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It is very good that we open this five-day debate on the humble Address by focusing on the full range of our international concerns, our foreign policy and our place in the world. No doubt the debate will broaden out into all those areas during the afternoon. The experts and polling gurus often tell us that foreign policy has low voter priority, with domestic issues such as crime, education, health and so on, coming way up the list. That view misleads. Our overseas relations, our activities and policies define our identity at home. They tell us who we are, what kind of society we want to be, what brings the nation together and what common purposes we serve. Of course, they determine our security and how far we can prevent global terrorism undermining our counterterrorist measures here at home and our free and balanced society. Our outside role in the world and our home safety cannot be separated by categories or distinguished: they are all one.

We currently hear a good deal about “Britishness”. If there is to be greater cohesion in the so-called “broken society”, then it starts not with sermons about Britishness, but with a clear articulation of Britain’s position, viewpoint and standing in the world. If there is to be loyalty to national values and institutions, for which our leaders are always calling, that starts with a well defined expression of what Britain really is and who speaks for it. If there is to be cultural and social unity, as opposed to the multi-cultural pockets of isolation, fear and mutual antagonism that we tend to have now, then those with the power to give words to feelings and hopes must define the national core around which real national unity can form and hold. Our foreign policy is the beginning, the shaping and the envelope of all that.

The criticism of the last Prime Minster’s foreign policy that we heard again and again—the noble Baroness touched on it—was that we seem to be too much of a poodle on Washington’s leash. To agree with that criticism is not necessarily to be anti-American. The Americans are our friends and have been most of the time—except perhaps at the beginning—and will be in the future, but the Blair experience is a warning against following Washington policy too slavishly and getting precious little in return, as many Ministers, including

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the noble Lord, Lord Jones of Birmingham, have forcefully and rightly pointed out. We must ask ourselves a big question: should we put all our faith in the theory of the European Union as a rival counter-force in world affairs, pulling its weight with a single voice on the centre of the world stage, as the enthusiasts for European integration and the new treaty to come before us keep urging? My answer to that is: “No, no, no”.

Of course, we in Britain are good Europeans. We in my party have always been very good Europeans.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, some would indeed argue that we have been too good in keeping our doors so determinedly wide open for immigrants from the new entrant accession-state EU members, while most of our neighbours throughout the EU kept their doors prudently ajar and managed the situation much more carefully and intelligently. Now, of course, the British policy has gone into reverse and we are trying too late to close the door for the newcomers Romania and Bulgaria; but the errors have been made.

The truth is that the international scene has metamorphosed into an amazing new network of states, and it is time for new platforms and coalitions. The idea of the EU as a bloc with a single foreign policy, whether intended to confront America or for any other purpose, is—to put it in the jargon—“yesterday”. Power has shifted from the bloc-builders, indeed from the whole Atlantic world, in two overarching ways: it has dispersed to billions of desktop computers via the worldwide web, a teeming and often dangerously empowered micro-world; and, of course, it has shifted to Asia’s millions and the unstoppable Asian enterprise, soaring economies and high technology which is flowing not west to east, but east to west.

The architects of the Lisbon treaty—to which we will have to give a lot of time—are taking the European Union in the wrong direction. They are trying to establish the legal and constitutional structure of a kind of western empire that belongs to history while the real need is not for another jammed-together regional bloc but for far more flexibility and a trelliswork of links and relationships between different nations. That is why the integrationist flavour of the latest treaty is so hopelessly inappropriate. It is trying to sew together a constitutional garment for the EU of the past. The EU of the future, which I hope will certainly include Turkey and maybe other countries, will look quite different and require different systems of governance.

Let there be no scintilla of doubt: this latest treaty is patently and obviously a document that embodies the old constitutional concept. We know from the candour of President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and the like that it was designed to be largely unintelligible, which is a far cry from the hopes of those at Laaken four years ago. They wanted a new treaty that would bring the EU closer to the people. I am afraid that it is more likely that it will be closer to the lawyers. Its DNA is identical to that of the

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rejected treaty. It is that treaty’s proven child. As the European Scrutiny Committee in the other place put it a few days ago:

In the words of the Economist magazine, which is no lackey of any party, this is,

The case for a referendum on such a transfer of Parliament’s powers to others and such a contracting out of our foreign policy is absolutely unanswerable, just as it was with the previous treaty. We shall certainly be tabling an amendment to that effect when the treaty Bill comes before us. Adding a personal addendum, I am only sorry that your Lordships’ European Union Committee does not quite see it this way, although my hope is that another committee of your Lordships’ House will examine and advise on the treaty’s constitutional implications in detail, comparing it with the previous, now defunct, one.

The task of clarifying our external interests and role in the face of a long list of new challenges should be pursued in quite different directions from the ones I am talking about. We are confronted by foreign policy priorities of the utmost urgency which just cannot wait for cumbersome and all-too-often fruitless attempts at manoeuvring for common positions in the European Union. I shall take some of the issues that the noble Baroness has already raised. We have the still crumbling position in the Middle East, the persisting Iraq civil war—let us hope that there are signs of improvement, as she suggested—and the glaring dangers, to which we can never shut our eyes, of our withdrawal and the so-called overwatch strategies. I hope they will go right, but they seem full of risks.

Then there is the continuing Israeli-Palestine stalemate. There are some hopes for the forthcoming Annapolis conference, which Condoleezza Rice has engineered, but there are also enormous difficulties and it will be first of a long series of conferences. There is the still rising Iranian nuclear threat, which is still unchecked, and all the proxy wars, terrorist campaigns and irregular warfare which leave our Armed Forces under ever more pressure to re-equip and adjust to new patterns and techniques requiring new types of defence technology. I echo the tribute paid by the noble Baroness to the young men and women who have fallen in the two campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and to the bereaved. Each death is a terrible personal and family tragedy. My noble friend Lord Astor will develop in greater detail how we see the military problems, which are considerable, and how they should be resolved.

Furthermore, I sometimes wonder whether in the world-wide scramble for oil, gas and minerals the looming threats to our energy security are properly appreciated on the Government Benches. I will say more on them in a moment, if I have time. And what about the water and food shortages and the rising tensions they generate? There is the paralysing dilemma, which seems to have passed by some government policy makers, between the rapid global

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growth out of poverty—which actually means consuming and needing a lot more cheap energy—and the longer term environmental and climatic health of the planet, which calls for much less energy consumption, certainly less from fossil fuels, and much more expensive energy. That is a dilemma that we cannot just brush by and hope for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

We have booming transnational crime; we have the drug trade roaring ahead more vigorously than ever. The noble Baroness mentioned Afghanistan’s heroin. The poppy crop is bigger than ever, alas, and therefore the heroin supply is stronger. We have epidemics and pandemics. We have imploding nations such as poor Zimbabwe, and now—the noble Baroness also mentioned it—Pakistan. Pakistan is a nuclear power, so whoever governs it will have nuclear capability. It is a seed bed of terror all over the world and it is a feeder for the Taliban next door in Afghanistan. Any instability there must be a source of immense and acute danger to us directly here in this country. Of course we want to see democratic elections and for these things to be encouraged and supported, I hope, through the Commonwealth, about which I shall say a word in a moment.

We also, incidentally, face new cyber-war dangers which could paralyse our society overnight and induce total civil collapse—this is not fantasy—as it did in Estonia only the other day. There is not much sign of that kind of vision of the future in the gracious Speech.

These are the sorts of priorities which we should be concentrating on. I personally feel especially concerned that our foreign policy and our energy supply threats seem to be left unconnected and, as it were, dangled and hanging in the air. We have a run-down nuclear industry—half its plants are down—and it will take at least a decade to resuscitate that now thanks to the Government’s dithering, even if the new Energy Bill and Planning Reform Bill in the gracious Speech go through at high speed, which they will not. We have oil approaching $100 a barrel; a misplaced attempt to involve ourselves in the EU’s precarious, forlorn and Russia-dependent energy systems; the wrongly taxed North Sea oil running down; inadequate gas storage; a tiny dependence on biofuels—and the wrong expensive sort of biofuels; unreliable and oversubsidised wind farms; and with a string of targets, mentioned again in the gracious Speech for CO2 emission reductions and renewable energy sources, both EU-based and our own, but no serious strategy to achieve them.

The EU’s favourite idea for developing carbon capture and storage remains completely uncommercial and untested: it is just talk. The huge prospective Chinese and Indian coal-burn, if not curbed, will completely overwhelm and render useless all our elaborate western efforts to limit carbon—however many Bills we pass imposing legally binding frameworks to cut carbon, as mentioned in the gracious Speech.

How do we become more realistic about these things and meet these challenges more effectively? The sober answer is that there are no glib answers or magic bullets. To cope with this new world, we have at

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hand one network which could prove invaluable; that is, the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is lucky to get one brief mention in the gracious Speech—except, of course, when we are referring to Her Majesty as Head of the Commonwealth—but here is a system of relationships which embraces all our friends, of which Her Majesty is the highly popular head figure; which connects across continents; which is multifaith; which contains six of the fastest growing and cutting-edge economies in the world; which brings together on equal and not patronising terms the smaller and poorer and the richer and bigger nations; and which ties us into a system of broadly common values, or at least aspiration towards them. As I mentioned, it could well be relevant—but not, alas, mentioned by the Government—in dealing with the Pakistan danger.

I wonder whether the Commonwealth might not be a much better channel for our development aid than some aspects of the much criticised European Union aid programme. I certainly wonder whether giving certain forms of aid to China and India still makes the slightest sense when India is pouring out a million science graduates a year, as the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, reminded us yesterday in her excellent speech, and China is doing much the same. The Government should apply their minds to the changing situation there. As the Daily Telegraph—not everybody's favourite paper—remarked the other day, the Commonwealth could be,

Other countries think that we are quite mad not to be making far more use of the Commonwealth, yet no mention does it get in the Government's vision or strategic views on foreign policy. Of course, it needs reinvigorating from its present diminished and neglected role. It needs confidence; it needs a more vigorous external agenda; it needs connecting with sympathetic powers such as Japan; and, above all, it needs resources. It is absurd and grotesquely unbalanced that our net subscription to the European Union is well over 100 times greater than our support for the Commonwealth. The balance needs correcting.

The Commonwealth is today and tomorrow’s neglected colossus. Far from being a nostalgic club of the past, it is the global network of tomorrow, which we ignore at our peril. At the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in a few weeks’ time in Kampala, I hope that the Government show some understanding of that. I am very glad to learn that his Royal Highness Prince Charles is attending it with his parents. Perhaps he sees the future a bit more clearly than do Ministers.

The next big challenge—or big idea, as I think people say nowadays—is how, in a totally interdependent world, we build the right partnerships and links to handle all the external influences which are shaping our lives, our work, our economic health and our safety here at home at this moment. I believe that we have the wrong partners and are drifting along under the wrong influences and that it is high time for this country to review and alter those alliances and work more closely with our true friends,

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who may or may not be our geographical regional neighbours. Some are, some are not.

In India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, the oil-rich Gulf states, the recovering South Africa, as well as Scandinavia and the brave little Baltic states and other parts of the new Central Europe, we have a lot of friends. They are all asking, “Where are the British? Why have their horizons become so narrow, regionalised and inward looking? We are waiting to grasp hands with them again, but where are they?”. Those countries are the network and the powerhouses of the future. Our Asian friends, together with China, are the areas to which the centre of the world economic gravity is fast shifting. They are the capital-rich countries that will supply and finance the development of the whole globe. They are where the action will be and where the British, with their long history of adventure and their vast global reach, should also be. I see no comprehension of that in the gracious Speech, for all the frenzied talk of spin and narrative.

This is a lost Government with a lost agenda. Some of their Ministers seem disaffected, while others, such as our own delightful additions to the Government, the noble Lords, Lord Malloch-Brown and Lord Jones, or Digby Jones—is he here now?—are, as we so often hear from the noble Lord, Lord Jones, determined to stay outside the new Labour tent. I do not believe them. I do not blame them either, although I am not sure that I can find them room in our tent, so they may just have to stay out in the open and live the open life. I hope that they do not get too wet.

The Administration, of which they and others are semi-detached members, is living on borrowed time. In my view, it has already borrowed too much of it. The moment has come for payback—the moment when this whole raddled Government should stop their borrowing and start repaying for their misrule and their mistakes. Ministers can do that best, both for the rest of us and to restore their own work-life balance, which seems to be important to them, by removing themselves and all their works and letting a new generation and a new Government take over.

3.55 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, there is little in the Queen’s Speech on foreign policy. We are promised legislation to approve the EU reform treaty, but there is no promise to persuade the British people that the treaty is necessary, let alone that European Union membership is in Britain’s national interests. We have some welcome words about the millennium development goals, to which we on these Benches will continue to give our strong support and on which my noble friend Lady Northover will speak later.

There are sentences on Iraq and Iran—major and continuing British commitments, neither of which is very easy at the moment—and there is a reference to,

There is a promise to,

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My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby will speak on that. There is also a reference to Afghanistan, but I am surprised that there is no mention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I wondered whether that was a sign of Britain’s hesitation about its future, although we heard a little from the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, in her opening speech about the problems that NATO now faces in Afghanistan. One hears very often that the future of NATO is at stake in Afghanistan.

Those unconnected sentences betray an underlying incoherence. Britain has no foreign policy at the moment in terms of a clear view of our place in the world and our preferred international role. Tony Blair, like John Major before him, slid back from his initial promise to place Britain at the heart of Europe to a position in which Britain followed Washington’s lead wherever it took us. The Government have failed to provide the British people with a new narrative about national identity and about our relations with our neighbours, our friends and our responsibilities, even about the threats that we face.

Two or three years ago, Tim Garton Ash wrote that British foreign policy over the past 40 years had been footnotes to Churchill—that we are still stuck in the assumptions of the 1950s. In summing up, the noble Baroness, Lady Taylor, said:

Anthony Eden could have said the same, as could Harold Macmillan; indeed, they both often did. Gordon Brown, in his British Council speech three years ago, said interestingly that confusion over our national identity lay behind our hesitation over our role in the European Union. However, there has been no effort since then to address this confusion. Instead, there has been a sad silence from Ministers. Indeed, I congratulate the noble Baroness on managing to avoid mentioning the European Union once in her opening speech, if I heard her correctly, although there were several references to Britain standing together with the United States.

The divide between nationalism and internationalism is one of the underlying issues in democratic politics. The Liberals are instinctive internationalists. We believe that co-operation with our neighbours and the promotion of open societies, open markets and, so far as possible, open frontiers are the best way in which to build a peaceful and equitable international order.

The Conservatives are instinctive nationalists. They believe in British sovereignty and British status, although I sometimes wonder whether it is now English sovereignty and England’s status. The Conservatives are therefore naturally suspicious of Europe and, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, has suggested, they are now also suspicious of the United States. I think about the position in which Enoch Powell ended up, and I wonder whether the Conservative Party is drifting in the same direction.

Labour is historically an internationalist party, coming, like the Liberals, out of Britain’s progressive tradition. The Government have an excellent record on world development and on commitment to action on climate change, although on climate change they

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are having trouble meeting the commitment that they have given to the European Union. But Labour’s backsliding on co-operation with our neighbours has been an immense failure, giving rise to press and popular suspicions about France and Germany and to the glamorous illusion of world status that successive British Prime Ministers come to feel as they walk along the White House red carpet arm in arm with the President of the United States.

Our previous Prime Minister’s image of the United Kingdom as a bridge between the United States and Europe, in which Britain interpreted our incoherent European allies’ wishes to the United States and interpreted to our non-understanding continental partners what the United States wanted, was a wonderful illusion. Tony Blair never stopped to ask why that did not appeal to Paris and Berlin. This week, as President Sarkozy is welcomed in Washington with even more warmth than Chancellor Merkel, the idea that Britain somehow had a special relationship between Europe and the United States is exposed as empty.

With the new Prime Minister as with the old: we read that Rupert Murdoch was at Chequers the day after Gordon Brown decided not to call an autumn election. Irwin Stelzer, Rupert Murdoch’s effective representative in Britain, is in and out of No. 10 and the Treasury. There is active competition between Labour and the Conservatives for Rupert Murdoch’s Anglo-Saxon blessing. If you sup with the owner of Fox News and the Weekly Standard—the bible of American neo-conservatism—you endanger your principles as a progressive. We know what the Murdoch agenda for international order is—antagonism to the United Nations and to international institutions, scepticism about climate change, insistence on America’s special mission and the belief that it is the duty of America’s allies to follow its lead.

I hope that we all accept in this House that there are almost no international issues on which the United Kingdom benefits from acting alone. All the major challenges that we now face beyond our borders require close co-operation—first with our neighbours, then with other democratic Governments and then through global institutions and all those whom we can persuade to work with us.

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