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6.6 p.m.

Lord Carver: My Lords, I propose to limit my remarks, as I did in the debate on the Address last October, to the related issues of the expansion of NATO and the elimination of nuclear weapons. There is no more important responsibility for the Government than that of doing their best to ensure the future peace of Europe on which our security depends. I believe that the thoughtless and irresponsible way in which the North Atlantic Alliance, with the full backing of the previous Government, has embarked on its expansion threatens that peace and therefore our future security. I most warmly welcome every single word spoken by the noble Lord, Lord Healey, on the subject.

It is of vital importance to ensure that Europe is not again divided into two potentially hostile alliances, armed to the teeth against each other. To ensure that that does not happen, the first priority is to reach an agreement with Russia, if necessary formalised by a treaty, that relieves her of fears for her security and accords her a responsible place in arrangements to preserve peace in Europe. That is the first priority, and the Government must do all they can to see that the agreement between the alliance and Russia, due to be signed in Paris on 27th May, succeeds and is built upon. Of course, we welcome the agreement reached yesterday between Mr. Primakov and Senor Javier Solana. We do not know the detail but I cannot believe that it is enough to serve as a permanent foundation for permanent peace in Europe.

I fully appreciate the motives which lie behind the keen desire of countries of central and eastern Europe to join the alliance. They were forced to be members of a nasty left-handed club, dominated by their oppressor. That club has now collapsed, for which they can claim much credit. They now wish to join the respectable right-thinking club on the opposite side of the street, dominated by a country which they see as in some ways their liberator and of which many of their former countrymen have become citizens. I have no objection to their joining the alliance provided that it is transformed in a way that does not appear to pose a potential threat to those who are not members.

If that transformation does not take place, and new members are admitted and incorporated into the alliance's military organisation--because that is officially what NATO means--as that organisation now exists, and on the sort of conditions which are now being suggested, that will inevitably be regarded as posing a potential threat to countries to the east of the alliance. That is the case, first, because their forces will be incorporated into a military structure dominated by the Americans which is dedicated to reliance on nuclear weapons, and also because they will be encouraged--indeed it will be demanded of them, I understand, as a condition of membership--to organise, equip and train their forces on a model designed for high intensity warfare. That is bound to appear threatening to their neighbours and to provoke them to develop similar forces of their own.

The key to this problem is to dismantle NATO's integrated military structure and to take a new look at the aims of the alliance, including the stark commitment of Article V. Both were designed to counter the real

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threat posed by large and efficient Soviet forces, based in the centre of Europe, cutting Germany in half. That strategic situation, which arose from the way the Second World War ended, has been fundamentally changed by the break-up of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of those forces, not just back to the frontiers of the old Soviet Union but right back to Russia. It is quite unrealistic to imagine that being reversed.

The alliance should be conceived not as a means to defend western Europe against an overwhelming military threat from the east--as it originally was--but as a means of facilitating political and military co-operation between North America and Europe in the promotion and defence of their mutual interests worldwide. The automatic commitment of Article V should not be insisted on. Within this concept NATO's large and expensive integrated military headquarters are not needed. They were always in any case--as I know from having served in them--a fig leaf of internationalism to conceal the reality that overall coommand was in the hands of the Americans. That was the American condition for committing its forces. I believe that that reality should be accepted, as it was in Korea and the Gulf, and is in fact today in Bosnia. We and our partners in the alliance should accept openly that in any major operations in which the United States participates, our forces should operate under its command. In place of the NATO military structure we should make a reality of the European defence identity within the alliance. I stress the words "within the alliance". There should be a more or less integrated European military structure which must include at least ourselves, France and Germany. Other members of the alliance could join to the extent that they wished, their forces, when not engaged in operations, remaining under national command, as the United States forces in Europe always have been, and indeed all the forces of members of NATO have been.

I see no reason why such an alliance could not suit all concerned. It should not pose a threat to countries which are not members. It should satisfy the United States in ensuring retention of command of its own forces, including the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, which is now the subject of argument with France. It should satisfy France and Germany. It should satisfy new applicants for all members would be on the same basis, and it would open the doors for more. I can see no objection to it from our point of view or the point of view of other members of the alliance. When contributions of armed forces are needed for an international force of any kind, it would be a matter for decision at the time--as indeed it is now--whether we made our contribution on a national, a European or an alliance basis.

That is the immediately urgent problem. In slower time the Government must face up to examining their policy on nuclear weapons, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, said. There was no mention at all of them in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I urge the Government to take seriously the recommendations of the Canberra Commission for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons of which I was a

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member and of which I spoke in October. They should commit themselves, and urge the other nuclear powers to commit themselves, in the words of the report,

    "unequivocally to the elimination of nuclear weapons, and agree to start work immediately on the practical steps and negotiations required for its achievement".
Those steps were set out in the report.

Our critics make much of the risks involved in total elimination. Of course there are risks but, to repeat what I said in the previous debate, we must compare the risks between, on the one hand, the present situation and how it is likely to develop--that is, with a large number of weapons in existence and the possibilities of proliferation, lack of control and accident, the fear of which unites those on both sides of the argument--and, on the other hand, a situation in which there has been a progressive, step by step reduction, verified at every stage, until all concerned conclude that the risks of proceeding to the final step of total elimination are less than those entailed in keeping such weapons. There can surely be no doubt that the latter would involve less risk and that it would be a safer world for us all.

Finally, in their projected defence review, the Government must ask if we are getting value for money from our own nuclear weapons. The answer is that we are not. They are of no value as military weapons. They cannot be used. "But we do not intend to use them," say the nuclear enthusiasts--of whom there are one or two about here--"we only threaten to do so." If you are one of those people who believe that nuclear weapons are a valid deterrent against anything, we are fully covered by the American nuclear capability. It has always been inconceivable that any British government would use our weapons when the Americans had decided not to use theirs. It would be both unnecessary and undesirable for us to duplicate their use. The concept of being weapons of last resort is absolutely meaningless. What could that last resort be and how would it be in our interest to use nuclear weapons if whatever fantasy it was came to pass? They are not suitable weapons of war for us; they are merely status symbols preventing us from feeling inferior to the French, as we might if we did not have them and they did. Do this Government really believe that that is a valid reason for spending some £1,500 million a year, for that is the full annual cost of maintaining the whole nuclear weapon capability? The cost of buying, operating and maintaining four submarines is only part of that; in fact, it is less than half. If the French want to waste their money, let them. Can the noble Baroness who is to reply say with a good conscience and with hand on heart that she believes that that is good value for money?

Let me reiterate what I believe the Government should do. They should first give priority to an effective agreement with Russia. Secondly, they should transform the North Atlantic Alliance before, or at the same time as, admitting new members. Thirdly, they should co-operate with France and Germany in establishing an effective European defence identity within the North Atlantic Alliance. Fourthly,

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they should make a clear commitment to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. Finally, they should get rid of our own. This new Government have taken pride in claiming that they will adopt radical measures. However, they have given no sign of that in defence. I have offered them such a policy. I hope they will think again and adopt it.

6.18 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. In the words of Professor A.L. Goodhart--as recalled by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney--both of us, I hope, were civilised combatants in some of the same operations in World War II.

Turning to the recent past, history may well record that one of the main achievements of the Conservative Government during the past 18 years has been that the Labour Party has jettisoned many of its policies, for example on Clause 4, on nationalisation and on allowing council houses to be sold. I welcome the change. I am reminded sharply by the recent announcement concerning the Bank of England that in 1945 the Bank was at, or near the top, of the list for nationalisation by the Labour Government of that time, who were also sustained by a massive majority. That is a tangible sign of the times and of the change.

I personally wish the new Government formed by New Labour well. In foreign affairs and defence I trust that on most occasions a bilateral approach will prevail. I speak from some personal experience. Having entered the Foreign Service after World War II, I worked personally at times for Ernest Bevin, for Christopher Mayhew and, later at the United Nations in New York, for Hector McNeil. I have admiration for all the three Foreign Office Ministers of that time. I was very much aware of the joint approach to external problems and the support from the Conservative Opposition.

I was very close to one significant occasion. I was a member of the very small British permanent mission at the UN in New York. I attended the emergency meeting of the Security Council at Lake Success on the Sunday morning in June 1950, the day after North Korea had attacked South Korea. The Attlee Government immediately responded and joined the United States in urgent military action under the United Nations flag. While there was some dissent within the United Kingdom, as there was recently in the Gulf War, the Government of the day and the Opposition were together in that historic decision. I hope that there will be similar concord in major external affairs affecting British interests.

I turn to a subject referred to in the gracious Speech and by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, the Leader of the House in his opening speech today. The Government have this afternoon published their Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill referred to in the gracious Speech. I have managed to obtain a copy. It had not yet been distributed by the Printed Paper Office when the debate started, but I was sent a copy during the debate. During a four-day debate I can speak only once. Therefore the best service that I can perform at present

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is to make some immediate comment on that subject, the first very early manifestation of the contents of the gracious Speech.

In 1976-77, opinion polls in Scotland regularly indicated that 70 per cent. or more of the population appeared to be in favour of the vague concept of devolution, or some form of assembly. They were in favour of decentralisation; and that has been the case for the past 40 years. In the referendum on the Scotland Act in March 1979 only 33 per cent. supported the scheme. That was a particular scheme which the Scottish electorate clearly had not visualised or anticipated. There is a danger that if a referendum is taken first, popular support will be indicated for an idea--but an idea which means different things to many people. It is what comes out of the parliamentary process at the end that will affect Scotland.

Had the Labour Government in 1976 arranged a referendum before producing a Bill, as now intended, I would have expected about 60 per cent. to have been in favour of the concept, the vague principle of devolution. As regards the Scotland Act, at the end it was only 33 per cent. The main question in Schedule 1 to this very new Bill is simply this:

    "I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament".
That is short and clear but it begs the question, what kind of parliament? Is it to be any kind of parliament?

In contrast, in 1976, 21 years ago, at this stage of the previous exercise, a Statement was made by the Leader of the House in another place and repeated here by the then distinguished Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. It indicated that there would be one Bill for Scotland and Wales and no referendum. I quote from that statement:

    "We have decided against holding a referendum on our devolution proposals. There have been wide opportunities ... for public discussion of them".
I was the first in this House to respond from the Opposition Front Bench to the Statement, insisting that there should be a separate Bill for Scotland--which later occurred. In the event, after the Scotland and Wales Bill had been introduced it was withdrawn; and there was a referendum even though at that stage that had been discounted.

This time the Government propose a referendum first on a White Paper before the Bill on a Scottish parliament is published. Unless there is also a referendum after the parent Bill is passed, there will later be disillusion and much dissent in Scotland.

In 1976, there was in general a willingness to consider devolutionary ways forward. The Royal Commission chaired by Lord Kilbrandon had reported at the end of 1974, after four-and-a-half years of deliberations. Although there was a memorandum of dissent, the majority suggested that an assembly with limited powers was a practicable possibility but would probably have to be accompanied by a substantial reduction in Scottish MPs at Westminster. This of course was their way of suggesting how the West Lothian question could be dealt with following the precedent in Northern Ireland in the early 1920s. The political parties were reluctant

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at that time to accept this proposed reduction of Scottish representatives at Westminster whose presence was considered to be too valuable.

I believe that the situation is different today. First, the Conservative Party has no MPs representing Scotland. Secondly, the Labour Party now has so many MPs in the United Kingdom that it no longer depends so much on those from Scotland. This is a serious matter, but there is a lighter and ironic side to it. A twist of fate has caused that. Could there be a small gleam of light at the end of this particular tunnel? The West Lothian question is probably the most intractable of the problems. A reduction in representation at Westminster might placate non-Scottish MPs, especially those from northern England who were very dissatisfied on the last occasion 20 years ago. There are many other difficulties and problems with any scheme put forward and we shall be looking into those later.

A referendum records the views of the electorate in Scotland at a given time. It is inaccurate to equate that with "the Scottish people" and to make statements about the "settled will" of the Scottish people. Many Scots at any particular time are resident outside Scotland for a variety of reasons. They are British subjects entitled to vote and most of them are in England. There were many complaints in 1979 that they had no say, and that they, as Scots, regarded themselves as part of the Scottish people.

There are also a number of non-Scots on the electoral rolls in Scotland. While recording views in a referendum can be a helpful way of recording the wishes of the electorate in Scotland, we must remember that that is not the same as "the Scottish people".

I end with another point affecting this House. It is the suggestion that this House might unnecessarily delay the passage of devolution legislation. I remind noble Lords that in 1976-78 that did not happen. The Bill was debated and examined in Committee in a normal way, by no means in a dilatory manner. Because guillotines fell in the other place so as to prevent examination of parts of the Scotland Act 1978, it was only in this House that the whole of the Bill was fully examined. I can testify to that; I think I was here on the Opposition Front Bench for every minute of the debates examining every part of the Bill during its passage through this House. I urge government Ministers to ask for the Hansard records of that time with a view to being reminded of the lessons learnt then and to avoiding the pitfalls that await them.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield: My Lords, first I join with other noble Lords in welcoming the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, to her seat on the Front Bench. In common with other noble Lords I look forward to hearing her summing up later this evening. She will, I am certain, derive great satisfaction from working within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where I know she will enjoy the full support of a dedicated and loyal public service.

I also welcome the new tone--new noises, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead--in the Government's approach to foreign affairs. If this

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change of tone heralds a new practice of co-operation, a readiness to work constructively with partners, particularly in Europe, then it is doubly welcome. We must hope that this co-operative spirit will deliver us from the kind of vacant xenophobia which all too often has the pretension of defending British interests but which in fact only damages them. That is not to say that we should not be tough in our defence of British interests and hard-headed when they are threatened. But in such conditions what is important is that our voice should be listened to and should command respect.

That means that in Europe we can no longer afford to be the systemic nay-sayer, whose voice, usually grumbling moodily from where we skulk behind the political arras, is unheard or, if dimly heard, ignored. That is surely no way to defend our national interests. Last week a senior German politician remarked that Britain had after all important ideas to offer to Europe and should be listened to. It is a measure of the sorry position that we have reached that he should have spoken in terms which revealed that the idea was entirely novel to him.

If, for example, we agree with the Government (as I would) that it is crucially important that the European agenda should include concrete steps to embrace the newly liberated countries of central Europe (indeed that it should have done so long ago before we moved to the enlargement of NATO) let us hope that our representatives will in future be able to argue the case without being immediately suspected of some perfidious device to sabotage efforts towards closer union. There are many imaginative ways in which this process can be engaged upon; for example, by finding means to bring those countries at an early stage within the ambit of pillars two and three. It is a process that is in our interests and in the interests of all of Europe.

Similar considerations apply to the proposals for reform of the common agricultural policy. Enlargement of the Union will perforce, and not before time, require substantial CAP reform. That is well known and the Government's welcome intentions are set out in the gracious Speech. In this process Britain will have an important stake. But our chances of arguing successfully for a sensible and sustainable agricultural policy will not be improved if at the same time on BSE we are using the megaphone of abuse to the point where it sometimes appears that we hold all the responsibility to lie not in our own farms and abattoirs but somewhere else, probably on the Continent.

Your Lordships will have other occasions to debate economic and monetary union. Let me say just this. Too much of the debate in this country has been marked by hysteria and hyperbole, too little by rational and sensible thought. Nonetheless, serious discussions are taking place away from the tabloid headlines that are certainly as thoughtful and sensible as anywhere else in the Union and arguably just as constructive. I, for one, hope that Britain will be able to join economic and monetary union. What is clear beyond doubt is that, whether or not we join in the first round, whether we join in the second, British interests will be vitally affected by what happens and we cannot afford to be sulkingly absent from the debate.

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Perhaps I may say a brief word on the moral dimension to foreign policy, if only because the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, somewhat obliquely, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford more directly, referred to it earlier. I am bound to say that there is nothing new in morality in foreign policy. I remind the House that it was in these Houses of Parliament that Charles James Fox and his colleagues brought to an end slavery in this country, an event which led to a long campaign in Parliament for the abolition of slavery worldwide. Gladstone fought his last and most famous election, the so-called Midlothian campaign, to protect a minority victimised by the government of Turkey. To take a strong moral position is therefore not a novelty in the conduct of British foreign policy. However, far more difficult are the detailed moral judgments, case by case, when the balance between good sense and practicality on the one hand and the occupation of moral high ground on the other is so difficult to strike. The test will come in the application of policy, not in the formulation of principle.

If the new tone of which I have spoken also heralds an end to a peculiarly British form of debilitating self-doubt--sometimes bordering on paranoia and paradoxically a frequent sick bedfellow of xenophobia--then we shall have turned a significant page. Until recently it was fashionable to talk of Britain's decline and to contrast the so-called realities with what are alleged to be high-flown pretensions. We must have no truck with pretensions. But equally we must live with the facts.

The first of these is that our decline is only relative. Since 1945, admittedly with some ups and downs, our wealth has grown at an annual average of about 2 per cent.--a rate not spectacular by comparison with some, but wholly respectable. In that time our standard of living has more than doubled and in the course of this century the real wages of manual workers have doubled every 30 years.

The second point is that we are a global player. I should not wish that statement to be misunderstood. No one who has been involved in British foreign policy over the past 30 years or more can be unaware of the limitations of British power. However, it is not of power that I speak. The simple truth is that as a player, an actor, Britain is global because we cannot be otherwise, and that for a very simple reason: our wealth and prosperity depend on the outside world to a greater extent than any other country of roughly similar size.

In the brief period that I have been a Member of your Lordships' House I have learned that I must not bore noble Lords with statistics, but perhaps I may recall one or two facts. Britain is the third largest investor in the world, and the largest in the United States, with total net assets of £1.4 trillion; we provide the third largest source of private capital to the developing world; over 8.5 million Britons live and work overseas; over 40 per cent. of foreign investment into the European Union comes to Britain; 187 of the 500 largest European firms are British compared to a figure of 77 for our nearest rival, France; the City of London hosts the largest number of foreign banks of any city in the world, with the London Stock Exchange, by far the largest in

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Europe, handling 27 per cent. of the world's foreign exchange dealing, and 17 per cent. of the world's external bank lending.

In short, Britain is unique for a country of its size. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer perhaps, our economic interests give us a huge stake in the future of the European Union, in international stability and in the rules-based disciplines of the world trading system. For us, therefore, an active and constructive foreign policy is no luxury but a keen and present necessity.

To this task we bring considerable assets. I hope your Lordships will forgive me for saying that our diplomatic service is skilled, professional and widely admired and comes at a cost to our resources of about half that devoted by the French to their diplomatic effort. We belong to more international organisations than practically any other country so we do not lack for fora in which to exercise productive influence. It is gratifying to note that the gracious Speech referred specifically to NATO, the cornerstone of security, and to the Commonwealth, a unique but undervalued institution which brings benefit to all its members, including the United Kingdom. The BBC World Service reaches an audience larger by far than that reached by any rival; and the British Council is the envy of all our competitors.

As the noble Lord the Leader of the House pointed out earlier in the debate, our Armed Forces are a crucial part of our assets. Their professionalism is second to none and they are widely deployed, not only in NATO and Europe but beyond. I will not rehearse again the long list of areas in which our forces are active but they make a vital contribution to peacekeeping and humanitarian operations under United Nations or NATO auspices. These and other deployments derive not from some post-imperial hangover but from Britain's global interests and the fact that we are one of only two European powers with the will and the professional skills to undertake them.

Let us hope that the new Government, building on our assets, will ensure that Britain remains wholly engaged in international affairs, not out of foolishly romantic nostalgia for a role which is no longer appropriate but out of a clear-sighted understanding of the facts of British interests and the sources of our wealth; not because events crowd in and force a reaction but because we want to be there at the beginning to shape events; not because the European Union is some awkward and regrettable affliction of history, like the bubonic plague perhaps, but because we are full-blooded members of a partnership in which all our destinies are linked, a partnership to which we have much to offer, not least in helping Europe to look outwards to build its role in the wider world. If these are indeed the intentions of the Government, then they will enjoy the fullest support.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, my first task is to congratulate the Government on a number of actions. It is quite rare to be able to congratulate a government

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almost before the gracious Speech is pronounced. The speed with which they moved surprised me. Their first move, promised in the manifesto, was to change the Overseas Development Administration into the Department for International Development, thus giving it a Cabinet position and putting it in the mainstream of decision-making, which must be a good thing. Over the last few years international development has definitely suffered from being pushed further and further down the list of political priorities. It was a bold move to bring it back into the mainstream. It is rather unfortunate that there is no position on the Front Bench in this House for a government spokesman from the new department. In saying that I intend no offence to the Minister.

The Government's next action, which was a real delight to me and which caught me completely unawares, was the commitment made by the Foreign Secretary on his "glitzy" tour to Bonn on 7th May--a commitment of real substance which I do not believe can be called glitzy--to sign an international, legally-binding agreement at the earliest opportunity to ban the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. Such a commitment has been supported by these Benches. I am overjoyed that the Government have acted so promptly.

One matter left out of the gracious Speech is the environment. I feel that tackling what is basically a form of human pollution--namely, anti-personnel mines--means that it is being addressed to some degree. I realise that the Government will face opposition from the military who believe that such mines are a useful weapon which, if used responsibly, can help to defend British personnel. Against that argument one needs to examine at the figures of British personnel killed in Bosnia and elsewhere by these weapons.

It is only possible to combat anti-personnel mines effectively by treating them in the same way as chemical weapons and make them morally repugnant to the international community. That is the only way to stop countries producing them. In the first five years after the Second World War 147 British personnel were killed while clearing landmines around the British coast. Those minefields were clearly marked, so the danger posed in the third world cannot be too strongly stated.

The Government have made a commitment to re-enter UNESCO. I understand the reasons why we withdrew. However, I find it rather ironic that the former heritage Minister put forward Greenwich as a UNESCO site of world heritage at a time while Britain was not a member of UNESCO. I sound a note of caution, however. On carefully reading the Labour Party manifesto, I note that it contains the ominous words that the £11 million annual commitment to UNESCO would be funded by savings from elsewhere. I find that very distressing. I do not know--perhaps the Minister can put me right--whether the funding from elsewhere would come from the DID budget or from other government spending. As the Minister will be only too aware, and as has been pointed out in many debates in your Lordships' House over the past few years, the ODA budget suffered unbelievably under the last Government, falling in percentage terms.

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Indeed, the budget is set to fall this year under present expenditure plans. I realise that the Government have a stated aim to reaffirm our commitment to the 0.7 per cent. UN aid target and also to start to reverse the decline in UK aid spending. But I feel that that will be extremely difficult. Now that we have a Minister on our side, we can go to the Treasury and say, "This is a very important commitment." I firmly believe that the Government have a commitment to that, but it will have to be fought for. The £11 million saving on spending from other departments will, if new money is not found, not be savings but cuts in their budget.

Following the points made about UNESCO, I hoped to take the opportunity to find out the Government's plans relating to UNIDO, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. I believe that that organisation has merit. It has a small contribution of £4 million a year and plays a very worthy role in industrial development in the third world to make sure that the problems faced by developing countries have minimum effect on the environment. I believe that UNIDO was the victim of pressure for UN reform. I should hate to see it axed now that the UN is undertaking the necessary reforms.

Like other noble Lords, I have a great shopping list of requests. I promise to limit myself today as I am sure that there will be many more opportunities in debates over the next few months. However, I should like the Government to give a firm commitment to support the BBC World Service and, I hope, the British Council.

I turn briefly to the subject of defence. I have only two simple points to make. The first concerns the strategic White Paper. The defence review that has been promised will, I believe, mark one of the most fundamental changes in the way in which defence is organised in this country. We have quite simply to decide what the British Army is for. It has been spread so thinly over the past few years that we have a small amount of everything but lack the capability to do a great deal. Having said that, I do not believe that the defence review should mean a cut in the Armed Forces. Basically, the review looks at what we have and how to reorganise it. It may cost some more money in the defence budget to make those changes.

I offer a personal point of view, having spoken to members of the Army. The defence review is having a profound effect on the morale of soldiers. They have gone through Options for Change. Many are worried about their career prospects and indeed about what will happen to the British Army. One of the great strengths of the Army is that it is a volunteer army and a very committed army. But there is a problem. Unless the aims of the defence review are made clear and members of the Army are informed at all stages of what is expected of them and what will happen to them, there will be a very real deterioration in morale. Options for Change had a real effect on recruitment. I believe that the 10,000 under-recruitment in the British Army is a result of the image projected; namely, that the Army did not produce job security. Having said that, I believe that the defence review is a very necessary reform. I wish the Government all success with it.

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6.55 p.m.

Lord Cockfield: My Lords, I am sorry that we have lost the presence of the Leader of the House. His massive presence always adds great weight to our deliberations. I am equally sorry that we have lost, temporarily, the Leader of the Opposition, because some of the things that I propose to say he may find unpalatable. But there is nothing like the unpalatable truth to force people to reconsider their preconceived ideas. That does not mean that I do not value the presence on the Government Front Bench of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, whom I am sure we all welcome to that position. I welcome also the presence of my noble friend Lord Howe to answer on behalf of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, as we now have to express it.

Yesterday was a day of ceremony and courtesy, where compliments were exchanged between the two Front Benches. We hope that they were sincere, although one might doubt it. Today, of course, we have to face the harsh realities of the real world in which we have to live. I shall start with a comment. Too often, it is argued that the Labour Party won this election by a massive majority and we equally lost it because people felt that it was time for a change. That is far too superficial an explanation. It gives no credit to the intelligence of the British electorate. What has happened in fact is far more important and serious.

Going back to 1945--there have been references to it in the speeches yesterday and some passing reference made today--that Government entered office with high hopes. After all, their watchword was, "We are the masters now"; that is what was meant by governing in the interests of all the people. It ended in anger, bitterness, recriminations and utter defeat. I knew that Government well and many of its leading members. The almost 50 years which have passed since then, from 1951 to 1997, have been a period occupied almost entirely by Conservative Governments. There were two brief periods in which we had the penalty of Labour Governments, under, first, Mr. Harold Wilson and then Mr. Callaghan, although Mr. Callaghan survived only because he was propped up by the remnants of the Liberal Party, as it then was. But the rest of the time was a time of Conservative government.

How was that done? It was because after every electoral defeat--in 1945, 1964 and 1979--the party's philosophy, the party's approach, was completely and thoroughly reviewed under three great statesmen: Rab Butler--I knew him well; he was my senior supporter when I came into your Lordships' House; Edward Heath; and Margaret Thatcher. On all three occasions they brought the party firmly into the centre ground and in control of that centre ground. It may be thought remarkable that I refer to Margaret Thatcher as having brought the country into the centre ground, but that is what she did. What had happened was that the centre ground had moved. She was one of the few people who realised the enormous importance of that shift to the centre ground and the importance of the party occupying that centre ground. That is the explanation of why the Conservative Party remained in power and in control for the greater part of 46 years.

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What has happened recently? About seven years ago, first under the influence of Mr. Neil Kinnock and finally under the influence of Mr. Tony Blair, the Labour Party moved massively into that centre ground. It has moved away from the arid desert of the far left back into the centre ground. It was the reaction of the Conservative Party to that which was the cause of our present failure. We talked of leaving "clear blue water". Well, if the enemy invades your territory, what do you do? Do you retreat to leave clear blue water? What you do is to stand up and fight. We ought never to have abandoned the centre ground and left it to be occupied by the Labour Party. After all, this country is ultimately a country of the centre ground. We are a decent and honourable people. We have many defects, I know, but basically we are a moderate people, a people of the centre. That is where our strength lies and it is what we have to recover.

That has enormous importance in relation to the European Union, because precisely the same happened there. The policy which has been adopted by the Labour Party is the original policy of the Conservative Party, forged by Harold Macmillan, Ted Heath and, indeed, by Margaret Thatcher in her earlier and more constructive years. It is the policy that the Labour Party has taken over.

What have we done? We have moved to the extreme right. We have become, if not overtly at least covertly, sceptical about Europe. Until we realise that our place is and must be in Europe we shall never regain the confidence of the people of this country.

My noble friend the Leader of the Opposition rightly condemned the phrase "Little Englanders", but I seriously wonder whether he knows how little England now is. In the latest OECD report, over 30 per cent. of the total output--the GNP or the GDP, I do not know which and it does not matter--of the whole of the OECD belongs to the United States of America. More than 20 per cent. is generated by Japan. Over 50 per cent. of the total wealth and output of the OECD is generated by two countries: the United States and Japan. Our contribution is about 6 per cent.

My right honourable friend Mr. Douglas Hurd has commonly spoken about this country punching above its weight. But if your opponent is 10 times as big as you are, you will not get far punching above your weight if your weight is only that amount. Our influence in this world, our economic position and our prosperity can only exist if we are an active member of the European Union. The Union accounts for 38 per cent. of the GNP of the whole of the OECD countries, more than the United States. That is the power and weight which is at our disposal if we only play our cards right.

Of course, many things are wrong with the European Union, but many things are right. We in this country have pioneered many policies which are enormously to the benefit of Europe. We were responsible for the initiative of the single market; we pioneered privatisation; we have always been at the forefront of competition policy; we were the first country to try to clamp down on state aid. We have innumerable

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strengths to bring to the European Union. It is all very well criticising the Union for the things in which it is wrong. Of course it is not as competitive as we are. Of course many of its policies will damage competitiveness, but it is in our interest to get Europe to change because Europe is our market.

We cannot get Europe to change if we stand on the perimeter merely criticising, still less can we get Europe to change if we opt out. It is an incredibly difficult job. I know that because I have had to fight it on the ground. How do you make your influence felt among 15 member states who may have very different priorities and very different ambitions from those you hold yourself? Under no circumstances would I go along with the proposition we heard from the Liberal Democrat Benches of creating a kind of triumvirate of Germany, France and the United Kingdom to rule the European Union. Along that route disaster lies. There are 15 member states which must work together: they must learn to work together and to advance in that way, not divide into big and powerful states and those who have to take whatever is offered to them.

The Labour Government come in with great rhetoric, great promises and high ambitions. I am not all that certain that I trust them. They are full of good words and good promises, but what will matter is what happens on the ground. Listening to Mr. Cook, for example, on television during the election campaign, it seemed to me that he was consistently what I would call "off-loading". He was moving more and more in the direction of the Euro-sceptic line. I am not saying that he got as far as the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, or even the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. Fortunately, in the past day or two he has seemed intent on restructuring the Foreign Office as some kind of international welfare organisation. I wish him well, as long as he keeps his hands off the European Union.

Still, we shall watch what the Labour Party does. We have goodwill towards it, but in the end we shall judge it on what it produces. But one thing must never be forgotten: our place in the world, our economic strength, our political strength rest upon our successful membership of the European Union.

7.7 p.m.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, it will not have escaped the attention of noble Lords that throughout the recent election hardly a single candidate of any party even mentioned the subject of defence. That is sad because, after all, the defence of the realm and the protection of our national interests should rate--must rate--as one of the first responsibilities of government. That is why I think that the time spent and the emphasis placed by the noble Lord the Lord Privy Seal in his opening speech on the subject of defence and our influence abroad was of considerable comfort.

Moreover, in congratulating the Government on an impressive victory, and also, more personally, Dr. Gilbert both on his impending elevation to your Lordships' House and his appointment as a Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence--in his case coming home to the department in which he served with

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distinction 18 years ago--I take heart from and have confidence in the team which now presides there. However, I hope that they will give consideration to designating a Minister having overall responsibility for veteran affairs, as happens in many other countries. Such an appointment would give great confidence to all those in the services, particularly to those who in the past have served and suffered in the service of their country.

Whenever in the past few months anyone has opined to me that, yes, perhaps the government (that is the last government, not this one) have not always handled defence as well as they should have done, but you just wait and see what infinitely worse things will happen to defence if the Government change, I have agreed with the first premise--which is of course true if you consider, for example, the parlous state of Army manpower, the Armed Forces medical services and military sustainability generally, the fairly inept handling of the so-called Gulf War syndrome and the botched-up and expensive introduction of joint staff training, much of which can be placed at their door. But I was always able to say with a clear conscience that the second prognosis did not conform to my experience, an experience in Whitehall--with, happily, frequent escapes from it--spanning nearly 50 years and up to a dozen Secretaries of State. And all for the simple reason that under Labour there always seemed to be a better attempt to match resources to commitments or vice versa.

Moreover, many would agree that of those numerous Secretaries of State I have mentioned, the noble Lord, Lord Healey--who this House will have listened to with respect and great interest--was the best because he did exactly that, as well as overseeing an extremely economical and successful campaign in South-East Asia. I only hope that this compliment to him from an old soldier will not destroy his political credibility. I remember with affection too that the late Lord Mulley had a greater feel for and rapport with those serving in the Armed Forces than some others I can think of.

I take further encouragement from what appeared in print in last summer's Labour manifesto, as well as briefly in the gracious Speech, about the importance attached to Britain's role in promoting a wider international peace and security; to strengthening particularly the military staff and readiness forces of the United Nations; and to an enhanced role for a European pillar of a strong defence based on NATO--with all of which I agree, although it will still require wise and original thought and energetic and dynamic action to implement these aspects properly. A change of government provides a good opportunity to look at many of the key defence issues such as nuclear weapons and the whole future direction and structure of NATO, which has been mentioned by many noble Lords, with a fresh mind, which is badly needed.

I should perhaps sound a note of caution at this point. With all the understandable emphasis on keeping the peace, it must never be forgotten that if you train for war you can keep the peace effectively. But it does not work the other way round should the need ever arise, as history has shown it so easily might, quite unexpectedly.

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Troops who are trained and equipped only for peace-keeping soon lose their capability to do even that. If any noble Lords doubt that they have only to speak to those who have commanded in Bosnia and seen the enormous differences in the various national contingents. So there is much to be thought deeply and wisely about.

I end with two further points. First, the greatly reduced financial resources available for defence--a reduction of over 20 per cent. in real terms since 1991 when Options for Change was announced; a drop from 4 per cent. of GDP to under 3 per cent.--should not be eroded still further until the results of the reassessment mentioned in the gracious Speech are known and decisions have been taken on them at the proper level and the roles and capabilities of the Armed Forces have been properly defined.

I say this particularly at this time when, with the last government having indulged in a riot of private finance initiatives, more and more of the annual budget is now tied up irrevocably in five-year contracts with civilian firms. If the Treasury continues to demand--as surely it will unless checked--another 2 or 2½ per cent. reduction in the coming year, there is nowhere that that can come from other than from those things which impinge most directly on the ordinary serviceman's and service woman's morale and esprit de corps, such as training activity and everyday service life. This would exacerbate still further already serious recruiting and retention problems and mean that, far from retaining strong Armed Forces as promised, in certain areas the effectiveness of those Armed Forces may become so eroded and undermined that the damage will be irrevocable. That is no starting point for a comprehensive review.

Secondly and finally, a point I have made before in your Lordships' House, as have other noble Lords, particularly my noble friend Lord Chalfont, but one which should be repeated as a rightly critical Opposition become the Government, if the review the Government appear to have in mind is to be truly a strategic review, set and decided upon at Cabinet Committee level, with full input from the Foreign Office (which I hope will make its requirements forcibly known early on, in the same tone used by my noble friend Lord Gillmore in your Lordships' House, and not just when recommending the dispatch of a gunboat or whatever) with also the Department of Trade and Industry considering the widest aspects of British interests, as a continuing member perhaps of the Security Council, and with a proper input from the chiefs of staff, then this should be warmly welcomed as a sensible way of matching resources to commitments, something we have lacked for the past few years.

I would welcome any assurances the noble Baroness can give about the tenor of that review. If the review, by any chance, is confined to the Ministry of Defence, it will become a repetition of the endless, debilitating studies which have monopolised the department since 1989--no fewer than 34 in the last three to four years--and have caused such damaging uncertainty and upheaval. The Treasury will at the outset establish cash limits and percentage reductions on every nook and

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cranny of the Budget so that yet again the review will start from the bottom upwards and become in effect an exercise in how to cut down to an arbitrary financial figure. I am confident that that is not the Government's intention, but it will need extremely careful watching if it is not to happen.

7.18 p.m.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I must declare an interest. For much of my life outside Westminster I have worked professionally and voluntarily with organisations involved in international and humanitarian affairs, currently including work with the think tank charity Saferworld and with International Alert.

From those involved in such work there is widespread goodwill towards the new Government. This is reflected in what we hear from our colleagues across the world. Indeed, there is a feeling that the UK has at last rejoined the world; and that is altogether good because there are few strategic issues facing us as a nation which can be resolved by the UK alone.

It is cheering to see my noble friend the Leader of the House, with his extensive UN and European Commission experience, at the Dispatch Box for today's debate, and it is clear that my noble friend, Baroness Symons, will bring invaluable experience of Whitehall to help to turn aspirations into practical achievements. I join all those who wish them and their ministerial colleagues well.

My noble friend has indicated the challenges and priorities accepted and established in the gracious Speech. They are impressive.

Let me join with those who have expressed delight at the firm decision to rejoin the significantly reformed UNESCO. We have a lot to contribute and to gain from practical international co-operation on culture, education and science. This, like the determination to make human rights central to our foreign policy--underlined at home by the welcome decision on GCHQ--is the kind of civilised commitment which it is heartening to see.

In Europe--the most immediate of the Government's priorities--we face up not only to the IGC and monetary union, with its far-reaching economic significance and, of course, its constitutional implications but, as my noble friends Lord Richard and Lord Healey and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, have emphasised, the complex issue of NATO enlargement and the imperative to avoid provoking dangerous nationalism in Russia. There is an absolute requirement, if enlargement is really to go ahead, for parallel initiatives to build on the encouraging developments this week with not just better formal but enhanced substantive, dynamic and altogether positive relations with Russia.

In the follow-up meetings--which I understand the Prime Minister will attend--to review what has already been achieved since the Rio Earth Summit and what must now be done, there will inevitably be a recognition that we are already beginning to experience the far-reaching adverse consequences of the abuse of our environmental inheritance--not least climate change--consequences which may well dwarf some of our

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current economic and social preoccupations, especially through their impact on water management and agriculture.

It is therefore essential to understand the importance of international policies which fully take into account the large technological and resource transfers which will simply have to be made from north to south if the developing countries are to be enabled to adopt critically needed environmentally friendly, sustainable development policies.

In the UN we have inherited our special responsibility, as a permanent member of the Security Council, for global stewardship and global security, a continuing responsibility which we cannot simply pick up and put down at our own convenience. There must therefore be support for the Secretary General in weeding out the self seekers and the dead wood, in building an effective professional secretariat based on merit alone, in rationalisation of the specialised agencies into a cohesive network with the winding down of those which have fulfilled their usefulness: in short a United Nations which is tasked, not institutionally orientated, which takes a proactive role as peacemaker and preventer of armed conflict, a UN with a regenerated General Assembly and a restructured Security Council and, underlying everything, with a sound financial basis.

In the international financial institutions, the World Bank and the IMF, there is much room for still more openness and accountability and for a strengthened agenda to fight world poverty and deprivation. This agenda must include an accelerated programme for multilateral debt relief as part of an overall commitment by the industrialised world to reduce the still crippling debt burdens of the poorest countries, like those in sub-Saharan Africa, debts which crush their prospects for development and undermine their stability.

As for the Commonwealth, it really is exciting to see the refreshing recognition by the Government of the very considerable economic, trading and political potential of this multicultural free association of nations.

As the Government take all this and more on board, it is good to see the Department for International Development, with its own Secretary of State in the Cabinet, poised to act as a powerhouse for practical commitment. But this department must be about more than aid alone: it must be closely involved in the necessarily interdepartmental economic, trade, environmental, defence and human rights policies without which the fight for a fairer, sustainable world will never be won.

We eagerly await the White Paper--the first in this sphere of policy for some 22 years--promised in the gracious Speech and in which the Government are to set out their strategic plans. Europe and the future of the Lome Convention must obviously be an essential part of these plans. I hope that the futile confrontation between the cases for bilateral programmes and multilateral programmes will once and for all be buried. Both have their part to play. The challenge is to ensure that they are mutually supportive.

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The beginning of the whole European Union story after the Second World War was an imaginative determination to banish by means of building practical interests in common the prospect of war between the nations of western Europe. This determination has proved itself. We have enjoyed an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity. But, sadly, the same is not true of the world as a whole. Since 1945 over 50 million people have lost their lives in warfare and millions more have been rendered destitute. In our highly interdependent world, history will certainly judge the European Union not just by its own material success but by its contribution to the wellbeing of global society as a whole.

The moral imperative is undeniable. But the economic case is also compelling. The nations of Europe repeatedly face unnecessary bills for failing to act in time. In the past two years the European Union has already spent well over £450 million on humanitarian assistance to the Great Lakes region alone and those costs will continue to escalate as we respond to the human nightmare of Zaire. The aggregated costs of refugee flows, peacekeeping, reconstruction and lost trade and investment opportunities are formidable.

As the Government take their seat in the IGC there will surely be an opportunity to persuade our European colleagues to seize the potential for working together to prevent violent conflict. We have an unparalleled inheritance of historic and cultural ties, representation at the top tables of diplomacy and economic planning and access to more than 600,000 professional soldiers. There is no doubt that we could assemble--if only the will were there--an array of carrots and sticks which, if well targeted, could help to relieve the tensions which lead to violent conflict.

Take the Great Lakes. Before the genocide of 1995 there was, among people who knew the region well, no shortage of argument for timely intervention. However, their message was not convenient and they were not heard. What should have been happening was a mitigation of the negative effects of structural adjustment and failing commodity prices coupled with effective action to stem the arms flow to such an explosive region. Instead, in the end, the world opted only for the essential sticking plaster of short-term relief. This is a failing which must be taken seriously in our approach to the Lome Convention and its future. But what the European Union has badly lacked is a process for shared analysis to provide early warning of potential armed conflict, a quasi-independent unit which can develop analysis free from the pressures of vested national interest. There is the prospect that the IGC could deliver this. I hope we will support it strongly. It is almost unbelievable that when Ministers met in March to discuss the European Union's response to the Albanian crisis they had no common brief on what was happening on the ground.

All this, however, will be to little effect unless, as the Foreign Secretary advocates, the European Union takes a collective lead in controlling arms exports. The responsible British arms industry is an important part of our economy. It has played an invaluable role in the effectiveness of NATO and in our national defence. It

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will continue to do so. The Government's planned security review is important, not least in providing, it is to be hoped, a context within which the defence industry can plan with confidence for the future.

But we have to face the fact that in 1995 the European Union accounted for 30 per cent. of all weapons sales to the developing world, exports which too often exacerbated conflict, fuelled human rights abuses and increased instability. And that 30 per cent. did not include the black and grey arms trade of the arms already there and constantly recycled. There is a desperate need to strengthen the vague existing European Union criteria relating to arms exports and to introduce, as called for in the carefully worded Labour Party election manifesto, a European Union code of conduct to establish clear common rules for weapons transfers for the European Union as a whole. In the meantime, the proposals being put forward by the Dutch Government for stamping out illicit arms sales, especially in the sphere of small arms, must surely be supported.

The Prime Minister has referred to the strong internationalist tradition of the Labour Party. The first two weeks of his Government have illustrated that it is a tradition which is as alive today as it has ever been. I wish the Government "God speed" in the foreign, defence and international development priorities they have so clearly identified.

7.29 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition, is not in his place because I found his speech at the beginning of this debate embarrassingly arrogant while I thought the presentation of the Foreign Secretary in the Locarno Room of the Foreign Office was admirable. If Ministers are not entitled to use multi-media and other modern technologies in their presentations, that is a contradiction of the declared policy of the Conservatives when they were in power to use those technologies to convey government policies to the public and to those who have to know about them. So I believe that not only the style of the presentation by the Foreign Secretary was excellent, but much of the content as well.

It was clear from the titter of disbelief that went round the Tory Benches when the Leader of the Opposition said, at the conclusion of his remarks, that he wished the Government well that the mask had slipped a bit and that the general good humour of the Tories' handover of power was not shared universally or, in this particular case, by the Leader of the Opposition. So it was with some relief that I listened to the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, who described the way in which the Tory Party recovered from three previous defeats. He said that every time great statesmen had come to the rescue by revamping their policies, but since they do not have any great statesmen in the party at the moment I am sure that the Tories will be in opposition for a very long time.

I particularly welcomed in the presentation by the Foreign Secretary and in the gracious Speech the commitment to human rights. I include also the remarks

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made by the Foreign Secretary at his press conference on this subject. The proposal to publish an annual report on the Government's work in promoting human rights abroad is excellent. I hope also that Parliament will be able to make a contribution of its own. The Parliamentary Human Rights Group, of which I have the honour to be chairman, already publishes analyses of human rights problems which we always send to Ministers. We also draw the attention of Ministers to much of the information that we receive from sources which they may not always tap themselves.

I was particularly glad to see that Mr. Tony Lloyd, who is a former vice-chairman of the group, has been given responsibility in the Government for human rights. Perhaps the Government will consider ways of involving Parliament more formally in the examination of human rights policy. For example, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in another place could have a sub-committee on human rights. If it does not choose to do that, we could revive the idea, which I put to the former Leader of the House, that we should have our own Select Committee on human rights here because it is a subject which would admirably suit your Lordships' talents.

The Foreign Secretary mentioned that we must support the demands of other peoples for the democratic rights on which we insist for ourselves. In spite of the progress made towards democratic pluralism in eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and southern Africa, there are still very many parts of the world where dictatorship and repression still prevail. The question is how we can reconcile stronger action by the United Kingdom, either alone or as part of EU initiatives, with our perceived economic and commercial interests. The case arose only last week where Ministers, in the last phases of the previous administration, had been disposed to take new measures in the wake of the finding by the German Federal Court that the Iranian Government had masterminded the killing of four leading Kurdish dissidents in Berlin. That case shows how difficult it is to get 15 states to agree on these matters. After two days of deliberation, the European Foreign Ministers decided only to suspend official bilateral visits and to co-operate to ensure that visas were not granted to Iranian secret agents. That was rather a mouse to come out of two days of deliberations by the Foreign Ministers of 15 states. Only yesterday there was news of an oil swap deal under which Iran would process 250,000 barrels a day of Caspian Sea oil at the Tabriz refinery and export a similar quantity from its south-western fields via the Persian Gulf. So immediately the ink is dry on a little agreement by European Foreign Ministers there is a huge breach in our economic armoury against the mullahs' regime.

The Americans at least would like to see Europe taking much stronger economic measures against Iran. I do not believe that there is very much chance of that by the look of things. The Gulf states are friends of both London and Washington. Does the Government's new policy mean that we will try to persuade the absolute rulers of Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain that they should hold elections and grant their citizens

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freedom of expression? The London-based Arabic newspaper, Al-Aalam, in its Tuesday edition, referring to remarks made on Monday, quoted Mr. Cook as saying that Britain would,

    "support the movements that demand democratic rights of the kind taken for granted by the British".
The people of Bahrain are demanding the restoration of their 1973 constitution and the partly-elected assembly which was dissolved in 1975. Therefore, will the Foreign Office, as part of its new dispensation, seek to persuade the ruler to free the leaders of the constitutional movement who are detained without trial and engage in dialogue with them? That would be a big shift in policy because in the previous administration Ministers, including Mr. Hogg and Mr. Hanley, always said that they would encourage dialogue, but they refrained from saying that it should be with the genuine leaders of the opposition, all of whom happened to be locked up in prison without trial. So it is a good test of the Government's intentions to see whether they will now speak to the Emir of Bahrain and ask him to release the political prisoners and to take them into dialogue which will lead to the restoration of the rather modest constitution which they had over 20 years ago.

Moving closer to home, I shall be very interested to know what the Foreign Secretary said at his lunchtime meeting with Mrs. Tansu Ciller, the Turkish Foreign Minister, in Paris on Tuesday. After all, we do have some leverage over Turkey because she is a member of the OSCE, the Council of Europe and her entry to the European Customs Union was conditional on general assurances of human rights improvements.

The problem with the OSCE is that the declarations that it has promulgated are politically but not legally binding. The Copenhagen Declaration, for instance, contains an admirable codification of the rights of minorities, but it has no mechanism contained within it, or anywhere else, for the scrutiny of alleged violations. There are periodic human dimension review meetings where the performance of states could be examined, but there is nothing analogous to the UN's Human Rights Commission where NGOs present evidence in a public forum and governments feel that they are obliged to account for their actions.

The Turkish authorities have removed some 3 million people belonging to the Kurdish minority from their homes in the south-east and destroyed the 3,000 villages which they inhabited, in gross violation of the OSCE's Budapest Declaration as well as the Geneva Conventions. But in Turkey they simply deny the existence of a Kurdish minority and say that the internal armed conflict in the region is not one to which common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions apply.

The Turkish armed forces have crossed the frontier into northern Iraq in great strength, accompanied by large quantities of armour and artillery, violating Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter. This is not the first time that they have done it. It is a repeated violation of the charter, which has always been allowed tacitly by the international community because it does not protest. On this occasion Mr. Doug Henderson issued a statement urging the Turks not to exceed the measures necessary to protect their legitimate security interests

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and asserting that the problem in south-east Turkey is not one that can be solved by military means alone. That is an advance on the policies of the previous government, who were always silent on these occasions. Is it not apparent that the military force that Turkey uses in such circumstances is always grossly disproportionate to the security objectives sought, and that no care has been taken in any of those military operations, contrary to the code of conduct on politico-military aspects of security of the OSCE, to ensure that no harm comes to civilians or their property?

Therefore, I wonder whether Ministers will consider--not today, but in due course as they come to develop their human rights policies--whether the OSCE could develop means of evaluating internal armed conflicts and deciding in each case to which of them common Article 3 applies. If they did that and if there was an official declaration by the chairman-in-office or by the Council of Ministers that Article 3 applied in a particular case, that would add force to the requests made by the ICRC to be allowed to deliver its humanitarian and compliance services in such conflicts, and it would then be more difficult for, in this case, Turkey to resist those demands.

The OSCE does have the power to take initiatives through its chairman-in-office, and the previous occupant of the chair, Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti, worked hard to achieve a solution of the Chechnya conflict. Nothing similar has been attempted in the case of Turkey because Ankara has always been adamant that it does not want the OSCE to advise it or to make any recommendations with regard to the conflict in its south-east region. How can we get round the problem? The UK should give notice that at the next periodic human dimension review meeting, which is to take place at the end of this year, we shall concentrate exclusively on better enforcement of the OSCE's declarations, including particularly those dealing with internal armed conflicts and minorities.

One of the best of the OSCE's documents is the Principles Governing Conventional Arms Transfers of November 1993. It is a difficult area for the Government because we are one of the world's biggest arms suppliers, and some of our economic prosperity has been achieved on the back of sales which are challenged by some NGOs. The sale of Hawks and of armoured cars to Indonesia has already been mentioned by the right reverend Prelate. The Principles oblige states to avoid transfers which would be likely to be used for the violation or suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms, to prolong or aggravate an existing armed conflict or to be used for internal repression. I believe that that applies in the case of Indonesia. The previous government relied on assurances given by Jakarta that it would not use in East Timor the Hawk jets supplied by British Aerospace.

I was very glad that Mr. Cook received Mr. Jose Ramos Horta, the Nobel prize winner and external representative of the East Timorese resistance, during the election campaign. Mr. Cook actually interrupted his campaigning to see Jose Ramos Horta. I hope that Britain will review the sales of aircraft to Indonesia, as well as its sales of the water cannon which have been

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used against peaceful demonstrators elsewhere in Indonesia. I hope that Britain will consult Portugal to see what additional help we can give towards bringing about a political solution to the question of East Timor, in accordance with the wishes of the people.

One essential component of that strategy must be to encourage the development of democracy and human rights in Indonesia. Rather than inviting military officers to come here for training, I suggest that we should invite democratic activists, journalists and human rights campaigners to visit Britain. To some extent, the FCO already has a human rights dimension to its programme of visits. We have had recent visits from, for example, the chairman of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights from Russia, and from the Presidential Adviser on Human Rights from Uganda. We welcome those opportunities for discussion, but it would be good to have more opposition activists from countries where human rights are at risk. Nigeria has already been mentioned. Why could we not invite Mr. Ayo Obe or Mr. Abdul Oroh, the President and Executive Director of the Civil Liberties organisation, or Mrs. Ladi Olorunyomi, a journalist on the executive of the Lagos chapter of the journalists' union who was detained for several weeks and released only last Friday?

The question of Nigeria will be at the top of the agenda for the CHOGM in Edinburgh in October. That meeting should consider the confirmation of Nigeria's suspension from Commonwealth membership. It should also consider the situation in Cameroon, which was admitted to membership of the Commonwealth on condition that steps would be taken to comply with the Harare Declaration. Although local elections were held there and parliamentary elections are due, which are to be observed by a delegation from the Commonwealth Secretariat, I believe that it will be found that Cameroon is not complying with the Harare Declaration or with the declaration that was made recently in Gaborone at the meeting of Commonwealth African countries.

The Commonwealth has had important discussions on human rights, but it would be useful if the commitment to transparency and accountability of government, made by the Heads of Government in Gaborone, could be extended to the Commonwealth as a whole when it meets in Edinburgh, and if Commonwealth governments could set a good example in that regard by inviting the thematic rapporteurs and working groups of the UN Human Rights Centre to visit their countries when asked, and by replying promptly and fully to inquiries made by those rapporteurs.

Finally, with regard to the work of the UN Human Rights Centre, which must obviously be important in the Foreign Secretary's strategy, that organisation must be enabled to do its work properly. We are already helping by providing a research assistant to Dr. Nigel Rodley, the UN Rapporteur on Torture, and I believe that we pay for the services of Price Waterhouse, which is advising on the restructuring of the centre. However, we could do more by following the example of the Netherlands and providing associate experts to help with the work. We also need to adjust the UN's priorities as a whole to give greater emphasis to human rights; otherwise the centre will be constrained by the zero

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growth which applies to the rest of the organisation. The limits on the capacity of the centre to keep pace with the demands made on it by the Commission are already severe, and every year new functions are added.

The promotion of human rights and pluralist democracy makes the world a safer and happier place for all humankind. I congratulate the Government on having made a very good start, and I wish them every success in the tasks they have set themselves. I hope that in the course of this Parliament we shall begin to see results in the influence that we can bring to bear in our bilateral relationships, and through our membership of the EU, the OSCE, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

7.47 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, those of us who have sat through this extremely interesting debate have heard some most important speeches. We have heard from two sometime Chiefs of the Defence Staff as well as from my noble friend Lord Chalfont, all of whom articulated extremely eloquently the needs of the armed services in the future.

A sometime head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore of Thamesfield, spoke most convincingly and powerfully about the interrelationship which this country still has--limited though it may be in power--with the rest of the world. In his admirable maiden speech, my noble friend Lord Moynihan gave a full justification for the hereditary peerage when drawing our attention to the fact that no country is so remote that its concerns could not be of interest to us.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, in a speech of great interest, drew attention to the desirability of considering defence in the European context and, by implication, I thought, reproached the new Secretary of State for Defence for rejecting so quickly the idea of collaborating with the French and German defence initiative. The noble Lord, Lord Healey, delivered a most powerful and convincing criticism of the extension of NATO, which I hope the noble Baroness who is to reply for the Government will take seriously.

But for those of us who have for a long time supported the idea of the European Union, this debate gives us an opportunity to express our great satisfaction about the way in which the Government approach, in a quiet and positive manner, their relations with the Union. It gives me particular satisfaction since 21 years ago I left the Labour Party, largely on the grounds that at that time the party seemed to be anti-European. It is a source of great satisfaction to me that the Government have taken up a position that I strongly support in relation to the European Union. For example, in today's Le Monde I read a repetition of the confirmation that should the European single currency go ahead and be a success, the Foreign Secretary would regard it as inevitable that Britain should join it. That is not exactly leadership since it is an idea that depends on how it all turns out. Nevertheless, it is better than nothing. There

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are other ways in which the Government have shown their desire to have positive relations with the European Union.

Mr. Santer, President of the European Commission, in an article in last week's Economist explained what in his view were the most important issues confronting the European Union. Those who read the article probably noted that he thought that expansion of the Union was even more important than preparing the way for a European currency. However, I believe that both the Government and the Commission should pay attention to the fact that, for the benefit of those fearful of the implications of the European Union, Mr. Santer, did not refer to what he, the European Commission or the Government hoped the Union would turn out to be in the end. If one does not know what will happen it is easy to misrepresent the European Union as a continental land monster whose chief pleasure is to eat up freedom-loving offshore islands for breakfast. It is sometimes difficult for those of us who support the European Union to say that that is wrong and that the aim is such and such. I believe that it is a concern to which the Government should pay attention.

Shortly after leaving the Labour Party 20 years ago I was invited by the then Foreign Secretary, now the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, to meet the new Spanish Foreign Minister. Sitting on my right at lunch was a Spanish diplomat who asked me what the British Government had in mind when they used the expression "European Union". As I had no clear idea of what the then Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson, or Jim Callaghan had in mind when they used that expression, I turned to my neighbour who at that time was a political adviser at No. 10 Downing Street. He replied that Mr. Wilson believed that British foreign policy was like the journey of an old stage-coach. It might not always know what its destination was but it always reached that point in the end. After some thought my Spanish colleague replied, "Maybe I am a Latin, but when I set off on a journey I want to know where it will end."

I suspect that in a sense we are now all Latins. We all want to know what the conclusion of the European Union is to be. Some noble Lords may say that the subject has already been decided and that the word "subsidiarity" sums up the conclusion. I do not believe that that is an adequate answer. Others may say that it is perfectly plain that what is wanted is a Europe of nation states. Here in this particular zone of foreign affairs it seems, if words mean anything, that the present Government are in complete agreement with the Opposition, since the Leader of the House today repeated that as his definition of what he wants the European Union to be. That was certainly the phrase which appeared in the Conservative Party manifesto.

The difficulty is that most of our continental partners reject the idea of a Europe of nation states on the assumption that the nation state was responsible for most of the wars that have wrecked European lives on such a large scale this century. Further, as a matter of fact even now we are not a Europe of nation states but are in some ways a confederation. Even the word "confederation" is unsatisfactory. After all, we have something that is very close to federal agriculture

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policy, federal fisheries policy and federal trade policy. We have European law enshrined in British law and all our partners have European law enshrined in their laws. I do not believe that that expression is satisfactory. So I suggest that the Government propose to the European Commission that there should be something in the nature of a new Durham report to discuss how these issues are to be satisfactorily resolved. Noble Lords will recall that after the revolt of Canada in the 1830s Lord Melbourne's Government asked Lord Durham, a member of that government, to write a report as to how Canadian self-government could be managed in the context of Canada remaining part of the British empire. That report led to the idea of dominion status. We need something very similar now.

I believe that I have time to make two further points. First, as one who was in favour of the withdrawal of Britain from UNESCO, I support the Government's proposal to return to that organisation. I know personally the present director-general, Frederico Mayor, and I am aware of some of the changes he has been able to introduce. Secondly, I should like to ask the Government whether, if they are looking for a new zone in which to introduce a breath of fresh air--which they are anxious to blow in the dustiest corners--they will look again at the issue of Gibraltar where the idea of two-flag status is now far more likely to be entertained by the Spanish Government. I believe that that would lead to a lasting solution to that thorny problem.

7.59 p.m.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I should like to join with those who have focused on NATO in their remarks. Summits with the Russians in Paris the week after next and without the Russians in Madrid in July are fast approaching. Decisions about enlargement, how best to deal with the Russians and further restructuring of the military organisation and posture are anticipated. Before this Government adopt all of these proposals I hope that they will give the arguments which underpin them very careful consideration, in particular their attitude to the growing involvement with Russia.

Media reports of NATO concessions in order to keep the Russians sweet are worrying. The gracious Speech devotes a mere four lines to NATO. The WEU is not even mentioned. The other place, we hear, is not even debating those issues. The comments made by the noble Lord the Leader of the House in his opening remarks were helpful and useful, but they were inevitably brief. All that is pretty thin gruel upon which to feed a debate on those important issues.

The political thrust for NATO enlargement, even by two or three newcomers, has gathered speed. A point of no return has been passed. New members will join. But linked with that are the increasingly enthusiastic efforts made by the Secretary General of NATO and the USA to bring the Russians on side. There is a danger that the price NATO will pay to keep the Russians sweet may be too great. Today's Telegraph says that Mr. Primakov hailed yesterday's agreement with Mr. Solana on a NATO-Russia founding act as "a victory for Russia".

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For 40 years NATO'S existence was predicated upon providing a credible defence of members' territories against a Russian-dominated Warsaw Pact threat. The death of the Warsaw Pact and the victory of the Cold War for the West left NATO with an uncertain future. In the changed strategic setting a new vision and a new vitality were called for.

But with the disappearance of the threat, the military rationale for NATO has been sidelined, apart from Bosnia. Today it is a politico/diplomatic imperative to find a new purpose, sometimes described by that tortuous phrase beloved of diplomats, if not the military,

    "a defence and security identity",
for Europe. More precisely, it is to encourage continuing Euro-Atlantic co-operation and security and to bring together a wider and ever widening community across Europe. Fine words, but do they spell out a new way forward for NATO's military forces?

The whole military structure, and the forces which the member states provided for their common defence, were driven in the past by the Cold War threat. Since the end of the Cold War the previous Government spent considerable time and effort on adjustments to our Armed Forces. What will the new Government now give the military as planning assumptions against the background of the new, enlarging NATO and no doubt UN calls for support? Let me guess at a couple.

With a doubtful and distant threat, and one unlikely to endanger the UK or our vital interests, will they say that our overall contribution need be no greater than the average of the other major alliance nations (excluding the USA)? On top of that there will, will there not, they will say, be scope for new MoD economies. That particular orange never runs out of juice. More can always be squeezed out. Will that approach appeal to the new Ministers and their Treasury officials? Will it be dressed, in the words of the gracious Speech, as reassessing,

    "our essential security and defence needs"?

Will the Government go down that path or will Ministers recognise that the Armed Forces have had a bellyful of cuts, reorganisations and major redundancies? The previous Chief of the Defence Staff stressed repeatedly the importance of a period of stability--stability to rebuild morale and allow all the changes introduced to be seen through to a sensible conclusion. I am saddened that the Government are to embark upon a further major size and shape defence review, albeit, as they claim, foreign policy led. Past defence reviews failed so often to deliver what their authors expected because a new review had been put in hand before the previous one had been properly implemented and seen through to a successful conclusion.

The services are stretched--indeed, undermanned--to carry out all their commitments today. If cuts there must be, let them be in the area of commitments. In a burgeoning economy of good job opportunities, the services will remain hard-pressed to keep up their numbers unless those commitments are eased.

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Let me return for a moment to the Government's military planning assumptions. Will they direct that we must continue to play a key military role in support of NATO and UN out-of-area operations? I hope so. Our all-regular Armed Forces are very good at that. Our seat on the UN Security Council probably depends in part upon our special ability to deploy military power and its support worldwide. But do not over-commit or be tempted to over-commit our stretched forces.

Finally, let me return for a moment to the drive to formalise a close relationship with Russia. The Helsinki discussions between President Clinton and Mr. Yeltsin verged on giving the Russians a say in NATO's future, not just in relation to the immediate problems of enlargement but in any matter which might concern them. That could even involve the security of NATO territory--historically the raison d'etre of the alliance. Today's media reports talk of further concessions by NATO's Secretary General. What steps have the Government in mind to ensure that the Russian presence within and alongside NATO does not become a blocking mechanism--a blocking mechanism which could spay NATO as a security and defence shield for its original members?

The Russians could not achieve their objective of dismembering NATO throughout all the years of the Cold War. Goodness knows they tried to do so. It would be a tragic fate for NATO if the Russians were able to neutralise the alliance from within and achieve what they never managed to do through the 40 years of the Cold War.

We seem to be taking it for granted that Mr. Yeltsin, let alone his successors, or those in the Ukraine who come to power, are now attuned to NATO's new aspirations, are henceforth willing to participate as collaborators in ensuring our territorial security and that of our NATO allies (old and new). That is taking a mighty gamble. Russian expansionism has a long, long history. It goes back not just years but centuries.

I hope that the Government will urge restraint on the US and others who seem to be willing to take so much on trust. While we await developments, this is not the time to be rushing into yet further cuts and reorganisations within the alliance's headquarters and command structures. The current arrangements are only just beginning to settle down and show their paces. It seems to be too early to start over again on reorganisations.

No doubt if asked the military authorities will deliver. They are expected to do that. They will rise to any challenge. But those who set them the mission should be aware that there is much to lose--in motivation, in efficiency and in morale--from over-frequent changes to military tasks and dispositions. Now is not the time to be going down that path. Are not the new Government committed to their predecessor's spending plans for defence over the next three years? That leaves little scope for major change.

I look forward to strong words of reassurance from the Government on those vital issues for our peace and security, on their vision for the future of NATO and our

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Armed Forces. Ministers have yet to show the understanding, enthusiasm and early commitment in those fields that they have so commendably shown over the plight of sick veterans of the Gulf War.

8.10 p.m.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, the difficulty about this debate is that there are a number of quite separate themes which do not necessarily overlap. I listened with great fascination to many most instructive and wide-ranging speeches about the future of our defence and NATO, like that just given by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. However, I shall be speaking about our relations with Europe. The future of our relations with Europe are absolutely crucial to the future of this country as a whole.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, who is no longer in the Chamber, I am delighted by the first moves that the Government have made, especially as, like the noble Lord, one of the bones of contention between myself and the Labour Party when I left it was its attitude towards Europe. Although there have been some very encouraging moves to start with, the real test will come with the decision over monetary union. There are many people who are genuinely very much pro-European but who declare themselves sceptical about monetary union. In the long run, those two opinions will be incompatible. I say that because if we do not take part in monetary union, which is the direction that the others will take, we will be isolated and unable to be at the heart of Europe. The Government seem to recognise that fact and have certainly declared themselves in favour of monetary union in principle. However, their present stand is, "Yes, but not yet"; or at least, "It is unlikely that we will join in the first wave but we may well join in the second wave, say, in the year 2002".

On the face of it that seems to be a reasonable attitude and a sensible one, but the reasons for it are questionable. It should be recognised that the dangers of that attitude are very real. The first is the argument of, "Let's see if it works". That is not a very effective argument because it is unlikely that we shall know any more about the workings of monetary union by the year 2002 than we do now. In fact, the first years of a monetary union are likely to be the most turbulent.

Secondly, there is the argument which states, "Well, we may not qualify". If we do not qualify, we do not qualify. But if we wish to join the first wave, there is very little doubt that we can qualify if we wish to. Indeed, we are as likely to qualify as Germany or France. The third argument is that we are not ready. That is partly true. The City has certainly made considerable preparations for monetary union because it realises that, whether we are in or out, it has to live in the Euro-world. On the whole, multinationals have prepared carefully for monetary union. However, no work of any kind seems to have been done in the public sector. If the Government are genuine in the desire of at least maintaining the option on joining in the first wave, that work must start at once; otherwise we shall be ruled out for reasons which will be totally indefensible.

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I shall not go through all the reasons but a fourth one, and one which to my mind is the most important one for caution, is that sterling is at present too high. It would be an error to lock in at the present rate of sterling. Although stability of currency is one of the greatest advantages of a monetary union, it seems dangerous for us to lock in at the present high rate of sterling. That is a problem which is not easy to solve. In my view what we should do before we face the decision about monetary union--indeed, what I hope Mr. Brown will do when he has to face such a decision--is to join the European exchange rate mechanism at a central rate of 2.50 DM. That means that our present rate would be within the 15 per cent. limit which is now allowed with the ERM and which of course makes it a much easier mechanism to join than when we were in before at much too high a rate. When the actual decision comes to lock the currencies in, we could then argue that we should lock in at the central rate. That is certainly the argument that the French are advancing. If we locked in at the central rate of 2.50 DM, that certainly should give us the stability that we seek. In itself, joining the ERM should have a downward pressure on sterling and a downward pressure on long-term interest rates; and, indeed, might well achieve the kind of objective which much of our industry wishes to see.

However, the main point that I wish to make is that the policy of, "Yes, but not yet"--the policy of saying, "We will join in the year 2002"--is fraught with danger. It is perhaps a danger that our partners do not truly appreciate. It is a political danger. Many of our partners appear to be saying to the present Government, "As long as you commit yourselves you can join in the second wave. We do not mind". But let us look at the politics of it. What would be likely to happen? The Conservatives, as an Opposition, would almost certainly strongly oppose such a move. I am not speaking of Mr. Clarke, but the rest of the Conservatives. All the other leadership candidates who are at present on parade are strongly opposed to monetary union (certainly to joining in the first wave).

The press would continue strongly to oppose our membership of monetary union. Indeed, every trouble that we faced would be blamed on the decision to give up the pound. Ministers would be obsessed and absorbed by their own affairs. It is extremely unlikely that Ministers would actually be campaigning and giving a strong political lead in favour of the principle of joining monetary union. That is what life is like. Ministers concentrate on their immediate tasks. What would be needed to offset the pressure of the Opposition and the pressure of the press would be a strong political lead, backing the view of the trade unions--the TUC, for example, is in favour--and backing the view of industry, which has become increasingly committed to our joining and will become increasingly scared about being left out of a monetary union when that union looms immediately ahead.

We would then have a position in which public opinion would continue to be hostile because there was no political lead; indeed, it might even harden against. Then, when the next election loomed, the Government would get cold feet and say, "No, we can't join in

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2002". One could see that happening in the last election. As the election process went on, scared about the new found support from the Sun slipping away and scared about the hostility which they detected among the public against the principle of closer integration with Europe, the Opposition (the Labour Party)--the present Government--became more sceptical as the campaign went on. The result could well be that, against their better judgment, they would rule out joining even in the second wave. If we do not join in the second wave, there must be doubts as to whether we will ever join at all. As a result, Britain would be isolated in Europe.

We need more than fine words; we need a boldness of decision. When that decision comes to be taken, which I suspect will be in the autumn at the latest, I hope that Mr. Brown for one will be as bold as he was in deciding to opt for the independence of the Bank of England. If the Government were bold, they might well be favourably surprised by the amount of support that that decision would receive.

8.18 p.m.

Baroness Cox: My Lords, I begin my speech by warmly congratulating my noble friend Lord Moynihan on his outstanding, wide-ranging and stimulating maiden speech. I warmly welcome the Government's commitment in the gracious Speech to make the,

    "promotion of human rights worldwide ... a priority".--[Official Report, 14/5/97; col. 8.]
I also welcome the Foreign Secretary's claim that we have a moral responsibility to provide help when confronted with evidence of disasters and atrocities.

I therefore take this opportunity to raise some urgent issues based on first-hand evidence of violations of human rights in two of the countries where I am currently working: Sudan and Burma. I appreciate that the noble Baroness opposite, to whom I offer my congratulations on her appointment, may not be able to answer such questions this evening. However, I know that the people who are suffering so greatly in those countries will be hoping for a positive response in due course, as their expectations have been raised by the principled commitments which the Government have given.

I was in Burma with the Karen and the Kareni people at the end of last year. I have been to Sudan three times this year, to southern Blue Nile and eastern Upper Nile, to the Beja people of eastern Sudan, to Bahr-El-Ghazal in southern Sudan and to the Nuba Mountains. I went with Christian Solidarity International (CSI), a human rights organisation working for victims of repression, regardless of their creed, colour or nationality. Our priority is to reach those people who cannot be reached by other aid organisations.

Many major aid organisations such as United Nations organisations and the International Committee of the Red Cross can only visit people with the permission of a sovereign government. This limitation creates serious ethical and political problems because governments victimising people within their own borders often do not give this permission and their victims are therefore denied both aid and advocacy. Often in war zones,

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deprived of essential medical and food supplies, these people are thus among the most destitute and neglected people in the world.

My two examples illustrate this problem. CSI has chosen these areas, inter alia, because their people are suffering massive human rights violations perpetrated by regimes which simultaneously impose a "no go" policy for major aid organisations. First, I shall discuss Sudan. In the cruel calculus of man's inhumanity to man, Sudan ranks as one of the greatest tragedies in the world today. The civil war waged by the fundamentalist, totalitarian National Islamic Front regime has caused the death and displacement of millions of its own people. The toll is rising. In southern Blue Nile and eastern Upper Nile, where Christians, Moslems and Animists live together, the Government have recently adopted a scorched earth policy. Villages are bombed by Antonov aircraft and helicopters. Ground forces then attack, systematically burning all homes and crops, and stealing or slaughtering livestock. We walked for mile after mile through the charred remains of deserted villages. This policy has this year alone created at least 50,000 more displaced civilians living without shelter, scavenging for roots and nuts. Many are dying. They are now facing an increasingly severe famine and are denied help from UN Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS).

The Beja Moslem people in Kassala region are suffering from a similar crisis created by their own government. They are being deported from their villages and are trying to scratch a living in harsh desert conditions with no access to their homes, crops or water supplies and no shelter in the cold desert nights. Only a few weeks ago we were in the Nuba Mountains, where government forces are attacking civilians with low flying helicopter gunships, flying at 50 to 100 feet, mowing down women and children. There, too, government troops burn homes, crops, churches and mosques, forcing people to flee to the mountains, often with no access to water supplies. Many have no clothes in the cold rainy season.

The government of Sudan have also encouraged the enslavement of black Africans. In Bahr-El-Ghazal we visited many areas which had suffered from slave raids by militia armed by the Sudanese Government and encouraged to fight against the African communities. It may seem unreal to talk about slavery in May 1997 but there is no doubt about its existence in Sudan. We have taken many independent witnesses and journalists who have produced detailed and graphic reports. We estimate that tens of thousands of African Sudanese are now enslaved.

However, I leave Sudan on a slightly happier note. CSI has adopted a twin track policy in response to slavery in Sudan. First, we led a peace and reconciliation mission to the north-south borderlands, with Arab Moslem political and religious leaders from the north, including Mubarak El Mahdi, together with elders from Bahr-El-Ghazal. They held historic talks with local Arabs, encouraging them to spread the message that this war is not a legitimate jihad and that it would be better for all, both African and Arab, to live in peace. I am pleased to say that when we were last in

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the region a few weeks ago we were told that there have been no further slave raids. We also assisted local communities to redeem over 300 women and children who had been enslaved and we witnessed their joyful reunions with their families.

However, there are still far too many people enslaved and far too many people in Sudan, not only Christians but also Moslems and Animists, who are suffering and dying at the hands of the totalitarian regime in Khartoum. Many Arab Moslems are suffering in the north, with arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and extrajudicial executions. Also many men and boys have been abducted and forced to serve in the government army, often to fight against their own people. Their families rarely see them again as they are typically put in the front line where they are the first to be killed.

I hope I may ask the noble Baroness two questions with regard to Sudan. First, will the Government do everything possible to put pressure on the Sudanese Government to desist from these violations of human rights and to open up all of Sudan to aid organisations and to human rights monitors? Secondly, in the meantime, will the Government consider helping aid organisations which are prepared to take supplies essential for survival to those people who cannot currently be served by organisations such as UNOLS or ICRC? One such organisation is CSI. Here I must declare an interest as president of CSI-UK and as a CSI volunteer who has been working with people in Sudan suffering at the hands of their government.

If our Government continue their present policy of limiting their aid to UNOLS, many thousands more Sudanese civilians will perish in the coming weeks. We know that now in southern Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains people suffering from famine are receiving no food. They are dying from disease and receiving no medicine; they are suffering from cold and have no clothes or blankets. I hope very much that this Government will be more flexible in their aid policy and give some resources to organisations which are able to reach innocent civilians who will otherwise die of avoidable starvation and disease in the weeks ahead.

I turn briefly to Burma, where the Karen and other ethnic minorities, as well as political opposition groups, are suffering at the hands of the SLORC regime. In December we visited the Karenni and Karen peoples. Government troops have been systematically deporting Karenni civilians from their villages, compelling them to go to relocation camps which are virtually concentration camps. Foreign NGOs are not allowed access. Some of the Karenni who had escaped described conditions in the camps. Many people are dying; food is inadequate, there is widespread disease and no medical care. Those who flee cannot return to their villages because SLORC troops have mined their homes. They are therefore forced to live in the jungle, which is a harsh environment, especially in the rainy season. A few have managed to cross into Thailand, where they join the thousands of other refugees, including tens of thousands of Karen people, who have had to flee across the border to avoid capture by SLORC troops within Burma. Many Karen who have been captured have been tortured, murdered or forced into

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slavery. Recently the SLORC regime has also stepped up its military offensives against the Karen. Those offensives have been so successful that by the end of March the Karen KNU forces retained little of their own territory.

These military successes by SLORC troops have forced 20,000 more Karen to flee to Thailand. But even across the border they are not safe. Their camps have been attacked and people have been killed, injured and terrorised. Their homes and food supplies have been burnt. There is also widespread fear that the Thai authorities may repatriate them to Burma, where they are likely to suffer again at the hands of the SLORC regime. I therefore hope I may ask the noble Baroness questions which are rather similar to those I have already raised with regard to Sudan. First, will the Government join the United States and other nations in applying political and economic pressure on the SLORC regime to comply with international human rights conventions, to desist from its brutal violations of human rights of its ethnic minorities and from its repressive policies against political opposition groups and individuals such as the courageous Aung San Suu Kyi?

Secondly, will the Government do something to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian aid reaches those most in need in Burma? Aid organisations working with the Burma Border Consortium are doing valiant work with refugees in the camps on the Thai-Burmese border. But many Karen and Karenni trapped inside Burma are in desperate need of aid and are currently beyond the reach of agencies working in the borderlands. Will the Government press the SLORC regime to open up all of Burma to aid workers and human rights monitors? Until it does so, will the Government provide some resources for organisations to reach those in need who are at present unreached? Finally, will the Government request the Thai authorities to provide more effective security for the camps along their border and allow UNHCR to maintain a presence there to monitor the situation and to provide necessary assistance for the vulnerable people now living in those camps?

I am aware that many siren voices representing trade interests counsel against any measures which might risk damaging diplomatic or trade relations with regimes such as those in Burma or Sudan. However, I take hope from the Foreign Secretary's commitment to an ethical stand on human rights. I realise that there are many complex political, economic and ethical issues involved in achieving an appropriate and principled balance in policies which reflect inherent tensions between the protection of human rights and perceptions of the "national interest". But I do not think that it is in the long-term interest of any nation to allow commercial interests completely to override concern for human rights.

In so far as the Government fulfil their commitments to promote human rights, they will earn the gratitude of many people who are currently suffering severely and the respect of all concerned with peace and justice. Although these may seem intangible rewards, they are priceless and, I believe, will ultimately serve the

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"national interest" more powerfully than short-term diplomatic expediency or economic gain if it is bought at the expense of human rights.

I conclude by wishing the Government success in their endeavours concerning human rights indicated in the gracious Speech, and by promising my support for any measure which will help to alleviate the agony of the repressed people of Sudan, Burma or other parts of the world who are suffering so grievously from these violations of human rights.

8.31 p.m.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, proposes to wind up at the end of today's debate. I join with others in congratulating her on her ministerial appointment. I hope that she will not take it as a reflection on her earlier service in government when I wish her every success in now finding herself in the best department in Whitehall. My noble friend Lord Gillmore has rightly drawn attention to the loyalty which the noble Baroness can expect from the Diplomatic Service. Given her past experience, she will know better than anyone the importance that Ministers should from time to time publicly recognise and be seen to reciprocate that loyalty.

I should also like to congratulate the Government on the welcome and positive start which they have made in the European debate. If we are to wield our influence and promote our interests effectively, both within the European Union and more widely, it is vital that we should not only work and co-operate closely with our European partners but that we should be seen as co-operative and fully committed Europeans. No doubt there will continue to be important differences between ourselves and other members of the European Union, as there are between even the most committed federalists among our partners. No doubt there will continue to be from time to time unwelcome activity by the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and the European Parliament. But I hope that the leading role which has been signalled in the gracious Speech will lead to a change of tone and attitude, and indeed substance, in the public perception of Europe. We are part of Europe. Our strategic, economic and commercial interests are now so vitally involved in Europe that it is high time that we came to regard our European partners as partners and not as some threat--like those swastikas which push across our television screens in the replays of "Dad's Army".

But it is not only on European questions that a new attitude will promote our interests. The former United States ambassador in London, Mr. Raymond Seitz, has I think been quoted in this House before as saying that Britain's role in the European Union is indispensable to our relationship with the United States. I do not myself doubt that Japanese and other foreign investment in this country is closely related to the commitment of our membership of the single market, even though other factors of course play a part. And speaking as a former ambassador in Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service, I can assure your Lordships that our influence with host governments, when we speak as one of 15 members of

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the European Union, is much the greater for being seen to be a joint and co-operative effort. If we are constantly seen to be out of step, or standing on the perimeter, as the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, put it, as has happened too often in the past, our influence and interests in the rest of the world, including the Commonwealth, will be significantly reduced.

In speaking about our worldwide interests, I appeal to the Government to make the best possible use of the unique and cost-effective resource which they have available to them in Her Majesty's Diplomatic Service. I hope that the noble Baroness, as a former colleague in the Home Civil Service, will need no persuading of the role which diplomatic posts, including the home civil servants who serve in them, can play and are keen to play in promoting our commercial, political and strategic interests round the world. I hope that the Government, who have emphasised the importance of investment, will accept that continued investment in what has been acknowledged even by a former French Foreign Minister to be the best diplomatic service in the world is a global asset of crucial importance to the continuing security and prosperity of this country.

Since my retirement six years ago, I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to see from the perspective of the private sector the benefits of a continuing global foreign policy and the role which our diplomatic posts and departments in London can play in promoting both visible and invisible exports and in encouraging inward investment. There has rightly been much emphasis in recent years on the growing importance of commercial work in the Diplomatic Service, on which some 34 per cent. of all Diplomatic Service staff abroad are directly engaged. But I hope that the Government will not forget that the effectiveness of diplomatic staff abroad ultimately depends on their political and personal contacts with and understanding of their host governments and the people of influence in the countries in which they are serving; and their consequent ability as resident representatives to give our businessmen and investors the political advice which they need from our missions abroad, in both identifying business opportunities and in concluding commercial and economic agreements.

Many people derive their impressions of British embassies abroad from visits to the big capitals--Paris, Washington, Rome, and so on. They are accustomed to a certain style of diplomatic representation. It is less well known that over a hundred of our posts now have four or fewer UK-based staff, and some only two or one. Indeed, a few have none and are solely staffed by locally engaged personnel. I would certainly pay a warm tribute from my experience as Head of the Diplomatic Service to the work which those locally engaged staff do. But I believe that a decent face of Britain to the world needs to be properly equipped to look after our interests, to assist Britain abroad and to promote our trade. I fear that we may have reached the point where in many countries the job cannot be properly done.

The gracious Speech has emphasised the priority which the Government propose to give to the promotion of human rights and to the fight against terrorism. The

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gracious Speech also contains a welcome undertaking that the Government will promote efforts for a durable peace in the Middle East. In this connection, there is one aspect of human rights which I should like to draw to the Government's attention; namely, the continued construction of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories. Your Lordships will be well aware of the deplorable decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu's Government to proceed with the illegal construction of the Har Homa settlement in Jerusalem, in spite of strong protests by others and expressions of disapproval from many Israelis and from Jewish and other friends of Israel in this country. The Israeli Government were nevertheless reported at the end of last week to have reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Not only do these illegal settlements constitute a serious breach of Palestinian rights; they are also putting at risk the whole Arab-Israeli peace process.

When I raised this issue with a group of American congressmen recently they argued that we should be paying more attention to Palestinian extremism and terrorism rather than to the construction of, as they put it, a few Jewish homes in Israel's own capital. They also showed no sign of grasping the serious and dangerous implications of the congressional resolution to move the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. These attitudes not only beg important questions about the status of Jerusalem, which remains to be settled at a later stage of the peace process; they also ignore the fact that there can be no greater encouragement of terrorism and extremism than a continuation of Israel's present settlement policies both in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank. I hope that the closer co-operation with our European partners which appears to be a very welcome part of the Government's foreign policy will increase our effectiveness in dissuading the Israeli Government, both directly and via the United States Administration, from pursuing their present, highly provocative settlement policies. I should add an important point. I believe personally that in the longer term these policies are not in the interests of the Israelis themselves.

Finally, I should like to refer to the proposal that has been attributed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in various press interviews; namely, to set up a foreign policy forum which would bring together academics, outside specialists and commentators to provide alternative policy advice. If I may declare an interest as chairman of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the resources available to Chatham House are, in my view, well placed to contribute to, if not to provide, just such a source of independent advice. While Chatham House as an institution is bound by its charter to take an independent and non-political line on international affairs, the human resources on which it can draw, both from this country and from abroad, cover the widest spectrum of background analysis and viewpoints. As I have said in a personal letter to the Prime Minister, Chatham House is ready to collaborate with this Government, as it has done on a non-partisan basis with all governments since its foundation in the early 1920s, and to put its considerable, and internationally respected, intellectual resources at the disposal of the Foreign

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Secretary and his Ministers and officials, with whom we already enjoy a close and productive co-operation, in a very full and exciting programme of research, publications, meetings and conferences.

In conclusion, I return briefly to the question of Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, referred to the need to make Europe better understood. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, echoed that sentiment when he talked of the "education of public opinion". The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, said that "the European Union could and should be of enormous benefit to this country". I urge the Government, who have already demonstrated a certain flair for public relations, to take positive steps to persuade public opinion that this is indeed the case.

8.44 p.m.

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House reminded us that the gracious Speech declares:

    "My Government will work for the early and successful enlargement of the European Union".
With all due respect to the desire of Cyprus to join the European Union, the term "enlargement" refers predominantly to the 10 central and eastern European countries formerly oppressed by communist dictatorships that have applied for membership; namely, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Enlarging the Union to the east is a desirable, indeed, noble project. It echoes the role that the European Union played in making democracy secure in Greece, Spain and Portugal after those countries had thrown off the dictatorships that oppressed them. Enlargement is an important component in reshaping European security from Ireland to the Urals and beyond.

Yet the policies of the member states of the European Union, including, I regret to say, the policies of the United Kingdom, at least up until 1st May, suggest that enlargement will be neither early nor successful. On the contrary, current policies towards enlargement are likely to produce delay, division and disillusionment--a dangerous cocktail for countries just now consolidating their market economies and fledgling democracies.

The problem is that the predominance of the political motivation for enlargement in West and East has tended to downgrade vital economic issues. The economic debate, such as it is, is dominated by the portrayal of enlargement as an expensive challenge to the West, demanding reform of the CAP and the structural funds so that EU budget constraints are not breached. So far as the economic impact on the East is concerned, enlargement has been described to me by the senior responsible official in Brussels as "just another accession fundamentally indistinguishable from the earlier accessions of Greece, Spain and Portugal".

That approach is a serious economic error, which in turn threatens severe political dangers which could easily de-rail the positive political goals of governments in East and West. The rapid enlargement of the European Union is not just another accession proceeding along well-worn paths. The early enlargement called for

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in the gracious Speech poses enormous, unique economic challenges to the applicants, challenges which must be overcome if there is to be the successful enlargement that the gracious Speech desires.

Enlargement is not just another accession for four major reasons. First, unlike all earlier applicants to join the European Union, the central and eastern European countries are today conducting a unique transformation from over-industrialised state-directed economies to newly industrialised, newly service-providing market economies. They are attempting that wholesale economic transformation in a highly competitive global market-place that is quite different from the cosy, protected markets which cushioned western European reconstruction after the war. They are also very poor. If Poland, one of the most likely countries to join, were to grow at a steady 5 per cent. a year, it would take that country nearly 20 years to reach the same income per head as Greece, the poorest member of the EU today. Indeed, all the applicants are poorer than Greece.

Secondly, unlike all earlier applicants, the central and east European economies have very limited experience of competing in international markets, poorly developed and inexperienced legal and commercial infrastructure, a small and inexperienced entrepreneurial class, and ill-defined labour market institutions.

Thirdly, unlike all earlier accessions, the new applicants face a European Union which is itself going through a period of dramatic institutional change. New applicants must accept a degree of economic integration, including monetary integration, which is far greater than anything experienced by previous applicants.

Fourthly, unlike all earlier accessions, the distinction between those who join and those who do not join could create a serious new economic and political divide in Europe. The rejection of a membership application may have very damaging consequences for the economic and political development of the country concerned. The very people who have campaigned for democracy and the free market will have been rebuffed and may be seriously weakened at home. It is therefore vital that rejected applicants have a place in European structures that minimises the risks of political backlash.

Enlargement will shape the future of the entire continent. It is therefore vital that, instead of treating the applicants as supplicants, we should recognise that the European Union and the 10 applicants are partners in that historic task.

The omens are not good. In May 1996 the applicant countries all received an enormous questionnaire, divided into 23 chapters corresponding to the Commission directorates, which had to be returned three months later. This was supposed to give the Commission enough information to offer an opinion about which of the applicants was qualified for membership. The questionnaire was a dismal portent for the conduct of enlargement negotiations. Not only were many of the questions absurd, and the time given to answer them much too short, but also the questionnaire embodied the dominant theme of a one-sided relationship between the European Union and the applicants. There is also good reason to believe that

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those preparing the Commission's opinions have become mired in detail and are losing sight of the Continent-wide interest in enlargement.

If the goals of the gracious Speech of early and successful enlargement are to be achieved, that one-sided approach must be replaced by a political and economic partnership between members and applicants dedicated to building a successful social market economy throughout Europe.

As far as successful applicants are concerned, that requires a concerted strategy to build economies capable of competing in the single market. That strategy must define entirely new transition arrangements in trade, investment and the development of industrial and financial infrastructure appropriate to the peculiar economic and institutional problems of central and eastern European countries.

As far as the unsuccessful applicants are concerned, there should be a redefinition of the concept of the European Economic Area or, rather, the creation of a new version of the economic area appropriate to central and eastern Europe. As noble Lords will know, the current economic area encompasses the prosperous mature democracies of Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway as well as all the EU members. The creation of something like the EEA to involve non-Union members in central and eastern Europe will require a new definition of economic and political obligations both between the non-EU members and the Union and between the non-EU members themselves.

Successful enlargement also requires that the present members of the European Union commit themselves to a timetable of prior reform, notably to the CAP, the structural funds and the political organisation of the Union. It is no good, after all, entering into detailed negotiations with potential members if there is no clear idea of what they are being offered and to what they are committing themselves.

The wide variety of enormously difficult issues involved in enlargement suggests that the pursuit of that goal by traditional diplomatic means may prove to be a trap, heralding the possibility of indefinite delay. By its very nature diplomacy requires the detailed negotiation of a myriad of potentially contentious issues. There are an extraordinary number of vested interests in both current member states and applicant countries which will, under current arrangements, be given ample opportunity to derail the negotiations and undermine the policy of Her Majesty's Government as expressed in the gracious Speech.

A device is therefore required which will avoid this diplomatic trap while dealing with all the complex issues involved. In fact, the European Union has two time-honoured devices for making progress on major questions: reports and timetables. The Treaty of Rome was itself based on the Spaak Committee report. Similarly the 1985 Commission-wide paper on the completion of the internal market, the report which bears the name of the noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, led to the Single European Act and the 1992 deadline for the completion of the single market. The Delors report

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on economic and monetary union provided the three-stage programme which was embodied in the Maastricht Treaty.

A timetable similar to those which had been used so effectively by the Union in the past is therefore required to provide momentum to the process of enlargement. The timetable will essentially be a statement of the issues which are to be faced and the means by which they are to be overcome.

Next month the Commission will present its response to the 10 applicants from central and eastern Europe and Cyprus. The present members have promised to start negotiations with the applicants after the end of the IGC, most likely sometime during the first half of 1998. The period between the response and the opening of the negotiations is vital. It provides the opportunity for implementing the approach via a report which has historically been so effective in the development of the European Union.

I therefore wish to propose that an ad hoc committee be established, drawn from member states and applicants and chaired by a suitably distinguished person, charged with preparing within a year a report to the 25 governments of the present EU members and the applicant states. The report should deal with, among other things, pan-European infrastructure and communications; money, banking and payments relationships, including the relationships of non-members with the euro zone; energy and power; environment; competition policy; agriculture, and so on. The report should also consider the dynamics of the enlargement process and how countries move from one stage to another.

The timetable in the report should specify what steps must be taken by existing members and applicants prior to the commencement of full entry negotiations and how those steps are to be co-ordinated. This will necessarily include a timetable for the completion of national internal reforms, economic and political, required before meaningful negotiations can commence. The committee should also consider what should be the new relationship with unsuccessful applicants and how candidates which are unsuccessful in the first round can be prepared for later success.

It may seem rather odd to be suggesting a new report at this stage when negotiations are likely to begin in 1998. In particular, it might be feared that a new report would be a means of delaying European enlargement. In fact, I believe that a new report is necessary: first, to confront the wide range of economic and political issues that I have outlined, which far transcend the needs of just another accession; and, secondly, to avoid the delay which is inherent in the trap of diplomacy. Most important of all, the new report should be the means of building the mutual confidence and respect necessary for the early and successful enlargement of the European Union.

8.58 p.m.

Lord Thurlow: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in saluting the noble Baroness in her new

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responsibilities. She will be of great assistance to her new department, with her intimate knowledge of the workings of Whitehall.

The gracious Speech declares the intention of the Government to seize the opportunity of the Edinburgh meeting of the heads of Commonwealth governments to increase co-operation with other Commonwealth governments. For 30 years our relationship with other Commonwealth governments at these meetings has been clouded by controversies, mainly over southern Africa, which generated personal bitterness and certainly negative feelings among our Ministers towards what had become for many years an embarrassing biennial occasion. These difficulties have now passed and there is a new atmosphere at Commonwealth heads of government meetings, which gives the Government, with its declared intentions to make the most of close co-operation, a great opportunity.

The Government have a long tradition of close ties with Commonwealth leaders. Going down memory lane, I recall coming every afternoon to this House in 1949 as Secretary to the Leader of the House, who was also Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, when this country and India together formed the Commonwealth in its present pattern.

The main vehicle for collective co-operation, co-operative projects, within the Commonwealth is the Commonwealth Secretariat. Most of the daily work of the office in dealing with Commonwealth countries, of course, is bilateral, but the collective projects are the responsibility of the Commonwealth Secretariat to organise and execute, carrying out the policies set at the biennial meetings of heads of government.

Over the 30 years of its life, the Commonwealth Secretariat has built up an extremely effective organism and cost-effective administration for a very wide and varied range of services capable of responding rapidly and flexibly to new and urgent demands. But the secretariat can no longer meet the demands on it as its resources are fully employed. Indeed, it is over-extended. In recent years, it has had greatly to reduce its staff. I daresay a shake-up is a good thing in any organisation every now and then. But the time has now come to move forward again and the secretariat simply has no means by which it can accommodate any new demands that the heads of government at Edinburgh may wish to place on it.

I suggest that there is a rising recognition in public opinion that our historic Commonwealth links add up to a national asset that holds out great opportunities and should be cherished and developed. As the noble Lord, Lord Gillmore, said, it represents a unique and undervalued institution. That more positive public attitude is reinforced by the shift of economic gravity towards Asia and the Pacific Rim, with all the enormous growth potential of its huge growing market. We tend to forget that in India alone the prosperous middle class represents a consumer population of some 250 million people. So, let us maintain and give new energy to our Commonwealth links and acknowledge that the Commonwealth Secretariat is the main mechanism for co-operation in collective projects.

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But it is constrained in its limited resources. It receives demands in the fields of peacekeeping, monitoring of elections and providing training and experts to reinforce new democracies, demands that it can no longer meet. There are also new areas of opportunity opening up the whole time, opportunities to provide invaluable help to other developing countries. For example, in the increasingly sensitive field of the environment, the Commonwealth has for seven years successfully established an infrastructure in the Caribbean for management of the marine environment. Effective control of ocean resources is now recognised as necessary and there is a pressing need for similar arrangements to those in the Caribbean in the Indian Ocean. Seven countries around the Indian Ocean, including India and South Africa, need help to monitor their ocean resources. But if that is to be met, it requires new resources for the secretariat far beyond the existing budget capacity.

Again, the secretariat has become a kind of respected, trusted and friendly aunt for small states. One of the phenomena of the past 20 years has been the tremendous proliferation of very small states on the international scene. Vulnerable and ill equipped for external relations, they enormously value the help that the Commonwealth Secretariat gives to them in many directions. Let us take the problem of money laundering, which is of great importance to us all. Some of the small states are trying to cope with extremely difficult pressures in the money laundering field and need the kind of advice that the secretariat can arrange.

I could go on quoting examples such as the training of officials, self-help schemes for the poor, youth schemes, help to promote women's activities in public life, schemes in the health field, the training of professionals, student exchanges. In all those fields, nothing more can be undertaken without more resources. What value for money we get from those funds that are allocated to the secretariat! Let us take the comparison between the monitoring team that the Commonwealth sent to Bangladesh, which cost £150,000, and the team that the United Nations sent for the same purpose, which cost £6.5 million. Not only is the work done very efficiently and economically, but from the point of view of this country there is a multiplier effect. We contribute to core activities 30 per cent. of the secretariat's budget. That means that for every £1 that we contribute, £2 are put up by our Commonwealth partners.

Therefore, I trust that at Edinburgh the Government will give a lead in proposing a very substantial increase of resources, to enable the secretariat to respond to the growing demands and thereby move forward as a vibrant, flexible and cost-effective means of the closer co-operation that the gracious Speech envisages.

9.11 p.m.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Richard, Leader of the House and Lord Privy Seal, on his new appointments. I am sorry to see that he is not in his place since I also wished to congratulate him on his strong stance on defence. I wish too to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean,

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Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, on her new appointment and on the new location in this House.

It has not been so much a landslide as an avalanche and I think Members in both Houses are still trying to find out where they are, where they sit and who is who in the new hierarchy. For the Back Benchers in this House, except for the ever present sword of Damocles poised over us hereditary Peers--of which the noble Lord the Leader of the House reminded us today so courteously and chillingly--it is much easier because all Peers are noble and, although we are not supposed to say this publicly, we are all friends, on whichever Benches we sit.

Noble Lords will be aware that I never speak for very long, for various reasons, two predominating. The first is that I am always shy and nervous and my knees shake, and the second is that I do not wish to take up too much of your Lordships' valuable time and well-known patience. Noble Lords will also know that ever since I have sat in your Lordships' House I have always been saying the same things on defence, first, reiterating the importance of defence to our nation and people as a whole; and, secondly, emphasising the very high calibre, dedication and professionalism of all Her Majesty's Armed Forces, many of whom I have been privileged to meet under the aegis of the Defence Study Group.

Like the noble Lords, Lord Chalfont and Lord Redesdale and the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Craig of Radley, I too have reservations about defence reviews, which, in my experience, are a euphemism for cuts. I am delighted that the gracious Speech said we,

    "will retain strong armed forces, including the nuclear deterrent".
It is the first part of the sentence on which I shall speak.

Defence, my Lords, is about people. We are defending the people of Britain against any outside attacks which may ensue. We are also using our forces to defend the peace of the world, both in Northern Ireland and Bosnia Herzegovina and in many other places. And, however well supplied with weapons and back-up teams and finance, our Armed Forces consist of splendid and highly-dedicated people, whose interests with us must always be paramount.

The noble Countess, Lady Mar, will, I know, have plenty to say on the actions of the new Government in looking into the Gulf War Syndrome, and I support her thoroughly. This is very good news, which delights us all and augurs well for the new Administration. I hope they will also bear in mind what we have been saying for the last 10 years, that the Armed Forces of this country are undermanned for the amount of tasks which we require of them and that they do not need further cutbacks.

As 1997 is the year of the seafarer, the War Widows Association of Great Britain is holding a service at Greenwich. I would like to quote a reading from St. Augustine, read by the widow of an Ordinary Seaman:

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    "People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering."

I have been talking about the importance of the people in our Armed Forces; I think St. Augustine is talking about the importance of the people in God's world.

9.16 p.m.

Lord McNair: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness the Minister on her appointment and offer my best wishes for her work here.

I return to the subject I addressed on the occasion of the previous Queen's Speech debate on foreign affairs on 28th October 1996 and look again at the increasingly harsh discrimination and persecution being experienced by a wide spectrum of ethnic and religious minorities in Germany. In doing so I hope that the new Government will be prepared to look harder and more clear sightedly at the human rights situation in Germany, more so than the previous Government, who apparently preferred to sweep these matters under the carpet. I am pleased to see the emphasis on human rights in the gracious Speech, and I hope this emphasis will also be present in negotiations with our European partners.

I will not detain the House with a restatement of what I said on that occasion. But I will say, for the benefit of the noble Baroness who is to reply to this debate that I formed what we called an ad hoc committee to investigate discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in Germany. I was joined by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and by a professor of philosophy, a senior lecturer in the sociology of education and a writer and lecturer on religious affairs.

We were in Germany at the end of September/beginning of October 1996. We interviewed representatives of 14 different religious and ethnic minorities and one group based on educational and family principles. The Germans use the word "Weltanschauung", meaning "world view", to describe such groups which are afforded the same protection as religions under the German constitution.

Our findings make disturbing reading. We were very disappointed with the reaction to them of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, and the former British Ambassador to Bonn, who I believe is now retired. The noble Earl, Lord Howe, who replied to the debate for the Foreign Office on that occasion was disturbed by our report and puzzled by the response of his colleagues. I hope I am not misinterpreting his feelings.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, referred to the "democratic deficit" in Europe. The words could equally be applied to German political and social life. I do not want anyone to think that I am criticising Germans as people. The problem is that despite Germany's comprehensive and well thought out democratic constitution, there are considerable blind spots, and it is to those blind spots that the ad hoc committee directed its attention.

We also discussed the situation there with two very experienced academics, one of whom was involved in political re-education after the war. I know that the

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phrase "political re-education" has unfortunate connotations, historically speaking, but in this case it was Professor Krumholz who was re-educating young Germans who had grown up during the war from the Nazi ideology in which they had been indoctrinated to more democratic ideas. Over the past 20 years or so he has become increasingly disillusioned and even bitter at what he sees as the betrayal of those ideals and ideas and of the German people by the political and religious establishments in Germany. This sense of betrayal has increased since reunification. The human rights NGOs, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch/Helsinki have also done some excellent work on the plight of ethnic minorities. In that context we have seen the repatriation of Vietnamese and Bosnians from Germany.

There has until recently been a dearth of material which examines the discrimination and persecution by state and church authorities. The 1995 report by the Churches Human Rights Forum, written by Suzanne Gee, has been very helpful. The two-and-a-half pages devoted to Germany are a useful introduction and the whole report also puts the situation in Germany in its European context. As far as I know, the ad hoc committee's report is the most comprehensive and detailed look at the problems facing religious minorities in Germany that has ever been carried out.

Noble Lords will recall that since we reported on our visit to Germany last year there have been incidents which made the newspapers here and one indeed assumed the status of a minor international incident. I am referring to the report in a leading German newspaper which made a rather unfortunate reference to the former Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind. Anyone who thought indulgently that this was an unfortunate but insignificant journalistic slip is very wide of the mark.

The point of the remark and of the article was that the journalist thought it was amusing and odd that someone of Jewish background should quote the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, an example of intellectual apartheid which makes sense to a certain kind of German but not to anyone else. This was in fact a small seismic crack in the crust of respectability that holds back the emotional and political pressure against minorities. Noble Lords may also recall that the German tennis player Boris Becker has left Germany for good because he and his family suffered intense harassment because his wife is a black woman.

I recently spoke to a representative of the Bruderhof, a Christian agricultural community, which left Germany in 1937 to escape persecution by the authorities. They re-established their community in Germany in, I think, the 1980s. Within the past few years they have again felt the need to leave Germany because of bureaucratic harassment and have settled on a farm in southern England.

The noble Baroness the Minister, once she has had time to study the papers and the report, whose second edition will be published in a few days' time, will not be surprised by my disappointment with the reply I received from the previous Administration. I am pleased that the new Government intend to strengthen

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the laws on data protection and access by individuals to information held about themselves. This is admirable and contrasts starkly with recent legislation in the German Land of Schleswig-Holstein.

Under this law members of as yet unnamed religious minorities may be targeted for removal of the data protection safeguards. The new law further provides for a documentation centre to disseminate personal information--precisely that information which the new British Government intend to make less accessible to others--to government--national, state and local--to the mainstream churches, to public bodies and to private businesses. Any democratically minded person would be disturbed by this, and especially if their government are bent on economic and political union with the Federal Republic of Germany.

In fact, several of the laudable policies outlined in the Queen's Speech run directly counter to the active and determined policy and legislation of the German Government. Your Lordships may be moved to speculate at the future course of harmonisation. Will these policies--I am talking about the human rights policies--be sufficiently important for the new Foreign Office team to champion them in the face of German hostility to them? Does the principle of subsidiarity obtain in the field of human rights?

There is one debate to which the publication of the ad hoc committee's report has made quite a contribution. This is the question of whether there are parallels between the self-evident persecution in today's Germany and the persecution of Jews and other minorities in the early 1930s. We have been criticised for making such comparisons. I will not rehearse the arguments for and against, but I would like to make one point. There are those who seem to believe that history stopped at a certain point in the 1940s and that no comparison could possibly be justified. Nobody except the Holocaust revisionists (whose views are unfortunately becoming more and more respectable in Germany), would wish for an instant to detract from the suffering of the Jewish people. Perhaps I may put it this way: history is more of a river than a snapshot. History rolls on as a succession of moments in the present. We need to detect the direction in which it is flowing and seek to direct that flow along democratic channels. We can be sure that the enemies of democracy are assiduously working in the opposite direction.

9.25 p.m.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, I would like to invite your Lordships on an imaginary European tour. We might start through Warsaw, St. Petersburg, Kiev, before crossing the Caucasus mountains and visiting Tiflis and Yerevan. We might return through Sarajevo and Tirana, ending perhaps with Budapest. During a journey of this kind, would your Lordships feel that you were in Europe? Where else would we be, or have the wounds of Stalinism and the Cold War detached us from the eastern half of our heritage? Have we got a vision for the reintegration and reconciliation of the eastern and western parts of our continent?

I suggest that there is a key idea which should guide the reconstruction of Europe. That is the idea of the open society or, as some would describe it, the civil society. It

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is open because it does not reject new ideas. It allows the peaceful expression of religious, political and scientific views. It welcomes minorities of many cultures and allows no individual or ideology to monopolise the truth. Such a society is civil because it makes possible the building of civilisation and the development of cultures based on freedom of association and expression. Whether it is called open or civil does not matter a very great deal. What I am talking about is a state of affairs which is inescapably plural. It is committed to the methods of democracy in order to make possible the fullest civil participation and to prevent aggression, war and oppression.

What Eurosceptic, or even Europhobe, can object to peace and democracy from the Atlantic to the Urals? Is it not rather an ideal to which all can subscribe? This ideal has of course been expressed in many documents such as the United Nations Declarations on Human Rights and the European Convention. Such documents are of great importance, but they need institutions to monitor, protect and uphold their provisions. The machinery in the form of institutions is largely already in existence. I believe that it is up to us to ensure that the machinery is fully effective throughout Europe. If genocide and ethnic clearances take place in our continent, how can we reasonably condemn them when they occur in Africa or Asia? It must surely be our priority to put the European house in order before we start to preach to others.

I shall just briefly name the key European institutions. They are NATO, the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Much has been said about them tonight. No doubt I could say a good deal more, but I shall refrain. I simply say this: I would like to see all the European institutions becoming inspired by the vision of open, civil and democratic societies. I wish that the institutions would specialise and concentrate their efforts on those subjects wherein each is strongest and best equipped.

I ask Her Majesty's Government how they view such a harmonisation of effort towards a common goal. Will they seek to make open societies the aim of the European institutions both in Europe and in the countries coming into association, such as Turkey and the Middle Eastern and North African states? Will they seek effective penalties for failures in upholding human rights?

I warmly welcome Her Majesty's Government's support for the enlargement of both NATO and the European Union. I support the Foreign Secretary's search for an ethical dimension in foreign policy. What could be more ethical than open and democratic societies throughout Europe? If the common good of the whole people is the proper object of domestic policy, open societies throughout Europe are the proper aim of foreign policy. It is clear, I think, that free parliaments are not enough in themselves; we also need free media, independent judges and the rule of law.

9.31 p.m.

Lord Grenfell: My Lords, it was a great pleasure to listen to the eloquent and authoritative maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. I look forward to hearing from him in the future. It is a great delight to congratulate

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my noble friend Lady Symons on taking up her new functions on the Front Bench. I am sure that she will serve us all very well.

I was moved to intervene in this debate on the gracious Speech by a profound sense of relief that we now have a government who are committed to a policy of active co-operation with the rest of Europe.

    "A fresh start, with a fair wind",
as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary characterised it, is certainly long overdue. The new Government are to be congratulated on taking immediate, concrete and positive steps to begin to set right our relationship with our European partners. The signing up to the Social Chapter closes a period when the irrational fears of a few frustrated the reasonable interests of the many. The Government's quick action bodes well for progress in creating a Europe in which the optimum well-being of the citizen becomes the yardstick by which we measure the Union's performance.

Perhaps I may be permitted also to congratulate my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his historic decision to give the Bank of England operational responsibility for setting interest rates. He has made it clear that the decision was taken on grounds of domestic policy and increased credibility in the financial markets--and quite rightly so. While that move falls short of meeting the requirement in the Maastricht Treaty relating to central bank independence as a condition of participation in EMU, it cannot but reinforce our message to our European partners that the option to join at any time does, indeed, remain open, even if participation in the first wave remains unlikely, as the Chancellor again stated on Monday in Brussels.

I also very much welcome the assurance given in Paris this week by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary that the Government, holding the Presidency of the Union in the first half of 1998, will do everything in their power to make sure that the single currency gets off to a good start whether or not we are part of it.

I am sure that in the course of this Session there will be welcome opportunities to discuss once again the pros and cons of British participation in monetary union. Today I shall confine myself to a single but, I think, significant aspect of the issue. It is not a matter of the single currency's intrinsic merits, of which I have long been persuaded; it is rather more the manner in which we shall seek to arrive at the ultimate in or out decision. It is the Government's policy that any decision about Britain joining the single currency would be determined,

    "by a hard-headed assessment of Britain's economic interests".
This wait-and-see policy is founded on the venerable axiom that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, but with a slight variation in meaning if we are not in the first wave, namely, that other countries who are in the first wave will be putting their spoons to the pudding first while we await their verdict on taste, texture and digestibility, which we hope to find instructive. While that is a perfectly acceptable practice, we need to be aware that a substantial quantity of pudding may have to be consumed before the proof emerges. As the noble

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Lord, Lord Taverne, has already noted, conventional wisdom is that it will take quite a while, measured in years, before the full beneficial effects of monetary union on participating countries' jobs, inflation, exports, investment and other economic activities can be meaningfully quantified.

In the early stages experience will likely differ from one country to another. Teething problems in the system, which it would be unreasonable to exclude as a possibility, will make early accurate assessments difficult. If it takes time for those countries undergoing the experience to arrive at a meaningful measurement of the impact on their economies, how much longer will it take, and how much harder will it be, for a country outside the Euro zone to arrive at its own necessarily speculative conclusions? We know enough already about EMU to be able to grasp the mechanics of its operation and to list the planned and expected benefits in broad terms, but to know more we will have to wait. The wait will not be short. We need to be very careful that any benefits foregone in waiting are not so great that they cannot later be retrieved on joining. I pray that the Government will take that into account when considering the optimum moment to seek the people's consent.

Therefore, the question that arises is whether it best helps the Government, the Parliament and the people--the three indispensable pillars of our process of decision-making on monetary union--if the decision is to be based upon the sole criterion of economic self-interest. Economic self-interest is a crucial test but it cannot and should not be the only one. To enter monetary union will to a large degree be an act of faith, especially on the part of those in the first wave. But that faith should be rooted in the expectation of sustained political stability in Europe derived from increased prosperity in a well-functioning single market facilitated by a strong and effective single currency; in other words, while looking to our economic self-interest in assessing the merits of EMU we need also to look beyond it to the broader political benefits.

When my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary told his French and German partners last week that he wanted Britain to be a leader in Europe, it struck me, gratifyingly so, as another clear confirmation of this Government's intention to play a full role in the construction of a strong union of closely co-operating independent states. Perhaps from now on Britain will no longer be seen as the member who mostly asks what the European Union can do for it but as the member who more often asks what it can do to help promote the common interests of all the people of Europe. If that spirit can also inform our national debate as we move towards a decision on monetary union, I believe that the issues will become clearer and the decision easier to make.

It is as well that the new Government will be representing Britain in what it is hoped will be the closing stages of the intergovernmental conference. Many of the issues to be resolved both in the IGC and afterwards, such as the reform of decision-making procedures, the powers of the Parliament, the reform of the CAP and the structural funds and the completion of

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the single market, will be crucial to the successful and timely enlargement of the Union. I do not wish to address those issues now, but on four other issues I offer the following brief comments.

First, I fully support the Government's insistence, along with Ireland, on a permanent opt-out for the abolition of border controls. These two island nations have no choice. Secondly, I am happy that the Government will look constructively at ways of improving co-operation in matters of common interest in the area of justice and home affairs--the third pillar. There seems to me to be ample scope within the present architecture to enhance and broaden co-operation without changing the intergovernmental character of the pillar. Broadening and enhancing co-operation is one sure way of reducing divisive pressures to communitize.

Thirdly, I am delighted that a Bill will be introduced to incorporate the main provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. That well becomes a government deeply committed to citizens' rights.

Fourthly, on the matter of defence arrangements, I support the Government's position, which was also the position of the previous government, concerning the relationship of the WEU to the EU and to NATO. Britain is in good company with the neutral nations of the union in resisting pressure to integrate the WEU into the EU as its military arm. But the Government's argument, I hope, presupposes a strong WEU as well as a strong NATO. Here I wish to leave the precincts of the EU and enter for a moment the transatlantic area. This is my final point.

I was sorry not to be able to participate in the debate on NATO enlargement initiated by my noble friend Lord Kennet on 14th March last. I shall not try your Lordships' patience by saying now what I would have said then. Suffice it to state that I have never been more than lukewarm about NATO enlargement, and while I must accept the fact that it will go ahead, I have grave doubts about the timing and the manner in which it is being pursued. It is not enough to claim that an enlarged NATO will stand us in better stead if Cold War tensions between Russia and NATO states should be revived. We should not be risking creating the conditions for that revival in the first place.

There is however one aspect of NATO enlargement which my noble friend Lord Healey raised, which has been receiving less attention but which, if I may seek to persuade noble Lords of it, requires very careful consideration; that is, the question of how the costs are to be met and shared. Independent estimates by respected analysts of the likely costs over the next 12 years vary widely, as my noble friend Lord Healey observed, but Survival, the journal of the Institute for Strategic Studies, has argued convincingly that an estimate of 27 billion to 35 billion dollars over the next 12 years is a reasonable one. That is one of the lowest independent estimates, but it is still a lot of money.

There is much hostility in both Houses of the US Congress towards NATO enlargement and the vote in the Senate will be crucial. The odds nonetheless appear to favour President Clinton having his way in the

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end, but the price may very likely be a minimising of the American contribution to the cost. According to the Institute for Strategic Studies, the US would expect to pick up some 15 per cent. of the estimated 9 billion to 12 billion dollar cost over the next 12 years in ensuring that new members could work with existing members. But the US sees also the new members and the European allies bearing almost the entire 18 billion to 23 billion dollar cost of restructuring and modernising the new members' forces and strengthening current members' ability to project military force abroad. Thus, the current and new European members would be expected to pick up some 90 per cent. of the total cost of enlargement, with new members as a group putting up 800 million to 1 billion dollars a year and current European members as a group over 1 billion dollars.

The US has a point when it reminds us that it already spends 4 per cent. of its GDP on defence while Europe spends only 2.4 per cent. Some may say that it is only fair that Europe should bear the bigger burden for enlargement. But can it, and will it? I know of few, if any, European governments who will be happy to have to find several extra hundreds of millions of dollars equivalent per year in their defence budgets, especially among those worrying about budget deficits as monetary union approaches. But my bigger worry is for the new members. Among the likely first entrants progress is being made in reducing the share of public expenditures in GDP, but it has been a long and hard-fought battle to deal with the terrible fiscal legacies of the communist past, and it is far from over, as the struggle to meet the costs of providing social protection for vulnerable groups, to cite just one example, amply demonstrates.

Is all this to be thrown into jeopardy by the costs that they must bear for entry into NATO? Is this what they need at a time when they are facing up to the measures required of them for membership in the European Union? Indeed, my noble friend Lord Eatwell spoke forcefully of that challenge. Are larger arms-buying programmes to put at risk the financing of schools and hospitals, social security and environmental protection? These are serious questions that we, as well as they, have to face. It is simply not acceptable to dismiss the enlargement costs as marginal. In central and eastern Europe reversing the process of reducing fiscal aggregates is a recipe for disaster. I humbly urge Her Majesty's Government not to let this issue of burden-sharing be shunted off onto the sidelines in the euphoria of the Madrid Summit this July. It must be grasped now. I make that plea as one who believes firmly that instability in eastern and central Europe is far more likely to follow from dashed economic and social expectations than from fears of a return to Russian hegemony.

This Government have a formidable series of challenges to square up to in the global arena, but the gracious Speech has reinforced my conviction that Britain's foreign relations and security concerns are in excellent hands.

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9.46 p.m.

Lord Vivian: My Lords, I was somewhat disappointed that no mention of our national security and defence was made until towards the end of the third page of the gracious Speech. I was even more disappointed that the other place has decided not to debate foreign affairs and defence matters at all in its Address on the gracious Speech. Nevertheless, I welcome the statements that the Government will ensure a strong defence based on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and promote international peace and security; and that strong armed forces, including the nuclear deterrent, will be retained.

However, I am concerned that the Government are intending to carry out a long and involved defence review to reassess our essential security interests and defence needs. With all the time that such reviews take, with all the additional expense involved and with all the uncertainty and demoralising effects that these reviews bring to service personnel, I wonder whether that is the best approach. It is this subject that I wish to bring to your Lordships' attention this evening.

Since 1990, the whole spectrum of defence management and the long-term costing programme has in effect imposed an annual running review on defence requirements. The Armed Forces have been submitted to Options for Change and the defence costs study and they now need a period of stability, combined with commitments from the Government, to dispense with a very prevalent feeling among servicemen and women that their futures are so uncertain that they should leave and take up other careers in civilian life. The country cannot afford the loss of any more of these highly trained and professional service personnel--any further reductions will decrease efficiency standards in the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force and the overall defence of the United Kingdom and our associated interests will be placed in jeopardy.

If this review is to go ahead, the Labour Party manifesto states that it will consider how the roles, missions and capabilities of our Armed Forces should be adjusted to meet the new strategic realities. It proposes that the review should be foreign-policy led, first assessing our likely overseas interests and commitments and then determining how our forces should be deployed to meet them. The annual running review since 1990 has covered these matters and has made changes where and when it has been necessary. The existing defence policy relates to the protection and security of the United Kingdom and the 14 dependent territories; the insurance against a major external threat to the United Kingdom and her allies; and our contribution to promoting the United Kingdom's wider security interests through the maintenance of international peace and stability under the auspices of the United Nations. This would appear to cover the new Government's manifesto commitments too. The defence roles defined in the Labour Party manifesto are a repeat of existing defence policy, albeit worded in a different way. So, what are these new strategic realities and why the need for yet another review causing turmoil to our

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Armed Forces when it is difficult to see what new strategic realities will emerge from a Foreign Office reassessment?

Any defence reassessment should be commitment and capability driven. However, there has been and there continues to be a trend in Europe and elsewhere to reduce defence expenditure. I hope that the proposed review will not provide the excuse for us to reduce our expenditure to show alignment with other European countries. I am tired of hearing that if Europe can reduce its defence expenditure we should follow it. Surely we should be setting an example to these countries, showing them how concerned we are about defence matters. Although it is unlikely that we shall increase our defence expenditure, at least we can keep it in real terms at its present levels.

I remind your Lordships that last year the Select Committee on Defence was so concerned about the defence budget that it first refused to recommend the 1996 White Paper on the defence estimates unless Ministers guaranteed that there would be no further reductions. Secondly, in a more recent report, it stated that any further reduction would place the defence of the realm in jeopardy. There can be no further reduction in personnel nor in the training and equipment programmes if we are to retain our Armed Forces at high efficiency and expect them to win battles in the future. Already the Army is suffering a degree of skill fade from its Priority 1 role as a result of having frequently to undertake a number of other important tasks such as Northern Ireland, Bosnia and United Nations peacekeeping duties, which will continue to erupt in this volatile world.

What are the threats and risks that face us against which we should construct our defence policy? The likelihood of conflict in the world is increasing and there is no reason to believe that territorial or ethnic disputes are on the decline. The reverse is true. There are many examples throughout the world which support this. In the future it is likely that more conflicts will take place over natural resources such as minerals, water and oil. Our planning must continue to assess the likely flashpoints in the world. At a recent assessment there were 53 potential crisis points, 17 of which are within 200 miles of NATO's borders. There are 20 countries outside NATO which already possess ballistic missiles and today parts of NATO territory are within the range of some of them. Over a dozen countries have either the capability to deploy chemical or biological weapons or have development programmes which are at an advanced stage. There are about 35 countries outside NATO which are equipped with up-to-date, modern and sophisticated tanks and artillery. Some 40 countries have air forces with modern offensive aircraft and 30 countries have submarine forces outside NATO. The current phase of peacekeeping operations must not take our eye away from the vital and most important role for our Armed Forces, that of training for and being equipped for high intensity combat.

We should remind ourselves that only six years ago in 1991 we were fighting in high intensity operations against Iraq with large numbers of tanks, artillery, ships and aircraft. In the future if United Kingdom and

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NATO's interests are threatened, it is more likely that that will lead to high intensity operations. It is relatively simple to adjust to internal security and peacekeeping roles if our Armed Forces are trained for high intensity conflict. It is impossible to construct a force for those sorts of operation if it has been trained only for internal security and peacekeeping roles. It is therefore vital that we retain our high intensity fighting capability, show a lead to other NATO countries, and ensure that NATO keeps its military deterrent capability through its commitment to hard defence. It is against these real and existing threats to our security that we operate our defence plans.

So what sort of defence policy should the country adopt? We are an island nation depending on free global trade, worldwide investment and international commerce, with an essential requirement to keep our sea lanes open and free from interference. We have internal security problems in Northern Ireland and we have committed responsibilities to our dependent territories spread around the world, some of which are in, or close to, turbulent areas. We also have our UN peace-keeping responsibilities. There should be no change to our policies regarding the protection and security of the United Kingdom and dependent territories; the insurance against a major external threat to the United Kingdom and our allies; and the promotion of the United Kingdom's wider security interests.

Any change to these policies puts at risk the agreed conclusion that our security can best be guaranteed through collective defence measures. If we wish to remain a leading force in Europe and a well respected member of NATO, we must retain the Army in Germany. If we wish to continue to have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council we must go on providing troops for peacekeeping duties. If we wish to continue to be a leading member of the European Union, the Commonwealth and the Group of Seven, our defence policies must remain as they are. These fundamental current policies can always be adjusted as situations evolve in the future.

In conclusion, we do not need some long and cumbersome defence review involving all departments of the Ministry of Defence and all three armed services which will inevitably be damaging to service morale and provide more uncertainty for serving personnel. Currently disturbance, turbulence and conflict occur so fast in this volatile world that our policies and capabilities must be designed for our forces to react rapidly to any situation. I should have thought that the Foreign Office would be constantly reviewing the likely world flashpoints with our commitments to which the Ministry of Defence reacts. If this is not the case, then let the Foreign Office in conjunction with the Ministry of Defence carry out a study to reassess future policy and commitments. But at this stage it should not become a full-scale defence review.

The most appropriate defence and security policy in these uncertain times should be broad in scope, evolving and changing on an annual basis in accordance with world affairs. I see no need to dispense with our current policies and commitments. Our Armed Forces are structured for flexible response, with the capability of

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being quickly "tailored" to meet any specific operation. There can be no further reductions to our personnel, equipment and training if the Government wish to ensure the security of the realm. As a nation we are justly proud of the members of our Armed Forces and the upright way in which they conduct themselves. I pay a great tribute to all our servicemen and women who have implemented our defence policy in a most efficient and successful manner. Their superb level of training, professionalism and team spirit makes them the envy of the world.

9.59 p.m.

Lord Weidenfeld: My Lords, I should like to apologise for having missed the earlier part of the debate, and sadly, the maiden speech due to having returned from abroad only a few hours ago. Since the election I have had the opportunity of visiting the United States and several European capitals and of sampling comments and reactions to the political changes in Britain. Those reactions confirm my long-held belief that a new tone and style in our European policy, a convincingly co-operative yet firm and reasonable attitude in our dealings with our neighbours, might represent a quantum change and induce more understanding and sympathy.

Indeed the first policy statements in interviews given by the Foreign Secretary have been well received, not only by old friends but even by those European Anglo-sceptics and Anglophobes who, though fewer in number and less abrasive than our more extreme native equivalent, would concede that there may be a real chance of progress. At the same time nobody has illusions that the right honourable gentleman and his ministerial team will not robustly fight their corner.

It was gratifying to hear Robin Cook, in Herr Kinkel's presence, talk so warmly of the British Government's resolve to make a trilateral cordial alliance between Britain, France and Germany a cornerstone of his foreign policy. Perhaps I may be permitted to recall the interventions of various noble Lords, including my own, in the debate on the Address last October, which dealt with the central role that a new relationship with Germany and France must play in future foreign policy.

The noble Lord, Lord Cockfield, rejects that idea, and there are of course many problems to be faced when conceiving of the formula postulated by such a policy. A great deal of backlog has to be cleared away. The partly understandable but largely inexcusable election hysteria in some of the media and on the hustings in dealing with the institutions and leading statesmen of our European neighbours is, we hope, now behind us. There is no vindictiveness left abroad. Chancellor Kohl's remark that "a Europe without Britain is a mere torso" reflects the genuinely held convictions of the German political class.

Of course, the trilateral idea must inevitably raise eyebrows. Italy, a country comparable in size and living standards to our own on the one hand, and the chorus of the smaller countries in Europe on the other, would raise objections. It would therefore be a tremendous

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challenge for our foreign policy makers to convince on the one hand France and Germany to perceive the great advantages of such a closer link while at the same time making it clear to all that what is intended is not a high-handed executive directorate but a continuous, consultative forum harmonising the views of those three powers which demonstrably have political, strategic, moral and material assets of towering importance--assets that could be fully employed for the benefit of all European partners. That will become perhaps even more plausible and necessary as we enlarge Europe and want to make the European Union at once more governable and less bureaucratic.

The Government's strong emphasis on human rights, on a humanist ethos, has already found a very positive resonance across the Channel, particularly in Germany. The Germans are now intent on defining for themselves their own future role as their federal capital is moving actually and symbolically from the Rhine to the Spree, a 50-minute car ride from the Polish frontier. What, politicians and think tanks ask themselves, will be the mission of the "Berlin Republic"? The Kohl Government's answer is that Germany must remain a functioning democracy, a standard-bearer of the pragmatic humanism and bridge-building between political and cultural communities in Europe and in its eastern and southern hinterland. Those aspirations converge with the stated aspirations of the new British Government.

In this context I wish to take issue with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord McNair. I share his horror at any form of ethnic or racial aberration and transgression and endorse the activities of the committee responsible for ongoing monitoring. However, when it comes to a summary condemnation of the Germany of today, the Germany of the Kohl era, I must strongly contradict him.

It so happens that this morning I had the privilege of delivering an oration as a guest of the Central Council of German Jewry presenting the Leo Baeck prize in honour and commemoration of one of the great, saintly German Jewish religious leaders who spent years in a death camp. The prize was given to Chancellor Kohl for his unrivalled contribution to ethnic, racial and religious peace. I have for six years worked with Chancellor Kohl and through the good offices of the Bertelsmann Foundation on a German-Jewish dialogue. The energy, involvement and commitment which the German Government--whether it be the President of the Republic, the head of the Bundestag or members of the government, mainly Chancellor Kohl--devote to this task is remarkable and is recognised by German Jewry and leaders of committed Jews all over the world, including Israel. I would go further and say that this has a bearing on our European policy. We can say quite openly that today the Federal Republic is one of the greatest flag bearers of applied humanism and a country that is the largest single absorber of immigrants and the second largest payer of foreign aid. Let us have a sense

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of perspective and realise that, unlike other European countries, there is not a single extremist leader of the racist right in the German Federal Parliament.

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