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The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, during the course of my winding-up speech yesterday, I said that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, had voted in favour of a fully appointed House and an 80 per cent appointed House. He has written to me today to correct me in that respect; in fact, he voted for a fully elected House and an 80 per cent elected House. I unreservedly apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and I unreservedly apologise to the House for that error. Business

Lord Grocott: My Lords, before the debate begins, perhaps I may offer a suggestion about timing. Yesterday I said that if everyone kept to around eight minutes, we would finish by around 10 o'clock. To my amazement, everyone kept to about eight minutes and we finished by 10 o'clock. I suggest today that, if Back-Bench contributions—excluding those of the noble Lords, Lord Grenfell and Lord Norton, who have a special contribution to make—lasted on average seven minutes, we would finish by 10 o'clock. If, at the other extreme, contributions lasted 10 minutes, we would finish north of midnight. That gives noble Lords an idea of where we are. Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

3.20 p.m.

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by the Lord Ashley of Stoke, as amended yesterday—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows—

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament, but regret the decision of Your Majesty's Government to abandon the search for cross-party consensus on constitutional reform and to launch unilateral proposals for changes to this House that could gravely weaken the House; and call on Your Majesty's Government to respect the formal undertakings given to this House, to withdraw their current proposals and to undertake meaningful consultation with Parliament and the senior judiciary before proceeding with legislation."

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): My Lords, in opening this important debate, I would like to thank all the noble Lords who are to speak. It is a most distinguished if reasonably long cast list: it would be invidious and certainly stupid to pick out stars, but I am particularly looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, who retired as Chief of the Defence Staff earlier this year. I had the privilege of working with the noble and gallant Lord for some time, and was able to see at close hand his superb leadership of the Armed Forces during both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. He had an extremely busy time as Chief of the Defence Staff and he is a man of strong, well thought-out views, and I believe that the House is in for a treat—although whether the Government are in for a treat, we will soon see. I also look forward to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool.

I congratulate the European Union Committee and the Select Committee on the Constitution on their reports, which are to be debated alongside the Queen's Speech debate. We look forward to hearing from the chairmen of those two committees. My noble friend Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean will answer points arising from those reports at the end.

Since the last Queen's Speech it has been an extraordinary year, with the United Kingdom's foreign and defence policy in the spotlight at the top of the news in a way not seen in years. Strong passions have been stirred: public opinion has been expressed robustly, as it should be in a free and democratic country. I would argue that the British Government have stuck firmly to their policy in spite of siren voices tempting us not to see it through.

A starting point with which we can all agree is that we live in an increasingly dangerous world. The events of the past couple of years have demonstrated all too clearly the changing nature of the global security environment and the difficult choices that confront us. The constant threats to our peace and security today are more diverse than ever, and they are real and immediate. The scale of terrorist violence is unprecedented and, since 11th September 2001, there have been terrorist attacks on targets in places as disparate as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Morocco. The recent appalling attacks in Istanbul illustrate yet again the immoral and indiscriminate methods that terrorists are happy to use.

Alongside international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among states, and their means of delivery, is potentially the most catastrophic threat to our peace and stability. The risk of terrorists acquiring WMD is a daunting and frightening prospect. We must also address the causes and consequences of weak and failing states. All too often they contain areas of ungoverned territory, which can provide havens for terrorist groups and criminal networks involved in drugs production or the plundering of natural resources.

Cutting across those issues, and relevant to many of them, are some key strategic policy challenges: establishing peace and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan;

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making progress towards a settlement on Israel/Palestine; handling Iran, tackling the worst cases of poverty and regional tensions faced by much of sub-Saharan Africa, and addressing the conditions in which violence and extremism thrive. I will start with Iraq. Saddam Hussein's brutal regime has been removed and the threat from Iraq's illegal WMD programmes neutralised. That is clear at least. Even those who say that we were wrong to go to war have to admit that, without the war, Saddam Hussein would still be in power and his regime would still be oppressing the Iraqi people. Sometimes one feels that that point is overlooked by those who oppose what we did. Today, the international community is helping the Iraqi people to restore effective representative government for their people, to regain economic stability and to reintegrate into the international community. Real progress is being made in developing vital infrastructure and creating a sound base for a stable and prosperous Iraq.

As the second largest contributor of armed forces, the UK deployed around 46,000 service personnel to the Gulf. We should be proud of the part that our Armed Forces played in the operations and in their professionalism and bravery. However, the effort in Iraq is by no means confined to the military, and we should not forget the key role of British civil servants currently in that country. Many UK Government departments have deployed personnel to Iraq; primarily DfID, the MoD and the FCO, but also the Home Office, the DTI, Customs and Excise, the Cabinet Office, Defra, the Department of Health and DCMS. That has required a truly inter-departmental approach, which began in the months leading up to the campaign phase and has continued throughout all phases of the operation. The bravery and sense of service of all these people—and I include, of course, all those representing the UK abroad in the diplomatic and consular services, some of whom have paid with their lives—should be a matter of enormous pride to our country.

Amid all of the negative reporting of the situation, it is easy to lose sight of what is being achieved. In October, 72 countries and international organisations met in Madrid to help plan Iraq's reconstruction. They pledged around 33 billion dollars to help to get Iraq back on its feet. Iraq is not a naturally poor country, but the legacy of Saddam's corrupt misuse of the national wealth must be overcome.

Noble Lords will have seen the recent Governing Council announcement about the transfer of authority to Iraqis. That is a welcome sign of progress. Although there is a huge amount to be done, the Governing Council has set out the road map to a properly constituted and fully elected Iraqi Government as it was required to by the UN Security Council. I would not wish to underplay the security concerns that Iraq still faces. Tens of thousands of Iraqi police and other security forces are operating on the ground securing the future of their country. However, Iraqis have stressed that they want the multinational force to stay until Iraq has its own capacity to ensure stability and defend itself. By July next year, there will be a transitional government. We expect the multinational force to remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government. The United Kingdom remains

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committed to the future of Iraq and I am hopeful and confident—as I know the House is—that there will be progress.

On Iran, we welcome the Iranian support for the Iraqi Governing Council and hope that Iran will promote the nascent democracy in Iraq. The Government's overall approach to Iran is one of constructive—though critical and conditional—engagement. The UK and our EU partners have stated that our willingness to develop relations with Iran is dependent on Iranian action in addressing areas of political concern, including Iran's nuclear programme and the approach Iran takes to terrorism, human rights and the Middle East peace process. Recent commitments that Iran has made regarding co-operation with the IAEA, suspending enrichment and reprocessing activities and signing an additional protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement are welcome. Frankly, however, Iran will ultimately be judged on its actions.

On the Middle East peace process, President Bush outlined the US commitment to the road map during his recent visit to the UK. He also reaffirmed US commitment to a viable, independent state for Palestine alongside security and recognition for the state of Israel. The UK is also committed to this vision of peace and believes that the road map remains the way ahead. We will continue to support international efforts to secure a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement. My noble friend, who has government responsibility for the matter, will talk more about that during her winding-up speech.

Turning to Africa, the Government wholeheartedly support African attempts and efforts to increase good governance and reduce poverty. We support the G8 Africa action plan and are actively seeking reform on policy issues such as trade to assist in Africa's development. In addition, we are assisting developing countries to improve their capacity to participate more fully in WTO negotiations. The breakdown of the recent trade talks at Cancun was a disappointment to the UK and we will work with others to get back on track as soon as possible.

Without peace, the prospects for sustained development are remote. The UK and its EU partners are committed to addressing conflict in Africa as shown by the recent EU military operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sierra Leone demonstrates what can be achieved. To help to prevent and resolve violent conflicts, a plan for training and operational support has been agreed between G8 and African countries. DfID is providing resources to low-income countries that have poverty reduction strategies and the political will and capacity to deliver the millennium development goals. Importantly, the Ministry of Defence is supporting security sector reform in Africa.

Tackling today's problems requires a multilateral approach. We share common interests with other nations and the challenges that we face are too difficult and too broad to be tackled by one nation. We need to work closely with both the United States and our EU partners to develop effective responses. Our aim should be to develop a global agenda, led by the US and the EU

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working in partnership. NATO has been the most effective forum for transatlantic dialogue on security issues and the primary source of its members' defence. And it still is. It is also the most appropriate place for Europeans and the US to work together on the security issues of today. We need to develop the crisis management and expeditionary capability of NATO, while expanding its membership and building relationships with former adversaries.

Complementary to developing NATO is the development of a strong European defence and crisis management capability. The EU operation in Bunia, the ongoing police mission in Bosnia and the military operation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia—to finish on 15th December and to be followed by a second EU police mission—demonstrate real progress. We have shown that the Berlin Plus arrangements work and have demonstrated the EU-NATO strategic partnership in practice. But the EU, and individual member states, must take steps to ensure that key capability shortfalls are addressed, while not duplicating existing capability. To that end, we support the creation of the new European Defence Agency, which will begin its work during 2004.

At the most recent European Council, the Prime Minister emphasised that,

    "we need a strong European Defence, but nothing whatever must put at risk our essential defence guarantees within NATO".

The Government set out their policy for the inter-governmental conference in a White Paper in September. We made clear the principles that we would pursue in the negotiation, and the elements of the treaty text prepared by the convention that were unacceptable to us, covering structured co-operation and mutual defence. During recent weeks, the Government have been working with partners, notably the French and the Germans, on a way forward in those areas. I am pleased therefore to say that, in our view, the latest texts tabled by the presidency represent a significant and very welcome advance.

They would ensure, first, that it is clear that NATO remains the cornerstone of our security and that the NATO Article V guarantee remains the basis for the mutual defence of its members and the instrument for implementing that guarantee. Secondly, the ESDP would continue to develop in accordance with the open, flexible and militarily robust model that was agreed at St Malo and detailed at the Nice European Council. The new package will focus future development of the ESDP on qualitative and quantitative improvement of defence capabilities for crisis management operations outside the Union and will meet the defence objectives that we set out in the September White Paper.

The United Nations remains at the heart of UK foreign policy and plays a role in enhancing security in its broadest sense. We are a permanent member of the Security Council. Thus, we have a particular responsibility to "deliver the UN goods", and to support the UN's work on international peace and security. There are a number of areas for action on peacekeeping in which the MoD is engaged with other

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government departments. One such area is pushing further for the implementation of the United Nations' own review of peace support operations; that is, the Brahimi report.

As I have argued, working multilaterally also means close consultation and co-operation across government departments. Increasingly, we must use a combination of diplomatic, political, economic and military levers to achieve strategic effects. We are doing that already as part of the Global Conflict Prevention Pool and the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool. The FCO, DfID and MoD—working closer together now than ever before—are also exploring mechanisms through which we can develop better, more joined-up approaches to effects-based planning and conflict and crisis management. Iraq has proved a good illustration of how that works in practice.

Yesterday, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office published a strategy that considers the changes we expect during the next 10 years and what they mean for us. It sets out eight strategic international priorities for the Government and describes the FCO's role in working with others to achieve those priorities. It will be the framework for ensuring that the FCO and its network of diplomatic posts are focused on the Government's current and future international priorities.

The ability of the United Kingdom to project armed force is, and will remain, a key instrument of our foreign and security policy. On 11th December, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence will present the defence White Paper to Parliament. It will provide a comprehensive statement of defence policy and will outline the security and policy baseline against which future decisions will be made. The paper will set out the need for flexible and agile Armed Forces that are able to deploy rapidly at small and medium scale and can quickly interlink with our allies to meet a wide range of expeditionary tasks. At the same time, we will retain the capacity to undertake less frequent large-scale operations.

In particular, counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation operations will require rapidly deployable forces to respond swiftly to intelligence and to achieve precise effects across the world. Key to this process will be the ability to derive full benefit from advancing technology. Network enabled capability will enable us to deliver rapid military effect by linking intelligence, communications and strike assets. We will also need to focus investment in strategic enablers and force multipliers, while restructuring those force elements that contribute less well to future operations.

Ultimately, operational success will depend on our people. Delivering an effective expeditionary capability will require sufficient, trained and motivated service personnel. In terms of recruitment, the sustained effort during the past few years is starting to deliver results. Last year was the best recruiting year for a decade with some 26,220 people joining the Armed Forces.

We owe it to our servicemen and women to support their wider needs too. One vital component of the life-long support that we offer service personnel and their

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families is pension and compensation arrangements. To that end, new pensions and compensation packages and a modernised compensation appeals process were announced on 15th September and a Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech. The measures offer high level assurance for service personnel appropriate to the demands of military service.

As part of our overall defence policy we are committed to a strong, healthy and globally competitive defence industry.

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