|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The UN remains the only international organisation that is truly representative of the breadth of the world's countries. The case for UN reform is clearly compelling. We will therefore pursue our efforts to ensure that the Security Council is more representative and takes account of emerging powers such as Brazil and India. We look forward to the creation of a single entity to address gender issues at the United Nations, so that across the
19 Nov 2009 : Column 35
I recognise that the interests and expertise of this House range widely and deeply and I know that it is impossible in this short space of time to do justice to every area of concern, but my noble friend Lady Taylor and I look forward to our debate today and to our continuing discussions on these issues over the coming months. It remains absolutely clear that, as we tackle the international issues and relationships that matter to the UK, to go it alone in the 21st century means going nowhere. Britain cannot risk or afford that.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I think we can all agree that debate on the humble Address got off to a very good start yesterday, which proves not only that our debates in your Lordships' House are better than in the other place but that our jokes are as well. The humble Address was superbly proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, and the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford. My noble friend Lord Strathclyde gave a masterly speech. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, gave an extremely witty speech, except at the end when he got on to Liberal policy, which is always rather boring and frankly incomprehensible. The Leader of the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, gave a very brave speech that defended a besieged Government as they near their end.
I greatly welcome the arrival of the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, at the Dispatch Box. I think this is the first time that she has spoken at the Dispatch Box on a Queen's Speech and an humble Address. She is, in fact, the fifth Member of the Government with whom I have had the honour of debating these humble Addresses over the years. They have indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, said, come and gone with amazing speed. I particularly miss the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown. I am not sure where he is now, but he was here and was very understanding. I think the whole House appreciated his skill, as it will the skill of the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock.
I must say straightaway that we on this side of the House strongly support the Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill. Two noble Lords deserve special mention. They got it yesterday, and I will mention them again today, for all the work that they have done. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who is in his place, and my noble friend Lord Elton have struggled very bravely over the years, and the arrival of this Bill, which we all support, is a mark of and a tribute to their work.
There are those who say that there should be continuity in foreign policy between one Government and another. With a change of government likely in the next few months, I say that, on the contrary, this is the time for a real change in the whole direction, tone and priorities of Britain's international policy. If we are to mend and unite our broken and fragmented society here at home, it is equally necessary to mend our broken foreign policy in the world, thereby giving back to this nation the sense of purpose, focus for its loyalties and confidence in its identity and potential that seem to have evaporated
19 Nov 2009 : Column 36
In the past few years-even in the past couple of years or so-the international landscape has altered fundamentally. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a lot of talk of the triumph of the West, but that is not how it has turned out in the 20 years since. Today, power and influence are shifting irreversibly away from the western or the Atlantic powers. The fastest growing and the largest trade flows are between Asian countries. The big five of the Asian economies have a GNP which exceeds that of Europe or America. In purchasing power terms, it is probably larger than both together.
While the EU economies, including ours, are still shrinking with the recession, the Asians and some Latin American giants like Brazil are registering 8 per cent, 9 per cent or double-digit growth. The gap is widening all the time while we are standing here. Capital flows, once west to east, are now starting to be east to west and east to south, as the Minister also mentioned, with Asia rediscovering not just its economic predominance but its cultural, social, educational, technical and scientific prowess after centuries of lagging behind. In Changchun, north-east China, where I was the other day, I was told that next year it will produce 10 million cars, many with new electric and hybrid technology. That is in excess practically of the whole European or American production.
Those who keep arguing here that our destiny lies in Europe do not seem to have grasped that our destiny will be increasingly shaped outside the European region; for example, our climate future and the whole question of carbon emissions, our financial stability, our energy pattern and security, and probably our national security as well. In short, if I have no other message today, it is to remind this House that the action has moved elsewhere.
Our interests now need to be defended as much on the shores of the Caspian, or the Horn of Africa, as in western Europe and the Atlantic. Thanks to a decade of Labour dithering over restarting the nuclear power programme we now face a major energy gap in the decade ahead. It is on areas such as Azerbaijan that future reliable gas supplies for much of Europe's daily electricity, and ours, will depend. Continuing to rely on Russia's Gazprom to keep our lights on is not a good idea, with too much of Russia run by dubious methods and utterly lawless interests. Meanwhile, countries such as Canada and Brazil emerge as the great new energy powers to rival Russia.
China, which was not mentioned in the gracious Speech, is racing ahead economically, in high technology and in innovation. Chinese currency decisions will make or break this country. These matters are not remote; they are central to our welfare. China is pouring billions into Africa, notably into Sudan, which the noble Baroness mentioned; into Zimbabwe, which I see now is registering economic growth in contrast to this country; into Zambia and west Africa, as well as
19 Nov 2009 : Column 37
India is acquiring British assets and is investing here and in South Africa, which is a reversal of the traditional roles of the 19th and 20th centuries. Meanwhile, destructive anti-westernism, contemptuous of human rights, led by would-be nuclear Iran, whose enemies we have conveniently and short-sightedly removed, is strongly on the rise. It is spreading like a virulent fungus out of Afghanistan, to which I will return in a moment, into Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, which are all now thriving al-Qaeda bases. We will also have to look in these areas in hunting down al-Qaeda.
Iran is feeding Hezbollah to undermine Lebanon; it is feeding Hamas and dividing Palestine; it is giving Mr Netanyahu and the Israelis an excuse to delay the peace process; and it is fuelling anti-western impulses still further. Meanwhile, it does not seem to have been noticed that Turkey is turning away from the West, befriending Iran and playing a new Middle Eastern role, which is hardly surprising in view of the cold shoulder it has had from Europe. Over in Latin America, which was once a key area of British interests before we decided to fold our tents and go away, Brazil's President Lula da Silva says that the new great powers no longer need the dollar. China, of course, has been saying the same kind of thing. It is the so-called BRICs-the Brazils, Russias, Indias, Chinas-and the new power centres such as the Shanghai Co-operation Group, from which, incidentally, America is excluded, which begin to set the new global agenda. Everywhere the post-Cold War settlement, like the original Second World War settlement, is crumbling.
What have we to offer by way of adjustment to this radically shifting scene? The first answer seems to be more of the same. The political class of Europe has given us the Lisbon treaty and we Conservatives have been roundly criticised for not being too enthusiastic; for not going along with the elite in Europe and for questioning whether it really takes Europe and the European Union, to which we are fully committed, in the right direction. In particular, we have questioned the democratic credentials behind the Lisbon undertaking. We have said that if any further power transfers of a constitutional kind are demanded-which is quite likely-there will be a referendum. A Tory Government may well take the lead in crafting a major and much needed European reform package, with full voter approval, because that, too, is certainly needed.
Contrary to what the Minister said about the Lisbon texts settling matters, they leave a string of unanswered questions. This is not surprising as the texts are already seven years old and are hopelessly dated in a completely transformed international landscape. Even using the treaty's highly contentious self-expanding powers-if anyone dares to-these so-called passerelle powers will not meet these new needs. The treaty will also give us what the French Minister, Mr Lellouche-who seems to be a little unfortunate with his vocabulary-calls the biggest diplomatic service in the world. That is what is coming, but I am not sure how we can pay for that when we can hardly afford our own.
A basic error of our critics on these matters is to assume that this debate is about the narrow issue of Britain's bilateral relations with Brussels; it is not. It is about the kind of Europe which will best fit-and be fit for purpose-with the new globalised network in which power has shifted decisively away from the hegemony of the West; it is about defending and promoting our own national priorities in best fulfilling our role in the new and unfamiliar landscape and in new regions of the world. Of course there will be many things on which we will want to work much more effectively with our European neighbours, but there are many more in this new landscape on which we will need to work with others and we have to ask whether our policy is geared up to meet that. The struggle over the European Union, which will continue, will not be, as I know many on the left hope, between Conservatives and inside the Conservative Party but between, on the one hand, the oncoming facts and realities of a network world, with Asia again in the ascendant, and, on the other, the inward-looking, bloc-iste, overintervening, protectionist mentality of the European integrationist Bourbons.
I turn to Afghanistan, on which we all await Mr Obama's decisions. Whether the three conditions for our own increased troop contributions have been met, I do not know-it was not clear from the Minister's speech; it would be useful to hear it before the end of the debate. But what is certainly clear is that the present strategy is tragically costly of our own soldiers' lives and needs revising. All the talk of exit strategies and NATO-authorised withdrawal strategies is not helpful either to the overall cause or to our brave Armed Forces on the front line. We need to be clearer about the objectives and leave the exiting and the ending for a later discussion.
We must at all costs help Pakistan, a fellow Commonwealth member, in defending its borders and resisting incursions and crossings both ways-I am glad that helping Pakistan was specifically mentioned in the gracious Speech. The central Government in Kabul must be upheld, but it is naive to think that western democratic models can be neatly grafted on to Afghan cultures and structures. Surely this country, with its own bitter historical experience, should be able to get over that message more clearly to our American allies and their strategic advisers.
The emergence of the G20 in place of the G8 gives some hope that new platforms on which these issues can at last be openly and sensibly discussed may be taking shape, but other reforms of our 20th-century, left-over institutions, with their heavy, 1945 bias, are plainly also overdue. The structure of the permanent membership of the UN Security Council is still frozen in 1945 time, although we want to reform it. The weightings of the IMF are out of date. NATO is struggling to redefine its role. Many countries are seeking new and better platforms on which to meet and co-operate. It is incomprehensible that we, the British, have not given more thought and support to developing the vast Commonwealth network of 53 nations, which embraces almost one-third of the human race and stretches across continents and faiths. I was very glad to notice in the Minister's speech today a distinctly increased emphasis on our Commonwealth
19 Nov 2009 : Column 39
The Commonwealth could become a huge new soft-power network which other countries would envy and many would like to be associated with-as my Japanese friends keep telling me. It would further defend our strengths and interests in the new global landscape. Yet the Foreign and Commonwealth Office forgets about it half the time and has hardly mentioned it in past quarterly or annual reports. We all know that the EU takes a lot of funds-many believe that it is overfunded and wastes millions of pounds-and it will cost us even more now with the budget rebate having been surrendered, apparently for nothing in return. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth is ridiculously underfunded. While we cannot increase funds, because we do not have any, a switch is certainly overdue.
Perhaps the most important and immediate issue of all is how to establish the right machinery to push forward the new agenda and to give our very able diplomats the right context in which to work. My noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell, the distinguished former Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary whom we all hope to see back in his place shortly, spoke in our debate in February last of a "malaise" developing in Britain's once much praised foreign service and of a hollowing-out of the Foreign Office in London. Both he and many other well qualified observers have expressed deep unease at the extraordinary imbalance that has developed between the tight funding of the FCO and the far larger resource allocation for the Department for International Development, which now has a budget four times that of the Foreign Office.
A robust foreign policy should both define and unite us, yet, instead, with the most optimistic view, one is left with a dispiriting picture. At a time when we should be forging new alliances with new sources of power and influence that will affect our destiny intimately; at a time when we should be vigorously promoting new and more flexible structures regionally for the EU, instead of talking of more centralisation; at a time when we should be building up the Commonwealth as the ideal soft power network of the future; at a time when we should be massively strengthening and modernising our security forces to meet asymmetric threats; at a time when we should be redirecting our development and aid policies, and thinking clearly about whether aid really leads to development in all cases-which it does not; at a time when we should be reconstructing our overseas ministries to get a better resource balance and upgrading our whole diplomatic resources-at this time, we are doing none of those things.
Above all, these ambiguities in our world stance divide and confuse us here at home, as both the Afghan and, I am afraid, the Iraqi involvement have divided us, adding to the multicultural mayhem and planting of deep doubt within our society. With our staggering public debt and enormous budget deficit,
19 Nov 2009 : Column 40
The global context has changed. Within it we need a new foreign policy direction based on a deep and intelligent analysis of the world conditions. We need new government machinery and a new Government to operate it successfully and with confidence and vigour. Our amazing country, built on its amazing and dazzling past, and still full of talent and vitality, deserves nothing less.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome the strength of the Government's commitment to multilateral action, in particular on climate change. We also welcome very strongly the Queen's Speech inclusion of the Bill on cluster bombs, to which we will give our full support, as we have supported the work of the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Elton, and others in pushing for that measure.
We all recognise that Britain needs a radical shift in the assumptions that underpin its foreign and security policies. I share some of the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on the changes in the global situation around us but not, of course, the conclusions that he draws. Whatever shape of government emerges out of the coming election, under whatever party, we know that we will have to conduct a security review, put off until then. That security review will have to start by redefining Britain's role in the world.
The world that we are in, 20 years after the end of the Cold War, is one in which the European region is no longer at the centre of global politics, and in which Britain cannot pretend to exercise the global influence on its own that it aspired to a generation or two ago. The United States now looks to China, not to Britain or its other European allies, as its most important partner, in a difficult but unavoidably close relationship. Any new Government will have to work with partners to protect their interests and pursue their aims; we cannot hope to achieve much by standing alone.
My noble friends Lord Lee, Lord Addington and Lady Falkner spoke passionately on British defence and Afghanistan in the defence debate the other week. I do not intend to repeat the points they made. I am very sorry that my noble friends Lord Dykes and Lord Ashdown are unfortunately unable to stay with us through today's debate, but I look forward immensely to the speeches of my noble friends Lady Williams, on Afghanistan and nuclear weapons, Lord Chidgey, on Africa-on which I hope that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester will also inform us-and Lady Northover on development and on Middle East.
I was amused this morning when the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, phoned me to apologise that he would be late in arriving because I had guessed several of the themes of his speech before he had begun to make it. I look forward with some trepidation to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, since he once was my boss and I have always regarded him with immense awe since then.
I shall concentrate on the strategic direction of British foreign policy and the resources that we need to commit to it. Most of all, I shall focus on the European core of British foreign policy, because no foreign policy is credible that is not rooted in close relations with our neighbours. British interests on most global issues are closer to those of our European neighbours than to any other potential partners: on climate change, on the Middle East conflict, on economic and political development in Africa, and on relations with the Muslim world. We cannot claim to be deeply committed to international co-operation if we are unwilling or unable to work closely with our neighbours. There is no alternative-to use Mrs Thatcher's phrase-to a coherent European policy as the foundation of British foreign policy.
Liberal Democrats have understood that since the treaty of Rome was signed 50 years ago, and have argued the case for European co-operation as Labour and the Conservatives have wavered back and forth between realism and Europhobia. We do not believe that the EU is a wonderful creation, or that our European partners are paragons of political virtue; like all political systems, the European regional system is an uncomfortable compromise between incompatible objectives. We do not pretend that the Lisbon treaty is an ideal agreement, but it is the framework within which any British Government will have to work for the foreseeable future if they want to achieve key national objectives. Our party was not particularly enamoured of the proposal for a president or chairman of the European Council. We recall that it was accepted by other Governments as a concession to Britain and France. Our Labour Government saw it as a useful intergovernmental check on the influence of small Governments and the European Commission.
This Government are drifting, exhausted like the Major Government before them, to the end of their term. As Prime Minister, Tony Blair-following John Major, when he first became Prime Minister-began by declaring that he would take Britain,
but he was rapidly seduced by the glamour of Washington and the illusions of the special relationship. He redefined British foreign policy as providing a bridge between Europe and the United States, and ended up going to war in Iraq to demonstrate how loyal an ally we were to whatever Administration was in charge in Washington. He hoped that Britain would gain influence over American foreign policy in return, but sadly it is clear now that he failed to influence it to any significant degree.
In the process, his Government drifted to the margins of European co-operation, and the settled Euroscepticism of the British media and of so much of the British public was left to fester. The failure to reshape the foreign policy debate within Britain was one of the greatest failures of Prime Minister Blair's time in office-but then, it was part of his pact with Rupert Murdoch, with foreign policy principles sacrificed for the favour of a right-wing magnate. I welcomed David Miliband's speech to the IISS two weeks ago as the most intelligent and positive exposition of the case for European co-operation which any Labour
19 Nov 2009 : Column 42
In 1996-97, our neighbours and allies were waiting hopefully for a change of Government, freed from what they saw as the Europhobic nightmare that gripped the declining Conservative Government. This time, they have no such hopes; they see the Europhobes returning, obsessed with protecting British sovereignty from the continental threat. David Cameron's response to the completion of the ratification of the Lisbon treaty, two weeks ago, was remarkably sensible and practical. He recognised the realities that any new Government will face, and kicked the demands for renegotiation and referendums as far into the future as he could.
It is evident that, like Tony Blair before 1997, Mr Cameron is not much interested in foreign policy, or at all prepared to negotiate with foreign leaders if he comes into office. He has certainly made no effort to build good personal relations with Chancellor Merkel or President Sarkozy, with whom he would have to work closely and immediately in NATO and G20 meetings, as well as in European Councils, from the day that he became Prime Minister. Yet behind him stand the passionate Europe-deniers, as irrational as the climate-change-deniers and UN-haters in the American Republican Party.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|