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Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, as always, speaks with conviction and determination on deterrent subjects. I do not propose to cross swords with the noble Lord this afternoon on that topic. Instead, I wish to concentrate upon the United Nations and our membership of the Security Council. However, before doing so, perhaps I may welcome the Minister's words about NATO and the positive approach she outlined. There is a strong need to keep NATO very much at the forefront of our minds. We do not want to weaken it. Any alternative suggestions--and one was muted earlier this week--that there should be a North Atlantic association (about which the Secretary of State for Defence talked) need to be thought through most carefully in relation to NATO.
I turn now to the Security Council. There is much that distinguishes us from the other members of the council. We cannot match the military power of the United States. We are massively outnumbered by the Russians and the Chinese. We are nearest to the French in economic and military terms. But they are a republic, and we have our monarchy. Our centuries of tradition and worldwide involvement give us a uniquely different sort of claim to our place at the table. Unless we are prepared to extol, and show pride in, our unique distinguishing features, our claim to a seat on the Security Council may soon be under serious challenge, or at least sniped at by other aspirants who wish to join or to replace us as a permanent member of the council.
Of course, membership brings obligations and also costly commitment. We must be seen to respond to United Nations calls for peacekeeping and other actions. We are well served by our all-volunteer Armed Forces in meeting those contingencies, even at the very shortest of notice. When the Kuwait crisis flared up last month, Royal Air Force aircraft and personnel were en route
I suggest that our membership of the Security Council rests in part on such commitment and military prowess. However, a weakening of the historic transatlantic special relationship and growing federalising tendencies in Europe could leave support for our United Nations position at risk within a very short time. I am sure that the Government are only too aware of that possibility. How should they respond?
Our claim to Security Council membership must never become that of the unimaginative accountant who can tell us the price of everything but the value of nothing. We shall be hard pushed and, indeed, may not be that motivated as a nation to make startling economic growth and success our only goal. We look to other talismans more in tune with our history and the legacies of the past. We have seen much chipping away at some of those valuable legacies: the monarchy, the Church, the judiciary, even the Armed Forces and other professions. I believe that government could do more to counter those attacks on our national fabric. We adopted the unimaginative accountant's approach to "Britannia", the Royal yacht, and the Royal Flight. In the year that Her Majesty--not only our monarch but also head of the Commonwealth--starts to pay sizeable tax demands with obvious benefit to the Treasury, it seems bizarre to be cutting away, in the name of efficiency and value for money, at some of our unique symbols of nationhood. Where should such an approach end?
Big Ben cannot manage to keep time to atomic clock standards. It is now starting to keel over. Tower Bridge is 100 years old and causes all sorts of road traffic chaos every time it is opened. Should we also forgo those much respected symbols in the same search for efficiency at any price? Even the Palace of Westminster, which is difficult to secure, expensive to run, confrontational in the lay-out of its Chambers and outmoded in terms of most of today's democracies, might be eyed with my accountant's misgivings. We seem to have started on the slippery slope. I hope that wise counsels will prevail before we lose the lot along with all sense of national pride and the respect of the rest of the world--a respect which, however intangible its roots, bolsters our United Nations standing. I welcome the Minister's words on that topic.
Against a background of parsimony and of sometimes seeing the smaller picture at the expense of the big, is it any wonder that we are now in our third review of defence spending since Options for Change only four years ago? Whatever the pressures on our economy, I begin to wonder if the Government fully understand the human dimension to each and every review.
The troubled housing trust initiative to sell off 69,000 Ministry of Defence married quarters, and Mr. Bett's independent review, are seen by many as ineptly timed and doing further damage to service morale. Service families, many with the father away from home on operational duties for six months or more each year, are very concerned about the future arrangements for married quarters--so much is unresolved and rumours are rife--and for the education of their children. Secondary medical care is also not fully resolved and causes further worry to servicemen and their families. These matters need to be clarified with the greatest of urgency. If the Government are unable to do so quickly, they must be honest enough to tell the servicemen so. We owe it to our volunteer Armed Forces, who act so promptly and bravely to meet political objectives and do so much to sustain our country's claim to a seat on the Security Council, to treat them with the consideration that they so richly deserve.
Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, it is a pleasure to be able to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley and to endorse without qualification the powerful diplomatic case made by a distinguished soldier in support of Britain's role at the United Nations. It is a pleasure also to look forward to the maiden speeches we are to hear from my noble friends Lord Blaker and Lady Rawlings, with each of whom I have had the pleasure of working in political partnership at different times over the years. If I may say so, I welcome the characteristic quality, candour and courage of the speech we heard from the Dispatch Box by my noble friend Lady Chalker. Speaking as one who served with her for many years, I have nothing but admiration for the continued distinction and devotion which she brings to a difficult task in Britain's service around the world.
I welcome and endorse, if I may do so, her remarks about the Pergau dam and the aid programme in that respect. I shall not now be drawn into a detailed analysis of that topic but I shall just add one word. In the whole of that discussion I have heard no credible suggestion that any of the Ministers or officials involved in any of the decisions was ever concerned at any stage with anything other than the promotion of perfectly proper, although sometimes conflicting, British interests. That is something which sometimes tends to be overlooked in that difficult debate.
I welcome too the recognition by the noble Baroness of the importance of the European Union and of Britain's relations with it. I sometimes wonder at the extent to which so much of the debate in this country and in our national press about foreign policy is conducted in terms often of over-simplified hostility to European institutions, even to the European continent itself, as though we could somehow, if we had our way, detach ourselves altogether from this beastly place of which we are inescapably a part. I do not know whether one should be distressed by the over-simplicity of that debate or comforted by the fact that the debate takes place at all. As I am by temperament an optimist, I am on the whole more comforted than dismayed because the scale of our discussion of these European questions shows an awareness of, and on good days a positive reaction to, the responsibilities which we owe to the world in which we live.
Does not the part played, for example, by Her Majesty's forces in Bosnia--I join with noble Lords in paying tribute to that--contrast (I say this without any sense of hostility) with the necessarily more limited perception of American public opinion in relation to some of the issues close to us here in Europe? They are able to enjoy some of the detachment that flows both from their geographical scale and their geographical remoteness. I think that the debate to which I have referred shows a British understanding of the essentially European foundation of any discussion of our role in the world because so many of the hazards and so many of the opportunities that arise do so in and from our continent and from our relations with it.
Consider, for example, the host of problems that have arisen and that continue to arise from the break-up of the former Soviet Union and its bloc. First, within the union itself and within Russia itself people are still struggling with formidable economic problems. It is a comfort and a reassurance to see the way in which, for the moment at least, the balance of economic policy-making seems to have tilted in the direction of sustainable wisdom, even perhaps sustainable development. But secondly, and less often discussed, there are the serious problems of the Ukraine. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, is not in her place today. She and I both serve, rather to our surprise initially I think, as members of the Economic Advisory Council of the Supreme Rada of that country. We serve with a gallery of distinguished colleagues--we do not often meet as such--which include Messrs. Biedenkopf, Barre, Brzezinski and others and we are led by the chairmanship of Bohdan Hawrylyshyn.
I hope I may say a little more about that matter. The problems of that country were well analysed by our distinguished ambassador there, Simon Hemans, in a talk that he gave to RUSI on the 20th of last month which amounts to the following. It is three years since the Ukraine achieved its independence but it did so at such a time and in such a fashion that at the moment of independence there was consensus on almost only one matter; namely, independence itself. The people in the Ukraine found themselves confronting a range of problems such as those which confronted the United States in 1776, 1861 and 1931 simultaneously without
Happily, in the Ukraine today consensus is now much closer than it has ever been before. Their early understandable instinct to renounce nuclear status has been reconfirmed by their Parliament, and the delivery for dismantlement of their weapons is going ahead as scheduled. There is now consensus as well on a programme of market directed economic reform, presented to their Parliament by President Kuchma on 11th October, which was very positively endorsed by that Parliament. They accepted most recently a programme for price liberalisation. Of course the key decisions for that country--and they are tough ones--have to be taken largely in Kiev and in the Ukraine itself. But help from the West, and guidance from the West, is of crucial importance--and "The West" means to a very large extent European guidance. Therefore, the need for the European Union to agree on the effective, prompt delivery of that help, as promised to the Ukraine, is of enormous importance.
That is just one graphic, compact example of the problems which have arisen from the disintegration of the Russian empire. Another much closer, more long-lasting and formidable problem is that which rages in Bosnia. If we need any reminding that that is an essentially European problem then surely we have secured that reminder with the gravely disturbing effect of the latest shift in the position of the United States. The suspension of the arms embargo will not help the promotion of peace in Bosnia. It will not help the cause of partnership in NATO. It will not help the cause of co-operation in the United Nations Security Council. I say that with the utmost regret.
I say, too, that we Europeans have failed in earlier days to do what was right in relation to the Bosnian problem. But it is surely impossible now to argue the case against the development, even at this eleventh hour, of a more effective common European response to that problem. Balkanisation, whose hugely destructive potential we see all too clearly, is not a disease that we can regard as safely and for ever confined to the
I cherish, of course, the transatlantic alliance and its historical importance. American concern for Europe is of importance to European security. But we have to be realistic about the reliability of its value from day to day, and not least about the constancy of that commitment in days of democratic turbulence. I think not only of the Bosnian question but also, if we seek a different example, of the current risks in the American reaction to the ratification of the GATT agreement. How is Britain's voice best to be heard effectively on that crucially important economic question?
It is no longer sensible to rely, however much emotionally we should like to do so, on the special relationship on which we have all said so much over the years. Noble Lords may have noticed the remark made in one of the last speeches made in this country by Ambassador Raymond Seitz in April of this year. He said:
That is a consequence of geopolitical reality. Britain, our country, is a great nation, but it is not a great power. If we need to shape the future destiny of our people, that is best done, if indeed it can be done at all, in partnership with our neighbours within the Union which we have helped to shape and can still do more to shape. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, pointed out, much needs to be done to make it more effective. I would join with many Euro-sceptics, were it not for their style, in expressing my anxiety about the need to weld an effective common security policy, the need to stamp out fraud, the need to move more effectively for the elimination of subsidies, and above all the need to achieve effective reform of the common agricultural policy. As the noble Baroness pointed out, that is essential for the effective enlargement of the Union.
Above all, I want to prevent the damaging exclusion of this country from an inner core of Europe, if such should come to exist. I want to see this country helping to shape the nature of a common single currency, if there is to be such --and I cannot fail myself to see some wisdom in that prospect.
If we are to succeed in that we should not make every comment about the Union or our partners in it with a sneer or a snarl, or a contorted mixture of both at the same time. We need to convince our partners beyond doubt of our commitment to that enterprise and to the obligations and opportunities which it opens up to us. That is why I welcome so warmly the firmness of the Prime Minister's commitment in another place to the
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