|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
As the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, said, it is important that wardens receive extra training to carry out these functions. Can the Minister say what the extra cost will be and whether it will be recouped from the extra fines raised? I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, about the order being voluntary. Why
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, these new powers have not been entered into lightly. He will be aware that in Scotland police forces have traditionally been reluctant to increase the powers of traffic wardens in areas which they feel should remain within the domain of the police. It was not until four years after the Functions of Traffic Wardens (Scotland) Order 1971 came into operation that police forces reviewed their opposition to its implementation. The training of wardens is a matter for the police and for chief constables. That should give the noble Lord some assurance.
The order is permissive and it will be for chief constables to decide whether they wish to introduce the powers in their areas. Despite the concerns of the noble Lord, it is better to go with a tradition of pragmatism and flexibility in this matter, and I would rely on the good sense of the Scottish police forces.
On the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, our belief is that there will be no extra costs. In fact, what costs there might be should be defrayed by the fact that the wardens controlled by the police will allow the police to undertake duties of greater priority. Therefore, overall, there should be a saving to the public purse.
As to the noble Earl's more general question, I believe that the position in Scotland follows that in the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of the proposed new powers. On the basis of experience to date, we believe that the new powers in Scotland will be a welcome and beneficial advance.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he deal with my point about the franchised or privatised warden service for parking in London? Is it contemplated that such powers will be available in Scotland?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I am not aware of any plans to emulate what has taken place in London. I believe that it is possible in Scotland for local authorities to hire people on parking attendant duties. It would also be possible for them to recoup some of the expenses. But I hope and trust that, with the good sense of Scottish authorities and with the advice of the police, the powers will be used in a practical and positive way rather than in the punitive way the noble Lord implies.
Lord Kennet rose to ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent they think NATO actions "out of area" must be in accordance with United Nations and Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe resolutions and international law.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in an abrupt change of subject, I regard with unconditional horror and loathing the organised slaughter which humanity commits each day and would conceive my life to have been wasted if I had not done what I could to reduce it. That is why I come back and back again in this House to the dialectics of war and peace and of order and chaos.
The organised slaughter has usually been among sovereign states though at the moment it is more within than among states. It was thus that in 1945 one could feel sure that the foundation of the United Nations was not only the best, but was the only hope for the peace, if not the survival, of the human race in the nuclear age. In the UN the states of the world could meet, argue, vote and decide in rough imitation of the model which had proved so successful in some of the single states: the democracies. It was, and still is, the nearest we have got to Tennyson's "Parliament of Man".
And, the supreme element of that great hope, the Americans, were there. The League of Nations had failed because the Americans were not there. They, or rather an enlightened minority of them, had been its midwives. But the Republican Party pulled out before it came alive. The rest of the world did as best it could without them.
After the victory over Nazism, in which the US played a belated but splendid part, the world returned to the League principles. We had learnt the lessons of Versailles--generosity towards those we had defeated, lest the war continue in their hearts and re-emerge later to defeat us all. During the next half century, people were able to hope that the UN would in time be permitted to achieve the virtually eschatological purpose for which it had been set up; and many times over wars were averted or ended, sometimes even by armed force; multilateral treaties were signed, including disarmament measures; subordinate specialised agencies were created; and missions, missions, missions, which, when they could not succeed by private appeal to reason, often succeeded by public exposure to obloquy. War was not banished but a universally valid think-tank, mediator, reporter and, in the last resort, policemen, was present.
In the age of ideological self-importance after 1950 the two super-powers cancelled one another out. They wasted their own and each other's wealth on the grandest and most useless scale, and terrified everyone. On the Soviet side the Cold War provided an excuse for occupying other people's countries; on the American side for developing arms of a horror and expense undreamed of by former generations, and also for more or less occupying other people's countries. One side produced lasting political resentment, the other produced lasting distortion of scientific research and investment. It also produced NATO, to which an anthem was written in the early 1950s. This promised undying loyalty, etc., and was recommended to be sung in schools. It did not catch on.
NATO was a necessity then, but it may soon be a danger. I have often set out here in the past few years why I think this is so. The United States wants NATO to spread round the entire globe, picking up members as it goes, and flexing its military muscles. It would be the
How does this fit with the UN in the American view and in our view? When we in this country consider American foreign policy nowadays we often say, "The Administration is good, it is only Congress under Senator Helms that is bad. The President has a lot of difficulty with the Republicans". That is of course true, and we must sympathise with President Clinton. But however it is arrived at, the foreign policy of a country is what comes out at the end of the pipe and that is what affects the rest of us. The US is a single nation, and presidential smiles butter no parsnips. It is the Senate which today determines the foreign policy of the United States, and this we must recognise. We share few of the values of the present Senate majority, and many of the interests they proclaim, pursue and pass into American law, we must strongly oppose.
Let us indeed continue to co-operate with the United States' Administration whenever we can, but not when it proposes to break or ignore the law, by which I mean international law, including the UN Charter, UN resolutions, conventional law and the United States' own international commitments.
For instance, just what has been happening in UNSCOM, whose American deputy director has apparently been in London to fund and plan with Iraqi oppositionists to topple Saddam Hussein, which is against British law and against international law? We in this House were recalled for an emergency session in the middle of the summer to pass a law precisely against that. Was the gung-ho attack on the pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum not enough egg on both our faces, America's and ours?
The rule of law is necessary for the achievement of justice, and justice is necessary for peace. It is thus necessary--using the word in the strictest possible sense--that the rule of law be at the heart of NATO's new strategic concept. Unambiguous support of international law is not now American policy. Senator Helms, the progenitor of the United States' current proposals for the strategic concept, imposed--as the House knows--a legally binding duty on the US which points quite another way. We discussed this earlier this year when the Helms' conditions first appeared and Ministers responded that this was a matter internal to the United States. It is not at all internal to the United States, and it is now central to our own approach to world affairs. It is central to the significance of, for instance, our defence review.
In spite of Helms, the US has not actually left the United Nations. It is grossly in arrears with its debt and dues. Its arrears add up to more than those of all other countries put together. The US is also indirectly in debt to this country, because the United Nations is unable to pay us a portion of what is due for our part in various peace-keeping operations.
The United States does not belong to UNESCO, to which we have now fortunately returned after the Conservative years. Today, unexpectedly, UNESCO is crucial to the future of humanity. A slow-moving crisis is far advanced in the world over the status of patents in biotechnology, including both human and plant genetics and the International Bioethics Committee, which comes under UNESCO, is the right place to discuss this. The chairpersons of the national bioethics committees of the world have recently had an emergency meeting. They are at their wits' end for a forum in which they can grapple directly with the Americans. At present they simply cannot attract attention.
The dominant opinion within the Washington Beltway is profoundly nationalist, irresponsible and ignorant. In the country at large, as polls show, this is not the case. Most Americans have more faith in the United Nations than in their own judiciary. But the Beltway climate shows itself every week in routine decisions on international affairs: Iraq, North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Sudan, France.
Our otherwise nice, kind and sensible government, as I have pointed out so often, still believes a sleepy and uncritical cheer is the right response. Is President Clinton not a fellow believer in what New Labour believes? There has been one quite striking example in recent weeks of the sleepy cheer which has not hit the headlines. It is this. At the meeting of the North Atlantic Assembly in Edinburgh last month there was a draft general resolution before the final plenary which was to be the contribution of the alliance's only democratic body to the formulation of the new strategic concept. Its main thrust was that NATO should now routinely undertake out-of-area operations, which were forbidden by the original Cold War treaty, but are now permitted by a treaty revision. The question was, with what authority?
In the draft of the final resolution at Edinburgh, the familiar view was re-stated: the freedom of NATO to go outside its area was subject to UN or OSCE authority. This seemed obviously right; it stated no more than what must be the case. International law and international assemblies and tribunals exist, and the mightiest military entity in the world must obviously set an example to all others by its scrupulous observance of them.
But an amendment was proposed to this peaceful and normal draft: there was a division and it was carried. The amendment deleted that condition; it deleted the words making out-of-area expeditions subject to UN or OSCE approval. It thus left the partial military alliance called NATO subject, in its own eyes, to no other authority and thus potentially master of the world.
In context, the passage it amended bore a relation to the new concept of "overwhelming humanitarian necessity". This is a useful description of a thing which may happen, does happen, and morally requires whatever remedy we can apply. But, as my noble friend Lady Symons confirmed recently, it is not known to international law. It is glaringly obvious that if it is to be any use in licensing the despatch of armed force, what constitutes an overwhelming necessity must be open to discussion in and confirmation by an international authority, as happened, for instance, with the threat NATO issued to Milosevic a month ago. The amendment I speak of was, in short, a direct blow at the rule of international law.
The proposers of the amendment were two American and two British parliamentarians. The two British proposers were the chairmen of the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons. I have given them notice that I would raise the matter here today, and I ask my noble friend what discussion preceded this extraordinary action? Were they briefed by the Foreign Office to go with the US in deleting the authority of the United Nations over the actions of NATO; and to do so in the only democratic organ in NATO in the course of its contribution to the formulation of the new NATO strategic concept?
Has the Foreign Office, or whoever was behind this shameful action, failed to note that it is not nice, preoccupied President Clinton, not sparky Mrs. Albright, not the excellent Ambassador Vershbow, least of all the American people who are behind the anti-United Nations, anti-Europe, anti-human proposal to set NATO above the UN: it is the same spirit of ignorant pride which drew the United States back from the League of Nations 70 years ago and back from the International Criminal Court and the Landmines Convention this very summer. In its present incarnation that spirit is Jesse Helms, US Senator, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and in foreign policy far more powerful than the President. He is friend neither of Europe nor of peace.
We owe a loyalty of friendship to the American people, not to the present Senate majority, and for their sake as well as our own, and for the sake of all our children, our best support must go to protecting and building up the rule of international law, and to protecting and building up the United Nations.
I do not entirely share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, of the United States as edging towards isolationism. Nor do I entirely share his view of the Washington lead as ignorant. He is correct in saying that a certain arrogance of power has invaded the Washington policy elite. But that is different from the attitude of the Republican Right, and in particular of Senator Helms and his friends in the US Senate. I noted that in the last congressional elections the Republicans
We have to maintain a close dialogue with our American friends. One of the reasons that I and my party welcome so warmly the Government's initiative on closer European defence co-operation is that it seems to us that one needs a more equal dialogue with the United States. On a number of occasions in the past few months when involved in transatlantic discussions I have been struck by the extent to which we are dealing with a benevolent hegemony which has come to assume that it is a righteous nation and that it knows what is best for the world. If I had been French or Italian a hundred years ago I would probably have felt the same about the British. There is a certain overriding self-righteousness within the American policy elite which one has to watch. The remedy for that is clearly a stronger European pillar within NATO, a stronger European dialogue and a more equal European relationship with the United States.
I share some reservations with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. However, I have two opposite sets of reservations on the Motion. I share much of his unhappiness with the current mood within the United States--for example, the extent to which the Republican dismissal of the UN has now seeped through to so much of the policy elite. I note that the draft of a foreign relations report on the future of transatlantic relations due to be published in the new year does not mention the United Nations at all until the last four pages. There is an underlying assumption, even in part of what Madeleine Albright says about the future of NATO and world order, that a transatlantic partnership that is entirely outside the United Nations will come to maintain world order.
The American mood towards the United Nations is unavoidably negative. Clearly, it is something on which the United Kingdom and its European allies should continue to remonstrate with the United States. I recall that one of the earlier activities of Robin Cook as Foreign Secretary was to remonstrate with Senator Helms on this very point and thereupon the latter abruptly terminated the meeting.
The American attitude to international law is also ambivalent. There is resistance to acceding to the Convention on the International Criminal Court. The extent to which the US Supreme Court in its current formation with a number of Republican nominees is inclined to resist international law as a relevant factor in taking US decisions on the grounds that the United States is the world's most democratic country and has the most perfect system of law is something that should worry us all. There are also undertones within the United States in the debate on NATO which imagine an America that maintains an American-led world order with Europeans in support. That is something that our Government, together with our German, French, Dutch and other European allies, should be careful to guard and advise against.
However, on the other side I also worry about the problems of organisations that are blocked by minorities or vetoes of particularly important states. Within the United Nations and the Security Council we repeatedly suffer problems with the Russians and Chinese who are unwilling to go along with collective action. I note that in last Thursday's Financial Times there was a report of a discussion between NATO and Russian Ministers on Kosovo in which it was said:
I wish that I could agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that the United Nations has now become the parliament of man. Sadly, it is not a parliament but is still a collection of governments, some better than others and some, sadly, a lot worse than others.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page