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Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): I am delighted to participate in the debate, and I have heard some excellent speeches. In particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies) made an admirable maiden speech.
We heard much in the Queen's Speech about the forthcoming presidency of the EU. As I am sure many hon. Members know, I take a great interest in the region of the Balkans. I want to ensure that the Government realise that that part of the world must be taken seriously in the coming months and during the presidency.
Let me start by considering the position with regard to Serbia. I might find myself a little lonely in this Parliament, having lost a good ally in the former Member for Halifax, Mrs. Alice Mahon. Although we were diametrically opposed on many issues, we both found ourselves speaking up for that part of the world. I ask any new Members who are interested to put their applications on a postcard to me. We are always keen to have new members of the all-party groups on those areas.
The problem with Serbia is that it has largely been ignored. After the bombing, we left the area and hoped that it would get better on its own. Unfortunately, that does not happen unless the EU puts action in place of words. There are many things that we can do, but the most important is to help the economy. The economy in Serbia is in a pretty poor state. Bad economic conditions inevitably lead to problems with dissatisfied populations. Over the past few years we have seen increasing radicalism and national identities coming to the fore, not necessarily in the most positive way. Unemployment is very high, too.
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Ministers and Conservative spokesmen on international development have talked a lot about helping other countries, mainly with regard to Africa and Asiabut, incredibly, there are very serious problems in our own continent of Europe. In Serbia and elsewhere in the region, there are refugee camps for internally displaced people, which I have visited. That fact has been largely forgotten. We should bear in mind the fact that in years to come, it will be the EU that helps to solve the problems and heal the scars in that areabut that is some way off.
There are defence experts present who will probably be able to enlighten me about the current situation in Kosovo in their winding-up speeches, but from what I understand, it is far from good. A great deal of effort has been made, but it seems that there is an independent statewhether run by the EU or by NATO. It is because the solution to the problem is so difficult to find that nobody really wants to address the matter. I cannot say that I blame the Government; it is a huge problembut it must be solved.
Some of us said at the time of the intervention that the current situation was inevitable. Everybody recognised at the time that what was done in Kosovo and SerbiaYugoslavia, as it then waswas contrary to international law, but nobody kicked up too much of a fuss. In the light of the latter deployment in Iraq, I find it ironic that the Liberal Democrats, who have been keen on saying how they opposed war in Iraqand they certainly didwere at the forefront of wanting to bomb the hell out of Serbia.
Sir Menzies Campbell: To characterise our position as saying that we wanted to bomb the hell out of Serbia is a grave injustice. There was an immediate humanitarian crisis in Kosovo. There is an emerging doctrine of international law that intervention may be justified in such circumstances. The Prime Minister expressed that in his Chicago speech, which the hon. Gentleman might find rewarding to read. That seems to us a perfectly legitimate basis on which to support Government action. They were not engaged in regime change. That is the difference between Kosovo and Iraq.
Mr. Randall: I bow to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's wisdom, but it has to be said that the precedent was set to allow action that was illegal under international law. He talks about humanitarian reasons for the action in Kosovo, but the Government could advance the same reasons for their action in Iraq, even though we were told that it was about weapons of mass destruction. It was most unfortunate that the action in Kosovo did not attract so much protest. I say that the Liberal Democrats were at the forefront of those calling for that action because, having sat here during the debates in which concerns were voiced by Labour and Conservative Members, I cannot recall hearing any Liberal Democrat speak against it. If I am wrong, I shall stand corrected, but I do not recall those of us who wanted to point out some of the things that were going on receiving any support from the Liberal Democrats.
Another lesson should have been learned from Kosovo. The Liberal Democrats talk about exit strategies, but I do not think that anybody had any idea about an exit strategy from Kosovo, or that anyone thought about the post-war reconstruction. We did not learn that lesson, and we have lived to rue it.
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A slightly happier part of the region is Macedonia. My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Mr. Walter) talked about countries that hope to join the EU. Often when that subject is discussed Macedonia is not mentioned, yet Macedonia is making good progress toward joining the EU and has lots of things going for it. I believe that the Government's position is that they look forward to accepting Macedonia into the EU when it has met all the criteria. Macedonia has done a lot to solve some of its internal problemslike many Balkan countries, it has a diverse populationand I consider it a model of what can be achieved.
A positive step that the Government could take during their presidency of the EUone that would enable them to show a bit of leadershipwould be to try to ensure that the EU recognises Macedonia as the name of the country. It might surprise some hon. Members to learn that although we talk happily about Macedonia, officially it has to be referred to as "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". We know why that is: one of our fellow EU statesGreecedislikes the idea of the country being called Macedonia. However, it is fair to say that Greece would not like to be referred to as "the former Ottoman domain of Greece", any more than my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth would like Wales to be referred to as "the former English colony of Wales". In today's EU, when Yugoslavia no longer exists, to call a country "a former Yugoslav Republic" is pretty demeaning.
In addition, during our EU presidency the Government should examine the position on visas. I find it incredible that Macedonian diplomats have to apply for visas to enter this country. If we cannot even acknowledge that Macedonia's diplomats should be able to come here without a visa, as do the diplomats of almost every other EU country, we are not sending the Macedonian people the right message about our willingness to welcome their country as a member of the European Union.
There are plenty of defence experts in the House, so I shall not dwell on the subject except to say that I believe that, sadly, the RAF will leave Uxbridge during the course of this Parliament. It has been there for nearly a century. When I first came to the House eight years ago I thought that that was a fight that I would have immediately, but it has taken eight years almost to come to fruition. I am sad, and all I can do at this stage is to pay tribute to the hundreds and thousands of servicemen and women who passed through RAF Uxbridge. The station has a place in our history as a centre from which the battle of Britain was conducted.
I had set my heart on speaking on environment matters tomorrow, but being a retailer by trade, if I see an opening in the marketI have not seen a great deal of support from Labour Members coming into the Chamber to say what a wonderful set of proposals have been made in the Queen's SpeechI am inclined to take it, and I thought that I might take the opportunity of speaking today. With only the tenuous link that this country's defence has often relied upon the fact that it is an island, I shall refer to marine law.
Over the past four years, despite the landlocked nature of Uxbridge, I have often found myself raising in this place the issue of the protection of the marine environment. Having introduced a private member's Bill on marine wildlife conservation in 2001, I was
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delighted to see the inclusion of a draft marine Billit was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech but it was included in the stuff that comes out afterwards that sets out all the exciting things that the Government are up to, and it will feature in the new legislative programme.
The likely provisions seem to be pretty good. I understand that the proposed legislation will streamline the planning system and the managing of activities in coastal marine waters. It will give new powers to protect important marine areas, species and habitats. It will improve the UK's capacity to plan and handle growth in offshore developments. That is all well and good. I am a little disappointed that the proposed legislation was not highlighted and flagged up more by the Government, because I think that all three major parties have made a commitment to such a Bill. If the Government are to bring it forward, I will say well done.
I mentioned better marine management during the debate on the 2003 Queen's Speech, and I said that waiting for it was rather like waiting for Godot. In a way we are still waiting, because the Bill will only be a draft. However, I am quite a fan of draft Bills because I think that they result in better legislation, and I hope that that approach is not an excuse to kick proposed legislation into the long grassor perhaps seaweed. This much needed legislation should pass through the House as quickly as possible.
I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will be aware that not long before the end of the previous Parliament there was a large lobby from the Wildlife and Countryside Link in support of the proposed legislation. Many Members were visited by their constituents. I can see a glazed expression on the eyes of the occupants of the Treasury Bench, because this is not their area. That is fair. I am sure that there will be opportunities to raise the matter on other occasions, and it would be unfair of me to go on at length. If Ministers want to contact me later, I could enlighten them on some of the finer points of the legislation that I would like to see on the statute book. I hope that the Government will take me seriously, and I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your patience in allowing me to raise those matters.
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