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Lord Truscott: My Lords, although they are not in their places, perhaps I may congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, and my noble friend Lord Young of Norwood Green on their excellent and engaging maiden speeches.

It has become almost a commonplace to suggest that the world has become an even more dangerous place since the end of the Cold War era. The much-heralded end of history and the final global victory of democracy and the free market economy have proven somewhat premature. The world is experiencing a host of challenges and conflicts, which perhaps threaten our democracies and our environment just as surely as mutually assured destruction.
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When I wrote my doctoral thesis on the Korean war 20 years ago, both that conflict and the threats facing the planet seemed clearer. With the Korean War itself in the depths of the Cold War, the invasion of South Korea by Pyongyang and the Chinese entanglement in that conflict seemed to risk nuclear conflagration. Fifty years on, North Korea is once again causing concern with its nuclear ambitions; but the world has changed. We are witnessing an explosion of regional and ethnic conflicts, from the Far East, the Caucasus and down into Africa. In Europe itself, we witnessed the gut-wrenching massacre in Srebrenica in 1995 and, a year before, the genocide in Rwanda. Sadly, we are seeing much of the same in Darfur, as has been graphically mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox.

On top of all that, we now have the global war against terrorism, which has shown its destructive force in cities and towns from New York to Beslan, as described by my noble friend Lord Bach, the Minister, in his opening speech.

However, I am not convinced that the international community has yet come to terms with how to deal with these crises. Actions through the United Nations Security Council can be blocked with a single veto. United UN action, even in the Korean War, was only possible because the USSR boycotted its seat on the Security Council. We have seen the difficulties of reaching consensus over Iraq through the United Nations. Frankly, there have been many competing strategic and commercial interests involved in that conflict.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made the case for humanitarian intervention in his Chicago speech in 1998, mentioned by my noble friend Lord Plant of Highfield. The wider issue of humanitarian intervention was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Desai. The gracious Speech spoke about strengthening the United Nations. The reality is that before we can achieve effective and consensual international action through the United Nations, that body will require a major overhaul.

The UN Security Council, represented by the old wartime P5—Permanent Five—should be expanded to take in some of the new rising global powers. The UN will have to revisit the issue of whether a Security Council veto should have the capacity to block international action in clear cases of genocide or civil war. These are, of course, difficult areas, as was mentioned by my noble friends Lady Turner of Camden and Lord Plant. Such matters will require much further consideration. I await the report from the United Nations High-Level Panel, which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, mentioned in his speech. But, even so, the old argument that a country's internal repression is purely a matter of individual sovereignty is no longer tenable.

We in this House should be concerned that there is a danger not only from previously failed states such as Afghanistan but from other countries where there is a worrying degree of corruption with a widening democratic deficit and a lack of parliamentary
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accountability. In that group of countries, I include many of the republics of the former Soviet Union, ranging from Belarus to the Ukraine through the Caucasus and Central Asia. Of course, the Ukraine is very much in the headlines today and was highlighted by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon. It is with those states, with their democratic deficits and lack of accountability, that we face a real problem of nuclear proliferation and the kind of environment where terrorism can only thrive.

Like all your Lordships, I welcome the time when we can see democracy take root in Iraq and an end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In such a dangerous and unstable world, the development of the European Union's peace-keeping and peace-making capability can only be a powerful tool for good around the globe. That has been reinforced by the European Union's commitment to take over security matters in Bosnia in the near future.

I see no way that the Berlin Plus agreement, building on co-operation between the EU and NATO, can be seen as a threat to the Atlantic Alliance. The recently announced European battlegroups can only add to the world's security. Of course, I agree with those who say that the Europeans need to improve their military capabilities and not simply reshuffle existing resources.

It is also true that even buzz-word concepts, such as "Network Enabled Capability" and "the Digitised Battlespace", will not negate the need for boots on the ground, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, mentioned in last year's Queen's Speech and as the Americans re-discovered in Fallujah. But I do not think that the world's problems can be solved purely by military means. War remains the failure of diplomacy.

Some experts now believe that global warming is a greater threat to the planet than international terrorism. Kyoto may help but it falls far short of what is required. In the mean time, hunger, poverty and diseases such as AIDS will come back to haunt us if we ever think that we can ignore them. I think that was implicitly accepted in the Minister's opening speech. I warmly commend the Government's work with the Africa Commission, their debt relief programme and commitment massively to increase international aid.

There is currently an artificial division between foreign and domestic policy, just as there is between isolationism and multilateralism. Neither can be cocooned from the other. As John Donne, that brilliant 17th century multilateralist said, no man is an island. He memorably continued:

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, in such a wide-ranging debate, inevitably some parts of the world will escape the close attention they really should have. Indeed, it is one of the depressing side effects of the war in Iraq that priorities now lie there and in the wider Middle East rather than in other regions where our relations could be more productive.
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Therefore, I wish to focus on a region which is rich in resources, including oil and gas. If the United Kingdom is to become a net importer of natural gas, then Bolivia is the new player. It is a region which comprises one-quarter of the world's population and one-third of the United Nations' membership and it has six members on the Security Council.

The countries of the region participate actively in global organisations and play their parts in peace-keeping and in other international regulatory bodies. It is a region of some 19 countries, all with democratic institutions and pluralistic systems. It has a widely representative European diaspora, which works largely as we do—that is, we as Europeans—and it has similar values and traditions. Indeed, it is a region with which we probably have more historic ties than any other outside the Commonwealth and where we enjoy huge good will.

The region has, of course, been recognised in the past. George Canning famously said:

That was at a time when our country was giving material and moral support to the independence movements sweeping across the north and the south of the continent—hence the good will that we still enjoy.

Viscount Davidson recognised its importance after the last war, when he foresaw changes in our historic colonial relationships. So he and a group of colleagues founded Canning House—the Hispanic and Luso Brazilian Council—in 1943 in order to stimulate understanding between Britain, Spain, Portugal and Latin America. That has been achieved by encouraging trade and business links, promoting the teaching of Spanish and Portuguese and acting as an effective centre for information and contacts throughout the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world. Canning House continues to do that, although now without any significant financial support from the Government, but with much moral support, I am happy to say, especially from the noble Baroness, the Minister. I declare an interest as a former president of Canning House.

Even today—or, to be more precise, last week—the President of China recognised the significance of the region by visiting Brazil, Argentina and Chile with 150 businessmen seeking opportunities for trade and investment. Shortly before that, the Iberamerican Summit took place in San José, Costa Rica. It was a high-profile event, attended by the King and Queen of Spain.

It seems odd to me that, as British banks close down and British businesses pull out or fail to take up trade and investment opportunities in Latin America in order to focus on developing trade and investment in China, which of course is one of the Government's priority areas, the Chinese should be filling the gaps that we leave. Probably, too, as a result of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit, which took place in Chile last week, other Asian tigers will be looking at trade, collaboration and other political and economic alliances. Of course, I am talking about Latin America from
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Mexico to the north through Central America and South America, and including some Caribbean countries—let us not forget Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

It would be foolish to suggest that blame for those changes and our diminishing presence lies at the Government's door. Indeed, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister with responsibility for Latin America and the Ministers in DfID are always very positive, as is the Minister who is present today. Nevertheless, it is true that embassies are being closed or downsized, or are under threat of closure, so that visiting businessmen or trade missions do not have the support and expertise at their disposal that is available to them in other parts of the world. That particularly affects small and medium-sized businesses that we really want to encourage to trade up and to trade more.

It is also true that the British Council has closed offices in a number of countries in Latin America, even when English training courses made them economically viable. I still find that very hard to accept. Furthermore, no one can have failed to notice that in last year's splendid document, stating the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's priorities and strategy for the future, there is barely a mention of Latin America.

So what can we do about it? In parliamentary terms, I believe that we should take every opportunity to update and inform ourselves on trends and developments in this important region of the world. The All Party Latin American Group attempts to do that and needs all the support it can get. The Inter-Parliamentary Union also does a terrific job to ensure contact between parliamentarians, and this year saw very successful inward visits from El Salvador and, more recently, from Bolivia, a country, as I have mentioned, with vast resources of oil and gas. There was also an outward visit to Brazil.

The Government will, I hope, have an ongoing role on a bilateral basis to support and encourage those organisations and bodies that seek to improve and develop our relations with Latin America. Like my noble friend Lady Rawlings, I believe that the programme of poverty reduction and debt relief, to which the noble Lord, Lord Bach, referred in opening the debate, also has applications in Latin America. Similarly, in their efforts to combat climate change, referred to in the gracious Speech, I feel sure that the Government will bear in mind the vast tracts of virgin forest in Amazonica where changes could have an irreversible impact on climate change.

The gracious Speech refers to the introduction of legislation—as others have mentioned—to tackle the problem of drug abuse and the crime that flows from it. That is perhaps the only reference in the Speech that could directly affect Latin America, particularly countries such as Colombia and Bolivia, which are making huge internal efforts to combat the trade. I believe that there is much that could and should be done in the United Kingdom, and indeed throughout Europe and the United States, to destroy the market and consumer demand that is the direct and principal
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cause for the production of coca and cocaine in Latin America and elsewhere in the quantities in which they are now produced.

As well as bilateral action, by ourselves as parliamentarians and by the Government and others, next year the Government will be able to take advantage of their presidency of the European Union and of having a British commissioner as the new trade commissioner, to improve relations between Europe and Latin America. I hope and trust that they will build on the reforms of the common agricultural policy, to which reference has already been made, to ensure that we comply with our WTO obligations and, in so doing, help countries like most of the Latin American countries which are rich in primary agricultural products. That point was made most effectively by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford.

I also hope that, during the UK presidency, the free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur will be implemented and that progress will be made on a free trade agreement between the European Union and the Andean community countries. I realise that the noble Baroness will have a huge number of issues to which to respond, but I would be grateful for some reassurance on this point.

If time had permitted I would have wished to address issues relating to the overseas territories, but I am grateful to my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon who raised the issue of Gibraltar. I too wish to register my welcome for the improved atmosphere and approach of the new Spanish Government in relation to that matter.

I was unable to participate in last year's Queen Speech debate because of Council of Europe duties. On reading Hansard afterwards, I could find no mention of Latin America in the whole of the debate. Also, regrettably, during the past Session my Motion for a debate on Latin America was not successful in the ballot. I make no apology for drawing these matters to your Lordships' attention this afternoon. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

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