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Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, this is indeed a defining moment, but it is also a moment of some trouble. We should do well not to comment too

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heavily on it at this stage. I suspect that there will be great difficulty about this in Belgrade. We can applaud the statesmanship and courage of those who took this decision.

My noble friend Lady Turner of Camden raised questions about Iraq. I hope that she will be pleased to know that on 1st June, the Security Council unanimously adopted the UK-drafted Security Council Resolution 1352 confirming its intention to agree a new way forward on Iraq. Perhaps I may write to my noble friend with details of that as I know she is very interested in it.

Many noble Lords raised questions about NATO enlargement. Of course, the Prague summit in November 2002 will continue the adaptation of NATO. I assure my noble friend Lord Sewel that we shall support invitations to new members able to fulfil the alliance's political, economic and military criteria. The Prime Minister made clear on 13th June, at his meeting with NATO leaders, that we support enlargement when the NATO aspirants are ready and when NATO is ready. We are giving the aspirants the practical support which we are able to give in preparing them for their membership.

At the same time, the other side of that coin is, of course, our relationship with Russia. I assure the noble Lords, Lord Marlesford and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that the Prime Minister met Mr Putin five times last year. That shows a considerable commitment by this Government to engage positively with Russia. We always discuss NATO in our bilateral talks with Russia. That goes without saying. And as both noble Lords will know, NATO has invested very heavily in its relations with Russia through the adoption of the NATO Russia Foundation Act.

Many noble Lords raised the question of missile defence. I believe that there have been some extremely hasty, in some cases too hasty, moves on the part of some people--I hasten to say none of your Lordships but perhaps elsewhere--to find evidence that the issue has led to splits between Europe and the United States or between the United Kingdom and others. I felt that some of that rush to find those splits has been somewhat unseemly.

I make our position clear. The United Kingdom welcomes President Bush's commitment to consult with the allies, with Russia and with China on that very important issue. We shall continue to act actively and constructively and to engage in the discussions as close allies with a common strategic interest because we understand the concerns of the United States as regards the growing threat posed by the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction. In dealing with that threat, we need a strategy which includes offensive and defensive systems, rigorous implementation of national and multi-national proliferation controls and continued reductions in

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nuclear arms. After his meeting with President Bush, President Putin said--and this is a very important point that,


    "differences in our approaches in the very fundamental areas are much less than what unites us".

That is an extremely encouraging remark.

The noble Lord, Lord Powell, raised questions about China. The noble Lord's Downing Street connections are impeccable and I am sure that he will be a highly persuasive advocate in putting forward his arguments.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, raised questions about Japan and Hong Kong. I have extensive briefing on both but the clock is against me. I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me if I write to him on those issues. I agree with the noble Lord that they are very important. Japan is clearly an extremely important economic partner and, of course, our relations with Hong Kong continue to be of great importance too.

I feel that I must move on to the questions raised by the noble Lords, Lord St John of Bletso and Lord Blaker, in relation to Zimbabwe. We welcome any initiative that allows the international community to engage with the Zimbabwe Government on the issues of concern. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, asked about the Commonwealth initiative. That idea is still evolving but we welcome any initiative which enables the international community to engage in constructive dialogue with the government of Zimbabwe on issues of concern.

But the government of Zimbabwe must, as the noble Lord said, address its economic problems and the continued disregard in that country for the rule of law. Of course, elections must be free and fair and the international community stands ready to ensure that that is so, just as we have said that we in this country are happy to assist with a programme of land reform based on the principles of the 1998 land conference.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park, is always a doughty advocate for the Armed Forces. The recovery from the exceptionally high operational tempo of 1999 continues. The average intervals between operational tours for the units in the infantry, the artillery and the armoured corps have all shortened and there have been significant improvements.

That has also been helped by retention. I am happy to say that the outflow from the regular forces decreased by 6.3 per cent in the year 2000-01, compared with the year before. I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, about the specific details which he requested on recruitment.

I assure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, that among everything else that they do, the Armed Forces are an effective delivery mechanism. Of course, they were given the excellent opportunity to demonstrate that, possibly in very sad circumstances, in the recent foot and mouth outbreak.

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There have been many allegations about Army cuts, but I assure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, that the Government remain totally committed to delivering the Strategic Defence Review, about which he asked a specific question. Last July we announced the first sustained increase in real terms in defence budgets for 10 years, as the noble and gallant Lord knows.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, that there are no plans--I repeat no plans--or proposals to cut Army regiments, no plans to reduce the number of brigades in Scotland, and no plans to reduce the size of the Territorial Army. I hope that that is specific enough. The noble Lord asked so many questions about defence procurement that I felt quite woeful about leaving my defence procurement brief for the Foreign Office.

The money for the aircraft carriers is in the budget. The noble Lord knows that they are not due to come into service until 2012 or 2015. The Bowman project will be considered later this year. On a previous occasion I told the House that we want the Bowman in service within two years of signing the contract. There will be a further report on DERA in the autumn and yes, the Americans are now happy with what is proposed. On the A400M, we never expected to sign anything more than a memorandum of understanding at the Paris Air Show.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, asked questions about accommodation and about the Defence Medical Services, as did the noble Lord, Lord Vivian. I hope that both noble Lords will be happy to accept letters from me on those points. They are lengthy matters and I would do justice to them much better in writing to noble Lords.

The globalisation White Paper was raised by the noble Lord, Lord St. John. It is enormously important. If I may, I shall commend my right honourable friend Clare Short, who is acknowledged not only as a world authority on development issues, but also as an indefatigable fighter for poverty eradication.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, on the points that he made on conflict prevention. The Department for International Development provides technical guidance and advisory support and funding for pilot projects to integrate conflict issues into bilateral country programmes.

I also agree that possibly large international conferences are not the whole answer to some of the questions, as indicated by the noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord Desai. However, they have their part to play when discussing the environment, world trade, human rights and arms control. Those matters require global solutions and I do not believe that we should be quite so dismissive as those noble Lords appeared to indicate on those points.

The position was well demonstrated only this week at the international conference on AIDS, which was

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raised by my noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I shall respond to that briefly. DfID is committed to achieving the HIV/AIDS international development target and in particular to reducing the impact that HIV/AIDS has on the life of the poorest. As part of our efforts, we have pledged a substantial amount to the global health fund to address the major communicable diseases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. I hope that other countries will do the same.

I was also grateful for the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Desai, on debt relief. So far 23 countries have qualified for the enhanced HIPC initiative with more than 500 billion of relief being agreed out of the 41 eligible countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Weidenfeld, raised some worrying points about incitement to genocide. I was very concerned to hear what he said. I have no personal knowledge of the points that he put to the House, but I shall ask our embassy in Damascus to look into the matters that he raised. Perhaps I may write to him when I have done so.

I turn to the interesting points made on Latin America by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, whom I see in her place on the Woolsack. There were over 70 ministerial visits to Latin America and the Caribbean in the first term of this Government. I shall write to the noble Baroness with various details, but my noble friend Lord Bach is hoping to go to Latin America at an early date and both he and my noble friend are due to meet the Chilean foreign minister tomorrow. I also say to the noble Baroness that there have been an enormous number of exchanges with the defence department, particularly in relation to the defence export services.

I shall, if I may, write to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on the points he raised about Afghanistan. It is a complex and difficult issue and I can do better justice to it in a letter.

The noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, made some interesting points. He said that he had just returned from overseas but at one moment I thought that he had just returned from another planet! Many procurements in the United Kingdom are made directly from United Kingdom defence industries. The noble Lord painted a black picture and perhaps he would like to know that we are second only to the United States in our success in defence exports. They support more than 400,000 jobs in this country. I was interested in his comments on space and perhaps I can write to him about them.

During the past five days your Lordships have discussed an extensive legislative programme set out in the gracious Speech. One hundred and sixty-eight speakers have taken part and I can see by the look

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on the face of my noble friend the Chief Whip that if I attempt to answer them in any detail I shall not get out of the Chamber.

We have discussed a huge number of issues and the discussions will continue into the months which lie ahead. The Government's programme contains many far-reaching points and we know that some will be controversial. Some will be hard to achieve but some, I hope, will be more consensual. However, important though they are, they are not what the legislative programme for the coming Session is primarily about.

The Labour Party has achieved what we have never secured before; re-election to a second full term in Government. And we have done so on the basis of the choice we put before the people of Britain. It was a clear choice for our programme of economic stability, sustained investment and far-reaching reform in our public services. The message from the people of Britain was very clear; they did not want the alternative. They did not want tax cuts; they did not want cuts in public services; and they did not want economic instability.

Therefore, our task in the second term is to build on and develop the foundations we laid in the first. We must sustain economic stability, remembering always that what we will be able to do in our second term is possible only because of the stability we achieved in our first.

What the election showed was that, if anything, support for public services has grown over the past four years. There has been a shift in thinking which many of us--I believe Members on all sides of the House--welcome. It is a shift away from social intolerance and national isolation to greater social inclusion and better understanding of the importance of renewing and reforming our social services and of international co-operation and interdependence. That was also a clear message from our debate today, although expressed in many different ways.

The Government will be putting investment into our schools and hospitals. But investment alone will not deliver the improvement in our public services that people want to see. We have to couple that investment with reform because without reform we will not achieve high quality public services. And without high quality public services we will not be able to move forward to achieving the ambitions we have for our country and for which our people have just voted; that is, genuine opportunity for all.

So the key Bills in the legislative programme are the big reform Bills: the Bills to implement reform in the education system, especially in secondary schools; in health, putting in place the next stage of the NHS plan; in crime, with the biggest reform of the criminal justice system in more than 50 years; and in welfare, with

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further measures to help pensioners and families with children and to reinforce work as the best route out of poverty.

We shall welcome the debates in the House on all these issues. I hope that those debates will be characterised by what is best in this House; with experience, knowledge, expertise and--dare I say it?--with tolerance and good will, just as our debate on defence and foreign issues has been characterised today.

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The Government have a renewed mandate and instructions from the British people. They have set out our instructions and we intend to carry them out. The legislative programme set out in the gracious Speech points the way, and I commend it to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente; the said Address to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lord Chamberlain.

        House adjourned at four minutes before midnight.


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