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We are indeed in very difficult if not dark days, both economically, as the gracious Speech recognised, and strategically, which is rather glossed over. In both areas, errorssome grievoushave been made, which makes progress from the position that we now find ourselves in that much more difficult.
In the economic field, the consequences of the errors and omissions were in some cases predictable. In the strategic field, the consequences and fallout from some of the military actions embarked on should have been wholly predictable to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history and the lessons of the past. As a result of mistakes as to the best way, or at least better ways, of anticipating, containing and progressively countering and eliminating the threat of terrorism, which had been elevated into the highest strategic profile and priority by the 9/11 outrage, we now find our Armed Forces employed in hazardous and costly operations, both in lives and money, without over a sustained period having the manpower, resourcessometimes the equipment; generally they are now very well equippedand indeed the strategic machinery, if I may put it that way, to deal with these situations as effectively and comprehensively as they demand, and then only with great and continuing stress and stretch to our Armed Forces as a whole. This is despite the estimable leadership, courage, dedication and motivation shown by individual service men and women, which reflect credit on our commanders and the services traditional esprit de corps. Heroic efforts have indeed been made but, as yet, there has been too little to show for them in changing hearts and attitudes in the areas concerned.
I am not suggesting a withdrawal from Afghanistan in the foreseeable future. These are early days and persistence sometimes brings benefit in wearing down opposition, as it has in other areas. Moreover, politics apart, precipitate action would undoubtedly produce a psychological boost to those who oppose us and would probably damage and set back our longer-term interest in the area. However, we need to keep our uncertain strategy under constant review, clarifying and making more joined up, in military and development terms, the present unsatisfactory command arrangements
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A surge, as apparently advocated by the United States, may seem to improve security in the short term, but such measures are invariably transitory and, with our very meagre resources and current stretch, I hope that we do not follow down that path to any great degree. As the Minister said and as history has shown, more permanent stability can lie only in building up, supporting and paying for local forces, and in developing and delivering constructive and beneficial aid. In tackling terrorism, we should reasonably be in the business of helping friends or potential friends to help themselves but not, I think, essentially in that of imposing an alien political system on those who are perhaps neither ready nor suited to adopt it.
Certainly we must continue to work as closely as possible with Pashtun tribal leaders, and if that involves or provides the opportunity to talk to more moderate and reasonable Taliban, well and good. We must somehow get it across that we are there not to conquer and permanently hold Afghan territory, which will always attract resistance, or to kill Taliban just for its own sake but, with the Afghan army, to enforce a measure of security within which all Afghans can benefit from improved infrastructure and speedily delivered and life-improving aid. As the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, once so aptly put it:
The hope is that a more stable and better way of life will lead, beneficially, to Afghanistan playing a more constructive, socially acceptable and helpful role in the wider international field, and that it will improve vital intelligence against al-Qaeda and enable us to keep our casualties down in what may still be a long haul. From the point that we have arrived at, and if we can make the improvements needed, it is the only way forward, well worth the sustained effort, and, for the moment, very much in the national interest.
We have, and indeed we welcome, a new Secretary of State, who would seem to have many qualifications for the job. Apart from his political skills, he is a keen student of, and writer about, military history, which must be an advantage. He appears to be very interested in the assignment and of course he can give these important responsibilities his undivided attention. It will fall to him to act in conjunction with the FCO and those responsible for overseas aid, because this joining-up must start here in Whitehall so that one can get a co-ordinated foreign defence/overseas aid policy. At the moment, it is a bit of a shambles and we need to improve it here, just as we need to improve it on the ground. As has been said, much will depend on the stability and intentions of Pakistan, as well as on the outcome of the presidential election in Kabul. We hope that different attitudes will emanate from Washington which will clarify and improve the strategy and place it on a more regional and partnership basis, which we found essential in the recovery of Kuwait and in handling the various crises in the Balkans.
Very serious consideration has to be given to how we can best support Pakistan in any fight against al-Qaeda, which, after all, provides a formidable threat to its security. This will require diplomatic tact and subtlety of the highest nature if pressure on Pakistan to do more is not to be counterproductive. Only recently, for the first time in decades, local traders have been allowed to cross the line of control in Jammu and Kashmira concession that appears to have been initiated from Delhi. Can we not seek to build on this and try, even in these delicate times, to improve Indo-Pakistani relations to the extent that the security situation there becomes less tense and so that Pakistan military units may be deployed on the North-West Frontier Province, where they are so badly needed? It may be clutching at straws but we have to do something to give some relief to Pakistan in its problemsnot least of course in its traditional, almost obsessive, fears about Indias intentions in the whole area, and to some extent vice versa. The awful outrage in Mumbai has not helped but in fact only emphasises yet again how countries must pull together. Terrorism is, after all, international and countries must work with mutual support if we are to get on top of this problem.
Finally, the Secretary of State will also have the difficult task of getting the defence vote into proper balance. The realist may well say that in the present economic climate there will be little, if any, more money for defence, either in theory or in practice. That may be so but, if that is the case, an enormous funding gap of billions of poundsa veritable black holewill be revealed between the planned and, at the moment, needed requirements and expected financial resources. Of course, what is badly needed is a defence review to try to bring this countrys proper contribution on the world stage, and therefore its commitment, more into line with the resources that it is prepared to provide on a national basis or can guarantee on a pooled basis with allies. However, with a general election, which cannot be far away, that is most unlikely to happen. In the mean time, a closer look will have to be taken at the higher spending capital costs, which we most certainly cannot afford and which, after closer strategic assessment than they have had so far, we may not even need.
I see a dilemma because some of those high-cost capital projects due to be constructed in this country may come into the category of direct government expenditure, designed to blast their way through any recession on a New Deal basis, as well as providing employment in key north-western constituencies. Were they to go ahead on what could be called a priming-of-the-pump basis, irrespective of the strategic urgency and without extra funding for such projects, or at least a decision to delay some of them so far into the future that they do not impinge on the current funding cyclesome noble Lords may think that the successor to Trident could come into that categoryit will be impossible to square the circle. If something on those lines is not done, what will happen is what invariably happens when one continues year after year to squeeze a quart into a pint pot that the accessible itemsso many items for defence are inaccessiblefall off the bottom. The front line will continue to lack depth, sustainability and the latest equipment. Vital training
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Implementation as opposed to intention of the now generally accepted military covenant and the high morale that it engenders will invariably depend on proper funding of the defence programme as a whole. The two cannot be dissociated. The Secretary of State will have much to engage him if the present defence policy and programmes are to break out of the doldrums and the drift that they are in at the moment.
The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: My Lords, I begin by expressing my thanks to Members of the House for their kind and generous welcome. I also thank all the officials and staff for their courtesy and unfailing helpfulness to me and my family, particularly on the day of my introduction.
In the aftermath of the Blackaddertelevision series, there are always perils for the bishops of Bath and Wells. I am constantly reminded of the alleged activities of one of my predecessors as a baby eater, as well as doing unmentionable things with a red hot poker. Entering your Lordships House has proved no exception, and the greeting from the Doorkeeper on my first day referring to these matters was capped only by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark seeing my five week-old granddaughter arrive and remarking, The Bishop has brought his own lunch.
I am grateful for this opportunity to make my maiden speech in todays debate on the gracious Speech. Having been a director of one of the churchs mission and development agencies for six years, I am particularly concerned to encourage the Government on matters to do with international development outlined in the Queens Speech.
The Jubilee 2000 debtcampaignraised to popular awareness the issue of debt in the poorest of the worlds developing countries. This in turn led to Make Poverty History, a campaign that creates awareness of the ongoing issue of poverty, as well as raising the profile of the millennium development goals, a subject on which the Prime Ministeraddressed the bishops of the Anglican Communion at the Lambeth Conference.
As long as millions of people are in poverty in our world, our whole society is impoverished.The recent view of the world presented by the National Intelligence Councilisthat 63 per cent of the worlds population is expected to be poor in 2025fewer people than todaybut that the poor will be poorer. That emphasises the urgency of the challenge to meet the millennium development goals.
Prior to the launch of Make Poverty History, I wasinvited to participate in a small demonstration in the City of London entitled Bread not Stones.The idea was that a number of church leaders would take it in turn to ride in a donkey cart through the City, passing out bread, stones and leaflets to passers-by. The cart would be festooned with banners, stating, Bread not Stones, reminding people of Jesus of Nazareths question, Would a parent give a child a stone instead of bread?. On the day, the donkey and cart arrived but, embarrassingly, no banners or posters, no bread or stones and, I am afraid, no other church leaders, except the woman moderator of the United Reformed Church. Accompanied by two mounted City of London police officers we set off looking and feeling like prisoners being taken to the Tower in a tumbrel. After an excruciatingly humiliating half hour we drew into the churchyard that was our final destination. It was filled with church leaders, charity executives, banners, bread and stones. As we exited the cart, some climbed aboard and others surrounded it smiling at the assembled press corps. The resulting pictures were of an evidently successful demonstration.
I tell the story because it is easy to grandstand on povertyon the millennium goals, but the hard work goes on largely unnoticed or understood. The embarrassment of the failure of the demonstration was of no consequence, except perhaps to my pride. I am convinced, however, of the truth of the Haitian proverb: God gives but doesnt share. We have everything we need to flourish. It is our responsibility to divvy it up. I believe that the first call on humanity as represented by Governments, nations and peoples of faith is identified by the priorities of the millennium development goals. This requires upside-down thinking.Along with the other bishops of the Anglican Communion during the Lambeth Conference, I marched down Whitehall on behalf of those goals. But I fear that the churchs obsessionwith internal agendas rather than with the priority declared in Jesuss manifesto of,
It is in the context of the further elements of todays debate, including foreign and European affairs as well as defence, that I plead for a continuing reprioritising by Government. Rightly, defeating terrorism is high on the agenda of western nations, but if we are to defeat the mosquitoes of terrorism we must drain the swamps of poverty and despair, which result in the stones of anger, hatred and violence. In welcoming the British Governments support for the arms trade treaty, I urge the Foreign Secretaryto call on the new United States Administration to sign up to that treaty. More than 695,000 people have been killeddirectly with firearms since the UN arms treaty process began in December 2006. That is about 1,000 people a day, illustrating the urgent need for worldwide compliance with the treaty.
In 2000, 189 countries adopted the millennium development goals with their aim vastly to reduce global poverty by 2015. While there have been some
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In the diocese of Bath and Wells, we are committed to seeking ways of addressing the millennium development goals, but we are conscious that their title makes it difficult for them to be communicated simply and easily. I therefore urge DfID to look for ways of bringing the priorities of the millennium development goals into a popular and accessible form, so that readers of the red tops as well as of the broadsheets can engage in the task of remaking humanity.
Finally, Get Fair, which is a coalition of religious and secular groups, cites evidence in a recent survey that politicians must do more drastically to reduce domestic poverty and that it is in their own self-interest to do so. The poll indicates that 51 per cent of Britons, evenly spread across gender, age group, social class and region, say they would reward the political party that had the confidence to tackle poverty. Rising to such a challenge would ensurein the words of Delboy in Only Fools and Horsesthat everyone is a winner, and that is always appealing.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I begin by thanking the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bath and Wells and congratulating him on his wide-ranging and very thoughtful maiden speech. One of our noble colleagues suggested earlier that he should be thanked twiceonce as the Bishop of Bath and once as the Bishop of Wellsand I shall do so. I congratulate and thank him again. He introduced humour into a wide-ranging speech which reflected his experience in peacemaking in Africa, in Iraq and, closer to home, in Northern Ireland. He has experience not only within the church but also as a teacher, writer and broadcaster. Indeed, he has experienced the greatest of broadcasting tests: the Jeremy Paxman Newsnight grilling. He emerged from that experience not only unscathed and with his sense of humour very much intact but able to deliver a memorable maiden speech. I hope we shall hear much more from him.
It is now over a year since we in your Lordships House last debated the humble Address on the gracious Speech. In foreign policy terms, as in so much else, much has changed. The economic downturn which began in the financial services sector in the United States has now spread throughout the worldwide banking and financial services community and is already painfully evident in most countries in terms of job losses, productivity slowdown and business closures and failures. No country, however advanced its economy, is immunenot in Asia nor in the Middle East, Europe or the
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Meanwhile our huge concerns about climate change have deepened and the international communitys willingnessor indeed its capacityto deliver an international agreement seems as far away as ever, with the particularly depressing news only today that we in Europe are unlikely to reach an agreement on targets for emissions over the next few years. Our partners in eastern Europe, with their huge reliance on energy sourced from coal, balk at the implications for their future growth, and we learn that Signor Berlusconi in Italy has refused to confirm his predecessors agreement because such arrangements would, in his view, hurt the Italian economy. It is sad, bad stuff. If we in Europe who have debated these issues over and over again cannot give a lead on this, how can we possibly expect any of the emerging economies in Africa, Asia and Latin America, let alone our still-to-be-persuaded friends in the United States of America, to listen when we try to put forward credible and cogent arguments on these issues?
The economy and the environment are domestic issues, but they are issues that cannot be tackled with any hope of success without an international dimension and international co-operation and agreement. Domestic policy is foreign policy in so many respects, not only on these issues but on immigration, border control, counterterrorism, investment and trade, and the spread of disease. Our foreign policy issues per sethat is, what is happening in other peoples countries and how much we intervene through the encouragement of some, the criticism of others, or, frankly, direct action when we feel the needcontinue to be a pretty familiar picture and a pretty gloomy one, too. Improvements in Iraqi security are hugely to be welcomed. Iraqs increasing activity among the international community and its growing prosperity despite sectarianism at home and scepticism beyond its borders are very encouraging; but Afghanistans troubles seem to worsen, and its porous borders allow extremist activists and terrorists access not only to the West but also, of course, to the Eastto Pakistan and further afield. The Minister painted a familiar and sobering picture in her opening remarks.
The appalling atrocities in Mumbai only a few days ago seem to have derailed the Indian/Pakistani rapprochement to the extent of some of the most bellicose exchanges between those two countries that any of us has heard for a long time. Meanwhile, Iran continues to thumb its nose at the IAEA as to whether its nuclear ambitions are really focused on domestic energy or are more sinister. Europe has tried reasoned dialogue. The United Nations has toyed, somewhat unconvincingly, with sanctions. Others shrug their shoulders and ask why Iran should not develop a nuclear weapon capacity when Israel has one. Talk of an international bank of enriched uranium, eminently sensible as that is, seems to fall on deaf ears.
At the same time, renewed wealth and energy capacity in Russia has boosted that countrys confidence not only in terms of its access to international markets
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In Africa, our worst nightmareZimbabwehas worsened again. It is ruled by a despot who parades himself as a democratically elected leader. It has an inflation rate that sounds like a madmans estimate until one realises what it means in terms of hunger and famine in that country. Cholera is now rife in Zimbabwe and is spilling over its borders into South Africa. However desperately some may care, and however hard someand I include the Ministermay argue, the fact is that the world community, and I include the United Nations, finds itself able over and over again to turn its face away. It seems equally impotent to act in the DRC and in the Sudan, where daily misery, butchery and horror are visited on civilian populations.
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