Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Mr. Mackinlay: Perhaps the CIA has something on him.

Mr. Wareing: Possibly, but the Independent of a few days ago reported that someone in the State Department had said that Mr. Lubbers is "not up to speed" on Bosnia. We should not be willing to go along with the American idea of what should happen in that part of the world.

Although the United States is powerful, economically and militarily, the men in the Pentagon and the State Department lack the sagacity necessary for world leadership. I refer, for instance, to the arguments in Washington about a possible US contribution to a peace force in Bosnia. No one can be sure that the President will get his way, because Congress has its hand on the tiller. That is why the United Kingdom must play a much more positive role in Europe. I do not wish to offend the

16 Nov 1995 : Column 198

Secretary of State for Defence in the aftermath of his dreadful speech--euphoric chauvinism--to the Conservative party conference, but I believe that there will need to be a common foreign and security policy in Europe.

I want now to refer to Yugoslavia and the conference in Dayton, Ohio. The hon. Member for South Staffordshire said that the peace has come about--we all hope for peace--simply because "punitive action" has been taken, by which he meant the bombing of the Bosnian Serbs. The fact is, however, that ordinary civilians suffered and died; collateral damage is just another name for the murder of ordinary people. If an imposed peace comes out of Dayton, it can never be a permanent peace. If, as a result of Dayton, Bosnia becomes an occupied country, with the possibility of conflict between the occupying armies and the local population, there will be no peace.

Nor can there be peace if the Serbs in the Republic of Srbska, now recognised as one of the two Bosnian entities, never have the right of secession. If it is right for the Muslim and Croatian populations in Bosnia to be able to join in a confederation, and if it was right for the Croats and Slovenes to leave Yugoslavia, why is it wrong for Serbs living in Krajina, Croatia or the Srbska republic to demand self-determination too?

Recently, the United States has definitely encouraged the arming of Croatia. The NATO air attacks in Bosnia-- it is too much of a coincidence to believe otherwise-- were part and parcel of the action that led to the occupation of Krajina by the Croats. People are fond of referring to the Krajina Serbs as rebel Serbs, even in eastern Slavonia. But the rebels are the Croats: it is they who broke up the former Yugoslavia, not the Serbs living in Bosnia.

The Americans seem quite prepared--I hope that we shall not follow their example--to ignore 200,000 ethnically cleansed Serbs from Krajina. No one suggests for one moment that the Serbs are guiltless--of course they are not, least of all the Bosnian Serbs. But one would have to go a long way to find 200,000 Muslims or Croats who have been dealt with as badly as the Krajina Serbs.

I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will comment on all this. When we talk about war criminals, where does Franjo Tudjman figure? Security Council resolution 752 states that Bosnia should be cleared of regular Croat troops. What has been done about that? What are the Government doing to ensure that the resolution is implemented? Croatia is probably now the most ethnically pure state in the whole of the former Yugoslavia. The most multi-ethnic state is Serbia itself, with its Hungarians, Croats, Albanians--the Albanians not always as well treated as they should be--and Muslims living together.

The Serbs in Croatia have been treated deplorably; I am afraid that the outside world is turning a blind eye to that. Elderly folk left behind when the younger people fled have been murdered in their villages, despite assurances from Tudjman that they would be quite safe. The young people fled because they knew what was going to happen, and indeed it did happen to the old people who were left behind.

The situation was well summed up in a Financial Times editorial of Tuesday 14 November:


16 Nov 1995 : Column 199

    without having any say in the matter. The last time that happened, during the second world war, many thousands of them were massacred. President Tudjman made no serious attempt to allay their fears that this might happen again. Instead he adopted the same flag and currency as the wartime fascist state, and named streets after some of its less savoury leaders."

We ignore those events at our peril. As I said earlier, an imposed peace can never be a permanent peace. Those who are interested can read about what happened following the signing of the treaty of Versailles; there is plenty of literature on the subject. Any solution in the Balkans must be based on an even-handed approach to all the nationalities in the region.

I also ask the Secretary of State to address the issue of Guatemala. Many people are concerned about what is happening in that country. After 7 December, Alfonso Portillo--I trust that he is no relation of the Secretary of State--may be installed in government. He is regarded as the stooge of Rios Montt, who is a previous dictator of that country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and I have visited Belize, and a few years ago the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) asked us what we thought of his idea of withdrawing British defence forces in order to save £9 million. We both replied that we thought that it was a ludicrous proposition. Although the situation in Guatemala looked peaceful at that time and Belize had been scrubbed from Guatemalan maps, the country was basically unstable.

The British forces engaged in valuable jungle training in south America--one of the few areas of the world where that is possible--and they also performed a useful role on the drug trail from Colombia. My hon. Friend and I witnessed them in action and were present when they discovered some drugs. I hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider the situation, which led to the defeat of the then Prime Minister of Belize at the last election.

Finally, I repeat my plea to the Secretary of State: for goodness' sake, let Britain have a proactive and not a reactive foreign policy.

8.1 pm

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): I hope that I will not ruin the reselection chances of the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing)--

Mr. Wareing: I have already been reselected.

Mr. Garnier: I am delighted to hear it. I have always had a particular fondness for the hon. Gentleman; I have kept that to myself, but I shall reveal it this evening. He spoke immediately after me when I made my maiden speech in May 1992 and he remarked very kindly about my slight contribution to the Second Reading debate on Maastricht. It was about 12.30 in the morning and he was one of the few hon. Members present in the Chamber to hear me. I was glad that he was there and I was very grateful for his kind comments.

Hon. Members will be used to hearing references to the "thin red line" in defence debates, but at present I feel as though I am the sole blue dot in this debate. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) said, it is regrettable--although understandable--that few hon. Members are present to debate two of the things that the Conservatives are rather

16 Nov 1995 : Column 200

good at: defence and foreign affairs. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and I shall be able to speak for more than five minutes before 9.15 pm.

I shall not try to compete with the travel experiences to which right hon. and hon. Members have referred tonight. The hon. Member for West Derby has been all over the world in the pursuit of knowledge, and he has led many other hon. Members who have travelled to countries such as Nigeria, if not Guatemala. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill) has visited Nigeria, and tonight he spoke most eloquently and passionately of his concerns about the state of affairs in that country.

I must confess that my only connection with Nigeria-- although it is not a recent one--involves weapons. It concerns my grandfather, who was injured by a poisoned spear during a colonial skirmish before the first world war. I still have the spear, although it is no longer poisoned. I appreciate the distress of the hon. Gentleman and those who share his views about the export of arms to Nigeria. However, arms sanctions would not have assisted my grandfather in 1910 or 1911 when he served with the 5th Fusiliers as a young subaltern, as I do not believe that we exported spears in those days.

I shall deal now with the substance of the Gracious Speech and the issues of defence and foreign affairs. Like other Conservative Members, I am delighted to see a reference to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in the early paragraphs of the Gracious Speech. Her Majesty said:


We must be careful not to promise more than we can deliver at this stage, and we must be careful not to raise expectations that cannot be fulfilled. Nevertheless, the general principle behind the words in the Gracious Speech should be applauded, and I do so.

I refer my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to a question that I asked of the Prime Minister during Prime Minister's questions on 2 February this year. I asked my right hon. Friend to confirm the Government's commitment to preserving the front-line strength of our armed forces. I also asked him to contrast the Government's policy with the Opposition's only defence policy, which is to cut and cut again. I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister answered in very forthright terms. He said:


He went on to say that he had given that promise during a recent visit to the Camberley staff college. He continued:


    "I made it clear that the big upheavals in the armed forces are over. The level of front-line manpower has been set and we do not intend to reduce it".
He told me that I could be reassured about the matter. He went on:


    "Nor do we intend to adopt Labour's policy of scrapping nuclear defence, or a fresh defence review bringing uncertainty to each and every area of the defence services".--[Official Report, 2 February 1995; Vol. 253, c. 1215.]
Those words were a source of great encouragement to me and I trust that all hon. Members will remember them for many years. I am sure that they brought comfort to members of the armed forces.

16 Nov 1995 : Column 201

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie), I have enjoyed my service with the parliamentary armed forces scheme. It is a valuable scheme and I commend it to those hon. Members who have not yet experienced it. It provides hon. Members who have no direct military experience with an insight into the way in which our modern armed forces operate. It is instructive for those of us who live and work in the somewhat febrile atmosphere of politics to see that the qualities of loyalty, stability and certainty survive within the armed forces, although we do not often see them elsewhere.

I can tell you how to make a regimental sergeant major blanch, Madam Deputy Speaker--I have seen a Labour Member of Parliament do just that. When asked what Labour's defence policy will be in government, Labour Members will reply, "We will have a fundamental defence review." Upon hearing that, all the colour will immediately drain from the face of a regimental sergeant major, because the one thing that our armed forces do not want is yet another review that will cause further instability. I hope that my right hon. Friend will confirm in his winding-up speech that the promise of stability given to the House by the Prime Minister on 2 February will be made again and again.

May I also echo my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, who praised the work of the Foreign Office and our diplomats overseas. They are often the subject of ill-informed abuse, which is unfair and ignorant. The work of our embassy and diplomatic staff at home and abroad, in conjunction with the work of seconded staff to the Foreign Office such as those from the Department of Trade and Industry, is much admired, and there is much to be admired. I recommend that hon. Members who have a chance to go abroad--


Next Section

IndexHome Page