The question facing the nations of Europe in this harsh new world is: do we want to be pushed about and powerless, or will we unite to defend our interests and values? We can work together to deepen a single market and invest in research and knowledge that creates a dynamic and vibrant economic base that can withstand more global competition. That is a single market that takes the high road to competitiveness and, through the social and environmental standards of decency and sustainability that it sets and robustly defends, defies a global race to the bottom. That is a united Europe that will not be brushed aside at the world’s top tables on questions of energy, climate change, resources and development. That is a united Europe that can spread the benefits of democracy and stability to its wider regions, be capable of defending its vital interests, and be a force for good.

To conclude, in the next decade, Britain faces a stark choice about its global role. Do we succumb to the false seductions of comfortable little “Britzerland”, or play our full part in rebuilding Europe’s unity and strength? For all the problems of Europe and the eurozone, and all the EU’s difficulties in terms of its bureaucracy and the need to renew and restore its legitimacy, somehow—for the sake of our national interests—we have to make Europe work.

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2.08 pm

Lord Sharkey: My Lords, I will speak about the current situation in Cyprus. The reunification process is now 40 years-old. During that time, important changes have taken place on the island, but not any settlement. In particular, civil society has matured, and matured faster than the political systems. The economic gap between the north and the south has grown considerably and now there is the important fact of the discovery of large natural gas reserves in Cypriot territorial waters. But the reunification process itself is, at best, stalled.

Alexander Downer, the special adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General, said in Cyprus two weeks ago:

“It is clear to me … that the negotiations have recently come to something of a standstill”,


“I explained to both Leaders that there could be no more business as usual”.

He also said:

“The Secretary-General has told the sides that it is never too late for bold and decisive moves and new ideas or innovative proposals. But if none are taken, then obviously there will be no further convergence on core issues”.

The questions that arise from all that are: why has the negotiating process failed and what can be done to give it a prospect of success, so that it is not simply a rerun of what has been tried many times before?

It is entirely possible that negotiations have failed because of a lack of political will to succeed on both sides. In fact, a reasonable interpretation of the current position might well be that both political sides are essentially quite happy with the current arrangements. Perhaps, too, the negotiations have failed because they have been essentially political. There has been no wider involvement of the citizens of the island or, indeed, of its business communities. That is a great pity, because 70% of the island’s inhabitants, both north and south, want the negotiations to succeed, but only 15%, north and south, believe that they will succeed in their current form.

The stalemate over reunification is more dangerous now than it has ever been. Three new factors make it so. First, the economic conditions of the north and south continue to diverge in a way that will progressively make reunification less attractive to the south. Secondly, the recent gas finds in Cypriot territorial waters are already a real cause of tension between the communities and their supporters. Thirdly, the whole region is significantly more troubled than it has been for many years.

All this argues for some urgent, fresh initiatives, some fresh approach, before the situation descends into partition, open conflict over gas finds or, paradoxically, the unnecessary impoverishment of the island because of the impossibility of exploiting the gas reserves in a politically unstable area of contested territory. But what forms might new initiatives take?

On Tuesday evening, I attended a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues on this very question. The meeting was full of members of both diasporas and was called to listen to organisations of civil society from both the north and the south. The

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speakers, both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, offered this perspective. They were certain that the people of Cyprus wanted reunification. They were equally certain that the people of Cyprus felt excluded from the negotiating process. They were absolutely confident that the current negotiating model, which they characterised as “two old men in a room with United Nations”, would continue to fail. They told us that that model was understandable enough 40 years ago, but that civil society had matured, was stronger now and needed to play a role. They told us that negotiations should not proceed in the search for a master settlement where nothing was agreed until everything was agreed. They made the case for a progressive, gradualist, continuous series of small, positive changes. They told us of the existence of cross-community civil society groups, bi-communal activities and projects. They saw the extension of those efforts as a new way forward, a practical way of aligning the citizens of the two communities and a way of building the trust and familiarity that the political parties had so obviously failed to build. They wanted our help, as a guarantor power, and the continued help of the EU and the UN, in doing that. They wanted our help in strengthening those civil society projects and in giving them a standing and legitimacy that their own political establishments had been reluctant to concede.

Those representatives of Cypriot civil society seemed to me to make a compelling case. That well-known Californian novelist, Rita Mae Brown, once remarked that a good definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting something different to happen. This must not be the case with Cyprus. I ask my noble friend the Minister to give careful consideration to these proposals for a new approach to negotiation.

2.14 pm

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, I would like to make some comments and pose some questions to the Minister about European affairs. As I always do, I declare an interest in that I spent the greater part of my career in the United Kingdom Civil Service on European affairs and a smaller part in the European Commission, as I have pensions from my work.

I begin by noting that in the gracious Speech, the Government will seek approval of Parliament relating to the agreed financial stability mechanism within the euro area. The Bill, which is commendably short, will have its Second Reading on 23 May, and I shall give my comments then, but on examining it briefly, the procedure seems to me to comply fully with the European Union Act of the previous Session and to be strictly limited to the euro area which, happily, we are not in. Subject to further examination of the Bill, I do not see the difficulty.

In the debate today, I recognise that many issues concerning the European Union now relate to economic policy. We have only to open the daily papers day after day to know that that is the case. To that degree, they might have been thought appropriate to the subject matter of yesterday’s debate, but these issues—in particular, the probable departure of Greece from the eurozone and, following the election of President Hollande, a change of emphasis elsewhere in the eurozone towards

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a stress on economic growth—are extremely important to the United Kingdom’s economy and the world economy, so we need watchful monitoring on the part of the Government, although I realise that they are not susceptible to an immediate answer from the Minister.

For myself, I think that the likely result after a while will be the creation of a lender of last resort in the euro area and, within strict limits, the issue of eurobonds, which would considerably restore an element of stability, which is clearly in the interests of the United Kingdom.

The points I wish to make, however, go wider than the economic performance of the European Union, the eurozone, and I think that the Minister will find the relevant to the UK’s foreign policy and our relationship to our European neighbours. I want the Minister to set out clearly what are the key positive priorities—I repeat, positive priorities—for the Government to obtain advantages for the United Kingdom in our relations with the European Union and in the development of the EU policies in the years ahead. There clearly are such priorities, but I do not see them reverberating around the country or in the media in a period when disillusion with the European Union is clearly strong.

In the previous Session, the Government introduced, and Parliament passed, the European Union Act, which ensures that any transfer of powers or competences to the European Union cannot take place unless the British people, in a referendum, decide to do that. That is a defensive wall, but I do not think that public opinion has fully registered it. It is perhaps inevitable in those circumstances that the debate should move to the assertion that the current powers of the European Union are almost all-embracing. That is surely not correct. There are very wide areas of our public life in which the role of the European Union is marginal: for example, education health and housing. For that reason, the European Union Act was a very important piece of legislation.

I come now to where we are today. It appears that our position on discussions in the European Union is mostly directed to resisting proposals which we do not find acceptable. Of course, we have to do that, although the objective should always be to nip them in the bud and to maximise the number of our allies. I take as an example the current EU budget proposals which, in a period of economic meltdown, are too high. It is said that some of the costs results from projects, such as some regional development projects in new member states, which are now coming to a conclusion so bills must be paid. Is that true and, if it is, where have we identified corresponding savings in other areas?

I yield to no one in recognising the need for a tough stance where necessary. I am proud of the small role which I played in the negotiation of the United Kingdom rebate, which has so far brought about £68 billion to the United Kingdom—figures are always nice to cite—and which cannot be changed without our agreement.

However, my main point is the need to present well our positive objectives within the European Union. Here are some examples. First, there is international trade, in which the European Union is immensely

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important. Where are we looking for more bilateral agreements to open up trade between the European Union and other nations such as South Korea, Brazil and elsewhere, and what are our priorities? Secondly, there is our influence in foreign affairs—a point I put particularly to the Minister. The decision to put the external delegations, which were under the control of the Commission, into the European External Action Service with input from member states is an important challenge. How do we rate the challenge and what advantage is the UK getting or aiming to get from it? How far has it helped in relation to, for example, the Arab spring and, in particular, the disastrous situation in Syria?

Thirdly, there is maximising the advantages of the world’s biggest single market and the need to encourage growth of the member states’ economies. Of course, the excessive level of public spending in the member states and the high level of unemployment have different causes. That is why I am a bit more positive and optimistic about the future of the euro. Both Spain and Ireland were in fiscal surplus before the crisis hit; their problems stemmed from the massive and unsustainable housing and construction boom. The Italian economy, which we are hearing a lot about, has been running a primary surplus for many years but is overburdened by the legacy of public debt, which predated the euro. Now we have to look to see what we can do in the relatively short term to encourage, if not to create, greater growth within the European Union. Perhaps a growth compact, as suggested by some leaders in the eurozone, could be an advantage.

To summarise, my main point is that the Government should identify and, where appropriate, make public their priorities for advantages for the United Kingdom to be sought and gained within the European Union. This should be at the forefront of government thinking in the year ahead.

2.22 pm

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I want to focus specifically on our relationships with other countries, our overseas aid provisions, our drive to extend global stability and the need to undertake more overseas trade. As outlined in the Queen’s Speech, this Government’s first priority will be to reduce the deficit and restore economic stability. I believe that this will be the key to successfully implementing many of our other important policies, including in foreign affairs. The more economically stable our country is, the more we are able to help others across the world.

One of our notable commitments on foreign relations is to support the extension of political and economic freedom in the Middle East and north Africa. I have visited several countries in these areas and spoken with the heads of their Governments. I have established close links with their ambassadors and held discussions with them, and with citizens of these countries, regarding their relationships with the United Kingdom and the challenges facing their countries. We cannot expect other countries to adopt our form of government and no attempt should be made to do so. However, our involvement in any overseas country must be soft and we should therefore exercise soft influence. Although we can provide assistance where there are problems,

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the people themselves must find solutions and form a system that suits their circumstances. We can, however, help in building institutions, which are important if these countries are to achieve progress. In addition, we need to help bring in peace and stability and assist in the achievement of democracy and economic growth, which will result in the creation of jobs.

I am a strong believer in the empowerment of women and the need to deal with issues relating to poverty. It is also important to improve the standard of education and provide free primary education for all. It is important that we do not underestimate the extent to which politics and economics are intertwined in helping these countries to make their transitions. We have seen in several countries that political freedom often follows the opening up of economics. While these countries open up their own economies, it is important that the wider international community engages with them on an economic level. When countries are trading with and investing in each other, they are developing relationships and stakes in each other’s peace and stability. From a British point of view, I want to see more of our goods and services exported overseas. We need to be looking for new opportunities in these emerging powers; our manufacturing and service industries can help build these new democracies, while helping increase our export base. There will be mutual benefits to our country and our trading partners. This will also result in the building of people-to-people connections.

In addition to our duty to support countries in transition, we have a moral obligation to assist poorer countries to begin realising a state of transition. I have always been supportive of our pledge to commit 0.7% of gross national income as development assistance from next year, and I was pleased to hear this included in the Queen’s Speech. I have visited a number of developing countries where DfID is involved, and where a large part of my work has been in looking at the widespread impact of diseases on poor communities. I appreciate that this Government have made several bold commitments on this, including vaccinating children against preventable diseases and providing access to safe, clean drinking water for millions of people. There is still a level of consternation among the public over our ring-fencing of the aid budget. It is crucial that we not only continue on our course but take even greater care to ensure that this financial assistance gets through to the right places. In addition, the Department for International Development must be clear in showing us that our money is being put to good use, not being misappropriated.

Although I am in favour of providing aid to foreign countries, we must consider providing support, including financial assistance, to properly organised trade missions. It is essential that we organise trade missions made up of businesspeople who can look for opportunities overseas and undertake more business and trade. I am strongly of the view that aid and trade must be simultaneous and that our high commissions and embassies can play an active part in this regard. As a businessman, I have promoted the need for us to undertake more overseas trade. It is essential that we do not undersell ourselves in trade but actively enhance the position of UK plc. We have unique services and

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products which we can offer to the world, and, although the Government can create conditions, businesspeople must take the initiative and be proactive in undertaking more business overseas. I firmly believe that we can overcome our financial difficulties by the application of austerity measures and appropriate taxation, and by undertaking more business at home and overseas. This includes the sale of defence equipment to responsible Governments.

More can be done to promote our trade with Commonwealth countries. Furthermore, we need to look for more markets in South America, Asia and Africa. Trade must be two-way traffic, which means that not only should we go abroad to look for business but we must encourage others to come to our country. I was pleased to hear this morning that Vauxhall Motors will invest considerable capital in building new motor cars at its Ellesmere Port plant.

In closing, with reference to all overseas matters on military intervention, trade and development assistance, I emphasise the need for greater co-operation and more joined-up thinking between the relevant government departments.

2.30 pm

Lord Ahmed: My Lords, today the noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned the Arab spring, the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan. I was hoping that the regional stability of South Asia would also have been mentioned due to the great challenges faced by ISAF, NATO and Afghanistan’s neighbours. I realise that there are experts in your Lordships’ House who understand defence and foreign relations strategy much better than me. However, I have made a number of observations about the current situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the unresolved issues between India and Pakistan, particularly the right of self-determination for the Kashmiri people as well as the current bigger role cut out for India and the perceived isolation of Pakistan.

I am chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir. We have received the report by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir, which documents the buried evidence of 2,700 unknown and unmarked mass graves containing more than 2,943 bodies across 55 villages. These graveyards contain victims of murder and fake encounter killings between 1990 and 2009. The bodies include those extrajudicially, summarily and arbitrarily executed and the victims of massacres committed by Indian military and paramilitary forces. Even in the past 18 months, over 100 peaceful demonstrators have been killed.

Kashmir has remained to be the longest outstanding internationally recognised dispute, and the UN Resolutions of 1948, 1949 and others have remained unimplemented for decades. I welcome the recent dialogue between India and Pakistan; however, the issue of Kashmir must be resolved. The Kashmiri leadership needs to be consulted and included in all future talks by both India and Pakistan. This is essential for the 12 million Kashmiris as well as the over 700,000 British Kashmiris who have consistently supported a UN-sponsored free, fair and impartial plebiscite to decide the future of their people.

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Peace and regional stability in South Asia depend on how stakeholders are consulted and their interests sought. According to various media reports, India has been playing an ever increasing role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, which is detrimental to cohesion in South Asia. Pakistanis feel sandwiched between their eastern boarder and the Afghan border.

Our forces, ISAF, NATO and DfID have contributed greatly to the cause of Afghanistan and the development there. It is important that this legacy be better protected and honoured. The training of the Afghan military in India or by the Indian Army inside Afghanistan can cause unrest with Pakistan. The presence of Baluchi nationalist militants in Afghanistan also concerns the Pakistan authorities. I welcome the invitation to Pakistan to attend the Chicago summit. I understand that there is some progress in discussions with the Government of Pakistan to reopen the Afghan border routes for NATO supplies, which it had closed after the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers at the border.

It is important for any relations to create trust between the countries, but unfortunately there is a problem of trust between Pakistan and its old friends. For example, I understand that in private meetings, the Pakistani leadership has never objected to drone attacks yet, publicly they have always condemned the US for violating the country’s sovereignty. This has sent out the wrong signals inside Pakistan. The current elected Government in Pakistan are weak and dysfunctional, which is why, unfortunately, they lack direction and credibility abroad.

It is right to mention that Pakistan has made a bigger contribution in the loss of lives than any single NATO country or ally. As the front-line state in this “war on terror”, Pakistan has lost over 30,000 civilians and over 5,000 soldiers and police officers. Many estimates of economic and financial losses go beyond $75 billion. We have to remember that Pakistan has housed over 4 million refuges from Afghanistan since 1979, and even today there are more than 2 million refugees in Pakistan. We have to remember that Pakistan has 4 million to 5 million heroin addicts, and the tribal areas have occasionally become no-go areas for the state. Many in Pakistan believe that this is due to the direct influence of its neighbour.

It is in that context that I urge Her Majesty’s Government to continue supporting Pakistan. Geo TV, a Pakistani channel, reported last night that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was in a meeting with our Prime Minister last week, agreeing terms for resuming NATO supplies through Pakistan. Will the noble Minister confirm whether progress was made in relation to this?

I congratulate the Government and thank them for considering Pakistan and making it the largest recipient of British aid over the next three years, focusing on education, which is desperately needed for the training of teachers, for giving females more opportunity in schools and for helping Pakistan to achieve its millennium development goals. Has Pakistan has been consulted on its role in Afghanistan? Have Her Majesty’s Government encouraged both India and Pakistan to find a permanent solution on the issue of Kashmir?

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2.36 pm

Lord German: My Lords, I wish to address two issues that came up in the gracious Speech a few days ago: international development assistance and state pension reform. I have struggled to find a link between the two since we can speak only once, and I hope that I have found a tenuous one—noble Lords will probably spot it.

I support the words of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in seeking to get a response to the request for the legislative locking in of the commitment to 0.7% of GNI. That is in the coalition agreement, which says that we will make it a legal requirement to stick to that commitment, and we need that reassurance so that not only are this Government committed to that but future Governments cannot move away from it. The Government are to be congratulated on reaching that target as we are one of only six countries in the whole world, and by far the largest of them, to have done so. We can pat ourselves on the back since we have achieved it well ahead of many other developed large economies.

I would like to suggest to Ministers some ways of spending this money slightly differently from how they are doing it at the moment. It will not come as a surprise to the Minister that I am going to talk about Lesotho. I declare my interest as honorary president of the Dolen Cymru Wales Lesotho Link; my pecuniary interest is that my wife is an employee of that charity. It is in its 27th year and it links Wales with Lesotho, a country-to-country link that brings together the third sector, the state sector and communities and third-sector organisations. In their consideration of how they will use international aid, I hope that the Government will consider the needs of this poor and ravaged country. It is the only Third World country completely surrounded by a developed-economy country—in this case, South Africa. Twenty-seven years ago Lesotho was roughly the same size, and had roughly the same population, as Wales, but it has lost one-third of its population because of HIV/AIDS, which still has a 24% incidence rate, and its average life expectancy is 40. Less than a quarter of the population has electricity. Most of the population are subsistence farmers. There has been massive soil erosion, which has made food security a critical issue. Half the population now receives help from an internationally aided feeding programme.

However, Lesotho is a Commonwealth country with a developed democracy and a multiparty system. In nine day’s time, there will be a general election. It shares the same electoral system as Wales and Scotland. Unfortunately, UK Governments have progressively backed away from this country. I know that the Welsh Government are seeking a way of building a new partnership with the UK Government to see whether they can assist in this matter. I understand why DfID is reluctant to work with relatively small pots of money when it wants to work in partnership with its funding and get a bigger return. I hope the Government will commit themselves to looking favourably upon a relationship with Wales and the Welsh Government to see whether they can lever some of the additional funding that has been announced towards this very poor country.

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One of Lesotho’s primary concerns is that it has a very poor private sector. Here, I want to address microfinance. Lesotho’s economy has been built upon subsistence farming, and it has to develop. It has large water resources, nearly all of which go to South Africa. It has diamond mines, yet most are owned by companies in the West, including in the United Kingdom. It needs to build its private sector, and to do that, it has big microfinance needs. As in other countries, there is a huge demand for small-scale financing. There is apparently about $40 billion of microfinance funds around the world at the moment, but demand for them is growing by 20% to 30%, which is outstripping the core sources that we can all think about in the way that this money has arrived. There are 150 million to 200 million recipients of microfinance, but the UN suggests that that figure will grow to 1 billion. Only one fund has so far worked its way through in providing that money through the whole lifecycle. It had a 6% return. So what organisations in the United Kingdom might provide funds? Pension funds look for a long-term, steady return, and if they could get a 6% return, they might be able to come up with some of the financing to make sure that that growing demand is dealt with. I hope the Government will encourage pension funds.

That is my link to state pension reform. People in this country are living longer. One person in six now lives to the age of 100, yet fewer people are saving for retirement. Our current system also supports inequality as women, the low paid and the self-employed tend to lose out, usually having lower than average state pensions. Ultimately, a pension scheme that has been changed by means-testing and other changes has become very complex and people do not know what they should do. Consequently, they are not saving enough for their retirement. It used to be calculated that people could expect to retire on 45% of what they were earning, but by 2055 their state pension will be only 32% of their earnings during their working life. The single-tier system greatly simplifies the system. It provides a clear outline of what people can expect from the state at present and in retirement. It provides a firm foundation for saving, reinforces our commitment to auto-enrolment and balances the risks of defined contribution pension systems. People will qualify as individuals. It will provide people with a clear incentive to save. This is the citizen’s pension that many on these Benches have been campaigning for and pressing for for many years, and we are about to see it come to fruition.

2.44 pm

Lord Jay of Ewelme: My Lords, I start by congratulating the Prime Minister on his appointment by the UN Secretary-General to chair, along with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, the high-level panel on what should follow the millennium development goals. I hope that he will find the time among many commitments and occasional distractions to focus on that task because it matters, as does meeting the present millennium development goals. In that context I, like my noble friend Lord Sandwich and the noble Lords, Lord Sheikh and Lord German, am glad that in the Queen’s Speech the Government reiterated their intention to meet the target of spending 0.7% of gross national

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income on official development assistance. I am less concerned that that target may not be enshrined in legislation. I regard it as a policy rather than a legal issue, and I share the view expressed in the House a couple of days ago by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, that we have a bit too much legislation before us.

Meeting the 0.7% target matters, just as meeting the millennium development goals matters. To take one example, a recent article in the Lancet showed that in 2010 over 5 million children died before the age of five from infections and largely preventable diseases, with pneumonia the leading cause of death. Half of those deaths were in Africa. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, there has been huge progress in Africa, but there is also huge need. Reducing that toll of childhood death requires consistent and concentrated action and consistent and concentrated funding. Britain under both recent Governments has built up a justifiably strong international reputation for its commitment to aid. Despite the understandable pressures to renege on that commitment, I sincerely urge the Government to stick to it.

Having praised the Prime Minister and the Government, perhaps I may, as is perhaps proper for a Cross-Bencher, balance that by coming a little closer to home and saying that it was surely a mistake for the Prime Minister not to see soon-to-be-President Hollande when he was in London before the recent French election. Whatever one thinks will happen to the eurozone or about the future of the European Union, the position of France will be crucial. In foreign policy and defence, relations between France and Britain, within the EU and NATO and bilaterally, will be crucial. It is therefore wholly in Britain’s interest to get to know and to talk to serious French presidential candidates. For some months before the election, it was pretty clear to French policy watchers that it was at least possible—to many of us, probable—that Monsieur Hollande would become President of France.

If I may for one moment sink into my anecdotage, I remember that when I was ambassador in France, Tony Blair, as leader of the Opposition, came to see President Chirac and Prime Minister Juppé, both leaders of the French right, just before the 1997 election. At the end of the meeting with Prime Minister Juppé, at which Mr Blair had expounded British prospective economic policy, Prime Minister Juppé replied, I thought rather wistfully, that he feared that such a policy would be far too right wing for France. I do not for a moment suggest that if Monsieur Hollande had expounded his economic policy to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister would have responded in the same way; none the less meetings of that kind are important and useful. I hope that in future the Prime Minister will see his way to meeting prospective French Presidents or, indeed, prospective German Chancellors if, as may often be the case, they are passing through London.

Finally, on our own embassies around the world, when I look back to the run-up to the war in Iraq and its aftermath, I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that we suffered from having no embassy in Baghdad between 1991 and 2003. We did not have that feeling and understanding for the country, its rulers and its

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people which comes from day-to-day contact with even the most detestable of regimes. We were, as a consequence, less well able than we might have been to judge the likely consequences of our actions. I therefore find it worrying that we currently have no diplomatic staff in either Tehran or Damascus, in two countries at the very heart of our foreign policy, or in Bamako in Mali, a country which, as the noble Lord, Lord King, said earlier in the debate, is at the heart of instability following the conflict in Libya.

I entirely understand and support the need to put the safety of our staff first. Particularly in Tehran, after the invasion of the embassy compounds, evacuation was the only course open to us. The question now is how we can get our staff back securely to Tehran, Damascus and Bamako in order to report, influence, protect and promote our interests. There are ways in which that can be done, step by step. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us at the end of the debate that it is indeed the intention that our staff should return. I hope also that it will be the aim of the Government to preserve our staff securely in other difficult and sometimes dangerous places such as Kabul, Khartoum and Juba. Their presence will continue to be essential to protect and promote our interests and, in particular, to meet the objectives set out by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in his speech at the beginning of this debate of responding to crises, focusing on poverty reduction and increasing our interests in Africa.

2.52 pm

The Lord Bishop of Guildford: My Lords, I return to a European Union theme. I declare an interest as a vice–president of the Conference of European Churches.

From these Benches I warmly welcome the inclusion in the gracious Speech of the European Union (Approval of Treaty Amendment Decision) Bill—that is a nice mouthful, is it not?—although I note the question of the noble Lord, Lord Wood, about support for it in another place. I have also listened carefully to the careful and informed speech of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, on this matter.

The European Stability Mechanism will replace earlier and apparently ineffective mechanisms. Although the ESM will entail no UK budget liability—that of course remains the responsibility of the euro member states—all European Union member states must approve the amendment to the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, so confirming that the mechanism is legally compatible with the treaties. This is rather technical but it is very important.

Your Lordships’ House will not include many who think that European economic stability and the future of the euro in Greece or Spain or Italy, or even the future of the euro itself, is a matter of indifference to the United Kingdom. Of our exports, 40% are to the euro area. This is no new thing. My own diocese, largely in Surrey, was once big in wool. The arms of the bishops of Guildford include several woolsacks because the wool came from the North Downs, down the River Wey, down the River Thames and over the North Sea to Flanders, where it was sold for the cloth trade. Economically, we are still intrinsically bound up

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with our fellow European states. Whatever differences there may be among Members of this House on the extent to which we should be involved financially in supporting the euro—that is complicated, as the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, mentioned this morning—I welcome the intention of presenting this legislation shortly, and of supporting the eurozone states in their internal endeavour to secure the stability of the euro and of Europe, of which we are a part. It would be my hope that both Europhiles and Eurosceptics—in and out of government, in this House and elsewhere—could unite on this at least.

It can be no comfort at all to your Lordships’ House to contemplate the enormous difficulties we have seen in the forming of a permanent Government in Greece, or this morning’s news in at least two papers of the beginning of a rush on the Greek banks. Then there is the continuing social unrest there in the land, and indeed in the city, of the birth of democracy. That is significant. Nor can we contemplate with equanimity the disturbances in Spain. I therefore invite the Minister to say a little more on how the United Kingdom Government can continue, no doubt behind the scenes, to be of assistance to the eurozone states, as they have been, perhaps somewhat robustly, in the discussions leading up to the decision about the ESM.

I also welcome anything the Minister can say on the way in which the United Kingdom is to keep in touch with what may develop following the meeting this week between President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel, as well as, of course, exchanges between the new French President and our own Prime Minister. The Chancellor and our Prime Minister are not for turning on austerity. That is clear, but Chancellor Merkel also spoke of the possibility of an add-on growth policy. Once again the UK, as I am sure the Minister will agree, is not isolated from the common need of all European countries to move out of recession. That will not be easy, as the Governor of the Bank of England has recently reminded us. My plea is that we move beyond slogans to a more mature discussion about the troubles of Europe—of which we are part—and how we can move forward together.

Finally, my concern is not only that the United Kingdom is intrinsically linked economically with Europe. It is much more than that. The Christian faith and all that goes with that culture came with the Roman soldiers and merchants to Britain. It came again with the Celtic missions from Ireland and Scotland, and again from Rome itself to Canterbury. We in turn sent missionaries to what is now the Netherlands, north Germany and Scandinavia. Irish missionaries travelled all over Europe. This is relevant to a forthcoming appointment: archbishops of Canterbury came from what is now Turkey, from Aosta in north Italy and Normandy. A Yorkshire priest-scholar, Alcuin, was Charlemagne’s chief adviser and confidante. The Reformation came from Württemberg, Geneva and Strasbourg. The royal families of England were conjoined with the royal families of Aragon, of Castile, of France and later of Holland and Hanover and, most recently, Greece.

I look forward to this rather technical legislation as a sign that, despite differences of approach to fiscal union and the disputed question of direct support for

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the euro, the United Kingdom remains committed to the fact that we are part of Europe, not only financially but historically, culturally and religiously. Consequently, we have our political and economic part to play therein.

2.59 pm

Lord Rana: I am pleased to be here today in your Lordships’ House, adding my support to international development, an area that has great resonance for me. I am delighted that the Government have committed 0.7% of gross national income for international development from next year. Not only does international development encompass my own ideology in helping to promote and achieve the impossible in situations where there is a great need for support from the international community, but it can work for good in other directions too. This can be seen in the way that the lives of people who commit to helping are enriched and enhanced for the common good. The enrichment can and does bring benefits to wider communities by bringing together different cultures and societies and promoting a better understanding of the needs of people in other countries. What international development can bring to us in the United Kingdom is not often recognised. It is more often than not looked on as a one-way street of giving with no taking, which does not bring back benefits of any kind.

Allow me to give an example. I have led trade delegations from Northern Ireland to India for the past 10 years. The most recent, to promote business initiatives and investment between the two countries, was in April this year. The delegation comprised First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Economy Minister Arlene Foster, 20 companies and two universities from Northern Ireland. It was supported by the British high commissioner in Delhi and the deputy high commissioners of Mumbai and Bangalore. This is international development from a different angle that is, at present, exciting, dynamic and bringing great benefits. It is a two-way street that is helping to develop part of the United Kingdom and strengthen its international presence, while building on historical links and the many years of previous financial support.

The success of such initiatives shows for itself. India is now the second biggest investor in Northern Ireland, employing nearly 5,000 people, and there are 49 Northern Irish companies doing good business in India. We met the Chief Ministers for Mumbai and Delhi and, as a result, they are looking forward to the further development of industrial, educational and tourism links. This shows how important development grants can be for future trade with a country as it grows.

However, there is still a lot that needs to be done. Last week the “Living Below the Line” campaign raised awareness of how much of the world’s population subsists on around a dollar a day. A recent article on the BBC website cited as many as 1.3 billion people as still subsisting at this level. This emphasises the importance of continuing international development for the bigger picture of the global economy, and that there is still a need for a concerted effort by the developed countries to tackle this problem.

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Official aid figures do not include contributions by private trusts and individuals. A great deal of unofficial aid is given by charitable and philanthropic organisations from this country, about which little reliable information is available. I cite the example of, and declare an interest in, my charitable trust, which has been funding a university project in a village called Sanghol in Punjab. This is archaeologically a very famous site in north India. The settlement goes back around 5,000 years. There were no facilities in the area for children to acquire graduate or postgraduate education. We started with a greenfield site and now there is a 25-acre campus, with nearly 2,000 students spanning six institutes that offer graduate and postgraduate courses. It employs 200 people, plus another 200 construction workers, and it is still growing.

My vision was to create a village society that, in its fusion of native values and culture and modern sciences, would be a model for the whole community. The intention was that it would bring international development to the heart of the community and give it a lifeline with which to combat the problems and injustices that living in a rural part of India brings. It is very humbling to see first hand how this makes a difference to the lives of many young people. Nearly half the qualifying students are girls, who would have little chance of a university education without this initiative.

The trust’s efforts have been supported by the UK-India Education and Research Initiative in setting up a vocational training institute in collaboration with VTCT—Vocational Training Charitable Trust, UK—in April this year. It has helped to bring together educational establishments in both countries. In this, the British Council has done a great job to help. Assistance from UKIERI and the British Council works at the grass-roots level and gives aid to the beneficiaries more quickly. Perhaps DfID would consider working with philanthropic initiatives in the same way that UKIERI and the British Council do. This would speed up the process and help more young people in the field of education. Providing good-quality education goes a long way in alleviating poverty and empowers people to compete in the global market.

3.06 pm

Lord Lyell: My Lords, nearly five years ago my late noble kinsman Lord Lyell of Markyate rose at the Conservative Party conference and made a much briefer speech than I shall be able to make today. He just said that the first duty of any Government is the defence of the realm. The rest of his remarks were drowned out by bad manners as everyone took off, but I suspect he was absolutely right.

I have the very good luck to be in your Lordships’ House and to be a member of its defence group. We are beautifully led by the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, who keeps me and many other ex-servicemen—people go right back—in shape and in the best condition to understand exactly what is needed by, and can be done for, defence in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere.

Perhaps it is appropriate that today’s debate was instituted by my noble friend Lord Howell. Together with our principal doorkeeper and the late Sergeant

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Kiwi Clements, who 55 years ago licked me into shape as a young national serviceman, he belonged to that great regiment, the Coldstream Guards. The motto of the Coldstream Guards is “Nulli Secundus”. Sergeant Clements put me under close arrest for thinking it meant “no second helpings”. It does not; it means “second to none”. Those words apply to my noble friend the Minister on the Front Bench, who will be winding up the debate. My noble friend gives all of us with any interest in defence, let alone those of us in the defence group, constant briefing advice and one-to- one contact with the Ministry of Defence. For anyone who has any interest in defence, it is top-class. I also know that all the work that he has done has brought many others in your Lordships’ House much closer to defence and one aspect of it that we are discussing today.

My noble friend Lord Luke referred to aircraft carriers. The Minister will have to cope with the budget. I hope that he will not worry about my speech for one second of his winding-up speech; he can write to me in due course. I know that he will write to my noble friend Lord Luke about the aircraft carriers. One recent development in aircraft is that the Ministry of Defence has chosen the F-35B as its vertical and short take-off and landing model. If I am wrong my noble friend can correct me—probably in writing—later, but I understand that this will enable both aircraft carriers to be in constant service, and that it will be a great saving in the budget, costing far less than the cat and trap.

Equally, at sea, it is very encouraging to read of the great success of the Type 45 destroyer. It was three years ago that my noble friend Lord Lee of Trafford and I went down to Portsmouth and viewed HMS “Daring”, which was the first of the Type 45, with its outstanding commanding officer, that man of Fermanagh, Captain McAlpine. He set the standard of his crew for what is now being done and it is already a major success in the Royal Navy. I just hope that the Type 56 frigate, when it comes out, will be an equal success.

I turn to the Army aspect of defence and the SDSR. I understand that the Army will be reduced over the next 10 or 12 years to about 82,000 personnel—my noble friend the Minister may be able to explain that today or at a later stage—but the apparent good news that has come out in the past two or three days concerns the Scottish regiments and what I would call the cap badges. I understand that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has taken the question of cap badges, particularly as it refers to Scotland, very seriously indeed. He is not with us today, but the noble Earl, Lord Stair, was fighting with the Scots Guards 30 years ago at Mount Tumbledown in the Falklands. The noble Lord, Lord West, is also not here today, but he, too, was there. For Members of your Lordships’ House who have been in a situation like that, it hammers home to them, as it would have hammered home to me, that you are together with your friends—as we said in the services, your muckers. When it is one to one on a dark night in winter in the Falklands, you are with people with whom you have formed a very close bond, and that gives you that extra pace in defending the realm and in what you have to do.

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I quickly turn to Afghanistan. There has been more and more decent news recently over the kit, the supplies and the support of our forces all over Afghanistan and on the way out and back. Indeed, there is an interesting article today in the Financial Times about the situation in Afghanistan and the kit referred to by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley. It seems quite encouraging.

The House of Lord defence group is not, I hope, all red leather Bench warriors. Certainly we take an interest in other things—my training goes on, as I started out as an accountant, seeking the truth—but we are very concerned with the families of servicemen all over the world, here and elsewhere, and their quarters, housing, children and support. For families but also for the wounded service men and women, Headley Court is second to none and does a wonderful job. Our group made at least two visits; I hope that we are able to do that.

I was fortunate five years ago, with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, to visit Birmingham, which is the first stop for injured service men and women returning to this country. The work that is done there and continues to be done is really very encouraging and I hope that my noble friend will be able to give us some support either today or at a later stage.

When we discuss defence today or at any other time, here in the comfort of the warm leather Benches, I hope that I as a humble national serviceman can say thank you and pass on my gratitude to each and every one of the service men and women all over the world—in Afghanistan, under the sea and elsewhere. We think of them and think of the frightened, startled recruits who are starting their training, and to them we say our thanks.

3.14 pm

Lord Judd: My Lords, most people in the world do not believe the agendas of international deliberations are their agendas. Repeatedly these agendas are seen as those of the traditionally powerful and privileged and dominated by a determination to preserve their advantage. Reform of the United Nations Security Council and its membership is long since overdue to make it representative of the world as it is rather than the world of 1945. Its credibility depends on this; so, too, do the arrangements for governance in the international financial institutions and climate change negotiations. The world as a whole has a stake in the outcomes, and this must mean that it has a stake in the making of the agendas.

Transparency and accountability in the appointment arrangements of the United Nations Secretary-General and the chief executives of the other global institutions is crucial. The world also needs a United Nations Economic and Social Council with clout and of the same status as the existing Security Council.

Consider the acute threats to humanity across the world, as 1.3 billion men, women and children are trapped in absolute poverty, struggling desperately to survive and not knowing when or where they will have their next meagre meal, let alone any other basic essential. Consider, as the noble Lord, Lord King,

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powerfully reminded us, the Sahel. There are between 18 and 19 million people in imminent danger of starvation, with hardly half the required emergency assistance yet provided. This is no time to consider modifying our aid commitment—in other words, reducing it. Of course we must constantly strive to ensure the best possible use of the resources that we provide, but to ensure that it is essential to listen to the experience, the truth as seen by them, and the priorities of the disadvantaged themselves. They are tired of being hectored and lectured on what they must do; they want to be heard and to share in the ownership of the solutions. This is something that the Prime Minister would do well constantly to remember in his new role on the United Nations high-level panel to design a post-2015 development framework. To succeed, the panel must speak with and for the dispossessed and poor, not about or at them. The world needs solidarity.

How can we settle for less than a world in which every new-born child has a meaningful prospect of reaching its full physical, mental and creative potential? With all the ingenuity, information technology and expertise on hand, it is obscene to settle for anything less. That is why I am glad that, despite the regrettable absence of promised legislation in the Queen’s Speech, the Government remain committed to the 0.7% of GNP target. It is high time that we joined Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden in demonstrating that this is an imperative.

Of course, the battle for a stable, secure and just world is not just about aid but about fair trade and fair access to limited and finite resources. In other words, it is about social priorities in economic policy. At times of stringency these matters become more essential, not less. Monetary disciplines and social justice are never incompatible. To claim that they are is blinkered, fatalistic nonsense. We shall have neither stable, secure societies nor the basis for sustained economic well-being and progress unless this is understood, as must be the indispensability of prioritised and targeted investment to ensure our future.

In our highly unstable age, with its threats of terrorism, the cause of global social justice has never been more vital. So also, of course, is the cause of human rights. Terrorist potential may be impossible to eradicate, but it can be contained, minimised and marginalised. It is no exaggeration to say that where there are few human rights issues, the phenomenon of extremism and terrorism can be marginalised. Where there are significant human rights abuses, the breeding ground for terrorism will always be present. Human rights are not an optional extra for society; they are a muscular indispensability for stability and security. We erode or neglect them anywhere in the world, not least in the UK itself, at our peril.

That is why institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights are so essential. They establish an agreed shared commitment in a wider context. That is why they must be properly resourced. It is also why ruthless action by the Russians or their surrogates in the North Caucasus, or by Israelis against Palestinians, about which my noble friend Lady Blackstone spoke so well today, not least the military detention of children, is so inexcusable and wrong. It fans the flames of

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extremism. It is never irresponsible, and always right, to ask why people are recruitable as suicide bombers.

We must also beware counterproductivity here in the United Kingdom, with the pressures to amend and streamline our well tested legal principles and systems. The pitfalls of counterproductivity should always be uppermost in our analysis when confronted with abominations such as the Syrian or Gaddafi regimes. Have we always researched as thoroughly as we should have what we are intervening in and what the longer-term consequences will be? Did we get that right in Libya? Did we have in place what was needed in time to make a success of Kofi Annan’s peace initiative in Syria? These situations are too complex to be seen largely as just a matter of ridding the world of a particularly nasty tyrant.

I conclude by reflecting for a moment on the arms trade treaty, in which the United Kingdom has played such a commendable role and on which it is planned to have its final diplomatic conference in July in preparation for its adoption. It is a highly desirable, urgently necessary treaty when we are faced with so much conflict, and possible conflict, crushing the already disadvantaged people of the world. Do the Government agree that it is better to have no treaty than a weak treaty? Is not the essential principle that states shall never transfer arms where the end-use cannot be guaranteed and where there is a clear risk that they will be reused to commit violations of humanitarian and international human rights law? Will the Government refuse to compromise on this and resist the subtle pressures—or sometimes the blunt pressures—to settle for words such as “take into account” as compromises? What progress is being made in these respects to bring Algeria, Syria, Iran and the United States itself on board?

3.22 pm

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, in the area of defence, we received the welcome news that under the coalition the defence budget is now at last under control. We know which aircraft we are going to use; we know which ships are in, or will be in, service; and we know what equipment our forces will deploy. The trouble is: have we forecast what conflicts we will need to cope with? Are our forces, who are equipped to fight in Afghanistan, able to use the same equipment in a conflict with a vastly different terrain and climate? Are we treating our service personnel decently, as was debated by your Lordships during the passage of the Armed Forces Bill? Are we ready to provide the housing that is required by service men and women coming back to the UK from Afghanistan and Germany? Are those obliged to leave the armed services prepared for civilian life?

One area of strife that we debate and debate in this House is the Middle East. British rule and influence have historically been strong, whether in running Egypt at the turn of the century or the Palestine mandate. This month, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, has seen a threatening hunger strike about conditions of detention in Israeli jails brought to a welcome end that was brokered significantly by the Egyptians. This month has seen a remarkable coalition Government—in this instance, I do not refer to the UK but Israel—where the two largest parties,

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Likud and Kadima, have come together with others to form a strong coalition Government that could have the will and power to further the peace process. This month has also seen one of that Government’s first acts, in seeking negotiations with the Palestinians without any preconditions. I can only hope that our Government do all they can to encourage both sides to the negotiating table and to hammer out a lasting peace formula that will give the Palestinians a sovereign state, sitting alongside a secure state of Israel. It is a fact that neither side will get all that it wants, but that is the price of negotiation and compromise.

The noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, said a lot with which I agree on this subject. However, he mentioned admission to the United Nations. I also wish to celebrate, in time, the admission of the Palestinian state to the United Nations. However, I believe that it is a prize you receive by sitting down at the negotiating table. You do not get your prizes ahead of sitting down. That is the price of negotiation. But I will be there cheering that admission when it takes place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, spoke very eloquently and movingly about alleged wrongs and so on. In the time I have for this speech, I cannot deal with her comments—I hope she understands. I throw into the melting pot that wrongs always go around, and one fact that, of the 850,000 Jews who fled Arab lands, 600,000 found a place to stay in Israel. A lot of problems can be sorted out only by sitting down at the negotiating table.

There was welcome news a few hours ago that President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has made new innovative appointments to a Cabinet, which may be part of the formula at the moment. A former leader of the Palestinians, Yasser Arafat, was once said to miss no opportunity to miss an opportunity. This should be a time when we actually take that opportunity. There are people who say that the Netanyahu Government of Israel are not sincere in what they say about sitting down at the negotiating table without any preconditions. My advice to everybody—Israelis and Palestinians—is, “Sit down; trust that sincerity and see whether it is there”. If you do not actually sit down and have negotiations between people who are nominally against each other, or who are against each other, you will never succeed.

We often debate people’s rights across the region—those of Christians, Jews, women, gay people, different types of Muslims, Kurds and other ethnic minorities. It is right that the Queen’s Speech, as referred to by my noble friend the Minister, expresses the Government’s ongoing desire to support such rights across the Middle East and north Africa. In 2011-12, the UK Government funded projects to increase women’s political participation in Egypt, protect freedom of expression in Tunisia, increase young people’s role in policy formulation in Morocco, bring prisons up to international human rights standards in Algeria, and support public service broadcasting in Iraq. That was not just morally the right thing to do but in our national interest in terms of prosperity and security.

On 9 December last year, we debated the desperate plight of Christians in the Middle East. I took part in that debate, as did the Archbishop of Canterbury and

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the Chief Rabbi. It is appalling how Christians are treated in so many countries in the Middle East, and we often stand by and say nothing about it. Much of the discrimination and prejudice comes from Governments themselves, including in the Middle East and north Africa. I therefore applaud the fact that Her Majesty’s Government will support the extension of political and economic freedom in countries in transition in the Middle East and north Africa.

Other noble Lords have spoken about the problem of Iran. Her Majesty said that her Government will work,

“to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation, including in Iran”.

Iran’s ambition to be a regional power makes it a meddler and a sponsor of terrorism in the region and beyond. Just this week, Iran stands accused of smuggling arms into Syria. Should such a regime gain nuclear weapons, the region’s other Governments would feel that they must also have such weapons, sparking an arms race that would drag in many countries in the wider world, from Europe to Latin America. It is vital that we use all peaceful means to prevent such an outcome.

3.29 pm

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, my brief remarks today will urge Her Majesty’s Government to do all they possibly can to engage with China, especially in Africa and on the Korean peninsula and on questions of human rights.

Yesterday, with my noble friend Lady Cox, I met Bishop Macram Gassis, whose whole life has been spent working with the Dinka and Nuba people in Sudan. I subsequently spoke by telephone with the Minister for Africa, Mr Henry Bellingham MP, and relayed Bishop Gassis’s description of the murder and mutilation of children and the rape of women in South Kordofan.

Earlier today, along with my noble friend, I drew the attention of the House to the recent assessment of Dr Mukesh Kapila CBE that the second genocide of the 21st century is now unfolding. More than 1 million people have been affected as a regime, led by a president indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, systematically kills its own people. In parenthesis, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, who responded to the Question earlier today, that what makes Sudan unique is that President Omar al-Bashir is the only head of state anywhere in the world to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. To have business as usual, including the visits of parliamentarians and business leaders to Sudan promoting business interests in Sudan, cannot be right when in Darfur 200,000 people were killed, in South Sudan 2 million people were killed and now, today, the second genocide of the 21st century is being played out in South Kordofan.

On 26 March I described the paralysis of the international community in addressing this issue, and nothing has changed. It is now a year since I told the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, about the situation there. He said in response:

“Reports of such atrocities will have to be investigated and, if they prove to be true, those responsible will need to be brought to account”.—[Official Report, 21/6/11; col. WA 294.]

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Nine months later, he said that,

“we continue … to seek urgent access to those most affected by the conflict”.—[

Official Report

, 9/11/11; col.

WA 66


However, no one has been brought to justice, the bombs continue to rain down, a genocide is unfolding, and a plane last tried to take in aid in November last and was pursued for 50 miles by Sudanese war planes.

So what can we do? Seventy per cent of Sudan’s oil is in the south and most of it is bought by China. While the killing continues, the oil will not flow. More than any other country, China is in a position to insist that the bombing stops, that humanitarian relief is allowed in, and that all sides participate in peace talks, which China should broker.

North Sudan is also considerably indebted to China. It has external debts of around $38 billion. Both China and the United Kingdom should use the leverage of debt relief to insist on an end to aerial bombardment and access for humanitarian aid. It is unconscionable that Britain should write off Sudanese debt while it kills with impunity, and I hope that when the Minister responds he will tell us that he concurs with that view.

China is in Africa because it has a scarcity of oil, minerals and food. Africa provides a solution. The big question will be: can China avoid the age-old temptation to exercise hegemony and, instead, use its statecraft to resolve conflict? Short of the arms trade treaty, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, a few moments ago, it would make a dramatic difference if China and the United Kingdom stopped the flow of arms—many made in China—into Africa. However, if we need to engage with China in Africa, we must also encourage it to use its diplomacy and genius elsewhere too.

Last night, at a meeting of the North Korea All-Party Parliamentary Group, which I chair, we heard from Mark Fitzpatrick, the director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Mrs Sun-young Park, a member of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. I have sent the Minister a copy of their papers. Three million people died in the last Korean War, including an estimated 400,000 Chinese soldiers and, I might add, 1,000 British servicemen, more than in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Falklands combined. We need to engage with China to encourage the United States formally to end the state of war with North Korea. This does not imply appeasement—quite the reverse. It is what we did with great effect during the Helsinki process. There are some welcome harbingers.

China's recent decision to repatriate North Koreans to Seoul is to be welcomed; so is their admonition to North Korea to look after the welfare of their own citizens rather than to promote nuclear ambitions; China’s decision not to obstruct the recent United Nations Human Rights Council's statement on human rights issues in North Korea; and the Security Council statement on the recent rocket launch. What is really needed is a Beijing peace conference where old hatreds are set aside and constructive, but critical, engagement seeks ways to achieve a lasting peace, prosperity, reconciliation and the reunification of the Korean peninsula.

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In addition to China’s role in the world, I want to mention one other question concerning human rights. The world's attention has recently been focused on the plight of Chen Guangcheng, the blind civil and human rights activist, jailed for four years after challenging China's one-child policy. I have raised this case in your Lordships' House many times. Having taken sanctuary in the US Embassy in Beijing, Chen is now held in a hospital unit. The Economist, in its editorial last week, said:

“At rare moments, the future of a nation, even one teeming with 1.3 billion souls, can be bound up in the fate of a single person”.

It said that what happened to Chen,

“matters enormously to China's future”.

That also matters to the United States. If they have removed Chen from safety but failed to secure safe passage for him and his family, it will cast serious doubts on American diplomacy. Have they let a brave man down? Have they been taken for fools? If Chen is punished and the US humiliated it will signal a troubling shift in superpower relations.

Chen's case also matters to countries like our own. We have aided and abetted the very policies that led to Chen's imprisonment in the first place. It has taken a blind man to see that to which we have shamefully closed our eyes. This remarkable Shawshank has caught the public imagination and blown open a policy of coercion and eugenics, a policy which I sought to outlaw the last time we had a Bill on development aid before your Lordships’ House. Over three decades, British aid given to UNFPA and IPPF has gone to the China Population Association. The CPA, in turn, has implemented a one-child policy that makes it a criminal offence to be pregnant and illegal to have a brother or a sister. It is a policy which has led to an estimated 400 million babies being aborted or killed through infanticide; a gendercide policy which favours the birth of male children so that one out of every six girls is aborted or abandoned. China is a country where 500 women take their own lives every single day. China has the highest suicide rate for women anywhere in the world.

China is a great nation, but it does itself no credit with something like the one-child policy. We must engage with China both on human rights questions and on its role in the world, not least on the Korean peninsula and in countries like Sudan.

3.37 pm

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, it is no secret to Members of this House that I have been in disagreement with many of the policies of the coalition Government over the past two years. I have moved temporarily from my party’s naughty step to access the microphones—there is no more significance to it than that.

One shining beacon, however, has been the actions of the Secretary of State for International Development and his department. The commitment to enshrine in law 0.7% of GDP to overseas aid, with an additional £740 million to be spent on maternal and child health and an emphasis on family planning, was very welcome. However, although the commitment was in the Queen's Speech, there is no legislation yet to make it law.

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I suppose that there was some nervousness about doing this in the current economic climate, and I know there has been opposition from some newspapers and members of the public, but I live in hope.

I would suggest that the Opposition would understand the arguments that we have made for aid to the poorest countries of the world if we ensured that it was spent even more wisely. For example, although more than 50% of global overseas aid comes from the European Union, much of it goes to near neighbours of the EU such as Turkey and Morocco, which are hardly the poorest of the world. EU aid also goes to Palestine to rebuild its infrastructure, destroyed by Israel, only for that infrastructure to be destroyed again. Taxpayers all over Europe might think well about our overseas aid if it were not being used to subsidise the illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Why does the European Union not have a poverty focus for all its aid, as we do, and as has recently been recommended by the Select Committee for International Development in its recent report on EU assistance? The poor should be our focus.

There is also still widespread concern that overseas aid does not reach the people and projects for which it is intended but ends up in the back pockets of politicians in those countries. I was privileged yesterday to meet a group of women Members of Parliament from Afghanistan, brought here by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, to which I pay tribute. These brave women told me that they had huge concern about the disappearance of aid in their country but as women MPs had no means of tracking where it had gone. Their message, which I promised to relay, was that the projects that had survived had made a difference to women’s lives in Afghanistan, but that they feared they would have to “disappear back into the shadows or be killed” once ISAF had left. It is a chilling thought.

Much more needs to be invested in the women of Afghanistan if the Department for International Development’s aim of peace, stability and prosperity is to be brought to that country—yet there is no budget line for maternal health and family planning in that country’s operational plan for the next four years. The maternal death rate in Afghanistan is among the highest in the world: 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births. Many more women suffer chronic illness following unassisted childbirth. The contraception rate is 2% among women of childbearing age, and family size averages 6.9 children per woman. How can women contribute to their country’s “peace, stability and prosperity” if we do not help them? Perhaps if the Minister cannot answer these points he will write to us after the debate. DfID, after all, will have its Golden Moment in July to ensure that the poorest and most marginalised women in the world are given sexual and reproductive health services and family planning. The all-party group that I chair supports this initiative and is delighted with it. I hope that it will be extended to Afghanistan.

I emphasise the importance of ensuring that the 215 million women in the world who would use family planning if it were available to them get what they need. If we can meet this need, as DfID wants us to, it

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will reduce the growth in world population—and it will do so voluntarily, without the type of coercion mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that occurred some years ago in China. The reduction in the growth of world population is crucial if Africa, for example, is to feed itself—and it must happen if we are not to be engulfed by climate change and global warming. The issues are interlinked: population growth, consumption in the developed world and the environment.

Finally, I will put in a plug for our own royal society. It produced a magnificent report recently, People and the Planet, which dealt with all these issues. I hope that the Deputy Prime Minister will read it before he attends the Rio+20 conference on our behalf in the near future.

3.43 pm

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I will speak about Britain’s relations with two very different countries, neither of which has been mentioned in the debate today—although the noble Lord, Lord Alton, came very close a moment ago in his reference to human rights in China. I will first ask a simple question about Ukraine, in the context of the European football championships next month. The Minister will be aware that a number of heads of government, in particular Angela Merkel, said that neither they nor any of their ministerial colleagues would attend matches played in Ukraine unless Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison. Do Her Majesty’s Government plan to adopt the same approach? If so, will they offer similar advice to the President of the Football Association, His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge?

I wish to speak mainly about the United Kingdom’s relationship with Taiwan. I declare an interest as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary British-Taiwanese Group. My co-chair is the noble Lord, Lord Steel of Aikwood, who leaves this evening at the head of the delegation of nine members drawn from all political parties in both Houses. They will attend the inauguration ceremony on Sunday for President Ma Ying-jeou, who was re-elected for a second four-year term on 14 January in what most observers regarded as a fair and open contest.

In terms of the relationship, I start with the positives. In a number of areas, it is excellent. Last year, Taiwan purchased £1.5 billion-worth of British-made goods and another £1.5 billion-worth in services. There are 16,000 Taiwanese students at British universities and they and their parents contribute £0.5 billion in tuition fees and living expenses. Some 80,000 to 90,000 Taiwanese come here as tourists. Numerous Taiwanese manufacturing companies have located here. HTC, for example, which manufactures smart phones, has expanded from employing five people to 500. On 23 April, I attended the annual meeting of the Taiwan Britain Business Council and I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, make an enthusiastic and positive speech from his standpoint as Trade Minister about British opportunities for doing business with Taiwan. He visited the country in his official capacity last year and it would be a great pleasure if we heard him speak more often in this House on issues such as this.

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That is the positive side of the relationship. There is another, deeply unsatisfactory side as well. I do not have time today to discuss the wider “one China” issue, which in my view is in urgent need of review. We will need to return to it on another occasion.

I need, however, to talk about the United Kingdom Border Agency. Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Henley, had a most uncomfortable time answering questions from his noble friends about its shortcomings. Your Lordships may recall that the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, described how a CPA meeting yesterday with a Tanzanian parliamentary delegation had to be cancelled because the UKBA had denied the delegates visas. Similar problems are experienced on a regular basis by staff employed by the Taipei representative office in the UK. The visa waiver for citizens of Taiwan who come to the UK on holiday does not apply to them. The staff have to apply annually for a visa extension and are required to surrender their passports when doing so. Because UKBA often holds on to these passports for up to four months, when an emergency arises such as the need to visit a sick relative back home or attend a heads of mission meeting called at short notice, the individual has to decide whether to abandon the trip or submit themselves to a so-called fast-track option, for which the application fee is £648 but it still takes weeks to complete. By contrast, British staff at our office in Taipei receive a three-year multiple-entry free gratis service, which is processed within 48 hours.

There is a straightforward way through this, and that is to establish a privileges and immunities protocol that sets out very clearly the status of Taiwanese Government staff working in the UK and their British counterparts in Taiwan. A good starting point is the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, who I am delighted to see on the Bench, when speaking from the opposition Front Bench in January 2003. He said:

“I am sure that we all appreciate that because of respect for the ‘one China’ policy and our relations with the People’s Republic of China, we do not accord Taiwan full diplomatic status. Can we at least be assured that we give Taiwan representatives in our country and the sort of causes that we are discussing in this Question the same support and encouragement as are given by our neighbours, particularly France and Germany, in their dealings with Taiwan? Are we as effective as they are in maintaining good relations with this remarkable democracy?”.—[Official Report, 20/1/03; col. 432.]

That is a very good question to which we still do not have a satisfactory answer.

The best examples of what is possible are found in the Commonwealth countries of Australia and New Zealand, both of which have the same common-law legal system as we do. The Australian Government, which has a much closer relationship with China than we have, has in place a remarkable set of rules called the Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations 1998, which grant the Taiwanese staff in Canberra and Sydney virtually all the same benefits as other diplomatic missions to which Australia grants diplomatic recognition.

It is worth noting that, as Taiwan is a member of the World Trade Organisation, if there were ever a WTO ministerial meeting in the UK, Taiwanese participants would have to be given exactly the same

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privileges and immunities as all other participants, but we cannot, apparently, bring ourselves to grant them at any other times. That alone surely undermines any argument about possible legal implications.

I would appreciate it if the Minister can give an undertaking that the FCO will look at a privileges and immunities protocol for Taiwan, and also promise to look at the problems of the United Kingdom Border Agency and its treatment of Taiwanese Government employees. We will have to come back to the question of the “one China” policy at another time because that is in urgent need of review.

3.51 pm

Lord Taverne: My Lords, I want to speak about our relations with our partners in the European Union. The eurozone crisis is the worst problem we have faced for many decades. As a non-member, Britain has little direct influence. However, our reaction has been to lecture our colleagues, the eurozone Governments, and more often than not to insist that whatever happens we will resist any infringement of our sovereignty. The first is uncalled for and merely serves to irritate our partners. The second increases Britain’s isolation and gravely damages our national interests.

It is worth looking back at why Europe has achieved what it has achieved. The European Union is based on sharing a degree of sovereignty for the common benefit. It replaces national rivalries with a mutual interest in co-operation. This benefits all members in a number of ways. First, it benefits us economically, through the single market. Even the most sceptical anti-Europeans agree that the single market increases our prosperity. However, there would be no effective single market without qualified majority voting—that is, without a degree of shared sovereignty, which we originally supported. Incidentally, we have never been outvoted on qualified majority voting.

Secondly, the EU benefits us through promoting free trade. Without a common European position in trade negotiations, world trade barriers would be much higher than they are. Protectionism is a constant danger, especially at a time of recession, and even some EU countries would like to bring back a degree of protection, but the EU treaty and competition law stop them. Thirdly, it benefits the environment. The European Union, as a group, is the strongest force in the world for action on manmade climate change.

On the political front, co-operation has made least progress, but even here there are huge achievements. The democratic values that the EU stands for have spread to the ex-communist countries and former dictatorships. Enlargement has been one of the EU’s historic achievements, in which we have played a major part. Incidentally, if Greece is forced out of the eurozone—and possibly out of the European Union—it is quite possible that it will return to the dictatorship that ruled before it became a member.

The European Union could act more effectively as a counterweight to the United States and China, which would greatly benefit the world. Both those large countries want a more united Europe with a stronger voice; they are not interested in a Britain which becomes more and more isolated from the Union. We could

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play a much more effective part in the Middle East, for example, where America’s role as a mediator is hampered by the influence of the Zionist lobby in Congress.

However, successive British Governments have refused to recognise the advantages and importance of sharing a degree of sovereignty. They have talked constantly of red lines; they boast about the battles won against the dastardly continentals trying to do us down. What has been the result? It has been a constant erosion of our influence. Gradually, we are edging more and more into the sidelines. The European Union Act of last year stopped any further moves to more effective sharing of sovereignty, even in cases where it is in our interests. The so-called veto of last December achieved nothing except to exasperate our partners, including our closest allies, and isolate us further.

Soon, we will face crucial decisions for our future. Will we contribute extra funds to the IMF? It seems that the Government are disposed to do so. Will they stand firm against the anti-European lobby, which has proved a very powerful influence in the past? It is likely that, next month, there will be a European Union growth pact, separate from the new treaty. Will we back it? It is vital that this should be a pact of 27, not of 17, and certainly not one of 25 or 26.

We will face decisions on the future of banking in the European Union, crucial to the future of the City. What will happen to the fourth capital requirements directive and the plans for a banking union, with its system for shared guarantees? What will our position be? Of course we have some special interests that we cannot ignore, but they must be considered in perspective. They must take account of our common interests with the rest of the European Union and, above all, the grave danger and damages that would be a consequence of our isolation.

Outside the eurozone, we are already without a voice in the measures to save it. In other areas, the eurozone will take decisions that affect us in important ways. We have placed our negotiators at a huge disadvantage by virtue of last year’s European Union Act, but we still have important cards to play. Germany does not want to be left alone to fight protectionism and dirigisme. France and Britain together can still provide a basis for a European Union defence policy, despite recent divisions about aircraft for our carriers. However, what we badly need is a sense of direction and vision, not a self-defeating obsession to preserve every inch of sovereignty.

3.58 pm

Lord Williams of Baglan: My Lords, I shall confine my remarks to the Middle East, a region where for the past five years I have worked for the United Nations and Her Majesty’s Government.

As the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Wood, and others have remarked today, the crisis in Syria shows no sign of abating. The UN mission led by Kofi Annan, for whom I have great respect, not least because he was my former boss, is clearly in trouble. The number of monitors is still barely above that of the much maligned Arab League mission and, after some early decline, the level of violence is on the rise again. More

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importantly, the 10 April deadline for removing heavy weaponry and troops from residential areas in their entirety has clearly passed and not been met. Yesterday, President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to Russian television and showed no sign of compromise. There is no sign that he will accept the political accommodation necessary and implicit in the Annan plan. Having met the President many times, I regret to say that I do not believe that accommodation is in his DNA.

It is of deep concern that the crisis in Syria is already migrating to neighbouring Lebanon—a dangerously fractious country at the best of times. Some 10 people have died in the northern city of Tripoli in the past few days in clashes between the minority Alawite and majority Sunni communities. The leader of the Alawite community, Rifaat Eid, one of the less attractive Lebanese politicians of my acquaintance, is quoted in the Lebanese press this morning as saying that,

“calm in Lebanon can only be restored through the intervention of an Arab army … No one is capable of doing”,

this “except the Syrian army”. One of the greatest achievements of the UN was the 2005 withdrawal of that army after a 30-year presence. I regret that it is again time to look at other diplomatic options. I hope that this can be done at the Chicago NATO summit and the Camp David summit next week. Above all, Russia and China need to be cautioned that their continuing support for the Assad regime is as useless and short-lived as the support that they rendered to President Milosevic of Serbia in the late 1990s.

I was pleased that the Prime Minister, Mr Cameron, recently received the beleaguered Lebanese Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, who needs our strong support in these difficult days. We also need, with our partners, to make it absolutely clear that the international community will not accept any Syrian interference let alone intervention in Lebanon. As the trial of General Ratko Mladic has just started in the Hague and that of Charles Taylor is just ending, we need also to remember our commitments with regard to the established international norm of the responsibility to protect.

It is more than 30 years since the Israeli/Egyptian peace treaty of 1979, 10 years since the creation of the quartet which brings together the US, EU, Russia and UN and almost five years since the former Prime Minister, Mr Blair, assumed the post of quartet envoy. It is difficult to imagine a more powerful body on paper than the quartet but, having sat through many quartet meetings, I can think of no time in the past 20 years when the situation was more difficult if not bleak. It was not always thus. I take this opportunity to regret the withdrawal from politics of former Israeli Foreign Minister and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, who tried under the last Government to advance the cause of peace. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprised his own people with a political coup of great consequence in forming a coalition with the Kadima party now led by Shaul Mofaz. This gives Mr Netanyahu unparalleled political strength that no Labor Administration has had not for years but for decades. We must all hope that he uses this strength to accept and advance the two-state peace process.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, spoke eloquently earlier of the conditions of the Palestinian people—

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conditions I can confirm, having lived and worked there. I also believe that peace is vital for Israel itself. The progress of the Arab spring has highlighted Israel’s isolation in the Middle East. Governments once close to it, such as the Egyptian Government of President Mubarak, have toppled. Few Arab Governments now can speak openly in favour of Israel. It is time to see the peace process between Israel and Palestine advance again.

4.05 pm

Lord Hylton: My Lords, like other earlier speakers, including my noble friend Lord Williams of Baglan, I shall speak about the Middle East and the Arab spring. I suggest that it is too soon to dismiss the latter. Demands for personal dignity or honour will not just go away, but will find ways to express themselves. Islamic politicians, once in office, will find means to address the real needs of their people. The United States, on the other hand, now sees most of its old policies in ruins. That is true from Turkey to Egypt to Iraq. Its enemies in Iran and Syria manage somehow to survive, even if under great difficulties. As to Iran, it would be good if Britain and the EU could help to lay the ghosts of the US embassy siege and the more extreme anxieties over nuclear weapons.

Egypt, as we all know, has the largest population of any Arab country and is in many ways the pivot. What, I wonder, has the United States gained from its huge annual military subsidy? Perhaps only poverty and discontent. It would be rash to forecast the future. So much will turn on the results of the elections for president, the willingness of the military to hand over to civilians and on the balance between the president and the parliament. Could a large IMF loan for inward investment and the unfreezing of blocked state assets together improve the economy in a big way? That would be in everyone’s interests. I note that the unfreezing issue is both urgent and delicate because of its colonial overtones.

Following my noble friend, I now come to Israel. How do the Government interpret the addition of Kadima to the existing coalition? Will the next 18 months be used to create the conditions for peace? Will illegal acts and provocations by settlers and others be reduced and, if possible, eliminated? Will the blockade of Gaza be ended? Will military occupation of the West Bank be reduced, and will the status quo in East Jerusalem be maintained? I suggest that all such acts could produce very favourable reactions among both Palestinians and Arab states.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, made a most important speech which should on no account be overlooked. She underlined the practical problems arising from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, not to mention the continued blockade of Gaza. I join her in urging the friends of Israel here, in the United States and in Europe, to stop defending every action of every Israeli Government. Instead, they should campaign against illegal and provocative acts. That is absolutely necessary if Israel is to be accepted as a normal part of the Middle East, making a vital contribution to the prosperity of the whole region. I do not expect the United States to exert itself significantly until a new Administration, of whatever

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colour, is fully installed next year. Until then, perhaps the United States could quietly encourage Palestinian national unity.

Meanwhile, there is much that Her Majesty’s Government can be doing. We should continue our traditional diplomacy, promoting our basic interests, which happen to coincide with the common good of the Middle East and north Africa. We should remember the positive impact of all strands of our considerable soft power—reference was made to this by several speakers this afternoon. By contrast, our military exports create no prosperity at all. I suggest that soft power includes a full understanding of the relevance of religious faith to behaviour, culture and politics.

A more prosperous Middle East is a vital concern of both Europe and the United States. Unless increased employment happens in all countries, but especially in the larger ones, the fruits of the Arab spring will be bitter indeed. It is very much in the interests of the oil and gas-producing states that employment and prosperity should rise throughout the whole region. If well used, their sovereign wealth can produce good results. The sooner this can start, the better. The task is urgent. I trust that Her Majesty’s Government agree that we should all address it in the most co-ordinated way possible.

4.11 pm

Lord Bowness: My Lords, on 29 March this year, addressing the lord mayor’s Easter banquet, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary said, in a speech that ranged over most of the world:

“Britain is a transatlantic nation and a European nation. But our … interests go beyond that to be global. We have to forge new partnerships beyond our traditional alliances … This in no way means we are moving away from our indispensable alliance with the United States and our deep partnership”,

with Europe. He continued:

“Our ties within Europe are also vitally important. Despite Europe’s current economic”,


“the extension of … democracy is a success few dared to hope for thirty years ago”.

This is a message we hear frequently; we heard it from my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford in opening today. We should indeed cultivate the wider and developing countries. We should embrace the Commonwealth as an important forum and network but, at the same time, remember that its members—which now include some who do not share the common history—have diverse interests in different parts of the world. It is not, nor is it likely to be, a substitute for the European Union as a political, trading or defence organisation.

The Foreign Secretary could have added, as a European Union success, the peace that Europe has enjoyed and which cannot be attributed solely to NATO—peace not only among historic enemies but in the peaceful changes from dictatorships and communism, inspired by the prospects of membership of the European Union. When critics count the cost of the European Union, perhaps we should count what it has saved the continent in other ways. My fear is not that our wider interests are being neglected by too great a concentration

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on the European Union but rather that we are taking the relationship with the European Union and its achievements for granted.

The gracious Speech, at a time of economic and political turmoil, contained only two references to Europe: namely, Bills to deal with the accession of Croatia and legislation to deal with the European financial stability mechanism, which we have already approved but now have to do again because of the European Union Act of last year. Despite being delivered in the middle of a deepening and widening crisis, there is no statement of intent to work constructively with our partners in the union to find a way through. We need to give leadership, as my noble friend Lord Taverne said, not merely lecture others to give leadership because their problems are hurting us. What other solutions do we offer, since the EU solutions and those of Chancellor Merkel, to date, are based very much on our own economic policies?

What leadership is the United Kingdom prepared to give over the crisis in Greece? The problem is not just for the eurozone. Truly, in this instance at least, we are “all in it together”, and the calls by the popular press to let our European partners stew in their own juice or lie on the bed they made will not change that. It is no good saying that we will not be involved in any solution because, in the past, we told you that the euro would not work and that the structures to make it work were lacking or flawed. Maybe if we had not been so hands-off in the beginning, some of the mistakes would not have been made but we are where we are, however wise we may now be after the event. The stability that we have taken for granted is now threatened, and we see the rise of nationalism and worse in Greece and elsewhere. Some states, specifically Greece, will undoubtedly need help to come through their present problems. Yes, they have lessons to learn, reforms to make and deficits to reduce but, without some investment and help to earn and grow, the downward spiral will not end and the consequences will be felt by us all.

We have made commitments in the past to help people in other parts of the world when their problems were not necessarily of our making. Does the resistance to being seen to help flow from antipathy to the European Union and the euro? I hope not. What is our attitude to help through the IMF, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the European Investment Bank? What do we propose to help stave off not just financial meltdown but a social breakdown that could have consequences as yet unforeseen? Britain has never been able to stand aside from the problems of Europe and we must ensure that we do not leave it too late on this occasion.

Leadership is also required in other areas. We were willing to lead some of our EU partners in Libya, but what of other areas of great concern in our own backyard that are in serious need of attention and need to be brought up the political agenda? It is a long list: Serbia and Kosovo; Ukraine, which has been mentioned already today; Moldova; Transdniestria; Bosnia-Herzegovina; and Macedonia, where Greece alone is holding up progress on that country’s candidature

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for the EU. Membership of the EU for the states of the western Balkans is supposed to be a key element of our foreign policy.

What about the problem of Cyprus, where we are not only a partner EU state and a fellow Commonwealth state but one of the guarantor powers? Unresolved, that problem creates problems within NATO and between NATO and the EU, and with claims about the entitlement to possible oil rights off the coast of Cyprus there is the potential for even more tension in a region where, without help, one state faces a possibly disastrous future.

Governments of all persuasions like high-profile world-stage foreign policies. It is eye-catching to be photographed with victorious forces or powerful, iconic figures in foreign parts. I accept that there are not too many front-page photo opportunities in the problem areas in Europe that I have just mentioned. We disregard our own immediate neighbourhood at our peril, but unfortunately successive Governments have failed to give a lead to the British people, and have not explained that the EU is more important than just a trading bloc but has achieved a great deal as a unique institution created voluntarily by its individual member nation states. They have failed to advise people of the EU’s advantages for fear of upsetting the Eurosceptic minority. That policy has totally failed—the real Eurosceptics will never be appeased—and, as a consequence of the failure of leadership and the generally lukewarm enthusiasm for the EU, we see the rise of UKIP.

The Chancellor famously has said of the Labour Party on a number of occasions that it failed to fix the roof while the sun was shining. To pursue that analogy, I fear that the desire to have a magnificent front door on the wider world and a large doorstep on which to pose, secured by state-of-the-art locks and security devices, is leading to leaving our own back door to Europe dependent on a rather badly maintained rim lock. We should get it fixed before it is too late.

4.18 pm

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in expressing pleasure at the Government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national product on development assistance starting next year. I do not share the concern that some of your Lordships have expressed at the fact that this is not in the legislation. I am pleased to accept the solid commitment that our Government have made, from which I do not think there is any possible chance of backsliding. We can wait for the legislation until some time later in this Parliament.

Our aid programme is one of the most cost-effective in the world, and as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia, I particularly congratulate the Government on being the largest contributor to the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunisation. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Jay, on this subject. None of the money which we contribute to the GAVI Alliance goes into someone’s back pocket. That is one of the reasons why I applaud the Government’s decision to be the largest contributor to this project. I am very proud that we are helping to protect the lives

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of children, among others, in the Somali refugee camps of Dadaab in Kenya and Dolo Ado in Ethiopia, which together hold some 650,000 refugees.

My noble friend Lord Sheikh and Malcolm Bruce MP were in Bangladesh last year on World Pneumonia Day urging that country to press forward with its plans to vaccinate children against pneumonia and rotavirus, which together kill 1.5 million children every year. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, was in Ghana only last month helping to celebrate the rollout of vaccines against both those diseases. Will the Government continue to respond to the GAVI Alliance’s appeals as new vaccines are developed, such as the two which have now been approved against HPV, the cause of cervical cancer that kills many hundreds of thousands of women every year?

The gracious Speech says that the Government will work to bring greater stability to the Horn of Africa, and the London Conference on Somalia in February was a great success, not least because it allowed for independent participation by Somaliland, which is already de facto a stable and democratic state with which I am glad to say the UK has close relations. I understand why the Government are not going to be the first to recognise Somaliland’s independence, but can we not encourage moves within IGAD and the AU towards regional and continental acceptance of Somaliland’s right of self-determination? I also welcome the EU’s helicopter operations against pirates, which have been mentioned, and I hope that now we have these assets off the coast of Somalia, we might consider, with the EU, also helping AMISOM, which has no helicopters, in the operation that I hope will take place to occupy Kismayo and deny that port to al-Shabaab.

I was glad to hear the Minister say that we will uphold human rights and religious freedom. With Pakistan’s universal periodic review coming up soon, I hope the Government will be taking a robust line on the failure to protect minorities in that country. The blasphemy laws bear harshly on Ahmadiyya Muslims. They are denied the right to vote, and the law brands them as non-Muslims. In the armed forces, or if they apply for a post at a university or in the civil service, they suffer discrimination, and there is a glass ceiling above which they will not get promotion, whatever their merits. Worse, there is a chorus of hate speech against Ahmadis from Salafist mosques and madrassahs, and from a perfectly lawful organisation, the Khatm-e-Nubuwwat. Regularly, members of the community are assassinated in cold blood or are arrested on trumped-up charges and gratuitously tortured and Ahmadi mosques are destroyed by terrorists. My noble friend says that we make frequent representations to Pakistan, but this does not work because the situation of Ahmadis and other religious minorities gets worse every year. Can we not consider more effective methods of bringing home to Pakistan and, for that matter, to Indonesia and other Islamic states, that religious pluralism and freedom are mandatory, not optional extras to other human rights?

Bangladesh has not been infected so badly with the virus of Salafism although it has periodic outbreaks of persecution. As co-chair of the Chittagong Hill

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Tracts Commission, I am particularly concerned with the failure to implement the CHT peace accords of 1997 in accordance with the pledge in the Awami League manifesto, which has been repeated several times since the election by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The military remain present in the CHT in force, land grabs by settlers against indigenous people continue and violence against indigenous people is perpetrated with impunity. What can we and the European Union do to help Sheikh Hasina solve these problems, and particularly to sort out the dysfunctional land commission?

In Bahrain, after 15 months of bloodshed, torture, extrajudicial executions, and arbitrary detention of human rights activists, there is no sign of an Arab spring. The four leading human rights activists in the country are in custody, two of them awaiting retrial before a civilian court having already been tried before a military court and held, pending that trail, incommunicado for weeks and finally sentenced to life imprisonment. Yet Ministers were content to let the Formula 1 race go ahead amid the misery and mayhem. Worse, they advised Her Majesty the Queen to invite King Hamad, the hereditary dictator, to come here for the Jubilee celebrations. I realise that diplomatic requirements have compelled Her Majesty to meet some gross human rights violators over the 60 years of her reign, but is it not nauseating that in this Jubilee year she will have to shake the hand that is stained with the blood of dozens of the regime's victims? Let it be clear to those who believe in human rights and democracy that King Hamad is not welcome at the Jubilee celebrations.

Finally, on the Chagos Islands, the European court will soon declare on the admissibility of the islanders’ claim for the right of return to the outer islands. The Foreign Secretary was in favour of a “just and fair settlement” when he was in opposition, but now he says that the FCO’s policy is not to be changed until after the Strasbourg court gives its decision. Meanwhile, the judgment is expected imminently in the judicial review proceedings against the Foreign Office in regard to the marine protected area. Colin Roberts, then FCO director of overseas territories, told US embassy political counsellor Richard Mills on 12 May 2009 that,

“establishing a marine park would, in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents”.

According to the Government’s thinking on the reserve, as Mr Roberts put it,

“there would be ‘no .. Man Fridays’ on the BIOT’s uninhabited islands”.

This was the real reason for creating the MPA. I ask my noble friend whether the FCO’s position can be reviewed now that its motive has been exposed and whether it will now reconsider settling out of court rather than persisting with expensive trials on which it has already spent over £3 million—not counting the cost of the Civil Service and Treasury solicitors—in which its chances of success must be reduced?

4.27 pm

Baroness Cox: My Lords, I will focus on recent developments in Sudan and South Sudan and in Burma. I return to the former having already raised it in Oral

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Questions today because a humanitarian catastrophe is imminent, the statistics should be compelling and the need for a response is so urgent.

First, in Sudan, half a million people are displaced from Abyei, the Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile by Khartoum’s ground and aerial offensives, with many sheltering in caves with deadly snakes or in forests, many dying from hunger as they cannot harvest crops and many killed and injured by bombs. In Blue Nile, on 11 May, Sudan Armed Forces—SAF—bombed a mountainous area crowded with internally displaced people near Baw with missiles fired from east and west of the county. Last week, over 3,000 IDPs fled from south-west Baw county and were trapped at the border without transport or food. More than 240 IDPs had already died in the first week of May, including Chief Haj Jabir Dafalla and his family. Many more lives will soon be lost unless humanitarian assistance reaches the area within days, but the Khartoum Government have denied access by aid organisations to those in need.

Secondly, 250,000 refugees have been forced to flee into South Sudan by Khartoum’s offensives. I recently visited Yida camp, where there are now at least 30,000 refugees, with 700 arriving in a single day, many ill, having walked for seven days without adequate food or water. With the imminent rainy season, there will be no access for food supplies. In Jamam camp, with nearly 37,000 refugees from Blue Nile, Oxfam’s director of emergency response calls the situation desperate, saying:

“There is simply not enough water and we are running out of options and we are running out of time”.

We have also met refugees from Abyei who fled last year’s fighting. Khartoum’s forces have defied a UN Security Council requirement to withdraw, thereby preventing people from returning home for fear of atrocities perpetrated by SAF last year, including murder, rape and torture. We visited camps in Bahr el Ghazal without clean water, food or other essential supplies.

Thirdly, tens of thousands of people are suffering from al-Bashir’s commitment to turn Sudan into an Arabic, Islamic state and to evict those deemed “southerners”. The BBC estimates that there are more than 500,000 ethnic South Sudanese in the north. Following an 8 April deadline from Khartoum to formalise their status or leave the country, many fled to South Sudan. Some 15,000 were stranded in Kosti, unable to take boats to South Sudan because of restrictions from Khartoum. They are now being airlifted to Juba, to an unknown fate. Others who have previously fled include thousands in camps near Renk. When we visited them last month, they were living in makeshift shelters, which will never withstand the imminent rains.

Fourthly, Khartoum is also bombing targets across the border in South Sudan. On 23 April, while we were still there, two MiGs bombed a market in Bentiu. On 7 and 8 May, locations in Unity, Upper Nile, and Northern Bahr el Ghazal states were bombed.

When independence was achieved in South Sudan, the war had left a dire humanitarian situation. Now this new nation also has to cope with the massive influx of refugees and forced returnees and the aerial bombardment of people by its northern neighbour. I ask the Minister whether a more robust response to

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Khartoum’s aerial bombardment is not now needed, such as targeted sanctions, including, for example, the refusal of diplomatic visas to government members. At the moment, they are carrying on their policies with impunity.

Too often there is a response that implies moral equivalence between the policies of the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan. There is no such equivalence. As my noble friend Lord Alton has highlighted, Sudan’s President is indicted by the ICC. He has dismissed the elected governor of South Kordofan and replaced him with another ICC-indicted war criminal. As has been highlighted time and again, he is also carrying out constant aerial bombardment of civilians in his own country and transgressing an international border to bomb civilians in South Sudan. He is pursuing a ruthless racist policy of intimidation, with the expulsion of citizens deemed to be “southerners”.

In contrast, the Government of South Sudan have many problems and inevitable weaknesses but they are not guilty of any such abhorrent policies. South Sudan was fiercely criticised for taking the town of Heglig. However, it was being used by Khartoum as a base for attacks on the South. President Salva Kiir has withdrawn his troops, unlike Khartoum, which has refused to withdraw its troops from Abyei. South Sudan has also been criticised for closing the oil pipeline, but this can be seen as a desperate response to Khartoum’s imposition of extortionate prices. This morning the Minister confirmed that DfID has withdrawn or reduced its development aid for South Sudan in response to the closure of the pipeline. Will the Government rethink this harsh policy? The humanitarian needs of South Sudan are legion and have been detailed in previous debates, so I will not repeat them. However, it cannot be acceptable for DfID to reduce development aid to a nation that is trying, albeit with many problems and fallibilities, to develop democracy and civil society in face of massive challenges, many inflicted by its northern neighbour with impunity.

I turn briefly to Burma, and especially to the plight of ethnic nationals, whom I have visited twice this year. There is much to commend and celebrate in today’s Burma, including the freedom and political engagement of the heroic Aung San Suu Kyi and the release of hundreds of political prisoners. However, the plight of ethnic national peoples, such as the Shan, Kachin and Rohingya, is still cause for great concern. We were in Shan state when the brief ceasefire was broken by intense fighting, and Kachin state is experiencing some of the most intense conflict and violations of human rights in Burma’s recent history. The oppression of the Rohingya people remains as brutal as ever.

Deep concern was graphically expressed by one of the leaders of Shan state, who said that when the light went on in Rangoon, everyone ran to the spotlight and did not wait to see them hiding in the darkness. The ethnic national peoples fear that, as the Burmese Government gain credibility, the country will be open to massive aid and investment, which may be used to exploit further the ethnic national people’s resource-rich lands. For example, the plans for 25 new dams could force tens of thousands from their previous homes with no compensation and destroy the environment.

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Many voices express caution about premature optimism and lifting of sanctions—rightly so.

Therefore, I ask the Minister whether the Government will reassure the ethnic national peoples that they will be fully included in all discussions about the future of Burma, so that they no longer feel marginalised, vulnerable to exploitation and left in the darkness. Only then will we all be able to celebrate with genuine joy and integrity the new-found freedoms of the beautiful, but in many places still tragic, land of Burma.

4.34 pm

Lord Flight: My Lords, towards the end of the gracious Speech there are the somewhat opaque words:

“My Government will build strategic partnerships with the emerging powers”.

I would have liked that to refer specifically to our friends in the Commonwealth, but I was very heartened by what the noble Lord, Lord Howell, had to say in his excellent opening speech. To me it is particularly relevant in the face of the likely impending break-up of the eurozone and the impact that that is likely to have on European economies and our relations. The immediate and most important foreign affairs issue is what is happening on the continent. There is the obvious fight to the death between economic and market forces and political commitment, where the lessons of history tell us that major economic forces tend to prevail. There is the obvious point that many have made before—that for disparate economies to share a currency is extremely difficult at the best of times. Indeed, I was surprised to see an article arguing that the Commonwealth was likely to be a more successful group of economies to share a currency than the EU countries.

Everyone knows that if you are going to share a currency you have to have transfer payments from the more successful to the less successful. It boils down to whether Germany is willing to make the necessary transfer payments on a regular basis to the uncompetitive economies, which would amount to some 35% per annum of German GDP. That seems pretty unlikely. We live at present with the likely impending default and exit from the euro of Greece. I expect that a firewall will probably prevail in the near term to protect Spain, Portugal and Italy, but that does not address the fundamental problem of lack of competitiveness. These economies cannot recover and grow, and they cannot put their public finances right, if they are 35% uncompetitive against the successful parts of Europe. The issue is whether the break-up will be chaotic or orderly. We all hope that it will be orderly but, whatever, there would be economic pain in the short term, although once the necessary devaluations have occurred and these currencies are competitive again, do not understate their ability to bounce back within two or three years.

What British foreign policy needs to focus on right now is what our attitude is towards the EU in the wake of these likely events. What will be happening is centrifugal forces. The nation states of Europe with their own currencies and central banks returned will need to follow economic policies appropriate to their circumstances. Some may even need to impose capital controls. The EU, which has been centralising for 40 years

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and trying to move towards a single political unit, is suddenly going to be pulled in the other direction. What is our view towards this? What would be our view if there were an attempt to leap towards political union? I very much doubt it, but that obviously could be one reaction.

What the UK has always wanted to see is an area of free trade and co-operation, achieving consensus, not enforcing policies but moulding more and more European co-operation together over time—but naturally and not coming by command from the centre. It will also need a much cheaper EU. I checked with the Treasury, because I could not believe a report in the newspapers that in 2013-14 Britain’s net contributions to the EU would be £31.3 billion. The Treasury confirmed that figure to me. I thought that it was still only £12 billion or £13 billion. It is not a sum of money that this country can afford. But, more than that, I cannot see that Italy and Spain, the countries that are going to be experiencing problems with the euro, will be willing to make large financial contributions to a massive EU structure. We may not necessarily say it in public, but this country needs to think about the political implications of the euro imploding and what policies it will adopt in that event.

For some time the EU clearly has not been the engine of growth that people thought it would be when we first applied to join it way back in the 1960s and 1970s. It has turned out to be a relatively failed economic region. I go back to where I started. We need quickly to develop effective commercial and investment relations with the emerging BRIC economies, in particular with the Commonwealth economies. As I have pointed out before, my particular plea is for a much closer relationship between this country and India—politically, economically and potentially even defence-wise. The University of Cambridge will tell you that the only two countries that matter in terms of our universities and their quality of students are America and India. The Prime Minister of India has virtually indicated that he would like to see a special relationship being established for top postgraduate students coming to this country, which would enable a lot of the hassle of the visa process to be handled in a friendlier fashion.

I can think of other areas where there is considerable scope for special relationships between this country and India. We are all aware that certain problems need to be resolved but I do not think that they are insoluble. The Indian community is a successful and dynamic part of this country and there is a great deal of sympathy between the people of India and the people of Britain. It is time to galvanise that while not ignoring the other members of the Commonwealth. Important things are going on in Africa and in the older members of the Commonwealth, particularly Canada, where there is much scope for this country to find commercial partners.

There is a nice commitment in the gracious Speech. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Green, is travelling the world doing his best to generate trade deals on the ground, but more needs to be done in terms of political initiatives. We need to face up to the fact that the Europe that will emerge on the back of what is likely to happen to the euro will not be a great economic engine for this country.

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4.42 pm

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Wood of Anfield on taking up his new responsibilities, on which he made a very distinguished “maiden speech”. I sincerely hope that we will hear more from him in the future, as our debates will be enriched by his contributions.

I wish to tackle only two issues, one of which I have not talked about before in your Lordships’ House. International terrorism constitutes a threat to all of us. It is a threat to Shi’ites, Muslims, Pakistanis, Arabs, Mr Putin and to every civilised country. So far as I know, outside South America it has spread almost everywhere. However, I am concerned that up to now I have seen no concerted attempt on the part of international Governments to take on this threat. We spend a huge amount of money on physical protection at our airports and that sort of thing and on making sure that we can deal with any suicide terrorists—it is the suicide terrorists that I am talking about—before they detonate their weapons, but we do nothing to prevent their being poisoned into believing that suicide terrorist acts are worthy things to do. These terrorists are not just indifferent to death; they actually welcome it because they are taught to do so by some very evil men. I do not for a moment think—I am sure that neither do your Lordships—that all mullahs are tainted in this way but quite a lot of them are. It is high time that we organised the international community to tackle this issue. I hope that this Government will take a lead in letting the world know precisely who are the mullahs responsible for indoctrinating young men and women into the belief that suicide terrorism is an admirable thing that will produce material rewards for them and their families. It is up to us as an international community to try to silence them by whatever means necessary—I would not be too squeamish about that myself—and I do not see any sign of it. We should also make sure that the message they put out is countered by the whole international civilised community.

The other matter that I want briefly to talk about is aeroplanes—the C-17—which should not surprise those noble Lords who have heard me speak before on defence matters. A couple of days ago, the Minister teased me, quite fairly, about the A400M. I am quite happy to be teased by him about that, but he should do so on the right grounds. I have no objection whatever to the A400M in terms of its capability; I am just absolutely convinced that it is not the plane that this country needs and, much worse, if we have it, we will lose the C-130 and our interoperability over a whole range of air transport capabilities, as he knows.

More importantly, I want to draw your Lordships’ attention to the fact that the C-17 is a remarkably capable aircraft that is now being run by Australia, Canada, India and this country—to say nothing of the United States. It is a remarkable plane, in that it has an excellent short-field capability and can get into airports that are quite inaccessible in mountain areas. It has a very good turning capability on the ground, and is also good at handling non-tarmac runways. All in all, it is a piece of kit that would go down extremely well in international aid missions.

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I have said privately to Ministers in the past—and I am now saying it publicly—that they should talk to our Commonwealth friends to see if we can get a group together, consisting of all the countries I mentioned that fly the C-17, including Australia, India, ourselves and Canada. It is admirably available for dealing with natural catastrophes, and we are shortly about to acquire our eighth C-17. I think the last one is being delivered in response to what the noble Lord, Lord King, talked about earlier, regarding whether or not we would be able to get all the kit that we want out of Afghanistan. I am delighted that we are acquiring the plane for that. If we get the kit out by C-17, there is nothing that the Pakistanis could do about it, even if they wanted to. That is a wholly admirable development.

I suggest that the Minister holds talks with the countries that I have named. Although I have not counted them, they cover many degrees of longitude on this planet and, for that matter—with Australia in the southern hemisphere—many degrees of latitude. That is the footprint of where these planes are based. Not only are they enormously valuable in themselves, they are extremely well placed to run international aid missions after catastrophes. I very much hope that the Minister can tell the House that he would be prepared to talk to his colleagues in other Commonwealth countries to see if we can set up a proper group based on the C-17 to engage in that sort of activity.

4.48 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, one consequence of the extraordinarily long opening Session of this Parliament, which has just ended, is that this is, in fact, the first opportunity that we have had to debate the coalition Government’s performance and foreign policy priorities. If I had to sum up that performance in one phrase, I would be a little tempted to turn to Winston Churchill’s lapidary comment:

“This pudding has no theme”.

In so doing I am not, I hope, falling into the error of suggesting that one can draw up a blueprint for foreign policy and simply apply it, come what may. But the lack of strategic objectives in the main areas of Britain’s foreign policy and the absence of a clear public narrative are becoming increasingly apparent, and increasingly a source of weakness and waning influence. Too often, the Government seem to be following Lord Salisbury’s description of Britain’s foreign policy as floating down a broad river, occasionally fending off the banks. Well, that policy ended in far from splendid isolation at the time of the Boer War, and 21st-century Britain can even less afford to be isolated than it could then.

Nowhere has that sense of drift been more apparent than in the handling of Britain’s vital relationship with the European Union. Last December, whether by bad luck or bad judgment—and I suspect that it was a combination of the two—we stumbled into a completely unnecessary confrontation with all but one of our 26 partners. It was never going to be easy to handle the European dimension of the great world financial and economic crisis that began in 2008, with some countries within the eurozone and some countries outside it but all depending crucially for their future prosperity on

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achieving the right policy mix, but it cannot be said that any of the parties to it, including ourselves, have so far emerged with a lot of credit.

Now a new phase is opening with much churn in European politics, and a major debate is beginning over how to put a proper emphasis on growth while still moving decisively towards a sound and sustainable fiscal balance. It is surely vital that Britain plays a full and constructive part in that debate and that it is a full party to any growth strategy, which should be composed of structural reforms, further development of the single market and well targeted use of European financial instruments. In that way, too, some of the damage done last December could be repaired. I hope that the Minister replying to this debate can assure the House that that—a full British involvement in and contribution to the discussion and agreement on the growth strategy—is the role that Britain intends to play in the extremely important weeks ahead of us.

However, the problems over the Government’s European policy go far wider than the eurozone crisis. There is simply a complete lack of an overall sense of direction to it. There is no articulation of the sort of European Union that we would like to see set out in terms that would appeal to other member states which attach a similar insistence and importance to the completion of the single market, to further enlargement, to freer and fairer world trade, and to a European Union able to play an effective role in the diplomacy and security of its own region and more widely.

A vision composed exclusively of red lines, no-go areas and referendum locks is going to appeal to no one—not even, I suspect, to our own electorate. This is surely a moment when, with a new French President in office, we should be thinking about what more we can do to strengthen Anglo-French defence co-operation and how we can use that to strengthen overall European performance in a field where the policies of austerity require us to do more together or, alternatively, to see ourselves sliding into irrelevance. That was the clear message of the report of your Lordships’ EU Select Committee, recently distributed.

Looking beyond Europe and its immediate neighbourhood, I cannot say that the picture there is entirely encouraging either. Some brave and successful decisions have been made by the Government—for example, over Libya. Policy towards the ferment in the rest of the Arab world, including towards Syria, where no easy choices exist, seems to be on the right track, although a long and probably painful route remains to be travelled. The twin-track policy towards Iran, pushing active diplomacy while strengthening economic sanctions, is the only one with the slightest prospect of avoiding much worse outcomes. However, in this wider field, too, a lack of strategic vision—a tendency to regard pragmatism as an end in itself and not a method—does seem prevalent.

Such indications as the Government have given about the governing principles of their foreign policy seem to be either a little naive or contradictory. Take the often-repeated mantra that we live in a “network world”. What on earth is that meant to signify? Is it simply a blinding glimpse of the obvious reflecting the communications revolution through which we are living

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which reinforces the concepts of interdependence and globalisation? Or is it a faint echo of something that I first came across nearly 40 years ago in Chairman Mao’s Beijing, where the government hotel’s lobby was adorned with the slogan, “We have friends all over the world”? Take, too, the frequently repeated phrase, “We no longer live in a world of blocs”. Really? Britain’s ultimate security rests today, as it has done for more than 60 years, on NATO, which is certainly a bloc; and its prosperity depends to a great extent on the European Union, which is another bloc. We also look to a number of regional blocs—the African Union, the Arab League and ASEAN—to share the burden of international security, so what on earth does that phrase signify? I suppose it is just another dog whistle to the Eurosceptics on the government Back Benches.

There is then the Government’s claim to have reinvented bilateral diplomacy. I warmly welcome and commend the extension of our bilateral diplomatic network which is being achieved, despite the pinch of austerity. But bilateral diplomacy and multilateral diplomacy are not an either/or choice for a middle-ranking power with worldwide interests like Britain. They are a both/and necessity.

I urge the Government to put rather more emphasis on the need to strengthen the great multilateral institutions on which we depend for our security and prosperity. Here I join with what the noble Lord, Lord Wood, said. Every one of them—the UN, NATO, IMF, WTO— sails through troubled waters; every one of them needs reform and needs to adapt if it is to operate successfully in the emerging multipolar world. Yet the Government’s response—indeed, in some cases, the Opposition’s response—to the IMF’s recent call for increased resources was pusillanimously feeble. Surely it is in Britain’s interest that these rules-based organisations should be sustained against the increasingly shrill calls to turn back the tide of globalisation and to revert to protectionist and isolationist policies. Surely on that ground there is a cause that the coalition Government should make their own and where they should give a lead.

4.57 pm

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead: My Lords, I think we can all agree that we have had a very interesting, wide-ranging and excellent debate across a whole range of foreign policy, defence and international aid issues. I strongly support the analysis by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, of Africa, the BRICs, South Sudan and other concerns of this House. As always, the Minister showed commitment to working to build global peace and security.

As other noble Lords have done, I pay tribute to the excellent presentation made by my noble friend Lord Wood, who gave us a compelling overview on a range of issues of concern to noble Lords. His strong and realistic analysis of the UK’s current relationship with the European Union was timely and very interesting for many of us to hear. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, my noble friend Lord Wood and other noble Lords mentioned Afghanistan, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge. I trust that we will hear more from the Government today about the need to ensure that

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women’s voices are heard and that they are invited to join the deliberations on Afghanistan post-2014. Women in Afghanistan tell us all the time that they fear for the future and they fear that they will lose what has been achieved for women in Afghanistan, which includes women parliamentarians, some of whom visited this building this week.

A number of noble Lords raised the issue of hunger and famine in the Sahel. Urgent action needs to be taken to tackle hunger; 170 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition, which leads to physical and intellectual stunting. The noble Lord, Lord King, raised these issues. There is no shortage of food; it is a realistic ambition to feed the world.

A number of noble Lords eloquently—the word was used in particular about my noble friend Lady Blackstone—drew attention to the problems of the Palestinians, and to the wider problems in that region. The overriding message we took from those noble Lords was that peace was about securing justice. I pay tribute, too, to the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, who correctly drew attention to the need for the commitments at Busan to be honoured, and to the fact that effective monitoring was essential. As he knows, I particularly support his point about the need to do more to support parliaments in developing countries, because they are responsible for holding Governments to account and scrutinising budgets. Those important tasks fall within their remit.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, again revealed his strong and informed commitment to international development, as did the noble Lords, Lord Jay, Lord Sheikh, Lord Rana and several other noble Lords. My noble friend Lord Judd shared with noble Lords his usual insights and magnificently made the case for solidarity with the world’s poor. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, drew attention to the suffering of the people of Sudan and South Sudan, and the violence and aerial bombardment that they are suffering. As the noble Baroness said, it is a humanitarian catastrophe. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned the issue of the oil pipeline that I raised today at Question Time. Noble Lords should understand that there may be a problem with what has happened, but it is not acceptable that the poor people of South Sudan are penalised for the actions of their Government, which is absolutely the case. To withdraw long-term development assistance in education and health and to fail to meet the other needs of South Sudan would be untenable.

The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, was, albeit briefly, liberated from the naughty step. We were very thankful that she was and that she found a microphone and gave us again the benefit of hearing her, especially on the need for the world’s women to have the status and respect that they need and deserve.

I will confine my remarks to international development. The reality is that we are living in an age of unprecedented human development. We celebrate the fact that millions of people have a better, more fulfilling and healthier life than their parents did. On every continent, including Africa, precious children’s lives have been saved. More are surviving infancy and, as the noble Lord, Lord

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Avebury, said, more are being vaccinated against deadly diseases. More are going to school, and real progress is being made on child well-being generally, as UNICEF and Save the Children confirm. Children have so much more than their parents had. Even in Congo, Haiti and Burma, infant mortality rates are lower than they were in any country at the beginning of the last century. Those are the conclusive facts.

Those who claim that aid does not work should try telling that to mothers of children in Africa who sleep safely under antimalarial bed nets provided directly by aid—to take just one of countless examples. Every day, 485 children are saved by these nets, which are paid for with aid. That is the equivalent of 80 primary school classes a week. With those realities in mind, the argument has to be that we should do more and do better so that we succeed in underpinning what we all ultimately seek: shared prosperity and security.

The tendency has been for there to be too much focus on income levels rather than on key indicators such as health, education and the general provision of basic services. Of course we should recognise that progress has been patchy, but we must also assert that Congo and Zimbabwe are not actually the norms. That is why aid works. These “aid works” arguments must be made and we must emphasise that people’s lives are longer and better because aid enabled them to have access to income, education, social protection and better government.

On that last point, we have proof. The recent advances in Brazil, for instance, show that growth with redistribution can act as a powerful force for greater access to equity within countries. That is obviously in everyone’s interest. We know that new forms of organised violence and conflict thrive on inequalities. I want to hear the whole Government and not just DfID civil servants referring much more to the need to combat inequality within and between countries. That is especially important when people here and abroad face such terrible shocks and crises. The well-off and the elites are of course better able to weather the storm. It was ever thus.

The UK has for many years been recognised as one of the world’s most effective donors and has pushed concerns about action against poverty up the international agenda. That has rightly brought with it substantial diplomatic benefits to the UK. The international commitments that we have had for many years have, we know, brought to the UK prestige, trust and respect. That again means that it makes sense to continue to promote fairness, social justice and moral responsibility to retain our country’s reputation for practical fairness and international responsibility. It is essential to our efforts to define what Britain stands for and what Britain wants to improve—whether trade, information, protection against and prevention of security threats, including terrorism, organised crime, climate change, pandemics and the instability that affects us all when there is violent conflict.

Development also gives us a chance to tackle some of the knock-on effects of globalisation and the implications for all of us of state fragility that generates so many perils for all of us. We have to ask ourselves how we can not continue to push international development and poverty up the international agenda

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when it is an integral part of the UK’s overall global priorities and foreign and security policies.

At this time, most poor countries are not on target to meet their MDGs, and that must remain at the top of the UK agenda. Now the Prime Minister has a critical opportunity at the G8 and in his new role chairing the UN committee to show that he can offer real leadership by a UK Government such as we saw at the Gleneagles G8 summit in 2005. That is sorely needed now, at the G8 next year and of course as other noble Lords said at the UK-hosted G8 next year. In many ways, we are awaiting confirmation of the vital aid/GNI credential, but also a clear determination to actively leverage real change.

I said earlier that aid works and the clear evidence is that quality aid has substantially reduced aid dependency. One argument that people make against aid is that it creates aid dependency, but dependency has fallen from 47% to 27% in Ghana, for example, and from 85% in 2000 to 45% in 2010 in Rwanda. That is evidence of real transformation, and many Governments are now in the driving seat, pressing for fairer agricultural trade, combating tax evasion and climate change, promoting technology transfer, regional integration and managing migration. Those are their priorities and they are pressing them.

However, we still have work to do to justify 0.7% and the ring-fencing of development aid in the context of the so-called fiscal crisis. We have to tell the good news story, which is true and encouraging, and also point out that, after all, UK aid currently accounts for about 1p in every £1 of tax revenue. Frankly, it is nonsense to say that we cannot afford it when so much is achieved by it. Aid works and it is the smart thing to do.

The 0.7% target is arbitrary in that it is linked to specific MDG financing plans, but I would argue that the same could be said of any other area of public spending. However, we must never let up on the task of winning over public opinion and explaining how aid fits in to the wider vision of equity and fairness. Will the Government now frame a public dialogue on what aid has done and is doing and what the challenges are? It really is time for an informed debate on these issues.

It was a considerable disappointment to many of us that the gracious Speech did not contain a reference to legislation for 0.7% at any specific time. At the previous election, the Conservative manifesto said:

“We will legislate in the first session of a new Parliament to lock in this level of spending for every year from 2013”.

That was subsequently included in the text of the coalition agreement in 2010, which said:

“We will honour our commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid from 2013, and enshrine this commitment in law”.

Those undertakings were emphatic and explicit. However, two weeks ago I was told by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, that the commitment would be legislated for only “when time allows”. In addition, she said that time could not be found in the last parliamentary Session because of the time that had to be given to what she described as

“reforms to tackle the fiscal deficit”.

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I must say that I found that explanation rather unconvincing when the 2010-12 Parliament was actually the longest in post-war history. This Session really should be no such impediment to progress on the 0.7% Bill, and the Government must urgently seek to redeem themselves first and foremost by guaranteeing that the target is reached in 2013 and, secondly, by ensuring that legislation giving legal force to that commitment is enacted in this parliamentary year.

Let us be clear: the Bill exists. It has already had pre-legislative scrutiny from the Commons International Development Committee. It is not complex. It has a few clauses. It is short. There is agreement between the coalition parties, and they know that Labour will co-operate fully in legislation, so why do we not just get on with it?

Of course, I have heard the Government claim that the intention to reach the 0.7% figure is so strong that legislation is not really necessary. My response to that claim is to ask: if legislation is not necessary, why bother to promise it in the first place? Why was it vital to “lock in” the commitment? Why was it essential “in the first session” to “enshrine” the undertaking? The answer, as everyone knows, is that specifying the 0.7% in statute is a solemn undertaking, an expression of multiparty irreversible seriousness, and that is what we are looking for. It is as vital now as it was on the day we started to demand it. The reasons for that are clear and compelling, as noble Lords have said.

Let us stop swapping contradictory numbers, peddling gloomy aid pessimism and exchanging negative anecdotal information about aid. Like most things, aid is clearly not an unmitigated triumph, but there are remarkable successes and real progress, as we have heard, and much more prominence should be given to the plain truth. We welcome the Government’s commitment to wanting to reach the 0.7% target. Now the paramount need is to see that that commitment is fulfilled, as promised, in 2013. As we work for that, we need to ensure that the guarantee that it will be sustained in real terms is given statutory force.

Not long ago, Andrew Mitchell said:

“On the whole, politicians should do what they say they are going to do”,

and he confirmed that legislation would take the 0.7% commitment beyond doubt. I agree with him, so let us do it.

5.15 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to close this debate on Her Majesty’s gracious Speech. The many issues raised today are a powerful reminder of the dangerous and uncertain world that we live in, as my noble friend Lord King pointed out. We are lucky to have men and women of calibre and commitment across the FCO, DfID, MoD and the agencies working tirelessly on our behalf. It is worth remembering that many of them are working in difficult and sometimes dangerous environments. We are grateful to and proud of them.

I pay tribute in particular to our Armed Forces. We ask a lot of them and they always deliver. Their professionalism and courage are inspirational, and we

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owe them and their families a tremendous debt of gratitude. It is a job which often carries many risks, as we know from our current operations in Afghanistan.

Earlier in the debate my noble friend Lord Howell said that we have a foreign policy with two clear aims—to respond to urgent challenges and crises in ways that promote Britain’s national interest and our democratic values, including human rights, poverty reduction and conflict prevention; and to equip our country to be a safe, prosperous and influential nation in the long term. We will continue to honour our commitment to the world’s poorest people, and we will enshrine that historic commitment in legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Tackling poverty is not only the right thing to do but is in the interests of Britain’s own security. If we do not invest in countries before they become broken, we end up paying the price in terms of terrorism, crime, mass migration and piracy. That is why the Secretary of State for International Development has a seat on the National Security Council and why the Government’s Building Stability Overseas Strategy recognises the crucial interplay between defence, diplomacy and development.

It is the role of defence to support this effort as we look to the future. Indeed, defence diplomacy is now a central pillar of our defence effort, and is important particularly when it comes to maintaining support for operations as well as upstream conflict prevention. Defence diplomacy is also an important part of my ministerial portfolio, in particular my membership of the cross-Whitehall Gulf Initiative ministerial team, led by the FCO. I am grateful to those noble Lords from all sides of the House who have given me the benefit of their advice and knowledge of this region which is of such strategic importance to this country.

Defence has a clear mission: to protect this country, project power and provide the ultimate guarantee of its security, as well as helping to protect our interests abroad. For the first time in decades, we have a balanced defence budget. We can now get on with the important job of transforming defence and building the Armed Forces of the future. We are, and expect to continue to be, in the top four military spenders in the world. Our intent for Future Force 2020 is clear: the development of versatile, agile and battle-winning Armed Forces supported by a professional Ministry of Defence, with people ready to lead, accept responsibility and spend wisely. We need the right equipment, support and force structures to deliver military success on operations whether that be overseas or here at home, where we are always in readiness to support civil contingency work, as demonstrated by our recent preparations in training military personnel to replace striking fuel tanker drivers. Of course, this summer our Armed Forces will support the security effort for the Olympic Games. That is a sizeable undertaking, involving around 13,500 service personnel at the height of the Games.

Our main effort will remain focused on Afghanistan. We are now in the final phases of our military mission there. International forces are gradually handing over security responsibility to the Afghans, who will have full responsibility in all provinces by the end of 2014.

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The last of the three districts in the UK’s area of operations, Nahr-e Saraj, has now entered the transition process. This is testament to the increasing capability of the Afghan national security forces and to the impressive work of the British and allied troops who have trained and partnered them. Of course, Nahr-e Saraj remains a challenging area and the ANSF, supported by us and our international partners, will continue to face difficult and challenging days ahead. Yet we should not allow that to cloud the real and tangible progress that has been made and which will now continue under an Afghan security lead. The UK will be out of a combat role by 2014, but we will continue to support Afghanistan. We will provide £70 million a year to help support ongoing development of the Afghan national security forces. We will also take the lead in the setting up and running of the Afghan national army officer academy. As the Prime Minister has stated, our goal will be to leave,

“Afghanistan looking after its own security, not being a haven for terror, without the involvement of foreign troops”.

I will do my best to answer all the specific questions and issues raised during the debate, but I am in no doubt that I will run out of time. I will undertake to write to all noble Lords who asked me questions.

The noble Lord, Lord Wood, seemed gloriously unaware of what we are doing in NATO, the Commonwealth, the United Nations and rows of other international bodies. I will try to answer his questions. The first was whether the eurozone should survive or break up. As the Chancellor said, resolving the eurozone crisis would be the single biggest boost that the British economy could get this year. It is in our national interest that there is a coherent, comprehensive and lasting solution. The noble Lord also asked about Palestine and the UN. We see negotiations as the best way of achieving the two-state solution. We reserve the right to recognise the Palestinian state bilaterally, at the moment of our choosing and when it can best help bring about peace.

The noble Lord asked if the Government are seeking a ban on protection and indemnity insurance in relation to Iran. We are committed to the dual-track approach of engagement and increasing the pressure on Iran through far-reaching sanctions. We strongly support the unprecedented package of EU Iran sanctions that were agreed earlier this year. The EU is taking time to review aspects of the protection and indemnity insurance ban before 1 July to ensure that the pressure on Iran is maximised while avoiding any undesired impact elsewhere. We are in discussion with several other EU member states on this issue. On our agenda for the P5+1 talks in Baghdad on 23 May, which we look forward to, we now need agreement on urgent, practical steps to build confidence that Iran will implement its international obligations and does not intend to build a nuclear weapon.

What are our priorities for the G8 and G20? We take over the presidency of the G8 on 1 January next year. We will say more about the priorities for our presidency nearer the time. The British Government are working closely with G20 partners to deliver a meaningful and successful summit in Los Cabos in June. It is fundamental that the G20 takes the necessary actions to address ongoing risks to the global economic

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recovery and secures strong, sustainable and balanced growth which supports employment and job creation.

The noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, mentioned the C17. In my department, we agree 100% with him. We have just ordered an extra C17 which, from memory, is coming in July. It is a wonderful aircraft and I will take back with me the noble Lord’s suggestion about approaching Commonwealth countries.

My noble friend Lady Falkner asked about Syria and whether we had considered withdrawing the passport of the President’s wife. She raises a valid point, and I will convey her concerns to my Home Office colleagues, who have responsibility in this matter. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, asked about support for African countries. Many of DfID’s 18 country programmes in Africa have a strong focus on supporting rural and small-scale agriculture. We are co-chairs and strong supporters of the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund governing council. We gave it £44 million between 2008 and 2011, which has helped about 1 million rural farmers in Africa.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield asked about the viability of a lasting peace in Afghanistan. We encourage all parties to take forward reconciliation, a process that must be Afghan-led. That includes members of the Taliban who are prepared to renounce violence, break ties with al-Qaeda and respect the Afghan constitution. He also asked about the covenant and how the challenge of looking after families and injured personnel will be met after combat operations in Afghanistan cease. Our commitment, in particular to those injured on operations, is for long-term operations. Just as their difficulties will not disappear at the end of 2014, neither will our support.

The right reverend Prelate also asked, if unrest in the Middle East persists, what contingency do we have to respond? We have a range of contingency plans for the Middle East and maintain forces at readiness to deal with and respond to contingencies, depending on the circumstances. I am sure that colleagues would not want me to go into too much detail on that issue.