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Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I thought the figures were very vivid and an example of the greater effectiveness that could exist among the countries of the European Union if they could organise their affairs more efficiently.
As far as Britain's part is concerned, to do so requires more than the good intentions stated in the gracious Speech. John Major genuinely tried to turn around the previous Conservative Government that he led and to put it, to use his phrase, at the heart of Europe. He was frustrated by the Euro-sceptics in his own party who now seem to control the Conservative Party. The present Government are plainly serious in their determination to make a success of Britain in Europe but they suffer from being a prisoner of the referendum pledges they made in order to get themselves elected. They are frustrated not by the number of convinced opponents of British membership of the European Union among their own ranks--although there are some of those with a great record of consistency in their views, which I respect--but more by the Conservative press led by two non-European proprietors who exploit the traditional insular instincts of British people for both commercial and political reasons.
At some point, the Prime Minister, like Stanley Baldwin in the 1930s with his remarks about Beaverbrook and Kemsley, will have to treat these press tycoons with the disdain that they deserve. In our democratic society they are a good deal more lacking in legitimacy than hereditary Peers and have a great deal more power.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I presume that he is referring to Mr. Rupert Murdoch and Mr. Conrad Black. I wonder whether the noble Lord has read the Daily Mail today.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I am sorry to be in dereliction of duty. But my reply to the noble Lord is that the Daily Mail is not among my normal reading and that today I had another preoccupation, from which your Lordships' House is now suffering.
In almost every great development of the European Community Britain has lacked the vision and will to be in the first wave. As a result, we have suffered in influence and have suffered from having subsequently to adapt ourselves to arrangements made by others in their own interests. Despite the brave words in the gracious Speech, we are in danger of facing the same situation over joining the single currency. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor, in their various welcome initiatives with the new centre-left governments in Europe on economic, foreign policy and defence matters, are doing their best to keep Britain in the front line. However, I thought that the words from the gracious Speech quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, that the Government,
The earlier years of such a historic step as the creation of a single European currency and central bank are bound to be very difficult--none of us should be under any illusions about that--but Britain's commitment and our immense financial experience will make a substantial and positive difference once we are part of the single currency. Making a success of the euro should concentrate the minds of the member states in getting their priorities right in the development of the European Union, and in particular in the difficult balance between deepening and widening the Community. Only a strong core economy for the European Union can provide the resources for meeting the costs of enlargement, a point on which I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson.
With the downturn in the global economy that we are now suffering one has to ask whether the financial estimates of the costs of enlargement remain realistic and whether the present timetable is likely to be practicable. Agenda 2000, the European Commission's proposal for a stronger and wider union, admits the European Union's predicament in this respect. It states:
The much needed policy reforms themselves--the reform of the CAP and of the structural and cohesion funds--which are a pre-condition for successful enlargement, may well play havoc with the figures. The 100 million people in the candidate countries, whom we very much want to welcome as members of an enlarged European Union, have a living standard of only about one-third of that in western Europe. Therefore, one is bound to ask this question. What if, as a result of the new economic and monetary policies being developed between the Chancellor and his fellow finance Ministers, people want their governments to spend substantial quantities of ecus for assistance in the fight against unemployment in the existing European Union,
The answer to the dilemma--we all want to see enlargement take place and we all want to see a successful enlargement--is probably to look at the timetable. My noble friend referred to the need for bigger budgetary resources. I think that a more realistic alternative in dealing with this situation is to look at the timetable. Those of us who are old European Union hands will remember that timetables in the European Union are notoriously elastic. I can remember times in my own experience when not only the clock was stopped but the calender was stopped.
I think we would all agree that enlargement is an "historic challenge", to use the words of the gracious Speech. For the member nations of the present European Union it is a challenge to make a success of the historic act of deepening that is going on with the single currency and to tackle the deep problems of re-shaping the common agriculture policy and the structural and cohesion funds. It is a challenge on the part of the central and eastern European countries to bring their economies closer to those of western Europe. In the end this might mean accepting a longer than the more optimistic timetable that one has heard in the argument. If that were so, it might diminish the risk of ending up with a larger but more fractious and less prosperous Union and create more realistic expectations, which is part of the art of democratic politics.
For those of us who believe in the historic importance of creating an effective European Union, there is always a temptation, to which I have succumbed frequently myself over the years, to let Euro-rhetoric run away with Euro-reality. It would be ironic if European integration were to falter and the success of enlargement were to be undermined by an over-ambitious timetable.
Lord Kennet: My Lords, it is always a good idea to try to remember why we went to the trouble of setting up our great institutions. It is equally sensible to take stock from time to time of the changes that have been made, or have just happened to occur, and to judge.
I shall mention four things, which we seem to have forgotten why we wanted. The first and second are NATO and the United Nations. Those are two great institutions which have undergone either, as with NATO, a complete change of purpose or, as with the UN, a check in development and therefore an erosion of competence. I shall argue that the United Nations is ever more necessary in our changing and ever more unjust world, and NATO must not be allowed to usurp any of its functions. I shall also argue that we have forgotten what our interest was in Iraq, and that we have forgotten what we set up Israel to achieve. I shall take these in reverse order.
We in the United Nations did not set up Israel to turn Palestinians out of their homes or to deprive them of their civil rights in their own country, to invade and bomb its neighbours, to develop weapons of mass destruction at American expense, or to ignore the
The United Nations sent UNSCOM into Iraq--which we in the West had first armed heavily and then driven out of Kuwait--to dismantle its ability again to threaten its neighbours, and we established an embargo for the same reason. After seven long years, if UNSCOM and the embargo have still not succeeded to our satisfaction the likelihood is they will not. UNSCOM's job anyway was to prove a negative, and so it could not possibly truly succeed. As the 19 bishops stated in Tuesday's Independent, it is time to revisit this policy. The embargo allows Saddam Hussein to survive while his people suffer, and one of UNSCOM's side-jobs seems to be to provide Israel with targeting information about not only Iraq but possibly Iran as well.
By now, only the United States and Britain are content with the embargo. We claim that it is Saddam's fault and his alone if the embargo has damaging effects on the population we recognise as innocent. But if children are malnourished and dying because of it, we cannot disclaim responsibility. We cannot disclaim any share whatever of the responsibility.
Quite apart from the embargo, there are the 320 tonnes of depleted uranium-based ammunition which the United States used there in the Gulf War and about which the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, told us in a Written Answer last week--860,000 rounds. What is that doing to people in Iraq? Agent Orange, widely used by the United States for deforestation in Vietnam, is now showing up in that poor country with thalidomide-like damage to the next generation but one. Would our Tomahawks attack targets we think are packed with stuff to fill chemical and biological warheads? Where do we think that stuff will go? Would we be financially liable to the victims if we had "gone in" without a specific Security Council resolution?
Our declared intention not to go back to the Security Council for approval before some future attack on Iraq strangely states that in order to enforce a Security Council resolution we shall ignore the Security Council. The logic is not too good, nor was it when we used the same argument to attack Serbian targets.
Of course the also strange new doctrine of "overwhelming humanitarian necessity" which, I suppose, had some semblance of good faith in northern Iraq, can have none in Iraq today. I was glad that the Written Answer last week of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, confirmed the flimsy character of the doctrine in international law. No, the real business in Iraq by now is about not allowing Saddam Hussein to cock a snook at American presidents, which is precisely why the US stayed on and on and on in Vietnam. Someone must be taught a lesson. Now we hear of a repetition of the failed and discredited tactics used against Nicaragua by
When the Americans are wrong, we should not support them. On the other hand, if we can do it, helping them out of the morasses their fallacious sense of "mission" gets them into may be the single most valuable thing we, the British, can do in the world. So let us, for all we are worth, help them out of the mistakes they are already making--worst of all in the Middle East--and those they are proposing to make, with NATO, and now apparently in Korea.
This is what makes the special relationship valuable. And international law has to be our best tool. When we managed at Rome to get the international community to accept the International Criminal Court, that was a great step forward. Until that is set up, partial courts--like our own, and the court ruling on internationally recognised crimes in the former Yugoslavia--must do what they can.
I turn now to NATO. It was set up, with Ernie Bevin to the fore, by the countries of western Europe and North America as a direct and immediate response to the culmination at Berlin of a progression of Soviet geopolitical probings, and to its achievement of nuclear weapons years earlier than United States intelligence thought possible.
The Warsaw Pact was set up after NATO was: Stalin was canny enough--though it is forgotten now--to hold back its signature until the day after the North Atlantic Treaty's. They were mirror treaties: each bound its signatories to come to one another's help if any of them was attacked. No attack was of course expected from anywhere but from the other treaty organisation. There were strong defensive postures, shaded over towards the mutually accelerating paranoias of arms race and first strike. Each side was like a man armed to the teeth, trembling for decade after decade before his own reflection in the mirror.
Then one day this decade, the Warsaw Pact ceased to exist. The adversary pact just disappeared, leaving nothing but a mass of weapons of mass destruction, leaking. The leading state of the pact, the Soviet Union, also just disappeared, leaving a large, broke, nuclear-armed Russia and 13 small, broke countries, mostly in Asia.
Therefore it would have been right to question whether NATO should not continue in its mirror role and dissolve too. The attractions would have been obvious. NATO's original purposes had been over-fulfilled on the grand scale. Not only had the adversary not attacked the West, not only was peace in
Ahead of the three successful east European candidate countries for admission to NATO there now pushes a graded but still soft structure of states which are Partners for Peace. Beyond that there extend yet more partners, with a small 'p', taking part in military and planning exercises carried out in the "spirit" of "partnership for peace", whatever that may be.
There is no longer any pretence of that being for the security of Europe. The extended structure of US alliance policy, civil and military, now stretches not only around the western borders of the Russian Republic but also around its southern borders, covering the new oil province of the Caspian and central Asia. The whole Turkic belt is involved, up to the frontiers of China and beyond, that is where the geographically unbounded US-Japan security zone starts, with 100,000 American troops. That is not quite what NATO was founded for. Are we sure that it is what we want it to turn into? Would Attlee and Bevin have thought it right? Would Macmillan?
I turn now to the United Nations. It was set up in glorious and well founded hope. The important thing was that this time, unlike with the League of Nations after the First World War, the United States was going to take part in the enterprise--potentially by far the most important political enterprise ever undertaken by humanity: a comprehensive system based on the rule of law in which all states and all peoples would take part.
The price of American presence was the absence for some decades of China, as the American political imagination was not yet wide enough to encompass the idea of human universality. The purpose of the UN was simple: to provide a talking shop to discuss the world's differences; to provide a voting shop to settle them and in which to develop international law and procedures to stop such differences recurring, and to provide an infrastructure of global sectoral organisations to do the same, each in its sector.
It is often said that the idea of the United Nations has been around since the Middle Ages, but, as the late Harry Hinsley showed in his great book Power and the Pursuit of Peace, it had actually been around only since the 1620s, when it was invented in--wait for it--Paris; and if the French want to claim the credit, good luck to them. It was invented in Paris--not in Oxford or Heidelberg--and in a monastery, too, as a matter of fact.
Now though, under Senator Helms's plan, which he managed to make binding on the Clinton Administration and is therefore now US policy, NATO, led by the US, would move beyond reach of the UN system and of international law in general. The UN, through US under-funding, will become increasingly insignificant; and the United States will conduct itself in a manner fitting its famous mission and its status as sole military superpower.
None of that bears any relation to what the United Nations or NATO were founded for. So I ask the Government: are they sure that Senator Helms's vision for the 21st century is what Britain wants to take part in? Would Attlee and Bevin have thought it right or sensible? Would Macmillan?
There are signs that that is the way Ministers are tempted to go. I hope and I pray that they will think long and carefully before giving up on international law and on the United Nations and on common justice in the world. It would, of course, also mean giving up on Europe.
I am sorry that I was not able to be present in the Chamber during and after the Statement which the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, repeated on Iraq on 16th November. That Statement, and the replies which the noble Baroness gave to points raised in the brief debate which followed that Statement, gave a clear picture of the aims and objectives which the Government have pursued, and are still pursuing, in trying to ensure that Saddam Hussein complies with Security Council resolutions obliging Iraq to accept the destruction of all its weapons of mass destruction, and to give immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access to any places and records in Iraq which the UNSCOM and IAEA inspectors wish to inspect.
I was also glad to see, from an interview given by the Minister of State, Mr. Derek Fatchett, on 23rd November, when he had what I understand was a long-arranged and supposedly routine meeting with some Iraqi opposition groups, that the Government do not regard it as their task to change the regime in Baghdad, nor to organise the overthrow of that regime.
I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, that we need to work very closely with our United States allies. However, there is one aspect as regards which I believe that we should distance ourselves. I refer to the impression which the Clinton Administration have given--I believe both wrongly and dangerously--in recent weeks that their aim and objective is to change the government of Iraq. Mr. Fatchett's meetings will have contributed to confusion and misunderstanding in the Arab world about the British Government's objectives.
I have no doubt whatever that we would all sleep happier at nights if Saddam Hussein were to disappear tomorrow, whatever type of regime were to take his place. But I have severe doubts whether it is wise,
First, it is of vital importance to maintain, or try to maintain, the consensus of the Security Council, the Arab world and our European colleagues that our aim and objective is not to remove or destroy Saddam Hussein, but to ensure his compliance with Security Council resolutions--if necessary by the threat of force. I share the pessimism of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, about the likelihood of force having to be used. Nevertheless, I seriously question whether it is consistent with a so-called "ethical foreign policy" that we should attempt to dictate to other countries what kind of government they have, however much we or they dislike them.
I also have a profound scepticism about the ability of the United States--still less of ourselves--to change other peoples' governments. One has only to look at the years of unsuccessful and, I believe, profoundly misguided attempts by the United States to remove or replace President Fidel Castro in Cuba to realise that.
The days of Western protectorates in the Middle East are, I hope, over. But that seems to me to be perilously close to what the United States Administration and Congress appear to be calling for. The British press has certainly given the impression, perhaps wrongly, that the Prime Minister is inclined to follow the United States' lead in this direction. I wish to utter the most solemn warning against doing any such thing.
Meanwhile, I think that we should acknowledge that President Clinton has at last shown welcome signs in the past month or two that he is ready seriously to engage in pressing both the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to an agreement. I have little doubt that it was a realisation of that fact that contributed to the decision of eight Arab governments, to which the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, referred, to issue a statement in Damascus on 12th November, firmly pinning the responsibility on Saddam Hussein for any consequences of his non-co-operation with UNSCOM.
There is no doubt that the Wye River Memorandum, to which the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, referred, which was signed on 23rd October, represents a welcome breakthrough in the Palestinian track of the peace process. The United States Administration, and President Clinton in particular, deserve warm credit for that, as do the two parties concerned. That makes it all the more regrettable that the Israeli Cabinet decision endorsing the agreement should have been accompanied by an announcement that the Israeli Government were committed to strengthening and developing their settlements.
I hope that the Minister can assure the House that Her Majesty's Government will maintain their position that settlements in the Occupied Territories and in East Jerusalem are illegal under international law and are an obstacle to peace. I also hope that the Government and our European colleagues can do more to convince our American friends to adopt the same position. I can think of few more pressing requirements if the Government are to fulfil the commitment in the gracious Speech to promote peace in the Middle East. Reports in this week's Financial Times that the Israelis are pressing the Americans for a one-off package of 1.25 billion dollars to implement the peace accords should leave no one in any doubt as to the potential leverage which the United States could exert if it could be persuaded to ensure that that type of illegal activity is halted, and not resumed.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, on 16th November the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, said that she could not reply to a question from my noble friend Lord Lucas on the desirability of continuing to afford aid to a country that was involved in the Congo war. The explanation, as her words would seem to indicate, for this and all matters of foreign policy lies in the fact that it now has an ethical dimension. I am sure that the noble Baroness was not exceeding her brief, because the Foreign Secretary himself from the beginning of his tenure has talked of an ethical foreign policy.
The matter deserves exploration. It helps to convince one that the primary weakness of the present Government is their fondness for phrases without notable content. The "third way" has become almost a laughing-stock after it was necessary to invite into Downing Street a number of intellectuals (if that is the right word) in order to explain what it meant. It has now been translated into German as the Neue Mitte. No doubt some Germans are now engaged, with their usual thoroughness, in trying to find out what is meant by the phrase.
It is, after all, rather important that we should know the inner content that makes this Government's foreign policy different from that followed by previous governments of this country through the centuries, normally using as their guideline the question of national interest. Is there some matter beyond the national interest that is subsumed in the words "an ethical dimension"?
We know that the Foreign Secretary himself thought some exposition of the phrase necessary. At almost the same time as he declared himself in favour of an ethical foreign policy, he announced the setting up of a foreign policy centre which was in some way to substitute for the normal institutions with which London is enriched where matters of importance regarding foreign policy
One begins to wonder what is behind all this. As noble Lords, beginning with the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, have told us, we live in very serious times. I am therefore entitled to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, in replying, to indicate the purpose of the foreign policy centre, the way in which its personnel have been or will be recruited, and the task that the Foreign Office envisages it should fulfil.
But that is only a way into the main features of this debate, in which a number of grave issues have been explored, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. I regret that the noble Lord's thanksgiving duties deprive us of his presence. As we look round the world at the end of this century--the worst century in human history, probably since the 14th, possibly since the fourth--we are struck by the fact that even this exhaustive debate, in which we have heard a number of eminent speakers, cannot list the threats that exist to human prosperity and even human survival.
We have heard about Iraq, Kosovo, and even, alas, again about Bosnia. We know that the war in the Congo, the matter raised by my noble friend Lord Lucas in the question to which I referred, is capable of setting much of Africa ablaze. Even then, we have not touched upon the threat to the Far East based on indications that North Korea, which some thought had been brought to some kind of agreement not to pursue the creation of nuclear weapons, is behaving with a falsity not inferior to that of Saddam Hussein. In other words, my worry about an ethical foreign policy is whether it obliterates or prevents us from dealing realistically with the issues that we confront.
If one looks at the record of history--this is why the matter is linked in my mind--mistakes have been made by governments, both our own government and other powers, which in retrospect the historian can chronicle and explain. They have largely been the result of an unwillingness to delve into the facts of particular situations or the aspirations of particular countries and governments. It may be that other elements go into it. One may have invincible prejudice, such as has been displayed on so many occasions in your Lordships' House, against the state of Israel by the noble Lord,
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