|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Although no one wants to see a duplication of NATO planning, does my right hon. Friend agree that the benefits of defence co-operation in Europe will clearly be of advantage not just to the UK but to other European Parliaments? For example, there will be greater capacity for heavy lift and other capabilities within Europe, which we often look to the United States to provide but in future could be provided within Europe through better co-operation.
Donald Anderson: That prompts the question whether people are prepared to pay for that heavy lift. Currently Germany, in relation to Afghanistan, is chartering Antonov aircraft from Ukraine at, I think, several hundred thousand dollars a sortie, and yet Germany is paying 1.4 per cent. of its wealth on defence. That may be part of the difference between the Europe of declaration and the Europe of deliveryI draw a parallel with defence policies in this country.
Finally, having dealt in passing with Iraq and the European Union, I turn to our own foreign policy alliances. The Iraq war threw the spotlight on all our alliances and on our role in the world. The Government took a strategic decision to ally with the United States. A year ago it seemed plausible to argue that that decision had brought influence for usinfluence in terms of the US taking the United Nations route, which it largely did, certainly until March, and in terms of the middle east peace process.
Part of the tragedy on the middle east now is that the road map has been stalled because the attention of the US has been diverted elsewhere, understandably to Iraq, but perhaps also as a result of frustration at the lack of willingness on either side to make the necessary changes, as Israel continues to build up its settlements and the Minister of Housing gives new moneys for those settlements, and as the Palestinians seem incapable of bringing together their security forces in an integrated unit under Abu Ala. Only the US can decisively intervene in the middle east process, and at the moment the US seems unwilling or incapable of doing so.
One of the better parts of the speech by the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) was what he said about pre-emption. This is a subject that we should not and cannot ignore. It has already been put on the table by a major speech by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I consider that Solana made a significant contribution in his security report. This is not an academic debate; it is a very serious debate as to how we respond. The classic formulation of the pre-emptive use of force was of course in the Caroline case in 1837. I will not quote what US Secretary of State Webster said at that time, but those sentiments can still apply even at a time of weapons of mass destruction and can be adapted to some of the challenges of our modern world. We do not want to be killed before we act in self-defence. Where should the line be drawn? Therefore I am pleased that the international community is seeking to grapple with this question, and that on 5 and 7 December a reform panel set up by the United Nations Secretary-General, which includes Lord Hannay, will start to address the very serious problem of anticipatory self-defence or pre-emption.
Clearly, the international community needs to move beyond the tensions of the past year and resolve its differences if we are to tackle the clamant problems that face us today: terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, HIV/AIDS, drugs and so on. The Prime Minister set out the basic tenets of the Government's foreign policy in his speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet on 10 November. The right hon. and learned Member for Devizes chided the Government for being slow in formulating their foreign policy principles, but he slightly contradicted himself by referring to the principles set out by the former Foreign Secretary in 1997, and he clearly showed the danger of setting out principles when he talked about an ethical foreign policya soundbite. If he trawls through all the speeches made by the former Foreign Secretary, he will find no reference to an ethical foreign policy, only to an ethical dimension to foreign policy. I guess that, even between 1979 and 1997, there was indeed an ethical dimension to foreign policy.
The Prime Minister stressed that our foreign policy rests on the twin pillars of alliance with the United States and membership of the EU. He said that, if either of those were taken away, Britain would be weaker and that it is not necessary to choose between them. I hope that the House fundamentally agrees that the concept of a transatlantic bridge in our foreign policy has much to commend it and that we should not be pushed into making such a choice. Europe should be viewed as the partner of the US, not its servant.
I end on the role of the Foreign Affairs Committee in this rapidly changing world. I believe that, over the past year, we have made a significant contribution to the debate. We have covered a wide range of issues and
Clearly, we as a House and a country have an enormous task ahead, which includes Iraq and countering international terrorism, and we in the United Kingdom must make full use of all our alliancesthe UN, the EU and NATOand do so to our best advantage. Only by working together can we expect to make progress on the manifold threats that we face today. Let us pray that the period until the next Queen's Speech will be less exciting than the year that has passed since the last one but more productive in terms of greater international understanding and co-operation.
Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): May I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) on his return to the Front Bench? He was a most distinguished Armed Forces Minister, and he is still remembered with a great deal of affection and respect in the Ministry of Defence. In appointing him, there is no doubt that the leader of the Conservative party has strengthened the Front-Bench team.
These occasions become something of a tour d'horizon, and we have already had something of such a tour from the Foreign Secretary, who goes from Basra to the bay of Naples, but without Blackburnan omission that grieves him considerably. It is a pity that the White Paper, which is now promised for next week, was not available to us in advance of the debate, but I make no criticism. I hope that we will have an early opportunity, when the White Paper has been published, to visit some of the issues that it will contain. It is also inevitable in a tour d'horizon of the kind that I describe that one may not be able to deal with every topic that is thought to be pressing by any hon. Member.
As a country that has traditionally operated its foreign policy through international institutions, we have to accept that, if the institutions of the EU, the UN and NATO have not taken a battering, they have certainly sustained some damage in the past 12 months, and I hope that the policies of Her Majesty's Government will be designed to seek to repair those institutions so far as that is necessary.
One institution that has stood up fairly robustly is the Commonwealth. The Foreign Secretary will know that, by and large, we have been supportive of the Government's position on Zimbabwe, but there is now a case for imposing sanctions rather further down the Government line. Those who support Mr. Mugabe's regime, even those at fairly junior level, should not be permitted free passage to the United Kingdom or to send their children to United Kingdom schools. If we are serious about bringing pressure to bear, that is at least one of the sanctions that we could adopt.
The Government's attitude to the UN has been that it is somehow damaging if we seek a resolution and we fail to get it, but I suggest to the Government that that would now be a sensible policy because we would flush out those who are willing to tolerate what goes on in Zimbabwe. In particular, the Foreign Secretary could confidently expect some pretty robust support from the United States, the Congress of which has been notable in the extent to which it has been willing, first, to be critical, and secondly, to impose measures against the Mugabe regime.
Obviously, Iraq and the campaign against terrorism dominate all other issues. It is well known in the House that my hon. and right hon. Friends and I were sceptical about using military force. The reasons for that have been well rehearsed, and I do not propose to burden the House with them again. But we have to live in the world that we find ourselves in, not the world as we would wish it to be, and there is absolutely no doubt that an overwhelming priority must be the restoration of Iraq to stability and the opportunity given to the Iraqi people to adopt democratic institutions.
Iraq cannot be allowed to fail, first, because of the dire consequences for the Iraqi people if that were to happen; secondlyperhaps rather more selfishlybecause of the enormous blow that that would represent to the influence of the United Kingdom and the United States in the region; and thirdly, because of the serious risk of dismemberment, with ominous implications for regional stability if Iraq were to divide into, let us say, three constituent parts.
The right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) said that he would not prejudge the Hutton inquiry report, nor indeed will I, but it appears likely that, if Lord Hutton continues with a narrow interpretation of the remit entrusted to him to examine the circumstances that led to the death of the unfortunate Dr. Kelly, other questions may still remainin particular, the central question to which I have referred in the House on a number of occasions: did we go to war on a flawed prospectus, either because of inadequate intelligence or because intelligence was mishandled once it was obtained? The longer the investigating group in Iraq takes and the more obvious its failure to find any evidence of weapons of mass destruction capable of being delivered even on a battlefield at 45 minutes' notice, the more acute becomes that central question.
The Foreign Secretary is robust in his argument that no one can automatically claim that military action in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism and that terrorist incidents have increased. He rightly points to the atrocities in east Africa and to the fact that the attack on the twin towers took place in 2001. There is a catalogue of terrorist activity, but one of the issues that I should like to be considered as part of that central questionit would best be considered by some form of judicial inquiry, along the lines of that carried out with such distinction and dispatch by Lord Huttonis that raised by the Intelligence and Security Committee, whose Chairman is no longer with us. I call her Chairman because that is how she is described in the document, not from any lack of sensitivity for
I do not believe that we should set artificial timetables for the transfer, though I believe that it is sensible to have target dates. If a target date is missed for good reason, however, it should not be viewed as constituting some damaging criticism of the process. I also believe that there should be greater involvement of the UN to provide both improved legitimacy and increased political support.
I must say that we cannot leave Iraq until the security situation has been resolved. Nothing could be worse than handing over to an Iraqi Government, however constitutionally founded, a security position that they were incapable of dealing with. I saw reports last weekend that British troops could be expected to be in Iraq for up to four years. If the reports are correct and are properly based on Ministry of Defence assessmentsI am sure that somewhere in the recesses of that Ministry the military planners are considering precisely what the obligation may be and the level at which it will be required; and no doubt in the Treasury someone is working out just how much it will costfour years is a measure of the commitment that we have undertaken. We really should explain that commitment to the British people not only because of the financial consequences, but, unfortunately, because of the potential consequences to the life and limb of our troops.
I realise that it is not the particular responsibility of the Foreign Secretary, and I hope that the Secretary of State for Defence will be able to deal with the matter on another occasion, but reports of the reasons for the loss of life of Sergeant Steve Roberts are important. He lost his life on 24 March and it has been alleged that a contributing factor was the fact that his body armour did not have the ceramic plates that might have saved him. It is argued that not enough of those plates were available.
I remind the House that throughout the conflict hon. Members of all parties asked Ministers whether they were satisfied that our troops had everything that they needed for their protection. The response to that question was almost always in the affirmative. I understand that there will be an inquiry into the matter, which I do not want to prejudge, but we are entitled to say that Ministers were prevailed on to ensure that adequate materials were available to all our troops. If it proves that that was not the case in this instance, the House will, to put it mildly, be extremely disappointed.