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6.55 p.m.

Lord McNair: My Lords, I wish to add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond. I particularly enjoyed his remarks about the need to know and understand the variety of cultures and the different kinds of Islam which make up the Islamic world.

In the time allotted to me I intend to speak about the issue of human rights in the European Union countries and, noble Lords will not be surprised to hear, particularly in Germany.

It is, of course, becoming more and more difficult to separate foreign affairs in respect of Europe and the impact which domestic affairs in European countries have on our relationships with those countries. There are, of course, precedents for concern about the internal affairs of other nations by the FCO; and I hope that the Minister will take to heart what I have to say about Germany.

The House may recall that in the debates on the Queen's Speech of October 1996 and May 1997, and also in an Unstarred Question in December 1996 on human rights in Europe, I referred to the report of the Ad Hoc Committee to Investigate Discrimination against Ethnic and Religious Minorities in Germany, for which I was the rapporteur. Minorities we interviewed included such Christian Churches as the Christian Community Church in Cologne. We were told that those churches were similar to the Holy Trinity Church in Brompton, the Kensington Temple and the Vineyard Churches which are, I think, evangelical churches in London.

I do not propose to repeat what I said previously. Many noble Lords, including several who now sit with the Minister on the Government Front Bench, were appalled at our findings and supportive of our endeavour. I have continued to monitor the situation in Germany and have become aware of the way that certain German political elements are using the European institutions to try to turn the clock back on human rights in the countries of the Union.

We were disappointed by the initial response of the British Embassy in Bonn that it,

    "did not recognise the picture you paint of discrimination".
But I received a more helpful reply from the Minister who is to reply to the debate. In a letter of 1st September 1997 the noble Baroness pointed out that those who believed they had suffered discrimination had recourse to the courts. That is of course true as far as it goes, but it begs the question of why so many cases are brought by the German authorities against those tiny minorities. There have been some good signs recently, with good German court decisions. But the Jehovah's Witnesses are still unregistered although the movement has been trying to obtain registration for a long time.

The German Government have developed their strategy of discrimination to quite an art form. It includes training courses for judges, prosecutors and even law students to sensitise them against the rights of minorities. These are a regular feature of German legal life. On the evening following the launch in Bonn of our German edition, in June of last year, we were privileged

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to attend a meeting organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation to warn the people of Dusseldorf against the generalised danger from Sekten.

The guest speaker at this meeting was Gunter Beckstein, the Interior Minister of Bavaria. Although the convenor of the meeting gave a veiled warning to those present that members of a British committee investigating discrimination were in the audience, Gunter Beckstein had worked himself up into quite a frenzy of incitement to hatred by the time the meeting ended. Noble Lords may wonder whether the audience consisted of poorly educated skinheads; but they would be wrong. It consisted almost exclusively of well-heeled and apparently well-educated, solid and prosperous German citizens, and they lapped it up. The House, and the Minister, should be aware that the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which, as noble Lords will know, is the think-tank of the Christian Democrat Union, is actively encouraging discrimination.

There is only one thing that the religious minorities in Germany want. It is for the government, and the religious hierarchies working with and through the government, to abide by and apply Article 4 of the German constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion and belief. That was the very clear message of a memorable speech by Pastor Terry Jones of the Christian Church Community of Cologne at the launch, in Bonn last June, of the German edition of the Ad Hoc Committee's report.

I have been interested to read recent British press coverage of events in Germany. Noble Lords may have seen the article in The Times of 12th January by Roger Boyes, which began with these words:

    "There is a raw wind gusting through Germany. Its cold edge became apparent again last week when the Government and the Opposition agreed to new legislation allowing for the bugging of private apartments.

    Detectives will be able, if the draft goes ahead, to eavesdrop on doctors, psychiatrists, social workers and journalists. The point is to crack down on organised crime. But the legal resources about to be made available to the police are out of all proportion to the goal".
It was interesting to note that he quoted from the report of the Ad Hoc Committee. Three of the incidents we reported were mentioned in the article.

The situation in Germany today is that the government, the opposition and the people have moved so far to the right that it is irrelevant what the political parties are called. In the World Report on Freedom of Religion and Belief, from the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, the editors, Professor Roger Boyle and Dr. Juliet Sheen, make a startling observation. In the introduction--not even in the section on Germany, which is, as noble Lords can imagine, damning enough in itself--they state:

    "In Germany, democracy is used as an ideology to enforce conformity ... It has been dismaying to find that the state, and some of its politicians and people, are using what are known from the past to be well-worn paths of discrimination and intolerance".

On the same day that the article by Roger Boyes appeared in The Times there was an article by Ian Traynor, writing from Germany, in the Guardian. The headline to the item was:

    "Big Brother and friends are still watching in Germany".

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He describes the same legislative initiative as Roger Boyes, but adds:

    "Only a last minute revision scrapped provisions for the bugging of confession boxes".

Ian Traynor has also reported on the rising tide of Neo-Nazi sentiment in former East Germany, describing "no go" areas declared by young thugs and quoting the mother of one as saying that she thought punk rockers should be gassed.

We may just shrug our shoulders and think, "Oh well, Germans will be Germans"; and of course it is true that traditions of democracy have many cultural roots. But there is one important distinction of which we may not be aware because we take our own basic assumptions for granted. We in the Anglo-Saxon world assume that the state exists to serve the individual. That is not so in Germany, where the Hegelian model prevails. The contrary view to our own, correlating with Hegel's scornful disdain for the individual and his or her rights, is that the individual exists to serve the state--hence the obsession with conformity and the informer state which Ian Traynor describes so vividly in the article from which I quoted.

7.4 p.m.

Lord Moore of Wolvercote: My Lords, I should like to follow other noble Lords in supporting most strongly the remarks of my noble friend Lord Wright of Richmond in his excellent introduction about the Diplomatic Service, in which I once had the privilege of working for a short period. It is a splendid service, and is enormously admired throughout the world, reflecting great credit on Britain. I trust that the Government will ensure that it is properly funded.

There are two ways in which I hope it will be possible to use our presidency of the European Union. The first is to press the case for the enlargement of the European Union to include some of the eastern European countries--a process which will ultimately underline the absurdity of a federal European state. One of the undesirable features of the pressure for an early implementation of EMU is the danger that the imposition of stringent monetary conditions to enable EMU to come into effect will be used as an argument for delaying enlargement. We went to war in Europe for Poland. Poland is now free, and a European Union without her makes little sense. Here I must confess to a certain amount of prejudice, having been a prisoner of war in Poland during the war and having experienced at first hand the indomitable courage of the Polish people.

The second way in which I should like us to use our presidency is this. Although my noble friend Lord Wright of Richmond has set his Motion in the context of the UK presidency of the European Union, I am glad that it refers to "Commonwealth" as well as "foreign affairs". I have always personally maintained that Britain has a unique role to play as a link between the Commonwealth and the European Union,

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to the benefit of both groups, and of course to Britain as a world trading nation. The Prime Minister will be coming to the presidency having just chaired an extremely successful Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Edinburgh. Great credit for that is due both to him and to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and his team. The British Government's support for the UK Year of the Commonwealth and for the Centre for Commonwealth Non-Governmental Organisations was very welcome and, I think, has brought an increased awareness in this country of the significance and importance of the Commonwealth to us.

But this CHOGM was chiefly notable for producing a Commonwealth Economic Declaration, which reflected the realisation that political advance must be matched by economic progress, enabling member countries to compete effectively in global markets and to attract investment. But it was more than a declaration. Action is to flow from it. A trade and investment facility is to be set up in the Commonwealth Secretariat to assist developing countries to play their part in the globalisation of world trade. Also, a Commonwealth business council has been created by the Commonwealth Business Forum to encourage greater private sector investment in the promotion of trade and industry in the Commonwealth. I have a personal interest, in that it has at last brought to fruition a recommendation we made from the Commonwealth Conference at Cumberland Lodge as long ago as 1991 for the establishment of a network of business organisations throughout the Commonwealth.

It has taken time, but at last the Commonwealth is beginning to appreciate the potential of the part it can play as a global trading group, based on its enormous advantages of shared language, education and law. So there could not be a better time for Britain to hold the presidency of the European Union, as a major member of both the Commonwealth and the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, made that point.

For example, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, said, there will be an excellent opportunity for Britain to work for an acceptable successor to the Lome convention since 36 of the 70 African, Caribbean and Pacific members are also members of the Commonwealth. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, said, Britain can also encourage the European Union and the World Trade Organisation to accommodate the legitimate interests of the ACP banana producers and to support the full implementation of the Uruguay Round arrangements.

It is very important that the European Union should not become too inward looking. Britain, with her worldwide position and experience, can play a valuable role in bringing home to her European colleagues the vital importance of a global outlook and of establishing a multilateral trading system within the World Trade Organisation. On this the economic interests of us all will ultimately depend.

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