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Many of the threats and challenges we face can be mastered only by concerted action at the global level, and yet the multilateral institutions we possess have so far proved inadequate to the task. Europe has yet to find its voice and to pull its weight but, with the imminent entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, it has an opportunity to further and safeguard more effectively those common interests which individual member states can no longer protect. Britain, bruised by the international financial crisis, by the toll of casualties in Afghanistan and uncertain of its sense of direction, risks turning in on itself and underperforming, as we last did in the 1970s. A lot is at stake in the period ahead and, by the time we next debate a loyal Address, a new Government will have taken office.
The first global challenge will come very soon; less than a month from now the Copenhagen conference on climate change will begin. The auguries for a successful outcome are far from brilliant. Preparations have lagged, cards have been held too close to negotiating chests and excessive time has been spent on rhetorical jousting between developed and developing countries. The European Union, at its meeting last month, may have been tactically astute in declining to put a figure on its potential contribution to developing countries, but it may also have made a strategic error because European leadership in all sectors of the negotiating package for Copenhagen is essential if success is to be achieved.
If the Copenhagen conference fails, the problem of climate change will not, of course, go away; it will simply get worse and more costly in the long run to
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Not far behind that challenge lies a possibly even more daunting and complex one: that of putting flesh on the bones of the aspiration, endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council on 24 September, of working towards a world free of nuclear weapons. It will require much skill and political effort at the top level of government over many years. Assuming that a first, essential bilateral step towards nuclear disarmament is successfully achieved by the US and Russia next month, at some point further down the road, nuclear disarmament will need to become multilateral. It is welcome that the Government have expressed their readiness for that. Now they will need to prepare for it and to act in the meanwhile-for example, over Trident replacement-in a way consistent with the overall objective. There will be a need, too, to move into serious negotiation on a fissile material cut-off treaty, if necessary not allowing procedural obstacles at the conference on disarmament to prevent that. We shall need to give all the help and encouragement we can to the completion of the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Here, I echo the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, who pointed out the real obstacles that President Obama and his Administration face on the Hill and why countries such as ours, which have felt that it is in our national interest to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, should go across and tell our colleagues on the Hill why we think it would strengthen our own and the world's position if they were to do likewise.
If we were able to make some progress in the next few months, it should create the necessary conditions for a successful Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference which will take place in May 2010-somewhat awkwardly, I suspect, for this country. It will be a crucial stage in the process that I have described of moving towards a world free of nuclear weapons, but by no means its destination. That conference will need to endorse the International Atomic Energy Agency's additional protocol as a universal standard, made mandatory if necessary. It needs, too, to open the way to internationally guaranteed supplies of enrichment and reprocessing services so that the expansion of civil nuclear energy, highly desirable on environmental grounds, can take place without increasing the proliferation risk. It needs to make withdrawal from the non-proliferation treaty, as provided for in that treaty, a costly, and not a cost-free, option. In parallel, some
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All this will need to proceed against the threatening backdrop of attempts by North Korea and Iran to move in the opposite direction to the rest of the world. The diplomatic route to heading off such a breakout must not be abandoned, but it may need to be strengthened by further sanctions if either of those countries rejects the negotiating table or uses it purely as an instrument for gaining time. Should such sanctions not be endorsed by the Security Council, which I would greatly regret, the European Union should be ready to act in concert with others such as Japan and the United States, which are likely to be pressing for them.
The third global challenge ahead of us is trade. So far, despite some backsliding, the economic crisis has not been accompanied by the disastrous slide into protectionism which characterised the 1930s. Unemployment is still rising, however, and protectionist pressures are there. To put them definitively behind us, successful completion of the Doha development round of trade negotiations needs to become a central feature of any exit strategy from the crisis. Our Government, along with their G20 partners, have been liberal with words to that effect but, so far, remarkably short on action. Surely, 2010 needs to be the year when those becalmed negotiations are brought safely into harbour.
Every one of these global challenges will require the European Union and its member states to pull together and in two out of three, environment and trade, to give a lead. Now that the Lisbon treaty, properly ratified by all 27 countries, is about to enter into force, it is surely in this country's best interest to put the party-political quarrels of recent years behind us and set about using the strengthened institutions to good effect so as to secure the objectives that we share with the other member states. Any attempt to rake over the ashes of recent years and head back into the institutional morass is all too likely not only to infuriate our EU partners and the United States and to isolate us from them but actually to handicap our own pursuit of those substantive policy objectives that it is in our national interests to achieve. We will certainly not be able to achieve them on our own, nor will we do so by pursuing false alternatives such as the Commonwealth, which is an extremely valuable global network but in no sense a bridge strong enough or indeed ready to bear the weight of negotiations on subjects such as trade or nuclear disarmament.
That brings me to Britain's own contribution to this complex agenda. Here the signs are distinctly alarming. No one doubts the need for a sensibly rigorous approach to public expenditure at the present juncture, but to spearhead that approach by squeezing the Government's contribution to peace-keeping, conflict prevention and the support of multilateral institutions on whose effectiveness we crucially depend is surely an example of false economies. That point was made extremely forcefully by my noble friend Lord Jay of Ewelme in his earlier statement. It may save a few candle ends, but at what a cost. Having fought long, hard and unsuccessfully against an increase in the IAEA's budget, we now appear to be in the vanguard of resistance to a tiny increase in the UN's regular budget.
There may be good reasons for parsimony in handling some of these budgets, but the fall in the value of sterling, which, thanks to the perverse accounting practices imposed by the Treasury, has become the driver of our diplomacy, is certainly not one of them. The same problem arises on the issue raised by my noble friend Lord Luce, to which he referred-and I would add to the Commonwealth scholarships the shortfall in our financing of Marshall scholarships. It is surely high time, therefore, for the Government to try to find a way out of the self-defeating trap that they have created, and I ask the Minister to respond on this point.
Britain is still a leading player in the international community, even if our influence, to be effective, now needs often, or perhaps almost invariably, to be exerted in concert with others. We need to avoid losing our nerve at this difficult, watershed moment, and resist the siren songs of those who would wish us to turn our backs on the world and who hanker rather absurdly after our becoming another Switzerland or Norway. Let us hope that whichever party, or parties, is in government this time next year will find a way in which to master the challenges that we face, not run away from them.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I thought yesterday that the gracious Speech, although graciously delivered, was rather drab. That feeling of drabness was compounded when I found myself sitting behind the Clerk of the Parliaments looking at the diplomatic Benches. It was as though someone had said, "Dress down". It was a full ceremonial occasion, and they looked extraordinarily drab, so I went into Black Rod's office just before 3 and asked whether the diplomatic community was there in force. "Yes", he said; it was there in the Royal Gallery and upstairs. I think that he might have agreed that it was drab, although he would not have said so, and I wondered whether instructions had been given by the Government to downplay this thing and to dress down. I was also a bit concerned by the Supreme Court uniforms sitting in front of me; they were new, and I suddenly found myself a bit confused by the whole role of the House of Lords, until I listened to the speeches that have been made today.
I have a number of weaknesses; one is that I hate mirrors. I sometimes shave in the morning without looking in the mirror, because a mirror confuses me. It is either dyslexia, or because I get the left and right eye mucked up. I have a feeling that yesterday the Government were not looking into the outside world, but looking at a mirror and trying to preen themselves, to make themselves look a bit better. Over the past 18 months, I have looked into the outside world. I love the sea; it is in my blood. My family were traders right the way around the world, and we are all mixed up. Generally, with the Scots, when one female line dies out you take the name and make it triple-barrelled. Mine is Malcolm McEacharn Mitchell-Thomson. McEacharn was the first provost or lord mayor of Melbourne; my grandfather on the other side was a Scot, and provost of Edinburgh. The other ones were the Mitchells, who fled from England and did coal in Canada.
I was brought up in that sort of international world, and hence I love those parts of the world that
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I had always liked the idea of the Board of Trade, which I thought still existed, but I found that in the Government now there is no mention of trade. The department of trade has changed its name gradually, and every three months it has a big makeover and spends £300,000 on rebranding. It was called BURP or something until recently, and now it is called BISSOFF or something-I do not know-but there is no mention of trade anywhere. So I thought that, with your Lordships' approval, I would read a simple quotation, as when you have major wars like the Spanish wars you usually have a recession or a problem, and you need to do something about it.
After the Armada, King James suddenly found that things were quite difficult, so he formed a body to get together the first and original Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations. The brief was:
I got the map up, then, and as your Lordships will know the world is nearly but really not quite round. There are 360 degrees, and in each degree a nautical mile is one minute, so if you want to know how far it is around the world, you effectively multiply 60 by 360 degrees.
so I looked at it and said, "Well, if two-thirds of the Earth's surface is covered by the sea, what is the value of the sea?" I thought that it might be in global warming, or in fishery protection, or in access-or it might be in the oil underneath the sea. Maybe, I thought, we should take an initiative, so I got the map out again, and with a bit of help from the hydrographer worked out that the coastline of the Commonwealth is 44,000 km. I cannot translate those kilometres back into nautical miles, but that is quite a long distance. It is actually longer than that of the Soviet Union or of the United States, where it is about 20,000 km. And then I thought, "Well, what are these coastlines for?". I thought again, and had a look. The former British territory is about 44,000 miles. I thought, "I'll tell you
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If you deal with the sea, what can you get out of the Commonwealth countries, a subject to which the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, referred just now? Historically, we went there because they had raw material that we needed, for which we could create added value. Not least, and perhaps most important of all, was food. In order to produce food in difficult countries these days, you need stability. You need to defend the villages, the individual tribes and populations from harassment. You then look at piracy.
I thought, "What are we good at here in England?". We have a balance of payments deficit on visibles-manufactured things-of £100 billion. We have a vast deficit with the EU and an enormous deficit with Germany. The biggest surpluses we have are with Ireland and the United States, but there are no more than 10 countries with which we have a surplus on visibles. Services, perhaps, yes, but visibles create more jobs throughout an economy. We perhaps need to think a little more on this sector.
Some of our high-tech areas are quite interesting. I have declared so many interests over a period of time. I think that this is my 47th contribution to a debate on an humble Address; I cannot really remember. However, I am secretary of the Parliamentary Space Committee so, instead of looking at the globe and the maps, I thought that we should look down from space. So, before this debate, I said, "Let's look at piracy".
Piracy, as your Lordships will know, has historically been in the Malacca straits. It was always in the Horn of Africa and certain parts of the Caribbean. By chance, this range runs from 0 degrees-the equator-to 24 degrees north. I would like your Lordships to know, and I am sure that the Minister would be willing to agree with this, that I have put in hand a preliminary order for six surveillance satellites from the United Kingdom, possibly in co-operation with Nigeria and India which are also in that business, and possibly also the Russians. They can pick up and deal with any form of piracy. I have been told that I can get six for £100 million, which is not a lot today. I thought that we might consider who we could name them after. However, £100 million for space surveillance to pick up any form of piracy is an extraordinarily good deal.
Yes, of course we are linked to Europe geographically. However, if you look at defence, we are not going to put aircraft carriers in the Channel. If there were a major problem, we reckon that most of Europe might be cut off. However if we look at the historical distances, all the European countries were in China at the time of the Boxer rebellion. Maybe they will be back there now, but the trade routes are going to change.
Now, within the Commonwealth, there is something else quite interesting: 29 per cent of the world fleet by tonnage-which is apparently more important than
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On the future, the noble Lord, Lord Luce, is absolutely right. The Commonwealth is not just a group of friends, it is a collection of countries with which we have a historic relationship. They have the ability, with our help and with stability, to create added value. I got involved with the Sudan, which was to be the breadbasket of the Middle East. In Ghana at that time, my great-uncle was Stafford Cripps, who did the groundnut scheme that did not actually work. However, we could say that one of the roles of the United Kingdom, with the support of the Commonwealth and the EU, is to go to these countries with which we have a relationship, and give a forward order for so many tonnes, cubits or whatnot of production per year and sell it on the open market. Without stability, a country cannot produce.
I worry as I look at the devaluation of our pound. Our trade is getting worse. Eighty per cent of everything that is sold in the shops is imported with devalued currency. There are stars in the sky. If the Minister will agree, I will write to her. If the Ministry of Defence would give me an order for the use of these satellites, I would be willing to order them tomorrow.
As a separate favour to our Armed Forces, could the Minister ask the powers that be if our troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere could have a little more time on the telephone by doubling the bandwidth of Paradigm?
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, when I listened to the gracious Speech yesterday I felt totally humiliated by the manner in which the Government showed such disrespect, not only for the ordinary citizens of the United Kingdom, but for Her gracious Majesty. They did not include a single word of recognition for those who serve our nation. Her Majesty, who never fails to acknowledge our serving forces, must have been dismayed by the absence of the Government's sensitivity and compassion.
What is this nation of ours becoming as it is being led in confusion into chaos? There is neither clear direction nor conviction coming from the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence or the Foreign Secretary. Just look at the contradictory messages that they have been giving: "We are in Afghanistan for the long haul"; "We could be pulling out of Afghanistan in the foreseeable future"; "There are enough helicopters to meet operational requirements"; "We are going to have more helicopters". Each utterance depends more on the public mood on any particular day than on understanding the mission that we have undertaken. Spin outstrips clarity. While the Government fight their knee-jerk war with the press, our troops are left to struggle not only with the enemy on the ground, but with our national inadequacies.
I had the privilege of visiting our troops in Helmand in 2008, when it was clear that the entire burden was being carried by our young men and women, such as those at Musa Qala who were for weeks on end, without respite, mentoring Afghan forces. Was there any strategic back-up, I asked? What was the long-term ambition for this new army when our troops were gone?
Everyone who has served during a terrorist campaign, as I have, will know that it is as remunerative for an Afghan to fight for the Taliban or al-Qaeda as it is for him to fight for the national Army, and that one day the young Afghan soldier must go back to his village. However, I am told that virtually nothing is being done about the education of these young men. Why have our planners not recognised that, besides learning to fight, these young men need to learn to live-to return home with status and a wider ambition for their families and community? That should be part of a strategy for at least beginning to normalise that region.
Another issue in Afghanistan that puzzles me is the use of UAVs. I am no expert, but where 10 UAVs, for example Predators, can be produced for the cost of one Chinook helicopter, it strikes me that control from somewhere in Colorado or North Dakota-7,500 miles away-is not, however good communications may be, the way to maximise this asset for our troops. Should British forces not have more UAVs in a surveillance role, responding to commanders on the ground and flown by operators embedded with units on the ground, to better and more immediately counter the situation where most of our casualties are the victims of massive dug-in landmines? Perhaps the Minister will explain why this Government appear to have, and to tolerate, this semi-detached approach to this campaign and to the defence of our troops.
How, then, have we managed to withdraw from Iraq so ineffectively that the Prime Minister, Mr Nouri al-Maliki, and his Government are able to persecute-to see killed or tortured-the 3,500 Iranian refugees at Camp Ashraf who oppose the dangerous mullahs' regime in Iran? When I seek parliamentary Answers, I am virtually told by the Government, "Nothing to do with us-we're out of there". Is that not shameful and a slur on the memory of our young servicemen and women who gave their lives to make Iraq a safer place-troops taken there, it now appears, at the behest of this Government on a false or misguided premise?
In the short time still available to me, I turn to what I consider to be the greatest and ever enlarging blot on the character of our nation and an area studiously and consistently avoided by this Government; that is, the Government's persistent obduracy in respect of our obligations, as a guarantor power, to the island of Cyprus, our acquiescence in the 45-year denial of human rights to the Turkish Cypriot community and our mendacity in respect of our fellow guarantor and long-time ally, Turkey.
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