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House of Lords

Thursday, 17th November 1994.

The House met at three of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Chichester.): The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

The Lord Advocate (Lord Rodger of Earlsferry): My Lords, on behalf of my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the criminal justice system of Scotland as respects criminal proceedings, the investigation of offences, the sentences and other disposals applicable in respect of certain offences, legal aid in relation to certain appeals, and the treatment of offenders; to amend the law of Scotland in relation to confiscation of the proceeds of, and forfeiture of property used in, crime; to make further provision as respects Scotland in relation to the preparation of jury lists for the purposes of criminal and civil trials; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Rodger of Earlsferry.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Agricultural Tenancies Bill [H.L.]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe): My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make further provision with respect to tenancies which include agricultural land. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Earl Howe.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

War Crimes (Supplementary Provisions) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to establish a period of limitation as to the institution of proceedings under the War Crimes Act 1991, and to confer jurisdiction on the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division) to adjudicate on the quashing of certain indictments laid under the Act. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Campbell of Alloway.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Committee of Selection

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That in accordance with Standing Order 61 a Committee of Selection be appointed to select and propose to the House the names of the Lords to form

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each select committee of the House (except the Committee of Selection itself and any committee otherwise provided for by statute or by order of the House) or any other body not being a select committee referred to it by the Chairman of Committees, and the panel of Deputy Chairmen of Committees; and that the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the Committee--

V. Cranborne (L. Privy Seal), L. Denham, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. Harris of Greenwich, B. Hylton-Foster, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Morris of Castle Morris, L. Richard, L. Strathclyde, L. Weatherill.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Sustainable Development: Select Committee

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the United Kingdom Strategy for Sustainable Development (Cmnd 2426), and in particular to consider:

(i) what specific long-term environmental objectives or targets will be required to achieve continuing policies of sustainable development; and what measures might be required to achieve those targets;

(ii) how environmental factors can best be integrated into other policy areas such as transport, agriculture and energy; and how to account for natural resources and environmental pollution; and

(iii) how changes in lifestyle and attitudes, which will be necessary to contribute to sustainable development, can best be achieved.--(Viscount Cranborne.)

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for introducing this Motion. Can he assure us that, in considering sustainable development, not only will the Select Committee consider the terms of reference as set out in the Motion but that it will also consider a definition of what "sustainable development" means?

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I shall draw the attention of the Select Committee to the point made by the noble Lord. I am well aware of the very substantial amount of work that has been published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office on this subject.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Wade of Chorlton--namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

"Most Gracious Sovereign--We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to

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thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."

3.4 p.m.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): My Lords, it is an honour to open your Lordships' debate on the gracious Speech. We look forward very much to the maiden speeches of my noble friends Lord Blaker and Lady Rawlings.

This will be a wide-ranging debate. I shall say a little about the European Union, NATO, Russia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Britain's aid effort. My noble friend Lord Henley will concentrate on defence and security policy.

Each is an area in which Britain plays a crucial part. This reflects the global nature of British interests. Exports are about a quarter of Britain's GDP. We are the third largest providers of direct investment overseas; the sixth largest aid donor. We have major political responsibilities as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We are the fourth largest troop contributor to UN peacekeeping efforts.

These matters have a direct bearing on our political interests and economic wellbeing. I shall start by looking at two building blocks of our international role, the European Union and NATO. One of this Government's highest priorities is to see the new freedoms in central and eastern Europe underpinned by the kind of stability and prosperity western Europe has enjoyed. The European Union has to look outwards, and spread eastwards. This is a year of real progress on both counts. The Swedish vote means we shall welcome three new members to the EU next year; hopefully, Norway will make it four.

The path for the accession in central Europe is also mapped out. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania are taking good advantage of opportunities to deepen their familiarity with the way the Union works. These are opportunities the Government have actively promoted.

In Poland last week, I heard how they want Britain to go on championing enlargement, and helping them prepare for membership. With enlargement the Union must change. Policies for nine, or for 12, will not work for 16, or for 20, or more. Reform--in agricultural policies above all --will be essential.

This Government want to see tangible results from the 1996 IGC. We must keep up the momentum of enlargement; entrench the principle of subsidiarity; enhance the flexibility of the Union's structures; and ensure we have effective mechanisms for fighting fraud and keeping financial discipline. These are the ingredients of a Europe which brings real benefits to its citizens.

The North Atlantic alliance has to face new demands too. They are much more varied than the ones the alliance was founded to meet. There will be operations in which some allies take part, but others do not. That requires a versatile, adaptable alliance. The NATO Summit in January emphatically reaffirmed the transatlantic link as the bedrock of the alliance. Allies

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also recognised that a clearer European security and defence identity would strengthen the alliance. But NATO is not an island fortress. Like the European Union, NATO is looking outwards, working to extend its benefits more widely.

Partnership for peace agreements have been launched with 23 countries. The aim is to build trust and to build the habits of working together in the interests of security. Among those 23 partners there are, I have no doubt, future members of the alliance. We welcome that. We must ensure that NATO enlarges without impairing the cohesion and effectiveness of the alliance itself, or the security and stability of Europe.

One of those 23 new NATO partners for peace is Russia. The opportunities for close practical work with Russia are multiplying: the partnership and co-operation agreement signed with the EU this year; Russia's role in the Bosnia contact group, and in discussions with G7 countries. The Government have worked hard to set these new relationships to work. President Yeltsin's visit in September, and Her Majesty the Queen's visit to Russia, showed just how well we have replaced mistrust by friendship, confidence, and co-operation. There are still uncertainties ahead. But the past year has seen welcome gains in political and economic stability in Russia.

We are working closely with Russia over Bosnia. The news from the field is grim; all the more so because, for a while, large areas of Bosnia began to relearn the habits of peace. War has returned to Bihac. Fear of shells and the sniper's bullet haunt the people of Sarajevo.

For months Britain in the contact group has toiled to put together a blueprint for peace. The elements of a solution are on the table; not the perfect solution but a realistic one--one to which all, except the Bosnian Serbs, are prepared to agree. The means of peace are in the hands of the parties in Belgrade, in Zagreb, in Sarajevo, in Pale. Yet still there are calls to lift the embargo and supply the means of war.

It is a sombre prospect; one which we and our troops in UNPROFOR view with deep unease. Throughout the conflict, and throughout the truces, they have worked alongside ODA staff with energy and dedication: bringing food, electricity and water; opening roads, rebuilding bridges.

Our commitment to the relief of suffering in Bosnia has been second to none: over £170 million of assistance; 1,400 convoys delivering 106,000 tonnes of supplies; 31,015 tonnes flown direct into Sarajevo. This could not continue in war. If the risks become unacceptable, then we would be ready to pull our people out.

The Rwanda crisis has tested to the limits the capacity of the international community--and the United Nations--to respond. It is no good blaming the United Nations. The UN is only as effective as its members' own energy and commitment allow. I visited the area around Rwanda twice this year. In all my years of providing help to the sick, the starving, and the dying, I have never seen anything as bad as Goma.

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The UK has provided over £60 million for Rwandan displaced persons and refugees in neighbouring countries since April. We have provided aircraft cargo-offloading teams; water-tanker teams to deliver to the refugee camps; support to human rights monitors, provided transmission equipment and technical services for a UN radio station. I know your Lordships join me in paying tribute to all those who have done such excellent work from our forces, the ODA and the non-governmental organisations.

We must learn the lessons from Rwanda. The need for quicker, better responses to humanitarian disasters in Africa has never been clearer: nor has the need for more effective action to prevent or contain conflict.

In September my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary told the United Nations General Assembly of our ideas for a more coherent and effective conflict prevention approach for Africa: from early warning and preventive diplomacy through to humanitarian and peacekeeping deployment on the ground. We are discussing these with our friends in Africa, our partners in Europe and elsewhere, and with the United Nations.

We need to work fast. In too many places, conflict and instability continue. As a result people will be denied the prospect of a more prosperous future. They may even lose their lives. The emergency aid we provide to Bosnia, Rwanda and elsewhere accounts for about 15 per cent. of our total British aid programme. However, it gains around 95 per cent. of the publicity. Sadly, emergency aid often obscures the vital work of supporting long-term development: of providing long-term investment to help prevent future Rwandas--work that is the main business of our overseas aid programme.

The Crown Agents deserve great praise for their work in emergency as well as development aid. I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the proposals in the Queen's Speech to bring forward legislation on the status of the Crown Agents. They have played a significant but largely unsung part this year in Bosnia and Rwanda.

The proposed Bill to transfer them to a new, independent foundation will enable them to extend their services to their international clients, while maintaining the highest standards of integrity and impartiality. This will assist the Crown Agents to continue and improve their services into the 21st century.

There has been much comment on the Pergau dam project, following the court's decision last week. The Foreign Secretary and I stand by the evidence which we gave to the Select Committee. The Select Committee inquiry went wider than the court judgment. It examined the events of 1988 and the political and commercial background. The court did none of that. The court was not asked to enter, and did not enter, into the question of arms sales. I understand that the judgment has nothing to say on that point. The court has now, for the first time, interpreted the 1980 Act and has decided that the Pergau project falls outside it. We do not yet have the court's written judgment. When we do we shall study it and decide whether to appeal.

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We have to consider the implications of the judgment for the aid programme as a whole. That applies in particular to the aid and trade provision which was designed by a Labour Government in 1977 to benefit British industry as well as the recipient country. Subject to any appeal we will of course comply with the court's judgment.

Meanwhile, we have asked our officials to review carefully all the projects and activities they fund to see whether there are any others approved under our previous understanding of the Overseas Development and Cooperation Act 1980 which may also fall outside the interpretation of the Act given for the first time last week.

The Pergau project is now 75 per cent. complete and involves over 200 British companies. The judgment does not affect this Government's contractual obligations towards the banks financing the project. What it would mean, if we decide not to appeal, is that the project should not henceforth be financed from funds voted under the Overseas Development and Cooperation Act 1980.

Until we receive and study the written judgment and decide for or against an appeal, we cannot decide on the implications for the aid programme of the money already spent on the Pergau project or on the funds likely to be required from this year to the year 2006. Your Lordships will be informed of the decision when it is taken.

Some critics have tried to use statistics to prove a link between aid and defence sales to several overseas countries. There is simply no truth in these allegations. Of our 10 biggest aid recipients, seven are low income countries in sub-Saharan Africa; three are poor countries in Asia. Nearly 80 per cent. of Britain's bilateral aid to developing countries goes to the poorest countries. The OECD's recent review of the aid programme recognises this focus. This shows that any accusations that our aid flows are determined by defence sales prospects are wholly unfounded.

I recognise public concern about the defence spending in some developing countries. My department works continuously with the IMF and the World Bank to encourage sensible public spending in aid-recipient countries. We take account of excessive military expenditure before we decide aid allocations. In some places, our aid helps turn soldiers into civilians and removes land mines from fields waiting to be tilled. The UN Charter, however, recognises that all, even poor countries, have legitimate defence needs. There is no reason to penalise poor countries because they buy competitive UK defence goods.

Some critics have made particular allegations about Indonesia. OECD classifies Indonesia as a poor country. Its GNP is £440 per head per year. It has a large population at over 180 million, but the Indonesian economy is growing fast on the back of sounder policies. Poverty is being reduced and population growth is falling.

There is a strong economic and social case for Britain to have a substantial aid programme in Indonesia. Other major donors take the same view. Our programme is targeted on human resource development, the

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environment, good government and transportation. We have repeatedly expressed our concern about Indonesia's human rights record. The Indonesian Government recognise the need for improvement, and we take every opportunity to remind them of that. At no stage has there been any linkage between our aid programme to Indonesia and defence sales.

We must keep the Pergau controversy in perspective. The aid and trade provision as a whole accounts for about 5 per cent. of our total aid of over £2.2 billion. We provide bilateral aid to around 150 countries. Aid is a substantial element in Britain's overseas presence. It also makes a vital contribution to the international effort to promote sustainable development. In our bilateral programme we concentrate 70 per cent. of our aid on Commonwealth countries, many of which are gradually doing better and better.

Aid has to respond to a changing international environment. There has been a rise in the number of countries we assist due to the need to support the transition in eastern and central Europe and the former Soviet Union. British know-how is being demanded more and more right across the world.

We also see very rapid economic growth in some countries as they increase their ability to earn their own way through trade and the attraction of private investment. One welcome feature has been the dramatic growth in private investment in developing countries in recent years which is now higher than the total of official aid flows. This means tighter focusing of our aid. In the middle-income countries, we focus on providing know-how and advice, thereby filling crucial skills gaps. But the bulk of our aid goes to the poorest countries. Here we provide both the expertise and the finance to help them to stand on their own feet.

Some say that we do not do enough to relieve poverty. Some think that the reduction of poverty is just one of a number of targets of the aid programme. Let me make it clear: all our work in the poorest countries is aimed at lasting poverty reduction. Targeted projects which directly raise the living standards of the poor are essential, as are public services projects which benefit the poor--better education, health and family planning, reforms which help the poor to earn more in agriculture, manufacturing and trade, and reforms which make the whole economy healthier and faster growing. Targeting programmes will fail if the policies are wrong and institutions are weak. That is why UK aid helps them to get this right.

Some ill-informed critics snipe at infrastructure projects. These also yield benefits for the poor. In Bangladesh, as a result of our electricity distribution project workshops and factories in textiles and metal-working sprang up to use the newly available electricity. A quarter of a million jobs were created, primarily for poor women.

The other change in our programme is the growing proportion of our aid--now amounting to over 40 per cent.--that flows through multilateral channels.

In this job I am accustomed to receiving brickbats about the size of our aid programme. My concern is not only that; it is also that all our aid should be of the

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best possible quality. The OECD review earlier this year recognised the high quality of our aid. If more resources become available for the bilateral programme, they would be well spent.

We must also ensure that multilateral aid is of similar high quality. In my speech at the Overseas Development Institute in June this year, I explained that approach. We owe it both to developing countries and to British taxpayers to ensure that multilateral aid is used to the best effect possible.

At home I often hear cynicism, self-doubt and questioning of Britain's role in the world. But when I am abroad, I hear a very different message. It is that Britain matters. British views are taken seriously. British institutions and know-how are respected as among the best in the world.

I suggest that as a nation we must raise our sights. We must recognise that we have real interests and assets worldwide. We must pursue and protect them. This can only be done with an active foreign policy tailored to Britain's needs as we move towards the 21st century. The world, and Britain, deserve nothing less.

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