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29 Jun 2010 : Column 212WH—continued

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the A400M project, which is of significant importance to north Wales. Indeed, the Airbus factory should be regarded as the jewel in the crown of industry in not only north Wales,
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but the whole of the United Kingdom, because it provides high-quality, high-tech jobs that must be the way for the future. The A400M is, of course, actually developed in Filton, as the hon. Gentleman will know. However, the wing technology that is being developed at Filton is shared at Broughton. The Wales Office is certainly very supportive of the A400M project, but having said that, as the hon. Gentleman knows, a strategic defence review is under way and, of course, all announcements must wait on its outcome. I gently inform him that the Labour Government did not progress the A400M project or commit themselves to it.

Mr Hanson: My right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North East (Mr Ainsworth) signed a contract for 22 planes before the election. That is part of the ongoing review.

Mr Jones: Yes, but as the right hon. Gentleman knows, a number of projects were signed up to-including the Sheffield Forgemasters project-very late in the day during the election period for a reason that is patently obvious to even the most charitable observer.

The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd mentioned Glyndwr university and Technium OpTIC. I endorse his commendation for OpTIC. In fact, the first official visit that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I paid to north Wales after our respective appointments was to Technium OpTIC. I particularly commend Professor Mike Scott, the vice-chancellor of Glyndwr, for forging ahead with OpTIC and, as the hon. Gentleman has pointed out, ensuring that the university forges strong links with the private sector. Such an approach is certainly the way forward.

We also heard about Landrillo college. Again, I can do nothing but commend Landrillo, which is, in fact, headquartered in my constituency. I pay tribute to Huw Evans, the principal of Landrillo college, for forging links with the private sector.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned agriculture. I think it is fair to say that over the years, the Conservative party has shown nothing but support for the agricultural sector and it will continue to do so.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned seaside towns-an issue of personal interest to me. Colwyn Bay is an important town that has declined over recent years. It is, in fact, currently in receipt of strategic regional assistance moneys from Europe via the Welsh Assembly Government. I echo what he said about houses in multiple occupation, which have been a scourge of seaside towns-Rhyl in his constituency and Colwyn Bay in mine alone. However, I must gently criticise the Welsh Assembly Government's policy of attracting people into north Wales who have no connection with the area because doing so has ensured that incomers can leapfrog indigenous north Waleseans. That has caused a great deal of concern to councillors in my constituency and, I am sure, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd).

The hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd mentioned the Heritage Lottery Fund. I remind him that the lottery was a Conservative innovation. He has already mentioned
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John Major. If I remember rightly, the lottery was John Major's pet project. I am glad to say that the coalition Government intend to review the operation of the lottery to ensure that it reverts to its original aims of supporting good causes. We want to ensure that it is not rifled by Government as a support to taxation.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Rhyl city strategy and the future jobs fund, which he regards as important. We have to make a decision in this country: whether we create real jobs, with some prospects of creating real wealth, or whether we subsidise jobs that are guaranteed only for six months. Doing the latter does not create real wealth and runs the risk of returning the young people on those programmes to the dole. The focus of the Government should be on creating real wealth. That is the nub of the difference between the Labour Government and the coalition Government. The previous Government were happy to fritter away this country's resources through borrowing to mortgage our children's and our grandchildren's future, without tackling the root causes of the problem that the economy faces, which is essentially the enormous deficit that this country is running. The enormous structural deficit and debt run the risk of strangling each and every one of those young people before they get a job at all.

This Government intend to focus on reducing the deficit, on restoring real jobs to the economy, and on ensuring as far as possible that those who are able to work can do so. That is why I commend the work programme that was announced today by the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), which was criticised by the hon. Gentleman. This Government are not afraid to face the real decisions that we need to take to put the country back on the right track. We may receive criticism from the hon. Gentleman, but we have received the support of the OECD, the G8, the Governor of the Bank of England and any number of chief executives he may care to mention. The future of this country is real, genuine, honest employment.

Albert Owen: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: No, I will not take the hon. Gentleman's intervention, but-

Albert Owen: Why not?

Mr Jones: If the hon. Gentleman would like to listen, he might actually be pleased with what I am about to say. I commend him for his advancement of the energy island concept. He understands that only real jobs will rescue Anglesey, and I commend him for it. I repeat my previous support for Wylfa nuclear power station. I hope that it gets built, and but for the fact that the Labour Government effectively had no energy policy for 10 years, Wylfa would now be well on the way to being built. We have had 13 wasted years of Labour, during which time we ate the seed corn for future generations. It is time to get Britain back to work; it is time to get Britain moving again. I believe that the coalition Government will do just that.

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Western Balkans

1.30 pm

Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling) (Con): I spent most of last week in Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a member of the Defence and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, alongside members of the Assembly's Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security. I am pleased that, through whatever mysterious processes apply in this place, I have been given an early opportunity to share my thoughts and concerns with hon. Members.

There is perhaps a widespread temptation to believe that just because no significant violence is taking place in the western Balkans, the problems in the region have been solved, but that would be a serious illusion, particularly in relation to Kosovo and to Bosnia and Herzegovina, on which I will focus my remarks. With regard to the most difficult problems in those two countries, I say straight away to the Minister that the hardest nuts definitely still have to be cracked.

I will start with Kosovo. I want to refer to one or two security matters and then move on to the main unresolved political problems facing that country. As we know, the entire justification for NATO's original involvement was, of course, based on security. We remember vividly the appalling violence that took place, which was mainly committed by Kosovo Serbs, and the spectacle of hundreds of thousands of Kosovo Albanians trapped in the mud on the Macedonian border. Since the conflict was finally brought to a close, NATO's role there has been based on the security contribution that it can make. There are three questions that I want to ask the Minster against that background. They all relate to my basic proposition that having expended so much effort, time and money, and the lives of NATO service personnel, it would be a serious dereliction of duty if we underestimated or wound down prematurely our security presence through KFOR-the Kosovo peace implementation force-in Kosovo.

The plan is to reduce the KFOR presence from the present 9,500 service personnel to 2,000, or perhaps fewer, so my first question is this: will that be too severe a reduction in too short a time scale? We have reinforcements in the shape of three over-the-horizon battalions, but those are available on seven to 14 days' notice, so my second question is this: is that period appropriate to ensure that if the worst starts to happen in Kosovo, reinforcements will arrive in time? My third question relates to information that I obtained in what was, I stress, an unclassified briefing. KFOR has been denied a particular intelligence capability as a result of NATO budget cuts. I shall refer to that in more detail when I speak to the Minister in private after the debate, but the question that I want to put on record is this: will that cut, which is motivated by financial concerns, expose KFOR to an unacceptable level of operational risk?

I will now address the critical political problems in Kosovo that remain unresolved. In my view, the foremost concern is Serbia's policy towards Kosovo. I have been visiting the former Republic of Yugoslavia, now Serbia, for more than 30 years-since President Tito was in power. I am under no illusion whatsoever about the importance of Kosovo in historical, cultural and religious terms to the Serb people, but I must state clearly that,
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notwithstanding that background, it cannot be right for the Government in Belgrade to continue to support, establish and finance parallel political structures inside Kosovo, including the funding of local elections, which is creating an extraordinary position in which there are two mayors in some of the Serb enclaves, with one elected under the aegis of Belgrade and the other elected under the aegis of Pristina. The international community must make it clear to the Government in Belgrade that a continuing policy that subverts the elected Government in Kosovo is incompatible with progress towards EU and NATO membership, which Serbia wishes to achieve.

The second major concern relates to the process of international recognition that Kosovo has achieved and hopes to achieve in future. The progress thus far has been somewhat disappointing. Only 69 countries recognise Kosovo as an independent nation state, and that does not even include all 27 EU member states, as five do not recognise its independence. Those 69 countries represent just over one third of the members of the United Nations General Assembly. The hope is that, following the International Court of Justice's judgment on Kosovo's independence, which is expected shortly, there will be a breakthrough beyond the 69 figure. The key figure that needs to be broken is 100, because anything above that would mean that more than 50% of members of the General Assembly recognise Kosovo as an independent sovereign state. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that the British Government will do all that they can following the Court's judgment, with many other countries, to ensure that the recognition of Kosovo passes beyond the figure of 100 so that majority support in the General Assembly is achieved.

My final key point, which is ultimately the most important one, is that the unhappy and unacceptable reality is still that north of the Ibar river, particularly in north Mitrovica, we effectively have a state within a state. It is an area under Kosovo Serb control where the writ of the Pristina Government does not run and where there is a wholly unacceptable degree of lawlessness-indeed, there is no effective rule of law to speak of. The European rule of law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, has thus far been a serious disappointment. It has an incredible number of personnel in the country-around 3,000-but has signally failed to establish an effective criminal justice system in north Mitrovica and the northern Serbian enclaves.

The situation in the court in Mitrovica is disgraceful and truly shameful as far as the international community is concerned. There is a backlog of 30,000 cases, and sadly EULEX has caved in to Serbian demands, including from Belgrade, that no local judges or prosecutors should perform in the court house in Mitrovica. As long as that situation continues, we are effectively dealing with a fragmented state, so I urge the British Government, with their international partners, to do much more to ensure that the rule of law is re-established north of the Ibar river. Only then will we end the current situation which, in my view, is almost akin to that in Cyprus. In theory there is a single integrated state, but a significant territory is outside the jurisdiction and rule of law of the elected Government.

The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina is perhaps even more fragile and potentially more dangerous than that in Kosovo. The Dayton constitution was a huge success in so far as it enabled the appalling internecine
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fighting and bloodshed to stop. The fundamental problem, however, is that while the constitution, which is built on layer upon layer of blocking mechanisms protecting the sectional interests of the three major ethnic groups, was successful in bringing about an end to conflict, it is effectively unusable as a serious decision-making mechanism to deal with either NATO or EU membership.

Nothing illustrates that more than the issue of property, especially defence properties. NATO Foreign Ministers took an excellent decision at their meeting in Tallinn in April to offer Bosnia and Herzegovina the entry point for eventual NATO membership. They offered it membership action plan status subject to conditions, one of which is that it resolves the issue of ownership of defence properties. There are just 69 properties held by the entities-in other words, by the federation and Republika Srpska-the ownership of which should be transferred to the state. So far, it is wholly unagreed and there is total logjam, which poses the question: if the ethnic groups inside Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot agree the relatively simple and straightforward issue of the transfer of 69 defence properties from the entities to the state, what can they agree on in terms of imperative constitutional reform?

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we have a stalemate, but it is worse than that-it is a stalemate over which is suspended a sword of Damocles. The sword is the powers that Republika Srpska has taken to hold referendums, and the threat is that those powers will trigger a referendum on secession. If that happens, and the referendum is carried and Republika Srpska secedes from the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina in its present form will collapse with unknown and unquantifiable consequences, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but elsewhere in the western Balkans. What can be done in this situation?

I do not believe that a new vista will open up after the forthcoming local elections in the autumn. That idea was put to us, but it is a complete illusion. Nor do I believe that it is realistic or reasonable to expect the current High Representative to use the Bonn powers as Lord Ashdown did when he was High Representative-that era is over. Two critically important policy steps need to be taken that would resolve the crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As in Kosovo, the Government in Belgrade need to change their policy fundamentally. As long as Republika Srpska believes that, at the end of the day, Belgrade will finance, back and support it, it can go on being wholly negative towards constitutional change.

Most important of all is this: ultimately, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina must own their constitution and vote for the constitutional changes necessary to give them an effective decision-taking Government. We need to bring about a seismic change of attitude among the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some might say that that is impossible; I most certainly do not. It is not impossible because the Serbs in Serbia, as shown in the previous major elections, have already achieved that seismic change in attitude. They voted largely to put the past behind them and look forward to EU and NATO membership. If Serbia can achieve that seismic change of attitude, surely it is possible for Republika Srpska as well. It will also require a major change by the international community, which will need to adopt a quite different policy from that adopted so far. It will need to offer much more carrot than stick, to offer incentives to get
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support for NATO and EU membership, and to bring more imagination, determination, skill and sensitivity to the negotiating process. I believe that that is the way forward, and it is the only way forward if Bosnia and Herzegovina is going to remain integrated, stable and, above all, at peace.

1.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Henry Bellingham): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley) on securing the debate and commend him on his persuasiveness for the case that he put to the Speaker's Office to secure the allocation of the debate so soon after his visit to the region.

I assure my right hon. Friend that the new Government attach great importance to developments in the western Balkans and to the promotion of stability in the region. My colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have already taken a great interest in the region. The Foreign Secretary visited Sarajevo for a western Balkans high-level meeting on 2 June-one of his first overseas engagements-and the Minister for Europe visited Macedonia and Kosovo last week.

My right hon. Friend raised important questions, particularly about Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He talked about some of the problems that those countries face as being the hardest nuts to crack. I am grateful to him for the examples that he gave and for his advice. I shall address those points in a moment, but I should like to make some more general points first.

The Government have made it clear that we see the enlargement of the EU as a vital strategic goal. It will create stability, security and prosperity across Europe based on the firm foundation of democracy, the rule of law and shared values. We see EU membership as an unparalleled opportunity for the countries of the western Balkans to move on from the conflicts of the past, many of which my right hon. Friend vividly touched upon. The new coalition Government fully and strongly support EU and Euro-Atlantic integration for all the countries of that vital region.

This is a two-way process. Of course the international community needs to play its part by sharpening its focus on the western Balkans, and I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend when he says that the west must raise its level of involvement and pursue a clear, determined, firm and active approach that is focused on delivering results. We need carefully to uphold the rigorous conditionality inherent in the EU accession process to drive many of the important reforms on which he touched. However, the countries must also play their part. They need to demonstrate serious political leadership in meeting the criteria set by the EU. Obviously, that will not always be easy: compromise and flexibility will be required. They will have to take steps that may prove unpopular at home, and they must also resolve outstanding bilateral differences that, if not tackled, risk becoming serious obstacles to one another's progress.

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