My noble friend Lord Trimble has given a great account of the southern Irish divisions in the First World War, about which far too little has been known until recently. As he has told us, the 16th Division comprised overwhelmingly the five regiments which were going to be disbanded in 1922—the Royal Irish Regiment, the Leinster Regiment, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, the Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Connaught Rangers.

The Connaught Rangers had an interesting and exceptional battalion—the 6th Battalion—which was raised in west Belfast and, to a man, consisted of

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Redmond Catholics. They were commanded by an Anglo-Irishman, Colonel Lenox-Conyngham from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and the devotion they gave to him was immense. Indeed, he was killed at their head at the battle of Guillemont.

My noble friend also mentioned the significant battle of Messines. The order of battle reads like an imperial roll call. It consisted of the New Zealand Division, the 4th Australian Division and the 36th and 16th Divisions, about which he has spoken. The ironic thing about that battle is that it is regarded as one of the great tactical successes of the war. However, like so many of the others, it was sadly not exploited afterwards.

Following the end of the Great War, for the first 80 or so years after the formation of the Irish Republic—again, my noble friend has referred to this—the attitude of the state was to airbrush the Great War out of the national consciousness. The result was that many, mainly Catholic, families whose forebears had served in the war acquired a sense of guilt to the extent that their forebears were treated as skeletons in the cupboard and any connection with service in the British Army was not talked about. I have it on the authority of my honourable friend Conor Burns, the Member for Bournemouth West, who comes from a Catholic Belfast family, that his forebears—there were at least two—were never mentioned at all. Like many others, he is putting that right.

Of course, the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic has, over the past 10 years, been transformed, starting with the Good Friday agreement and followed by the invaluable work done by the two Presidents, Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese, leading to a visit by Her Majesty the Queen in 2011 and followed by the recent successful visit of President Higgins to London this year.

Very much under the initiative of the last two presidents, the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin has been restored; there has been a significant increase in tourism from the Republic of Ireland to the France and Flanders war cemeteries; and in the Republic there has been an awakening of interest in the history of the five disbanded regiments.

Going back to the 6th Connaught Rangers, I should have said that the British-Irish Parliamentary Group took evidence from the newly created 6th Connaught Rangers Regimental Association, which has been mirrored among the other five regiments. It is significant that President Higgins paid a visit to St George’s Chapel Windsor in the course of his visit here, where the colours of those regiments are laid up.

Your Lordships will be aware that the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, which meets annually in the Republic or the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, will in September this year be meeting at Ashford in Kent, from where an expedition by Eurostar will be made to the Flanders battlefields.

What were the motives of the Irishmen who enlisted in the British Army in 1914? These differed between the north and the south. In the north the motive was clear: it was a determination to remain under the British Crown. What inspired the many volunteers from the south of Ireland is less straightforward. For some it was, undoubtedly, the opportunity to get away

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from the poverty of many families at that time. However, there was the emotional spur—again this has been referred to by my noble friend—that the Irish nationalists under the leadership of John Redmond had secured the passage of the Irish Home Rule Bill of July 1914, which excluded the counties of Ulster at that time as the exact number was still to be determined. The Home Rule Bill was effectively suspended for the duration of the war but there is little doubt that many of the volunteers who joined the colours in 1914 were inspired by Redmond’s leadership and encouragement and the perception of what he had achieved for Ireland as they saw it. One might almost say that Redmond represented the Irish version of “Your Country Needs You”.

Be that as it may, in the Great War, 310,000 men from the island of Ireland served in the British Army, of whom some 35,000 died, and probably at least half of those came from the south. We from both sides of the Irish Sea can take pride that in this and coming years there will be many Irish soldiers, whose bodies lie in France and Flanders, whose graves will be visited by their families for the first time in nearly 100 years.

6.20 pm

Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Lab): My Lords, as many noble Lords have said in this very interesting debate, it is important that the events that will commemorate the centenary are just that: commemoration and not celebration. I am not aware of anyone who has suggested celebration, but of course victory was important. Indeed, it was vital, but it came at such a terrible cost. All the millions who died in that conflict can never be forgotten. Over and above those who died there was the ripple effect on the parents, wives, husbands and children who found it impossible to banish from their minds and their lives the loss they suffered when their loved ones either did not come back from the war or returned in such a state that there was no longer any prospect of what might be termed a normal life.

I am pleased to see that education has been placed at the heart of the Government’s commemorative programme over the next four years. I have a personal perspective on that because education was what drew me to the First World War as a school student at the time of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. The events then on the Western Front simply jumped out of the books and grabbed me, and I have to say that that grip has not been relinquished in the years since. As the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie, mentioned in her interesting and moving speech, my grandfather also refused to talk to me when I asked him about what had happened. He had been with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in the trenches on the Western Front, but he would not say a word about it. It was quite clear that he had locked and bolted away the memories inside his mind because they were just too awful for him to release. He lost many comrades in the conflict and yet, in a real sense, they never left him.

Over the years I have made many visits to the battlefields in France and Belgium, including those on which my grandfather fought, and it has often been difficult to suppress the emotion that those visits

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bring. I have asked myself, “What would I have done in that type of situation? How would I have coped? Indeed, would I have coped?”. Of course I cannot answer those questions, but in my attempts to understand what life as a soldier was like, I have read many first-hand accounts. I am pleased to see that many are now being reissued in time for the centenary, and I would highly recommend to noble Lords who have not yet done so to look at them in order to get a feel for what people had to go through in the awful circumstances of 100 years ago.

It was called the Great War at the time, but the conflict has long since become known as the First World War. I would say that it is also the case that it was notable for producing a considerable number of “firsts”. The most obvious may be the use of tanks, aeroplanes and submarines in combat, but there were several others. As the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, mentioned in his address, it was the first war involving Britain that had a citizens’ army. There was that initial rush of enthusiasm to volunteer, which saw 2 million men and boys join up. I use the term “boys” advisedly as thousands were accepted below the statutory minimum age of 18. Some, incredibly—but it has been proved—as young as 12 were accepted into the forces. Not unnaturally, the fearsome casualties suffered in the first two years saw that enthusiasm naturally evaporating, which led to the introduction by the Government for the first time of conscription. It was the result of the Military Service Act 1916, which at the time was debated at some length both in this Chamber and in another place.

I was glad to hear the Minister mention conscientious objectors in his opening remarks, because that Act also set out for the first time a legal basis for conscientious objection. That is not to say that conscientious objectors had not been accommodated before—Quakers were exempted from military service as long ago as the mid-18th century—but this was the first time they had been granted absolute exemption, provided they could convince a military service tribunal of their convictions. In total, some 16,000 were able to do so, and although many performed civilian service in various forms during the war, some did join the Army in non-combatant roles, including acting very bravely as stretcher-bearers at the front.

The war of 1914-18 was also the first in which there was a home front. Civilians became directly involved, and indeed even became casualties, within just four months of the war beginning when German battleships bombarded Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby on the north-east coast. It was the first time that Britain had been attacked since the Normans. There were also hundreds of civilian deaths, mainly in London, as a result of the bombings by Zeppelins, and these acts assisted in increasing the determination of people to see the war out until victory was achieved, whatever the cost.

For the first time, women were given roles in industry in occupations hitherto strictly reserved for men, such as in munitions and engineering. Few women retained those jobs in peacetime, but there was greater understanding and acceptance of women’s contribution

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to and place in society, and of course the first votes for women came in 1918, although it was 1928 before full enfranchisement was won.

I would also argue that the First World War was influential in shaping the perception of people in Britain of the meaning and role of society and their place within it. I have already mentioned the determination to ensure that the war was won, and that kind of solidarity and unity of action saw the development of a collectivist nature in many parts of the country, particularly the large conurbations. The main beneficiaries were the Labour Party and the trade unions, which both witnessed a surge in support and influence in the post-war period. As evidence of that, I would cite the 1910 general election, the last to be held before the outbreak of war, in which the Labour Party gained just 7% of the vote. In the 1918 election that percentage trebled. The party won just under 30% in 1922, and the following year it was in government, albeit in a minority. I doubt that the party’s advance over that decade and a half would have been as dramatic had the First World War not happened.

I am pleased that the commemorative events will begin with a church service at Glasgow Cathedral, the city which I had the honour of representing in both the other place and the Scottish Parliament. In July and August, Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games, and it is appropriate that with so many Commonwealth leaders in the city, they should be invited to join the opening of the Government’s programme. This will enable the inaugural event to highlight the invaluable contribution made by many Commonwealth countries to the war—a narrative that I would say has for far too long been restricted to the contribution of the predominantly white countries of what was the Empire and is now the Commonwealth. The extent to which many thousands of people from India, British East Africa, British West Africa and the Caribbean volunteered to assist in the war has already been highlighted in the debate. The word “volunteered” is important. There was no conscription for them. People from the Empire and the Dominions felt a commitment to defend the interests of what they saw as the mother country. I believe that we should never underestimate or, worse, underplay their contribution.

Finally, I want to say a word or two about how a bridge should be built within my country between the First World War and the present day. In Scotland, 26% of those who marched away to war did not return. In the rest of the UK—which included the whole of Ireland, as we heard in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman—it was something like 12%. I hope that as the constitutional future of Scotland is being vigorously discussed and will be voted on in under three months’ time, the great sacrifice made by the people of Scotland for the United Kingdom a century ago will be duly remembered.

6.27 pm

Lord Trefgarne (Con): My Lords, I beg leave to tell noble Lords about the contribution made by my late father to the conflict we are discussing today. He was born George Garro-Jones, the son of a minister in the

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Congregational church in South Wales, and joined the Denbighshire Yeomanry in 1913. It was a territorial battalion and could not serve in France, and therefore he transferred to 10th Battalion of the South Wales Borderers and was taken to France in August 1914, along with so many others. He served with that battalion as a machine-gun officer through the Somme and other battles right up until February 1916, when he volunteered to join the Royal Flying Corps.

For many months he heard nothing, but then on the evening of 3 July 1916, when his battalion, along with a number of others, was waiting to attack Mametz Wood—referred to earlier by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford—he was ordered to take his machine-gun section forward to take part in the operations. He then received orders to go at once to the Royal Flying Corps. He begged permission to take his machine-gun section forward anyway, but that permission was refused because he had to join the Royal Flying Corps that very night. Another officer was ordered to take his section forward. They were wiped out. My father never got over that. He could never speak of it without emotion and he felt that he had abandoned his men in their hour of need.

He served in the Royal Flying Corps, first as an observer and later as a pilot. One of his closest friends was Captain Quintin Brand, as he then was. He was a frequent comrade, and later of course he became Air Marshal Brand. They were close friends for many years, and he was my brother’s godfather. In early 1918, my father was posted to the United States to train the then fledgling United States Army air force, and returned to the United Kingdom in December 1918. While he was in the United States, the Royal Air Force was formed and he was automatically transferred to that new force.

How he survived nearly two years in the trenches and then a similar period in the Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Air Force I shall never know, but I venture to suggest that my father, along with so many others that we have heard about today, discharged his duty freely in the conflict that we remember so much today.

Later, my father was elected Liberal MP for Hackney South and then for Aberdeen North before coming to your Lordships’ House in 1947. In 1947, as your Lordships will not recall but I can tell you—the House of Commons was sitting in this Chamber, because the Commons Chamber had been bombed out, and the House of Lords was sitting in the Robing Room. I know that; I was there. I was aged six when my father was introduced to your Lordships’ House.

6.30 pm

Lord Rogan (UUP): My Lords, it is with a degree of reverence that I approach this afternoon’s debate. As a young boy growing up in Northern Ireland in the aftermath of the Second World War, my youth was filled with the immediate deeds and sacrifices of service men and women who fought in that conflagration.

However, I was also brought up with those from a previous generation who had first tasted the bitter gall of war on an industrial scale on Flanders fields. For me, the First World War was a living history. The men

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who had survived the Somme, Messines and Ypres—or “Wipers” to the Tommies who served and fought there—were relatives and family friends. Those who did not survive left behind the still visible evidence of broken homes and broken lives.

My grandmother saw three sons go off to Flanders and welcomed home one. This sacrifice was typical of that of many Ulster families and indeed families throughout the kingdom—no more so than those from the “pals battalions”, raised and recruited from whole streets and districts of the industrial cities of northern England. Who can visit the First World War battlefields and gaze up at the hundreds of names engraved on the memorials and not be moved by their sacrifice?

Life, however, does not stand still. While those formative memories remain clear to me, I find it difficult to accept that it is 100 years since hostilities broke out among the European great powers—an event as distant from today’s youth as the Crimean War was from me. “Lest we forget” was the promise of the living to the dead of the Great War, and it is a promise that we should not renege on.

There is and will be much debate about how the First World War should be remembered, and some of the suggestions I suspect would infuriate and astonish the men of 1914-18. That debate I leave to others, save that the programme for commemoration must reflect all of those who served. In that, I am particularly conscious of the immense contribution of the men of Ulster and the rest of Ireland.

Robert Quigg was born on 28 February 1885 in the townland of Billy, outside Bushmills in north Antrim. Like many others, he joined the Ulster Volunteers in January 1913. He went to war with the 36th (Ulster) Division and was serving near Le Hamel on the Somme under his platoon commander, Lieutenant Harry Macnaghten, heir to the estate on which Quigg had worked. On 1 July 1916, they advanced against heavy German machine-gun fire and, by that evening, many men lay dying and wounded in no man’s land, including Lieutenant Macnaghten. Robert Quigg volunteered to leave the comparative safety of the trenches and go out to look for his commander. He did not find him, but he returned with a wounded soldier. He went out again and, having not found Macnaghten, returned yet again with a wounded soldier. He did this seven times, rescuing seven comrades, only stopping when complete exhaustion overwhelmed him and, unfortunately, not locating Lieutenant Macnaghten.

Sergeant Quigg was awarded the VC, survived the war and died on 14 May 1955. Several Bushmills residents decided about two years ago to raise sufficient money—we estimated that £75,000 was needed—to erect a permanent memorial to Sergeant Quigg. I was only too willing to become a patron of the scheme, and I am confident that we will have achieved this by the 100th anniversary of Battle of the Somme. It will be a lasting memorial to men such as Sergeant Quigg, so that future generations may remember and respect.

Much has been written of the sacrifices of the 36th (Ulster) Division. After the war, King George V paid it the following tribute:

“Throughout the long years of struggle … the men of Ulster have proved how nobly they fight and die”.

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There is much more that I could and would like to say about the valour of the Ulster Division, but I want to urge those developing the commemorations to give full recognition to the 300,000 Irish servicemen from the whole island of Ireland who answered the call in 1914, the majority of whom came from what was shortly to become the Irish Free State. In particular, the 38,000 casualties drawn from the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions, who served in Flanders, Gallipoli, Messines and the Middle East, deserve their rightful place in our centenary of events.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, alluded to, the memory of the Irishmen who served with compatriots from across the Empire has been rehabilitated in recent years after a shameful period of neglect in southern Ireland that was in large part manufactured.

“It would be hard, indeed, to estimate the size of the gathering. It did not, however, number less than forty thousand. From an early hour people began to arrive by every kind of vehicle and on foot, and an hour before the ceremony began the wide open space in the Phoenix Park surrounding the Wellington Monument was densely crowded”.

So read the Irish Times report of the Armistice Day commemorations in Dublin in 1926. It is proof that history is rarely black and white.

The centenary commemorations of the Great War will serve many purposes, but one, I trust, will be to encourage greater recognition of our shared history across these islands.

“They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;They fell with their faces to the foe”.

In death there was no distinction; nor should there be in their commemoration.

6.38 pm

Baroness Howells of St Davids (Lab): My Lords, I am enormously grateful to the noble Lord who encouraged me to take part in this debate. He knows who he is.

Like everyone on all sides of this House, I express my gratitude and support for the efforts being made up and down the country to mark the centennial of the 1914-18 war. Our national commemorations also contribute to the global tributes being paid to the men and women who lost their lives in defence of the realm.

I warmly encourage the House to ensure that those commemorative activities taking place along the length and breadth of our lands recognise and include the descendants of those servicemen from the Caribbean who stood by the United Kingdom and fought and died so bravely. They were not conscripted; they were volunteers. Lest we forget, I remind the House that thousands of servicemen from the Caribbean answered the call during the First World War. During that time, West Indians were recruited to work in armaments and chemical factories, and West Indian seamen were among the thousands of black men who manned merchant ships throughout the war.

Some 15,600 black volunteers joined the British West Indies Regiment. Black volunteers who fought alongside other servicemen will have descendants and family members alive today across the country. I am

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sure that it is our wish that the contributions made by their ancestors to our country are acknowledged throughout this milestone commemoration. Battalions of the British West Indies Regiment served in France, Palestine, Italy and Egypt, suffering 1,325 casualties. Some 1,400 black seamen from Cardiff also lost their lives.

We will all be familiar with the black British serviceman Walter Tull, of Barbadian parentage, who died in 1918 after receiving a commission as a second lieutenant. Yet less known is that, despite a colour bar on officers in the British Army, a number of other men of black and non-white West Indian heritage received commissions. These included George Bemand, Norman Manley of Jamaica, and Dr James Risien Russell, who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps. Moreover, 130 black men were decorated for bravery for services during that war. This included five Distinguished Service Orders, nine Military Crosses, two MBEs, eight Distinguished Conduct Medals, 37 Military Medals and 49 mentions in dispatches. It is a small number compared to those who died but for those from small, developing islands in the Caribbean this was an important time. In addition, at least two known Jamaican air crew flew in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War, including the pilot Sergeant William Robinson Clarke from Kingston, Jamaica.

Lest we forget, I remind noble Lords that 8,000 soldiers of the British West Indies Regiment stationed at Taranto in Italy mutinied over unequal pay and conditions in December 1918. As a consequence, these servicemen were banned from partaking in the 1919 victory and peace parades. Furthermore, 1919 also saw widespread rioting against black servicemen, sailors and their families throughout Britain. Of course, the men from the Caribbean who fell during the First World War are not forgotten in the communities from which they came. The West Indian Ex-Servicemen and Women’s Association continues to keep those memories burning and, among many other services for ex-servicemen, holds a yearly ceremony of remembrance at Seaford in Sussex, where some of those who have fallen are now buried. Today our nation’s social policies are steeped in values around respect, mutual understanding, equality, social cohesion and fairness. Let us together, in marking a period of historical global conflict, ensure that we give the relatives and descendants of fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers who stood shoulder to shoulder in our hour of need the opportunity to commemorate with us as one.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, mentioned the suffering of the war wounded. Some may not have heard of her, but a woman called Mary Seacole, despite many prejudices, went out to nurse the soldiers of the British service. I have met men who have spoken and written about her role in saving the lives of British soldiers. She may have been considered an unqualified nurse but, being of African descent, she used her bush medicine—they told me—and kept many men alive. Some are now probably on the brink of not being alive. My noble friend Lord Soley has been working with a committee to erect a memorial to Mary Seacole. I trust the Minister would encourage

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the Government to subscribe to that fund. We are nearly there and need only a little more. I would be grateful if he bore that in mind.

Finally, I ask the Minister to remember the words written by Robert Burns, set to music by the composer William Shield and sung throughout the land:

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?”.

Or, should we, and I think that this is a time when we will,

“tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,For auld lang syne”,

and offer some recognition to the West Indians who fought in the First World War? I encourage noble Lords to know that at this moment West Indian people who fought are not allowed to march to the Cenotaph. They have their own celebrations. This is the time to suggest that that be remedied.

6.46 pm

The Earl of Shrewsbury (Con): My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for providing your Lordships with this opportunity to debate this most important of subjects today.

“Tread softly here! Go reverently and slow!

Yea, let your soul go down upon its knees,And with bowed head and heart abased strive hardTo grasp the future gain in this sore loss!For not one foot of this dank sod but drankIts surfeit of the blood of gallant men.Who, for their faith, their hope,—for Life and Liberty,Here made the sacrifice,—here gave their lives.And gave right willingly—for you and me.From this vast altar—pile the souls of menSped up to God in countless multitudes:On this grim cratered ridge they gave their all.And, giving, wonThe peace of Heaven and Immortality.Our hearts go out to them in boundless gratitude:If ours—then God’s: for His vast charityAll sees, all knows, all comprehends—save bounds.He has repaid their sacrifice:—and we—?God help us if we fail to pay our debtIn fullest full and all unstintingly!”

Those moving lines were written by John Oxenham and are on a bronze plaque at Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial in the Somme. I had the great privilege of visiting that battlefield, cemetery and memorial earlier this month. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916, at 0720 hours, 700 Newfoundlanders from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment went over the top and were cut down by withering German machine-gun fire. The battle lasted less than 30 minutes. Only 61 returned. Their memorial is a bronze caribou on a hill of rocks set with plants native to Newfoundland. It is, quite simply, breathtakingly beautiful.

I spent three days visiting Vimy Ridge and the surrounding cemeteries. I visited the Somme and Ypres. I visited Thiepval Memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. I paid my respects to the graves of soldiers from the South Staffordshire Regiment—from my home county—and in particular the grave of Sapper Thomas Brough from Cannock, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet while collecting water for a brew on Christmas morning 1915. He is buried at Railway Dugouts Burial Ground, Transport Farm. Sapper Brough was 47 years-old, so too old to fight. He was only there because he

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wished to be with his sons. He is the great-grandfather of two friends who accompanied me on the trip. They visited their great-grandfather’s grave—with great emotion.

In Warlencourt British Cemetery, littered with the graves of unknown soldiers all with the epitaph “known to God”, I discovered a headstone to Private A Jowett with a wonderful inscription:

“He sleeps with England’s heroes in the watchful care of God”.

It was incredibly moving. I pay tribute to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which tends the thousands of cemeteries and memorials to the highest possible standards. It does a fantastic job. On the last night, we went to the Menin Gate in Ypres for the 8 pm service of remembrance. We listened to the “Last Post” being trumpeted and “Abide with Me” sung by a Welsh male voice choir. With around 3,000 silent worshippers, we paid our respects to the fallen, without whose sacrifice we would not enjoy the freedoms and the privileged lives that we lead today.

When I was a teenager, my father often took me to visit the First World War memorials. When my sons were teenagers, I took them. My seven year-old grandson has just been with his father, doing exactly the same. It is so important that we ensure that younger generations are encouraged to learn about and appreciate the vast sacrifice of human life that was the Great War. Both I and my friends were touched to see the messages left on the memorials by countless school parties from all over the United Kingdom. We should applaud their noble efforts.

Finally, I am a Staffordshire man and very proud of it. My grandfather died while serving in the Royal Horse Guards in 1915. My great-grandfather sourced and trained horses for the cavalry at our former home, Ingestre, in Staffordshire. He also manufactured Talbot cars as ambulances for the military. I am extremely proud to have in my home county the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. It is a wonderful place of peace and tranquillity. I was delighted to learn recently of moves afoot to create a memorial there to all the horses killed in the Great War—those magnificent, unquestioning, loyal servants of man who died in their hundreds of thousands and in appalling conditions, from cavalry charges to artillery and poison gas attacks. It is right that they, too, should be remembered in perpetuity.

6.51 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, having read the three brilliant doorstop books recently published on the run-up to and the early stages of the First World War: Max Hastings’s Catastrophe, Margaret MacMillan’s, The War That Ended Peace, and Christopher Clark’s, The Sleepwalkers, and having studied the diplomatic background to the war as my special subject—here, I have common ground with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas; I studied in the Oxford School of Modern History nearly 60 years ago—I hope that I am reasonably well equipped to make a contribution to this important debate, which could be of real value if we draw sensible conclusions from what went so appallingly wrong 100 years ago. Here, I offer a few slightly random thoughts mainly drawn from the diplomatic background to the conflict.

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First, it is misconceived and misleading to spend a lot of time trying to identify a villain or villains, to play another round of the blame game. That was tried in the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the war, and it was not a brilliant success. The hard fact is that there was a systematic failure of diplomacy by what were in those days known as the great powers, responsibility for which was very widely shared.

Secondly, we should recognise that this was a period of weak and diffuse leadership in every one of the main European powers. There were no Bismarcks or Salisburys around to check the slide towards war.

Thirdly, the war was an unmitigated disaster for all the European participants, both the victors and the vanquished—the suffering citizens of Europe, who gained little or no benefit from the sacrifices which they so stoically underwent. The only powers which emerged strengthened were two non-European powers, the United States of America and Japan, neither of which played any role in the onset of war.

Fourthly, it is odd that not a single woman was involved in the decisions that led to war. Nor was there a single woman in any of the parliaments of the protagonists. That shows what a change has taken place since then.

Fifthly, the act that triggered this war, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, was what we would now call an act of state-sponsored terrorism. Sixthly, a Europe that was governed by a closely interwoven network of cultural and, in the case of the monarchs themselves, family ties and which was economically very interdependent—much more interdependent than Europe had ever been since the time of the Roman empire—was unable to resist the slide into war. That point was made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London.

Seventhly, the so-called concert of Europe, the informal network of great powers, which had prevented war at the time of the two Moroccan crises and which had localised war in the two Balkan wars which preceded the Great War, was unravelled and collapsed in 1914 under the strain of events.

Eighthly, at least one of the great powers, Germany, had war plans which in the event of war with Russia—which was of course the event which occurred—required it to launch a pre-emptive strike against France and, in doing so, to march across two countries, Belgium and Luxembourg, whose neutrality it had guaranteed. Not one of its civilian leaders ever thought to challenge those war plans or note that they were a straightforward defiance of international law.

Ninthly, neither the military nor the diplomats—both of whom were very professional groups—gave much good advice to their political masters. Tenthly, all the participants, without exception, seemed genuinely to believe that they were acting defensively in response to external pressures over which they had no control: that they had no choice but to act as they did. As Margaret MacMillan said at the end of her brilliant book, there always are choices.

Britain’s diplomacy seems to me—I do not wish to be unduly censorious—to have been both confused and confusing during the period in the run-up to the

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war. It left everyone guessing, including the members of the Cabinet. The Government in office then were of course distracted by the potential breaking away of a part of the United Kingdom, and they were split down the middle between those who believed that our vital national interests were involved in the events on continental Europe and those who wanted to have nothing to do with them. I wonder where I have heard that before.

Are there any lessons for us to be drawn from all that? Plenty, I suggest, although not through drawing precise political parallels. Above all, there are risks in periods when power relationships are changing rapidly and both rising and declining powers feel insecure and are tempted into errors of judgment. That, I fear, is what we have around us now. That is when you most need something stronger than loose networks, when you need the multilateral alliances and disciplines which we have built up since the Second World War in the United Nations, in NATO, in the European Union and in other international organisations. That is when you cannot afford to turn your back on any of them.

I hope that when Europe’s leaders visit Ypres tomorrow evening, they will look at the inscription on the Menin Gate, which reads:

“Under this arch lie the bodies of 55,000 servicemen whose remains could not be identified”.

I hope that they will reflect on how far we have travelled together in the past 70 years and how much more now unites us than divides us.

Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab): My Lords, I agree—

Lord Lyell (Con): My Lords, I hope that I have not changed my name to Davies of Stamford, because my name appears next on the list. Is that right?

Noble Lords: Yes.

Lord Lyell: If it is, I am delighted, but what is the order?

Lord Davies of Stamford: I apologise but I was advised that the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, had withdrawn his name. I was wrongly informed and I apologise to him and to the House.

7 pm

Lord Lyell: My Lords, perhaps I may first apologise; I asked permission from the Chief Whip, having warned her that I had not one but two brief engagements during the debate today. However, I was given an indication from her that it would be in order to speak and that I would not be in danger of being discourteous to the House.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for the most marvellous, moving and excellent speech. One reason I am speaking today is that my noble friend, who I thank profoundly for everything that he has done and is doing to celebrate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, referred to my grandfather. My grandfather was born in 1875. He became a Member

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of Parliament for Poole in 1907 and in 1910, as a Liberal, he went up and became the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South. At some stage—I was never able to decipher exactly when—he became the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary. He then moved on to become the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister. All the same, while sitting as a Member of Parliament for Edinburgh South in 1914 he joined his regiment, the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, which was detailed to do Royal Garrison Artillery duty.

My grandfather served at the front but there was an unfortunate accident and he was pretty seriously wounded. He retired, came back to this country and was asked by the Prime Minister whether he would step down as PPS—Lloyd George had succeeded Mr Asquith. My grandfather then rejoined his regiment but found that he was not fit. They said, “We have a job for you. Would you please go off to Washington to act as one of the military attachés at the embassy there?”. My grandfather went there in January 1918 but in October 1918 he became one of 20 million—it may have been 25 million or 30 million—victims of what we call Spanish flu. He died in Washington together with two other members of the British military mission; all three are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I understand that there are 11 Britons buried there from the First World War, so I am immensely grateful to them.

The military tradition has certainly gone on. My grandfather seems to have made quite an impression, not necessarily as a military man but much more as a politician. Some years ago the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, was speaking to me and heard that there was a Peer by the name of Charlie Lyell. He said, “I remember Charlie Lyell” and for two minutes we had the most incredible performance from the late noble Earl. He suddenly said, “He got married”, and I said, “No, that was my grandfather”—who had obviously made a big impression upon the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. At the same time, however, he went off and fought in the First World War. He lost his life and is remembered; I have studied a bit of what he did.

Many of us have seen, in my lifetime, the war movies and activities of the Eastern Front in the Second World War. When you think of what the conditions were in the First World War, and of all those men and women in Flanders and France—it was entirely the men who fought—in such conditions, one has some appreciation of what they suffered. The words of my noble friend Lord Trefgarne were particularly apposite because of his recollections of how his father suffered.

I have been drilled during all my life in your Lordships’ House to show some respect and every morning when I come in, I have a set drill. I turn into the Prince’s Chamber and go down to the far end of the Royal Gallery. In the bookcase at the end, there are three books with the Peers and sons of Peers who were killed, or died, in the two world wars. The pages are turned over every day and what I have learnt from those two books with all the records of the Peers and sons of Peers who perished in, or died after, the First World War, has been moving and an intense part of my education. It is not necessarily Members of your Lordships’ House or people of British nationality.

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As your Lordships may find one day, there is an Italian who died on the Isonzo and who was the son of the Countess of Newburgh. I am not aware of quite how that title, which is clearly Scottish but came through the female line, came to a lady who was Italian—but her son fought and died on the Isonzo. Yet we remember him, as with all the others, in that book every day. It certainly makes me realise, as I believe it does many of your Lordships, how much gratitude we owe to those Members of your Lordships’ House and their sons.

If your Lordships go down to Westminster Hall, the sons of Members of Parliament fill six or seven panels down there. There is one more aspect of Westminster Hall: my grandfather is commemorated there. He is apparently among three; I do not know why. There is another Lieutenant Thomas Kettle of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who was killed at the Battle of the Somme. He was certainly an Irish nationalist Member of Parliament but he fought and was killed at that battle. The pride that he has given to Members of the Irish Parliament when they come here is deeply moving.

I was asked if I would say one or two words on behalf of my grandfather. I apologise if I have taken up the time of the House or been out or order but I am immensely grateful for what my noble friend has done and is doing, and for giving us the opportunity to remember the dreadful events of 1914 to 1918 and 1919.

7.07 pm

Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, I entirely agree with the brilliant analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and although I have never discussed this matter with him the House will find that I have come to very similar conclusions.

Unlike the Second World War or the mass murders of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung and Pol Pot, the First World War was not the result of deliberate human evil but of human folly. Nobody wanted a war in 1914. Although everybody, including ourselves, had contingency plans, nobody planned to have that war or expected it. It was not until 26 July, when the Austrian ultimatum was sent to Serbia, that anybody realised quite how great a risk there was of having a global war. I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that it is therefore absurd to look around for some national guilt and say, “This was the guilty nation”.

Nevertheless, a number of individuals need to stand before the bar of history; Berchtold, the Austrian Foreign Minister, who drew up that ultimatum in such a way that it was most unlikely that the Serbs would accept it; Sazonov, the Russian Foreign Minister, who bullied Nicholas II into signing the order for general mobilisation; and Bethmann-Hollweg, the German Chancellor, who succeeded in suppressing the response of Wilhelm II to the Serbian response to the ultimatum. Wilhelm II had said he thought that the Serbian response had solved the problem and resolved the crisis but Bethmann-Hollweg made sure that that minute went no further. It certainly was not transmitted to the Austrians.

There is also our own Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, who never told the Germans that we would go to war over Belgium. That was a fatal error. Indeed,

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Grey obviously felt extremely sensitive about potential criticism on that score because in his memoirs,

Twenty-Five Years

, published about 10 years later, he said that he could not have been more definite with the Germans because he did not have a Cabinet decision to go on. There is no evidence that he asked for such a decision or that Asquith thought that one was necessary. If we accept Grey’s excuse, the whole British Government bear a major responsibility for those dire events.

Nevertheless, when the war broke out, there is no doubt that for four and a half years the most remarkable qualities of indescribable human courage were shown by fighting men on all sides, obeying orders that were often quite murderously incompetent. I think that all of us have in our mind’s eye, and we should keep it there, the picture that has been referred to so many times today of 1 July 1916, the first day of the Somme: hundreds of thousands of young men being ordered, if you please, to advance at no more than two miles an hour hundreds of yards towards the German machine guns. They had been told that the wire had been cut and destroyed by artillery, but of course it had not. They had been told that the Germans had been killed in their front-line trenches, but of course they had not and were safe in their dugouts. Still the young men kept on. They did not make much progress, which is not very surprising. After losing several thousand men a day, Haig would invariably write in his diary, to his wife, to the King or perhaps to more than one of the above that the losses had not been too great really, all things considered, and he was making progress. Of course he was not.

Unfortunately, during that war we were very badly supplied with good-quality leadership from either the military or the politicians of the day. Almost all the leading generals suffered from three serious failings. One was that they had been brought up on the doctrine of uncompromising offensive—l’offensive à l’outrance. If they had been to America and studied the American Civil War—if they had been to Vicksburg and Gettysburg—they might have changed their minds, but their memories were of the Franco-Prussian War or, in our case, of colonial wars.

The second failing was that they were all extraordinarily arrogant. They were very slow to learn lessons from experience and very unwilling to accept the possible benefits of new technology. The third failing was that, presumably as a result of those first two qualities, they all gave disastrously overoptimistic advice to their political bosses. Almost all the commanders and generals fall into those categories: in our case, French and Haig; in the French case, Joffre and Nivelle; in the German case, von Moltke, Falkenhayn and of course Ludendorff; in the Russian case, Sukhomlinov, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, Rennenkampf and the ill fated Samsonov; in the Austrian case, Conrad; and in the Italian case, Cardona—I believe that those strictures apply entirely fairly to all of them.

There were some exceptions. When Pétain took over in 1917, he understood that it was a defenders’ war and drew the obvious, if rather unheroic, conclusion that, “Il faut attendre les Américains et les chars”. Another accolade must go to Brusilov, who was the only general who planned and carried out a successful

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offensive on the Entente side in the whole of the war before the last few months after the exhaustion of Germany in 1918; they were few and far between. Plumer was almost certainly the best of the British generals but that is not saying very much.

The political leaders were also very poor. One problem was that they would not stand up to their generals. Ludendorff more or less became the leader of Germany after 1916, and after he got rid of Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg in 1917 no one would stand up to him at all. The Kaiser had a good opportunity to do so after the Reichstag peace resolution in July 1917 but he never did, so there were major political failings there. The whole British and French political establishment was completely enchanted and captivated by Nivelle, which shows pretty bad judgment. Lloyd George despised the terrible duo of Haig and Robertson just as much as many of us do today in retrospect, but he never steeled himself to move against them.

Unable to win the war, the politicians were unable to make a peace. There must have been 30 wars between the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which established the sort of international system that lasted until 1914, and 1914 itself—certainly if you include Turkey, which you must. Almost all of them were settled by some form of negotiation, but no such negotiation took place before the final exhaustion of the central powers in 1918 and after the loss of those 10 million or more men in combat. Then we had a peace that itself did not last and, as we all know, sowed the seeds of a second and even more global conflict only 20 years later.

So what do we do about that situation? We have a responsibility to the fallen, to those now living and to those who are to come. We have a responsibility precisely to be wise in hindsight, to draw the right conclusions and ensure that it does not happen again. Here I totally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay: there was something fundamentally wrong with the international system in 1914. There was also too much nationalism, jingoism and of course militarism. In our case, the emotion was directed mainly at the Navy but that did not make much difference.

There was also something obviously wrong with the whole system of states, which was not resilient. Things went even more wrong with the international system set up in 1919, which did not last 20 years before we had another war. So we have to look at that. It would be nice to say, “What we need is simply better generals and politicians”. However, the one thing that you cannot do, because it is illogical, is determine the contingent elements in life; all you can determine is the structural elements. We need to look at the structures and at the international system. Some will say that NATO provides us with the protections that we need and makes impossible another war in Europe. Maybe, but we have had alliances since the beginning of time and they have not stopped wars. One needs to go further than that; one needs a more structured system in which there is actual sharing of sovereignty and pooling of decision-making—in other words, the European Union. What a tragedy that we did not have the EU before 1914, and indeed after the disaster of the First World War and before the second. We have it

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now, and what a terrible irony it would be if, as we commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of that terrible war, we either pull out of the EU or do our best to weaken it ourselves.

7.16 pm

The Earl of Clancarty (CB): My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for laying out the plans for marking the centenary of the 1914-18 war, including culture and the arts.

One central question that needs to be asked is: what precisely is it that we are commemorating? What is the nature and purpose of this commemoration? Is it a history project? Is it a military commemoration? Is it cultural, and what do we mean by that? In trying to answer that question, I want to lay some emphasis on the artists and writers of the time of other countries. What is it that we want to achieve? Are certain values being imposed on this commemoration—for instance, in schools? In that respect, this debate touches on the one that will be held tomorrow on British values in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Storey.

I want to voice some concerns here. I accept that commemoration does not have to be celebration, even though Chambers gives it as a possible synonym, but there are other traps that can colour these commemorations and I worry that they are already doing so. The first is nostalgia, and in a way this is something that many of us can easily fall into. It is nostalgia not necessarily for another era of soldiering, which some may have—in spite of the horror of the war itself, which nostalgia also somehow pushes to one side—but for the era that immediately preceded the First World War and which the war destroyed, the subject of many TV costume dramas. The feeling has been particularly heightened this week because yesterday, as the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner and Lord Shipley, mentioned, was the centenary of the famous train ride that Edward Thomas took from Paddington to Malvern to visit his friend, the American poet Robert Frost, inspiring the poem “Adlestrop”—an event that took place four days before the shooting in Sarajevo. As it happens, Edward Thomas is our local Hampshire hero; he was a brilliant poet, and I pass the house where he wrote that poem and many others every day when I do the school drop-off.

It is very easy to get thrown back into that era but it is important to point out that the nostalgia for this period is not a purely British phenomenon. Stefan Zweig, the Austrian writer, in his biography, The World of Yesterday, called that period, which he lived through in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the golden age of security. However, he also admitted that that sense of security must have been an illusion. The First World War did not start in Sarajevo. I am not an historian, but I know that historians say that if you want properly to understand the origins of the First World War, you need to go far back into the 19th century and look closely at not just British history but European history. I hope that is something that schools will do.

Secondly, respect and remembrance alone can so easily turn into justification, and I sense this when I see schoolchildren interviewed on camera across the channel against the backdrop of World War I cemeteries expressing similar platitudes about “the sacrifices of

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our heroes” and “plucky little Belgium”. This is not, of course, the fault of the children, but it has a lot to do with the current mood. Jonathan Jones writing in the


in May on German art of the time, which I will come to, said:

“It’s as if the clock is being turned back and the propaganda of the war believed all over again”.

I agree with him. I feel concern about the context of remembrance and the strong military context of the schoolchildren’s visits. I feel concern that this is only or largely about Britain. The project of sending schoolchildren to battle sites should have nothing to do with patriotism, a misguidedly imposed value. If it is to be done, it should have everything to do with the objective study of history, the study of one event that affected this country deeply, as it did others in Europe and the rest of the world, including Africa and the Middle East.

I want to quote some words that were written about Goethe, which show that there were other views, even at the time:

“Among our writers and men of letters there are ... few if any whose present utterances ... will be counted among their best work. Nor is there any serious writer who at heart prefers Koerner’s patriotic songs to the poems of Goethe ...

Exactly, cry the super-patriots, we have always been suspicious of Goethe, he was never a patriot, he contaminated the German mind with the benign internationalism which has plagued us so long and appreciably weakened our German consciousness.

That is the crux of the problem”.

The writer continues that Goethe’s,

“devotion to humanity meant more to him than his devotion to the German people, which he knew and loved better than anyone else. He was a citizen and patriot in the international world of thought, of inner freedom, of intellectual conscience”.

These words were written in September 1914 by Herman Hesse, in a piece entitled O Friends, Not These Tonesechoing Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”—who with fellow writers Stefan Zweig and Romain Rolland, two of whom were future Nobel prize winners, formed a loose triumvirate of pacifists who argued against the war from the very beginning and throughout their lives for a cosmopolitan culture that crossed national boundaries.

Something of that internationalist spirit is in an important exhibition I went to last month in Wuppertal, in Germany: a collaboration between Wuppertal’s Von der Heydt-Museum and the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Reims, looking at the war through the eyes of both French and German artists and writers with film footage from both countries and much more. It is an important exhibition because there was absolute parity between the two contributions. It is called “Human Slaughterhouse”, which gets to the nub of what happened, and deals directly with the destruction and trauma of this conflict at it affected the two sides. As Otto Dix records in his 1915-16 diary:

“Lice, rats, barbed wire, fleas, grenades, bombs, caves, corpses, blood, schnapps, mice, cats, gases, cannons, filth, bullets, machine-guns, fire, steel, that’s what war is! Nothing but the devil's work!”.

This exhibition also contains Dix’s 1924 graphic series of etchings “The War”, a work far removed from the sense of nostalgia to which I have referred.

The exhibition is also, in a sense, the European Union—to which the noble Baroness, Lady Suttie,

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referred—working at its best, meaning not provincial, not introverted but a demonstration of the Union’s success in the ways that have mattered, which are cultural. In the 1980s, particularly before the wall came down, the watchword for young artists was cultural exchange. Today, from the individual’s point of view, it appears much easier to explore other cultures. We have many more contemporary artists visiting the UK from countries across the world, but collaboration between countries at a formal level in terms of arts and cultural exchange is something that still needs to be valued and supported in an era when the accent in the UK is on the one-way and perhaps more insular tool of soft power.

The way we mark this centenary will have an influence on the way we react to future conflict when the spotlight will be on other parts of the world. I asked the question: what is this commemoration ultimately for? I answer with the title of a book published in 2000 by the French sociologist Alain Touraine, Can We Live Together? It is in my view the best question, but is something that necessitates a reaching out rather than a reinforcement of our own country’s inherent insularity, and an understanding of the response of the arts of other countries to an event such as the First World War must be an effective part of this.

7.25 pm

Lord King of Bridgwater (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on the first speech I have heard that seemed correctly to address what was meant to be the subject of the debate, which is the programme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. That is the subject to which I wish to address my remarks. I congratulate the Minister on his very clear introduction setting out this programme. It is a tribute to him that there have been so few criticisms of the programme. Other noble Lords have quite understandably come up with some very interesting recollections or historical analyses but have not commented much on the programme that is proposed. I declare that I have a slight interest as a member of the advisory committee that the Prime Minister has appointed under the leadership of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Support, ably supported by Dr Andrew Murrison. Dr Murrison deserves considerable tribute. He has been through changes of Secretary of State and has kept the continuity there. I see the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, a fellow member of that committee, acknowledging that.

I hope we have got the tone right in the approach we are taking, but one draws from it the lessons that I hope people in our country, particularly the young, will understand. One of the weaknesses of the First World War is that we had a Second World War, and people think that it is called the “First World War” because of the Second World War. Of course, it was the first world war. We had had the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimea, the Franco-Prussian War and the Boer War, but this was a war of a dimension quite unlike anything that the world had previously seen. One of the most graphic illustrations of that was the figure that my noble friend gave, which has been echoed by many noble Lords in their tributes, about the

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Commonwealth War Graves Commission and its work. I understand that there are 23,000 cemeteries around the world for British or Commonwealth war dead. That brought it home very clearly.

The commemoration has already started in various ways, and there has been most interesting analysis. The war may puzzle the young and the not so young. I do not know how many noble Lords have been to the National Portrait Gallery, but there is one picture that has stuck in my mind. It is of George V and Tsar Nicholas at the wedding of the Kaiser’s daughter. Just as a little joke, they had swapped uniforms. The Tsar was an honorary colonel or general in the British Army—I think he was in a cavalry uniform—and George V was wearing Russian uniform. The cousins are standing together. It is not surprising that people found it difficult to believe that they would get to fighting each other viciously.

There are so many stories. My noble friend Lord Lyell told of his family’s many heroic involvements. I thought of my father. He was 18 in 1919. He was in embarkation camp at Folkestone when the armistice was signed, but for the previous four years every Sunday night in the college chapel, the headmaster had stood up and read out the names of the boys who had left the year before and had been killed in the war. Many of those young men knew that they were going to be 19 and 20 and that if they succeeded in getting a commission as a young subaltern, their chances of reaching 20 or 21 were pretty minute. Psychologically, that must have had a huge impact.

I do not want to enter into the causes of or responsibility for the war which noble Lords have talked about. Undoubtedly there was a militaristic background. There was no question that Germany had built a very substantial military capability, and when you have that, there are always a few generals who are keen to see if they can try it out. We had a pretty good Navy but we did not have much of an army. Our Army was the Indian Army, which was much bigger; tributes have been paid to the Commonwealth. I went to the anniversary of the Battle of La Bassée, which took place in 1914, in November, in the rain. I saw where the Indian soldiers had come by ship to Marseille and by train into the trenches, still wearing tropical uniforms in northern France in November. The trenches were half-filled with rain; if the soldiers were wounded and fell, they drowned. We owe them a debt: we would not have survived without the support of the Commonwealth, particularly the Indian Army.

Baroness Flather: We have used this term “Commonwealth” an awful lot. In those days there was no Commonwealth. With all due respect to noble Lords, I think that they are somehow subsuming India in this new thing called the Commonwealth. India should be remembered.

Lord King of Bridgwater: I accept the noble Baroness’s point.

The background to this includes a little story which may interest the noble Lord, Lord Rogan. I was reading the memoir of my grandfather-in-law, who was wounded

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in the trenches and sent to Ireland to act as a resettlement officer for returning, injured Irish guardsmen and others. He was captured by Sinn Fein in the south of Ireland and found himself in a difficult situation when, suddenly, a bunch of German soldiers turned up under a German officer. That German officer looked pretty vicious, but then walked up to my grandfather-in-law and said, “You don’t recognise me, do you? I used to be a waiter at the Charing Cross Hotel. I was a German spy and was sent there from 1900 to 1914. Then I went back and joined the German army, and now they’ve sent me over here in an intelligence role”. There was a certain amount of preparation by somebody at that time. The Germans were obviously making sure that they could protect themselves as best they could.

I have a few comments on how we are going. It is absolutely right that we should recognise the role of the Commonwealth; I have great respect for the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and Indians and others who wish to be represented. For that reason we are accommodating them by having this first service in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games. My worry is that it is the day after the Commonwealth Games. How many Commonwealth leaders are actually going to stay beyond the games? It is important if that service is in Glasgow—when others might have thought Westminster Abbey would be the obvious location for it—that a real effort is made to ensure that a good number of Commonwealth leaders are there. The vigil in Westminster Abbey with the turning out of the lights, which is to be replicated in churches around the country, must therefore have full support.

There are lessons to be learnt about the courage of our young men of that time and the appalling dangers they faced. It has been pointed out that there was no conscription until 1916, and I do not think any tribute to all those who went and served before that time, in full knowledge of the horror that they faced, could be too great. My noble friend Lady Williams said that we have learnt the lessons of history in 70 years of working together and that there is no risk of any war again. I look at the situation in Ukraine, which we have discussed before, and the risk of Russia perhaps seeking to expand its activities. We can never be complacent. We must always be alert. We must always use every possible form of diplomatic relationship, and must always be aware of how great the price might be if we were to get involved in conflict.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton: I remind the noble Lord, and my noble friend Lady Flather, that the word in 1914 was not “Commonwealth” but “Empire”.

Lord King of Bridgwater: Yes, but we are having the Commonwealth Games. I am referring to what is happening now, and the fact that we are accommodating the Commonwealth.

7.34 pm

Viscount Colville of Culross (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for introducing this important debate. I, too, have been very moved by the extraordinary accounts that I have heard of the First World War. I declare an interest. I make history programmes for the BBC.

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In three days’ time, on 28 June, the world will remember the 100th anniversary of the shot which killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo. On Saturday, we will be able to feel something of the tension, with well known BBC reporters such as Frank Gardner and Bridget Kendall reconstructing news reporting and analysis of what the assassination would have meant in 1914. Over the next four years, the world witnessed a loss of life and destruction so dreadful that it has coloured our view of war for a century, as other noble Lords have said, and it will continue to loom over us for generations to come. Now, as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, its time for us to reach a true understanding both of what happened and of what motivated the people who took part, and the politicians and the generals who led them.

We in 21st century Britain are confronted by seemingly endless military and political crises, many of which have their roots in the First World War. There are demands for our forces to be involved in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq as violence engulfs those countries. Our view about whether to participate is, of course, coloured by the experiences of our Armed Forces in the past decade and the subsequent outcomes. However, I think that our national psyche is also deeply scarred by the great horror of the First World War and the loss of so many lives.

The legacy of the world war has been polarised between a view of a horrific waste of life, one of “lions led by donkeys”, and the pursuit of a glorious war to protect the principles of democracy and world order as set out by the US President Woodrow Wilson to Congress in 1918. Only by understanding the history will we realise how much more nuanced were the events of 1914 to 1918 and the legacy of those years, and, as a result, how much more nuanced must be our response to demands on our nation to become involved in future military action.

At the outbreak of war, hundreds of thousands of men did indeed voluntarily enlist as a matter of principle. At the end of the dreadful four years, there was a terrible feeling of sadness across this nation. However, it was not really until the 10th anniversary that significant doubts about the justice of the war began to rear their heads following the death of Field Marshal Lord Haig and the publication of his letters showing the generals to be manipulative and political, a view compounded by the publication of Lloyd George’s memoirs. However, the popular disgust at the waste of the war was further ignited by the release of the film “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the author of the novel on which it was based having described a generation who,

“even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war”.

After that, the works of Robert Graves and the war poets were republished and bought in great numbers as the nation digested the implications of these testimonials, and determined that such horror should never be repeated. The view that the war had been a terrible waste—“lions led by donkeys”—had taken hold.

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Now, in the coming four years, there will be a wonderful opportunity for us to look deeper at what really happened. Of course, we have this commemoration, which the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, and many other noble Lords have talked about and which is the point of this debate. However, the BBC, the Imperial War Museum, local museums and local authorities have set up multiple projects about the Great War all over the country. Up until 2018, Channel 4 and every BBC radio and television network and many of the foreign language services are putting out hundreds of hours of drama, documentary and debate about the war. The broadcasts and research will be kept online, as a digital archive. Jeremy Paxman’s series “Britain’s Great War” aimed to set out what happened. The nuances of both sides of the war’s legacy were discussed, first by Professor Niall Ferguson questioning our involvement in the war, and then Sir Max Hastings explaining why we fought the war. Now, thanks to the Imperial War Museum, 700 interviews with people who served on the home front, the Western Front and even the Russian front, originally filmed in 1960 but only short clips of which were released, will now be put on the internet in full, so that we will be able to listen to them and understand their experiences for ourselves.

There will be a major drive to connect a younger generation, for whom this is obviously a distant and unknown war, with the great event. On 4 August, the anniversary of Britain’s declaration of war, there will be interviews on BBC Radio 1 with young men and women who are veterans of recent wars to explain the complexities of their experiences, both during military action and in the aftermath. Well known figures, such as the Bosnian pop star Rita Ora, will tell of their experiences of being in a war zone. The message will be that war is not black or white but has many shades in between.

My noble friend Lady Flather will be pleased to hear that thousands of soldiers from India and the Empire will be remembered. Radio 4 is launching a series called “Tommies”, which will use the diaries and accounts of the lives of the Asian signal operators to reconstruct their experiences as they moved not only around the Western Front but throughout many theatres of war, in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, setting up and maintaining communications. There is a history of the involvement of the troops from across the British Empire which is in production at the moment. Their sacrifice must be understood and not forgotten. By the end of the four years, the hope is that everybody in the country will have a renewed and nuanced understanding of the legacy of World War I and how it affects our view of the maintenance of world order. However, I suggest to the Minister that we should be even more ambitious in the use of this centenary. It could be used to discover new aspects of the war. We need to find out about the relationships between nationalism and globalisation and the role of religion in the belligerent countries involved in the war. Never have these things been more important with the great debates facing our country in the 21st century.

The Government have talked of £100 million pounds being made available for the commemorations, most of which, rightly, is aimed at increased understanding, especially among the younger generation. However,

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there is nothing available for new discovery or research. The Arts & Humanities Research Council has given six grants to universities to help understanding of the war in local schools, which of course is quite right, but none of that money has gone towards new historical research. There is an extraordinary project being put together at the University of Oxford and other universities across the world to establish an ambitious four-year programme of research into the global implications of the war and the effect of religion. British research students and post-doctoral fellows will work with colleagues from France, Australia and Germany to carry out new historical, international research. There will be workshops and papers from across the world, in what could be a “cenotaph of war history”. The French, German and Australian Governments are putting money into this programme, but at the moment nothing has come from our Government. It is woefully underfunded on our front.

In all this talk of understanding, should we not do everything we can to support a project like this, which will genuinely shine new light on to the First World War? As the Professor of War at Oxford, Sir Hew Strachan, one of the leading figures behind the project and the commemoration plans, said:

“We need to be surprised by what the centenary of the First World War throws up, not to dismiss the uncomfortable and unfamiliar. We must not be so caught by the rhetoric set by the war’s anniversary that we shut out the messages contained in the rhetoric of a hundred years ago, and so exclude what for us may be new insights and fresh findings. If we are open to the evidence in all its diversity and complexity we shall bring altered perspectives to the phenomenon that we call war, that are, sadly, likely to stand us in good stead as we travel through another century”.

7.43 pm

Lord Elton (Con): My Lords, so many memories, so many dead. The question of my noble friend Lady Trumpington, however improperly asked, deserves an answer. Mesopotamia is an area watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It was the scene of an expedition headed for Baghdad, largely supplied by the Government of India under Westminster, with Indian troops but some British regiments, including the 4th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, in which my father served. Its central focus, from my point of view, was the siege and fall of Kut, in which trench warfare had all the horrors of the Western Front, plus regular flooding by the Tigris, plus starvation. The garrison was eventually starved into surrender, and horrible scenes followed for the other ranks, but we will not go into that now. The study of trench warfare and the warfare in that war is something that I find actively revolting, but it has not made me a pacifist.

I thank my noble friend the Minister for the very great service that he and his colleagues are doing for this country. It is very important that the commemorations are used for the right purpose. Like the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, I fear that there is a danger that they will be used improperly to glorify the heroic sacrifice of our ancestors. It was glorious, but it was also a terrible disaster. As I said, it has not made me a pacifist. The currency of war is death. War has changed its nature and is no longer a respecter of uniforms; the whole population of the country is involved. So much the more do we need to try to preserve life.

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One thing that we can learn from that part of our history, and it is endorsed by many others, is that two things are necessary to prevent an aggressor delivering a threat. The first is to have sufficient power to make it apparent that if it was used it would make the implementation of that threat unacceptable to the aggressor. The second and equally important thing is that it must be clearly seen that our country must be ready and willing to use that power. The way to win peace is to be ready for war; the way to keep peace is to be ready to fight. I hope that that message will come through and that, when the sun goes down and we remember them again, that is also what they will wish to remember. It is a price that we must never again be called on to pay.

7.46 pm

Lord Spicer (Con): My Lords, I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but I am prompted to do so very briefly by the two speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Davies. They were brilliant speeches in many ways and I have tremendous respect for the debating power of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, and, indeed, for that of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. However, I profoundly disagreed with their conclusion. Broadly, as I understand it, it was that if we had had the European Union at the time of the two great wars, we would not have had any wars at all. I think that that is an accurate representation. They were saying that a process of centralisation and consolidation would have saved us from having these wars. Arguably, exactly the opposite is the case.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: I did not say anything of the sort and I do not happen to think that either. What I said was that we now have the European Union and that we should not turn our backs on it; I did not say that if we had had it before the First World War everything would have been hunky-dory.

Lord Spicer: I exonerate the noble Lord. I think that it is fair to say that the noble Lord, Lord Davies, did argue that point. Arguably, it is the exact opposite. The thing that caused the wars was the centralisation and determination of one nation—the Germans—and the individual sovereign states were those that created the peace, winning the war, and there was a lasting peace thereafter. So it was the exact opposite of what the noble Lord, Lord Davies, was saying. One has only to look at the American Civil War to see the effect of the process of forced centralisation and so on in terms of creating wars. I wanted to set the record straight on that, because that was certainly the impression that I got from the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—it was pretty well irrelevant to raise the question of the European Union in the context today, if he did not believe that it would have had some effect on history. I think that it would have been the opposite effect in the wrong hands, and I just want to put that straight.

7.48 pm

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): My Lords, I thank all the speakers who have contributed to this debate this afternoon and evening. It has been a

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fascinating mixture of history, memoir, anecdote, expertise and analysis, and one of the best debates in which I have participated since I have been in your Lordships’ House—and I am sure that I was not alone in feeling a prickle of tears behind my eyes when we listened to one or two of the stories, which brought the reality of what we are talking about very much into the Chamber.

On that point, the Library Note we received, which was very full and detailed, mentions that there are a number of organisations within Parliament dealing with World War I—the Great War, as we should call it—such as a Member advisory group, and House activities planned for the period August 2014 to November 2018, including, as I understand it, short videos that might be going up on YouTube. How dramatic is that and how modern are we becoming in this House? If that is the case, would it not be sensible to pick one or two of the people who have spoken today, if they are willing, to record for a wider audience—as the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, suggested—the points that have been made here, which have been so powerful and will not come across so well in print? If that happens, the noble Lord, Lord Selsdon, will be able to provide his props and wave them around to his heart’s content, and the noble Lord, Lord Laming, will be able to bring his medals out of his pocket and show us what they were about. It seems to me that we have more to come, perhaps from our own resources. This has been a very effective debate in terms of what this House can do, bringing together the knowledge and experience that we have. Indeed, there are some who have not spoken whom we would also like to hear from, such as my noble friend Lord Morgan, who has written extensively on this period.

As many noble Lords have done, I thank the Minister for introducing the debate and getting it on the Order Paper and for outlining so clearly the various programmes that will be rolled out over the next four years. He focused on education, youth and remembrance, which is a good triumvirate of ideas. I do not think it moves back into nostalgia and other concerns that have been mentioned. As far as I have seen from the programmes published by the DCMS and the BBC—we heard a bit about them from the noble Viscount—and the City of London, which today circulated a very full programme of activities across the City, these will be a very great and useful resource in years to come. However, as many noble Lords have said, it is really important to get the tone and content correctly nuanced—to use the word of the debate. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, suggested—correctly, I think—we must ensure that we commemorate the losses and the sacrifices but not the war itself.

Of course, there is no doubt that the First World War changed Britain for ever. In many ways, it marked the true beginning of the 20th century and set events in motion that would shape people’s lives for generations to come, as we have heard. It was a conflict that touched every family, affected every community and fundamentally altered our country’s place in the world. It is extraordinary to think that it took the lives of 16 million soldiers and civilians across the globe, including 900,000 servicemen from Britain and the

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Empire. The centenary anniversaries this year and over the next four years provide us with an important moment to pay tribute to their service and sacrifice.

The commemorations will probably begin this weekend because this Saturday, 28 June, people all over Britain will be marking Armed Forces Day, showing support for our brave service men and women and remembering the contribution of veterans in past conflicts. As we have heard, by coincidence, this year that date is the 100th anniversary of the shooting of Archduke Franz Ferdinand—the day when the assassination of one man by a Serbian nationalist plunged the world into conflict. As we get to 4 August, the actual anniversary of our declaration of war—which, it is important to note, was made by the British Empire, not just by Britain—there will be events across the country, as we have heard, and I am sure they will be very evocative.

As we approach the centenary commemorations of the Great War, it is important that we remember the war itself for more than just the industrialisation of death that it brought with it. As several noble Lords have said, the war had a profound effect on modern Britain, and it is important that we seek to understand, reflect on and learn from the wider social changes that occurred over this tumultuous period in our history.

As my noble friend Lady Howells, the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and others have drawn our attention to, the British—and Empire—Army that fought the First World War a century ago had more in common demographically with the Britain of 2014 than the Britain of 1914. The contribution of the Indian subcontinent and the West Indies, as well as the other parts of the Empire, has not been sufficiently well recognised and I hope that this can now be rectified. This is important because it underscores some of the most important reasons why we have a multi-ethnic Britain in 2014. As a narrative, it does more than just explain the facts of our imperial past; it speaks to a very early contribution by many ethnic groups to our country and is an example of a powerful shared history that can help us understand why modern Britain functions as well as it does.

The Empire soldiers made several decisive contributions in a war which could have been won or lost by either side in 1918. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord King, mentioned that many academic historians argue about whether or not the war on the Western Front might ultimately have been lost without the contribution of the Indian Army. Those encounters had an impact on the Empire as well. The war transformed national identities in the dominions in ways that resonate powerfully even today. It also began to shape emerging arguments among independence movements in the colonies, although it took a second world war within a generation to play the decisive role in dissolving the British Empire and transmuting it into a Commonwealth of Nations.

I was very struck by the contributions of the noble Lords, Lord Trimble and Lord Rogan, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. It was very helpful to get a sense of engagement from those who are much closer to Ireland than many of us and an understanding of some of the ways in which the Irish contribution was made. The record now shows that there was a significant contribution and a sacrifice willingly made. We ought

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to think harder about that because it is not something that is much talked about. I am glad that they made their contributions and allowed us to do so. I spent some time in Ireland and I am conscious of the contribution to what I think is a change of mood that was made by the recent visit by Her Majesty the Queen to the Republic, which made a huge impact and is still being talked about today.

We should also not forget the artistic and cultural impact that the war had in Ireland. Those of us who have been lucky enough to see “The Silver Tassie”, Sean O’Casey’s interesting and prescient play, recently put on by the Royal National Theatre, will recognise the same currents of thought that we have heard in this debate from those who have quoted Sassoon, Owen and the other English and Welsh poets who contributed so much to our understanding of what it was like to be in the First World War.

There were 16,000 towns and villages across Great Britain in 1914, but only 40 of them across Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland would reach 1918 without having lost someone in the conflict. Every community has its own story to tell of loss and blighted lives as fiancés and husbands did not return. Moving forward to the present day, our country’s deployment in Afghanistan has now lasted more than three times longer than the First World War; 453 servicemen have died and we have felt the pain of every one. It is hard to imagine now what it must have been like to live through a conflict where around seven times that many soldiers would lose their lives each week, or to appreciate how much of a scar was left on the country by the first day of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916—a beautiful summer’s day, by all accounts—when 20,000 men were cut down before nightfall.

If we want to commemorate properly the First World War—if we want to do justice to the memory of those who lived through it 100 years ago—those commemorations cannot be about just those who fought and died on the front line. We also have to remember the heroes on the home front: the miners and factory and railway workers who kept our country going; and those who worked the land and cared for the wounded. This could not have happened if women had not taken on the jobs that had previously been seen as the preserve of men. An additional 800,000 women took up jobs in industry; 1 million were employed by the Ministry of Munitions alone; some 400,000 women found work in offices, and another 200,000 in different branches of government. As a result of that and many other changes, our society became much less deferential, readier to challenge authority and more multicultural. The changes meant that the extension of the franchise, fought for by suffragettes and suffragists in the run-up to 1914, became irresistible by the end of the war—a very good thing.

It is customary when winding up for the Opposition in debates of this type to either lay into the Government for their failings on the topic of the day or to list a series of very tricky questions, which we have worked on for hours and hours, aimed at unsettling and unseating the Minister—I am giving away a secret about how we do it—but I do not intend to do that. This is partly because so many noble Lords, such as my noble friend

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Lady Crawley, have expressed direct gratitude to the Government and the Minister for what they are doing in this commemoration, partly because of the emotional intensity of so many of the contributions—rightly so in view of the extraordinary losses that we have been talking about—but mainly because the Government, who have been in listening mode, have got the tone and content of this commemoration correctly nuanced, and I am delighted to be able to congratulate them on that.

7.59 pm

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, this has been an extremely moving debate and it is the greatest privilege to respond to it. The personal recollections of my noble friends Lord Jenkin of Roding, Lord Trefgarne and Lady Seccombe of their fathers, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, of his mother and my noble friend Lord Lyell and the noble Lord, Lord Laming, of their grandfathers, have been most affecting. The noble Lord, Lord Laming, spoke of the war’s impact on the whole lives of those who returned, its impact on those who lost loved ones and, indeed, of the debt that we owe to that whole generation.

The Government have been very well served by the First World War advisory group. Of the eight noble Lords who are part of that group, I particularly want to mention, as they are in their places today, the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, and my noble friends Lord King of Bridgwater and Lord Wallace of Saltaire. However, I am extremely grateful, as I know the Government are, to all those who have served on the advisory group.

I want to address the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty—namely that the tone of what we are seeking to achieve is crucial. I assure the noble Earl and all your Lordships that the most intense care has gone into ensuring that the tone is not at all nostalgic. That is not a word that I have identified in any of the programmes that I have seen. It is important to say that.

My noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire took forward an initiative last year to ask current Members to speak of their families’ involvement in the war. Some 130 Peers have so far responded, with replies still coming in. This will be fed into Parliament’s own plans to commemorate its role, and that of its Members and staff, during the conflict. My noble friend Lord Selsdon gave a further personal insight into this initiative. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that so much of the personal knowledge and experience of today’s debate should be captured. Indeed, the parliamentary choir, to which my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford referred, is embarking on an exchange tour with the Bundestag choir, and we look forward to seeing other parliamentary collaborations during the four years of commemorations.

It is clear that many noble Lords wish to see the programme reaching into every part of society and every part of the United Kingdom. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford for paying such a special tribute to the soldiers of Wales. Indeed, I think that my noble friend Lord Trefgarne will also be interested to hear that the engagement at

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Mametz Wood is being specifically recognised by a Welsh National Opera production as part of the 14-18 NOW cultural programme.

It is also increasingly evident that there is immense and wide interest in the centenary across the country, and a thirst for knowledge about the war. The Government are taking an appropriate lead in enabling people to commemorate in ways that are most appropriate to them. Whether it is the sacrifices of small rural villages, such as Kineton in Warwickshire, about which my noble friend Lady Seccombe spoke so movingly, or the immense contributions of whole countries in the then Empire, such as the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, at which the famous Jullundur Brigade of the Indian Army fought so valiantly, each is equally significant. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, for all that she and others have done to ensure that a lasting Commonwealth memorial was erected on Constitution Hill. I very much endorse what she said about how much we owe to India for its contribution in the First World War as part of the Empire. Today, in a different world, we are facilitating British Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus’ coming together to mark the centenary of the latter engagement next year. As I said, we are also making funds available for the repair of war graves and memorials. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London and the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, referred to that. I also endorse what many noble Lords said about the extraordinary and devoted work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

We are aiming to ensure that all organisations with a specific interest in the war, from charities to all three services, are properly represented at the 4 August events and at later national events. I reassure my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater that acceptances for all three 4 August events are coming in thick and fast. I will ensure that he is informed about the tally of Commonwealth leaders when it is known. The same applies to representatives with whom we are working to ensure that people of all races and religions have opportunities to get involved in marking a war that had a pivotal role in shaping our country. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Howells of St Davids, for speaking about the great contribution of men and women from the Caribbean. As she rightly said, they stood by the United Kingdom and answered the call. She referred also to the “cup of kindness” concept. I will certainly look at the observations that she made about some of the projects that are being undertaken.

My noble friend Lady Seccombe and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, spoke about the contribution of women. The empowerment of women was one of the most important ways in which the war shaped modern Britain. Not only did they enter the workplace as nurses, munitions workers and farmers helping to feed the nation, they kept communities going when the men were away and when so many of them were dealing with personal loss. I was struck by what my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby said, and I well remember Testament of Youth, which had many references to my former school, Uppingham.

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Women’s huge contribution helped bring about Votes for Women. I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, said, and think that it is right that this is part of how we commemorate the war. I agree with the observation of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, that perhaps the war would not have happened if women had been at the helm at that time. On International Women’s Day, the culture department awarded the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry a £20,000 grant to aid its present-day mission; and the Heritage Lottery Fund has supported many local projects that tell women’s wartime stories, such as the digitisation of the British Red Cross’s volunteer women’s records.

There is indication of a huge level of interest in the war. The Imperial War Museum’s Centenary Partnership now links around 900 commemorative projects and events of all types, to which my noble friend Lord Shipley referred. Indeed, some 100 of these are wholly or partly about women, such as an exhibition on Women in Industry in the First World War at the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester. I pay tribute to the Imperial War Museums: they have risen to the challenges presented by the centenary magnificently and I very much look forward to seeing the new First World War galleries when they open next month following a £40 million investment.

Other national institutions are marking the anniversary too, from the National Portrait Gallery’s impressive World War I exhibition to the British Library’s new educational website. When I visited Bletchley Park last week I was struck by its plans for a fascinating exhibition on the role of British signals intelligence, which was in its infancy during the First World War, and to which my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding referred. I mention also the National Memorial Arboretum’s events. Those of us who have seen “War Horse” will understand what my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury said. Indeed, at Park Lane there is a memorial not just to horses but to all animals that served during the war.

Many of the commemorative projects will have a cultural dimension. The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, referred to the artistic programme planned to mark the Battle of Coronel, the Royal Navy’s engagement off the coast of Chile. I wish this Anglo-Chilean project every possible success.

My noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford mentioned Hedd Wyn. One of the Heritage Lottery Fund community projects will be in Snowdonia to honour the Welsh war poet.

With culture, we should also include sport. My noble friend Lord Shipley mentioned it; and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, will share my appreciation of the way in which the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League have come together to create the Football Remembers project, marking the centenary of the Christmas truce in parts of the Western Front.

We are of course aware of the view in some quarters that the First World War was an “imperialist war”, but as I said, it is not the role of government to take a position on different historical interpretations. Our priority now is to honour the dead on all sides—the human stories of loss and trauma—and to recognise the undoubted impacts of the war on our country in

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so many ways. As part of this, we will of course be working closely with former combatant countries and with countries that may feel ambiguous about the centenary.

I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, for referring to the assistance received from the Chinese. I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, said about the Russians, Americans, Italians and French. I should like to refer also to the people of Belgium, who were occupied for so much of the war. It is also appropriate to mention that we are working with all those countries, and my honourable friend Dr Murrison—about whom many have spoken with gratitude—has had constructive dialogue with his Russian counterpart.

My noble friends Lord Trimble and Lord Bridgeman and the noble Lord, Lord Rogan, spoke powerfully and movingly about the great Irish contribution to the war effort. A common understanding of the 1914 to 1918 war is developing on both sides of the border, and the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach’s visit to the Western Front battlefields in December last year illustrates the theme of reconciliation that will shape co-operation between the two countries during the centenary and beyond.

My noble friend Lord Elton and a number of other noble Lords mentioned Mesopotamia. I think that your Lordships will understand that, given the general political situation there, it will be difficult for there to be commemorations of the siege of Kut at this time. However, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has produced a two-volume roll of honour listing all the casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq, including the dead of the First World War who lie in the Kut war cemetery.

What will be happening beyond 4 August? The events of that day will be a wholly appropriate way in which to launch the centenary. However, they are only a beginning. The war lasted over four years and the real impact on communities, both here in the UK and abroad, played out across those years. The Somme, Jutland, Passchendaele and other battles of which we will mark centenaries are burnt into our national consciousness.

One of the Government’s priorities has been to co-operate with the Australian, New Zealand, other Commonwealth and foreign Governments, and this will continue as we work together to ensure that the tragic and heroic Gallipoli campaign is appropriately marked next year both here and in Turkey. My noble friend Lady Suttie mentioned Hawick and the scale of its losses at Gallipoli. This was also remarked on by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London in his reference to countries of the Empire, now the Commonwealth, and the national tapestry whereby those countries are so much part of our lives today.

The Government will be maintaining a steady drum beat of projects and events right up to November 2018, and there are very good reasons why we have chosen to mark specific anniversaries. Marking Gallipoli allows us to mark the immense contribution made by servicemen of what is now the modern Commonwealth. Jutland was one of the Navy’s biggest engagements of

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the war, and I know that the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, has a particular interest in this. We will be making an announcement about locations and logistics as soon as possible. Arguably the Somme, to which the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Stamford, referred, was the war’s most infamous land battle.

I quite understand why the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, was not in a position to remain in the Chamber, but I thought that his extraordinary speech about the bravery of two former colleagues of his was spoken by an extremely brave man himself.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: Passchendaele gives scope to portray the extreme conditions in which the men of both sides lived, and Armistice Day allows deep reflection on the war as a whole, and its dreadful cost.

Regimental events will mark a whole series of anniversaries, and we believe that the interest and engagement of the public will continue throughout. This will be sustained in part by the continuing programmes of school battlefield visits and Heritage Lottery Fund grants for local projects. It is of course open to those wishing to commemorate a particular centenary to develop a proposal and apply to the fund for support.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his words about nostalgia. I also want to reply to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and my noble friend Lord Elton. I would be extremely worried indeed if nostalgia played any part in what was a horrendous war. As my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury expressed so strongly, the whole purpose of these battlefield visits is to share in a humbling experience. I very much hope that the teachers and pupils and all who visit these battlefields will gain what I did on my visit: a belief that they are a reason why we must never have wars like this again. I believe that the horror of the sacrifice is what pupils will take back from their visits.

Broadcasters will be keeping up the momentum with a series of programmes over the four years. I acknowledge the exceptional range and quality of the First World War programming that there has been on both television and radio. I am particularly grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, for bringing this to the attention of your Lordships. BBC Radio 3’s excellent broadcasts only this week are but one example of the BBC’s remarkable contribution to the commemorations. I will also look into the points that the noble Viscount made about other research proposals, and perhaps I may get back to him separately.

The manner in which your Lordships have spoken today is proof, if any were needed, of the ongoing significance of the First World War in the consciousness of this nation. It was, alas, not the war to end all wars, yet it marked the start of the modern age—the time in which many features of modern British society had their beginnings of roots. It was a war in which a majority of British citizens, and vast numbers living in the Empire, now the Commonwealth, knew death and suffering as never before. As the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, said, it was the first war that affected civilians greatly through air raids, the shelling

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of coastal towns and attacks on the Merchant Navy. It was a war marked by extraordinary acts of bravery among the horrors of it. It was a war whose memory continues to toll a mournful bell through our cultural memory, in poetry, arts and literature.

I particularly want to emphasise to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, that at no moment has the word “celebration” been used or thought of in our deliberations.

I was very struck by what my noble friend Lady Suttie, the noble Lord, Lord Watson of Invergowrie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, said regarding their relations never speaking about the war. It is perhaps appropriate to mention that it was only when I had to give an address for a cousin and did my research for that speech that I discovered that he was a doctor who landed 45 minutes after the first landing on the Normandy beaches and looked after the wounded. He never spoke of it.

This will be a centenary in which the Government are giving a lead but which is owned by us all. It is for all of us alive today to mark the extraordinary events of 100 years ago in a way that honours the dead, respects the bereaved and the wounded in mind and body, and pays tribute to the service of so many. I am extremely grateful to your Lordships for your support of the plans so far. I will continue to keep the House informed of the progress for the commemorations. I look forward to the active engagement of your Lordships as we move into commemorations that are respectful, inclusive and enduring.

Motion agreed.


Motion to Take Note

8.20 pm

Moved by Baroness Warsi

That this House takes note of the security and political situation in Iraq.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to debate a timely issue of growing concern. Noble Lords will be aware of the Statement on Iraq made by my right honourable friend, the Foreign Secretary, which I repeated to this House last week. I described the violent attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on the city of Mosul. In the following days ISIL rapidly advanced south on the main road to Baghdad, seizing control of towns including Shirqat and Tikrit, some 110 miles north of the capital. Initially, Iraqi forces proved unable to resist ISIL’s attacks, but on 17 June Government forces were able to halt ISIL’s rapid advance towards Baghdad at the town of Samarra, which lies about 80 miles north of the capital.

Since its initial surge, ISIL has consolidated its control of much of western and northern Iraq, outside the Kurdistan region. Over the weekend, there were

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reports that ISIL had taken control of the Qaim and Waleed border crossings with Syria. This would give ISIL control of Iraq’s entire border with Syria, with the exception of crossings in the Kurdistan region. Baiji—the site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery—has seen intense fighting. Production has been stopped. A number of foreign workers were based at the refinery, but thankfully a small number of British nationals who were there were able to leave and are safe.

Towards the end of last week we saw further fighting at Baquba, 37 miles north-east of Baghdad, and Tal Afar, 30 miles west of Mosul. Both have since seen fierce fighting between ISIL and Iraqi security forces. The fall of Tal Afar and the capture of its airport is thought to have given ISIL further access to weapons and ammunition left by the ISF. The Kurdistan region remains more stable, but the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have also been involved in fighting ISIL, and have reported some casualties. The situation remains fluid and very dangerous.

The speed and brutality of ISIL’s attacks have caused widespread suffering among ordinary Iraqis. The UN announced yesterday that it can confirm the deaths of 1,075 Iraqis so far in June, many of whom were civilians. However, it is also clear that the real figure is likely to be much higher. We have seen other alarming reports of ISIL’s brutality, despite suggestions that life has returned to normal in Mosul. As we have seen in Syria, a period of normality has been followed by horrifying and cruel treatment of the population through targeted violence and barbaric punishments. There are reports that the women of Mosul have been attacked, including being subjected to acts of sexual violence.

There are also high-profile reports of ISIL’s treatment of captured Iraqi security force personnel. Last week we saw the images of summary executions by ISIL, including what is thought to have been up to 1,700 air force recruits. There have also been humiliating and harrowing videos of Iraqi soldiers being tortured and intimidated. Such scenes play an all-too-familiar part of ISIL’s conduct in Syria. Many Iraqis will remember and fear a return of the open sectarian violence seen between 2006 and 2007. It is not possible to verify individual cases, but given what we know about ISIL, we fear these reports could be accurate.

ISIL has also taken a number of international hostages during its recent attacks, which is consistent with its tactics in Syria. More than 90 Turkish citizens are thought to have been taken, including staff from the Turkish consulate-general in Mosul. Also, 40 Indian nationals were taken from a bus as they attempted to escape the fighting. Our thoughts are with those people and their families.

ISIL’s stated goal is to establish a state that does not recognise borders, including ungoverned space in Iraq and Syria. We know from Syria that ISIL would use violence, extortion and intimidation to dominate those whom it seeks to control. There can be no compromise with ISIL and it poses a great danger to the Iraqi people. It appears that ISIL has exploited political and social divisions in Iraq to falsely portray itself as an alternative to Iraq’s democratically elected government. ISIL has formed loose alliances with other armed

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groups, including former Baathists—the remnants of the old Saddam regime—and disaffected people in the mainly Sunni-majority provinces they now control.

Sadly, this does say much about underlying divisions in Iraq. That is why we are clear that, alongside measures to restore security, we need an urgent political solution. The vast majority of Iraqis do not want to return to the worst of sectarian violence. The support of moderate Sunnis was vital in defeating al-Qaeda in 2006, and so it will be again to drive ISIL out of Iraq’s communities. This will mean inclusive politics and addressing the needs of that community.

The situation in Iraq is of the highest priority and Ministers have been fully engaged in work on how we respond to this threat to Iraq’s stability and security implications. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the National Security Council last Wednesday, which discussed the British Government’s response to the current situation. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken with regional Foreign Ministers, including Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari, Prince Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, with whom he discussed the welfare of the kidnapped Turkish citizens. He has also been in close contact with Secretary Kerry, who visited Baghdad earlier this week, to share our assessment of the situation and to discuss how we can work together and with allies to make some progress. We strongly support Secretary Kerry’s efforts and we agreed on the vital need for Iraqi leaders to work urgently for an inclusive political solution, as well as responding to the immediate security challenge.

On Monday, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was in Luxembourg, where he discussed the situation with his EU counterparts. He had a further opportunity to discuss the situation with NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels yesterday. My right honourable friend the Defence Secretary visited the Gulf this week to discuss the situation with regional allies. He reiterated our commitment to regional security and the constructive role that countries in the region can and must play in tackling the threat from extremism. I hope to be able to update this House of further developments in coming days.

The Government have made it clear that we are not planning a military intervention in Iraq. This is a fight that must be led by Iraqis, but we will consider options to support them where we can. First, we have been promoting political unity among those who support a democratic future for Iraq. Secondly, we stand ready to offer assistance where appropriate and possible. Thirdly, we are helping to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the recent violence. I will address each of these in turn.

It is vital for the immediate and long-term security and stability of Iraq that its political leaders put aside their differences and work together in the interests of a united and inclusive country. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made this clear when he spoke to the Iraqi Foreign Minister last week. Millions of Iraqis voted in elections in April this year. On 16 June, the Iraqi Supreme Court ratified those election

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results for all but a small number of newly elected MPs. There is now a clear process to be followed for the formation of a new Government. The Council of Representatives is expected to meet next week and we must begin this work in earnest. This is a time for urgency. Iraqi leaders cannot afford to delay this process. Only the people of Iraq should decide who leads them. However, it is clear that Iraq now needs a unity Government who can address the immediate security situation and the underlying divisions that weaken the country. That will include making difficult decisions and compromises, but the need to do that is clear.

On the issue of assistance to the Iraqi Government, we are urgently looking at other ways to help Iraq to stabilise the security situation. We will continue to liaise closely with our allies.

The Government’s highest priority, of course, is the security of the UK, which means working to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and potentially Iraq. It also means supporting groups such as the moderate opposition in Syria, who are fighting ISIL and squeezing the extremists.

As with so many conflicts, the most vulnerable are often the victims. ISIL’s attack on Mosul on 10 June led to the displacement of 500,000 people, doubling the amount of Iraqis displaced by violence over the past few months. Many have turned to the comparative safety of the Kurdistan region of Iraq—a region which is already host to some 220,000 Syrian refugees.

The UK was the first country to deploy a team to assess the humanitarian crisis after the attacks. We have announced £5 million-worth of support for NGOs to help with water supply and sanitation, to provide assistance with camp construction and to provide emergency food and medicine. We will continue to look at what more we can do to alleviate this suffering. I also welcome the announcement by the European Union of €5 million of support to help displaced people.

The situation in Iraq underlines the need to back those groups in the region, including in Syria, which are able and willing to counter the extremists and which have a pluralist and inclusive vision for their country. That is why we are increasing our support to the moderate opposition in Syria. They are defending the Syrian people against both the extremists and the brutality of the Assad regime. ISIL’s ability to operate in both Syria and Iraq should be of concern for the whole international community. The only sustainable solution to the crisis in Syria is to reach a negotiated political transition by mutual consent.

While the majority of ISIL’s fighters are drawn from Iraq and Syria, there is also a significant number of foreign fighters. We estimate that about 400 British nationals have travelled to Syria to fight. Not all are fighting alongside extremist groups, but some will inevitably be fighting with ISIL across Syria and Iraq. On 20 June, support for ISIL and other terrorist groups became a criminal offence under the Terrorism Act 2000.

There should be absolutely no doubt that the Government are prepared to take action to protect the UK’s national security. That includes confiscating passports, not allowing people to travel and prosecuting those who break the law. Ultimately, our priority must

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be to dissuade people from travelling to these areas of conflict in the first place. Our Prevent strategy includes work to identify and support individuals who are at risk of radicalisation.

In conclusion, the situation remains very serious. Her Majesty’s Government are focused closely on developments in Iraq, and we stand ready to help if needed, particularly those most affected by violence. However, this crisis has underlined the deep political divisions in Iraq and the urgent need to restore unity and confidence in Iraqi politics, which will mean responsible leadership that works for the interests of all Iraqis.

I look forward to all contributions today. I beg to move.

8.32 pm

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, while I follow events in Iraq, I rarely speak on the issue, although throughout the 1990s I had considerable contact with the Iraqi opposition—in particular, Jalal Talabani, Barham Salih, Hoshyar Zebari, Ahmed Chalabi and many others—often on a daily basis. I feel that I need to go back in history to make my case today.

I supported the first intervention in the early 1990s, and in the 1997-2001 Parliament I repeatedly called for, and openly supported, military intervention. I was not alone, and I find it what I can only describe as “vomit-inducing” to hear the back-stabbing of Blair by many who openly supported intervention and who are now in denial. The idea that most of us supported intervention on the single justification of WMD is nonsense. Our concerns went far wider, and I know because I attended many of the pre-conflict meetings both here and in America, in both the legislative and executive branches of government, where wider concerns were under consideration. I visited America on three separate occasions to discuss the Iraqi problem and I found far more resistance to the prospect of war in the Congress than ever was the case in the British Parliament.

I recall that the main concerns on both sides of the Atlantic were the need to end the threat to the Kurds, the need to stop Saddam’s programme of environmental destruction and population displacement in the south, the need to curtail any aspirations of Saddam for incursions into neighbouring states and, finally—in my view, one of the most important reasons, though rarely talked about—the need to remove Saddam’s threat to the international oil economy. That threat was a cause of volatility in international oil markets, with the potential to destabilise economies and impact on employment policies in the oil-dependent economies of the West—something that we should still have in mind. Those were the real reasons for intervention, not WMD. My only criticism of Blair is that concerns over justification in international law drove us down the WMD route.

My argument with the Americans was their refusal to clamp down on Saddam’s illegal oil sales, which were sustaining the regime. The Americans refused to budge and the sanctions busting was ignored. That failure drove us into a war that some of us originally believed could have been avoided. Chilcot was told this during his inquiry, and we wait to see whether he picks it up in his report.

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When I now reflect on what happened, I believe that we have to admit that we failed in our mission. We failed primarily because we paid insufficient regard to the lessons of history and the Sunni/Shia conflict, and we stayed too long. It was Ahmed Chalabi who said to me in 2004 over dinner in this House, “Get out now or it will all go wrong”. He harboured deep concerns over failures in America’s administration in Iraq, and how right he has turned out to be. My only regret is that, despite all the chatter on Chalabi’s past, he never became Prime Minister. He would have avoided much of the difficulty that has arisen.

But not all has been a disaster. Our intervention has given birth to one of the most successful developing economies in the world—a blooming Kurdistan. We now stand on the threshold of a dream that I have had for 25 years—an independent Kurdistan. I believe that the Sykes-Picot settlement was ill conceived and the time has come for the map to be redrawn. The Kurds now have an historic opportunity and they should seize it. The window is open. The reality is that Iraq could be held together only in conditions of repression. Saddam Hussein was not an accident of history. Just as Tito held together the potential warring factions of the former Yugoslavia—when he went, it broke up—Saddam had held together deep divisions in Iraq and his downfall has brought its people the right to self-determination, which may well mean break-up.

What should we do? In my view, the West should keep out. The more we intervene, the more we fuel the excesses of militant Islam. It may already have gone too far. It might even be that we end up with a divided Baghdad as we had in Jerusalem in the 1960s and Beirut in the 1980s—perhaps a capital divided between two independent states. Equally, we should not presume that a Sunni north, perhaps stretching into Syria, would necessarily be ISIS-dominated. The Sunni community in Iraq enjoyed a measure of freedom under a secular Saddam, and it will not give it up in favour of ISIS restrictions and Sharia extremes.

There is, however, an initiative that we could take. Militant Islam is now a worldwide phenomenon that needs worldwide recognition, understanding and action. We simply cannot proceed on the basis of some rustled-up coalition of western forces, provoking resentment and anger through intervention. The divisions between the international powers on the way to proceed, with benefit and disbenefit to their economies in mind, is getting us nowhere. Russian defence contracts, Chinese mineral concessions and other interests must not be allowed to impede debate on handling militant Islam. Regional solutions are not working, and at most they are of marginal benefit.

We should now turn to the United Nations and pursue what at first glimpse appears to be impossible. Our policy should be to act only in conditions of unanimity among the permanent representatives of the Security Council and from recommendations from the wider Security Council. I must confess that my knowledge of UN practice is very limited. However, I note that there is a constant in the way in which people, as individuals, conduct themselves in committee discussions at every level, whether it is the parish council or company boardroom. I sense that that constant applies equally at the United Nations. People

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in general, as individuals, often use their blocking powers, their veto or abstention in conditions where they believe that their view will be ignored and that some justification for a particular course of action will still be found by those who feel strongly. That is what has been happening in the United Nations.

It appears to me that when people know that their judgment and vote will actually influence an outcome and control events, they are inclined to make a very different calculation. I suspect that that is the case equally at the United Nations. I believe that the necessary multinational approach to dealing with militant Islam provides precisely those conditions. Militant Islam requires new, innovative thinking, with original thought being given to new solutions, not necessarily military. We need a new coalition that embraces more than just a majority among the major powers.

I end with a few general comments. I understand that there is a view that the most recent election results in Iraq offer the opportunity for a more inclusive Administration. While I have always believed that extremes can often talk where moderates compromise as they lose sight of the attainable, I just do not believe that that is the case in Iraq. The extremes here are now too grounded in historical antagonism. They are too polarised. My view is: keep out and build that new international coalition.

8.42 pm

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, one always looks at a list of these kinds of debates on the Middle East and thinks that one will hear speeches from the usual suspects. Then, of course, one is astonished when one hears a rather remarkable delivery from someone who does not conform to the traditional view that most of us share in this House. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, will not be surprised to know that I disagree with his analysis. I assure him that, although my notes were written before I heard him, he has not persuaded me that his recipe for success would have delivered nirvana in Iraq.

I am sorry that the title of this debate is about security and the political situation in Iraq. I think that points to the fallacy of western thinking in the Middle East which, in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world, still sees developments there as taking place in sovereign states on the basis that they are entirely autonomous and self-contained units, completely in charge of their own destinies. That was never so in the Middle East, and even less so in the Arab world, which has a religious, linguistic and cultural construct irrespective of boundaries until recent history. Therefore, I will speak about Iraq today in the context too of developments in Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

It is tempting to think of this current crisis and the potential break-up of Iraq as an entirely sectarian war between Sunni and Shia—the settling of scores, we are told, that are 1,500 years old. That is too simplistic an understanding of Islam, of the tribal loyalties and allegiances of the region and, moreover, it is a narrative which detaches the millions of Muslims who have embraced modernity and thrive in the interconnected and globalised world, at peace with themselves and with each other, both Sunni and Shia.

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For us in the United Kingdom not to recognise our role in the history and geopolitics of the region is to deny that the West—most notably the United States and the UK—is heavily implicated in what has gone wrong across the region. The current period has its roots in the end of the Cold War when the four left-facing Arab nationalist countries in the region—Iraq, Syria, Libya and Algeria—were left without superpower support with the demise of the Soviet Union. It is instructive to see that not only have three of those countries been engulfed in conflict to a greater or lesser degree, but that the end of bipolarity has extended instability across the whole of the Arab world to include neighbouring countries too.

Our erroneous support for Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war, which resulted in the deaths of millions on both sides, and then US exhortations after the Kuwaiti liberation for Shias and Kurds to rise up against him—and then abandoning them when they did so to Saddam’s further brutality—cost tens of thousands of lives as his repression increased. The years of no-fly zones which enabled the Kurds to establish the roots of their autonomous region, and which was never going to be a long-term solution, culminated in the Iraq war of 2003, for which the party opposite bears so much responsibility. We will have to see the results of the Chilcot report to know the full extent of that culpability.

It is invidious to argue that the Iraq war has not led to where we are now. Of course it has. The House may have forgotten that on 23 March 2003, within three days of the invasion, all 22 countries of the Arab League, meeting in Cairo, supported a resolution condemning the invasion as a violation of the UN charter and demanding a complete withdrawal of US and British troops from Iraqi soil. Kuwait was the sole exception and it had its debts to repay to the US. There was not an iota of legitimacy in that war, as the Arab League saw it. It was no war of liberation for them.

So we moved from the upheaval created by the events of 9/11 and the Iraq war to the Arab spring. In the interim, all the countries of the Middle East experienced a rise of jihadi violence, something not known as a phenomenon in the Arab world until the invasion of Iraq. A comment piece in the New Statesman, a Labour-supporting magazine, says in this week’s edition in a colourful attack on Tony Blair—to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, probably referred—that,

“according to a 2007 study, the Iraq war ‘generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks’”.

I turn to the situation in Syria. In 2011, when Bashar al-Assad started torturing and shooting dead unarmed, innocent protestors whose crime was to ask for delivery on his own promised reforms and for some freedom, we were urged across both Houses to do nothing. I called for limited support through the sale of arms for the Syrian opposition forces from late 2011. I kept to that position until the Syria vote in the House of Commons on 29 August 2013 and our debate here in the Lords. Assisting one side in a war is not of itself immoral. If it changes the symmetry of war it may result in a lower loss of life as the other side is more inclined to sue for peace.

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Any who are following the debates here in the past five years will have heard extraordinary interventions describing the sacrifices that countries have to make, whether they wish to be there or not. I particularly pay tribute to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—who is in his usual place and will be speaking today—with which I entirely concur and by which I was enormously moved. His presence in our House is a great credit to us.

In the period between 2011 and the current day it is true that the civil war in Syria has become more sectarian, but it did not start out so. There was a period until the end of 2012 when the conflict was mainly between Assad’s forces and the Free Syrian Army. Latterly it was joined by Jabhat al-Nusra—which was an offshoot of al-Qaeda, not ISIS—and ISIS came into the frame only last year within Syria. My point is that there was a period when action by the West might have resulted in a lower loss of life, a lower cost in human misery and certainly a lower cost in the treasure that is and will be expended to bring stability to the entire region as it faces conflagration.

We are now in a situation where that conflagration, which first engulfed Iraq, then Syria and now Iraq again, seems to be beyond our capabilities to control. I have no solutions to offer that the Government will not already have thought of. Clearly it is a priority to secure a unity Government in Iraq inclusive of all sides. Clearly we need to impress upon the Kurds that doing a land grab in the middle of this crisis does not constitute legitimacy, so they cannot use the status quo ante as a precedent to expand their reach. Clearly we need to work with new urgency on a Geneva III. Surely the facts on the ground point us towards bringing both sides together in Syria in reconciliation and in common purpose against the jihadis.

We also need to use our leverage with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to cut off channels of support for ISIS. It cannot be sufficient for them to say that they are helpless and cannot control private or charitable donations, although I have to say that ISIS is swimming in funds from Mosul and its various extortion rackets; some $3 billion, we are told.

Let me say a brief word about the ideology of ISIS and the extremist jihadi groups. If their intention is to establish a caliphate in the Middle East, they will not stop at borders. Yes, they consolidate their gains, but the very ideology of a pan-Islamic caliphate is founded on the dismissal of boundaries. A further several decades of war confronts us should they be allowed to establish themselves. It is not a prospect we can countenance, and nor should we. We need to be prepared to act when and where there is an opportunity for us to do so, be it through intelligence, strategic support, force protection or the use of bases in the near term. In the longer term, our choices become harder. We are a UNSC power and our interests are engaged in preventing a major threat to international peace and security both abroad and here at home. Our interests are engaged to prevent a terrorist state controlling vital oil fields and maritime trading routes. Our interests are engaged because we are bound with those who are suffering the fatalities of innocent civilians in our common humanity.

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I have said in the past that, while we cannot know of the consequences that any action on our part might bring, we know that inaction has consequences as well. This last year has shown us that. In the end, choices will have to be made as the Middle East is too strategically important on moral, humanitarian and economic grounds for us simply to be bystanders.

8.51 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): My Lords, I hope that it will please my Liberal Democrat friends behind me if I begin by reminding them that it was H H Asquith who, at the time of the crumbling belt of an Empire 100 years ago, was strongest in pointing out the extreme dangers of disturbing what he called the,

“hornets’ nest of Arab tribes and sects”,

in the Middle East and Mesopotamia region. I must say that I think the wisdom of Mr Asquith prevails and I also agree substantially with some of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.

The priorities of foreign policy, which we must have and must clarify, are absolutely clear to me. They are, first, to stay out of Iraq in its present internecine turmoil, except of course for humanitarian reasons. That is easily said, but it involves a great deal of courage and a great deal of difficulty, but obviously we must do our best on that front. Secondly, we must support the Middle East areas of stability that remain and maintain friendships in what is now a sea of turmoil with what the Minister rightly described as our regional allies.

What do I mean by our regional allies? We are close to little Jordan, which is threatened. We ought to be supporting Jordan quite openly, clearly, unashamedly and vigorously in every way we can. We should support Turkey, which despite some of its present difficulties, is a strong nation and a good friend. Although it is more difficult, we need to support in its agony little Lebanon, which is facing appalling difficulties as a result of the Syrian refugees, but somehow must be preserved and strengthened and helped to overcome its internal political difficulties. I would have added to the list the giant of the Middle East, Egypt, which represents one-quarter of the whole Arab population and which some of us have just visited. The only difficulty is that the Egyptians are currently mismanaging quite badly the public presentation of their internal affairs. They need to understand just what damage that does to their own progress and road map. An Egypt that is stable and on the right road to building a Parliament that respects human rights is a clear priority for this nation, and it would be—if we were not getting some of the relationships slightly wrong—a real asset that should be supported. If Kurdistan arises and if we really are seeing the breaking down of the line-drawing by Sir Mark Sykes’ and François Georges-Picot, we must understand Kurdistan’s ambitions and work out how to support them and the Gulf states.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and others that we must stay out of Iraq for two reasons. The first is that the Sunnis will in the end defeat themselves. There is the potential for endless breakaway in such organisations and movements. They are always splitting. Those of us who served in Northern

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Ireland in its most violent days will remember that, first, it was the IRA, then it was the Provisional IRA and then it was more extreme versions of the IRA and so on. They were always splitting away from each other, as each became more violent. Likewise, ISIS is being seen as too violent even for al-Qaeda.

The great Middle East expert, Alastair Crooke, was telling some of us just the other day that true Islam is resistance against established authority. It always tries to undermine the established authority of states. What we have seen, therefore, is not so much an invasion of Iraq from the north as a Sunni arising inside Iraq. That is what we have to deal with.

There has been no Arab spring. Experts talk about Arab awakening being about jobs, dignity, liberty and so on; it is not so. What was coming was always power fragmentation, digital street empowerment, the overthrow of all authority and the transmission of power to the street or, in the language of the French Revolution, to the gutter. That cannot be solved by western intervention. It was the wrong call to depict what was going to happen as being akin to the freedom of the former Communist satellites in eastern Europe.

That has to be explained better to our American friends. Again and again, I find that we are accused around the world of not explaining to the Americans the full consequences of the original Iraq invasion, which some of us certainly supported at the time—I fully concede that point to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. With our experience, our skill and our collective memory, we need to explain more clearly that what is needed in this turmoil of the Middle East is not military intervention or an assertion of American military leadership—which I think President Obama understands, although he was slightly moving away from it the other day—but an America that is a partner with the rising powers of the region in trying to maintain areas of stability amidst a sea of turmoil.

A constant theme that we hear is the danger posed by jihadist recruitment, with too many young men being seduced into fighting for the caliphate. I agree with the Prime Minister that this is a danger, but I am not sure that the answer is to talk just about values. Every country has its values and one sometimes feels that some of the Asian values—including a commitment to family life and so on—are better than anything we can deliver in the West. To keep young men from being recruited by the jihadists, we need a very strong purpose and direction in this country—a cause to fight for, a cause to be proud to belong to. We cannot be surprised if young men with no jobs and with a woolly and blurred view of what we stand for as a nation are dragged away into fighting for glory and the fantasy of the new caliphate.

On oil prices, about which we had some warnings, the shale revolution in America, which is ceasing to be a gas and oil importer—it may even be exporting gas very soon—has just about counterbalanced worries about oil supplies from Iraq, which have not yet been affected but may be affected quite soon; they are mostly in the south. There is perhaps also a feeling that Iran’s output will rise. I think that there will be a balance. Oddly enough, the people who have the most

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to lose in Iraq—they do not get mentioned very much—are the Chinese. They have huge investments in Iraq and rely greatly for their vast oil imports on Iran and Iraq. It is time—and I hope that HMG will realise this and put it to Beijing—that the Chinese, who are inclined to say, “Well, we don’t really have a foreign policy; we don’t believe in intervention”, face up to the fact that they are involved and take a serious view, as they found they had to do in Sudan, where they were also heavily invested.

To end, the pollsters, focus groups and election experts keep telling us that foreign policy is not important. When they look at the list it comes 14th—after immigration, health, crime, schools and all the rest. They are wrong. The truth is that foreign policy can break nations and Governments. We have to be extremely careful at this incredibly dangerous, precarious moment that in the quagmire of the Middle East our experience and wisdom as a nation and our understanding of the vast dangers that Mr Asquith pointed out 100 years ago are realised and built upon and will see us through.

9 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): My Lords, as far as I can see, reactions to recent events in Iraq have tended, both here and across the Atlantic, to be dominated by a combination of short memories and a number of rather self-centred analyses based on unhappy experiences following the 2003 invasion. Yet, neither of those reactions seems particularly helpful for determining an effective response to recent events. In particular, some of what I would describe as unwise and self-serving attempts by those responsible for the policy decisions taken in 2003 to revisit the rights and wrongs of those decisions will frankly not be a helpful guide to future policy. However, nor is an analysis that treats the 2003 invasion as the root of all Iraq’s problems. After all, it was Saddam Hussein who gassed the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. It was his helicopter gunships that slaughtered the Shia in Najaf and Karbala in 1991. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq may have been a secular state but it was also a sectarian one with a minority Sunni elite dominating and repressing the Kurds and Shia.

There has been, too, a lot of loose talk in recent days about the break-up of Iraq. Here I part company a long way from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, who wishes to break up Iraq into its various parts. I suspect that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was also flirting with that idea. Put simply, it is hard to see how that could occur without a great deal of sanguinary fighting over the boundaries of the three states that Iraq might be composed of. It could not be done without substantial ethnic cleansing or the risk of even more war crimes and atrocities than have already taken place. Moreover, an independent Kurdish state could trigger instability and perhaps hostilities in Iran, Turkey and Syria—all of which have substantial Kurdish populations. Then a Shia state, heavily dependent for its survival on Iran, could simply accelerate the drift towards a Shia/Sunni confrontation right across the Middle East. A Sunni state, land-locked, with no natural resources and probably dominated by ISIS, would be a security nightmare within the region and far beyond. I suggest that the splitting up of Iraq is a worst-case scenario not a prescription for policy.

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What then is the right response? Clearly, the sine qua non of restoring any sort of security and stability to Iraq is the formation of an inclusive Government that brings in elements of all three main communities on the basis of the democratic elections that took place in April. I welcome very much the Minister’s description of how important it is not to move away from that democratic legitimacy. It is encouraging that that is roughly what was said by the spiritual leader of the Shia community, Ayatollah Sistani, who has so often been a wise voice of moderation. He seems to be calling for such an inclusive approach. It is neither necessary nor, I suggest, desirable for outsiders to tell Iraqis who should lead that Government, or even who should not lead it. If the establishment of democratic processes, which was one of the few truly positive outcomes of the 2003 invasion, means anything it must mean that such choices are for the Iraqis.

What can outsiders do? The cautious but positive response given by President Obama to the Iraqi Government’s plea for help—the dispatch of a limited number of military advisers and the prospect of targeted air strikes—seems, I suggest, the right response. I very much hope that we, too, will respond positively if we are asked to help by the Iraqis or if the Americans indicate that they would welcome more help. The security threats from a fragmented Iraq were spelt out by the Prime Minister. I find it ironic that most of those who spoke on the other side of the argument about Syria said last year that keeping out of Syria would safeguard us from any possible blowback from jihadi extremists. Now we are seeing just how much good keeping out of Syria has done us.

If we and the US want our views about the need for the formation of an inclusive Iraqi Government to be taken seriously, surely we have to be ready to support such a Government. Are we and should we be doing anything to muster wider international support for Iraq in its hour of need? It should surely be possible to get the UN Security Council to reaffirm Iraq’s territorial integrity and single sovereignty and to call for international backing for that and for humanitarian relief efforts. This is surely a case where the responsibility to protect the civilians of Iraq, which their own Government are not well placed to do at the moment, should not be as contentious as it has been in other areas.

Is any thought being given to a Security Council approach? What is being done to rally support for Iraq more widely? I very much welcome what the Minister said about the European Union’s contribution to that. Iran is clearly an important player in all these matters. President Rouhani’s reaction to the events has had some positive features, but there are risks that Iranian military involvement could end up exacerbating the sectarian divisions and dimension to the fighting and make the formation of an inclusive Iraqi Government more difficult. What use are the Government planning to make of the welcome newly established channel of communication with Iran following our decision to reopen the embassy there? Are they consulting the Iranian Government directly on their views?

There are, alas, no particularly good or easy policy choices at the present juncture, but inaction is a choice too. There I very much join the noble Baroness, Lady

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Falkner, who pointed that out. I believe that inaction or the mere offering of gratuitous advice from a safe distance is not a particularly good option or one that is likely to have much effect.

9.08 pm

Lord King of Bridgwater (Con): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has given us a calm and logical voice of sanity on these problems. My concern is that in the hothouse of tensions in the area, there are not many cool heads around and that the dangers of all the courses which he set out may not be immediately apparent to any of those who may embark on them. I read the announcement today that Shia hit squads in Baghdad are deliberately targeting perfectly moderate Sunnis, obviously to stir up further hatred and conflict.

My noble friend the Minister set out clearly the Government’s understanding of the position at the moment. One of the difficulties is that the position is extremely confused. An interesting illustration of this was the bombing of ISIS. There seem to be three candidates now running: some people said it was the Americans, the tribesmen said it was the Syrians and meanwhile the Iraqi air force is having a little bombing run of its own at the oil refinery at Baiji. I listen to those who think that military intervention might somehow be helpful and say how far we should go in that support. There is a feeling that you can bomb incredibly accurately and always hit the right people. I do not quite know how you would actually bomb ISIS. Would you hit ISIS camps in the desert or kill moderate Sunnis, who are temporary hostages of the ISIS organisation at the moment?

Critical to this situation, it seems, is this: where is the majority Sunni population at present? Are they effectively hostages or motivated at the moment by such hatred of the unfair Government in Baghdad, as they see it, that they have gone along with ISIS but, on reflection, will not wish to see Iraq broken up? In any of the dealings I have had, I found that there is a loyalty to Iraq even though there are Sunni and Shia factions and they are often so bitterly divided. Will they want to see it break up and, when it comes to the crunch, how many of the Sunni are actually Baathists who will not want to see the Islamists coming through? There may be people who could be brought forward to help within the inclusive Government who many have talked about, perhaps under a more inclusive leader than Mr Maliki.

However, the idea of keeping the borders and seeing that go forward satisfactorily under a more inclusive Government then hits the Kurdish roadblock. I see that Secretary Kerry, having talked to President Barzani in Erbil, has found that there was something less than enthusiasm for sticking to the good old boundaries. If you add into that Kirkuk, which has been their ambition for such a long time, I do not see any great enthusiasm there to give that city up. I spent a little time with the Kurds at the end of the first Gulf War, when we did Operation Provide Comfort. I flew into northern Iraq when we were providing air cover to prevent the air strikes from Saddam and his helicopter gunships. At that time, one saw the determination and resolution of the Kurds and the Peshmerga. Of course, the Peshmerga

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did not have any air cover but in terms of ground forces, they were certainly a very resolute lot and I do not think that they will be easily dislodged.

Following on from that, we obviously face the risk of an appallingly dangerous situation, as many other noble Lords have said. I said in the debate on the Queen’s Speech that a distinguished Jordanian had said to me that he felt, some months ago, there was the risk of a conflagration that would go from Beirut to Mumbai. I wrote that down and the next morning—the morning of the Lords debate, as noble Lords may remember—we heard about Mosul, when ISIS first appeared aggressively on the scene. Of course, it is not Beirut to Mumbai but Mali to Mumbai, with Boko Haram and the scale of the chaos across that area. My noble friend Lord Howell referred to what might have been a huge stabilising influence in Egypt, which is now in total chaos as far as one sees, with journalists locked up and half the opposition now sentenced to death. The reality of the new Government in Egypt gives great cause for concern.

Against that background there is the danger of this going so much wider, which would then involve a lot of other people as well. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred to Iran, which is obviously acutely concerned by the situation. If we are really going to see significant conflagration and Sunni, Shia and Islamist activities then Russia will have concerns, as will China. The risks that my noble friend referred to in Jordan and Lebanon must also be high on our list of priorities. It is against that background that, while respecting the sensitivities of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Israel about our involvement with Iran, I welcome the opening of the embassy in Tehran and very much hope that we can find ways in which, without compromising our support for the Gulf states, Iran can make a constructive contribution.

I end with the unhelpful comment of Gertrude Bell about the people in the region, which I see the New Statesman has quoted:

“No one knows exactly what they do want, least of all themselves, except that they don’t want us”.

That is the theme that came through from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours: that our interventions in recent years have not been manifestly helpful.

However, now we face a serious situation. I certainly do not see our role as military; I see it as humanitarian and advisory in any way that we can to assist a response, possibly a United Nations response, to try to bring order and help to what is in danger of becoming a tragic situation.

9.16 pm

Lord Soley (Lab): My Lords, I declare my interest in the register as a director of the Good Governance Foundation, which operates in the region. I say straight away that I do not think that this is, or should be, a debate about the Iraq war of 2003—much as I would actually welcome that, and I hope that we get time for it. I agree with a lot of what my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours said; like him, I voted for the war but not on the basis of WMD, which I thought was an important part of it but not the central part. The

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failure was, frankly, a failure of the post-conflict plan and the dysfunctional nature of the United States Administration, particularly when they replaced Colin Powell, who had a plan, with Donald Rumsfeld, who simply felt that all we had to do was take away Saddam Hussein, get rid of the Baathist party and its operations in Iraq and everyone would welcome democracy with open arms. It never works like that, and it certainly did not then. Along with my noble friend’s colleague Ann Clwyd MP, I wrote a whole pamphlet for the Fabian Society on this very issue back in 2004.

I shall leave that aside, though, because—I agree with everyone who has said this—you cannot pin the current situation on the removal of Saddam in 2003. It is very hard to conceive of the war in Syria not affecting Iraq even if Saddam had been in power. We have to look slightly deeper at this. It is pointless to look at historical causes. You could point to the nature of the Ottoman Empire, which, although a very civilising and progressive empire, at its end was very brutal in the region. Gertrude Bell has been mentioned, and you could point to our division of the Middle East in her time—but going back in history does not actually solve current problems.