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Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza. She comes to us with a formidable reputation for campaigning in the field of human rights and with a great deal of expertise and experience at her disposal in international affairs. We very much welcome her and look forward to hearing a great deal more from her in the future.

I am glad to have the opportunity to participate in this debate on foreign affairs. I did so last year and, since then, little seems to have changed—except perhaps for the worse. Last year I spoke in opposition to the war in Iraq, and what has happened since then has simply strengthened my view.

It is clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; that, in all probability, the Iraqi Government were speaking the truth when they told the Security Council that they did not have any and that they had been destroyed. We were, however, told by our Government that no one in the world could believe a syllable of this.

In fact, many people did. Our infamous dossier was described as propaganda; France and Germany were sceptical and wanted the inspectors to be given more time; and there was a popular anti-war campaign throughout the world, including in countries such as Spain and Italy, whose governments supported the war and provided troops for the coalition.

Attempts are now being made to justify the war on other grounds, including on the nature of the tyranny of the regime of Saddam Hussein. "The world is a better place without him", we are now told, as if this in itself is a justification. I do not think it is.

The issue has become enormously divisive. Divisions about it are not confined to one party. Although only one party, the Liberal Democrats, took an anti-war position from the beginning, prominent members of the Conservative Party as well as members of my own party feel the same way. There is a wide gap in understanding between those on either side of the argument.

Speaking as one who opposed the war from the outset, I have always been concerned about the effect of modern war on civilians. In recent years we have seen warfare on television as spectators, but my generation can remember, to some degree, what war is like. When we see aerial bombardment on television, we can recall what it is like to huddle in an air raid shelter and hear the bombs come down—what a terrifying noise it is—and to witness the carnage they
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cause. Modern warfare inevitably injures and kills the civilian population, whatever we may be told about targeting.

It is not only a matter of deaths and injuries, awful as these are, but also the total disruption of civilian life—the loss of homes, often of jobs, of water and power supplies—and the trauma and the illnesses suffered by the survivors. For the people concerned it is a total catastrophe. We have just seen on television Fallujah being reduced to rubble, with insurgency continuing in other parts of Iraq and the Red Cross berating all sides in the conflict for their lack of humanity. This is a very nasty war and the sooner we can disengage from it the better. We have no idea of the number of Iraqi casualties throughout this conflict, but it is bound to be very high.

It is no accident that after the Second World War the victorious nations devised a charter for the UN which made it as difficult as possible for an aggressive war to be mounted. They had suffered enough. Millions had died and much of Europe and Asia was devastated. As a result, the charter provides for the use of force of arms 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, as in Articles 39 and 42. In other words, the United Nations charter places the legitimate use of military force strictly in the hands of the Security Council, denying it to individual nation states. The only exception to this is the right of self-defence of a state that is attacked by another state or group of states.

Despite the impressive statement of my noble friend Lady Ramsay today, I still find it difficult to understand why the war is regarded as legal. It is claimed that Iraq disobeyed a large number of UN resolutions, but all these appear to have been based on the assumption that there were weapons of mass destruction. If they did not exist, the Iraqis could claim that they had complied. Moreover, there is no provision in the United Nations charter for "regime change".

It has been argued that the UN needs "modernisation"; that there should be authority for intervention, including military intervention, on humanitarian grounds. The Kosovo case is sometimes quoted as an instance in which intervention was allegedly successful and that it did not arouse the opposition occasioned by the invasion of Iraq. However, there was opposition. I did not believe that military intervention was either proportionate or justified and I said so at the time, as did a number of others. Seventy-eight days of continuous aerial bombardment of a largely unprotected civilian population after the United Nations Security Council had been bypassed was not acceptable to a number of us.

We are told that the intervention "sorted out" the problems. I do not think so. Ruthless military intervention rarely does. The victorious Kosovo Liberation Army, the KLA, set about its own ethnic cleansing of anyone who was not Albanian, including the Romany people who had lived unharmed under the previous administration. More than 200,000 Serbs whose families had lived in Kosovo for generations have
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been forced out into refugee camps. Some who remained were simply murdered. Ethnic tensions persist. There is a very high unemployment rate, and a vicious, Albanian-led mafia has emerged, profiting from drugs and people trafficking, including the trafficking of young women for the sex industry. That was some "sorting out".

So can an interventionist policy of a military nature be justified and, if so, in what circumstances? Is the West right to say that it wants to spread democracy throughout the world and that this is the way to make the world a safer place? And what role is envisaged for the UN in such a range of policies?

What do we mean by "democracy"? Some may feel that the United States supports democracy only when elections result in leaders of whom it approves. After all, Yasser Arafat was elected and he clearly had the full support of the Palestinian people, but the United States Government would not deal with him.

Does "democracy" involve total commitment to the free market? In the eyes of the United States Government, the answer is probably yes, but not always for others, who may still have a commitment to a degree of public ownership. So campaigns to impose a United States-style democracy may not always attract the kind of support that is anticipated.

As for Iraq, much of the Arab world appears to believe that the motives of the West are neither democratic nor humanitarian but are simply concerned with oil. This is a very widespread view.

There are, of course, situations where it is clear that, often as a result of civil war, the sufferings of the civilian population demand some kind of international reaction. But this should not involve unilateral military action—indeed, the UN charter does not allow for this. Intervention by means of the B52s is likely to add to the deaths and injuries. However, the wealthy nations of the world possess enormous economic power which could be deployed effectively under UN authority.

These are complex and difficult issues which require international consensus. The UN, despite its flaws, is the only organisation available through which international power can be legitimately exerted. We must strengthen and support it. I am therefore glad to note that the Queen's Speech promises that the Government will work with the international community to strengthen the United Nations.

Lord Monro of Langholm: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, on her quite excellent maiden speech. It seems to me that the Government's programme will give her plenty of opportunity to talk about human rights in the coming Session.

I should also like to say what a pleasure it is to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, even if I disagree with her views on the Iraq war. Her husband was twice decorated for gallantry and was a very fine serviceman.
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I found the gracious Speech disappointing on defence. The Armed Forces were not mentioned at all, nor did they even receive a commendation for what they are doing throughout the world. There is great controversy over manpower and equipment cuts in the Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Army, with regiments and squadrons to be disbanded and ships to be put out of commission. The cuts are so great and so complicated that I believe it will take years for the services to recover, and recruiting may never recover.

The regimental cuts could be and must be avoided. If the Government say that there is to be no reduction in money for defence, as the Chancellor and the Prime Minister regularly do, then let us use what we have more effectively. The Public Accounts Committee, the Select Committee on Defence in another place and the National Audit Office have all commented on the massive failure of procurement. Millions and millions of pounds have been lost which could easily have paid for the four battalions. Why should servicemen carry the can for incompetence in the MoD?

The Army and the services are doing splendid work in Iraq, eastern Europe, Africa, Afghanistan and elsewhere. I declare an interest, as a former Inspector General of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, which is currently celebrating its 80th anniversary. They were deployed in numbers to the Gulf. Indeed, one airfield near Kuwait was entirely defended by reservists with an auxiliary, Squadron Leader Launder, in command.

I hope that on return from their service abroad—and this goes for the Territorials and all reservists as well—they are getting their jobs back from their employers, as they should. Otherwise we will have great difficulty in future call-outs, and indeed in recruiting. Perhaps we should consider extending the call-out obligation from one year in three to one year in five.

I now declare a second interest in this world of declaring interests. Two sons, a father, two grandfathers and one great-grandfather, were all in Highland regiments, and three have been colonels of their regiments. In my former constituency of Dumfries, the King's Own Scottish Borderers was the constituency regiment for Dumfries and Galloway and, of course, the Borders. Its huge regimental district stretches from Berwick to Stranraer. So, naturally, I am extremely interested and concerned when a battalion has to be cut from the Scottish division.

I am not going to place one regiment before another; I want all six regiments to be retained. MoD savings should manage to pay for that extra battalion. I equally understand the problems in England and Wales, and feel that their three battalions should be saved as well.

Terrorism is our enemy. The Government very frequently pronounce that they are tough on terrorism. But what do they do? They cut the infantry. Battles are not won or peace maintained by technology alone. Both require infantry, and that branch of the Army is grossly overstretched. What a message to send to Al'Qaeda or bin Laden, that we are cutting four battalions from our vital infantry supply.
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Who is in charge of this folly? The Prime Minister and the Government say it is an Army Board decision, but it must be a political decision. I cannot believe that decisions such as sending the Black Watch north from Basra had other than a political content. It surely was a political decision as well as an Army Board decision. After all, the Prime Minister said that it was an operational decision to go north, then he said that it was a political decision to make certain the Black Watch is back by Christmas. How right that that should happen. I hope that the Minister can confirm that the regiment will be back in the United Kingdom by, say, 21 December, in order to get home for Christmas as a reward for its brilliant work in Iraq.

When is the decision on cuts to be made? Different dates are given in different newspapers, but we believe it to be early December. Ministers, after all, are on the Army Board. What input do they have in this decision? It is a very political decision. Does the board understand the feeling in Scotland, where the newspapers have, rightly, been running a great campaign to retain the Scottish regiments? It will be a major disappointment if that eventually turns out to be a false hope. It will be dreadful for the regiments and dreadful for recruiting. The people of Scotland are deeply concerned about it.

Those on the Council of Scottish Colonels were put in an invidious position. Whatever they thought—and we can well imagine what that was—they had to produce an answer. If not, the Army Board would produce it for them. Certainly they were not craven in the decision they made; they made the best of a very difficult situation.

In Scotland, we all feel that this is not the time to lose the Royal Scots or the King's Own Scottish Borderers, both fine regiments with great histories. Of course, there must be evolution within the Ministry of Defence and our services, but surely the arms plot is not so inflexible that it cannot be looked at again. Battalions could move around less frequently. Families could be allowed to settle longer in their homes and children longer at their schools. But that looks as if it is going to be even more difficult in the future if we take a major part in the rapid-reaction European army.

The MoD may say that our battalions are under-strength, but they are not so by very much—we are talking in 10s, 20s and 30s. That situation was improving before we had the summer moratorium on recruiting. These proposals would make recruiting even harder. If we were short of school teachers, we would not shut down the schools; we would go out and try to recruit more teachers. That is what we should be doing with the Army. It should try even harder in its regimental areas, where it is in close touch with communities and where it is so popular.

As is raised frequently by the MoD, there is of course cross-posting within the Scottish division, which works very satisfactorily indeed. These decisions on cuts are very important for the country and its place in the world. Losing four battalions will have a major impact on our capabilities and our onward strength. I hope that the Ministers and the generals will think again.
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4.31 p.m.

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