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Science and Technology

– in the House of Lords at 3:18 pm on 3rd December 2003.

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Photo of Lord Brabazon of Tara Lord Brabazon of Tara Chairman of Committees, House of Lords 3:18 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I beg to move the five Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper en bloc.

Constitution Committee

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to examine the constitutional implications of all public Bills coming before the House; and to keep under review the operation of the constitution;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be named of the committee:

L. Acton,

L. Elton,

L. Fellowes,

B. Gould of Potternewton,

L. Holme of Cheltenham,

B. Howells of St Davids,

L. Jauncey of Tullichettle,

L. Lang of Monkton ,

L. MacGregor of Pulham Market,

E. Mar and Kellie,

L. Morgan,

L. Norton of Louth (Chairman);

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the minutes of evidence taken before the Constitution Committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the committee;

That the minutes of evidence taken before the committee from time to time shall, if the committee think fit, be printed. Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to report whether the provisions of any Bill inappropriately delegate legislative power, or whether they subject the exercise of legislative power to an inappropriate degree of parliamentary scrutiny; to report on documents and draft orders laid before Parliament under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001; and to perform, in respect of such documents and orders and subordinate provisions orders laid under that Act, the functions performed in respect of other instruments by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be named of the committee:

L. Brooke of Sutton Mandeville,

B. Carnegy of Lour,

L. Dahrendorf (Chairman),

L. Desai,

L. Harrison,

L. Mayhew of Twysden,

L. Temple-Morris,

L. Tombs,

L. Wigoder;

That the committee have power to adjourn from place to place within the United Kingdom;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers.

Liaison Committee

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to advise the House on the resources required for Select Committee work and to allocate resources between Select Committees; to review the Select Committee work of the House; to consider requests for ad hoc committees and report to the House with recommendations; to ensure effective co-ordination between the two Houses; and to consider the availability of Lords to serve on committees;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees be named of the committee:

B. Amos (Lord President),

V. Colville of Culross,

L. Craig of Radley,

L. Geddes,

B. Hayman,

L. Kimball,

B. Pitkeathley,

B. Scott of Needham Market,

L. Strathclyde,

B. Williams of Crosby;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers.

Privileges

Moved, That a Committee for Privileges be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords together with the Chairman of Committees and any four Lords of Appeal be named of the committee:

B. Amos (Lord President),

L. Browne-Wilkinson,

L. Carlisle of Bucklow,

L. Cope of Berkeley,

L. Craig of Radley,

L. Graham of Edmonton,

L. Grocott,

L. Mackay of Clashfern,

L. Marsh,

L. Merlyn-Rees,

L. Roper,

L. Strabolgi,

L. Strathclyde,

L. Trefgarne,

B. Williams of Crosby;

That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees and that such sub-committees have power to appoint their own chairman;

That the committee have power to co-opt any Lord for the purposes of serving on any sub-committee. Science and Technology

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider science and technology and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be named of the Select Committee:

B. Finlay of Llandaff,

L. Lewis of Newnham,

L. Mitchell,

L. Oxburgh (Chairman),

L. Paul,

B. Perry of Southwark,

B. Platt of Writtle,

B. Sharp of Guildford,

L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior,

L. Sutherland of Houndwood,

L. Turnberg,

B. Walmsley,

L. Winston,

L. Young of Graffham;

That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees and that the committee have power to appoint the chairmen of sub-committees;

That the committee have power to co-opt any Lord for the purposes of serving on the committee or any sub-committee;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the committee and any sub-committee have power to adjourn from place to place;

That the committee and any sub-committee have power to appoint specialist advisers;

That the minutes of evidence taken before the Science and Technology Committee or any sub-committee in the last session of Parliament be referred to the committee;

That the minutes of evidence taken before the committee from time to time shall, if the committee think fit, be printed.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Personal Statement: The Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Photo of Lord Falconer of Thoroton Lord Falconer of Thoroton Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor

My Lords, during the course of my winding-up speech yesterday, I said that the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, had voted in favour of a fully appointed House and an 80 per cent appointed House. He has written to me today to correct me in that respect; in fact, he voted for a fully elected House and an 80 per cent elected House. I unreservedly apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, and I unreservedly apologise to the House for that error. Business

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms (HM Household) (Chief Whip, House of Lords)

My Lords, before the debate begins, perhaps I may offer a suggestion about timing. Yesterday I said that if everyone kept to around eight minutes, we would finish by around 10 o'clock. To my amazement, everyone kept to about eight minutes and we finished by 10 o'clock. I suggest today that, if Back-Bench contributions—excluding those of the noble Lords, Lord Grenfell and Lord Norton, who have a special contribution to make—lasted on average seven minutes, we would finish by 10 o'clock. If, at the other extreme, contributions lasted 10 minutes, we would finish north of midnight. That gives noble Lords an idea of where we are. Address in Reply to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday last by the Lord Ashley of Stoke, as amended yesterday—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows—

"Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament, but regret the decision of Your Majesty's Government to abandon the search for cross-party consensus on constitutional reform and to launch unilateral proposals for changes to this House that could gravely weaken the House; and call on Your Majesty's Government to respect the formal undertakings given to this House, to withdraw their current proposals and to undertake meaningful consultation with Parliament and the senior judiciary before proceeding with legislation."

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement) 3:20 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, in opening this important debate, I would like to thank all the noble Lords who are to speak. It is a most distinguished if reasonably long cast list: it would be invidious and certainly stupid to pick out stars, but I am particularly looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, who retired as Chief of the Defence Staff earlier this year. I had the privilege of working with the noble and gallant Lord for some time, and was able to see at close hand his superb leadership of the Armed Forces during both the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. He had an extremely busy time as Chief of the Defence Staff and he is a man of strong, well thought-out views, and I believe that the House is in for a treat—although whether the Government are in for a treat, we will soon see. I also look forward to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool.

I congratulate the European Union Committee and the Select Committee on the Constitution on their reports, which are to be debated alongside the Queen's Speech debate. We look forward to hearing from the chairmen of those two committees. My noble friend Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean will answer points arising from those reports at the end.

Since the last Queen's Speech it has been an extraordinary year, with the United Kingdom's foreign and defence policy in the spotlight at the top of the news in a way not seen in years. Strong passions have been stirred: public opinion has been expressed robustly, as it should be in a free and democratic country. I would argue that the British Government have stuck firmly to their policy in spite of siren voices tempting us not to see it through.

A starting point with which we can all agree is that we live in an increasingly dangerous world. The events of the past couple of years have demonstrated all too clearly the changing nature of the global security environment and the difficult choices that confront us. The constant threats to our peace and security today are more diverse than ever, and they are real and immediate. The scale of terrorist violence is unprecedented and, since 11th September 2001, there have been terrorist attacks on targets in places as disparate as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Morocco. The recent appalling attacks in Istanbul illustrate yet again the immoral and indiscriminate methods that terrorists are happy to use.

Alongside international terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction among states, and their means of delivery, is potentially the most catastrophic threat to our peace and stability. The risk of terrorists acquiring WMD is a daunting and frightening prospect. We must also address the causes and consequences of weak and failing states. All too often they contain areas of ungoverned territory, which can provide havens for terrorist groups and criminal networks involved in drugs production or the plundering of natural resources.

Cutting across those issues, and relevant to many of them, are some key strategic policy challenges: establishing peace and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan; making progress towards a settlement on Israel/Palestine; handling Iran, tackling the worst cases of poverty and regional tensions faced by much of sub-Saharan Africa, and addressing the conditions in which violence and extremism thrive. I will start with Iraq. Saddam Hussein's brutal regime has been removed and the threat from Iraq's illegal WMD programmes neutralised. That is clear at least. Even those who say that we were wrong to go to war have to admit that, without the war, Saddam Hussein would still be in power and his regime would still be oppressing the Iraqi people. Sometimes one feels that that point is overlooked by those who oppose what we did. Today, the international community is helping the Iraqi people to restore effective representative government for their people, to regain economic stability and to reintegrate into the international community. Real progress is being made in developing vital infrastructure and creating a sound base for a stable and prosperous Iraq.

As the second largest contributor of armed forces, the UK deployed around 46,000 service personnel to the Gulf. We should be proud of the part that our Armed Forces played in the operations and in their professionalism and bravery. However, the effort in Iraq is by no means confined to the military, and we should not forget the key role of British civil servants currently in that country. Many UK Government departments have deployed personnel to Iraq; primarily DfID, the MoD and the FCO, but also the Home Office, the DTI, Customs and Excise, the Cabinet Office, Defra, the Department of Health and DCMS. That has required a truly inter-departmental approach, which began in the months leading up to the campaign phase and has continued throughout all phases of the operation. The bravery and sense of service of all these people—and I include, of course, all those representing the UK abroad in the diplomatic and consular services, some of whom have paid with their lives—should be a matter of enormous pride to our country.

Amid all of the negative reporting of the situation, it is easy to lose sight of what is being achieved. In October, 72 countries and international organisations met in Madrid to help plan Iraq's reconstruction. They pledged around 33 billion dollars to help to get Iraq back on its feet. Iraq is not a naturally poor country, but the legacy of Saddam's corrupt misuse of the national wealth must be overcome.

Noble Lords will have seen the recent Governing Council announcement about the transfer of authority to Iraqis. That is a welcome sign of progress. Although there is a huge amount to be done, the Governing Council has set out the road map to a properly constituted and fully elected Iraqi Government as it was required to by the UN Security Council. I would not wish to underplay the security concerns that Iraq still faces. Tens of thousands of Iraqi police and other security forces are operating on the ground securing the future of their country. However, Iraqis have stressed that they want the multinational force to stay until Iraq has its own capacity to ensure stability and defend itself. By July next year, there will be a transitional government. We expect the multinational force to remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi Government. The United Kingdom remains committed to the future of Iraq and I am hopeful and confident—as I know the House is—that there will be progress.

On Iran, we welcome the Iranian support for the Iraqi Governing Council and hope that Iran will promote the nascent democracy in Iraq. The Government's overall approach to Iran is one of constructive—though critical and conditional—engagement. The UK and our EU partners have stated that our willingness to develop relations with Iran is dependent on Iranian action in addressing areas of political concern, including Iran's nuclear programme and the approach Iran takes to terrorism, human rights and the Middle East peace process. Recent commitments that Iran has made regarding co-operation with the IAEA, suspending enrichment and reprocessing activities and signing an additional protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement are welcome. Frankly, however, Iran will ultimately be judged on its actions.

On the Middle East peace process, President Bush outlined the US commitment to the road map during his recent visit to the UK. He also reaffirmed US commitment to a viable, independent state for Palestine alongside security and recognition for the state of Israel. The UK is also committed to this vision of peace and believes that the road map remains the way ahead. We will continue to support international efforts to secure a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement. My noble friend, who has government responsibility for the matter, will talk more about that during her winding-up speech.

Turning to Africa, the Government wholeheartedly support African attempts and efforts to increase good governance and reduce poverty. We support the G8 Africa action plan and are actively seeking reform on policy issues such as trade to assist in Africa's development. In addition, we are assisting developing countries to improve their capacity to participate more fully in WTO negotiations. The breakdown of the recent trade talks at Cancun was a disappointment to the UK and we will work with others to get back on track as soon as possible.

Without peace, the prospects for sustained development are remote. The UK and its EU partners are committed to addressing conflict in Africa as shown by the recent EU military operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Sierra Leone demonstrates what can be achieved. To help to prevent and resolve violent conflicts, a plan for training and operational support has been agreed between G8 and African countries. DfID is providing resources to low-income countries that have poverty reduction strategies and the political will and capacity to deliver the millennium development goals. Importantly, the Ministry of Defence is supporting security sector reform in Africa.

Tackling today's problems requires a multilateral approach. We share common interests with other nations and the challenges that we face are too difficult and too broad to be tackled by one nation. We need to work closely with both the United States and our EU partners to develop effective responses. Our aim should be to develop a global agenda, led by the US and the EU working in partnership. NATO has been the most effective forum for transatlantic dialogue on security issues and the primary source of its members' defence. And it still is. It is also the most appropriate place for Europeans and the US to work together on the security issues of today. We need to develop the crisis management and expeditionary capability of NATO, while expanding its membership and building relationships with former adversaries.

Complementary to developing NATO is the development of a strong European defence and crisis management capability. The EU operation in Bunia, the ongoing police mission in Bosnia and the military operation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia—to finish on 15th December and to be followed by a second EU police mission—demonstrate real progress. We have shown that the Berlin Plus arrangements work and have demonstrated the EU-NATO strategic partnership in practice. But the EU, and individual member states, must take steps to ensure that key capability shortfalls are addressed, while not duplicating existing capability. To that end, we support the creation of the new European Defence Agency, which will begin its work during 2004.

At the most recent European Council, the Prime Minister emphasised that,

"we need a strong European Defence, but nothing whatever must put at risk our essential defence guarantees within NATO".

The Government set out their policy for the inter-governmental conference in a White Paper in September. We made clear the principles that we would pursue in the negotiation, and the elements of the treaty text prepared by the convention that were unacceptable to us, covering structured co-operation and mutual defence. During recent weeks, the Government have been working with partners, notably the French and the Germans, on a way forward in those areas. I am pleased therefore to say that, in our view, the latest texts tabled by the presidency represent a significant and very welcome advance.

They would ensure, first, that it is clear that NATO remains the cornerstone of our security and that the NATO Article V guarantee remains the basis for the mutual defence of its members and the instrument for implementing that guarantee. Secondly, the ESDP would continue to develop in accordance with the open, flexible and militarily robust model that was agreed at St Malo and detailed at the Nice European Council. The new package will focus future development of the ESDP on qualitative and quantitative improvement of defence capabilities for crisis management operations outside the Union and will meet the defence objectives that we set out in the September White Paper.

The United Nations remains at the heart of UK foreign policy and plays a role in enhancing security in its broadest sense. We are a permanent member of the Security Council. Thus, we have a particular responsibility to "deliver the UN goods", and to support the UN's work on international peace and security. There are a number of areas for action on peacekeeping in which the MoD is engaged with other government departments. One such area is pushing further for the implementation of the United Nations' own review of peace support operations; that is, the Brahimi report.

As I have argued, working multilaterally also means close consultation and co-operation across government departments. Increasingly, we must use a combination of diplomatic, political, economic and military levers to achieve strategic effects. We are doing that already as part of the Global Conflict Prevention Pool and the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool. The FCO, DfID and MoD—working closer together now than ever before—are also exploring mechanisms through which we can develop better, more joined-up approaches to effects-based planning and conflict and crisis management. Iraq has proved a good illustration of how that works in practice.

Yesterday, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office published a strategy that considers the changes we expect during the next 10 years and what they mean for us. It sets out eight strategic international priorities for the Government and describes the FCO's role in working with others to achieve those priorities. It will be the framework for ensuring that the FCO and its network of diplomatic posts are focused on the Government's current and future international priorities.

The ability of the United Kingdom to project armed force is, and will remain, a key instrument of our foreign and security policy. On 11th December, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence will present the defence White Paper to Parliament. It will provide a comprehensive statement of defence policy and will outline the security and policy baseline against which future decisions will be made. The paper will set out the need for flexible and agile Armed Forces that are able to deploy rapidly at small and medium scale and can quickly interlink with our allies to meet a wide range of expeditionary tasks. At the same time, we will retain the capacity to undertake less frequent large-scale operations.

In particular, counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation operations will require rapidly deployable forces to respond swiftly to intelligence and to achieve precise effects across the world. Key to this process will be the ability to derive full benefit from advancing technology. Network enabled capability will enable us to deliver rapid military effect by linking intelligence, communications and strike assets. We will also need to focus investment in strategic enablers and force multipliers, while restructuring those force elements that contribute less well to future operations.

Ultimately, operational success will depend on our people. Delivering an effective expeditionary capability will require sufficient, trained and motivated service personnel. In terms of recruitment, the sustained effort during the past few years is starting to deliver results. Last year was the best recruiting year for a decade with some 26,220 people joining the Armed Forces.

We owe it to our servicemen and women to support their wider needs too. One vital component of the life-long support that we offer service personnel and their families is pension and compensation arrangements. To that end, new pensions and compensation packages and a modernised compensation appeals process were announced on 15th September and a Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech. The measures offer high level assurance for service personnel appropriate to the demands of military service.

As part of our overall defence policy we are committed to a strong, healthy and globally competitive defence industry.

Photo of Lord King of Bridgwater Lord King of Bridgwater Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, who will know that as important as recruitment is the issue of retention of service personnel. Perhaps he could say something about that matter. It is good to recruit new junior ranks, but the retention of key, experienced personnel is vital.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

My Lords, the noble Lord, with his vast experience, is absolutely right. The recruitment figures are excellent. We are delighted with them. As I understand it—of course, I shall write to him with the figures—the retention figures for the past year have also been encouraging. Before I commit myself in that respect, I promise to write to the noble Lord.

We are committed to a competitive defence industry in the United Kingdom. Since we launched our defence industrial policy last year, we have worked closely with the Defence Industries Council to deliver our shared goals. We are working to develop a better understanding of the capabilities of UK industry and to co-ordinate our research and technology programmes. Our industry continues to show its strength in export markets, about which we should be pleased.

UK companies have demonstrated their competitiveness by winning work on the Joint Strike Fighter programme on merit, and of course the Hawk aircraft has long had many customers and admirers around the world. Indeed, a significant order from the Indian Government followed hard on the heels of our own decision to select the aircraft for our military flying training system.

I have sought to cover much ground, perhaps too much, over the past 20 minutes, but this is a time of major change in foreign and security policy. We will need flexible Armed Forces, strategic partnerships and strong international institutions to achieve successful outcomes. What I have attempted to outline today is the structured and strategic approach that this Government will take to adapt, to respond and to be ready to act when and where it is necessary.

I mentioned earlier how the departments of state—the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development—are working together as one in order to put into effect our policies. If I were to use shorthand, I would characterise our policies as striving to be a force for good. After all, that is surely what a country like ours, with its great history, its comparative wealth and its outstanding reputation should be striving for.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 3:41 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it is good that the noble Lord, Lord Bach, has opened this debate by emphasising defence and security issues. Our security is of course the ultimate of the nation's interests, although, as we learn day by day, those are becoming ever harder to define precisely and to defend in this age of global interdependence and global terror. Like the noble Lord, I look forward very much to hearing the maiden speeches of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce—he is a former Chief of the Defence Staff, but he will not be the only former Chief of the Defence Staff to speak today—and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. We shall listen closely to what they have to say.

Within all this complexity there is one simple and central aspect: it is that on however wide and distant a front, we have to defend our nation's security in this age of global terrorism and, however sophisticated the weaponry needed to do so, it is the personnel—the quality, courage and skills of the men and women in our Armed Forces—on which all else ultimately depends. I should add that today, with great sadness, we also find that our diplomats are being increasingly exposed to violence, danger and death. I join all those who have expressed deep sorrow at the death of Roger Short and members of his staff in Istanbul. We should say a prayer for and add our condolences to those for the Japanese personnel and diplomats, the Spanish personnel and the Korean personnel who have been murdered while doing their duty over the past few weeks. We should also spare a thought for senior British officials—not from the Ministry of Defence, but those from other departments—who have been grievously wounded in Iraq, as has been the son of one of the most respected Members of this House.

As the Minister outlined in his remarks, today we are placing almost unparalleled demands in an unparalleled spread of areas and diversity of operational commitments on our brave troops. I cite the Gulf, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and other locations—and who knows where else tomorrow? That is why Members on these Benches and the British public are reasonably justified in our anxiety to know just what the Government now propose to do in order to relieve the enormous strain being put on our stretched armed services. We are all agreed that they are doing a brilliant job, but how is the strain to be eased?

I am advised that for many service personnel the interval between operational tours is now down to as little as eight or even six months, when the guideline is meant to be 24 months. Fighting troops have a mere six months to rest, recharge their batteries, join their families and, of course, address the crucial business of training and retraining on which the legendary efficiency of our Armed Forces ultimately depends. So my first question this afternoon is this: when and how is the respite period for our troops to be extended back to the required 24 months? Can one really count, as has been suggested in the newspapers, on a so-called "peace dividend" from units being freed from Northern Ireland, not least when the outlook there appears so shaky? If extra troops are to be released, will they be able to affect that miserably short period of turnover and respite and extend it to something more reasonable?

We all recognise the need for ever greater flexibility in our Armed Forces; that is the "new strategic environment" referred to in the gracious Speech. But what are we to make of reports that the Government are planning to respond to that need in the forthcoming White Paper—my noble friend Lord Vivian will have plenty to say on that in due course—by axeing or merging some of our proudest regiments—I hope that that is not true—and by squeezing still further the already woefully under-equipped Reserves and Territorials?

I shall leave it to other noble and noble and gallant Lords with vastly greater experience than mine to talk on the aspects of resources for the military, as well as the new and bizarre accounting method that the Treasury seems to have dumped on the Ministry of Defence, but I for one should like to see these reports flatly denied. I say that not just for sentimental reasons, but because the regimental system is not yesterday's pattern, it is the framework on which the peculiar excellence of our Army and our frontline forces depends. In tomorrow's world, I believe that that will be even more the case. As for the Reserves and the Territorials, not only are they providing, I am told, up to 25 per cent of our troops in Iraq, but we will depend on them more than ever for homeland defence. Any sensible policy ought to be building them up, not slicing them down. Can we be told what are the Government's intentions?

If all this uncertainty was not enough, we have a wider question to ask about the place of our Armed Forces and our military capacities within NATO, about which the Minister has spoken. All Ministers, not only the noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite, but the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others, have all vociferously asserted that the latest defence agreements with France and with the European Union in no way undermine Atlantic co-operation through NATO. Yet that is bound to be difficult for some of us because the French leadership is totally opposed to the very Atlanticist beliefs to which the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary keep loudly committing themselves. We are being asked to believe that, amazingly, the circle can be squared.

Of course none of us wants to be America's poodle, as the Prime Minister is often quite unfairly unaccused of being, but Members on this side of the House believe—along with, I think, the Prime Minister—that the trans-Atlantic linkage remains central to our security and to the safety of these islands. So we need to be clear, much clearer than Ministers have been, about just what is now being proposed.

There are two kinds of military planning structure: the first is "force planning" which deals with what forces and equipment are to be provided; while the second is "operational planning", which covers decisions on how those forces and equipment are to be deployed and used. I see no great harm in existing EU military staff doing force planning, but there are huge and divisive dangers in having a separate EU operational planning staff outside NATO. Over recent days we have been given the "housemaid's baby" argument—that it is only a very small item. But of course it will grow. If the so-called "structured co-operation" now being proposed in the EU leads to a large, separate entity, or to some semi-permanent core of EU states quite separate from NATO, then in our view Britain should oppose it root and branch so as to protect our own national interest and before we give a dangerous and misinterpreted signal to the Americans that their time in Europe is up and they should go home.

In Iraq, as the Minister confirmed and we all agree, our troops have continued to distinguish themselves and to demonstrate the value of meticulous training and preparation and generations of experience in dealing with low-intensity and guerrilla warfare. We on this side fully supported the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of the sadistic tyrant, Saddam. We saluted the Prime Minister's courage in going ahead, even though we repeatedly warned at the time, and not afterwards, that he was proving dismally injudicious in his handling of certain intelligence material on so-called weapons of mass destruction, and on the nature and imminence of the threat to us.

The Hutton inquiry will deal with aspects of that issue. However, I strongly agree with the argument of my noble friend Lord Alexander of Weedon, and many others, that the advice of the Attorney-General on these matters should be published in some form. There are ample precedents for that; it has been done before and could be done again. While it is presumably the first war dossier that interests the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, like many others I remain astounded by the saga of the second "dodgy" dossier and the unparalleled sloppiness and incompetence that it demonstrated.

On the ground in Iraq, we are probably still not getting the full picture, since the violent incidents tend to be reported by the media, and the successes hardly at all. We forget that large areas of that large country are at peace, schools and hospitals are open and fully functioning, and business is picking up. As the Minister says, however, the security situation is the key, especially in the Sunni triangle above Baghdad.

What was needed from the start, as we could have explained to our American friends—and I wonder whether we did—is a coherent counter-insurgency strategy based on deep intelligence, which destroys the terrorists, the jihadists and all the others, while breaking their remaining links with the civil population. Over the weekend, our US friends, who may now be learning, had an excellent victory in their attacks on the guerrillas. Typically, it was portrayed by the BBC as a defeat, but never mind that. I am told that they came within one hour of catching Saddam, so the net may be closing in on him.

Above all, the coalition authorities now have to show that they are not an occupying power but merely a transitional force. They have to promise to stay until stability is assured, but they have to promise to go as soon as possible. That is a desperately difficult balancing act, and the Americans really need strong friends and allies as well as robust UN involvement—not whining critics—to help them to complete it.

There is no time for me to consider the broader Middle East picture. However, as the Minister says, the Iranians are now sounding more positive and co-operative. The blackspot obviously remains the miserable Palestine/Israel conflict, where one can only pray that a new road map of some kind, like the Geneva plan, can be established, and sanity on both sides begins to prevail.

I mentioned the defence ambiguities in our relations with our EU neighbours. What are we to make of all the other cracks and fissures being created in the structure of European unity and stability? The smaller member states, both the existing ones and the newcomers, are increasingly and understandably sour about the way in which things are going, and especially about the tactless dominance of the bigger members. Meanwhile, the euro has lost its legal framework, and the stability and growth pact is in tatters. Indeed, Commissioner Monti says that it has been killed. That is a clear demonstration of one rule for the smaller brethren and another for the big boys. Is it not ironic that we are being asked to approve, in the gracious Speech, a draft Bill for a referendum on joining the euro at the very moment when the whole system is tottering?

Above all, there is the dismal EU constitution project, which the Foreign Secretary now tells us is desirable but not necessary. If that is so, we have to ask why it is being pursued at such divisive cost. Of course, we shall have a chance to debate that in more detail this time next week in your Lordships' House.

A constitution for a nation or for nations is not just any old piece of paper, but a document in which every word has legal significance. I know that the Foreign Secretary is calling it no more than a "label" and that Mr Peter Hain says that it is just a tidying-up operation. Those statements are being rightly and almost universally ridiculed. Presumably, they are made only to defend the Government's crumbling case against a referendum on the issue. That is a referendum that we want, unlike the one on the euro. We in the Conservative Party and more than 80 per cent of the country want it. I understand that those in the Liberal Democrat Party want it as well—or that is what they say at the moment.

Everyone in Europe recognises that the new constitution is much more than a treaty; that however many "red lines" there are—and some of those are looking very crumbly—it shifts power to the European institutions and significantly away from member states. It creates for the first time in our history a new and superior legal framework for our national affairs, which will affect every single one of us. So says the Belgian Prime Minister, Mr Verhofstadt, who states:

"The Convention's draft is quite rightly accorded the title of a Constitution: it is more than a treaty—it is the capstone of a federal state".

So, too, says our friend Romano Prodi, in stating:

"The Constitution is a big change from the basic concept of nation states. It's a change of centuries".

So, too, says our own Chancellor, Gordon Brown, when he points to the constitution's fundamental importance and the threat it poses to our autonomy in tax and fiscal matters. That is confirmed by the excellent House of Lords report, which is tabled for debate today, from our committee dealing with the constitution. It raises 15 issues of principle in the draft constitution that affect our own constitution. That seems further confirmation of the point that I am making.

As great constitutions go, this EU effort is a very poor one. It is wordy, complex and lengthy, and fails to secure individual rights. We shall return to it again and again. However, for the moment I simply summarise by saying that it is a constitution by bureaucrats, of bureaucrats, for bureaucrats. It is intolerable that the party-controlled majority in the other place should seek to force it through without proper reference to the British people.

Photo of Lord Barnett Lord Barnett Labour

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. If there were to be a referendum, will he say that there should be 25 member states, but with no changes to any of the rules and regulations?

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I will be saying what the Foreign Secretary was saying the other day. If a referendum took place and produced a negative result—although it might not—we would be back at the default position of the Nice treaty, parts of which we thought were very good and parts of which we thought were over-loaded. The basic mechanics are in the Nice treaty, and could perfectly well cope with the situation described by the noble Lord.

Finally, I shall just glance at the new international priorities document, which the Minister mentioned and which came from the Foreign Office yesterday. These great essays from Foreign Office thinkers are always a little puzzling, because individually our diplomats are the most marvellous people. They are skilled, efficient, charming, helpful, courageous and—sadly—must be very brave indeed, as they risk and lose their lives. However, whenever the Foreign and Commonwealth Office emits a collectivist view of the world, it always seems to me to have a touch of the Forrest Gumps about it.

At least we have got away from the jejune idea that one must only drag out the label "ethical" to achieve a foreign policy. What does that paper do instead, however? It offers up a number of hugely obvious insights about the modern world—namely, that foreign affairs are not really foreign. That is quite right, but it was in a book that I wrote five years ago, so it is not exactly new. It says that we face a new non-state and unpredictable pattern of enemies via terrorism. We have all known that for years, since long before 9/11. It says, too, that energy supplies are under threat. They have always been under threat, and were under threat when I had responsibilities in those matters 25 years ago.

However, the White Paper seems to miss the really big emerging features of the future—perhaps they are so big it cannot see them—first, that the UK is not somehow in constant danger of being marginalised in Europe and therefore obliged to submerge itself, or its destiny—I hate that word—into some supposedly emerging EU superpower. Even Robert Cooper, the Prime Minister's Foreign Office guru on foreign affairs, calls that,

"a dream left over from a previous age".

A new kind of Europe is developing of which the White Paper does not seem to be aware. We should be the champions of that new kind of Europe.

Secondly, US hegemony is not all that it is cracked up to be. Big is vulnerable, not necessarily beautiful. Thirteen carrier fleets cannot solve global terrorism or dominate world trade. Thirdly, because these FCO authors keep coming back to a view of the world comprising the two blocks of the EU and the US, they seem to spend a lot of time agonising about how to avoid being trapped in a choice between them. Not only is that choice utterly irrelevant, it does not even exist in the modern network world. We are all now absorbed in the same network anyway. Finally, the paper misses the gigantic point that our best and most supportive friends and links may lie increasingly outside the European arena altogether, for example, with Japan and the Commonwealth.

I believe that more emphasis on the Commonwealth network would enable us to handle the Zimbabwe tragedy much more effectively. In response to the challenge of the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, I reminded her of the detailed proposals that we have put forward again and again for helping that process forward. She very kindly wrote to me and responded in detail on some of those points.

Nations, especially old ones like ours, are unimaginably complex things. Neither their internal constitutions nor their external allegiances can be shoved about and altered without the most intimate, lengthy and consensual discussion and debate. I believe that our history and our culture grasp us by a thousand invisible fingers. Those ties cannot be wrenched apart or just shaken off by great modernising leaps forward or by the steamroller of majority tyranny, or even by the charade of a so-called "big conversation" with the people, which I hope will be shortly laughed out of court.

This is now a fluid and frightening world in which we should be building on, not tearing down recklessly, our institutions at home and in which our diplomats, like our Armed Forces, have to keep up a constant and vigilant redefining of our fundamental interests and how we best contribute globally to their defence and promotion. Some issues we handle best with our European neighbours, some with great America, and some with our friends in Asia, the Commonwealth and Latin America—which does not even get a mention in the Foreign Office paper. Only when that clearer perception, based on our capacities as an agile and confident nation, is firmly at the epicentre of Government foreign policy thinking can we really be comforted that the British people's most crucial interests really are being as best protected as they can possibly be in modern conditions. Only then can we rest, if only momentarily, on our swords.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 4:03 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, with 44 speakers tonight and a great cornucopia of issues to cover, I shall limit myself to speaking on a few areas. I shall deal essentially with defence. My noble friend Lady Northover will deal with international development and my noble friend Lord Wallace will deal with foreign affairs. However, I start by welcoming the two maiden speakers, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce. I must share a comment that I overheard in the corridor which could be said only in this House. One Peer turned to another and said, "You know you are getting old when the Bishops start looking younger". I also welcome the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, whose comments we shall be able to hear rather than see a report of them in the media.

The three areas that I wish to consider are: Iraq; the spending levels in the Ministry of Defence; and manning levels. However, I should say a few words on terrorism. I, too, offer my condolences to all those in this House and outside who have been affected by the recent atrocities, including the noble Baroness, Lady O'Neill. We hope that her son recovers speedily.

We on these Benches have great admiration for the work carried out by the Metropolitan Police, by all members of the anti-terrorism squad and by all those involved in security during the President's visit. It was a sign of their skill and ingenuity that that visit, which could have caused such problems, passed off without incident.

The issue of Iraq is one to which we have returned on many occasions. I believe that many noble Lords will speak on it tonight. Recently a poll in the newspapers showed that support for the war in Iraq had grown. I believe that resulted from a misunderstanding of terminology. We on these Benches support staying in Iraq until the situation has calmed and we are able to leave a democratically elected government and a stable situation there. However, that does not change the fact that we were against the war in the first place. Although the Minister in his opening speech said that the removal of Saddam Hussein was a benefit, that could not have been an objective of the war. The war was not fought to remove Saddam Hussein, however beneficial that may have been; the war was fought because of the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. That issue affects the aftermath of the conflict.

In the run-up to the war government departments were not looking at an exit strategy or how to deal with the situation in Iraq after the war. The MoD was looking, quite rightly, at how to fight the war to the best of its ability; the Department for International Development was looking at how to deal with the likelihood of the advent of large numbers of refugees; and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was particularly interested in gaining support for the war. Ministers spent a great deal of time abroad trying to gain that support.

That is a real issue because the concept of how the aftermath of the war was to be dealt with was based on some false assumptions, especially on the part of the Americans. The first assumption was that the war would be quick and easy. Thankfully, that was the case. However, the assumption that the "liberating forces", as they were termed, would be met with garlands and flowers did not turn out to be the case. Peace did not return quickly. We witnessed looting and anarchy on our television screens. It is notable that, so much further down the line, security is still the major topic of conversation. Further, it was assumed that oil revenues would pay for the war but, of course, that source of revenue is still not flowing.

If the aim had been to remove Saddam Hussein, which would have been illegal under United Nations resolutions, the priority would have been reconstruction. That would have given us a clear exit strategy. Although we support the retention of our troops in Iraq and the work that they are doing there, we have not changed our opinion that the war was fought for some of the wrong reasons. It is interesting that yesterday in Istanbul the Foreign Secretary mentioned that lessons had to be learnt regarding some of the problems that we face. Perhaps that could be the subject of an inquiry. I apologise if I have made a mistake. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons, gives the impression that I have made a mistake. At the moment we are playing a game of catch-up, which is very dangerous as we have only a finite period in which to return Iraq to a stable system of government. Like many who watch events unfolding on television, I notice that every time we talk about attacks there is no mention of Iraqi civilian deaths. I was particularly upset to hear that no figures for Iraqi deaths are kept. That cannot be a system in which stable normality is returning because, as night follows day, the rise in the body count of Iraqi civilians will lead to anger, and that anger will be directed at those in Iraq.

I shall return to the weapons of mass destruction, which of course were the stated reason for the war. In Questions earlier today in another place, the Prime Minister stated that he still believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I have a question—I hope that the Minister can give some indication if not a definite date—about when the Iraq Survey Group will publish its results. Will those results be open to public scrutiny? I hope that none of its information will be deemed secret, because we have to know the reason why we went to war.

The weapons of mass destruction are not a side issue. The Americans are spending 1 billion dollars with the aim of finding the weapons. Some of their best intelligence resources are directed at that aim, not at the fight against insurgence. Much has been made of the fact that there might not have been weapons of mass destruction, but that the intentions were there. That is irrelevant. Anyone who had studied Saddam Hussein must have known that he had every intention of rebuilding his arms at the first opportunity. The very fact that weapons cannot be found has to be due to the UN and its incredibly successful operation.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

My Lords, the noble Lord has said repeatedly that we went to war for the wrong reason, that being weapons of mass destruction. If the reason had been human rights abuses in Iraq, would that still be his position? If so, does that mean that he would still be relying on the policy of sanctions, which was not working?

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat

My Lords, "if" came into that. We did not go to war over human rights, but over weapons of mass destruction. I agree that there have been benefits—I said that it had been beneficial to get rid of Saddam Hussein. However, I believe that we went to war directly over weapons of mass destruction.

I shall be extremely brief over the other issues that I wish to raise, the first of which is spending on the MoD. That issue is coming to a head. The Ministry of Defence has a number of projects lining up. Billions are being pledged on systems and weaponry. A bubble seems to be growing of a period in which those systems have to be paid for, and that will fall between 2008 and 2012. One issue that worries us in that period is that of overspend. Almost every project that we have looked at so far has been vastly overspent, which will be a real issue for those who have to meet the bill in those years.

An area that will come up under consideration of that is carriers. At the moment, we are looking at two carriers, but there are obviously indications that we could go to three and share the cost with the French. However, that might also lead to only two carriers being shared with the French if we cut down the carriers' size and increase their capability. I do not think that that is a bad thing. I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who raised our relationship with the European Union over defence capability. We should share our expenses with the European Union. NATO is the cornerstone of UK territorial defence, but that was not stated in the White Paper yesterday; rather the US was described as the guarantor of UK security. That is an important distinction that will not be lost on our European allies.

The last issue that I wish to discuss is manning and overstretch, on which Iraq returns to the fore. We are extremely reliant on more than the good will of our forces, which will have decreasing periods between combat operations. We are also relying very much on our reserves, which are a finite resource. Have any studies been undertaken into how long we can keep going back to our Reserve Forces? A lot of them might disappear. They might go once and consider going twice, but going back a third time might not be practical for them, because that would then be a new career.

In a "File on Four" programme, a reservist said that he was quite happy to go to the Gulf, but his employer was not so happy. He found real difficulty with his employer in coming back, and that will be an issue. I ask the Government to look again at their policy of how they help those reservists who are called up and sent to Iraq to deal with their employers when they come back. Many employers might not share a benign attitude to their being away for an extended period.

We must also look at our territorial reserves. Retention, an issue raised earlier, relates to overstretch. As a territorial officer a few years ago, I know that retaining people with the skills and experience is increasingly difficult under the strict guidelines of how much can be spent on reservist man-training. It was difficult to get those individuals trained—it took a number of years. Losing those skilled people who would be so valuable in operations is a major concern, because the numbers game in the Territorial Army hides the reality that there are very few properly trained troops.

We support all our soldiers on secondment and undertaking operations. The Bill in the Queen's Speech about pensions will be a test of how we support them in future. There are real issues about the idea that that Bill can be cost-neutral.

Photo of Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank Crossbench 4:17 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, like others, I want to pay tribute to the very considerable achievements of our servicemen and women over the past few months, particularly those who have been in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. As always, they have risen to the challenges and not been found wanting under the most difficult and often dangerous conditions.

I have two major concerns. First, we are hearing that the Ministry of Defence budget, which of late has been under severe pressure, is now faced with greater problems than ever before. Is that so and, if so, why? Is it because of miscalculation or increased and unexpected commitments, or because the new resource budgeting system imposed on Whitehall is less suited to a defence department than to other departments of state, industry and business?

The MoD, which of necessity holds large amounts of expensive equipment, is bound to be seen unfavourably under the new system when comparisons are made. A figure of savings of around £1 billion per year for four years is spoken of. That would be catastrophic for the services, which are already suffering from cuts and shortages. We now hear that, on top of many painful measures taken, even recruiting is being curtailed. I hope that we will be told by the Minister the size of the budgetary problem and why it has arisen.

The second concern is the White Paper. I hope that it will not be bland, but a document which will lead defence in the right direction. The Strategic Defence Review was widely and rightly welcomed. Of course, it is necessary consistently to review, revise and structure our defence forces for the times that they live in. But there are great dangers in concentrating our efforts to too great an extent on one emerging threat—a knee-jerk reaction—forgetting that there are other threats which have not gone away and for which we should still be prepared.

Are the Government seriously considering grasping a peace dividend from Northern Ireland? Even if there is peace and agreement—and let us pray that there is—surely the resources should be used elsewhere and could solve many of the services' problems—in particular, those of the Army. Alarm bells are ringing in the services and I am bound to say that the Secretary of State's speech at the Royal United Services Institute earlier this year did not reassure them. Phrases such as,

"measuring the capability of our Armed Forces by the number of units or platforms in their possession will no longer be significant", and,

"the need for new approaches to our Forces' structure", do not reassure.

Our servicemen and women are highly intelligent but they have become sceptical and should not be flannelled. If, because of budgeting necessities, the Government's plans really mean that they will be less capable, under-resourced, even more over-committed and still taken for granted, they will see through those plans very quickly and our defence and security will be seriously damaged. Talking about lighter, more flexible, more mobile and network-centric forces and effects-led capability does not mean that they will necessarily be able to fight better when called upon to do so and to carry out the manpower-heavy tasks such as those being carried out in Iraq today and tomorrow, most often by the infantry.

I find the situation in relation to European defence difficult to understand at present. Like many, I feel that it is difficult to grasp what the Government have achieved and what they want to achieve, despite what the Minister said. Are we witnessing a diplomatic and political fudge with little military value? The Government's red lines seem to move. I believe passionately in European defence if it is about European capability. That is thoroughly sensible. But Europe's capability has not improved at all since St Malo.

I do not believe that we should be part of a force which is a rival to, as opposed to a partner of, the United States of America. The Prime Minister and, today, the Minister have assured us that the Europeans will not be rivals. But other Europeans, particularly the French, do not take the same view. It seems that we are being moved off our solid ground, which we should still be holding.

We are now talking of a planning staff for European defence of some 30 to 40 in Belgium. Do we need such an organisation when hundreds of staff officers already in Belgium are quite capable of carrying out European planning? One thing of which we can be sure is that the 30 or 40 in the European planning cell will grow in number. It will have to do so if the European planning cell by itself is to plan properly. We shall also have to supply high-quality staff officers, who, in my opinion, would be better and more usefully employed elsewhere, probably with their regiments.

The defence budget is tight. Are we not about to fund unnecessary duplication, which will complicate military life and make us no safer? The type of operations which the Europeans have carried out successfully and are able to undertake can be launched now. The Balkans and Africa are witnesses to that. They did not need a planning cell to do it.

Lastly, I know that the services welcome the new shadow defence Minister. He is well known to servicemen and service women. He understands defence and has been a staunch supporter over the years. He has a strong team around him. But I know that the fact that he is not in the shadow Cabinet has been disappointing for those serving and that it sends the wrong message. Will they be spoken up for properly at such a critical and, for many of them, dangerous time?

Photo of Lord Grenfell Lord Grenfell Other 4:25 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I, too, very much look forward to the maiden speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, and also to that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool.

Thus far, the debate has been largely on the subject of defence, but now I invite your Lordships to change the focus a little. We have before us a substantial report entitled The Future of Europe—the Convention's Draft Constitutional Treaty—a matter that has much exercised the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford. With the leave of the House, I shall avail myself of the dispensation offered by the noble Lord the Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms and possibly stray beyond the six minutes that most speakers will have available. However, I assure your Lordships that I shall make every effort not to trespass upon eternity in my remarks.

First, the report before your Lordships' House reflects the collective effort of the European Select Committee, which I had the honour to chair, and its six sub-committees and their respective Clerks, our Legal Adviser and his Assistant and our excellent European research staff. It benefited from a number of our earlier reports, which analysed in detail the succession of articles as they emanated from the convention. In all, some 80 Members of your Lordships' House and staff participated in that effort. I thank all of them warmly and pay special tribute to the Clerk of the Select Committee, Simon Burton, whose work was extraordinary in pulling together the extensive body of work into an excellent draft text, and to the members of the small working group of the Select Committee, which reviewed the draft before it was sent to the Select Committee for approval.

I also thank the Government very warmly for their comprehensive and thoughtful response to our report. Except in a few cases, the response shows a broad measure of agreement with our conclusions and recommendations. There are 108 conclusions and recommendations, but I assure the House that that does not signify that we found 108 reasons to disagree with the text of the treaty—far from it. Of course, we make recommendations for changes in the treaty text in a number of areas, but a greater proportion of the 108 recommendations and conclusions was addressed to our own Government, asking for further explanation or elucidation.

The report is, I believe, readable, and I commend it to your Lordships as a fair guide to what is of particular interest and importance in the draft treaty. It was published not quite three weeks after the intergovernmental conference opened in Rome on 4th October, and, of course, much water has passed under the bridges of the Tiber since then. I thus feel that I can usefully use my speaking time in this debate to review briefly the overarching findings of our report and then, equally briefly, to refer to some of the most important issues as yet unresolved in the IGC and relate them to the conclusions that we reached in our own report.

We started from the position that, with 10 new countries set to join the EU next May, it was necessary to agree a new treaty now as it was generally considered that the present institutional structure was not satisfactory for a Union of 25 states. Accordingly, the draft treaty which emerged from the Convention on the Future of Europe reforms the EU's institutions, changes the way that the EU works, including granting the Union some new competences, and, most importantly, enhances the role of national parliaments.

The treaty is, however, largely composed of the text of the current treaties—that is, those stretching from the founding Rome Treaty through the Single European Act and on through the treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice. Thus, much of what the new draft treaty provides for is not new. A considerable range of matters in those earlier treaties have already become subject to EU law, and we concluded, although dividing by six to two in a vote in the committee, that the extension of European Union law in the treaty seems relatively limited in comparison with earlier treaties.

Our report sought to establish whether the draft treaty was good for the European Union and at the same time good for the United Kingdom. We, therefore, put it to four tests. The first was whether it confirmed the European Union as a union of member states rather than a state in its own right. The committee's answer to that question was yes, but it was not unanimous. The committee members present divided eight to one in favour.

The second and third tests were linked. Would the treaty deliver significant improvements in democracy, accountability and transparency, would it make any difference to the citizens and would it bring the European Union institutions closer to them? We concluded that overall it would make some contribution to democracy and accountability in the Union; for example, the treaty sets out very clearly for the first time what the European Union is. At the same time we recognise that as a union of member states, rather than a state in its own right, it cannot provide some of the direct mechanisms of democracy such as the power to remove a government that would exist in a state. Therefore, a key theme of our report is that national parliaments should do more, both individually and collectively, to hold their governments, who take so many of the decisions, to full account.

That is all the more important because, as we concluded in May in one of our earlier reports on the convention's ongoing work, the balance of power in the Union would shift from the Commission to the member states if certain of the tabled proposals for institutional reform were adopted.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, the report is fascinating, but the phrase that the noble Lord has just used, which has been quoted very extensively by government Ministers, includes the thought that the balance of power will shift from the Commission to the member states. Does he mean to the European Council or literally to the member states themselves, to their executives and to their parliaments? Which does he mean?

Photo of Lord Grenfell Lord Grenfell Other

My Lords, the noble Lord has hit the nail on the head. The balance of power is shifting to the Council, the sovereign representatives of the member states of the European Union. We were referring in particular to the strengthening of the role of the Council, through a reform of the six-monthly presidencies and the election of a Council president for a once-renewable two-and-a-half year term. Clearly, the Government agree, as the noble Lord has rightly said, as their White Paper cites an earlier conclusion of ours and states that these reforms to the Council will:

"bring coherence and consistency to the EU's actions, and thereby give the Member States through the Council much greater capacity to give direction and momentum to the EU's agenda, for example on the Lisbon Process".

You will see in the report before your Lordships that between May and October, when our report was published, we saw no reason to modify our earlier conclusion that power would be shifting from the Commission to the member states. But that was not quite the unanimous view of the committee with two members dissenting in a division on this point.

We concluded, on the other hand, that the draft treaty is far less successful in securing transparency or bringing the EU closer to the citizens. General public interest in EU affairs remains limited in this country. One has only to consider the number of people who take the trouble to vote in elections to the European Parliament. Nevertheless, the new treaty provisions investing the national parliaments with the task of policing the Commission's respect for the subsidiarity principle have the potential to contribute to a greater public engagement. Any objection by a national parliament would be widely seen as that parliament standing up for national interests.

That, of course, implies that the Government should do more to explain the draft treaty to the general public, as has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. The White Paper is a good start, and Parliament at least is being well served by the time spent by the Foreign Secretary and the Minister for European affairs when they appear before the Joint Committee of both Houses on the IGC. Our report urged the Government to widen the remit of the European Strategy Committee which was set up to co-ordinate a Whitehall-wide focus on the benefits of membership of the euro, including informing the public about the EU in general. We are very satisfied that the Government have done so.

The fourth test was whether the provisions of the draft treaty would make the European Union more efficient. We saw much in the draft that could have that effect to the extent that there were sensible proposals for the reform of institutions and for the simplification of the Union's working practices. In several important cases the question remains whether they will be agreed in suitable form at the Heads of State meeting in Brussels in 10 days' time. It really is important to get it right and that is why we concluded that the IGC should not rush to agree the treaty. Of course, it needs to be agreed in time for the accession of the 10 new member states next May and for the subsequent elections to the European Parliament in June. But it is no tragedy if it is not agreed by the end of the Italian presidency at the end of this month. It can be completed, if necessary, in the early weeks of the succeeding Irish presidency. That is a small price for getting it right, and Italy will still have its just reward with a signing of an eventually agreed treaty in its capital, Rome.

I turn now to a few of the high profile issues that remain to be resolved in the IGC and on which we had expressed our views in this report. On voting weights in the Council, a compromise could still be reached which could end the isolation of Poland and Spain on this point. Our Committee favoured the convention formula of a dual majority system consisting of the majority of member states, representing at least three-fifths of the Union's population, combined in the case of the common foreign and security policy with a two-thirds majority of member states. That simplified system clearly enhances the Union's democratic accountability, apart from being much more understandable. However, we shall have to live with the complex triple majority system agreed at Nice until 2009—that is one of the terms of the treaty—and Poland and Spain have been fighting to keep the Nice formula, which is more favourable to them, in place beyond that date.

Our Government appear to be gaining some support for their suggestion that the decision on the post-2009 formula not be taken now, but some time in the interim period. That may indeed become necessary, but it would be a bit of a cop-out. The weekend after next in Brussels is not too late for the IGC to be looking at sensible alternatives to the draft treaty's 50 per cent/60 per cent formula. Both a 50/50 formula or a 60/60 formula would increase the ability of the small and medium-sized member states to form a blocking minority.

On the size of the Commission, we do not see the draft treaty's proposal as an ideal way of seeking to enhance either the efficiency or the accountability of the Union. On balance, however, it is just acceptable, but we have urged the Government to explore alternatives. The upshot appears to be that we are moving inexorably towards a one-commissioner-per-member-state solution, at least for the time-being. An unwieldy Commission of 25 will do nothing to improve the efficiency of the European Union. And the question still remains whether some of the biggest members will accept that only if they get back their two commissioners, thus risking a Commission of 31.

Last Monday when I put that to the Foreign Secretary in the Joint Standing Committee on the IGC, I was relieved to hear from him that Britain was not pushing for a reversion to its two commissioners, although I have to wonder whether that admirable intention can survive if other large members, who insist on their two commissioners, get their way as a condition of agreeing to one commissioner for each of the medium and smaller-sized states.

With respect to the creation of the post of Union "Foreign Minister"—a name that we and the Government dislike—we remain adamant, as do the Government, that that is essentially an inter-governmental post, and that if it has to be double-hatted with a vice-presidency in the Commission, it must be made clear beyond all peradventure that the office-holder is first and foremost accountable to the Council.

We share the Government's dismay that the Italian presidency has reverted to the earlier unacceptable proposition enshrined in Article III-201 that the Council of Ministers shall act by qualified majority voting when adopting a European decision on a proposal from the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs. As we insisted in our report, any implementing decision based on a proposal coming from the EU Minister must be preceded by a unanimous European Council request for such a proposal.

Our report also spoke out strongly against the proposed passerelle clause or the escalator clause as some prefer to call it which, despite its safeguards, could lead to the Council abolishing unanimity in certain areas without any substantive involvement of national parliaments. If the treaty were explicitly to list certain clearly defined areas where the passerelle could acceptably be applied, our objections might be removed. But it does not, and so it should be entirely eliminated. We hope that the Government will continue to seek that.

On one issue our report revises an opinion we had expressed in an earlier report on subsidiarity. We had originally favoured a "red card" to supplement, where necessary, the "yellow card" as a warning mechanism to the Commission where national parliaments feel it is abusing the subsidiarity principle. We now agree with the "yellow card only" proposal in the draft protocol. We feel that the existence of a red card might result in the yellow card being devalued and treated insufficiently seriously.

As it is topical, I have to deplore strongly the opportunity lost to reform the stability and growth pact in the course of the Inter-Governmental Conference. In anticipation of that failure—because we did anticipate it—our report suggested that the treaty might at least make express provision in specified articles for it to be amended by member states acting unanimously rather than by way of the formal treaty revision process. The noble Lord, Lord Radice, produced an excellent report on revising the stability and growth pact. If we can avoid going through the very long process of normal treaty revision, I hope that the kinds of excellent proposals and reforms he has advocated can be put in place without too much delay.

Finally, perhaps I may ask a question of the Minister who is to reply. Are the Government now satisfied with the wording in Article I-40(7), the mutual defence clause?

I have taken much of your Lordships' time—and I apologise—but this is a very substantial report. I wish our Government well at the Brussels summit. There are still some very difficult problems to be solved and decisions to be made and it will not be easy. An enlarged European Union needs a good treaty; the British people will benefit from a good treaty. Let us hope that that can be achieved in Brussels. But, as I have urged, if more time is needed, it must be taken.

Photo of Lord Norton of Louth Lord Norton of Louth Conservative 4:42 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I am conscious that there are 36 further Back-Bench speeches to follow mine. Perhaps I may therefore make myself popular with at least 36 Members of your Lordships' House by saying that I intend to keep my remarks fairly short.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, I rise to address that part of the gracious Speech which refers to the negotiations taking place on the draft European treaty. That treaty has been the subject of extensive inquiry by the European Union Committee and the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has spoken to its most recent report on the subject.

The draft report has also been the subject of a specific inquiry by the Constitution Committee, which I have the honour to chair. We decided that it would be appropriate to consider the implications of the draft treaty for the British constitution.

One of the most important changes to our constitution was brought about by membership of the European Community in 1973. That had profound implications for the central tenets of the British constitution. The problem is that we have rarely stood back to look at the consequences of EC membership for our constitutional arrangements.

The motivations for joining the European Community were essentially economic and political. At the time of joining there was little appreciation of the full constitutional implications. It was only later, with some notable court cases in the 1990s, that the implications began to be more fully appreciated. The outputs of Parliament could be set aside—something that ran counter to the Diceyan doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. Parliament had provided for this but the implications were never clearly discussed or embraced.

The constitutional implications of later treaties also were usually appreciated only after the event, notably so in the case of the Single European Act. In terms of grasping the constitutional implications of European treaties, it is a case of running in order to catch up. My view is that we still have a long way to go. The report of the Constitution Committee is designed to draw out the constitutional implications of the draft treaty and to ensure that they are recognised now rather than after the event.

The committee invited a number of academics to contribute papers identifying the constitutional implications. We received some excellent responses and these are published as the written evidence. The committee has not sought to offer comments of its own. Rather, the report seeks to inform debate by identifying those parts of the draft treaty that have implications for the British constitution. As we make clear in our introduction, our report should be read in conjunction with the reports produced by other committees, especially those of the European Union Committee and the European Scrutiny Committee in the other place.

Our report is short but covers a substantial amount of ground. The fact that it is able to do so owes much to the work of our excellent legal adviser, Professor Anthony Bradley. The report draws attention to the most prominent provisions of the draft treaty before identifying concerns raised in the papers submitted to us.

As noble Lords will see from the report—my noble friend Lord Howell referred to this—we list 15 issues. We are not necessarily saying that the provisions of the draft treaty to which we draw attention will have an adverse—or a beneficial—consequence for our constitutional arrangements. We are drawing attention to the fact that they have implications for our constitutional arrangements and that we need to be clear as to what the implications are.

For those familiar with the draft treaty, some of the issues listed in the report will not come as a surprise—the new provision for the division of powers; EU framework laws; qualified majority voting; the Charter of Fundamental Rights; the new competencies of the Union; the provision for EU law to have direct effect in justice and home affairs; and the impact of powers embodied in the treaty on devolved areas and local government in the United Kingdom.

Paragraph 24 of the report is important for what it embodies and for its succinctness, but it cannot be read in isolation from the written evidence on which it draws. One has only to read the papers by Professor Anthony Arnull of Birmingham University and Sionaidh Douglas-Scott of University College, London to realise that—as ever—the devil is in the detail. The Foreign Secretary, in his letter to the committee, adopts a rather broad brush approach. The academic witnesses adopt a fine comb in going through the hefty document.

Time precludes a detailed analysis of each of the submissions, but perhaps I may group the concerns under three heads: those of confusion, limitation and omission.

In his paper, Professor McEldowney of Warwick University writes:

"There is plenty of room for interpretation, particularly as there is such unnecessary vagueness . . . The powers granted under the draft Constitution are vague and ambiguous".

Professor Arnull's paper is especially persuasive in identifying those parts of the draft treaty that give rise to confusion and uncertainty. Examples relate to primacy, competition policy, the capacity for provisions of framework laws to be used to bring proceedings against private parties, and the relationship between the President of the European Council and the proposed Minister—or representative—for Foreign Affairs. Both he and Ms Douglas-Scott record the problem—it is a serious potential problem—in delineating clearly between rights and principles in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Ms Douglas-Scott also notes that though the Union is required to "respect" the national identities of its member states and their essential state functions, it is, in her words,

"not entirely clear what 'respect' means in this context".

In terms of limitation, I refer to the failure to provide more extensive provision for involvement by national parliaments, a matter also addressed in the EU Committee's report, to which the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has already referred. As he mentioned, there is provision only for what has been termed the "yellow card" mechanism, under which the Commission may be required to reconsider a matter, rather than the "red card" mechanism, under which national parliaments could refer a matter to the ECJ if their concerns over subsidiarity were not met. Under the proposed protocol on the application of the principles of proportionality and subsidiarity, action may be brought by a national government on behalf of the parliament but, as Professor Arnull notes, that is possible under the existing treaties. He sees no point in including in the treaty a provision that has no effect. He thinks that it should be replaced or amended to give effect to the "red card" procedure. In that respect he differs from the EU Committee.

In terms of omissions, there are various examples that could be taken. For reasons of time I shall mention only one. As Ms Douglas-Scott notes, the treaty is silent about who decides the boundaries of competencies.

There are thus important constitutional issues raised by the draft treaty. I have not even addressed the significant implications for criminal law dealt with by Ms Douglas-Scott in her paper, nor for devolution addressed by Alan Trench in his.

The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has already referred to the Government's response. In that response they have touched in passing on the concerns raised in our report. Where the report has most relevance for the Government is in relation to the analysis of the final text that the Government have promised to produce. In that, we need to have a clear statement of what the impact of the treaty will be on the constitution of the United Kingdom. If we know the implications before and not after the event, then that will constitute a major step forward.

Photo of Lord Boyce Lord Boyce Crossbench 4:50 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I first thank the Minister and the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Redesdale, for their very kind and generous words of introduction. It is certainly a privilege and an honour to speak for the first time in your Lordships' House and especially to do so in the debate following the gracious Speech.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank your Lordships for the general warm welcome I have received as I have surfaced here after 42 years in the Royal Navy. I very much look forward to contributing to your Lordships' deliberations at this interesting period of our history in domestic and foreign affairs, even if today such contribution needs to have some maidenly muting—I need to dampen expectations that may have been raised by previous speakers.

Perhaps I may start with foreign affairs. I begin my contribution to today's debate by commenting, from my perspective in my last appointment, on the relationship between defence and the Foreign Office and the product of that liaison, which is defence diplomacy. Excellent working relationships are in place here in London at the very highest level between diplomats and defence officials, both uniformed and civilian, and the strong trust and understanding that exists between those two departments, which enhances policy making and its implementation on both sides of Whitehall, cascades down to the coalface to bear fruit in such areas as the team effort in foreign missions, where we have nearly 500 people from defence deployed; or, as another example, to our teams from the three services in a number of countries conducting training and advisory tasks to contribute to the work being done by our embassies to raise the UK's profile and reputation.

The Minister also mentioned our joint efforts in Africa. All of this is largely unsung, but it is very important. I very much hope that every effort will continue to be put into seeing that this synergistic and symbiotic relationship is nurtured and developed.

While I am on this blurred edge between defence and foreign matters, your Lordships would not be surprised if I were to mention European defence—or perhaps they would, since I am required in this speech to be non-controversial. It is, of course, never my intention to be anything else.

However, I hope I do not venture into forbidden territory if I say that I have anxieties about where we are heading with respect to the relationship between NATO and the European Union; and I am particularly conscious of the words in the gracious Speech that the Government will work for a strong partnership between Europe and the United States, underpinned by NATO, a sentiment with which I totally agree. I strongly support any improvement in the defence capability of European Union nations, even if, in some cases, it seems a lamentably long time in coming, because it would undoubtedly be of ultimate benefit to NATO. But I would add that we must ensure that money raised under the banner of EU defence improvements is directed to where it will have sensible value; that is, towards fighting effectiveness.

On that note I turn to the United Kingdom's defence capability. Just over 12 years ago, in his maiden speech, the late Lord Fieldhouse—incidentally, I am not sure whether it is kind or careless of your Lordships to have allowed two submariners into this House—underlined the importance of our forces having mobility, flexibility and sustainability if they were to be able to respond effectively at short notice to whatever threat turned up. How right he was. Although some see these as fundamental components of maritime power—which they are—the way all three services have demonstrated these attributes in the past two to three extraordinarily busy years has been remarkable. It has allowed them to execute a series of highly successful operations—Sierra Leone, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Iraq, to mention the main ones.

So I look forward to the defence White Paper, which was trailed in the gracious Speech and earlier today, building on these capabilities without absconding from the responsibility of recognising the absolutely essential component of fighting prowess, and thus enabling us to continue to be able to deal with the expected; and what we expect, of course, the unexpected.

I imagine we will also see mentioned in the White Paper something of the new jargon which is appearing, such as "effects-based warfare", "digitised battlespace", "network-enabled capability" and so on. Your Lordships will get plenty of that in the future, so they will be pleased to hear that I shall not spoil their anticipation now. Suffice to say, these are actually all very important, and are vital to development.

However, they will have to be paid for; and, indeed, the increase of focus on capability and effects as opposed to platforms may see some advocating that there can be some reduction in the importance of front-line strength in numerical terms, thus potentially freeing up money. But even if one accepts that, it is important to realise that the evolving philosophy primarily applies to the single situation, warfighting scenario, since the capabilities being spoken of are those which are optimised at the high-intensity end of the business.

So we need to remember—and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, has already alluded to this—the low-intensity end, where we are for the vast majority of the time with our forces spread thinly around the world as they are today; that however clever the technology, it does not deliver the capability to be in two places at the same time, such as patrolling simultaneously in the Gulf and the south Atlantic. We have not yet cracked the fourth dimension. So, if there is to be a cut in frontline numbers, then no doubt we can also expect to see a cut in commitments. Anything else would be inexplicable to our already fully stretched servicemen and servicewomen.

Having mentioned our service people, I shall now conclude by saying something about them and their expectations. No one could possibly argue that they have performed other than exceptionally during the past few years. I have mentioned some of the operations where I would highlight, in particular, their extraordinary ability to switch almost instantaneously from intense warfighting to peacekeeping that was so well demonstrated in Iraq. It is as admirable as it is unique.

But we should not forget the many "normal business" activities that everyone tends to forget, such as duties in Northern Ireland or the Balkans, on strategic deterrent patrol in the Atlantic somewhere, on air defence standby in the Falkland Islands—and very many others—let alone the odd engagement with foot and mouth disease or firefighting tasks.

So what do our soldiers, sailors and airmen expect? In short, they just want recognition for their efforts and sacrifice. By that I do not mean personal reward, although of course that is important, but recognition of what defence through their efforts does for the UK. By and large that happened recently in the last spending review, which was well received. But, given what our servicemen and women have done since then, I very much hope that the current budgeting round and the outcome of the next spending review will not leave them with any perception that they are not valued. I fear that we seem to be heading that way at the moment. Our servicemen and women are not just "among the best", which I have heard some people say; they are "the best". Let us keep them that way.

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever Conservative 4:59 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it is a great honour for me to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, on an excellent maiden speech. The Minister was right: we received a real treat. The noble and gallant Lord spoke with great authority, as one would expect following his distinguished naval career and his time as CDS. The House will welcome the further strengthening of defence expertise, especially of the Royal Navy, here. As the overall commander of our forces during the highly successful Iraq war, the noble and gallant Lord deserves congratulations from the whole House.

Noble Lords:

Hear, hear!

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever Conservative

My Lords, I look forward to many more contributions from him, not least when we debate the White Paper, when perhaps he may be less controversial.

Noble Lords:

More!

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever Conservative

Or more controversial, my Lords.

I join other noble Lords in paying tribute for the Iraq operation to our Armed Forces and to their families—in particular to the families of those killed on operations—and to the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence civilian staff, those at Permanent Joint Headquarters and at other defence establishments involved in planning and execution.

I shall speak briefly on the Territorial Army. In 1914, my grandfather, Sir Douglas Haig, set up the Territorial Force to reinforce the regular Army.

The Options for Change review saw TA strength reduced to 63,500. Under this Government, the TA has been slashed to less than 40,000, including recruits and university OTCs, who cannot be operationally deployed. Can the Minister confirm the claim by the Sunday Times that TA manpower will be further reduced to fewer than 30,000? It is surely madness to cut numbers when the world has never been a more dangerous place.

TA soldiers provide tremendous value for money. They have provided up to 14 per cent of the Army's strength in former Yugoslavia, been deployed to Sierra Leone and are still in Afghanistan. As my noble friend Lord Howell said, reserves account for 25 percent of the Iraq deployment and four TA soldiers died there. In October, The Times reported the very short notice given to some reservists mobilised compulsorily for Iraq. Five days is not long enough to tell families and hand over a civilian job. I understand that that is being addressed and I hope that the noble Baroness can give us an update.

Full-time reserve service members make good the shortfall in the regular Army and are limited to about 1,100. They have proved indispensable during recent operations. Why has an instruction been issued banning any further employment and extension of service to full-time reservists at this time, when the regular Army is still 5,000 under strength? Now comes the announcement of the next call-up of reservists: 1,100 men and women to deploy in February. At the current operational tempo, we are in danger of running out of reservists. Already, the reserve of the reserves is too low.

The TA is also being asked to form the 14 civil contingency reaction forces. Two companies of the TA's London regiment, which plays a major role in civil contingency cover for London, are being sent to Iraq. How do the Government plan to protect London in their absence?

Without the TA, the regular Army would not be able to meet its current operational commitments. In those circumstances, one would expect significant emphasis to be given to the training of TA officers and soldiers. Yet increasingly, that is not the case. A TA infantry officer is no longer trained in the use of support weapons, such as the MILAN anti-tank weapon. Without additional training, a TA major cannot be used in a regular infantry battalion, other than as a watch-keeper or liaison officer. The TA infantry use different vehicles and weapons. A similar situation applies in the more technical arms, where individuals are not trained on the computer equipment and technical systems they will use once mobilised.

Following the savage cuts under the Strategic Defence Review, a TA company comprises only two rifle platoons plus a support platoon. But one of those in practice becomes a recruit training platoon, leaving an infantry company that is only platoon strength. TA soldiers, therefore, are highly unlikely to experience training at company, let alone battalion level.

The financial pressure on our regular forces grows every year, even as their commitments grow. There is an increasing incentive to use territorials to fill the gaps, often without any thought for the impact that that may have on their military or civilian careers.

The TA is now in a downward spiral of inadequate training and equipment, leading to a decline in its overall usefulness to the regular Army in anything other than the most specialist areas. Combined with poor administration, disrupted training and inadequate career management, the future of the TA looks worse than it has since the end of the Second World War.

Photo of The Bishop of Liverpool The Bishop of Liverpool Bishop 5:06 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, unlike other right reverend Prelates, whose predecessors leave your Lordships' House on retirement, I have the distinct privilege of sitting under the watchful eye of my distinguished antecedent, my noble and right reverend friend Lord Sheppard. It feels like coming in to bat for the first time opposite the captain, who has already scored a century—and most of that with sixes.

I feel that in this debate, which features Europe, I should confess to your Lordships that I am half Scottish and half Welsh. That means that by the law of resultant forces I was bound to end up in Liverpool. I was on "Thought for the Day" on Radio 4 once when Scotland were playing Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. I thought that it would be good to end the piece by saying in both Gaelic and in Welsh, "May the best man win". When I enquired on the telephone of a lecturer at the University of Cardiff if he could tell me what was the Welsh for, "May the best man win", he said, "There is no such phrase in the Welsh language".

During the past 20 years, I have served as a minister in the Church of England in the south-west, the south-east, the north-east and now the north-west of England. In the north especially, I have observed the unique role that faith communities have in our society. Last month, the regional development agency in the north-west published an important new report called Faith in England's North West. It has regional, national and European significance. It demonstrates with statistics what many of us know anecdotally: that the faith communities make a remarkable contribution to the social capital of this country.

Of more than 4,000 questionnaires, 54 per cent were returned, revealing that more than 45,000 volunteers were actively involved in their communities and that the faith communities are strongest where the social need is greatest. Quantifying the number of volunteers, professional ministers and community buildings helps us to understand how important a trellis the faith communities are creating on which to grow the vine of flourishing communities. Indeed, the working together of faith communities at local level and the fostering of good relationships between the faith communities regionally significantly contributes to the good relations between the faiths internationally, and therefore to global security.

In the north-west region, old rivalries are dying. Liverpool was an enthusiastic supporter of Manchester's great achievements in holding the Commonwealth Games and Manchester a champion of Liverpool's successful bid to become European City of Culture in 2008. However, I must say that one of the biggest challenges to my faith as Bishop of Liverpool was when, on my way in to Anfield to watch Liverpool play Manchester United, I was asked to pray for David Beckham's foot. I was tempted to ask which one and what for. I leave it to your Lordships to speculate on what I did, for I do not wish to be controversial. I will happily tell your Lordships the result privately. Suffice it to say that that was certainly a day when the best men won.

Like other regions in Europe, the north-west of England is a contrast of urban and rural landscapes. It is a region engaging seriously and strenuously with both urban and rural regeneration. And, where necessary, environmental issues are being taken ever more seriously.

We live at a unique moment in the history of the human family. Previously, human actions were trivial by comparison with the processes of nature. That is no longer the case. Now the very forces of nature literally tremble at the power exerted by human actions. The future of the earth is not just a regional issue but a national and European one.

In my engagement with young people, I have been struck by their anxiety over global insecurity and by the concern for the way we treat the environment. During Lent in the millennium year, I toured the diocese of Liverpool, which covers 1.5 million people. I went into many schools and met thousands of young people. I wanted to hear their dreams and dreads of the future. I wanted to tell them why I thought that the moral and spiritual values of the Christian faith were still relevant 2,000 years on.

In a discussion about the future of the planet, I asked them on a scale of nought to 10 how worried they were about the earth's future. I asked them to put their hands up if they placed themselves between five to 10. It is no exaggeration to tell your Lordships that in every single school 100 per cent of hands went up.

I then asked them to what extent they thought we ought to do something about the future of the environment. Again, I asked them to place themselves on a scale of nought to 10. In every case, 98 or 99 per cent of young people put their hands up to indicate that there was a moral case for taking action about the future of the earth.

There is an African proverb which says, "We have borrowed the present from our children". It makes me aware of the responsibilities that we have in your Lordships' House as we in Britain play our part with other nations in Europe and in the rest of the world, creating a global community which is founded upon justice and mercy so as to secure the future stability of the earth.

I look forward to serving here in your Lordships' House.

Photo of Lord Mackie of Benshie Lord Mackie of Benshie Liberal Democrat 5:12 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it is my privilege to comment on the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. I have been known to be critical of Bishops, which perhaps is a good thing, but, happily, individual Bishops can entirely reverse my opinion. The speech we have just heard was full of humour, enriched by the work he has done in his field and the knowledge he has gathered. I am sure that he will be a great asset to the House and I hope that we will hear him often.

As a former member of the Royal Air Force, I want to speak today because of certain threats I have read in various Scottish newspapers about the future of some of our famous regiments. In particular, as I live in Angus, I am concerned about the future of the Black Watch. I was pleased to hear denials of any intention to amalgamate or destroy the great regiments of this country.

That was all right, until I came across a copy of an interview in The Times with the Defence Secretary, Mr Hoon. The Defence Secretary said that he was planning radical changes because warfare was increasingly reliant on high-tech weaponry and sophisticated intelligence-gathering systems, not on tanks and soldiers with bayonets. That struck me as a sinister remark. Mr Hoon did deny that he was thinking of abolishing well-known regiments.

Highlighting the new era of high-tech wars, it was revealed in the article that the battle for Basra by British troops in March was first fought by computer, using the most detailed war game model ever produced. I understand that many hours were spent on producing plans which were submitted to General Reith, who was to command the operation.

I am certain that it is absolutely necessary to use computers for gaining information which will be of great value in future, but I do not know whether the production to the commander in chief of five or six separate plans will be useful. However, one thing is certain, as was said by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, in his maiden speech: they all depend on what is happening on the battlefield. And what happens on the battlefield depends on the quality of the troops in the front line. They are essential and no war has ever proved that more than the Iraq war.

A brilliant battle was fought with all the workings of modern technology. The brilliant advance to Baghdad, executed in appallingly hot weather, was marvellously done. However, there were not the troops on the ground to consolidate the victory. I also understand that the American chiefs of staff wanted at least twice the number they had.

The behaviour of our troops in Basra has made us all very proud. Without denigrating any other regiment, the Black Watch in particular distinguished itself. The colonel who ventured into a hostile mob, taking off his helmet and putting on his bonnet with the red hackle, was a stroke of genius and bravery which would never have been indicated by a computer.

We and the regiments need proper reassurance. We need to know that the Army, the chiefs of staff and the Defence Secretary appreciate that more infantry are needed on the ground in any war to which we are liable to be party. I hope and trust that when it comes to the point, instead of trying to amalgamate the Black Watch or any other regiment, the Government will consider forming a second battalion of that famous regiment.

Photo of Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale Labour 5:19 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, when I listened to the gracious Speech last Wednesday and heard the commitment to promoting peace in the Middle East, I was more pessimistic about Israeli/Palestinian relations than I am today, one week later. Last week, I was privileged to be one of the British participants and to chair part of the first Rabin Peace Seminar organised by the Labour Friends of Israel and the Yigal Allon Educational Trust. The Palestinian and Israeli participants were senior, experienced politicians and officials, some of whom knew one another well from years of meetings and negotiations. All were in positions of current responsibility in their community and administration, although none, of course, made any official commitment.

Our hope was that a quiet and discreet country venue in Britain would provide both sides with a useful opportunity to further their relationships and their dialogue, especially at this particular moment, when there seems to be a real window of opportunity for movement. In recent weeks, we have had the extraordinary statement by the Israeli army's chief of staff that repressing Palestinians was reducing Israel's security, not helping it. We have also had the even more extraordinary position of four former heads of the Israeli security service, Shin Bet, joining together to say that Israel must find peace and that the present policy was not doing that. All that has given new life to a badly weakened Israeli peace movement. We also had the Geneva accord, signed publicly on Monday. So, it is a moment of hope.

What I found encouraging about the Rabin seminar was the depth, detail and strength of the dialogue, which all the British contingent found impressive to observe. We were assured that the name of Rabin was, in the context of peace, acceptable to both sides. We have offered to hold a further such event.

One thing that was clear was that there was no point in rehearsing painful history. Both sides have grievances and tragic experiences aplenty. Although history can never be forgotten—far less ignored—one must deal with the present and the future. What is true for Israelis and Palestinians should also be true for outside commentators, many of whom do no service to anyone with a one-sided interpretation of history. I am afraid that this House is not immune from that: too often we hear interventions that seem to treat the Israeli/Palestinian situation as if history started in 1967. If we are talking about the observation of UN resolutions, let us start not with 242 but with 181, from 1947, which established the state of Israel, as well as Palestine. If we talk about appalling conditions in the Palestinian refugee camps, let us not start in 1967, when Israel took control, but speak also about the situation when countries such as Jordan and Egypt were in control.

I speak with some feeling on the matter. I first visited Gaza in August 1967. It was dreadful, but the Israelis had been there only a matter of weeks. The awful conditions in Gaza were there when it was Egypt's responsibility. Egypt did not give the Palestinians free access to Egypt proper, so they had to stay in those conditions from 1948.

Unfortunately, time does not permit me to deal with Iraq, which will have to await another opportunity. No one can pretend that there are not enormous problems. Solutions will not be quick, easy, painless or cheap, but I believe that resolution is possible. Outside the Sunni triangle, conditions are improving; even inside it, that would be more clearly the case, if sabotage could be crushed. It seems to me that NATO could play a useful role in Iraq. NATO already provides logistical support to Poland for its co-ordination of the multinational division in its area of control in Iraq.

In the past year, NATO has passed through turbulent times. Some say that, last February, NATO looked into the abyss. It is certainly true that many realised, at that time, the importance of NATO and its need to exist. NATO has shown itself, once again, to be resilient and capable of changing to meet new challenges. The reason why NATO is now in Afghanistan and, perhaps, could soon be further involved in Iraq is that, in the current world, if you do not go out of theatre, that which is out of theatre will inevitably come to you.

We parliamentarians and politicians have a responsibility to ensure that our citizens understand the new NATO—not the NATO of its founding fathers or even our own fathers, but the widening defensive alliance that is NATO today, facing new, different and some, as yet, unknown challenges with its broadening and active membership. Last week, NATO and EU staffs held a joint exercise to test the mechanisms by which NATO assets can be used in EU operations in which NATO is not involved. This week, NATO and EU foreign ministers are meeting for consultations. I am confident that an increased European defence capability—something talked about as desirable for many years by the Americans as well as the Europeans—can be accommodated alongside the NATO of today and the future.

Photo of Lord Inge Lord Inge Crossbench 5:25 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I start by congratulating my noble and gallant friend Lord Boyce on his excellent maiden speech and saying how nice it is to see the Royal Navy represented at the appropriate level in the House.

I was glad to hear what the Minister said about the threat. I say that because I think that there is a head-in-the-sand approach to the seriousness of that threat. I quote from Robert Cooper's excellent book, The Breaking of Nations. As noble Lords will know, he is a highly respected serving British diplomat. He says:

"The worst times in European history were in the 14th century after the 100 Years War, in the 17th century at the time of the 30 Years War and in the first half of the 20th century. The 21st century may be worse than any of these. The wars of the 20th century in Europe were the first great wars of industrial society . . . In this multiple catastrophe, the single most important thing that went wrong was that technology overran political maturity. The new century risks being overrun by both anarchy and technology. Two great destroyers of history may reinforce each other. Both the spread of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction point to a world in which Western governments are losing control. The spread of the technology of mass destruction represents a massive redistribution of power away from the industrial and democratic states towards smaller states that may be less stable and have less of a stake in an orderly world; or more dramatically still may represent a redistribution of power away from the state itself and towards individuals, that is to say terrorists or criminals".

I recognise that meeting the challenge will require concerted action that goes well beyond military capability. However, our Armed Forces will have a key and vital role to play. To an extent, that has been acknowledged by the Government, but—it is a big "but"—that recognition is not matched by anything like adequate defence funding. Despite the uplift last year, a large gap remains. My noble and gallant friend Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank has pointed out the immediate problems that the new resource accounting has brought about. We are trying to find something close to £1 billion now and in the following three years. Such things as recruiting have been stopped. We cannot suddenly turn them on again.

The Strategic Defence Review was an important step in recognising that our Armed Forces needed to be capable of deploying, fighting and winning in high-intensity conflicts well outside the NATO area and the area beyond. However, the SDR was significantly underfunded and did not anticipate the high level of operational activity facing our Armed Forces.

Several of your Lordships referred to the Secretary of State's speech at the Royal United Services Institute in June this year. I agree with much of what he said about improving the fighting capability of our Armed Forces and equipping them with some of the high-tech capabilities that he talked about. However, like several noble Lords, I believe that that is just one end of the spectrum of conflict and that we will find that the need for infantry—for boots on the ground—is as high as ever. It is foolhardy to talk of a peace dividend from Northern Ireland, when we have so many other operational commitments. That was also referred to by the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Boyce and Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank.

I should like, if I may, to give noble Lords a flavour of the pressure on the Regular and Reserve Army at the moment. A number of your Lordships have talked about the tremendous commitment that the reservists have shown. I am told that more than 7,000 are currently deployed on operations, which is a very high figure. I would argue that we need a radical review of what we expect from our Reserve Forces, first in homeland defence, and secondly as reinforcements for the Regular Army. That is urgent work. My sense is that the Reserve Forces will need a significantly larger budget.

For the Regular Army the average interval between tours is about 10 months, whereas it should be about 24 months. I know that we have never achieved that, but we are talking about a serious level of over-commitment. Six operational tours have been extended this year. In addition, many individuals have had their tours extended and 10 unit moves have been frozen. All that is bound to have an impact on retention, family life and training standards. Those are not small issues. They paint a stark picture of the challenges currently facing our Armed Forces.

Part of the problem is that our Armed Forces always come up trumps. There is a very real danger that people do not take the risk of operational failure seriously enough. The fact is that our Armed Forces are too small for the tasks that are laid upon them. The Army needs a minimum of 4,000 to 5,000 men and women to increase certain unit establishments to make them more robust.

I cannot stress too strongly that our fantastic Armed Forces are seriously underfunded. We are increasing the risk of operational failure. A one-off lift in the defence budget will simply not solve this deep-seated problem.

I turn to the White Paper. I hope that it will contain real substance and not be a superficial bland document about defence policy and the new strategic environment. I hope that it will make clear statements about the future equipment programme and matters such as improving operational logistics support, training, recruiting and retention and, all-importantly, the effects on our families.

Finally, I should like to say a brief word about NATO and Europe. Before doing so, however, I should like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who I believe has been an outstandingly successful Secretary-General who will be much missed when he leaves NATO at the end of this year.

It seems likely that in major conflicts in the future our Armed Forces will operate in coalitions of the willing and, I hope, with the Americans. However, getting the balance right between NATO and Europe warrants a debate in itself. I was glad to hear what the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, just said about the importance of NATO. I know that some think that NATO is outdated. I fundamentally disagree with that view, not only because America is the key nation in the NATO alliance, but also because NATO has radically changed since the end of the Cold War and is enormously important to the future.

I think that there is a real danger of Europe setting up some sort of wishy-washy duplicate command and control organisation. That would be an unnecessary waste of money and use manpower from already heavily overstretched regiments and units. It would also worry the Americans. If Europe is serious about defence, then it should improve its military fighting capability. I am not sure that people realise just how inadequate Europe's military capability is.

It was Lloyd George who said that war is too important to be left to the generals. Surprisingly, there are some aspects of that sentiment with which I agree. However, it means that a huge responsibility is placed on political leaders to ensure that our wonderful Armed Forces are large enough, have the best equipment and are trained and well led and ready to face threats to the United Kingdom's interests. If Ministers do not face up to this responsibility they risk military failure. Put starkly, it means that they are ready to ask our wonderful servicemen and servicewomen to face danger knowing that they have been inadequately funded.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, raised the issue of what our servicemen and servicewomen want and expect. I think that the Armed Forces will be looking to the Prime Minister for help to ensure that they are adequately funded.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development) 5:34 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I should like to congratulate both noble Lords on their excellent maiden speeches. We certainly look forward to more speeches from them.

There are several references in the gracious Speech to international affairs. Perhaps that is not surprising given that, since the previous gracious Speech, we have become involved in a war in Iraq. International sympathy for the United States post-September 11th extended to action in Afghanistan, where Al'Qaeda training camps were known to be based. Yet when President Bush talked of the axis of evil, singling out Iraq, our Prime Minister made it clear that he did not connect Iraq to Al'Qaeda. Yet, inexorably, the UK was drawn into war, ostensibly not to achieve regime change—a matter of doubtful international legality, however evil Saddam Hussein might be—but because of the imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction.

There were many warnings before that war about the wide repercussions which would result if action against Iraq was seen to be led not by the international community but rather by a country often regarded as militarily and culturally imperialistic. In the Middle East, one very strongly encounters the feeling that the US and the UK have taken unilateral action in Iraq; that the problems of Israel/Palestine are not being properly addressed; and that the US—and, unfortunately, by association, the UK—does not understand the Islamic Arab world and its culture, and certainly does not realise the extent to which western culture drew from it. There is a huge gulf in understanding.

Al'Qaeda is now operating in Iraq, and Iraq is being used as an excuse for further terrorist atrocities elsewhere in the world. There is little doubt that the UK is now four-square in the sights of those who exploit misunderstandings around the world.

What control do we have over events in Iraq? We are supposedly joint partners in the Coalition Provisional Authority, administered by Paul Bremer. He returns to the United States to report. He changes direction at their request. We asked the noble Baroness the Leader of the House how many times he has come to London to report. The answer came back that he has not made one such visit.

Reconstruction requires security, yet each month sees an escalation of insecurity. What is needed to establish security, as one UK official involved has said, is to win hearts and minds. That would be a difficult task at the best of times, as we have seen in Northern Ireland. We are engaged in an enterprise that did not have UN international backing; as the junior partner to a nation not known for its international understanding and not viewed with sympathy in the area it seeks to control; at odds with many of our European allies; with a widened gulf of misunderstanding with Arab countries; and endangering the stability of our own multicultural communities.

In this situation, indeed we must throw ourselves into the reconstruction of Iraq, trying to involve those in the region in this task and passing on the control of the country to the Iraqis as soon as possible. However, we have the obligation not to leave them in chaos. I welcome the Government's commitment to that.

Now, predictably and predicted, we find ourselves also having to redirect aid "sooner than planned" from poor people round the world to the reconstruction of Iraq. Could the Minister yet tell me precisely which projects are to be finished before their originally planned time?

The Government have in the past been rightly commended for their commitment to international development, to helping the poor around the world. Iraq threatens that legacy. It is not only funds draining to Iraq, but also attention. In Afghanistan, for instance, a small proportion of the country is secure. Opium production is soaring, despite the Chancellor's pledge that within 10 years we would no longer find Afghan opium on Britain's streets. Now there must also be an increased danger that, as aid to Latin America is cut, the cocaine that emanates from there will increasingly make its way to the UK.

With so much effort focused on Iraq, it is not surprising if perhaps the greatest challenge of our time, the rise and rise of HIV/AIDS, is not getting the international attention that it should. I am glad to see reference to that in the gracious Speech and welcome the Government's call for action on HIV/AIDS published on Monday. However, the scale of the crisis is such that massive efforts will have to be made on the international scene. I am not sure why we must wait until next year for the Government's strategy on the issue. Meanwhile, the catastrophe gains momentum. A report this week showed that in some areas of Botswana there is a 60 per cent incidence of AIDS among workers. A doctor from Durban told me last week that he now spends most of his weekends attending funerals of hospital staff.

AIDS afflicts those who should be most economically active. We shall see economies implode as a result of the disease. But, above all, there is the social cost. How can we have stability and development if the only people left in a country are old people and children? What are the longer-term consequences of such a disaster? That is why the WHO aim of three by five—3 million people into treatment by 2005—is so unambitious. Yet even that will be difficult to achieve on current estimates.

Although children are mentioned in the introduction of the Government's action plan, there seems to be nothing further in the plan about the care of those children. Already, some 14 million children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. By 2010, there will be 40 million AIDS orphans in Africa alone. Save the Children describes the absence of a priority focus on AIDS orphans as alarming and says that they must be given the highest priority. Will the noble Baroness say how the Government plan to help those children?

If the situation were not so appalling, it would be farcical now to contemplate delivering the millennium development goals by 2015. How can we increase the number of children in education if their parents are dying? How can we promote the equality of the sexes if girls must look after their sick relatives? How can we strengthen economies while they are imploding with deaths in every sector? All those slow advances in development in Africa, and the rapid advances in countries such as India and China, will count for nothing if the catastrophic situation is not addressed.

Iraq becomes a distraction from that. As other noble Lords have said, we find ourselves in an increasingly dangerous and unstable world. However much the Government may now wish to concentrate on public services and the situation at home, they cannot do so. They have their own responsibilities for what we have already undertaken internationally. A clear focus on those responsibilities must be their top priority in the months ahead.

Photo of Lord King of Bridgwater Lord King of Bridgwater Conservative 5:44 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I wish to concentrate on other matters. I support fully the comments made by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford and other noble Lords and noble and gallant Lords on the importance of ensuring that, in any efforts to strengthen European co-operation, we do not undermine the vital importance and crucial role of NATO.

I welcome yet another Chief of Defence Staff, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, a distinguished submariner, who, we are all delighted, has surfaced in the Chamber at last. There is probably no other occupation in which one appreciates more the value of every single member of the service. The strong speeches made by other noble and gallant Lords, particularly the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Guthrie and Lord Inge, highlighted the importance of people in the future of our defences and Armed Forces.

I welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. During his witty, profound speech he said that there was no phrase in the Welsh language for "May the best man win". That is almost my text also—I do not think that the phrase is available in any dialect in Afghanistan; nor is it common in the languages in Iraq. "May the best man win" is not the language being used at present.

Against that background, I echo the words of the Foreign Secretary in opening the response in the other place to the gracious Speech. He said that he thought the world situation to be more dangerous now than it has been for decades. Not only is there a threat of terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, but there is an intelligence warning that an invasion of Iraq could lead to a greater threat of terrorism in this country—I do not think that anybody would challenge that seriously. That is now putting great strain on the resources of the free and democratic world.

I read a quotation from a distinguished American general, on which noble Lords may wish to comment, given that there is a slight feeling that American resources are unlimited. He said that seven of their 10 available divisions were now committed in Afghanistan and Iraq; that they could not do that for much longer than another year; but, at the same time, they understood that the forecast was that they might be there for another 10 years.

The challenge that we face was not without warning. In our debate in this House before the invasion of Iraq, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Vincent, said that we would win the war but asked whether we could win the peace. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, said that it was easy to get in but difficult to get out. Those warnings were clearly given. We face a serious and very dangerous situation.

In the opening Question to the Prime Minister in another place today, yet another Member of this Parliament who is a reservist, Andrew Murrison MP, talked about the deteriorating security situation. We hear encouraging statements from Ministers but I attach some importance to a warning about the situation from someone who has returned so recently. I am not sure whether he was in Basra, which one regarded previously as one of the better areas.

In 1880, the Secretary of State for India said:

"All that has been accomplished in Afghanistan has been the disintegration of a state, and a condition of anarchy throughout the country".

In 2003, that threat exists in Afghanistan and Iraq. It must not be allowed to happen.

The seriousness of our involvement and the implications of failure are too grave to contemplate. We are at a very dangerous time. My noble friend Lord Howell referred to the possibility of having nearly seized Saddam. If that were achieved, it would be the single most important factor in tilting the balance of Iraqi sentiment. Otherwise, against the suggestions of an increasingly organised resistance and increasingly sophisticated attacks on the United States and United Kingdom forces, diplomats and others, including the United Nations, who are sadly on the front line and have suffered grievous casualties, the importance of getting on top of the situation soon could not be greater.

Those currently co-operating with the coalition and trying to play their part in bringing Iraq out of its nightmare into a happier future know the fate that would await them if the process were to fail and the allies and the coalition withdrew. So the importance of not being allowed to fail could not be more clearly stated. That is the challenge against which we debate the gracious Speech. This is an extremely dangerous time for our country, both abroad and at home.

In this situation, we will depend on the people. We will depend on our armed services, our intelligence services and our security forces in their various forms. In that connection, and it may sound odd to introduce this, I am grateful for what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, said about the new appointment on the Conservative Front Bench in the shape of Nicholas Soames, who knows that people matter. I am delighted to see somebody getting involved in the political discussions on these issues who has worn uniform. I know that his appointment will be widely welcomed, as the noble and gallant Lord said.

I raise one point with the Minister about his opening speech: I am acutely worried that we are putting a huge strain on the Armed Forces. I strove and failed as Secretary of State for Defence, as a number of noble and gallant Lords know, to achieve a 24-month tour interval. Intervals of six or 10 months have been quoted in this Chamber today, which is absolutely impossible. It is no good Ministers standing up and saying how wonderful our Armed Forces are and how they can always be relied on to perform superbly. They do it because they are superbly trained and because they are ready, trained and equipped for the task. With the tour intervals that they are facing at the present, that is obviously impossible.

The Minister referred to 46,000 troops, which is equivalent to those involved in the first Gulf War. However, the first Gulf War involved 46,000 out of 310,000 troops. We are now into 46,000 out of a total of 210,000 resources. We have a TA—and I was criticised for reducing it to 63,000—that is now down to 40,000 and falling, and a number of its members are involved in the front line in a quite unprecedented way, so the strain is there.

Government Ministers can be accused of sounding complacent. I do not challenge the Government about that because it is the duty of Ministers to defend the Government and they are not going to stand up and say that they have got it all wrong and failed. I hope that, although they have to defend the Government position from the Dispatch Box, they are seized with the seriousness of the situation. If what was suggested by one of the noble and gallant Lords is true and even basic recruitment has been stopped because of a shortage of funds, that is a very serious matter. However, I am also concerned about retention. If those tour intervals remain, the pressure on families of continual deployment of people overseas will become intolerable. It is one thing for regulars, but if it is applied to reservists as well we will rapidly find a seriously deteriorating situation.

We depend on and are proud of our armed services, to which I pay yet another tribute, because I once had the privilege of being involved with them in a position of responsibility. We must consider their interests. It is not just for their benefit: it is for our own selfish interests as well. At this dangerous and challenging time, we must ensure that we maintain the calibre and quality of our Armed Forces for whatever fresh challenges may arise.

Photo of The Bishop of Rochester The Bishop of Rochester Bishop 5:54 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I join with others in congratulating my colleague, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, on his perceptive and challenging speech. We look forward to more. I was tempted to take up the challenge of the noble Lord, Lord King, about whether, "May the best man win" can be said in Dari or Arabic. I am sure that it can, but that is by the way.

The Minister told us that the Iraqi Governing Council and the coalition have announced a timetable; for the framing of fundamental law, the introduction of a transitional government, elections to a constitutional convention and, eventually, the emergence of an Iraqi government which has the consent of the Iraqi people. Those are all laudable aims, but I hope that some hard thinking is being done in Baghdad, Washington and Whitehall about how all of this is to be achieved. It is said, for example, that a transitional national assembly will be established through "transparent and democratic caucuses". Does that mean that local custom and religious tradition will be taken into account?

In Afghanistan, the Allies encouraged the convening of the Loya Jirgah, a traditional meeting of elders with political and judicial powers. The notion of a Jirgah was modified—the inclusion of women, for example—but its use legitimises the development of government by consent in a country which has been ravaged by one tyrant after another. Whether democracy takes root in Afghanistan still remains to be seen but, if it does, it may well be in a form recognisable by the Afghans themselves.

Samir Al-Khahil, in his book on Iraq, Republic of Fear, points out how democracy was imposed on the Iraqi people under the British mandate but that it never really took root because it was unrelated to local political consciousness. That must not be allowed to happen again. It has often been pointed out that traditional Islamic polity emphasises "participation" rather than "representation". The idea of shura involves widespread consultation, instead of focusing too narrowly and too quickly on producing so-called elected representatives. One of the reasons for the Ba'athist success has been its understanding of participatory politics, however ruthlessly it may have been manipulated by its members. It is to be hoped that the transitional assembly and its government will be based on participatory bodies at the local level. The abuse of shura in Iran, Pakistan and elsewhere should not discourage us from its proper use in Iraq.

If shura is a religious idea, baica is a cultural one in the context of Iraq. In traditional Arab societies it signals the approval by a group, tribe, clan or religious community, of those claiming to lead. However informally that is done, such expressions of confidence in the process, as well as in the people produced by the process, will be necessary if the assembly and government are to receive legitimisation.

The Ottoman insistence on the millet system, which defined almost autonomous communities usually on the basis of religion and ethnicity, still influences the mentalities of many in countries such as Iraq. Such sensibilities must be taken into account. That may mean a more federalist than unitary structure at the national level but, in any case, the principle of subsidiarity will have to be respected so that the national government do not seek to do what the communities can do for themselves. At the same time, the system should ensure participation—that word again—particularly of minority ethnic and religious groups at the national level. I am aware that in this respect the make-up of the present Governing Council has itself been criticised—for not having enough Christian representatives, for example. Naturally, it is being asked how the role of Islam should be acknowledged in any future constitution of Iraq. That is also an important issue in Afghanistan. My own view is that the place of Islam in national life should certainly be acknowledged, but its role should be that of influencing and resourcing rather than coercing. For example, the Sharia or Islamic law can be seen to provide the guiding principles for law making. But such laws would also take account of modernity, with its opportunities and problems. That kind of cross-fertilisation would make for a creative marriage of the traditional and the contemporary.

The Governing Council's declaration that the new fundamental law will be based on respect for human rights, freedom of speech and religious tolerance is greatly to be welcomed. Needless to say, those must also be the basic principles governing law-making in Afghanistan. Iraq has a long history of significant religious and ethnic communities living side by side. That must not only be recognised, but also be positively encouraged. The fate of the Iraqi Jews should not be shared by the remaining Assyrian, Syrian and Chaldean Christians, the Mandaeans and the Yezidis.

The challenge is to create a modern state in Iraq that is governed by consent; a state in which political, legal and civil institutions have arisen out of its rich heritage, but also relate well to modern conditions and expectations. It is most important that they should not be seen merely as "imports" from the West or anywhere else. They should be able to deliver fiscal probity and accountability, while, at the same time, manage Iraq's considerable human and natural resources for the well being of all sections of its population. The international community will not have such an opportunity again. It should be used wisely and for the benefit of the Iraqi people—all of them.

Photo of Lord Burlison Lord Burlison Labour 6:01 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it would be fair to say that successive governments have tried to support the needs of our Armed Forces in the changing strategic environment in which they are expected to operate. However, it was clear in the 1990s that, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the threat that it posed, there were major reductions to all our Armed Forces. The strength of reductions was severe. I am sure that we on the Opposition Benches at the time were not slow to criticise the Government for their actions. A good deal of our equipment was either out of date or below the required standard in any case.

It was clear to all that changes were necessary if we were to play our role in a new strategic environment. Of course, changes were made. Our Armed Forces may have far fewer tanks, fast aircraft and naval escorts than a decade ago, but they are much better organised and equipped to handle expeditionary operations.

Decisive combat operations have finished in Iraq. We are now focused on stabilisation operations. We conducted a carefully targeted military campaign within the constraints of international law. We are very proud of British servicemen and women, whose sacrifices will not be forgotten. After our recent experience in Iraq, I am sure that there will be a need for more radical change to ensure that we have planned our procurement policy to meet the needs of the next decade in order to keep the British Armed Forces among the best in the world. However, we were very pleased with the way in which our equipment performed in Iraq, particularly in the demanding circumstances and harsh conditions.

It is important for the country and the Armed Forces that the Government get it right and provide the very best equipment now and in the future. While I am on the issue of procurement, perhaps I may compliment the Government on their policy of trying to buy from our home base with the proviso that equipment is good enough to match the very best that there is internationally. I know that with partnerships and foreign shareholding ownership, it is not always easy to determine a UK company. However, it is important that British-based companies are given a fair crack of the whip to produce the best for the internal market and to be in a position to compete in the export field.

It is not always easy for the Government to keep pace with changes in technology, interoperability, flexibility and speed. As we have seen in the past, previous governments have not always got it right. But I am confident that this Government will get it right and will provide equipment that will meet the needs of a modem armed force. We owe it to our servicemen and women to equip them with the very best.

There are many British-based companies that can produce to a high level; they should be helped to sustain the quality of their workforce. I would like to mention Swan Hunter on Tyneside, which has a proud record in the defence industry. I am sure that it will be a valuable asset in the future of naval shipbuilding. It currently employs 1,500 workers at the Wallsend yard. I am pleased to say that Swans, having gone out of business and now returning, is bringing a welcome vibrancy to the town. The chairman, Jaap Kroese, has taken a big gamble and has invested a great deal of his own money in the company in an effort to maintain a shipbuilding presence in the area.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention the work carried out by Northern Defence Industries, which is a cluster of small and medium enterprises in the defence industry covering the north east and Yorkshire. NDI's main mission is to obtain more work for companies that are involved with it. It does that by working closely with prime contractors to build up regional supply chains. Its members share best practice to increase competitiveness. It has already been successful in helping to win business on two hand-held missile systems for the Army. When the two competing companies took their aircraft carrier road shows to the north east, NDI encouraged over 200 companies to register as potential suppliers. I should like to compliment One North East and Yorkshire Forward, both regional development agencies, for their innovative organisation and their funding of NDI, as well as the companies that give commercial sponsorship.

Northern Defence Industries is an object lesson in what the usually ignored part of the defence industrial base can achieve. I congratulate all those involved, especially the chief executive, David Bowles, on the remarkable achievements to date. With a large amount of future projects in the pipeline, I am sure that it will not be resting on its laurels. I do not envy the Minister's task of trying to satisfy everyone, while, at the same time, attempting to obtain the best equipment to help our Armed Forces retain their decisive edge throughout the next decade.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 6:08 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it has already been mentioned that two years ago we went to war in Afghanistan. We inflicted heavy damage and untold loss of life among soldiers and civilians, as well as successfully driving out the Taliban. We did it because we were bringing freedom and democracy. We thought that refugees would return, girls would go back to school, women would show their faces and musicians would play in the streets. We imagined that the people were waiting for change and crying out for us to release them.

However, it was not as simple as that. Refugees have not returned in the numbers expected. Most women are staying at home. A minority of girls are in school. Many people still seem to fear the return of the hated Taliban; some remain suspicious of the motives of new foreign invaders. But we must not be too disappointed. The Afghan people have their own traditions, councils and ethnic differences. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester so ably said, these must be taken into account during reconstruction.

As we know from history, national unity is a hard-earned prize, which is mostly the product of military strength. Today's coalition rests on fragile alliances of commanders in the north, west and south. President Karzai controls only a proportion of the Pashtun in the south. Despite the efforts of the coalition, the militias are still armed and terrorism still has a hold on the south-east where the Taliban and Al'Qaeda continue to control mines and money-belts.

The noble Lord, Lord King, mentioned 1880, which was rather dire in view of the scale of United Kingdom losses, but it was a warning to which we must listen. This is not one nation, yet the whole UN operation is run from the centre. There are hundreds of aid workers in Kabul plying between heavily barricaded compounds of embassies and UN agencies. In Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, the aid agencies are well established, but to the south and east of the capital they work at their peril, remembering vicious attacks on agencies such as the Red Cross and, more recently, the UNHCR.

All UN operations in Ghazni have now been suspended, In Kandahar, Jalalabad and Gardez, the Afghanistan United Nations Assistance Mission now has only a skeleton staff. In a country where two years ago humanitarian work had seemed such an obvious necessity, the good Samaritans are themselves now in need of our protection. As the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, mentioned, the irony here is that Afghanistan had been one of the poorest countries in the world. According to Save the Children, even today one in four children dies before the age of five, and 60 per cent of those deaths are preventable. Over two-thirds of the schools are still not functioning and tens of thousands of children are at work rather than at school. This is another country where the millennium development goals still seem almost unattainable.

Owing to the war, among other factors, 5.9 million people are still listed by the World Food Programme as "highly vulnerable" and in need of assistance. That figure includes 1.2 million returned refugees, 400,000 displaced people and hundreds of thousands of urban poor who can be seen on the streets of Kabul and elsewhere. These are images to be found in many countries, but because of its special circumstances, Afghanistan is among the very poorest and most deserving of international aid.

Yet because of our decision to enter Iraq, Afghanistan is not receiving enough international attention. The delivery of aid is well behind the Tokyo pledges. It is estimated, for example, that there is a peacekeeper in Iraq for every 92 Iraqi citizens, while there are over 5,000 Afghanis for each peacekeeper. The warning given this week to NATO members by my noble friend Lord Robertson in this context—not to neglect Afghanistan—must be taken seriously; and for those noble Lords concerned about the European arrangements for defence, Afghanistan is currently the test case for NATO acting outside its own normal arena. Reconstruction is not possible without security.

The ISAF forces outside Kabul are seriously under strength, and all we are offering is a few hundred German and Norwegian soldiers, along with some more Greek and Belgian helicopters. However, that is not aimed at the British effort because I know that the Foreign Office is working hard with our NATO allies to try to encourage them to join in with this effort. The British are having some success with the provincial reconstruction teams, but those are small in number and many more soldiers are needed alongside the Afghan army and police in preparation for next year's elections which, not surprisingly, the Taliban intends to oppose and disrupt.

The elections will be a critical test of confidence. In a recent survey of Afghan opinion conducted by NGOs such as CARE, Oxfam and six Afghan NGOs in eight provinces, 87 per cent of the respondents said that they would vote in the elections next year. Ninety-five per cent of the men and 78 per cent of the women surveyed said that they would vote, and 73 per cent thought that the elections would bring about positive changes—although a lower proportion, only around 70 per cent, seemed to be aware of the issues involved.

There will be a huge task of civic education around these elections. By its own admission, our embassy still needs to develop a policy involving some of the Afghan NGOs already engaged in work in preparation for next week's Loya Jirgah.

Meanwhile, international attention long ago moved to Iraq. I was delighted that Her Majesty mentioned Afghanistan ahead of Iraq, which is not often heard nowadays, perhaps for chronological or alphabetical reasons. However, the recent visit by President Bush once again polarised attitudes in this country. Many of us who regretted our original entry into Iraq still regret the Prime Minister's conversion to a presidential international style and the distance he continues to keep from the United Nations.

So, as we approach Hutton, some relevant questions arise. Are we really winning the war on terror or is there some misconception? Is the very strength of our military hardware, which is designed to scatter the enemy much as the Greeks did under Alexander, actually generating new units of terror? Is terrorism itself a form of desperation? Are we offering the best long-term solutions? Are aid workers, for example, increasingly seen as the purveyors of western ideas and culture, being perceived as the agents of anti-terrorism instead of anti-poverty? Are we doing enough in considering new approaches in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester was correct: surely we have to beware of imposing our own forms of democracy, religion and culture. When we attend to hearts and minds, we must not give Al'Qaeda the argument that the West has developed a new and subtle form of imperialism. Still more, we must renounce territorial claims or other forms of aggression dressed up as self-defence because they will serve to refuel the very terrorism we are fighting against.

Along with many noble Lords, I should like to see a return to international law based on the resolutions of the UN Security Council, many of which we have totally ignored throughout the Middle East. In Iraq and Afghanistan we have a special responsibility. Far from disengaging, we must build on the respect which many people in the Middle East have for the positive values that they associate with Britain, Europe and the United States. These include religious tolerance, the rule of law, the dignity of individuals and even, to some extent, human rights and democratic government where they coincide with traditional values.

Through institutions such as the British Council, our universities, the BBC and DfID we have already developed links with scholars, lawyers, teachers and artists throughout the Middle East. We do not want to jeopardise those links through our military involvement and our alliances outside the UN, which to many look like neo-colonialism. The vast majority firmly reject extremism and fundamentalism and we have to work twice as hard to retain their support.

Photo of Lord Holme of Cheltenham Lord Holme of Cheltenham Liberal Democrat 6:17 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, in following the noble Earl, I should like briefly to try to connect the subjects of the global war against terrorism with the continuing struggle for greater global justice and development. I was very struck that, when President Bush was in London, his immediate reaction to the terrible bombings in Istanbul was to refer first of all to "homeland security". Perhaps that is understandable, given the domestic television audience in America, but when will we realise that there is only one homeland now, and that is the world in which we all live?

I say that not just in the sense that, to paraphrase Trotsky's famous statement about communism, you cannot have security in one country, and not even as the President was right to announce after 9/11 that the war against terrorism is global, but in the wider and deeper sense that the world is painfully coming of age. Our deep interdependence, to which the noble Lord, Lord Howell, referred, is becoming more and more palpable. The poor, the sick and the starving of the world—1.5 billion people—are as much our poor as were the urban destitute to our Victorian forefathers in this country. They pose for us exactly the same question: one nation or two; one world or two? Disraeli referred to,

"Two nations; between whom there is . . . no sympathy, who are as ignorant of each other's . . . feelings, as if they were . . . inhabitants of different planets".

We have only one planet and on it we all know that the environmental effects of a growing population, whether manifested as grinding poverty or over-hasty industrialisation, is our shared problem. We all know that pandemics such as SARS or HIV/AIDS, of which my noble friend Lady Northover spoke so eloquently, are no respecters of national boundaries. So globalisation is not just about free trade or the Internet; it is about the close interdependence of the whole world.

Military strategists have long recognised that national security lies not simply in military capacity, important as that is, but in the context of health, wealth, education, stability and shared values. How much more does that apply to international security? I, for one, very much regret in the aftermath of 9/11 that the US Administration, alongside the global coalition on terrorism, failed to launch a parallel global coalition for sustainable development and justice—in short, for real security. The subsequent alienation of most of the world from the United States has a great deal to do with that failure of imagination.

Terrorism is nothing new; as long as there are fanatics who put their fundamentalist creeds above the claims of common humanity, there will go on being terrorism at one level or another. No doubt, it will be made potentially more deadly by advanced technology and the spread of destructive modern weapons, and the terrorists must be driven back and contained. However, I should have thought that we British have learned one lesson, either in Northern Ireland or, years ago, in Malaya—in both of which I had a small involvement. The terrorist must not be able to rely on the support of the community. He must be denied acquiescence, refuge and help, because the community does not accept that he is on their side.

The tragedy of this century is that millions of peaceable people who would not themselves dream of killing or maiming vaguely feel that, in a perceived struggle against the imposed will and might of the United States, these fanatics are somehow on their side. Do not mistake that for the naive and patronising argument that poverty itself engenders terrorism. I do not believe that for one moment. However, I do believe that a really effective response, and the creation of true security, which diminishes the likelihood of successful terrorism, depends on denying any succour to the fanatics.

We need a twin-track approach: tough on terrorism, but tender to a world that is seething with a sense of injustice at deep problems, and believes itself to be ignored by the wealthy and powerful. To be fair to the Prime Minister, in his notable speech in Brighton two years ago and in flickers ever since—notably in his genuine concern for the future of Africa—there have been indications that he and the Government well understand what is needed, as I believe do the British people. I was struck by the information that the right reverend Prelate gave us in his notable maiden speech.

Nothing much has happened, however. The G8 funds for NePAD have not left the bank manager's safe. There is no new global Marshall Plan. Even the new AIDS money from the United States is hobbled around by unilateralism and the prejudices of the so-called moral majority. The Israel/Palestine situation has been allowed to deteriorate further. Kyoto is in ruins. The world trade system still does not offer full market access to the developing world.

If I should point to a failure of the Anglo-American relationship at this time of international crisis, it lies in the failure on one hand of British leadership to capture the imagination of the leadership, and thence of the people, of the United States, in a realisation of their profound power for good in a troubled world and, on the other hand, a failure by that same leadership to negotiate more effectively with our ally to secure British and global objectives. Of course, we do not have an alliance of equals with the United States, but we should demand an alliance of reciprocity, which we are not getting.

Some will point to the President's speech in London as evidence of a more positive approach. He spoke warmly of democracy. I yield to no one in my own commitment to democracy. I wish the world was more democratic, that this country was more democratic, and that this House was even half democratic. However, I wonder whether democracy is enough, and whether it will not take some time to get established in the Middle East. After all, it took us a few centuries. I wonder, too, whether its establishment does not depend, crucially, on parallel conditions, such as a national identity that transcends other loyalties, such as relative civic calm and the rule of law, and such as the basics of life being in place. I fear that a rush to voting as the instant and universal panacea could prove to have dangerous unintended consequences, such as a boost to those whose goal is theocracy, not democracy at all.

There are some hard questions to be answered about the military adventure in Iraq. I do not refer to the professionalism and courage of our armed services, which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, portrayed for us so eloquently. But has it contributed to a more secure world; has it strengthened the United Nations, the European Union and NATO, or has it weakened them? Has it stemmed the rise of fundamentalist Islam, or swollen it? Has it brought a two-state solution nearer for the festering Israel/Palestine question, or has it pushed it further away? Has it boosted support for the war against terrorism or created more acquiescence in those foul deeds?

If our only positive message is democracy, particularly when that democracy seems to be delivered on the business end of precision-guided munitions, I fear that our strategy for a more secure world is pathetically inadequate. A more secure world depends crucially on a more just world, and I believe and hope that Her Majesty's Government will be seen to lead the quest for global justice and development.

Photo of Lord Skidelsky Lord Skidelsky Crossbench 6:26 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I should like to play a variation on one line of the gracious Speech, which reads:

"My Government will work for a strong partnership between Europe and the United States, underpinned by Nato".

It is common ground in this House that there should be a strong partnership between Europe and the United States. Whether that partnership should be underpinned by NATO and whether Europe's security would be seriously compromised without the NATO alliance is the question.

That security comes at a cost, and we should be clear about that. True enough, NATO offers us security, but it is also a mechanism for subordinating the foreign and security policy of Europe to that of the United States. America offers most of Europe protection—in particular the all-important nuclear guarantee—in return for Europe renouncing any ambition to become an independent centre of power in the world. That was the situation inherited from the Cold War. The question is: does it any longer make sense?

As the two noble Lords in opening the debate pointed out, last weekend the Foreign Ministers of the European Union, meeting in Naples, agreed the first step to developing an independent military capacity. They agreed to set up a small operational planning unit outside NATO. That tiny step towards what might be called a unilateral declaration of independence was predictably denounced by United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, as a challenge to NATO. Equally predictably, our own Government insist that it is perfectly consistent with the NATO underpinning to which they are committed.

I do not intend to adjudicate between those two views. I want to address a rather different question. Why are we so willing to accept the rather ignominious position of being a permanent protectorate of the United States? Why do 450 million Europeans need 250 million Americans to defend them? Robert Kagan, the intellectual guru of the Bush administration, has one answer: the Europeans are soft. He writes that,

"Americans are from Mars and Europeans from Venus", with mingled envy and contempt.

It is true that Europeans are more reluctant to use force than the Americans are—not surprisingly, given their history. But that does not explain, as Kagan thinks it does, the reluctance of what Rumsfeld calls "old Europe" to support the United States in Iraq. Russia and China, which few people believe inhabit Venus, also opposed the US action; while Britain, as we know, took part in it. French opposition did not come from softness; they disagreed with American policy.

Then again, you can hardly say that the Europeans spend no money on defence. The combined defence budgets of the European Union countries total 185 billion dollars. That is about half of what the United States spends. Compare this with 50 billion a year spent by Russia and China. Those are large amounts of money, but what defence do we get for it? The trouble is that, apart from the small but efficient British and French armed forces (which include operational nuclear weapons), EU military expenditure is mostly wasted. It is this waste, not the amount spent, which makes the European Union a military pygmy.

Why this dysfunctional defence system? As I see it, the main reason is that we have never been able to crack the German problem. The old joke has it that NATO was formed to "keep America in, Germany down, and Russia out". After the Second World War, America had to be in, because it was the only power which had the nuclear weapons to deter the massive land forces of the Soviet Union, and no one wanted to entrust that job to a restored German army, least of all the Germans themselves after the battering their armed forces had taken on the eastern front.

Today, when it is no longer a question of keeping Russia out, we need to keep the Americans in because we still feel that we need to keep the Germans down. I say this, shocking as it may seem, because no one is willing to accept a serious military revival of Germany, which would almost certainly lead to the Germans acquiring nuclear weapons. The Russians do not want it, we do not want it, the east Europeans do not want it, and neither do the French. This, indeed, is the hole at the centre of the grand French design for an independent Europe. Europe cannot become an alternative pole of power without Germany, and no one wants an independent Germany to be at or near the centre of that pole of power, even if it is enfolded by the European Union.

We are debating British, not French, foreign policy. Much as I would like to see a more independent Europe, I cannot accept the proposition that we have to choose between the United States and Europe. There is no choice, actually, because there is no presently acceptable basis for a European alternative.

The Prime Minister can certainly be faulted for his judgment on the threat posed by Iraq. He can be criticised for an excessive public subservience to the Bush Administration. But on the central issue of who guarantees our safety, he is right. He understands with great clarity that no European alternative to America's defence guarantee is currently available, and it might not be desirable even if it were available.

For there is, of course, a potential alternative which has long been hinted at; that is, the political union of France and Germany. That would finesse the problem of a German finger on the nuclear trigger. That is the real alternative to reliance on America. The European superstate which the Eurosceptics fear will come about, if at all, not through the Brussels directives or the feeble federalist initiatives that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, so much feared in his speech, but through the political consolidation of the core of the European Union. It is not the European Union which will grow into a political giant, but a political giant might grow up within the European Union, to which we as well as our American ally will one day have to define our attitudes. But that is the subject for a very different, and much less comfortable, discussion than the one we are having now.

Photo of Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar Conservative 6:34 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, in vowing to wage war against terrorism, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and, indeed, the Minister today seem to me to ignore the vital truth that when you are trying to diminish terrorism by sensible police and intelligence activity, the most stupid thing you can possibly do is gratuitously to increase the number of terrorists. But that, of course, is exactly what Britain and America did when they invaded Iraq.

The other day the Foreign Secretary absurdly said that the consulate bombing in Istanbul had nothing to do with the war in Iraq. How does he know, I wonder? What we do know, however, from the Hutton inquiry, is that the Prime Minister was warned last February that an invasion of Iraq would increase the danger of terrorism. Indeed, it was so obvious that increased terrorism would be a major consequence of the war that some of us, without any access to intelligence sources, firmly predicted that it was bound to happen, and, of course, it did.

President Bush now says that the American aim is to create a new democratic order not only in Iraq but throughout the Middle East. If so, I do not think that he is going the right way about it. As we have seen, the Americans are already having considerable difficulty in Iraq. As noble and gallant Lords have rightly pointed out today, the British Army, as we would expect, is a model occupier. But unfortunately the same cannot be said of the American army. Some of the activities that we see on television seem almost designed to increase the number of opponents to the occupation. As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said, for the American army not even to count the number of Iraqi civilians it kills is surely highly provocative and extraordinarily arrogant. More importantly, as I believe has been suggested by more than one speaker, there is considerable doubt whether you can create democracy at the point of a gun.

Then there is the difficulty that Iraq is a relatively recent and an artificial country. Even under ideal conditions it would be extremely difficult to create democracy in Iraq, and the current conditions are about as unideal as it would be possible to get. Iraq may well split into three, which would cause tremendous instability throughout the Middle East.

The sincerity of the sponsor of this whole process, the Bush administration, is deeply suspect in Iraq. It is widely believed that America's real objective—in addition, of course, to the overriding one of securing President Bush's re-election—is to set up an allegedly democratic government which will be an obedient subject of Washington. A genuinely democratic Iraqi government would almost certainly be strongly anti-American. The Americans are under the delusion that Arab hostility to the United States is caused by Arab dictatorships. That is not the case; it is caused by the Arabs' fully understandable dislike of American foreign policy.

In view of American behaviour not only in Iraq but also over Israel, the Bush administration's assumption that the Arabs regard it as a force for good and take it seriously as the harbinger of democracy in the Middle East indicates both denial and self-delusion. Admittedly, Bush goes on talking about the need for a Palestinian state, which is certainly welcome, but so far he has done absolutely nothing to bring that about. Indeed, he has gone along with everything that Ariel Sharon wants to do and seems to have made no objection to the fact that over the past three years Sharon has invariably wrecked any chance of peace, as he evidently aimed to do on Monday with his actions in Ramallah. Sharon has now even provoked the very hard-line Israeli commander-in-chief and four former heads of Shin Bet to protest against his provocations. Although he has been responsible for killing a very large number of Palestinian civilians, including over 400 children, the Bush administration has done nothing to stop his ceaseless rape of the West Bank by the continual creation of settlements.

As former President Carter's security adviser, Mr Brzezinski, has pointed out, Israel's,

"settlements are colonial fortifications on the hill with swimming pools", while down below the Arabs often have no proper drinking water and some 50 per cent of them are unemployed. By any standards Sharon's settlement policy is disgraceful, yet the Bush administration not only allows their creation, despite their flagrant illegality, but goes on paying for them by giving Israel vast quantities of aid.

The same applies to Sharon's horrible wall, which is even worse than the Berlin Wall as it involves wholesale theft of Arab land—some 17 per cent of the West Bank—and the strangling of Arab towns. Yet Sharon vows to continue building it and tells the Palestinians that his "patience is running out"—a sentence with a very unhappy history. Meanwhile, all President Bush does is to reduce America's loan guarantees by the derisory amount of 3 per cent.

British foreign policy in the past few years has been an utter failure. The Prime Minister has involved us in an unnecessary and unjust war on completely bogus pretexts. He has thus greatly increased the risks of terrorist attack, both in this country and on British interests abroad. He talks about the special relationship with America, but that phrase has long been merely a grandiose description of Britain's dependence on and obedience to the United States. That has never been more true than it is today.

The Prime Minister goes on wagging his tail to President Bush, but he is rarely even given a very small biscuit as a reward. As even the New York Times has pointed out, it is difficult to see what the Prime Minister has reaped from his obsequiousness to the President. The sooner he makes a fundamental change in British foreign policy, the better for Britain and for himself.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 6:41 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, during the past four years I have had the privilege of serving the Council of Europe as its rapporteur on the conflict in Chechnya. The devastation of that country is almost indescribable. The wanton and systematic destruction of Grozny was one of the first sights I saw on the first of eight visits during my period of service. I finished that service deeply concerned by the humanitarian situation, and angry about the human rights situation. What preoccupied me most was the counter-productivity of Russian policy. If Russia had set out to provoke the role and significance of extremists, it could not do much better. If it wanted to drive young men into the arms of the extremist recruiters for terrorist activity, its policy was almost perfect.

If we are concerned about counter-productivity in Chechnya, we have to look to areas where we have much more direct responsibility. I am sure that noble Lords from all parts of the House will share with me deep anxieties about the role of Guantanamo Bay in the fight against global terrorism, not only in human rights terms, but in political terms because of its counter-productivity. The pictures and images projected to the world from Guantanamo Bay play directly into the hands of extremists and recruiters of new generations of terrorists.

The excuse and rationale for Guantanamo Bay is that it is there to make a stand for democracy, accountable government, human rights and decency in the world. It is therefore essential that everything that happens there should be justified in terms of those principles, instead of which we see doubts, misgivings and the absence of any legal principles on which the place is operated. We have more disturbing worries about where harsh treatment ends and torture begins. We have the reality that deals are being struck on avoiding the death penalty, with whatever implications that has for those who do not have deals struck on their behalf.

If I may say so, we in this country have an almost total preoccupation with the British people in Guantanamo Bay. Of course, as a Briton, I care desperately about the British people in Guantanamo Bay, and of course it is a primary responsibility of the British Government to look to what happens to them. However, if we look or appear to look at only the interests of the British, that will underline the very counter-productivity that I have described. The world will say that we are doing deals with the Americans—our partners—but what of the principles that we say matter so far as they apply to everyone in Guantanamo Bay? What of the universality of those principles and the even-handedness with which we are committed to them?

My noble friend Lady Ramsay of Cartvale spoke very tellingly of her experiences of the seminar this week on the Israel/Palestine issue. She spoke of her hope. What happened in Geneva this week is certainly encouraging, as indeed are the initiatives being taken by former security chiefs such as Shalom, Peri, Gillon and Ayalon. Some of us would say that it is unfortunate that they are not prepared to go far enough in contemplating the return of refugees, but at least security chiefs, with a proven record, are saying that there is no military solution to the problem and that a political solution has to be found.

If a political solution is to be found, it will be necessary to talk to the representatives of the Palestinian people in whom the Palestinian people have confidence. Others cannot cherry-pick the people with whom they are prepared to talk. If there is to be a political solution, there has to be ownership in the Palestinian community. The chance of rejection has to be minimised.

I am glad that, in talking about Israel/Palestine during the debate, there has been reference to the underlying injustices. I was formerly a director of Oxfam, am very close to it and know that it is working in that situation. It is right up against the humanitarian consequences of what has been happening—the closures, the wall, and denying people access to water, health facilities, education, employment and their own land to farm. Those are the injustices that breed terrorists. It is no good fluffing that issue; they do. Furthermore, those injustices, if not tackled fundamentally, will deny any prospect of building peace. There has to be a commitment to justice.

I am not ashamed to say that I am one of those who has held all my life that we should never forget the Holocaust. It would be a grim day for human society if we forgot what happened then. However, our concern in the Holocaust was not that the people were Jewish, but that they were human beings. If we do not therefore make a stand for the Palestinians every bit as strong as the stand that we made for the Jewish people, where will we be the next time the Jewish people come under persistent persecution? We have to have international and universal standards by which we stand firm and justify our actions. If we are to win the battle against global terrorism and for global security, it will be won in hearts and minds. That means consistent commitment to principle on our part.

Photo of Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne Liberal Democrat 6:48 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I serve as vice-chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy Committee in the European Parliament. Our task is to deepen the community of values referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and to widen the circle of peace within the borders of the European Union. In that, we have worked hard in the past months and years on the enlargement process. We look forward immensely to the enlargement of the Union on 1st May next year, when we will be reflecting the views of 470 million citizens and the Union will be producing one quarter of the world's GDP.

I welcome the single voice that the new Foreign Minister of the European Union will have. Despite his double-hatted position, I still see a weakness—so does my committee—in the democratic accountability of that Minister. There remains a gap between the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission on foreign affairs and common defence and security policy. That is a defect that must be addressed in the long run. It cannot be allowed to continue.

However, as we move towards the new Treaty of Rome, inevitably there is a great sadness over the European Union at the deaths of the Italian military police, the Spanish intelligence agents and the many other Iraqi citizens and civilians of different nations who have died. That draws me to speak about Iraq this evening as it is inevitably my responsibility in the European Parliament, for which I serve as rapporteur.

What is our aim today in relation to Iraq? Many words have already been spoken by your Lordships this evening on whether or not it was correct to invade that country. My own view is well known and well recorded. I saw no way to topple the regime other than by armed intervention. I say that with great sadness—I am no warmonger. I have spent my life trying to pick up the pieces of other people's quarrels. I have worked with many of the wonderful agencies that Britain and other nations have produced—for example, Save the Children and Barnardo's—which help so many millions of poverty-stricken and miserable human beings who do not have the benefits that we have had in our safe and comfortable lives in recent years.

I do not want to waste your Lordships' time this evening in discussing further whether or not it was right to topple the regime. However, I find it a very curious argument that we would have been right to leave the regime in place. Why should that be the case? I cannot see the purpose of it. Twelve years of wasted UN resolutions had achieved nothing. Indeed, I believe that 83 per cent of all the weapons sold to Iraq in the two decades before the 1991, or second, Gulf War were sold by France and Russia. Were not those two dissenting voices the loudest and most pre-eminent in the United Nations Security Council?

That is a debate that will go on for ever, but I want now to talk about the future. Indeed, as James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, said at the Madrid conference,

"Let us not waste further time in discussing why we are here. Let us look ahead and see what is to be done now".

Surely all of us in this House have a similar, if not the same, target: a safe and stable Iraq. That is a prize of inestimable value, first, for the Iraqi people, who, to me, are the top priority—their suffering has been unimaginable and has included genocide—and, secondly, for the settlement of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. I see that as a benefit of a safe and stable Iraq, if only because Saddam Hussein and his notorious ancien regime were backing the Palestinian jihad and thereby further enhancing the conflict between Palestine and Israel.

Of course, a safe and stable Iraq will also be a victory for moderate Islam—the Islam that demands civilisation and the Islam that is rooted and grounded in civilisation, stability, the rule of law and human rights. I include human rights for women, too. Your Lordships should remember that human rights for women and for widows—I am a widow—came first with Islam. Hundreds and hundreds of years later, another Abrahamic faith, which is reflected by the Lords Spiritual opposite me today, entered the scene and decided that perhaps women should have equal rights as well. That occurred many hundreds of years after Islam gave widows financial benefits.

A safe and stable Iraq also represents a very large step forward—this is an important point—in the fulfilment of goals clearly outlined in the Arab Human Development Report. A number of noble Lords have talked as though human rights are somehow inappropriate, undesirable or even undesired on the Arabian peninsula. That is not so. The lie is given to that attitude by the Arab Human Development Report. At last, the Arabian peninsula has stood up and said, "We are missing human rights; we are missing equal rights for women; and we are missing access to health and education. This is why we are so far behind".

Therefore, equal opportunities for men and women and a federal structure in Iraq will enhance the chances of the existence of minority rights, as also identified in the Arab Human Development Report. They will give protection, we hope, to the weak and vulnerable and care for children. All those things were totally missing in the previous Iraq because the share of Iraq's wealth that belonged to the Iraqi people—those in the north, middle and south—was held in the hands of the evil few. Therefore, the redistribution of that wealth must surely be the underlying goal.

A larger goal is for the region to be free of weapons of mass destruction. Whether or not we find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they were used there—not only in living memory but in very recent years—against the Iraqis themselves and against her neighbours. They were used against the Islamic Republic of Iran and Kuwait at least, as well as inside Iraq. Therefore, that threat of action with weapons of mass destruction from Iraq against her neighbours and other states will have been removed.

Those goals have been incorporated in the reconstruction of Iraq. Madrid was a very good beginning—I was there. But the toppling of Saddam Hussein also uncovered international terrorism inside Iraq. I refer to the notorious MKO. Coincidentally I stayed in one of its largest military bases in Iraq and visited it again on Saturday and Sunday last weekend. Who can say that the members of the MKO were not international terrorists when they had six massive military bases inside Iraq? We have discovered Ansar al-Islam, the Al'Qaeda network and Palestinian jihad fanaticism, and all kinds of Yemenis and others are pouring in from Libya. International terrorism was certainly enhanced by Saddam Hussein and, in some instances, occurred inside Iraq. The reconstruction of Iraq must be matched by an enhanced fight against terrorism in the region and internationally.

We have many reconstruction tools and conflict resolution, which the European Union is well skilled in putting forward. We have seen that in Kosovo and Bosnia, in particular, but also in the rest of the world. We are using those tools. There is also multilateralism. Since the bombing incident in August, the United Nations may not be present physically as much as it was but I am sure that it will be back soon. None the less, based in Amman and Kuwait, the United Nations is very active indeed. Capacity building and the setting up of civil society, including national NGOs, and the establishment of justice and the rule of law are surely the keys to conflict resolution inside Iraq. All those are possible in the new Iraq, just as none was possible under Saddam. No one was free under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

Earlier, the Minister mentioned that the United Kingdom was striving to be a force for good. How does that look on the ground? In Basra this weekend, I saw the splendid changes that have taken place. I have been visiting regularly since April, and earlier from another angle. Basra is considerably enhanced. There is more money and more cars and fewer donkey carts. The economy is improving and the place is considerably cleaner. Many more shops are open and trading is taking place. I was out in the evening, at night and during the day and I was perfectly comfortable.

I turn to the subject of the return of refugees. Here, I pay tribute to Iran, which has been particularly powerful in championing and looking after millions of refugees from Iraq. Essential services are starting to return, albeit far too slowly. I visited the Marshes and went to Al Tarubah village. I remind your Lordships of the armed displacements forced upon the Iraqi Marsh Arabs. Al Tarubah village has suffered from forced displacement. Over the past 12 years, between 14 and 17 times helicopters have descended and streams of soldiers have poured in with machine guns. The Marsh Arabs told me that they moved a maximum of 40 kilometres—a minimum of 10 each time. They lost everything. They have suffered 100 per cent permanent ills, 97 per cent lack of access to medical care for 20 years and 87 per cent illiteracy. They have nothing. They have no jobs and no skills and have been forcibly dispossessed and placed elsewhere time and time again. It is amazing that their social cohesion has persisted through thousands of years of history.

What do we see in modern day Iraq? We see a very difficult time ahead; we see many people still suffering drastically; but we see a real possibility of a free Iraq. There is also a real possibility of an example being shown to the citizens of the Arabian peninsula of freedom, the kinds of freedom that we enjoy here. The opposite, the enemy of peace, is organised crime and assaults on civilisations and cultures that international terrorism represents. While the price of action now is tough and difficult, the price of leaving the situation alone will be far greater.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative 7:01 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, that is a fascinating and a difficult act to follow. Any defence policy needs men to implement it, capabilities, equipment, armaments, heavy lift machinery, intelligence and training, the right command structure and above all, it needs the readiness of nation states to invest in defence and to fund the strategies that they have set for their armed forces. The EU began with a reasonable goal, the Petersberg tasks; that is peace-keeping but not national defence, which was the province of NATO.

The ESDP provided two models: Berlin Plus where NATO provides the operational headquarters and commander, helps with planning and provides NATO assets such as heavy lift gear and intelligence; or the so-called autonomous model where one nation takes the lead as the framework nation, the operational planning is done in and with the national headquarters and the lead nation provides the operational commander. In all EU operations the political and strategic direction is set by the EU's own political and military committees.

From the beginning the EU nations have failed to put into defence the money that is needed to create or to equip an effective force. All the EU nations but the UK, and to some extent France, have conscript armies designed for defence, not for sophisticated peacekeeping intervention. Change will be slow. A review of capability shortfall, which was begun in 2000, reported in 2002 that out of 40 major shortfalls 30 were still outstanding. No plans have been made to address some of them. Others could not hope to be delivered before August 2010 or 2012 or later. A NATO capability review revealed much the same level of shortfall. Reaching the headline goal depends disproportionately on spending by Britain and France. What has happened to the A300 is relevant.

However, two weeks after the capabilities shortfall report, the ESDP declared at Laeken, in December 2001, that the Rapid Reaction Force was operational; which meant that it was able to put an effective force in the field. In January 2000, 100,000 troops had been, in theory, committed to the headline goals—12,500 from this country. Were they professional? Were they trained? Quality matters; not merely quantity. Conscript troops are necessarily inexperienced.

All such troops are double-hatted. Initially they were committed, and they remain committed, to NATO. Now the EU has assumed yet another commitment: a formal commitment to the UN involving joint exercises, training and command structures. Nor is it remembered that a handful of key specialists—signallers, intelligence people and highly trained technical specialists—are all double-hatted. Ours are already overworked. They are essential troops who move from commitment to commitment without a pause. Are they soon to be treble-hatted? The probability is that many of them will leave for lucrative jobs in civilian life. Overstretch is a major threat and retention is a growing problem. The EU is not helping in that regard.

The EU has had three small operations: in Macedonia there was a police operation and recently there was Artemis in the DRC led by France, the framework nation, with some British troops, and I believe a handful of Belgians, for three months. It has set up an ever-growing complex of committees and its own intelligence centre, the Joint Situation Centre, is connected to five national military headquarters. It has spent much more of its energy on creating a growing bureaucracy than, for example, training on the ground. Training with NATO has begun only this year.

The present option, Berlin Plus, or the option of the framework nation leading from a national operational headquarters, should surely offer sufficient scope to an organisation whose members are simply not ready to spend on defence and who, like our own government, appear to regard their armed forces as simply another useful lever for perceived political advantage. Our country, like the others, will spend on social issues—there are votes in that—but not on the most valuable asset that it has in its international relations, its armed services which do not have a voice—no big conversations with them—and whose duty is our defence.

Does anyone suppose that the special relationship would last five minutes without our military card? Yet we see our Government today choosing, quite unnecessarily, to become the ally of the French and the Germans in their new venture when instead they should be acting as the leader of the newly freed world—the Poles, the Hungarians, the Czechs and such European countries as Denmark, Holland and Spain who look across the Atlantic for their protection but who also value NATO for its very imaginative programmes with the young as well as its military effort.

Russia has not gone away. It thinks long. NATO does not threaten the EU, but the reverse is true. The French and the Germans are prepared to use their relationship with Russia to drive the Americans out of Europe and to establish a hegemony of their own to dominate Europe, with Russia sharing the spoils. I am not talking in military terms, but simply in terms of weight and power. We are supporting them in a totally unnecessary, expensive and militarily inoperable new organisation with more institutions, more grand commitments—even a building—and more grand strategies by the high representative Mr Solana. But whose boots will be on the ground? Ours. Let us remember that once a common strategy has been agreed in any area of EU policy, implementation is by QMV, even for defence. The French and the Germans have committed a mean-spirited act of vanity, pique and ambition to control, which contributes nothing to EU capability.

At the last joint meeting with the Russians the EU discussed the use of Russian long-haul aircraft for EU-led crisis management operations and other promising new avenues for EU-Russian co-operation in the area of ESDP. Soon we shall be told that NATO assets are not necessary; yet NATO is our only guard against the asymmetric threat. We do not need yet another EU institution which will proliferate in bureaucratic bodies while none of the nations concerned are increasing their defence spending or moving in any way to actual capability.

Nor do we need the grand vision of yet more commitment of troops and resources which is represented by the EU plan rushed through in September 2003 without proper consideration for EU/UN co-operation in crisis management, which includes the framework for practical arrangements on security, crisis management exercises, training activities and crisis assessment. The Brahimi plan is dead so the EU has produced something even more ineffective that will produce endless committees. The demand for staff officers for all that bureaucracy is draining from the services, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, said, the very officers whom we need to train real troops for real military tasks.

Decisions in the EU on military matters are being made for purely political—and inept political—reasons. We cannot deliver on any existing ESDP or NATO requirement without spending on our over-stretched services; nor can we defend our country. While the Treasury is simply not prepared to fund the Government's own defence programme, that same Government have taken on a totally unnecessary and offensive new initiative which is guaranteed to be developed to threaten NATO and to drive our best friends out of Europe. In my view, the one thing that the Government have to do now is to put their money where their mouth is and support the services if they wish to use them.

Photo of The Bishop of Winchester The Bishop of Winchester Bishop 7:08 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it is a privilege to speak late in a debate that has seen the distinguished maiden speeches of my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, who is well known and well regarded in both Hampshire dioceses.

I was glad to note in the gracious Speech the Government's commitment to,

"help war-torn countries, particularly in Africa, to seize the opportunities for development which peace can bring".—[Official Report, 26/11/03; col. 4]

As the noble Lord, Lord Bach, pointed out, first there has to be peace. I want to bring to the attention of the House the situation that is still faced by millions of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in northern Uganda. In raising those matters it is fascinating to find myself speaking after the noble Baroness, Lady Park, who in April spoke most intriguingly about her own experience when representing Her Majesty's Government in Brazzaville and Leopoldville 40 plus years ago when I was still an undergraduate. I hope to elicit from the Minister the Government's intentions, now and in the coming months, in response to the latest report, published in October this year, of the UN Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the DRC.

I speak both as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region and Genocide Prevention and as Bishop of the only diocese in the Church of England with a partner relationship with the Anglican Church in the Congo. I spent nearly three weeks there a year ago and I remain in close contact both with Congolese and with expatriates living and serving in some of its most pressured areas. I am also privileged to be in contact with a number of Ugandans living in northern and central Uganda, where hundreds of thousands of people continue to be at the mercy of the LRA and other insurgent and bandit groups.

It is essential first to note that there have been very significant positive developments in and for the DRC in the past year. In particular, the establishment of a Transitional National Government and modest progress in establishing the national army; the stabilising of the situation in Bunia by the remarkably swift deployment and excellent service of the interim emergency multinational force, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Park, referred, and the opening of humanitarian access to all parts of Bunia; and the arrival there in September of a fresh UN force, MONUC, with an enhanced Chapter VII mandate. These are real gains. There are others, too, and Her Majesty's Government, through painstaking work by Ministers and officials, have played an important part in their achievement.

But the progress remains extremely fragile. I quote from a report, MONUC: Mandate to Succeed, published in September by Refugees International:

"The tasks facing international leaders, the UN, MONUC, and the new civilian transitional national leadership—many of whom are leaders of the armed groups committing the atrocities—are monumental. Lack of funding, internal power struggles, the presence of armed groups that have little to gain from peace, outside influence from Rwanda and Uganda and an untested MONUC force all add to the difficulty of the situation".

Oxfam has recently repeated that:

"The Eastern DRC remains one of the world's worst humanitarian crises".

Human suffering in eastern Congo between 1999 and 2003 has been greater than in any armed conflict since World War II. What haunts those few brave people, Congolese and expatriate, who are in a position to provide the rest of the world with this kind of appalling information, is that they know how very little of a vast area is accessible to the kinds of observation upon which it is based. But they have only too credible reports, often from people they know and trust, about what is being perpetrated away from the eyes of any but the victims.

In the time available, I can only point summarily to four matters around which I urge the Government to further action, with EU partners, with the Governments of the Great Lakes countries and at the UN, if the present fragile moment of opportunity is to be consolidated and built upon. Those four matters are MONUC; UK companies and individuals involved in exploitation; what Refugees International called "internal power struggles" and "outside influence"; and arms control, with particular attention to so-called "small arms", which are not small when they enable atrocities upon yourself and your loved ones and the pillage or destruction of everything that makes a hard life just possible.

MONUC II has to be better supported, better equipped and better led than its predecessor, encouraged fully to fulfil its mandate and very significantly enlarged so that its presence can make for the order and security for which people long down the whole length of eastern Congo. There is no security, no access for observers or medical personnel and no possibility of bringing to justice the perpetrators of the atrocities of the past years even 20 miles from Bunia. But mass killings, violent rapes and other atrocities continue to occur many hundreds of miles to the south, across the Kivus and along the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The UN force in Liberia is, I understand, around twice the size of that now being deployed in Bunia, and Liberia is smaller than Ituri, the region in which Bunia stands, which itself makes up perhaps a quarter of the area which needs to be in view.

The October 2003 report of the UN panel of experts continues to name UK-based companies and individuals as having participated in the illegal exploitation of Congolese natural resources. In paragraphs 20 and 21 of that report, on page 6—in a welter of acronyms that I shall not lay upon your Lordships—the panel notes its meetings with the OECD's Committee on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises, made up of the national contact points of the 34 countries subscribing to its guidelines. It notes that a participant described the meeting as a "wake-up" call for those involved and for the whole system.

Those close to all this are concerned that Her Majesty's Government are dragging their feet about acting against UK-based companies and individuals named by the panel on the ground that the panel's evidence remains insufficient. But how, in the conditions obtaining in the DRC, could the panel have done more? What further will the Government do to show that they are serious about all this and to gain the information that is required? Could the Trade and Industry Select Committee play a part?

The panel has produced for the UN further ample evidence that most, if not all, of those participating in the TNG are at the same time continuing to compete with each other in maintaining and developing their bases for power and mineral exploitation up and down the eastern Congo, thus prolonging the conflicts and the suffering of the people. In this, many of them continue to have the active support—indeed, to be acting as proxies—of powerful elements from neighbouring states whose forces have not comprehensively withdrawn within their own borders. Ugandans, let alone NGO personnel, have further linked Uganda's continuing failure to bring to an end the murderous activity of the LRA with the corruption of its armed forces by their years of largely illegal activity in the DRC. What further steps will the Government take in the light of this continuing, depressing information in support of the TNG process?

Lastly, and briefly, the panel repeatedly notes that illegal exploitation, the continuation of the conflict and the flow of arms are inextricably linked. Your Lordships, let alone the Government, will have seen Shattered Lives: the case for tough international arms control, recently published by Amnesty and Oxfam. Will the Government make the DRC an embargoed destination for arms, including so-called "small arms", sold from the UK or by UK nationals? Will they initiate effective end-use monitoring and effective sanctions? Why should powers of this order be in place with regard to UK nationals suspected of paedophilia or of terrorism but not of the trafficking of small arms?

Perhaps the Government's joint strategy paper for the Great Lakes Region, long required and anticipated and promised in October for 6th November, has been delayed so that it can include a full response to the range of questions that I have tried to summarise, raised for us all by the UN panel's report.

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench 7:19 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, 2003 was not a good year for the international organisations upon whose effectiveness and credibility much of Britain's foreign policy depends. This dependence is no matter of choice. Not for us the illusion of choice which beguiles the neo-conservatives in Washington and which led them to believe—wrongly as it turned out—that the world's only extant super-power could look after its own interests perfectly well without having to rely on others. We ourselves surely know that in any but the most exceptional circumstances we have to work collectively to protect and to further our own worldwide interests. For collective action to work, we need international organisations in good order, which are capable of acting not merely as international debating societies, but as a political, legal and operational framework.

The idea that all this can be done by rustling up an international posse when we need one—throwing together a coalition of the willing on the spur of the moment—is another illusion and is doomed to be revealed as such when we most need support; and when it is too late to try the alternative of a genuinely collective response. So that bad year in 2003 for international organisations is a bad year for our diplomacy too, and not something that we can afford to regret from afar and to pass by on the other side.

The most damaged of the organisations is the United Nations. It was paralysed in the early months of the year by divisions in the Security Council over how to handle Iraq and grievously wounded by the suicide attack in Baghdad, which led to the withdrawal of most of its personnel and thus to a weakening of its crucial input if a stable, prosperous and democratic Iraq is to emerge from this year's events.

The positive side of the coin is that 2003 has also shown that even when the UN is scraping the bottom of one of its cyclical downs, it remains as indispensable as ever. Why otherwise is it being asked to take on complex and daunting peacekeeping duties in Liberia and the Congo, as the right reverend Prelate has just reminded us? Why is it to the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency that we are all turning to help head off a crisis in Iran? Why will we almost certainly need that agency's international inspectors in North Korea if that crisis too is to be headed off? If it is to be to the UN that we look for the political, legal and operational framework within which to handle these problems, it cannot possibly be in our interest that the organisation should be deprived of the support and resources it needs to bounce back from this year's low.

Less damaged, but nevertheless in far from brilliant shape, is the European Union. It too was damaged by the Iraq crisis, which split it down the middle and cast doubt on the viability of attempts to rise to one of its next great challenges—the implementation of a common foreign and security policy. Most of its main economies until very recently have stagnated and are struggling to achieve the structural reforms without which it will rapidly cease to be competitive in a globalised environment.

The challenge of settling the terms of the proposed constitutional treaty is before us; of absorbing the new member states; and of appointing a new commission which can restore the institution's credibility and capacity to act for the common good. All these challenges are upon us already; and failure to find a response to them will damage us all.

The latest inmate of the field hospital is the World Trade Organisation, which was damaged by the failure of the Cancun conference. We need to convince the developing countries with deeds as well as words that we are prepared to find remedies to their justified grievances, whether over agricultural trade or textiles, and to persuade them that their stake in a freer and fairer, rules-based, world trading system is as great as ours. They may have damaged themselves more than us by the failure at Cancun—as I believe they did—but that should be no cause of satisfaction or complacency, since in the long run we all stand to lose massively if the world were to slip back into protectionism or to split up into trading blocs.

So what should Britain be doing, faced with the weakening of these crucial organisations? Let us dispose immediately with the alibi that there is not much we can do. Britain plays a key role in all three, either directly or, at the WTO, through our membership of the European Union. If Britain sits on its hands in any of the three, if we are satisfied with reactive responses, simply fending off new ideas with defensive reflexes, we will severely undermine the efforts needed to repair the damage done in this unhappy year and to strengthen these organisations to face the challenges of the future.

At the UN the Secretary-General is setting up a panel— on which I have had the honour to be invited to serve—to analyse the security challenges of the present and the future and to advise on how best to achieve a collective response to them. Kofi Annan's speech to the General Assembly on 23rd September did not shy away from the need to consider pre-emptive action against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction; but nor did he mince his words about the danger of unilateral responses to those threats. We should surely give him our full support in this task. We need to provide the UN, either directly or through the European Union, with the resources in men and material that it requires to manage peacekeeping operations, both in military and in civilian reconstruction terms—the latter often being even more important than the former.

In the European Union we also have a key role to play, even if the continuing uncertainty over our own membership of the euro hardly helps us to play it. The constitutional treaty, as the recent report of your Lordship's Select Committee shows, is moving broadly in a direction which meets Britain's interests; the development of a union of sovereign states, united in their diversity, but not slipping, as the myth-makers of Euro-scepticism would have it, irresistibly towards the creation of a superstate.

The Government made some constructive contributions to the work of the convention. They should continue to do that and not yield to the temptation, so often succumbed to in the past, which I fear the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, showed signs of yielding to, of fighting for battle honours which consist solely of points excluded and other people's ideas seen off. The agreement recently reached with France and Germany on defence issues shows that point is being taken.

The deadlines are just as short for the World Trade Organisation. It is really crucial that when the contracting parties meet in Geneva on 15th December that they should reach a consensus on getting the Doha round back on the rails. It is surely time for the European Union to give a lead—as it has begun to do but needs to do at the highest level—and to set an example. I hope that the heads of government will do that when they meet in 10 days' time.

All that sounds quite a lot to do in 2004. But it seems to me that, and as the debate has shown, none of these things are matters that we can afford to duck or skimp. We have had a year in which foreign policy, as a number of noble Lords have said, has been very high on the agenda. But that height has not always produced very happy results, so far. In 2004 we shall need a great deal of perseverance if we are to carry some of these tasks through to a more satisfactory state than they are in at the moment.

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative 7:27 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I am going to make a plea to those who arrange our debates to have a look at the structure of today's debate and to consider whether in future years a different structure when debating the Queen's Speech might be more satisfactory.

I am not in any way criticising the quality of the speeches. They have been excellent. But I am left with a feeling of regret that I could not follow up any of them. By the time we reached my speech, in the welter of different subjects discussed everyone would have forgotten what was said.

We are debating four different topics: the European Union, international affairs, defence and international development. They are all extremely important and deserve separate days or substantial hours of debate.

I shall make two suggestions. The first is that there should be a Select Committee on international affairs. It should not deal with the European Union; that is excellently dealt with by the Select Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. I shall mention some of the topics which I think are important examples of what such a Select Committee could deal with. I include European defence policy because this is not simply a European matter, it is a transatlantic matter of great international importance. In order to be quite clear about the proposal I ask: why is the European defence policy necessary? I have never really had a satisfactory answer to that question. One would like to be sure that to make this proposal work there will be more spending by European governments. Those are two examples of what one could follow up if one had been able to debate the subject more today.

I agree with every word that my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater said about Iraq. That particularly would have been very useful to follow up if we had been able to do so closer to his speech. The Middle East also is immensely important. One would like to know whether President Bush will keep to his undertaking to put as much pressure into solving this problem as the Prime Minister Tony Blair has put into solving the Northern Ireland problem. One would like also to follow up the recent speech by Kofi Annan in which he criticised the building of the Israeli wall.

On Afghanistan, one would like to follow up the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, who has already been referred to, about the importance of stationing extra troops there. One would like to discuss the growing role of the warlords and how that can be controlled; one would like to discuss the extraordinary increase in the production of opium since the Taliban were overthrown.

On terrorism, one would like to debate the recent United Nations report, which states that most countries are not adequately dealing with or considering that problem. It is a worldwide problem, not one relating only to Western countries. As another example, one would like to discuss in that committee the United States's strategy of pre-emption, with especial reference to Iraq—a strategy that has recently again been criticised by Kofi Annan in another important statement.

One would like to explore nuclear proliferation, which has only recently been referred to in this debate. I am surprised that it has received so little discussion, because, as has been said, there is the question of Iran's nuclear policies, which divide the United States from European countries. I was astonished recently to read a report in a reputable British newspaper that Mr El Baradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had said that according to his calculations up to 40 countries could before long be capable of developing a nuclear weapon. If the noble Baroness who is to reply to the debate has come across that remark, I should be interested to hear her comments on it. It seemed a most extraordinary statement.

Georgia was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, who also referred to the Chechen problem. That has become a more sensitive issue in recent days when a coup took place in Georgia—I am of course speaking of Asian Georgia, not American Georgia. That country may become much more important, because various American interests want to lay a pipeline through it and it is also a haven for Chechen rebels in the Pankisi Gorge. So that is another topic that would be relevant.

Africa is an enormous problem. The House knows that I have taken a close interest in Zimbabwe, which is an interesting country at the moment. The principal opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, recently changed its policy, as I mentioned to the noble Baroness who was replying to the debate yesterday, to call on the British Government to take the lead in calling for change in Zimbabwe.

The New Partnership for Africa's Development is another subject that we could usefully discuss in the Select Committee that I propose, because the President of Senegal has recently questioned the lack of impetus that he sees behind the development of NePAD's policy of exerting peer pressure in favour of good governance, the rule of law and human rights.

So there are about 10 subjects that would be suitable for the proposed Select Committee. I have not even mentioned defence or international development—defence would of course not be a matter for that committee.

So my impression of today's debate—one that I have received in previous years—is that it could have been much more coherent if it had been organised on a different basis. The noble Baroness, Lady Symons of Vernham Dean, has amazing skill in pulling together various threads—any number of them; an unparalleled skill, in my experience—at great speed and within the 20 minute limit, if that is the limit. Nevertheless, that will not solve the problems to which I have referred. I hope that those who are concerned with these matters will consider how we could improve such Queen's Speech debates.

The way might be to separate the topics: three hours on a certain aspect; three hours in the same day's debate on a different topic. That would at least reduce what I consider to be the incoherence of today's debate.

We in this House have an unrivalled experience of international affairs. It far exceeds that in the other place. I say that having been in the other place for many, many years. I am told by a Member of the other place that in the debate there on international affairs a few days ago, for most of the debate two Back-Benchers were present on the Government side and six on the Opposition side. The skills and knowledge that we have as regards international affairs in this House could be better used and I hope that my proposal will be seriously considered.

Photo of Lord Radice Lord Radice Labour 7:35 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, speaking as someone who was recently in the other House, I agree with what the noble Lord just said: the foreign affairs debates there are not nearly as good as they are here. I am certainly not yet in a position to criticise how we organise our business.

If I had been in the House of Commons on 18th March, I should have voted with the Government at the end of the Iraq debate—although with some serious misgivings. One of my misgivings was about the impact of the UK decision to back the United States, without a second UN resolution, on our relations with our European partners, especially France. That is the issue that I want to explore in my brief remarks.

As everyone knows, the Prime Minister has always insisted that there is no contradiction in being both a strong supporter of the United States, on one hand, and playing a leading role in the European Union, on the other. The Prime Minister's concept is that of a bridge, with the UK acting as a bridge across the Atlantic between the United States and Europe. There is no doubt that as a consequence of Iraq, the Prime Minister's bridge was for a time severely damaged.

Our decision to back the United States caused a serious breakdown in our relationship with our main European partners, especially France. As a consequence of that breakdown, things were said in London and Paris that should not have been said. In my view, that breakdown in our relationship was a big set-back to the United Kingdom's European policy. Something had to be done—and quickly—to remedy it, because the United Kingdom cannot achieve its objectives inside Europe without a good relationship with France.

By the same token, an effective, united European Union needs the United Kingdom, especially as regards defence and foreign policy. Here I should perhaps declare a non-pecuniary interest as chairman of the Franco-British Council, which was set up by President Pompidou and Prime Minister Heath to promote understanding between the two countries.

The two countries have a great deal in common. We were allies in the First World War and the Second World War; we are partners in the European Union and NATO; and we are big trading partners. Geographically, we are close neighbours, with large two-way flows of people on business, on holiday or even living in each other's countries. We are old nations with worldwide interests. Both countries have substantial armed forces that they are prepared to use—sometimes very effectively together, as we have seen in the Balkans and the Congo.

Despite what one might think, we have common attitudes in the European Union, especially over European Union institutions. We now need to build on those common attitudes and co-operation. We need to ensure that we co-operate more together. I welcome the recent summit between Prime Minister Blair and President Chirac—which, contrary to the reports in some newspapers, was in fact a success. I also welcome the recent mission of Britain, France and German Foreign Ministers in Iran. That was a good initiative and we must ensure that good comes out of it. We are certainly not finished there by any means.

Contrary to what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, in a vigorous speech, I welcome last weekend's agreement between Britain, France and Germany to set up a small EU operational planning unit. It will join the existing European Union military staff attached to the Council of Ministers. I do not believe that even the most hardened Eurosceptic can describe it as a threat to NATO. I do not believe that it is. Indeed, if it is backed up by enhanced military capability—I agree with all that has been said about the laggardness of European countries to provide their own defence—it could be extremely valuable as an additional arm in areas where NATO has decided not to operate.

I turn to the draft constitution. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Grenfell on his skilful chairmanship and on the report that he produced. Contrary to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, who normally makes skilful and brilliant speeches, I do not see the convention or the draft constitution as part of a slippery slope to a federal superstate. Frankly, I see the opposite. I see it as a success for Franco-British ideas for a European Union based on the nation states. If the noble Lord doubts me, I invite him to read the first 16 clauses of the draft constitution. He will find that its language is quite different from the language of the Single European Act or the language of the Maastricht Treaty. It is important to read them all in context.

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I did not say that; the Belgian Prime Minister said it and I quoted him. I believe that only a minority is fighting for a superstate and it will probably be defeated. But the broader concern exists. It is not my view; my view is that the constitution will fragment Europe, as it is already doing, and will create divisions between the small and the large countries. That is quite a different proposition.

Photo of Lord Radice Lord Radice Labour

My Lords, I am pleased that the noble Lord has said that because his quote from the Belgian Prime Minister was a major part of his speech. I am pleased he says that it is not all that significant and I accept that.

Finally, your Lordships will know that 2004 is the centenary of the entente cordiale between Britain and France. I believe that we should mark it by celebrating 100 years of shared history and values. I hope that my noble friend, in her skilful winding up, will tell us what the Government intend to do about it. It is a question not only of celebrating our values but of using the event to deepen the relationship between the two countries. That relationship is vital both for Britain and France and for the future of Europe.

Photo of Lord Williamson of Horton Lord Williamson of Horton Crossbench 7:43 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, made clear, it is obvious from the debate that a wide range of questions on foreign affairs, European affairs, development and defence have been raised today and that they are most important to Members of your Lordships' House. However, the width of the debate is almost limitless. As I listened to it, I wondered whether the Minister has skills in three-dimensional chess. If so, she will reply well to the debate because its elements are rather disparate.

For me, the whole world is a bit too big for a short speech, so I intend to concentrate on European Union affairs. Even that limitation leaves a wide field because the three principal elements of the EU's current policy—namely, the enlargement of the Union, the international trade negotiations which must follow on from Cancun and the draft constitutional treaty—are large and important topics in themselves.

On enlargement, which is now close, I have great confidence that all will go well. However, it is our duty to encourage the favourable elements in that development. It is important that we should concentrate on the positive advantages for all member states—new and old—and not to overplay some of the smaller problems or differences of view which will no doubt appear. Solidarity is the key element of the European Union, and eastern European countries know very well the importance of solidarity.

On trade negotiations, we have to move forward as the Union probably has the greatest interest of any state, or group of states, in the outcome. I was pleased to see in today's Financial Times the headline, "Ministers back Lamy", because that strategy paper is intended to push forward the negotiations. I do not know whether that will be achieved, but it is the intention and I am pleased that the member states are standing with the Commission on that line.

At the same time, our commitment in the Union to a liberal trade agenda should not make us hold back from vigorously defending the interests of our businesses and citizens when protectionist barriers are erected against us, as was recently the case in the steel sector and elsewhere. International trade is not an academic exercise and we must be careful that we do not arrive at a situation in which the future looks better but in the short-term we are dead.

I turn to the constitutional treaty and I do so for four reasons. First, the recent substantial report of the EU Select Committee on the draft treaty has been specifically put on today's Order Paper. Secondly, like everyone in the House, I want to make my contribution to the "big conversation". Thirdly, the intergovernmental conference is moving on and some believe that it will conclude this year. Therefore, we should not let time go by without probing the Government's latest position. Fourthly, the Select Committee's report, whether or not everyone agrees with its conclusions, puts its finger on the key points. The Government have replied rapidly and clearly to those points in the document distributed to us. We must ask ourselves—and there is not much time: are we satisfied and what remains to be done?

I want to take up a number of specific points. On a draft treaty, which Parliament can accept or reject but cannot amend, we need to be specific now. We do not have the chance to be specific later. I therefore make no apology for putting a number of specific points on the table and asking the Minister to reply. In order to put the points in context, I want to repeat what I have often said in this House: that the new draft treaty has a simple and clear statement of the EU's values, objectives and competences; relations between the EU and the member states; and the rights and freedoms within the EU. In my view, the public can see what it is.

The definition of competences, referred to here quite a lot, is set out simply and clearly for the first time: namely, the exclusive competencies, the shared competencies and the areas for supporting, co-ordinating or complementary action which we, the member states, have conferred on the European Union. I am favourable to the much simpler presentation of European legislation; to European laws which are, in effect, primary legislation of direct application; to European framework laws which are primary legislation on which the member states are free to choose the form and means of achieving the results; and to European regulations which are, for the most part, subsidiary or delegated acts. That is a better system and I wish we had thought of it when I was working in Brussels. It would have cut down my work quite a lot!

I should be grateful if, in reply, the Minister, while basking in the glow of my positive remarks, would comment on the following points. It is difficult to fit them all into the pattern which will return to us in the form of a draft treaty for approval in this House. I know that there are many good documents—there is the Government's White Paper and the recent reply—but I want to pose the questions now, particularly because the press reported at the beginning of the week that further agreements had been reached on defence and on several other matters and that the end was nigh. I want to do something before the end is closer than nigh.

My first point relates to two provisions in the draft treaty that have been mentioned. One is the so-called passerelle or escalator clause—Article 24(4)—under which the European Council can, by unanimity, transfer an area from unanimity to qualified majority voting. That is an important point. With that goes the flexibility clause, which, I know, has already in the treaty, but I never liked it there. Under that clause, the Council, acting unanimously, can act in areas in which the constitution has not provided the necessary powers. That is another important article.

I do not like those articles. Our power to agree and argue with the public that they must have confidence in the stability provided by the new treaty is diminished by them. I hope that the Government can say what line they are taking. Will they rely on the fact that the articles can operate only by unanimity, or will they try to change them? That is my first point.

My second point relates to what is happening on voting weights. I like the new system in the draft treaty. It is a better system. Will it come about, or are we to have the old Nice arrangement back? I emphasise that, in reality, voting weights are often more important below the level of the Council—I know that from bitter experience—than they are in it. Someone lent me a book on comitology today. I did not bring it down; at over 460 pages, it was too heavy. In it, we can see that quite a lot needs to be done by qualified voting majority or by voting below the level of the Council.

My third point is on the Council's legislative role. The Government agreed with the Select Committee and stated that they were confident that the new system would be reflected in the final text. Is it so reflected?

My last point relates to criminal procedure. The Government stated that they were arguing for unanimity in certain key areas of criminal procedure in Articles III-171 and III-172. Have we got anywhere? I know that, in a negotiation, the Government cannot always tell us, but we might be a friendly and supportive body, if the Government told us that they had made some progress. I add those specific questions to the three-dimensional test that the noble Baroness faces.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat 7:53 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I shall take up a theme launched by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester: how do we deal with the conflicts in Africa, before we get to the point of seizing the opportunities for development that peace can bring, as the gracious Speech urged us to do? In the past, we failed. We did not intervene in Rwanda, where the genocide claimed 800,000 lives. We acknowledged the failure of the United Nations then, as set out in a report by independent audit, but, since then, we have created no international mechanism to prevent the killing of even larger numbers.

The right reverend Prelate mentioned, in particular, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Three million people have died since 1998, yet it was only in July this year that a UN force was authorised under Chapter VII of the charter. I apologise for adding to the many questions with which the noble Baroness will have to deal, but I must ask when that force will be up to the authorised strength of 10,800? Will the Security Council need to give it further powers to deal with local groups—as well as dealing with the international groups, for which it has a mandate from the Security Council—by demobilising them or integrating them into the state's armed forces, a process for which some militias have already volunteered? In particular, will local children's organisations be able to resettle any under-age combatants in their community, or should the UN consider separately enhancing the capacity of such local organisations to do the job?

I accept that, with our many commitments elsewhere, Britain will not be able to offer additional troops for MONUC, but there are other things that we can do, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester mentioned some of them. We could respond actively to the recommendation made by the Security Council at its meeting on 19th November that states proceed with their investigations of the illegal exploitation of the DRC's resources that has funded the warlords.

The Liberal Democrats wrote to the Secretary of State, Patricia Hewitt, when the expert panel report was published, asking her what steps she would take to investigate the activities, mentioned by the right reverend Prelate, of British companies and individuals against whom allegations had been made. Some, such as Oryx Natural Resources and Mr John Bredenkamp, have been mentioned in previous debates on the DRC, but we have had no feedback from the Government. After reading the article in the Independent on Sunday, we are not sure whether they appreciate that they are obliged to do more than act as a messenger-boy between the accused and the United Nations, as Mr Stephen Timms seems to think.

The National Contact Point, the agency supposed to investigate breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, such as are alleged to have been committed in the DRC, has insufficient resources to carry out the work effectively. We would like a response to the request that we made to the Secretary of State for the unit's capacity to be increased. Our concerns are not limited to the DRC; the first complaint made to the NCP, which related to Zambia and was lodged in February 2002, has still not been resolved. We have also asked the Government to seek a binding agreement at the OECD that the guidelines will be strengthened to require compulsory disclosure by companies of their trading activities in designated areas of conflict.

The expert panel proposes that the World Bank and the IMF make implementation of the Publish What you Pay initiative a condition for the funding of projects in the DRC. Why not generalise the idea? If the people of resource-rich countries knew what amounts their governments received from oil and mining revenues and where the money went, there would be less likelihood of clandestine arms deals such as there have been in Angola.

Your Lordships will have seen that, in France, three senior executives of Elf have been convicted of skimming money from the company's slush funds. A much bigger scandal was the £350 million arms deal between Angola and Russia in 1993–94, which was paid for out of concealed oil revenues. Elf, since merged into Total, funded both sides in Angola's civil war and was an accomplice in the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million people. Angola has still not joined either the Publish What you Pay initiative or the Prime Minister's extractive industries transparency initiative. Will the Government propose that every state seeking assistance from the IFIs must have acceded to both initiatives?

As an aside, I think that we ought to set a good example in Iraq. President Bush has signed a Bill requiring the Coalition Provisional Authority to submit to Congress a monthly report detailing Iraqi oil production and oil revenues and the use of such revenues. There is no parallel obligation for the CPA to report such information to Parliament. We would like that to be corrected, but surely the Iraqi people also have a right to know the figures and to have representatives in the auditing team. We can hardly be taken seriously when we promote transparency through the EITI, if we cannot even use our influence in the CPA to ensure that the spirit and the letter of that initiative is followed in Iraq.

Another scene of conflict, among the many in Africa, is Somalia. Since 1991, a plethora of well armed clan factions have been in an almost constant state of low-level war. While the top warlords gather for the 15th round—I think—of peace negotiations in Nairobi, the militias are deploying battle wagons on the streets of Mogadishu and driving many thousands from their homes in the central and southern regions. The UN has established that arms sold illegally to the Somali warlords have been passed on to international terrorists and were used on the attack on the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa last year in which 15 people as well as the three bombers were killed.

The Security Council has just sent a mission to the region to see how the flow of arms into the country can be stopped. Is it not about time that the UN established a permanent mechanism for stopping illicit arms deals and for closing down the supply networks, rather than treat every instance of arms smuggling as a temporary problem relating to one country? Could we not recommend that the UN establish in the Department of Political Affairs a unit to gather intelligence and report to the Secretary-General on all instances of illicit arms trafficking?

If we are to stand any chance whatever of reaching the millennium development goals in sub-Saharan Africa, the scourge of armed conflict must be dealt with more effectively. That must cover not only conventional UN peacekeeping and peacemaking, but also a comprehensive strategy to stop the illicit arms deals and the diversion of wealth into the pockets of kleptocrats and their foreign allies. We cannot do all this alone, but the UK can and should promote international action and set good examples whenever it has the power to do so.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Swynnerton Lord Thomas of Swynnerton Crossbench 8:01 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I think that we should pay some attention in this debate to one of the main questions in international affairs, which is what attitude we should have in future towards the new United States. All of us here know of the decisive role played by the United States in securing victory for ourselves in 1918, 1945 and at the end of the Cold War. Many in your Lordships' House, like I myself, have spent long periods in the United States. I have been a visiting professor in the United States. I do not know what I would do without my American publisher. I do not really know what I would do without the line of publications of Henry James and Edith Wharton which are in my library. I have been long persuaded of the benevolent role of the United States—the United States, that is, of Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy.

But happy memories do not always constitute a policy. We ought, particularly if we are old friends of America, to take a cold look now at the present situation. Here now is a power that is in a unique position. It is a uniquely strong power—uniquely strong in relation to its neighbours, its old allies such as ourselves and other Europeans, and institutions such as the United Nations which it did so much to found, not to speak of its old enemies. The United States now has the capacity to intervene in force anywhere in the world which it chooses, in the strength which it judges appropriate and at the time which it thinks right. The present administration also seem to be consciously developing a policy that would establish that dominance as a permanent feature of world politics.

Americans recoil when they are accused of establishing a new empire, and I agree that that is an inappropriate word for their standing. None the less, the government of President Bush seem to be tempted by their great strength to make what used to be called "a grab for world power", or perhaps "a grab for world hegemony" would be better. All the older ideas of trying to solve world problems on a collective basis, to which America contributed so much, such as culminated in the United Nations, seem at present to be consigned to a rather remote shelf of Washington's history libraries. The question is whether we think that that is a good or a bad development. It is certainly extraordinary, but is it in our interests that that should go on, as well as in the interests of the European Union, the Commonwealth and the other international associations to which we belong and to which we have devoted such attention over such a long time?

Our present Government seem to be acting as if they judge that development as by and large good. Their attitude is very comparable to that of the late Harold Macmillan, the late Lord Stockton, when he argued that it was Britain's post-imperial role to act the Greek philosophers to the new Rome in Washington. I understand that attitude because I think I used to be a Macmillanist myself. I can also see that there is a case for thinking that a single world dominant power could be a benign force. I have quoted before in this House, I think, from the Chicago historian W H McNeil. Writing in the 1980s, he predicted that in the 21st century we would see developing some kind of imperial power able to do away with all sources of tension, reducing the risk of world war certainly to nil by insisting on the abolition of all nuclear stockpiles save its own.

But—there is always a "but"—the conduct of the United States in the year 2003 does not quite justify the hope that that government, in a position of unique power, will always be uniquely benign. For, this year, the American administration led this country and some of our European friends such as Spain to war on what to many of us seemed false pretences; very like the Suez operation in 1956 as a matter of fact. The present administration also seem to have committed themselves to a doctrine of pre-emption, or preventive war, as a legitimate instrument of policy.

Then, the United States's treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo, the prisoners whom they made in Afghanistan, appears "a monstrous failure of justice", as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, put it in his F A Mann lecture, a document which makes very chilling reading for democrats. The United States also seems to suppose that it is above international law in the normal sense of the word, insisting that no American serviceman will ever be tried by any international court whatever they may have done.

Those developments together suggest that we should now do all that we can to make common cause in security and defence matters with our European partners—especially France, as the noble Lord, Lord Radice, eloquently argued—so that we can hope in the long run for an alternative source of world authority. The European Defence Agency may seem modest now, and much to be laughed at, but it is a welcome step forward. There could be no better way of celebrating that moving alliance, the entente cordiale, than to emphasise European defence—British and French defence collaboration—strongly and make it a major plank of our policy. Would it not be better to have in the future a concert of powers in the world, as the Security Council was supposed to be initially, rather than having just one superpower, even if it is the United States, on which we can suppose we have some influence?

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, was right to point out many of the practical difficulties with European defence, as were the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Guthrie and Lord Inge, the latter warning eloquently against wishy-washy practices. The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, had some harsh words on such matters, too. But I do not see why it should be interpreted as risking our security if, in the long run, we aspire as part of a revived European defence community to be a partner of the United States in an Atlantic alliance of equals. On that, I am with the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky.

These are momentous issues. Such a European defence policy, pressed by ourselves, as we pressed a similar development in the 1950s, when we were backed by the United States, would not only be in our own interests, it would be welcomed by the many Americans who have been critical of the present administration's policy of preventive war, even if recently they have not always found it easy to secure a good hearing of their own.

Photo of Lord Blackwell Lord Blackwell Conservative 8:10 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, like several previous speakers, I wish to address that part of the gracious Speech dealing with the European constitution. Rather than comment at this stage on the details of that text, I wish to remark on the wider canvas and in the context of the effect of the proposed constitution on Britain's and Europe's place in the wider world.

We should be clear that there are two very different visions of the future of Europe on offer. Both are respectable views to hold, but they are not the same. One vision of Europe, represented in this constitution, holds that common action across Europe is a source of strength, whether in economics, foreign affairs, transport, energy or almost any other aspect of public policy that can be linked to the European Union's very wide declared objectives in draft three of the constitution.

This is not a constitution that entrenches power in the nation states in the way that the noble Lords, Lord Radice and Lord Hannay, have said. Its goal is to forge powerful European institutions capable of taking common action and to legitimise that centralised power by the development of the European Parliament to be the direct and primary expression of the democratic will of the people of Europe. That is not a new vision or a new goal; it has been the objective of most of our continental neighbours since the common market was first created. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that many of the building blocks are in existing treaties. What is new is the clarity with which the European constitution sets out that end point.

Before we sign up to that, we need to question whether the objective of common European institutions taking common action on behalf of the European people across a European bloc is likely to benefit Britain in the world of the 21st century. Common action across Europe strengthens Britain's hand only if it is common action with which we agree. If it is not, it dilutes our influence and limits our freedom of action. I do not believe that at this point, or for the foreseeable future, our interests will be always aligned with many of those on the Continent, and there is no reason why they should be. An EU model that would force us to give up our independence of action to join a stronger bloc because, as it is argued, we are too weak to stand on our own, is old thinking. It is a legacy of the last century's world of superpower conflicts and trade blocs no longer relevant to the more global and intertwined community of nations that we now have.

On economic development, for example, Europe is no longer—if it ever was—the most important trading market for driving UK economic growth. The strength of the EU may well have been useful in helping to lower world trade barriers over the past decade, but free trade throughout most of the world is now close to reality. In a free trade world, we have much more to gain from growing our share of the fast-growing Far Eastern markets, especially in China and India, which over the next century are likely to play the same role as the engine of world growth as the US played in the last century. That is where our economic focus should be, and although some on the Continent recognise those realities, the European Union is still dominated by a protectionist mentality and the belief that it can support an inflexible, high-cost social and market economy, as long as equal costs and equal misery are imposed on every business throughout Europe. As long as that mentality dominates, it cannot be in our interests to adopt policies that lock our economy into its slow growth and uncompetitive and unfunded social costs.

The same is true in foreign affairs and defence. The European Union is dominated by a desire to build a power bloc to rival that of the US. In many ways however, our perspective on the world and our interests are more closely aligned with the US than with our continental neighbours. Although I cannot claim expertise in defence matters compared with many noble Lords who have spoken, the alliances that we need to defeat terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are international alliances, not only European ones.

Forgoing any element of our freedom in order to strengthen a common European voice is unlikely to strengthen our voice in the world. It is more likely to dilute it, given our differences in interests and emphasis. However, the constitution seeks common action well beyond those areas. Whatever Ministers here may have represented, the additional powers ceded to the common European institutions are substantial, even excluding the areas bounded by the Government's red lines. For the first time, a whole catalogue of policy areas not directly to do with the functioning of the single market are moved into a class of shared competences, ranging from justice and home affairs to economic and social cohesion and even public health.

As I have argued before, shared competence is really a misnomer. In each of these areas, European institutions have the power to legislate directly whenever the Commission thinks that it should have a role, subject only to majority voting in the Council and a very weak yellow card offered as a gesture to national parliaments. As opposed to nation states controlling the agenda, they are left as the junior partners, allowed to legislate only in the limited areas left to them by the European Union institutions. I cannot interpret that as a shift in power towards the nation states.

What is more, it is clear that the constitution is not intended to bound the scope of powers transferred to the centre. Given the wide range of broadly worded objectives, together with the powers of co-ordination and common policy development set out in the constitution, there will be endless room for continuing the scope-creep facilitated by the role of the European Court, which on past history can be relied on to take every opportunity to extend the powers of European decision making. Again, that is not a new phenomenon, but this time it will be operating from a new and even more powerful starting position than that provided by previous treaties.

In many of the capitals of Europe, what I have just described as the set of European goals and objectives encapsulated in the constitution would not be contested. It would be acknowledged openly and welcomed. Indeed, there are many in this country who may also welcome it. Before we accept that as desirable for Britain, we should recognise that there is another vision for Europe, one that many of us find more comfortable and realistic. That alternative vision is of a European Union of free nations, trading together, co-operating together and growing close together in harmony and friendship, but where democratic sovereign power remains close to the people in the nation states and their parliaments and where the institutional structures of Europe are limited to the secretarial and administrative roles needed to develop the single market and support the European Council.

Before we sign up to the proposed constitution and all that it entails, we need to hold a serious debate about both alternatives. Both are respectable views to hold, but my own judgment is that only the second offers a viable and stable structure in the near term. I do not believe that one can operate democratic government with popular consent unless it is a nation that accepts a single government operating under the principle of majority rule. I fear that the differences throughout Europe and between Britain and the Continent are still far too great to have that type of democratic acceptability. The danger is that a single remote government will be seen as operating on behalf of one nation or group at the expense of others and its actions will exacerbate national tensions rather than reduce them.

However, those are arguments to pick up another day. The important thing is that we do not shy away from the debate or dismiss the arguments as unimportant. It will not be enough for the Government to claim that they have defended some arbitrary red lines and that, in consequence, the rest of the constitution represents a British negotiating victory that we should pass without further ado.

That is why I repeat again today what I have said in previous debates. If the Government do not offer a referendum on the European constitution, I shall seek to join with others in this House to pass an amendment to any ratification Bill that requires it to be supported in a referendum before becoming law. I hope that many Peers, whatever vision of Europe that they support, will support that call for a national debate.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour 8:20 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I shall confine my remarks to the narrow issue of internal security arrangements in Iraq. Perhaps I may remind the House that I supported military intervention in Iraq for reasons that I set out in my contribution on 18th March. My only reservation has been about the decision to justify war on weapons of mass destruction grounds, which is a view that I repeatedly expressed prior to the conflict and at a memorable Labour Peers' meeting earlier in the year. For me, the issue is simple; that is, human rights abuses in Iraq.

However, despite my support, I have some concerns at the strategy, primarily in the areas of internal security. The problem is that the delay by the United States administration in recognising the need to transfer internal security back to the Iraqis has been very costly in terms of coalition credibility, despite the IGC-CPA Washington-approved agreement, which is too slow.

Long before the military intervention started, I repeatedly argued in this House that a viable alternative Iraqi military leadership should have been established immediately following the occupation. That would have enabled the early re-establishment of the Iraqi army under a cleansed leadership. That failure, based on a lack of trust and a misreading of the internal security position by the US military, has created major problems.

In a very frank admission on 26th November reported on AFP News Services, the former US administrator for Iraq, retired US General Jay Garner, stated:

"We shouldn't have disbanded the army. We should have brought them back in as rapidly as we could".

The result has been that the military are now perceived as brutal. Yet, as we all know, the credibility of occupation forces inevitably rests on the sensitivity of the squaddy on the street. In the case of Iraq, the occasional indiscriminate shootings in conditions of post-ambush panic, the provocative searching of women and the use of dogs in house searches have all provoked an anti-US military backlash. Yet it is those very military personnel who are coalition ambassadors for the policy of military intervention. We must get them off the streets as soon as possible.

As Gary Samore of the International Institute of Strategic Studies put it, it must be for the Americans to be replaced by the Iraqis, for the Americans to withdraw into fortified bases and for them to run specific targeted raids. His case was reinforced by Ahmad Chalabi who, at a dinner in the Lords Dining Room only a month ago, told us that responsibility for security should be transferred to the Iraqis and that the Americans should be withdrawn to garrisons to be used in targeted operations.

Only last week, Rend Rahim Francke—newly appointed Iraqi representative in Washington and a friend of the United States—criticised what she described as the,

"wholesale disbanding of the Iraqi army due to US reluctance to take the Iraqis from the first day of liberation as full partners in the political process".

In a report in Baghdad in Al Dustur newspaper on 4th November, IGC member Mamoud Othman is reported as saying that the reason behind the increase in terrorist acts is the lack of an organised security plan and because the Iraqi authorities and police have not been given control over security. On 3rd November, the same newspaper reported an official of the Badr organisation calling for security in the city of Basra to be transferred to the Badr organisation, the Basra tribes union and the local police, which he said would,

"undertake the responsibility of safeguarding security and stability in the governate".

On Al Jazeera television on 21st October, there was an interesting report on the comments of Jalal Talabani, who is, in my view, Iraq's most impressive elder statesman. He called for the reinstatement of the former Iraqi army officers, arguing that the army included thousands of people who had been opposed to the rule of Saddam Hussein. In a recent speech, Sheikh Ali Mohammed al-Abbassy, who leads the Beni Hassan faction, was reported as saying that he and other leaders could improve order if given the authority:

"We are just waiting for the word".

My most serious concerns lie in the narrower area of the handling of intelligence. I have very little confidence in the mechanisms for using internally generated intelligence in Iraq. A huge number of intelligence opportunities have been lost. Why is that? It is because the Americans are simply unable to respond speedily to incoming intelligence leads. The only people who can deal effectively with matters of intelligence and internal security are the Iraqis themselves. They know who is who, where they live and who are their contacts. They know the streets, the networks, and they know the gangs. Mahmoud Othman, a prominent IGC member, put it this way:

"The coalition should leave these things to the Iraqis. We could do a much better job. If we don't act soon, more and more American soldiers will be hit".

On 13th November, Naseir al-Chadirchi, another IGC member, pleaded on Al-Jazeera, saying:

"We have repeatedly asked them to hand over the security files as it is the Iraqis who know best about security. The Iraqis need all this so that they can start assuming responsibility for the security file in a real and effective manner".

On 11th November, Hoshiyar Zibari, the Foreign Minister, was reported as saying on the BBC World Service that:

"Security responsibilities should be handed over to a new force made up from the Saddam Hussein opposition".

Finally, we have Adnan Pachachi, another IGC member, who on 8th November in the Baghdad newspaper, Al Nahdah, called for the setting up of an intelligence service and the proper arming of the Iraqi police.

What has been the response of the Americans? Yes, we have the CPA/IGC Washington-approved agreement, but as the Russians and the French have rightly twigged, the agreement is still loose on security matters. How will the Americans respond to the request of former party Staff Major-General Mahan Hafiz al-Faithd, number two in the civilians officers movement, who on 11th November told Al Hayad that his movement had submitted a plan to Bremer for the handing over to senior officers from the former armed forces responsibility for security in Baghdad?

There was a very interesting article in the Voice of the Mujahadin on 24th November which alleged that Bremer had suggested that a military leader should head up a transitional government—I presume up until July of next year—until the new Iraqi arrangement is established. I wonder about that, although I have not been able to confirm the story. Anyhow, I think that it may now be too late for a military leadership. And what is going to be the response to the IGC's proposals for a new intelligence service?

I am afraid that, despite the CPA/IGC agreement, I foresee foot-dragging by the Americans. I suspect that it will all end in a set-to argument between the IGC, the CPA and the administration over the transfer of sovereignty, and in particular security. It is one thing to train up a new Iraqi army with sufficient security intelligence and equipment support—that is going forward—but it is another thing to hand over the responsibility for deciding what it does, and that is where I foresee problems. I hope that, if we are called on to support members of the IGC in their inevitable arguments with Washington over these matters, the British Government will be supportive of their position.

I have a number of other issues that I want to raise, but I have gone over my time. However, I should like to make one final comment. I would ask Ministers to thank the BBC Monitoring Service for the very excellent service it provides to Parliament, both the Commons and the Lords. The material that it provides is very useful for those of us who follow daily events in Iraq. I have spent many hours a week reading its reports on Iraq and other areas of the world. I hope that my noble friend will thank the service, on behalf of us all.

Photo of Viscount Craigavon Viscount Craigavon Crossbench 8:30 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I should like mainly to focus on the achieving of the millennium development goals, mentioned specifically in the gracious Speech. As noble Lords may know, it is intended that the eight internationally agreed development goals should be reached by 2015.

I come straight to my main theme by using a quotation from Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General. Last year, he said:

"The Millennium Development Goals, particularly the eradication of poverty and hunger, cannot be achieved if questions of population and reproductive health are not squarely addressed. And that means stronger efforts to promote women's rights, and greater investment in education and health, including reproductive health and family planning".

For supporters of the importance of reproductive health, that is a most encouraging statement, especially in the context of the current American administration's influence in that area.

The three millennium development goals—MDGs—that have a particular component of reproductive health are: reducing infant mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS. We are fortunate that the Department for International Development appears to realise the importance of reproductive health. We should be grateful to the department for extending the remit and title of its MDG team to include reproductive health. We have also had welcome reassertions from the department of the firm commitment to the target, agreed at the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development, of achieving access to reproductive health for all by 2015.

Most notably, that was positively restated by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, in answer to my Question at the time of World Population Day on 10th July this year. In that Answer, we were told that her department would write a statement on public policy on reproductive health before the end of the year. Is the Minister, in her reply, able to tell us when this policy document might now be published? As I see that the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, is helping on the Front Bench, I might remind her that she said clearly that a policy statement was expected from the department. I hope that we get nothing less.

Next year, as we are coming up to the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Cairo Conference, it might be useful if Her Majesty's Government could institute a review of how far we have been able to meet our commitments given in 1994. Our record is probably better than most, but less than 50 per cent of the pledges by the developed world at that time have been honoured. In all the eight individual MDGs, there are already signs that there will be difficulty reaching the targets by 2015. The three most vulnerable targets are in those three fields that I mentioned as having particular relevance to reproductive health.

I hope that the department can continue to take a lead in trying to remind others, particularly internationally, of the targets, and the vital components of reproductive health in achieving them—as my earlier quotation from Kofi Annan emphasises. That is in the context of what one can only call the negative attitude of the present American administration in these matters.

My last point concerns in particular one of the MDGs—that of combating HIV/AIDS—especially with the background of World Aids Day this week. I am mindful of what was said on that Monday, in the first oral Question in this House, when the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, announced further money and the publication that day of DfID's document, the UK's Call for Action on HIV/AIDS. It was my impression that in this document, the contribution that reproductive health services can play in assisting in that field is downplayed.

In relation to prevention, there seemed to be hardly any significant mention in that document of the importance of condoms generally. This week, Marie Stopes International has been campaigning and advocating that,

"a simple condom is the most effective technology we have to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS".

It pointed out that the international community now supplies fewer subsidised condoms than it did in the mid-1990s. To the extent that the international need can be gauged and projected into the future, we are falling short by a factor of more than five times.

I shall give just one statistic from all the horrific information that we have had this week on this subject: it is estimated that the global figure of new infections, per day, is about 14,000. Condoms are low tech and should be affordable. This apparently simple provision should not be discounted because of its simplicity.

Part of the campaign this week of Marie Stopes International has been to draw this issue to the attention of Members of another place. This it tries to do by getting constituents to send a pre-printed card, with a single condom attached, to their MPs with a short text and a request. That single-sentence request to MPs is,

"that you make representations to HM Government to continue to take a lead in encouraging the international donor community to ensure that affordable condoms are readily available across the developing world, and to resist any international pressure to endorse abstinence only programmes".

I echo that request, and ask the Government and DfID to keep up the pressure for the achievement of this and other MDGs, and in particular to promote reproductive health as a vital and essential component of such aims.

Photo of Lord Alexander of Weedon Lord Alexander of Weedon Conservative 8:37 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I take the debate back to Iraq. After 11th September 2001, the United States had the most widespread sympathy and support in the struggle against terrorism. However, what has now become pellucidly clear is that it instantly made up its mind—I believe, unwisely—to pursue Iraq. Any doubts on that have recently been dissolved in a splendid book by General Wesley Clark, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe from 1997 to 2000, entitled, Winning Modern Wars. He shows how the neo-conservative hawks in the United States administration took the decision to "go after" Iraq, even though there was no suggestion of a link between Iraq and Al'Qaeda terrorism.

By pursuing that goal, the United States divided world opinion and squandered so much of the good will felt for it after 11th September. It failed to get the backing of the United Nations and ignored the clear statements from the weapons inspectors that their work was not yet completed and that they should be given more time. This country supported the United States at the cost of internal divisiveness as sharp as that which surrounded the Suez adventure.

I share the view that the invasion was misconceived. I shall give just one reason in the time available. Fundamentally it deflected us from devoting our full energies to the real conflict against terrorism. General Clark rightly says,

"nor was any evidence presented of any imminent Iraqi threat to the United States or its allies".

It is now clear that our Government knew, in spite of the hyperbolic 45-minute claim, that that was so. General Clark goes on to say that,

"the Bush administration's focus on Iraq had weakened our counter-terrorist efforts, diverting attention, resources, and leadership, alienating allied supporters, and serving as a rallying point for anyone wishing harm to the United States and Americans".

Add to that—as we now know but were not told at the time—the intelligence assessment in this country was that the invasion of Iraq would add to the risk of terrorists striking at our own country. In Iraq itself, we are seeing the growth of a powerful and previously non-existent terrorist movement. All that suggests that the invasion put us at a sharp disadvantage in the struggle to counter the threat of terrorism, which is immensely demanding but a priority.

I am but one of the many lawyers who consider that the war was totally contrary to international law. International law is strikingly simple and clear. The invasion of another sovereign state is an immensely serious act specifically prohibited by Article 2(4) of the United Nations charter, unless the action is being taken either in self-defence or under the specific authority of the United Nations. That applies to humanitarian action, too. That protection of sovereignty is the rock on which the whole international community, particularly its small nations, can safely set its feet.

What was the position in Iraq? We could not rely on a contemporary United Nations resolution authorising the use of force, and the Government abandoned the attempt to suggest that any potential attack was imminent. They formed the so-called coalition of the willing, the very phraseology of which is contrary to the principles of law, and went to war, all on the basis of the summary of advice from the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General published in a parliamentary Answer. That advised that an old resolution passed in 1990 to permit the expulsion of Iraq from Kuwait—Resolution 678—had somehow magically revived and permitted an invasion in 2003.

The great majority of international lawyers, and indeed the legal community generally, was thoroughly unconvinced by that suggestion. Kofi Annan did not accept it. Indeed, the first President Bush and John Major had both publicly stated that Resolution 678 had not authorised them to go to Baghdad. The noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, has written that the reasons of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General were, "straining at a gnat". In spite of that unease, the noble and learned Lord has declined requests that he should publish his full advice.

The noble and learned Lord has said that the summary of his advice was made by way of an exception to the normal convention that the advice of the Attorney-General is not disclosed. But that is not an absolute convention, and there are clear precedents in the past for disclosure of the Attorney-General's advice. What seems untenable is that he can waive the privilege partially, but then invoke the convention to prevent his reasoning being known. No client would accept advice given on that curious and inconsistent basis. I know of nothing that supports that principle of cherry-picking.

Why should we see the advice? It is probably the most important advice given to the government for a generation, as without it our country would not have been able plausibly to go to war. The military would not have accepted to do so. Soldiers and civilians have been killed. We are simply entitled to know how the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General dealt with the reservations of so many international lawyers. Where did the curious doctrine of revival spring from in international law? What about the doctrine that force could be used only where necessary and proportionate, at a time when the inspectors were asking for more time to do their work? What was the factual basis on which he advised? How in common sense could he say that an old resolution entitled all the action, when in fact the United Nations denied a new resolution?

The argument has slightly moved on. Richard Perle, a close adviser to President Bush, said in a lecture given at the Old Vic recently that,

"international law stood in the way of our doing the right thing".

That seems to me to confirm all the concerns that many feel about United States supremacism.

I believe it is time that we were told the full reasons that the Government felt they were justified in law in their invasion. We are a country that values the rule of law. Either the Government's reasons will survive scrutiny or they will confirm the view that the arguments are threadbare. But what is important in this area of uncertainty is that sunlight will be the best disinfectant. Personally, I doubt that any arguments can stand up. I share the view expressed extra-judicially by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, a Law Lord, that this deeply controversial war fractured the international legal order.

Photo of Baroness Turner of Camden Baroness Turner of Camden Labour 8:45 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, Iraq has probably been the most divisive issue in the history of this and most other Parliaments. I spoke on several occasions in this House opposing the war. I believe, and still believe, it to have been illegal.

The case made by the Government was that Iraq represented an immediate threat: it had weapons of mass destruction and could deploy them within 45 minutes of the order being given. Few people now believe that to have been accurate. I doubted it at the very beginning. It seemed unlikely that a third-world country—for that is what Iraq had become after being defeated in the first Gulf War—suffering punitive sanctions for over a decade and being bombed intermittently by ourselves and the United States, could still be a threat to its immediate neighbours, let alone to ourselves and the United States. I said at the time that we were planning to attack Iraq not because it was strong but because it was weak; hence, there would be an easy military victory, as, indeed, there was.

As has been explained again this evening by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, the United Nations charter provides for the use of force only when the Security Council, having ascertained the existence of a threat against peace or an act of aggression, deems it necessary to use force under its direction and control to re-establish international security. The only exception to that general rule is the right of self-defence of a state which is attacked. Of course, that did not apply in the case of Iraq.

We are now left with the consequences of our support for this illegal action. No weapons of mass destruction have been discovered, and it now seems unlikely that they will be. Those who supported the war now claim that that does not matter—the important issue is that Saddam Hussein has been overthrown and the world is better off without him. However, there is no authority in the United Nations charter for a war to produce regime change or for individual states, however powerful, to decide that certain regimes are unacceptable and must be replaced by external force of arms.

It is argued that the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein—that is, better off than before the war. But is that really so? What of the thousands killed and injured as a result of the tonnes of high explosive dropped on Iraq? What of the children injured by cluster bombs, which a number of noble Lords—notably, I remember, the noble Lord, Lord Elton—begged the Government not to use? What of the survivors of the bombardment who have been left without homes or jobs? What of those suffering from the complete breakdown of the civilian infrastructure following the war? And what of the Iraqi conscripts, killed or horribly injured when the United States forces used napalm on them? Did we imagine that people who suffered in that way would welcome us as liberators?

We hear much about the members of the coalition forces who have been killed or injured in the militancy which has arisen among some Iraqis since the end of the war. That is awful—no one can possibly be other than concerned about casualties among our forces. But we hear very little about Iraqi casualties during and since the war. There was some publicity about little Ali Abbas. Because of press interest, he has received good medical treatment and will be provided with artificial arms to replace those he lost in a coalition missile attack. But his parents, who lost their lives in that attack, cannot be replaced. He is one of many children orphaned or seriously injured as a result of the war.

Those who opposed the war did so not because we supported Saddam Hussein; nor were we appeasers, and we certainly did not support terrorism in any form. We regard modern war as such a catastrophe for the unfortunate people involved—those caught up in it on the ground—that it must be absolutely the very last option, rather than what sometimes seems to be the first.

I do not support the doctrine of so-called humanitarian intervention either. There are many regimes in the world whose internal arrangements and treatment of minorities are questionable to say the least, but that does not give other individual states, however powerful, the right to send in the B52s. Sometimes it is argued that we did that in Kosovo, but there was not the same level of objection then as there was in relation to Iraq. That is true, but many of us—I was one of them—objected to the 78-day aerial bombardment of a largely civilian population. Again there was no UN mandate and moreover Kosovo is still unstable.

To those who claim that humanitarian intervention is different because the intentions are benign I say that that does not have much effect on the kind of injuries and deaths sustained by the unfortunate civilian and often conscript military personnel. Surely there is no greater human right than the right to life. Modern warfare is a direct threat to the lives of many people who can have absolutely no influence at all on their governments or their misdeeds. Armed intervention seldom has the results that its proponents predict.

Those who opposed the war did so because they felt that it had been possible to deal with the problems by other means. France, Germany and Russia proposed that the inspectors be given time to complete their task. It now transpires that the Iraqi Government were so anxious to avoid a war that they sought to make an approach to the United States Government through an intermediary, offering the United States the opportunity to inspect for weapons of mass destruction and proposing that there should be elections in Iraq within two years under international auspices. That was rejected outright by the United States administration, presumably because it did not trust the Iraqi Government, but one can usually trust people to act in their own interests when their survival is at stake. However, the mindset of present Western leaders, particularly that of President Bush, appears to be one that perceives international affairs as a contest between good and evil—the good guys versus the bad buys. That is a gross over-simplification and it must make negotiations rather difficult as one cannot really do deals with the devil.

So what is to be done now? Most people want to hand over to an Iraqi administration and get our troops home as soon as possible. That appears to be the view of the Security Council at the moment. There appears to be some kind of regional or local administration in existence in Iraq that may provide the basis for an interim representative government. The present council does not seem to have popular legitimacy. Clearly, elections should be held as soon as possible, but the results may not be very welcome to Western governments. An Islamic state seeking to apply Sharia law might be a backward step for many women who, under the previous regime, bad as it was, at least had access to education, healthcare and jobs. If the country is to be stabilised there must be a regime in place that has a degree of democratic accountability. Everyone appears to be agreed on that.

I also believe that we should compensate the Iraqi people for what our war has done to them. Apparently very minor moves have been made in that direction by the United States, but only for Iraqi civilians injured or killed in confrontation with United States forces since the official ending of the war, and even then only in some cases. I believe that people should be compensated for the loss of their homes and for death and injury during and since the war.

The commitment of our Prime Minister that the Iraqi oil reserves and wealth should be held in trust for the Iraqi people should be honoured. The oil industry should not be privatised and sold off to foreign corporations at bargain basement prices; otherwise, why should the Arab world believe the West when we say that the war was not about oil? Finally, we must reassert our commitment to the United Nations and to the United Nations Charter. We must seek to involve the UN much more fully in the present and future of the Iraqi people.

Photo of Lord Harris of High Cross Lord Harris of High Cross Crossbench 8:55 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I am delighted for the first time to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. Although we have strong disagreements on most subjects she knows that I have reason to hold her in the highest esteem.

With all dutiful respect to Her Majesty, I thought that the gracious Speech was a rambling affair, but at least its bloated contents provide a good illustration for my broad economist's critique. I start from a besetting sin of democracy, drawn from a splendid text by my noble friend Lord Rees-Mogg, who cannot be with us. He wrote a book in 1974 under the title The Reigning Error. He summed up that error in a single word—"inordinacy". This is the human tendency of carrying things too far—a vice that besets most aspects of government policy both at home and abroad. Carrying things too far is a vice of which politicians, and new Labour politicians in particular, are among the worst offenders. Politicians today seem to have lost all sense of the practical limits to what is attainable through the apparatus of government.

I have often paid elaborate tribute to Her Majesty's Government for doing better than their predecessors in checking inflation. Significantly, they did so by abdicating control over money to the Monetary Policy Committee. But in most other directions new Labour has massively inflated central government. It is more than personal lapses; it is over-government that explains the systemic failure of Ministers and the appearance that things are running out of control.

Politicians, especially new Labour politicians, seem to think that government is such a good thing that we cannot have too much of it. Economists know better. Being brought up on the law of diminishing returns we understand that increased spending—for example, on health and education—is not likely to yield proportionately increased output of satisfactory services.

The efficiency of the economy and the polity depends ultimately on making the best use of scarce human skills, time and attention, especially the time and attention of top entrepreneurs, top managers, teachers, doctors, administrators, even politicians. Yet, instead of top talents being concentrated on tackling top priorities, they are increasingly distracted and dissipated by multiplying initiatives, ceaseless reforms and a tidal wave of regulation.

If top talent is scarce, there is no shortage of jolly wheezes to win popularity, at least in the short term. That alone would explain why almost everything is now carried to excess. Thus legislation is inordinate; regulation is inordinate; government spending is inordinate; and the visible outcome is that Government failure is also inordinate.

Turning abroad, we find a similar excess afflicting the European Union. From the early bright promise of the Common Market, ceaseless extensions have over-stretched the attention and talents of the Commission. Every expansion of its powers since Maastricht has strained its limited capability. Today, the increase in membership from 15 to 25 members should be matched by pruning functions, not least to respect subsidiarity and national diversity. Instead, the insatiable appetite for the Euro-elite is now to be fed by increasing the so-called competencies—although "incompetencies" might be a better description.

We should be concentrating top time, talent and attention on high priorities such as eliminating the appalling fraud, slimming down the monstrous acquis communautaire and phasing out the scandalous CAP. Instead, our Euro-masters amuse themselves devising still more powers to mishandle.

All of them, from the rather bumbling Signor Prodi to his pampered apparatchiks, have of course the strongest possible self-interest in constantly enlarging their empire, and the Emperor-in-waiting, Monsieur Giscard d'Estaing, has been only too ready to oblige. As many have predicted, this cumulative extension of control and regulation will not stop short of the dreams of the French and German elite—though not of their unhappy subjects—for a "United States of Europe". All this is yet another manifestation of inordinacy, of pushing a good, even a noble, concept too far.

I must reserve my final minute to put on record my concern that some senior men among us with the most direct experience of the inner workings of the EU may be especially reluctant to criticise the acknowledged excesses and corruption at Brussels. My courageous friend the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, was barracked and mocked in this House on 6th September—Hansard at cols. 1 to 4—for daring to draw attention to the possible hold the Commission and the European Court of Justice have over former employees of the European Union. Thus, when a British commissioner is sworn into his job, he makes a solemn declaration of loyalty to the Union that appears possibly to be in conflict with his primary oath as a Privy Counsellor. Likewise, any official of the Commission who criticises the European Union, even after retirement, can be disciplined by losing his pension rights.

Might this be another rather heavy-handed example of political or administrative inordinacy? My personal conclusion is that, instead of discussing trifling amendments to this inordinately inflated draft constitution, we should urgently be contemplating terms on which to withdraw from a grievously costly and distracting entanglement.

Photo of Baroness Harris of Richmond Baroness Harris of Richmond Liberal Democrat 9:01 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I would like to speak about some of the justice and home affairs aspects of the draft constitutional treaty. These have not attracted as much attention as other elements of the treaty, but, as the Select Committee's report on the treaty points out, some of its most significant changes relate to the development of the European Union as an area of freedom, security and justice. For the past three years I have chaired Sub-Committee F of the EU Select Committee, whose work has given it a close insight into these issues. I speak primarily in that capacity.

I want to concentrate on three of the most important JHA issues. First, the abolition of the so-called third pillar and the integration of police and judicial co-operation into the community structure; secondly, the application of qualified majority voting (QMV) to immigration and asylum matters; and, thirdly, the implications of the proposed changes for the United Kingdom's "opt-outs" on frontier controls and immigration policy.

The collapse of the third pillar should, I believe, be welcomed unreservedly. Ever since the Maastricht Treaty the pillared structure has been a source of bewilderment to all but the most assiduous students of EU procedures. That treaty erected the third pillar for most justice and home affairs matters, which were thereby made subject to a totally different set of procedures from the traditional Community method, with different legal instruments, a different voting regime, a different level of involvement of the European Parliament and limited jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice.

Although the Treaty of Amsterdam chipped away at the third pillar by transferring immigration and asylum matters to the first, or community, pillar, this created further anomalies. The whole Schengen acquis had to be divided up between the two pillars; and even then, the procedures governing immigration and asylum were not fully aligned with the Community method.

The division of responsibility between the pillars means that often there have to be separate instruments for what is essentially a single area of policy. My sub-committee has seen many instances of that. I give one example: action to combat illegal immigration requires both immigration and policing measures. The former have to be taken under Title IV in the Community pillar and the latter under Title VI in the third pillar. Now, with only a few exceptions, the same procedure will apply to justice and home affairs matters as to other business, which will have benefits in terms of transparency, accountability, judicial oversight, simplicity and the effective despatch of business.

The use of qualified majority voting for immigration and asylum matters is a significant departure from current practice. Although the Government are not totally converted to QMV, they support it for immigration and asylum matters. I welcome that. But that support is somewhat disingenuous when considered alongside the Government's stated intention of retaining their ability to decide whether or not to participate in any particular immigration and asylum measure.

That brings me to my next point. As the House will recall, the Government secured two protocols to the Amsterdam Treaty: one enabling it to retain its frontier controls with other member states; and the other enabling it to choose, on a case-by-case basis, whether to participate in each immigration and asylum measure that is proposed. The Government have said several times that they intend to retain both those protocols unchanged in the new treaty. I hope that when the noble Baroness replies, she will be able to explain the rationale for seeking to retain the immigration and asylum opt-out; and tell us what form it is likely to take, given that with the abolition of Title IV in its present form, it will be impossible simply to transpose the protocol without amendment.

The Government profess to be strongly committed to a common European immigration and asylum policy. They accept that QMV is necessary to achieve that policy, yet they draw back from participating fully in the measures on which it is constructed. In practice, the Government have participated fully in the many asylum measures negotiated under Title IV and have not exercised their opt-out. That has been generally beneficial, so it is difficult to understand why they take a different view on immigration.

My final point is a related one, illustrating in a different way the complications resulting from the UK opt-out. The draft treaty establishes a specific legal base for the gradual introduction of an integrated management system for external borders. Last July, my sub-committee published a report on proposals for a European border guard. I do not want to go into the detail now, because I hope that there will be a chance to debate it before too long.

As noble Lords may recall, the Prime Minister has taken a lead—notably at the Seville European Council last year—in arguing for the need for the EU to take stronger and more urgent action to strengthen its external frontiers. In our report, we welcomed the Government's commitment to co-operate with other member states in that area. Indeed, we were impressed by the amount of operational co-operation already in place. A few weeks ago, the Commission unveiled proposals to fulfil conclusions reached by the European Council for a European agency for the management of operational co-operation at the external borders—an initiative, as I said, dear to the Prime Minister's heart.

Yet what do we find when we read the draft regulation? Because of the United Kingdom's non-participation in the relevant aspects of Schengen, the draft expressly excludes the UK from participation in the agency. That seems a most unfortunate—if not unexpected—consequence of the Government's policy of trying to have it both ways. I hope that the noble Baroness can provide some reassurance that the Government will examine how they can ensure that they are not excluded from such important developments.

Photo of Baroness Flather Baroness Flather Conservative 9:08 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I draw your attention to a country that has been all but forgotten by us. I recently spent two weeks in Burma and came away with an overwhelming feeling of sadness. It is a beautiful country with warm and friendly people; it is safe and welcoming. But Burma is portrayed in a very negative light in our press and is seen in a very negative light by the FCO.

Since the election of 1990, the West's focus has been entirely on the Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi. The UK, EU and USA have chosen to isolate Burma. We even refuse to use the name by which it calls itself, which is Myanmar. It smacks of a colonial hang-up to refuse to use the name that a country has chosen for itself after independence. By the same token, should we not be calling Zimbabwe "Rhodesia" and Harare "Salisbury"?

We all know that Suu Kyi is a most remarkable person. She is tenacious and has dedicated her life to bringing democracy to Burma.

She was described to me as someone who is pure of heart. She is the daughter of General Bhojo Aung San, who is the national hero of Burma. In 1940, he went to Japan and fought with the Japanese against the British. Then he changed sides and joined the British in 1944. In 1947, he was assassinated in the secretariat building in his council with eight other members of the council. It has never been clear how that came about, but he had tried to bring all the differing ethnic groups in Burma together in his council.

One can never be too sure how a military council would have developed. There is a tendency towards military rule in Burma. The first Prime Minister of the country was U Nu and in 1962, when there were ethnic uprisings in the country, he invited General Ne Win to form a military government. That was the slippery slope which continues to this day. General Ne Win was, by all accounts, a rather unpleasant person. He closed the whole country to foreigners for several years.

Suu Kyi rightly wants to see an end to the military dictatorship. Who would not? Her personal sacrifice is exemplary. Thirteen years have passed since the election which her pro-democracy organisation won, but nothing much has changed in Burma in those 13 years. If anything, the position has become yet more entrenched. Suu Kyi has consistently refused any compromise. She refused to join the constitutional commission in the mid 1990s and she refused the position of Prime Minister, which was offered to her by the military junta.

It is quite likely that that was window-dressing and that those positions were offered to her to impress people like us. However, in politics, one must try to reach a compromise in order to see whether anything can be achieved. She has never engaged with the military rulers, as we should be engaging. I hold no brief for them and I want no one in the Chamber to believe that I think they are in any way good for the country, but it is important to avoid the bunker mentality that has been achieved.

I read the advice to visitors issued by the Foreign Office dated 17th September. When I did so, I could not believe that it related to the country I had visited. If I were writing in the same vein advice for visitors to Britain, it would be far worse than the advice written for visitors to Burma. I believe that we have a greater fear of crime and terrorism and that we are not as safe on the roads as people are in Burma. The incidence of violence and terrorism is greater here than it is there.

Recent American sanctions have so far made up to 100,000 government workers destitute. They have not affected the regime. Burma is not South Africa. South Africa was a wealthy trading nation and sanctions hurt it. There is nothing left in Burma to hurt. When the West puts sanctions in place, only the ordinary people suffer because they have very little. They subsist on about 10 dollars a month and now many government workers have no jobs.

We are, as I said, creating a terribly entrenched bunker mentality among the military rulers. They are afraid of change. They do not know what would happen to them or their families if they let power slip from their hands. There are plenty of examples in south Asia of military rulers and their families who have ended up in prison or worse. Nobody hands over power just like that, least of all a military dictatorship.

We should help the other south Asian nations that are engaging with Burma to help that country move towards a more democratic form of government. They need our support; they need us there working with them, not sitting on the sidelines, doing what Suu Kyi says. Suu Kyi has been incarcerated for a long time, and she is not a politician. We must act like politicians and work with the government. Isolation has been tried and has failed.

One country in south-east Asia that I must mention is China. China's attitude to Burma is ambivalent, perhaps because it is responsible for the gambling, the sex tourism and the drugs trade in Burma. We must not forget that China does not have democracy and that its record on human rights is not great, but still it enjoys favoured nation status. It seems that self-interest drives policy towards China. We have nothing to gain from Burma, so we overlook it and boycott all contact. The British Government should reconsider their policy towards Burma and actively help that country to move to a better situation.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench 9:17 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. However, I rise to examine what the gracious Speech calls the "new strategic environment". I hope to show that the new environment challenges Her Majesty's Government, the international institutions and this nation.

We fondly imagine that we live in a peaceful, globalising world, from which poverty will soon be eliminated. However, the reality is that several states have failed in their main purpose of upholding the common good of their inhabitants. One thinks immediately of Somalia, Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Liberia. Next, we see post-conflict countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. There, everything requires reconstruction, which is made more complex by huge numbers of refugees. Separatism has provoked all too many internal conflicts, from Northern Ireland to the Basque region and on through Kosovo, Chechnya, Georgia, the Sudan and Sri Lanka. Issues of self-determination and separation are at the heart of some inter-state conflicts, notably that between India and Pakistan over Kashmir or between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

India and Pakistan, with their huge armies and nuclear potential, on the one hand, and Israel, Palestine and the Arab neighbours, on the other, are the two greatest threats to world peace. Their wars, which have caused immense human suffering, cannot be allowed to go on unresolved from generation to generation. Huge responsibilities lie on the United Nations, on the Commonwealth—in respect of the Indian subcontinent—and on the United States, in respect of Israel.

There are other post-imperial situations. They can be found, for example, in Indonesia, central Asia or the Philippines, in the wake of Dutch, Soviet or Spanish and US dominance. The question we face is whether these large multiethnic states can succeed in holding together while progressing towards democracy.

I hope that this quick sketch is sufficient to show that peace is very fragile in nearly every continent. Frozen wars abound which could re-ignite all too easily. There are conclusions to be drawn for our defence and foreign policy. We should seek allies for the task of reforming the United Nations and its agencies. In particular, the United Nations needs a way of providing trustee services for the failed states, some of which I have mentioned. We should complete the enlargement of the European Union, expanding the area of prosperity and security, under a constitution which minimises the risks of over-centralisation, bureaucracy and corruption. We should press on with debt relief and fairer trade for poorer countries suffering the double scourge of war and disease.

In particular, export subsidies for the goods of rich, developed countries should be rapidly ended. I welcome the mention in the gracious Speech of debt relief and fairer trade. It also spoke of the underlying causes of conflict and extremism. Those include loss of personal and group identity, leading to despair and violence. It needs to be clearly shown as widely as possible that self-determination can be gained and can provide real benefits at levels less than complete independence. This country should give a lead to the world by stricter control of its arms exports and of the activities of British arms brokers. Our example could be effective over small arms and light weapons, which cause most of the deaths in the current fighting.

I should like to see annual increases in the funds of our Conflict Prevention Pool. That reflects essential co-operation between the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development. I urge our allies to adopt this model of working.

I come now to terrorism and the strategic environment. We should never underestimate the cleverness of terrorists or their ability to find soft or unsuspecting targets. They will, however, be worn down and overcome by long-term, co-operative and multinational intelligence work leading to arrests and convictions. That is the lesson to be learned from Northern Ireland, as previous speakers have mentioned.

The rhetoric of "war against terrorism" has been too prevalent and is, I believe, unwise. Military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the fact that most recent terrorists have been Muslims, give the false impression that the West is opposed to Islam and to Muslims as such. Everything should be done to correct that misapprehension. Visits to and from Muslim heads of state could help; so could visits by our Ministers and others to Muslim institutions in Britain. We should be using all the media to present co-existence and co-operation as the right relationship between Europe, the Americas and the Islamic world. The rebuilding of the Ferhadija mosque in Banja Luka, Bosnia, could be a symbol of such co-operation.

Dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims is essential. The Three Faiths Forum, St Ethelburga's, in the City of London, and the Ammerdown Centre in Somerset are leading the way. Religious convergence for peace, as shown in the Alexandria Declaration, is the key to Middle Eastern solutions. The United States and the European Union will be judged by their handling of the search for agreement between Israel and it neighbours. The more success there, the worse will be the prospects for Al'Qaeda.

Anti-Semitism does not just mean persecuting Jews; it includes despising Muslims and not responding when faced with the just needs and demands of Palestinians and Arabs. Unless the conflicts of the Middle East are resolved, hatred and violence are likely to be exported to the city centres of Europe. Policies must uphold justice, human rights and democracy as the best alternatives that we know to tyranny and war. To do otherwise would be untrue to ourselves.

This country welcomes a challenge, so I urge the Government to provide one by pointing out how homelessness, war, injustice and poverty affect so much of today's world, and by showing how those evils can be reduced. Our country has such a wealth of overseas experience among diplomats, missionaries, businessmen, academics, volunteers and development workers. Will the Government challenge and focus their skills and goodwill in the cause of peace and justice?

Photo of Lord Gilbert Lord Gilbert Labour 9:26 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it is always a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and it was an even greater pleasure to be in the House on the occasion of the maiden speech by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, from whose sage advice I benefited for a couple of years when I was at the Ministry of Defence. Having spent two and a half extremely undistinguished years in the Andrew some 60 years ago, it is wonderful to have a sailor back on these Benches again. We look forward to many contributions from the noble and gallant Lord.

I was extremely impressed by the speech of my noble friend Lord Grenfell. It was an extraordinarily lucid exposition of extremely technical subjects that enlightened us all. Although I disagree profoundly with my noble friend on many matters, I only wish that a voice as sane, lucid and intelligent as his were heard around the Cabinet table. I know that that will not do him much good, but still.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, referred to rumours about the future of defence expenditure. We are hearing only rumours at present, so I shall not say much on the matter. I hope that those rumours are not realised. For many years, I have held the view that defence expenditure in this country should be about 25 per cent higher than it is. I realise that it will take us some time to get there, but I only wish that there were a general will in that direction.

I am quite relaxed about one or two items in the defence equipment programme of my noble friend Lord Bach. I assure him that he will receive no criticism from me if he sees fit to diminish the Eurofighter programme—a subject on which I have yet to speak utterly candidly in this House—and he will get nothing but fulsome congratulations from me if he gets rid of that abortion of a programme the A400M. The Minister knows my views on that subject.

Apparently, the new European initiative will have 30 or 40 people to begin with. Of course, it is not serious at that level: it has no assets with which to fight; it can only talk. The most assets that it will ever have will be for peacekeeping. However, it is possibly an extremely sinister development. I recommend that noble Lords read the article in The Times today by Irwin Stelzer, who says that this development could very well give those in Washington who wish NATO no goodwill an excuse to bring about a very serious diminution in United States adherence to NATO.

I have very strong views on that—contrary to some of those held in this House. One must choose between the United States and Europe. One must choose between the United States and Europe almost every day of the week if one thinks seriously about those matters.

Not so long ago, I heard one noble Lord on these Benches say that he did not think that we would ever have to choose, but that if we did, he would choose Europe. Just to show that there is balance in this House, I would not. I would choose the United States and I am not ashamed to say so, not because I share all American values or that I find everything done by this or the previous Administration congenial or palatable, but because the exchange of highly classified intelligence and access to cutting-edge technology that we get nowhere else is fundamental for the security of this country. Why do we get this with the Americans? It is a matter of trust. They trust us and we trust them and noble Lords can draw their own conclusions about why that is the main international channel for the exchange of highly classified information.

In the years that I was at the Ministry of Defence—I was there a couple of times—I saw huge amounts of paper labelled "Top secret: UK Eyes Only". I saw quite a lot of paper labelled "UK/US Eyes Only" and occasionally some labelled "CANAUKUS Eyes Only"—Canadian, Australian, UK/US eyes only—but I cannot remember seeing a single piece of paper that said "UK/French Eyes Only" or "UK/German Eyes Only". I was told that, once upon a time, there were some items labelled "UK/German Eyes Only", but they would have been a great exception. They were there before I was, and I was first there 25 years ago.

Having got that off my chest, I want to say something about Iraq. I entirely share the views of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours about why we went into Iraq. I am told that regime change is not a respectable reason. In fact, it is against international law. As a layman, I have a view of law. Law is what the lawyers tell you it is. The noble Lord, Lord Alexander, told us that international law said one thing and the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General told us that it said something else. What are we poor laymen to make of that? I make of it something quite simple. If international law is as the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, says—and it may well be—there is something fundamentally wrong with international law. If it stops us from dealing with tyrants such as Saddam Hussein, or stops us, as it did, from dealing with Pol Pot, which is a shame and humiliation on us all, something is seriously wrong with international law and we should examine the problem.

I happen to think that the world is much better off without the vileness of Saddam Hussein and now that Mr Milosevic is on trial. The only people who do not think that the world is better off are those who had a vested interest in those two regimes. The noble Lord, Lord King, said that security would be the critical element in Iraq in the future. I have had the benefit in the past few days of listening to some senior Americans who tell me that, for the Iraqis, security is a matter of peace on the streets, the absence of looting and being able to go about their business without fear of being mugged. One of the mistakes that we made was not only unnecessarily winding up the Iraqi army, which did not fight us, but putting their police back in the wrong colour uniforms. That is not an insignificant matter and I hope that it is redressed. I hope that my noble friend will take a look at that in the future.

I am worried about Iraq because the Americans are saying that they want to get out by next summer and leave their troops there by invitation. They are inviting a serious humiliation if that becomes their policy because I do not think that, in that time span, the Iraqis will manage to reconstruct the forces of law and order on a scale necessary to look after their own security .

However, I am a great optimist about the future of Iraq, even though, as one noble Lord said—I apologise, but I forget who it was—it is possible that Iraq will break up into three sections. That is quite a possibility. If it happens, there is absolutely nothing that we can or should try to do about it.

I have great faith in the people of Iraq, who have not been mentioned in my hearing during today's debate. It takes courage to co-operate with a coalition knowing that assassination at home, in a restaurant or in a shop is possible. Your Lordships must admit that the people of Iraq run a far greater risk than do our troops. They are not going out in trained patrols; they are people going about their business. They are being threatened and blackmailed, as are their families. There are very brave men and women in Iraq who are standing up to these threats. That is why I have great confidence in their future.

Photo of Baroness Cox Baroness Cox Conservative 9:36 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I wish to focus on the mention in the gracious Speech of underlying causes of conflict, referring to areas that I have recently visited; namely, North Korea and Nigeria. There is a possible ray of light in a very dark part of the world—that is, North Korea. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I, having both been robust critics of the widely reported violations of human rights in North Korea, felt that we should visit the country to learn about the situation.

Brutal persecution of religious believers had been widely reported. So we were encouraged to meet 19 Christian pastors from South Korea who were worshipping at the Protestant Church at Bongsu. They had come to celebrate the opening of a new Protestant seminary and to learn of some positive developments concerning the Russian Orthodox Church.

Of course we found predictable causes for continuing concern, but we left with unexpected grounds for cautious optimism. The overarching issue is the threat posed by North Korea's escalation of its nuclear programme. However, all the government representatives that we met, including the President of the Praesidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, emphasised willingness to begin a process of denuclearisation if they could receive two assurances. One assurance they wanted was the promise of no pre-emptive first strike by the United States and the other was respect for the peaceful co-existence of two systems within one country. Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether Her Majesty's Government are able to provide some reassurances on those issues, as appropriate?

One of the most encouraging findings was the positive assessment by independent international aid organisations working in North Korea, such as the World Food Programme, World Vision and Concern. All were upbeat about the improving conditions with regard to access, independent monitoring and cessation of policies by the regime of the manipulation of aid as a tool against political and religious dissidents.

I do not think that either the noble Lord, Lord Alton, or I have a reputation for being "soft" on human rights issues. But we returned feeling sufficiently encouraged to believe that the time may have come to offer a helping hand to North Korea if it is beginning to embark on a process of glasnost. We therefore established the UK/North Korea parliamentary group as an arena for continuing dialogue, as well as for raising continuing concerns. Perhaps I may say that we would be happy to make available to noble Lords a copy of our report that would give full information on our findings.

I briefly turn to Nigeria, having returned yesterday from a visit which was related to several serious issues that threaten Nigeria's development of civil society and a stable democracy. I refer to the conflicts that are occurring with disturbing frequency in the northern states associated with the imposition of Sharia law, which is now in force in 12 states. In January, I visited Jos, Kaduna, Kano and Bauchi states, which have all been subjected to violence in which hundreds of people have been killed and numerous villages burnt. I visited some of those villages and saw the destruction of homes and places of worship. Violence has continued, and as recently as 18th November, riots erupted in Kazaure in Jigawa State. Out of 11 churches, nine have been razed to the ground and the other two completely vandalised. Two people were killed and 5,000 displaced, some of them taking refuge in Kano.

The implications of these conflicts, which are associated with the imposition of Sharia law, spread far beyond Nigeria. It is often argued by those who promote Sharia law that it will not affect non-Muslims. But that claim is disproved by, for example, a current case in Bauchi State, where 11 Christian nurses have been dismissed from their posts in a federal hospital for refusing to accept the Islamic dress code as it violates their professional and human rights. Their case has been upheld in the secular court, but the local administration has refused to re-employ them. I met these nurses on Monday and heard how they are suffering as a result of their unemployment. Many can no longer afford to send their children to school, while some do not have enough money to feed their families.

That is just one example of the fundamental problems associated with the incompatibility of some aspects of Sharia law with the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, such as equality before the law and the freedom to choose and change religion. For example, under Sharia law, there is no equality before the law between men and women or between Muslims and non-Muslims, and there is no freedom for Muslims to change religion without incurring the risk of the death penalty for apostasy.

It is issues such as these which underpin the resistance to Sharia law in many parts of Nigeria, resulting in the conflicts which over the years have been responsible for the deaths of thousands and massive destruction of property. The stability of Nigeria, and President Obasanjo's commitment to democracy and a secular constitution, is vital to the stability of West Africa and beyond. Can the Minister indicate ways in which Her Majesty's Government are assisting or may assist further President Obasanjo to fulfil these very important commitments? They are important for Nigeria and important for Africa.

Problems concerning the imposition of Sharia law are also fundamental in other conflicts such as that in Sudan where this is still an unresolved issue and one which has been a major obstacle to the very important peace process being undertaken.

The issue of Sharia law may be sensitive, but it is serious and needs urgent consideration. Will Her Majesty's Government consider whether one possible way forward in such situations might be the inclusion in any negotiations or settlements of the requirement to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by analogy, with the "Basket 3" portion of the 1975 Helsinki Agreement?

To conclude, it is encouraging to observe some rays of hope in one of the darkest parts of the world, North Korea. But dark clouds still brood over others, including Nigeria. It is vital to consider appropriate measures to resolve the problems there if those storm clouds are not to become even more violent storms of conflict in the months and years ahead, causing even greater suffering for the people of Nigeria and dangerous ripple effects throughout Africa.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat 9:43 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, as always, this Queen's Speech debate has been wide-ranging. When I rise to speak, I am always tempted to throw a question and demand a response from the Minister on some country which has not yet been mentioned in the hope of raising a look of panic on her face.

We have heard some very welcome contributions, and I want to mark that more contributions from Back Bench speakers have come from the Cross Benches in this debate than from any other part of the House. That is particularly welcome because Members on the Cross Benches have a great deal of expertise to offer.

I want to focus on four of the many issues that have been raised: first, Europe, which is extremely important; secondly, the transatlantic relationship; thirdly, the Muslim world; and, fourthly, the question of international order and international law, with which the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, has just dealt so rumbustiously.

We heard very useful speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Grenfell and Lord Norton of Louth, on the Select Committee reports and I agree very strongly with what the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, said about the current treaty. It is a curate's egg. It is not what we really needed or what the Laeken declaration promised us, when it set out to define a shorter and clearer treaty that we would all understand. The treaty is too long; part 3 ought to be subordinate legislation and not in the full treaty. Too many issues have been fudged again, including what exactly the new Foreign Minister—or whatever he or she is to be called—will do, to whom he or she will be responsible, what exactly the president of the Council will do, and so on.

I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, that the new proposals strengthen the Council. In that sense, it is more necessarily inter-governmental. However, we also need a strong and effective Commission to hold together an EU of 25 members. I regret that we may be heading towards an even weaker Commission, if there are 25 or 31 commissioners and there is a failure to pursue the necessary reforms of the structure of the Commission. Commissioner Kinnock has managed to push that a certain amount of the way, but he has not had the active support of most national governments, and not always very active support from our own.

Having said all that, I am puzzled by the continuing paranoia from the Conservative Benches on all this. Each new treaty since the Single European Act has been denounced by the Conservatives as a final step too far, which ends Britain's autonomy—from the Maastricht Treaty, to the Amsterdam Treaty and then the Nice Treaty. Now the noble Lord, Lord Howell, tells us that he actually prefers the Nice Treaty to the new one, that it is not too bad when one looks back on it, and that the new treaty would be a step too far.

I find it a little odd of the noble Lord to have deplored any criticism of American policy towards Iraq but to have offered us nothing but criticism of developments in the EU. We need a balance in that respect; Britain needs to balance between Europe and the United States, and we need to be intelligently critical of both, without cutting ourselves off from either.

I regret that the Government have given us for so long an uncertain trumpet on Europe. The case for closer co-operation has not always been made strongly at home. The arguments for reform of EU policies and institutions have not always been sustained by Government Ministers on the Continent. There is a fear of the press and the cultivation of the Daily Mail and of Rupert Murdoch.

I was very struck and puzzled by the interview that Mr Rupert Murdoch gave on British television two weeks ago, in which he talked about whether he would be willing to maintain his support for the current Government. He said that it would partly depend on whether the Government would be willing to yield our sovereignty. The phrase "our sovereignty" is being used by someone born in Australia, who is now an American citizen, with companies based in Bermuda to avoid paying tax in this country. That seems rather rich to me, and I am not sure that I want to entrust the defence of our sovereignty to the hands of a foreigner like that.

There are, of course, other problems with the European Union. There is a very uncertain trumpet from France and Germany at present on the question of economic governance, which is something to which I hope the European Union Committee will return. Absurd things are said regularly by Belgian Ministers, whether the Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister, which Eurosceptics love to quote all the time. However, I share the view that Will Hutton set out well in the Observer last weekend, that the biggest danger for British interests is that the European Union will emerge as too weak from enlargement, rather than threatening to be too strong.

I refer briefly to the European defence proposals, on which there has been a lot of discussion this evening. When one considers what European governments are doing, it is actually quite creditable. At any point in the past two years, there have been more than 50,000 troops from European Union governments in places outside the EU. There have been 9,000 to 10,000 Germans in service at any one point, and Spanish ships have patrolled the Indian Ocean. Spanish troops, Italian carabinieri and Poles have been in Iraq, Danes have been in Afghanistan, and Swedish special forces were useful in Operation Artemis in the Congo.

Of course, those troops are short of transport; the logistical chain is not good enough. It is interesting to read speeches in the same week by the French commander of the Congo operation and the German commander of ISAF, each saying that we need more effective logistical support and, of course, long-range transport—be they the A400s beloved of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, or C17s. But we shall not get very much more defence spending in Europe. The logic, therefore, has to be closer co-operation and a degree of specialisation to squeeze more out of our limited budgets. I welcome the closer co-operation between the British, the French and the Germans. I am not fazed by the proposals for the planning staff. I recognise that NATO does not do nation building, so EU crisis management with a full mix of instruments from the military element through the police to civilian administration and economic assistance is something which appropriately the EU should plan for itself.

I also welcome the proposal for a European arms agency, although I have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, that I hope it will not promote arms exports with quite the degree of enthusiasm of which he spoke. It seems to me that there are too many arms of all sorts floating around the world at the present moment. We should be working with our partners in the EU to restrict arms exports, not to encourage them.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

My Lords, it is called at the present time the European Defence Agency, not the European arms agency. I do not think that it will end up being called the European Defence Agency, but it certainly will not be concerned, as I understand it, with exports. It will be concerned with capabilities.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I was referring to the noble Lord's commendation of British success in arms exports.

I turn to the United States. We need to be realistic about the limits of British influence over the current Republican Administration. There is in Washington intense admiration for Tony Blair, but this does not translate into British influence. Just before President Bush's state visit I read a Heritage Foundation briefing that started by saying that Britain was America's most important ally and that Tony Blair was the most important leader supporting President Bush, but then went on to say that under no circumstances should any concessions be offered to British positions during the Bush state visit.

After all, our Prime Minister's strategy over Iraq was of public support and private criticism intended to extract from the United States, first, an active American commitment to the road map for reconciliation between Israel and Palestine and, secondly, a central role for the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq. We have gained neither of those. There are strict limits to the special relationship. As the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, remarked, it is an intelligent relationship with mutual and reciprocal benefits on both sides and occasional mutual misrepresentation, as over the question of who did or did not buy uranium from Niger. However, that does not overcome the different drift of the American debate on foreign policy and, indeed, on values in recent years. Certainly we need to engage actively within the Washington debate and to do so as far as possible in consultation with our European partners to amplify our voice.

The excellent FCO strategy paper published yesterday notes as British priorities: an international system based on the rule of law; a greater emphasis on the real dangers of climate change—both areas in which we are now pushing in a very different direction from Washington—and a commitment to an open and expanding world economy. Protectionist forces within Congress and the US Administration are currently pushing us away from an open world economy.

I turn to NATO. We should be careful not to be left exposed as more loyal to NATO than the US Administration. Europe is no longer the centre of American global strategy. NATO is written about in Washington as a tool kit out of which to build coalitions of the willing. If that is the case, it is perfectly natural to accept that NATO is adapting and that the pursuit—as several noble Lords have said—of a transatlantic partnership of equals between the overwhelming majority of members of NATO who are also members of the EU and the United States is an entirely proper goal to pursue.

Let me say a little about relations with the Muslim world, which I am glad to see was flagged and emphasised in the FCO strategy. We are in some danger of drifting towards a clash of civilisations between the United States and the Muslim world. I was reading an article by Norman Podhoretz the other day that talks about the fourth world war, between the West and the Muslim world, in which we will have to force wholesale regime change across the entire Middle East. That is not in Britain's interests or the interests of the stability of the world. I agree with everything said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool about the need for inter-faith dialogue, and for closer relations between Christians and Muslims for the cultivation of the moderate Muslim voice.

There are real problems of development across the Muslim world. I have just read the second Arab human development report, which is excellent, particularly as it is written by Arabic economists and intellectuals themselves. We clearly need a long-term strategy, working with and through the leaderships of Muslim countries and the 15 million Muslims who are citizens of European Union states. However, that also requires us to finish the job in Afghanistan, Iraq and, of course, Israel and Palestine.

We have heard a little today about the glimmers of hope again that, after the depressing events in Israel and Palestine in the past few months, some on both sides are returning to the only possible solution, which is and has to be a two-stage solution. Her Majesty's Government, in co-operation with all their partners, should push as hard as they can to get back to that route.

Lastly, let me say a little about international order. The international institutions under which we live are, after all, one of the great legacies of the United States of President Roosevelt. One thing that worries me most about the current mood in the United States is the extent to which those on the neo-conservative Right wish to tear down every aspect of the edifice that FD Roosevelt left, including international institutions and international law. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, surely it is in our interests to strengthen the United Nations. I am very glad to know that he is on Secretary-General Annan's panel, and I hope that he will keep us well informed of its progress in discussing potential reform of international institutions.

It is in our interests to maintain the World Trade Organisation talks. I welcome the latest proposals by European Commissioner Pascal Lamy to relaunch the discussions after the failures of Cancun. It is in our interests to maintain international law, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, may say. Guantanamo is still an offence against international law. I agree strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, that Iraq has fractured international law.

We need international institutions to combat global disease. The first person to die of SARS who was a member of an international organisation was a World Health Organisation doctor who played a large role in bringing that epidemic to light. We need international institutions and co-operation against the AIDS epidemic, about which my noble friend Lady Northover spoke very eloquently. We need them to manage global migration, one of the major challenges of the next 10 years as, again, the FCO strategy rightly points out. We need them to grapple with global inequality and the corruption and civil conflicts that make inequality worse.

We are in a highly inter-dependent world in which the British Government have to share their responsibilities. The problem for British foreign policy is that we have high ambitions but very limited resources. It therefore makes sense to share so far as we can with our European partners, as part of a stronger Europe with the United States and, where we can, with others through NATO, the Commonwealth and the United Nations. That is the right direction for British foreign policy.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Conservative 9:59 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, it is my great privilege to respond to the debate on behalf of my colleagues on these Benches. I consider it a great honour to do so, although it is a somewhat daunting challenge. This has been a long and fascinating debate. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I do not refer to all the excellent speeches that have been made, but I shall try my best.

Before I begin, I want to mention in particular the help and guidance given by my noble friend Lord Vivian in preparing for this debate. I, too, join other noble Lords in congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, on their remarkable and outstanding maiden speeches. We are most fortunate that they contributed to this important debate today and we hope to hear much more from them both in the future.

While the world is undoubtedly a better place following the end of the Cold War, it is also, in many ways, more dangerous and more unpredictable. My noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater stressed that clearly in his excellent speech, concentrating, too, on the importance of people. We welcome the Government's commitment in the gracious Speech to tackling the threat of global terrorism. It is the most dangerous international threat that we face today—a threat that must be pre-empted. Indeed, almost everything that we have debated today falls within that context.

Many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, welcomed the good intentions to reduce world poverty and bring about effective debt relief for developing countries committed to reform. There is also the challenge of the millennium development goals, which, I am afraid, the Government are way off meeting.

Two weeks ago, we witnessed the tragic events that unfolded in Istanbul. This House was very sorry to hear of the loss of our Consul-General, Roger Short, and two of his staff, Lisa Hallworth and Nanette Elizabeth Kurma. We pay tribute to all those who lost their lives and we offer our thoughts and prayers to those who are injured or left behind.

If we are to tackle such threats effectively, we must have a clear understanding not simply of what we seek to achieve but also of the resources available to achieve it and whether the two match up. It is in this context that I now turn to address the matter of the military resources available to us.

In response to the closing remarks of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, I must assure him that both our new leader and our party take the defence of the realm very seriously indeed. We on these Benches have always argued that, above all, the first duty of any government is the defence of the realm, both at home and abroad. That includes protecting British interests from military threats as well as the current threat of international terrorism.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the bravery, courage, dedication and professionalism of our Armed Forces. As we speak, British troops in different parts of the world are playing vital peace-keeping roles. I also pay tribute to the families of our troops, who have steadfastly supported them. It is vitally important that our troops continue to receive all the support and resources that they need from Her Majesty's Government in carrying out these often dangerous duties.

Given the threats that I outlined a few moments ago, it is vital that we allocate sufficient resources to defence. The Strategic Defence Review stated that 2.5 per cent of GDP should be reserved for defence, but the figure has fallen to 2.3 per cent. In her reply, can the Minister explain why that is the case?

Our Armed Forces are stretched to capacity. Indeed, they are over-stretched, as we have heard today, with operations ongoing in both Iraq and Afghanistan and with little sign of an immediate reduction in our troop commitments in either of those countries.

As at 1st September, the Army was 5,000 below strength. In June, 55 per cent of the Army was deployed on, recovering from or training for military operations. The picture is no better in other branches of the military. Navy warships now routinely take to the seas without their full complement and it is reported that the RAF has cut the number of flying hours devoted to training. Furthermore, since 1997 our forces have been heavily deployed but currently there are 12,000 fewer regulars than we had six years ago.

I am sure that noble Lords on all sides share my concern at those worrying statistics. Such cuts are particularly serious at a time of essential change, especially with the introduction of new technologies. As my honourable friend the shadow defence secretary, Mr Nicholas Soames, said:

"the Opposition most earnestly warn the Secretary of State that, in the present circumstances. . . it would be an act of cardinal folly to use the Army's strength as a peace dividend if normalisation were to occur in Northern Ireland".—[Official Report, Commons, 27/11/03; col. 218.]

The forthcoming defence White Paper is expected to include proposals for restructuring the Armed Forces. We hope that the proposed restructuring is not used as a smokescreen for further cutbacks to our military capability.

Given the situation that I have outlined, we call on the Government to allow sufficient time for the White Paper to be debated properly in this House. I listened, as I always do, with great respect to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie, and to the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and their pleas to HMG against more cuts. We on this side of the House will continue to press Ministers on how they plan to meet our growing commitments and the ongoing threat of terrorism with fewer ships, fewer aircraft and a smaller Army. How can we carry out our foreign policy effectively if we risk being denied the tools with which to do the job?

My noble friend Lord Astor of Hever spoke with great sense and wisdom on the importance of the Territorial Army and possible cuts. He raised certain questions and we look forward to hearing the Minister's answers to them.

I turn briefly to the situation in Iraq. We on this side of the House continue to believe that the action that we took in Iraq was right. It is a fact that the regime in Iraq was in clear breach of no fewer than 17 United Nations resolutions. The Government's actions and the actions of our allies and our brave Armed Forces have brought about the end of a vicious reign of terror and have removed a potent threat to regional and international security and stability. We welcome the genuine progress that we have recently seen being made in Iraq, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, in her lucid and informed speech. We continue to press for the establishment of a representative Iraqi administration, but the haste with which that is achieved must not be at the expense of security and stability in the country.

We should be wary of demanding and expecting instant transformations. I remind the noble Lords, Lord Redesdale and Lord Campbell-Savours, who were so worried about the aftermath of the war in Iraq, that it took four years from 1945 through to May 1949 for democracy to flower and a new country, the Federal Republic of Germany, to emerge from the ashes of war, despite the fact that by May 1949 a generous American Government had poured in vast amounts of economic assistance through the Marshall Plan. I was recently reminded of that five-year transition period after attending the memorial service of the late Lord Wilberforce, who had served on the commission and who did such good service in this House. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, put this debate into the necessary historical context. I agree with him.

It is not new for public opinion to judge America to be found wanting. The eminent writer William Shawcross pointed out to me an article in Life magazine written about the US occupation of Europe by the novelist John Dos Passos in January 1946, just a few months after the end of the Second World War. It states:

"Never has American prestige in Europe been lower . . . All we have brought to Europe so far is confusion backed up by the drumhead regime of military courts. We have swept away Hitlerism but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease . . . Before the Normandy landings, liberation meant to be freed from the tyranny of the Nazis. Now it stands in the minds of civilians for one thing, looting".

It is of course the easy option to adopt such a position, but it is worth remembering that it was that American-led occupation that created the rich, comfortable, modern society from which we all benefit today.

We welcome the many improvements that have taken place in post-war Iraq but are saddened that many aid agencies have left the country, as we heard from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, in his moving speech concerning Afghanistan too. This can only prolong the time that it will take to return Iraq to a level of normality.

We share, too, the alarm expressed by the aid agencies over the diversion of funds away from humanitarian projects around the world, particularly in middle income countries such as those in Latin America and central and eastern Europe, to help with the reconstruction in Iraq. While it is vital that we support the reconstruction in Iraq, this should not be at the expense of our commitments in other parts of the world.

Our membership of the European Union represents a vital strand of our foreign policy, hence I now turn to the proposed European constitutional treaty. I shall not go into the report of the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, at this late hour as we shall be debating that in detail next Wednesday, but the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, exaggerates about any paranoia on these Benches.

We, as a party, have always supported enlargement of the European Union. I agree that it needs a good treaty not made in haste. It makes sense from both a moral and an economic perspective. Everyone recognises that enlargement brings with it the need to reform the European Union institutions to accommodate the new member states and to enable it to function effectively.

At Laeken, it was recognised that the European Union had lost touch with the peoples of its member states. The Convention on the Future of Europe was a reaction to this disconnection and the need to "reconnect" in some way, and also the need to adapt the European Union to operate effectively post-enlargement.

Sadly, it has proved an opportunity wasted. The proposed European Union constitutional treaty which has emerged addresses neither of these key issues.

As my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford said in his forceful opening speech, far from simplifying matters, the European Union constitution is wordy and complex. Indeed, it has even left the Government confused. First they said that it was only a tidying up exercise; then it was vital to the enlargement of the European Union; and now it is not necessary to have it at all and the Government may even use their veto. Perhaps the Minister could enlighten noble Lords on all sides by clarifying the current position of Her Majesty's Government in relation to the proposed treaty.

Noble Lords, including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, warned us about the proposed European defence project, as did the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. This project appears thus far to duplicate and compete with the structures of NATO and no doubt to dilute it. I fully support the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, in his tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Robinson, and NATO's importance, especially for the new members from eastern and central Europe.

More importantly, this project could eventually lead to the disastrous decoupling of the United States from the defence of western Europe. We must never underestimate the vital role that the United States plays in providing intelligence and essential transportation, and the contribution that such a commitment makes to our security. That was stressed, quite rightly, by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert. We are determined that no agreement is entered into that might jeopardise that relationship.

We welcome the Government's commitment to releasing oppressed people from dictatorship and the restoration of democracy around the world. As I set out earlier, that commitment has been realised in the case of Iraq; and we readily pay tribute to the Government for their stance. However, we are disappointed to see absolutely no reference in the gracious Speech to the situation in Zimbabwe, a matter touched on by my noble friend Lord Blaker.

Noble Lords are well aware of the disastrous land reform policy in Zimbabwe, which has contributed to the current food shortage—and has compounded the spread of Aids, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover—in the country through the displacement of farm workers. Zimbabwe is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.

The Government have taken the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to restoring democracy around the world, taking decisive action in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, as the people of Zimbabwe look to us to lead the international response to their brutal regime, we appear afraid to take any decisive action, either through sanctions or the Commonwealth. Yesterday the Foreign Office produced a White Paper on its priorities for foreign policy; still no mention of Zimbabwe.

In 1997, the Government were looking for the third way but now they seem to have lost their way. Their foreign policy is incoherent and inconsistent. The Government are tough on dictatorship in Iraq but do little about the situation in Zimbabwe. This is a government which is divided with only one way to go. The gracious Speech shows a government on the way out. We shall do all we can to help them find the way.

We have heard many powerful speeches, which included numerous important questions posed by noble Lords. I have every confidence in the Minister. I look forward to her answering and winding up for the Government in her usual stimulating and effective way, which will certainly do justice to all noble Lords' contributions.

Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Middle East), Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Minister of State (Middle East) 10:17 pm, 3rd December 2003

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate today. It has of course, as many noble Lords have remarked, been very far ranging in terms of the geography of the countries covered and the nature of the issues discussed.

The over-arching themes of this year's foreign defence and development agenda have been Iraq, the Middle East, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan and the continent of Africa. We have had, too, our great international institutions—the United Nations, NATO and the EU. Furthermore, the enormous issues in terms of defence capability, the pernicious effects of international terrorism and the efficacy of international aid have all been raised.

We have also enjoyed two notable maiden speeches. We heard from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, who was characteristically modest about his own career. I was grateful to him for his remarks about the relationship between foreign policy and defence policy. He spoke, characteristically too, about the importance of valuing properly our Armed Forces. He spoke as only someone who knows our Armed Forces can—with expertise, with commitment and with great affection. We look forward to hearing more from him.

The speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool was remarkable too. It is good to see that he is so proud of being a good Celt, although I should warn him that some of my Welsh friends might take exception to his remarks about the versatility of the Welsh language. He spoke with great conviction about the contribution of our faith communities. I believe he was right to do so. I look forward to hearing more of his very human blend of wisdom and gentle humour, a matter remarked on by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie.

I begin my response with the subject that concerns so many of your Lordships; that is, Iraq. It was touched on by the noble Lords, Lord Howell of Guildford, Lord Redesdale and Lord Mackie of Benshie, the noble Baronesses, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, Lady Northover and Lady Nicholson of Winterbourne, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon and my noble friend Lady Turner of Camden.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, reminded us of his party's support for the Government's action in Iraq. We agree with his remarks about the courage, dedication and sheer professionalism of our Armed Forces, who have served us so well in Iraq and continue to do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, struck a somewhat different note. He challenged the legal basis for what the Government undertook, as did the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon. In one respect, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was right: the legal basis for the war in Iraq was not the removal of Saddam Hussein. But let us be clear: for many Iraqis—the people affected most in that conflict—that was exactly the point. That was why so many of them, then and now, supported what we did. Of course, the noble Lord avoided the question of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours. I realise why; those issues are very difficult. The legal base was not the humanitarian argument, but the noble Lord must know that for many in Iraq and elsewhere the humanitarian argument was and is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, made clear, the compelling argument.

The noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Weedon, supported by others, presented us again with his unshakeable conviction that the military action against Iraq was not only wrong politically and in principle but, as he claims, unlawful. We have been over that ground on several occasions, not least in a lengthy debate in this House earlier this year.

Let me make our position clear again. Authority to use force against Iraq existed from the combined effects of Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441. All those resolutions were adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of force for the express purpose of restoring international peace and security. In Resolution 678, the Security Council authorised the use of force against Iraq. In Resolution 687, the terms of the ceasefire were set out, but Resolution 687 suspended—it did not terminate—the authority to use force under Resolution 678. A material breach of Resolution 687 revived the authority to use force under Resolution 678, and in Resolution 1441, the Security Council determined that Iraq had been and remained in material breach of Resolution 687. That was and remains the legal basis for the Government's action.

The noble Lords, Lord Alexander of Weedon and Lord Howell of Guildford, want the advice of the Attorney-General to be published. The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said that there were "ample examples" of the Law Officers advice being disclosed. I was interested in the use of that word, "ample", because my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General made clear in answering a Question on 6th November that he was aware of only two cases in which the Law Officers' advice was disclosed: both disclosures being made for the purposes of judicial proceedings.

There are three other cases in which the views of the Law Officers were disclosed, but not their advice: once in February 1971; once in 1993; and, of course, once by my right honourable friend earlier this year. The noble Lord's argument about disclosure is not strengthened or enhanced by over-egging his pudding. Both the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, make life somewhat difficult if they insist on adopting the maxim: "Don't do as we did when in power; do as we tell you now".

To my noble friend Lady Turner, whose convictions I understand and respect, and in response to her remarks about those who died in conflict, I say, what about the deaths of those whom we have found in the mass graves—the 300,000 bodies? What about the women beheaded in front of their children? What about the children fed into mincing machines in front of their parents? What about the horrors of the possibility of that continuing today?

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, raised questions about the Iraq Survey Group. The group produced an interim report on 2nd October, but no date has yet been set for the final report. The interim report was a highly classified document and not published in full, but an unclassified version of the testimony of David Kay to the Congressional Oversight Committee was published, and I understand that it is likely that a similar approach will be used again.

Let us turn to the here and now. A great deal has already been achieved in Iraq and despite recent terrorist attacks good progress is being made. We know that for a very large number of Iraqis life is considerably better now than it was under Saddam's regime. As one man who I met in Baghdad last month said to me, "I can sleep now. I am no longer lying awake at night waiting for the knock on the door". Today, Iraqis can read what they want; they can watch what they want; they have more than 200 newspapers; and they have satellite dishes—all of which were illegal under Saddam. There are 14,000 reconstruction projects going forward; electricity has surpassed pre-conflict levels; clean water supplies are improving every day; almost all of Iraq's 240 hospitals are now functioning; and most schools have newly printed text books.

I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and many other noble Lords that in the most recent Gallup poll in Baghdad two thirds of Iraqis said they believed the hardship they had endured since the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth while. In a poll undertaken by Oxford Research in October and November this year, out of 3,244 responses the most common response to the question, "What is the best thing that has happened in Iraq in the last 12 months?" was, "The fall of Saddam Hussein". That response was made by 42 per cent of those polled.

I take issue with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. I do not know how extensively she has travelled in the Middle East region recently. I have visited the region 10 times in the recent past. But if she will not believe me or other Ministers, perhaps she will believe her noble friend Lady Nicholson about what is happening on the ground. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, has travelled extensively—as extensively as my honourable friend Ann Clwyd—and I must tell her that in all the countries I visited the response on this issue is unequivocal support for what we did in Iraq.

The noble Lord, Lord King of Bridgwater, said that what really matters is what we are going to do next. The real challenge was identified by the noble Lord and by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours and it is a real challenge of security. The security situation has, indeed, to be got under control, whether the threat comes from the old regime or from terrorist organisations. But I remind your Lordships that 80 per cent of the attacks are in the Sunni triangle and throughout the country as a whole the security situation is improving.

We hope to see the progressive hand-over of power by the end of June 2004. We hope to see that the legislative authority from the Coalition Provisional Authority turns over to the Iraqis completely by then. But during the next seven months, the CPA, including the 150 UK advisers, will have to work very hard to ensure that. I heard what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Rochester said and his views about the balance between coercion on the one hand and influence on the other. I agreed with much of what he said, but I hope he will also acknowledge that the Iraqis themselves must settle the question of their fundamental law. It is the Iraqis who must decide on their constitution and what will be best for them when they are in government.

Let me turn to another country where reconstruction is so important and the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. I really do not believe that the picture in Afghanistan is as gloomy as he painted. There are now 4.2 million children who have returned to school this year. There are 2.5 million refugees who have returned to the country and 9 million children have been vaccinated against measles, preventing an estimated 30,000 deaths. Most remarkably of all—and I hope that the noble Earl will note this—the economy of that country grew by some 30 per cent in the year 2002–03.

Many of your Lordships remain concerned about what is happening in the Middle East. My noble friend Lady Ramsay of Cartvale spoke about her reviving hope for an eventual peace settlement. Both she and the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour, remarked on what has been said by the Israeli chief of staff and the former Shin Bet officers. I believe that all noble Lords want to see a comprehensive settlement of the Arab/Israeli conflict for compelling humanitarian reasons and in the name of justice. It provides a focus for anti-western sentiment and it impedes progress on political and economic development in the wider region. The quartet road map remains the way to achieve this vision and we remain actively involved with leaders in the region and the wider international community in helping to translate that into reality. I remind the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar, that the United States has supported the road map, even though Israel was not happy with it, and has criticised targeted assassination and the security fence in terms unprecedented for a US president addressing a prime minister of Israel.

The ratification of the new Palestinian Cabinet is, of course, a welcome step forward, but we are disappointed that responsibility for security has not been passed to a Palestinian interior minister. Of course, the priority is a visible effort to stop violence and dismantle terrorist capabilities, but, in parallel, the Israelis must freeze all settlement activity and dismantle settlement outposts, re-route the wall and relieve the economic and human suffering caused by the wall and the restrictions on freedom that it implies.

We are gravely concerned about the prospects for peace, and we fear that the window of opportunity for the two-state solution may be closing. We are under no illusions about the efforts needed from all parties. Progress will be difficult, and there will continue to be setbacks. However, we will continue to do our utmost to facilitate a lasting peace.

Many of your Lordships talked about the terrible scourge of international terrorism, including the noble Lords, Lord Howell of Guildford, Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar, Lord Holme of Cheltenham and Lord Hylton, my noble friend Lord Judd and the noble Baronesses, Lady Northover and Lady Rawlings. I have just returned from Istanbul, where I saw for myself the carnage and chaos and spoke to many of those directly affected by the attacks on 20th November. It was a harrowing experience, and I know that your Lordships will wish to reiterate the sympathy expressed to all who suffered. It was a terrible crime, committed by fanatics with no interest in negotiation or accommodation and with no qualms about killing the innocent of whatever faith. I pay tribute to our diplomats from the United Kingdom and our local staff, who have been so heroic in the way in which they have dealt with the horror.

In Turkey, people asked me, "Why us? Why here?". The answer is that such terrible events might happen anywhere that terrorists think that they can make an impact. The terrorist threat that we face is truly global, linking New York with Casablanca, Bali with Mombasa. The appalling truth is that more than 60 nations, on five continents, have been affected. In the past five years, 4,000 people have died at the hands of terrorists. The broader impact is enormous. The dreadful attacks in New York and Washington on 11th September, 2001, are estimated to have cost the world economy £350 billion. Over 200,000 jobs were temporarily lost or relocated. A UN report showed that average income in Bali fell by 43 per cent after those bombings.

Terrorism affects us all, irrespective of race, religion or nationality. It affects men, women and children. It affects those of strong ideology and those of no ideology. It affects those among the most powerful and wealthy in the world and those who have nothing. That is why we have made a point of tackling terrorism as one of our top priorities. Alongside the proliferation of WMD, it is among the main threats that we face. Unprecedented co-operation in intelligence and law enforcement has resulted in the capture of many senior terrorist figures. We should continue those efforts, but the threat will remain.

To have any chance of success, we must use the full range of tools at our disposal—law enforcement, intelligence, diplomacy and military means—and work closely with other countries and international organisations to defend the homeland, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, said, is our whole fragile planet.

One of the issues that has struck me most forcefully in the past two weeks is the way in which terrorism seeks to exploit any division or any doubt in our international relationships. We often ask ourselves why such terrible events happen, and it is right that we should. However, I say starkly to the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar, that we must be careful and that we should never, for one instant, transfer the responsibility—the blame, if your Lordships like—for acts of murderous wickedness from where such responsibility rightly lies. It lies with those who plan the attacks, place the bombs and watch the bodies blown apart, the buildings torn down and the hearts and lives broken.

We should remember, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Gilmour of Craigmillar, seem to have forgotten, that the terrorists were increasing their activities well before any military action in Iraq and well before any military action in Afghanistan. The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, was right to confront the issue of how we must deny support and succour to terrorists, while addressing vigorously the injustices that allow terrorism to exploit and recruit young people.

The noble Lords, Lord Holme and Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, raised questions about aid. The Government are committed to making progress towards the UN target on official development assistance to create a national income ratio of 0.7 per cent. The boost given to international development funds in the 2002 spending review will lead to a 93 per cent increase in development expenditure in real terms between 1997 and 2005–06. By 2005–06, at £4.6 billion, official development assistance will reach 0.4 per cent of gross national income, up from just 0.27 per cent in 1997.

The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, made a very important contribution on reproductive health. He also scored a first: he found the one topic on which I have no briefing and on which we were unable to contact any officials. So I hope that he will allow me to write to him.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised important questions about UN reform. I assure him that the UK supports the UN Secretary-General's decision to set up a high-level panel to look at how the UN tackles threats to international peace and security.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester and the noble Lord, Lord Holme, also raised their concerns about Africa. The problems of Africa remain immense but the landscape is changing and there is good news. Ghana, Senegal and Kenya have all seen peaceful transfers of power in the past four years. For all the problems that the right reverend Prelate enumerated, Uganda is among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world. The recovery of the South African rand is a tribute to the strength and the sound management of Africa's largest economy. Angola is at peace. Sierra Leone is rebuilding itself. The DRC and Burundi are both making fresh starts.

Africa's leaders are making good progress. They have made it clear that they will not wait for the rest of the world to solve the continent's problems. NePAD, the New Partnership for African Development, demonstrates this approach.

I turn to the questions raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester about the final report of the UN panel on illegal exploitation of the DRC's natural resources. It contains a number of important recommendations on how both the Congolese people and the international community should do better in the exploitation of resources. We are working with the transitional national government in the DRC on these issues and I shall write further to the right reverend Prelate on the important points that he raised.

The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, raised points about North Korea. I congratulate her and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on establishing the new group. I found some of the contribution by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, on Burma a little disquieting. However, she can rest assured that we continue to call on the regime to release the political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.

I turn to the important questions on Europe raised by the noble Lords, Lord Grenfell, Lord Norton of Louth, Lord Radice, Lord Howell, Lord Williamson of Horton, Lord Blaker, Lord Harris of High Cross and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, and the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, says that the statements of government supporters are rightly ridiculed because we have not said that the convention is a fundamental shift in the constitutional relationship of Europe and its citizens as he believes it to be. I ask him whether he similarly thinks that it would be right to ridicule the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, whose expertise is unchallenged and who sits on the Cross Benches and is politically objective, who said on 9th September that it was not in any way the most significant of the European treaties. Or perhaps he wants to ridicule our own Lords Select Committee, which said in paragraph 134 of its report of 31st October:

"The extension of EU law in this Treaty seems relatively limited by comparison"— with other treaties. It continues:

"we repeat our earlier conclusion that 'it is clear that the balance of power is going to shift from the Commission to the Member States'".

Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, reiterated that point again today in his excellent contribution to our debate, a contribution on behalf of our own committee, not prompted by party politics but by a clear-headed and objective view of what the treaty may cover.

In particular, I should like to turn to the questions on European defence. European defence issues have exercised many of your Lordships. In addressing them, I must also address the issues around NATO. Like the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Inge, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, for his excellent leadership of the NATO alliance. The Government's position remains clear: NATO is fundamental to the UK and European Union security policy. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, said, it is the heart of our defence and the vital hinge between Europe and North America. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay, and the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford—nobody disputes NATO's pre-eminent role. The Prime Minister made that clear very recently, but so have our friends in Germany and France. The German Foreign Minister, who spoke to the UK and France recently, said that it is the "alliance par excellence".

Those comments have not just been made in press conference statements. The UK, France and Germany have jointly proposed language for a new EU treaty that removes any reference to a group of EU states operating a collective defence commitment. Instead it states clearly that NATO remains the basis of collective defence. I hope to reiterate the Government's commitment in that respect when I represent the Government at the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels tomorrow.

The IGC issues have been addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, in a thoughtful and innovative speech, the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and the noble Lord, Lord Blaker. I shall address, not the IGC issues, but those of defence planning, which lie at the heart of most of the concerns that have arisen. The agreed framework has been that EU-led operations are considered only when NATO as a whole is not engaged. Secondly, when the EU considers options for an operation, it has automatic access to NATO's facilities, in particular to those that shape. Any substantial military operation, such as an EU-led operation in Bosnia, would be planned through NATO. But, thirdly, there will be cases where it may make sense for an EU-led nation to lead the planning of an EU mission. We have been over that ground before.

What is now under discussion in the EU is how to develop the EU's capacity for planning. That includes looking at how the EU carries out longer-term planning to anticipate crises, particularly in operations including civilian and military elements. We are discussing those ideas with allies and partners. President Bush has said that he backs the Prime Minister's judgment on that. I note that the SACEUR said this morning on the radio that what matters here is not the principle of developing EU capacity but how it is done. I agree. When the Government are in a position to make an announcement, we shall do so. But I assure noble Lords that we will do nothing that undermines NATO.

Noble Lords raised issues about defence personnel retention. Over the past 12 months, there has been a 4.3 per cent reduction in overall outflow from the Armed Forces. That is good news to add to the record recruitment figures. On capabilities, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Boyce, said that however clever technology was, it did not deliver the ability to be in two places at once. He is quite right, but I can tell him that, as of 17th November, 38 per cent of the Army were committed to operations, of which 20 per cent were actually deployed on operations, by comparison with 50 per cent committed and 54 per cent deployed in late April. The figures are improving. We remain committed to achieving a balance of commitments and aim to commit personnel to operations for no longer than is absolutely necessary to achieve our military aims. Personnel are withdrawn from operations at the earliest opportunity.

I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Burlison for his comments about the importance of procurement to our regional industrial base. That is a very important issue, and I am very pleased that the MoD has now adopted a defence industrial policy.

I wish to address the questions on defence budgets raised by the noble and gallant Lords, Lord Guthrie, Lord Inge and Lord Boyce. The MoD's budget has not been cut. It remains as agreed with the Treasury and as announced in the spending review of the 2002 settlement in July last year. I remind the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that it is this Government, a Labour Government, who have promised the biggest increase in defence spending period over the next three years—the biggest increase for 20 years. Three billion pounds are to be added over the next three years.

The noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, raised questions about the size and shape of the Territorial Army. I can reassure him that the enhancements in home defence outlined in the SDR new chapter will add about 700 TA posts. The new chapter in the Strategic Defence Review 1998 remains the foundation. The shape and size of the capability of our Armed Forces will remain as we said.

I will not address the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, about the Black Watch. I will write to the noble Lord about that matter. Like the noble Lord, Lord Blaker, I was hugely impressed this evening by the breadth of the important issues covered. A number of your Lordships asked questions about specific countries and, when those were raised by only one or two Lords, I undertake to write to them, because we all deserve to go home at some point this evening. Perhaps noble Lords will forgive me if I beg that indulgence.

I end this evening with four conclusions about the foreign policy environment in which we now operate. I do that drawing from my experience as a Minister dealing with foreign affairs and defence since 1997. I dealt with the events of 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the events in Bali, the Iraq crisis and now, of course, the most recent difficulties that we have experienced with our own staff in Istanbul. First, international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction present potentially catastrophic threats to our security, especially if those two threats come together. They are and will continue to be our top concerns. We must continue to tackle them assertively using every means at our disposal. The security threats cannot be viewed in isolation, however. They are part of a wider global agenda which includes economic development and tackling poverty and diseases such as HIV/Aids—as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said—malaria and tuberculosis, environmental degradation, conflict and state failure.

That leads me to my second conclusion. By their very nature, those issues affect collective international interests. There are so many of them and they are on such a huge scale that no one country can deal with them alone. We have to work with others. The challenge is to make the collective effective. For that we need strong international institutions. The United Nations is at the heart of our international system. We need a strong world forum to permit strong collective action. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, reminded us, we need the WTO to create a global open trading system and the international financial institutions to bolster economic stability. We also need to move on those issues soon, as the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, made very clear.

We also need the political will to act, so my third conclusion is that, above all, we must get the United States and Europe to work together. Together, we represent over 50 per cent of global exports. We provide about 70 per cent of total overseas development assistance and nearly 80 per cent of global foreign direct investment outflows. We own over 70 per cent of the world's foreign direct investment stock and we are indeed the liberal democracies who have the same fundamental values. Therefore, I strongly agree with what my noble friend Lord Radice said, and I strongly disagree with what my noble friend Lord Gilbert said. I believe that the choice between Europe and the United States is not a real one. We face the same problems and we need to work on them together. We have complementary assets to bring to the table. Over the past 12 months, the concept of transatlantic co-operation seems to have slipped from view in some quarters. Let us face it on both sides of the Atlantic. We must now restore that mutual political confidence.

My final conclusion is not only that our international agenda is increasingly interlinked, but that foreign and domestic policies are also inextricably intertwined. They are linked on the issues of faith and culture and on the importance of dialogue in this country and overseas with those who share our beliefs and cultures and with those who do not. The Foreign Office and the Home Office have made huge efforts on those issues. I do not share the apocalyptic view quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. I know that he did not share that view either, but I do think that we have a great deal of work to do on the issue.

That means that international policy is a task for the whole of government. It does not involve just the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development. It involves the domestic departments, too. They are the Department of Health on AIDS; the Department for Education and Skills on improving standards in poor countries; the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on archaeological issues; and Defra on the environment; and, yes, the Church should be involved as regards interfaith relationships.

The new Foreign and Commonwealth Office strategy paper laid before Parliament yesterday analyses the new international context in more detail. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for his kind remarks about it. It sets out our operating assumptions about how the world is likely to change and identifies the United Kingdom's international priorities over the next decade. It is intended to encourage a clearer, more strategic approach across government to the challenges that we face. I commend it to your Lordships.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Whitty, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned until tomorrow.