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House of Lords

Thursday, 5th October 2000.

The House met at three of the clock: The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Bradford.

UN Peacekeeping Operations

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What response they intend to make to the recommendation of the Panel on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (the Brahimi Report) that member states working in partnership should develop coherent, multinational brigade-sized forces in readiness for future peacekeeping needs.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, we welcome the report of the Secretary-General's panel on peace operations. We want to work with others for swift and effective implementation. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

We agree with the panel on the need to improve the UN's rapid deployment capabilities. We shall be examining our existing bilateral and regional arrangements, training and exercise programmes to see whether those can be further enhanced in support of UN peacekeeping. The feasibility of developing multinational brigade-size forces for rapid deployment on UN operations requires further study in this context.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, perhaps I may press the noble Baroness a little further on this matter. The United Kingdom is actively involved in a European defence initiative which is, indeed, intended to develop coherent multinational brigade-size forces, and I wonder to what extent this report feeds into that. The United Kingdom also maintains very close relations with a number of Commonwealth forces which would provide the basis for closer integration, given that we all know that much of the problem with UN forces, as in Sierra Leone, is that they are not coherent and they fail to work together.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, one of the principal objectives of the European defence initiative is to ensure that EU member states can best meet their responsibilities in contributing to the work of the international community in responding to crisis situations. We are working with our partners in the EU to ensure that the EU's new crisis management capacity dovetails with that of the UN. The same is certainly true with our partners in the Commonwealth.

There is agreement around the world by countries which are involved in peacekeeping missions that it is essential to try to strengthen, to help and to streamline the UN's operations around the world. We all know of examples where things have not worked in the way

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that any of us would have wanted. So I assure the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that extremely profound negotiations are being undertaken with co-operation between all parties concerned to take this report forward in the best possible way.

Lord Judd: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that while the Brahimi report is crucially important, it is equally important, in the light of recent experiences, to look at how civilian police presence in crisis areas can be increased and made more effective? Does my noble friend agree also that we must not allow ourselves to drift into a crisis management culture, a peacekeeping culture, at the expense of conflict resolution? There is a tremendous need to beef up the resources of the Secretary-General in anticipating crises and defusing them before they need a military presence.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, yes, indeed, I agree with the point which my noble friend Lord Judd has just made. In the Prime Minister's interventions in New York at the recent UN summit, he made the very point that it is necessary to deal with the causes of conflict and not just to deal with the results on the ground in a military way.

The Brahimi report is much broader than my noble friend perhaps understood it. One of its specific recommendations is that member states should be encouraged to enter into regional training partnerships for civilian police. The report goes on to expand on that. Her Majesty's Government fully support that recommendation. The UN should consider establishing an inspectorate-general of civilian police in parallel with the inspectorate-general of military forces to oversee development of selection, training and equipment guidelines to advise police contributors and to develop an understanding of training and equipment needs.

I should just mention that one of the members of the Brahimi panel was from Britain; namely, Mr Richard Monk, who is the civilian policing expert on the panel. He was a retired British assistant chief commissioner. So we are not treating this as only a military problem.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, will the noble Baroness tell the House to what extent, in a case of committing such forces, the elected Government of this country will keep control both over the decision to deploy and the rules of engagement under which our troops are deployed?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, as always, in situations like this, the MoD and, therefore, ultimately the Government will always make sure that they are looking after the interests and control of British troops. We do not commit our troops until we are sure that they are going to do the right kind of job in the right kind of place in the right kind of way.

Lord Roper: My Lords, does the Minister agree, in view of the experience of the United Kingdom in peacekeeping, and in view of the use of English in most

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UN forces, that it would be appropriate to establish a staff college in the United Kingdom for the training of UN officers entering this area? Will the Government consider that proposal?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I can assure the House that the Government will do more than simply consider the matter. We have already indicated to the UN Secretary-General that we would be willing to host a UN military staff college in the United Kingdom. That would train forces of various nationalities for service in UN peacekeeping. The Secretary-General has welcomed the idea. The noble Lord, Lord Roper, will be aware that that was one of the recommendations of the report of the joint consultative committee, which included the Liberal Democrats.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful to the Minister for giving us information about British contributions to the peacekeeping missions. Can she also say how much those contributions cost, how many such missions exist and where are they?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, in the current financial year the United Kingdom is set to contribute some £118 million to the cost of peacekeeping. That includes some £92 million as a contribution towards the common costs of UN missions and some £26 million as the cost of direct UK contributions, some of which will be subject to UN reimbursements.

Currently UK personnel are serving on UN-led missions in Bosnia, Cyprus, DRC, East Timor, Georgia, the Iraq/Kuwait border, Kosovo and Sierra Leone. They have won widespread praise for their courage and professionalism. Having visited Georgia just over a year ago, and having visited UNOMIG, where there is a tiny handful of British officers, I can tell the House that their contribution is immense. It is out of all proportion to their numbers. I am sure that that is true in other missions as well.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, this is one more commitment for our Armed Forces. I have read the Brahimi report and it is a serious commitment. We already have the European commitment and the NATO commitment. A new Budget is due soon, so can the Minister tell the House whether such a commitment will be reflected in the defence budget? The Strategic Defence Review certainly did not review all the commitments all at once.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the Strategic Defence Review streamlined arrangements with our resources and forces so that we can look at the demands placed upon us. However, no one can ever predict exactly what demands there will be on our Armed Forces. The Brahimi report will not create commitments in addition to those that we carry out already. The point of the report is to streamline and to

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make more efficient the use of the UN machinery. It need not mean a lot of additional resources, but it does mean using existing resources in a much better way.

Millennium Dome: Financial Position

3.16 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the financial position of the Millennium Dome.

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, visitor numbers have been considerably lower than anticipated. Revenue has, therefore, been lower, which has necessitated increases of grant from the lottery. The alternative would have been greater expenditure and losses for those involved in the project, particularly staff, visitors and suppliers. The New Millennium Experience Company is currently in the process of finalising its detailed budget and I shall, as promised in my Statement last week, place copies in the Library of the House as soon as possible.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether all the pre-conditions attached to the last £47 million tranche given to the Dome are now in place? If not, which are still outstanding?

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