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In that spirit, I hope we can convince the new Defence Secretary that any attempt to suggest that there has been a big shift in policy away from a focus on Afghan education in favour of a concern with British security is not well merited. We know that a comprehensive approach requires military effort and civilian effect to create the conditions for a political settlement. The Foreign Secretary made that clear in his remarks. I hope we can agree the following: that security concerns took us into Afghanistan, that security and development need to go together, and that the political surge of which the Prime Minister spoke yesterday was started in the last Parliament, set
out in General McChrystal's successive reports and needs to be continued-not in the absence of military pressure, but as a complement to it.
The Opposition will want to be assured about key aspects of the Afghan mission. The Foreign Secretary did not have time or did not want to give us details of the hold and build phase of the Marjah operation. We will be concerned to see that Afghan capacity arrives to ensure that that takes place. The planning for the Kandahar operation is being done in quite an open way by the international security assistance force, but where is the Afghan capacity and what is being done to avoid a false choice of warlordism or Talibanisation? In respect of Southern command, the reorganisation of which is happening under US leadership, we will be interested to know how the US Marines fit into the ISAF structure.
As for the development of the Afghan police force, the Foreign Secretary will know that we support strongly the plans of Minister Atmar, but we want to see them implemented. We are zealous in our support for and pursuit of an agenda of so-called reintegration and reconciliation-the political engagement of former insurgents. This is core to the development of an inclusive political system. Especially in the light of the difficulties with the so-called peace jirga scheduled for 2 May and now much postponed, we will want to see when that is to be organised. We will also want to know how the crackdown on corruption of which the Foreign Secretary has often spoken-the cancer eating away at the heart of Afghan society-is going. What did President Karzai promise him on Saturday and what will he do if the promises are not delivered?
Mr Ellwood: The shadow Foreign Secretary raises a number of important questions, to which I am sure we will find the answers in due course. A question I pose to him, which comes in the light of the resignation of Colonel Bob Seddon, is about the shortage of explosives officers in Afghanistan. Will he comment on the 40% shortage of explosives ordnance officers, which is causing those who are in theatre to be very tired, resulting in more mistakes?
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman is a former military officer and knows well the extensive work done over the past two years not just to send specialist officers to Afghanistan to tackle the threat of improvised explosive devices, but to ensure that they had the most up-to-date equipment. If he looks at the figures given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North East (Mr Ainsworth) shortly before the general election, he will see the extent to which the IED threat is being countered. But as he knows, as the presence of British forces grows and as other ISAF expertise grows, the bombs and the bomb making are also becoming more sophisticated. I think he will find that there is more to that 40% figure than he is quoting.
We will also make the case for continued engagement with Pakistan. The Foreign Secretary did not visit Pakistan this weekend, and I am pleased to hear that he is to go soon. I regret that he did not go this weekend, because if there is one thing that we have learned in the past nine years, it is that there will be no peace in Afghanistan without peace in Pakistan. It is good that the right hon. Gentleman will go, but south Asia is a part of the world where actions speak much louder than words, and
symbolism and respect are vital. Neglect of Pakistan has in many ways landed us in the current difficulties and it must not be repeated.
On Pakistan, the Government would do well to engage with the European Union. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman did not make mention of the plans for the rearranged EU summit with Pakistan on 4 June, or of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group, which meets under the auspices of the UN. The EU spends just half a euro per person in Pakistan, compared to five to 10 times as much in other parts of the world that are not only more developed, but less crucial to our security, and I hope he will give greater priority to that issue.
On a range of issues, the new Government have promised to take forward commitments made by the previous Administration, and we welcome that. Let me start with the middle east. The right hon. Gentleman used some of the words that we used, but not all of them. There are a number of areas where we will be looking to see his commitment. He did support the proximity talks, and we welcome that, but we want to see a determination that they should address substantive issues, not simply procedural ones. He did not dwell on the settlements issue, but it worth reminding the House that they are illegal in international law and an obstacle to peace. We want to see direct support for the Fayyad plan to build a Palestinian state within two years. The Quartet took the unprecedented step of supporting the plan on 19 March at its meeting in Moscow, and we want to see that support from the British Government too.
In respect of Gaza, the enforcement of resolution 1860 in all the aspects that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned is vital. A "Gaza last" policy will not, in my view, work. It is vital that the people and significance of Gaza are not forgotten. I hope he will continue to engage the wider region, because unless the Arab states shoulder a share of the responsibility, there will be no solution.
We will want to be updated on developments in the Dubai passports case. The Dubai authorities have announced that more British passports were involved and the House will want to know what the Government are doing on this issue.
The Foreign Secretary spoke of his ambitions for the non-proliferation treaty review conference, and the transparency that his colleague is announcing at the NPT review conference today is welcome. I welcome also his determination to look again at the nuclear posture of this country. He will know that it is remarkably similar to the one that the new American Administration have taken, and it is worth looking at the small areas of difference.
Paul Flynn: On corruption in Afghanistan, is not the fact that the election-rigging Karzai has failed to arrest his openly corrupt brother proof that the elimination of endemic corruption in Afghanistan is wholly unattainable?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point. The investigation and any prosecution of Ahmed Wali Karzai, far from being the first step, will be a step rather further down the road in tackling corruption in Afghanistan. However, the questions that I was asking about the Kandahar operation speak directly to the situation in southern Afghanistan and to whatever role Mr Ahmed Wali Karzai is playing in that part of the country.
Michael Connarty: My right hon. Friend is rattling ahead. Now he is in opposition, he should take more time and give others a chance to intervene. On his point about the reaction to the Dubai theft of passports, Australia has taken courageous and correct action by expelling an Israeli diplomat from Australia for the theft of Australian passports. Is it not appropriate that our Government should take similar action over the theft of UK passports?
David Miliband: We did that earlier this year. We anticipated my hon. Friend's desire for us to take action and we were able to do so. I have seen the Australian decision. It accords with ours and is the right thing to do.
On the non-proliferation treaty, there are two priorities. One is North Korea, which the Foreign Secretary mentioned in passing. Since the joint civilian-military investigation group on the sinking of the Cheonan concluded that a homing torpedo from North Korea sank the ship, and the North Korean state television companies are completely refuting the findings, what action will the Government take in supporting the international community's efforts to make North Korea take notice?
On Iran, the previous Government were at the forefront of the case for a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue. We support a further UN sanctions resolution, and the right hon. Gentleman will have been pleased to discover that Chinese and Russian support has been added to that of the permanent three-France, the US and the UK-but unity must not be achieved at the price of strength. We will want him to take forward the "sanctions-plus" policy, with a heavy emphasis on the "plus" on human rights and their abuse by the Iranian authorities.
There is no mention in the coalition agreement of promoting human rights and equality around the world, so I was pleased by the right hon. Gentleman's comments today in the House. However, I was concerned that although he rightly mentioned Burma, Zimbabwe and elsewhere, there was no mention of the situation in Sri Lanka, which is especially important in the light of the recent International Crisis Group report, which said that Sri Lankan security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam repeatedly violated humanitarian law during the last five months of the conflict last year.
Many of the LTTE fighters are now dead, but many Sri Lankan Government fighters should face justice. However, independent journalists in Sri Lanka are suggesting that that will not happen and that a forthcoming commission by the Sri Lankan Government will not provide any closure. We look to the Government to insist on the independent investigation promised by the Sri Lankan Government to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I was pleased that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned Cyprus after questioning from one of his colleagues, and I hope that he will recommit himself to the bizonal, bicommunal settlement, which is so important.
On international development, we welcome the bipartisan-tripartisan, now-commitment to the 0.7% target in respect of national income to be dedicated to overseas development by 2013. I hope that it will be confirmed in the winding-up speech that there will be a Bill, as per the pre-legislative scrutiny in the last Parliament. That was a clear commitment, and it needs to be honoured.
Mr Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I am most grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way. [Hon. Members: "Shadow Foreign Secretary!"] Shadow Foreign Secretary, I should say. Will the shadow Foreign Secretary now apologise for the record of the last Government in respect of getting the Department for International Development to support the Ministry of Defence in the conflict in Afghanistan?
David Miliband: That is an absolutely shocking allegation. It is not true, and I want to tell the hon. Gentleman why. It is a shocking allegation because the idea that the last Government spent their time simply increasing the aid budget rather than increasing its quality is contradicted by every single independent report, national and international, on the issue. [Interruption.] I will come to his point about support for the MOD in a moment. This country has gone from being a laggard on international development to being recognised as the leader-not simply because of the amount of money spent, but because of how it is spent.
Anyone who spent time in southern Afghanistan-with officers from our armed forces, British diplomats and British aid workers-would go away proud of the work being done there. At the moment, a DFID official is the head of the combined military and civilian mission in southern Afghanistan. Frankly, it is nonsense to suggest that DFID officials and DFID money are not supporting our security and other priorities.
David Miliband: I will not give way now, while I am warming to the theme. The Foreign Secretary said blithely that he was interested in increasing the quality of aid. It would behove him well to recognise the massive changes that have happened in the past 13 years on that issue-not just in the bilateral aid that we spend, but in how European money is spent. The truth is that in 1997 the way in which the European Union spent its development budget was a scandal. That has fundamentally changed in the past 13 years.
Let me also say that we were pleased that in the wash-up period leading to the general election the Conservative party accepted our legislation on vulture funds. In Labour's manifesto, we pledged more action on such funds yet in the coalition agreement we have only a promise of yet another review. I hope that when that review happens, it will be swift and result in some action.
David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman has been trying to intervene and I am happy to give way to him.
Mr Ellwood: I am grateful to the shadow Foreign Secretary. To go back to the point about DFID, I should say that, yes, on both sides of the House we pay tribute to the great work that it does across the world, but it has taken a long time to catch up with its new responsibility, which was never part of its original remit, to support our military in difficult environments. That is our complaint on this side of the House. Yes, things are better in Afghanistan now, but it has taken five years for that to happen. We are testing the nation's patience on how long we can stay there, because reconstruction and development have taken so long.
David Miliband: How can the hon. Gentleman talk about the work of joining up DFID and the MOD when, after two weeks, the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for International Development cannot even agree during their first trip to Afghanistan? It is absolute nonsense to suggest that somehow DFID is pursuing its own agenda, given that we have single-country plans that now unite the work of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the MOD and DFID, and we have combined missions around the world that are working together and where MOD officers work under the command of DFID officials.
At least the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood) has been to Afghanistan; others should read and see what has happened there. The suggestion that the Government have inherited a situation in which DFID is pursuing its own agenda is fundamentally wrong. Anyone who looks at the White Paper published last June on DFID's work in faltering states will see clearly why that is the case.
Mrs Moon: Is my right hon. Friend interested to know that when the Defence Committee visited Afghanistan last year, everyone-including General Rodriguez, second in command of the American forces-acknowledged that the provincial reconstruction scheme in Helmand, led by DFID, was an exemplar to the rest of Afghanistan on how to work jointly in reconstruction?
David Miliband: My hon. Friend makes an important point, founded on the actual experience of going to Afghanistan and talking to people there. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State for International Development is nodding his head, but the Secretary of State for Defence is not. The joining-up clearly has some way to go and the lessons of Afghanistan have not been learned by the Conservative party. My hon. Friend made an important point, which those on the Government Benches would do well to accept.
We will also hold the Government to account for their contradictory, mutually exclusive and incompatible promises on Europe. The Foreign Secretary made great play of his pledge that there would be no further institutional change in this Parliament, but it was agreed at the December 2007 European Council that there would be no institutional change until 2017. However, as a result of the coalition agreement, the Government go into European negotiations with no policy on European defence, which is not mentioned in that agreement, and no policy on European energy, which is also not mentioned. On justice and home affairs, all they can say is that they will review cases one by one-there are no principles or plans at all. The reason is simple: they cannot agree on anything. The result is that Britain is weakened and so is Europe.
Mr MacShane: One of the ambitions that we all have is that Turkey should join the European Union if it fulfils the conditions. That will involve a redistribution of powers within the EU. Under the new Government policy, that would require a referendum, which I do not think would be won in Britain. The Government have just announced the death of our pro-Turkey policy.
I strongly support Turkey's entry to the EU and it was disappointing that the Foreign Secretary did not manage to mention Turkey's aspirations to join the EU or the Government's view of Turkish entry.
However, the accession of a country-Croatia is likely to be the next-does not of necessity mean that there will be a change in the balance of power.
There is an important point. We have a fundamental principle in this country that when there are fundamental changes in the balance of power between this country and Brussels, there should be a referendum. That is why we are absolutely clear that there would have to be a referendum on the euro. However, the idea that there should be referendums when there are minor changes, such as how members are appointed to the pension committee of the European Parliament, which came up in the last Parliament, is absurd, and everybody knows it.
The Prime Minister has been threatening vetoes abroad, but the truth is that policy is being vetoed at home. The Deputy Prime Minister has said that
"if we remain outside the euro, we will simply continue to subside into a position of relative poverty and inefficiency compared to our more prosperous European neighbours."
He also says that the Tory party is allied with
"a bunch of nutters, anti-Semites, people who deny climate change exists, homophobes."
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister says of the Lib Dems that they want to
"take away Britain's seat on the United Nations Security Council and replace it with a European one."
The Foreign Secretary himself has called the Lib Dems
"the most fanatically federalist party in Britain."
So when it comes to- [ Interruption. ] That is quite enough from my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw), the former Foreign Secretary. When it comes to policy, no wonder they cannot agree, and that hurts Britain.
Here is one example among many. Labour Members support Eurojust and agree with the Crown Prosecution Service analysis, which points out that 80% of non-domestic homicide cases had an element of outside of jurisdiction, resulting in a huge increase in the UK's use of Eurojust. But the Government have no policy at all-not for it, as the Liberal Democrats want, or against it, as the Tories say. There is nothing at all-no mention, no agreement, not even a review.
In the last Parliament, the Foreign Secretary had fun at my expense when he was able to say that there had been 50 reviews in three years. He even alleged that there was a review of sun beds, although I must say that I never found that one. However, the boot is on the other foot now and there have been 40 reviews in three weeks from this Government. We want to understand how these reviews are ever going to come to a conclusion on European policy. The truth is that on European policy the Government resemble nothing except Hugh Lofting's pushmi-pullyu in "Doctor Dolittle". This is what Lofting wrote:
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