Examination of Witnesses (Question 80-86)|
STRAW, MP, MR
CMG, MR PETER
TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2001
80. I hope, Chairman, we are not making mirth
of this because it is extremely important what happens in the
(Mr Straw) Mr Olner, I am not making light of it at
allI was only reflecting on the time. I want to talk about
what we are doing because that is the best example of the strategy.
What are we doing in Afghanistan? We have embarked upon a three-pronged
strategy which is military, humanitarian and political/diplomatic.
In the past there has been from time to time a military strategy
against Afghanistan, one side or the other. We were engaged in
that in the 19th Century, much more recently Russia, and through
proxies Russia and United States have been engaged in it, and
there having been some kind of stand-off in the conflict great
powers then walked away and there are many, many lessons to be
learnt from what happened ten years ago when the Soviet Union
walked away and the United States and others walked away from
Afghanistan and left a vacuum and we know how that was filled.
We have been determined here that we do not walk away. We recognise
our responsibilities in the context of world peace and good order
for a stable and secure Afghanistan. At the same time we recognise
our responsibilities for allowing the Afghan people within that
framework to decide their own kind of government. What is now
happening? People said this could not be done. They said loads
of things about how this conflict would get to at this stage but
there is now this meeting which is going to take place under Ambassador
Brahimi's Chairmanship in Germany, probably on Friday or Saturday.
I spoke earlier today to Stephen Evans who is the United Kingdom's
representative in Kabul. He says that the Northern Alliance are
clearly committed to attending and sending senior representatives
to this meeting. We believe that the other representatives are
also committed and that will start the process of getting broad-based
multi-ethnic government. If you want an example of how we make
the world a safer place, of course I can give you vision statements
(and I would be delighted to do so) which talk about the strengthening
of the UN but, as Aneurin Bevan once said, "There's no need
to look in the crystal, let's read the book," and it is the
unfolding work of what the international community is doing by
engagement in Afghanistan to secure a better future for them under
the aegis of the United Nations, and we have literally been in
the lead in those developments.
Chairman: Before we move into the second part
two quick questions from Mr Chidgey and Sir Patrick Cormack.
81. Returning very briefly to NATO and the invocation
of Article 5, which you are familiar with; do you believe that
the Article 5 invocation would remain in place should the United
States of America extend its military action against Afghanistan
to a third nation, Iraq perhaps?
(Mr Straw) I have not got the text in front of me
but in the case of Article 5 it related directly, as I recall
it, to 11 September and to Afghanistan. It is matter obviously
for NATO Council as to whether it stays in force or not but my
guess would be that most Member States around the table would
say that it related to Afghanistan. I can give you the text.
Mr Chidgey: Thank you very much.
Sir Patrick Cormack
82. Just one very brief question, Secretary
of State, in wrapping up this session on British/US relations.
There has been quite a lot of controversy about our representation
in San Francisco having adequate and proper premises from which
to conduct our various operations. Can you bring us up-to-date
on the San Francisco saga?
(Mr Straw) I have been looking at this and about resources
deployed in the United States. I am really grateful to you for
making enquiries about this because I have to say I was not fully
briefed on the issue of the Consul General's house until I received
your enquiry. But the current plan is to sell the house. Have
you visited the house? I have not.
83. Not personally.
(Mr Straw) It sounds fairly grand. Its annual resource
cost to the Foreign Office is £743,000 per month
84. Per month?
(Mr Straw) I am sorry, a year, £62,000 a month.
Sir Patrick Cormack
85. That is inflation beyond belief!
(Mr Straw) We are looking for another house which
we intend to buy for less than the likely sale price of the current
house or to rent for less than the annual resource cost. It does
not involve in any sense a downgrading of our representative but
we are under injunctions from the Treasury to make best use of
86. May I just say, though, speaking with a
English-Speaking Union of Governor's hat on, we know what enormous
help the Consul General has given and how much he has used these
premises and how much it has been appreciated, and what a really
key part it has played in fostering Britain's image there, so,
whatever you do, I hope you will not be downgrading.
(Mr Straw) Can I just say this: I am
one of those people who does not believe that you should simply
look at the price of the Foreign Office's assets, you should look
at their value. And, yes, whether we would today be going into
the market in Paris to buy the residence in the rue du Faubourg
St Honoré is an interesting question, and whether we would
be going to the market to buy Lord Cromer's mansion in Cairo today
is an interesting question; but they are there, they are assets
of great value, intangible value, and that has to be weighed in
the balance when we are making decisions
Chairman: Secretary of State, you have told
us that you are going to sell the property. Please will you give
us a memorandum on the reasons behind that3. I am sorry to deprive
Mr Wilkinson but time is short and I want to conclude the first
part on British/American relations and to move onto the campaign
3 See evidence, pp 41-44.