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The same new pattern goes for our energy security. An entirely new pattern of energy supply is in the making, which invalidates old priorities. Nations such as Poland, with its shale gas, Brazil, with its enormous new oil finds and its sugarcane biofuel, and Canada, with its tar sands, shale, biofuels and Arctic oil and gas, all come to the fore as the key sources in the new era. Norway, too, will be increasingly our lifeline. But Russia, on the other hand, may come to have a less dominant role in Europe's energy supplies-which is all to the good.
We will need to consider the redirection of diplomatic resource, in all its forms, to countries and networks which seemed scarcely to feature on the global priorities map a decade or so ago. We have to work out how scarce resources can best be deployed towards nations and networks such as the Turkish republic and the republics of Central Asia and the Caspian region, such as Azerbaijan. We must build stronger, reinvigorated and more structured ties with the Gulf states-our close friends in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE, for example-with North Africa and with Japan, still an economic titan, in which the Secretary of State has asked me to take a special interest, with Latin America and especially with the whole vast Commonwealth network of linkages, both governmental and non-governmental, with India and Pakistan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Malaysia in the lead, while fully respecting the interests of smaller Commonwealth countries as well.
I am sure that we all welcome Her Majesty's forthcoming visit to Canada, a leading Commonwealth member, and to the UN in New York, with the Duke of Edinburgh in June. Her Majesty's own words that the Commonwealth is, in lots of ways,
Our links with India, one of the world's fastest-rising economies, will be of particular importance to us. The gracious Speech confirms that we will seek a truly enhanced partnership with the Indian giant, again a central Commonwealth member.
These will now be the priorities of diplomacy in its new guise. Experts may talk about the shift in wealth and power now taking place globally, but it is time to grasp what this really means, where the new power and influence centres really lie, and how we relate to them to our best possible national advantage.
I come to some specific issues concerning us all, although, obviously, I cannot in the time available-and noble Lords would not want me to-cover every aspect of the scene. I turn to the point raised about the European Union. There will, no doubt, be many debates ahead on the development of our relations with the EU, but I confirm that we will be energetically involved
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The EU is clearly facing great strains at the moment, which go well beyond the problems of Greece and the euro, and it is in our interest that it gets on top of these challenges before they drag us all down. But the coalition is agreed that any proposed future treaty that transferred further areas of power or competences from the UK to the EU will be subject to a referendum, and we propose to seek amendment of the European Communities Act 1972, accordingly. In addition, we will ensure that an Act of Parliament will be required before any ratchet clauses within the Lisbon treaty-the so-called passerelle clauses, which veterans of the debates will remember all too well-are put into effect. Any major transfer of powers by this route would also be subject to a referendum.
We also plan to examine further the case for a UK sovereignty Bill, to establish that ultimate authority remains with our Parliament. All that is very much in the spirit of the Laaken declaration, which wished to see the EU less remote from and nearer to the people of Europe. We all want to see parliamentary and democratic scrutiny, control and accountability for the European decision-making process maximised, and I believe that this is the way forward-for us and for the Union as a whole.
Turning to Iran, we support tougher sanctions to deter that country's dangerous nuclear ambitions, but the question is whether China and Russia will co-operate fully, because they are in a position to undermine them. At present, those two great nations back sanctions, but also encourage deals such as the Turkey and Brazil nuclear fuel deal, which appears to do little to promote a more responsible attitude by Iran. There is also the new Iraq-Iran oil pipeline deal, which could weaken sanctions in the future. All those developments remind us that regional as much as western issues are at stake.
In Iraq, we now have post-election political stalemate. There has been an election, and democracy has worked in that sense, but there is now a stalemate that could be dangerous and bring yet more violence. A positive aspect is that oil investment is set to go ahead in what has been described as one of history's biggest transfers of oil territory into the oil production and supply chain. Either way, whatever happens-some people have talked about output as big as 12 million barrels a day, which would make Iraq much bigger than Saudi Arabia-commercial opportunities are clearly opening out on a major scale. BP is already leading boldly with its investment in the Rumaila oilfield, although BP is currently facing nightmares elsewhere, as we have all read in the media.
In Sudan, where we have been spending-and this figure surprised me when I read it in my brief- £250 million a year on humanitarian aid and development, our hopes remain resting on the comprehensive peace agreement and, looking ahead, on the south Sudan independence referendum. In view of the heavy Chinese
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There are numerous other dangerous and tense situations around the globe that require our attention and which doubtless we will address in the months ahead. Some require continuity of the policy of the Government from whom we have inherited them and some need vigorous new directions. I refer briefly to the many obstacles still blocking the path to a Palestinian state and to the miserable situation in Gaza. We must keep close track of the increased tension as expressed in yesterday's and today's papers over North Korea's latest unprovoked act of aggression, which we deplore. We extend our sympathies over the death of 46 sailors on the torpedoed "Cheonan" vessel.
We will keep a close watch too on the renewed dangers of disintegration in the west Balkans, and we are also addressing the nexus of hazardous issues in the Horn of Africa, including the continuing piracy problem. Burma, too, we have to watch carefully, and the rearming of Hezbollah may raise tensions again in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Thailand is torn by riots and other horrors are reported daily in the media. The list, I fear, goes on and on. This is a dangerous and precarious world.
As for hopes for recovery in long-suffering and misruled Zimbabwe, we will give all the support that we can to the reformers and encourage stronger help from Zimbabwe's neighbours, particularly South Africa. Our priorities must also include UN reform, on which we back permanent seats for Japan, India, Germany and Brazil, as well as African representation. I add what I hope is obvious to your Lordships: in all our affairs, this Government will never condone torture, complicity in torture or rendition leading to torture.
I have spoken almost long enough. I see on the list of speakers today those who are in the front rank of authority on many of the issues that I have mentioned, such as the noble Lords, Lord Alton, Lord Anderson, Lord Hannay and Lord Owen, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, as well as many others, all of whom offer specialist wisdom by which we should be guided.
Rather than taking more of your Lordships' time, I conclude by saying that today our distinctive positioning in this world of major and often brutal transition can and will define and unite us here at home. It can give us what we need, which is clear purpose and identity in this nation. Strength without is strength within. Security without is security within. The two cannot be separated.
The Prime Minister has established a National Security Council to bring together strategic decisions about foreign policy, security policy and development. This will be a powerful centre of decision-making. It has already met three times in the two weeks since the coalition Government were formed and will be a major
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It is with this underpinning that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is moving vigorously and swiftly to see that he and his department, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-I emphasise "Commonwealth"-work very closely with his colleagues at the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development to ensure the best possible co-ordination and deployment of all our overseas resources, diplomatic, military and developmental, to meet and serve the nation's international priorities and worldwide interests and purposes effectively and efficiently. That is what this coalition intends and that is clearly what the country wants.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford was so swiftly out of the trap in his eagerness to address the House that he beat me to the Dispatch Box, so I am afraid that I have been unable so far to assist the House in explaining how one might arrive at a happy rising time of 10 o'clock. I promise to take better exercise so that I can beat him to the Dispatch Box in future. Forty-four speakers are signed up for today's debate. If Back-Bench contributions are kept to seven minutes, the House should be able to rise this evening at around the target time of 10 o'clock.
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on his appointment as Minster of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He has a long personal and political record of commitment to international understanding and security and, while we might strongly diverge about aspects of policy, I am certain that he is decently and patriotically motivated. I wish him well in his new duties.
We are now confronted by a national coalition Government, a condition that our British gift for understatement compels us to call "interesting". Nowhere is the contrivance more intriguing than in foreign, international development and defence policy. Time forbids detailed examination on this occasion, but some points irresistibly invite a little prying. To establish a general disposition, for instance, does the Minister retain the opinion that he expressed in this House just last November that the Liberal party's policies are "boring and frankly incomprehensible", or has the elixir of coalition now made them fascinating and perhaps pellucid?
The Save the Children Fund describes that as development policy run like "The X Factor". Since it is the coalition's approach, what is to be the size and qualification of
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There are also concerns about the coalition's commitment to introduce a new stabilisation and reconstruction force. The purposes of such a force in post-conflict conditions might appear worthy but development aid should not and must not be diverted to subsidising military operations. Security, development and humanitarian objectives must not be muddled. The proposal therefore begs the vital question: how would the force be financed-by new money, money from the MoD, or from DfID funds, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, announced last January? We need to hear the essential detail and now would be a good time to give it.
Similar questions arise about financing adaptation and mitigation efforts in poor countries to combat climate change: the Liberal party commitment to new additional money was clear, the Conservative Party was evasive, but no undertaking not to siphon off development assistance funds has come from this coalition. Can we therefore now have an undertaking that the coalition Government will not raid the DfID budget to fund climate change measures? May we also be assured by the Minister that FCO responsibilities will not be shuffled in a way which enables gaps in that ring-fencing around the DfID budget to be created? Since that budget must be sustained if Liberals and Tories are to fulfil their solemn promises of 0.7 per cent of GNI for development, will the Minister confirm now that the commitment will be enacted in legislation and not relegated to a parliamentary resolution?
I am very proud of the Labour Government's sustained commitment to development, particularly to efforts to foster security and justice for women and girls. In too many parts of the world it is more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier. That tragic reality is the reason why Gordon Brown gave me the cross-departmental role of special representative on violence against women. I hope the new Government will also now give priority to tackling all gender-based violence. That would, I believe, have the strength of consensus in this House.
Time is short and I will have to leave Sudan, Congo, the Middle East and many other matters-including Afghanistan, where we all strongly support our forces and their mission-for future discussions in this House.
I therefore move briefly to the coalition's perspective on the European Union. Overall, it seems to have more smoke than an Icelandic volcano and more mirrors than Versailles. First, I strongly agree with the call to fix the sole seat of the European Parliament in Brussels. In 15 years as a Member of the European Parliament, I repeatedly voted to end the Parliament's costly and time-consuming odysseys to Strasbourg. However, that city was specified as a city of the Parliament in the Maastricht treaty agreed by Prime Minister John Major. Changing that would require unanimous agreement. France will never vote for it;
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Secondly, the referendum lock adopted by the coalition was described by Liberal Democrat leaders-when there were such people-as "nonsense, ludicrous and bizarre". When all the member states have agreed that there will be no treaty change in the foreseeable future, we should also now call it redundant.
Thirdly, the coalition policy of introducing primary legislation to control any UK use of the European Council passerelle procedure, to which the Minister referred, is equally superfluous: apart from the veto, which would prevent the use of the passerelle, we have the 2008 Act which requires majorities in both Houses of this Parliament to permit UK support for a passerelle. In short, strict passerelle control already exists and everyone but the most obsessive of what Sir John Major would call "Euro illegitimates" recognises that.
On all grounds, assessment of the coalition's "consensus" on the EU shows it to be a series of tokenistic gestures made by the leaders of the coalition to mollify Europhobes in the Tory Party. The election debate description of those people and their new group in the European Parliament by the Deputy Prime Minister enjoys justified fame. Before that, the new Energy Secretary, Mr Huhne, had called them "wackos and weirdos" and perceptively added:
Ours is a world riven by economic and social division and menaced by crime, climate change, religious antagonisms, political hatreds and terrorising violence. It is a world overarmed with large and small weapons, rapaciously exploited, plagued by oppression in countless places and poisoned by distrust. That is why our foreign, development and defence policies must respond to these imperatives and must continue to focus on securing global equity, freedom and justice-the essential components of global stability and prosperity.
Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, we live today in a dangerous and unpredictable world: a possible nuclear Iran; an ever widening terrorist threat; a tinder-box Korean peninsula; an unstable and unsettled Middle East; a fragile Pakistan with nuclear weapons; serious piracy; a growing cyber warfare threat; and significantly increasing military expenditure by China and Russia.
Our country faces the twin pressures of overstretched Armed Forces bravely fighting the incredibly complex and bloody war in Afghanistan, following on immediately from Iraq, and a massively overcommitted defence budget with up to a £30 billion shortfall.
Obviously, we welcome the openness on our nuclear stockpile, referred to in the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Howell. I personally am delighted that the coalition agreement between our two parties commits to a number of measures to improve life for our Armed Forces from doubling the operational allowance for personnel serving in Afghanistan to providing extra support for veterans' mental health needs and the laudable aim to reduce MoD running costs by at least 25 per cent. However, no time indication is given in relation to that 25 per cent. I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Astor, to his new post and hope that when he replies to the debate he will refer to the 25 per cent time aspect.
However, the Strategic Defence Review will be no panacea. The current problems of overstretch and overcommitment will still haunt us. Frankly, our new Government face a nightmare task in trying to balance the books. At least it is reassuring that defence spend this year will not be cut. Whatever the merits of our two new carriers under construction, surely it was irresponsible of the previous Government to order them knowing that the MoD was effectively "bust". Any cancellation of procurement orders across the range of MoD capital spend will be very expensive, given the near certainty of heavy penalty clauses in contracts.
We had been hoping for an SDR setting out a full and frank assessment of the United Kingdom's defence and diplomatic role in the years ahead-free of Treasury influence. However, a recent headline in the Financial Times was not encouraging. It stated:
"What I would hope for is that we end up with a defence settlement that sees ambition deferred-not ambition deleted. We accept that we will muddle on for a bit, but hope we can raise our game when times get better".
As is known, our wing of the coalition is somewhat Trident-sceptic. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Astor, whether the "full Strategic Defence and Security Review", mentioned in the gracious Speech, will actually include Trident.
While the United States will probably always be our major ally and our ultimate military protector, the time is right to build a major military partnership, or similar, with France-indeed, I believe that this would be welcomed by the United States. Both our countries have similar defence budgets-in total, 40 per cent of European defence spend, almost 50 per cent of the equipment budget and two-thirds of research and technology spend. We have comparable ballistic submarine capability, a comparable number of escort vessels, and much duplication in our Armed Forces and in transport and supply aircraft.
Over the years, there has been much talk but little progress. The St Malo agreement failed to deliver, the high-level working group made some progress, we have had some success in missile co-operation, the A400M transport aircraft struggles on, but we have hardly scratched the surface. The stark truth is that both our nations cannot afford to maintain a complete
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It is a question of leadership and political will. By way of example, let us take our new carriers. There will be a number of constituent parts-rotary and fixed-wing aircraft, the crew, escort vessels and submarine protection. Surely there could be a role for the French here. Is it not time to begin to think outside the box? We cannot go on as we are.
I understand that on 18 June President Sarkozy will come to London to commemorate General de Gaulle's 1940 appeal to the French people via the BBC. It will be the 70th anniversary of that event. Does this not present a great opportunity for our Prime Minister to hold out the hand of serious military co-operation and drive it forward, as only a Prime Minister can? Without prime-ministerial involvement, little progress is likely to be made.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, there was disappointingly little in the gracious Speech about the Government's future commitment to Afghanistan. Some indication of timescales would be helpful to inform Parliament and the public about government thinking. Perhaps in his response the Minister will be more helpful-not only on this but on the timescale for completion of the Strategic Defence and Security Review on which so much of the long-term future for the Armed Forces will hang.
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