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Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, before the Minister sits down perhaps I may ask him to comment on the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Judd that we await the opinion of the International Court on the question which I raised. Have the Government intervened to prevent such a response being made? Will they undertake not to do so?

Earl Howe: My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, I believe it would be better if I responded to that concern in writing. I am well aware of his concern on the matter. I shall ensure that a letter reaches him.

As I close, it is perhaps appropriate to reflect briefly on our nation's history and heritage as a world power. We are, and must continue to be, a major participant in world affairs, willing and able to lead decisively and not afraid to rise to the challenge, using our assets and vast experience for the benefit of our own people and for the international community.

These are grand statements, but a snapshot of current and recent activities clearly demonstrates the vital part that we are playing in building peace and stability around the world. The tasks which our Armed Forces undertake are now more diverse than at any other time in our history, from nuclear deterrence to counter terrorism, peacekeeping and our assistance to other countries. And wherever our Armed Forces operate they are held in the highest respect. They reflect enormous credit on the United Kingdom.

In the Gulf, RAF Tornados contribute to the no-fly zone operations over north and south Iraq. The Royal Navy continues to enforce United Nations sanctions at sea. The United Kingdom has been a leading contributor to peacekeeping operations in Africa. Earlier this year, British forces joined an international task group to protect the United Nations forces withdrawing from Somalia. A British logistics battalion recently returned from a three-month deployment to Angola where it set up the logistic infrastructure for the United Nations Angola verification mission. On the other side of the Atlantic, the United Kingdom contributed to the United States-led multinational force in Haiti. The Armed Forces also provided extensive assistance in the Caribbean during the summer to local communities in dealing both with the threat and aftermath of natural disasters. And, of course, no discussion of our Armed Forces' contribution on the international scene would be complete without mention of current operations in the former Yugoslavia which has dominated our thoughts and where our forces continue to do such an outstanding job.

We have seen over the past six years a dramatic change in the political context. Our former adversaries are now our partners in promoting stability and prosperity. This has required us to reassess our policies and priorities and we have restructured our Armed Forces accordingly. This, to be sure, has meant some reduction in their size. What it has not meant

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is a reduction in their quality or in their importance to this country. It is thanks to their professionalism that Britain's reputation as a promoter of understanding, reconciliation and peace stands high.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until Monday next.

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Moved, That the debate be now adjourned until Monday next.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly until Monday next.

        House adjourned at eight minutes before ten o'clock.

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