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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I look forward to the many expert speeches which we shall hear today. I am always struck by how much expertise there is in this House, particularly when I go to the most remote parts of the world and the people I meet ask me to remember them to the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, to my noble friend Lord Avebury or to whoever it may be. I have discovered that wherever I go someone from this House has been there before.

I look forward in particular to hearing the two maiden speeches, although I was very disappointed to learn that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, is not of the Norwood Green in Bradford around which I so often enjoy walking. He is apparently of the Norwood Green in London, which is not so beautiful as the Norwood Green in Bradford. Nevertheless I look forward to the speeches.

It is impossible in any speech in this debate to cover the whole range of issues. I hope that in her closing speech the Minister will say something about the situation in the Ukraine and what that implies for western relations with Russia. That is an area which I think we shall have to return to very actively in the next few months.

I note that the Queen's Speech said relatively little about foreign policy. It mainly focused on the theme of security, the terrorist threat abroad and at home. The gracious Speech said that her Majesty's Government,

The only other substantive part of the Queen's Speech was the uncertain promise of a European referendum, with much background briefing from ministerial offices about putting all this off for as long as possible, and not upsetting the voters by talking about the European Union until after the election at least.

Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether the Government intend to get the ratification Act through Parliament before the election, so that there is a clear
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decision for the British people, at least to start on, or whether it is likely that the Bill will start and not be concluded by the time we rise.

I find the constant postponement of domestic debate on why British interests are caught up in further progress on European integration—a postponement which allows the Euro-sceptic camp to set the terms of the debate—one of the most depressing things about this Government. I am also depressed to hear the noble Lord, Lord Howell, place himself so firmly in the Euro-sceptic camp.

I want to focus above all on the underlying assumptions of the Prime Minister's foreign policy. I call it the "Prime Minister's foreign policy", since it is so evidently his personal mission, with British foreign policy run from his side of Downing Street rather than from the Foreign Office. The idea of Britain as a bridge between Europe and the United States has been a central theme since he took office. Indeed, he has been remarkably consistent in holding to this idea over seven years.

I note that in his first Lord Mayor's Banquet speech in November 1997 the Prime Minister said—in his wonderful way without a single verb in most of his sentences—that what we need to be is:

Two years later he evoked a different image. He said:

the balancing point around which Europe and the United States perhaps revolve. Last week, at the latest Lord Mayor's Banquet, he stuck to his guns. He said:

There is nothing novel about this of course; it has been the ambition of every Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan, or even before that. Timothy Garton Ash in his new book has described this image of Britain as,

The problem with the image, of course, is that it is difficult to keep your balance. Mrs Thatcher began as a balancer and ended up as an enthusiast for all things American and a Europhobe. John Major ended up falling off the bridge—or the "damn high wire", as the Prime Minister would call it.

Tony Blair has tipped steadily towards the American end at the expense of the European. He plays what Garton Ash has described as "the Jeeves role" in Washington. It is a nice image. It conjures up an image of our Prime Minister saying, "That's a splendid Middle East policy you are wearing, Mr President, but how
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about a dash of multilateralism with it? Perhaps a passing reference to the UN would make it look even better".

It is a real concern to us that Ministers now speak of the relationship with the United States with so much warmth and of that with other European states with so little warmth; that senior Ministers, as the Times reported last week, are such poor and infrequent attenders at the EU Council of Ministers meetings; and that their language is so frequently critical of the European continent and uncritical of the United States.

Gordon Brown's speech to the CBI two weeks ago was a very good example of that. He portrayed the European Union as,

contrasted with,

That suggests a slight misunderstanding of the export-orientated German economy, let alone those of Finland, Sweden, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere. But those are exactly the phrases that Margaret Thatcher used to use when hectoring her continental partners. After seven years in office, new Labour seems to have turned into old Conservatives.

Why has new Labour moved this way? Well, of course, it is what the Murdoch press has wanted in return for support of new Labour. I note that the Times and the Sun were, according to the "Today" programme, the two newspapers which gave the warmest welcome to the Queen's Speech today, so it is clear that the pact is still working. But they who live by the Sun must die by the Sun. It is the engagement with Europe that is in danger of dying: a danger of a drift towards a lost referendum and, after that, another crisis in Britain's relations with the rest of Europe, which is clearly avoidable.

After seven years in office, new Labour seems to have come to resemble the old Conservatives in foreign policy. Some of the old Labour loyalists on the Benches opposite must feel about their leader the same way as Clover, the loyal horse in Animal Farm, felt about Napoleon and the pigs. Perhaps I may paraphrase Orwell's last page: "his old dim eyes . . . flitted from new Labour to old Conservative, from old Conservative to new Labour, from Europhobe to past Europhile and from past Europhile to Europhobe . . . but it was impossible to say which was which".

But if the repeated postponement of any positive approach to co-operation in the EU is worrying, with the Government's cowardice in making the case to the public that closer European co-operation is in Britain's national interest, it is equally worrying that the Prime Minister has so little to say about the drift of opinion in Washington. He could have used the prestige that he has acquired in the United States over the past three years to set out some warnings to his American audience about the dangers of their drift away from international law and global institutions; but he said nothing substantive on that in public on his first, hurried visit since the election.
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Some of the noises coming out of Washington at the moment are extremely worrying; the consensus of the US Administration and Congress is now a long way from how the British Parliament sees the world. Even the noble Lord, Lord Howell, expressed a degree of concern about that. There is a widespread view that the UN is unreformable and should be marginalised. That view is shared by senior officials in the State Department and the Pentagon, and, I suspect, by the president himself. They would prefer a new "alliance of democracies", led by the United States, with its membership selected by the United States. I hope that the response of Her Majesty's Government to the report of the UN High-Level Panel, of which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has been a distinguished member, will be very different from that—a strong United Nations, again, is clearly in Britain's national interest.

There is a strengthening consensus on the American right that the European Union itself is a threat to America's strategic interests and should therefore be undermined. I commend to noble Lords an article in the November issue of Foreign Affairs, by Lawrence Cimbalo, entitled "How to Save NATO from the EU". The foreign affairs editorial team says that it published the article because it represents,

It calls on the new administration to work with Britain—and Poland and, for some reason, Denmark—to renegotiate the constitutional treaty to remove its security clauses, which, it claims, would establish,

and, in time, even to impose conscription on citizens of European countries. There is a horrifying set of misconceptions in Washington about European integration. But, then, they talk too often to British Euro-sceptics, see the French as enemies and are not better informed by a British Government which should be standing up for the balance of British interests.

Many in the American foreign-policy community now want to make Britain choose an alliance with the USA, instead of a balance between the United States and Europe. In last week's Weekly Standard Irwin Stelzer, a frequent visitor to Downing Street and an intermediary for Rupert Murdoch, quotes "a high administration official" immediately after last month's presidential election as calling for,

The Prime Minister is dedicated to the avoidance of that choice. We argue, more strongly, that effective British influence over American policy would better be gained through co-operation with other European Governments, giving our combined voice more weight in Washington.

On Iran, our Government, commendably, have pursued co-operation with the French and German Governments and have been making some progress
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pursuing a more constructive strategy than that of those in Washington, who would prefer American—or Israeli—air attack as the answer to Iranian nuclear ambitions.

Evidently, there is now a need for a more coherent European Union approach to Russia and its policy towards its near neighbourhood. After all, the American security strategy is for an alliance of democracies, to promote peaceful order. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Bach, said, that has been the European Union's greatest achievement in the past 15 years. We have extended democracy—and, with that, security and prosperity—across central and eastern Europe. The challenges now lie in our next neighbourhood: with Ukraine, Belarus, the Caucasus and Europe's "near south", the countries of north Africa and the Middle East. If the Ukrainian election is resolved in favour of Mr Yushchenko, the immensely awkward problems of how far the EU enlarges, already before us with the question of Turkey, will be posed in a different form as the new Ukrainian Government express their long-term ambition of joining the European Union.

To Europe's near south—north Africa and the Middle East, the heart of the Muslim world—we must deal with the root causes of the Middle East conflict and consider on whose agenda we are doing it. Is it the dominant American agenda, which seeks to force democracy on the occupied and underplays the interconnected problems of regimes that the West has long supported in the region, or a much more European, multilateral agenda for modernization and reform, as set out in successive UN Arab human development reports?

Like us, Her Majesty's Government support a strategy that includes parallel progress on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine—we are not entirely convinced that the Bush Administration do—rather than refusing to recognise that this long-term conflict has become a symbol of confrontation between the West and the Muslim world that must now be dealt with. We also support a strategy that includes investment in education and exchange across the wider Middle East, rather than one which assumes that Western values must be imposed because Judaeo-Christian values are deemed incompatible with, and indisputably superior to, those of the third "religion of the book", Islam.

Like many on my Benches, I have argued that the importance of dialogue between cultural traditions and faiths is part of any approach towards the Middle East, including some more honesty about the darker aspects of our own religious tradition. The liberal approach to faith is now challenged by fundamentalist interpretations of faith, both within organised Christianity and organised Judaism, as well as within Islam. We are faced with a choice between a religion of love and a religion of hate. The Prime Minister, on his next visit to Washington, might usefully devote a speech to the importance of a tolerant approach to faith and inter-faith understanding.

Others on these Benches will talk about defence, about Africa and about development, on which the noble Lord, Lord Bach, has said some useful things.
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We welcome the Government's moves on Africa and on the poverty reduction agenda. My concern has been with the underlying drift of new Labour's foreign policy and with its uncritical support for America's economic and social model at home as well as abroad, in contrast to its aggressive criticism of the European model. Can Labour Members really be happy with that drift? It may keep the Murdoch press on side, but what shall it profit a party if it gains a series of elections but loses its own soul?

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