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Noble Lords: Hear! Hear!

Baroness Young: My Lords, that is something that was well illustrated in his introductory speech. If I may say so, it was a very good example of the House of Lords at its best. It is something which I hope we shall not lose, whatever happens in the future.

I also should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his maiden speech. I very much agree with what he said about the Commonwealth. I wish to speak today very largely about one part of the Commonwealth. But before I do so, I should like to

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support the remarks of my noble and learned friend Lord Howe about the Foreign Service and the Diplomatic Service. I was a Foreign Office Minister for only four years but I came greatly to appreciate the calibre of the people who served and looked after me; and greatly to appreciate the calibre and the sense of service of our diplomats abroad--particularly of their wives, who also played a very real part in the service.

I have been disturbed to hear about the cutbacks in the Foreign Service at a time when, as my noble and learned friend Lord Howe has clearly explained, the needs and demands of the service have expanded. All of us have benefited--far more than most people ever appreciate--from the very high standards of the Diplomatic Service. It is very important that nothing should be done in any way to damage its important role in the world today. Nothing could illustrate better the importance of maintaining the calibre and standing of our Foreign Service than the speeches that we have heard already today.

I said that I wished to speak on one part of the Commonwealth. As your Lordships will know, I have had for many years an abiding interest in the future of the Caribbean and Britain's relationship with that region. I speak as president of the West India Committee and as the chairman of the Cuba Initiative.

In my view the Caribbean is a region which is blessed with outstanding individuals, creativity and the will to succeed. Yet today it is a region which is vulnerable politically, economically fragile, prone to natural disasters and a target for organised crime because of the very small size of most of its nations.

As globalisation proceeds, Caribbean governments and their peoples must identify how the region can become part of the world economy. These small countries are having to determine--often their economies are based on a single crop--how they are to survive in the new arrangements in the world. Will they be able to adapt their agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors to a world where preferences have gone? The challenge that they face is to restructure small and medium-sized enterprises in limited domestic markets in such a way that their industry remains competitive.

That will not be easy and it will take time: it will need rationalisation and alternative approaches to development involving organisations other than government. It will also require the help of friends such as the United Kingdom. Above all, it will require time in which a stable transition can be achieved if some parts of the region are not to descend into social, economic and even political chaos.

I have often remarked before that small states can cause a quite disproportionate amount of difficulty in the world particularly when the eyes of the great powers are focused on what they believe to be far greater and bigger issues. I have in mind such cases as the Falkland Islands and, more recently, Montserrat. I am therefore pleased to learn that the post-Lome negotiations for a new trade and aid relationship between the African, Caribbean and Pacific states and the European Union have led to agreement on a way out of the policy of preferences.

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Although some aspects of this agreement have yet to be completed, a basis has been established whereby over the next eight years new, and most probably region-specific trade agreements, will be negotiated. Some time after 2008 this new round is expected to lead to what in all probability will be something close to a free trade area between the whole of Europe and the Caribbean. That will most probably occur in parallel to the economic integration of the region into the free trade area of the Americas.

No one in Britain or in the Caribbean should underestimate its significance. Within a decade our special relationship with the anglophone part of the region will change forever. It will alter our trade and investment patterns in a region which, despite its smallness, remains a market for over £1 billion of direct exports, investment of about £8 billion and an unquantified but very high level of services. It will change forever the special ties we have through our combined experience of history, common institutions and language, to say nothing of family.

It is in that context that I believe it is vital that we redefine Britain's relationship with the region. I am very glad that this process has begun. The noble Baroness who is to reply to the debate has already indicated that that will be so.

In this context, and leaving aside the political issues and our relationship with Europe, I believe that there are areas on which our relationship with the Caribbean should now concentrate. I believe that the most important is education. If the region is to develop new industries based on tourism, information technology and financial and other services and so reduce its reliance on primary agriculture, the pressing need will be for training and education. I believe that Britain can do much to help. We have much to offer. The public service in the Caribbean, political parties, local authorities, the administration of justice, trades unions and employers organisations in the anglophone Caribbean are almost all based on British models. Educational exchanges, assistance with best practice, and training provided directly by such bodies could, if properly co-ordinated, offer a unique opportunity to renew our relationship.

I believe, too, that our business community in the United Kingdom has an important role to play, together with NGOs and other social partners, in helping to support alternative approaches to development. If we are to increase development funds for more advanced parts of the developing world such as the Caribbean, it is clear that the Government here and in the region need to encourage private sector-led initiatives. These issues will be explored at a seminar to be held in St Lucia in March by the Caribbean Council for Europe together with Oxfam and Georgetown University's Caribbean project. I hope that the Government will carefully consider the outcome of that conference.

That brings me to my principal point. I am concerned sometimes at the Government's attitude to how non-governmental change is to be delivered.

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Despite having a high profile intellectually, most institutions dealing with non-governmental Caribbean development issues are weak and are finding it almost impossible to compete with the ever-increasing demands placed on them by government and international institutions. For example, all Caribbean private sector institutions and NGOs are under-funded and stretched to the limit. That situation will worsen as bilateral and multilateral agencies seek to deliver programmes which depend on the private sector increasing the pace of development.

There is one particular area of very great concern. In its review of all its area advisory groups, British Trade International is seeking to abolish one of the few centres of Caribbean excellence, the Caribbean Trade Advisory Group. Irrespective of the very special work that CARITAG's committee and secretariat are undertaking to encourage trade and investment throughout the region with Britain and countries such as Cuba, CARITAG may be subsumed into an approach that sees the Americas as a homogenous whole. It is not difficult to see that in such a situation the Caribbean could be the last area to be considered although it could be unquestionably the most vulnerable.

I conclude by recognising the noble Baroness's deep interest and concern for the region's future. The framework for change is being established in Brussels, Geneva and in the Americas. The challenge now is to ensure that we in Britain, together with our friends in the region, find practical solutions that can be delivered quickly if the region is to achieve a successful transition to open markets and a new relationship. In that respect I believe that British and Caribbean institutions have a vital role to play. Above all, I believe that the Caribbean is too important to be sidelined or forgotten.

4.47 p.m.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, we are certainly enjoying a feast of oratory. For many years, when people ask me who was the most effective speaker in the House of Lords, I used to say that it was the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. But recently people have asked whether I have heard about the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland. I heard her make a wonderful speech the other day. Now the noble Lord has a rival. We should be satisfied now speeches are sandwiched between those of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland.

If I had been asked who was the most influential speaker in the House of Lords I would have said until now that it was the noble Baroness, Lady Young. She may have lost some of her supporters. I do not know whether she is still the most impressive. At any rate, I would say that that was the situation until now. I shall be followed by a speaker who has a special attraction. I have no idea what he is going to say, which is a great help. Those are the personal issues, and we are very lucky to have such speakers.

We are at a crossroads in foreign policy. I congratulate the Government guardedly on not making up their minds too quickly on how they intend

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to move. Eventually they will have to reach certain decisions which will affect the lives of the people of this country and beyond for many years. So what is said today will be significant. It may help the Government to have a few reflections from one of the older Members of this House based on experience of life that goes back nearly 80 years. There was the foundation of the League of Nations in 1919. That was certainly an event of limited historical importance. From then on, British governments have naturally been primarily concerned with British interests. But there has also been a search for world peace, which at times has been more intense than at other times. That was a new element after 1919.

In 1935, just before I joined, there was an official decision by the Labour Party to come out against pacifism, which had always been a very strong element in the Labour Party. I attended a Labour conference in 1935 when George Lansbury, then Leader of the Party, declared in ringing tones:

    "As Jesus Christ said in the Garden, those who take the sword will perish by the sword".

However, he was overturned and Ernest Bevin said:

    "I am not going to have George Lansbury hawking his conscience all round Europe".

From then on Labour was committed to corrective security, even if it involved military action.

In the immediate post-war years the governments of Britain, France, Russia and America were involved in holding down Germany, so one could not have said that any European policy was developing there from the top level.

Winston Churchill, then Leader of the Opposition, looked further ahead. When I was Minister for Germany in 1947 he lumbered up to me at the Buckingham Palace Garden Party and said:

    "I am glad that one English mind was suffering for the miseries of Germany".

I did not like to say that I am Irish, but that did not matter. He had the idea. At the same time, he was the leading figure in the development of the European idea.

Labour came to power in 1964. From 1964 to 1968 the Labour Party and the Labour government moved uncertainly towards Europe. It took the Conservative government under Sir Edward Heath in 1970 to come out wholeheartedly in favour of European policy.

The position since 1970 has been totally reversed: the Labour Party is hovering on the brink of a much stronger commitment to Europe; and the Conservative Party, under its official leadership--I do not know about individuals, however prominent--is hanging back.

I have always counted myself as a pro-European. In 1950, when I was Minister of Civil Aviation, I saw Dr Adenauer and he asked me to try to persuade the Labour government, through Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin, to join the Franco-German iron and steel pact. I was laughed to scorn. I was told at that time, in 1950, by the Labour leaders in a statement that was written by a civil servant, that to tie

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ourselves to Europe would be to tie ourselves to a corpse. That was the official attitude that commended itself to the leaders.

Today, we are hovering on the brink of going into the euro. I have always called myself a pro-European, but I am more cautious now, for reasons that I can set out in a sentence or two. I believe that today, as in the First and Second World Wars and more recently in Kosovo, the peace of the world depends on the United States more than any single power. I would not find it easy to support any policy that would interfere with our complete freedom to act in conjunction with the United States and, if necessary, to give it strong encouragement.

4.55 p.m.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Carrington for the brilliant way in which he introduced the debate; we are all very much indebted to him. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his striking, eloquent maiden speech.

I should like to address the question that has been touched on by one or two noble Lords of human rights and the new international order and the new approach that was spelled out by the Prime Minister in an article in Newsweek last April. He called for a "new internationalism" which would not tolerate dictators who,

    "visit horrific punishments on their own people to stay in power",

Whenever the West sees a tyrant abusing its own people, apparently it should feel compelled to intervene.

In the Government's brave new world, leaders are to be held to account for their crimes committed against their own people.

    "Those responsible for such crimes",

said the Prime Minister,

    "will have nowhere to hide".

This is admirable, heady stuff. But will its pursuit increase the sum of human happiness, or does its pursuit possibly carry dangers of its own?

The Government's policy is one that would make Richelieu, Salisbury, Canning or even Bismark turn in their graves. Bismarck, I notice, was dismissed by the Prime Minister with the brief aside, "Bismarck was simply wrong".

The classic doctrine of international relations has always been that aggression is the ultimate crime; no nation can intervene in the internal affairs of another; frontiers are sacrosanct; state immunity is essential for dealings between governments. These doctrines have been called into question not just by the Prime Minister but increasingly by lawyers.

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The noble and learned Lord, Lord Millett, in his far-reaching judgment in the case on General Pinochet, stated:

    "The doctrine of state immunity is the product of the classical theory of international law ... It is a cliche of modern international law that the classical theory no longer prevails in its unadulterated form ... the way in which a state treats its own citizens within its own borders has now become a legitimate concern to the international community".

The contrary view was stated in the same case, equally trenchantly, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goff, in his dissenting judgment. He stated:

    "Preservation of state immunity is a matter of particular importance to powerful countries whose heads of state perform an executive role and who may therefore be regarded as possible targets by governments of states which, for deeply-felt political reasons, deplore their actions while in office".

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Goff, warned of the dangerous precedent that was being set and the danger that it might pose, for example, to Northern Ireland Ministers who might find themselves being extradited. He did not warn, as he might have done, that the same risk, arguably, could be held to apply to President Clinton and the Prime Minister after the bombing of Yugoslavia.

On the argument between the noble and learned Lords, Lord Millett and Lord Goff, I am on the side of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goff, not for legal reasons, on which I am not competent to judge, but simply on grounds of practicality and politics.

International law, I suggest, has gone too far. Too many questions that should be resolved by politicians are now being decided by lawyers. International law is in danger of becoming the enemy of conflict resolution. International law runs the risk of placing a premium on misplaced doctrines such as that of unconditional surrender, a doctrine that tends to prolong bloodshed and suffering, compared with a willingness to negotiate at an earlier stage.

Whatever politicians may say, amnesties, negotiations with terrorists, wiping the slate clean, forgetting the past, are all part of finding the solutions to both international and domestic problems. We, of all countries, ought to understand this, since in Northern Ireland we have in effect put the law to one side and, whatever Ministers may say, we have a de facto amnesty. However, the Government seem to think that anybody can be put on trial anywhere for crimes against humanity, so long as those crimes are not committed in Belfast. If this doctrine were applied universally there could have been no peace process in the Middle East or in South Africa and no reconciliation in post-Franco Spain.

An ethical foreign policy or a policy based on international law must be applied consistently; otherwise it is neither law nor ethics. NATO intervened in Yugoslavia, but not in Chechnya, for obvious reasons. Ironically, the Russians cite NATO's actions in Yugoslavia as a justification for their actions. In Indonesia, a country with which we have no historical connection at all, we intervened only with

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the consent of the government who had been massacring people in East Timor for over a quarter of a century.

In London, General Pinochet was arrested against the wishes of the elected government of his country, while Jiang Zemin, whose government killed in Tiananmen Square in a single day more people than the government of Chile were alleged to have done over 15 years, was hosted with first growths in Buckingham Palace, demonstrations were ruthlessly suppressed and replicas of the Dalai Lama were removed from Madame Tussauds. There is something not quite consistent here.

The Prime Minister has urged us to treat NATO's action in Kosovo as an example to be followed elsewhere, so it is legitimate to look back and examine it. The question must be asked: was the war in Kosovo even legal? The Government now claim that there is or ought to be a principle that makes it lawful for force to be used against another state without the authority of the Security Council where it is necessary,

    "to avert what would otherwise be a human disaster".

Until now the generally accepted view has been that, under both international law and the United Nations Charter, force may only be used against another state in self-defence or under the authority of the Security Council.

On 29th April last year at the International Court of Justice, Yugoslavia brought proceedings against NATO, including the UK, alleging that the NATO intervention was unlawful. In contesting the case, the UK did not address the arguments but rested on a legal technicality. The UK argued that the court did not have jurisdiction because Yugoslavia had made the complaint less than 12 months after accepting the court's jurisdiction. It is a great pity that the Government ducked the issue and deprived the world of an authoritative ruling on this important matter.

There is a considerable weight of opinion against the NATO position. Particularly relevant is the conclusion of the International Court of Justice in the case of Nicaragua against the United States in 1985 where it stated:

    "the protection of human rights, a strictly humanitarian objective, cannot be compatible with the mining of ports or the destruction of oil installations".

The Government have tried to justify their action on grounds of urgent necessity. But it is not clear that even that makes the action legal. Was there really urgent necessity? Negotiations with Serbia had been going on for months. NATO had made its threats months before the bombing started. Furthermore, the Government had even published their attempt to defend themselves in international law before the bombing began. The NATO action did not come anywhere near leaving no alternative means or time for further consideration.

The morality of a policy has to be judged not only by its motives but also by its consequences. The dramatic increase in ethnic cleansing only occurred after the bombing started. In a report of NATO to the UN on 23rd March 1999, it was stated that people had been

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moved at a rate of around 33,000 per month. During the bombing, the rate rose to an average of around 250,000 per month and much higher in the first weeks after the start of the bombing. The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that NATO probably killed more Serb civilians than soldiers during its 11-week bombardment, with an estimated 1,500 civilian deaths and 8,000 wounded. In addition, there are the civilian casualties after the end of the bombing. According to a report in The Times, there were around 14,000 unexploded bombs in Kosovo. In the first month after the bombing stopped, bombs killed or maimed people at an average of five people per day.

Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, has questioned,

    "the proportionality of NATO's action".

Jimmy Carter has described the bombing as,

    "senseless and excessively brutal".

President Mandela has stated that NATO's actions were just as criminal as those of Milosevic. All these people are public figures who over a long time have shown a consistent concern for human rights.

The great 19th century liberal, Richard Cobden, himself an internationalist economically, argued against interfering in the affairs of other countries on the grounds that it increased rather than diminished the sum of human misery. He wrote:

    "In all my travels ... three reflections constantly occurred to me: how much unnecessary solicitude and alarm England devotes to the affairs of foreign countries; with how little knowledge we enter on the task of regulating the concerns of other people; and how much better we might employ our energies in improving matters at home".

We would do well to heed his wise words.

5.5 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, whose time as Foreign Secretary--a time when I first had the privilege of joining your Lordships' House--I naturally look back upon as a golden age. But, of course, in a sense it was not a golden age except in personal terms. As the noble Lord himself has reminded us in his speech today, it coincided with the beginning of the last 10 years of the Cold War, a conflict which, on several occasions, almost erupted into a hot war, in which nuclear weapons would have been used and so probably would have caused a general breakdown. However disorganised and dangerous the present time may seem, and however attractively disciplined the era of the Cold War may sometimes now appear, it seems to me to be foolish to have any nostalgia for that vanished age which was potentially an appallingly brutal time.

Nevertheless, some of our present difficulties obviously derive from the era of the Cold War; for example, the problem of nuclear weapons and their proliferation. It is worth recalling that the Cold War began its dangerous stage in 1946 when Stalin rejected a far-sighted United States plan for the international ownership of all nuclear material. Under that plan,

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nothing connected with atomic or nuclear endeavours from the uranium mine to the reactor would be owned by independent sovereign states. That US plan--the Baruch plan as it was called, after the United States Representative who introduced it to the United Nations--had one tactical disadvantage upon which the Russian delegation at the United Nations seized; namely, that in any plan to punish an offending state, the veto in the Security Council would not apply. All the same, that Baruch plan, and the Acheson-Lilienthal plan upon which it was based, might now be looked at again in the light of present dangers and, presumably, opportunities.

I believe that one can be reasonably certain that if ever a major nuclear exchange were to take place in war, the world--or what was left of it afterwards--would probably insist on just such an internationalisation as provided for in the Baruch plan. How much better it would be if we could achieve that beforehand and so remove at least that threat from the list of risks in the new century.

Many noble Lords have already pointed out that in this new century Britain has many advantages as an internationally responsible power. First, thanks largely to the achievements of the noble Baroness in whose Cabinet the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, served, Britain now has a strong economy. The sad era of the 1960s and 1970s when every year seemed to register a new decline in our economic performance is now over. I am sure that in consequence British diplomats are the first to feel relieved. Secondly, the Labour Party has abandoned its socialist fundamentalism with the final disappearance of Clause 4. Thirdly, our Armed Forces win golden opinions whenever they do anything, although the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was right to point out that those admirable forces are on a rather small scale. Fourthly, our parliamentary arrangements are admired, perhaps too much given the excessive number of Members in another place where there also appear to be far too many Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries. Fifthly, the BBC World Service continues to be generally admired, although it is not very well funded. Sixthly, we have the Commonwealth to which the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, referred in his splendid maiden speech. Seventhly, perhaps the most important advantage is our great name as a defender of freedom. As the acting-President of Russia, Mr Putin, said in a remarkable declaration a week ago,

    "Russia will not soon become, if ever, a second edition of the United States or England, where liberal values have deep historical traditions".

Those seven important trump cards play a major part in our international relations.

On the other hand, there are several weaknesses which affect our international capacity. First, as my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Hillhead and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, pointed out, over the past 50 years we have demonstrated continuous indecision in relation to the whole idea of a united Europe. As others have spoken eloquently on that indecision I shall devote no further attention to it. Secondly, I believe that the constitutional

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arrangements for devolution set on foot since 1997 have not been well contrived within a carefully worked out frame. Those arrangements could, in the long run, affect the effectiveness of foreign policy. Thirdly, we continue to teach languages badly. Fourthly, very often statesmen continue to talk as if there is an endless number of armed forces available for any eventuality. Fifthly, we have a wildly nationalistic popular press whose irrelevance to public policy is not always appreciated abroad where those daily papers, with their appallingly vulgar headlines, are often sold. Sixthly, although I recognise the qualities of the Foreign Service--on many journeys I have greatly benefited from conversations with and hospitality from embassies--we should not forget that the late Lord Franks, in the context of his report on the causes of the Falklands War, remarked that the service was supremely efficient and effective in telling governments what was going on in the world but perhaps a little less effective in suggesting what should be done. Thus, a number of problems remain which could be quite easily resolved by the use of thought and imagination. I believe that Gibraltar is one such problem.

In conclusion, I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, when in March of last year he questioned the use of NATO to deal with Kosovo. Brutal wrongdoing by a state may at first sight seem a justification for an international reaction, but once it is realised that one cannot react to every such instance the moral premise withers. As any historian of American foreign policy will recall, "brutal wrongdoing" was the wording used by President Theodore Roosevelt in his so-called "corollary" to the Monroe doctrine in 1905 as justification for intervention by the United States in Latin America and the Caribbean. No policy caused so much anguish. President Franklin Roosevelt abandoned the very thought of it with the announcement in 1933 of his welcome Good Neighbour policy. How ironical it would be if historians were to judge that President Clinton's achievement in 1999 was to extend the Monroe doctrine to apply to the very continent which it sought originally to challenge; namely, Europe.

5.16 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Carrington on initiating this debate on the international situation. I agree with those other noble Lords who have drawn attention to the fact that this is just the kind of debate that does much to underpin the work of the House. I hope that it will continue to be a feature of our debates and deliberations in future. I was also delighted that my noble friend referred to the United Nations. Long before 16 years' uninterrupted membership of successive governments, during which time I never managed to convince either Mrs Thatcher or Mr Major that I should serve in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I cut my political teeth as vice-chairman of the British Youth Council before I

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ascended to the chairmanship and presidency and worked closely with a certain Mr Peter Mandelson. I shall say more about that on another occasion.

I was a participant in the first UN-model assembly. I was very thrilled by that, particularly when I drew the subject of China, a member of the Security Council. I carefully drafted my speech and stood up in front of the 2,500 people present. To my horror, because of the involvement of Nationalist China at the time, everyone left. All the countries walked out, followed by the observers who thought that it was a coffee break. I delivered my carefully honed speech to no one at all. For that reason I am delighted that some of my former honourable friends and noble friends have stayed to hear me on this occasion.

The noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, made an outstanding maiden speech. The fact that he seized the subject of the Commonwealth and highlighted the two enormous challenges which face it--the World Trade Organisation and the Irish question--demonstrates that we shall hear a good deal from the noble Lord. If he maintains the standard that he has achieved today, he will be listened to with great respect on every future occasion.

My noble friend Lord Carrington referred to the bipartisan nature of foreign policy and the importance of maintaining it. I rather hope to do that this afternoon, following the very distinguished historian the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, and the remarkably good speech of my noble friend Lord Lamont. I say to my noble friend that I want time to reflect on some of those important analogies that he drew.

I should like to deal with the whole question of war crimes. Before I do so, perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, that I remember serving with him for several years when I had the honour to be Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I enjoyed that time and had great respect for his judgment. As Treasurer I also doubled as Government Deputy Chief Whip. The only thing I remember about foreign affairs was my concern that when it came to voting, Foreign Office Ministers seemed to follow the advice of their officials that the House of Commons was just another foreign country to be visited from time to time. I, of course, make an exception of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, who was present on every important occasion.

However, the topic throws now into perspective the opportunity to range over a number of subjects. I wish to focus on a case involving a certain gentleman called Konrad Kalejs. This was probably one of the worst cases arising out of the last world war. I was very concerned indeed at the way in which that case was handled. I thank my noble friend Lord Janner of Braunstone, and my honourable friend David Sumberg, Member of the European Parliament, for accompanying me to see the Home Secretary; and my noble friend Lord Merlyn-Rees for coming with us to see the Foreign Secretary. Our concern was emphasised when we realised that Konrad Kalejs had entered this country through Birmingham Airport on

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his own passport with a valid visa and was not stopped in any way; nor was his entry noticed. I hope that the Minister will pass these comments to the Home Secretary although the issue covers the work of both the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. I was concerned that that name was not on the suspect list. I heard a comment that no World War II criminals were on the suspect list. I want to believe that that cannot be the case. I understand that an inquiry is now taking place. I hope that the inquiry will result in the inclusion on the suspect list of those suspected of serious war crimes who still unfortunately escape justice.

The Special Department in America had investigated Konrad Kalejs over a 10-year period, from 1984-94, and had concluded that his conduct during the last war justified his being deported as a war criminal. The evidence pointed to the fact that he was an officer in probably the most vicious, nastiest and most evil extermination squad of the last world war. Together with Mr Svicoris and Mr Victor Akia, they masterminded the extermination of over 30,000 people. The head of the US Special Bureau said that if the United States had had a War Crimes Act on the statute book it would have prosecuted Mr Kalejs for his war crimes. He was also deported from Canada. He is an Australian citizen. Yet despite that record, he was able to enter this country without anyone noticing until it was brought to people's attention towards the end of last year.

I was concerned to find that there was no new police investigation. There was simply a review of the evidence held on the files of our special unit which was discontinued after the case of Mr Svicoris, two prosecutions and the investigation of 300 people. That rushed review included the evidence that the Americans, Canadians and Australians had--at least, I hope that it did. I am still not persuaded that there was sufficient co-ordination between all the different governments involved. We know that last Thursday Mr Kalejs took the opportunity to move back to Australia. As my noble friend knows, we are putting pressure on the Australian authorities to reopen their investigations to which I hope they will respond positively, and on the Latvian ambassador to do the same within Latvia.

People may well ask, "Why are you so concerned?" Some people have said, "You're not Jewish. Why are you so concerned about the Holocaust?" My reply is this. For most of my political life, in particular the time when I was involved in youth organisations across the world, I have wanted to fight racism, anti-Semitism, and extremism in all its evil manifestations. The atrocities of the last world war were so appalling and so evil that we must never forget them and we must pursue everyone who had any part to play in them.

I come to my recommendation to the Government. I believe that with the special units there should be more effective co-ordination. Why cannot we have a permanent international investigation unit which brings together all those different special departments so that they act with one resolve; namely, to identify and prosecute the individuals concerned?

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Then we have the concept of a permanent international court which is subscribed to by over 100 countries. In that concept may well lie some solution although I am concerned that the court could be manoeuvred in a political way. That has to be avoided. The fears of the United States have to be put to rest in a considered way. Perhaps I may say this to my noble friend Lord Carrington. We could return to those great hopes and aspirations which followed the last war, in particular that the United Nations would at last give us permanent peace; and that we would never again see the evil atrocities of the last world war. The Nuremberg and Tokyo trials gave us, I suppose, a false sense of hope. That was quickly dashed over the decades that followed. But now we have a new opportunity. There must be no hiding place for the criminals of the last world war. I hope that some form of international initiative will bring that aim to a clear reality.

5.26 p.m.

Lord Biffen: My Lords, the Chamber has been privileged to hear a most compelling maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes. I am certain that his topic--namely, the future of the Commonwealth--should be entertained again and again in the future.

Perhaps I may express a few words of thanks to my noble friend Lord Carrington. Almost all noble Lords have paid tribute to his political work, his preparation for this debate, and his contribution to it. I want to add even more to his embarrassment. In politics one often gains as much inspiration and entertainment from individuals as from political ideas. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, comes top of the list. At the time of the Falklands and his resignation, I admired so much the dignified and selfless way in which he carried out that act of public service. I have since admired the reticence and loyalty to party leadership which has been the hallmark of his later political belief. That is a great inspiration to Tories operating in not always the happiest of circumstances.

Having discussed that, perhaps I may turn to ethical foreign policy. There is little I can add to what my noble friend Lord Lamont said. It was a most fascinating argument delivered in a compelling fashion without emotion. It is a challenge--I do not say this in a controversial sense--in particular to the Government Front Bench because it sets out what will be the guidelines of British foreign policy in this important field. It cannot be left for fractious debates on the "Today" programme. It has to be resolved in the calmer and more measured circumstances of this Chamber.

I shall return to an ethical foreign policy, but I should like to make one point which concerns a developing major world danger. The noble Lord, Lord Hurd, spoke of the Foreign Office being beset by the unexpected. I want to be so arrogant as to say that that is thoroughly expectable. I refer to the dangers inherent in the situation in Indonesia. Already we have in Timor all the evidence of a trip wire of descent and eventually disintegration. We have in Irian Jaya, in Sulawesi, in Maluku and in North Sumatra situations

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in which there is now open conflict. Some of that, particularly in the spice islands, is of a particularly fierce character. No one can be at all optimistic about the ability of the Indonesian Government to hold the present position.

Furthermore, we in this country have become used to Indonesia being the product of colonial boundaries; just as for years we were used to Africa being the product of colonial boundaries. They provided a degree of security against tribalism and other forces which would dislocate the social and political background. Now all that is disappearing. In Africa, the situation is miserably confused and conflict is proceeding in horrific terms. It would be a brave person who would say that Indonesia would not fall into a situation in which the boundaries secured by Dutch colonialism are replaced by the splitting of the archipelago into a shoal of islands.

Another consequence which flows from that is that the dispute and conflict will be horrific. That is the message from Africa. The break-up of boundaries, the reassertion of old former loyalties, has not been secured by reasonable agreement. It is the consequence of the most fierce and sustained fighting. One might say, as did Neville Chamberlain of Czechoslovakia, that Indonesia is a faraway country of which we know little. That is right, but in today's world we have trading interests in Indonesia and anxieties to see its peaceful evolution.

One has only to reflect on the events of the past few days--how straitened are our forces in the Balkans and how uncertain is the quality of our armaments on any great scale--to realise that there is no possibility of any British involvement as part of a peacekeeping force in Indonesia, even if peacekeeping lay within the keep of the western European countries, which I very much doubt. We may have to learn a disagreeable lesson and witness the dislocation of an area which is vital to world peace and interests because of its strategic identity. None the less, it would be a situation in which there was precious little we could do.

Against that background, I trace the so-called "ethical foreign policy". I do not believe that it is as strong a runner today as it was a few weeks ago. I believe that the Foreign Secretary is a man of great elasticity and will no doubt be able to cope with the situation. Indeed, I can remember when as a lad he was a Eurosceptic and a devotee of green politics. He has moved on from that and I am sure that he can move on from an ethical foreign policy. However, naturally, there is a concern about certain standards which guide our relationships with other countries.

The great danger is that because we are reluctant to be realistic about the situation, we shall become in favour not of an ethical foreign policy but of an ethical foreign noise. In some senses, that is the worst of all. I am sure that we all like to believe that there is a pebble of principle in our foreign policy and in our conduct with our neighbours, but the chances are that if we are not careful that pebble of principle will become encased in the slime of hypocrisy. That is not something which this nation deserves.

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5.35 p.m.

Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, I recall that on several occasions in the past few years we have been reminded of the rule that only the Peer following the maiden speaker is allowed to congratulate him or her. But as today the rule has been honoured considerably in the breach rather than in the observance, I want to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his admirable maiden speech. He showed admirable judgment in choosing the same subject that I chose for my maiden speech six years ago. Perhaps I may pay him the highest tribute by saying that I am sure his much-loved and much-lamented predecessor, Lord Charteris of Amisfield, would have endorsed every word he said and would have been delighted by it.

It would be impertinent of me to break the rule twice and to congratulate my former boss on his second maiden speech, so I shall not do so. However, I join other speakers in thanking him for giving us this all-too-rare opportunity to debate the broad range of international affairs.

I want to concentrate my remarks on one specific and long-standing issue to which no reference has been made in the debate and in respect of which there is at last hope of a peaceful resolution. I refer to the talks which have been held, and will shortly be resumed, in the United States between Syrian and Israeli delegations. The talks are an attempt to achieve an agreement which will bring to an end a state of war which has persisted between these two Middle Eastern states since the foundation of Israel in 1947, and which will ensure the security and national interests of both parties.

I know that some of your Lordships have taken the view that I have been excessively critical of Israel in previous debates on the Middle East. This is, I think, the first opportunity I have had to speak on Arab-Israeli issues since Ehud Barak became Prime Minister of Israel. It gives me genuine pleasure to be able to give credit to the political courage and understanding which Prime Minister Barak and my personal friend Yossi Beilin have shown in their readiness to deal sensitively and positively with Israel's Palestinian and other Arab neighbours, in marked contrast to what I personally regarded as the negative and counter-productive policies pursued by Mr Barak's predecessor, Mr Benyamin Netanyahu.

Having had the privilege to serve as British Ambassador in Damascus for two years, from 1979 until 1981, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was Foreign Secretary, I know from personal experience the genuine and long-standing hope of President Assad and his government that a just, peaceful and permanent settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict can be achieved. It has also been a self-evident truth for many years that no lasting peace in the Middle East can ever be achieved without the involvement of Syria.

President Assad's first priority is bound to be the restoration of those parts of Syrian territory which were overrun by the Israeli armed forces in 1967, and

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subsequently annexed illegally by the Israeli Government and made available for Israeli settlement. Nevertheless, the Syrian Government must be well aware of the major political and economic advantages which would flow to Syria and to all the states in the region, including of course Israel, if a just and lasting peace settlement could be reached with their Israeli neighbours. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm in her summing up of the debate my impression that both Syria and Israel are now showing a genuine readiness to make the necessary commitments to each other.

I hope that the Minister can also confirm my impression that the United States Government, and President Clinton personally, are now giving high, welcome and necessary priority to helping both Israel and Syria to reach such an agreement. Press reports of the difficulties which both the parties have found in even agreeing an agenda for their talks underlines the vital need for help of this sort from the US administration. Perhaps of all the global issues to which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred in speaking of the crucial role of the US power and influence, the Middle East is among the most significant and urgent.

Given the long history of often uncritical US support for Israel in the past, it is a remarkable tribute to President Clinton's political courage if he is now genuinely ready to adopt an even-handed approach in this affair. As President Clinton has been quoted as saying, there will be heavy costs from any peace agreement between Syria and Israel. I hope that we and our partners in the European Union will be ready to share in those costs when the time comes. If the reward is a lasting and just settlement of the dispute between Syria and Israel, leading to developing co-operation between them, it will be a cost well worth paying.

We must also be watchful for attempts by extremists on both sides to undermine any agreement, as so tragically brought to an end the previous round of negotiations. I was pleased, incidentally, to hear Mr Kharrazi, the Iranian Foreign Minister, say at Chatham House yesterday that any agreement between Syria and Israel was for those governments to decide.

I do not know--perhaps the Minister can enlighten us--how much credence should be given to reports which appeared in the Guardian last week that the Israelis are already using the talks with Syria as a pretext for demands from the US Government for cruise missiles as part of a 17 billion dollar security package to "compensate them" for ceding the Golan Heights. I hope that the Middle East specialists, also quoted in the Guardian, are correct in saying that the US administration and even Congress would have serious reservations, if not alarm, at the prospect of giving Israel cruise missiles in view of their capacity to carry nuclear warheads and in violation of the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime. I certainly hope that any such reservations would be strongly endorsed by Her Majesty's Government.

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As I say, it is encouraging that President Clinton and the United States administration should be concentrating, as they appear to be, on helping Israel and Syria to reach a peace agreement, particularly since it is clear that any agreement is going to require considerable political courage from both parties.

I hope that the Minister may also be prepared to say something about our own role in this affair. I note from a report in The Times of 16th December from Tel Aviv that Her Majesty's Government have been able to use our currently good relations with both governments in Tel Aviv and Damascus to encourage those talks. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, said, a decade in diplomacy is a short time. But it might just be worth remembering and recalling that 10 years ago we had no relations with Syria either. But in concentrating on current attempts to reach an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement, I hope that the Minister can also confirm that Her Majesty's Government, our European colleagues, as well as the United States administration, will continue to watch developments in the West Bank and Jerusalem and will try to ensure that Israeli efforts to reach an agreement with Syria do not set back the encouraging progress there has been on the control of settlements in the West Bank, on Palestinian access to Jerusalem, and on the Framework Agreement on Permanent Status for the Palestinians.

Perhaps I may formally add a note as a former Permanent Under- Secretary in the Foreign Office and head of the Diplomatic Service in thanking those noble Lords and noble Baronesses for the remarks they have made about the Diplomatic Service. On behalf of my former colleagues, I should like to thank them not only for their tribute to the service but also for their call for adequate resources to help the service to meet the needs that it faces. I have always refrained from speaking in this House on behalf of the Diplomatic Service on the ground that noble Lords might say, as Mandy Rice-Davies said, "He would say that, wouldn't he?". It is, therefore, all the more pleasing for me to hear the tributes that noble Lords and noble Baronesses have paid to the service.

5.44 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is a very special occasion for me to be able to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Fellowes, on his maiden speech. He focused on the Commonwealth part of our responsibilities in the sense of being a partner in the Commonwealth, to which I believe Parliament in general and the nation pay too little attention. So it was a pleasure and a joy to hear him today.

The encouragement of my noble friend Lord Carrington in launching this debate today is just a continuation of the sort of encouragement he has given to those of us interested in foreign affairs throughout our lives. To be speaking in front of two of the three Foreign Secretaries whom I served in nearly 11 and a half years in the Foreign Office as a Minister of State is a special opportunity. During those years I worked mainly on Europe at the beginning, and then on Africa and on the Commonwealth.

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The first thing I want to do is to echo what my noble friends and the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, have said about resources in the Foreign Office. I still work--and perhaps I should make a declaration here--very much on Africa and the Commonwealth. I am very much aware--perhaps even more so than my colleagues here--of just how much is being demanded of today's young Diplomatic Service officers and their support teams, those also working for British business across the world. I do not believe that they have the resources to meet the demands we are making of them.

I am an advisory director of Unilever, for which I concentrate not only on Africa but very much on the developing world. I have my own very small advisory company, Africa Matters Ltd, which is seeking to help businesses--especially the small, medium and micro-enterprises--to grow against appalling odds because they cannot get the resources with which to develop even when they have the know-how. We are also seeking to help governments to develop their skills--and to do so in a sustainable manner.

Because I am now concerned so much with business, I look very much at what it is that helps business to grow, what it is that makes business successful in different parts of the world.

While I do not intend to speak on the European situation at any length, it is only fair that I should say that, having taken the Single European Act through the House of Commons as a Minister of State and the Maastricht legislation through your Lordships' House as a Minister of State, although I will fully concede that much is wrong and certainly not all is right in the European Union, I do believe that the single market has made it easier for British business to grow. It has certainly made it easier for us to sell goods in Europe. We should be taking a far more positive stance because it is business that makes the world go around despite the difficulties of the World Trade Organisation that have been touched on. It will certainly be the way in which we play our role in Europe that will influence business from this country for the future. As the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond, said, "She would say that, wouldn't she?", as my Unilever chairman is Niall FitzGerald who works not only for the company, but also for the Britain in Europe campaign.

I believe that we have to take a medium to long-term view, not a short-term view, of the difficulties of the euro and whether or not we become a member. We have to look also not just to our own attachment to the past, but at what is right for this country through the new century and through those years that lie ahead when we need to work, as a number of your Lordships have said, in regional groupings if we are to have success and, indeed, prosperity in countries across the world.

In all my time at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office--nearly 11 and a half years--and indeed since then in business, my first concern has been to see peace and stability grow across the world. We do not seem to have been very good at it, however much emphasis we

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have put in. That is still my concern. My second concern has been to help capacity building among the governments of developing countries. My third concern has been to encourage democracy, sound legal processes and good governance. My fourth concern has been to see sound economic management and a proper public/private sector partnership in development, especially of infrastructure, across the world. Those are all ideas which this country has espoused. They are the sentiments which we have left across the Commonwealth, in our former colonies. Yet we seem to be doing insufficient to help those countries to achieve that to which we have aspired and to which we encouraged them.

Therefore, I make one plea to the Government. I am not critical; I am very bipartisan about foreign affairs and development. If there is anything ethical about the foreign policy of this Government, they should focus far more on assisting the political and economic progress of the developing world, especially of Africa. I am delighted that Peter Hain has just arrived in Nigeria and will be working hard on Africa. That has been long delayed. But it requires us not just to visit and to listen, but also to transfer the skills and knowledge of the developed world. We need to help those countries to do what they now seem so willing to do--to form public and private partnerships, where the best of the private sector can be shared with the public sector in order to help those developing countries to grow.

My noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell said that we should "help where we realistically can". I have long shared that view. It will be through the developing partnership in the third world that European nations, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the whole Commonwealth can do so much to help. Last year, for the second time since I left government, I was privileged to be present as an observer at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. The one thing I have learnt, probably more since we came into opposition than I even knew in my time in government, is that the capacity building and management services which the Commonwealth can provide and its form of technical co-operation to fellow members of the Commonwealth are fundamental and are greatly admired, respected and wanted across the developing world. In Durban last year, the Commonwealth Business Forum set a new standard in its meeting with business people from across the Commonwealth. We have also seen the development of the Commonwealth Association for Corporate Governance. These are areas where the Commonwealth is taking a real lead and where Commonwealth nations join together to make development a reality for countries across the world. My noble friend Lord Cairns and Judge Mervyn King from South Africa are doing fine jobs in helping to push these developments further.

Finally, I should like to say something about that great country, Nigeria. It would be easy to talk about the good things that are happening in Africa, but I want to talk about the challenge of Nigeria. Shortly before Christmas I had the privilege to spend four days

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back in Nigeria, visiting the President, the Vice-President and many of their senior advisers. I also had the chance to go with my own company, Unilever, and with Shell into some of the problem areas. The World Bank is seeking to build up a major technical assistance project on economic management and capacity building, but it cannot just be left to the World Bank. To combat the endemic corruption in Nigeria, that country needs very active help from this nation and from our partners across the European Community. Nigeria also needs our help completely to reform and retrain its police force. Without that, there will not be peace between the rival groups in Lagos and elsewhere. Nigeria needs our support for health development, for education and for agriculture, which can employ so many.

Nigeria needs our help, too, with the Niger Delta Development Commission. Thanks to Shell, I was privileged to see some of the problems of the Niger delta, having had a relationship with Ken Saro-Wiwa, before he was killed by the late General Abacha. Shell and other companies in the area are seeking to help community development. Nigeria now has an Act of Parliament to develop the Niger delta, an area from which the world has so benefited through its oil and gas. But Nigeria needs a great deal of support if it is to create the benefits for those Nigerian people. We can give a reality to this. I had such a great welcome every time I said, "Maybe so-and-so in Britain will be interested".

Perhaps I may say this to the Minister. When her colleague, Peter Hain, returns, I think that he will be as fired as I am with enthusiasm for what we should be doing there. It is a nation of 121 million--more than a quarter of the population of Africa. Along with South Africa, Nigeria will be a giant in Africa. Together they want peace and stability. Britain should be playing a full part to achieve just that.

5.55 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, I, too, had the honour to serve the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and I wish to thank him for introducing the debate today.

Pace Jane Austen, it is self-evident that a foreign policy requires a foreign service. Today I want to speak on that point; and not on Russia, my usual subject. The Government's new foreign policy centre, under Mr Mark Leonard, said in its mission statement:

    "The old definition of the national interest is too narrow a guide to policy",

and that it would,

    "abandon the idea of desk officers monitoring geographical areas and organise its thinking round the cross-cutting issues to come up with joined-up solutions".

It would consult not diplomats but opinion polls, focus groups, fieldwork and the Internet. It had a good word to say for the Commonwealth but, sadly, thinks that Britain is the problem for a Commonwealth trapped in its past, which is a little wide of the true situation. It reminds us that we are all global citizens and it regards such concepts as sovereignty or British identity with considerable reserve.

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Fortunately, it also believes that Europe, as a federal state, would not be just unpopular but very damaging to our economic interests. It states:

    "In the global information age we need national governments that are decentralised, close to the people and in competition with each other, not the lumbering leviathan of a country called Europe".

I say, "hear, hear" to that.

I have quoted the centre because this is a Government who sometimes prefer to listen to focus groups and think tanks rather than to the professionals. The centre has excellent access to the media and will be listened to when ambassadors may not. I hope that I am wrong.

I was cheered, although slightly puzzled, by Mr Leonard's views on defence, expressed in a recent BBC discussion on arms sales. He said:

    "We don't need arms or defence. Our influence comes from everyone respecting us".

The logic of that argument is that the FCO is doing an excellent job and that we should not be committing large numbers of our Armed Forces to defence diplomacy and humanitarian operations but rather should be strengthening the FCO. Unfortunately, the new MoD mission statement still repeats that part of its task is to support the Government's foreign policy objectives, particularly in promoting international peace and security. I agree with that: it is just the degree to which it is done that concerns me.

We are certainly fulfilling and over-fulfilling that commitment with a quasi-permanent military presence in Bosnia, Kosovo and the Gulf and in East Timor--all open-ended, unaccompanied and demanding operations. We are committed to provide up to 15,000 troops on demand for as long as they are required for any UN operation in the future. We are committed to a major contribution--unlikely to be less than 15,000 to 20,000 troops, fully equipped--by 2003 to a new European Rapid Reaction Force for peacekeeping and humanitarian crises. That is quite distinct, therefore, from our role in the NATO-based Rapid Reaction Force. Presumably it will be run by the same somewhat awkward committee of 23. All that at a time when, thanks to the Treasury, our grossly overstretched forces receive 2.4 per cent of our GDP; less than Greece, Turkey and France and only just more than Portugal.

The Government want an army on the cheap. They will soon have it, if they have an army at all. Defence diplomacy costs money. Meanwhile, the Government are apparently still reducing the Foreign Service, the Diplomatic Service and our whole presence abroad to such a degree that the power of the Diplomatic Service to do the job is increasingly at risk. Like the NHS at present, it is expected to do the impossible.

How do the Government propose to conduct foreign relations, advance British industry abroad and take a strategic view of the future intentions of potentially hostile powers or identify threats to stability? How do they propose to protect British subjects in a dangerous crisis situation? I wonder whether the House realises, in addition to the

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important point already most powerfully made by my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon, that the proportion of the national budget allocated to the FCO, which includes the invaluable World Service and the British Council, is still less than one third of 1 per cent? Do we realise also that, in 1999, 260 established posts were unfilled; that we have fewer posts abroad than either Germany or France; that almost half our overseas posts have fewer than four UK-based staff--23 of them have only one--and that, for instance, while we have two UK-based posts in Tashkent, the French have 17 and the Germans have 26?

The PUS told the Foreign Affairs Committee last year that those small posts did not have critical mass.

    "People come",

he said,

    "to learn about Britain. British businessmen come wanting help with visas for their staff, and payments for their contracts. If you are not very careful, if the post is too small you are there inside the building all day. In countries like these we really need to be out and about spotting opportunities for future business and establishing contacts with the people who are in government now and the people who are going to be in government tomorrow".

He was not sure that the service could do so at the level of overall staff it had then. There is a real prospect that the service will soon be unable to perform its core tasks as it should.

That monstrous position is of course not new. There were already draconian cuts under the previous government. The then PUS told the committee that there were already a number of posts manned solely by locally engaged staff. They are often excellent people, but foreign governments expect to deal with a UK-based officer and locally engaged staff are necessarily vulnerable to pressure in difficult situations. Posting in someone from somewhere else is no use in a crisis when one needs to know all the key people and does not have the knowledge of the country and the people so essential in getting the British community out of a dangerous situation. I should not have been able to take British subjects in convoys past angry, hostile and often drunken troops in the Congo without knowing exactly how to deal with them. One has to know what triggers them. If time allows, I shall tell your Lordships a story about that at the end of my speech, but there may not be time.

A great deal of nonsense is talked about the need for diplomats to be businessmen. The Government have gone so far as to post businessmen to missions abroad for brief periods and to include them in the all-too-short FCO honours list, thereby leaving even fewer awards for diplomats at every level who have borne the heat of the day, not for a few months but for years in many countries. What businessmen want from our missions is someone to tell them whether there will be a coup, whether it is a good time to invest, who are the key ministers, which rival countries are in the race and what are the local difficulties. Good diplomats do all that as part of the job, but to do so they need to travel within the country and the despised geographical desks in the FCO need to visit the countries they are

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overseeing. These days there is no money for operational travel, so every one sits with a laptop computer in the office, which must be deeply frustrating. I spent much of my first year in my first African post travelling and identifying the future leaders, so that when independence came I knew half the ministers and most of the opposition. The post in Tashkent should be doing that, but it probably cannot.

How do the despised diplomats do in the business of promoting British exports? The Overseas Trade Services of the FCO, according to the National Audit Office in 1996, helped to generate £345 million-worth of extra business for the UK in south-east Asia alone in 1993-95, at a cost of £4.5 million. That is around £77 profit for each pound spent. In 1998, BOC won a substantial gas contract worth 1 billion US dollars. It said it could not have done so without the help of the embassy in Mexico City. BP acknowledged similar help in Russia. There must be many more examples.

Neither the UN nor the EU can or will protect our citizens when they are in danger in a foreign land. Nor certainly will they advance our commercial interests or our international influence. Our diplomats are best placed through long experience and hard times in hard posts--not soft lying in European capitals--to identify future threats. It will not be much use to have even a splendid NHS if we are vulnerable in a dangerous world. Russia remains unstable, massively increasing its defence spending. It is making and selling new nuclear weapons and a new generation of both submarines and aircraft. It already perceives our NATO capacity and the UK-US relationship as weaker than it was and likely to be weakened further by our unwise commitment to new European ventures where we and the French alone have real soldiers but no US logistical backup.

It is bad enough for our Armed Forces to be used more or less frivolously, but it is nothing short of wicked to have reduced an excellent, highly professional and committed Foreign Service to one-man posts or less in more than half the world in order to save puny sums. We must defend the office and the diplomatic service from the Treasury termites.

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