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House of Lords

Wednesday, 19th July 2000.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Derby

Her Majesty The Queen Mother

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I have to inform your Lordships that, pursuant to the Order of the House, I, together with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, the noble Lords, Lord Strathclyde and Lord Boston of Faversham, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley and the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, waited upon Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother yesterday with the Message of this House of 13th July and that Her Majesty made the following reply:

    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons:

    "I was deeply touched by your messages of congratulations and by the sentiments you expressed on the occasion of my 100th birthday.

    "I feel fortunate that during the last Century I have been given the opportunity to serve our Country in times of war and peace, and I have always been helped and uplifted by the love of my family, by the fortitude and courage of our people, and by my faith in Almighty God.

    "I pray that future generations will live in peace and prosperity, and I send to you all my heartfelt thanks for your kind messages on my birthday."

United Nations: Humanitarian Intervention

2.37 p.m.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What new proposals they will be putting to the United Nations millennium meetings on the future of humanitarian intervention by the United Nations, including military intervention.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, we continue to consult with partners on our ideas for guidelines that could help the Security Council decide when and how to respond to large-scale violations of humanitarian law and crimes against humanity.

Discussions on humanitarian intervention will doubtless feature at the millennium summit and millennium assembly in September. We shall, of course, take this opportunity to build further consensus around our ideas as we continue to refine them. We do not envisage tabling any formal proposals on this occasion.

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Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. However, does she agree that it is also essential to develop more flexibility and imagination in supporting the Secretary-General on initiatives, peacemaking and conflict resolution before it becomes necessary to deploy military forces? When military forces are deployed in the name of the UN, does she not agree that it is always essential to have a clear political analysis of how they will contribute towards a political solution, as well as ensuring that there is strengthened administration of those forces both in the field and back in the UN?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that those issues are of real importance. It is for that reason that this debate has to take place. There has to be a thickening of the understanding between nations in this regard. We are firmly of the view that prevention is far better than cure. This is a matter, therefore, that we shall continue to pursue.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords--

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I am sure the Minister is aware of two specific points made by the Secretary-General in his millennium report. I wonder whether she might comment on them. First, cannot the Government take further the suggestions made in that report about standby arrangements both as regards troops that may be seconded for military intervention, but perhaps more radically the proposal for standby arrangements for non-governmental and civil groups which can enter quickly into a disaster situation? Secondly, the Minister will be aware that the Secretary-General praised, in particular, the United Kingdom Government, along with the Canadian, Swiss and German governments, for their work on targeting sanctions towards the political elites of countries which are in breach of the United Nations humanitarian standards. Can she tell the House what work has been done by the Government in that regard and what she hopes may emerge from it?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for the recitation of the praise which rightly attaches to the efforts we have all tried to make in targeting sanctions so that they are more effective. The noble Baroness is right in saying that the highlighting of that by the Secretary-General was most telling.

As regards the suggestions concerning standby arrangements and the use of civil troops, the noble Baroness will know that those issues are being considered in depth and are being explored. I cannot help the noble Baroness as regards the stage which we have reached. However, the important fact is that the issues are being debated and given the appropriate level of informed concern.

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Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, does my noble friend agree--

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, while humanitarian intervention is a noble impulse, it is also a nebulous concept and does not appear to be covered properly by the existing UN charter or UN law? There is a need for clarification and either changing the law or defining more clearly when humanitarian intervention is justified. What line will the Government take about either changing the specifications at the United Nations or recognising that NATO has a right to intervene in European security matters regardless of what is decided at the UN?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, at this stage it is critical that we all understand that there has to be definition and clarity. There is a great deal of anxiety about how, when and under what conditions humanitarian intervention should take place. It is for that reason that Her Majesty's Government think it important that the debate, discussion, definition and attempt at increasing and enhancing clarity among nations should start. We have been very clear that this is a matter we wish to promote and talk about with our partners. Noble Lords will be aware that we have already put forward preliminary ideas trying to scope the ambit of the way forward. We shall listen with acuity to the international response we receive to this endeavour.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords--

Lord Hylton: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Archer!

Lord Hylton: My Lords, while I agree that prevention is by far the best way forward, does the Minister accept that major displacements of population should be one of the criteria? Will she take note of what has happened in eastern Turkey in recent years? Further, can the noble Baroness confirm that, so far, some 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the Moluccas in Indonesia?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government firmly believe that we have a shared responsibility to act when confronted with massive violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity. Indeed, we have made that absolutely clear. We note the developments in the areas that the noble Lord has just highlighted, which, of course, are matters of great concern. For that reason, we feel it essential to build the broadest possible consensus on the conditions and circumstances that make international action appropriate and, thereby, strengthen the ability of the

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Security Council to respond effectively and promptly. As I said earlier, we are discussing these issues to try to achieve that consensus. However, we must bear in mind the fact that any intervention must be focused so that it does more good than harm. We must be very balanced in the way we proceed in this area.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, does my noble friend agree--

Noble Lords: This side!

Noble Lords: Archer!

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I am sorry. I have not been present throughout the whole of the debate on this Question, but I understand from what is being said around the House that my noble and learned friend Lord Archer has been trying to ask a question for some time. I believe that he should ask his question.

Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend.

Where the Security Council is paralysed by the use of the veto, does my noble friend the Minister agree that it is inevitably left to groups like NATO to exercise a citizen's arrest and that, however necessary that may sometimes be, it is never as satisfactory as enforcing the rule of law in the name of the whole international community? Is my noble friend aware of Charter 99? Further, will the Government be supporting the call of Charter 99 for charter revision in the hope of modifying the veto in the interests of democratic global government?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, not surprisingly, I agree with much of what my noble and learned friend has said, but am unable to agree with some of it. Noble Lords will know that I have said from this Dispatch Box in the past that there is much in Charter 99 with which we concur, although we cannot accept some of it. The veto has played a very important role in the past; indeed, it is something that Her Majesty's Government do not intend to give up. We have not exercised our veto for the past 10 years. We believe that it is incredibly important for those who have the veto to exercise it responsibly and prudently. We would wish others to follow our example. However, I cannot tell my noble and learned friend that we think it would be prudent to do away with it.

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