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Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, I welcome the speeches to which we have just listened from the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay. They both offer an important insight into probably the most important single question that has to be addressed in the region over a long period.

Before returning to those subjects more substantially, I should like to say a word about two quite separate topics, the first of which should strike an unusually cheerful note for today's debate; namely, Gibraltar. It is most welcome to those of us who have been concerned for many years about the future of this territory to see the change of atmosphere that has taken place. We have seen the disappearance of the negativism that was the result, I have to say, of the insensitivity of both the Spanish Government and our own Government at an earlier stage. I welcome the positive attitude, but I utter the warning that, even so, much patience and charm will be necessary over a long period to sustain and take advantage of that change.

The second topic is much more sombre, that of Ukraine. It is a prospect about which I am deeply anxious and which I share specifically with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who alas is not in her place. We were both involved at a very early stage in the birth of a nation which witnessed the emergence of Ukraine, having been members of the economic advisory council to the Supreme Rada from its outset, and having together stood in Independence Square and looked with pleasure at the pictures of the Madonna and Child that replaced the statue of Stalin which previously stood there.

We must urge the Government, along with the governments of the European Union and the United States, to do all they possibly can to ensure Ukraine's stable future in accordance with the preferences of her people. On my last visit in July, I lead an IPU delegation. We had an opportunity to discuss with President Kuchma the legitimacy of the electoral process then under way, but we were by no means reassured by his responses to the evidence we presented. So I urge the Government to do everything possible to ensure the emergence of a stable European nation, prospering under democratic independence.

On the broader picture, as for other speakers, the inevitable starting point must be Iraq. I have to say that I have reached with no pleasure the profoundly uncomfortable conclusion that the Anglo-American expedition into Iraq was a grave mistake, despite the propositions advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, and it has been followed by consequences alas even more damaging and predictable. It is impressive, although not cheering, to find that judgment supported by an increasing number of witnesses. My noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell, who was on the speaker's list but who I fear is not in his place—

Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, yes, I am.
 
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Lord Howe of Aberavon: That is splendid. However, I still pray leave to borrow some of the observations made by my noble friend in a most impressive speech some eight weeks ago at the University of Essex. I cite in particular his judgment that the expedition, made without the specific backing of the UN Security Council, pushed the whole world backwards towards anarchy.

I note the words of another of my successors as Foreign Secretary, my learned friend—as he is outside this place—Malcolm Rifkind, in a speech to Chatham House a few weeks ago. He expressed his dismay at the way in which, as it has turned out, the departure of the allied troops now in Iraq would lead to anarchy while their continued presence is the cause of insurgency. That is the dilemma of the current situation spoken of by the noble Baroness. As Malcolm Rifkind made clear, he "would not have started from here".

Perhaps even more significant are the views of Sir Stephen Wall, who for the past four or five years has been head of the European Secretariat, Cabinet Office, expressed in a speech he gave to Chatham House within the past month. It can be summed up with the phrase, "We allowed our judgment of the dire consequences of inaction to override our judgment of the even more dire consequences of departing from the rule of law".

Over and above the legality of the enterprise, I have to say that pragmatic conclusions have also caused me to reach my judgment. The reasons for the expedition have fallen away one by one. Weapons of mass destruction, from which there was an immediate threat, have vanished virtually without trace. Terrorism has also failed to justify the expedition. The pursuit of terrorists to Afghanistan, which is necessarily a huge and endlessly sustained tactical exercise, was expressly supported by the UN Security Council and, as the noble Baroness pointed out, has perhaps been successful. But the pursuit of war against terrorism as an all-embracing concept has, as the Prime Minister himself has observed, succeeded in turning Iraq into the crucible of the war against terrorism—and that in a land where there was neither terrorism nor the threat of it until we acted as we did. The legitimacy and wisdom of the regime change that has been attempted so far leads one to have some anxiety.

It is interesting to note the words spoken by the then US Secretary of Defense in 1991 when he was asked about the wisdom of regime change at the time:

Those questions were posed by the present Vice-President of the United States when he was Secretary of Defense some 13 years ago. They are questions that have not been answered subsequently and they give rise to my pragmatic conclusion about the unwisdom of the operation.
 
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When one surveys the future, surely it is important for the enterprise now taking place to enlist the widest possible support of the international community, as is being undertaken at Sharm el-Sheikh and beyond, in the desperately difficult task of steering Iraq to a conclusion whose nature we cannot prejudge with any certainty.

More widely, it is necessary to convince the world, and above all the world's single superpower, of the importance of the foundations of international law—international law to which we have become accustomed through the institutions of the European Union and to which the world has become accustomed through the much less comfortable and clockwork-like institutions of the United Nations. We look forward in due course to the recommendations on those of the panel to which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has been appointed. If we are to achieve the most out of that, I shall repeat what I have said on previous occasions: it is crucial that we are able to mobilise the potential unity of the countries of the European Union, not to present them as a challenger or rival to the United States, but as another partner in the transatlantic partnership, contributing the collective wisdom of the nations of the European Union, which together can be much more effective than the fragmented input of our nations separated from each other, as they have been.

The special relationship we claim can be matched by other nations in their own claims to special relationships. The relationship we require is a grown-up one between the countries of the European Union, all of which need far more effective leadership than they have had over recent months in order to present a balanced future for the world.

Baroness D'Souza: My Lords, I am in my second month in this House and no one could have made it a more welcoming experience than its staff and Members. For that I am truly grateful. I shall certainly never forget the aplomb with which my unruly family was treated, having managed on the day of my introduction to spread about a great deal of chocolate cake, to break into unprecedented song in the Barry Room, and even to get lost.

To an outsider this place is somewhat confusing, and I speak of more than its geography. I suspect that it is equally confusing to those not privileged to join it, a suspicion confirmed by a recent correspondent to one of the national dailies who reported having woken from a terrible dream in which apparently the Government had banned the smacking of foxes. However, what I have learnt in a very short time in this House is that it is much occupied with the protection of individual liberties and freedoms, and the demonstration of democracy. Those are concerns close to my heart because it seems that such freedoms are under threat the world over.

I have spent much of my working life in fairly inhospitable parts of the world—among the repressed, the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. In all those countries, one comes across individuals who treasure
 
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democracy often more than they treasure their freedom and, indeed, their lives. It is a humbling experience to face young people—people young enough to be one's children—who choose imprisonment and even torture in their struggle for democracy and its institutions.

I have not generally found any ignorance about democracy itself, what it means and why above all else it must be achieved. From those dumped in the remotest deserts of Bophututswana during the apartheid regime in South Africa to those rural workers in the newly emerging nations of eastern Europe, democracy is recognised as much more than free and fair elections.

To these people, democracy means adherence to the rule of law by government as well as by its citizens; the opportunity to question decisions made by governments which affect people's lives and livelihoods; and to be able to succeed in changing policy. The task more usually is not to persuade people of the benefits of democracy but to help in building the institutions which will ensure that democracy, once achieved, will be maintained.

The Government have been magnificent in supporting these efforts and, despite the violence that we witness daily in the world, one must never forget how great has been the transformation in certain countries during the past decade. But we all know that democracy is just that—a process—and that it has to be nurtured. This is why the smallest freedom has to be defended, sometimes very vigorously.

The world has become a frightening place and we are in danger of losing long cherished freedoms in the interests of safety. No one can fail to be alarmed at the erosion of individual liberties in former bastions of democracy while, at the same time, acknowledging the onerous responsibilities that governments hold in protecting their citizens. However, today, too often guilt of a crime is assumed rather than proven; journalists are being forced to reveal sources; citizens can be questioned about their choice of reading; and some are being returned to countries where it is known they will be tortured. If this trend continues we will be in danger of destroying the very democratic system for which we are all fighting.

In the past few weeks I have heard these concerns expressed in this House and it makes me feel rather at home. Far more importantly, the debates in the House can and do have enormous relevance in the outside world. This is not the mother of all Parliaments for nothing. I well remember talking at an international workshop in southern Mexico many years ago and being approached by a gentleman from Papua New Guinea who wanted to know how he could subscribe to Hansard. He hardly spoke English and at that time in his country citizens were not allowed to see, let alone read, their own constitution. Nevertheless, he felt that to have access to such reports would light the way ahead for him and for his country. The House, along with many other democratic institutions, has a duty to hold on to the liberties won over many hundreds of years and which continue to represent an ideal to which others aspire.
 
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Lest we be fearful of imposing western democracy on other cultures, we should also remember that democratic values, despite their fragility, constitute perhaps the most continuous, ancient and permanent tendency known to history.

The two vital social traditions of tolerance of different viewpoints and the encouragement of public discussion are enshrined in this House, and I am delighted to be here.


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