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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I did not say that; the Belgian Prime Minister said it and I quoted him. I believe that only a minority is fighting for a superstate and it will probably be defeated. But the broader concern exists. It is not my view; my view is that the constitution will fragment Europe, as it is already doing, and will create divisions between the small and the large countries. That is quite a different proposition.
Lord Radice: My Lords, I am pleased that the noble Lord has said that because his quote from the Belgian Prime Minister was a major part of his speech. I am pleased he says that it is not all that significant and I accept that.
Finally, your Lordships will know that 2004 is the centenary of the entente cordiale between Britain and France. I believe that we should mark it by celebrating 100 years of shared history and values. I hope that my noble friend, in her skilful winding up, will tell us what the Government intend to do about it. It is a question not only of celebrating our values but of using the event to deepen the relationship between the two countries. That relationship is vital both for Britain and France and for the future of Europe.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, made clear, it is obvious from the debate that a wide range of questions on foreign affairs, European affairs, development and defence have been raised today and that they are most important to Members of your Lordships' House. However, the width of the debate is almost limitless. As I listened to it, I wondered whether the Minister has skills in three-dimensional chess. If so, she will reply well to the debate because its elements are rather disparate.
For me, the whole world is a bit too big for a short speech, so I intend to concentrate on European Union affairs. Even that limitation leaves a wide field because the three principal elements of the EU's current policynamely, the enlargement of the Union, the international trade negotiations which must follow on from Cancun and the draft constitutional treatyare large and important topics in themselves.
On enlargement, which is now close, I have great confidence that all will go well. However, it is our duty to encourage the favourable elements in that development. It is important that we should concentrate on the positive advantages for all member statesnew and oldand not to overplay some of the smaller problems or differences of view which will no doubt appear. Solidarity is the key element of the European Union, and eastern European countries know very well the importance of solidarity.
On trade negotiations, we have to move forward as the Union probably has the greatest interest of any state, or group of states, in the outcome. I was pleased to see in today's Financial Times the headline, "Ministers back Lamy", because that strategy paper is intended to push forward the negotiations. I do not know whether that will be achieved, but it is the intention and I am pleased that the member states are standing with the Commission on that line.
At the same time, our commitment in the Union to a liberal trade agenda should not make us hold back from vigorously defending the interests of our businesses and citizens when protectionist barriers are erected against us, as was recently the case in the steel sector and elsewhere. International trade is not an academic exercise and we must be careful that we do not arrive at a situation in which the future looks better but in the short-term we are dead.
I turn to the constitutional treaty and I do so for four reasons. First, the recent substantial report of the EU Select Committee on the draft treaty has been specifically put on today's Order Paper. Secondly, like everyone in the House, I want to make my contribution to the "big conversation". Thirdly, the intergovernmental conference is moving on and some believe that it will conclude this year. Therefore, we should not let time go by without probing the Government's latest position. Fourthly, the Select Committee's report, whether or not everyone agrees with its conclusions, puts its finger on the key points. The Government have replied rapidly and clearly to
I want to take up a number of specific points. On a draft treaty, which Parliament can accept or reject but cannot amend, we need to be specific now. We do not have the chance to be specific later. I therefore make no apology for putting a number of specific points on the table and asking the Minister to reply. In order to put the points in context, I want to repeat what I have often said in this House: that the new draft treaty has a simple and clear statement of the EU's values, objectives and competences; relations between the EU and the member states; and the rights and freedoms within the EU. In my view, the public can see what it is.
The definition of competences, referred to here quite a lot, is set out simply and clearly for the first time: namely, the exclusive competencies, the shared competencies and the areas for supporting, co-ordinating or complementary action which we, the member states, have conferred on the European Union. I am favourable to the much simpler presentation of European legislation; to European laws which are, in effect, primary legislation of direct application; to European framework laws which are primary legislation on which the member states are free to choose the form and means of achieving the results; and to European regulations which are, for the most part, subsidiary or delegated acts. That is a better system and I wish we had thought of it when I was working in Brussels. It would have cut down my work quite a lot!
I should be grateful if, in reply, the Minister, while basking in the glow of my positive remarks, would comment on the following points. It is difficult to fit them all into the pattern which will return to us in the form of a draft treaty for approval in this House. I know that there are many good documentsthere is the Government's White Paper and the recent replybut I want to pose the questions now, particularly because the press reported at the beginning of the week that further agreements had been reached on defence and on several other matters and that the end was nigh. I want to do something before the end is closer than nigh.
My first point relates to two provisions in the draft treaty that have been mentioned. One is the so-called passerelle or escalator clauseArticle 24(4)under which the European Council can, by unanimity, transfer an area from unanimity to qualified majority voting. That is an important point. With that goes the flexibility clause, which, I know, has already in the treaty, but I never liked it there. Under that clause, the Council, acting unanimously, can act in areas in which the constitution has not provided the necessary powers. That is another important article.
I do not like those articles. Our power to agree and argue with the public that they must have confidence in the stability provided by the new treaty is diminished by them. I hope that the Government can say what line they are taking. Will they rely on the fact that the articles can operate only by unanimity, or will they try to change them? That is my first point.
My second point relates to what is happening on voting weights. I like the new system in the draft treaty. It is a better system. Will it come about, or are we to have the old Nice arrangement back? I emphasise that, in reality, voting weights are often more important below the level of the CouncilI know that from bitter experiencethan they are in it. Someone lent me a book on comitology today. I did not bring it down; at over 460 pages, it was too heavy. In it, we can see that quite a lot needs to be done by qualified voting majority or by voting below the level of the Council.
My third point is on the Council's legislative role. The Government agreed with the Select Committee and stated that they were confident that the new system would be reflected in the final text. Is it so reflected?
My last point relates to criminal procedure. The Government stated that they were arguing for unanimity in certain key areas of criminal procedure in Articles III-171 and III-172. Have we got anywhere? I know that, in a negotiation, the Government cannot always tell us, but we might be a friendly and supportive body, if the Government told us that they had made some progress. I add those specific questions to the three-dimensional test that the noble Baroness faces.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I shall take up a theme launched by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester: how do we deal with the conflicts in Africa, before we get to the point of seizing the opportunities for development that peace can bring, as the gracious Speech urged us to do? In the past, we failed. We did not intervene in Rwanda, where the genocide claimed 800,000 lives. We acknowledged the failure of the United Nations then, as set out in a report by independent audit, but, since then, we have created no international mechanism to prevent the killing of even larger numbers.
The right reverend Prelate mentioned, in particular, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three million people have died since 1998, yet it was only in July this year that a UN force was authorised under Chapter VII of the charter. I apologise for adding to the many questions with which the noble Baroness will have to deal, but I must ask when that force will be up to the authorised strength of 10,800? Will the Security Council need to give it further powers to deal with local groupsas well as dealing with the international groups, for which it has a mandate from the Security Councilby demobilising them or integrating them into the state's armed forces, a process for which some militias have already volunteered? In particular, will local children's organisations be able to resettle any under-age combatants in their community, or should the UN consider separately enhancing the capacity of such local organisations to do the job?
I accept that, with our many commitments elsewhere, Britain will not be able to offer additional troops for MONUC, but there are other things that we can do, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of
The Liberal Democrats wrote to the Secretary of State, Patricia Hewitt, when the expert panel report was published, asking her what steps she would take to investigate the activities, mentioned by the right reverend Prelate, of British companies and individuals against whom allegations had been made. Some, such as Oryx Natural Resources and Mr John Bredenkamp, have been mentioned in previous debates on the DRC, but we have had no feedback from the Government. After reading the article in the Independent on Sunday, we are not sure whether they appreciate that they are obliged to do more than act as a messenger-boy between the accused and the United Nations, as Mr Stephen Timms seems to think.
The National Contact Point, the agency supposed to investigate breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, such as are alleged to have been committed in the DRC, has insufficient resources to carry out the work effectively. We would like a response to the request that we made to the Secretary of State for the unit's capacity to be increased. Our concerns are not limited to the DRC; the first complaint made to the NCP, which related to Zambia and was lodged in February 2002, has still not been resolved. We have also asked the Government to seek a binding agreement at the OECD that the guidelines will be strengthened to require compulsory disclosure by companies of their trading activities in designated areas of conflict.
The expert panel proposes that the World Bank and the IMF make implementation of the Publish What you Pay initiative a condition for the funding of projects in the DRC. Why not generalise the idea? If the people of resource-rich countries knew what amounts their governments received from oil and mining revenues and where the money went, there would be less likelihood of clandestine arms deals such as there have been in Angola.
Your Lordships will have seen that, in France, three senior executives of Elf have been convicted of skimming money from the company's slush funds. A much bigger scandal was the £350 million arms deal between Angola and Russia in 199394, which was paid for out of concealed oil revenues. Elf, since merged into Total, funded both sides in Angola's civil war and was an accomplice in the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million people. Angola has still not joined either the Publish What you Pay initiative or the Prime Minister's extractive industries transparency initiative. Will the Government propose that every state seeking assistance from the IFIs must have acceded to both initiatives?
As an aside, I think that we ought to set a good example in Iraq. President Bush has signed a Bill requiring the Coalition Provisional Authority to submit to Congress a monthly report detailing Iraqi oil
Another scene of conflict, among the many in Africa, is Somalia. Since 1991, a plethora of well armed clan factions have been in an almost constant state of low-level war. While the top warlords gather for the 15th roundI thinkof peace negotiations in Nairobi, the militias are deploying battle wagons on the streets of Mogadishu and driving many thousands from their homes in the central and southern regions. The UN has established that arms sold illegally to the Somali warlords have been passed on to international terrorists and were used on the attack on the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa last year in which 15 people as well as the three bombers were killed.
The Security Council has just sent a mission to the region to see how the flow of arms into the country can be stopped. Is it not about time that the UN established a permanent mechanism for stopping illicit arms deals and for closing down the supply networks, rather than treat every instance of arms smuggling as a temporary problem relating to one country? Could we not recommend that the UN establish in the Department of Political Affairs a unit to gather intelligence and report to the Secretary-General on all instances of illicit arms trafficking?
If we are to stand any chance whatever of reaching the millennium development goals in sub-Saharan Africa, the scourge of armed conflict must be dealt with more effectively. That must cover not only conventional UN peacekeeping and peacemaking, but also a comprehensive strategy to stop the illicit arms deals and the diversion of wealth into the pockets of kleptocrats and their foreign allies. We cannot do all this alone, but the UK can and should promote international action and set good examples whenever it has the power to do so.
Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: My Lords, I think that we should pay some attention in this debate to one of the main questions in international affairs, which is what attitude we should have in future towards the new United States. All of us here know of the decisive role played by the United States in securing victory for ourselves in 1918, 1945 and at the end of the Cold War. Many in your Lordships' House, like I myself, have spent long periods in the United States. I have been a visiting professor in the United States. I do not know what I would do without my American publisher. I do not really know what I would do without the line of publications of Henry James and Edith Wharton which are in my
But happy memories do not always constitute a policy. We ought, particularly if we are old friends of America, to take a cold look now at the present situation. Here now is a power that is in a unique position. It is a uniquely strong poweruniquely strong in relation to its neighbours, its old allies such as ourselves and other Europeans, and institutions such as the United Nations which it did so much to found, not to speak of its old enemies. The United States now has the capacity to intervene in force anywhere in the world which it chooses, in the strength which it judges appropriate and at the time which it thinks right. The present administration also seem to be consciously developing a policy that would establish that dominance as a permanent feature of world politics.
Americans recoil when they are accused of establishing a new empire, and I agree that that is an inappropriate word for their standing. None the less, the government of President Bush seem to be tempted by their great strength to make what used to be called "a grab for world power", or perhaps "a grab for world hegemony" would be better. All the older ideas of trying to solve world problems on a collective basis, to which America contributed so much, such as culminated in the United Nations, seem at present to be consigned to a rather remote shelf of Washington's history libraries. The question is whether we think that that is a good or a bad development. It is certainly extraordinary, but is it in our interests that that should go on, as well as in the interests of the European Union, the Commonwealth and the other international associations to which we belong and to which we have devoted such attention over such a long time?
Our present Government seem to be acting as if they judge that development as by and large good. Their attitude is very comparable to that of the late Harold Macmillan, the late Lord Stockton, when he argued that it was Britain's post-imperial role to act the Greek philosophers to the new Rome in Washington. I understand that attitude because I think I used to be a Macmillanist myself. I can also see that there is a case for thinking that a single world dominant power could be a benign force. I have quoted before in this House, I think, from the Chicago historian W H McNeil. Writing in the 1980s, he predicted that in the 21st century we would see developing some kind of imperial power able to do away with all sources of tension, reducing the risk of world war certainly to nil by insisting on the abolition of all nuclear stockpiles save its own.
Butthere is always a "but"the conduct of the United States in the year 2003 does not quite justify the hope that that government, in a position of unique power, will always be uniquely benign. For, this year, the American administration led this country and some of our European friends such as Spain to war on what to many of us seemed false pretences; very like the Suez operation in 1956 as a matter of fact. The
Then, the United States's treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo, the prisoners whom they made in Afghanistan, appears "a monstrous failure of justice", as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, put it in his F A Mann lecture, a document which makes very chilling reading for democrats. The United States also seems to suppose that it is above international law in the normal sense of the word, insisting that no American serviceman will ever be tried by any international court whatever they may have done.
Those developments together suggest that we should now do all that we can to make common cause in security and defence matters with our European partnersespecially France, as the noble Lord, Lord Radice, eloquently arguedso that we can hope in the long run for an alternative source of world authority. The European Defence Agency may seem modest now, and much to be laughed at, but it is a welcome step forward. There could be no better way of celebrating that moving alliance, the entente cordiale, than to emphasise European defenceBritish and French defence collaborationstrongly and make it a major plank of our policy. Would it not be better to have in the future a concert of powers in the world, as the Security Council was supposed to be initially, rather than having just one superpower, even if it is the United States, on which we can suppose we have some influence?
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was right to point out many of the practical difficulties with European defence, as were the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Guthrie and Lord Inge, the latter warning eloquently against wishy-washy practices. The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, had some harsh words on such matters, too. But I do not see why it should be interpreted as risking our security if, in the long run, we aspire as part of a revived European defence community to be a partner of the United States in an Atlantic alliance of equals. On that, I am with the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky.
These are momentous issues. Such a European defence policy, pressed by ourselves, as we pressed a similar development in the 1950s, when we were backed by the United States, would not only be in our own interests, it would be welcomed by the many Americans who have been critical of the present administration's policy of preventive war, even if recently they have not always found it easy to secure a good hearing of their own.
Lord Blackwell: My Lords, like several previous speakers, I wish to address that part of the gracious Speech dealing with the European constitution. Rather than comment at this stage on the details of that text, I wish to remark on the wider canvas and in the context of the effect of the proposed constitution on Britain's and Europe's place in the wider world.
We should be clear that there are two very different visions of the future of Europe on offer. Both are respectable views to hold, but they are not the same. One vision of Europe, represented in this constitution, holds that common action across Europe is a source of strength, whether in economics, foreign affairs, transport, energy or almost any other aspect of public policy that can be linked to the European Union's very wide declared objectives in draft three of the constitution.
This is not a constitution that entrenches power in the nation states in the way that the noble Lords, Lord Radice and Lord Hannay, have said. Its goal is to forge powerful European institutions capable of taking common action and to legitimise that centralised power by the development of the European Parliament to be the direct and primary expression of the democratic will of the people of Europe. That is not a new vision or a new goal; it has been the objective of most of our continental neighbours since the common market was first created. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that many of the building blocks are in existing treaties. What is new is the clarity with which the European constitution sets out that end point.
Before we sign up to that, we need to question whether the objective of common European institutions taking common action on behalf of the European people across a European bloc is likely to benefit Britain in the world of the 21st century. Common action across Europe strengthens Britain's hand only if it is common action with which we agree. If it is not, it dilutes our influence and limits our freedom of action. I do not believe that at this point, or for the foreseeable future, our interests will be always aligned with many of those on the Continent, and there is no reason why they should be. An EU model that would force us to give up our independence of action to join a stronger bloc because, as it is argued, we are too weak to stand on our own, is old thinking. It is a legacy of the last century's world of superpower conflicts and trade blocs no longer relevant to the more global and intertwined community of nations that we now have.
On economic development, for example, Europe is no longerif it ever wasthe most important trading market for driving UK economic growth. The strength of the EU may well have been useful in helping to lower world trade barriers over the past decade, but free trade throughout most of the world is now close to reality. In a free trade world, we have much more to gain from growing our share of the fast-growing Far Eastern markets, especially in China and India, which over the next century are likely to play the same role as the engine of world growth as the US played in the last century. That is where our economic focus should be, and although some on the Continent recognise those realities, the European Union is still dominated by a protectionist mentality and the belief that it can support an inflexible, high-cost social and market economy, as long as equal costs and equal misery are imposed on every business throughout Europe. As long as that mentality dominates, it cannot be in our
The same is true in foreign affairs and defence. The European Union is dominated by a desire to build a power bloc to rival that of the US. In many ways however, our perspective on the world and our interests are more closely aligned with the US than with our continental neighbours. Although I cannot claim expertise in defence matters compared with many noble Lords who have spoken, the alliances that we need to defeat terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are international alliances, not only European ones.
Forgoing any element of our freedom in order to strengthen a common European voice is unlikely to strengthen our voice in the world. It is more likely to dilute it, given our differences in interests and emphasis. However, the constitution seeks common action well beyond those areas. Whatever Ministers here may have represented, the additional powers ceded to the common European institutions are substantial, even excluding the areas bounded by the Government's red lines. For the first time, a whole catalogue of policy areas not directly to do with the functioning of the single market are moved into a class of shared competences, ranging from justice and home affairs to economic and social cohesion and even public health.
As I have argued before, shared competence is really a misnomer. In each of these areas, European institutions have the power to legislate directly whenever the Commission thinks that it should have a role, subject only to majority voting in the Council and a very weak yellow card offered as a gesture to national parliaments. As opposed to nation states controlling the agenda, they are left as the junior partners, allowed to legislate only in the limited areas left to them by the European Union institutions. I cannot interpret that as a shift in power towards the nation states.
What is more, it is clear that the constitution is not intended to bound the scope of powers transferred to the centre. Given the wide range of broadly worded objectives, together with the powers of co-ordination and common policy development set out in the constitution, there will be endless room for continuing the scope-creep facilitated by the role of the European Court, which on past history can be relied on to take every opportunity to extend the powers of European decision making. Again, that is not a new phenomenon, but this time it will be operating from a new and even more powerful starting position than that provided by previous treaties.
In many of the capitals of Europe, what I have just described as the set of European goals and objectives encapsulated in the constitution would not be contested. It would be acknowledged openly and welcomed. Indeed, there are many in this country who may also welcome it. Before we accept that as desirable for Britain, we should recognise that there is another vision for Europe, one that many of us find more comfortable and realistic. That alternative vision is of a European Union of free nations, trading together, co-operating together
Before we sign up to the proposed constitution and all that it entails, we need to hold a serious debate about both alternatives. Both are respectable views to hold, but my own judgment is that only the second offers a viable and stable structure in the near term. I do not believe that one can operate democratic government with popular consent unless it is a nation that accepts a single government operating under the principle of majority rule. I fear that the differences throughout Europe and between Britain and the Continent are still far too great to have that type of democratic acceptability. The danger is that a single remote government will be seen as operating on behalf of one nation or group at the expense of others and its actions will exacerbate national tensions rather than reduce them.
However, those are arguments to pick up another day. The important thing is that we do not shy away from the debate or dismiss the arguments as unimportant. It will not be enough for the Government to claim that they have defended some arbitrary red lines and that, in consequence, the rest of the constitution represents a British negotiating victory that we should pass without further ado.
That is why I repeat again today what I have said in previous debates. If the Government do not offer a referendum on the European constitution, I shall seek to join with others in this House to pass an amendment to any ratification Bill that requires it to be supported in a referendum before becoming law. I hope that many Peers, whatever vision of Europe that they support, will support that call for a national debate.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I shall confine my remarks to the narrow issue of internal security arrangements in Iraq. Perhaps I may remind the House that I supported military intervention in Iraq for reasons that I set out in my contribution on 18th March. My only reservation has been about the decision to justify war on weapons of mass destruction grounds, which is a view that I repeatedly expressed prior to the conflict and at a memorable Labour Peers' meeting earlier in the year. For me, the issue is simple; that is, human rights abuses in Iraq.
However, despite my support, I have some concerns at the strategy, primarily in the areas of internal security. The problem is that the delay by the United States administration in recognising the need to transfer internal security back to the Iraqis has been very costly in terms of coalition credibility, despite the IGC-CPA Washington-approved agreement, which is too slow.
As Gary Samore of the International Institute of Strategic Studies put it, it must be for the Americans to be replaced by the Iraqis, for the Americans to withdraw into fortified bases and for them to run specific targeted raids. His case was reinforced by Ahmad Chalabi who, at a dinner in the Lords Dining Room only a month ago, told us that responsibility for security should be transferred to the Iraqis and that the Americans should be withdrawn to garrisons to be used in targeted operations.
On Al Jazeera television on 21st October, there was an interesting report on the comments of Jalal Talabani, who is, in my view, Iraq's most impressive elder statesman. He called for the reinstatement of the former Iraqi army officers, arguing that the army included thousands of people who had been opposed to the rule of Saddam Hussein. In a recent speech, Sheikh Ali Mohammed al-Abbassy, who leads the Beni Hassan faction, was reported as saying that he and other leaders could improve order if given the authority:
My most serious concerns lie in the narrower area of the handling of intelligence. I have very little confidence in the mechanisms for using internally generated intelligence in Iraq. A huge number of intelligence opportunities have been lost. Why is that? It is because the Americans are simply unable to respond speedily to incoming intelligence leads. The only people who can deal effectively with matters of intelligence and internal security are the Iraqis themselves. They know who is who, where they live and who are their contacts. They know the streets, the networks, and they know the gangs. Mahmoud Othman, a prominent IGC member, put it this way:
What has been the response of the Americans? Yes, we have the CPA/IGC Washington-approved agreement, but as the Russians and the French have rightly twigged, the agreement is still loose on security matters. How will the Americans respond to the request of former party Staff Major-General Mahan Hafiz al-Faithd, number two in the civilians officers movement, who on 11th November told Al Hayad that his movement had submitted a plan to Bremer for the handing over to senior officers from the former armed forces responsibility for security in Baghdad?
There was a very interesting article in the Voice of the Mujahadin on 24th November which alleged that Bremer had suggested that a military leader should head up a transitional governmentI presume up until July of next yearuntil the new Iraqi arrangement is established. I wonder about that, although I have not been able to confirm the story. Anyhow, I think that it may now be too late for a military leadership. And what is going to be the response to the IGC's proposals for a new intelligence service?
I am afraid that, despite the CPA/IGC agreement, I foresee foot-dragging by the Americans. I suspect that it will all end in a set-to argument between the IGC, the CPA and the administration over the transfer of sovereignty, and in particular security. It is one thing to train up a new Iraqi army with sufficient security intelligence and equipment supportthat is going forwardbut it is another thing to hand over the responsibility for deciding what it does, and that is where I foresee problems. I hope that, if we are called
I have a number of other issues that I want to raise, but I have gone over my time. However, I should like to make one final comment. I would ask Ministers to thank the BBC Monitoring Service for the very excellent service it provides to Parliament, both the Commons and the Lords. The material that it provides is very useful for those of us who follow daily events in Iraq. I have spent many hours a week reading its reports on Iraq and other areas of the world. I hope that my noble friend will thank the service, on behalf of us all.
Viscount Craigavon: My Lords, I should like mainly to focus on the achieving of the millennium development goals, mentioned specifically in the gracious Speech. As noble Lords may know, it is intended that the eight internationally agreed development goals should be reached by 2015.
The three millennium development goalsMDGsthat have a particular component of reproductive health are: reducing infant mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS. We are fortunate that the Department for International Development appears to realise the importance of reproductive health. We should be grateful to the department for extending the remit and title of its MDG team to include reproductive health. We have also had welcome reassertions from the department of the firm commitment to the target, agreed at the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, of achieving access to reproductive health for all by 2015.
Most notably, that was positively restated by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, in answer to my Question at the time of World Population Day on 10th July this year. In that Answer, we were told that her department would write a statement on public policy on reproductive health before the end of the year. Is the Minister, in her reply, able to tell us when this policy document might now be published? As I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, is helping on the Front Bench, I might remind her that she said clearly that a policy statement was expected from the department. I hope that we get nothing less.
Next year, as we are coming up to the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Cairo Conference, it might be useful if Her Majesty's Government could institute a review of how far we have been able to meet our commitments given in 1994. Our record is probably better than most, but less than 50 per cent of the pledges by the developed world at that time have been honoured. In all the eight individual MDGs, there are already signs that there will be difficulty reaching the targets by 2015. The three most vulnerable targets are in those three fields that I mentioned as having particular relevance to reproductive health.
I hope that the department can continue to take a lead in trying to remind others, particularly internationally, of the targets, and the vital components of reproductive health in achieving themas my earlier quotation from Kofi Annan emphasises. That is in the context of what one can only call the negative attitude of the present American administration in these matters.
My last point concerns in particular one of the MDGsthat of combating HIV/AIDSespecially with the background of World Aids Day this week. I am mindful of what was said on that Monday, in the first oral Question in this House, when the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, announced further money and the publication that day of DfID's document, the UK's Call for Action on HIV/AIDS. It was my impression that in this document, the contribution that reproductive health services can play in assisting in that field is downplayed.
In relation to prevention, there seemed to be hardly any significant mention in that document of the importance of condoms generally. This week, Marie Stopes International has been campaigning and advocating that,
I shall give just one statistic from all the horrific information that we have had this week on this subject: it is estimated that the global figure of new infections, per day, is about 14,000. Condoms are low tech and should be affordable. This apparently simple provision should not be discounted because of its simplicity.
Part of the campaign this week of Marie Stopes International has been to draw this issue to the attention of Members of another place. This it tries to do by getting constituents to send a pre-printed card, with a single condom attached, to their MPs with a short text and a request. That single-sentence request to MPs is,
Lord Alexander of Weedon: My Lords, I take the debate back to Iraq. After 11th September 2001, the United States had the most widespread sympathy and support in the struggle against terrorism. However, what has now become pellucidly clear is that it instantly made up its mindI believe, unwiselyto pursue Iraq. Any doubts on that have recently been dissolved in a splendid book by General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 1997 to 2000, entitled, Winning Modern Wars. He shows how the neo-conservative hawks in the United States administration took the decision to "go after" Iraq, even though there was no suggestion of a link between Iraq and Al'Qaeda terrorism.
By pursuing that goal, the United States divided world opinion and squandered so much of the good will felt for it after 11th September. It failed to get the backing of the United Nations and ignored the clear statements from the weapons inspectors that their work was not yet completed and that they should be given more time. This country supported the United States at the cost of internal divisiveness as sharp as that which surrounded the Suez adventure.
I share the view that the invasion was misconceived. I shall give just one reason in the time available. Fundamentally it deflected us from devoting our full energies to the real conflict against terrorism. General Clark rightly says,
I am but one of the many lawyers who consider that the war was totally contrary to international law. International law is strikingly simple and clear. The invasion of another sovereign state is an immensely serious act specifically prohibited by Article 2(4) of the United Nations charter, unless the action is being taken either in self-defence or under the specific authority of the United Nations. That applies to humanitarian action,
What was the position in Iraq? We could not rely on a contemporary United Nations resolution authorising the use of force, and the Government abandoned the attempt to suggest that any potential attack was imminent. They formed the so-called coalition of the willing, the very phraseology of which is contrary to the principles of law, and went to war, all on the basis of the summary of advice from the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General published in a parliamentary Answer. That advised that an old resolution passed in 1990 to permit the expulsion of Iraq from KuwaitResolution 678had somehow magically revived and permitted an invasion in 2003.
The great majority of international lawyers, and indeed the legal community generally, was thoroughly unconvinced by that suggestion. Kofi Annan did not accept it. Indeed, the first President Bush and John Major had both publicly stated that Resolution 678 had not authorised them to go to Baghdad. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, has written that the reasons of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General were, "straining at a gnat". In spite of that unease, the noble and learned Lord has declined requests that he should publish his full advice.
The noble and learned Lord has said that the summary of his advice was made by way of an exception to the normal convention that the advice of the Attorney-General is not disclosed. But that is not an absolute convention, and there are clear precedents in the past for disclosure of the Attorney-General's advice. What seems untenable is that he can waive the privilege partially, but then invoke the convention to prevent his reasoning being known. No client would accept advice given on that curious and inconsistent basis. I know of nothing that supports that principle of cherry-picking.
Why should we see the advice? It is probably the most important advice given to the government for a generation, as without it our country would not have been able plausibly to go to war. The military would not have accepted to do so. Soldiers and civilians have been killed. We are simply entitled to know how the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General dealt with the reservations of so many international lawyers. Where did the curious doctrine of revival spring from in international law? What about the doctrine that force could be used only where necessary and proportionate, at a time when the inspectors were asking for more time to do their work? What was the factual basis on which he advised? How in common sense could he say that an old resolution entitled all the action, when in fact the United Nations denied a new resolution?
I believe it is time that we were told the full reasons that the Government felt they were justified in law in their invasion. We are a country that values the rule of law. Either the Government's reasons will survive scrutiny or they will confirm the view that the arguments are threadbare. But what is important in this area of uncertainty is that sunlight will be the best disinfectant. Personally, I doubt that any arguments can stand up. I share the view expressed extra-judicially by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, a Law Lord, that this deeply controversial war fractured the international legal order.
Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, Iraq has probably been the most divisive issue in the history of this and most other Parliaments. I spoke on several occasions in this House opposing the war. I believe, and still believe, it to have been illegal.
The case made by the Government was that Iraq represented an immediate threat: it had weapons of mass destruction and could deploy them within 45 minutes of the order being given. Few people now believe that to have been accurate. I doubted it at the very beginning. It seemed unlikely that a third-world countryfor that is what Iraq had become after being defeated in the first Gulf Warsuffering punitive sanctions for over a decade and being bombed intermittently by ourselves and the United States, could still be a threat to its immediate neighbours, let alone to ourselves and the United States. I said at the time that we were planning to attack Iraq not because it was strong but because it was weak; hence, there would be an easy military victory, as, indeed, there was.
As has been explained again this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, the United Nations charter provides for the use of force only when the Security Council, having ascertained the existence of a threat against peace or an act of aggression, deems it necessary to use force under its direction and control to re-establish international security. The only exception to that general rule is the right of self-defence of a state which is attacked. Of course, that did not apply in the case of Iraq.
We are now left with the consequences of our support for this illegal action. No weapons of mass destruction have been discovered, and it now seems unlikely that they will be. Those who supported the war now claim that that does not matterthe important issue is that Saddam Hussein has been overthrown and the world is better off without him. However, there is no authority in the United Nations charter for a war to produce regime change or for individual states, however powerful, to decide that certain regimes are unacceptable and must be replaced by external force of arms.
It is argued that the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Husseinthat is, better off than before the war. But is that really so? What of the thousands killed and injured as a result of the tonnes of high explosive dropped on Iraq? What of the children injured by
We hear much about the members of the coalition forces who have been killed or injured in the militancy which has arisen among some Iraqis since the end of the war. That is awfulno one can possibly be other than concerned about casualties among our forces. But we hear very little about Iraqi casualties during and since the war. There was some publicity about little Ali Abbas. Because of press interest, he has received good medical treatment and will be provided with artificial arms to replace those he lost in a coalition missile attack. But his parents, who lost their lives in that attack, cannot be replaced. He is one of many children orphaned or seriously injured as a result of the war.
Those who opposed the war did so not because we supported Saddam Hussein; nor were we appeasers, and we certainly did not support terrorism in any form. We regard modern war as such a catastrophe for the unfortunate people involvedthose caught up in it on the groundthat it must be absolutely the very last option, rather than what sometimes seems to be the first.
I do not support the doctrine of so-called humanitarian intervention either. There are many regimes in the world whose internal arrangements and treatment of minorities are questionable to say the least, but that does not give other individual states, however powerful, the right to send in the B52s. Sometimes it is argued that we did that in Kosovo, but there was not the same level of objection then as there was in relation to Iraq. That is true, but many of usI was one of themobjected to the 78-day aerial bombardment of a largely civilian population. Again there was no UN mandate and moreover Kosovo is still unstable.
To those who claim that humanitarian intervention is different because the intentions are benign I say that that does not have much effect on the kind of injuries and deaths sustained by the unfortunate civilian and often conscript military personnel. Surely there is no greater human right than the right to life. Modern warfare is a direct threat to the lives of many people who can have absolutely no influence at all on their governments or their misdeeds. Armed intervention seldom has the results that its proponents predict.
Those who opposed the war did so because they felt that it had been possible to deal with the problems by other means. France, Germany and Russia proposed that the inspectors be given time to complete their task. It now transpires that the Iraqi Government were so anxious to avoid a war that they sought to make an
So what is to be done now? Most people want to hand over to an Iraqi administration and get our troops home as soon as possible. That appears to be the view of the Security Council at the moment. There appears to be some kind of regional or local administration in existence in Iraq that may provide the basis for an interim representative government. The present council does not seem to have popular legitimacy. Clearly, elections should be held as soon as possible, but the results may not be very welcome to Western governments. An Islamic state seeking to apply Sharia law might be a backward step for many women who, under the previous regime, bad as it was, at least had access to education, healthcare and jobs. If the country is to be stabilised there must be a regime in place that has a degree of democratic accountability. Everyone appears to be agreed on that.
I also believe that we should compensate the Iraqi people for what our war has done to them. Apparently very minor moves have been made in that direction by the United States, but only for Iraqi civilians injured or killed in confrontation with United States forces since the official ending of the war, and even then only in some cases. I believe that people should be compensated for the loss of their homes and for death and injury during and since the war.
The commitment of our Prime Minister that the Iraqi oil reserves and wealth should be held in trust for the Iraqi people should be honoured. The oil industry should not be privatised and sold off to foreign corporations at bargain basement prices; otherwise, why should the Arab world believe the West when we say that the war was not about oil? Finally, we must reassert our commitment to the United Nations and to the United Nations Charter. We must seek to involve the UN much more fully in the present and future of the Iraqi people.
Lord Harris of High Cross: My Lords, I am delighted for the first time to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. Although we have strong disagreements on most subjects she knows that I have reason to hold her in the highest esteem.
I have often paid elaborate tribute to Her Majesty's Government for doing better than their predecessors in checking inflation. Significantly, they did so by abdicating control over money to the Monetary Policy Committee. But in most other directions new Labour has massively inflated central government. It is more than personal lapses; it is over-government that explains the systemic failure of Ministers and the appearance that things are running out of control.
Politicians, especially new Labour politicians, seem to think that government is such a good thing that we cannot have too much of it. Economists know better. Being brought up on the law of diminishing returns we understand that increased spendingfor example, on health and educationis not likely to yield proportionately increased output of satisfactory services.
The efficiency of the economy and the polity depends ultimately on making the best use of scarce human skills, time and attention, especially the time and attention of top entrepreneurs, top managers, teachers, doctors, administrators, even politicians. Yet, instead of top talents being concentrated on tackling top priorities, they are increasingly distracted and dissipated by multiplying initiatives, ceaseless reforms and a tidal wave of regulation.
If top talent is scarce, there is no shortage of jolly wheezes to win popularity, at least in the short term. That alone would explain why almost everything is now carried to excess. Thus legislation is inordinate; regulation is inordinate; government spending is inordinate; and the visible outcome is that Government failure is also inordinate.
Turning abroad, we find a similar excess afflicting the European Union. From the early bright promise of the Common Market, ceaseless extensions have over-stretched the attention and talents of the Commission. Every expansion of its powers since Maastricht has strained its limited capability. Today, the increase in membership from 15 to 25 members should be matched by pruning functions, not least to respect subsidiarity and national diversity. Instead, the insatiable appetite for the Euro-elite is now to be fed by increasing the so-called competenciesalthough "incompetencies" might be a better description.
We should be concentrating top time, talent and attention on high priorities such as eliminating the appalling fraud, slimming down the monstrous acquis communautaire and phasing out the scandalous CAP. Instead, our Euro-masters amuse themselves devising still more powers to mishandle.
All of them, from the rather bumbling Signor Prodi to his pampered apparatchiks, have of course the strongest possible self-interest in constantly enlarging their empire, and the Emperor-in-waiting, Monsieur Giscard d'Estaing, has been only too ready to oblige. As many have predicted, this cumulative extension of control and regulation will not stop short of the dreams of the French and German elitethough not of their unhappy subjectsfor a "United States of Europe". All this is yet another manifestation of inordinacy, of pushing a good, even a noble, concept too far.
I must reserve my final minute to put on record my concern that some senior men among us with the most direct experience of the inner workings of the EU may be especially reluctant to criticise the acknowledged excesses and corruption at Brussels. My courageous friend the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, was barracked and mocked in this House on 6th SeptemberHansard at cols. 1 to 4for daring to draw attention to the possible hold the Commission and the European Court of Justice have over former employees of the European Union. Thus, when a British commissioner is sworn into his job, he makes a solemn declaration of loyalty to the Union that appears possibly to be in conflict with his primary oath as a Privy Counsellor. Likewise, any official of the Commission who criticises the European Union, even after retirement, can be disciplined by losing his pension rights.
Might this be another rather heavy-handed example of political or administrative inordinacy? My personal conclusion is that, instead of discussing trifling amendments to this inordinately inflated draft constitution, we should urgently be contemplating terms on which to withdraw from a grievously costly and distracting entanglement.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I would like to speak about some of the justice and home affairs aspects of the draft constitutional treaty. These have not attracted as much attention as other elements of the treaty, but, as the Select Committee's report on the treaty points out, some of its most significant changes relate to the development of the European Union as an area of freedom, security and justice. For the past three years I have chaired Sub-Committee F of the EU Select Committee, whose work has given it a close insight into these issues. I speak primarily in that capacity.
I want to concentrate on three of the most important JHA issues. First, the abolition of the so-called third pillar and the integration of police and judicial co-operation into the community structure; secondly, the application of qualified majority voting (QMV) to immigration and asylum matters; and, thirdly, the implications of the proposed changes for the United Kingdom's "opt-outs" on frontier controls and immigration policy.
The collapse of the third pillar should, I believe, be welcomed unreservedly. Ever since the Maastricht Treaty the pillared structure has been a source of bewilderment to all but the most assiduous students of EU procedures. That treaty erected the third pillar for most justice and home affairs matters, which were thereby made subject to a totally different set of procedures from the traditional Community method, with different legal instruments, a different voting regime, a different level of involvement of the European Parliament and limited jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice.
Although the Treaty of Amsterdam chipped away at the third pillar by transferring immigration and asylum matters to the first, or community, pillar, this created further anomalies. The whole Schengen acquis had to be divided up between the two pillars; and even then, the procedures governing immigration and asylum were not fully aligned with the Community method.
The division of responsibility between the pillars means that often there have to be separate instruments for what is essentially a single area of policy. My sub-committee has seen many instances of that. I give one example: action to combat illegal immigration requires both immigration and policing measures. The former have to be taken under Title IV in the Community pillar and the latter under Title VI in the third pillar. Now, with only a few exceptions, the same procedure will apply to justice and home affairs matters as to other business, which will have benefits in terms of transparency, accountability, judicial oversight, simplicity and the effective despatch of business.
The use of qualified majority voting for immigration and asylum matters is a significant departure from current practice. Although the Government are not totally converted to QMV, they support it for immigration and asylum matters. I welcome that. But that support is somewhat disingenuous when considered alongside the Government's stated intention of retaining their ability to decide whether or not to participate in any particular immigration and asylum measure.
That brings me to my next point. As the House will recall, the Government secured two protocols to the Amsterdam Treaty: one enabling it to retain its frontier controls with other member states; and the other enabling it to choose, on a case-by-case basis, whether to participate in each immigration and asylum measure that is proposed. The Government have said several times that they intend to retain both those protocols unchanged in the new treaty. I hope that when the noble Baroness replies, she will be able to explain the rationale for seeking to retain the immigration and asylum opt-out; and tell us what form it is likely to take, given that with the abolition of Title IV in its present form, it will be impossible simply to transpose the protocol without amendment.
The Government profess to be strongly committed to a common European immigration and asylum policy. They accept that QMV is necessary to achieve that policy, yet they draw back from participating fully
My final point is a related one, illustrating in a different way the complications resulting from the UK opt-out. The draft treaty establishes a specific legal base for the gradual introduction of an integrated management system for external borders. Last July, my sub-committee published a report on proposals for a European border guard. I do not want to go into the detail now, because I hope that there will be a chance to debate it before too long.
As noble Lords may recall, the Prime Minister has taken a leadnotably at the Seville European Council last yearin arguing for the need for the EU to take stronger and more urgent action to strengthen its external frontiers. In our report, we welcomed the Government's commitment to co-operate with other member states in that area. Indeed, we were impressed by the amount of operational co-operation already in place. A few weeks ago, the Commission unveiled proposals to fulfil conclusions reached by the European Council for a European agency for the management of operational co-operation at the external bordersan initiative, as I said, dear to the Prime Minister's heart.
Yet what do we find when we read the draft regulation? Because of the United Kingdom's non-participation in the relevant aspects of Schengen, the draft expressly excludes the UK from participation in the agency. That seems a most unfortunateif not unexpectedconsequence of the Government's policy of trying to have it both ways. I hope that the noble Baroness can provide some reassurance that the Government will examine how they can ensure that they are not excluded from such important developments.
Baroness Flather: My Lords, I draw your attention to a country that has been all but forgotten by us. I recently spent two weeks in Burma and came away with an overwhelming feeling of sadness. It is a beautiful country with warm and friendly people; it is safe and welcoming. But Burma is portrayed in a very negative light in our press and is seen in a very negative light by the FCO.
Since the election of 1990, the West's focus has been entirely on the Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. The UK, EU and USA have chosen to isolate Burma. We even refuse to use the name by which it calls itself, which is Myanmar. It smacks of a colonial hang-up to refuse to use the name that a country has chosen for itself after independence. By the same token, should we not be calling Zimbabwe "Rhodesia" and Harare "Salisbury"?
She was described to me as someone who is pure of heart. She is the daughter of General Bhojo Aung San, who is the national hero of Burma. In 1940, he went to Japan and fought with the Japanese against the British. Then he changed sides and joined the British in 1944. In 1947, he was assassinated in the secretariat building in his council with eight other members of the council. It has never been clear how that came about, but he had tried to bring all the differing ethnic groups in Burma together in his council.
One can never be too sure how a military council would have developed. There is a tendency towards military rule in Burma. The first Prime Minister of the country was U Nu and in 1962, when there were ethnic uprisings in the country, he invited General Ne Win to form a military government. That was the slippery slope which continues to this day. General Ne Win was, by all accounts, a rather unpleasant person. He closed the whole country to foreigners for several years.
Suu Kyi rightly wants to see an end to the military dictatorship. Who would not? Her personal sacrifice is exemplary. Thirteen years have passed since the election which her pro-democracy organisation won, but nothing much has changed in Burma in those 13 years. If anything, the position has become yet more entrenched. Suu Kyi has consistently refused any compromise. She refused to join the constitutional commission in the mid 1990s and she refused the position of Prime Minister, which was offered to her by the military junta.
It is quite likely that that was window-dressing and that those positions were offered to her to impress people like us. However, in politics, one must try to reach a compromise in order to see whether anything can be achieved. She has never engaged with the military rulers, as we should be engaging. I hold no brief for them and I want no one in the Chamber to believe that I think they are in any way good for the country, but it is important to avoid the bunker mentality that has been achieved.
I read the advice to visitors issued by the Foreign Office dated 17th September. When I did so, I could not believe that it related to the country I had visited. If I were writing in the same vein advice for visitors to Britain, it would be far worse than the advice written for visitors to Burma. I believe that we have a greater fear of crime and terrorism and that we are not as safe on the roads as people are in Burma. The incidence of violence and terrorism is greater here than it is there.
Recent American sanctions have so far made up to 100,000 government workers destitute. They have not affected the regime. Burma is not South Africa. South Africa was a wealthy trading nation and sanctions hurt it. There is nothing left in Burma to hurt. When the West puts sanctions in place, only the ordinary people suffer because they have very little. They subsist on about 10 dollars a month and now many government workers have no jobs.
We should help the other south Asian nations that are engaging with Burma to help that country move towards a more democratic form of government. They need our support; they need us there working with them, not sitting on the sidelines, doing what Suu Kyi says. Suu Kyi has been incarcerated for a long time, and she is not a politician. We must act like politicians and work with the government. Isolation has been tried and has failed.
One country in south-east Asia that I must mention is China. China's attitude to Burma is ambivalent, perhaps because it is responsible for the gambling, the sex tourism and the drugs trade in Burma. We must not forget that China does not have democracy and that its record on human rights is not great, but still it enjoys favoured nation status. It seems that self-interest drives policy towards China. We have nothing to gain from Burma, so we overlook it and boycott all contact. The British Government should reconsider their policy towards Burma and actively help that country to move to a better situation.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. However, I rise to examine what the gracious Speech calls the "new strategic environment". I hope to show that the new environment challenges Her Majesty's Government, the international institutions and this nation.
We fondly imagine that we live in a peaceful, globalising world, from which poverty will soon be eliminated. However, the reality is that several states have failed in their main purpose of upholding the common good of their inhabitants. One thinks immediately of Somalia, Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Liberia. Next, we see post-conflict countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. There, everything requires reconstruction, which is made more complex by huge numbers of refugees. Separatism has provoked all too many internal conflicts, from Northern Ireland to the Basque region and on through Kosovo, Chechnya, Georgia, the Sudan and Sri Lanka. Issues of self-determination and separation are at the heart of some inter-state conflicts, notably that between India and Pakistan over Kashmir or between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.
India and Pakistan, with their huge armies and nuclear potential, on the one hand, and Israel, Palestine and the Arab neighbours, on the other, are the two greatest threats to world peace. Their wars, which have caused immense human suffering, cannot be allowed to go on unresolved from generation to generation. Huge responsibilities lie on the United Nations, on the Commonwealthin respect of the Indian subcontinentand on the United States, in respect of Israel.
There are other post-imperial situations. They can be found, for example, in Indonesia, central Asia or the Philippines, in the wake of Dutch, Soviet or Spanish and US dominance. The question we face is whether these large multiethnic states can succeed in holding together while progressing towards democracy.
I hope that this quick sketch is sufficient to show that peace is very fragile in nearly every continent. Frozen wars abound which could re-ignite all too easily. There are conclusions to be drawn for our defence and foreign policy. We should seek allies for the task of reforming the United Nations and its agencies. In particular, the United Nations needs a way of providing trustee services for the failed states, some of which I have mentioned. We should complete the enlargement of the European Union, expanding the area of prosperity and security, under a constitution which minimises the risks of over-centralisation, bureaucracy and corruption. We should press on with debt relief and fairer trade for poorer countries suffering the double scourge of war and disease.
In particular, export subsidies for the goods of rich, developed countries should be rapidly ended. I welcome the mention in the gracious Speech of debt relief and fairer trade. It also spoke of the underlying causes of conflict and extremism. Those include loss of personal and group identity, leading to despair and violence. It needs to be clearly shown as widely as possible that self-determination can be gained and can provide real benefits at levels less than complete independence. This country should give a lead to the world by stricter control of its arms exports and of the activities of British arms brokers. Our example could be effective over small arms and light weapons, which cause most of the deaths in the current fighting.
I should like to see annual increases in the funds of our Conflict Prevention Pool. That reflects essential co-operation between the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development. I urge our allies to adopt this model of working.
I come now to terrorism and the strategic environment. We should never underestimate the cleverness of terrorists or their ability to find soft or unsuspecting targets. They will, however, be worn down and overcome by long-term, co-operative and multinational intelligence work leading to arrests and convictions. That is the lesson to be learned from Northern Ireland, as previous speakers have mentioned.
The rhetoric of "war against terrorism" has been too prevalent and is, I believe, unwise. Military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the fact that most recent terrorists have been Muslims, give the false impression that the West is opposed to Islam and to Muslims as such. Everything should be done to correct that misapprehension. Visits to and from Muslim heads of state could help; so could visits by our Ministers and others to Muslim institutions in Britain. We should be using all the media to present co-existence and co-operation as the right relationship between Europe,
Dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims is essential. The Three Faiths Forum, St Ethelburga's, in the City of London, and the Ammerdown Centre in Somerset are leading the way. Religious convergence for peace, as shown in the Alexandria Declaration, is the key to Middle Eastern solutions. The United States and the European Union will be judged by their handling of the search for agreement between Israel and it neighbours. The more success there, the worse will be the prospects for Al'Qaeda.
Anti-Semitism does not just mean persecuting Jews; it includes despising Muslims and not responding when faced with the just needs and demands of Palestinians and Arabs. Unless the conflicts of the Middle East are resolved, hatred and violence are likely to be exported to the city centres of Europe. Policies must uphold justice, human rights and democracy as the best alternatives that we know to tyranny and war. To do otherwise would be untrue to ourselves.
This country welcomes a challenge, so I urge the Government to provide one by pointing out how homelessness, war, injustice and poverty affect so much of today's world, and by showing how those evils can be reduced. Our country has such a wealth of overseas experience among diplomats, missionaries, businessmen, academics, volunteers and development workers. Will the Government challenge and focus their skills and goodwill in the cause of peace and justice?
Lord Gilbert: My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and it was an even greater pleasure to be in the House on the occasion of the maiden speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, from whose sage advice I benefited for a couple of years when I was at the Ministry of Defence. Having spent two and a half extremely undistinguished years in the Andrew some 60 years ago, it is wonderful to have a sailor back on these Benches again. We look forward to many contributions from the noble and gallant Lord.
I was extremely impressed by the speech of my noble friend Lord Grenfell. It was an extraordinarily lucid exposition of extremely technical subjects that enlightened us all. Although I disagree profoundly with my noble friend on many matters, I only wish that a voice as sane, lucid and intelligent as his were heard around the Cabinet table. I know that that will not do him much good, but still.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, referred to rumours about the future of defence expenditure. We are hearing only rumours at present, so I shall not say much on the matter. I hope that those rumours are not realised. For many years, I have held the view that defence expenditure in this country should be about 25 per cent higher than it is. I realise that it will take us some time to get there, but I only wish that there were a general will in that direction.
I am quite relaxed about one or two items in the defence equipment programme of my noble friend Lord Bach. I assure him that he will receive no criticism from me if he sees fit to diminish the Eurofighter programmea subject on which I have yet to speak utterly candidly in this Houseand he will get nothing but fulsome congratulations from me if he gets rid of that abortion of a programme the A400M. The Minister knows my views on that subject.
Apparently, the new European initiative will have 30 or 40 people to begin with. Of course, it is not serious at that level: it has no assets with which to fight; it can only talk. The most assets that it will ever have will be for peacekeeping. However, it is possibly an extremely sinister development. I recommend that noble Lords read the article in The Times today by Irwin Stelzer, who says that this development could very well give those in Washington who wish NATO no goodwill an excuse to bring about a very serious diminution in United States adherence to NATO.
I have very strong views on thatcontrary to some of those held in this House. One must choose between the United States and Europe. One must choose between the United States and Europe almost every day of the week if one thinks seriously about those matters.
Not so long ago, I heard one noble Lord on these Benches say that he did not think that we would ever have to choose, but that if we did, he would choose Europe. Just to show that there is balance in this House, I would not. I would choose the United States and I am not ashamed to say so, not because I share all American values or that I find everything done by this or the previous Administration congenial or palatable, but because the exchange of highly classified intelligence and access to cutting-edge technology that we get nowhere else is fundamental for the security of this country. Why do we get this with the Americans? It is a matter of trust. They trust us and we trust them and noble Lords can draw their own conclusions about why that is the main international channel for the exchange of highly classified information.
In the years that I was at the Ministry of DefenceI was there a couple of timesI saw huge amounts of paper labelled "Top secret: UK Eyes Only". I saw quite a lot of paper labelled "UK/US Eyes Only" and occasionally some labelled "CANAUKUS Eyes Only"Canadian, Australian, UK/US eyes onlybut I cannot remember seeing a single piece of paper that said "UK/French Eyes Only" or "UK/German Eyes Only". I was told that, once upon a time, there were some items labelled "UK/German Eyes Only", but they would have been a great exception. They were there before I was, and I was first there 25 years ago.
Having got that off my chest, I want to say something about Iraq. I entirely share the views of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours about why we went into Iraq. I am told that regime change is not a respectable reason. In fact, it is against international law. As a layman, I have a view of law. Law is what the lawyers tell you it is. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander, told us that international law said one thing and the noble and learned Lord the
I happen to think that the world is much better off without the vileness of Saddam Hussein and now that Mr Milosevic is on trial. The only people who do not think that the world is better off are those who had a vested interest in those two regimes. The noble Lord, Lord King, said that security would be the critical element in Iraq in the future. I have had the benefit in the past few days of listening to some senior Americans who tell me that, for the Iraqis, security is a matter of peace on the streets, the absence of looting and being able to go about their business without fear of being mugged. One of the mistakes that we made was not only unnecessarily winding up the Iraqi army, which did not fight us, but putting their police back in the wrong colour uniforms. That is not an insignificant matter and I hope that it is redressed. I hope that my noble friend will take a look at that in the future.
I am worried about Iraq because the Americans are saying that they want to get out by next summer and leave their troops there by invitation. They are inviting a serious humiliation if that becomes their policy because I do not think that, in that time span, the Iraqis will manage to reconstruct the forces of law and order on a scale necessary to look after their own security .
However, I am a great optimist about the future of Iraq, even though, as one noble Lord saidI apologise, but I forget who it wasit is possible that Iraq will break up into three sections. That is quite a possibility. If it happens, there is absolutely nothing that we can or should try to do about it.
I have great faith in the people of Iraq, who have not been mentioned in my hearing during today's debate. It takes courage to co-operate with a coalition knowing that assassination at home, in a restaurant or in a shop is possible. Your Lordships must admit that the people of Iraq run a far greater risk than do our troops. They are not going out in trained patrols; they are people going about their business. They are being threatened and blackmailed, as are their families. There are very brave men and women in Iraq who are standing up to these threats. That is why I have great confidence in their future.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I wish to focus on the mention in the gracious Speech of underlying causes of conflict, referring to areas that I have recently visited; namely, North Korea and Nigeria. There is a possible ray of light in a very dark part of the worldthat is, North Korea. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I,
Brutal persecution of religious believers had been widely reported. So we were encouraged to meet 19 Christian pastors from South Korea who were worshipping at the Protestant Church at Bongsu. They had come to celebrate the opening of a new Protestant seminary and to learn of some positive developments concerning the Russian Orthodox Church.
Of course we found predictable causes for continuing concern, but we left with unexpected grounds for cautious optimism. The overarching issue is the threat posed by North Korea's escalation of its nuclear programme. However, all the government representatives that we met, including the President of the Praesidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, emphasised willingness to begin a process of denuclearisation if they could receive two assurances. One assurance they wanted was the promise of no pre-emptive first strike by the United States and the other was respect for the peaceful co-existence of two systems within one country. Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether Her Majesty's Government are able to provide some reassurances on those issues, as appropriate?
One of the most encouraging findings was the positive assessment by independent international aid organisations working in North Korea, such as the World Food Programme, World Vision and Concern. All were upbeat about the improving conditions with regard to access, independent monitoring and cessation of policies by the regime of the manipulation of aid as a tool against political and religious dissidents.
I do not think that either the noble Lord, Lord Alton, or I have a reputation for being "soft" on human rights issues. But we returned feeling sufficiently encouraged to believe that the time may have come to offer a helping hand to North Korea if it is beginning to embark on a process of glasnost. We therefore established the UK/North Korea parliamentary group as an arena for continuing dialogue, as well as for raising continuing concerns. Perhaps I may say that we would be happy to make available to noble Lords a copy of our report that would give full information on our findings.
I briefly turn to Nigeria, having returned yesterday from a visit which was related to several serious issues that threaten Nigeria's development of civil society and a stable democracy. I refer to the conflicts that are occurring with disturbing frequency in the northern states associated with the imposition of Sharia law, which is now in force in 12 states. In January, I visited Jos, Kaduna, Kano and Bauchi states, which have all been subjected to violence in which hundreds of people have been killed and numerous villages burnt. I visited some of those villages and saw the destruction of homes and places of worship. Violence has continued, and as recently as 18th November, riots erupted in Kazaure in Jigawa State. Out of 11 churches, nine have been razed to the ground and the other two completely vandalised. Two people were killed and 5,000 displaced, some of them taking refuge in Kano.
The implications of these conflicts, which are associated with the imposition of Sharia law, spread far beyond Nigeria. It is often argued by those who promote Sharia law that it will not affect non-Muslims. But that claim is disproved by, for example, a current case in Bauchi State, where 11 Christian nurses have been dismissed from their posts in a federal hospital for refusing to accept the Islamic dress code as it violates their professional and human rights. Their case has been upheld in the secular court, but the local administration has refused to re-employ them. I met these nurses on Monday and heard how they are suffering as a result of their unemployment. Many can no longer afford to send their children to school, while some do not have enough money to feed their families.
That is just one example of the fundamental problems associated with the incompatibility of some aspects of Sharia law with the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as equality before the law and the freedom to choose and change religion. For example, under Sharia law, there is no equality before the law between men and women or between Muslims and non-Muslims, and there is no freedom for Muslims to change religion without incurring the risk of the death penalty for apostasy.
It is issues such as these which underpin the resistance to Sharia law in many parts of Nigeria, resulting in the conflicts which over the years have been responsible for the deaths of thousands and massive destruction of property. The stability of Nigeria, and President Obasanjo's commitment to democracy and a secular constitution, is vital to the stability of West Africa and beyond. Can the Minister indicate ways in which Her Majesty's Government are assisting or may assist further President Obasanjo to fulfil these very important commitments? They are important for Nigeria and important for Africa.
Problems concerning the imposition of Sharia law are also fundamental in other conflicts such as that in Sudan where this is still an unresolved issue and one which has been a major obstacle to the very important peace process being undertaken.
The issue of Sharia law may be sensitive, but it is serious and needs urgent consideration. Will Her Majesty's Government consider whether one possible way forward in such situations might be the inclusion in any negotiations or settlements of the requirement to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by analogy, with the "Basket 3" portion of the 1975 Helsinki Agreement?
To conclude, it is encouraging to observe some rays of hope in one of the darkest parts of the world, North Korea. But dark clouds still brood over others, including Nigeria. It is vital to consider appropriate measures to resolve the problems there if those storm clouds are not to become even more violent storms of conflict in the months and years ahead, causing even greater suffering for the people of Nigeria and dangerous ripple effects throughout Africa.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, as always, this Queen's Speech debate has been wide-ranging. When I rise to speak, I am always tempted to throw a question and demand a response from the Minister on some country which has not yet been mentioned in the hope of raising a look of panic on her face.
We have heard some very welcome contributions, and I want to mark that more contributions from Back Bench speakers have come from the Cross Benches in this debate than from any other part of the House. That is particularly welcome because Members on the Cross Benches have a great deal of expertise to offer.
I want to focus on four of the many issues that have been raised: first, Europe, which is extremely important; secondly, the transatlantic relationship; thirdly, the Muslim world; and, fourthly, the question of international order and international law, with which the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, has just dealt so rumbustiously.
We heard very useful speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Grenfell and Lord Norton of Louth, on the Select Committee reports and I agree very strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, said about the current treaty. It is a curate's egg. It is not what we really needed or what the Laeken declaration promised us, when it set out to define a shorter and clearer treaty that we would all understand. The treaty is too long; part 3 ought to be subordinate legislation and not in the full treaty. Too many issues have been fudged again, including what exactly the new Foreign Ministeror whatever he or she is to be calledwill do, to whom he or she will be responsible, what exactly the president of the Council will do, and so on.
I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, that the new proposals strengthen the Council. In that sense, it is more necessarily inter-governmental. However, we also need a strong and effective Commission to hold together an EU of 25 members. I regret that we may be heading towards an even weaker Commission, if there are 25 or 31 commissioners and there is a failure to pursue the necessary reforms of the structure of the Commission. Commissioner Kinnock has managed to push that a certain amount of the way, but he has not had the active support of most national governments, and not always very active support from our own.
Having said all that, I am puzzled by the continuing paranoia from the Conservative Benches on all this. Each new treaty since the Single European Act has been denounced by the Conservatives as a final step too far, which ends Britain's autonomyfrom the Maastricht Treaty, to the Amsterdam Treaty and then the Nice Treaty. Now the noble Lord, Lord Howell, tells us that he actually prefers the Nice Treaty to the new one, that it is not too bad when one looks back on it, and that the new treaty would be a step too far.
I find it a little odd of the noble Lord to have deplored any criticism of American policy towards Iraq but to have offered us nothing but criticism of developments in the EU. We need a balance in that respect; Britain needs to balance between Europe and
I regret that the Government have given us for so long an uncertain trumpet on Europe. The case for closer co-operation has not always been made strongly at home. The arguments for reform of EU policies and institutions have not always been sustained by Government Ministers on the Continent. There is a fear of the press and the cultivation of the Daily Mail and of Rupert Murdoch.
I was very struck and puzzled by the interview that Mr Rupert Murdoch gave on British television two weeks ago, in which he talked about whether he would be willing to maintain his support for the current Government. He said that it would partly depend on whether the Government would be willing to yield our sovereignty. The phrase "our sovereignty" is being used by someone born in Australia, who is now an American citizen, with companies based in Bermuda to avoid paying tax in this country. That seems rather rich to me, and I am not sure that I want to entrust the defence of our sovereignty to the hands of a foreigner like that.
There are, of course, other problems with the European Union. There is a very uncertain trumpet from France and Germany at present on the question of economic governance, which is something to which I hope the European Union Committee will return. Absurd things are said regularly by Belgian Ministers, whether the Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister, which Eurosceptics love to quote all the time. However, I share the view that Will Hutton set out well in the Observer last weekend, that the biggest danger for British interests is that the European Union will emerge as too weak from enlargement, rather than threatening to be too strong.
I refer briefly to the European defence proposals, on which there has been a lot of discussion this evening. When one considers what European governments are doing, it is actually quite creditable. At any point in the past two years, there have been more than 50,000 troops from European Union governments in places outside the EU. There have been 9,000 to 10,000 Germans in service at any one point, and Spanish ships have patrolled the Indian Ocean. Spanish troops, Italian carabinieri and Poles have been in Iraq, Danes have been in Afghanistan, and Swedish special forces were useful in Operation Artemis in the Congo.
Of course, those troops are short of transport; the logistical chain is not good enough. It is interesting to read speeches in the same week by the French commander of the Congo operation and the German commander of ISAF, each saying that we need more effective logistical support and, of course, long-range transportbe they the A400s beloved of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, or C17s. But we shall not get very much more defence spending in Europe. The logic, therefore, has to be closer co-operation and a degree of specialisation to squeeze more out of our limited budgets. I welcome the closer co-operation between the British, the French and the Germans. I am not
I also welcome the proposal for a European arms agency, although I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, that I hope it will not promote arms exports with quite the degree of enthusiasm of which he spoke. It seems to me that there are too many arms of all sorts floating around the world at the present moment. We should be working with our partners in the EU to restrict arms exports, not to encourage them.
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