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Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): When does the Foreign Secretary expect the full complement of monitors to be assembled and embarked on their work? When does he believe the protection force to be stationed in Macedonia will be fully deployed?

Mr. Cook: Those whom we have deployed are already working as observers and verifiers of the agreement. For the time being, they are doing so as members of the Kosovo diplomatic observer mission. That will fold easily and automatically into the verification mission being organised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. It is for the OSCE to ensure that it is able to deploy its full strength. I do not realistically expect that target to be achieved until around the turn of the year. There are severe logistical problems, not least the question of where the 2,000 verifiers will stay. Britain is giving a lead. We have already deployed more than any other European country. That will be even more marked by next week.

I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that it is hoped that the military force in Macedonia will be deployed during the coming month. Over the next two months, there should be a steady build-up of the international presence in Kosovo. I am conscious of the pressure of time. The history of the area shows that when spring comes, truce tends to deteriorate. We must make maximum progress while we have the window of opportunity afforded by winter.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Has my right hon. Friend read the report in The Times yesterday about mujaheddin fighters being seen with some of the Kosovo Liberation Army forces in Kosovo? What is being done to ensure that the agreement holds on both sides and that no actions are taken in the name of or on behalf of the KLA that would make it more difficult for the humanitarian work and verification to go ahead?

Mr. Cook: I read that report with concern. I am not able to confirm it to the House.

The killing continues in Kosovo. I regret to report that most of the killings since the Holbrooke agreement have been carried out by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Since the Holbrooke package was signed, 19 members of the Serbian security forces have been killed. Five Kosovar Albanians are known to have been killed--all of them in the full uniform of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

I cannot stress too strongly that a ceasefire will hold only if both sides cease firing. Last month, I met representatives of the Kosovo political leadership, who

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expressed their appreciation of the strong stand that I have taken over the conflict in Kosovo and the major contribution that Britain is making to building its peace.

All the Kosovar people must understand that the way forward for them is through the political process that we are holding out to them, not through military struggle. The current activities of the Kosovo Liberation Army will not liberate the Kosovar people, but will only prolong their suffering.

A high priority for our foreign policy in the year ahead will be to do everything that we can to build on the breakthrough in the middle east peace process secured at the Wye plantation. On Monday, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), who is responsible for middle eastern affairs, will be attending the donors conference in Washington, where Britain will announce a package of assistance to the Palestine National Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency of more than £100 million of bilateral and European Union aid in support of the peace process.

I hosted lunch yesterday for Mr. Netanyahu, when I congratulated him on his statesmanship in achieving the Wye agreement and on his courage on the start to implementing it. I also took the opportunity to point out that I am now one meal ahead in our relationship. One of my priorities for next year will be to take up the invitation that he made yesterday to have a somewhat delayed dinner in Israel.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Did my right hon. Friend raise with Prime Minister Netanyahu the issue of Israel's nuclear weapons capability and the continued imprisonment of Mordecai Vanunu, who has suffered 11 years in solitary confinement and a further two years in prison?

Mr. Cook: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. We have frequently raised our concerns about the imprisonment of the gentleman who was abducted from Italy, particularly about his long period of solitary confinement. The nuclear weapons issue forms part of our regular dialogue with Israel. We are anxious to ensure that we are consistent in pressing for action against proliferation.

The second objective in our mission statement was prosperity. We committed ourselves to making maximum use of the contacts of the Foreign Office to promote trade abroad and to boost jobs at home.

I inherited a Foreign Office that had experienced a prolonged and sharp reduction in its budget under the Conservatives. During those Conservative years, the number of Britain's diplomatic staff fell by a quarter. In the last Parliament alone, the Foreign Office budget fell in real terms by a sixth. The cut, accepted without argument by my immediate predecessor, was so severe that when I came to office, I found that up to 100 of the posts that had survived were permanently vacant because the Foreign Office could not afford to fill them.

This year's comprehensive spending review has produced the best settlement for the Foreign Office for six years. It provides for an increase in the Foreign Office budget in line with the average for public spending, excluding health and education, in which the Government have rightly made greater investment.

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We have now completed our resource allocation round within the Foreign Office and I can announce the results to the House today. This is the first time in two Parliaments that the House has been able to hear a statement that provides for an expansion, not a retrenchment, in Britain's representation around the world.

We have reversed the trend of reduction in staff numbers that has prevailed for two decades. I can now appoint 200 more members of the diplomatic service, and a total of 375 more staff. Their distribution will reflect our foreign policy priorities, particularly in commercial work.

For instance, another 33 diplomatic staff will be appointed to other member states of the European Union, reflecting its dominant importance as the market to which half of all our exports are sold. There will be a further 21 diplomatic personnel in the countries that are candidates for membership of the European Union. That reflects Britain's leading commitment to making a success of enlargement and is also a recognition of the fact that, in the next few years, those countries will sit as full members of the European Union with the same ability as existing members to influence its policies.

The countries of the Caspian basin will soon be producing a tenth of the world's oil supply. Britain's current diplomatic strength in those countries is less than a sixth of the combined German and French representation. That is the result of those countries' coming to independence at the very time when Conservative policies were obliging the Foreign Office to cut staff and preventing them from responding to an increase in demand for diplomatic staff. I am pleased to announce to the House that we will be increasing Britain's representation in the region by 50 per cent.

I am also able to expand Britain's network of overseas posts. We have approved a further eight new overseas posts and we will be strengthening our commercial representation in key industrial cities in China, Japan, India and Sweden.

The fact that we are able to conduct our budget allocation against a background of increased financial resources does not relieve us of the need to scrutinise rigorously existing spending in order to make sure that we are getting best value for money. After a review of all overseas posts, we have resolved on five closures of posts, none of them sovereign posts in capitals.

In addition, we have looked hard at whether we need all our existing estate. As a result of that review, I can inform the House that we can achieve capital receipts from the sale of overseas property of £100 million. As a result of a new agreement that we have secured with the Treasury, all those receipts will be retained by the Foreign Office to upgrade its properties. As a result, this Parliament will see the biggest investment for decades in the modernisation and extension of our embassies and posts abroad, which are an important part of the image that we show the rest of the world.

I am confident that this expansion of Britain's representation will be welcome to the whole House. Indeed, it must be welcome to the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), because when I wrote to him asking which of the increased

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spending by the Foreign Office he would cut, he was unable to answer. He did tell me that if he were Foreign Secretary, he would drop the working families tax credit. It pains me to have to inform the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the social security budget is separately administered, and is not available for diversion to the Foreign Office. Perhaps when he comes to address the House, he could tell us which of the increases he opposes. In precisely which markets would he leave EU business with less support? In which countries would he leave British travellers with fewer places to turn to for advice? If he cannot tell us, he should regard it as his good fortune, as well as that of the rest of the country, that he was not elected to office at the last general election, because if he had been, he would have been forced to answer those questions as a result of the declining budget planned by his own party.

The final objective of our mission statement on which I want to report to the House is the commitment that we made to promote respect for Britain through the spread of our values of human rights, civil liberty and democracy. If we demand freedom of expression for ourselves, we must be prepared to speak up for those who are silenced by repression. If we insist that those who take their seats in Parliament should do so not solely because they are born into the right families, we must support those around the world who also want democracy in their government. Those principles seem to me self-evident. I am never quite clear to what extent they are self-evident to Opposition Members. They appear to ping-pong between complaining that I am too critical of regimes for which they have a soft spot and complaining just as loudly that I am not rude enough to those regimes which they regard with distaste.

We have sought in our foreign policy to give practical expression to the values that inform our domestic policy. As a result, we now have in hand a broad range of initiatives to strengthen human rights in today's world. Britain played a leading role in the success of the Rome conference which obtained massive international commitment to an international criminal court. We will now carry out the detailed work to enable Britain to be one of the first 60 countries to ratify that and bring it into force.

Britain has also worked with allies to apply a more robust policy to war criminals in Bosnia, and I am pleased to report that a majority of those currently indicted are now awaiting trial. There can be no reconciliation for peace in Bosnia while there is no justice for those who committed the atrocities of war.

Britain's pioneering work in the Philippines has now led to a wider agreement between Europe and Asia to tackle child abuse, particularly of vulnerable street children. If we are concerned about the human rights of all citizens, we must begin by protecting the human rights of children before their lives are blighted.

Within the Foreign Office, we have shifted our priorities to focus more on support for human rights. In particular, I have moved resources from the training budget for the overseas military that I inherited from our predecessors to work in support of good government and human rights--a good example of beating swords into ploughshares. As a result, this year Britain will be supporting human rights projects in more than 60 countries.

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This autumn, a number of hon. Members attended events to mark the 50th anniversary of the universal declaration of human rights. Indeed, I have seen some of those present today at those events. The events were dignified and gave many people in Britain an opportunity to participate and to express their support, but the best way in which we can celebrate that 50th anniversary is by working to secure its observance in countries where it is ignored. The standards that it expresses are universal ones which apply with equal force in all cultures, races and countries. If we value our national security, we must work for international stability; if we value our prosperity, we must promote international trade; and if we value our freedoms, we must demonstrate that by supporting the same freedoms for others.

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