Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1-47)|
Rt Hon William Hague MP, Mr Simon Fraser CMG
Wednesday 8 September 2010
Chair: Foreign Secretary,
it gives me great pleasure to see you here today. This is the
first public hearing of the Committee in this Parliament, and
it is right and proper that you should be our first witness. You
are very welcome. I also extend a warm welcome on behalf of the
Committee to your new Permanent Secretary, Simon Fraser. It is
good to see him here. We have an informal meeting pencilled in
with him in a few days' time.
Mr Fraser: Tomorrow.
Yes, tomorrow afternoon. We look forward to seeing you then. I
shall open the batting, Foreign Secretary. Everyone has questions
for you, and we are scheduled for a two-hour slot. In your speech
of 1 July, you said that you returned to Front-Bench politics
five years ago "expressly to shadow Foreign Affairs and obviously
hoping to occupy the office I now hold". You were a long
time waiting for that. Has anything surprised you since you arrived
at the Foreign Office? Has anything caught you unawares?
Mr Hague: I would not say that
anything has been an astonishing surprise. Having shadowed the
post for four and a half years, you think that you get to know
the organisation to some extent from the outside. As you know,
I think, from reading that speech, it is my determination that
we place the Foreign Office back at the centre of Government;
that the Foreign Office see itself not as a small, spending Department,
but as a central, thinking Department of the Government; and that
it should have a close relationship with the Prime Minister and
should not be shut out of foreign policy decisions. That is how
we are conducting ourselves.
I suppose that, if there has been a surprise,
it is that it requires something of a cultural change. The Foreign
Office is full of brilliant people on the wholesparing
no blushesincluding those who have been away and come back.
There are a lot of well-informed people, but I think that the
habits of years, or even decadesI am not just making a
criticism of the last Government herehave induced something
of a sense of institutional timidity. That might be over-stating
it, but the Foreign Office has not been as used as I would like
it to be to being prepared to lead on all occasions within Government
and to say, "Here are the ideas. This is the expertise. This
is the knowledge that is necessary to frame foreign policy. Here
we can confidently set out what it is going to be and the internal
discussions of Government."
One of my objectives in the first few months
in office has been to instil that confidence without arrogance.
I suppose that the need to do that has been a bit of a surprise,
but on the reassuring side, so far, every time that I have found
it necessary to interview among officials in the Department to
see who is going to take on a new role, a private office and so
on, I have found that there are some really outstanding people
in the Foreign Office. I think that should be of some reassurance
for the future.
Q2 Chair: Excellent. You are,
of course, part of a coalition. To what extent have you had to
modify your approach as a result of the coalition? Have any FCO
issues been referred to the Coalition Committee, and if so, which
Mr Hague: There haven't been any
FCO issues referred to the Coalition Committee, although there
were, of course, FCO issues that had to be dealt with within our
original coalition agreement, which I took part in negotiating.
There were therefore some inevitable policy compromises. That
was certainly true in European policy, but it was not as difficult
a thing to bring about as might have been predicted a year or
two ago, because both parties in the coalition readily agreed
that there should be no further transfer of powers to the European
Union and that we should have something like the referendum Bill
that we intend to introduce later in this Session.
On some areas, however, such as the question
of trying to return powers from the EU to the UK, and whether
a sovereignty clause or sovereignty Act should be passed, we had
to say in the coalition agreement that we will return to those
issues and examine them together, and that we would have to decide
on the area of criminal justice and home affairs and the question
whether to opt in to EU measures on a case-by-case basis. So clearly
there are compromises there. On FCO-related matters, although
the nuclear deterrent is also an MOD matter, we agreed in the
coalition agreement that the Liberal Democrats should be able
Those compromises were built from the beginning
into the construction of the coalition. We haven't had to take
FCO issues to the Coalition Committee, but bear it in mind, Mr
Chairman, that a huge range of Foreign Office issues is being
discussed in the National Security Council, the creation of which
is a very important development in this Government. Senior Ministers
in the coalition are therefore discussing international relations
together on a very regular basis. Tomorrow will see the 16th meeting
of the National Security Council, so the coalition is dealing
with these issues together.
In the Foreign Office, we have a working coalition:
one of the Ministers of State is a Liberal Democrat Member, Jeremy
Browne, who is doing an absolutely superb job. We regard ourselves
as one teamthe Conservative Ministers don't meet separately
from the Liberal Democrat or anything like that. It is an integrated
team. I think that the coalition, in the case of the Foreign Office,
has so far worked very well.
Q3 Sir John Stanley: Foreign Secretary,
you have said that the UK's alliance with the US is our most important
relationship. Last week, I was in northernmost Greenland with
the NATO Parliamentary Assembly's Defence Committee at the US
base at Thule. As you well know, the radar system there is linked
with the radar system at RAF Fylingdales in your native Yorkshire.
We were briefed there on the very important upgrading of the radar
at Thule so that, in addition to carrying out its long-established
intercontinental ballistic missile identification and tracking
system function, it will be integrated with the existing operational
anti-ballistic missile system in the United States at the two
operational locations that the US has. Have the coalition Government,
since their formation, had any approaches from the US Administration
that a similar upgrading might take place at RAF Fylingdales so
that it is integrated with an ABM capability in Europe, as well
as performing its existing tracking system function for ballistic
missiles? If so, what response have the coalition Government made?
Mr Hague: I am not aware of any
approach on that since the coalition Government came in. We haven't
discussed it within the coalition Government. I can say that,
of course, on such issues we will want to work very closely with
the United States of America, as we always have. Many of these
systemsas you say, Sir Johnhave been closely integrated,
so we would listen carefully to any approach that the United States
made on that, but I am not aware of such a discussion over the
past few months.
Q4 Sir John Stanley: If you have
any supplementary information and if you choose to make any further
inquiries, you will inform the Committee in a letter, perhaps.
Mr Hague: Of course. Absolutely.
It may well be something that we have to return to in the future.
Sir John Stanley: Thank you.
Chair: Foreign Secretary, we would like
now to touch on the question of finances and how they affect the
Department. I am going to ask Mike Gapes to open the batting on
Q5 Mike Gapes: Welcome, Foreign
Secretary. Just before the general election, your predecessor,
David Miliband, got some additional funding from the Treasury
to cope with the crisis that the FCO was having in its budget
in the past financial year and for this financial year. One of
the first decisions of the coalition was to slash the additional
funds that your predecessor had got and take £55 million
out of the £6 billion cuts in-year for this year out of the
FCO's budget. One of your other predecessors, Lord Howe, was quoted
as saying that the FCO budget should be increased and a former
Permanent Secretary, Lord Kerr, said you can't wield the knife
again without losing global reach and influence. You made a speech
at the Royal United Services Institute in March where you said
that you hadn't waited thirteen years to return to office simply
to oversee the management of Britain's decline in world affairs.
Given that you are about to embark on a massive programme of spending
cuts in the comprehensive spending review, isn't that inevitably
going to have serious consequences for our footprint internationally
and our role in world affairs?
Mr Hague: I am hopingI
am not intendingto have a dramatic result on our role in
world affairs. That is always something I would always fight very
strongly to maintain, as you can see from those speeches I made
in the past and would continue to make. It is true, of course,
that we have a monumental fiscal problem in this country. We face
now a £155 billion budget deficit that all Departments have
to play their role in reducing. There is no escape from that.
Every Department has to do its utmost to tackle that. But the
backgroundjust to go back a little further than Mr Gapes'
question, Mr Chairmanis that really in the last two years
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had quite substantial reductions.
In fact, members of this Committee, and certainly your predecessors
in this Committee, are very familiar with this, because it produced
a report about the removal of thethere it isoverseas
price mechanism. This led, by the last financial year, to £140
million of unplanned reductions in FCO spending. That is quite
a large proportion£140 million may not sound a lot
in terms of overall Government budget, but the FCO itself is only
0.3% of the entire budget, and you can't control about half of
that, such as international subscriptions and peacekeeping contributions,
and large parts of it go to the BBC World Service, the British
Council and so on.
Before we'd started, the inheritance was that
the FCO's discretionary spending had already been cut by 17% in
two years under the previous Government, which meant some serious
things. It meant reductions under the previous Government in human
rights and democracy projects in Iran, Sudan, Zambia, Russia and
Central Asia. Counter-proliferation, counter-narcotics and counter-radicalisation
programmes were reduced. Support for overseas territories was
reduced, and some locally engaged staff in the United States were
required to take unpaid leave. I maintained then, and I still
maintain, that, whatever the level, it cannot make sense to fund
a Foreign Ministry of a country represented in most countries
of the world on the basis of how the exchange rate goes up and
down. It is very important to put that right. Of course, how we
put it right is wrapped up in the comprehensive spending review
now under way.
It was against that background that my predecessor
faced an emergency. The package that was put together to deal
with that was not very substantial; a lot of it involved selling
the FCO's own assets, and some of it was rather imaginary. In
the comprehensive spending review we are trying, while playing
our part in bringing down Government spending, to bear in mind
the big reduction that has already taken place and get FCO finances
on to a more planned and sustainable footing, but we have had
to find some reductions. I set out in a written ministerial statement
a few months ago some of those reductions: £18 million of
reductions in some programme areas for instance.
Q6 Mike Gapes: But given that
you've already taken £55 million on top of the context that
you've described, are you now arguing with the Chancellor and
in the comprehensive spending review process that the FCO should
take a significantly smaller budget cut than other Departments?
Mr Hague: Let me put it this way:
the Chancellor and I don't argue; we discuss these things together.
I've tried to ensure that the whole Government are conscious of
the fact that the FCO had a large unplanned reduction in spending
before we came to the comprehensive spending review. That doesn't
mean that there is nothing that can be reduced; there will be
efficiencies to be found, and I am not looking for and not planning
the substantial reduction of this country's presence around the
globe. I am sure that you, Mr Chairman, may wish to come on to
the emphasis that we are placing on commercial relations and expanding
our business and commerce around the world, but the FCO network
is an essential part of the infrastructure of this country for
Q7Mike Gapes: May I then put it to you:
is the FCO overseas network ring-fenced?
Mr Hague: No, it's not ring-fenced,
and it shouldn't be, because there will always be arguments to
close certain posts and, indeed, to open other posts. Of the,
I think, 254 FCO posts, 140 are actual sovereign posts in the
capitals of other countries. A case can sometimes be made in some
countries to say, "Well, actually, we've got several posts
and we don't need so many", or premises can be combined with
the Department for International Development or the British Council.
I think that it would be quite wrong to say, "Right, everything
we've got now is set in stone", because there will be ways
that we can do things more efficiently; there will be things that
we want to open as well in the future. I don't know whether the
Permanent Secretary wants to expand on that point about how there
is scope for adjustment here and there.
Mr Fraser: I agree that we need
to maintain a degree of flexibility in how we represent ourselves
overseas, but I think that the principle that the Foreign Secretary
has established, which is quite a long-standing principle, that
we should have global reach in the network and that we should
have a network of sovereign posts, which enables us to represent
our interests around the world, is a principle which we should
Q8 Mike Gapes: May I put this to you?
You mentioned DFID in your answer earlier. I take this from your
written response to our questions that you sent to us, in which
you said: "FCO and DFID are reviewing the FCO's ODA scoring
methodology to ensure that this work is fully captured and consistent
with the OECD's guidelines for ODA scoring." Put into non-jargon,
that means that you're raiding the DFID budget to do things that
have in the past been paid for out of the FCO budget. Is that
Mr Hague: Not in terms of raiding
anything. There is quite a proportion of FCO spending that is
categorised as overseas development spending.
Q9 Mike Gapes: How much?
Mr Hague: In the last year, £137
Q10 Mike Gapes: And you're expecting
DFID to pay that amount, which was previously paid for out of
the FCO budget?
Mr Hague: You will have to wait
for the results of the comprehensive spending review. You're trying
to anticipate, understandably and interestingly, those things,
but we will have to wait for them. That spending can be provided
for out of various different budgets. Of course, the important
thing is that it is ODA-compliant. As we look to this country
hitting the target0.7% of gross national income being ODA
spendingby 2013, which we are all strongly agreed on across
parties, it is important to recognise that part of the spending
of the Foreign Office contributes to that. Is it possible for
the Department for International Development to contribute to
that spending? Yes, it may be, and there would be nothing wrong
with that; that is overseas development spending.
Q11 Mike Gapes: So DFID is ring-fenced,
and its ring-fenced spending will be used to fund things in the
FCO budget. Is that what you're saying?
Mr Hague: I'm saying that you
have to wait for the outcome of the comprehensive spending review.
What is ring-fenced is no Department's budget; it is spending
0.7% on overseas development that is the ring-fenced objective
of the Government.
Q12 Mike Gapes: But you would
be tweaking the definitions.
Mr Hague: There is no need to
tweak any definition. Already, £137 million of FCO spending
falls in that category. Clearly, we can go into all this in much
more detail, and the Committee may want to hold a whole session
on the outcome of the comprehensive spending review when we have
it, but it would obviously be wrong or misleading of me to anticipate
Q13 Mike Gapes: I have one final
question. You are not just the Foreign Secretary; you are the
First Secretary of State, too. As such, you are on the star chamber.
Presumably, given that you are the First Secretary of State, you
have a first-among-equals status within your colleagues. Does
that put you in a difficult position to simultaneously argue a
very tough line with your colleagues and defend your Department's
position, which clearly is concerned about the financial implications
for the future of our country abroad?
Mr Hague: I have never had any
difficulty with being tough with my colleagues and defending my
corners. The serious answer is that the FCO's spending is 0.3%
of total spending. The Foreign Secretary, quite apart from the
First Secretary of State, is in a good position to serve on that
committee because the Foreign Office spending is such a tiny proportion
of Government spending as a whole.
Q14 Chair: I have one quick question,
Foreign Secretary. I think you just about touched on this matter.
You may well say that we have to wait until the review comes out,
but you've made it quite clear that you're going to expand your
effort in certain areastrade and the focus on China, India,
Brazil, Russia and the Gulf. Yet you face reductions, which means
there has to be cuts elsewhere. Are you in a position at the moment
to say exactly how you're going to square this circle?
Mr Hague: No, not in that sense,
but it is important to think of it not just in that sense, if
I may say so. Part of this is the whole Government working together.
One of my objectives is for foreign policy to run through the
veins of all the Departments. The achievement of our foreign policy
objectives, particularly in elevating key bilateral relationships
with the emerging powers and economies of the world, must take
place across the whole British Government, and therefore the achievement
of that is not just down to the resources of the FCO. I have been
to Japan, and, with the Prime Minister, to India and many of the
Gulf states. But it was the Business Secretary who went to Brazil
recently. This is to be pursued across the board; we want to elevate
links in culture, health care and education with these countries.
Quite a large proportion of the increased impact
that we want to make in those elevated bilateral relations comes
from the whole Government working together cohesively. So far,
the best illustration of that has been in the Prime Minister's
visit to India, on which he was joined by at least five Ministers
and a planeload of business people, cultural leaders and sporting
figures. That did not require the rearrangement of the Foreign
Office budget, because it is the result of properly directing
our national effort into those bilateral relationships. I cannot
exclude the possibility that it might be necessary to move resources;
if our relationship with countries such as India, Indonesia, or
Malaysia, or other emerging economies in the east, meant that
they should receive a greater share of our resources, then we
would do that.
Our prime effort is to get the whole Government
working together, which requires a huge amount of ministerial
and official energy. That is one of the reasons for the Foreign
Office now having six Ministers, whereas there were four under
the outgoing Government. We actually now have another half a Minister,
because it was announced yesterday that we will share the Trade
Minister with the Business Department. That means that Ministers
are able to travelJeremy Browne is in the air on his way
to Japan as we speakand that means that we can do more,
even without much of an enlargement of the budget for such things.
Chair: That is clear and very helpful.
Q15 Rory Stewart: Foreign Secretary,
thank you very much for coming. As you say, the Foreign Office
has, in a sense, been a victim, and not just of the exchange rate;
over probably the past 30 or 40 years, it has been increasingly
marginalised in comparison with other Government Departments and
other agendas. Now, these hugely funded Departments, such as DFID,
and the Foreign Office, looking smaller and smaller, and less
and less well funded. It may be unfair to draw such comparisons,
but the total core budget of the Foreign Office is now less than
£1 billion, and this year, we are probably spending £5
billion in Afghanistan alone on exactly the kind of war that we
employ the Foreign Office to try to prevent.
A couple of issues arise from that, and I would
love to hear your views on them. One is the effect on the morale
and identity of the Department's staff, and the second is the
effect on your estates and embassies. If you face cuts, there
are two ways in which those cuts seem to hit most acutely. First,
Foreign Office staff are already losing allowances. Their travel
packages are being affected, and they feel that their educational
packages are under threat. That will affect their morale. Secondly,
in the fight over where the money goes, there is a danger that
the embassy in Washington, for example, argues that it matters
much more than an embassy somewhere else, and fights for its turf.
We might end up closing an embassy in another capital. Not only
would there be a ripple effect in the region, but it is difficult
to re-open such embassies once we have closed it.
Mr Hague: Yes. This country gets
good value, and the spending reductions that I have spoken about
have really intensified that. France, with a budget of nearly
£4 billion, has 279 missions overseas. We have 261I
said 254 earliermissions in total overseas. We have a little
over half of France's budget with which to maintain almost the
same number of missions. To put that in starker terms, the entire
spending of the Foreign Office, including the World Service, the
British Council, international subscriptions and everything else,
is less than the spending of Kent county council. So this country
gets pretty good value for money from our overseas operations.
Linking this question to the question asked
earlier by Mr Gapes, if you closed the 40 cheapest postswe
have 261 postsyou would save only £2.5 million. That
is why, whatever we have to do with our budget, it is quite unlikely
that one would choose the option of closing dozens of posts. We
are not engaged in some large reduction of our international network.
To save a lot of money from that, you would have to close the
biggest posts, or the ones that require the most security and
protection. Clearly, a post in Kabul or Baghdad is very expensive
to run, as you in particular, Mr Stewart, will appreciate. We
would have to close those to save a lot of money on the network,
and that would be inconceivable.
I hope that that trade-off between those large
and small posts will not have to be made; it is certainly not
one I am intending to make. Closing the small missions around
the world is a false economy on the whole. That is not to say
that they cannot sometimes be rationalised or that two countries
cannot be well served together from one central point. I think
in general, however, that the reduction and withdrawal of this
country's diplomatic presencesomething that we know has
taken place in large parts of Africais a mistake. With
all these budgetary restrictions, I cannot reverse what has happened
in the past, but I am not looking at making serious further reductions
in the size of that network, and I think that it would be a major
national error to do so.
Morale has varied in the Foreign Office recently.
I cannot speak with authority about morale before the past few
months. Surveys of morale have varied considerably over the past
few years. It would be fair to say that in the Foreign Office,
as across the whole of the public sector, until spending decisions
are made there will be an anxiety about what they will entail.
I hope that we are succeeding in communicating to all the staff
of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office this sense of purposethe
sense of the central role in Government, of working with other
Departments, of intensifying relationships with emerging powers,
and of emphasising commercial aspects of diplomacy, but not at
the expense of our other commitments around the world.
We have got things humming again. That is good
for morale, and the feedback about it in the FCO is good. Wherever
possible, I speak to all the staff wherever I goWashington,
Kabul, the European capitalsand that includes small embassies
such as that in Finland, where I was the other day. I try to get
all the staff together who work in our missions overseas, and
address them all, and I explain what we are doing, because I think
that they should hear from the top of the organisation how we
are setting about it. Hopefully, that is good for morale as well.
Q16 Rory Stewart: Finally, on
staff morale, one of the things that you said in your opening
speeches as Foreign Secretary was that you were committed to investing
in area expertise and linguistic expertise. That is a change,
to some extent, in the culture of the Foreign Office. Some people
have felt over the last 10 years that you do better in the Foreign
Office if you tick certain boxes in terms of management theory
and jargon, and that the old strengths of a more academic, area-based,
language-based expertise did not help you. Are you managing to
shift that culture? Are you managing to create a culture in which
young diplomats feel that it is worth their while becoming great
experts on the politics, language and cultures of a society, rather
than becoming great management gurus?
Mr Hague: That is the objective.
We need the good management as well, by the way. It is important
not to lose the good management, and the good practice in looking
after people in a human resources sense, while trying to re-create
that geographic expertise and that deep knowledge of certain parts
of the world. Certainly, it is my objective to tilt things in
that directionto accentuate in a diplomat's career the
value of serving in a difficult place, of knowing a region of
the world with great intimacy and of the language expertise that
comes from that. Those things have to be re-accentuated, so that
the people who get to the top of the organisation 20 to 30 years
from now have come through that background.
When I was in Islamabad, I was asked by the
staff magazine a version of what you asked me earlier, Mr Chairman,
which was: what had surprised me about the Foreign Office? At
the end of a long day, I said that not everyone can spell, but
I think that that may be true across the nation. I also said that
not enough people apply for the difficult postings. We have to
allow for the fact that many people are serving difficult postings
in Kabul, or Lashkar Gah or Baghdad. Nevertheless, I would like
to see a greater readiness to apply for the other hardship postings
to build up the necessary expertise.
I should add one rider to the whole discussion
about staff morale in the Foreign Office. One reason why we get
more network for our money than France or other countries is that
67% of FCO staff are locally employed. They are not sent out from
London to work in our embassies and consulates; they are actually
local staff. This country owes an enormous amount to the local
staff, who are absolutely indispensable to our diplomatic effort.
All of us engaged in conducting our foreign affairs should always
Q17 Sir Menzies Campbell: Foreign
Secretary, I am encouraged by what you have said about not taking
an axe to existing missions. I very much hope that, in your approach
to spending considerations, we will not find ourselves forced
into asking locally engaged staff to work for a week for nothing.
That happened in our US embassy during the past 12 months, which
was a gross embarrassment to the ambassador and was certainly
of no advantage to our reputation in Washington.
So far we have talked about global reach and
influence, and there has always been an implication for value
for money. There is an institution for which you have responsibility
that demonstrates all three of those principles: it is, of course,
the World Service. By comparison with other news operations, it
has a greater reach at a lower per capita price, and some would
argue that it has a greater effect than just about any other that
might be suggested. As you know, the BBC, particularly the World
Service, understands that it has to be more prudent and to run
a tighter ship. None the less, there is some anxiety about the
consequences of that for the World Service.
Allied with that, what do you think the consequences
might be for that global reach, which you have mentioned, if the
World Service were to find itself subject to a substantial reduction
in the resources available to it?
Mr Hague: It is very important
that the World Service maintains that global reach. In opposition,
I argued that the BBC World Service and the British Council are
fundamentally important parts of Britain's presence in the world.
That is not as an arm of the statealthough some countries
critical of us would depict them as thatbecause they have
complete editorial and managerial independence. But they are a
very important part of Britain's presence in the worldof
our soft influence, as it is sometimes described, or our smart
power, as the Americans sometimes describe it. So I attach huge
importance to the World Service.
Again, we are engaged in a spending review.
As with my replies to the questions from Mr Gapes, I cannot anticipate
the outcome of the spending review now, although officials and
I will be pleased to explain that outcome in detail after it.
The review will undoubtedly affect the World Service. I don't
think that any parts of the administration of the public sector
will be completely immune from the spending review. But I stressthere
have been reports on this in one newspaper this morningthat
no decisions have been made about this. I will shortly be putting
to the World Service what I think it might achieve in contributing
to the spending review. This morning, for instance, I read that
the Burma office is to be closed. Well, there is no such thing
as the Burma office of the BBC; there is a service that is broadcast
into Burma, but that does not cost very much. As I argued about
diplomatic posts closing, that would probably not be a very good
way of saving money.
In opposition, I appeared on platforms with
Burmese human rights activists and launched books with them about
their experiences. I have been on the World Service to talk about
Burma and the importance of communicating to it. The chances that
I will sit in my office and say, "Let's close the World Service
into Burma," are correspondingly small. Any opening or closing
of a language service by the BBC World Service requires ministerial
approval. No such request has been received or considered or granted,
so I hope that is of some reassurance about the stories that are
going around at the moment about the BBC World Service.
Can the World Service make itself more efficient
and therefore contribute to the spending round? Yes I think it
can, and it thinks it can. Can we find a settlement with the World
Service that allows it to become more efficient without actually
reducing those essential services that you and I care about so
much? Let us hope that we can.
Q18 Sir Menzies Campbell: Am I
entitled to infer from that answer that if any question came up
as to whether the service to a particular country might be curtailed
or closed, you would unquestionably take account of the contribution
that service made to the understanding and the preservation of
human rights in that country?
Mr Hague: Yes, absolutely.
Q19 Sir Menzies Campbell: You
have laid great store by the advantages of what I might rather
triflingly call "economic diplomacy," and I think you
have emphasised the Commonwealth, where of course English is spoken
by and large, so perhaps the significance of the World Service
is slightly different, but what I think would concern people like
myself, and I suspect yourself to some extent, would be if the
economic ambitions were somehow to supplant the human rights responsibilities.
Mr Hague: I do not see those as
contradictory. In fact, you have heard me speak about those other
issues, and you will be glad to know, Sir Ming, that you have
only a week to wait for me to speak about the human rights issues
as well. I will give a speech a week today about how we reconcile
idealism and realism in foreign policywhich, as we know,
has always been a challenge in foreign policy throughout the ageswhile
avoiding the pitfalls of giving a single-word description of an
ethical foreign policy, which then creates so many issues in how
you apply it.
It is very important that we support our values.
Britain is not a nation that can ever have a foreign policy without
a conscience. It is part of our identity as a nation. In the late
18th centurythe period of history that I am most conversant
withit was British people who fought so hard to abolish
the slave trade, including in other countries. I hope we will
always be true to those values in Britain. Yes, we stress the
action that the Foreign Office must take to improve the security
of the nation and to advance the prosperity of the nation, but
unless we do those things, we are in no position to advance human
rights in the rest of the world.
I will be talking about that at greater length
next week, and I am sure that you have noticed that in the new
Governmentthe coalition Governmentwe have taken
important decisions about setting up an inquiry into allegations
of complicity in torture, and we have completed and published
the guidance on the treatment of detainees. I argue that as our
share of world economic output shrinks and as so many other economies
grow, and as it becomes harder and harder to impose our values
on other countries, we have to be a particularly good example
of our values to other countries. I hope that that is something
that people across all political parties in Britain can readily
There is no reduction in the attachment of this
country to human rights issues; we are very, very busy on those
issues on a daily basis. The BBC World Service will remain of
fundamental importance to this country's presence in the world.
Sir Menzies Campbell:
If I may be presumptuous, I offer you the phrase "foreign
policy with an ethical dimension" for the speech next week,
if it is not already written.
Mr Hague: I think we will try
to come up with something new.
Q20 Sir Menzies Campbell: Just
one last point: there has been some discussion about the publication
of the annual report on human rights by your Department, which
began under Robin Cook, who was, of course, the author of the
expression "foreign policy with an ethical dimension",
but which is also something that the Committee has previously
set great store by. Can we take it from your Department's response,
and your article in, I think, The Daily Telegraph, that
there will be a publicationI heard that it will appear
annuallywhich may not have as many glossy pictures, but
which will still fulfil the same responsibility as it has in the
Mr Hague: Yes is the short answer
to that. There is a longer answer, if you would like it, which
is that we are obviously looking at how to do this most cost-effectively.
We are working on something like a Command Paper to be laid before
Parliament, which will be a comprehensive look at the FCO's human
rights work each year. It will identify countries where the human
rights record is a cause of particular concern, and so it will
still fulfil the same role as the report with which we are familiar.
We will also ensure extensive reporting of our human rights activity
online, to give a more up-to-date report of what is going on around
the world. It will have both those elements, and we are looking
at the timingindeed, we would welcome the Committee's views
on the timing of the human rights report to Parliament. One option
is to present it in March from next year, covering the period
up to December each year. Any views you have on that will be gratefully
Q21 Mike Gapes:
I want to come in on this issue. The last human rights report
was published in March this year by the previous Government. Personally,
I hope you do not delay whatever you are going to publish or we
will have a big gap.
I have a specific question. You wrote an article
in The Daily Telegraph on 31 August on human rights, and
you listed a number of countries which, under the previous Government,
were called "countries of concern". Your article, however,
did not mention one that our Committee was keen for the previous
Government to add to their list of countries of concern, which
they did in the last reportthat country was Sri Lanka.
Given the new emphasis on trade and the new emphasis on business
connections, have you made any representations about the fact
that 30,000 people are still detained in camps in Sri Lanka, following
the end of the conflict in 2009? What representations have you
made to the Sri Lankan Government recently?
Mr Hague: The Sri Lankan Foreign
Minister will be visiting in the not-too-distant future, and that
will be a meeting where we have to discuss all these things. The
new Government's position on this is very much the same as the
last Government's, where there was cross-party agreement on the
issue. Never mind anything we have been doing in government; in
opposition before the election, I also stressed our strong concerns
to the Sri Lankan Government and, to go directly to your point
on how you strike the balance between human rights and trade,
the impact that this has on potential trade agreements between
the European Union and Sri Lanka. There is no change in policy.
The Government continue to make strong representations, and I
will raise the issue you have mentioned and others with the Sri
Lankan Foreign Minister when he comes to London.
Q22 Sir John Stanley: Foreign
Secretary, in your response to one of the questions from Sir Ming,
you referred to the coalition Government's welcome decision to
carry out an inquiry as to whether there has been any complicit
involvement by British officials in torture. Will you tell the
Committee whether the scope for this inquiry will extend to the
allegations that those who were subject to torture took US flights
through the British Indian Ocean Territory at Diego Garcia?
Mr Hague: The inquiry can
look at any issue it wishes to, and I do not think it is barred
from doing so. The previous Government made some frank disclosures
to Parliament about those flights through Diego Garcia. I have
not seen anything that would lead us to need to add to that in
any way. As far as I am aware, what was declared by the previous
Government is the current position, which I questioned them aboutas
did members of the Committee. The work of the inquiry is primarily
focused on allegations of complicity in torture, but I do not
think we prohibit it from taking its work more widely, if it wishes
to do so.
Chair: Now we move on from finance and
human rights to Afghanistan.
Q23 Mr Baron: Foreign Secretary,
thank you for joining us today. Perhaps, in all fairness, I should
declare an interest; as the Foreign Secretary is probably aware,
I have been a sceptic from the start about our involvement in
Afghanistan. I feel that we underestimated the mission, and certainly,
it was under-resourced. We have had a series of errors since,
including over-optimistic scenarios. My chief concern at the moment
is over what still appear to be mixed messages with regard to
the purpose, and I wonder if I could just question you on that
a little bit. For examplewe have seen this quite recentlylast
year, the then Prime Minister was saying on the one hand that
our troops were in Afghanistan to keep the streets of London or
of the UK safe from terrorism, or to reduce the threat of terrorism,
yet in almost the next sentence he was threatening President Karzai
with troop withdrawal if he did not clean up his act. Those two
statements do not stand well next to each other. I would suggest
that if the purpose is to deny al-Qaeda a base from which to operate
and pose a threat to the streets not only of this country but
of our allies, it seems a little bit incoherent that we have set
a deadline of 2015. If the objective is as stated, surely we should
stay there until we have achieved that objective rather than putting
in an arbitrary timetable. Do you see any contradiction in that
Mr Hague: No, I think that what
the Prime Minister said about 2015 is absolutely right. Let me
just say in passing, while coming back to that, that what I agree
with in Mr Baron's question is that it is important to set expectations
correctlynot to raise false hopes of progress so rapid
that it cannot be fulfilled. That mistake has been made quite
often in the past.
I think really the right tone here, which I
tried to set in the statement that I made to the House at the
end of July after the Kabul conference, is that this remains a
phenomenally difficult challenge. The British people, the troops,
the soldiers, the marines, the other members of the services,
the aid workers and the diplomats are doing an extraordinary job,
but it remains a phenomenally difficult assignment. One is reminded
of that every time we visit there, and so it is very important
to guard against over-optimism. It discredits our efforts if we
make predictions that do not come true. As you can probably see
from the way we have conducted this over the last few months,
we have tried to avoid predictions that so many provinces will
be handed over by such and such a date. We have not got into that
kind of language, and we will have to look at all that with the
NATO summit coming up this autumn with the other NATO nations.
Equally, it is very important not to listen
only to the bad news. We tend to see Afghanistan through the prism
of Helmand in this countryunderstandably, because that
is where our forces are deployed, and normally that is where we
visit as Ministers. A few weeks ago, however, I went to Herat
in the west of Afghanistan near the border with Iran, and saw
a completely different picture. It was not a universally rosy
picture, but it was a very different one from Helmand. I was able
to talk to students in the university, and there were 400 factories
near the airfield turning out goods that are the normal goods
of a developing countrymaking motorbikes or whatever it
was they may have been making. Then you see a different perspective
I think some genuine progress is being made
in the capability of Afghans to govern themselveswe saw
that at the Kabul conference. The military efforts now under way
are certainly making progress, and we have seen that as Ministers
visiting. We have been to places in which you could not have walked
around safely a year or so ago. It is now very important, as the
Prime Minister has often stressed, that a political process takes
place as wellthat it is possible for it to take place as
wellbecause nobody thinks that there is a military-only
solution to the situation in Afghanistan.
That brings usby a roundabout route,
I admitto your question, Mr Baron. That is the background,
as I see it; is it right, then, to say that by 2015 our forces
will not be engaged in military operations or will not be there
in the same numbers? I think it is, because by thenif we
are still there thenwe will have been engaged there for
a much longer period than the whole of the Second World War. It
is consistent with the internationally agreed position, reinforced
at the Kabul conference, that the Afghan National Security Forces
should lead and conduct military operations in all provinces by
the end of 2014. On the current trajectory, the building up of
the Afghan National Army is even slightly ahead of scheduleat
least in numbers.
On the current trajectory, the building up of the
Afghan National Army is even slightly ahead of schedule, at least
in numbers. Of course, it still requires the training, the quality,
the equipment and so on. What we and the Prime Minister have said
is consistent with that.
It is important for Afghans to know that while
we are making this immense effort, which has cost so many British
lives already, there will come a point when they have to be able
to look after their own affairs. What we have said about 2015
is consistent with that and can therefore contribute to improving
the situation and making sure that Afghans take responsibility.
But that time is sufficiently distantit is still five years
from now. It in no way undermines the military effort that is
taking place today.
Q24 Mr Baron: You have to understand
my scepticism, Foreign Secretary, because as you rightly pointed
out, we have had a series of over-optimistic scenarios painted.
I do not know whether the Afghan forces are going to be ready
to take on the fight or the situation that they have been asked
to take on by 2014. Therefore, that brings us back to whether
the main priority is, as is stated, to deny al-Qaeda its training
camps, or to deny it the use of Afghanistan as a base. If that
is the case, perhaps there is an inconsistency in having a timetable,
because we simply do not know whether we will have succeeded by
2014 or 2015. Let me put it another way: are you absolutely clear
and will you stand by the statement that if we do not achieve
our objective by 2015, we will withdraw regardless?
Mr Hague: I do not want anyone
to be in any doubt about this: we will be fulfilling the Prime
Minister's commitment by 2015. The Prime Minister is very clear
that by 2015 British troops will not be in Afghanistan in a combat
role, nor in the numbers that are there now.
Mr Baron: Regardless
of whether we have achieved the objective?
Mr Hague: Unless we are clear
about it, we are not credible about it. We are very clear about
it. Of course there could be some troops in a training role and
as part of wider diplomatic relations in the longer term, as we
have in other countries, but we do not want to be fighting in
Afghanistan for a day longer than is necessary.
I fully understand the scepticism and it is
a wholly legitimate question. On Afghanistan, there have been
so many difficult judgments for our predecessors to make, as well
as for us, that we should never deride any different point of
view. It is entirely understandable that there is some scepticism,
but we think that it is right to say that by that time we will
have been applying ourselves to this for 50% longer than we applied
ourselves to the Second World War.
The whole effort of British forces in Afghanistan
will be in partnership with Afghan forces. The allies whom we
have been working alongside, who will be closely partnered with
our forces over the next few months and years, are entitled to
expect that they will be able to take on that burden themselves
by that time.
Q25 Mr Baron: May I move us on to the
military situation? The conflict is described in counter-insurgency
terms, probably quite rightly, but I suggest that the victory
against the Taliban is as far off as ever. We have had problems
in the past about troop density levels in Helmand, which was illustrated
by the American surge of marines, with tens of thousand of troops
going in. We have had equipment issues such as lack of helicopters,
but history suggests that if you are going to fight a successful
counter-insurgency war or campaign, you need certain preconditions
in place: control of your borders; a broadly sympathetic population
standing behind you, helped by a credible Government; and a good
ratio of troops to the local population. I suggestI am
being devil's advocatethat we do not have those in Afghanistan,
so what makes you think that we are going to win this counter-insurgency
Mr Hague: I must stress that I
do not think that any of us in the Government would argue that
there is a purely military solution to our problems in Afghanistan.
There is no moment when we will say, "Right, we've won everything,"
in the sense of winning the Second World War. At some point, the
military effort produces a country where the writ of the Afghan
Government runs in the vast majority of that country or where
that effort is superseded by partial or substantial political
settlement, as a result of a political process.
What makes us think that we can make some progress
now, was the thrust of your question. It is only very recently
that all the necessary elements of the campaign have come together.
Despite the fact that western forces have been there since 2001,
it is only really now that the necessary number of forces are
deployed in Afghanistanas General Petraeus has recently
been making clearand that we have the necessary proportion
and amounts of development aid.
As you know, one of the announcements of the
new Government has been a 40% increase in development aid going
to Afghanistan. It is only now that we have an economic process
that is owned and thought out by the Afghans themselves and the
Afghan Government in Kabul. All these things have come together
in recent times. I am not being starry-eyed about it, because
I maintain the tone that I was talking about a few moments ago.
This remains a phenomenally difficult problem. It is the single
most difficult problemthe most preoccupying problemthat
we face in international affairs, but we now have the finest military
minds, the good military plan, the necessary quantities of development
aid, the experience of provincial reconstruction and the motivated
Ministers and key Ministers in Afghanistan to have the best chance
for success that it is possible to put together.
It is right to maintain the effort to succeed
because the consequences of abandoning that effort now would be
extremely serious for Afghanistan, for Pakistan and ultimately
for our own national security.
Q26 Mr Baron: May we put the military
situation briefly to one side? I agree 100% with what you say;
there cannot just be a military solution. The military buy time,
and it has to be politicians who try to get to the solution. I
put it to the Foreign Secretary that I doubt whether we are winning
the hearts and minds or the campaign. The US Department of Defence
submission to Congress clearly said that the most lethal weapon
the Taliban have is their propaganda machine. There is a discredited
Government, and economically it pays to sign up to the Taliban.
If you look at the latest pay scales and so forth, you can earn
more money in the Taliban than is earned from the average salary
across the countryso the figures tell us.
Recent surveys have suggested that increasing
numbers of Afghans are becoming disillusioned with the direction
that Afghanistan is taking. What is your assessment of the hearts-and-minds
situation, Foreign Secretary? It does not feel on the ground that
we are winning that either. That is an essential component if
we are to achieve any sort of success in the country.
Mr Hague: It is very hard to generalise.
There are surveys, although opinion surveys in a country like
Afghanistan are quite difficult to conduct on a scientific basis.
Among the other things you have mentioned, they have shown that
the majority of people do not want ISAF to leave Afghanistan,
so surveys can lead to a contradictory conclusion. That certainly
does not suggest that they want us to end our campaign.
My experience of meeting people in Afghanistan
was in some of the most difficult areas in parts of Helmand. I
walked around, meeting people in the bazaar in Nad Ali a couple
of months ago. Those areas have been made more secure and, while
local people can see roads being built and health care being improved,
their hearts and minds are certainly behind the effort that we
are putting into Afghanistan.
We are coming up to parliamentary elections
in Afghanistan on 18 September. I do not want to raise any hopes
or expectations given what has happened in previous elections,
but we will undoubtedly see vast numbers of people wanting to
take part in a process about the future of their country, which
they would not be able to do in a Taliban country. It would be
wrong to leap to the conclusion that the local population do not
want us there. Do we still have many problems, such as too many
people working with the Taliban? Of course we do, but I think
that quite a bit of progress has been made in recent times. I
do not think that the people of Afghanistan want us to leave.
Chair: I say to colleagues that we have
a lot of work to get through, so will they keep the questions
Q27 Rory Stewart: Very quickly,
Foreign Secretary. A lot of the time we have been talking about
a political strategy, which has been the sort of holy grail in
Afghanistan. Obviously, there have been a lot of obstacles to
it: sometimes, the Afghan Government do not seem to be fully behind
it; the Taliban are fragmented and elusive; and sometimes the
Government of the United States do not seem to be very interested.
But if we could get those things on side and if we could push
ahead with this thing, what is it? What does a political strategy
look like? Who do you talk to? What do you talk to them about?
How do you talk to them? What are you offering?
Mr Hague: This has to be an Afghan-led
process, of course. A process of reconciliation must be Afghan-led,
and President Karzai received the support of the peace jirga at
the beginning of June to undertake that process. I don't think
it would be right to sit here in London and lay down, "Here
are the people we have to talk to and this is the deal that you
have to talk about with those who you can deal with, and clearly,
there will be others who you can't possibly deal with." I
don't think that it is possible for us to do that, and even if
we could, it would certainly not be possible to announce it all
in public to any forum.
It has to be an Afghan-led political reconciliation
process. That is something that the Prime Minister and other Ministers
and I have discussed several times with President Karzai. I think
that he is committed to such a process. He has Ministers around
him who are also committed to it. They have gone to great lengths
in the politics of their own country over the past few months
to make sure that they have the authority to do that. They reaffirmed
that at the Kabul conference at the end of July. They have to
be in the driving seat of that process.
Q28 Sir Menzies Campbell: Foreign
Secretary, you gave a very clear answer to Mr Baron's question
about 2015. Do I take it that the position you have outlined is
the position of the coalition Government and that it will be the
position at that date irrespective of the position of the United
Mr Hague: This is the United Kingdom
position, yes. It is our sovereign right to set out our position,
and we will maintain it.
Sir Menzies Campbell: So the answer is
Mr Hague: The answer is the one
that I gave, yes.
Sir Menzies Campbell: For the avoidance
Q29 Mr Watts: Foreign Secretary,
what is the benefit of the 2015 figure? Bearing in mind that there
is cross-party general support for the concept that, as soon as
the Afghan nation is able to look after itself, we will withdraw,
what's the advantage that you see of 2015? It seems to some people
that that tells the Taliban and so on that, if they stay until
2015, the West will have lost its will to defend itself and they
will be able to go back to normal business.
Mr Hague: Well, remember that
2015 is still some way away. It is very important to have that
sense of perspective about it. It is further away than the initial
deployment of our troops in Helmand is back, so we are still talking
about a very long military commitment. Let's not minimise that
in any way.
What is the benefit of it? The benefit is that
we must be clear with the leaders and the people of Afghanistan
that it is absolutely crucial for their future that they are able
to look after their own affairs and security, and that it is not
possible for the United Kingdom or, I think, other countries to
take on ourselves the burden of their security indefinitely. We
are there until it is possible for them to manage their own security
and affairs without presenting a danger to the rest of the world.
Of course, we have every right to expect it to be in that period,
so I think it intensifies the pressure for the targets for the
Afghan National Security Forces to be met by 2014 and to be met
along the way. We don't want anyone to think that, for decades,
it is possible for British forces to be deployed in this way.
Q30 Sir John Stanley: Foreign
Secretary, I am sure that you would agree that, to achieve success
in Afghanistan, we have to provide a reasonable degree of security
across the whole of that country. I am sure that you would also
agree that an absolutely fundamental aspect of that is effective
cross-border security co-operation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Do you agree that that critical cross-border security co-operation
still has a long way to go? Do you see any prospects of achieving
the sort of ultimately intense and successful cross-border co-operation,
which we achieved across the border between Northern Ireland and
the Republic of Ireland before we got a final settlement there?
Do you see any chance of achieving that degree of cross-border
security co-operation between Afghanistan and Pakistan?
Mr Hague: Well, I see a good chance
of that improving. It is a very, very difficult border to police,
as you know. Geographically, it could not have been designed to
be more difficult; it's much more difficult than the border between
Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. But I think the
good sign hereagain, I don't want to exaggerate anything
or raise any expectations too faris that the co-operation
between the Governments and the militaries of Afghanistan and
Pakistan has improved in recent times. Certainly, that is the
feedback we have had from both sides of the border; I have heard
that from General Kayani himself, the head of the Pakistani armed
forces. So there is an improvement taking place in those relationships,
which facilitates the co-operation. But let us be frank: to effectively
police that particular frontier is in itself one of the most difficult
tasks in the world.
Chair: That completes the questions on
Afghanistan. Andrew Rosindell is going to ask you about the overseas
Mr Hague: What a surprise!
Q31 Andrew Rosindell: Good afternoon,
Foreign Secretary. It is a pleasure to see you here today. You
will of course be aware that the United Kingdom retains sovereignty
over up to 16 territories spanning the globe, from the Rock of
Gibraltar down to the Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific; from
the British Indian Ocean Territory all the way down to the South
Atlantic Falkland Islands. These are 16 Territories for which
we have responsibility, the people of which have shown tremendous
loyalty to the Crown over many, many years. I believe, in recent
years, that they have felt disappointed and let down by the apparent
neglect by our own Government here in London.
I would like to make three points. First, would
you tell us what the new Government's position is regarding the
British overseas territories? Will there be a new, more positive
approach that will bring the territories closer to Britain and
make them feel British? At the moment, many of them wonder why
they remain under Britain. Secondly, if they are British Overseas
Territories, why are they under the Foreign Office? Finally, will
you give us a reassurance that under this coalition Government,
there will never again be a return to the colonial attitude of
the Government of Mr Blair in 2002? They sought to impose a joint
sovereignty deal on the people of Gibraltar without even consulting
the people of that territory, even though the people there had
previously voted 99% against being annexed by Spain.
Mr Hague: I also feel strongly
about the three pointsit is hard to feel more strongly
than Mr Rosindell does, but I feel very strongly about them. I
think there should be a clear strategy in this country for the
Overseas Territories. I think we should be able to assist them
in their economic development. You can see the evidence of a change
in approach under the new Government. For instance, the Department
for International Development has made its announcement about
the airport at St Helena.
I think we have a responsibility to ensure the
security and good governance of the Overseas Territories, as well
as to support their economic well-being. They can create substantial
challenges for the United Kingdom in many different ways, and
we must recognise that. The predecessor to this Committee has
looked in detail at some of those challenges. We need to manage
those risks quite carefully, but I think we've moved quickly in
the past few months to tackle certain problems. I have mentioned
St Helena. There have been fiscal crises in some of the Caribbean
territories, and a very severe problem in the Turks and Caicos
Islands, as we know. Again, the Department for International Development
has made a £10 million loan to help them through the past
few months. Our Governor there is working very hard on those problems.
I have commissioned a review of our overall
approach to the Overseas Territories. That review is not yet complete,
but we look forward to discussing it with the Committee in future
months. I've put in charge of that policy Henry Bellinghamyou've
had discussions with himwho is a Minister with great enthusiasm
for putting some real purpose into our policy towards the Overseas
Territories. That is the overall position. Why are they in the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office? Well, I think it might be a diversion
of your effort to campaign to put them in the Home Office. We
are clearly doing our best in the Foreign Office to give leadership
on this, and remember, we're not the same as France; we don't
regard our overseas territories as parts of the home state. They
do not have representatives in our national legislature, so they
are in a different position. I think that the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office is the appropriate home, but we'll try to show over the
coming years that we deserve that role.
On Gibraltar, as I'm sure you will have heard
me say in the past, there will be no change in the position of
Gibraltar and the people of Gibraltar without the consent of the
people of Gibraltar.
Q32 Andrew Rosindell: If I could
make one remark, Foreign Secretary, the Crown Dependencies have
a different constitutional status; they are under the Ministry
of Justice. Maybe you would like to look at why they are treated
differently, because that may help to assess why the Overseas
Territories remain under the Foreign Office, yet the Crown dependencies
remain under a domestic Department.
May I ask two very brief questions specifically
on two particular Territories? I recently visited the Turks and
Caicos Islands and there is a near state of emergency in the eyes
of the public there. Will the British Government look at the situation
there, which is on the brink, and take urgent and, I hope, immediate
action to support the Governor and to work with the people over
there to restore law and order, deal with the illegal immigration
and bring back democracy as fast as is practicable?
Secondly, referring to human rights, could you
tell us what your view is on the human rights of the people of
the Chagos Islands, who were ejected from their homeland in the
1960s? Would it not be an enormously significant gesture if the
new Conservative Government were to reverse the decision of the
then Labour Government and allow those people to return, in a
limited way, to their homeland, which is what they rightly deserve?
Mr Hague: Two huge issues there.
Let me try to deal with them as briefly as possible. In the case
of the Turks and Caicos Islands, a lot of work is going on. The
Governor, as you know, is working very hard. The FCO has committed
about £3 million over two years to supporting the Governor
to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry.
There are some UK-recruited advisers in place, and we will keep
under review whether we need to add to those. When the ministerial
Government were suspendedand suspended quite rightlyby
the previous Government, the UK said that it would be for two
years but the period could be shortened or lengthened, so that
has to be kept under review.
You mentioned democracy, and it is important
to allow the Turks and Caicos islanders to express their views.
We have a constitutional electoral reform adviser there, who has
held a series of public meetings, following which she published
her report for further comment. She is now conducting further
public meetings in the islands, and all of them are broadcast
live on TV and radio. She will meet the Advisory Council on the
Consultative Forum later this month. We are doing what we can
to ensure that there is genuine consultation with the people of
the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Will it be necessary to give additional assistance?
It may well be. As I mentioned, the Department for International
Development has already provided a loan of £10 million released
to them in three tranches in June, July and August. They are now
facing another shortfall at the end of September, so we'll have
to decide with DFID, or DFID will have to decide, how to deal
with that. To add to the point I made about the timetable on this:
we have the flexibility to hold elections later, if necessary.
I think that this Committee in the previous ParliamentMr
Gapes has the report thereexpressed concerns that the necessary
reforms will not be well embedded by July 2011 and that former
Ministers could be re-elected and resume allegedly corrupt activities,
so we will be on our guard for that and ready to change the timetable
if necessary. I am not sure if that answers all the questions
about the Turks and Caicos Islands. Did the permanent secretary
want to add anything about them?
Mr Fraser: No.
Mr Hague: On the question of the
Chagos Islandsthis question could of course take up several
hours, which we clearly don't haveI am looking at this
in great detail. It is one of those long-standing, frustrating
issuesa great parliamentary cause. I feel that it is necessary,
if I am going to be absolutely confident of our policy on the
British Indian Ocean Territory, that I have looked into it personally,
in detail. I was holding a meeting in the Foreign Office earlier
this week about this. I have to say that, when you go into it
in detail, it is quite hard to hold out the prospect of a fundamental
change of policy, so I do not want to raise any hopes of that.
Of course, on the question of human rights there is a European
Court of Human Rights case going on at the moment, so it would
be wrong of me to get into the details of that now. But it is
important to recognise that we have a treaty with the United States.
Yes, it was entered into by a previous Government, a Labour Government,
but it nevertheless was entered into. That lasts for 50 years,
renewable for 20 years.
The outer islands of the Chagos Archipelago
are really what is under discussionwhether people could
return to those. There was a feasibility study in 2002 that concluded
that it wasn't really feasible. It is important to recognise that
those are atolls. Very little of that land is more than 1 metre
above sea level. It is hundreds of milesI think they are
knocking on for 1,000 milesfrom any other settlements,
so making settlements viable in such a place, particularly given
the possible pressures of climate change on sea levels, is a very
daunting prospect. An initial detailed look on my part has really
brought that sobering realisation to me that, however much it
is nice to have an almost romanticised idea that it would be possible
for islanders to return to where they were removed from decades
ago, in practical terms that is a really difficult proposition.
However, we continue to look at this policy. I am continuing to
examine it in detail, as is, again, the responsible Minister,
Henry Bellingham. But in the light of what I have seen so far,
we will be maintaining the position that we have taken on proceedings
in the European Court.
Chair: Thank you very much. Can I move
on now, Foreign Secretary? Later this year we are doing a report
entitled, "The Role of the FCO". We are waiting for
the spending review to come out and the strategic defence review.
There is a NATO summit coming as well. However, as you will hear,
we want to get some questions in early. These are a bit more thematic
now, and Emma is going to lead off.
Q33 Emma Reynolds: Foreign Secretary,
over the past few months you have made several major foreign policy
speeches, which I have read with great interest. In one such speech
you said, "although the world has become more and more multilateral
has also become more bilateral". However, you have also said
recently that you were determined to "give due weight to
Britain's membership of
How do you assess the risk that strong but uncoordinated bilateral
relationships between member states and countries outside of the
European Union might, in fact, weaken multilateral frameworks,
such as the European Union. In a multi-polar world, where the
role of the European Union is surely a way of increasing our weight
rather than decreasing it, are you in danger of underestimating
the impact that our role in the European Union can have?
Mr Hague: Well, I hope not. We
have made it very clear that we want to see the European Union
use its collective weight in the world effectively. Indeed, a
lot of my time so far as Foreign Secretary has been spent doing
that. I think one of the most important things we have done in
the EU in the past few months was the sanctions package that we
agreed at the end of July at the Foreign Affairs Council on Iran,
which went beyond what was passed at the UN Security Council in
resolution 1929, and which has made quite an impact. It has been
quite a surprise to the Iranian leadership. It has certainly delighted
our allies around the world that Europe was able to agree a strong
sanction, a really meaningful sanctions package. We, and I personally,
put a lot of effort into that.
Another example would be the Western Balkans.
Most of my time in recent days, in a diplomatic sense, has been
spent on Western Balkans issues. We are trying to ensure that
we are able to facilitate a process in which Serbia and Kosovo
are able to speak together. We have been trying, in common with
my colleagues in France and Germany and with Cathy Ashton, to
make sure that there is an agreed EU approach to the whole of
that, because when all 27 countries of the EU come together and
say, "This is the way to have a process of dialogue between
Serbia and Kosovo," that maximises the chances of Serbia
agreeing to that. So I don't want you to think in any way that
we're not playing our role in the EU using its collective weight
in the world.
However, I think it's very important to point
out that that cannot deal with all of our requirements around
the world. The European Union doesn't agree on every subject of
foreign policy, and European nations all have their own commercial
and economic priorities. It's important for Britain to retain
our own capability to advance those on our own behalf. It may
be that the European Union can work together collectively on strengthening
our relationships with China, India, Brazil and so on, and that
is one of the things we think the EU should do, but it's vital
that Britain is able to make those bilateral links.
As I argued in the speech I made at the beginning
of July, we are in a networked world. It's not just relations
between states; it's not just that it's become a multi-polar world
where you must have good working relations with countries that
are not in any particular bloc. They have to be good bilateral
relations, and they're not just government-to-government relations.
They are relations of civil society, of education, culture, sport
etcetera. That's why, on top of participating fully and enthusiastically
in multilateral organisations, playing a big role in the G20 and
so on, it's also crucial for Britain to be intensifying our links
with the fastest-growing economies of the world. If we don't do
so, others will. France and Germany will not shrink from doing
so; it's very important that Britain is able to do so in our own
right, as well as working on so many international issues with
our European partners.
Sorry, this is another long explanation of things.
This means that our multilateral and our bilateral priorities
are not in conflict, but relying solely on thinking that the world
is simply progressing to a more multilateral structure would be
a mistake. No one is going to protect us to a greater extent if
we don't protect ourselves, and no one is going to secure our
prosperity for us unless we actually go out and secure the jobs
and contracts for British firms. So it's crucial to have that
bilateral commitment and that intensification of relations with
the emerging powers as well as to do all that multilateral work.
Q34 Emma Reynolds: Can I ask you
about competing bilateral relations, especially in areas of the
world that are particularly sensitive? The Prime Minister recently
stated in India that Pakistan was facing both ways on terrorism,
and in Turkey he stated that Gaza was a prison camp. Isn't there
a risk? In some areas, he was greeted with plaudits by saying
it was a frank and open diplomacy. My view is that the main point
of diplomacy is the consequences and what you achieve, and the
objectives that you are pursuing. Which were the positive objectives
that the Prime Minister was pursuing in these cases, or were they
simply off-the-cuff remarks? What are the risks of pronouncing
about another country when you're in a neighbouring country which
is quite sensitive?
Mr Hague: In the modern world,
it's very hard to be so rigid that as you go around the world,
you never say anything about any other countries in the world.
Emma Reynolds: I'm not suggesting that,
Mr Hague: You're asked about these
things all the time. Our view on Gaza, which I think is a cross-party
view in our Parliament, is that it's vital to open up more for
larger quantities of goods to be able to get in there, and indeed
out of there. I think that is well known and the Prime Minister
was stating that view.
On India and Pakistan, let me put it in this
context: we have clearly set out the ambition of an "enhanced
partnership" with Indiathose were the words in the
Queen's Speech. What necessarily goes along with that is a strategic
relationship with Pakistan. Those two things go naturally together;
otherwise, we make the position of Pakistan more difficult. I
think that Pakistan understands that very well. Yes, it is true
that one or two people in Pakistan did not react well to what
the Prime Minister said. But it is also truelet me underline
thisthat, after the Prime Minister met President Zardari
and they had a discussion about those remarks, and after the immense
UK contribution to the disastrous floods we have just seen in
Pakistan, the co-operation between the Government of Pakistan
and our Government is very, very strong. And the appreciation
in Pakistan for Britain's friendship and commitment to Pakistan
is very strong, and that is how it must be.
Q35 Emma Reynolds: But didn't
his previous comments make that relationship and that meeting
when President Zardari was in the UK more difficult? Did the Prime
Minister seek your advice before using those words? My interpretation
of the situation is that one of the effects was that he may well
have weakened President Zardari's hand in his own country, which
is the last thing we want to do.
Mr Hague: No, not at all. I wouldn't
give that interpretation to ityou won't be surprised to
hear that. Do we all talk to each other and advise each other?
Yes, indeed, it is a characteristic of this Government that the
principal adviser to the Prime Minister on foreign policy is the
Foreign Secretary. That has not always been the case in Governments
of various complexions over the years. The Prime Minister was
making the point that there is more work to be done on tackling
terrorism, including in Pakistan, which is absolutely true. There
is no ongoing interruption of the work and the co-operation that
we have with the Pakistani intelligence services. There were one
or two dramatic headlines at the time.
Q36 Emma Reynolds: A delegation
was supposed to come to the UK.
Mr Hague: A delegation has been
to the UK. Relations are in good shape between the UK and Pakistan.
You give me the opportunity to re-emphasise that we must communicate
to the people of Pakistan, not just the Government, that we are
interested in Pakistan not just because there are threats to our
national security that emanate from Pakistanalthough clearly,
there have beenbut that we need that long-term relationship
with the people of Pakistan; that we regard the role that more
than 1 million British Pakistanis play in that relationship as
a positive thing; and that we are there for the long term to work
with them. That is why we have substantially increased the development
budget for Pakistan.
We have really led the way on the reaction to
the floods. Hillary Clinton told me on the telephone last week
that she really recognised British leadership in the response
to the floods in Pakistan. We are second only to the United States
in the contribution that we have made, and British peoplenever
mind the Governmenthave made a great contribution. It is
very important that that is followed up. I went to Pakistan for
three days at the end of June and spent a lot of time doing television
programmes and radio interviews in Pakistan to try to communicate
to the people of Pakistan, not just to Ministers, the commitment
Emma Reynolds: Thank you.
Q37 Mr Roy: Can I go back to that?
Wouldn't it have been more effective for the Prime Minister to
speak about the Pakistan security services in Pakistan, rather
than wait until he was in India? Wouldn't it have been better
and more effective if he had spoken about the prison camp that
is Gaza when he was in Israel, as opposed to in some other country?
Mr Hague: He will be going to
those places, too, so stand by for him addressing the issues in
those countries. As I say, I think it would be wrong to be critical
of talking about international affairs in general when travelling
the world. Inevitably, in interviews, you do that. I think that
what the Prime Minister said on those occasions was absolutely
right. Let me put both things that you raise in perspective. I
have mentioned how closely we are working with Pakistan on the
floods and in many other ways and also with Israel. In the run-up
to the direct talks that started last week between Israel and
the Palestinians, our Prime Minister played an important role,
talking to Mr Netanyahu and urging President Abbas to enter the
talks. We are able to have those discussions with Israel notwithstanding
anything we may have said about Gaza. I think countries understand
that we will not always agree on every topic. Sometimes they say
things about the United Kingdom and sometimes we say things about
them. Actually what we have in the case of Israel and Pakistan,
despite there being, for obvious reasons, tensions in both relationships,
is close co-operation when it counts.
Q38 Mr Roy: I want to move on,
Foreign Secretary, to your earlier remarks in relation to the
National Security Council. You said that it had met 16 times.
What has been achieved so far?
Mr Hague: A good deal. First,
we have clarified our position on Afghanistan, and you have been
asking me about some of that clarity today. We have made sure
that Ministers work cohesively together where we have our troops
deployed to such an extent in Afghanistan. I think that on that
and on many other subjects, Departments of State are working together
more successfully than has sometimes been the case in the past.
The purpose of the National Security Council is not to create
a new Department. It is to make existing Departments work well
On the issue of the Pakistan floods, DFID has
done a terrific job. At the same time, the Deputy Prime Minister
has been there and added to our diplomatic effort and seen for
himself the situation on the ground. I have been playing my role
and asking other European countries to contribute more. It is
a cohesive effort on all issues of international relations. I
think that the National Security Council makes that much, much
easier to achieve.
Perhaps I will mention a couple of other attributes.
It means that we have a common sense of our ambition in the world.
I have been talking about intensifying the relations with emerging
powers and economies in the world. Having the National Security
Council helps to make sure that we have that same sense of what
we are achieving together, but foreign policy runs through the
veins of the other Departments of State. Foreign policy is not
just something for the Foreign Office; it is something for the
whole Government to pursue. The National Security Council really
helps to achieve that. It means that the advice coming to the
Prime Minister about foreign affairs issues comes through the
national security adviserin this case Sir Peter Ricketts
who was the Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Officeand
it comes to the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary as
well, so we are thinking about these things together.
Finally, it means that in one of the most important
pieces of work that we are undertaking as a Government, at the
strategic defence and security review that is under way at the
moment, we have at the National Security Council the key members
of the Government, the heads of the intelligence agencies and
the Chief of the Defence Staff able to work together and used
to working together in making these really important decisions
together. So it provides a framework for all of those things,
and so far, it has been a success.
Q39 Mr Roy: Maybe I'm wrong, but
is there not a kind of dilution of responsibility moving from
the Foreign Office towards No.10 and the Cabinet Office by its
Mr Hague: No, not at all. We have
a Prime Minister who strongly believes, thankfully, that the Foreign
Office should have its proper role in Government. It does mean
that the Foreign Office has to step up to the mark. If we say
that we are going to lead the thinking and that foreign policy
is going to flow through the veins of the whole Government, it
means that the ideas and expertise have to flow from the Foreign
Office into the National Security Council. I am confident that
that is what is happening, or what is beginning to happen. If
anything, there has been an entirely proper move the other way.
For instance, we have formed not just the National Security Council
but the European Affairs Committee of the Cabinet, which I chair.
So it is the Foreign Secretary who now chairs the decisions across
Government about European policy and the trade-offs between one
Department or negotiation with another. We have a joint secretariat
of the Foreign Office and the Cabinet Office servicing that committee.
The Foreign Office is institutionally much more back in its proper
place in government as a result of the changes we've made so far.
Q40 Mr Roy: For those 16 meetings,
they are all advantages that you have just explained. What disadvantages
have you come across? What are the teething problems, because
obviously it is a whole new concept?
Mr Hague: I wouldn't go so far
as to say that there aren't disadvantages. It means that there
are a lot of meetings, and we all have lots of meetings to go
to, but they couldn't be more important meetings. I'm going to
end up giving you another advantage because I can't think of a
disadvantage. It means that the senior members of the Government
concerned with development, energy, home security, foreign affairs
and defence, and the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister,
think together about the huge challenges we face in security and
international relations. For instance, we held one of our meetings,
which lasted almost a whole day at Chequers, at the end of May
about Afghanistan. We could really go into all the arguments,
explore the options, have people in from outside to talk to us
and so on. It means that we're not just ticking boxes or agreeing
a paper that we haven't really discussed. We are spending the
time thinking together about national security and international
relations more broadly. I'm sorry, however many times you ask
me for a disadvantage, I'll come up with an advantage.
Mr Roy: We'll find one at some point.
Mr Hague: So far, it has worked
well. That is the honest truth.
Q41 Mike Gapes: I have a very
short question. Foreign Secretary, you mentioned Sir Peter Ricketts
as the key official. It has been reported that he is not going
to be on the National Security Council very long. Could you comment
Mr Hague: No. It was this morning.
Any comment on that will have to come later. We are very grateful
to him for taking it on, on the first day the Government took
office. I don't think it would be right for me to go into any
more detail on that now.
Chair: We are going to move on to trade
and commercial issues now.
Q42 Mr Watts: Foreign Secretary,
I think you said that you expect to have less resources and staff
available to you after the spending review. Can you say a few
words about the pronouncements on the focus on commerce? What
particularly will you or your diplomats stop doing if they are
going to do something different? Are they going to be promoters
of British business? Can you tell me whether you think your diplomats
will have the skills required to do that change of job? Following
on from Mr Stewart's comments, what changes will you make in your
recruitment policy that will make sure you've got people and diplomats
who have the skills and background to be able to be of some assistance
Mr Hague: That is a very important
question. You can see our commitment to have the necessary skills
from the fact that the new permanent secretary has come from the
Business Department. I think I'll ask him to say a word in a moment
about the skills, on which we already have quite a number of things
in train; perhaps he could expand on those.
Let me be clear. This, in many ways, requires
some additional energy. It is not so much that people are taken
off other thingsalthough we will have to assess all the
priorities as we go alongbut building it into everything
that we do. When I leave your Committee, whenever we finish, the
Foreign Minister of Vietnam will be coming to the Foreign Office.
Much of our meeting will be about trade issues. My decision is
that an increased proportion of all the time that I spend with
my counterparts around the world will be about trade and commercial
issues. I will bring up with him five or six different areas in
which Britain can do more business in Vietnam.
It's really that sense of building into everything
we do. Wherever the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, the Business
Secretary or I go, we should have a clear sense of what is at
stake in that country for British business. That then should run
through the work of the whole Foreign Office, as well as other
Departments. The Prime Minister appointed yesterday Stephen Green,
someone who I think will be an excellent Trade Minister. He is
very well respected in the business world and, indeed, around
the world. So it is being done in that spirit. It requires some
organisational changes and re-emphasis. Perhaps Simon can talk
Mr Fraser: I am very happy to
do so. First, I very much endorse the point that it is not that
we have not done this in the past. It is just that it is entirely
appropriate at the current moment in particular, given the world
economic situation and the national economic situation, that there
should be a focus on what we do in the Foreign Office, as indeed
in other Government Departments, on what we can do to support
economic recovery in this country and more generally. So it is
not necessarily the case that we will be doing that instead of
doing other things, but I agree very much with the point that
it is the mindset of the organisation and how we approach our
bilateral and multilateral relationships and the issues that we
In that sense, looking across the organisation
now, of course we have the very welcome appointment of a new Trade
Minister. Of course, we have UK Trade & Investment. That is
an organisation that is jointly parented, if you like, by the
Foreign Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and
Skills. I think that UKTI is an effective organisation, and I
certainly do not think that we should seek to duplicate or replace
it, but I think that it is now considering a new strategy for
promoting trade and inward investment, and that is one thing that
we want to log into.
Within the Foreign Office, we have set up a
taskforce to ensure that, across the organisation, people are
taking those opportunities and thinking about economics and commercial
opportunity, in the way that the Foreign Secretary has described,
in all aspects of our work.
We are just about to launch a new business planning
process, which will be the basis for our activity and our resource
allocation once we know the outcome of the spending round. Within
that business planning process, one of the big strands will be
promoting British prosperity through our economic and commercial
activity in the network. So, in all those ways, I think that we
can achieve a greater focus and a clearer understanding of where
the priorities lie in our diplomatic activity, both in London
and around the network.
Q43 Mr Watts: May I just push
you on a point that concerns some people? I am well aware that
diplomats act as both diplomats and promoters of trade. But if
those diplomats believe that you have set such a high priority
on trade, is it not likely that, for example, if they were speaking
to their counterparts in China, they would be less likely to raise
issues of human rights than they would have been previously, if
they believe that your Department is solely set about or is giving
its highest priority to trade? I wonder if you could say a few
things about how you will ensure that your diplomats understand
that they have still two major roles to perform within their duties.
Mr Fraser: If I may just pick
up on thatit's a very important pointof course all
our embassies in all countries around the world have a set of
priorities for that country, and of course, in the case of China,
there will be priorities relating to developing the political
relationship, and ensuring that we apply the appropriate pressure
or raise the appropriate issues relating to human rights, just
as there will be priorities relating to pursuing climate change
objectives and commercial opportunities. I think that one must
have confidence that our representatives in those countries will
see the broad perspective, and of course that is what they are
tasked to do by the Foreign Office here in London. So I hope that
we can avoid, if you like, a disproportionate shift of focus of
the sort that you are describing.
Mr Hague: To add to that,
since I criticised the previous Government over funding the Foreign
Office, let me be nice to them about one thing. I think that they
did a good job on handling relations with China, and building
up the economic dialogue with it. They then added to thatin
the closing weeks, actually, of the last Governmentstrategic
dialogue with China, which I then commenced. I went to Beijing
in the middle of July to commence that. We are the only country
other than the United States and Japan with that level of formalised
dialogue with China.
We will continue all of that work. It is fundamentally
in the interests of this country to encourage a good economic
and trading relationship with China. But at no stage did the
last Governmentnor will this Governmentsay, "Well,
we are not raising human rights in China any more." I think
that they understand that in China. We will continue to raise
our human rights concerns. We have the balance right.
Q44 Mr Watts: Can you answer about
the recruitment side? Does a change mean that there will be a
difference in the recruitment procedures? Are you looking for
different qualities and different skills than you have done in
Mr Hague: Again, Simon might want
to answer this, but more experience of business would certainly
benefit the FCO. That can be done in all sorts of ways, including
through secondments to business, including for heads of mission
before they are posted, plus by training people in different ways.
We can use private sector expertise to embed a strong sense of
commercial diplomacy in the FCO. Simon, do you want to answer
Mr Watts' specific point about recruitment?
Mr Fraser: On recruitment in general,
we have had a principle of recruiting people with a broad range
of abilities and potential. Then, of course, we train them through
their careers. The training that we offer in the Foreign Office
should be tailored to the priorities that we have. Indeed, as
the Foreign Secretary has mentioned, there are new programmes
in place, focused particularly on economic and commercial ability.
There is another thing. Recently we have been
pursuing a policy of secondment of people to business, particularly
some of our people who are going to important head-of-mission
posts in countries where the economic relationship is very significant.
A good case in point is our current ambassador in China, who
spent nearly a year on secondment to Rolls-Royce. There are a
number of ways in which we can address the question of expertise
and commercial knowledge.
Q45 Sir John Stanley: Foreign
Secretary, my question leads on from those of Dave Watts. The
British Foreign Office has undoubtedly a great many very major
achievements to its credit but, being brutally frank, it has had
some very serious moments of failureand moments of failure
when it has failed to recognise and grapple with the security
realities. The British Foreign Office was, as we know, the arch-exponent
of appeasement in the run-up to the second world war. It is in
the memory of many of us still in the House that the British Foreign
Office, in the run-up to the Falklands war, could not have given
a clearer indication to the Argentine military junta that it wanted
to get shot of the Falkland Islands.
Against that background, and against the calls
from the Prime Minister for the British Foreign Office to be apparently
"messianic" in its pursuit of business interests, can
you assure this Committee that the ultimate responsibility and
priority of the British Foreign Office during this coalition Government
will be the security of the British people, the security of the
countries with which we are in military alliance and the security
of our overseas territories?
Mr Hague: Yes is the broad answer
to that question, with the Ministry of Defence and the rest of
the Government. In the priorities that we have promulgated in
the Foreign Office, within pursuing an active foreign policy and
strengthening a rules-based international system in support of
our values, the three key priorities that we have listed start
with safeguarding Britain's national security by countering terrorism
and weapons proliferation, and working to reduce conflict. Of
course, working to reduce conflict includes being vigilant about
conflicts. As you say, that has not always been the case.
The second is to build Britain's prosperity
by increasing exports, investments and so on, and the third is
to support British nationals around the world through modern and
efficient consular servicessomething that we have not touched
on today. Again, that is a vast subject in itself. People do
not always realise that, at any one time, 2 million British people
are overseas and many of them turn for help to the Foreign Office.
So yes is the answer to Sir John's question.
Chair: John Baron has the final question.
Q46 Mr Baron: Foreign Secretary,
you said yourself that, increasingly, international affairs are
being conducted through more informal, ad hoc forums. That is
in contrast to what we have been used to in organisations like
the UN, where there is a fixed membership and an agreed agenda
or remit, etcetera. To what extent is the Foreign Office adapting
to that? How influential will Britain be in trying to reform
and address that issue on a more global scale?
Mr Hague: I think that the
Foreign Office is well placed to adapt to that. You can gather
from what I've been saying about the networked world and the importance
of networks of bilateral relationships that the central thrust
of our approach is exactly on this point of ensuring that we have
patterns of influence in the world, rather than thinking that
one or another organisation is the key to influencing world events.
I think we have the strategy right on that. The Foreign Office
has the adaptability and it's hadwe may have to reinforce
it over timethe language skills and knowledge. That goes
back to Mr Stewart's questions earlier. Those things need accentuating
more in the future to give us the flexibility and the knowledge
of different parts of the world, to be able to cope with that
shifting pattern of world economic and political influence.
We may have to be adaptable in where we deploy
people and in where we spend our ministerial/diplomatic effort.
There is an intensified effort to be made in the Far East and
South America; it is quite a long time since a British Foreign
Secretary did a full-scale visit to South America, but I am intending
to do that in the spring. Funnily enough, while I am on that theme,
there are countries that get forgotten. No British Foreign Secretary
has been to Australia for 20 years. We mustn't neglect those important
relationships. It can be economically important. We will have
to adapt, and I think that we're prepared to do so and have the
Q47 Mr Baron: One very quick question
because I am conscious that we need to get you away. May I briefly
return to Afghanistan? To what extent do you foresee the final
solution, whatever it is, involving negotiations with the Taliban?
Mr Hague: That goes back to the
issue of reconciliation, which I've stressed must be Afghan-led.
Here we get into the question of what is the Taliban, because
it is not a single organisation. Many different factions and shifting
alliances make up the Taliban. It's for that Afghan-led process
to determine and to discover which of those people, based on what
President Karzai and the rest of us set out at the Kabul conference
about respect for the constitution of Afghanistan and the readiness
to forswear violence, are willing to be part of a reconciliation
process. It depends on that; it depends on them whether they are
prepared to be reconciled on such a basis.
Chair: Foreign Secretary,
thank you very much indeed. You've got our relationship off to
a flying start, and I look forward to seeing you regularly, as
and when we can arrange it, and likewise, Mr Fraser.
Mr Hague: Thank you very much.