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Mr. Mackinlay: Did the hon. Gentleman wear that pullover?

Sir Patrick Cormack: No.

The Solomon Islands is yet another country that looks to us, and has adopted the Westminster model of democracy. Its people talked with great affection about the Houses of Parliament. They talked with gratitude of the aid that they had received from this country. I would never like to think that we let such people down. I am

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therefore glad that the Gracious Speech contains such an explicit--one might say starkly explicit--commitment to aid.

The Gracious Speech also refers to the reform of the United Nations and efforts to enhance its effectiveness in peacekeeping operations. It also refers to the Government's commitment to promote a negotiated settlement in the former Yugoslavia. Some Members present would not be surprised if, during the course of any speech on foreign affairs, I talked at some length about the former Yugoslavia in general and Bosnia in particular.

I would like to say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, and through him to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, that I admire enormously what they have done in the past few months. I believe that the sad catalogue of Bosnia's history from April 1992 has been a dark, dark chapter in post-cold war history. As we have moved towards a new world order, there has not been any other episode that we will look back on with greater regret than the bloodletting of Bosnia, the destruction of so many towns and villages and the wholesale slaughter, maiming and rape of so many. We have spoken about that in the House before.

In earlier exchanges today, the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) intervened on the Foreign Secretary and said that no one side in the conflict is immune from accusations of committing atrocities. He is right, of course. I have never sought to suggest otherwise, but I have always said that the largest share of responsibility for starting the conflict and perpetrating atrocities lies with Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs. I repeated that assertion again this afternoon and the Foreign Secretary accepted it.

I am extremely glad to note that in recent months, President Milosevic, doubtless continually reminded of how precarious his own economy is by the effect of sanctions, has taken a more constructive part in seeking to bring about a peaceful settlement. I will never be persuaded, however, that he has entirely changed his character, but we must live with such facts.

I am sad that we must live with the knowledge of a quarter of a million people dead. I believe that had we taken more cohesive, resolute and determined action earlier, that would not have happened. I am delighted that, at long last, real punitive action was taken during the summer. I believe that the exemplary manner in which our forces have behaved brings enormous credit to them. We would not be having talks in Dayton, Ohio or anywhere else had that action not been taken. It was a painful but necessary ingredient in the peace process. I just regret that firmer action was not taken and more united resolve shown earlier on in the conflict. In saying that, I do not cast any aspersions upon our troops, who had to cope for a long time with a fairly hopeless mandate; nor am I singling out for criticism any particular person. I am glad that that action was taken, and I believe that there is now a chance for peace.

When peace is finally agreed, it is crucial that Bosnia's identity is preserved. It is a nation state, it has been recognised as such and it has its seat at the United Nations. Some people may say that it should never have been given such recognition, but that happened, and we cannot allow a nation state to be snuffed out. If we did, the message that went out for the rest of this century and the century beyond would be dire. We have talked about that before.

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Bosnia must have its territorial integrity respected. Any settlement reached must be a proper one. It must be agreed by all the parties concerned and then it must be internationally guaranteed. The former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney, made it plain several times in the House that we were fully committed to such an international guarantee. His successor and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence have confirmed that on numerous occasions in recent months, which is good.

Britain will play a full part in guaranteeing any settlement, and will do so with the full support of Members from all parts of the House, because if ever there was a need for a bipartisan approach in foreign policy, the former Yugoslavia is it. All the crucial decisions on foreign policy should have bipartisan support.

The settlement must be a proper peace and it must be monitored. An enormous amount of aid will have to be given to Bosnia and, to a lesser degree, to Croatia--one thinks of Vukovar razed to the ground. Massive international effort will be required to ensure the restabilising, if I can use that word, of the Balkans. If we do not grasp the current opportunity, I am afraid that everything could collapse again into chaos. The spectre of a Balkans war has been suspended--it has not been removed. It is still possible that there could be a Balkans war involving Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece--two NATO countries--and the whole cauldron of the Balkans could erupt.

There is now a real chance that that will not happen, and we must hope and pray that it does not. I wish Ministers every possible success in ensuring that that does not happen--and I even wish my talkative hon. Friend the Whip success in supporting the Government in that effort.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence must accept that we cannot and must not turn back in any way. We have created an opportunity for a real negotiated settlement, but nothing must be done to make those who perpetrated some of the horrors feel that they can get away with them. I am glad that that subject is mentioned in the Gracious Speech, and I have no hesitation in commending very warmly those sections of the Gracious Speech.

I know that, in the debate on the Gracious Speech, it is possible to move on to other topics, but I do not intend to do so. I am delighted that this parliamentary day has been devoted to foreign affairs. I wish Ministers every success in difficult negotiations at the intergovernmental conference and in all the other aspects that I spoke of during the coming Session of Parliament.

7.39 pm

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): Three weeks ago from yesterday, I returned from a visit to Australia and New Zealand with a section of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. My colleagues on that visit were three Conservative members of the Committee, including the Chairman, the right hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell).

I came away from the visit convinced of several things. One of them was that, in the next 10 years, not only Australia but New Zealand will have become a republic. Incidentally, the discussions that I participated in showed that that had nothing to do with any animosity towards

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the royal family. Instead, the people I spoke to felt that their sovereignty was sometimes questioned by other states when they were represented at international conferences only by a governor-general.

However, those people also emphasised the importance of the Commonwealth. They regard the Commonwealth largely as their window to the outside world. If one considers that a small country such as New Zealand, with 3.4 million people, is able to have some influence in southern Africa and can influence events in Asia, one understands why, from the New Zealand perspective, the Commonwealth is regarded as more important than Members of the House often consider it to be.

People were very worried about the French nuclear tests in the Pacific. I believe that my Conservative colleagues on the Select Committee will agree that we had a preview of what the Prime Minister was to meet a few weeks later. I regret very much the fact that Britain, under the present Government, is the odd man out in Europe and has become the odd man out in the Commonwealth.

I hope that, in the discussions in the Commonwealth on what to do about Nigeria, we shall not be the odd man out concerning sanctions against Nigeria, including oil sanctions, as we were during the entire struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The Commonwealth will continue, I am sure, even though there is a recalcitrant member of it.

The Foreign Secretary said that, on foreign affairs, there is much bipartisanship between the political parties. He was correct in saying that there was agreement about many of the issues that he mentioned. However, my main criticism of British foreign policy is that it is all too often reactive rather than proactive. We should be proactive, but we are reactive to many of the troubles in the world.

The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) spoke about Yugoslavia, a subject to which I shall return. He and I may disagree about what has happened in Yugoslavia, but he will probably agree that we were reactive to events rather than proactive. In my opinion, the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia should have been upheld and maintained long ago, and more interest should have been taken in that part of the world.

We are also reactive, not proactive, in the face of militant Islamic fundamentalism. We should consider now the problems that will confront us in the not-too-distant future. Islamic fundamentalism of the militant type is one of the greatest potential dangers in the world today. All the way from the border of China to the border of Algeria and Morocco, it is a potential danger and a cause of much trouble, as Iran has often tried to export its Islamic revolution.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) is right that Hamas will now take the democratic road in Gaza, but Hamas has been influenced by the fundamentalists in Iran. They are probably behind the recent explosion at the American base in Saudi Arabia. Even British and German tourists have met Islamic fundamentalism on their holidays in Egypt.

The answer lies, as it did in the case of the countries of eastern Europe, in the promotion of good government in that part of the world. Saudi Arabia can hardly be held up as a totem pole of democracy, and that lack of democracy will destabilise countries in that part of the world.

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The second answer that is required, so to speak, is massive economic assistance to the poorer middle eastern countries. Obviously, I do not mean Saudi Arabia. In Egypt, 30,000 people live--day after day, night after night--in a large cemetery in Cairo. Obviously, that is the seed bed for the Islamic fundamentalists. In my book, if we are considering giving overseas aid, we should give a very high priority to countries in that part of the world, such as Egypt.

The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) mentioned the future expansion of NATO. I agreed with his cautionary note; probably, I would more than agree with his cautionary note, because I believe that the expansion of NATO--not the European Union, which is a different consideration--eastward to the borders of the territories of the former Soviet Union would be a potential source of instability in Russia.

It may be considered unorthodox to say so, but unless we take into account the need to secure the boundaries of Russia and of the other territories of the former Soviet Union, perhaps, one day, people will examine the past and say that the demise of the Soviet Union was one of the most tragic events of the last 10 years of the 20th century--not the end of Stalinism, not the end of the tyranny, but the end of the Soviet Union as an entity.

I agreed with the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Hurd), when he said that we were now in a world not of the new order, but of the new disorder. If someone had asked me 10 years ago, "Will your nephew"--the nephew had yet to be born-- "ever be involved in warfare?" I should have replied, "Almost certainly not," because of the balance between the two super-powers. If I were asked the same question today, unfortunately, I could not answer so positively because of the nationalisms that have been thrown up as a result of the end of the Soviet Union. That is why it is essential to think again about NATO. We need to envisage a new security structure that embraces Russia, the Ukraine and other east European territories beyond the Vistula.

One fatal aspect of NATO is the dominance of the United States. Many have said that they welcome American participation in Europe, but we should be wary of such domination. The problem is well illustrated by the current arguments about the future Secretary-General of the organisation. The fact that someone such as Ruud Lubbers is not considered fit to be Secretary-General--

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