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Indeed, China, with its investment and ever-increasing trade links, proves that the economic and trade impact of giant economies such as those of Brazil and Mexico, as well as Argentina and Chile, remain as significant as ever. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, as the Minister responsible for Latin American affairs, takes all that very seriously. This country would also be wise to take note of the activities of President Chavez of Venezuela as he woos his neighbours and others further afield with the Petrocaribe.

There is also the rise of the indigenous voice—some people may say, “Not soon enough”—in many places, most especially in Bolivia. Fortunately, the re-election of President Lula da Silva for a second term in Brazil, and Chile, with its first woman president, provide an element of stability, as do recent conclusive elections in Costa Rica, Peru and Nicaragua, although we await the result of congressional elections in Venezuela in December. Elections are also due in Ecuador and, next year, in Argentina. Things will not be dull, but the democratic process is certainly well established and in practice. Cuba, too, may well be centre stage if President Castro’s health fails—and, given our interests in the Caribbean, let us not forget that the combined and comparatively huge populations of Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico mean that the Spanish language at least dominates there.

An interesting example of the global village and its implications came out of my recent CPA visit to Pakistan. We were taken to a very impressive textile factory close to Lahore. On hearing that it was finding new markets in central and South America, I inquired further. Who would have thought that, because of bilateral agreements between the United States of America and central America and because of the CAFTA agreement between the USA, Brazil and others, some of these countries are turning to faraway Pakistan to fulfil their cotton quotas, at least in the short term?

To sum up this short speech, the lessons to be learnt are that no country—not a vast country such as China, a large and influential country such as Russia, even the all-powerful USA, and certainly not the United Kingdom—can or should go it alone. We must have more consideration, more partnerships and more communication. Then, perhaps, we might see a more harmonious world.



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7.11 pm

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, I shall take a slightly different approach from the one taken by almost everyone else this evening. Who am I to venture into the field of defence or detailed foreign policy? I can, however, look at Britain’s role in a very changed and different world from the one in which most of us grew up.

Perhaps the Welsh are a race of dreamers; I, at least, am happy to count myself one of them. As a youngster, I used to wonder which nation could provide that moral and humanitarian lead that would open the door so that other nations could follow and build a new world in that way. Surely the opportunity was there for Gandhi in India, but of course that did not materialise. Then we had the state of Israel, whose people had been through such a terrible time in the Holocaust. Some 120 different nations were represented, and I thought that surely the lead could come from there. But it has not. We could look to the Scandinavian countries and to Canada, but why should we not look to the United Kingdom to be one nation that takes a lead and is a beacon of light in humanitarian and other matters?

At the end of the First World War, David Lloyd George wanted a country fit for heroes to live in. Lord Soper, a Member of this House, went further. He said that he did not really want a country fit for heroes to live in; he wanted a world fit for children to live in. That is why I so welcome the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford; it shows what we could do. We could be a beacon of light, the hope and the model. Yet we seem reluctant to lead. We hesitate and we delay.

Only a couple of weeks ago, the Joint Committee on Human Rights estimated that 4,000 women each year are trafficked into the United Kingdom for prostitution. This is one of the most serious human rights issues. Yet we in this Parliament have failed to sign the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. That is something that we could do and that the rest of world would realise that we had done. We could lead with these conventions and these protocols. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which addressed the involvement of children in armed conflict, was ratified in 2003, but, as our debates on the Armed Forces a week or so ago showed, we are still the only country in Europe to enlist youngsters as young as 16 and to allow them to enter fields of battle.

On the rights of the child more widely, we were told in September 2000 that the Government were committed at the earliest opportunity to ratifying provisions in relation to the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. That was six years ago, and there has been no such ratification. I could go on and on. I have a list of 300 treaties and conventions—on apartheid, racism in sport and migrant workers—that we have not ratified. They have not been fulfilled according to the commitment that we gave at the beginning. We want to gain the support of so many underprivileged and deprived people, but our reluctance can only breed suspicion and resentment. We are losing the battle for people’s

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hearts and minds because of our reluctance. There are things that we could do; we could sign and ratify these treaties and protocols.

Last week, we were told that there are 30 terrorist cells ready to create great turmoil in the United Kingdom. They want to harm and destroy. Can we not take a positive attitude and encourage the formation not of 30 but of 30,000 groups of people of all faiths and backgrounds who are committed to being at peace and tolerant of each other to outweigh the influence of the terrorist cells? Could we not take that lead?

I sometimes try to put myself in the shoes of an asylum seeker from, say, a distant land in the East who wants to go to a country that offers some opportunity. They might try to go to Europe, say the UK, and gather every penny that they can get. Their family supports them, and they land themselves perhaps in refrigerated van or some other sort of trap. For days or weeks, they cross country after country because there is hope. They want hope. Imagine the disappointment when they come to a country that says, “Sorry. We used to welcome asylum seekers, and were ready to make the most of those who arrived here”.

Take these figures. Her Majesty’s Government say that a family of four needs £279 a week to survive. That is the rate. Even UK people on benefits receive £197 a week, which is £82 short of that figure. Asylum seekers, however, receive £153 for a family of four. They are disadvantaged. People then say that they are scrounging and begging, but these people must live. The New Statesman gave me those figures only last week. A family from Malawi had young kids who were going to die anyway because they were suffering from AIDS. They were sent back to their own country.

Surely we need a different approach, because those whose dignity and hope are undermined are easy recruits for those who thrive on the conviction that they are being ill treated. This is a recruiting ground. We need to give people not only material support, but so often emotional and psychological support. Many of us have grandchildren. The loveliest thing about having a grandchild is that you can cuddle them. You can share love and hope with that child. Surely by having a closed attitude and an unresponsive Government and people, we are making it difficult for those who only want to live with dignity in this life.

The Statue of Liberty bears these words:

Cannot the UK be a country that can change attitudes and be a beacon of hope, not the darkness of rejection and despair?

7.18 pm

Lord Inge: My Lords, I am not sure that I will be a beacon of hope. May I start by saying how much I agree with those who have said that we need to

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rethink the strategy for the Middle East and beyond? I am talking not of military means but about involving the great departments of state and really thinking across government, as we used to be able to do. I have a real sense that we do not have government that is as well joined up as it should be. I am not going to deal with that, however; I shall concentrate on the Armed Forces. I am concerned that the pressure on them is not fully recognised. There is a danger of their becoming a fringe activity. Many people admire them and what they do, but I sense that people do not understand the pressures on them at the moment. I shall talk a little about operations, over-commitment and cuts in training and equipment, and I shall make some points about welfare.

As many noble Lords have made clear, the pressure on the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is considerable at the moment. Indeed, when we look back at the changes made to the Armed Forces under Options for Change, it is clear that they did not recognise the intensity of operational service that we now expect from our forces. I have to say that the sense I had from the speech of the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, was rather more optimistic than I believe is justified. Noble Lords will remember that before the Battle of Trafalgar Lord Nelson said:

I think that the service men and women serving in Afghanistan and Iraq can expect the same from their Government, and I am not sure whether in certain areas they are getting that help and service.

I shall talk first about overstretch. The gaps between operational tours were laid down in harmony guidelines that were not produced with the intensity of conflict that we are talking about in Afghanistan and Iraq; they are based more on the sort of commitment that we had in Northern Ireland. Moreover, we are already breaking those harmony guidelines. It is also true to say that, without the help of the Territorial Army, the Regular Army could not have coped. I pay huge tribute to what the Territorials have done to help the Regular Army, but that should not hide the major problem.

I know that there have always been problems with manning, equipment and so forth, but I sense that the difficulties at the moment are much more intense than was the case in the past. It is strange that no actual mention was made of the Armed Forces in the gracious Speech. No special point was made about them, although the speech did manage to talk about regulating estate agents. That seems to put things in a rather strange order of priority.

Many noble Lords have spoken about the intensity of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also, I do not believe that in Afghanistan we are getting the support that we deserve from some of our allies. General Richards still does not have an operational reserve, which breaks one of the fundamental principles of a core command. He has no operational reserves of his own in terms of vehicles, men or, most important, helicopters. In addition, the restrictions on the rules of engagement placed on certain of the allies in Afghanistan are such that really their contribution is minimal. For example, in the north a lot of

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equipment is being smuggled through from the “Stans”. For the German contingent, however, the rules of engagement are such that they cannot be as effective as I know they want to be. On top of that, we see no clear way ahead for dealing with the poppy crop.

Training is fundamentally important, and while it is easy to talk about, we will not have operational success unless there is hard and demanding training—not only at the unit and battalion level, but also at the formation level, for brigade and divisional commanders. Because of over-commitment or perhaps underfunding, exercises have had to be cancelled. While this is easy to talk about and might not get much publicity, the impact over time could be very dangerous.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, is doing all that he can to get a grip on the equipment programme, but there is no doubt that it is underfunded. Getting the priorities right is not easy, and already we see major delays in the delivery of certain equipment. Some of the problems have been solved by urgent operational requirements, but some of those would not have been necessary if the equipment programme had been right. We know of the problems with armoured vehicles and particularly with helicopters. Some tough decisions are going to have to be made about the equipment programme even if funding is improved. Those decisions are likely to stoke inter-service rivalry if the Minister takes on and makes some of those hard decisions.

Because time is moving on, I shall not deal with welfare in detail other than to make one point, and that is about the pay for our Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defence has made some improvements to pay and has talked about operational allowances, but the fact is, I am told, that a traffic warden in London is paid more money than a soldier on the front line in Afghanistan or Iraq. That surely cannot be right.

In summary, our Armed Forces are doing a magnificent job, but they are underfunded. I know that the Treasury will say that it has heard this before, but it is true. The Army is too small for the commitments that it is being asked to meet; the equipment programme needs a major sort-out, and the fact that training has had to be cancelled should not be allowed to slip under the fence.

7.25 pm

Lord Patten: My Lords, in declaring my interest, perhaps I may also say how glad I am to follow the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, in what he has just said. He wished not to be thought of as a beacon of hope, but I think that he has been a beacon of very sound advice on the future strength of the armed services in this country. I am glad to speak on the Motion for an humble Address and wish to concentrate on the first two paragraphs of the gracious Speech, in which reference is made in the first paragraph to the challenges the UK faces abroad, and the need for a stable economy in the second.



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Some emphasis is necessary in this debate on the role the economy plays, or should play, in underpinning our efforts abroad. Not everything in foreign affairs depends on money; it very often depends also on leadership, will, insight, hard-earned respect and a moral stance. I should like to speak about both. I wish to see us continue to shoulder our share of the burdens in Afghanistan and Iraq, so I welcome the announcement made by the Chancellor on Saturday of £100 million over three years for reconstruction in Iraq. In saying that, I seek confirmation from the Minister that this very big sum equals “new money”, as it is known in the Treasury trade. I shall say little else on these theatres, sandwiched as I am as a speaker between two noble and gallant Lords who know what they are talking about and having no taste at all for being thought of as an armchair admiral, air marshal or general—save to observe that I do wish that some of our European partners who are so long on rhetoric in these matters but short on deployment would shoulder more of their burdens, particularly if we do eventually enter a process of phased withdrawal determined, as I hope we will be, to leave things behind that bit better. Not to try to do that would be morally reprehensible and would show scant respect both for our dead and those of our allies, particularly in the United States.

The benefit of a stronger, faster-growing economy at home will enable us not only to continue to shoulder our burdens but to do other desirable things as well, such as to improve ever more carefully targeted, good-value foreign aid, driving towards the targets set by the international community. Equally, and here I agree with my noble friend Lady Hooper and the noble Lord, Lord Jay of Ewelme, in his masterly maiden speech, that the time has come to stop reducing the strength of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office abroad. Surely in a globalising economic and cultural world it is in our interests to do more by employing more talented representatives—provided that they are talented and hardworking. I cannot speak with any authority on this because I was never judged subtle enough of mind to be deployed usefully within the walls of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and therefore I have no interest to declare, but I do believe that even within an expanding budget for diplomacy, which we need, there will always be room for year-on-year efficiency savings.

Where could the money come from? For a moment I shall be rather daring and use a politically incorrect phrase. We are going to need lots more money in support of our future foreign policy, and I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for the use of the vulgar phrase “tax cuts” in this otherwise delicate debate. Political commentators from left and right tell me there is now a consensus that these words should only be used with caution in public discourse. If that is indeed the case, we have not only to relearn the recent lessons of the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, but also to benefit from the excellent experience of the United States over recent years. President Bush has been much excoriated in this debate, either directly or indirectly, but in 2003 he introduced tax cuts that have been highly successful, leading to ever higher levels of

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income and economic growth, reducing the United States’ deficit and underpinning massively increased US expenditure around the world.

We need continued economic growth to enable us to do more abroad, facing as we do what will be a very long-run and expensive first proper post-Cold War era crisis in the Middle East and Afghanistan. We now see that this involves everything from the Palestinian question via the growth of Iran as a regional superpower to much murkier threats such as, I suspect, increasing radicalism within Turkey. More money from economic growth will thus be of great help and I hope that a new consensus over taxation will emerge.

Perhaps I may conclude by giving two examples of where leadership, not money, is most important. Neither is a great issue within the strategic flow of the debate, but they are both important. First, the Government have already turned their mind to the draft legislation on implementing the Hague convention on the artefacts of war. I congratulate them on that. It is vital that we do all that we possibly can at home and internationally to stop the trade in artefacts looted during the course of conflicts abroad, thus protecting not only cultural objects that may turn out to have enormous economic value but also, at the same time, archaeological or ethnographic objects of little real worth except for their immense value to scholars in their work. I hope the Government will keep up their efforts in this context.

Secondly, and lastly amid these micro measures—my noble friend Lady Hooper mentioned some measures of great importance in Latin America and elsewhere—I would ask the Minister to turn his attention to what can be done internationally on a pressing issue of human welfare where globalisation brings great wealth very close to great exploitation. It brings them almost, but not quite, face to face. This uneasy meeting is played out around the globe on our great cruise ships. They are very popular. People save hard to celebrate an anniversary or retirement on them, dining and dancing on the decks. But the conditions of those employed below the decks on which the dining and dancing takes place are often very poor and people are often exploited.

This is a matter not only of how people are treated and paid but of how they are recruited. The Roman Catholic organisation the Apostleship of the Sea, which does much for the welfare of seafarers in the United Kingdom, tells me that when crews are recruited, whether in the Philippines, Indonesia or West Africa, it is often done by brokers who not only charge them to get the job but sometimes also take ongoing fees, leaving them effectively close to indentured labour, often on ships flying flags of convenience in which UK public and private companies have a direct economic interest. As someone once said, something needs to be done about this.

I have beaten the thickets of government, thus far without much success, to try to find the Minister responsible for doing something in this area. It may be that when that immensely talented, able and farsighted Minister—I am speaking, of course, of the

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noble Lord, Lord Triesman—looks through his own ministerial responsibilities he may well find that he is the Minister responsible. If he is not, perhaps he will kindly let me know which man or woman is responsible. I know this is one of those micro issues that it is easy to push aside amid the great sweep of international relations which have properly dominated the debate, but such little things help to define not only the practical but the moral approach to foreign affairs by the United Kingdom.

7.34 pm

Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank: My Lords, as the third noble and gallant Lord and former Chief of the Defence Staff—and the junior one—to speak, I am not altogether surprised that my superiors have stolen some of the best points I was going to make.

It is very easy for the Government and the Treasury to say—as they have time and time again—that the military exaggerates its problems and always delivers when called upon to do so on operations. Of course no Government want to spend more on the military than they have to, but, despite repeated warnings, we in this country are still taking our services for granted and taking avoidable risks with the lives of some of our service men and women. We are involved in two unpleasant wars that are unpopular with the general public and put huge pressure on the services. Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only commitments that the services have and the Government’s and the Ministry of Defence’s planning assumptions do not match operational reality. The Army in particular is too small and the Government should not have reduced the infantry’s size as they have in view of the commitments that we have now and are likely to face.


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