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Column 217Five months ago the United States President, speaking to the French National Assembly in Paris, said:
"America will remain engaged in Europe. The entire transatlantic alliance benefits when we, Europe and America, are both strong and engaged."
Those words obviously have less significance and relevance today, following the American decision unilaterally to disengage from the United Nations embargo on arms going into Bosnia.
I am worried about United States foreign policy. The House and the British people should be far more worried about that than about some hysterical argument inside the Conservative party about £200 million. It would be better if just one tenth of the energy expended today were devoted to considering the serious consequences of the Republican victory in the United States elections. To put Jesse Helms in charge of Senate foreign policy is like putting Attila the Hun in charge of child protection. What does that mean for the future of the Atlantic alliance and European policy in relation to the United States?
The Secretary of State for Defence tried to finesse that issue a few days ago by talking about a European-Atlantic partnership. That will not do. At this stage we must recognise that mere words will not solve the problem. Nor will the justifiable anger that the lives of British men and women could be put at risk by the short-sighted policies of the American Administration solve the problem. To use an American expression, we should not get mad, we should get even. That means that we should recognise the need to build up the co-operation of the European Union countries with regard to foreign and security policy. We should also recognise--I say this as someone who has strongly supported the continuing NATO alliance--that the Western European Union should take on a growing significance. The Gracious Speech refers to the Western European Union, to NATO and to security in a wide sense. We must be more realistic. The days of American multilateralism may be coming to an end. We will see more and more examples of global unilateralism from the United States. If Britain is to play a serious part, it must realise that, at this moment, Europe does not have the intelligence-gathering satellites or heavy airlift capabilities necessary to make a contribution in the Security Council or to our own continent's security. We depend too much on the world's only remaining super-power. If its foreign policy is driven by domestic considerations, so that it will invade Haiti but do nothing about Angola; by lobbies and pressure groups; or by the need to gather Cuban American votes in Florida by adopting a ridiculous policy towards Cuba, the rest of the world must develop collective security to make the UN an effective body, sometimes without the United States. That means recognising an irreducible minimum of British defence expenditure.
If Britain is to be an effective member of the Security Council, a serious player in the future defence and security of our continent, and to be able to punch above our weight--to use the words of the Foreign Secretary in another context--Britain must have not just diplomatic but defence and security capability.
Defence and security are much more than a matter of hardware or manpower. It is a question of how we engage politically in international processes. The statements in
Column 218the Gracious Speech about the non- proliferation and nuclear test ban treaties would have much more significance if backed by Government action to make sure that the NPT review conference in 1995 is indefinitely extended. The big sticking point is the objection by a number of developing and third-world countries to the fact that not all nuclear powers have seriously observed their obligations under article 6 of the NPT. They cite in particular Britain and France, with continuing expansion of their strategic arsenals, and the Chinese nuclear tests, which do not follow the pattern of the United States and Russian reduction programmes. A serious commitment by the British Government to engage in negotiations to reduce our strategic nuclear weapons in the near future would achieve far more to ensure the success of the NPT review conference than much that other countries can do.
UN peacekeeping operations require far more serious consideration by the British Government. Reference to that issue has already been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who made a serious point about the role of UN peacekeepers in Somalia. Britain did not engage in that operation, presumably because it did not have the means. If Britain is to be a serious permanent member of the Security Council, it must make a much greater commitment to "Agenda for Peace", the policies of Boutros-Ghali and UN peacekeeping operations worldwide. The future of our defence and security depend on our European security and on our international security through the United Nations. I hope that, during the next few years, a Labour Government will be able to put that process to good effect.
Dr. David Clark (South Shields): We welcome the opportunity to debate foreign affairs and security. Often, we debate defence against the narrow background of our national defence or of our industrial base. Of course it is right and proper for us to do that, but it is important, every so often and especially when we debate the Gracious Speech, to set our security policy in the context of our foreign policy. In the changed world in which we now live, defence and security mean something rather different. We need now to think of a wider approach to defence. We can afford to stand back a little and think of defence and security in a more philosophical and reflective manner.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who spoke in his normal suave, urbane manner, is indeed the acceptable face of the Conservative party today, but even he stretched the point a little when he described the swindlers and fraudsters of the European Community as people who have "over -benefited". That is a rather new, nice word, and it is a tribute to his diplomatic skills that the right hon. Gentleman can think of such a conjunction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has made many memorable speeches. Today, he maintained his high standard in his new bipartisan approach. His forensic approach will demand a new definition from the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. We look forward to the jousting in the years ahead. It will be interesting to see the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd) in his role as shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary opposite my hon. Friend.
Column 219Eighteen right hon. and hon. Members have taken part in this wide-ranging debate, and many points have been made. Several trends are apparent, and I shall try to develop some ideas.
We are conscious that we are debating security and foreign affairs in a new world order. In the past five years, we have seen dramatic changes, yet the euphoria of those days has long passed. There is now one super-power and it is necessary to help people in the former communist bloc to improve their standards and quality of life and make the transition from the command economy to the market economy. We always bemoan uncertainty, but certain things can be seen clearly. The first is that the transformation from communism will be long and complex. Certainly, it is not enough for western Governments and communities merely to pay lip service. We must do more to help those countries to transcend the gap. We need also to try to offer stability to the newly emerging democracies.
Those of us in liberal democracies have to meet certain challenges. The market economy, unbridled, is not a liberal democracy. If one is not careful, one creates underclasses, which negate the concept of free democracies. We must avoid that in our country and we must avoid exporting it to newly emerging democracies. If one goes to some of those newly emerging democracies, one can see that while some people do well in the nascent capitalist system, other people do not. They have lost benefits such as subsidised food and housing and proper health care--the up-side of communism, so to speak. We have to take that message on board.
Faced with that position, the west is lacking in leadership. That comes through time and time again and we have seen it this past week. The United States of America has taken a different line from the NATO allies. That has caused all sorts of difficulties. While the Opposition agree with many of the fine words in the Gracious Speech, we sometimes wonder how certain is the intent of those words. We are obviously with the Government 100 per cent. in trying to promote a peaceful settlement in the former Yugoslavia. We join the Government in paying tribute to the men and women serving in our forces there. I regret very much the American decision of last week. It is not simply a matter, as the Foreign Secretary said, of two ships. There is the issue of intelligence. As the Foreign Secretary knows, the United Nations has no intelligence-gathering facilities of its own. We in Britain rely considerably on American satellite intelligence.
I have just returned from a defence conference in Washington. The view over there is that the Americans have stopped providing us and the United Nations with intelligence. That may be one of the reasons why the Foreign Secretary shares our view--I am sure that he has expressed it clearly to his American counterparts--that the American decision is wrong and, if pursued, could put at risk the troops serving under the United Nations. That point was also made at the conference in Holland earlier this week. We believe that the Government were right to make that point, but we hope that they are making it clearly to the Americans.
I often hear debate in the west about whether NATO has a role. It is interesting that I hear that question only in the west. I do not hear it in the east because people there are certain that NATO has a future. They know that if it had not been for NATO, we would not be in the
Column 220position that we are now in. They know the effectiveness of NATO. The great challenge for us in the west is how to change NATO. It has to change, yet it must retain its effectiveness.
The Labour Government were instrumental in the formation of NATO. We have always stood by our commitment to it. We regarded it in the past as the linchpin of our defence strategy. We still regard it as such, but it has to change. It has to move with the world. It is a great pity that Her Majesty's Government have not taken the lead in pressing for changes in NATO. There have been movements in the past two weeks. We welcome late conversions, but I feel that the enthusiasm is not there. Surely we should take much more positive steps to bring some of the former eastern European Warsaw pact countries into NATO.
Partnership for Peace, which was seen by many as a stalling process, has turned out to be what we hoped it would be: a first step. I was greatly encouraged that when President Clinton was in Poland he said that it is a question not of "if" NATO is expanded eastward but of "when". We must take that debate a stage further. We already have the cells at Mons and at NATO headquarters. Things are beginning to happen. The Governments of the former eastern European countries are more reassured.
We must take the debate a stage further for the following reason. I mentioned the responsibility that we in the west have for nurturing those democracies. I remember being most impressed by something that the late Secretary-General of NATO, Manfred Wo rner said. He told me that he had been a politician in the German Parliament in the 1960s, when democracy was fragile--in the days before the European Union. He felt that one reason why democracy thrived in what was then West Germany was that it was part of the NATO framework. It was the experience of being part of a partnership with other democratic countries.
What was true for western Germany in the late 1950s and 1960s will be true for Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the near future. We must grasp that nettle and set up meetings with those countries--not merely partnership meetings--to discuss how we can take the process a stage further.
We must also be aware that a move is taking place across the Atlantic. The Brown amendment in Congress gives assistance to the Visegrad countries in particular. That is what we should be doing. We should be seeking the criteria for NATO's expansion. Those must be based not on purely logistical or technical grounds but on geopolitical and philosophical grounds. We should be talking not about what is necessary and good for our defence but about what is good for the security of the west. That is the sort of approach that we need. I fear that many of the technical and military arguments are often used more for procrastination than genuine argument. We urge the Government to pick up that baton and run with it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) mentioned the second reform of NATO, a development that we hope that the Government will pick up and run with. Last week's events--our experiences with the Americans--together with many others, point to the fact that we in Europe must take a much larger responsibility for the security of Europe. For too long, we have been too dependent on the United States. For too long, Europe has had its defence on the cheap, so to speak,
Column 221and we have allowed the United States to shoulder a financial burden. It has made it clear that it is no longer prepared to do so. We must start thinking about the defence architecture of Europe so that we can blend it in with NATO and fulfil our Maastricht commitments. We should not be in the rear, we should be in the van and I hope that the Government will accept that.
I have always been sceptical about the Western European Union and many hon. Members share that view. Having said that, we are in a new ball game. We have a new framework within Maastricht and NATO is changing. It is not beyond the ingenuity of man to reshape WEU and make it a meaningful defence arm for Europe.
I suspect that, before too long, we shall also have to consider another organisation that is much derided here in Britain--Eurocorps. France, Germany, Spain, Belgium are already there and I am certain that Poland will be in before long. We need to be in as well. We must do more lateral thinking regarding the shape of the defence architecture of Europe, and we hope that the Government will see through that part of the Queen's Speech.
There are one or two points that I could perhaps raise with the Secretary of State for Defence. I did not see any reference in the Gracious Speech to a Bill on the British reserve forces. The Secretary of State knows that there is a need to change the regulations affecting our reserve forces. In an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces--now the chairman of the Conservative party--said that it was the intention of the Ministry of Defence "to enact a change in the legislation next year."--[ Official Report , 12 April 1994; Vol. 241, c. 11.]
Do the Government intend to bring forward that Bill?
I can tell the Secretary of State that the Opposition would not be averse to such a Bill--we think that it is needed--as long as he does not intend to create a reserve force of unemployed people. There must be protection for people in employment, or the Bill would not be acceptable. If he can give us that assurance, the Secretary of State will have a fair wind with that Bill.
My hon. Friends have emphasised the need for international co-operation, whether on the arms trade, weapons conventions or whatever. We feel strongly that many of those problems can be tackled only through international action. Again, there are omissions in the Gracious Speech in that area. What about the chemical weapons convention? The Secretary of State has made great play of the fact that we were early signatories, but he knows that the convention cannot come into law until 65 states have ratified it. Why have we not ratified the convention?
I understand that it was the Government's intention to ratify the convention. If it needs legislation, I can assure the Secretary of State that he will not find the Opposition standing in the way of the ratification of that convention. It is important that we press ahead with it, and I hope that the fine words that we have heard in the past will come to be enacted.
Again, we know of the Government's original reluctance about a comprehensive test ban treaty. I have referred ad nauseam to the attitudes and words of various
Column 222Ministers who were saying that it was unwise. We now have a position where the French, Americans and Russians have stated quite clearly that they want a comprehensive test ban treaty. We are caught up in the situation, and we cannot test because the Americans will not let us. Why do we not grasp the nettle, join the other four countries and try to persuade the Chinese to come in with us? We need a comprehensive test ban treaty, and again I can assure the Secretary of State that he will meet with no difficulty from the Opposition. It is important that some movement is made on the non-proliferation treaty. If we can show the non-proliferation treaty signatories that we are making efforts to try to limit nuclear proliferation, and that we are also not testing our own weapons, that will be a bonus, and help to get more signatories. The Opposition would support any effort to get the non- proliferation treaty enacted, but again I would urge the Government not to escalate further. The Secretary of State for Defence knows that, with our Trident submarines and multiple warheads, there will be a considerable increase in the number of our nuclear warheads. Why does not the Secretary of State join the Labour party? [Hon. Members:-- "Hear, hear."] He would be a very welcome member--but perhaps the party is not quite as broad a church as that. Why does he not accept Labour party policy in this respect? He should say that the Government will not escalate the deployment of our Trident submarines and will keep the number of nuclear warheads at the same level as those commissioned for Polaris. That would be a positive step forward.
We live in times of great change. The Government have said many of the right words in the Queen's Speech, but we are worried that they will be found wanting when it comes to enacting them. We plead with the Government that now is the time, especially with vacillation across the Atlantic-- although we must retain our links with the United States--for us to play a much greater part in defence policy making in Europe and also to play a greater part in the leadership of the UN. 9.40 pm
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind): Although I cannot accept the kind invitation of the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) to join the Labour party, I would like to pay tribute to him for returning early from the United States for this debate. I believe that he flew overnight in order to take part, and I am sure that the House would wish to acknowledge that recognition of the importance of the occasion.
The hon. Gentleman asked about our intentions with regard to the reserve forces. We intend to publish a draft Bill on the reserve forces for consultation early in the new year. That will enable much important progress to be made in the next few months. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's indication that the Opposition would wish to join us in giving maximum support to the modernisation of the legislation involving the reserve forces, so that they can play an even fuller part in meeting the requirements that the country expects from them. The hon. Gentleman also made a passing reference to the arms trade. I was rather sad that he did not use this opportunity to clarify the Opposition's policy, because, in a fairly typical contribution from the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), typical of the so-called new Labour party, he sought to sound very disapproving of the arms trade, because of the mutterings from those on the
Column 223Benches behind him, but, at the same time, did not feel able to condemn it. That would have been inappropriate, given the previous observations of the shadow spokesman on defence, the hon. Member for South Shields.
It is right to remind the House how unequivocal the hon. Member for South Shields has been in his support for the arms trade and for arms sales. Last year, in an interview with New Statesman and Society , the hon. Gentleman was asked his views and the article described how
"He runs down his mental checklist. Sales to allies: no problem. Sales to friendly Governments such as Saudi Arabia: all right. As for British Aerospace's proposed sale of Hawk . . . "trainers" . . . to Indonesia, Clark is in favour. South-east Asia needs a stronger security system, he says, and Indonesia must be a part of it." The hon. Gentleman offered no qualifications, nor did he specify that his approval was subject to other factors: he just gave an unqualified endorsement of arms sales to Indonesia, as well as to all the other countries about which he was asked.
Dr. David Clark: The Secretary of State may be aware of a letter, sent on 3 November 1993, from the Foreign Secretary to my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). My right hon. Friend had asked the Government what assurances they had been given from Indonesia regarding the Hawk aircraft,. The Secretary of State replied:
"We have sold Hawk aircraft to Indonesia in the past, and have no evidence that they have been used against the civilian population of East Timor."
That was the very question which my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) asked the Foreign Secretary earlier today. Let me repeat it: have the Government still no evidence that the Hawk aircraft have been used against the East Timorese? We would be willing to accept the Government's reassurance on that.
Mr. Rifkind: I did not notice any qualification of that kind in the answers that the hon. Gentleman gave in his interview in New Statesman and Society . We have no evidence of any use of Hawk trainers in East Timor. I plead with the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen to stop displaying a holier -than-thou attitude towards the issue. I am talking not about the hon. Member for South Shields, but about the hon. Member for Livingston, who, as usual, tried to play both ends against the middle and ended up disappointing every point of view on the spectrum.
Some important speeches have been made during this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) asked about the European dimension of defence. The Government strongly believe that, within the crucial framework of NATO, it is sensible and desirable to develop European co-operation. In the areas of collaboration, we have important projects such as the Eurofighter and the common frigate, but there are limits to the amount of co-operation that is possible, because, unlike the United Kingdom, a number of other western European countries still have state- owned industries, monopolies or subsidies in a way that makes competition, on which we insist, more difficult to achieve. But within that framework, we like to make progress in that way.
The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) asked me when 45 Commando could hope to return to the United Kingdom. We intend that, once the current exercise with the Americans in Kuwait is complete, it will return to the UK. That will mean some time in December, so it should be home in time for Christmas.
Column 224My hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) deplored the fact that the Government had indicated the importance that we attach to the European Communities (Finance) Bill, and suggested that that was inconsistent with parliamentary democracy. I must say with all due humility that any Government are entitled to make it clear that they will not continue in office if they cannot get the support of the House of Commons on a measure to which they attach importance. Likewise, it is for my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow to decide for himself how he will vote, in the knowledge that, if the Government are defeated, they will not remain in office. For him to say that that is a denial of democracy or of the rights of Members to vote according to their conscience is not a valid or defensible position. I ask him to reconsider his view.
My hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) was correct to emphasise the fundamental achievement of the European Union, which has helped ensure that war between the states of western Europe has become inconceivable. We hope to see that develop across Europe. A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House have commented on Bosnia. We have made it clear that we were concerned by the American decision, but, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, it is important to emphasise that the practical consequences of the American announcement are extremely modest. That is not just our view, but that of the Military Committee of NATO, which dealt with that matter and concluded that there was no good reason to doubt that the operation in the Adriatic could continue and be expected to be successful in the coming months.
May I emphasise two additional points with regard to that announcement? First, it has become fashionable for people to argue that the United States is losing interest in Europe and that therefore the NATO alliance will wither and disappear. The recent events in relation to Bosnia can hardly be described as a lack of American interest in Bosnia or Europe as a whole. There may be a difference of view about the appropriate policy to pursue, but that shows that the United States remains very interested in Europe's welfare, which we unreservedly welcome.
It is also worth remembering that the decision announced by the United States not to enforce the embargo in the Adriatic came about as a compromise, because the United States Government had reached the same conclusion as the British and other European Governments--that the lifting of the arms embargo was inappropriate at this stage and would do more harm than good. That was also the Bosnian Government's conclusion.
So it was because the American Government declined to accept the view of those in Congress who wanted the embargo to be swept away that Congress chose to try to enforce that relatively minor change with regard to the operational circumstances.
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives): Has my right hon. and learned Friend noticed that, although the leader of the Liberal Democrat party made a great fuss about Bosnia, not only is he not present, but not a single Liberal
Column 225Democrat is in the Chamber for the wind-up of this important debate on defence and foreign affairs, on which the Liberal Democrats pretend to place great importance?
Mr. Rifkind: It is indeed strange that the Leader of the Liberal party should have made no attempt even to be present at any time during this important debate, as far as I am aware. His right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel) spoke, and told me that, sadly, he was unable to be here for the reply, but that is obviously a matter for him to explain in those circumstances.
Mr. Gapes rose --
I hope that, in the weeks and months to come, those people in Congress who feel strongly about Bosnia, and who may wish to advocate the lifting of the embargo, try to find an opportunity to visit Bosnia, to see the work that is being done by the United Nations. I believe that that could have an important impact on the way in which they regard the matter.
Very few Congressmen who have expressed strong opinions on those issues have taken the trouble to go to the country, to meet the members of the United Nations force, to see the way that they have saved thousands of lives and are continuing to save thousands of lives, and to examine at first hand what the practical consequences would be if the embargo were to be lifted and if the United Nations were therefore to withdraw. I believe that that is the least that they owe the international community and the people of Bosnia--to go and see for themselves, and to discover whether they continue to hold the same opinion about the lifting of the embargo.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) was kind enough to make complimentary remarks about the defence costs study. We are at present in the process of consulting on many of the proposals, and involving ourselves in their early implementation.
Some of the changes will involve significant reductions in manpower. As a first step, as many as 80 Army officers of the rank of brigadier and colonel will be surplus to our requirements. We are seeking volunteers, as we would normally do in a situation of that type. It is always sad if we lose people of good quality, but that is an important consequence of the changes in the armed forces--to ensure that the maximum resources can be concentrated where they are most required.
Several hon. Members referred to the remarkable contribution that our forces have made in Rwanda. They will return on Sunday or Monday of next week, and they will do so having completed a remarkable job. About 615 people have been there since August. They have, during that period, been involved in vehicle maintenance, and bridge and road reconstruction. They have, as the Foreign Secretary said, cared for about 125,000 casualties, providing medical help where required, and they have been involved in the transport of supplies that are crucial for the well-being of the people of Rwanda. Not only the House but the country can be proud of what they have done in difficult circumstances, and I know that we shall all wish to pay tribute to them.
Column 226The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said that I would comment on the middle east, a region in which there has obviously been remarkable progress in the past year. I had vivid evidence of that fact when I was able to fly from Tel Aviv to Amman direct--a 20- minute journey, which would have been inconceivable as recently as a few weeks earlier. That is a mark of the important changes that have occurred.
Gradually the foundations are being laid for a lasting peace settlement, which we hope will be acceptable to all the peoples of the region. We have witnessed the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan; we have witnessed the gradual winding down of the Arab boycott against Israel. We have witnessed progress in the talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which have led to the withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho, and there is now the possibility of talks between the Israelis and the Syrians, which could lead to the resolution of one of the most difficult and intractable problems. The United Kingdom is seeking to make a useful and important contribution to that process. We are working hard to support peace in the middle east, politically and economically. We are giving £75 million to the Palestinians, helping them to build their institutions and create jobs. We have supported the Palestine police by providing £3 million to help pay salaries, and with training courses at Bramshill police college. A safe and secure environment will be vital to the success of those new operations. We are also ready to help set up the Palestine monetary authority. We want to help to add meaning and credibility to Palestinian autonomy.
However, I emphasise that the prospects of peace in the middle east are improved not only by adding strength to those welcome foundations but by showing resolve in deterring those people in the region whose agenda is one not of peace but of conflict. Whether it be through incidents of terrorism or other means, we know that there will be people who will continue to try to destroy the prospects for peace, and therefore the road to peace will be slow and difficult. The leaderships in the middle east, both Israeli and Arab, are determined to make progress and we shall give them our fullest support.
Mr. Sainsbury: My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that what he has just said, as well as his recent visit, will be widely welcomed. Can he confirm that it is the Government's view that direct talks between Israel and Syria are the best way of furthering the peace process, as has been proved by the talks between Israel and Jordan and on other occasions?
Mr. Rifkind: Yes, that must be desirable, and we very much hope that that will prove possible. We have seen that direct talks, whether between Israel and Egypt or Israel and Jordan, have the best prospect of resolving some of the most difficult problems and of building a climate of trust, without which the progress that we all desire cannot be fully achieved.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten), and a number of other hon. Members, were kind enough to refer to a speech that I made earlier this week about the relationship between western Europe and north America. Most people in the House and on both sides of the Atlantic realise the continuing importance of the north Atlantic alliance and why, on matters of defence and security, NATO remains crucial to the well-being that we all require.
Column 227We are also conscious of the fact that in the post-cold-war world, as long as there is no direct threat to the security of western Europe, it will be increasingly difficult to create the same sense of enthusiasm if the Atlantic relationship is presented as if it is concerned only with defence and security issues. The common interests on both sides of the Atlantic transcend the issues of defence and security.
That is why I have suggested that we should try to create a new framework that incorporates the spectrum of common interests that bind together the peoples of both sides of the Atlantic ocean.
Mr. Patten: Before my right hon. and learned Friend concludes, I should be grateful if he would reflect on one point about foreign affairs that I made during my brief intervention. I requested whether, in the face of the apparently publicly disinterested views of the German presidency towards fraud, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary would consider asking for a special ministerial Council to consider the issue. Is the answer yes, no or maybe?
Mr. Rifkind: I think that my right hon. Friend will appreciate that ECOFIN has the main responsibility in that sphere. Therefore, my right hon. Friend's interesting suggestion should best be directed to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer--and I am sure that it will be drawn to his attention.
In the few minutes left, I wish to emphasise what I believe is necessary, which is to create a framework that will-- [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon had the answer that I am sure he wanted to hear-- [Interruption.] If I may be allowed to continue.
The fundamental interests that bind the two sides of the Atlantic are, in the first instance, the defence and security considerations that we have been discussing. But other factors include the extent to which concepts such as the rule of law are fundamental to north America and western Europe, the economic arrangements, which are a fundamental part of our economic philosophy, and the cultural identity that is crucial to all the countries that follow from the European civilisation.
Increasingly over the next few years, there will be new threats to the western way of life that may not now be as apparent as might otherwise have been expected. We know that there is a resurgence of nationalism in parts of eastern Europe. We know that some people are attached to authoritarian ways of life. We know that the economic challenges to western Europe and north America will be profound. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) was right to emphasise the fact that, in the far east, there are countries with remarkable economic prospects. One only has to contemplate what has been achieved in Taiwan, Singapore or Hong Kong to speculate on what the mainland Chinese republic will be able to
Column 228achieve when it finally puts off the yoke of communism and allows the opportunities that liberal capitalism provides to take forward its economic prospects.
Mr. Rifkind: The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that, when matters of that kind are raised, a proper procedure is followed. The Ministry of Defence expresses its views to the Department of Trade and Industry. The Office of Fair Trading makes its recommendation, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announces his conclusions in due course.
I believe that the defence and security of the United Kingdom are in the hands of a Government who, for 15 years, have given the greatest priority to international security--this during a time for most of which the Labour party has been a unilateralist party committed to weakening our defences--
It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed tomorrow.
That Sir Peter Hordern be discharged from the Committee of Privileges and Sir Donald Thompson be added to the Committee.-- [Mr. Wells.]
That Mr. John Garrett be appointed a member of the House of Commons Commission in place of Ms Janet Anderson under the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978.-- [Mr. Wells.]
"To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Humble Petition of the employees and friends of Jetstream Aircraft Limited sheweth that in our opinion the GEC bid for VSEL, if successful, would create a monopoly in warship building in contravention of the Government's stated policy of competition in defence procurement.
Wherefore your petitioners pray that your honourable House urge the President of the Board of Trade to recommend referral of the GEC bid for VSEL to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray, etc."
This petition was prepared last weekend in haste, with the full support of the hon. Members for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe) and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Mr. McKelvey). It was signed eagerly, too, by the people of Ayrshire, who strongly support Jetstream Aircraft. They do so in the belief that, in a world of competition, it is important that there be competition, particularly when taxpayers' interests are at stake. That is why my colleagues and I have great pleasure in presenting the petition to the House. To lie upon the Table.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Burns.]
Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South): I should like first to thank a number of my hon. Friends who have shown a special interest in this matter but who cannot be here this evening. My hon. Friends the Members for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) and for Derby, North (Mr. Knight) have taken the Trappist vows of the Whips Office, but that has not prevented them from using the influence that comes with association with that office to put the case strongly, in private, on behalf of their constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet has argued strongly for the commuters on the Northern line, while my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North and our colleagues the hon. Members for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) and for Erewash (Mrs. Knight) have argued strongly on behalf of their constituents who work for ABB--Asea Brown Boveri Ltd.
As the House will know, I am chairman of the all-party friends of the Northern line group. I should like briefly to explain the group's purpose. It is not that we are friends of the line as it is now, but we are friends of the line as we would like it to be. We do not seek to put a preservation order on the 1959 trains that run along the line; rather, we would like new trains in 1995.
It is not the function of the all-party group to back a particular option, nor is it for me or the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) to tell the Government that they must support ABB or the GEC option. I am quite agnostic about the technical merits of those two schemes. I do not claim any qualifications to enable me to decide between them, but I am determined, as are the other members of the all-party group, to improve the quality of service on the Northern line, which is used by many thousands of our constituents and hundreds of thousands of people every week.
This is the fourth Adjournment debate that I have instituted about the Northern line and London Transport. I hope that it will be the last, because the Government may shortly make a decision that could mean that we no longer have to have such debates. The present management of London Transport and the Government have to tackle the neglect of the past. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission report of 1991 states:
"The deficiencies in the level of service are the result of chronic underinvestment in both new capacity and the replacement and renewal of existing assets."
In the 1960s, public transport was regarded as a declining industry and it was fondly imagined that the motor car could solve the problems of London. It was thought that urban motorways were the answer, and that London could afford to emulate Los Angeles. There was a failure to recognise that urban motorways generate more traffic and are a remarkable example, probably one of the few known to man, of "Says" law. The problems of London could never be solved no matter how many roads were built.
In the early 1980s, the Livingstone or locust years, the Greater London council decided to put the emphasis on lower fares rather than increased investment. It is one of the ironies of London politics that those who argue for a strategic authority for London fail to realise that the pro- road policies of the GLC in the 1960s and early 1970s