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We know that Afghanistan was neglected as Iraq took its toll, and that it was the breeding ground for terror and the narcotics trade. We also know that the unpopularity of the war in Iraq is now affecting popular support for our operations in Afghanistan.

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However, there is still political agreement about the importance of international support for security and reconstruction in Afghanistan. Development there seems to have been too centralised, top-heavy and insufficient. Persistent poverty has promoted insecurity. I know that the FCO and DfID are well aware of this, but it is urgent that we improve the impact, efficiency and relevance of aid. It needs to be better co-ordinated and increasingly to use Afghan resources. Government capacity there is weak and corruption is widespread and, as the Minister said, much more needs to be done to build local government and local communities. While provincial reconstruction teams have been useful, are they now impeding the development of effective local institutions?

It is said again and again that across much of the Middle East and beyond little will be resolved while the Israel/Palestine conflict continues, and the future security of Israel depends on the prosperity, not otherwise, of its neighbour. What can the noble Lord tell us about the troubling reports that the Israeli ministry of defence has apparently instructed an Israeli energy supplier to reduce fuel supplies to Gaza? I am encouraged that he, at least, seems to recognise that any future resolution of the problems there will need the involvement of Hamas, and I urge the Government to move further on dialogue with it. Bringing in all sides is what is required.

Israel recently used cluster bombs in Lebanon. A new international treaty banning cluster bombs is expected in the next year. It needs to be as strong as possible. Is there a risk that the UK Government may place themselves on the weaker side of this argument as they fight to keep what they define as smart cluster bombs? The Government have shown signs of shifting their position. Could the Minister fill us in further? When does he think the Government will come round, as I am sure they will, to banning all cluster bombs? Here, as in so many other areas, we will miss Lord Garden, who forensically took apart the Government’s case.

As we identify sources of conflict around the world that jeopardize development, there is one which is surely being grossly underestimated: the impact of AIDS. Hitting, as it does, young adults and undermining economies and societies, it is surely the breeding ground of much future conflict. It is therefore especially important that we always keep in mind its impact on children. The Government intend to bring out a new AIDS strategy in December. I would like to be reassured that the ear-marked funding for children will continue. The full integration of treatment which prevents mother-to-child transmission into reproductive, maternal and child health services is also essential. I recently visited a hospital in Cambodia that was treating AIDS patients. It was heart-breaking to see little children being treated there, none of whom should have contracted the disease had their mothers been tested and treated. There is the increasingly deadly combination of AIDS and TB. Will that be integrated into DfID’s new AIDS plan? At Gleneagles, in the Make Poverty History year, it was agreed that all who needed it should be on treatment by 2010. Will that target be met? If so, how?

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The Queen’s Speech hints at the Government’s priorities in international development. It stresses the importance of delivering the MDGs only eight years hence. In the end, what we do through trade as part of the G8 is likely to achieve more than what we may do through aid. Look at the transformation of Asia. But we have to address aid, debt and trade. In the recent past, the excellent work in development has been very much undermined by our foreign policy exercises. As the Minister answers his first Queen’s Speech, will he tell us whether he thinks we are now in a new era?

5.05 pm

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, much has happened since we last debated the humble Address on the Queen’s Speech. We have had a new Prime Minister, a new Foreign Secretary and a new Minister for the Foreign Office in your Lordships’ House. I particularly congratulate my noble friend Lord Malloch-Brown on his initiation into the House, on his expertise and openness and on the inclusive way in which he has embraced our cross-party exchanges.

I welcome, too, my noble friend Lady Taylor of Bolton, who is only the second woman ever in this country to be a Defence Minister. She brings a wide breadth of experience to her new job. She has, of course, a hard act to follow. My noble friend Lord Drayson was quite simply a first-rate Minister. I hope that she will be very happy in her new role and that she will enjoy her time in the Ministry of Defence as much as I did.

The past year has been difficult and complex for those charged with foreign policy. The continuing nightmare of Darfur haunts our newspapers and television screens with the spectacle of terrible human suffering. The struggle by the brave Buddhist monks in Burma to make their voices for democracy heard, through peaceful and dignified demonstration, has been evident, as has the restraint and determination of the extraordinary and admirable Aung San Suu Kyi. There is the continuing controversy over the real nature of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and uncertainty about how the international community can sustain a united position on Iran. More recently, the turn of events in Pakistan is a source of huge anxiety worldwide. This is not a straightforward issue, as any thoughtful observer can see all too plainly. Open civil strife or worse in Pakistan will be catastrophic, not only for that country but for Afghanistan and those involved in trying to improve the lot of the Afghans, and of course it will be a real issue for Pakistan’s close regional neighbours, as well as for all those engaged in dealing with security and counterterrorism across the globe. It may also make the spread of nuclear capability a very real and imminent danger.

I would like to comment on a couple of points that were touched on in the gracious Speech. First, on Europe, we certainly heard fighting talk from the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. It is clear that there will be a serious and deep division when we discuss the European treaty. Those of us who debated its predecessors know that we can look forward to many hours of long and often excitable debate. I am

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sure that there will be accusations about the Government not holding a referendum and that this will be the subject of repeated indignation. However much such accusations are part of the political currency of the day, I hope that most of us will in the event be sensible enough not to believe the propaganda that one Conservative MEP rightly described as an exercise in politics, not democracy.

The treaty is necessary in exactly the way described by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard. The Prime Minister has said that Parliament will have the fullest opportunity to debate the treaty and, indeed, the charter of rights. The charter does not challenge or undermine the rights already set out in United Kingdom law. The treaty makes possible more cross-border co-operation, while safeguarding our own criminal law system and judicial process, so that the fundamentals of our common law system are not jeopardised. The treaty makes it clear that the basis of foreign and security policy will remain intergovernmental. I am bound to say that I and, I know, many other noble Lords wanted an absolute assurance that the intergovernmental basis would remain unchanged. We have it. Moreover, member states’ existing powers in maintaining our diplomatic services and our membership of the UN Security Council are expressly covered in the treaty.

I hope that, although the press may seek to characterise the treaty as fundamentally reordering our relationship with Europe, most of us in this House will recognise that the specific and careful provisions that have been secured for the United Kingdom show that it is indeed an amending treaty that safeguards what we value not only in our parliamentary system but under our rule of law. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, was right: it is what the treaty actually says that matters, not what commentators would like us to believe that it says.

Where we can speak with one voice as Europe in world affairs, where that is possible, we are genuinely strengthened, not diminished, by so doing. In the Middle East, for example, speaking as Europeans in the seemingly intractable search for a viable path to a two-state solution, Javier Solana has represented this country and our partners with exemplary common sense and wisdom. He has been a force for balance, for engagement and for understanding. Speaking on behalf of all of us, he has indeed strengthened our hand here in the United Kingdom.

I agreed with much of what my noble friend Lady Ramsay of Cartvale said in her typically thoughtful intervention. I am sure that we all hope that next month’s conference on the peace process will make real progress. I hope that it will not be a repeated exchange about the process of negotiation, rather than an embarkation on negotiation itself; or an exercise in talking about the economic viability of a Palestinian state, rather than a discussion on how to bring such a state into being; or a discussion about Israel’s security without a discussion of how the international community can have a real role in monitoring and underwriting that security and, of course, the security of the Palestinian people.

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I remain convinced that we Europeans must agree to Syrian inclusion in that process soon. I agree strongly with James Baker’s argument that Syria is ready for “tipping” on this point. I hope that Europe’s voice will continue to encourage that process with real determination.

The gracious Speech spoke of the Government’s commitment not only to reaching a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but also to delivering security, political reconciliation and economic reconstruction to Iraq. We all know that there is no quick fix in Iraq, but I was struck by the remarks of the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister,Barham Salih, in London last month about the economic improvements in that country. There has been a budgetary improvement doubling Iraq’s spending capacity this year on its social services; GDP growing at 6 per cent, which is a remarkable figure when compared with GDP across many other countries in the region; inflation down from 60 per cent two years ago to 16 per cent now; and, most tellingly of all, unemployment down from 50 per cent 18 months ago to 19 per cent now.

Iraq will continue to be a point of acute controversy—we all know that—but mostly it will be hard and laborious work. It will cost a great deal to do it properly. As the study report said last December, the US spends as much on its forces in Iraq every month as the Iraqis spend in a whole year. Will the Minister tell us in his winding-up speech how security can be maintained with that huge gulf in expenditure on security now and in the future?

Finally, I shall say a word about our public servants who work on foreign and defence issues. Quite simply, we need more of them, not fewer. Our men and women in the Armed Forces need to hear our explicit thanks and appreciation for what they do for us here and overseas. They are extraordinarily good at what they do and courageous in the sacrifices that they make, and we, for our part, should reward that effort, dedication and professionalism with real and clear support. We should also do better at supporting our diplomats. Without them, we are quite simply unable to engage in multilateral fora such as the UN, NATO, the EU and the Commonwealth. They bring us closer to those with whom we disagree and they strengthen the ties with those with whom we agree. Their work is not an optional extra; it is the bedrock on which we depend for our security and, in no small measure, for our prosperity. Our foreign policy determines our defence policy and we must be more explicit about it also determining our development policy. Development should be integrated into our diplomatic process in the same way as trade and defence are. All three need strengthening. Our capacity to deliver on our high ideals may well falter on our inability to put money and clout behind our values of human rights and equality and behind our aspirations for peace and prosperity.

5.16 pm

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, recently released from the shackles of the convenorship of the Cross-Bench Peers, I welcome the opportunity to

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comment, in the light of the gracious Speech, on the UK’s international objectives and specifically on public attitudes to our objectives in the European Union. This debate is already very wide; it covers, so far as I can see, the whole world and beyond to Armageddon, which the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, introduced into the discussion. Having spent much of my career in European affairs, both in the UK Civil Service and in the European Commission—I declare that interest in that I do, of course, have pensions from both sources—and although I shall speak mainly on European affairs, I shall comment first on the extremely important issue of the exit strategy from Iraq and, in due course, from Afghanistan, as many other speakers have done, particularly while the Israel/Palestinian issue is quite unresolved.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the depressingly long search for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians are, except in one respect, immeasurably more important for Britain than the amending treaty is. I am sure that we will have a lot to say about that treaty, but these issues are more important. First, they are more important because of the saddest of all indicators: the loss of British lives and the number of Britons injured—perhaps many of us have not fully comprehended that number—the very large number of Iraqis killed or injured in the continuing high level of violence in Iraq since the invasion, and the human cost of the hostilities in Afghanistan. This can justly be described as grim. Secondly, they are more important because such violence over a long period has influenced opinions and nurtured extremism, and can profoundly change the attitude of groups or nations. We in Britain are among those who are most affected as a greater target for extremism, and we must recognise that enmities have been exacerbated and that the consequences will not disappear quickly.

Our forces have performed to a very high standard, but the question now is simply the exit strategy. We have no vocation to remain in Iraq or Afghanistan; we have only to assess the advantages and disadvantages of how we proceed from here. I have one important point to make here. Ministers have been telling us regularly that we should leave Iraq when the national Government and the security forces can control the country and check violence, but the situation will never be so clear-cut as this objective assumes. The reality must be that we should leave when the objective has a chance of being achieved within a reasonable timescale. We have to bear in mind the lesson of history, which is that liberators often come to be seen as the enemies of the people, or at least of some of the people, simply because they have invaded their country. Today, we have to balance the problems that the invading forces themselves represent against the need for the Iraqi nation itself to improve its own security. Too long a delay in exiting carries a real cost. Quicker may be better for all concerned.

In the hope that by the end of the Session covered by the measures in the gracious Speech we shall see a much reduced role for our forces in Iraq, I turn now

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to European affairs, as many others have done. I begin with a plea for the Government to make as big an effort to tell the people the advantages of those European policies that they support as they make to explain where they have defended the UK’s position. It goes without saying that there are areas where we need to assert a defensive position in the European Union, so the phrase “red lines” is fully understandable. That is probably particularly so when changes in the existing treaty obligations are proposed. But we will have to make a decision soon—it is coming before the House—on the ratification of the amending treaty. At that time, I shall say a heartfelt thank you for the understanding that we shall not be called on to face another treaty-amending negotiation for very many years to come.

The sequence has in each case had some justification, but the cumulative effect of the Single European Act, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice, the constitutional treaty and now the amending treaty has weighed heavily on public reaction to the European Union. I feel it personally because I gave up many months of my life to the first three of those treaties. Indeed, my wife has decided that on my tombstone will be written my age less one year lost in the negotiations of the Maastricht and Amsterdam treaties.

It is customary for Ministers in debates such as this to say that the Government present positively the advantages that we gain from membership of the European Union, but I think that we could do with a bit more punch. That will be particularly true when the amending treaty has been ratified. Some of the more important policies, notably the single market, run themselves, or more accurately are run by those who are not directly concerned—business, commerce, the services, professions and so forth. We do not need to keep digging them up, but I repeat to the Minister that we need to do more to present and explain the UK’s role and its objectives not just on the controversial points but on other policies such as international trade, environment, research and so forth, which are continuing policies likely to be beneficial to us.

However, in the immediate future, the amending treaty will play a major role, not only because of the process of ratification, but because of public reaction to the EU as a whole. The Minister will be pleased to hear that this is not the occasion to enter into all the nooks and crannies of the amending treaty, but I would like briefly to make three comments in support of the treaty. My first point is a practical one. The motivation for the amending treaty at this time was always largely practical, even though for the former constitutional treaty it was dressed in some finery. The European Union has to adapt its way of working to the huge impact of enlargement—now to 27 countries and probably soon to more. I was involved in the first four enlargements of the Community and know how big a difference enlargement makes and how you have to look again at how the Union runs itself. That is the purpose of the changes being made to the European Council and, in foreign policy, of the

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amalgamation of the roles of the High Representative and Vice-President of the Commission with external responsibilities.

Secondly, there is much more explicit emphasis in the treaty on the role of the nation states, which have always been the makers and the masters of the union that they have created. I welcome the recognition in Article 1 that the powers of the European Union derive from the member states. Powers not specifically transferred of course remain with them. In recent years, it seemed obvious that the trend towards a more intergovernmental approach grows stronger. I can never understand how some critics have been able to assert the opposite.

Thirdly, this amending treaty must give us stability so that we know clearly what is to be decided in the UK and what is covered by policies and decisions within the European Union. When I spoke previously on the constitutional treaty, I referred specifically to the passerelle clause, because it risked upsetting the idea that we had a stable situation resulting from the decisions. I note that this clause still exists, but subject to unanimity and, apparently, subject to approval by the House. Is that right? Is it prior approval? Does it mean both Houses? Perhaps the Minister would reply on that specific point.

5.26 pm

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, it is a pleasure for several reasons to follow the noble Lord, Lord Williamson. It is now more than 18 years, I think, since he and I worked in partnership on these matters. Certainly, it is more than 18 years since, in the kind, euphemistic words of an American chairman the other day, I “relinquished” my position at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I have some hesitation in entering this debate after that lapse of time, not least because there have been so many changes in the world during that time. I should also like to draw the attention of the House to some of the factors that have been involved as a result of those changes in our foreign policy and foreign policies around the world.

First, on the plus side, there has been a substantial reduction in the British bilateral burden. Northern Ireland is no longer on the Foreign Office agenda; nor, for practical purposes, are Gibraltar or Hong Kong. Those positions have moved forward quite well. Secondly, however, there has been a huge explosion in a much wider multilateral agenda: namely, the widespread disruption of the Middle East; the upsurge in terrorism; the spreading of anxiety about the non-proliferation treaty, whether in Iran or northern Korea; the humanitarian catastrophes in Darfur, Myanmar and Zimbabwe; and the influx of new, generally less stable, states to the world, such as Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. Thirdly, there is the re-emergence of Russia, which, having lost an empire, is still looking for a role, under determined leadership, even if that is rather uncomfortable for the rest of us.

Fourthly, there is a significant shift in the conduct of American foreign policy. I was unable to take part in the recent debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Saatchi on anti-Americanism, but had I done so, I

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should certainly have been, as he was, anti anti-Americanism. But one must face the fact that problems which previous Administrations would instinctively have sought to handle through multilateral institutions—of which the United States had been one of the principal midwives—have more recently been more likely than not to promote what I may call the Bolton/Cheney unilateral response. In the kind of forward aphorism that Deng Xiaoping always used to like, “Like father, unlike son”.

Fifthly—not the least important—there has been the growth and the impact on the world of states which had previously been less than in the front line, such as Brazil, India or, surprisingly to some extent, the most important, China. China is hugely important. First, I must declare an interest. I visited China as long ago as 1978, then again during the Hong Kong negotiations, and long thereafter my life became heavily involved in the future of that territory. The number of people in the Foreign Office department dealing with Hong Kong rose from three to 23 during the negotiations. Finally, I have been for some years president of the Great Britain-China Centre, and indeed I was in China last month, as was the Minister.

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