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4.41 pm

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, on behalf of the whole House, I warmly congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, on his excellent, thoughtful and illuminating speech. At the beginning of his remarks, he said that he did not intend to draw on his enormous expertise in ethnic health and social policy, to which I am sure all noble Lords know he

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has devoted so much distinguished time in his professional career. As we listened to him, however, we heard of the vital importance of understanding the role of ethnic health, community work and, in particular, community development in solving some of the problems of our own communities and how that can be so imaginatively translated into the developing world policy of which he spoke so enthusiastically. I again offer him my congratulations, and warmly welcome him.

I also look forward to the other three maiden speeches that we will hear today. If the House will indulge me, I will say that I particularly look forward to the speech of—I think that I can call him this, in the relaxed tribalism of this House—my noble kinsman, Lord Jay of Ewelme, whom I had the pleasure of introducing to the House a few weeks ago.

I follow the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on development, but perhaps take a slightly different and rather broader approach. I declare my usual interest as the chair of the Overseas Development Institute. As the House will recognise, development policy has been a high priority for the Government since this Parliament began. It has been the flagship success of our international policy in a period when, as we have already heard this afternoon, other aspects of our foreign relations have caused controversy and, to use the Minister’s own word, turbulence.

Last year, 2005, optimistically became the year of overseas development. It was energetically led by the Prime Minister and supported by an extraordinary coalition of civil society. By those means, the UK Government succeeded in using our presidency of the G8 to build the important agreements to fight international poverty that were signed at the Gleneagles summit in July 2005. This year, 2006, has been about making those agreements stick. There have been some serious disappointments, notably in the failure so far of the Doha round of trade negotiations. On debt relief and the doubling of aid volumes, however, last year’s momentum has been largely maintained.

At the same time, questions have grown about whether aid on its own is really effective in reducing poverty and whether any type of financial assistance is guaranteed to reach the most poor in the poorest countries. I therefore welcome the new emphasis that the Government are placing on the governance of development—in other words, on trying to devise policies and programmes specifically intended to improve the mechanics of delivery—and on improving national and international transparency and accountability in this area, which is equally important. In the last Session, the Government rightly gave a fair wind to the Private Member’s Bill taken through this House by my noble friend Lady Whitaker to improve parliamentary accountability and scrutiny of our aid programme. We shall see the first parliamentary report on that next year; it will cover not only financial targets but the management of development programmes and attempts to root out corruption in delivering them. It will also assess policy coherence in bilateral and multilateral projects, which is extremely important.

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In this area, I also welcome the White Paper that the Government published in July. Again, it emphasised multilateral action, but was called Eliminating World Poverty: Making Governance Work for the Poor. In his introduction, the Secretary of State, Hilary Benn, wrote:

The White Paper proposes an extremely ambitious agenda for that reform:

The White Paper is right to put reform at the United Nations at the top of the list. At the moment, there are too many examples of unco-ordinated UN efforts, which often make local situations seem worse rather than better. There are too many examples of different UN agencies tripping over one another on the ground in the developing world. The example that always catches my eye and is perhaps the most notorious is Vietnam, where the 11 UN agencies that are operating manage to deliver only 2 per cent of the aid that that country receives. Across the world as a whole, there are 28 UN agencies working on the problems of water supply. In health—another crucial area—there are more than 90 global funds, not all of which are directly run by the UN, but all of which are independent of one another.

As the amount of aid grows—which we are pleased to see—receiving countries are compelled to set up vastly complicated accounting systems. Uganda and Mozambique each have more than 1,000 separate donor accounts. Ghana has 17 separate donors providing aid to its health sector and Egypt has 22. The World Health Organisation has more than 4,600 accounts that require regular accounting and systematic reports. I am not suggesting that those reports should not happen, and the UN is not the only culprit, but until now it has been part of the problem rather than the solution. In this respect, that organisation is not—to use the current vogue phrase—“fit for purpose”.

The drive for reform has fortunately been given an important boost by the publication this month of the report by the United Nations High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence. That may be an uninspiring bureaucratic title, but the report has been greeted as the best opportunity for a generation to modernise the sprawling development apparatus. The high-level panel included three serving prime ministers, and the United Kingdom was represented by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. Therefore, the UK has an obvious opening to lead a determined charge to translate the report’s strong words into strong action, and I hope that the Government will seize that opportunity.

The prize for achieving some UN coherence is worth fighting for because reformed development institutions could be the foundation for the modern and inclusive United Nations that was mentioned in the gracious Speech and which we would all like to

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see. It is only through this type of practical political reform that the world will make progress towards the genuine multilateralism and collective action that has already been a recurring theme in today’s debate. The Government have rightly tried to broaden the development debate beyond economic aid to produce an understanding that it should also include broader issues such as pandemic disease, regional conflict and climate change. It is absolutely right to emphasise such interdependence between all aspects of our overseas policy. Coherence is the only way to achieve genuine and long-term results.

In conclusion, I congratulate the Government on their record in giving development the high-level prominence that it certainly deserves. I hope that in the coming year Ministers will continue to work at the very highest levels to achieve the reforms put forward in our White Paper and by the United Nations. I hope, too, that we can increase the general understanding of the inevitable links between global poverty and global security and approach both issues in a multilateral and collective way.

4.50 pm

Lord Leach of Fairford: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford for his generous introductory remarks and your Lordships and all the staff of the House for their extraordinary helpfulness to a new Member.

We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, with another treaty on its way. It seems presumptuous to comment on these treaties in the presence of such eminent authorities as your Lordships. I must also observe the convention of avoiding controversy in a maiden speech, which is not easy when the debate is so polarised. I have been involved in that debate for some years, mainly, but not exclusively, on the euro-critical side—to declare a possible interest—and, from my experience, I believe that it is less polarised than it is usually portrayed.

There are certainly some who interpret every event as a reason for more Europe and others who interpret every event as a reason for no Europe at all. But the less vocal and less political majority just want reform. Speeches about reform have been two a penny, as have predictions of life-changing success for each new European initiative. Noble Lords will recall the Cecchini report, which predicted that the single market would raise Europe’s growth rate to 7 per cent and eliminate unemployment. The Lisbon agenda was going to turn Europe into the world’s leading information-based economy. The Laeken declaration even promised to re-examine the division of powers of the member states. But none of these hopes or promises materialised.

Popular disillusion must have been largely responsible for the defeat of the constitution in two recent referendums. Those defeats came as a shock. The European leadership’s first reaction—to call for a period of reflection—was a wise one. For a few months it seemed conceivable that genuine reform might at last prevail and that a revised treaty might frame a looser-limbed structure that would be more user-friendly to voters—perhaps attractive to Norway

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and Switzerland and better able to accommodate Turkey. But that sort of radical change needs a determined national champion. Sadly, none emerged. The centralisers recovered their confidence and carried on as though the referendums had not happened. The flow of regulations and directives resumed, some of which were highly sensitive, such as blocking the deportation of foreign criminals, and all were expensive. We have Commissioner Verheugen’s word that the administrative cost of EU regulation has reached a staggering €600 billion a year. To put that into perspective, that is equal to the combined Dutch and Austrian economies.

In March next year, the Berlin declaration will relaunch the constitution, which will probably be little changed from the defeated one. It is tempting to succumb to treaty fatigue, to accept that the process is unstoppable and to settle for a few limited negotiating trade-offs. But we cannot go on like this. This is not the 1960s. International tariff cuts have deprived the regional economic blocs of their original purpose. Manufacturing has dispersed geographically and been outstripped by completely globalised services such as finance, communications and design. Massive new national economies have entered the arena.

The qualities of a successful society were identified in a famous speech by Pericles in Athens 2,500 years ago: flexible response to surprise; openness to all comers; and the full engagement of the people. The architects of the constitution cite another part of the same speech with admiration, but they do not seem to have reached that passage—the treaty that they produced would have done nothing to reconnect the Union with voters or to improve its adaptability to change.

The EU has considerable political achievements to its credit, such as the rehabilitation of its former dictatorships and the encouragement of higher legal and environmental standards in the former Soviet satellites—and elsewhere—but centralisation is no answer to the economic challenges of the 21st century. The Commission expects that Europe's share of world GDP on its current course will fall to little more than half its present level in our children's lifetime. We cannot just resign ourselves to failure on that scale. Decline is not inevitable. Look at the City: it has not narrowed its vision to the region; it sees Asia more as an opportunity than a threat. Helped by a light domestic regulatory touch, it has become the financial powerhouse of the world. Few strategic developments should alarm us more than the EU’s misguided action plan to impose a vast and cumbersome regulatory system on London's sophisticated wholesale markets. Nothing could expel them quicker.

The EU’s response to the rise of Asia has been essentially defensive. We had the bra war, then the leather boot war. The farm lobby played a large part in the failure of the recent world trade talks. Presumably, those events were privately resisted by British and other liberally minded representatives, but all an outsider sees is the pan-European result: protectionism. Rival visions of the purpose of the customs union—what we used to call the Common Market—are causing concern across Europe. Is it

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there to promote competition or is it, as France prefers, to shield producers from global forces? Should regulation be cut or proliferated in pursuit of integration as an end in itself? That conflict of ideas is divisive within as well as across countries. It plays into the hands of blocking minorities standing up for special interest groups. Those who suffer the most are those in Africa and the rest of the third world, who are denied access to our markets, together with the least well-off in our society.

In this country, there is now a strong business consensus for reform but there is no consensus about how that could be achieved in the context of the EU structure. That question would definitely take me into controversial territory and I have detained your Lordships enough, so I must leave that to another occasion.

4.58 pm

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to welcome and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Leach of Fairford. I do not have to agree with every word of his speech to recognise none the less that it was a speech of great power. It showed the extraordinary experience that he brings to this House as a partner and director of Rothschild’s, managing director of the Trade Development Bank, chairman of the Open Europe foundation and think tank and author of a book on Europe which, I am told, has run to four reprints, which is remarkable by any standards for a book on that subject. The wealth of experience that he brings here was shown in his speech and it will be very welcome in the House in future.

If we had a longer debate, I would alert the House to the fact that progress is checked in the Balkans and that the delay of the decision on Kosovo was a mistake that will not save us from the irredentism that the Serbs in Belgrade now seem determined to follow. The forthcoming elections there will, I regret, show a shift to the right. The country with which I was involved, Bosnia-Herzegovina, seems to be checked in its progress. Those matters will have to wait for another time.

I want to mention only one other subject today: Iraq. It is clear that there are now no easy routes out of the disaster which the coalition has brought on itself in that country. I suspect that the defeat of Saddam Hussein’s army may well go down as a classic example of how to fight this kind of war, but it is absolutely clear that how we built the peace afterwards will go down as a classic example of how not to conduct these operations. Let us be plain and blunt about this. We have failed in Iraq. That is not to say that nothing positive can now emerge or that ignominious retreat is the only outcome. It is merely stating the obvious to say that the coalition cannot now achieve the ambitious aims that it set for itself four years ago. Iraq is about to be a particularly painful example of the hubris that attends over-ambitious aims in peacemaking and reconstruction.

What should we do now? The question now reverberating on everyone’s lips is not whether we will withdraw but when, how and in what circumstances

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we will withdraw. Here we have a problem. The coalition no longer controls events in Iraq; it is controlled by them. That applies to the circumstances of our withdrawal, too. We are now in that most dangerous of territories where policy no longer defines outcomes but only gives us the best chance of achieving hopes. In the bonfire of hopes and ambitions that has been the story of Iraq for the past four years, only one ambition remains important and remotely achievable—to do whatever we can to maintain a unitary Iraq and to avoid its dismemberment into chaos.

There can be no other aim for our policy now but this. Only if we can achieve that can we have any hope of an orderly withdrawal and any prospect of leaving behind a relatively stable peace. That means a policy with three ingredients, and cutting and running is not one of them. First, we must continue to strengthen the army and the security forces in Iraq. Let us be blunt: the Iraqi police are a disaster and likely to remain so. The only force in Iraq with the potential to act as the last bulwark against civil war and anarchy is now the army; at least, we must hope that it is.

Secondly, we need to be more proactive in seeking a political solution to the future shape of a unitary Iraq. Everyone knows that that must mean a federal Iraq, but no one can agree what this should look like. The international community’s current policy is to have no part in this debate except to stand aside and leave it to the locals. I suspect this is a luxury that we can no longer afford as, day by bloody day, Iraq is reshaped, not by rational dialogue but by murder, violence and ethnic cleansing. We may not now be able to stop Iraq breaking up, but we should not stand idly by while it happens. The best, and arguably the only, way to prevent this is for the international community to take a proactive role in shaping Iraq’s new federal structure before it is too late. This is a job not for the coalition but for the wider international community, including, crucially, Iraq’s neighbours.

Iraq’s neighbours are the third element in any plan to avoid a deeper catastrophe. Perhaps it is not quite yet too late. Most of Iraq’s neighbours, except perhaps only Iran, do not really want there to be chaos or a power vacuum on their borders. The only plan for a federal unitary Iraq that could succeed would therefore be one underpinned by an international community agreement and to which the neighbours are committed, such as the Dayton agreement for Bosnia and the recent agreement on Afghanistan. Is it possible? Undoubtedly it will be difficult, but this offers what is now perhaps the only solution to avoiding a catastrophe of collapse in Iraq itself. The United States cannot any longer broker such a regional solution because it has lost all leverage in the tragedy of its failed policies in Iraq, but the EU could and should.

There is already a group called the neighbours forum which consists of Turkey, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It meets regularly at foreign minister and interior minister level, and it has recently invited the European Union and the United Nations to join it as observers. The EU should urgently use this forum to work towards a wider

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regional settlement which, as has been said, must include the central question of Palestine and could incorporate an agreement guaranteed by the international community, underpinned by its neighbours, on the future shape of Iraq. There is, I suspect, now no other context within which a reasonable end to the Iraq tragedy might be achieved.

5.05 pm

Lord Browne of Belmont: My Lords, I begin by expressing my thanks for the kindness and friendship shown to me in my first two months in this House. Those of us who now represent Northern Ireland in this place deeply appreciate the welcome from so many Members, particularly the encouraging words of the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I have also greatly appreciated the unobtrusive guidance and advice offered by all the officers and staff whom I have encountered. I assure your Lordships that a word of direction is often welcome for someone of my considerable girth who is attempting to negotiate the narrow nooks and crannies and steep staircases to find the way to the very fine restaurants.

As one of the first three members of the Democratic Unionist Party to sit in your Lordships’ House, I regard it as a great honour and privilege to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the defence measures to be taken, outlined by Her Majesty in her gracious Speech last week. I must confess that my own military experience is limited, being confined to a short period as a lance corporal in the Royal Engineers in the Combined Cadet Force as a schoolboy, when my main duties were transferring baggage from the Heysham ferry to the train on the way to the annual training camp at Halton in Lancaster. Even in those days baggage went astray.

However, more recently I have had the pleasure of meeting and working often with members of the armed services and the Police Service of Northern Ireland throughout my term as the Lord Mayor of Belfast. I also have the privilege to serve as a board member of the Somme Association of Northern Ireland, representing veterans and their interests throughout the Province. I was always moved by the modesty and directness of those whom I met, and especially by the quiet courage of the relatives of those who had suffered injury or who had made the ultimate sacrifice. In particular, I was very proud to officiate when the award of the George Cross to the Royal Ulster Constabulary was honoured by its incorporation into its memorial window at Belfast City Hall.

Despite my lack of expertise in defence and military strategy, perhaps the involuntary experience of observing at close quarters for 30 years the implementation of security policy in Northern Ireland has prompted me to think more about terrorism and how to deal with it than the man in the street, although unfortunately he too has become all too familiar with it in recent years. Given the assurance in Her Majesty’s gracious Speech last Wednesday that further action to address the threat of terrorism will be at the heart of her Government’s policy, perhaps your Lordships will bear with me if I

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venture some thoughts on the subject from a historical perspective which I hope are neither controversial nor vacuous.

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