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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am sure that clarification will emerge. It always does in Committee and on Report. My noble friend has already alluded to that. Further consultation is required and it would be wrong to be too prescriptive at this stage.
It is essential to recognise--and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, did not do service to this point--that the Bill has been the subject of intensive consultation. At the end of the day a package has been arrived at between the TUC and the CBI and there is broad agreement in principle. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, shakes his head, but what I have just said is completely accurate. He can shake his head as much as he likes.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does the noble Lord suggest that if the Opposition table any amendments that the CBI should like to see made to this Bill the Government will accept them? Surely, that is the message that he gives.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I have not been in a position to give any messages to the Government since the previous July. My views on that matter are hardly helpful. It is a matter for the Government to decide. However, the most extensive consultation took place, and I believe that it was right to undertake it. Consultation must go on, particularly in relation to the corpus of regulations that must be introduced. But the course that the Government have taken indicates an absence of the rigidity that marked the approach of their predecessors.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, spoke about the generosity of the previous government's views on trade unions. He forgot the appalling events at GCHQ and the scarring of industrial relationships on a far wider scale than simply the workers at that establishment. I am proud that as one of their first acts the Government have decided to put that right. The previous government did not favour trade unions. One hears from the lips of the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that the Conservative Party is still visibly--sometimes eloquently--opposed to the very principle of trade unions. Trade unions do not exist simply to negotiate wages or conditions but to provide a major supportive role. They look after their members at times of accidents, provide legal support and give help when
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Lord read my lips correctly. My lips did not say anything at that stage. As a matter of fact, the trade union legislation introduced by the previous Conservative government made the trade unions much easier to live with. We are talking here about the position of trade unions when this Bill and the regulations are brought into effect. One important point that the noble Lord has not answered is that made by my noble and learned friend Lord Mayhew. I believe my noble and learned friend said that in 1979, 27 million days--my brief makes reference to 29 million days--were lost through industrial action, and in 1996 only 1.3 million days were lost. That is the result of Conservative legislation.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, for one moment I thought that to read the lips of the noble Baroness would be a pleasurable experience. However, she now descends into the kind of speech that she made before. I shall not give way again.
I find it a little odd that a government who decimated manufacturing industry should claim responsibility for the benefits that have accrued to industry in this country. That government burdened industry with a massive number of regulations and now claim to be business-friendly. That is simply not in accord with reality.
I should like to raise two particular points relating to the Bill that have been brought to my attention. First, the use by employers of waiver clauses that remove their employees' rights to redundancy payments is a matter that gives rise to some concern. Under current employment law it is possible for employers to arrange for employees to sign away their rights relating to unfair dismissal and redundancy. I understand that while the Government have moved to prohibit the use of unfair dismissal waiver clauses, redundancy waiver clauses, remain untouched under the Bill. Perhaps my noble friend will allude to that when he comes to wind up.
Secondly, I refer to the draft proposal for a fixed term work directive from the European Commission. Its intention is to end differences in employment rights between fixed term and permanent employees. This matter has been the subject of widespread consultation by the social partners and has also been adopted by the European Parliament in both committee and plenary session. Do the Government have any objection to that proposal? If so, on what basis is that disagreement ventilated? I believe that this proposal is one that does and should enjoy widespread support. I do not believe that the Conservative Party speaks for the people of this country on this issue. The Conservative Party simply utters prejudices that it has held for years and years and shows no sign of reform whatever.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement on Kosovo which has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. The Statement is as follows:
"Last Thursday I attended the meeting of the G8 Foreign Ministers in Bonn. That meeting reached agreement with Russia on the principles on which any settlement of the Kosovo conflict must be based. They parallel the objectives which NATO requires to be met as the condition of ending the military campaign: withdrawal of Serb military, police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo; an international interim administration for Kosovo; a political process on the basis of the Rambouillet peace accords; and the free return of all refugees under the protection of an international security presence capable of achieving our common objectives. From the start of the conflict we have maintained regular dialogue with Russia and made sure that the door was kept open to Russia. This agreement on our common ground exposes as a lie the repeated promises of Milosevic to his people that one day Russia would come to their rescue. Work will now be proceeding this week between officials of our countries to turn these principles into the draft text of a Security Council resolution.
"On Friday night the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade was destroyed during a NATO attack on sites in the city. It appears that the missiles hit the building on which they had been targeted. However, the building had been wrongly identified in the targeting plans as the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement for the Yugoslav Army. The review continues into how this error could have occurred, and the procedures that gave rise to it.
"My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has written to Zhu Rhongji, the Chinese Premier, expressing our deep regret at the error and assuring him that there was no deliberate intent on the part of the allies to attack the Chinese Embassy.
"Yesterday I spoke to our ambassador in Beijing who confirms that the embassy has been blockaded by demonstrators who have hurled stones though the front windows of the embassy building. I am pleased to report that no member of the embassy staff has been injured, and we are not aware of any other British citizen in China having been attacked. We have amended our travel advice in respect of China to recommend against all non-essential visits to China at the present time.
"My noble friend Lady Symons saw the charge d'affaires of the Chinese Embassy this afternoon and recorded our concern about the safety of our officials and other nationals in China. We welcome the appeal by the Vice-President of China, Hu Jin Tao, for the demonstrators to behave peacefully, and the apparent increase in the efforts by the Chinese police to protect the embassy.
"On Saturday after the news broke, I spoke to the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, who confirmed that Russia was firmly committed to the principles that we had agreed in the G8 and that there would be no let-up in the search for a settlement.
"We continue vigorously to pursue any opportunity for progress on the diplomatic track. After this Statement I will meet with Carl Bildt, who has been appointed by the Secretary-General of the UN as his special envoy. This afternoon Victor Chernomyrdin, the special representative of President Yeltsin, is meeting with Mr. Talbott, the US Deputy Secretary of State.
"Our best hope of success on the diplomatic track is by keeping up the military pressure. If Milosevic felt any reduction in our air campaign, or sensed any weakening of our resolve, there would be no prospect of his agreeing to meet our demands.
"On the ground in Kosovo over recent days we have destroyed tanks, heavy artillery, military convoys and command posts. In total we have eliminated within Kosovo the equivalent of the weapons and equipment of an entire brigade. But we cannot ignore the fact that the Serb forces in Kosovo are controlled and co-ordinated from Belgrade. Striking at their command headquarters in Belgrade is vital to breaking their military capability in Kosovo. On Friday night we destroyed in central Belgrade the Hotel Yugoslavia, which had been taken over as the war room for Arkan's paramilitaries who have killed, burned and raped their way across Kosovo. By any test, that war room was a legitimate military target and could not be ignored if we are serious about reversing the ethnic cleansing which was planned from there.
"We want a settlement, and we would welcome a diplomatic solution. But we will not accept a settlement at any price. It must meet our objectives--in particular, it must provide for the Kosovar refugees
"I understand and share the concern of honourable Members on both sides at the loss of civilian life when there is an error in our bombing campaign. But I cannot understand those who focus on the tens who have been casualties of NATO's military campaign to the exclusion of the tens of thousands who have been butchered by Milosevic in Kosovo.
"I invite honourable Members to visit the exhibition space at the Foreign Office where they can see on display drawings by the children in the refugee camps. I defy any Member not to be moved to discover that the children have often drawn the guns bigger than the people, and the tanks bigger than the many burning houses. It is not just the dead who are the victims of the ethnic cleansing, but the living also who are traumatised by what they have had to see. The least we can do is to enable them to return and to rebuild their homes in safety. And we will continue and intensify both military and diplomatic campaigns until we succeed in doing so."
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, first, I endorse the words concerning the tragic and untimely death of the Minister of State. He is a great loss to the Government and Parliament alike. I ask the Minister to convey our deepest sympathies to his wife and family.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place and for attempting to provide an explanation for the tragic error which led NATO to target the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on Friday. From these Benches we offer our heartfelt condolences to the people of China and in particular to the families of the victims.
The Official Opposition support the objectives which underline the NATO action in Serbia. We have continued to support the Government in their twin track approach of maintaining military pressure on President Milosevic while pursuing a vigorous diplomatic initiative. But we reserve our right as Opposition to scrutinise, question and, where appropriate, criticise the actions of the Government.
The attack on the wrong building was a tragic mistake for which NATO governments may yet pay dearly. It has caused grave disquiet for a number of reasons. First, there are the wider implications it may have for our diplomatic relations with China and Russia. Secondly, there is the damage which may have been done to the prospects for agreeing a UN-endorsed peace plan for Kosovo in line with NATO's objectives. Thirdly, there is the air of incompetence with which this incident has caused the whole NATO operation to be suffused. What response does the Minister have to General Naumann, the retiring chairman of NATO's Military Committee, who says that the campaign has undoubtedly been prolonged by NATO's failure to find a way to reconcile the conditions of a coalition war with the principle of military operations such as surprise and the use of overwhelming force?
The attack on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade indicates a serious failure of intelligence. Can the Minister confirm that a street map of Belgrade clearly indicates the location of the Chinese Embassy? Can the Minister also confirm whether NATO has drawn up a list of targets to be avoided at all costs, and whether the Chinese Embassy was included on that list? If such a list has not been drawn up, can the Minister explain why not?
The US Defense Department has said that an anomaly led to the wrongful targeting of the Chinese Embassy. Is the Minister confident that such an anomaly is unlikely to occur again. Can she give an assurance that NATO procedures on intelligence will be improved as a matter of urgency so that in future all possible safeguards are in place to prevent such a wrongful targeting?
Can the Minister say why it took until the fifth week of the campaign to task the military planners of NATO to look at the options for a maritime operation to implement an oil embargo and why, in the sixth week of the campaign, NATO's proposals were still in the planning stage, given the importance of the destruction of Serbia's fuel resources in this campaign where, in the words of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House,
The description of the incident as "NATO's own goal" is not unjust. It comes at the very time when, following last Thursday's G8 meeting, a glimmer of light and hope had been breathed back into the diplomatic process. What concern does the Minister have that the diplomatic efforts may now stall and that progress towards resolving the Kosovo crisis may be derailed, particularly in the light of President Jiang Zemin's insistence that the UN Security Council cannot discuss a settlement to the crisis in Kosovo unless NATO stops its bombing campaign?
The Minister described the original objectives of NATO set out at the meeting on 12th April by NATO Foreign Ministers as "basic and unalterable" demands which would not be compromised. Will she reconcile those objectives with the principles for the settlement of the Kosovo crisis set out in the G8 Foreign Ministers communique last Thursday which failed to clarify the role of NATO in an international military presence?
It was a tragic error on Friday but, as Kenneth Bacon, the Pentagon spokesman, said, there is no such thing as clean combat. As the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, reminded us so rightly on Thursday, President Milosevic's revolting behaviour goes back to events in Croatia in 1990, Bosnia two years later and then Srebrenica. NATO is fighting a war with no more front-line censorship, daily news conference with a right-to-know from the big boys and films of what the people making them want to show versus a dictator who censors everything, who manipulates the news and who shows what he wants to show on television.
Seven weeks into the military action, we appear to be no nearer to achieving the Government's original primary objective; namely, the avoidance of another humanitarian crisis. The humanitarian catastrophe, the responsibility for which rests firmly on the shoulders of President Milosevic, worsens with every day that passes. From these Benches, we shall continue to support the Government in taking the action necessary to bring so much suffering to an end. But we seek an assurance from the Minister that clarity and consistency in objectives do indeed guide the Government's policy.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, on these Benches we wish to associate ourselves with the references to the sad death of Derek Fatchett. My colleagues have just been reminding me of how good he was on a number of Middle East issues. I have heard from many friends within the Foreign Office how well-respected he was for all the work he did there. He will be missed as a very good Minister.
I welcome the Statement about the G8 agreement with Russia. It was important to keep the Russians on board. I hope that we now have the Russians again on board in this conflict which is about restoring stability and security to south-eastern Europe. Will the Minister assure us, if possible, that the language of the G8 statement represents no weakening of the language of
We express our concern about relations with China. European governments have had looser, weaker relations with China than the United States in recent years. The US-China relationship was already fraught and has now become more fraught. It seems to us that, as European governments, we need a stronger and more active relationship with China regardless of the current immediate crisis.
The Statement refers to maintaining military pressure and goes straight on to talk about the continuation of the air war. On the last occasion we discussed Kosovo, we said from these Benches that there was an unfortunate logic in any bombing campaign, particularly one that talks about restricting bombing to legitimate military targets, which is the phrase used in the Statement. When one is talking about legitimate military targets, after a while they become in rather short supply. As bombing is increased and continues, so it becomes more likely that one bombs targets either by mistake or that one bombs marginal targets which turn out to be not as military as one had thought.
Many references have been made in prime ministerial statements to this being a just war as well as a limited war. Proportional force requires us to be very careful in our selection of targets. We suggest--and have argued from these Benches throughout--that that requires the question of the commitment of troops to the region, and eventually to Kosovo, to be moved further up the agenda. As the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said, there is no such thing as clean combat. NATO looks to be fighting this war on the basis that it should at least be clean from our side with no casualties whatever. That is not proportionate use of force. From these Benches, we should like to see more land forces moved into the region ready to move on to the ground in Kosovo.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank both the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for their kind words about my colleague, Derek Fatchett. Derek was a wonderfully wise, able and supportive colleague. He had a tremendous sense of humour and that other quality so very much needed in the Foreign Office given the sort of issues with which we are faced--an unfailing sense of proportion. Speaking personally, I shall miss him very much, as I know too will my other colleagues in the Foreign Office. I thank the noble Baroness and shall of course convey the sympathies of her party to Derek's widow, Anita, and their sons. I thank both for their very kind words.
I turn to the subject of Kosovo. This was, indeed, a tragic error. I hope that all noble Lords, in contacts they may have, will stress that fact to those who take an interest in such matters. This afternoon I have been able to express the shock and regret we feel over the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. We recognise the shock and very great distress this has occasioned to the Chinese people and to the families of those who died and those who were injured. The fact is that Her Majesty's Government believe that the military pressure must be maintained on Mr. Milosevic if we are to see an outcome through the diplomatic channels that we wish to see.
This was a tragic mistake. That is what is important, that it was a mistake. One or two people have used the word "attack" as though this was some part of a deliberate strategy. I stress that nothing could be further from the truth.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, asked about the position of our colleagues in Russia. The Statement that I was able to repeat to your Lordships made clear that after the news had broken on Saturday, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, who confirmed that Russia was firmly committed to the principles agreed at the G8.
Noble Lords will also recall that during our debate on Kosovo last week, I briefed the House about the outcome of the G8 meeting in Bonn. I was able to tell your Lordships that the G8 presidency would be taking forward that outcome with the Chinese. That is still on track. We hope that further progress will be made on that front this week.
The noble Baroness mentioned the quote from General Naumann. I think it is also fair to say that to complete the quote one would have to say that he also said that he could not think of any change that he would make in the present NATO strategy. I urge the noble Baroness in making that quote--I know that several of
The noble Baroness referred to the failure of intelligence which led to the tragic bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. As the Statement made by my right honourable friend in another place made clear, that matter is being considered. The review continues as to how this error occurred and of the procedures which gave rise to such an error. It would be premature, at this stage, for us to enter into discussion on the various bits of information we have about what may or may not have occurred over this incident. We need to have a full picture before we can give that to your Lordships, and, indeed, to others. Of course, the Chinese will be interested to know as much as they can. I refer not only to exactly what happened but to why it happened.
The noble Baroness also raised the question of the maritime operation and the oil embargo. Perhaps I may remind her that the proposals for the maritime operation are still in the planning stages. It is important to remember that there are two operations overall: the EU embargo, which was agreed, and the maritime operation which arose as a result of the Washington Summit. It is the latter which we are considering here. We will, of course, take into account the legal implications of any operation before agreeing to it. I assure the noble Baroness, as I have had occasion to assure the House before, that any such operation would be in strict accordance with the law.
As regards travel advice, we have stated that we are advising against unnecessary travel to China at present. We believe that the situation as regards our own nationals is difficult. I remind the noble Baroness and your Lordships that the travel advice we give is not based on diplomatic pressure, commercial pressure, or anything else. When the Foreign Office issues our travel advice we are concerned with the safety of British nationals abroad. That is our primary responsibility in issuing such advice. Tragic as these events are, that makes no difference to the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government to ensure that they are as accurate as can be when advising British citizens on where they should travel.
As your Lordships know, the visit of Mr Ivanov is postponed but, as I was able to repeat a moment or two ago, that does not mean to say that the Foreign Secretary has not been speaking to Mr. Ivanov. He did so over the weekend. This afternoon he is meeting Carl Bildt, special envoy to the UN Secretary-General. Also this afternoon, Mr. Chernomyrdin, special representative to President Yeltsin, will be meeting the Deputy Secretary of State, Mr. Talbot. So, there are a number of diplomatic initiatives taking place this afternoon.
I also stress that, as a result of the Bonn meeting last week, the German initiative is still going ahead with the Chinese. As the Statement made by my right honourable friend made clear, discussions are going forward at the UN. I hope and believe that the positive outcome to
The noble Baroness was concerned that the five demands expressed to your Lordships on a number of occasions were somehow inconsistent with what came out of the G8 last Thursday. I believe the two sets of proposals are entirely consistent. As I said to your Lordships last Thursday, we simply would not have agreed to them had we not thought that they were consistent. Planners are taking work forward this week on how we can build on what came out of the G8 at Bonn, and Foreign Ministers have agreed to meet again.
I take issue with the comments of the noble Baroness about being no nearer resolving this issue. The situation in Kosovo is terrible, but we do know that we are undermining the military capability there. My noble friend Lord Gilbert tells me there has been some reduction in the Serb military action. Let us hope that such reduction will be sustained. However, we do not believe that the noble Baroness is correct in saying that we are simply not making any impression at all. Perhaps I may remind the noble Baroness that in opening our debate last Thursday, my noble friend Lord Gilbert gave your Lordships a detailed description of exactly what has been achieved. I believe we have been entirely clear and consistent in the objectives we have stated in this military action.
I turn to one or two specific points made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, which were not made by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. NATO action is in accordance with the rules of international law applicable in armed conflicts. It is strictly limited to what is necessary to achieve our humanitarian objective. I say in all humility to your Lordships that when one considers the number of military sorties there have been, very few bombs have gone astray. That is not in any way to underestimate the tragedy when they do, but is an important point we need to keep within our sights.
I very much hope that, tragic as these events are, they will not deflect us from our course of action and, in particular, from the more hopeful signs that emerged last week with the possibility of further diplomatic progress being made.
Lord Richard: My Lords, I have supported the government action up to now and continue to do so. I was pleased to hear about the effect of the G8 agreement last week. It is an extraordinarily significant and important development. However, if ever there was a mistake that was going to make the diplomatic task more difficult, it was the accidental bombing of the Chinese Embassy. We are entitled to ask the Government--and if we are entitled to ask, the Chinese are certainly entitled to ask--for as explicit an assurance as they can give that this sort of mistargeting will not occur again and that steps are being taken to put right whatever is revealed in the various inquiries.
I shall be extremely unhappy if the UN is used in this dispute as some kind of fig leaf to cover up what may or may not have gone wrong. If we need a peacekeeping force in Kosovo it will have to be done through the United Nations. If we need some kind of administrative body in parts of Kosovo, that will have to be done through the United Nations. I hope my noble friend can assure me and the House that in seeking UN action we have the full support of the Russians. In a sense they are now the crucial players in producing a settlement in the Kosovan crises. If we do not have the Russians with us, we will have a difficult time when the matter goes to New York, made more difficult by the tragic bombing of the Chinese Embassy.
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