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Baroness Hamwee: I wonder if I could add one word to what my noble friend Lord Tope said about borough representatives rightly fighting the cause of their own borough. I would have an additional concern: the time and the energy that borough representatives could put into their role on a strategic body. I have had experience of this myself. I have seen the enormous difficulties that borough council members have in carrying out a strategic role. When I chaired a London-wide committee for a number of years, I was impressed by the efforts that were made by individual borough members. I was also very conscious of the great difficulties they had in running the two roles at the same time. It was not for want of interest, but they always had to put their boroughs first. If we got to a point in a meeting where an important decision was coming up, if they had to be back in their own borough for a meeting that evening they would have to go back there. It is not only the balance of interest which would weigh with individual members when approaching the job. There is also a particular difficulty in actually running the two roles.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I served on the regional authority, the Greater London Council, and for eight years at the same time on a local authority. I never had any difficulty. So the generalisation made by the noble Baroness cannot be taken to apply to everyone.
Baroness Young: I know exactly what my noble friend means. The serious point--and perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, will clarify this--is whether she and her colleagues are seriously suggesting that the new Greater London Authority should override the wishes of the boroughs when considering these strategic matters?
Baroness Hamwee: No, I hope I made that clear earlier. I said specifically that our concerns about the amendment were by no means to be taken as being against the boroughs. It is indeed in part because of my concern that borough interests should be properly
Lord Whitty: I would ask the noble Baronesses, Lady Young and Lady Miller, whether, in other parts of the country where there are two-tier authorities, rightly or wrongly, they are prepared to contemplate a county council consisting entirely of delegates from district authorities. I suggest that the answer must be no.
Baroness Young: I am not sure whether or not that is a hypothetical question but in the far-off days when I was in local government I had the great good fortune to serve on an all-purpose authority. It was the most efficient and most effective form of local authority. It is a matter of much regret that it disappeared under the 1972 Local Government Act. I am on record as saying so at the time. I think that some effort has been made to put it back. It is because I have seen the difficulties that I raise these points.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: I was rather disappointed to hear the Minister say that he hoped we would move on to more interesting parts of the Bill because on this side of the Chamber we feel that this group of amendments is very interesting and very important. I hope that the noble Lord did not really mean it.
So far as this group of amendments is concerned, I quite understand when he says that we have moved just a little away from the gist of the matter. I thought that Clause 41 muddied the water in a way. I believe that the whole idea of this assembly muddies the water in regard to the ordinary elector of London--the citizen who is living in London--as to who does what and where they do it, and so on.
There are so many tiers for London under this Bill that I think everything could get very difficult. We felt that in order not to bypass the boroughs and not to cause a conflict between the boroughs and the assembly our proposal would be a very good way of dealing with it. The noble Lord, Lord Tope, said that he did not think it appropriate for the representatives to be nominated but I believe he also said--he will correct me if I am wrong--that he had been nominated by his borough to serve on the Fire and Civil Defence Authority. Certainly the people in his area would not have known that before, and that does not seem to stop anybody acting in a very proper and strategic way. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that she had no difficulty. My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes also had no difficulty, when she served on the Greater London Council, in dealing locally, parochially and strategically. There is no doubt about that.
I shall certainly not press the amendment. I shall read the report of the debate with great care. This is an important matter. The other points made by my noble friends--for example, on the number of people voting--have merely been touched upon. It is important for an elector to know who will deal with his or her problem--whether it will be the local council, the assembly, the mayor, the Member of Parliament, the Member of the European Parliament, and so on. The problem is that the situation in London is becoming so convoluted. That is quite a danger. My amendments offer a way of solving the problem. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement on recent developments in Kosovo made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows:
"The whole House will wish to congratulate our troops on the professionalism with which they have deployed so quickly and efficiently. Members of the House will have seen pictures of the spontaneous welcome they have received from Kosovo Albanians wherever they have gone. The warmth with which those Albanians have expressed their joy at our arrival speaks volumes for the brutality and the terror from which our campaign has liberated them. For the past two months they have seen their neighbours massacred, their relatives raped and their homes burnt. Now they can see a future in which none of these crimes can return to haunt Kosovo.
"The presence of Russian troops around the airport has not interfered with the deployment of NATO forces. Our forces are entering as planned from Macedonia. It is important to keep a sense of perspective on the numbers involved. There are only a couple of hundred Russian troops in Kosovo, compared with 14,000 NATO troops.
"General Jackson this morning had a businesslike meeting with General Zavarzin, the commander of Russian troops at Pristina airport. He has just reported that he hopes that agreement can be reached on assimilating the Russian troops into KFOR.
"Nevertheless, it was plainly unsatisfactory that Russian troops should have entered without co-ordination. Yesterday I spoke at length to Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, and we agreed that there should be no more surprise moves. He gave an undertaking that Russia would not deploy any further troops without prior agreement. Earlier undertakings about Russian deployments have not all been respected. It is crucial that this undertaking should be fully respected.
"Negotiations, led by the United States, continue over how Russia's contribution to KFOR can be integrated into the overall operation. These have been protracted negotiations. On the Russian side, their military have sought a sector of their own. On our side, we have insisted that any outcome must meet the terms of the peace plan for a single operation with a unified chain of command. There is no provision anywhere in the peace plan for partition of Kosovo.
"Several non-NATO countries will contribute forces to Kosovo. I have always made clear that we would welcome Russia also working with us as partners in the peacekeeping force. But it must be as part of a single, integrated operation, not as an independent force.
"That reflects our commitment to liberating the whole, not part, of Kosovo. We now face a major challenge in helping all of Kosovo to recover from the atrocities of the past year. There are four immediate priorities.
"First, we must ensure security and safety for all the people of Kosovo, whether Albanian or Serb, or any other ethnic group. KFOR will be alert and robust in ensuring that all Serb forces withdraw from Kosovo within the agreed timetable, which should be completed over the next week.
"KFOR will also be responsible for the demilitarisation of the Kosovo Liberation Army. I spoke last night to Hashem Thaqi, the leader of the KLA, and stressed that we expect restraint from the KLA as the Serb forces withdraw, and co-operation in our efforts to end all violence in Kosovo.
"Secondly, we must provide urgent relief to the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons who have spent the last two months hiding from Serb forces on the hillsides and in the forests inside Kosovo. A convoy with much British support delivered humanitarian supplies to Pristina yesterday on behalf of UNHCY and is reloading today in Macedonia.
"Thirdly, we must manage the return of the masses of refugees who were deported as part of Milosevic's failed plan for the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. We should not be glib about refugees returning to their homes. Many of their homes have been blown up or burnt down by Serb aggression. We face a major task
"Fourthly, we must record the evidence of the war crimes that have been committed in Kosovo to enforce its ethnic cleansing. There has already been the horrific discovery of a mass grave containing a large number of villagers massacred at Kacanik. We have already started the deployment of a British police team to Macedonia in order that the War Crimes Tribunal can draw on their forensic skill and experience in exhuming victims of the atrocities and identifying the cause of death. Although we have brought peace to Kosovo, its people will not live in peace with themselves unless we bring to justice those responsible for such atrocities.
"For the immediate future, responsibilty for the government of Kosovo will be in the hands of an international civil administration. This will be led by the United Nations, but will draw on the contributions of the European Union, the OSCE and the UNHCR. It will be charged with rebuilding the physical infrastructure of Kosovo, regenerating its economy and supervising free elections to new political institutions. Over a period of time, it will transfer its powers to the local people in line with our goal of democratic self-government for Kosovo.
"From the start of the conflict this Government have stressed that we want it to be a turning-point for the whole of the region. All of the many neighbours of Serbia have shown total solidarity with the NATO campaign. We must not now forget the courage and commitment which those governments showed in aligning themselves with us.
"On Thursday, I attended the launch of the Stability Pact, a forum bringing together the countries of the region with the EU, the US, Russia and other key international players. I pledged that, for our part, Britain will be their partner in helping to accelerate their integration into the modern Europe. To do that, we must open up the wealthy markets of the European Union so that they can share our prosperity through increased trade; and we must invest in developing their democratic institutions, civic society and open media in order that they can share in our standards of freedom.
"We hope that one day the people of Serbia will also be able to share in the benefits of the Stability Pact. However, first, it will be necessary for the government in Belgrade to renounce the policies of Milosevic which have brought so much violence to their neighbours and so much poverty to themselves. We cannot embrace Serbia in the modern Europe until Serbia embraces our values of belief in the equality of all citizens irrespective of ethnic identity, and respect for the rights of minorities. There would have been no turning point for the countries of the region if the international community had not demonstrated that we would not tolerate the brutality and ethnic
"There is much hard work still to be done before we have created a Kosovo which will give its people the opportunity to earn their living in peace. The time to celebrate will be when we have settled all the refugees in their homes. But all those in the House who supported NATO's campaign can be satisfied with an outcome that has vindicated the strategy of the alliance and its resolve to defeat the forces of ethnic cleansing. We have compelled an end to the atrocities in Kosovo and secured a future for its people free from fear. We have shown that the era of forced mass deportation of a whole people belongs to Europe's past and that we will not tolerate it coming back again.
"We promised the refugees that we would take them back to Kosovo under our protection. We now have the opportunity to fulfil that promise and we will not slacken in our resolve or determination until we have helped them all go home."
Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place and for keeping this House informed of developments in Kosovo as the KFOR peacekeeping operation commences its first week. Much progress has been made over the past few days. NATO's willingness to stand firm in the face of tests to its resolve has borne the first fruits of peace. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government and our Armed Forces on what has been achieved. In particular, I pay tribute to the critically important role that is being played by General Sir Michael Jackson and to the exemplary performance of the forces that he leads.
Nevertheless, recent developments also demonstrate the scale of the problems still to be overcome in Kosovo and the difficult decisions which will need to be taken. NATO's response to those decisions will be critical in determining the ultimate success of the operation. Since the first KFOR troops entered Kosovo it has been clear that this is a region where feelings are running dangerously high. Kosovo is a tinderbox of tension as the joy of liberation for the Kosovo Albanians is matched by the bitterness of defeat for the Serbs. This has been demonstrated all too clearly by the conflicts which have arisen between Serbs and British and German troops respectively over the weekend.
On that note, I share the Minister's concern over the early deployment of Russian forces in Kosovo and their continued occupation of Pristina airport. In a Statement to this House last Thursday the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, confirmed that British troops could enter Kosovo as early as last Friday. Can the Minister confirm that NATO originally planned for British paratroopers to enter Kosovo on Friday morning, 24 hours after the signing and verification of the agreement? Does not Article II, paragraph 2a, of the military technical agreement signed by General Jackson specify that one day after its entry into force FRY forces would have vacated zone 3 and that the international security force would deploy "rapidly" to avoid a "security gap"? Why were these plans cancelled? Why was a technical and logistical briefing which had been arranged for reporters earlier on Thursday also cancelled?
Can the Minister say when NATO first learnt that Russian troops were entering Kosovo? Is she aware that Brcko Radio reported on Friday morning that Russian troops had departed their barracks in Lopare and Zivinice and that at 10.30 a.m. on Friday Russian troops crossed the border into Serbia at Pavlovica Cuprija and that these reports were confirmed by SFOR? Is it not the case that, even if at that point, British troops had moved to Pristina, they would have arrived before the Russians? Is the Minister aware that a further 150 Russian troops were reported yesterday morning to be waiting at Bijeljina to be ready to move into Serbia to reinforce Russian troops at the airport? Can the Minister confirm that Russia has given an assurance that there will be no more surprise troop movements in Kosovo, particularly in the light of reports today that Hungary has refused Russia overflight permission to fly military equipment into Belgrade?
Referring to the future control of Pristina airport, can the noble Baroness say when she expects this matter to be resolved and whether, as just indicated by the Minister, it is subject not just to military negotiation on the ground but also negotiation at a political level? To what extent does the Minister consider that control of the airport is important to the success of the NATO operation, in both strategic and political terms? Will the Minister confirm that the alternative base for KFOR is intended to be temporary in nature?
The deadlock over control of Pristina airport has further highlighted the disputes over Russia's role in the international peacekeeping force and the difficulties that NATO has encountered in seeking to establish a unified chain of command for KFOR with NATO at its core. The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, last Thursday ruled out a partitioned Kosovo, as the Minister has just done. Can the Minister, therefore, comment on media reports over the weekend that, in the light of the stand-off at the report, US envoy Strobe Talbott has offered to allow
We welcome the acceptance by the Minister that such a Russian-controlled zone would undermine the key principle reiterated by the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday and that there will be no partition of Kosovo, since such a zone would amount to a de facto partition. To agree to a Russian-controlled enclave would, surely, have the disastrous result of creating a haven for Kosovo Serbs and a no-go area for Kosovo Albanians. While discussions on this critical point continue, can the Minister say to what extent the arrangements in Bosnia, where the Russians are spread across the UK-led Multinational Division (North), are seen as a model for Kosovo?
Does the Minister agree that these events have demonstrated once again that any agreements over Kosovo must be absolutely watertight? The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, spoke last week about the importance of unified control for all allied troops and for non-NATO troops in Kosovo. The Foreign Secretary said this morning that the Russian Government made a commitment yesterday that Russian troops would be integrated into the overall peacekeeping force. When does the Minister envisage that the terms of this agreement will be finalised?
There are reports today, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, that the first hard evidence of the type of atrocities which refugees have been consistently describing for months has been uncovered. At Kacanik, for example, reporters have counted 80 fresh graves. War crimes investigators are travelling to the site to begin the process of verification of the evidence. In addition to her comments, can the Minister inform the House what specific arrangements are being made for the investigators of war crimes to be given unhindered access to the evidence that they need? Finally, can the Minister provide a little further detail on the developments associated with the first convoy of humanitarian aid to Pristina? How will the Government continue to ensure that the humanitarian and reconstruction efforts are co-ordinated efficiently?
From these Benches we hope that the many issues raised in the Minister's Statement can be covered in depth in a full day's debate in your Lordships' House. I hope that the usual channels will take note and action accordingly, for the events of the past week have lit a beacon of hope for the future of Kosovo. We must ensure that our efforts to secure a lasting settlement for all the population of Kosovo keep alight that beacon of hope and that no one is allowed to extinguish it.
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