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Lord Dykes: My Lords, the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, remind me that the Prime Ministers of both of those countries are also heads of their respective liberal parties and members of Liberal International. It is good to see the progress being made there being attested by another Member of this House.
Like other noble Lords, I very much appreciated the very wise words and suggestions of the noble Lords, Lord Wright of Richmond and Lord Hylton, although they are not in their places, on the Israel/Palestine imbroglio and the need to pursue the road map. That kind of expression of a balanced view on this kind of matter does not seek to apportion blame on a one-sided basis and does not seek to say that one of the parties is always right and the other always wrong. It approaches peace in a balanced, comprehensive way, rather more along the lines of friends of mineI have been a close friend of Israel for many yearsin Peace Now and in the human rights groups and the very brave ladies from Israel who carry out checkpoint watches in the occupied territories so that they can see what is happening. We should all take that approach.
Yesterday in the Commons, the debate on the subjects that we are debating today was most interesting, although shorter than it perhaps should be in a House of Commons with its mark 3 New Labour Government. It has permitted noble Lords to follow on some salient points. I was interested to see that in Commons Hansard at col. 155, the new Europe Minister, Mr Alexander, quoted the Prime Minister, saying that a referendum must definitely be held on Europe. That is a commitment in the gracious Speech. There was then confusion from other ministerial sources and other quarters in the Government who said, "Well, of course, if there is a 'no' in the French referendum, then the whole thing is cancelled". We need further guidance.
Before the general election I had the privilege of launching a debate on the forthcoming UK presidency of the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Triesman, then holding a different portfolio, very kindly undertook to give me some answers to questions. I suppose that, because of the approach of the general election campaign, he did not have a chance to reply to the letter that I sent him afterwards asking him to deal with some of the questions, so I hope that he will be able to deal with the three brief points that I will raise.
Returning to the debate in the Commons yesterday, at Hansard col. 177, my distinguished colleague, our foreign affairs shadow Secretary of State, the right honourable Sir Menzies Campbell, reminded us of how Her Majesty's Government abandoned international law on the invasion of Iraq and that that matter has not yet been put right.
There were some very interesting and amusing speeches, but I was very struck by the fascinating comments made by the Member for Rushcliffe, the
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right honourable Kenneth Clarke. When referring to the strange voting anomalies of our British system he used words with which I entirely agree. He said that the effect of the general election,
That is a subject to which I shall refer later in showing the need for change in this country's electoral system. I think it comes into the ambit of this debate on the gracious Speech and the matters that will be dealt with when comparing other foreign countries.
I shall today confine myself to three items of current UK-EU foreign policy relevance. I must apologise to noble Lords that unusually I have not been able to remain in my place for the entire debate as I would normally wish, but I was advised by a good source, which I deliberately will not reveal, that today's subject would be on Wednesday rather than Thursday.
I refer first to the recent election. I trust that noble Lords will be ready to agree that effectively we have witnessed the arrival of the three-party system. That will be important in terms of the development of foreign policy matters and European Union policy. I hope noble Lords will permit me to say, without being too controversial, that, allowing for margins of error in the pollsand they can often be wider than we think, although the polls this time were strikingly accurate all the way throughthe clusters for the main national political parties, if you accept them to be around 26, 32 and 35 or 36 approximately, are remarkably close together. That, I contend, represents the arrival of the three-party system.
Furthermore, the astonishing mosaic of differential results underscores this psephological reality. I hope that noble Lords from other parties will recognise the Liberal Democrat Party's important and often primordial role in this Chamber because of the great importance that the internationalist party, the Liberal Democrat Party, has attached to foreign policy development.
I praise the Independent's campaign to try and get electoral reform and some kind of modern PR-type systemthe actual structure remaining to be decided in due coursestarted in this country. That involves a national campaign of respondents filling in the forms that that newspaper now presents.
I refer very briefly to three areas that need raising in this debate, and which have already been mentioned by other noble Lords. I referred at the beginning of my speech to the need for government clarity at long last on their referendum plans. There seems to be great confusionunless I have missed some vital new developments at lunchtime today, which is possibleand the contradiction between various sources of the Government and No. 10 and others seems amazing, to say the least. I think that we need to proceed on the basis of launching our
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referendum campaign as soon as possible and making sure that it leads to a successful result of our adherence to the new EU constitutional treaty.
I turn from one profound area to another. I raiseand other noble Lords have referred to this areathe continuing very disturbing situation in Iraq. It would be nice to be able to follow those bland press announcements that come from the Protected Zone headquarters that things are getting better in Iraq and say in an optimistic way, "Yes, it is so easy, and that is now happening". I would prefer to say that, but I think that the reality is otherwise.
I only remember one visit to Baghdad, in 1988. The whole city was full of American and British politicians and businessmen and women, saying that Saddam Hussein's was the best government in the Middle East. They were busy selling them all sorts of equipment. Does the British Government know when Saddam Hussein will be put on trial? That seems to be dragging on. It would be interesting and relevant to know when there will be a likely date. Presumably, some interesting things will be revealed in the course of those proceedings and we will need to focus closely on them.
Finally on Iraq, we need coalition honesty on Iraqi casualties, which still eludes us. That is very depressing and sad. The famousnow sadly famous because of her tragic death in a bomb incidentMarla Ruzicka, the American aid worker, and others highlighted the reality that the American authorities were privately taking note of Iraqi civilian casualties in the regular routine reports they fill out for individual incidents.
It is incumbent on the British Government to take the lead on the matter. Even if the Americans are reluctant properly to publish any figures, they should say how much the Iraqis, alas and tragically, have suffered in this continuing conflict.
I finish on the point about future relations between the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States. I hope and pray that after the winter visit by President Bush and the later, separate visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, that relationship will be truly and lastingly on the basis of real equality between the European Union and the United States.
No longer should there be any question of subordination, even of us, the United Kingdom, who pride ourselves on a special relationship with the United States. We should act together in a balanced way across the Atlantic to bring peace to the Middle East and in Iraq, to ensure that the Iran problem is solved satisfactorily and, above all, to modernise, reform and reconstruct the United Nations on a basis that will help all members, not just the elite members of the Security Council. That requires a lot of thinking and decisive government action here to take the lead.
Having made those points and hoping for an answer in due courseor even today, in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord TriesmanI congratulate the new Defence Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, on his arrival on the Government Front Bench and wish him well. I wish the whole Government well when they start the UK presidency of the EU on 1 July.
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