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It is a political reality that the shock of the mid-term election result is likely to lead to a reduction in exposure of the Bush Administration to further damage from further military setbacks. So where does this leave our foreign policy priorities, which for several years have been locked into US ambitions? However well-meaning Jim Baker and his team may be in setting out a new way forward in the Middle East, the reality is that the aggressive rhetoric aimed at the Iranian leadership, which was also for home consumption, merely played into the hands of the extremist leaders of that country. Applying labels such as axis of evil and rogue state and publicising options for pre-emptive surgical strikes allow the despots to reinforce the claimed threat from the US and her allies, and the need to defend their people from it. It was made very clear to me in Iran not long ago that the collective memory of events in the 1950splanned, I understand, by United Kingdom agencies, and carried out, I understand, by American agenciesthat led to the installation of the Shah in power is still very strong in Iranian minds, and it colours their view of our intentions even today. I doubt very much that they will be receptive to a statement from Bakers team to the effect of, Oh, we have changed our minds.
We are Americas strongest allies, but we need to use our best efforts somehow to persuade the Administration and those that may follow them not to revert to the traditional isolationist view of the world when domestic politics go wrong, but to work
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Lord Jay of Ewelme: My Lords, it is 25 years almost to the day since, as a young diplomat, I sat in the officials Box in your Lordships House on the foreign affairs day of the Debate on the Address, pretending to offer expert advice to the then Foreign Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. It is a huge privilege to be taking part in that debate today. Having appeared many times before committees of your Lordships House in the intervening years, it is a relief to be on this side of the fence. I join others in thanking those officers of the House whose efficiency and friendliness have helped to make my landing on this side less painful than it might otherwise have been. I say that not because it is the tradition, but because it is true.
It was my privilege, after serving as ambassador in Paris for five years, to head the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as its Permanent Under-Secretary for four and a half years, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned. The Foreign Office has changed and is changing and modernising hugely, as I saw in visiting some 80 embassies and high commissions around the world. There is a huge gap between the traditional view of the diplomat and todays reality. Professional, committed men, and increasingly women, are promoting this countrys interests in 140 countries around the world in just the subjects that are at the heart of the Queens Speech: security, counter-terrorism, conflict resolution, migration, climate change, helping British businesses and, most important of all, helping British citizens in distress, in no matter what corner of the globe. They are doing that in conditions that are often difficult, dangerous and unforgiving. All that is done within a budget, as the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, knows, that is less than one-200th of the total public spending.
Foreign Office staff are also in Afghanistan and Iraq, working alongside our Armed Forces, to whose bravery and professionalism I, too, pay tribute. I do not want to talk now about how we arrived at our current situation in Iraq, nor for one moment do I want to play down the awfulness of the situation as described by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd. The key question today is surely what our approach should be for the future, taking into account, and seeking to influence and encourage, the shifting tide in Washington. How do we seek to reconcile the twin aims of a stable, unitary Iraq, realising its economic potential and contributing to regional stability
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If we were to judge that our continuing military presence as part of the coalition would set back those aims for Iraq, we should leave at once, but that would be deeply resented by the Iraqi Government, who are, let us remember, democratically elected and who want our support. That would risk even greater turmoil. I do not think, therefore, that would be the right course. It would be better, surely, to work with and to exert influence on the Iraqi Government to maintain a unitary and non-sectarian state. I entirely agree with the importance that the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, gave to the maintenance of a unitary state. It would be better to do even more to train and equip the Iraqi police, and in particular the army, to accelerate the transfer of responsibility to the Iraqis; and to intensify economic development with a focus on infrastructure that is visible to the Iraqis, and crucially to focus on jobs. We should work with Iraqs neighbours, Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Gulf states, and with Syria and Iran, with our eyes open. Engagement need not mean weakness. We should do so as part of a more robust regional approach. We should involve, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, said, the UN and other international institutions more actively, with the aim of a regional conference under UN auspices, with a role for the EU. Perhaps most fundamentally of all, we should redouble efforts to resolve the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians and persuade the United States that that is as much in its interests as it is in the interests of others.
As many noble Lords have said, there are no easy solutions to Iraq, and all those elements are linked, but an approach on those lines could help to achieve our twin objectives. The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq illustrate vividly some of the difficult challenges that this country faces. What is the role of conflict when the enemy is often invisible? What structures do we need here in government for still more effective conflict prevention and resolution? How do we build the international institutions to meet todays challenges, in particular poverty and climate change? How do we ensure that the great emerging powers of India, China and Brazil play a full part in those international institutions? How do we find the right balance at home between civil liberties and the protection of our citizens? How do we ensure that minority communities here not only keep the cultural traditions of which they are rightly proud but feel part of our society? That is part of the broader question of British identity mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace. How do we balance a necessary strong relationship with the United States with an equally necessary strong engagement within the European Union? That is an engagement in which I have, over 20 years, supported three very different Prime Ministers and eight very different Foreign Secretaries. On those and other issues that show the extent to which, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, said, our foreign policy and our domestic policy are now inextricably intertwined, I look forward to making a contribution in your Lordships House.
Lord Ahmed: My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme. I congratulate him on his thoughtful and expert speech. The noble Lord has had a distinguished career in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as a Permanent Under-Secretary of State. He brings a huge experience of the FCO, the IMF and development. We look forward to his expert contribution in your Lordships House.
I thank our Government for their efforts and support for Kosovos struggle to gain its status as an equal and sovereign republic in the family of nations. We must make sure that the process is concluded successfully, without Kosovans of all ethnicities and religions being left in limbo. An independent, democratic, multi-ethnic and functional Kosovo will make a serious contribution towards the stability of the Balkans.
I also emphasise my delight at the Governments support for the start of Turkeys EU membership negotiations. I hope that the Government carry on their determination that talks should continue. It will contribute substantially to the democratic, economic and social improvement of Turkey; however, enthusiasm for joining is fast fading away due to the prejudice of old Europe, as we have seen.
The British Governments help and support after the earthquake in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir on 8 October 2005 has been warmly welcome. Our rescue teams were the first to arrive in Islamabad and they saved lives. Our helicopters and NATO engineers helped to open the difficult roads and to help with rehabilitation. The Government have committed over £70 million for reconstruction, which is appreciated in Pakistan. I thank the Disasters Emergency Committee for its efforts in saving lives and providing much-needed help. Many Islamic charities and community centres also provided generous financial support.
In 2006, besides the above-mentioned good news, unfortunately the world has witnessed more negative developments. In that regard, I would like also to say a few words on Kashmir and Afghanistan before I comment on the Middle East. After coming to the brink of war in 2002, India and Pakistan announced peace talks in January 2004 on a number of matters, including Kashmir. However, since then, no constructive step has been taken by the two parties to resolve the issue of Kashmir. I welcome the Governments support for reviving the talks between the two countries and I hope that our Government will continue to encourage the Governments of India and Pakistan to include the Kasmiri leadership in those important talks. Perhaps I may request that we call for demilitarisation of the entire state of Kashmir by both countries.
Similarly, the situation in Afghanistan, as we have heard time after time, also seems far from the peace and stability desperately desired by its citizens and the international community. Although operations have continued the fight against terrorism under the NATO umbrella, security cannot be maintained in that country. In addition to increased unrest, summer droughts and flooding have dealt further damage to
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The fight against terrorism will not be won without dealing with the causes. Military power alone will not succeed; we must deal with state terrorism as well. We handed over power to the Northern Alliance but ignored the majority of Pashtuns. We have to find ways to encourage the foot soldiers of the Taliban to put down their arms and engage in a political process. The past 12 months have been difficult for the Middle East, whether in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza or Ramallah.
When the Prime Minister talks about young Muslims in this country and around the world as having a false sense of grievance, I wonder whether he really thinks that what we have done in Iraq and Lebanon, and our supportor lack of supportfor the peace initiative in the Middle East, has not been considered. In south Lebanon, when two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped, we forgot that thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese had been abducted and put in Israeli jails. The Prime Minister was prepared to meet the families of the two soldiers, but I am sorry that he did not meet the young girl whose family was killed on the beach of Gaza. He did not meet the thousands of families whose loved ones are in Israeli prisons. When the United Nations Secretary-General and the rest of the world were calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, I was sorry that we followed the United States and Israel and refused to call for the same. This is not only a matter of concern to the Muslim community in Britain and young Muslims; the majority of the British public was calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
We have been silent over the Israeli incursions that are happening in Gaza and the West Bank as we speak and which have continued for the past five months. Since June 2006, the Israeli army has killed 342 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 64 children and 15 women, and wounded some 1,186 civilians, including 344 children and 49 women.
I wish to make one final point. Unless we involve the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and Muslim countries in rebuilding Iraq, peacekeeping and achieving a final solution, the job will be very difficult.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, this is as sombre an atmosphere as I can remember in any defence or foreign affairs debate in which I have had the privilege to take part. It is not difficult to understand why that is the case, when one looks at the present times.
The noble Lord, Lord Patel, talked about the importance of hope. Hope is in pretty short supply in a number of areas, whether they are the nuclear problems of North Korea and Iran, Israel/Palestine, emerging energy supply conflicts, the issue of climate
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The situation is even more sombre when one considers that our capital city, where this debate is taking place, has now been identified by international observers as the city under arguably the greatest threat from terrorism. Against that background, I echo what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, said about the need for the re-creation of a British foreign policy and the re-enlistment of the expertise, skills and abilities of our foreign service, which have been too neglected in our recent subservience, almost, to American leadershipnot always in the right direction. On that, I welcome the evidence of a US reappraisal of its approach to these challenging international problems.
Against that background, I wish to say a brief word on Iraq and Afghanistan. I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, that preserving a unitary state in Iraq is vital if the chaos there is not to spread like a foul virus through the erratic and potentially unstable neighbouring countries in the Middle East. I was not in much doubt about that unity at the end of the day, but what my noble friend Lord Hurd said in his impressive speech about the flight of the middle classes and maybe of the professional classes makes me very worried as to whether Iraq will retain the basic core of nationalism that otherwise would hold it together.
Turning to Afghanistan, I think that it was Colonel Wilkinson, an ex-SAS officer who is a national security adviser in Kabul to the Karzai Government, who said on the Today programme this morning that they were all aghast at how few troops we had sent into Helmand. The Minister said very clearlyI listened to his words carefullythat the Government always recognised that Helmand would be difficult. That was not entirely borne out by his Secretary of State, who came back from his visit to Afghanistan and said that he did not realise how tough it would be. That seemed to be an amazingly naive remark. I do not think that anybody with the slightest knowledge of British history would be in any doubt that any engagement in Afghanistan would be very tough indeed.
What actually happened in Iraq and Afghanistan is that, after shock and awe and after a brilliant military campaign, the window of opportunity that opened up for a short period to achieve some real improvement in the condition of the people was lost. We forgot completely about Afghanistan for about three years and we are paying a heavy price for it. The Prime Minister said:
When the Minister winds up, I hope that he will tell me what on Earth the Prime Minister meant by that. That is not a remark that I would make to the members of 3 Para, who find themselves firing off 400,000 rounds of ammunition desperately trying to protect a lonely outpost from the Taliban.
Something that worries meit gives me the emotion of anger that my noble friend Lord Hurd referred tois that I am not sure how much Ministers really understand the situation. The Prime Minister said that, when the first signs of real trouble in Helmand province come up, whatever they need they will get. Did he not know about the shortage of helicopters? Did he not know that there was no strategic reserve that could be brought to bear or that there were no extra forces of any significancethat there were no adequate armoured vehicles although they were necessary? The Minister referred to them and they are now being arranged in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I am in exactly the position of the noble Lord, Lord Hurd; we are inhibited. When our forces are out there in harms way but are unable to comment, they deserve our bipartisan support. It is no good just saying, We are in support of our Armed Forces; arent they wonderful?. We must also ensure that we get valid criticisms lodged with the Government and that they are doing something about it.
The Minister was careful to say that we should not use the word retreat and others have said that we are not in the business of cutting and running, which we certainly are not; our forces will do their damnedestwe know that they will play an outstanding part and that we will be very proud of them. I worry that we may be doing permanent damage to our Armed Forces. The Government did not create our Armed Forces, or the tradition of the finest army in the world that many of us admire. They are for the moment the trustees of that and they should look after and care for it.
Let me illustrate what I mean. The issue is not simply whether the Army has the armaments. I accept that the Minister may not know about the following situation, but how would he feel if he were in this position? When some of our Armed Forces went out to Afghanistan, and their families moved into new accommodation, they found that it had not been looked after. A familya wife with young childrengoing into married quarters may find that there is no boiler or that it does not work. When she says, Can somebody fix it?, she is told that there is no money to do so in the Army budget until next summer. That is what I mean about care. When Ministers make fine statements about how proud we are of our Armed Forces, they should not simply make facile statements; pride involves care and consideration.
I am delighted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been out having worthy photo opportunities and showing his support for our Armed Forces. I hope that it was not just a photo opportunity; I hope that he is now going to take a real interest in our Armed Forces and not just make pious statements. He should ensure that they really get the
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Lord Alderdice: My Lords, in this somewhat sombre debate there is a great richness of contributors and a considerable richness of maiden speeches. At the commencement of my own remarks, I make particular reference to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, and welcome him as another mental health professional to work in your Lordships House. I also refer to the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont. His territorial designation refers to the townland just beside Knock, which is the territorial designation associated with my own title. He and I were elected representatives for the same multi-member constituency, Victoria, and served on opposite benches in Belfast City Hall for some eight years. During all that time, despite what noble Lords might think of the politics of Northern Ireland, while we differed on many matters of politics, I always found him courteous, proper, conscientious and considerate; he was a model to many of his colleagues. It was no surprise that he became Lord Mayor of Belfast, an office that he served with great distinction, and that he now finds himself in your Lordships House; I welcome him. I know that he will share with me the hope that even this week we will take another step along the road and that some of Northern Irelands business will move away from your Lordships House and the Palace of Westminster and back to Stormont and Parliament Buildings where his colleagues and others with whom they differ enormously may come together to share power and responsibility for the people of Northern Ireland and their affairs.
There are many things in the gracious Speech to which I am tempted to refer. Given my professional background, you will not be surprised to know that I look with some interest and not a little concern to the latest incarnation of the Mental Health Bill, which will come to your Lordships House rather soon.
Even in the realm of foreign affairs, on which todays debate is founded, I find myself initially tempted to speak to a matter that we have discussed before: the withdrawal of Her Majestys Governments real interest and political involvement in Latin America. Offices of the British Council and DfID are closing in a number of countries and our investment there is disappearing at a time when a malign populismI refer to the election of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and to many othersis demonstrating that in that region we should be involving, not withdrawing, ourselves. Othersperhaps most notably Beijingare following the area with great interest and investing political and capital means in order to extend their influence in a part of the world that they know to be significant and important, while we allow our relationships to wither on the vine.
I cannot but focus my attention on matters in the Middle East. Whatever other difficulties there are, the
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