Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Carver: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he answer one quite simple question? If nuclear weapons are so very important to defence, why should not everybody have them?

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, there is an argument in the proliferation debate that possession of nuclear weapons by some countries encourages other people to

28 Oct 1996 : Column 145

possess them, as indeed it has done. As we now know, there are probably three or four other nuclear powers and a number of near-nuclear powers other than the five admitted nuclear powers who are permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations. My practical argument is that nuclear weapons exist; some people have them; and those who have them should think very carefully before getting rid of them.

5.10 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, the fallacious nature of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was exemplified by his last words: we keep them and you do not have them. That is not a permanent position which can be sustained. It is not reasonable to expect that a certain number of nations will have a weapon which they apparently regard as something that they cannot do without, while it is assumed that everything will become unstable if other nations were to enjoy the stability that comes from having nuclear weapons. This only has to be examined to see that it is sheer nonsense.

Another point that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, makes is that the nuclear weapon cannot be disinvented. Neither can anything else be disinvented. Biological weapons cannot be disinvented; chemical weapons cannot be disinvented. But that does not prevent us from prohibiting their use; it does not prevent us from having a convention to outlaw these weapons. We could do exactly the same with nuclear weapons, with equally beneficial results, if we had the guts to do so.

I think I have already made it clear on which side I stand in this argument, if your Lordships did not already know, but there is one further point I wish to touch on before I leave the matter. I think noble Lords will all agree with me that we heard a remarkable speech from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. I believe that we will wish to think about it and perhaps have a copy of the report to which he referred. I have an address from which copies can be obtained and I propose to read it out so that it can be included in Hansard. It is the World Court Project UK. Its chairman, Commander Robert Green, is an ex-nuclear submarine commander who, like many military people who have been in close contact with nuclear weapons, wants nothing to do with them again. His address is 2 Chiswick House, High Street, Twyford, Berkshire RG10 9AG.

There has been much talk recently about the moral standards of our country but none at all about the greatest loss of all. The nation does not want to know about it; certainly the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, does not want to know about it; political leaders act as if it does not exist; the gracious Speech always ignores it. In all the years which have passed since the end of the last war no government have ever asked the monarch to say something like this: "My Government are gravely concerned that the rules of war which have for so many years protected non-combatants were totally breached by both sides during World War II. It is the view of the Government that it is essential that these rules shall be reinstated and that the United Nations shall be charged with the duties and means of verification and

28 Oct 1996 : Column 146

enforcement. My Government believe that all weapons of mass destruction are immoral and that there must be an international agreement that they shall be destroyed and that an agency shall be created with powers to ensure that weapons which threaten our very survival shall be prohibited".

Most people today are not aware that at the beginning of World War II international law existed--it still exists--and was obeyed until the Nazis broke it by bombing, first, Rotterdam and then Coventry. We responded and broke it ourselves by blockbusting, where the target was not only buildings but also the non-combatants inhabiting those buildings. At the beginning of the war Britain observed the international law. Until 1941, if British bombers could not find their exact military target they were ordered to drop their bombs in the sea rather than drop them with the chance that they might accidentally kill non-combatants. We kept it up for a while, but we lost it completely after we went into blockbusting by burning women and children to death in Dresden.

In 1941 when I was commissioned in the Royal Air Force I was given a little booklet called What Acts of War Are Justifiable? It was written by the celebrated authority on international law, Professor Goodhart, and was one of a series called Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs distributed in the forces by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs. Goodhart began by pointing out that the distinction between combatant and civilian had been firmly drawn in the 19th century and that it was still effective international law. The allies, he said, must keep civilians sacrosanct. Nothing that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said has touched on the subject. The problem about nuclear weapons is that they inevitably kill civilians wholesale; they inevitably kill non-combatants. They are the greatest killer of non-combatants that has ever been invented. Thus they are totally hostile to what Goodhart regarded as the greatest invention of international law, which is the separation of combatants from non-combatants. We finished up with the hell of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

If a prime minister or potential prime minister today says that he will continue to harbour this means of killing thousands of non-combatants and will be ready to authorise the use of this ultimate weapon of mass destruction, what will he do? As I understand it, the leaders of the major political parties are now in the same boat. They have all said that they will be barbarians, as Goodhart described people who kill non-combatants. They will keep Trident and be ready to authorise its use. Is relatively minor killing wrong and to be stopped while major killing is all right for a sane Christian to add to his list of possible actions? Can he then sleep? If he can, he has decided in his heart that he will never be able to do what he says he will do. The Prime Minister and his potential successor would not hurt a single child, but they have both committed themselves to an action which means, among other horrors, that they would perhaps be setting fire to 10,000 babies. Would either of them really do that or might we just as well have marzipan as a nuclear missile in our submarines?

28 Oct 1996 : Column 147

The problem with the mass destruction of human beings is that the larger it gets, the more incredible it becomes, until it ceases to touch us. I was in India en route to join RAF Operations Unit No. 6 in Burma when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. We did not know what had been done, but there were rumours. I have always remembered a corporal saying to me, "You know what I think, sir? I think they have now saved our lives at the cost of our children's". That was perception for you, was it not? He said that back in 1945 and it stuck in my mind.

But it was not until I spoke to some damaged survivors from Hiroshima a few years ago that I was truly hit in the heart. It happened again quite recently when I was supplied with some detailed information about the Hiroshima casualties. The total death roll, including deaths since, was estimated at 150,000. That is impressive in one way, is it not? But it did not hit me quite so hard as some of the details which I came across. One can say that the people who dropped those bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not know what they were doing. They could not have guessed, could they, for example, that of the 277 first-year girls at the Hiroshima Municipal Girls' High School not one survived? However, at the Third Primary School--again, a girls' school--where there were 139 children, 68 survived and 71 died of burns. That is more lethal than a handgun, is it not?

But the prime minister who gives the order today or tomorrow cannot plead ignorance. He knows that he is ordering wholesale death far beyond Hiroshima. Will he do it? Since he is not a criminal lunatic, I beg leave to doubt it. Almost immediately, the situation would be beyond political control. Communications would be among the first things to go. Would any prime minister authorise Armageddon? Possibly. But the first casualty in modern war has to be the amputation of the imagination. If you were to permit yourself to know what you were doing, you could not possibly do it. Hence, World War II was the triumph of the euphemism: "wizard prang" and all that.

Similarly, if a prime minister authorising the use of Trident thought for one moment of the thousands of eyes to be blown out of a thousand heads or even gave a thought to what happens when a single child is set on fire, he could not lift the telephone to give the order, could he? I hope that the present Prime Minister--still less the potential one, who recently declared that he would--could bring himself, in practice and in effect, to choose to risk that terrible end to the human experiment. Instead, they should pledge themselves to take a leading part in discussions with other nuclear powers and propose a date to start the countdown to a nuclear-free world, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, suggested.

If I had a vote, I should, as usual, certainly vote Labour. Both Labour policies and personnel seem to me--it is not surprising, I suppose--to be superior to those offered by the present administration, except in respect of my present subject, in which the Opposition apparently seek to match themselves with and to be as blind on this issue as the Government. Nevertheless, I confess that sometimes I ask myself what happened to

28 Oct 1996 : Column 148

all those in the Shadow Cabinet and Government who shared my passion for nuclear disarmament and my horror at the prospect of nuclear war. Have they all changed their minds? Have they been subjected to mass lobotomy? No. We must reject the ultimate immorality of nuclear weapons. We must do it.

I too have a dream. In fact I have two dreams. One is that at the first meeting of the Cabinet of the new Labour Government the Prime Minister will say, "First of all, I must tell you that during the election campaign I have come to the conclusion that we must take nuclear disarmament urgently and seriously", and they all agree. The alternative is that the Cabinet collectively tells him.

In conclusion, I recall towards the end of the war in Europe a song of brief popularity which went:

    "I'm going to get lit up when the lights go up in London".

If we do not get rid of the bomb, it will get rid of us and those lights of London will go out, never to come on again.

5.26 p.m.

Lord Bridges: My Lords, in our debates in this House on foreign affairs over the past few years we have had extensive discussions on European policy. I have some hesitation in returning to this topic again, particularly after the elegant and fascinating nuclear exchanges between my noble friends, but I feel it is necessary to do so, partly because I have been greatly concerned by the changes which have taken place in this country in public opinion in recent months but also because there can be no other single issue of greater importance to the Government. Evidently, they themselves have difficulty in maintaining a common position while their party is clearly divided into separate factions on the same question. Similar differences are to be seen elsewhere in Parliament and the country at large. Therefore, I hope that I may be forgiven for referring to the subject again.

I should make it clear that I do not disagree very much with the Government's position, although I believe that their commitment to a future referendum on the single currency may turn out to be unwise. I can think of few issues less suited to such a form of public consultation. But what concerns me greatly is the effect on the evolution of the rest of Europe of non-participation by Britain in EMU. It is on that topic that I shall speak particularly this afternoon. I propose to do so by examining briefly the attitude of the other member states. Instead of looking at the situation as it appears from London looking outward towards Europe, I shall attempt to look at it the other way round. I believe that it can be quite an instructive way of examining the question.

French public opinion is probably the least surprised and the least worried about the effect of our current activities. France has always believed, with some reason, that the British wanted a free trade zone rather than a more ambitious political structure in Europe. It sees the latest twist in our policy as a reversion towards a long held aim. Of course, it is impossible to achieve now what we failed to create in the 1950s and 1960s, unless we accept the French alternative for a two-tier

28 Oct 1996 : Column 149

Community in which the rules and most important decisions are taken by an inner group, clearly led by France and Germany, with the outer group accepting the consequences, both financial and otherwise. France may well feel that the apparent evolution in our government thinking now opens the door to that line of policy as a real possibility, which it would of course welcome as being of significant benefit to it.

The situation in Germany is much more complex and is also undergoing considerable change just at present. The Federal Republic in the past was a staunch and steady supporter of our entry into the original Community of six. It believed that our pragmatism, our attachment to free trade and our wider political interests would be of benefit to the Community as a whole. On many international subjects--in fact, I think on most international matters--London and Bonn had very close, perhaps identical, views and we steadily supported the reunification of Germany.

I served in Germany in the 1950s in Bonn and Berlin, and the sense of growing partnership and mutual trust between Britain and Germany at that time was palpable. It was however seriously damaged when the British Government of the day failed to give early and full-hearted support to the peace reunification of Germany, which occurred so suddenly in 1990. Since then Germany has been puzzled by British attitudes to Europe.

The Germans are justly proud of the democratic republic created in the past 45 years, believing, among other things, that they have found a good balance between the authority of the national government in Bonn and that of the regions--the Lander--established by the Basic Law in 1948. The state is formally described as "die Bundersrepublik"--the Federal Republic--thus using the very word "Bund" which is employed to describe the intended European Union. By contrast, the British hate the word "Federal", which we see as meaning an over-centralised superstate. So there is a fundamental difference between the British and Germans, since we interpret the key word "Bund" or "federation" in exactly the opposite senses. To the German speaker, "Bund" means decentralisation on their model.

The other great attachment in the German mind so important to them is to their currency. It was the solidity of the deutschmark and the excellent performance of the German economy, carefully nurtured by the Bundesbank, which so attracted the East Germans in 1990. The achievement is the pride of every German citizen, who has an instinctive worry that a European monetary authority would be open to devious political pressures and less immune to such influence than the Bundesbank has been. There are also concerns that the strict financial criteria for membership will be massaged for political reasons, to the disadvantage of the deutschmark. Also, it will not be easy for Germany itself to meet some of the criteria, given the heavy burden still imposed by financing the modernisation of the East German economy. There are therefore apprehensions in Germany that economic and monetary union will not work to their advantage.

28 Oct 1996 : Column 150

The chief external pressure on Germany comes from France. In this country we do not find it difficult to understand why France, after the disasters she has suffered since 1870, should regard the closest possible accord with Germany as the chief element in her foreign policy. I believe that the Germans understand that also, and that they will be willing to pay heavily in the future, as in the past, to maintain the close understanding and collaboration with France which has developed steadily since the Elysee Treaty was signed in 1963. But, as I have described, there are worries about the price to be paid. That issue should be manageable, but one cannot be sure.

I believe that many Germans would regret a decision by this country to opt out of the EMU; they would value our continuing partnership, not least as members of the European Monetary Institute. It is relevant that the reputation and international standing of the Bank of England remains strong, indeed somewhat stronger than the past record of our own economy and currency justifies.

But I believe also that many Germans are puzzled and concerned by the change of British public opinion on European affairs, which to their way of thinking is quite incomprehensible. Indeed, we are in danger of becoming, in German eyes, unreliable--one of the worst adjectives in the German political lexikon.

The Italian attitude is quite different and also interesting, as Italy desperately needs to be a member of EMU for a variety of reasons. The discipline of membership appears to offer the only route to a restoration of financial stability, while the EU's political institutions have a strong attraction for Italians, who contemplate the constitutional and political mess in their country after the collapse of communism and the revelations of tangentopoli. What matters to them is that EMU should happen quickly and that they become members of it at the earliest possible date. It is hard to see that happening without a major change in the attitude to public finance in Italy, but also without a major massage of the criteria to help Italian requirements, such is the inherited burden of the public debt in that country. But Italy will not be pleased if the British are a cause of delay in the launch of EMU.

I suggest also that there will be much interest, and some anxiety, in the smaller states which are members of the European Union should we decide to delay our entry into the EMU, or, still more so, if we turn away from it. I was impressed recently by a series of conversations with a former Ambassador of Denmark, an experienced and reliable person and a long-term friend of this country, who told me of the attention being paid in Copenhagen to recent developments in London. Denmark, as many will know, guards her parliamentary sovereignty more jealously than any other member state, including Britain, and opinion on European affairs is keenly divided there. The same may be true, but perhaps to a lesser extent, in Sweden; and I have noticed press reports that Austrian opinion is disappointed by the economic results to date of her membership of the EU and the stringency which may be required in Austria to meet the Maastricht criteria.

28 Oct 1996 : Column 151

I do not propose to continue longer with this Cook's Tour, having already spoken for long enough. But we would do well to contemplate the effect of any British decision to turn away from Europe. France may see some advantage in that, but the general impression on the Continent would be of dismay and anxiety about the result for the other European countries. The EU would probably divide into "ins" and "outs", something which would alter drastically the evolution of political Europe in our generation. Some people here may not be unduly concerned by that. But we could not readily avoid the criticism that, by pursuing her own interests, perfidious Albion had deliberately divided Europe, reverting to the outmoded imperial maxim of divide and rule. We may think such comments unfair, even grotesque, but we should be prepared for them.

5.37 p.m.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, I warmly welcome the strong commitment in the gracious Speech to a successful and smooth transition in Hong Kong in June next year. I was encouraged to hear from my noble friend Lady Chalker of the recent constructive meeting in New York between my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and his Chinese opposite number.

Your Lordships debated Hong Kong a few months ago in this Chamber and I do not propose to cover the ground that was so ably dealt with on that occasion. I should like to concentrate on one specific matter which is a purely British responsibility and which has not yet been satisfactorily resolved. I refer to the question of the non-Chinese ethnic minority in Hong Kong--a rather cumbersome term--because those people are British subjects, but British subjects without British citizenship.

When Hong Kong reverts to China on 1st July 1997 the non-Chinese ethnic minorities--some 4,000 to 5,000 individuals, mostly of Indian descent--will be left in an invidious position. They and their descendants risk becoming stateless. They have a strong claim to be granted a full British passport before the handover to China because they came to Hong Kong when it was British and many of them are second or third generation Hong Kong residents. Those people had full British passports and the rights that those British passports gave them. Those rights were removed in the amendments made to the Immigration Act 1962 and subsequent amendments which left them in a defenceless state.

Unlike other Hong Kong residents, those people will not be eligible to hold the new Hong Kong SAR passports. Chinese nationality is based on ethnicity and non-Chinese will therefore not qualify for those passports. The British National (Overseas) passports which those people hold is little more than a travel document. It gives no right of abode anywhere at all. The minorities' right of abode in Hong Kong is written into the 1984 Joint Declaration between Britain and China, not into the BN(O) passport. After 1997, the BN(O) passport's credibility will depend on the state of Anglo-Chinese relationships. It very much looks to me as though the credibility of a British travel document will depend on how China decides to regard it.

28 Oct 1996 : Column 152

The handover of Hong Kong to China is a unique event. Hong Kong will not become independent, but will become part of China. Thus, unlike previous holders of British Dependent Territory passports, the Hong Kong ethnic minority will not have the option to take up passports of a new independent state. Therefore, giving passports to these 5,000 or so individuals can in no way be considered a precedent, which I gather is one of the reasons why the Home Office is playing such a dead bat to this question. It is not an immigration issue. It is about treating fairly British subjects in Hong Kong.

This ethnic minority's appeal for full British nationality and passports has been supported by the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, by the present Governor of Hong Kong, by the Hong Kong Legislative Council and by all participants in the debate on the House of Lords Motion on this subject in July 1993, as well as by two very distinguished former governors of Hong Kong, the noble Lords, Lord MacLehose and Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, and by a former Minister with responsibility for Hong Kong, my noble friend Lord Glenarthur. So it is true to say that it has strong cross-party support.

It is true that this minority was given assurances by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister during his visit to Hong Kong in March this year that if they come under undue pressure to leave Hong Kong they will be given the right of abode or the right of entry into and settlement in this country. I do not believe that is quite good enough. It really is not. The view from Hong Kong on what constitutes pressure will be very different from the view from Westminster.

The entire populations of two other British dependent territories--namely, the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar--have been offered full British citizenship. If we are under an obligation to allow 100,000 citizens of Macao who have been given Portuguese nationality to settle in this country because of our membership of the European Union, surely we can do no less for these few thousand people in Hong Kong to whom we owe a duty of care.

5.42 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord, Lord Willoughby de Broke, will agree that another matter has been left unsettled in the negotiations between Britain and China on Hong Kong. I refer to the question of whether or not the Chinese feel themselves bound by the reporting obligations in the international covenant on civil and political rights, a matter which has been taken up with us by a number of activists in Hong Kong and about which they feel deeply concerned. Since Ministers are always telling us that they raise human rights questions with other governments at every opportunity, and since on Saturday the Chinese vice-premier, Mr. Li Lanqing, is coming to Britain for a week's visit, that gives the Government an opportunity to express our concerns on this issue and to attempt to get a reply out of them--with fewer than nine months still to go before the handover.

There are other issues which I hope Ministers will raise with the vice-premier. There are the individual cases in China itself of the detention of dissidents. There

28 Oct 1996 : Column 153

is the case of Liu Xiaobo, who was arrested on 8th October by the Beijing Public Security Bureau and, without judicial process of any kind, sent to a labour camp for three years on account of criticisms that he had made of Jiang Zemin. There is the detention of Wang Dan, arrested on 21st May 1995 and held incommunicado ever since, after he signed a petition calling for tolerance and the release of political prisoners. The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN has nine pages on China in its current list of cases.

Ministers might also ask Mr. Li whether the authorities in Beijing are considering any changes in their own law in the direction of greater freedom of expression and whether they would at least co-operate with the UN rapporteur on freedom of expression, Mr. Abid Hussain, who at the time of writing his reports in March 1996 had still received no replies from the Chinese to the cases he had taken up with them. I hope Ministers will also raise the question of Tibet. The Dalai Lama has offered discussions on the status of the so-called autonomous region within the framework of Chinese sovereignty but the leadership in Beijing has continued to pretend that he is demanding total separation. Could we ask Mr. Li to confirm Deng Xiaoping's assurance that,

    "anything except independence can be discussed and resolved",

and, if so, to modify the aggressive response which was made to the latest offer of talks by His Holiness?

The enormous number of human rights issues which come to our attention, not least via the BBC World Service, whose pre-eminence has been threatened not by the foreign dictators it so effectively opposes, but by Mr. John Birt, as my noble friend Lord Thomson of Monifieth has already mentioned, means that we need to look for new ways of dealing with these problems in Parliament. We are not well equipped to do it. I have suggested on occasion that this House should have a Select Committee on human rights. The suggestion was not particularly well received by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, but I think it bears consideration. Some of the issues that have been mentioned this afternoon would lend themselves ideally to the work of such a Select Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, mentioned the possibility of an international criminal court and several of your Lordships dealt with the work of the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. That tribunal ruled, in the case of Tadic, that war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the course of an internal armed conflict were justiciable. Since almost all the armed conflicts in the world today are domestic, this opens up the possibility that in other countries where soldiers have murdered or raped civilians, for instance, they could be brought to trial in third countries.

This development was reinforced in the land-mines agreement in Geneva, which my noble friend Lord Redesdale mentioned, which, although not going as far as many people wanted, did make it a criminal offence of universal jurisdiction to use these weapons in a

28 Oct 1996 : Column 154

non-international conflict. I should be grateful if the Minister could tell the House whether the Government will commit themselves to extending the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 to reflect these advances in international law. It would also be useful to know whether the Labour Party will do so when they come into office next year, as forecast by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone.

If the war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda are to act as deterrents to others who may commit similar crimes in the future, I agree with the noble Baroness that much greater determination has to be shown in apprehending those already charged--Karadzic and Mladic in particular. Your Lordships will have noted the remarks of Judge Antonio Cassese last week which amounted almost to an ultimatum that if the two principal accused are not arrested he will ask the Security Council to close down the tribunal, which he said was becoming an "exercise in hypocrisy". If the commander of IFOR advises that he could not do it with the forces at his disposal, then let him be given whatever additional troops he thinks are necessary. Judge Goldstone said last April that he was given 24 investigators for Rwanda, and that if he had 124 it would still be inadequate. What thought is being given to the establishment of an investigative agency to serve the international criminal court if it comes into being? Should not the planning of such an agency be proceeding in parallel with the drafting of the court's statutes. What progress is being made in these tasks, and are they being hindered by the financial stringency besetting the United Nations as a whole?

This financial crisis definitely hampers the work of the UN Centre for Human Rights. The working group on arbitrary detention was considering a visit to Bahrain but has had to defer the project because of lack of money. The International Red Cross was also meant to be going there in October, according to the Minister, Mr. Jeremy Hanley, who was in Bahrain earlier this year, but it says that it has not yet received an invitation.

One would like to know what other UN centre work has had to be postponed or cancelled and whether our own Government are pressing for improvements in the funding arrangements. It appears that over the years there has been a steady growth in the demands made on the special rapporteurs on thematic issues and on the working groups and also in the number of country rapporteurs, without a corresponding increase in the centre's budget. The figures are, however, not readily available. I hope that we shall use our influence to see that the budgets are prepared on a basis that identifies the funding of particular elements within the special procedures section of the UN Centre for Human Rights.

I now turn to the OSCE, whose human dimension review conference is about to convene in Vienna. The UK will be playing the lead role there on the question of freedom of expression and we will be drawing attention to countries whose actions have given cause for concern, including Turkey. It is a fact that Turkey has by far the worst record of any country in OSCE, not only on freedom of expression, but on torture, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention, forcible displacements and other human rights violations.

28 Oct 1996 : Column 155

That is not the only reason for highlighting the case of Turkey when there are so many other deplorable human rights situations in the OSCE region. What makes Turkey unique is that the internal arms struggle, which has led to the forcible displacement of 3 million people and the destruction of 3,000 villages as well as large areas in the bigger towns such as Sirnak, Lice, Cizre and Yuksekova, have escaped the attention of the OSCE conflict resolution mechanisms; that the oppression of the Kurds in the south east, which is the cause of the armed struggle, is not within the terms of reference of the High Commissioner for National Minorities, nor is it dealt with as a gross violation of the Copenhagen Declaration; that literally hundreds of cases arising from breaches of the European Convention are now winding their way through the European Commission and Court; that hundreds of writers and journalists are being tried before the state security courts in Turkey for their articles and books.

Confronted with this mass of evidence and the knowledge that Turkey's policy on the Kurds is made by the National Security Council--a body which is dominated by the military and not by the elected government--Foreign Office Ministers still say that Necmettin Erbakan, the new Prime Minister, should be given time to implement human rights undertakings, which are no different from those made by his predecessors, Mesut Yilmaz and Tansu Ciller. They say that they have no plans to raise Turkey's non-compliance with the OSCE's code of conduct on politico-military aspects of security at Vienna although this agreement, which requires participating states to use the minimum degree of force in internal security operations and to avoid causing harm to civilians and their property, is one of the few means of calling the Turkish military to account in a semi-public forum.

Turkey's interests are inextricably linked to those of her neighbours, Syria, Iraq and Iran, rather than to Europe, as they are generally seen. That is not because of fraternal bonds between Islamic neighbours as Mr. Erbakan would have it, but through the necessity of road and rail links and the need to collaborate with their neighbours in developing oil and water resources. The oil pipeline to be developed between Iran and Turkey is an example of how local commercial imperatives contradict the American policy of dual containment. We will also see Turkey joining in the pressure to implement Security Council Resolution 986, which the Minister mentioned in her introductory remarks. It allows Saddam to sell 1 billion dollars' worth of oil every 90 days without the guarantees of equitable distribution and international monitoring specified by the UN.

The so-called "safe haven" of northern Iraq, supposed to confer western protection of the Iraqi Kurds against the oppression of Saddam Hussein, has been exposed as a total sham. It never provided the people with any security against their own warlords, and particularly Massoud Barzani, whose act of treachery in opening the gates of Kurdistan to the man who tried to exterminate the Kurds in the infamous "Anfal" of 1988 seems not to have been envisaged by the United States or the

28 Oct 1996 : Column 156

Europeans. Supported by Iraqi tanks, he now controls Arbil, but without them he would be swept aside by the wrath of his own people.

In the latest fighting the KDP had 15 Katyusha rocket launchers, 40 armoured personnel carriers, several 130 and 155 mm artillery pieces, all given by Saddam after the initial fighting. So when the Minister says that firm action will be taken against Saddam if he intervenes again in the conflict in northern Iraq, she has a little explaining to do about why this second initiative by Saddam to help his allies in the conflict there attracted so little attention from the West.

As regards Resolution 986, how are international agencies going to operate in this precarious and unstable situation? How will monitors be able to work not only in the Kurdish region but in the south of Iraq, parts of which have been totally closed to foreigners for years?

Perhaps I may turn briefly to Iran. For the first time Foreign Office Ministers have argued that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that the regime is engaged in planning and instigating the murder of opponents abroad. Witness C in the Mykonos trial in Berlin has given new information about the involvement of President Rafsanjani and Foreign Minister Velayati in planning these crimes, as did President Bani-Sadr in his recent evidence to the Mykonos trial. That says nothing about the Interior Minister, Ali Fallahian, for whom a warrant has been issued by the German court.

The US excuses Iran of being the instigator and paymaster of international terrorism. I suggest that it would be prudent if Europe faced this reality as well by using every gram of economic and political leverage we possess to promote change from within towards ending the mullahs' oligarchy and the promotion of pluralism in that country.

Perhaps I may conclude with a word about the Commonwealth and, following the Minister's remarks, about the activities in West Africa to try to bring Nigeria, Sierra Leone and The Gambia back towards democracy and human rights. I join with her in congratulating the people of Sierra Leone on the successful elections and the restoration of a form of peace, although fighting still continues on such a wide scale that we cannot say that the problem has been solved.

The achievement of the Commonwealth is to use the Harare Declaration as a yardstick against which to assess the compliance of members with a set of human rights and principles. In particular we are looking at the cases of Nigeria and The Gambia in terms of the work of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and how we can assess the progress they are making towards meeting those objectives.

In The Gambia and Nigeria the Commonwealth has been decisively rebuffed so far. The Gambia has followed the Ghanaian pattern of stage-managed elections to confer spurious legitimacy on the military government. Nigeria is following its time-honoured path of evasion and procrastination. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has merely exposed the reluctance of the international community to take any measures that would really hurt the regime in Nigeria.

28 Oct 1996 : Column 157

Finally, in the case of Cameroon, which is also a matter for scrutiny by the Commonwealth, there are local, regional and presidential elections scheduled next year and already there are allegations of irregularities in the preparation of the new register. That is a matter in which the Commonwealth Secretariat has yet to show any interest.

I commend the work of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group as at least a step in the direction of securing compliance with the Harare Declaration. I wish it well in its work and I hope that the Government will continue to give their full support to that initiative.

5.57 p.m.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, this summer has served to illustrate the complex and dangerous world in which we live: Israeli intransigence towards the peace talks necessitating stark choice between peace or continued enmity; Kurd in-fighting; ethnic war possibly to encompass all central Africa; uncertainty in the Kremlin and long-term anxiety in the Chinese seas are all examples.

But it is to two equally important, yet until recently comparatively unreported issues, that I wish to turn. First, I refer to the civil war in Afghanistan and, secondly, I wish to consider the effectiveness of current United States policy towards the state of Colombia and British interests in the light of that policy. I was in Afghanistan last month and met the contesting factional leaders together with the United Nations special envoy, Norbert Holl, to whom we should give unconditional support for without it he will fail. I have also recently returned from Colombia.

The Afghan question is complex. The country is in a desperate state. Arguably, the situation is now more dangerous than ever, with long-term regional implications. Afghanistan is currently two-thirds in the hands of Pakistani-trained purist Islamic students, known as the Taliban, with the northern remainder effectively controlled by General Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek. The speed of the Taliban's military advance into Kabul took the people of Afghanistan and the world community completely by surprise. Kabul is currently being defended from the combined forces of General Dostum and Commander Masoud, the military leader of the ousted central government. General Dostum's proposals to demilitarise Kabul--already 60 per cent. totally destroyed--were rejected by the Taliban.

It is possible that a stalemate has been reached and it is therefore impossible to predict an outcome with any certainty. Although there have been longstanding exchanges of delegations between all opposing sides, I see little chance of conciliation. They are ideologically poles apart. I quizzed the Taliban leadership and General Dostum at some length about this. The Taliban are enforcing their own version of strict Islamic codes: closing girls' schools; restricting the movement and rights of women; and imposing harsh punishments, including executions and amputations. Not surprisingly, peace and order are restored quickly once an area has

28 Oct 1996 : Column 158

been overtaken. General Dostum's agenda is for peace, retaining control in his provinces, recognising rights for women and deploring Islamic extremism. While wishing for a united Afghanistan, he considers that it would be difficult to have a central government and feels that a federal system is the only workable option. All sides consider that the deposed President Rabbani is an obstacle to peace.

Peace in Afghanistan would benefit not only the people of Afghanistan, but would be in the interests of the majority of neighbouring states and the broader world community. A Western concern should be the increased regional instability associated with the spread of Islamic extremism. The right reverend Prelate, who is not in his place, touched on such matters, but I should like to draw his attention to the importance of understanding the difference between extremism and fundamentalism. I suspect that the right reverend Prelate was referring to extremism.

Russia is attempting to resurrect a military presence in Central Asia once again on the pretext of regional security. That is certainly against the wishes of the newly independent states and is, I believe, against the interests of the West. Additionally, the West wishes to exploit the vast oil and gas reserves of Central Asia. Equally important, however, is that while the distribution route to the warm-weather port of Karachi remains closed, the development and economic growth of the central Asian republics is severely restricted. The only practical route is through Afghanistan. All that is yet another element of Kipling's Great Game.

The question is how to engineer peace. Other than outright military victory, only the people of Afghanistan, in my view, can achieve a settlement. Much is made of external influences. There is clearly an essential role for the neighbouring states and the world community--but only one, however, and that is to encourage the Afghans to a conference of national reconciliation--that and no more. There will never be peace while neighbouring states jockey to have their respective interests factored in. Those arrangements must, however, be chaired by the United Nations as a neutral observer. Ex-King Zahir Shah, currently in exile in Rome, stands ready to return as a figurehead, if that is the general will. His only wish is to bring peace and constitutional order. His name was raised in a number of different quarters and possibly his time has come.

A realistic proposal is to establish an inter-Afghan meeting, a Loya Jirgha, between influential individuals and groups with a view to forming a provisional broad-based government. The main task would be to work out a new constitution and electoral laws. Once achieved, it will be essential that two issues be included in the settlement: the safe return of refugees and the protection of women's rights. I believe that this House should send a clear signal that Western governments will not tolerate abuse of women's rights. Additionally, the large opium production and the revenues generated from that will have to be addressed. The latter will give the West long-term problems.

Afghanistan is a beautiful country, with fine people. It is a nation that has known little other than conflict and, with it, has inherited 10 million unexploded

28 Oct 1996 : Column 159

landmines throughout its cities and farmlands. Let us all pray that peace will come--and soon. I have one question for the Minister. What is the approach of the ODA in relation to humanitarian aid given the rapidly changing circumstances in Afghanistan?

And so to Colombia. Recent killings in the southern coca-growing regions have highlighted the essential need for world sensitivity to what is an international social menace. Countries caught up in the drugs scourge, whether it be at the production, distribution or consumption stages, all suffer. What is not generally known in Europe is that Colombia is being castigated by the United States, placing it in a category of pariah states, for not doing more to curtail the export of drugs. On 1st March, the United States Government decertified Colombia, which rightly feels that that is a kick below the belt. Certification is a unilateral annual review procedure under which the United States Government decide which of the producing or transit countries have co-operated fully in the fight against drugs. That policy against Colombia, instigated by the same Jesse Helms of Helms-Burton fame, has three mandatory effects: all aid except anti-drug is automatically stopped; Eximbank guarantees are no longer issued for transactions, and the United States will vote against loan requests by Colombia to the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank--in other words, yet more misery for the majority of law-abiding citizens.

It has to be said that the United Kingdom shares similar concerns and objectives to those of the United States, but we differ in approach. I believe that our policy of active and genuine co-operation in the drugs field is effective and is likely to yield the best practical results. That policy also helps to keep Colombian drugs out of the United Kingdom.

I am satisfied, however, as indeed is the American ambassador in Bogota, that many positive steps are being taken by the Colombian authorities. The anti-narcotic police can be singled out for their effectiveness and bravery, yet they are required to carry out their work with scant resources and a shortage of equipment and facilities. I have visited the coca-growing regions on patrol, landing by helicopter to flush out narco-guerillas who intimidate and manipulate peasant farmers. I have been briefed about the supply of essential chemicals for production that come principally from Europe and the United States.

I have spoken to bankers about money-laundering in the face of a singular lack of action by Western governments. I have seen how ineffective is the United States as the principal consuming nation in deterring domestic abuse. Yet, in the fight against drugs in Colombia 20,000 have lost their lives, including judges, members of the police force, journalists and innocent citizens. It has spent 14 times more than the amount allocated by the international community via the United Nations for combating illicit drugs.

Although Colombia has to address certain issues, the war against drugs must be a team effort, with every country, particularly the rich developed nations, working together in a constructive way. President Samper-Pizano has defended accusations by proposing

28 Oct 1996 : Column 160

in the United Nations a number of positive measures as to how the world community should combat drugs. I believe that those proposals deserve international consideration.

I regret that many governments pay only lip service to measures for purely domestic political expediency. The anti-narcotic police singled out the United Kingdom as being particularly effective in areas such as intelligence co-operation and other matters. The reality is that the eradication of coca plantations is only part of the solution. Crop substitution and ensuring distribution mechanisms in domestic or international markets, combined with a formula that ensures a fair constant price to farmers, is equally part of that solution.

In the light of what I have explained to your Lordships, the Colombian authorities, who historically are dependent on relations with the United States, have taken the decision to diversify future relations and focus on the European Union and the United Kingdom in particular. I believe that one indication of that relationship is the fact that the Colombian Ambassador to London, who also holds the post of vice president, continues to serve in this country. For example, United Kingdom exports to Colombia have increased by 50 per cent. over the past 12 months.

In conclusion, I believe that for economic, political, military and intelligence co-operation the United Kingdom should recognise a close ally and rise to the challenge.

6.13 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, in 1979 many of your Lordships who are in the House today received letters from me regarding the BBC World Service. Those letters were part of a campaign at a very sensitive time to stop the Government's plan to cut £4 million off its £40 million budget. For many reasons that would have been a disaster. We won our campaign and the Government abandoned the cut. That happened thanks to the support of many of your Lordships but, most of all, to the courage of my noble friend Lord Carrington, the then Foreign Secretary. I suppose that that marked the start of my involvement in politics. I tell your Lordships this because, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, has said, once again the BBC World Service is, alas, under threat. This time it is due for a £10 million cut. Taking into account inflation and the operating consequentials of the PFI, this adds up to nearly £20 million.

We have heard many speeches in this House lauding the unbiased high standard of the BBC World Service. We know the influence that it enjoys worldwide and the respect in which it is held. It is acknowledged internationally as the best broadcasting system in the world. It is one of the prides of Britain and one of our best ambassadors. Yet it is threatened once again. Surely we cannot allow these cuts to happen.

In the present climate I should perhaps declare an interest. Like many others, I listen to the BBC World Service every night wherever I am. Some may call us insomniacs. It is a sad condition when one cannot sleep except when it is time to get up and one keeps innocent

28 Oct 1996 : Column 161

sheep jumping over a fence all night. Luckily, the BBC World Service comes to the rescue. Last night, I heard the results of the first round of the Bulgarian presidential elections held yesterday. That reminded me of the time when I went to canvass in that country in the first free election after the fall of the Berlin Wall. On discovering that I came from Britain, people came up to me not simply to speak but to thank me for the BBC World Service which was their lifeline.

As H.L. Menken said:

    "Most people want security in this world, not liberty".

When it was not jammed, the BBC World Service gave people who were able to listen security, as they knew that the information that they received was sound and fair, but it also gave them the strength with which they eventually gained their liberty.

In the gracious Speech we heard that the Government would further reduce the share of the national income taken by the public sector. That is surely right, provided it is not part of the agreed grant-in-aid of the BBC World Service. The BBC World Service is funded by a parliamentary grant-in-aid through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office but remains managerially and editorially responsible to the Director General and Board of Governors of the BBC. Many of your Lordships will know the figures. However, for those who do not, I remind them that the World Service--our flagship abroad--was started in 1932. It reaches 140 million listeners a week and is heard in 42 different languages. It would be a tragedy if we were to broadcast only to countries which for the moment we felt needed the security of hearing the unbiased truth. It is just as vital to broadcast to those countries that today we feel may no longer need that security. Who knows what will happen tomorrow in this ever-changing world?

There are rumours that the Finnish service may be cut as that country is now part of the European Union. But 32 per cent. of the people of Finland listen to the World Service which is still the principal provider of international news. As we look around the world today without the cold war, it may seem to many to be a safer place. Sadly, I am less certain. As we have heard in two eloquent speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and my noble friend Lord Kingsland, Russia has changed dramatically since Stalin and Gorbachev but the situation is as fragile today as at any time in its turbulent history.

Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan are examples. I could mention many other places where we would wish for more peaceful and stable situations and where people long for security. In the encouraging and inspiring speech of my noble friend Lady Chalker we heard about the importance of stability, which is in Britain's interest, as is the future security and prosperity of all the countries of the world. We cannot deny that the BBC plays a crucial part in this equation. The World Service has always played an important role worldwide because of its credibility and globality.

28 Oct 1996 : Column 162

Mrs. Thatcher (as she was in the 1970s) so rightly said:

    "There are two great challenges of our time--the moral and political challenge, and the economic challenge".

I believe that these challenges aptly apply to our external services. I hope that my noble friend Lord Howe will be able to provide an assurance that he will press the Chancellor on this subject. The BBC World Service must continue to be fully funded, and remain the BBC World Service.

6.20 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld: My Lords, I should like to speak briefly about an issue which is not only central to our European policy but which should be high up in our thoughts on our role on the world stage; that is, our trilateral relationship with Germany and France.

The importance of nursing and improving our relations with either bilaterally is too obvious to be stressed, but I believe that the axis Paris-Bonn is an axiom of European politics. A forum where all three can meet and consult overtly and regularly is urgently needed. It is needed irrespective of whether or when we join a single currency or opt in or out of this or that component of Maastricht. For there is hardly a single international issue which does not affect our three countries jointly and where our resources and experiences could not complement and enhance the triangle. If the European Union is to be enlarged, such a forum would be even more essential--a forum for consultation and constant monitoring and not a European directorate or executive committee. If France and Germany were able to forge a solid, complementary link, Britain for her part would bring to the table her permanent membership of the Security Council, her nuclear status and her staunch Atlanticism, which, while it might mildly disquiet the French, must reassure the Germans.

In that context, President Clinton's commitment to NATO enlargement implies continued American involvement and should allay fears of isolationism and an American retreat from European crises. But there are, alas, serious obstacles to a close, trilateral understanding--obstacles which are not only of a substantive political kind but also largely of a psychological kind, and some of them are of our own creation. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, initiated a debate on Anglo-German relations a few months ago, where forthright voices criticised the harsh and shrill anti-German tone pervading the European debate in this country, ranging from tabloids through broadsheets, from the Back Benches right up to the Front Bench of the Government.

Eurosceptic extremists continue to use language not heard since the Second World War, exuding bile and bias, distorting argument and, if it were not so serious, I would say farcically demonising the head of a German Government, who more than any of his predecessors distanced himself from the idea of a centralised superstate or the loss of cultural and indeed political identity of the member states of the European Union.

28 Oct 1996 : Column 163

Yet it was Chancellor Kohl and Germany which were the butt of the attacks in all the speeches of the much advertised Referendum Party conference in Brighton. All the ills of the Union were blamed on Germany; its very creation was said to have been a German plot. The names of Jean Monnet and Robert Schumann were never mentioned. With its populist speeches and bizarre historical analogies it represented a nadir of political discussion and may, as such, earn a footnote in British political history. But I think that some of the rankling misgivings among ourselves about France and Germany could still be allayed. I was much impressed by the trenchant and lucid analysis by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, of the differing conceptions in Britain and Germany of the nature of federalism--differences which are both semantic and deeply philosophical. That is just one example.

If the European debate were to be put on to the right rails, and if the British Government and their successors were to face the challenging opportunity and the duty to raise the quality of the European debate, that could help a great deal, and the British public deserves it.

To try to harmonise the perceptions of enlightened national interest among the three European neighbours does not mean to surrender distinctive preferences or abandon initiatives, but serious consultation could avoid dangerous aberrations. We could learn a good deal from Franco-German relations. They have, of course, occasional turbulences and there is an underlying wariness, but there are mechanisms for constant discussions and exchanges and frequent realignments of policy.

Though public discussion is now centering around the ERM and the Euro, I find thorough discussion of European attitudes to crisis areas, such as the Middle East, most important and as it is a worrying situation. That is why I believe that President Chirac's visit to that troubled region was neither happy nor helpful. I do not question the fact that, like his predecessor, President Mitterrand, he wanted to help the peace process along and raise Europe's profile, but, unlike his predecessor, he exchanged the role of umpire for that of partisan. He arrived with a rolled European umbrella which when unfurled turned into a French parasol. He stiffened, in consequence, intransigence on both sides. He gave little comfort to the moderate Israeli camp, yet warmed the heart of President Assad, whose dour negativism contributed decisively to the Israeli election result, and he had a crumb of comfort for Saddam Hussein.

But, above all, the main perception of the visit, as it has been seen by most people in the Middle East and elsewhere, has been a clear attempt to undermine the role of the United States as the chief mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Sir Leon Brittan's statement distancing Europe from President Chirac's anti-American sallies were timely, as I think also were the remarks of the right honourable gentleman the Foreign Secretary.

The thesis that the American mandate should be diluted sent dangerous signals yet further afield. Why should not Russia accept with alacrity the idea that America must not be allowed to play a pre-eminent

28 Oct 1996 : Column 164

role? Enter Mr. Primakov, a lifelong ally of President Saddam Hussein and supporter of President Assad, from the Andropov and Brezhnev days. Before we know it, we might well be back at the power poker game in the Middle East of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

We all know that peace-making is a delicate affair. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, Europe has a legitimate claim to be consulted, but it must be done discreetly, even-handedly, and compassionately. The Germans have an impeccable record: they are dispensing financial and technical aid in Gaza and the West Bank efficiently and yet keep a low profile; they have been helpful with prisoner exchange and the search for missing persons. Europe must play an important part--and indeed Russia and Japan might have much to contribute--during the later phases of negotiations, but only the United States can effect breakthroughs; and therefore an erosion of American influence or reputation in the region is a serious threat to the prospects of peace. In that region, as indeed anywhere else in our troubled world, Britain, France and Germany, working together trilaterally and harmoniously, could facilitate real progress and build enduring bridges.

6.28 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing: My Lords, I realise that there are many still to speak. I shall therefore try to keep my speech relatively short. I wish to support the World Service, which means it already has the support of three speakers. I believe that my noble friend Lord Howe will deal with the subject in his reply.

The Treasury always thinks up tame ideas for new Ministers. When I arrived at the Admiralty the budget was being discussed. I was quickly told that we could save a great deal of money if we got rid of the Gurkhas. I said, "But the Gurkhas are the people we need to fight terrorism." If we had enough Gurkhas in Ireland, I believe that terrorism would disappear very quickly. The Treasury tries it on everyone who arrives there. People are always told, "Get rid of the Gurkhas." Anyone who has any sense or who has any knowledge of the Gurkhas and how they operate says, "Don't get rid of them. They are the one group of people whom we need above all else for this sort of terrorist war we are now coping with".

We should not cut the budget allocation to the World Service. I can think of places in the BBC where there could be cuts. Do we really need local radio when it is duplicated by commercial stations? I lived at Newbury at one time and listened to two stations. The BBC had something like 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. of the listeners; the other had something like 10 per cent. Why try to cover the whole of the waterfront when one has specialisation?

I query also whether the BBC has a surplus of staff, even today. I know that several thousand jobs have been axed but judging from the credit titles one sees there is room for manoeuvre and economy. I am cynical too about the digital expansion. I wonder whether the BBC is right in believing that 50 television channels will be taken up by the populace. Television sets used to need

28 Oct 1996 : Column 165

replacing every three years; now they are very good. I wonder whether millions of people will spend money unnecessarily buying black boxes to put on top of them.

The document published by the BBC and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office runs to some 16 pages and patience is needed to read it. However, it appears to be along the right lines. It contains many assurances that, "We will do this, that and the other". But we need to keep a check. Such undertakings are easy to give but sometimes that is the last one hears of them. We must carefully monitor the situation.

Perhaps I may give an example. One keeps cuttings because they can come in useful. I found one relating to Mrs. Bottomley answering a Question in the other place. She said:

    "He will know that the introduction of the Broadcasting Standards Council, which combines the strengths of its two predecessor bodies, is intended to ensure that with the greater freedoms that come out of the digital revolution there will also be an enhanced sense of responsibility in the interests of audiences and the public".

The punchline is:

    "I am determined that the BSC's work will be strengthened. There will be a requirement to keep a note of the steps that programme makers take as a result of complaints that have been upheld".--[Official Report, Commons, 18/12/95; col. 1210.]

We have just had a long Summer Recess. That is the time to read the complaints bulletin. Each copy takes a great deal of reading. It is published each month. There are those who say that approximately 40 per cent. of the public's complaints are upheld. If that is so they are not printed in this document. Sometimes there are a host of complaints; sometimes there are only one or two. According to a recent bulletin, out of 92 complaints eight were upheld. That is ridiculous. Why do we have a so-called strengthened regulatory authority if that is the success that is achieved?

For some time I have been pressing for a new code in order that we do not have the bullying of Ministers and shadow Ministers by people at the BBC, particularly those on the "Today" programme. The interviewer, talking about BSE, repeatedly said, "Answer the question". I believe that he said it eight times, but the Minister said, "I must first get the scientific report from the Minister of Agriculture". The codes to which I refer laid down strict conditions and were called producers' guidelines. I have met producers who ask, "What is that code?". The person who ran the organisation said, "They are just guidelines. They are voluntary. You don't have to obey them."

When one takes a job with the Ministry of Defence one has to sign the Official Secrets Act. Why should not those who broadcast to millions and who have considerable influence on the public in this country sign a document stating that they have read, marked, learnt and inwardly digested the material in the producers' codes? Why are they not compulsory for all those who have such influence?

I am told that the codes have been drafted and redrafted and that they will appear on 11th November. The new Agreement and Charter came into effect on 1st May--a significant day for Members opposite--and therefore there has been no compulsory code for five

28 Oct 1996 : Column 166

months. It is surprising that we should have done away with the old code without working out what producers should produce in the interim. That depends on the governors. We in this House were somewhat sceptical about whether the governors would have the power, influence or determination to rule the 20,000 people who work for the BBC. Certainly those at the top end have a high opinion of their ability and what they are worth in terms of the money they draw in expenses and salaries. I wonder whether the governors will have the guts, courage and firmness of purpose to carry out the recommendation of this House and the other place concerning impartiality. The Select Committee strongly emphasised impartiality. Most of the recommendations were set aside by the Government, possibly with a little nudging from the BBC and its staff.

We wish the governors well, and we wish them firmness of purpose. But we do not want secrecy. The one flaw in the World Service drama is the fact that it was kept completely secret not only from the governors but from those in command of the various sections of the BBC. Amazingly, the information did not leak out. Normally, such information "comes into our possession", it being a secret document presumably from the Cabinet. One always wonders whether such a document is genuine or whether someone has been persuaded to release information.

We wish the governors well. We wish them firmness of purpose and dedication to the principle which has long been spoken of in this House and another place. We know that they comprise strong people and that they set good and high standards. I wish that those were a little more universal. I support the report from the FCO and the BBC but I believe that the assurances need monitoring carefully. We must also monitor the financial control in that powerful corporation.

6.38 p.m.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I wish to concentrate my few remarks on women and overseas aid. I decided to speak on this subject because it is just over a year since I had the privilege to attend the fourth UN World Conference on Women held in Beijing. I led the delegation from the Council of Europe and so represented the 39 member countries. A further reason for speaking tonight is that I wish to put on record the continuing plight of women.

At that world conference 189 governments subscribed either wholly or partially to the Beijing Declaration and the 345 clauses of the Platform of Action. The UK Government made no reservations. The aim of the conference was to set out the strategies for the future in the years up to and beyond the year 2000. Those strategies were drawn from the UN conferences and summits held during the previous decade and all were designed to improve the lives of women throughout the world, but primarily in the developing countries. I am anxious to assess progress.

In making my comments I wish to make it clear that I welcome the Minister's support on gender issues. The Minister's speech to the Beijing Conference recognised women's right to freedom of choice not only as regards

28 Oct 1996 : Column 167

sexual and reproductive health but also work, education, politics and the management of household resources and expenditure. In that speech the Minister committed the UK Government to the centrality of women to the aid programme when she said:

    "If improvements in women's lives are to be seen, governments and non-governmental organisations must give priority to tackling the problems of women within their regions. The UK aid programme is ready to help; Making Aid Work for Women".

It may be that the role of women in developing countries is not seen to have the same level of importance as some of the weightier issues that we have been considering this afternoon. I would therefore wish to remind the House of some of the current facts. The Human Development Report 1995--the United Nations Development Programme--documented these in great detail. This annual publication analyses the performance of each country in the world, measured not just by traditional measures of economic growth but by what the economic growth is doing for people, for human development.

The report demonstrates that the causes of growing impoverishment in the poorest countries in the world are the same as the causes of growing inequality within the richest countries. The result is that poverty grows, illiteracy spreads and children die of preventable illnesses. The stark fact is--and I quote:

    "that in no society today do women enjoy the same opportunities as men".

Adult women suffer more than men from malnutrition. For example, of adults suffering from iron deficiency anaemia, 458 million are women and 238 million are men. Of the world's 900 million illiterate people, women outnumber men by two to one. Girls constitute the majority of the 130 million children who are without access to primary school. Because in some developing regions population has grown faster than women's education has expanded, the number of women who are illiterate has actually increased. Of the estimated 1.5 billion people living in poverty, more than 70 per cent. are female and in the last two decades the number of rural women living in absolute poverty rose by nearly 50 per cent. Globally, women's participation in the labour force has risen by only 3.5 percentage points in the past 20 years, to 39.5 per cent. in 1990. That compares with the participation rate for men of 58 per cent. Similarly, women's wages are on average considerably lower than men's.

So, one year later, how has aid worked for women? How much progress has been made by the United Kingdom aid programme in promoting gender equality? I await with interest to hear the strategy that has been adopted post-Beijing, together with the results of the consultation with a wide range of experts, NGOs and parliamentarians. In the meantime and, I hope, in a constructive spirit, I would like to ask a number of questions. I appreciate of course that, given my failure to give notice of these questions, they may not be replied to today, but I hope that they will be replied to in the future.

I would like to ask if there has been any increase in the level of aid specifically for projects designed to address the needs of women and, if so, at what level and

28 Oct 1996 : Column 168

how that extra funding has been used. As the United Kingdom Government committed themselves in Beijing to a policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes, what is the strategy for integrating the gender perspective into all aid activities? Further, are there any specific initiatives to enhance women's empowerment as a key area? I appreciate that women's empowerment has been a key element in many speeches made by the noble Baroness, and not least in her speech to the overseas development group at the end of 1995. Finally, if there are positive answers to these questions, how is the progress being monitored?

The European Union has a key role to play, as a large and increasing proportion of our overseas aid is distributed through the European Union's aid and development co-operation programmes. Consequently, the European Union's Development Council resolution on gender equality, which received positive support from the United Kingdom Government, should make a material difference to programmes for women in mainstreaming and targeting activities to reduce the gender gap, which must be an integral part of all aid activities. I believe that to help to implement that resolution, the ODA is proposing seconding to the European Union a social development or population adviser. Appreciating the present complex organisational structure of European Union development assistance, is it possible for such a secondment to be truly effective without there first being some streamlining of the European Union structure? In this context I would be interested to learn how many United Kingdom advisers have been seconded in the last two years to the European Union. Were they effective and how was their effectiveness measured?

I acknowledge the commitment of the ODA to putting more effort into programmes to reduce poverty and the suffering of the poor, for better primary health care and primary education. However, again I need some answers. What criterion will be used for measuring improvements in education quality? Will it be based on a simple reduction in illiteracy among women? What are the targets for reducing the level of maternal mortality? Is the target set in Cairo of a reduction to half its 1990 level by the year 2000, and half again by the year 2015, realistic and obtainable?

As I have said, I do not question the commitment of the ODA but, as my noble friend Lady Blackstone said, we must start to reverse the relentless cuts in United Kingdom aid spending, and dramatically shift resources towards targeted programmes to help the poorest people in the poorest countries. I appreciate that aid is not a complete strategy for reducing poverty but any increase would be fundamental in helping the 1.5 billion people who live in poverty. I would again remind your Lordships that 70 per cent. of these are women. It would help to reduce the number of people who die each year of poverty or poverty-related causes, which is estimated at between 13 million and 18 million people: mostly children. That represents 1,700 people per hour and in fact, if we think about it, during the time we have been debating this subject 6,000 people will have died of poverty. It will help the billion people who live in households too poor to obtain the food necessary for

28 Oct 1996 : Column 169

normal work. It will help in developing more programmes on preventive health, on providing clean water, on family planning and reproductive healthcare: programmes which take account of the enormous contribution that women make.

We must never ignore that contribution. Many of the structural causes of poverty cannot be tackled without recognising and addressing gender inequalities. The participation of women in decision making is crucial, particularly in determining country aid strategies. We must put the rights, needs and interests of women at the heart of aid and economic reforms. We must also continue to audit all aid programmes for their impact on women, children, the poor and the environment. I should like to end by quoting from the 1995 United Nations Development Programme report:

    "Investing in women's capabilities and empowering them to exercise their choices is not only valuable in itself but is also the surest way to contribute to economic growth and overall development".

6.48 p.m.

Lord St. John of Bletso: My Lords, the fascinating speech just made by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, would have been music to the ears of the great author Laurens van der Post, who for many years has been petitioning for the improved plight of women in Africa.

Her Majesty's Speech committed the Government to their continued contribution to the maintenance of international peace and stability and the maintenance of a substantial aid programme to help improve the quality of life in poorer countries, thereby contributing to sustainable development and the reduction of poverty and suffering.

In my few remarks today I should like to focus on a subject which has not been raised so far but which has always been raised in previous foreign affairs debates: that is, the current situation of South Africa. The historic state visit here earlier this year of President Nelson Mandela was without doubt an unqualified success. Certainly his address from Westminster Hall, which many of your Lordships attended, will be a lasting memory for all of us.

There is no doubt that Nelson Mandela has achieved the political miracle in South Africa, not just by succeeding in bringing back democracy to his country and his peoples, but also in his success in managing to promote a culture of reconciliation among all the peoples of South Africa. However, this slogan of the South African miracle is true but also beguiling. It is true because the transfer of political power was unexpectedly smooth, but it is also beguiling because it drew attention away from the country's immense economic challenges. Many fear that if the economic challenges are not met and if economic policy is not transformed, the world will forget about the political miracle and before long will see South Africa as a failed economy.

It is no secret that the expectations of the emancipated have been extremely high and that there has been slow progress in meeting those needs. There were high hopes

28 Oct 1996 : Column 170

that the reconstruction and development programme would provide jobs, houses and education. The reality has been that the RDP has been slow and erratic. Social and economic improvements particularly for the majority of the black peoples must be visible and must be sustained. Researches estimate that 65 per cent. of those unemployed in South Africa are under the age of 30 and that fewer than 5 per cent. of about 450,000 school leavers every year are able to find jobs after completing their schooling in the formal sector. However, I am pleased to say that up to 25 per cent. of that number find employment in the informal sector. Many commentators believe that the high unemployment rates among the youth of South Africa are the major source of the crime problems in the country. Many have lost faith in the ability of both the Government and the police to curb crime, with the result that vigilante forces such as PAGAD (People against Gangsterism and Drugs) have taken the law into their own hands in Cape Town.

During President Mandela's recent visit here, I was interviewed by a major radio station and asked whether the president's successful visit would lead to a,

    "tidal wave of inward investment into South Africa".

In the few minutes before I was on air I could not help but listen to what was being discussed. Almost all the news revolved around car hijackings, murders and organised crime. I could not help saying that while I believed that the opportunities for inward investment in South Africa were enormous, a number of preconditions, such as a committed drive to curb violence and create economic certainty, were essential before there could be any sustained inward investment.

The Economist of 12th October has a picture of Nelson Mandela on the front cover. It aptly summarised the three new anxieties that stand out in South Africa as lawlessness, unemployment and political accountability. A number of outspoken comments from politicians and trade union leaders there have also scared off not just potential inward investors but have also led to a brain drain which the country can sorely afford. Nicky Oppenheimer, deputy chairman of the Anglo-American group, De Beers, said,

    "in an economic world without boundaries, politicians can no longer afford the luxury of different voices for different audiences, different strokes for different folks".

Many believe that without new industries and jobs South Africa's historic prosperity might slide into a permanent third world status. With crime statistics at an all time high and with the rand having collapsed over 25 per cent. against the dollar this year, there is a desperate need for a calm yet firm resolve. There is a wide and strong consensus among all South Africans that the time for decisive action is now. I still remain optimistic that the current impasse and deterioration in South Africa can be resolved. It has been no small order for the ANC to take over the reins from the Nationalist Party and to endeavour to address the many demands placed on it. I have been particularly impressed by the calibre of the new Cabinet ministers and their openness in seeking advice and assistance from foreign governments. I firmly believe that the low ebb of confidence in South Africa is a transitional phase and

28 Oct 1996 : Column 171

that the Government have the resolve and also the ability to restore confidence. However, that will require full co-operation between government, the private sector and civil servants.

One of the major challenges facing the ANC will be to deliver an improvement in education and training. There is no doubt that one of the major reasons for the dilemma in the job market in South Africa is the inferior education that was given to the blacks during the apartheid years of the previous government; the so-called "lost generation". While unskilled black labour is cheap but unproductive, skilled labour is scarce and extremely expensive. Many parents have become disillusioned with the education system, claiming that it is only of an academic nature and that it does not provide any entrepreneurial or technological skills to give students more opportunities in the job market. In Gauteng--which was formerly known as the Transvaal--only one school offers both entrepreneurial and technical skills. A number of British charities, such as the SAN Foundation--of which I am a trustee--have sought to assist the South African Government in addressing these needs.

However, Her Majesty's Government have played a full role in promoting political and economic prosperity in South Africa. Apart from the many government initiatives, the work of the many NGOs that have effectively been operating there for many years needs to be commended. I wholeheartedly endorse the accolades of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester--I am sorry that he has made his last speech in your Lordships' House--for the tireless work of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, who is not in the Chamber at present, in seeking a peaceful resolution to conflicts in many of the trouble spots around the world. I particularly commend her successes in South and southern Africa.

Earlier this year I initiated a debate in your Lordships' House calling attention to political and economic development in southern Africa. There is no doubt that southern Africa has undergone a form of metamorphosis over the past 10 years, propelled in part by the fall of communism and the end of the Cold War, but also by the final ending of minority rule in South Africa. Southern Africa appears to be more united and resolute than ever in confronting the problems it must solve in the region. However, there are obviously a number of hiccups. The spectre of the renewed civil war in Angola, and an upsurge of ethnic violence in Burundi and Rwanda--that has been mentioned by many noble Lords this evening--have heightened the need for regional security in southern Africa. There have been recent calls for the establishment of a 10,000 strong African crisis reaction force. Much of the backing for that initiative would come from the United States, with Britain, Canada, Ireland and Belgium all offering their financial support too. Clearly peace and stability are essential for social and economic development in southern Africa.

In conclusion, the political miracle of South Africa must be complemented with a socio-economic miracle not just for South Africa but also for southern Africa. My hope is that Her Majesty's Government will continue with their commitment to meet that end.

28 Oct 1996 : Column 172

7 p.m.

Lord Beloff: My Lords, it is generally believed that the purpose of this debate is to discuss Her Majesty's gracious Speech. I shall, therefore, begin with a quotation from it. It sets out Her Majesty's Government's attitude towards Europe as,

    "an outward-looking, economically liberal and flexible Union based on a partnership of nations".

That, I believe would and does command the entire support of the Conservative Party and, I would think, of many of no party.

I would at one time have thought that it might also have commanded the support of Her Majesty's Opposition. But I had not then heard the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, who seems to have been converted by her visit to Brussels to a stance of welcoming a much tighter and closer form of European integration. Indeed, at one moment I wondered whether she was going to make a sideways move in the House and find herself on the Liberal Democrat Benches, where that stance is common and accepted. But things go on at present between the Opposition parties as the public opinion polls begin to call into question the optimism that the noble Baroness showed about her access to office. But perhaps I am being unduly cynical. What was characteristic of the noble Baroness's speech was not so much political calculation as that customary innocence of hers about the realities of international politics which is delightful to listen to and which makes me glad that we shall see her in her place on the Opposition Front Bench for many years to come--more years perhaps than I have left to live.

Let me take one example of that innocence. She referred to the mission of President Chirac to the Middle East. As the noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, pointed out in his rapid transit through the House earlier, that visit was an almost unparalleled disaster. But the important point is that the noble Baroness does not seem to see that what President Chirac was interested in was not ameliorating the plight of the Palestinians, with which we must all have sympathy, but simply trying to reassert a longstanding wish on the part of France to be the dominant country in Syria and the Lebanon. If the noble Baroness had studied the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the origins of the Crimean War or any of the other material which is essential to understanding the situation in the Middle East and the policy of France, she might have taken a different line.

However, I use that only as an example. The main point surely about Europe--it is becoming increasingly evident--is that it is not only Britain which has a Government who put their national interest first but that that is equally true of all European governments, and of the larger ones in particular. I suspect that when the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, found Britain unpopular in Brussels, it was not among the inhabitants of the European Continent but among the commissioners and the officials of the institutions of Europe--the so-called European Union--who by their actions and policies have done more to damage good relations between the countries of Europe than any other single set of persons. I speak as a Europhile, although I have no doubt that the noble Baroness thinks of me as

28 Oct 1996 : Column 173

a Eurosceptic. But it is, after all, good relations with all the countries of Europe which concern us. There was a particularly interesting contribution earlier in the debate about Ukraine.

What is happening? We see the desperate desire of the important countries in central Europe, recently freed, to our applause, from the thralls of Soviet-imposed communism, to have the advantages of belonging to Western Europe and to have their economies embraced by Western Europe. What do they face? They face the protectionism of German, French and Italian agriculture putting up absurd barriers to trade in the products which they can produce more cheaply; therefore violating the whole notion that the European Union as it now stands is for the benefit of Europe as a whole.

I believe that there is also a great error--it comes up in speeches in your Lordships' House and in other places--in talking of Europe meaning the governments at present in power in the European countries and the Civil Service elites, or sometimes the industrial elites with which they are aligned. But we see almost daily that from the point of view of the peoples of these countries the European Union, whatever its appeal may have been in earlier years, no longer commands respect. The German people as a whole quite understandably reject the idea of monetary union which is said to be the indissoluble part of the next stage of European integration. No doubt the French Government are so far committed to that prospect. But the French people, witnessing mounting unemployment, and the social unrest that comes from unemployment, through trying to meet the so-called Maastricht criteria are of a different opinion.

As was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, the Italian Government, incapable of running their own affairs, wish to put them in the hands of Brussels. There is no evidence that the Italian people who once fought for a united and independent Italy take the same view. In other words, Britain has revealed herself to be honest about something over which other countries are now beginning to be honest.

The noble Lord, Lord Bridges, lives in a world so remote from the one that I recognise that I find our debates across the Floor rather difficult. Let me take one example. He raised the notion--it has been raised in this House many times--that the words "Bund" and "federation" mean different things to the Germans and the British. That is nonsense. The Germans understand the logic of federal government in the way in which the British, the Americans and others who have experienced federal forms of government, or have imposed them on others, understand it. The difference is not in understanding what a federal system is; the difference comes from the point at which one starts. The Germans, having started from a century of highly centralised government, culminating in the tragedy of Nazism, naturally welcomed a federal system because to some extent it reversed the centralising elements of that century. But for countries which have been independent, to enter a federal system means sacrificing that role for an approach with which they have no automatic sympathy. It may well be that the Liberal Democrats

28 Oct 1996 : Column 174

really do welcome the idea of this Parliament being no more or less important than the state assembly of Schleswig-Holstein. However, I doubt whether even they would go to the country on that platform.

I am sorry. I have bored the House with this subject before, but it is a serious matter. The logic of the whole movement towards European integration piloted by the Franco-German alliance has been towards a federal system. Indeed, it is extraordinary that people argue about the single currency from any other point of view. As any economist of repute will agree, you cannot have an area which has a single currency and does not have a government who are in the last resort responsible for maintaining the value of that currency and ensuring its free circulation. But you also cannot have a system with a single currency, such as that of the United States of America, without mobility of labour of a very considerable kind in order that the different impact of a particular monetary or fiscal policy on different parts of the country can be met. Also, and perhaps even more importantly, there must be a taxation system which enables people to move resources to the weaker or poorer parts of that conglomeration. It is done in the United States--

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page