Royce is driven by the Foreign Secretary, whose reputation is growing ever greater in the international community.
Column 181for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend), with whom I had the honour of sharing a desk room many years ago--they were happy days.
I wish to take up the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) about former Yugoslavia. He was right to say that, if the then Federal Republic of Germany had not dashed in desperately to recognise Croatia long before any countries in former Yugoslavia should have been afforded recognition, we would not be in the sorry state that we are now.
But the fact that we are in our current state leads me to the remarks of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath, who suggested that Germany should play a more active peacekeeping role around the world. It should, but it is not practical to employ in a peacekeeping role German soldiers or Luftwaffe aircraft in an area which they once occupied and in which they had 40 divisions.
I, too, have travelled to Yugoslavia, and I know how local people feel. I know that such action would do more harm than good. The Luftwaffe is doing a sterling job in flying transport aircraft and E3 Sentry aircraft that help us to police the no-fly zone. It picks up those aircraft that are breaking through the no-fly zone and directs the fighters to them.
I take issue with the Foreign Secretary when he tries to dismiss the American change of policy in Bosnia as merely changing the orders of two ships. That is to misstate what has happened. Once again, for domestic political reasons, America has decided to break with the rest of us. The snag is that we have British soldiers on the ground, up front in Yugoslavia. Those soldiers would be at risk if the change of policy provoked any escalation in the fighting.
Our troops are carrying out a splendid job for one reason only--to ensure that relief reaches the civilian population in the forward areas in Bosnia. That is their only task; they are not trying to police the area or to impose a truce. They are performing their task supremely well. They would be unable to do so were it not for the superb work of the Royal Engineers in opening up tracks and emergency roads to allow the convoys to get through. I am fortunate enough to have travelled to those regions and to have seen at first hand what is happening.
I wish that people would not be so off-hand in their use of the phrase "ethnic cleansing", which happens on all sides. The phrase does not mean ethnic cleansing: it means that a thug knocks on a door in the middle of the night and tells the inhabitants of the house that they are the wrong religion, and that if they do not move out in the morning, he will burn down their house. If they do not leave, he burns down the house around the people in it. That is not ethnic cleansing; it is xenophobic thuggery, and it should not be tolerated anywhere.
We need to remind America that it is our soldiers who are at risk in Bosnia. Much the same happened during the Gulf war, when, for domestic political reasons, the Americans could not bear to take action against the Iraqi looters and terrorists on the Basra road, so they stopped us going after the Republican Guards armoured battalion.
Had we been able to go after that battalion, 45 Commando might not be sitting on the border guarding Kuwait now. I hope that the Secretary of State for
Column 182Defence will be able to tell me tonight that my friends in 45 Commando can look forward to spending Christmas at home. It would be tragic if they had to be away, as they are not long back from Northern Ireland.
I am delighted that peace is progressing in Northern Ireland, and delighted too to hear the Secretary of State for Defence say that, if the process continues and we can withdraw troops, we will not consequently reduce infantry numbers, because the infantry are already overstretched. I have a two-week-old niece in Northern Ireland, and some nephews, and I want those children to grow up there with the same freedom and chances that I had. I do not want them to have to put up with what my wife had to face when she was young--the problems that drove her away from Northern Ireland. The only good result of that was that it enabled me to meet her.
We often say that we should not sell arms to tinpot regimes or repressive dictators, but we forget that our defence manufacturing industry is actually part of our defence capability. Without that industry, our capability would be significantly diminished. Incidentally, our defence manufacturers use a great deal of steel to make the things that our soldiers, sailors and airmen need. During the second world war, Lord Haw- Haw said that the Luftwaffe was going to destroy the Derwenthaugh cokeworks which was so essential to our steel industry. In the end, the Luftwaffe never managed it; it took 14 years of Conservative Government to flatten those cokeworks. I must also condemn the Government for their short-sighted forward ordering policies, which have resulted in the Swan Hunter shipyard being virtually destroyed. It was a shipyard with a proud tradition of building great naval vessels on time and to price--and without defect. All that is lost now.
The same appeared to happen with the FH70 ammunition saga. We decided to give the order for that ammunition to the Germans and the Italians. The Germans discovered that they could not produce it, and passed the order to the Belgians, with the result that, during the Gulf war, we could not obtain 155 mm ammunition from the Belgians, because they were not too sure about the Gulf conflict. That was appalling, but we are in grave danger of making the same mistakes again.
Gordon Foxley, director of munitions procurement at the MOD, has just been convicted of bribery. The Government are trying to recover some money from him. Victor Temple QC, prosecuting, said that the Government were keen to recover the balance of corrupt moneys. The judge, however, said that there was no evidence that the MOD had lost by being supplied with ineffective fuses and ammunition. He said that there was no evidence that Mr. Foxley directed work away from the Royal Ordnance factory--that was one reason why he gave Mr. Foxley a reduced sentence.
The facts do not support that contention. The only reason why the judge had no evidence was that the MOD, for reasons of its own, chose not to present any. The facts of the matter are that the Jurgens fuses that Mr. Foxley persuaded the MOD to purchase instead of Royal Ordnance fuses cost £14.40. The Royal Ordnance fuses cost only £6. The episode meant the loss of a factory at Blackburn and more than 1, 000 jobs lost in Royal Ordnance factories, including at mine, Birtley--not to mention the loss of £24 million of taxpayers' money.
Column 183The fuses made by Borletti, the other company that bribed Foxley, did not work in rain and were useless in battlefield conditions. The MOD presented no evidence, because it would have been politically uncomfortable to present any. The Government have wittered on at us about the need to introduce foreign competition. There is such a need, but there is no need to do it in this way, by giving in to bribes from foreign companies.
We have lost British jobs and British defence manufacturing capability, simply because of a combination of a corrupt civil servant--fortunately there are very few of them--and a Government policy that found it inconvenient to produce evidence that suggested that British jobs were being lost.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) and with my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) about the need to be careful when we sell arms--we should not just sell them to anyone. We must also be careful to distinguish between commission- influenced peddling and bribes. A healthy defence manufacturing industry cannot be based on either. There have been some long speeches today, and I do not intend to make one myself. I want to end with a plea which I hope the Defence Secretary will pass on to his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
I refer to a tragedy that occurred on 19 September 1989, when a UTA airliner went down over the Tenere desert, just north of Chad. On board was a friend of mine, David Middleton. I spoke to his wife just the other night. I have written to the Foreign Office and taken deputations there on behalf of Mrs. Middleton, but since 1989 neither she nor other British dependants have received compensation for their loss.
Mrs. Middleton has not even received her husband's belongings. They were sent on to someone in Canada, and she was tersely told that if she wanted them back she would have to get them herself. She is in Paris tonight. She should have been at a hearing today, but it was cancelled because UTA wanted more information--copies of her marriage certificate and her children's birth certificates. The airline seemed quite happy to recognise who she was several years ago when it sent her husband's remains back for her to dispose of; now the airline is not happy to bring the matter to a conclusion.
I do not think that the Foreign Office is doing enough to help Mrs. Middleton and other British victims of the disaster to obtain their rights. The same applies to other British victims of terrorism. I therefore ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to press the Foreign Secretary to stop this injustice, to stop the bureaucratic wrangling and to use all his influence with the French Government to say that enough is enough. Why have French victims been compensated while British victims have not?
Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West): It is a pleasure to take part in this debate and to follow the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam), whose references to Northern Ireland I particularly welcomed. It is little short of scandalous that so few right hon. and hon. Members take a detailed interest in Northern Ireland. It is interesting to observe that the Labour party has changed its Front-Bench spokesman on Northern Ireland, and is moving away from its aggressively nationalist
Column 184posture. It is perhaps too much to hope that one of the great parties in the House will openly support the Union, but it is certain that the Labour party is moving towards a more friendly attitude to it. I have no doubt that the Unionists, who were once our allies but who often now are unfortunately our enemies, will have noted the important change in the Labour party's view of Northern Ireland. The Government gave a frank exposition to those of us who might have doubts about the European Communities (Finance) Bill. I have not made up my mind about that Bill. I was aware that, at least in year one, not a great deal of money was involved. Arguably, it was only £75 million, and it seemed necessary and reasonable to listen to the Government's arguments about the matter.
I am grateful to the Prime Minister for raising yesterday the issue of a general election in such a clear way. The last time that issue was raised was at the end of proceedings on the Maastricht legislation. Those of us who had the misfortune to disagree with the Government on the treaty did not have much time to consider the position, and there was no great opportunity for the nation, the newspapers and commentators to consider the grave constitutional issues that were raised by the threat of a general election. At that time, there was no great certainty that the monarch would have allowed the prorogation of Parliament and a general election. Therefore, we did not really know, and the threat was never really tested. The Government are to be congratulated on succeeding in their threat, because everybody knows that threats in respect of Maastricht were justified, and that any threat that comes off is to be applauded, for winners always deserve applause and are always supported in the Conservative party.
There is now a new and helpful situation, in that a threat has been made not just overnight but at an early stage, which gives the Government and commentators an opportunity to investigate the position. Until yesterday, I had not made up my mind about the Bill, but it did not help to be threatened quite so crudely.
The first question that we must consider is whether the monarch has consented to prorogue Parliament if the Bill is not passed. Of course, it is now customary for the Government to give the impression that they are responsible not to the House but for the House. Many of the Prime Minister's observations at the Mansion House gave the impression that he was responsible for the House of Commons. However, an older view--and perhaps in our unwritten constitution this old view is out of date--is that the Government are responsible to the legislature.
There is now a quite extraordinary new constitutional theory, to the effect that, when the Government have entered into some form of foreign obligation which the House of Commons does not support, a general election must be called. In relation to Maastricht, it was at least arguable that the issue had been raised before a general election. When I tried to raise it in my constituency, I was regarded by the media as an oddity and an eccentric. I understand that it was not generally raised during the general election campaign. However, I shall let that small point pass.
No one can argue that the outcome of the Edinburgh summit has been submitted to the nation. The only place to which an agreement with a foreign organisation can be submitted is this House. When the House is told, "If you
Column 185disagree with the expenditure of £75 million, there must be a general election," it makes those of us who are Conservatives and Government supporters but who have the misfortune to disagree with extra expenditure in Europe ask, "What is our purpose in this place, and what is the purpose of this place?"
Surely, in the last resort, the House has always been able to say, "We are sorry, but you cannot have the money." That is what Parliament said to Stuart monarchs, and surely we are entitled to say that to the Government. If we say that, surely we cannot be told that it will precipitate an immediate general election.
For example, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howells) about the current movement of economic policy. Since 16 September 1992, economic policy has been good. We could argue about the odd detail here or there, the small points, but in general the policy has been good, and in the next couple of years that will be recognised. It is infinitely superior to any of the interventionist and high-spending policies of the Opposition. I do not want to precipitate a general election, but as a Member of Parliament I want to be able to say that I do not wish to see money wasted and spent in Europe. It is disgraceful to threaten the House of Commons in this way so as to deprive us of our rights and emasculate us in our most important role. We argued about the role of the European Community during proceedings on the Maastricht legislation. If, for the sake of argument, we say that we should not have an interventionist industrial policy or whatever, in the last resort the only way to check the extension of federalism is to say that we will not pay for it.
It is said that the alternative to paying the money is to check fraud in Europe. There is nothing new in the reports from the Court of Auditors. Such highly critical reports have been appearing year in and year out for the past 10 years, and every rising junior Minister comes to the Dispatch Box and says, "This is disgraceful. We must do something about it. The Government will be unrelenting in stopping this."
That reads very well and gives great pleasure to the speaker of the words. It is noted by the chaps from the Whips Office, and it goes down very well. But, of course, nothing happens. Not only that, but nothing can happen, because Europe is a half-formed federal structure. As the Prime Minister acknowledged in his exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), if it became a fully federal structure, we would be even more angry about it.
Let us look at the present structure. The European Community has some limited control over Governments, but no control over individuals. We all know that the Italian Government are certainly shaky. Without being offensive, I can say that, from time to time, they are suspected of being corrupt. It has now been proved in the European Court that the Italian Government made no attempt whatever to enforce the system of milk quotas. The fine imposed upon the Italian Government by the European court was £700 million. It is a federal structure that we ought to be supporting. Along went the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, with admirable frankness--I understand his language entirely, because I share both his educational and professional
Column 186background--shrugged his shoulders and said, "When I was appearing in the Birmingham county court, I always knew that it was better from time to time to take half of what you could get rather than go for the lot."
That is all very well in the Birmingham county court when one is appearing for a plaintiff against a bankrupt defendant, but we were dealing with the most appalling example of fraud and evasion of Community rules by a democratically elected Government who we regarded as a suitable ally and partner within the European Community. It is all very well junior Ministers saying that we are going to do this, that and the other, but when the time came for collecting a bit of money and ensuring that a fraud was stopped, the Chancellor of the Exchequer let them off the hook.
There is no control over fraudulent individuals in the Community--nor can there be. Those of us who farm-- [Hon. Members:-- "Oh."] The House may consider me particularly awkward about the Community, so let us assume that there are farmers who love the Community and believe it is the best thing in the world. However, if an Italian Euro-inspector of the ewe subsidy came along and said, "Hey Jock, have you got the right number of ewes?" they would resent it very much indeed. It would be a manifestation of an Euro police force. Of course, that will not happen.
Let us consider the Euro-control of countries. We are not in the same position as the northern states were in relation to the southern states in America. We are not about to send the Army into Milan and say, "Right, you pay the £700 million and don't mess around." It is, I repeat, a half- formed federal structure. The fight against Euro-fraud will always fail. It will always be a very useful subject for rising Ministers to grit their teeth, stick out their chins and look purposeful at the Dispatch Box, while nothing happens. The only mechanism for preventing expenditure in Europe of which we disapprove is to allow the House of Commons from time to time to say to the Executive, "We are sorry, but we will not pay up." That is surely what an unemasculated House of Commons should be able to do. I suppose that clever people who think that the House of Commons should be no more than a recruiting ground for the Government and have no powers at all, will be proud and pleased at the way in which we have been so successfully threatened, but it will be a sad day for the Government.
I end with a reminder. I watch with interest what Lady Thatcher says about the European Union, and I can conclude from her publicly stated remarks only that she now regrets that she was responsible for the Single European Act. If she regrets it, it is mainly her own fault, because, contrary to the best traditions of the House, she bashed it through with a guillotine and did not listen to any of the arguments that might have persuaded her that, by her own standards, she was making a serious mistake.
If we emasculate the House because we think it clever to shut up 10 or 15 people who have a different view about funding the Community by threatening them, we should recall that we may see--I hope we do not--a further interventionist move in Europe. We may see a Labour Government who support it, and we may be bound by the constitutional argument that was put forward yesterday, to the effect that a British Government who
Column 187have entered into an unwise agreement with foreign bodies cannot have that foreign agreement prevented other than at the cost of a general election.
This is an unwise attack upon the House of Commons; it is an unwise attack upon our constitutional rights; and I hope that there is good and sufficient discussion of it over the next weeks, so that the Government may realise what a grave mistake they have made. 6.45 pm
Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): I shall not follow the same road as the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) as I want to talk about United Nations peacekeeping forces. We have often been told that there is no place for a UN peacekeeping force in a civil war and that is what we are hearing from the Conservative party.
As we debate the matter tonight, the UN operation in Somalia is being run down in a spirit of failure--as something that has gone badly wrong. That is serious not just for Somalia but for the whole world.
Let us go back two years when, because of the background of clan differences, the United Nations passed a resolution agreeing to military intervention, and then failed to do so until seven months later when 500 lightly armed Pakistani troops landed and were immediately captured. In the new year, we had the CNN-filmed invasion of Somalia by the United States, when 20,000 troops went in. We then saw 20,000 troops being withdrawn with their tails between their legs as the United States discovered that it was rather more difficult than they had expected.
At the moment another 20,000 troops, mainly from the Indian sub-continent, are being withdrawn at great risk to themselves and to the aid workers who are there. There is every sign that the shambles in Somalia will start up again and that there will be warfare between the clans. That need not have occurred. There were better ways to deal with the unrest, but what was needed was prompt and efficient intervention, backed by political will.
The Foreign Secretary mentioned Rwanda as a example of something which had tested the UN to the limits. He was disappointing in that he gave no sign of what he had learnt from Rwanda. Britain was utterly determined not to be involved, yet today the Foreign Secretary boasted about British involvement because, ultimately, 600 British troops became involved. They did a superb job, but are now being withdrawn. Something must have gone wrong when we were seeking not to be involved, but then became involved and boasted about our involvement.
Following the killing of the Rwandan President and Belgian peacekeepers in April, the Security Council cut back the UN presence to 271 troops. We backed that decision, but the world was appalled at the withdrawal from Rwanda and the failure of the UN to operate effectively there. We have witnessed appalling spectacles in a country of 7.2 million people, half of whom have been killed, made refugees or displaced.
On 13 May, the UN Security Council decided that 5,500 troops should be deployed in Rwanda. It is now six months later. On 7 July, Baroness Chalker wrote to Members of Parliament--two months after the decision--saying that it would be a further 10 weeks before those troops would be fully deployed. I was appalled to think that it would take four months to deploy 5,500 troops when thousands upon thousands of people were dying.