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Iran, too, is coupled with Syria, not because of common beliefs but because of common isolation from international dialogue about the Middle East. It is an ancient and important country that is often at loggerheads with its Arab neighbours, and it is feared and mistrusted in Washington. But Iran is a player in Iraq. Like it or not, one of the objectives that we must have is to persuade the Iranians that a peaceful Iraq is in their best interests, and we must provide the incentive that makes their co-operation worthwhile. In Iraq, I hope that there will be a strong central Government that will survive; but the emergence of semi-autonomous or devolved regions, along the lines already developed in Kurdistan, deserves to be explored. I had some sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on his notion of a British Iraq survey group. I hope the United States Iraq survey group will look at all these options when it gives advice to the president; and like the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I just hope that our own advice will not only have been sought but will be listened to and acted on. Nowhere is that more important than in relation to Palestine and Israel.

Whenever I travel in the Middle East, the one visceral issue is not Iraq; it is not terrorism; it is not Lebanon; it is not even fears of Iran. It is that deep-rooted, gut-wrenching conflict, which has lain at the heart of so much international tension for so many years. It is not the only important issue, but without peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians the prospect of real peace and security elsewhere in the region and beyond is very low. The Israelis and the Palestinians are unlikely to find the solutions without international help, and here real American commitment is vital. It is the bedrock without which there will be no peace. Active European engagement and real support from the major players in the Arab League are vital too in guaranteeing security for Israel and Palestine and the genuine economic viability of both states for the future.

Of course Israel has a right to expect our support for the security of its citizens and for its future as an economically prosperous and respected Middle East state. Israel has recently made some progress in

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withdrawal from Gaza, but it must now make further progress. It has to safeguard those standards of humanitarian conduct that we all have a right to expect in the way that it treats Palestinians. A Palestinian state which is viable, which is continuous, and which has an economic future is the only way forward. A state that does not sanction attacks on its neighbours, but lives with the support not only of its Arab neighbours but of Europe and the United States, is not only in Israel’s best interests but in the interests of the entire region.

The longer I have been involved with these issues, the more it seems to me that there is one simple and obvious truth—we have to talk to each other; not only to our friends and allies but to those who we fear and mistrust and, indeed, to those who we believe fear and mistrust us. History shows us that even where dialogue breaks down and violence breaks out, the only way for real peace and security to prevail is through discussion and negotiation. I hope that in the coming crucial months, our friends in the region, and particularly our friends across the Atlantic, will listen to that simple, but crucial, message.

4.18 pm

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. It makes me feel enormously conscious of the fact that her sparky vitality has her looking forward, and my antiquity has me largely looking backwards.

I hope I may be forgiven for reverting as far back as the speech that I made in the debate in this House three days after the savagery of 9/11. I spelt out then four conditions that had to be fulfilled if United States military action against any target which was thought to be responsible could be justified. First, it would have to be founded not on response, but on self-defence clearly stated and established. Secondly, they would need to have robust evidence of the responsibility of any target for the 9/11 brutality. Thirdly, maintenance of the long-term unity of international support would be essential to success. Fourthly, and this is contemporary—the most important proposition in the context of today’s debate—any action would have to be accompanied by a renewed commitment to tackle even-handedly the Middle Eastern conflict between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours.

Today, it is clear that not one of those four conditions has been fulfilled. On the contrary, no attempt was made to suggest that Iraq was responsible for 9/11. Instead, the attempt was made to establish the existence of the entirely unconnected threat of weapons of mass destruction, laced with the entirely different objective, although often undeclared, of regime change. Unsurprisingly, all this was contrary to the instincts of foreign policy and expertise of most Governments on both sides of the Atlantic. Even so the Prime Minister—depending upon very fragile and heavily amplified factual evidence and anxiously tenuous threads of legal advice squeezed out of an increasingly lonely Attorney-General—went ahead with war.

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What have been the results? For Iraq, there has been the hugely destructive collapse of state and society. It is now the disruptive epicentre of an already disrupted region. For the misconceived and misguided war on terrorism, predictably, terrorist attacks have escalated around the world. For the wider world, the mutual confidence of NATO partners in each other has been gravely damaged. So too, although fortunately to a lesser extent, has the capacity and will of European Union member states to formulate and pursue concerted and constructive foreign policies. Saddest of all perhaps, for the United States, the initial worldwide reservoir of sympathy and good will has almost entirely drained away. So too, alas—for the United Kingdom—has much of the long-standing respect for the wisdom of this nation’s policy towards the Middle East which once prevailed almost throughout the region.

To put it bluntly, we have witnessed the collapse of British foreign policy—worse even than, as my noble friend Lord Howell said, its consignment to limbo. The need now is for nothing short of the re-creation of British foreign policy. For that to be possible, one crucial lesson has to be relearnt. In a frightening, shrinking world of resurgent superpowers—China, India, Russia, and perhaps even Persia, if I may use the old-fashioned word—and of course the United States, it is almost impossible to identify a single problem for which British foreign policy on its own can be expected to produce any kind of answer. Most often, we are likely to be sharing fundamental interests with our partners and neighbours in the European Union. Acting alone, not one of us is likely to have much impact upon global diplomacy. As Iraq has clearly demonstrated, a Europe divided is all too likely to emerge as a Europe disregarded—Europe without influence, Britain without influence.

So far from damaging the fundamental, long-standing transatlantic partnership, it would be in the interests of the United States as much as those of the rest of the world for Europe—embracing, of course, our own country—to make a more coherent and positive contribution to global peace and security. We need the “coherent partnership” of which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, spoke and which he encouragingly detected in the gracious Speech.

I have one last point of some importance. It will not be possible to design and implement a foreign policy of the kind and the strength that this country needs and deserves without restoring and supporting the confidence, the standing and the resources of a vigorous and independent Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service under the leadership, if possible, of a strong and confident Foreign Secretary. For me, it is sad that a service that was widely respected around the world—from Bombay to Berlin, from Beijing to I forget where, but in all parts of the globe—has lost a great deal of that respect. We need to do a great deal to put that right.

I close on a rather sombre note. Harold Macmillan, in a book about his predecessors entitled The Past Masters, quotes, rather remarkably, from Neville Chamberlain’s diary, as follows:

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Macmillan goes on to point out that Eden’s subsequent resignation led to his replacement by the,

so that “Chamberlain was able”, says Macmillan,

I conclude by posing the uncomfortable question whether a very strong-willed, misguided and underadvised Prime Minister is capable of inflicting greater damage when he is trying to make peace than when he succeeds in making war.

4.25 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, we have listened to two extremely important and significant speeches, from the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe. Both implied that they believe that there has been a breakdown and failure in British foreign policy. That is not the issue to which I wish to address my short remarks. There has been a second and equally troubling breakdown; that is, in the entire strategy followed by the Anglo-American coalition in the Middle East.

In the recent meeting between General Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, and our Prime Minister, General Musharraf said:

We share the huge respect expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, for the gallantry of British troops. One of our great concerns is that British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other coalition troops, are being flung into increasingly hopeless situations because there has been no effective reconstruction and no effective winning of hearts and minds. It is not in any way unhelpful to our troops to raise issues about what they cannot be asked to deal with—they cannot be asked to hold the line against the growing disillusionment in the Middle East.

In the next few weeks, there will be a major switch by the new Democratic Congress towards pursuing inquiries into what happened in Iraq, what is still happening and what may yet happen. I assure the House that those Congressional inquiries will be very fierce indeed. I take only one example. The committee headed by California Representative Henry Waxman is one of the most significant in the United States Congress, and it is addressing whether there was any truth in the so-called purchase of yellowcake from Niger—the French west African country—which was one of the key factors in President Bush’s arguments for going to war in Iraq. That information came from the United Kingdom, as did certain other key pieces of intelligence. Our own Government and our own people will have some rather uncomfortable weeks ahead and we will begin to see more and more of the unravelling of the arguments for the invasion of Iraq.

I completely agree with what my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire and the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said about the centrality of the

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Israel-Palestine conflict. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, for whom I have huge respect—I know what a crucial part she is playing in the Middle East—that, quite bluntly, the support of the Prime Minister for not bringing about a rapid ceasefire in Lebanon, plus the acceptance only a week ago by the British Government of the continuation of not regulating cluster bombing, undermines the sort of support that we need if we are to be effective in the attempt to bring about some meeting of minds between Israel and Palestine. What we are seeing at the moment in Gaza is so appalling that we should all feel ashamed. Of course, it is wickedly wrong for Gaza to use rockets against the citizens and civilians of Israel. But it is also wickedly wrong for Gaza to have two people out of three with no running water or to have persistent collective punishment directed against them, with children and elderly people among the many victims, and, not least, to see them slowly starved into something close to surrender.

There are 550 permanent checkpoints in Gaza alone and many more in the West Bank therefore to talk about a viable Palestine is rubbish. Yet those of us who care, and I care very deeply, about one of the most gifted peoples on Earth—the Jewish people and the Jewish state—desperately want to see some alternative to the deeply destructive strategy of permanent coercion directed against Palestinians in the Middle East. That is why whatever our Government can do is so important. It is also why it is so sad that no attempt was made to include the United Kingdom in the recent European Union initiative headed by France, Spain and Italy. We did not even know that it was happening. Frankly, the United Kingdom was not regarded as a helpful signatory to the list.

My second point concerns the breakdown of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the remarkable treaty that has somehow stopped the proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the world until very recently. In the past few days, colleagues in this House will have read about the disturbing resumption of missile tests, first, by Pakistan and then by India. It is a very restless part of the world.

We have to underpin and strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. How can that be done? First, we must strongly support the initiative to try to get a fuel bank which would exchange highly enriched uranium for guaranteed lowly enriched uranium. Sooner or later we must wake up to the fact that the single greatest nuclear danger that we face is not so much the development of yet another nuclear power—although, God knows, most of us would work very hard to ensure that Iran does not move in that direction—it is ensuring that the large amounts of desperately dangerous nuclear material all over the world are secured and held in safe hands, and are not available for any terrorist who has the money and willingness to buy them. We talk so much rubbish about terrorism, but we hardly address at all the crucial act of securing fissionable materials of biological and chemical weapons on the international stage. Yet, bluntly, it is not difficult to find some rogue plant or individual who would sell radioactive

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materials—and who probably will in the next few years unless we strengthen the situation.

Lastly, the United Kingdom needs that debate about Trident. We are sorry that, to some extent, it has already been pre-empted by the statements from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We should have had a Green Paper and not a White Paper so that there would be a genuine debate. I am not sure where I stand, although there are real difficulties about seeing Trident as a weapon of the future against terrorism rather than a Maginot line directed to the Cold War backwards. Having said that, we must have this debate, which is vital for our democracy. It must be open and lively and, frankly, the Government should not pre-empt it by declaring their position in advance.

4.33 pm

Lord Patel of Bradford: My Lords, I am pleased and honoured to make my maiden speech today. I thank your Lordships for the kindness and support that I have received to date. I particularly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, and my noble friend Lord Adebowale for introducing me to the Floor of the House in July, and all those staff and officials who have helped me to learn about the workings of the House and my role and responsibilities in it. I am especially grateful for their ongoing kindness and friendliness, which has made me feel so welcome.

In the gracious Speech, Her Majesty clearly stated a number of the Government’s continued commitments to meeting their challenges in the United Kingdom and internationally, including a continued focus on Africa and contributing to a modern and inclusive United Nations. It is with this in mind that I have chosen not to focus my maiden speech on illegal drug use, mental health or aspects of the criminal justice system, all subjects in which I am much involved—of course, in an academic capacity.

In September this year I was asked to speak at a UNICEF session on its international development activities on water, sanitation and hygiene, known as its WASH programme. A global task force was created which seeks to increase the participation of children as a key objective in achieving the UN millennium development goals—in particular, the objective on the environment and what that means for children and young people.

The Department for International Development rightly recognises that these goals have a crucial part to play in reducing poverty and encouraging progress in the developing world. Indeed, DfID has made them the main focus of its work. The goals for the environment include targets that will halve the proportion of people who are without safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015. This is vital for children and young people, who make up some 30 per cent of the world's population and who, because of poor water sanitation, often pay the highest price in illness, loss of schooling and death.

As I speak on this subject I am minded of my own history and how I came to be here. I was born in

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Nairobi, east Africa, and brought up in Yorkshire, although you would not guess by my accent. I am the son of immigrant Indian parents who came to the UK from east Africa in 1961 in response to Britain's call for additional labour. Britain looked to the Commonwealth for help, and here I am today speaking on international development and the urgent need for us to help the children of those countries.

Unsafe drinking water and poor hygiene claim the lives of 1.5 million children under the age of five every year. That tragic statistic means that, now more than ever, we have to act to ensure that the world meets the goals on water and sanitation. More than 125 million children under five live in a household without access to an improved drinking water source, and more than 280 million children under five live in a household without access to improved water sanitation facilities. In eastern and southern Africa, where my parents came from, nearly 40 per cent of the population live without access to adequate sanitation, and the picture is similar across southern Asia.

While much is being done to meet the environment targets for access to safe drinking water, sadly the target for sanitation remains very distant. UNICEF's most recent report card on progress shows that the target for Africa will be missed by some 95 years. To meet that target the world needs to double the current rate of progress. Make no mistake: this is an environmental crisis that we cannot ignore. I am heartened by the UK Government’s response so far, particularly the significant increases in funding for water projects.

While finding is a significant component of what is needed, it is not in itself enough. We must look beneath the funding structures to see how programmes operate. Who is engaged with them, what is their focus and what steps are being taken to ensure their sustainability? UNICEF identified the engagement of children and young people as essential to the sustainability of water and sanitation programmes. UNICEF's WASH programme seeks to do this so that more children and young people become actively involved in sanitation advocacy and policy development. This is very close to my heart, as I have been involved in developing ways to better engage communities for a number of years. It is vital that communities are empowered and involved in development programmes. What better way to start than with the children and young people of those communities? That is how we will ensure sustainability and measurable change.

I am sure that it is hard for us in the UK to imagine what all this means, so let me try to tell you. Let me tell you about Fatima, a nine year-old from Darfur who is forced to walk up to eight miles a day, often with her younger brother on her back, in search of water, or Harriet Jore, aged 14, from Juba in southern Sudan, who says:

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I could relate many similar tragic experiences of children as regards access to water and sanitation. UNICEF's tireless activities have had a positive impact on the lives of many of these children. However, we cannot hope to change these circumstances without the active involvement of young people and their communities. It is on behalf of children like Fatima, Harriet and the millions of others who face that constant struggle every day that I must speak. It is their voices you must hear, not mine: voices that talk about hopelessness, the voices of children who say they cannot imagine having clean water, children without hope of staying free from disease and death. Hopelessness is dangerous in the young. It breeds despair, creates frustration and causes discontent which can be so intense it leaves these young people vulnerable to taking extreme actions. I need not spell out how extremist groups are able to prey on the vulnerabilities of the young.

Although I congratulate the UK Government on their increased commitment to funding water and sanitation programmes, I strongly urge that these programmes are designed, developed and implemented with the active involvement of the children and young people from the communities most affected. Building safe, secure and stable environments would benefit us all. To achieve that benefit, we need to accelerate our current programmes, especially for those who are harder to reach—often the poorest and most vulnerable. We need to focus on community engagement and the delivery of essential services. We must provide support to strengthen the policies, institutional frameworks and government capacities for leadership and responsibility that are needed to support their sustainability.

This should not be beyond our reach. Much of it can be achieved with the application of new, pioneering and often simple technology. It is time for us to recognise that sanitation is in a state of crisis, one that must be addressed urgently. I call on the Government to not only continue their focus on Africa and their contribution to a modern and inclusive United Nations, but also to strengthen their partnerships, in particular with UNICEF, the WASH programme and the global taskforce, as part of their programme of meeting the millennium development goal targets, and their national and regional development frameworks. These programmes can make a real difference to the lives of millions of children and young people, a difference which we cannot and must not fail to make.

I thank noble Lords for allowing me to use my maiden speech to bring these vital issues to the attention of the House.

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