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Lord Annan: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord will give way on the question of China. Does he not agree that one must have some concern and understanding of China's position? There are two things which worry China. First, it wants stability and it remembers the horrors of the Red Guard and the Cultural Revolution of Mao. Secondly, it wants not to fall into the chaos that Russia fell into after the revolution of Yeltsin. That is why China is not as forthcoming on freedom of information and so on as it should be.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I have no trouble in agreeing with much of what the noble Lord has said. I welcome the moves to bring China into the World Trade Organisation. My point concerned the Government's stated objective. One of the first things the Foreign Secretary did when he came to office was to declare an ethical foreign policy. Increasingly, as the months and years go by, we are seeing more muddle, more humbug and more hypocrisy. I want the Government to pursue our national interests but I do mind when they set themselves up as latter-day Palmerstons; the world's gunboat diplomats, with a fraction of the power and none of the logic. Down that route danger lies. I should like to see that admission from the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, when she winds up the debate later this evening.
This new imperialism of ideas will one day meet its nemesis. If a message is sent out that we will hit the weak and ignore the strong, then the weak will draw only one conclusion from that. They shall need to make themselves strong and doubtless our ethical Foreign Secretary will be happy to sell them the arms to do so. We would be wise to plough that furrow with a good deal more humility and caution than this Government have shown so far. We must live by international law or it will not only be us who rue the day.
Moved, as an amendment to the Motion for an humble Address, at the end of the Address to insert "but regret the failure of Your Majesty's Government to reduce the burden of taxation and regulation and deplore the incoherence and the lack of vision of the measures proposed by Your Majesty's Government for the coming Session of Parliament".--(Lord Strathclyde.)
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, as ever, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has been robust and ebullient and was genial in his reference to the birthday of the noble Baroness the Leader of the House. However, when I consider his amendment, I wonder whether on this occasion he is being pushed from behind. Despite his reference at the start of his remarks and once again at the finish, I do not believe that the noble Lord's heart is in it.
I should like to quote from an article published on 17th November in the Daily Telegraph concerning the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. It stated that the noble Lord was to make a political comeback that had been planned by William Hague. The article stated that Mr Hague,
I shall say nothing further about this "Scottish civil war" or the involvement of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. Hitherto I had assumed that the noble Lord was deputy to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. It may be that if the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has not got his eye on the position of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, perhaps it is the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, who is for the chop.
A good deal in the gracious Speech could be opposed, and there is even more where an opinion may be reserved. We shall examine the Bills with very great care as they are published and play our usual part in their scrutiny. However, I put it to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that this is not the time for the Conservative Party to use its temporary majority in this House--a majority it holds only because of the Weatherill amendment--before the balancing of parties takes place. The Government are committed to that course. This is not the time for the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, to use a Conservative majority in order to defeat the Government. I shall explain the significance of that after I have given way.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, can the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, explain to the House what majority he believes the Conservative Party has? I said in my speech that we now comprise less than a third of the House.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will understand when I say that the Government's White Paper declared that there should be rough parity between the government of the day and the Conservative Party. However, it is absolutely plain from the figures that there is no rough parity now. Should all the other parties in the House abstain, the Conservative Party could defeat the Government if it brought in all its troops.
I put to the noble Lord a serious and important point: the time will come when the government of the day--and perhaps this Government in particular--will need to reconcile themselves to the fact that if we are to have a bicameral system, the government of the day will from time to time be defeated. My noble friend Lord Russell made that point in a debate last week. However, when that moment comes for the first time, it should be effected by a natural coalition across the parties of the kind put together by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, in the closing stages of the last
It would be closer to the spirit of this House to seek agreement on the details of Bills by negotiation rather than confrontation. The real test will be if we can persuade the Government, as we should be able to do from time to time, to amend a Bill on the strength of opinion and the merit of argument across all the parties in your Lordships' House.
I return to a suggestion I have made in the past and which previously received absolutely no attention. I return to it not necessarily in the belief that it will receive much attention now. It is a suggestion in keeping with the roles of both Houses. I have long thought that there would be virtue in every Bill having a Second Reading in the House of Commons after it has been published. It would then approve the principle of the Bill, which is in keeping with the proper role of the elected Chamber. The Bill would then come straight here for Second Reading, Committee and Report stages. The government of the day would find it much easier to concede amendments on merit before the Bill has been through the other place. The Bill would then return to the House of Commons and the government of the day could amend it as they thought fit. So often our problem here is that Secretaries of State find it very difficult to accept amendments from this place if the Bill has already been through the other place.
I do not want to refer in detail to most of the legislative proposals in the gracious Speech, but perhaps I may make one comment about the transport Bill. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that it is a large Bill. We take that for granted. He said--these are not his words--that it is a conglomerate Bill. By that I mean that distinct and separate parts are embraced only by the umbrella of its Short Title.
There is to be the part-privatisation of air traffic control. I remember having some responsibility about 30 years ago for working out the legislative consequences of the Edwards report on civil aviation. The present role and structure of air traffic control services stem from that time. I entirely agree that there may be a very strong case for that structure being changed. A generation has passed. But I am not persuaded that the resources should not be found from the public purse--it is capital investment--rather than through the part-privatisation proposed. If it amounts to part-privatisation, we on these Benches shall
Having had some responsibility in that regard some years ago, I say again that we cannot improve public transport without additional resources. That is a message for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is no other way of breaking the circle. I speak now to the Conservative Opposition Benches: we cannot improve public transport without either restricting in some way, through parking and electronic pricing, the use of private cars or ensuring that those who use cars pay the full price for doing so. There is no way out. We cannot have it all ways if we genuinely want to improve public transport.
We shall return to this issue on Monday. There is much in the White Paper of July 1998 with which we can agree. I believe that the Government have made a mistake in the tone that they have struck. They should recognise three things. First, it takes a long time to achieve change in the transport area whether in terms of the railways, roads or public transport. It is a great mistake to raise expectations of short-term results.
Secondly, no government in Whitehall can possibly determine the hundreds of thousands of decisions made every day that determine the character and quality of the transport services we enjoy. Again, the lesson is: do not claim more than you can deliver. We all use the phrase "integrated transport", but it will be integrated only because many thousands of decisions take account of the need to do so--and most of them are beyond government control.
Thirdly, it is perfectly true that many of the decisions as regards transport policy in our towns and cities in particular are made by local authorities. The Government must not expect that their policies, determined at national level and agreed by Parliament, will necessarily commend themselves to all local authorities. There will be tension and sometimes local authorities will not fulfil the requirements of the Government or their expectations.
In 1976, the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, recognised the importance and complexity of transport policy and recreated the transport department. It was a wise decision, as was his choice of Secretary of State. Today the Deputy Prime Minister has too much on his plate. I send this message to the Prime Minister: it is time to recreate a transport department under a separate Cabinet Minister. There is too much to be done.
I agree that there is a large agenda in the gracious Speech. It is a rather scrappy speech with no obvious theme. We all know that there is too much legislation. We cannot expect the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, the Government Chief Whip, to do as well this year as he did last year in managing to get through government business.
We welcome plans to extend the Race Relations Act, but we shall be deeply opposed to plans to curb trial by jury. We welcome the Bill to regulate the funding of political parties, but we regret that there are
I ask one question about the future of your Lordships' House. The White Paper referred to the Government being committed to further long-term reform of the House of Lords. That could mean that they are committed in the long term to further reform of this House. It could also mean that the Government are committed to further reform of the House of Lords for the long term. I assume it is the latter. When we reach the end of our debate next week, I hope that the Leader of the House will confirm what that means and that she will also say, as the gracious Speech does not, that once we have received the Wakeham report and debated it, she will move for the appointment of the Joint Committee of both Houses to which the Government were committed in their White Paper.
No one speaking on the gracious Speech at this stage can fail to mention Northern Ireland. I did so when John Major was Prime Minister. I expressed to him the good will of these Benches in his very difficult endeavours. We should not forget that he began the process which we very much hope is slowly and painfully coming to a conclusion. I also congratulate the Government on their perseverance and patience. They have done as well as any government could in the very difficult circumstances of Northern Ireland. I hope that they will carry with them the good will and support of the whole House.
I said yesterday that I intended to take an overall view of the gracious Speech and I explained why. I regret, therefore, that I am unable to comment, as I would otherwise wish, on defence and foreign affairs. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, that I hope that she enjoys the defence department as I did, although after a rather slow start in my case. The House looks forward to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, who handled brilliantly her brief at Question Time and earned the applause of all sides of the House.
I regret that there was not more about Europe in the Queen's Speech. If I may give a message to the Government, it is this. We should all, irrespective of party, remember the historical contribution made by Harold Macmillan to the future of our country and its place in the world. It was he above all who recognised the need to turn Britain away from its imperial past and back to Europe, where its future destiny lay. I am very sorry if the Conservative Party has now abandoned that course. I hope that in due course it will return to the wise position adopted by Harold Macmillan so many years ago. After Harold Macmillan, the Labour government equally decided that we did not have the resources to be a world policeman, and we ceased our attempt to operate east of Suez. Those are good guidelines for us to bear in mind at all times.
As I have said, there may not be enough about Europe in the gracious Speech. I believe that the Government are now rather lacking in momentum. However, I shall leave it to my noble friends to add their own thoughts on that theme.
The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, it is a great privilege to speak for the first time in this House in a debate that is focused on the wider world. I was born in Hertfordshire in the middle of the last war and was brought up during the hard and difficult years of reconstruction following the war. Because of the circumstances, many young people of my age were not able to leave their towns and villages, let alone see the seaside, and were certainly not able to travel abroad. I made my first visit overseas as a 17 year-old boy on a school trip. How very different are the circumstances of our life today. We live in an international world, one that inevitably needs to be interdependent.
One of my tasks in my present role is to chair the board of Christian Aid. In that role, I had the privilege earlier this year of visiting Mozambique. As a consequence, I was led to reflect on a number of serious matters in our international development work and in foreign affairs. I was taken to the north of the country, to the heart of the area where civil war raged bitterly for nearly 20 years. I was taken by my guides to a mountainous area where, I was told, one of the parties to the war took prisoners of war up the mountain and pushed them over the cliff at the top. So traumatised were their widows and families that for some time afterwards they did not have the courage to go to find the bodies. When they eventually arrived at the place where the bodies of their loved ones had been thrown, they found but a few bones. Animals had eaten the rest. No war crimes commission is following up the perpetrators of those deeds.
However, both parties to the war in Mozambique made peace, and that peace has stuck. Such has been the development in Mozambique in the past seven or eight years that the country qualifies under the HIPC arrangements for debt relief. We in Christian Aid want to press on the Government that they should continue down the road of lifting the burden of international debt on countries such as Mozambique. There is still much to be done.
When visiting a place such as Mozambique, one sees how dreadful war is, and what a blessing peace is in our world and our communities. Christian Aid supports a number of partners that are working in some interesting programmes. One is a "swords into ploughshares" programme. It enables people to hand in weapons and have them replaced by the tools of development. Tens of thousands of weapons have been handed in through the programme, and continue to be handed in. My mind drifted to places nearer home and the business of taking weapons out of conflict, and to what can be achieved when people are committed to pursuing peace.
There is huge amount to be done in world development work. Agencies such as Christian Aid, working with the Churches and networks in areas such as Mozambique, and in collaboration with government here and elsewhere, have a huge amount to contribute in supporting the people in making peace and rebuilding their communities. It was a great privilege to visit that country, but I came away conscious of the enormous task that faces us in our international relationships in dealing with these matters.
Lord Chalfont: My Lords, before making my contribution to the debate, it is my pleasure and privilege to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his moving and distinguished maiden speech. It was even more impressive because of its brevity. Those of us who are familiar with the writings of the right reverend Prelate--notably a publication some 20 years ago entitled, God's People in God's World--will not be at all surprised by his approach to international problems, and especially the problems of international development and aid. It has been a valuable experience for all of us in this House to listen to his words. I hope that I may be allowed to congratulate him on behalf of the whole House and express the hope that we shall hear much more from him in the future.
Perhaps I may also, even in her absence, add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, on her birthday. She has a long way to go to catch me up, but as one who reaches a significant milestone of his own in about a week's time I wish her well, as I am sure do all those who are left in your Lordships' House.
In the main debate on the Address I shall not discuss the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde. I shall listen to the debate with great interest and decide what to do in that respect on Wednesday evening. Perhaps I may concentrate on one simple issue in the gracious Speech; namely, the statement that,
I confess to being slightly worried about the strength and stability of that foundation. Two aspects of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, concern me. One is the new strategic concept upon which NATO operates or appears to operate; the other is the emergence in a rather precipitate way of the "European security and defence identity".
The new--to me--concept of the role of the military alliance has had some notable consequences, not least the apparent erosion in our international affairs of the concept of the sovereign nation state. It used to be the essential building block of the international structure. I make no value judgments about it, but they are facts. In the immediate past NATO has conducted invasive, military operations against a number of sovereign nation states: for example, Iraq, Serbia, Indonesia. Except in the case of Iraq, it was not that these posed any threat to the security of this country or that of its allies but because the international community disapproved of the internal arrangements of those sovereign nation states; their approach to the problems of human rights, ethnic divisions and separatist movements.
This new doctrine has been called, in the United States, the humanitarian war. It was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, today as the imperialism of ideas. The doctrine may be admirable and desirable in the concept of what has come to be known as the "ethical foreign policy". But we must pause for a moment and ask ourselves: is this really the proper function of a military alliance? Are our Armed Forces really to be used as peacekeepers, providers of humanitarian aid and guardians of global human rights?
It is possible to hold that concept of what a military alliance is about. But if we do hold it, there are certain inevitable consequences which must be faced. First, there is a comparatively minor one, the impact on the organisation and training of our armed forces. That kind of concept involves the use of armed forces in small packets, small groups, as a kind of international gendarmerie rather than as military units and formations.
So in a few years' time, if this goes on, our Armed Forces will have no experience whatever of operating or training as formations in what used to be called conventional warfare. It does not do to say that they will never have to do so again. We do not know. I merely ask the Government to reconsider. For example, when was the last time the United Kingdom Armed Forces trained at brigade or divisional level? I think the Government would find that quite a difficult question to answer. However, I have no doubt that the officials in the Box will discover it before the time arrives for the reply.
A more pressing and profound concern is this. As recently as last weekend, the Secretary of State for Defence admitted that the problem of overstretch was real. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, admitted as much in her speech today. The Secretary of State admitted that it was causing serious problems. Of course it is, simply because, among other things, we are now asking the officers and men of our Navy, Army and Air Force to put their lives at risk, put themselves in harm's way, not to defend our country or its security, or that of our allies, but to engage in operations which are sometimes, I must say, of dubious legal justification and even more dubious moral justification, allegedly to protect human rights or to deliver humanitarian aid. As again happened in the House today, often we seem to take a pride not only in taking part but also in claiming a leading role in all that, being the leaders.
That may be how the Government see the future role of our Armed Forces and those of NATO. As has been said, whatever role our Armed Forces are given, they will carry it out with total dedication and commitment. Of that there is no doubt whatever. But if we are to accept this role for our Armed Forces--the role of global peacekeeping and participation in crisis conflicts all over the world--I say with as much emphasis as I can muster that we must be prepared to provide enough resources to meet the commitments. If we are to do all that, it seems to me we shall have to increase the size of our defence budget and restore some of the extensive cuts which have been made in the Armed Forces and their equipment. If we are not prepared to do that, there is a simple corollary. We cannot accept the multifarious commitments which are not the role of a defensive military alliance.
We now have smaller armed forces than France, Germany, Italy and Turkey. We spend less, as a proportion of our gross national product, on defence than France, Greece and Turkey. Our reserve forces are smaller than those of Spain and Turkey. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or shameful about that, but I submit that we cannot behave like a global power with the military resources of a minor European nation state. The Secretary of State for Defence, speaking of overstretch--the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, repeated it today--said that he would be addressing the problem. There are only two ways of addressing it. Any of the Government's military advisers will readily tell them, "You must increase the resources or reduce the commitments".
The second concern with which I shall deal more briefly is the implications of what is known as the European security and defence identity. Noble Lords will know that the seeds for it were sown at Maastricht in 1992. It was in Berlin and Brussels in 1996 that the foreign and defence ministers formulated and established the European security and defence identity. It was endorsed again in Amsterdam the following year.
I know we shall be told that NATO has unanimously endorsed the strategic concept--it is not alone--and that it gives unanimous support to the ESDI. But because other people think that it might be a good idea for them, it is not necessarily a good idea for us.
These are not the imaginative ravings of a fanatic. I think everyone will agree that Henry Kissinger is a leading authority on defence and strategic matters. When he was in London recently, he told me that he thought that NATO was now thoroughly confused about its role. He lamented the abrupt abandonment of the concept of national sovereignty and expressed the fear, quite openly, that NATO and Europe were, by their actions and words, threatening to divorce themselves from the United States. These are real concerns expressed by people within NATO and all over the civilised world who know what they are talking about.
I conclude by asking the Government--perhaps in the light of earlier remarks I should say "joined-up Government"--to reassure the House on three specific points. First, are they in full agreement with that aspect of the new NATO strategic concept which gives the NATO alliance commitments beyond that of a defensive military organisation? Do the Government believe that it is one of the functions of NATO to conduct humanitarian wars, or the imperialism of ideas? Secondly, have the Government taken fully into account the implications which may lie hidden behind the superficial attractions of a European defence identity? Thirdly and most important of all, are the Government considering urgently how to match our military commitments with our defence resources? I say "most important" because if that is not done soon our Armed Forces, and therefore our national security, may suffer irreparable harm.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on this occasion because I am in agreement with much of what he said. I have not always found myself in such a happy position. In particular, I echo his congratulations to my noble friend Lady Symons
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