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Before we went into the Congress building on our first full day in Buenos Aires, we were conscious that discussions with its foreign relations committee and its new “Malvinas Observatory”—a sort of think tank of academics, diplomats and politicians—could have gone disastrously wrong. There could have been a complete stand-off, a confrontational non-meeting of minds or a restating of existing entrenched positions. In the week before that meeting took place, if one had read some of the Argentine press, this did not look like a far-fetched set of circumstances. On 25 September, the newspaper Ambito Financiero carried a piece headed “Three Britons in enemy territory”. However, it was not quite like that.

Instead, we formed the opinion that there was a real desire within the Congress at least to open up a dialogue at parliamentary level with our two Houses of Parliament. We were told that just before we arrived the Argentine-British parliamentary group in the Congress was reformed. Of great interest to the parliamentarians—certainly to those who wish to look forwards rather than backwards—was the agreement between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar, which was concluded in September, just prior to our visit.

This debate provides the opportunity for me to congratulate the Government, and the Governments of Spain and Gibraltar, on reaching what is clearly a very satisfactory conclusion. As noble Lords will be aware, the agreement has brought to an end decades of ill will, harassment, misunderstanding and

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hostility between Spain and Gibraltar. It covers the use of Gibraltar airport, the lifting of Spanish airspace restrictions, the opening of the border, the paying of pensions to Spanish workers in Gibraltar and the recognition of Gibraltar’s international dialling code. The agreement reflects well on the three parties involved.

A number of aspects of the negotiations and the agreement are particularly interesting. First, the Gibraltarians were allowed by the Spanish Government to take part in the discussions in their own right. Previously, they had insisted that Gibraltarians could take part in talks only as part of the British team. Secondly, the agreement provides that the British Government retain international responsibility for Gibraltar. Thirdly, Spain has not been required to abandon its sovereignty claim on Gibraltar, although it has effectively been allowed to park it in a siding while the rest of the agreement is implemented.

I found particularly interesting the comments made by the Spanish Foreign Office official, José Pons, in an interview with the Gibraltar Chronicle on 12 June this year. He described the trilateral dialogue as an historic opportunity to achieve normal and prosperous cross-border relations,

The obvious question is whether any lessons can be learnt from the agreement with Spain over Gibraltar that could have relevance to the dispute with Argentina over the Falklands. With the Argentine presidential election taking place next year, I would not be too confident of much progress being made at government level. Maybe parliamentary diplomacy offers better prospects, rather as it did when Argentina sent a delegation to the IPU centenary conference in London back in 1989, the year before diplomatic relations were formally restored after the war.

My noble friend Lord Triesman will recall that Deputy Jorge ArgĂ1/4ello, chairman of the Congress’s foreign relations committee, visited London in the middle of October. Indeed, he met my noble friend on the day after he came to speak to the British-Argentine All-Party Parliamentary Group. Dr ArgĂ1/4ello told us at that meeting that he and his colleagues were studying the terms of the Gibraltar settlement and would be sending us their views on it. Whether anything comes of that, we shall have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, on the subject of the Falklands, I commend the Government for resisting the temptation to mark the 25th anniversary of the Falklands war next year with a militaristic celebration. I particularly welcome the comments of the Minister for Veterans, Derek Twigg MP, who was reported in the Times last Tuesday as saying that the June event would be a commemoration, not a celebration. He said:

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That is absolutely right. We can all understand how difficult the 25th anniversary will be for Argentina. We have to remember that our quarrel in 1982 was with the military dictators, not with the Argentine people. We have an opportunity to rebuild our friendships and I hope that we shall do so.

8.42 pm

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I echo the remarks of my noble friend Lord Howell in welcoming our maiden speakers. With so many distinguished foreign affairs specialists in the House, and the forceful maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Jay, on the importance of the Foreign Office, I hesitate to mention one fact: according to the public expenditure overview, DfID now receives a bigger budget than the Foreign Office. In 2006, DfID received £4.4 billion and the Foreign Office received £1.9 billion—DfID received twice as much.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, told us that international development is now being taken seriously, and that it is one of the most important challenges that we face. But it can never simply be a question of numbers. The eminent economist Professor William Easterly has described,

The first tragedy encompasses the many and well documented problems that several of your Lordships have identified. The second is that, after 50 years and more than $2.3 trillion in aid from the West, there is so shockingly little to show for it. Clearly the problem is not apathy, but the efforts seem so futile. It is a great sadness that statistically countries that have received high levels of aid are no more likely to pick up economically than those with little outside help.

Many of our efforts are too ambitious in their design, where the more focused, localised plans that the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, always mentions would be more successful. Pledges are made with no regard to whether the targets are achievable. In an Oxfam report in October, we heard how a 10 year-old promise to halve global hunger by 2015 is having no effect. Since the pledge was made at an international summit in 1996, the number of people starving worldwide has increased by 54 million, while the number of those facing starvation in Africa has risen by a fifth.

It was perhaps no surprise to see that the Government’s response to this announcement was to quote how much DfID had spent, rather than to name any substantive measures taken to reduce hunger. So many efforts fail due to lack of accountability. Promises and gestures are too easily made, but at no cost when goals are not met. The G8 summit last year originally agreed to cancel all debts owed up to the end of 2004. After the conference, the World Bank agreement was renegotiated to include debts only up to 2003. This change—made after the headlines and spotlight had moved away—will cost poor nations an extra $5 billion. All too rarely do we ever hear any feedback on the success of these

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gestures. Who knows what practical effects the Make Poverty History campaign actually had? We never hear feedback from the poor themselves.

The Chancellor has recently launched a new bond scheme, which will tie up funds and shackle future budgets for the next 10 years, leaving no opportunity for evaluating its success. I urge the Minister to ensure that we pay close attention to how this money is spent.

While the more overriding and obvious actions may be the most appealing—alleviating guilt or satisfying the vanity of Governments—they may not be the most beneficial to those whom we are actually trying to help. Following the recent convocation of 41 African presidents in China, I am reminded of the success of Chinese involvement in Africa and would like to see us take a more commercial approach through investment and trade, rather than handouts to Governments. As Peter Boone, an economist from the LSE, found, aid has invariably financed consumption rather than investment and growth. No developed society ever solved its own poverty problems in this way.

While we may not approve of everything that China is doing, there is no doubt that by offering straight commercial relations and bilateral trade with African nations it is helping to stimulate developing economies. As part of these relations, China is also improving schools, hospitals, roads and railways across the continent—exactly the sort of material benefits that many Western donors have been reluctant to offer. We should encourage trade between developing countries and look towards long-term solutions. Our Conservative proposals for a pan-African trading area might help to achieve exactly that. The most effective solutions will not be imposed from outside, but must have domestic origins.

Noble Lords who were in the chamber in October might remember that I mentioned the remarkable example of Anglo American’s HIV/AIDS programme for its employees in South Africa, devised and run by Dr Brian Brink. Private companies, as well as religious groups—as mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford—have an important role to play in tackling the problems caused by poverty. Dr Brink illustrates how enlightened private companies can be more effective than just government money. The programme relies as much on prevention as on the treatment, and couples practical remedial steps with behavioural education and raising awareness. Crucially, it also encourages voluntary involvement through testing and counselling and is therefore seen as less prescriptive or patronising.

Realistic programmes should be undertaken rather than wild promises made. It is surely better to pledge money for specific achievements, such as building a reservoir or improving roads to inaccessible villages, than to announce broad targets for which no one is accountable and which no one has any incentive to meet. I again welcome the Government’s commitment to DfID in the gracious Speech, but it is important to remember that increased aid does not necessarily

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mean increased development. We should also remember that we are trying to transform the lives of individuals, not Governments.

8.51 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in the gracious Speech, reference was made to North Korea and Darfur. On Thursday last, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office organised a welcome discussion with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on North Korea, Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn. During our discussions, I referred to the 2 million people who starved to death in North Korea, the 200,000 people who languish in modern-day gulags and the estimated 400,000 people who have died in North Korean concentration camps over the past 30 years. It is particularly perverse that at least 30 per cent of that totalitarian state’s GDP is used for armaments and to develop nuclear weapons while its people starve and are trapped in third world poverty.

In that context, the promulgation of the United Nations doctrine of the responsibility to protect—the duty to intervene in egregious situations—may provide a new instrument for international diplomacy where there is evidence of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes or crimes against humanity. However, we need to know from the Government how that is to be implemented. In the case of North Korea, Professor Muntarbhorn accepts that the empirical evidence of the regime’s involvement in crimes against humanity was well documented in a report launched on 30 October at a meeting in your Lordships' House that was sponsored by the All-Party Group on North Korea, which I chair. That report, Failure to Protect: a call for the UN Security Council to act in North Korea, was commissioned by Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic, Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and Kjell Magne Bondevik, the former Norwegian prime minister. Mr Bondevik addressed our meeting.

The view of that troika was endorsed last Friday by the General Assembly of the United Nations when it passed its second resolution on North Korea. With the welcome support of the Republic of Korea, the General Assembly voted 91 in favour, 21 against with 60 abstentions. The General Assembly called for North Korea to reassess its refusal to recognise the mandate of the special rapporteur. It condemned the morass of allegations and the evidence of the use of torture, degrading treatment, public executions, prison camps, forced labour, people’s tribunals and the absence of due process. It drew attention to the,

the terrible plight of refugees and the restrictions on travel and the freedom of movement. It detailed the precarious humanitarian situation; the continuing violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly those of women forced into marriage and abortion; the infanticide of children of repatriated mothers, the abduction of foreigners and enforced disappearances.

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There is every indication that the secretary-general elect, Mr Ban Ki-moon, an accomplished and respected Korean diplomat, wants to use the United Nations mechanisms to improve substantially the human rights situation in North Korea. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will tell us what consideration is being given to how best we can help Mr Ki-moon in that process. For instance, will the welcome renewal of the six-party talks on security issues be extended to form what Professor Muntarbhorn called a “comprehensive package”, also making reference to the human rights situation? Do the Government see merit in the Bondevik-Havel-Wiesel proposal that Chapter 6 powers should be invoked, allowing the Security Council to consider the situation without having to take the full gamut of measures required in Chapter 7?

Given that the Republic of Korea and China are desperate that there should not be a complete collapse of the DPRK, with all the humanitarian and refugee issues that would arise, will the Minister say how we intend to encourage China—a point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford—to use its extensive leverage, not least through its control of North Korea’s petrol and electricity, to deter further nuclear proliferation and to avert these crimes against humanity? Meanwhile, China is itself in flagrant violation of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in repatriating them to a country where they will face severe punishment, torture, and even execution.

On North Korea’s testing of nuclear weapons, how effective does the Minister believe the current sanctions against North Korea really are? Is he confident that the international community will be able to block the seepage of nuclear materials and technology to third countries and to terrorist organisations? What is the current situation with regard to the food aid so desperately needed in North Korea? Is it the case, for instance, that funds for the World Food Programme for North Korea are down from £6 million to £1.9 million, and that only 10 per cent of the needed funds have come in from 30 countries out of 200? Although, in the light of the current circumstances, the attitude of the international community is understandable, will the Minister reiterate that food aid should not be conditional?

Professor Muntarbhorn flagged up one other issue—the future of UN special rapporteurs. Given their effectiveness in exposing the situation in countries such as Burma and North Korea, what will our diplomats be doing to defeat moves in the new United Nations Human Rights Council to abolish the more than 10 country-specific special rapporteurs?

North Korea is the latest test of our frayed international structures. It will be among the United Nations’ great moral challenges in the coming years. Let us hope that we do better than we have done in Darfur. Since travelling to Sudan in 2001 and Darfur in 2004, I have raised the situation there on countless occasions. In 2004, an estimated 50,000 people had died. Today, the dead number between 200,000 and 400,000. Two million people have been displaced and

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90 per cent of the villages have been razed to the ground. Most of the 16 recommendations in my 2004 report, including the naming of the genocide for what it is, remain to be acted on.

In the light of the leading role that Her Majesty’s Government played in securing Security Council Resolution 1706, will the Minister spell out for us tonight why there is not now to be a UN force, and what will be the composition of the proposed African Union/United Nations hybrid force? What will be the respective proportions? How many troops will be deployed? Will that include western personnel? Under whose command and control will it operate? What will be its mandate? When will the targeted sanctions agreed under Security Council Resolution 1591 be enforced? How will we respond to the call in August of the International Crisis Group for the targeting of the economic assets of Khartoum, its security agencies and its fraudulent charities, and to the widespread calls for divestment in Sudan? What progress is being made in disarming the Janjaweed militia?

To conclude, Darfur is a textbook example of what happens when a Government declare war on their own people. As untold thousands have been raped, tortured, terrorised and killed, it has been a test of the determination of the international community to implement its doctrine of “the duty to protect”. Yet, as recently as Wednesday last, the head of United Nations humanitarian operations, Jan Egeland, was told on arriving in Khartoum that the vice-president of Sudan would not meet him and that he would not be permitted to travel to any of his proposed destinations in Darfur outside the state capitals.

We flatter ourselves if we think that regimes like this will act for the benefit of their own citizens. That is never their consideration. Their aim, rather, is to perpetuate their grip on power and to ensure that their ideological aims are implemented. We consistently fail to grasp the true nature of regimes such as those in Sudan and North Korea, and they generally outwit us. Abasement and appeasement in dealing with their defiance will not strengthen the UN as it faces other equally desperate situations.

We all need to ask ourselves the question, when all the bodies have been buried in Darfur, how will history judge us? How will history judge the effectiveness of our international institutions? And would it not be better not to use sententious and earnest rhetoric, such as “the duty to protect”, if we are unwilling or unable to make a reality of the high-minded words? Dag Hammarskjold, one of the great UN secretary-generals, said that the UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell. That should remain its objective in Darfur and North Korea.

9 pm

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I want to place on record that I consider that, in many ways, my noble friend Lord Drayson is a much better defence procurement Minister than I could ever aspire to be—I emphasise in many ways, not in every way, but I am still happy to

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give him that tribute for a start, because I shall say something rude about his speech in a moment. I congratulate him on the way in which he has got a grip on the defence industrial strategy. I know that he has worked extremely hard and is very highly thought of at the Ministry of Defence. However, one passage in his speech struck me as a little bizarre. I heard him say that he wanted to urge the EU to co-operate more with NATO. The only members of NATO who are not in the EU are the United States, Canada, Norway and Iceland, to my knowledge. What he is urging the EU to do I am not quite clear. He might go back to his speechwriters to remind them that quite a few members of the EU are not in NATO in any case, so that is a piece of nonsense.

I hope that I did not hear my noble friend correctly when he was talking about the poppy eradication programme, because I had an assurance from the Dispatch Box a few weeks ago that that would be no part of the responsibility of the coalition forces in Afghanistan, who are merely there to ensure good order, and that it was a matter for the Afghan Government whether they proceeded with a poppy eradication programme.

I am deprived of some of my usual targets this evening, I regret to say, because the speeches that I most welcome in your Lordships' House are those that come from the Liberal Democrat Benches, mainly because they are so quaint. I shall proceed, even though the only representative on their Front Bench is the noble Lord, Lord Garden, who talks more sense than the rest of his party put together.

Earlier, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, said that he supported the deployment of the EU's resources at long range. Coming from a spokesman of a party which supports the development of an aeroplane called the A400M rather than have the C-17, that struck me as peculiarly quaint, if I may say so. I want to say just a word about the C-17, because this is a defence debate and I was once a procurement Minister. The C-17 is one of the most magnificent planes that has ever been designed or built and I congratulate my noble friend on the fact that the Ministry of Defence has acquired a fifth one. I very much hope that we will have a sixth one before long; that is not idle talk, because it has been talked about by the MoD for many moons.

I am also delighted that the Australians have decided to buy the C-17, as have the Canadians. As my noble friend will be aware, there is a very interesting development. I cite the 18 September issue of DefenseNews, which states that

there is a split definitive here, I fear—

What is interesting about that is that the countries signing the letter of intent are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States.

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