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Middle East: Peace Monitors

2.59 p.m.

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the Government believe that third-party monitoring, accepted by both parties, would serve the interests of Israel and the Palestinian Authority in their search for peace. A monitoring mechanism could support ceasefire implementation and Palestinian Authority action against the terrorists, as envisaged in the Tenet security work plan, and help the parties implement the Mitchell recommendations. We stand ready to help in any way we can.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she not agree that any monitoring would have to be based on a peace plan that is acceptable to both sides, and that no peace plan could work under the present situation of occupation?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree that there would have to be an effective ceasefire, Israeli withdrawal from the towns on the West Bank and a real Palestinian effort on security issues, including the actions of suicide bombers. I am sure that no one in your Lordships' House underestimates the seriousness of the crisis in the area at present. Indeed, we are facing a potential catastrophe, but it means that there is an added incentive and duty placed upon all governments to work as hard as we can at present, both in concert with each other and with those on the ground to try to provide a way forward.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, we all agree that monitors can only observe; they cannot act to protect a country's citizens from terrorism. While supporting the US calls for Israel to withdraw its troops, how do the Government propose Israel should act to defend its citizens from terrorism? What alternative security mechanisms to prevent further terrorist attack does the Minister propose?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, this is an enormously difficult question. If it were easy to answer, everyone would provide the solution. I am sure that we all wish Colin Powell the very best in his deliberations. He has today met with the quartet in Madrid; that is, also with the United Nations, the EU and the Russians. The main ingredients of future action have been put forward, which Her Majesty's Government strongly support, and which would mean a ceasefire. The noble Baroness rightly stresses the proper implementation of real measures for the security of the Israeli people who have yet again, this morning, suffered another ghastly outrage in Haifa.

Lord Patel of Blackburn: My Lords, I am sure noble Lords will agree that negotiated agreement and implementation of UN resolution after resolution

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should have priority. The second step should be to deploy monitors to the Middle East and to rebuild the state of Palestine.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I agree, as do her Majesty's Government, with the comments of my noble friend. The priority must be the implementation of recent UN Security Council Resolutions 1397, 1402 and 1403. That means establishing a proper ceasefire, a withdrawal of Israeli troops and the implementation of the Tenet and Mitchell plans. These are enormously difficult issues being faced in the area at present. I am happy that many of our allies, people of good will, are now putting so much effort into attempting to find a solution. I am sure that all noble Lords wish Colin Powell well in his mission to the region.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House the kind of international framework into which the Government envisage British troops would be hooked in taking part as peace monitors in the Middle East? Will that be a UN, NATO or EU exercise or some other international framework? In his speech the other day the Prime Minister referred to "the international community". We need a more precise definition.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the noble Lord made the assumption that this would involve military monitoring. Perhaps I may say that he is rather ahead of the game in that respect. A number of plans are under discussion. Papers are now being considered, both within the United Kingdom and with our allies, which are based on the concept of a civilian monitoring mission for a ceasefire. It is also important to point out that any such monitoring would not be of just a ceasefire but also of the important issues to which the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, referred in relation to security, and would involve Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory.

As I stressed in my initial Answer, it is important that any monitoring arrangement must be based on the agreement of Palestinian and Israeli authorities. To try to impose a monitoring arrangement simply would not work. In drawing up these type of plans and proposals, it is enormously important that proper consultation takes place. We are, indeed, at a delicate stage in such consultation.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, can my noble friend advise what specific action should be taken to stop the kind of attacks which she has today condemned? A number of Israelis have been killed and a number injured. Although I believe it is important that dialogue should take place, surely it cannot do so unless that kind of attack is condemned by her.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I condemn those attacks unequivocally and wholeheartedly. We must all acknowledge that the spiralling violence in the Middle East is in no way being stemmed by what the Israelis have done in an

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attempt to stop the violence by going into the Palestinian areas, as the outrage this morning demonstrated all too clearly. For our part we welcome the peace initiative proposed by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. In the speech made by the Prime Minister in Texas last weekend, he said that in parallel with a ceasefire, the principles set out by the Crown Prince should be incorporated into a further UN Security Council resolution as the way forward politically. It is important that we all recognise that it will be only a political, negotiated solution that will win through; violence simply will not.


3.7 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, it has been agreed through the usual channels that in the exceptional circumstances of today, the House will adjourn during pleasure until 3.40 p.m. after the two Business Statements standing in the name of my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House. Then, my noble and learned friend Lord Williams of Mostyn will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement being made in another place on the Middle East. Once discussion on the Statement is complete, the debate on Iraq, standing in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, will commence.

I emphasise that this unusual departure from our normal practice is concerned only with the particular circumstances of today. It is not to be regarded as a precedent to be quoted in future concerning the organisation of our timetable.

Borough Freedom (Family Succession) Bill [HL]

Lord Mustill: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make new provision relating to admission to borough freedom. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Mustill.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Business of the House: National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Bill

3.8 p.m.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, before I move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper, perhaps your Lordships would allow me a moment. Noble Lords will want me to record our appreciation of and admiration for the work done these past days by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, Lieutenant General Sir Michael Willcocks. He has been characteristically modest, and I am sure will be extremely displeased with me, about

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his part in the operation. As we all know, his role was crucial. He had overall responsibility for all the parliamentary arrangements. He led his team with authority, precision, foresight and dependability. The operation was therefore carried out with dignity and a tactful appreciation of the mood and emotions of the public and the Royal Family. We are all extremely fortunate.

He was assisted by a high-calibre team of staff from all around the Parliamentary Estate. I am sure we would want to thank the security staff who made it possible for Westminster Hall to stay open all night; the staff of the Parliamentary Works Directorate, who put in place all the scaffolding, tents and other building works, including the building of the catafalque; and the Clerks and other staff of the House who ran the information room and provided us with the words of the humble Address last Wednesday. We thank also the Doorkeepers who guided us through the various ceremonies with their customary gentle authority; and the catering staff who planned and provided refreshment for us in very unpredictable circumstances. Perhaps I may thank most particularly the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod, Brigadier Hedley Duncan, who was a most able and reliable deputy to Black Rod. He co-ordinated many of the fine details of the operation and all the extensive contacts with the media. All worked extended hours under great pressure and delivered quite marvellous results.

I know that the House will join me in expressing our thanks for the way in which the job was done which allowed that sad occasion to be marked with such dignity and grace. I beg to move.

Moved, That leave be given to the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath to advance the Committee stage of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Bill from Thursday 18th April to tomorrow.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

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