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Lord Clinton-Davis: In one case that the noble Lord cited there is a discretionary element, whereas the other issue is mandatory. I do not think that the noble Lord is drawing a distinction between the two.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: The distinction that I am drawing is that there ought to be a mandatory requirement on the Government to have a duty towards the paramount interests of the child. This is not something that we should just leave to the discretion of Ministers. Elsewhere in the legislation mandatory obligations are laid down. I have just mentioned the one--to which the Minister referred--in Clause 113 as a model for dealing with this matter. It states that we should require the Secretary of State to exercise his powers under this part of the Bill in a way that puts the interests of a child at the top of the hierarchy of considerations.

The same kind of words are used in Amendment No. 152 which states,

That does not, of course, mean that that provision will exclude all other considerations. However, the amendment seeks to place a provision on the face of the Bill that simply to take into account all the other factors that appear in these 148 pages of legislation will not be the sole preoccupation of the Home Office but there will also be a clear duty to take into consideration the way in which this legislation will affect the interests of the asylum seeker and the refugee.

We have had a useful debate. Many good points have been made, not least by the noble Baroness, Lady Oppenheim-Barnes, who talked about the sight of tiny children in their mothers' arms. The noble

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Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, reminded us of the bench-mark in the Government's own White Paper. A series of other points were made, including that made by my noble friend Lord Sandwich on the question of school meals, to which the Minister responded. I was grateful for that response. I know that my noble friend will also be grateful for it. These are questions that go to the heart of the support that is given to one of the most vulnerable groups of people. Every one of the children's organisations that I mentioned in introducing the amendments said that they supported the terms of these amendments and that they would wish to see them incorporated in this legislation.

With the passage of this Bill we should not leave the situation any less favourable than that which applied under the terms of the 1989 Children Act. My fear is that we have taken away the safeguards of that legislation and we have put nothing else in its place. The words I have suggested may not be the best words, but I hope that between now and Report stage the Government will give further consideration to these issues. They have already said that they will meet the children's organisations to discuss related questions. I hope that they will discuss these matters with them too and perhaps when we reach Report stage the Government will bring forward their own amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 153 not moved.]

Lord Burlison: I beg to move that the House be now resumed. In moving this Motion I suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before 8.35 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Western European Union

7.33 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede rose to ask Her Majesty's Government how they see the development of the defence role of the Western European Union.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I joined the WEU Assembly some two years ago. Since then a lot has happened to change and to accelerate the course of European defence. Indeed the continuation of the Western European Union itself is now under question.

It is worth recalling some of the factors affecting WEU's relationship with NATO and its European members. WEU countries combined spend only 40 per cent of the total NATO defence budget. The German Government have recently said that they plan to cut their defence budget and the Austrians spend less on defence than they do on opera. The US provided 80 per cent of the aircraft used in the recent Kosovo campaign. George Robertson described this situation as "embarrassing"; the Washington Post put it more bluntly, saying it would take the Europeans two decades to catch up with the Americans,

    "even if they had the money--and the will to spend it".

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There has long been a desire to create a greater European defence independence, while most agree security and defence must remain the prime responsibility of national governments, accountable to their own parliaments within a NATO framework. While the Treaty of Rome sought to maintain peace and security in Europe through a Common Market, it was the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 which specifically called for a common foreign and security policy (CFSP), including the eventual set up of a common defence policy.

Since Tony Blair became Prime Minister, European defence initiatives have accelerated. The Amsterdam Treaty in October 1997 saw the CFSP develop with closer co-operation with the EU, WEU and NATO under the Combined Joint Task Force initiative, where NATO assets were made available to the WEU for limited humanitarian intervention, commonly known as "Petersberg" tasks.

The Anglo-French St Malo declaration of 3rd and 4th December 1998 gave further impetus to strengthening the European defence identity. The two key events were the signing of a letter of intent on defence co-operation and signing a joint declaration that called for Europeans to complete the provisions of the EU's Amsterdam Treaty to develop the CFSP. It also ruled out any responsibility in this area for the European Parliament or the European Commission, quite rightly in my view.

NATO's 50th anniversary summit in Washington again gave further impetus to a CFSP by moving NATO into a direct relationship with the EU. After Washington there was a far greater likelihood of the WEU being absorbed into the EU in some form or other.

This year's Cologne Summit in June further strengthened the CFSP, with the appointment of Javier Solana as the EU's first High Representative for foreign and security policy. The Cologne Summit also reiterated the EU's determination to develop its capacity to undertake the so-called "Petersberg" tasks.

Throughout the past two years the Prime Minister and Secretary of State have repeatedly argued that Europe needs to focus on its capabilities and its assets rather than on institutions. And it is no doubt their determination not to be sucked into sterile arguments about institutional responsibility which has contributed to the progress which has been made so far.

But I intend to argue tonight that the time has come to look at the institutional arrangements for European defence. The Americans have made it plain what they want to avoid in the development of a European CFSP. The three Ds: decoupling, duplication and discrimination. By decoupling they mean that the decision-making process should not be separated from the broader alliance considerations. There should not be duplication of NATO and European assets and there should be no discrimination against NATO members who are not EU members.

To these three Ds I would add a fourth: democracy. The WEU might not have an impressive operational track record, but in terms of building an institution

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which brings in the new democracies and provides a democratic forum to debate European defence issues it has an unparalleled record. I believe that this should be used and built on in whatever institutional arrangements are made in the future. It is the associate partners who give the WEU its life: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Poland, Hungary and others. I well remember travelling with the WEU's political committee to Macedonia and Albania. In our party we had Hungarians, Turks and Croatians, as well as the old democracies represented by French, Italian and British parliamentarians. No other institution brings together such a diverse group of nations to debate their common security needs. It is precisely this institutional diversity which should be maintained in any future arrangements. Members, associate members, observers and associate partners should all continue to have a voice, though not necessarily a vote, in future European defence arrangements.

I return to the outcome of the Cologne Summit. The European Council decided in Cologne on the inclusion of only a limited number of the WEU's functions in the EU and the creation of a number of structures similar to those which already exist in the WEU. EU crisis management would take place under the CFSP, the second pillar, but this would not affect the WEU's other functions, including collective defence, which will remain outside the EU. This approach could be made to work and it could work without decoupling, duplication and discrimination, but it raises four important questions.

First, what are the constitutional implications of our existing treaty arrangements, some of which can remain in force inside the EU and others of which cannot? I am thinking of the modified Brussels Treaty, which is the collective security agreement of the WEU. This cannot be brought into the EU because of the neutral states who are members of the EU. So what of our treaty arrangements?

My second question concerns the EU cherry-picking the WEU's assets. What happens to the assets which it does not cherry pick? I have already referred to my third question; that is, what is the fate of the associate members, the observers and the associate partners?

My fourth, and perhaps most substantial, question concerns the democratic deficit which would be created if the WEU Assembly were not also included in the EU's second pillar. While defence remains exclusively the responsibility of nation states, it would be impossible to ask the European Parliament, made up of directly elected parliamentarians who are not answerable to member states, to take on the task of democratic parliamentary scrutiny. Senor de Puig, the President of the WEU Parliamentary Assembly, has called for a bicameral parliamentary system for defence. In his paper he says:

    "the responsibilities of each chamber would initially be determined by the nature of the subjects they are required to deal with, the Chamber of Nations having greater weight of authority in matters which continue to fall within the national remit"--

such as security and defence. The WEU Assembly could lay claim to being a fledgling Chamber of Nations.

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It is worth noting that similar ideas were floated in other contexts. At the recent Council of Europe debate on the report of the committee of the wise persons it was suggested that the Assembly of the Council of Europe might become a second chamber to the European Parliament. While I am talking about parliamentary assemblies, what about the NAA? Surely it could be given a more constructive role in European and NATO defence.

I am sure that my noble friend Lady Symons will open her speech by saying it is capabilities which matter and debates on structures are of secondary importance. I agree; but I hope she will recognise that the WEU's greatest achievement has been its structures. It is the structure of the WEU which has given that institution its second youth. It has brought many countries from the former Soviet Union into our debates on our collective defence. I hope my noble friend agrees that these structures are an achievement, that they are worth learning from and that in many cases they are worth preserving.

7.42 p.m.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, I must start with a congratulation and an apology. The congratulation is for my noble friend Lord Ponsonby on having raised this important matter; my apology is to the House for the fact that I shall have to leave before the end of the debate, irregular as that may be. That is because it is the 21st birthday of my eldest grandson and there is virtually no alternative.

Only when we have analysed what has just happened will we be able to see the way ahead. It seems to me that the main points are these. First, as far as concerns the negotiations which took place before the recent war, we should remember that the Yugoslav Parliament was only seized of them the day before bombing started. There was also Mrs Albright's private commitments to the KLA, which the Albanian Foreign Minister broadcast on 24th February, promising the KLA that it could become part of the Kosovo military establishment and have State Department support.

Was the war lawful? The International Court of Justice will eventually tell us. My noble friend Lady Symons has confirmed that, as she said last November,

    "there is no general doctrine of humanitarian necessity".

So humanitarian necessity may demand action, but for it to be recognised as customary law, many other nations will have to agree.

There is also the question of the lawfulness (under the Geneva Conventions) of some of the weapons used. I refer to the "graphite bomb", depleted uranium and perhaps others. I am glad to see that my noble friend Lord Gilbert is here.

What of the opportunities given to defence firms to test their new systems? Some Kosovo weapons are already being hotly marketed. To some, the war was a commercial opportunity. Today the shareholders in weapons firms have a real, thick-wallet interest in the wars where their products can be both tested and used up.

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As far as concerns the legality of the targeting, is it lawful to attack the civil infrastructure on the grounds that it helps one's own victory? We are not talking about bombing in the course of a war of self-defence, but about an attack on a country whose government had indeed committed grave crimes against their own people but had not attacked us. Was it lawful to attack chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical works when the result could have been potentially life-threatening transfrontier pollution; to knock out the electricity supply when the result is hospitals without power; and television centres? Mr Netanyahu has said that when he bombed Lebanon's infrastructure a few weeks ago he was copying what the Americans were doing in Serbia. Was the bombing of the two civil nuclear reactors in Yugoslavia contemplated? Serbian intelligence warned scientists working at Vinca in advance, and they appealed to the International Atomic Energy Authority.

The long-term effect of the attack on the Chinese Embassy is that because it was precisely the areas in it used for intelligence co-ordination which were hit, the Chinese believe that it was intentional. Now they are letting us know all about their neutron bomb. They see the United States,

    "arranging chessmen on the most critical places on the chessboards of the European and Asian continents [in an attempt] to establish two strategic platforms".

Those are their words of course. The Russians agree and are again carrying out nuclear exercises.

General Clark, writing in the current issue of NATO Review, mentions only the success of the forces under his command. But was the war's ending solely due to the effectiveness of the air war rather than to the work of Mr Ahtisaari of Finland and Mr Chernomyrdin of Russia and, at last, to a UN Security Council resolution, to which Milosevic bowed and in which NATO did not figure?

We must also consider the effect on non-nuclear weapons states around the world of this attack on a non-nuclear weapons state by the world's sole military superpower and its allies. Here was a major boost to all proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Some of us visited NATO last week. We were told that even this short war resulted in massive overstretch and ever more evidence of the technological disconnect between the United States and the rest of us. US officials are already declaring that we Europeans must spend much more on defence if we are to be useful military collaborators "next time". So over that looms the question of how to be the ally of a country which will not put its own troops' lives at risk and whose military plans are summed up as "full spectrum dominance", going from space-based lasers, through universal peacetime electronic monitoring, to dragonfly-sized UAVs for the conduct of urban warfare.

Do we think that the United States is, in general, in the big world, going in the right direction? Is its leadership both useful and responsible? We sometimes have to answer "no". Think of the UN, Kyoto, the WTO, the International Criminal Court, anti-personnel

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landmines, claims to extra-territorial jurisdiction; think, in short, of Senator Helms--and there is so often a Senator Helms.

There is a current American tendency to suppose that if there is not a diplomatic solution, there must be a military one. It is Mrs Albright's naive early question, "If we have this wonderful military, why don't we use it?". We should see whether we can somehow work with the American people rather than with what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex and the bureaucratic scientific elite within the Washington beltway.

I submit that those may be useful pointers to the distribution of functions among the three organisations: NATO, the European Union and the Western European Union.

7.50 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, it is a pleasure, as always, to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I wish his grandson a happy 21st birthday party. Having listened to the points he made, especially in regard to the United States of America, the conclusion that we draw is that we need a common European defence, foreign and security policy.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, for introducing this Unstarred Question. The noble Lord has been heavily and directly involved in the Council of Europe and the Western European Union. My small contribution to western European security was to command an armoured regiment troop and armoured car medium and close reconnaissance squadrons over a five-year period. The whole security map has changed since I did so. Like the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, I also visited the NATO headquarters, SHAPE and the WEU last week.

Those who approve of the role of the WEU and its contribution to western European security over half a century and who approve its aspirations and its work owe a particular debt to its secretariat, not least to the current Secretary-General, Mr Jose Cutileiro and his staff. I draw attention to Alyson Bailes, the British civil servant who is director for political affairs. I would describe their briefings to us as robust and up-beat. But during the question time session, it became clear that there was uncertainty as to the future of the WEU. That cannot be good for any organisation--as we know in this House. I hope that the Minister, in replying, will be able to dispel that uncertainty. Among the European nations, it is our nation--since the signing of the Treaty of Brussels in 1948 establishing the Brussels Treaty Organisation, modified in 1954 to become the WEU--that has fielded a disproportionate share of resources compared with other nations to promote security in Europe.

The main objectives of the WEU, as was demonstrated elegantly and eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, were as relevant then as they are desirable now, especially in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Without the WEU we should have found it far harder to integrate the

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Federal Republic of Germany, to restore confidence among the European nations, and to avoid waste and enable consultation to take place with the European Community when we most unwisely turned our backs when, in 1955, our friends met at Messina.

Likewise today, I suggest that, as we have failed to expand both NATO and the European Union as rapidly as we should have done since the demolition of the Berlin Wall, the WEU is the only forum where western European nations, the nations of central Europe, known as the 28 WEU nations, can conduct a dialogue.

In the wake of the break-up of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and events in Kosovo, it has been demonstrated that the WEU, even if it can call upon NATO troops, is not a forum for swift action. What we should have done is integrate the nations that were formerly under the Soviet Union into all our western institutions as rapidly as possible. They need us, and we need them.

Secondly, we must attempt to achieve a common European foreign and security policy, to which I understand Her Majesty's Government are committed and for which my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire and others on these Benches have argued skilfully and persuasively over the past five years.

I welcome the confirmation at the special European Union summit in Berlin in March that NATO's Secretary-General is to become the EU's first head of foreign and security policy. Does that mean that the European Union will absorb the functions of the Western European Union and develop the capability to act more independently of the United States than has been the case over the past five decades? If so, when?

In order to mount a sustainable European foreign and security policy, it is surely necessary to collaborate more than we have done. EU members spend £100 billion a year on defence and have 2 million of their citizens in uniform. Yet we still find it impossible to deploy a ground force quickly enough to deter a medium-sized state such as Serbia from murdering, deporting and brutalising nearly a million of its neighbours. The WEU as constituted has neither the military might nor the political will to achieve that. The European Union should, and must, have that; and it must be in place as quickly as possible.

I have three questions for the Minister, and I ask for reassurance on these three points when she replies. If the WEU is incorporated and absorbed into the EU, where does that leave the self-styled "neutrals"--Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Austria? Will they have the right to participate in political decisions or opt out of military decisions? Will they have a veto on future policy?

Secondly, will the Government press at Helsinki in December for a speeding-up of the process of integrating those nations in central Europe such as Romania, Slovenia and Lithuania, which have made such gigantic strides in adapting their defence forces to the NATO way of operating. We need their manpower, and they need our mutual security.

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My third question concerns relations with what are called the third countries. I declare an interest as a member of the British Ukrainian All Party Parliamentary Group. There will be a WEU/Ukrainian seminar in Kiev in early October. What will be the role of Her Majesty's Government at the conference? How do they intend to enhance co-operation within the framework of European security with those two nations, in particular with Ukraine?

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