Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I turn to the balanced and, as ever, very honourable comments and questions of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. I thank her for her kindness to me. Being in Australia certainly had its attractions this evening, although I am not sure that the same could be said of keeping wicket. The reconstruction has plainly had its failures. It would be frivolous not to say so. Unemployment is plainly one of the driving forces of continued instability. The financial waste which appears in the Waxman report is very telling. Who could deny that? I am also concerned about rotation, although I am no expert on the speed of rotation of commanders and I shall not pretend to be.

I hope I am not complacent about narcotics. The call in this House is for greater imagination; consideration of the issues of acquiring the poppy crop and so on is very important. If corruption exists in those areas, it is important that it is attacked at the very top of any Government who are involved.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and other Members of the House—the noble Lords, Lord Wright, Lord Turnberg and Lord Jacobs—I commend the Olmert speech. I ask colleagues to read it if they have not done so. It contains a number of new options that can be taken up. I believe that President Abbas will do so. The United Kingdom will be consistent in the way in which it approaches those matters. It will be consistent on the wall, on the settlements and on Israel's right to exist peacefully.

The noble Lord, Lord Wright, brought great wisdom to the debate. I also thought that the speech of King Abdullah was very significant. The approach to the Palestinians has to be far fairer. Plainly that is one of the requirements. I do not believe that anyone should

5 Dec 2006 : Column 1147

describe the election in the Palestinian territories as illegitimate in any way, but the responsibilities that come with election are also unavoidable. The new Government have to step away from violence; they have to recognise the right of Israel to exist; and they have to honour what their nation has signed up for. Those are not, as the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, put it, simply preconditions that might come out in a discussion. To my mind things can be done—things that can indicate the basis for a far greater confidence as other discussions go ahead.

Our approach to aid and the amelioration of suffering, also mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wright, is very important. Aid is not everything, but it is very significant in the region at present. A just and lasting settlement, of course, is fundamental, which is why I have talked of mutual confidence. I am told that the FCO has sufficient resources and I intend to ensure that they are exploited to the last penny.

My noble friend Lord Judd made some vital points as well. We do not talk only with those to whom it is easy to talk; I can promise him that from day-to-day, first-hand experience. I also accept his proposition that military power alone will never deliver peace and security anywhere. Dealing with poverty is crucial in any conflict. Well focused aid, with long-term objectives, is vital in any conflict, including in the areas that my noble friend Lord Judd mentioned—education and health. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, mentioned the same point. However, in areas of conflict there has to be a force that is capable of creating enough stability for those kinds of hearts and minds campaigns and aid programmes to work.

On military hospitals and the answers that I and others have given on Selly Oak, I refer the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, to an answer which I hope is uncontentious. We want any of our personnel who are injured, wounded or ill to be treated with the very best medical resources and facilities available to them. I believe that those are overwhelmingly in the National Health Service.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, asked whether we have sovereignty over our Armed Forces in the present circumstances. The initiative is with us. We took a principled position, of our own volition, and we shall continue to do so. The circumstances on the ground will determine how the states in the region see matters and rebuilding states will make it easier. That is how we will be guided.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, made a number of vital points, some of which were also made by the noble Lord, Lord Luce. In my view, there also needs to be systematic regional organisation—more than a conference. There needs to be a serious evaluation of the prospects for doing that.

At one time some people believed that the African Union as a regional body looked impossible. It is still work in progress, but our expectations of it grow all the time because its impact grows and it is more effective. Regional bodies can have such a purpose. That is allied to the point that Europe must work much harder, with a dedicated role to do so, at the Middle East peace process.



5 Dec 2006 : Column 1148

The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, argued that prosperity often needs to precede democracy—I hope that I am not putting words into his mouth. As an economist I understand that important general proposition, but it is not universally true. The DRC and Mozambique—I could probably go through others—have managed to reverse that process. We have to take the gains where we can and marry them. Maybe that was also part of the force of what the noble Viscount said. We must persist and finish the job; he expressed absolutely the right sentiment.

I find it a little hard to accept the relativistic distinction that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, made between the motivations of those who murder people in some numbers. Whether or not one takes that view, in dealing with many organisations that are committed to violence—the IRA was mentioned—it is vital to find out what people want if there is to be contact and negotiation with them. Usually it is expressed in terms of political power, distribution of resources, national or regional status. There has to be something about which a negotiation can be conducted. Al-Qaeda has never provided the smallest clue to any such objective on which a rational discussion could take place.

The noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, with his customary brilliance, raised the question of Turkey. I completely agree with him, as did the noble Lord, Lord Garden. We should take the most positive role in negotiations. We launched that during our presidency, and I am proud of that. We must move toward full membership. I will take his vital message back to the FCO because I believe that that deliberation should help guide our work to secure Turkish membership of the EU.

I have a number of facts about the state of the Afghan economy, which I would love to tell the House, if I did not think that I would be trespassing too far in response to the questions posed by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, but I will write to him, as the detail is worth having and I will place a copy of the letter in the Library. I have nothing on transport costs but I will look at that as well.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford called on us to build on diversity and to offer diplomatic routes using the most diverse channels. I have a good deal of sympathy with that proposition. Indeed, our relations with some Islamic countries have moved not backward but forward. In many respects, Pakistan is a good example, because it has seen that we are not hostile to Islam and not fundamentally unsympathetic.

The noble Lord, Lord Garden, presents me with a problem. I hope that he will not take it as ill spirited if I say candidly that he has no monopoly on the pain felt regarding the number of murders in Baghdad and Iraq. Many of us feel that strongly, and I do not believe that there is complacency in any of our souls. Iraq is horrific, but it is not all in the same state. On occasions we should give a little more credit to the Governments of countries and to provinces. His noble friend Lord Clement-Jones made that point about the Kurdish areas in the debate a couple of weeks ago.



5 Dec 2006 : Column 1149

It should not be too painful for any of us to acknowledge the achievements of other people in these difficult circumstances when there are achievements to acknowledge. I invite the House to ponder that. I do not believe that we have brought all this on the Iraqi people. I will not repeat my comments about Saddam Hussein’s regime.

In the southern areas, drugs are a difficult problem. I am sorry if my language was not as florid as might appeal to some noble Lords. Drugs are a very serious issue, but until we can get security into that part of the country, we will be in grave difficulty.

I greatly welcome what the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said in recognition of the progress that is being made, even if it has not been as fast as we would have all hoped for in Afghanistan. The role of the charities and the NGOs is invaluable. I feel the greatest admiration when I observe what they are able to achieve. The Governments across Europe must maintain their donor obligations. It is right that they

5 Dec 2006 : Column 1150

should do so and it is absolutely right that security and development are utterly interdependent. Both have got to be taken seriously as part of our forward programme.

In conclusion, it is an enormously difficult area, but the comments that I have made about each of the countries—and I have placed the Middle East peace process at the centre of the debate because the Government and the Prime Minister do so—I hope have made it clear that there is no want of energy and no lack of perspective in driving this forward. As the King of Jordan said in the Robing Room of your Lordships’ House only a short while ago, this will be our most testing time. We have to rise to that challenge and we must do it with a good deal of, to coin the phrase, pessimism of the intellect and toughness in our thinking, but we must do it with more pessimism and more credit for those who are working with us to achieve it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page