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Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): On the International Criminal Court, surely some of the worst atrocities in the third world have been committed by mercenaries. Did the right hon. Gentleman say that the agreed position of Opposition Front Benchers is to support mercenaries?

Mr. Maude: No. That is about as fatuous an intervention as one might expect from the hon. Gentleman. A moment's reflection will show him that he is completely wrong on almost every count. I said that we, as a sovereign nation, ought to admit that it might sometimes be appropriate for a sovereign, legitimate Government to avail themselves of legitimate resources to support themselves in power, and that that might be the most humane way to proceed. If the hon. Gentleman is going to set his mind rigidly against any such possibility, let him say so. I should be surprised if he did.

Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater): Is my right hon. Friend aware that an independent Committee of the House, with a majority of Labour Members, reached exactly the same conclusion as the one that he is now putting before the House--that in certain circumstances, faced with certain

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threats and under properly organised conditions, mercenary forces might have a contribution to make? Let us also remember that, although they constitute a slight distortion of the normal national forces, a significant part of the French contribution in the Gulf war was provided by members of the foreign legion.

Mr. Maude: My right hon. Friend has a degree of experience and knowledge of these matters that outweighs the entirety of that on the Labour Benches. The House would do well to weigh his words carefully.

Like the Foreign Secretary, I warmly welcome the recent changes in Serbia. We all hope that stability, security for all, freedom and democracy will shortly be widespread and established. Great delicacy is needed in proceeding in the Balkans. I ask the Foreign Secretary to accept my view, based on an admittedly brief visit to the region recently, that, despite all the difficulties involved, anything less than independence and nationhood for Montenegro and Kosovo will prove unacceptable. Expectations have been raised extremely high, and if they are frustrated there will be a serious problem.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have come back from Nice crowing over the success of their red lines, which, as we now know, turn out to be red herrings. We have repeatedly said that this was a bogus victory in a battle that need not have been fought at all. These issues were meant to be non-negotiable; they were a matter for decision. The Prime Minister just had to say no. However, his actions have enabled him to stage this vacuous victory in a bogus battle to distract attention from the 23--or perhaps 39, according to some Government officials--other areas in which it is proposed that the veto should be given up.

Mr. Anderson: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Maude: No, I want to make some progress.

The Government have failed to provide any leadership in Europe. Where was their plan for real reform that would have begun to create the modern, flexible multi-system European Union that would genuinely speed up enlargement? Where were the calls to reform the common agricultural policy, the common fisheries policy or development aid, which the Secretary of State for International Development has described as a disaster? Where were the calls for the kind of European Union that the mainstream majority of the public want--the kind of Europe that might make enlargement a reality rather than a pipe dream? Almost everything agreed at Nice takes the European Union further down the one-way street towards deeper integration and more centralisation.

Why did the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister support the charter of fundamental rights if they were not prepared to proclaim it, let alone include it in the treaty? If the charter is so good, why does not the Prime Minister's signature adorn it? If the Government did not want their fingerprints on it, why did not they stamp on it in the first place? Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that, according to the initial programme, the charter was due to be proclaimed solemnly but, at the last minute, Great Britain and Denmark expressed their opposition to that way of proceeding? Does the Foreign Secretary acknowledge that that is an admission that the charter, in its previous form,

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would have had legal force and that he had to take last-minute evasive action to prevent it from becoming binding? Will the Foreign Secretary finally accept what the European Commission has stated as a matter of simple fact--not a proposal, wish, hope or desire--and is supported by the weight of legal opinion--that even as a document outside the treaty, this will be "mandatory"?

A few days ago, United States Defence Secretary Cohen must have decided that it was close enough to the end of his term of office for him to afford to be a little more candid than his office usually allowed. His speech, which warned of the danger of NATO becoming a "relic of the past"--his words, not mine--if a separate European army were created, was a landmark. It pulled the carpet out from under the feet of Ministers, who have been desperately trying to belittle our well-grounded concern that the proposal was not good for this country and not good for NATO. Their response was very interesting. There was no evidence of an elevated foreign policy working in Britain's best interest. Instead, we saw evasion, subterfuge and camouflage--the tactics of Ministers practising a terrified deception when the spotlight of informed scrutiny came to rest on their plans.

Perhaps now, in the final days of the Foreign Secretary's term of office, he will find a little of the same candour and admit how badly wrong the Prime Minister's ill-judged venture on European defence has been. Why cannot the Foreign Secretary simply give his

That is what he said only four years ago.

The reality is that on the European army the Government have been left high and dry. They accused us of scaremongering and of claiming to know America's interests better than America does when we criticised the effect that a competing European army would have on NATO. It then transpired that the United States Administration had precisely the same reservations as us about the type of force proposed and its autonomy from NATO.

Why did the Foreign Secretary misrepresent American opinion in this way? Had he simply not talked to Secretary Cohen? Or had he talked to him and then deliberately misrepresented his view? Why does the right hon. Gentleman continue to misrepresent what has been decided? Secretary Cohen said that the European Union will erode NATO and United States security ties with Europe if it insists on separate operational planning for its new rapid reaction force. That is clear, straightforward and explicit.

The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary say that all those concerns have been met. Secretary Cohen does not think so. He might have read the document that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister signed, which is very explicit on the key matter of whether the European Union has separate autonomous planning capability. It says that to enable the European Union fully to assume its responsibilities, the European Council--the very Council that the Foreign Secretary attended, although he may have been dozing off at the time--has decided to establish the following permanent political-- [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen say that this is fatuous. They might not understand it but their Ministers have just signed up to it, and they are misrepresenting it to the

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House and the country. It is our job to make sure that the country knows what has been signed, so I will carry on and say what these Ministers have signed up to.

The document says that the Council will set up the following permanent political and military bodies, which have been made ready to start their work--the Political and Security Committee, the Military Committee of the European Union and the Military Staff of the European Union. It says that the strength of the resources needed for the operation of such bodies, in particular the Military Staff, will have to be increased without delay. That sounds to me like an autonomous, separate, European Union Military Staff planning capability.

The annexe to the document shows what is meant in detail. It says that the entire chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the European Union throughout the operation, after consultation between the two organisations. At least consultation has been included--I will give them that.

The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister have agreed to the setting up of a separate, autonomous European Union military capability--precisely what the United States Administration say will leave NATO as a relic of the past. Why cannot the Foreign Secretary admit that he has done that? The time will certainly come when he has to admit that he was wrong about this, just as he has had to admit that he was wrong about nuclear arms in the 1980s and the European Union in the 1970s. Would it not save time if he just did it now?

Finally, the Foreign Secretary has spent the past few days trying to embed the artificial idea that enlargement depends on extending qualified majority voting, thereby eradicating the veto in yet more areas. The briefest look at what has been agreed shows what bogus logic that is.

The Government cannot make up their mind what their case is. They say that many of the matters are very trivial, but if they are, why on earth do they make such a big difference to enlargement? Why is it necessary to have these matters decided for enlargement to take place?

This summit had nothing to do with what is needed to allow enlargement to take place. All the extensions of QMV--some major, some minor--go in one direction only, towards further integration. It is time that the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister gave up their charade, and admitted that their central undeniable agenda is to push ahead with European integration and that their declared interest in enlargement is a passing excuse to do so.

There is an alternative to the party that accuses everyone else of extremism. The Conservative party's faith in Britain shines through everything that it does. Having a Foreign Secretary who does not believe in Britain is a bit like finding out that the Archbishop of Canterbury is an agnostic. Conservatives understand Britain's assets in the world. Unlike the Government, we are determined that Britain should not underplay its hand through ignorance or embarrassment. We are frank about what this country can achieve and where our intervention would only hinder.

This country can achieve a great deal more. The quickest look at our asset set reveals so many opportunities to shape the world we live in--through the European Union, NATO, the Commonwealth, by our economic strength and investment interests, which are global and multilateral, not just in Europe. We have

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opportunities around the table at the G8 and as a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations. English is fast becoming the world's common language and London is the pre-eminent international financial centre of the world. Britain is genuinely capable of being at the crossroads of the world's economy.

What about our history, which the Government are so embarrassed about, because it all happened before day zero--1 May 1997? That history and heritage have given this country friendship and good will around the world, enabling us to play a part with global reach, yet the Government just do not begin to understand that. In the middle east, for example, we have a particular role, supplementing what America can do because we are a confidant of Israel and of so many of the Arab states.

Throughout the world, we can be a glowing example of what a confident, democratic, independent, self-governing and free-thinking nation can achieve, yet the Government are still stuck in the mindset of the management of decline. They have a defeatist, depressing, minimalist view of what Britain can achieve. This weekend at Nice, the investment of time in promoting image over action showed this fundamentally defeatist and demoralised approach at work. We have seen the slow, gradual cession of more and more policy vetoes described as a victory.

This Government and this Foreign Secretary do not believe in Britain. After the election, they will be replaced by those who do.

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