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My Lords it gives me great pleasure to open this debate on Her Majesty’s gracious Speech, in which we will consider the Government’s priorities for foreign affairs, European affairs, international development and defence. Those priorities are: to protect our people; safeguard international order; and invest in development.
I would like to record my appreciation for the expertise noble Lords bring to debates. It is a resource I value greatly. The House has, for example, benefited from the expertise in the educational field by the contributions made by my noble friend Lady Perry of Southwark over the past 25 years. Today we will hear her valedictory speech. I value her friendship and her role in this House highly and wish her well in her retirement. We also look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell.
I feel privileged to be the Minister responsible for leading the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s work to promote respect for human rights and freedoms around the world. Violations and abuses of human rights create unstable, undemocratic societies where extremism can take root and terrorism can flourish. The absence of democratic freedom, good governance, and the rule of law undermines prosperity because it hinders enterprise, reduces innovation, and restricts opportunity. This damages our scope to trade with other countries, create jobs and boost growth. That is why in the last Session the Foreign and Commonwealth Office refreshed and strengthened its approach to human rights.
Our annual Human Rights and Democracy report, published just last month, sets out how we will continue to strive to defend human rights, firmly believing that to do so is in the UK national interest. We will focus on 30 priority countries. This allows us to make the most of our strengths, influence and global network. It allows our diplomats to focus on the issues where they can make the greatest difference—from LGBT rights to the abolition of the death penalty, to protecting rights to freedom of religion or belief, or no belief.
A highlight of my work continues to be taking forward the ground-breaking initiative of my noble friend Lord Hague of Richmond on the prevention of sexual violence in conflict. We are making progress. Victims are being supported. Experts in healthcare, security and law are being educated and trained. Perpetrators are being brought to justice as a result of UK support. This year we are focusing on tackling stigma, which sees many survivors ostracised from their communities. We must challenge the attitudes that cause this to happen. We must shift the burden of shame from the victim to the perpetrator.
The importance of this work was brought home to me during my visit earlier this year to Nigeria. Women and young girls who had escaped from Boko Haram were suffering a double trauma: stigma about their experiences in captivity was significantly hindering their return to their communities and their families. The welcome news last week about the release of Amina Ali, one of the Chibok girls, brought this home starkly. Amina came back with a child born to a Boko Haram fighter. In Nigeria, as elsewhere, this issue needs to be addressed urgently, and we plan to work with PSVI champions around the world to identify ways to give survivors better support.
Promoting accountability will also be crucial. That is why we will also be encouraging more widespread use of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, and encouraging security forces to do more to prevent and respond to these crimes.
The FCO, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development have together made great progress in promoting the women, peace and security agenda. I am pleased to say that General Messenger is now the Ministry of Defence military champion for women, peace and security and for PSVI. It is a privilege to work closely with him to ensure that we deliver on our national action plan commitments—in particular, that by November, all British troops deploying on overseas missions will receive training on women, peace and security.
At the United Nations high-level review on women, peace and security last October, my noble friend Lady Verma announced the UK’s eight new commitments. These included increasing women’s participation in peace processes and peacebuilding, and ensuring that our military doctrine and analysis work are gender-sensitive. We also pledged $1 million to support the creation of the United Nations global acceleration instrument. The United Nations comes up with some rather odd descriptions for straightforward things but what this does, straightforwardly, is support and empower women to play a role in preventing conflict, building peace and ensuring a lasting recovery.
This is exactly what our diplomats and UK-funded projects are doing in conflict zones and areas recovering from conflict. In Syria and Yemen we are working to ensure women are represented at and participate in peace talks. In Libya our projects are promoting women’s rights and their participation in the drafting of the constitution, and in the process of national dialogue and reconciliation. We will use our influence at the United Nations to continue to promote women’s participation in the peace and post-conflict processes in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and South Sudan. In April, I met the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, when I was in Geneva. I welcomed his formation of the Women’s Advisory Board, and we agreed to continue to support board members and to look more broadly at women’s representation in the peace processes. This agenda will also feature prominently at the London peacekeeping summit this September.
My noble friend Lady Verma would normally be with us on the Front Bench today, but she is representing the UK at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. We are proud of our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on overseas development. Like our support for human rights, it is firmly in the UK’s national interest—rather than wait for the problems of the world to arrive on our doorstep, we must take action to tackle them at source.
The world is changing and our strategy on aid needs to change with it. That is why we have restructured our aid budget. The UK aid strategy aims to create a healthier, more stable and more prosperous world, shaped around four strategic objectives. The first is strengthening peace, security and governance. At least half of DfID’s budget will be spent on stabilising and supporting broken and fragile states and regions, including regions of strategic importance to the UK, such as the Middle East and south Asia. Second is strengthening resilience and crisis response. That means preparing countries to deal with emergencies and improving the speed and quality of humanitarian response. Third is promoting global prosperity. By that we mean helping to boost growth and create jobs so that countries can lift themselves out of poverty, as well as providing growing markets and trading partners for Britain. Finally, there is tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable. The UK lobbied hard to ensure the UN’s global sustainable development goals focused on this, and we will continue to champion them.
The gracious Speech emphasised our role in safeguarding international order. In the Middle East and north Africa we must work to counter the extremist threats that Daesh and its affiliates pose to the stability of the region. As Daesh is pressurised in Iraq and Syria, we have seen branches appear in other countries, most notably in Libya. We remain committed to supporting the Libyan Government of National Accord. Just last week in Vienna, we and the international community reaffirmed our support for the GNA and called on legitimate military and security forces in Libya to bring together their military and security in the form of a unified command under the GNA to fight Daesh.
On Syria, the Government are clear that we need an inclusive political solution to the conflict that will deliver a transition away from Assad to a Government who provide stability and represent all Syrians, and with whom we can work to tackle Daesh.
We will continue to support efforts to reach this political solution, working with our international partners in the International Syria Support Group and the UN Security Council, supporting the UN special envoy’s efforts to facilitate intra-Syrian negotiations in Geneva. We will continue to play a leading role in alleviating humanitarian suffering, as we did recently when hosting the Supporting Syria and the Region conference. That raised more than $12 billion in one day, the largest amount ever for a humanitarian crisis.
The regime continues to block and delay access by humanitarian convoys to besieged areas such as Darayya, and to pilfer medical supplies from them. This is unacceptable. The ISSG called on the United Nations World Food Programme to carry out a programme of air bridges and air drops, starting on
The United Kingdom will continue to play a leading role in the campaign against Daesh, in Syria as well as in Iraq, as part of the Government’s commitment to keep this country safe from threats of terror. The global coalition of 66 countries and international organisations has a comprehensive strategy to defeat Daesh. We are attacking it militarily, squeezing its finances, disrupting the flow of fighters, challenging its poisonous ideology and working to stabilise liberated areas. Over the last 18 months, the UK conducted air strikes and provided advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assistance in support of the coalition effort in Iraq and Syria. We are making progress. Daesh is under pressure.
The total number of Daesh fighters is estimated to be at its lowest for two years. Its senior figures are being targeted and killed at an increasing rate. It has lost about 40% of the territory it once held in Iraq and 10% of the territory it held in Syria. Thousands of people have been freed from its rule and been able to return safely to their homes. In recent months, Daesh has lost control of Hit and Ramadi in Iraq. In Syria it has lost the strategic Tishrin dam and its former stronghold of Al-Shadadi, on a key route between Mosul and Raqqa. By halting and reversing its territorial advance, global coalition military action has squeezed Daesh’s sources of revenue.
We must continue to expose Daesh for what it is: a failing organisation that is losing territory, struggling to pay its fighters and betraying Islam and all it stands for. We must ensure that Daesh is held to account for its barbaric crimes against majorities and minorities: against Shia and Sunni Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, Kurds and others. This Government will work with our international partners to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. Two years ago, the United Kingdom co-sponsored the UN Human Rights Council resolution mandating the investigation of Daesh abuses in Iraq. We are now working hard to find ways to support the gathering of evidence which could be used by courts to hold Daesh to account, while also seeking to provide victim support and justice for those who have suffered so severely. Ultimately, the only way to put an end to these crimes and liberate the people of Iraq and Syria is to defeat Daesh.
Furthermore, we must look at the complete disregard for international humanitarian law and international human rights law by the Syrians. Civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools and medical facilities, have been targeted by cluster bombs, barrel bombs and chemical weapons, killing as many as 400,000 people and resulting in millions of refugees and displaced people. Assad and Daesh have callously used siege and starvation tactics. We continue to support the UN Commission of Inquiry’s investigations into human rights violations and abuses in Syria.
The clock is ticking in many senses. In 31 days’ time, the referendum will give voters in this country the opportunity to decide whether the UK should remain a member of the European Union or leave the EU. It will be an historic moment. The Government are clear that the United Kingdom will be stronger, safer and better off as a member of a reformed European Union. We will be stronger because we can play a leading role in one of the world’s largest organisations from within, helping make the big decisions that affect our future. We will be safer because we can work closely with other countries to fight cross-border crime and terrorism, giving us strength in numbers in a dangerous world. We will be better off if we retain full access to the European single market of 500 million people—the largest in the world—bringing jobs, investment, lower prices and financial security. This is the best trade deal of all, better than anything we could get outside the EU. A vote to leave would mean that Britain would be permanently poorer to the tune of approximately £4,300 a year for every household.
Of course, the task of reforming Europe goes on—and it must—but our special status in Europe gives us the best of both worlds. It means that families across the UK get all the benefits of being in the EU, including more jobs, lower prices and greater security. At the same time, we are out of the parts of Europe that do not work for us.
I am most grateful to my noble friend. I wonder whether she recalls telling the House:
“In setting out requirements for the Government to provide information, we must clearly set out a distinction between what the Government should provide and what will be the role of the designated lead campaigners. My belief is that the most useful role for the Government is to give information about the nature of membership to aid understanding and inform the public. The designated lead campaigners will interpret this information and provide strong arguments—on both sides, no doubt”.—[Official Report, 23/11/15; col. 472.]
Does she think that she is fulfilling that promise?
I not only remember it but have double-checked it on several occasions, having had one or two offline conversations with my noble friends. I am absolutely sure that what I said then is exactly what the Government have done. The Government have a role to play in these matters; they have a position. Our Prime Minister negotiated the settlement that is before the United Kingdom and those who are eligible to vote. It is right that, before we reach the period of purdah, the Government should provide information. Indeed, an independent survey showed that 85% of the population wanted the Government to provide more information.
As I say, of course the task of reforming Europe goes on. We will never join the euro. We have reached agreement on that. We are in a special position. We will never be part of eurozone bailouts. We will not be part of the Schengen agreement, a European army or a European superstate. The benefits of continued membership greatly outweigh the costs of leaving.
I turn to an allied procedural matter; it may be for the convenience of the House if I do so at this stage. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, has tabled an amendment to the Motion before us. My noble friend Lord Howe will go into rather more detail than I because we have not heard the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Owen, at this point. But it may be helpful if I say that the Government will be happy to accept the noble Lord’s amendment because we want to reassure people that this issue is already adequately dealt with. The Government’s position remains that protection of the NHS is non-negotiable, but that there is no threat to the NHS from TTIP. The current draft of the TTIP text includes a wide range of protections for the NHS that draw on the exemptions and protections that already operate successfully in the trade deals we have signed with more than 160 countries around the world. With all this in mind, we are happy to accept the principle of ensuring appropriate protections and exemptions for the NHS in TTIP. Given the range of provisions already proposed, we do not think it is necessary to bring forward domestic legislation, but we are happy to keep this under review as negotiations continue.
To close, the gracious Speech gave the Government the opportunity to set out their plans for the coming year. At a time when the challenges we face seem only to be increasing, it shows a Government determined to play a leading role in facing up to them and to use global presence and influence to boost security, prosperity and human rights around the world, both in the national interest and for the benefit of others.
There is no doubt that, whatever topic noble Lords care to cover in today’s debate, our country’s part in creating a just, safe, secure and sustainable world will be hugely impacted by the people’s decision on
The leave campaign cannot sweep away the effects of that interim period, nor can it dodge any longer the questions about what alternatives to membership may look like. Mark Carney has already warned that a vote to leave in June could tip the country into recession, and the CBI’s Carolyn Fairbairn has warned that it would cause “a serious shock” to the UK economy. The words of many in the Brexit campaign take us back to a future reminiscent of the 1980s, when it was said that unemployment was a price worth paying and things such as paid leave and health and safety were red tape holding progress back. That is not how we on this side of the House see it.
Of course, the EU is not just about economic security. As a nation, we have a moral and practical interest in preventing conflict, preventing terrorism, supporting the poorest in the world and halting climate change. The EU has helped to keep the peace in Europe for decades, which is all the more important at a time of instability in Ukraine and the Middle East. By working with our partners in the EU, we have achieved global agreement on goals for sustainable development and new emissions targets. We need to do more to reduce aid dependency and foster good government by supporting developing countries to collect their own taxes. We need global agreement on tax transparency and to ensure that companies pay their tax in-country.
Following last week’s anti-corruption summit, we have the promise of legislation to tackle corruption and tax evasion. One immediate step would be for the Government to push for information on company ownership in overseas territories to be made public. Another would be to ensure that the UK’s taxation treaties with other countries are not seen as simply a matter for the Treasury but as something that DfID should be involved in as an integral part, so that global tax fairness becomes a priority for the Government.
On human rights, I pay tribute to the work of this Government, and the previous one, in helping to change global opinion on the issue of gender-based violence. This is not limited to the evil of war-time rape. As the Minister said, it is all too evident in the recent examples from Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan, Somalia and India. There are things that we need to address.
Unfortunately, although the Minister mentioned it, women’s participation in peacebuilding—a key issue—remains woefully low. Women’s peacebuilding at local level is not being translated into formal peace talks. Since 2001, Afghan women have been continually sidelined in the peace discussions; Syrian women have been excluded from talks and are now part of an advisory board, which is consulted but not formally involved in the talks as the terms exclude organisations that do not bear arms or have territory. The UK has taken steps, as the Minister highlighted, to make commitments to participation, but until we agree not to host peace, security or development talks without the presence of women, there will be little progress.
Human rights are universal and mature democracies should support the development of free societies everywhere, while upholding their own legal and moral obligations. The EU has played a vital role in protecting human rights globally. One significant area for me has been its part in protecting LGBTI rights by implementing anti-discrimination laws, recognising and promoting same-sex marriage, and funding work that fights discrimination. While the Government have spoken up strongly for the rights of lesbian and gay people—here I pay tribute to the work of the Minister—our efforts would not be as effective on our own. Being part of the EU has changed the world for people like me. I hope the Minister will outline the Government’s priorities for the LGBTI rights conference in Uruguay in July and that the Government will be represented at ministerial level.
Today marks the start of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. Sadly, as noted by the International Development Committee of the other place, there was a distinct lack of agreement on what the priorities of the summit should be. In the light of this, I hope the Minister will indicate the Government’s expectations for the outcome of this conference. Do they plan, for example, to become a founding donor of the Education Cannot Wait fund for education in emergencies, which is being launched there?
On preventing conflict and terrorism, there were notable omissions in the gracious Speech. The UK’s longest-standing ally, Saudi Arabia, has been supporting the Yemeni President in the recent conflict there, and our Government have supplied weapons export licences worth £3 billion to the Saudis, despite a UN expert panel report documenting breaches of international humanitarian law. We should suspend such sales until a proper investigation into those breaches is concluded. Last month the Commons called on the Government to make an immediate referral to the UN Security Council that Christians, Yazidis and religious minorities in Syria and Iraq are suffering genocide. The Government indicated then that any referral must be evidence-based. So why not tell us what has been gathered so far, and when they will be in a position to have enough to go to the Security Council?
If we are to have the international security and stability that we seek, development, defence and diplomacy have to go together. Last November’s national security strategy and SDSR outlined the UK’s defence strategy up to 2025. Chapter 5 set out how the Government will,
“protect and promote our interests and values”,
“diplomats, development assistance, Armed Forces, security and intelligence agencies, law enforcement and soft power”.
The Government need to demonstrate this joined-up, whole-government approach more convincingly—an approach that should also recognise the new policy statement, UK Aid: Tackling Global Challenges in the National Interest. The new £1 billion Conflict, Stability and Security Fund is welcome, but the strategies are far from clear. My noble friend Lord McConnell has repeatedly asked that the Government consider allocating time for a full debate on the strategies behind these two critical new commitments, and I would welcome a positive response from the Minister tonight on this subject.
Since we joined the European Union, British foreign policy has had two key pillars. The first is exercising a leading role in Europe, and the second is being the principal ally of the United States. As President Obama made clear, leaving the EU would have an impact on not just one but both of those pillars. The threats that we face as a nation today relating to terrorism, migration and cross-border crime are shared with our nearest neighbours. Any coherent UK foreign and security strategy has to be founded on that European strategy, with our shared values and interests in peace and security.
My Lords, I hope I speak for all sides of the House in saying how much we appreciate the openness of the Ministers from the international departments to Members of this House interested in international affairs. It makes for a more informed debate, and I hope that it helps Ministers that there are so many people in the House who go to very many parts of the world and come back with their own impressions. We do not take this for granted and are very appreciative.
Britain’s foreign policy is shaped much more by events beyond our borders—“Events, dear boy”, as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan once said—than by government Bills set out in the Queen’s Speech. The speech itself touches on,
“climate change and … major international security, economic and humanitarian challenges”,
that we face, with specific references to the Middle East and to the pursuit of sustainable development. However, it does not place these remarks in the context of the relatively peaceful and prosperous 20 years that we have enjoyed since the end of the Cold War, and the much darker economic and security prospects we now face. Looking back, I am afraid that our historians may see the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century as a happy interlude of liberal internationalism, under largely benign American leadership, before the world returned to greater global disorder. My noble friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches will touch on other issues, in what will be a long debate, but I want to stress some broader themes.
First, whoever wins the American presidential election, it seems clear that the United States is no longer capable of playing, or inclined to play, a central role in maintaining global order or, in particular, in providing a security umbrella for Europe. When people in Washington now refer to NATO, they seem to mean the European allies rather than the American security commitment—Donald Trump has even suggested he might want the United States to withdraw from the alliance. US attention is fixed on east Asia, above all on China, and on Latin America. They look to the Europeans to play a larger role in coping with regional disorder across north and central Africa and the Middle East—we have to do more ourselves.
What we face across Africa and the Middle East, stretching into south Asia, is a long-term crisis resulting from the exposure of traditional societies to very rapid modernisation and from the consequent retreat to fundamentalism and authoritarian government, compounded by climate change and—above all—by the unsustainable growth in their populations. The noble Lord, Lord King, remarked last Wednesday that the population of Kenya has multiplied since he was a young Army officer serving there from 5 million to 45 million. The population of Africa as a whole has trebled in 60 years, and across the Middle East it has grown only a little more slowly. There is not enough water, not enough jobs and often not enough food, as well as often only corrupt and brutal government. So frustrated young men, without the prospects of work or marriage, fall prey to radical ideologies or struggle to reach the richer and safer countries of Europe.
This is the long-term migration crisis with which we will have to struggle over the next 10 to 20 years and more: not the hundreds of thousands that travel across Europe to work in each other’s countries, many of whom eventually return, but the millions and tens of millions who see no hope in staying in their homelands and push north across the Mediterranean. Migration Watch has its emphasis wrong: it is not European migration that is the problem; it is global migration.
That is what justifies the development spending to which we are committed and which we rightly use to co-operate with like-minded Governments—the French, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch and so on—to moderate the social and economic tensions from which developing countries are suffering. We have learnt that focusing on the role of women, as the Minister said in her opening speech, and improving their economic and social position, is key to slowing the growth of population and promoting sustainable development.
I hope, after the anti-corruption summit, that we have also learnt that allowing those who have captured control of such unstable states to hide their wealth in London, or offshore centres under British sovereignty, contributes to the flow of the desperate and the poor. I look forward to seeing the detail of the criminal finances Bill to tackle corruption and money laundering promised in the Queen’s Speech.
Then there is the puzzle of Russia: a weak economy with a declining population puffing itself up by threatening its neighbours and Europe as a whole. Its aircraft test our maritime borders, its propaganda efforts reach into our media and its intelligence services murder Russian citizens on British soil. We have no choice but to work with our neighbours and allies to contain the Putin regime.
Liberal Democrats in the coalition Government welcomed the growing foreign policy, security and defence co-operation between the UK and our partners across the channel, and fought hard to persuade our Conservative partners to inform Parliament and the public about how close that had become. We strongly support the analysis of chapter 5 of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review that the EU and NATO make “complementary” contributions to European security and that:
“We will also continue to foster closer coordination and cooperation between the EU and other institutions, principally NATO, in ways which support our national priorities and build Euro-Atlantic security”.
We also strongly support the developing UK-France defence and security relationship, which involves all three services and which plans to have a combined joint expeditionary force operational by the end of this year. Conservative Ministers seem shy of telling the British public—or even Parliament—how valuable this co-operation is to British security, let alone about the work to which the SDSR refers in chapter 5, paragraph 37,
“to intensify our security and defence relationship with Germany”— and with other European partners. Perhaps I can persuade the Minister, in summing up, to tell us a little more about that, without upsetting the Daily Telegraph and the Europhobes within his party.
We cannot manage any of the difficult international issues that we face without co-operation with our European neighbours. I emphasise that co-operation is impossible without trust and mutual respect or in an atmosphere of suspicion, hostility and accusations of conspiracy. That is why the decision on
As the newly elected leader of the Conservative Opposition said in the Commons in April 1975, looking ahead to the previous EU referendum,
“I believe … that the paramount case for being in is the political case for peace and security. … I think that security is a matter not only of defence but of working together in peacetime on economic issues which concern us and of working closely together on trade, work and other social matters which affect all our peoples. The more closely we work together in that way, the better our security will be from the viewpoint of the future of our children”.—[Official Report, Commons; 8/4/1975, col. 1022.]
My Lords, the gracious Speech refers to DfID funding. I wish, sadly, to report on recent visits to conflict areas in Sudan and Burma where DfID funding is not provided, although it is much needed, and where there is a critical need for Her Majesty’s Government to call the Governments of Burma and Sudan to account for continuing military offensives against innocent civilians.
Time permits for only a few examples of evidence of genocidal policies being perpetrated in Sudan’s Nuba mountains and Blue Nile state—the “Two Areas”—and Burma’s Shan and Kachin States. The Government of Sudan, the GoS, use Antonovs, fast fighter jets and long-range missiles to target markets, schools, clinics and families harvesting food. They are constantly breaching international humanitarian law by failing to distinguish between civilians and combatants under the fundamental principle of distinction.
In January, we visited women and children in the Nuba mountains who are forced to live in caves with deadly snakes. One family told us: “We moved to the caves because every day there was bombing by the Antonov. We live here with insects, snakes and scorpions. One woman was recently bitten by a cobra”. In March, the latest GoS dry-season offensive began in the two areas. Ground fighting, aerial bombardment and shelling have increased internal displacement and humanitarian needs where there was already severe food insecurity. The most affected areas are Kurmuk county in Blue Nile, with 14 aerial bombardments and at least 96 bombs, and Heiban and Dalami counties in South Kordofan, where in March alone 146 bombs were dropped in 30 incidents. Last Tuesday, 16 bombs were dropped on Kauda town, some landing in the market, and aerial bombing in Heiban town on
At least 173,000 IDPs are severely food insecure in the two areas and an additional 210,000 are at risk in the coming months. There is therefore a desperate need for cross-border aid. A local leader told us: “We have proposed cross-border aid. The priority for the SPLM-N is the provision for the humanitarian needs of health care and food. The people here can’t eat anything which comes from Khartoum—they couldn’t even feed their animals with it. But Khartoum continues to say ‘no’ to cross- border aid. We want an agreement to allow cross-border aid and for the UN to implement this”. The commissioner of Tobo told us: “The Government of Khartoum is not killing us secretly, they attack in broad daylight. They are killing us loudly, but no one is listening. We have no food, we have no shelter, our children have no education or immunisation. So we are going to keep speaking the truth—we will not be silent”.
Will the Minister say what progress has been made on undertakings already given by Her Majesty's Government to consider the provision of cross-border aid and what measures Her Majesty’s Government have taken to end the impunity with which the Government of Sudan continue to kill innocent civilians?
I turn briefly to Burma. Two weeks ago, we were visiting civilians in and from Shan and Kachin states, where the Burmese army continues military offensives against civilians, aerial bombardment with MIGs and helicopter gunships and violations of human rights, including rape and torture. These have caused massive civilian displacement with an estimated 644,000 internally displaced people resulting from conflict. As recently as
There is fear that this forced displacement may be one aspect of ethnic cleansing of ethnic national peoples and their replacement by Burmese civilians as part of a process of deliberate Burmanisation. There are acute shortages of food and medical care, but we have been advised by our local partner, Shan Women’s Action Network, that DfID’s aid is now channelled through other agencies and does not reach the many civilians in greatest need in areas of active conflict. Will DfID ensure that some of its large-scale resources are made available for life-saving aid in these areas? What representations have Her Majesty’s Government made to the Burmese Government to ensure that the nationwide ceasefire agreement is comprehensive and not just a ploy to allow the Burmese army to use local ceasefires to advance its military positions and that the peace process will enshrine a genuine political solution acceptable to all the peoples of Burma?
My Lords, it may be helpful for the House if I remind your Lordships of the advisory speaking time of five minutes for today’s debate. If this time is adhered to, the House might be expected to rise around 10 pm. With the indulgence of the House, some flexibility may be given for the timings of the valedictory speech made by my noble friend Lady Perry, the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, and the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Owen.
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I look forward to the speeches by the noble Baronesses, Lady Perry and Lady Jowell. I will endeavour not to delay them too long as I highlight four commitments made by the Government in Her Majesty’s gracious Speech, three briefly and the fourth at slightly greater length. In each case, we on these Benches welcome the commitment while offering caveats that we hope may be heeded by those responsible for implementing the programme.
First, we applaud the commitment to introduce legislation to tackle money laundering, corruption and tax evasion. By hosting the recent anti-corruption summit, this country has made clear its opposition to corruption of any kind. However, as a supporter of Christian Aid’s Tax Justice campaign, I wonder if we can be truly effective in tackling this enormous problem without taking measures to improve the transparency of UK tax havens. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, referred to this earlier.
Secondly, we understand the need for an extremism and safeguarding Bill, but we are also very conscious of the way in which some Governments—for example, in Russia, Turkey and Egypt—are increasingly using national security legislation to shackle free speech, not least in the media. We need to ensure that our laws do not somehow legitimise their efforts.
Thirdly, we are delighted that Britain’s commitment on international development spending will continue to be honoured. This is essential if we are to help to deliver greater stability globally, support the sustainable development goals and prevent new threats to national security. However, we must be vigilant that the international development budget continues to be spent on ODA-prescribed activity—not least of the kind highlighted a moment ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Cox—instead of being used simply to subsidise cuts in other areas. Only this month, analysis by the Royal United Services Institute showed that while official ODA spending through the Department for International Development will rise by 3% in real terms, in other departments it will rise by 123%. Indeed, by the end of this decade 73% of the Foreign Office’s budget will come from ODA, compared with just 10% in 2010. Of course we welcome the breaking down of barriers between departments, but we need to be careful that those boundaries do not become so porous that ODA money is used for non-ODA purposes.
Fourthly, we were greatly encouraged by the commitment in the gracious Speech to honour the military covenant. Together with other Members of the House, I recently attended a useful briefing on the covenant at the Ministry of Defence, and I know how much it means both to those currently serving in our Armed Forces and to ex-service personnel. As national chaplain to the Royal British Legion I spent last weekend at its annual conference, which this year was in Eastbourne. The military covenant was mentioned several times.
The caveat here has to do with mental health. Within the Armed Forces there is a 10% incidence of depression, compared with about 6% in the wider community. Sadly, we are all aware of the high risk of suicide among younger veterans, especially in the first two years after leaving service. The Government have already committed significant sums of money to tackling this issue in society as a whole as well as in the forces, but research suggests that delivery is patchy, to say the least. Just yesterday, the legion resolved to set up mental health centres around the UK to provide “timely and effective” clinical treatment and welfare support to its beneficiaries. That is laudable, but it should not be necessary. There is much still to be done as we seek to implement the military covenant; the churches have a part to play in this as well, since last February the two archbishops signed a corporate covenant with the Armed Forces on behalf of the Church of England.
Later this year several of us will be involved in various ways with events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. That awful battle resulted in the deaths of more than a million soldiers but it also left many of those who survived physically with deep emotional and mental scars. In our own day we know that mental health problems are higher than average for veterans who have served in Northern Ireland and subsequent peacekeeping operations. I hope that our commitment to the military covenant means that we will provide them with the help they both need and deserve.
My Lords, I too look forward to the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, and I thank my colleagues for their kind support.
Although education is not today’s topic, it is the target of much of our overseas aid and the foundation of everything which establishes this country’s place in the world order. Education changes lives and changes societies. I love what the writer Malinowski said, “In the life history of every individual, education is that which either bestows upon them the freedom of their culture, or else deprives them of it”. How right he was. Good education gives to our young people the freedom of our culture as a nation: an open mind, strong values and character, the richness of science, language, art, music, history, and so much more. But poor education, whether in the failing schools of our own country or in areas of extreme poverty in the wider world, indeed deprives the young of the freedom of their culture.
I will say something about where my passion for education stems from. In my first teaching post in this country, and at my request, I was sent to a girls’ secondary modern school in the worst slum area of Wolverhampton. The height of ambition for those lovely girls was to get a job in what they called the “dirty room”—the acid room—of the Eveready factory near the school, because, although they knew that they would lose the ends of their fingers after a few years, it paid better than any other available job. They were bright, often clever girls, but were given no challenge in the curriculum on offer in the school, and no hope for a more ambitious future.
I was expecting my second baby during my time as their teacher, and they made me promise to bring the baby to see them after I left. I kept my promise and brought my baby daughter to meet them. From their precious small resources those dear girls had clubbed together to present her, with huge solemnity, a small silver spoon they could ill afford—to remind her, they said, with good West Midlands humour, of, “the months she had to spend in this horrible place”. They had won my heart in my time as their teacher, but as I thought of the future that awaited them, my heart broke for them. From that day, I vowed to do what I could to see an offering of different education for young people like them—one which would raise their aspirations and their life chances.
However, education gives more than the life chances of individuals; it is the necessary condition for the,
“publick wealth, peace and tranquillity of the Realm”,
in the lovely words of our daily Prayers. Economic growth and productivity depend on a well-educated and skilled population. Social cohesion and equality depend on the transforming power of education, and the advancement of technology, as well as our ability to deal with it, depend on education.
I am happy that on all sides of this House we agree that those who teach are the single most crucial factor. Respect for the professionalism of teachers in school and lecturers in universities means giving them freedom to determine the best approach with their pupils and students, and helping them to gain the best results. Governments in free countries will always respect the limits of intrusion into this process, because academic freedom, like press freedom, is one of the cherished gifts of a free society.
I have always been better at looking forward than looking back, but on this occasion it is surely right to look back over 25 years. I came into the House in1991 on the honours list, not on a party list, and I am so proud that I chose to sit on the Conservative Benches. However, the friendships that I value have come from all parties and none. Of the many good and treasured memories of 25 years, the work of Select Committees will be the strongest. As a member of at least 10 different committees and a member of the Science and Technology Committee for over 15 years, I have enjoyed some great committee chairmen. Battles on the Floor of the House have brought some moments of triumph. In the 13 years of opposition, I have much for which to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for the days when we collaborated in ensuring that education Bills were better when they left this House than when they arrived.
These past six years—with my huge thanks to my noble friend Lady Anelay, who appointed me—I have enjoyed the privilege of working as a party Whip. I have worked with a splendidly loyal flock, who have become good friends. However, with my fellow Whips and my fellow party Whips, I found friendship and a wonderful team spirit, and I thank my team-mates for the collegiality and good fun which have made the long days and busy weekends almost a pleasure. I cannot praise too highly the leadership of our Chief Whip, who carries the great burden of that role with such a light touch and a great heart, and who makes those who work for him such a happy team. We are indeed fortunate to have as a chief someone who commands the respect of all sides of the House and the affection of those of us who work in his team.
I have so much to be thankful for in the huge privilege of 25 years of membership of this noble House, and I leave with nothing but praise for the work done here: for the quality of debate; for the comradeship and laughter; for the influence it has over the Executive in scrutiny of legislation, and for the work that individual Lords do in liaison with the public over issues which might otherwise be ignored.
Not only the Members but the wonderful staff throughout the House—the attendants here in the Chamber, the clerks in their many roles and the staff in the Library and the refreshment and banqueting departments—all maintain the best of tradition, and I salute them wholeheartedly for their professionalism and for their personal help and kindness to me throughout the years. I am both proud and humbled to have been a Member here.
Some friends have asked me why I have chosen to retire from work I enjoy. I can reply only with a misquote of one US politician—that I would rather people asked me why I was retiring than wonder why I was not. More seriously, there are persuasive reasons why I have chosen to go. I believe it is important that your Lordships’ House is constantly refreshed with new and younger Members without the overall size of the House becoming too great. For the first 20 years after I entered the House, I headed first a university, then a Cambridge college, and then I was involved with local authorities and schools, so I was able, like many noble Lords, to bring first-hand experience to the work of the House. As that involvement declines, I am happy now to stand aside, knowing that others, on these and other Benches, will bring fresh and current experience to the work of the House, and I know it will be the richer for that.
One other powerful reason is that I am, by God’s grace, still healthy enough in mind and body to build a life in retirement. I have a book to write—my fifth, although it is 10 years since my fourth was published—and I am excited about getting back to writing. I have a job to do to help my Cambridge college to raise funds for its teaching, and I have beloved family scattered around the world whom I want to visit. I do not want to wait to retire until these activities become less possible.
Of the many gifts that my darling husband gave me, none is more important than his oft-repeated conviction that “there’s always one more adventure”. As we whisked across the Atlantic several times and across the North American continent, dropping babies as we went, he taught me always to embrace the anticipation of “one more adventure”. And so it is in that spirit that I look forward to life in retirement as the next great adventure.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow my noble friend Lady Perry in her valedictory speech. I know that all Members of the House are well aware of her very distinguished career in education. She was a great Chief Inspector of Schools and of course she was the first ever British woman to run a university. I am told that when asked whether a woman was capable of that role, she said, “Just because I am small and female doesn’t mean I’m not tough”. So it seems rather appropriate that it should be the anniversary of the capture of Joan of Arc by the Burgundians that sees us lose this formidable, doughty champion. She has won so many awards and distinctions, dozens of doctorates and honorary fellowships, and the freedom of the City of London. But we know that she has also done something far more distinguished: she sat on all those boring sub-committees and commissions that we set up, and turned out work of great quality and character. We shall miss her.
I read in the newspaper that the Prime Minister was thinking of appointing another 25 Peers to this House. He will need every single one of them to replace my noble friend. She is not afraid to take on tough jobs—she has been my Whip for a number of years. We wish her well in her new adventure; I just wish I was going with her.
I am a fly fisherman; would that raising a fish was as easy as it was with the Chief Whip.
The gracious Speech is the matter we are here to debate, and there were many things in it that I thought exciting. As a former Prisons Minister, I think that what Michael Gove is trying to do with prisons is one of the most exciting things. In my day, it was pretty grim, and since then the numbers have gone up considerably. Similarly, the powers for the security services are important matters concerned with our safety.
Whoever wrote the gracious Speech did not have the benefit of having consulted my noble friend Lady Perry. I thought that the grammar, phraseology and repetition could do with a little attention, but I balance that with the fact that whoever wrote it has a bit of a sense of humour. Someone talking from the Throne about autonomous vehicles, having arrived in a horse-driven carriage, shows a degree of dry humour.
The most important part of the Queen’s Speech for me was the fulfilment of the commitment to have a referendum. On the referendum Bill, which was so ably taken through the House by my noble friend Lady Anelay, I have to say that the commitments given by the Government at that time do not seem to have been satisfied. We were told that the Government would produce reports, and my noble friend Lady Anelay said that:
“The Government reports are intended to be informative, objective and evidence-based. It will be for others—the campaigners—to then take from the report such information as perhaps fits their case”.—[Official Report, 23/11/15; col. 501.]
My noble friend says that she has met her commitment, and she is not the only person with a sense of humour on this matter. It is astonishing to me that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who spent the last few weeks telling us of all the horrors that will befall our country if we leave the European Union, should ever have contemplated having a referendum on the subject at all if they really believe that.
The main thing I want to say today is that, as we have seen in America and all over the world, most recently in Austria, there is a complete breakdown of trust in the establishment. The establishment needs to do far better if it is to earn that trust. I got an email from my grandson last night telling me that he did not agree with me on membership of the European Union and setting out some arguments—I see a sea of badges on the Liberal Benches all saying “In”; it looks rather like the entrance to a car park. It was with real shame and lack of pride that I sent him a reply saying, “Unfortunately, you must not believe everything the Prime Minister, the leader of my party, is saying on this matter”, and dealt with the arguments that had been put. I am waiting for his reply.
This morning, I listened on the radio to the Business Secretary Sajid Javid, who was asked about the Treasury report. He was asked why he had not put the other side—the benefits. He said, “It is not for us to do that; that is for the leave campaign”. Yet that flies in the face of what we were told during the passage of the referendum Bill: that the Government would provide information and it would be for the campaigns to decide what happens. We even have the Prime Minister interfering in the process between the designated campaigns and the media in deciding who will take part in the very important television debates. I hope that when Ministers give commitments in debating the Queen’s Speech and our future legislative programme, those commitments will be met, and that we will be able after the referendum is over to come together.
My main point is that, whatever one’s view on the European Union, I do not believe that more of the same will see the European Union keeping pace with the new powerhouse economies, and that more of the same will bring the European Union any closer to its citizens. More of the same will just produce more of the same: less competitiveness, less growth and fewer jobs. And that will make our countries weaker, not stronger. That is why we need fundamental, far-reaching change. These are not my words, but those of the Prime Minister in his Bloomberg speech. In the same speech, he said that,
“the main, over-riding purpose of the European Union is different: not to win peace, but to secure prosperity”.
How does that balance against extreme and rather exaggerated claims that war might break out in Europe if we left the European Union?
Trust in our politics is important. I hope that, as we enter the purdah period at the end of this week, we will have a debate which involves all parties in our country in the facts and the issues at stake, instead of the unfortunate campaign we see at the moment, trying to frighten the horses into bolting to the wrong side of the argument.
My final point comes from my experience during the Scottish referendum. I said to a voter, “If you vote to leave the United Kingdom, there’ll be an £8 billion hole in the budget”. She said, “I don’t believe a word any of you say”. How can we believe a word anyone says when we had Cabinet Ministers on the radio this morning indicating that one Cabinet Minister, in saying something, was saying something else in private? The people deserve to have the facts presented dispassionately as well as passionately, but fairly and properly. That is what we were promised in the referendum Bill and I hope that the rest of the campaign will meet that commitment.
My Lords, I was delighted that the gracious Speech reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to international development spending and identified it as helping to deliver global stability. It was my noble friend Lord Purvis who introduced the legislation in this House to confirm the United Kingdom’s historic commitment to 0.7% of GNI for development.
As others have made clear, we now live in a closely linked, globalised world. A disaster in one part of the world quickly has its effect on us—witness the Syrian crisis or the terror struck by Ebola; think of SARS spreading to five countries in 24 hours and then onwards to six continents. We cannot tackle climate change, global migration or economic crises alone, so rather than reducing we need to strengthen our participation in international groupings—in the EU, but also in the UN and other pan-national bodies.
There are indeed major challenges facing us. There has been a welcome reduction in the number of conflicts between states since the end of the Cold War, but in recent years there has been a sharp increase in the number of conflicts within states. These are often more complex, affect more people and last longer—hence the record number of refugees globally.
Moreover, climate change is likely to contribute further to instability. We have rising populations and mass migration into unsustainable cities in which climate disasters will be magnified. How we deal with such crises has not kept pace with the scale of these changes. Clearly, more and better collaboration is required, not less.
As we speak for the first time, a World Humanitarian Summit is being held. It is meeting in Istanbul, close to where men, women and children are risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean. Those there must recognise the special vulnerability of women and girls in conflict and seek to address it. I was very pleased that in her opening remarks the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, emphasised the importance of that work, but it is astonishing that it took the Dutch Foreign Minister to harangue those who were setting the agenda for that summit to ensure that women and girls should be front and centre. Where were we in those discussions? I share the frustration expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about the lack of central involvement of women in discussions on the future of Syria, for example.
This summit follows the ground-breaking agreement in Paris on climate change and the agreement in New York to endorse the sustainable development goals. The latter promised to end extreme poverty by 2030 while leaving no one behind. Many groups have tended to be left behind—women and girls, as I have said; those with disabilities; older people, as HelpAge and others point out; and those whose sexuality is rejected by the majority. I note with concern that support for LGBT civil society groups in a particularly risky country, which I will not identify but which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, will probably be able to identify immediately, has apparently not yet reached those for whom it was intended. The money was earmarked by my noble friend Lady Featherstone and I oversaw its dispersal to the FCO for the country in question, so I wonder what has happened there.
We know of the particular vulnerability of refugees and refugee children who are therefore out of school, as Save the Children and UNICEF rightly identify. As I refer to education globally, I also pay tribute to the wonderful noble Baroness, Lady Perry, whose quiet, hugely well-informed and cross-party commitment to education has been wonderful. I am very sad that she has decided to leave this House, but it seems as though she is taking the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, with her, so I do hope that they will not be dropping any more babies anywhere.
I welcome the sentence about development in the Queen’s Speech. Let us hope that on
My Lords, what a beautiful farewell that was from my noble friend Lady Perry. It brought a tear to my eye, and of course we all wish her well. It is another treat to be the warm-up artist for the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell. I can only hope that this House will bring her, as it has so many of us, friendship and many years of enjoyment and fulfilment. It is a joy to be able to debate the humble Address in the year of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. What a celebration. Sadly, there are some things that we cannot celebrate.
On both sides of this awful referendum campaign, the arguments so far have spanned the intellectual spectrum all the way from the absurd to the utterly irresponsible. Noble Lords may rest easy: this referendum is not a rerun of World War II, nor will it be the start of World War III. Yet something has gone terribly wrong. In the 25 years since the Berlin Wall came down, our world has turned sour. Europe has become weaker and more threatened. The bizarre outcome of this failure is that the two most effective voices in Europe today are those of President Putin and President Erdogan. Russia faces an appalling future economically and demographically, yet it runs rings around us. Do we really think that we will get the Crimea back, and what a diplomatic car crash we made, even yesterday, of our relations with Turkey, a loyal ally for so many decades?
Europe is not fit to be a single state and the people do not want it. Only the elites find it comfortable, which is why they are trotted out like the mad King Lear to threaten us with all sorts of terrors:
“What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be”.
I wonder how long it will be before that debilitating condition groupthink becomes a treatable condition under the National Health Service. Even the superstars of my own creative industries join in: “Our culture will crumble”. On a clear day, from the red carpet it is almost possible to see as far as the waiting limousine.
I had high hopes for a reformed European Union. I thought that the Prime Minister’s Bloomberg speech was simply wonderful. He said:
“The biggest danger to the European Union comes not from those who advocate change, but from those who denounce new thinking as heresy”.
They listened to him politely. Then they washed their hands.
We need to ask ourselves what will happen on
What will happen if we leave? We are told that on day one there will be a great crash and that everything will fail, but even if on day one the speculators cause a wobble of uncertainty, let me tell you what will happen on day two, week two, month two and year two. The world will recover its senses and recognise that Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy with a wonderfully adaptable and flexible labour force, superb universities, financial skills and all the rest. Our voice will be listened to afresh. What we lose from leaving the EU we can recreate through co-operation. What we gain we will share. We will have control of our laws and our courts. We will have back control of our borders and we can spend our taxes as we decide. We will still be good neighbours, great partners and perhaps even better friends. Britain will not be at the back of the queue; we will be leading the charge.
Can we do all this? Of course we can. The Prime Minister himself said so at Bloomberg. What a wonderful speech that was. He said:
“Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so”.
Those are stirring words and I believed them. It is a quotation ripped not out of context but perhaps out of the history books in an attempt to prevent anyone remembering it.
I offer one final quotation from George Bernard Shaw:
“'You see things; you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say ‘Why not?’”.
I prefer the dreams of Shaw to the madness of Lear or Project Fear. That is why I will be supporting leave.
My Lords, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak in this debate on the Loyal Address and to be doing so for the first time in your Lordships’ House. I thank the noble Lord for his kind introduction. This place throngs with noble Lords who have for years been my heroes and my heroines, as well as my very dear friends, so it is an honour to be able to listen to their speeches and to learn. What a pleasure to have been able to listen to the valedictory speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, who I think is a woman with more than one more adventure inside her.
I extend particular thanks to my two sponsors, my long-standing and dear noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton and my noble friend Lady Lawrence of Clarendon, who has been a heroine of mine for many years and has deserved all the acclaim she has received as a campaigner against racism and for social justice. If only it had not been as a result of such a terrible personal loss. I also thank my mentor and dear noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington. There are so many more to whom I would like to pay tribute, but for the sake of your Lordships’ time and their blushes I will stop there. Of course, I would particularly like to thank all the staff of the House who have been so kind, welcoming and helpful since I arrived here. The doorkeepers, those in the Dining Room and those who welcome guests at the Peers’ Entrance have made me feel so welcome and have been so helpful.
As I was preparing my contribution to the debate today, I consulted my noble friend Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield—who, in turn, recalled asking the late and much-loved Lord Peston in advance of his own maiden speech what happened here. “Gossip and the discussion of ailments”, came the reply. These topics no doubt do get their occasional airing, but I have been so impressed in the short time I have been a Member by the important contribution made by this House in confronting with uncompromising humanity some of the most difficult issues of this time. The campaign led by my noble friend Lord Dubs showed that a confident, optimistic country can indeed distinguish between the fear of a free-for-all in immigration and the chance to give back to a small number of unaccompanied refugee children who have suffered unimaginable trauma their childhood.
Tax credits, support for disabled people and social housing are all causes that will change the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. They were all taken up by your Lordships in the short time that I have been a Member. So I would say to the Prime Minister, in the light of the proposals in the Loyal Address, that, however thwarted he may feel by this House, bad and unfair laws are not improved by curtailing the power of scrutiny in this place.
I sat for 23 years in the other place, both as a Back-Bencher and in government. I do not think there was a single day in my 23 years as a Member of Parliament when I did not feel awe at the responsibility of representing 80,000 people and trying to meet their expectations of me. My former constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood, now so ably represented by my successor, Helen Hayes, represents all I most admire about our country—its diversity, the endless ingenuity of its people, their optimism and their belief in the possibility of change. All my constituents, rich and poor, benefited equally from the dedicated staff at King’s College Hospital. Over all those years we campaigned together with community organisations such as the Brixton Soup Kitchen, Centre 70 and 4ALL, along with many others, and with local parents, for secondary schools which are transforming the ambition of young people so often written off.
My own first job was as a social worker in Brixton, tramping the same streets that I was later lucky enough to represent in Parliament and supporting families who had so much stacked against them. I hope that I will never become inured to what poverty smells like, nor forget the look of disappointment in a young person’s face when they realise that the great opportunity of London seems to be for others and not for them. Our new mayor, Sadiq Khan, carries on his shoulders such high expectations from those dispossessed. I congratulate him so warmly on his victory and pledge to help and support him in every possible way to be, as he wishes, the mayor for all Londoners.
The great issue before this country today is, of course, our membership of the European Union—the focus of so much of today’s debate. I devoutly hope that we will remain in it as fully engaged partners, but with the self-confidence to continue to negotiate change. So a vote to remain is not a vote for the status quo. Amid the daily salvos from warring economists and the claims and counterclaims of the partisans, it is too easy to forget that the European Union is a union of 28 nations, in a continent that saw the deaths of 70 million from wars in the last century, that have bound themselves together by common commitments to standards of human rights, rights at work, democracy, the rule of law and peaceful coexistence. We should never take that for granted.
Of course the EU institutions need to be improved. In many ways, this forthcoming referendum is a reproach to their slow response to public concern about this. Of course the EU faces enormous challenges, but we are not alone in wanting to shake up its inadequate institutions. But the founding optimism, its vision and its purpose are noble ones. We should stand up for them. Of course I respect the sincerely held views of those who want to leave, but behind the go-it-alone rhetoric I detect a deep pessimism. Those who wish to make this leap in the dark discount our importance to the rest of the European Union and the fact that our active engagement is a force for stability and good sense. It is a matter of vital national interest and it is a view which betrays a lack of confidence in our own country, in our ability to lead and win the argument for reform.
Personally, I feel I have been here before. When I proposed that we bid for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, I was told by all sides, “I wouldn’t bother if I were you. Even if we try, we won’t win. The French have it all sewn up—and, if we do win, we won’t be able to host it properly”. “Best not get involved” was the general advice. Here I pay particular tribute to my dear friends, the noble Lords, Lord Coe and Lord Deighton, who always believed that we could do it and did so much to make sure that we did.
And indeed we did. We did make a world-class venue out of a wasteland. We did inspire our young people not just in this country but around the world through International Inspiration. We did lead the world in sport after sport, and in that summer we found a renewed sense of our national identity, of who we are: self-confident and diverse. I think it took us a little by surprise. In those summer weeks four years ago, to recall Abraham Lincoln, we found,
“the better angels of our nature”.
I hope that in that same spirit the people of this country will renew their commitment to the European Union as an optimistic community of nations in which proud and distinct national identities are also the foundation of collective solidarity and open trade.
What I wish for my country, I wish for my own beloved Labour Party. I hope it can embrace the energy of its new and growing membership, who all share a belief that we should help people achieve more together than they can alone. But my party can do that only when it governs. It fails when it becomes a sect of the elect, turning its back on those who are not true believers, and becoming obsessed with rooting out heresy.
My Lords, I am truly honoured to join you. I hope to be useful and constructive, to learn from you and to offer help where I can. The great Seamus Heaney’s last injunction to his wife was, “Noli timere”—“Do not be afraid”. In holding the Executive to account, in defending a just cause even when it is unfashionable, in defending the weak against the strong and in forging our future proudly and confidently in a prosperous, peaceful Europe—in all these endeavours, we need not be afraid.
My Lords, before extending a welcome to the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. I, too, went straight from university to teach and really identified with her story. It encompassed what a lot of young people are like: they might not be well off or very bright but they are generous in spirit. I wish her well and I, too, will miss her.
I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, on her speech. She is a women’s champion, known to all around London as “Tessa”, and a parliamentarian of long and great experience, rightly recognised for her work in London. That culminated in the Olympic Games, which was not only a success but a real Games-changer. No Olympic Games will be the same again. We broke the mould—or rather, the noble Baroness did. In particular, parity for the Paralympians led to a change in public attitude and an equality commitment from Channel 4, resulting in excellent coverage. There was also the wonderful volunteer programme. Talk to anyone who was there and they will tell you that the Games makers made the Games. I look forward to watching what the noble Baroness does in your Lordships’ House. I feel sure that she will make her mark soon.
The gracious Speech had a few references to defence: investment and expenditure, the deterrent and the military covenant. Others on these Benches will speak about the commitment to remain in the EU, but the Minister could not have put the case better in the context of defence. We welcome the renewed commitment to the NATO 2% but would also welcome some clarity on where exactly this 2% is used. Many more items sit under this umbrella, such as pensions and the SIA budget. RUSI suggests that, by the end of this Parliament, we would need to include the joint security fund to hit the 2%. Were we to strip out these add-ons and account as before, would we be well below that number? Is this just creative accounting at the expense of the nation’s security?
On big-ticket items, there is one that can be accounted for in the MoD budget, and that is the deterrent. As yet, there is little clarity about long-term costs. During the coalition, we looked at the alternatives. My party decided to support a three-boat option and, based on that, we will not support a main-gate vote, whenever it should happen. If the Minister were able to shed light on timing, I am sure many in your Lordships’ House would be interested. However, there is an understanding that we are past the point of no return for the Vanguard replacement. Given that we were among the first to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty of 1968, and that there are many decades before we need to look at the new deterrent’s successor, as 2018 is the 50th anniversary of the treaty could we acknowledge this by putting some serious effort into engaging with those who are our allies, and those who are not, in ending this particular arms race?
The 2010 SDSR was all about reshaping our Armed Forces and addressing a serious deficit. Will the Minister update the House on the manpower situation, particularly in specialist areas? Are we on track with the recruitment of reserves in all specialities? Are the actions being taken to recruit and retain engineers in all the forces proving successful? When might the engineer situation no longer be a problem? Will the Minister also clarify the situation for the recruitment of Commonwealth citizens, and the roles they might take?
Last year’s SDSR was to ensure that we had the appropriate ships, planes and weaponry to face the future. Are we also on track for the commissioning, design, and build or manufacture of those items? In particular, is there more clarity about the concept study on the general purpose frigates, and when and where the build might take place to ensure that the RN has the necessary fleet to support the carriers?
My Private Member’s Bill, a BIS Bill—the Register of Arms Brokers Bill—has just had its First Reading. Responsible and robust arms export controls are one of the most crucial ways in which we can ensure that the rule of law and the protection of civilians from violence and repression continue to remain a central cornerstone of the key principles that hold the international community together.
We are committed to the new international arms trade treaty, but we believe it is imperative to tighten our own controls over the arms trade. To that end, we propose that arms sales to authoritarian regimes should be further restricted by introducing a new presumption of denial for arms sales to any country that has been identified as a country of human rights concern. We propose to strengthen further existing controls on arms brokers and dealers by introducing a new registration system which will not only allow for greater disclosure of their businesses arrangements but also act as a vetting mechanism to ensure that only reputable entities are able to undertake international arms trading activities of this type.
The Armed Forces covenant, focusing on housing, education and health, is about the understanding that the performance of a soldier, sailor or airman or woman is critical. I welcome the work with families and individuals that is carried out by SSAFA, the British Legion and other charities. The right reverend Prelate was absolutely spot on when he picked up on the issue of mental health, which is a huge problem across society. In the Armed Forces, it is not much more apparent than in the general public, but it is critical that we pay acute attention to the mental health of our serving men and women. I welcome the intervention of the Secretary of State in the housing issue, but he should not have had to call in CarillionAmey. The complaints were many and vociferous. Will the Minister reassure the House that not only is this situation being rectified at speed but it is being closely monitored—as it should have been previously—and will not recur?
The very backbone of our defence are our Armed Forces, without whom all the best kit in the world is useless. Having spent a year working on the Armed Forces scheme, I have seen at first hand the commitment, professionalism and energy they bring to their work, and support them in all they do in our name.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, on an extremely moving maiden speech. I shall listen to her future contributions with great respect.
A Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Bill—TTIP, as it is commonly called—is vital for this country as the Government have only to sign this treaty and we lose all chance of amendment. The problem with the treaty is not that it is a trade treaty—I have supported every trade treaty in my political life—but it binds into a trade agreement a regulatory activity which could have very profound implications for many of us. It is this aspect to which I particularly wish to draw attention.
First, I pay tribute to the UNITE union, which put the money forward to ask Michael Bowsher QC to make a fully detailed analysis of the treaty. Without this, we would still not have the clarity that is needed. I will quote from what he has said. He is the ex-chairman of the EU Law Committee of the Bar Council and I am told—I do not know whether it is true—that he wishes to remain. So, this is not an issue between remainers and leavers, it is a pretty important issue about how we use treaties to avoid parliamentary scrutiny in both Houses. It does not, therefore, surprise me that a similar Motion is being moved in the other place.
The conclusions of the Bowsher report are as follows:
“For the reasons set out in this advice, our conclusion is that TTIP poses a real and serious risk to future UKG decision-making in respect of the NHS”,
in England. We must remember that it is rather different these days in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. He has seen the most recent statements of Commissioner Malmström and remains of the opinion that:
“The content of the draft texts are such that they do not provide a bar to suit against UKG for substantial compensation—either domestically or within the arbitral Tribunal”,
itself a very new procedure,
“for regulatory changes to the NHS. We do not consider that the new ‘right to regulate’ changes this position”.
The second conclusion is that:
“The circumstances in which a viable claim for compensation will arise, and the extent and level of that compensation, is inherently uncertain under a multi-lateral treaty agreement such as TTIP. This is evidenced by the case-law in the Tribunal, as referred to below. Furthermore, remedies under TTIP may exceed those available under domestic contract law, human rights law and European Union law”.
“It is the uncertainty referred to in (ii) above which we consider will have a direct ‘chilling’ effect on future action by UKG with respect to the NHS.
We consider that the solution to the problems which TTIP poses to the NHS—and which is likely to provide the greatest protection—is for the NHS to be excluded from the agreement, by way of a blanket exception contained within the main text of TTIP”.
That cannot be done by a Bill, but it could be done by an instruction to the Commissioner, who at times has sounded as if she wants some stern guidance from the member states.
“In the event that this cannot be achieved, we consider that the NHS should be the subject of a carefully worded reservation contained within Annexes II and III of TTIP”.
Much reference has been made in dismissing the concerns that are now beginning to be expressed from all parties and all views. In particular, it reposes on evidence given to the House of Commons Select Committee on
“The issue here is whether the new right to regulate affords UKG greater protection were it to seek to make major structural changes, to the detriment of foreign investors, to the NHS … However, despite the new right and the statements from the Commission, as set out above, our view is that the new right is very unlikely to afford UKG any greater protection. This is essentially for three key reasons: the ‘right to regulate’ is not new. Its substance has, in effect, already been recognised in arbitral case-law. The new right in Article 2 therefore adds very little”.
Bowsher traces this whole question:
“The Article 2 right itself is vague. Recognition of the state’s right to regulate and to make changes in fields affecting the welfare of persons, including healthcare, is subject to the inherent uncertainty in the interpretation of that right by the proposed Tribunal”.
Bowsher goes through various international cases and concludes:
“It follows, therefore, that the right to regulate provided for under Article 2 is unlikely to provide additional protection to UKG. Were the matter to proceed to a dispute in the future Tribunal the real issue would remain: is the effect of UKG’s measures such that the investor should be compensated? The right to regulate does not provide a bar to compensation”.
He asks whether an incoming Government would be able to make changes to the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which brought into force the National Health Service (Procurement, Patient Choice and Competition) (No.2) Regulations 2013, or amend the regulations themselves. He concludes that it would not be possible, saying that,
“we are of the view that the new right to regulate does not provide sufficient protection to UKG to ensure that no future government or Parliament will have its ability to increase the public sector provision of services limited”.
A lot of what we are going to debate, and the questions of whether or not the EU should be our partner and whether or not we should leave, relate to the way in which over successive years but particularly the past 10 years the EU has crept into the nooks and crannies of all aspects of our lives, including now the NHS. I am not going to make the arguments that are different between the political parties about what we should do with the NHS, but I will argue to my dying day the right of a new Parliament to change the legislation of a previous Parliament under a previous Government. Forfeit that right on an issue as important to us as the National Health Service and the tolerances of society start to break down. This is the great advantage of our system of government.
I will say no more about this and will now make a more partisan but short speech about what I think is—
No, I am not going to give way to the noble Lord. I have taken seven minutes and I have two more.
I believe that the choice this country faces now has come about because of a grotesquely mistaken decision that you can introduce a common currency without a common country. It was opposed by the Bundesbank; it was opposed by the Conservative Government under John Major. We got an opt-out but once you get 19 or 20 countries in the eurozone in an EU of 28, it has effectively become an EU-eurozone grouping, and we should stop this belief that we are protected. We will be affected, as the former Governor of the Bank of England said, if the euro crisis continues and there is a euro collapse. The Prime Minister has accepted this. He gave away in his negotiation our treaty amendment rights to protect ourselves over euro changes. He said that we would not use those in order to get euro reform. It is understandable why he said that because it is of very great interest to this country that we get euro reform and an end to this stagnant euro crisis of the past six years.
It is important also to recognise that behind the wish for a single currency is the wish for a single country. It is quite a noble objective. It has been pursued for many decades. It is summed up by federalism or the “United States of Europe”. But in the development of the European Union—and I have watched it very closely since 1962—there will come a point that is not possible to come back from. You will be faced with a decision that you have to join and people will argue why that is. It may be 10 or 20 years down the track. The answer to this is: this is a once in a generation, once in a lifetime choice, just as it was in Scotland. You cannot have referendums repeatedly and we have to make a choice.
Can we really say to ourselves as we vote on
My Lords, I suppose this debate, inevitably, is dominated by the referendum, and to begin with I will just make two short points with on that.
First, I will repeat what I have said to your Lordships before. I have listened to Brexit supporters banging on about what to them seems the holy grail of politics—that one should not give up national sovereignty—but I never hear them question, or refer to, the greatest delegation of national sovereignty which is involved in the United Kingdom’s universally supported membership of NATO. We should remember that to send our troops into harm’s way under the leadership of foreign commanders is a far greater delegation of national sovereignty than anything which arises from the European Union.
Secondly, it is not so much that Brexit could lead to war, as some have said, but rather that one of the main influences which has led to 70 years of comparative peace among the great nations of Europe has been the creation of the European political community, whether through NATO, the Council of Europe or the European Union itself. We dismantle that European community at our peril.
On a wider field, I want to refer to my concerns over the increasing instability in the Middle East. Of course, we are all conscious of that great arc of instability in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia, and the Israeli-Palestine conflict. However, having visited Saudi Arabia some time ago this year and Egypt more recently, and having had the opportunity to talk to the leadership in both, I am concerned about other trends. In Saudi Arabia, I was struck by the intense loathing of Iran—I have not been to Tehran in recent years, but I guess if one did go, one would find it mutual. The Saudis are very concerned that the recent nuclear deal and the release of frozen funds will mean that Iran is likely to use some of that money to promote terrorism to the disadvantage of Saudi Arabia. The Saudi economy has been seriously hit by lower oil prices. The deputy crown prince, who is now the coming man there, has been put in charge of the budget. It looks as though serious economies are likely, and the nation may well have to face extremely unattractive options in the future. It has already agreed to a partial privatisation of Aramco. The House of Saud could well come under greater pressure in the time ahead.
I am also concerned about possible greater instability in Egypt. There are some pretty horrible things going on in Sinai, where the Egyptians are holding jihadi prisoners in intolerable conditions. The recent terrorist attacks on aircraft going to or from Egypt have almost closed down the tourist industry, and they face a very serious economic situation. Again, they are extremely concerned about the vulnerability of their 2,000 kilometres of borders with Libya and Sudan, and about the incursion of Daesh terrorists in the immediate future. It is also a fact that their Saudi friends may not be able to be as generous to them as they have been. Currently, President Sisi is extremely popular but, again, nasty options clearly lie ahead for his Administration. I say in passing that I was surprised that the Egyptian leadership did not see the Russian malevolence and intrusion in quite the same way that we do, and seem much friendlier to Russia than one finds at home.
My instinct is that there could be further instability in future, particularly with regard to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I hope the Government are aware of these increasing dangers.
My Lords, to continue on that theme, the gracious Speech made no mention of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, perhaps because it seems so intractable. I want to mention two new, ambitious but viable projects for reconciliation and ask Her Majesty’s Government for their involvement in them. The United Kingdom is in a unique position to move things forward, and it would be in our interests to do so.
The first is a movement called Two States One Homeland, which asks for the people of both sides to understand the narrative of the other as their genuine beliefs and accept them with compassion. Many Israelis now accept that the Palestinians believe that the 1947 declaration of the State of Israel was a Nakba to them—a disaster—and that the region is their homeland and they want consideration of their right to return. Many Palestinians are accepting that the Israelis believe that from biblical times the whole area was their homeland and living in parts of the West Bank is precious to them. They each regard the whole region as their homeland, but they know that they cannot live together as one comfortably in one state, so they agree to two states: a state of Israel, a state of Palestine and a confederation of these two sovereign states.
Two States One Homeland is a project currently on the move. The best international lawyers are agreeing to help the people on both sides to work out a constitutional settlement for each of the two sovereign states and jointly to create an overall constitution for the new confederation. International security experts and experts from both sides are deciding how the separate countries can run their own military and police forces and how, in addition, there will be a joint military and policing authority working across the two states.
On trade and investment, finance and currency, there is a team of Palestinians, Israelis and international corporations planning to invest in the region, particularly in the new Palestinian state. On the holy sites, rabbis, bishops and imams are working together with compassion and within their own golden rule to create a system whereby the sites are open for the benefit of all peoples, who are treated with due respect. There are groups working on this project on education, health and welfare and sustainability and ecology.
Secondly, alongside Two States One Homeland, there is a team in Israel and Palestine promoting a regional plan. The Arab peace initiative, the API, of 2002 was at the time an all-in-one, take-it-or-leave-it offer to which Israel did not respond. The new team presented in 2011 an Israeli peace initiative, an IPI, that accepts the API as a framework for Israeli-Palestinian regional negotiations. The IPI team is non-left and non-right—it is the pragmatic centre-thinking in Israel, with 1,800 prominent Israeli signatories, including ex-military and ex-security figures, diplomats, scholars, Middle East experts and business leaders. They have been talking for some time with the 22 Arab countries which we hope would support those projects. Together, they have developed a regional diplomatic proposal to resume negotiations, leveraging the API and the IPI. They are about to begin the development of a regional economic plan to invest tens of billions of dollars building infrastructure projects, agro-industry, water and energy plants, health and education establishments and new cities.
President al-Sisi of Egypt is on board. In a recent speech, he addressed Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation with courage and leadership. I applaud him and call on our Government to lend support. Let me quote a couple of sentences from his historic speech of only last week. He said:
“Egypt will be quite ready to play a sincere and responsible role to help set up a real opportunity for this cause … I say to the Israelis and the Palestinians that there is already a great opportunity for a better life, a better future for greater stability and real cooperation. Shall we seize that opportunity and move forward?”.
He has invited the leaders of both countries to come to speak to him and his people in Cairo.
The IPI team is also connecting Jordan, Palestine and Israel together with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The aim is that this whole contiguous region, containing one-third of all the people living in the Middle East—150 million people—will benefit from work, welfare, health and education and human rights. We also have media partners who will act responsibly not by talking up war and killing in order to inflate their ratings but by reporting on the processes, described here, in informed, even-handed, compassionate and positive terms.
Would Her Majesty’s Government consider convening a meeting of leaders and experts, with whom we are working on all sides to develop these two concepts; to use our soft power, the British Council, in education at all levels; to help them to build universities with British standards; in health, to plan and build hospitals and systems; and to have UKTI encourage our business community to become involved in these developments and investments?
In 1947, the UN declaration was to form two equal entities; in 1967 there was a war, in which I was a volunteer, which broke that apart. Can we get together and make 2017, the 70th anniversary of the UN declaration and the 50th anniversary of the war of that split it, a year when we begin, collectively, to heal the rift?
My Lords, the gracious Speech included the words:
“My government will hold a referendum on membership of the European Union”.
Could the UK survive if it left the EU? The answer is: absolutely, yes. There is no doubt that we would as we are a hugely adaptable, flexible and resilient nation. I am openly Eurosceptic. The European Union is in urgent need of reform. Despite their huge powers, MEPs have no accountability before the electorate and no connection with the regions they represent. I do not know anyone who knows who their MEPs are. Furthermore, it is ludicrous to move from Brussels to Strasbourg for a week every month; the EU should be based in Brussels. Just imagine if Parliament had to move between Westminster and Belfast or Edinburgh once a month. The euro is a proven failed project because one size cannot fit all—and, on that point, the noble Lord, Lord Owen, was right. The European Union has just 7% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s economy, yet it has 50% of the world’s welfare spending. That is unsustainable.
Yet, in spite of my reservations, and in spite of being a Eurosceptic, I believe that we should stay in the European Union. Yes, the UK would adapt if we left, but the question is about the short to medium-term consequences: instability, uncertainty and destabilisation. There is no question but that the UK economy and our international standing would take a severe blow should we vote to leave the EU. This is the view held by heads of state, international trading partners, almost every country in the world and, critically, our closest allies.
Indeed, if we left the EU, we would need to renegotiate 50 trade agreements, not least our trade deal with the EU itself. That would not exactly be an easy negotiation with an organisation we had just deserted and, through our actions, possibly permanently destabilised. Brexiteers talk about how we would be able to sign trade deals quickly with other countries, and even talk about relying on the WTO. Well, if the WTO was so great, why were all these trade deals necessary in the first place? Trade deals are notoriously tortuous processes, and it will not be easy to agree trade deals with other countries, especially as we will be trying to forge trade deals with the very countries which did not want us to leave the European Union in the first place. As we know, the EU accounts for 44% of our exports and 55% of our imports but, in contrast, only 8% of the EU’s exports head to the UK. Indian administrators, politicians and business leaders see the UK as a gateway to the European Union and the key to their prosperity. European leaders do not want us to leave. They have categorically said: “We want you to be a part of the EU”. The IMF, the CBI and the Bank of England have all urged the UK not to leave. I have spoken with professors from Harvard Business School, of which I am an alumnus, who have been unanimous in urging the UK to remain in the EU. In fact, they have gone so far as to say, “You would be mad to leave”. This is about pragmatism and the enormous impact leaving the European Union would have on inward investment, international trade, innovation, the strength of our industries and economic growth.
Should we leave the European Union, we would lose a vast amount of research and development funding, threatening something that is already underfunded compared with the EU and OECD averages. Almost 1,000 projects at 78 UK universities and research centres benefit from funds from the European Research Council. We also stand to lose the strong collaboration that currently exists between British and European universities. In fact, all universities in this country have spoken out against Brexit. I am chancellor of the University of Birmingham and chair of the advisory board of the Cambridge Judge Business School. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, made an amazing valedictory speech as a university leader. It was inspirational.
More broadly, people simply do not realise that we are the number two inward-investment destination in the world. There is no question but that Brexit would cause our inward investment to suffer. Look at the automotive industry, with Tata, Toyota and other Japanese manufacturers. Look at the City of London, which sucks in huge amounts of investment and talent. Our recovery is fragile because of our budget deficit and current account deficit; Brexit would cause huge instability, a dip in the pound, a rise in interest rates, a rise in inflation, a drop in house prices and, almost definitely, a recession.
In her excellent maiden speech the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, mentioned migration, one of the most talked-about topics in that debate. The reality is that 50% of net migration to this country is non-EU. If we were to leave the EU, not only would we probably have to agree to free movement of trade and people anyway, but it is not as if EU immigration would come to a standstill. This country is reliant on talent from across Europe. From agriculture to hospitality to the City of London, an immediate cessation of EU immigration would hit our economy hard.
Arguments focusing on the impact of the introduction of the living wage are invalid, as 40% of EU migrants are under the age of 25. Benefits are another red herring, as EU immigrants contribute five times more than they receive in benefits. Brexiteers keep contending that, as we are the fifth largest economy in the world, we would be fine outside the EU. They neglect to mention the role that the EU has played in that through investment, its 500-million-strong market and our standing. We are not a superpower but a global power, and Brexit would cause our standing on the world stage to be hampered. We sit at the top table in the world on every front: a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and membership of the G7, the G8, the G20, the EU and NATO. On that note, it is not just NATO that has kept us safe and secure over seven decades—it is the EU and NATO together. We have never operated alone; we thrive in collaboration and partnership.
A senior vice-chancellor of a European university said to me the other day, “How can the UK even think of leaving Europe? You have saved us twice in the last century. How can you even think of being responsible for what might potentially destroy the EU? Would you be able to live with that?”. That is not what this country does. We do not desert. We do not run away. Europeans see us as a beacon of freedom, justice, democracy and fairness. Leaving the EU would threaten both the Union and our economic recovery, and we should heed the advice of almost everyone else in the world outside the UK.
Brexiteers talk about losing our sovereignty. We are very much in control of our sovereignty, as we have the best of both worlds: we are part of the EU but not part of Schengen, and we are not part of the euro. Crucially, we are also not bound to measures advocating an ever-closer union. This is where I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Owen: there is no way there will ever be a United States of Europe. We are in control of our destiny and, in spite of all the protestations about EU red tape, the majority of red tape and barriers in this country come from ourselves through our tax system, planning laws and housing laws, not from the EU. Many EU directives have in fact been good for this country. We are one of the most open and flexible economies in the world where, in 26 years of building a brand from scratch, I have never come across corruption. An open economy has enabled me to build a household name and a growing global brand, thanks to this country, not because of any EU red tape.
I am not talking about scaremongering; I am talking about reality. In fact, it is what the Brexiteers want us to do that risks everything we have and creates uncertainty. We need to stay together in the EU and help it to reform from the inside. As the famous saying goes: “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to go far, travel together”.
My Lords, I welcome most warmly the contents of the gracious Speech, and I congratulate the Government. I was glad to see the commitment to secure the long-term future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent and to invest in Britain’s Armed Forces. In my view, our military capabilities have been reduced to the absolute minimum consistent with maintaining our national security.
I understand that the commitment to bring forward a British Bill of Rights includes a period of consultation before such a Bill is drafted. If I were the Government Chief Whip in another place, I would advise the Prime Minister to ensure that the consultation was exceptionally thorough, with no short cuts of any sort.
On the question of the European referendum, I have seen the surveys showing that the people of this country are less knowledgeable about the EU than those of any other country. After more than a quarter of a century in the other place, that finding does not surprise me, but it places a great responsibility on those on both sides of the argument to put forward fact-based and pragmatic visions of the future for this country either inside or outside the EU, speculative as some of them will be.
Like my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater in his excellent speech proposing the humble Address, I trust—I hope that that is not too strong a word—that the arguments will in future be conducted with courtesy and respect. The absence of those qualities not only devalues the case being made but brings discredit on those concerned and lowers the reputation of the body politic in the eyes of the public. It is said that people have short memories—I do not—but I hope that it is not too late for us to up our game.
I am as irritated as the next man by aspects of the EEC, but the agreement or settlement reached by the Prime Minister, the implementation of which is conditional on our remaining in the European Union, is very much in our national interest and justifies the Government in asserting that the UK has passed the high watermark of integration into the EU. Some say that the settlement is not, as the Government and EU Governments believe, an international agreement binding in international law. To them I would say that were this narrowly held view to be valid—I do not think it is—we should look ahead a year or two.
The five Presidents said some months ago that towards the end of the present decade, presumably after the French and German elections, there will be an intergovernmental conference to seek, inter alia, to improve the arrangements for managing the euro. If we remain in the EU, nothing can be agreed without our concurrence. We shall be in a position of very substantial leverage. The British Government have said that there are still many ways in which the EU needs to improve. The task of reforming the EU does not end with the settlement. But if we vote to leave the EU, not only does the settlement, with all its benefits, fall by the wayside, but we shall have no further say in any European arrangements whatever, many of which will affect us. This seems to be at variance with common sense.
Last week, the United States Government complained of an “unsafe interception” by Chinese military aircraft of a routine US patrol in international airspace over the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which over $5 trillion of international trade passes by ship every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim some of the hundreds of reefs and small islands in the sea. Since 2013, China has asserted its claims by reclaiming land around the Spratly Islands and stationing military assets on them, including long-range artillery. Tension is high, and the United States has accused China of militarising the South China Sea. The USA continues to send warships and aircraft through the South China Sea in what it describes as freedom-of-navigation operations intended to assert the right of free passage in international waters.
The situation is tense and potentially dangerous, as is that in the Taiwan Strait, where China has threatened to invade if Taiwan declares independence. To us, the Spratly Islands dispute is currently a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand. It is arguable that we do not have a dog in the fight. However, a very substantial and growing part of our trade is with the Asia-Pacific region, as is that of a number of European countries. We have a vital interest in the situation. Militarisation is no way to settle territorial disputes in the modern world. I suggest that China is much more likely to listen to the voice of reason if it is that of the European Union, provided that the European Union has had no recent conversations with the Dalai Lama, rather than the UK alone. International influence is not some academic abstraction of concern only to diplomats but is essential for the protection and promotion of our national interests. Together, the European Union can exercise much more beneficial influence than the UK alone. We should be in there shaping that influence rather than pulling out and putting our heads under the bedclothes.
Byron wrote in “Don Juan”:
“There is a tide in the affairs of women,
Which, taken at the flood, leads—God knows where”.
I prefer Shakespeare’s version in “Julius Caesar”:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures”.
Please let us not miss the tide again.
My Lords, I want to focus my remarks on the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, on the relationship of the NHS to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. I make it clear that I and the Opposition have no problems in principle with TTIP and what it can bring in terms of growth, jobs and delivering potential benefits for employees and employers in the United Kingdom. However, we believe it is crucial that the benefits from trade agreements filter down to employees and employers and particularly that worker rights are protected. Importantly, any final agreement needs to ensure and enshrine the protection of our National Health Service.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Owen: there is a real fear that, as TTIP stands, a future Government might be inhibited in choosing how they organise our National Health Service. The problem arises from the investment protection standards to be embraced within TTIP, which are being policed through an investor-state dispute settlement, known as an ISDS. This is an arbitration mechanism that will operate outside domestic courts at the level of international law and with no effective appeal system.
The noble Lord, Lord Owen, quoted from a distinguished legal opinion, the conclusions of which were very telling. A number of other organisations have studied this with great care—thankfully, because without that, as the noble Lord said, we would have had very little parliamentary scrutiny. One example of the analysis that we have received is from the Faculty of Public Health. It has argued that the protections afforded to investors are far stronger than the weak and ambiguous exceptions that TTIP affords to states to make policy in the public interest. In effect, that could mean that every service could be forced to be subject to competition, even if a national Government wanted a different policy. It could also, for instance, bar the NHS from taking back into public control some of the services that have already been outsourced or privatised.
In her introduction to that point, the Minister said that we should not worry: she will accept the noble Lord’s amendment but essentially it is unnecessary because there will be a wide range of protections for the National Health Service. The point that I put to her and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, is that they have to accept that there is very little confidence in the Government’s utterances when it comes to the marketisation of the National Health Service. Only two weeks ago in a debate on a statutory instrument, their colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Prior, said that the Government now see very little room for a competitive market in the NHS. However, the fact is that the Health and Social Care Act 2012 enshrines enforced marketisation in law, backed up by the Section 75 regulations that followed.
We know that, under the Government’s watch, one of the chief proponents of competition—the strategic projects team—was established. This rather shadowy body, somehow within the NHS but not subject to any proper governance rules, allows a steady stream of highly paid consultants to masquerade as NHS insiders. Egged on by Ministers, this team has been centrally involved in numerous pro-privatisation exercises. It has greatly overstated the benefits that the private sector can bring and it has pushed competition as the solution to every problem. Its record is abysmal: from the failure of the franchise at Hinchingbrooke Hospital through similar failures at George Eliot Hospital and at Weston, through failed attempts to outsource pathology services, and, now, to the stalled and expensive procurement failures in Cambridge and Peterborough, Worcestershire and Staffordshire.
That programme has been supported by the Government every step of the way. This record of failure, the waste of millions of pounds, the fragmentation of services and the stress caused to staff and the public is ample evidence of why the Government are not trusted over TTIP and over the assurances they have given. That is why a greater measure of protection for the NHS has to be enshrined in legislation in this country and within the treaty itself. For those reasons, the Official Opposition will be supporting the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in his amendment.
My Lords, on the eve of the Queen’s Speech I happened to catch Dr Liam Fox MP from the other place on “Newsnight”. I was rather struck by something he said, and so I noted the words down immediately: “By leaving the European Union, we would bring the European Union to its senses”. Leave aside for a moment the unreality of this statement—that somehow or another, on the morn of Brexit, European citizens across the continent will sit up startled in their beds and say, “Heavens, the Brits have left; now we must come to our senses”. Leave aside also the revelation that the old arrogance Britain has held that everybody else takes their lead from our decisions still exists, and the revelation of what the negotiating strategy of certain Brexiteers in the Government has been with their European colleagues. Leaving all that aside, what struck me most was that as an expression of the isolationist mindset, that statement ranks alongside the famous Times headline: “Fog in the Channel, Continent isolated”. It strikes, it seems to me, exactly at the fallacy at the heart of the Brexit argument: that we reform an institution by leaving it. We all know that, in fact, if you want to reform something, you have to be in it and acting for it, using your influence and building alliances to bring that about.
God knows, we should all want to reform the European Union: it is insufficiently democratic—although not as insufficiently democratic as the place at the other end of the Corridor, which is the only European parliament elected without proportional representation, with the result that we have a Government who enjoy less than a quarter of the available national vote. It is also less democratically deficient than this place, the only European second Chamber that is not elected and the existence of which has no connection with democracy whatsoever. Nevertheless, of course we should want to see democratic reform, and there are friends who will enable us to achieve that. The Danes, for instance, would like to see the Council of Ministers held in public, and insist that their Ministers are mandated before going to negotiate on their behalf with what they should do when they get there and are interrogated afterwards. That would vastly increase parliamentary control over the Council of Ministers, so of course we should seek that, and we have allies who will enable us to do so.
We should also want to see the European Union liberalised—its market is indeed too sclerotic—and we have allies there too, not least in Germany and among the northern European members such as Denmark, Holland, Sweden and Finland. All those countries could be used as allies if only we would care to do so, but we do not. We think that the best way to change the European Union is to cop out instead of getting stuck in. We think that the best use of our energies is to leave rather than to lead.
The other day, a very senior German Minister said to me, “Whenever I go into a European Union meeting with my British colleagues, their very first question is: ‘Excuse me, please tell me the way to the exit?’”. They are spending so much energy trying to get out that they spend none building the alliances to try to win the things that we want. Canning and Castlereagh would be spinning in their graves. The truth of it is that there are things we can win in the European Union, but we will not win them by removing ourselves from it.
This morning, I heard Mr Duncan Smith on the “Today” programme say that all predictions are wrong—not that all predictions can be wrong but that all predictions are wrong. Presumably, that includes the prediction made by the Brexiteers that if only we could leave the European Union we would, like Prometheus unbound, leap into economic success, trading with further nations in the world beyond the European Union. How can it be then that we are near the bottom of the European league table, yet the other nations further up suffer exactly the same so-called burdensome regulations that we do?
The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, identified the reality that much of our business-destroying bureaucracy is homemade, not European made, such as a tax law that runs to 10 million words or broadband that in some cases works more slowly than it does at the base camp at Everest. If it is indeed European bureaucracy that prevents us trading to those nations that we would like to trade with beyond the European Union, how come Germany, at the very centre of the European Union, is able to trade at a volume three times that which we are able to?
If we want to put our economy right, we must look to ourselves. This idea that we can blame all on the European Union is a fallacy. The truth of it is that leaving will diminish our influence, wreck our economy and damage our security. Leaving the European Union would be an act of historic folly for which our children and grandchildren would pay the price.
My Lords, I want to follow precisely the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown. The Foreign Office that I joined 50 years ago was taught by the Suez disaster to give up some of our imperial pretensions that had been rebuffed in our ambitions by General de Gaulle. The FCO that I left 15 years ago had learned that being influential in the EU strengthened our voice in Washington, in the UN and in the Commonwealth. The British at last felt at home in Brussels, where English had become the common language, where the Brittans, Kinnocks and Pattens held the key portfolios, where we had more senior jobs in the institutions than any other member state, where the Thatcher single market programme was slowly but steadily becoming reality, and where the wider-world expertise of the British and French was seen as an EU asset. In Washington, we were regarded as good guides to EU outcomes because we were thought capable of delivering on our predictions. Our access reflected respect for our leading role on EU external issues. Some of this has already faded with disaster in the Middle East, cuts in defence and diplomacy, and a certain self-isolation in Europe. But much more is now at risk. We are at a watershed moment and need to be clear about what the referendum fallout effects for foreign policy might be.
Modern British foreign policy rests on four pillars. Fundamental is the link with Washington. The values set out in Philadelphia in 1787 were those of the English and Scottish Enlightenment—Franklin lived in Johnson’s London and knew Hume’s Edinburgh. That will not change: Britain at its best will always be in step with America at its, and trumpery on both sides will not stop that. However, influence on American policy is a function not just of sentiment but of perceived power. We are useful to the Americans to the extent that we can convince or cajole our other friends to adopt common, or at least congruent, policy. We cut ice in Washington when we are seen to cut ice over here. To cut ourselves off from our continent would see us cut down to size—50 million and no longer 600 million—when we talk in the States; no wonder the transatlantic foreign policy community overwhelmingly hopes that we will vote to stay.
The second pillar is the Washington treaty, or NATO; the common defence structure to which we would commit all our forces and pool all our sovereignty in time of war. Our defence cuts have gone deep, and lower economic growth post-Brexit could mean that they go deeper still. However, the damage to effective western soft power is more certain. German reticence about armed deployment and French unease about US-led command structures have meant, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said, that it has often fallen to this country to forge the link between NATO and soft-power decisions in the Council of EU Governments.
The key multilateral actors have often been British—we have heard from some of them today: Robertson, Owen and Ashdown. One could also mention Carrington, Patten and Ashton. In the Council that I knew best it was to Douglas Hurd that the Juppés and the Genschers turned at key moments; it was John Major who in a morning swung the whole EU behind his 1991 initiative on safe havens for the Kurds. That cannot happen if we are not there. There would be a growing risk of the North Atlantic Council and the European Council drifting apart. Of course, the EU would still talk to us, but its decisions would be taken in its EU formation with us excluded. No wonder the defence establishments, on both sides of the Atlantic, hope we stay.
Pillar 3 is built on the lessons of history. Chamberlain was wrong in 1938; it is not in our interests to regard neighbouring states as far-off countries of which we know nothing. Distracted by Suez, we did nothing for Hungary in 1956. We did nothing for the Czechs in 1968. So, later, I was very proud to serve Governments, of both parties, who successfully championed EU enlargement, delivering on the Thatcher 1988 Bruges call for an opening to the east. I am sad that some in her party now seem to have forgotten that stability and prosperity in central Europe are a vital UK interest.
And I am shocked that a Minister of the Crown, serving in the Ministry of Defence, should this week insult a vital NATO ally, Turkey, claiming that, unless we leave, this country will be overrun by 2020 with Turkish criminals. This is absurd. Surely she must know, as does everyone else, that Turkish accession to the EU is—in my view, sadly—many decades away, depends on Turkey solving myriad internal problems and can be vetoed by any single member state. Why tell such lies? It demeans the debate and it damages NATO.
But the key point is that an EU without us, or at least without a Britain true to itself, would be less open, less liberal, less secure, less aligned with British values and interests, properly defined. No wonder our true friends in Europe hope we will stay.
Pillar 4 is the belief that a rules-based, multilateral order built on the rule of law, on the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions, on aid and trade structures optimised to support economic development, serves us best. If we left the EU, its aid programmes would be smaller and probably less focused on our friends. More importantly, developing-country access to EU markets would probably grow more slowly, particularly for those with closest ties to us. The free trade agreement with South Africa was negotiated by a British Commission official, backed by London but resisted by much of southern Europe.
Looking beyond trade, our ability to help defuse threats of conflict, whether on Iran’s nuclear programmes, Indus waters or the South China Sea, would decline. Why should Iran, India, China or the Security Council listen to us if our influence on both sides of the Atlantic had shrunk? No wonder our Asian friends and our Commonwealth friends, most recently Prime Minister Trudeau last week, have said they firmly hope we stay.
My thesis is that the four pillars of our foreign policy are mutually reinforcing. If one goes, all are weakened. That is why next month’s vote is so crucial, and not just for our prosperity. Our influence across the world would shrink and our friends and allies believe that their interests would suffer with ours if we were to find ourselves with, in Stephen Wall’s phrase,
“our noses pressed to the European glass, gesticulating, unheard, to those inside”.
To quote another historian, perhaps more widely known but less authoritative:
“Suppose Britain voted … to come out: what would actually happen? We’d still have huge numbers of staff trying to monitor what was going on in the community, only … we wouldn’t have any vote at all. Now I don’t think that’s a prospect that’s likely to appeal”.
For foreign policy as well as other reasons, I sincerely hope that you are right, Boris. Yes, that was Mr Johnson, but it was in November 2012. Consistency is the hallmark of small minds, and vaulting ambition can o’erleap itself.
My Lords, it will come as no surprise to your Lordships that I intend to focus on Latin America in today’s debate. I am emboldened to do so by the reference in the Queen’s Speech to the state visit of the President of Colombia in the autumn. I also know that the Foreign Secretary has recently been in the region, as was my noble friend Lady Anelay in pursuance of her departmental responsibilities concerning human rights issues and freedoms. Last week, we had a visit from President Bachelet of Chile and President Santos of Colombia, who were in London to participate in the anti-corruption summit among other things.
I am delighted that this Government are continuing with the programme for Latin America outlined by my noble friend Lord Hague in his Canning lecture some six years ago; namely, to recognise the huge opportunities that exist in the countries that range from Mexico in the north through central America and South America, and including some islands in the Caribbean—Cuba and the Dominican Republic, to name but two. These countries provide a huge market for British trade and investment. They are rich in commodities and culture, and there is immense good will towards the United Kingdom for the support that we gave them at the time of their independence movements more than 200 years ago. We can do business with the people of Latin America, who are like-minded, largely of European heritage and speak languages relatively easy to learn—by that, I mean Spanish and Portuguese, which are the common languages—but who also work through democratic structures that we recognise. Even Venezuela, which is going through such a difficult patch at the moment, is still holding on to its democratic process.
But we could always do more. There are opportunities for infrastructure development, co-operation over climate change, energy projects, tourism, and educational and cultural exchanges. I am happy that the newly reopened and expanded embassies and the British Council, all resulting from the Canning lecture or the Canning programme, are ready to provide help and support for those venturing into these markets for the first time. My message to the Government is: please keep up the good work.
Colombia provides a useful case study. The peace process is not complete, but it is making progress and the United Kingdom has a lot to offer in terms of post-conflict resolution, if only because of our experience in Northern Ireland. Colombia is an emerging economy of note, with a population of more than 47 million; it is the UK’s fifth-largest export market in Latin American and the UK is the country’s second-largest foreign investor after the United States. We have long supported the Colombian peace efforts, and that support has been reaffirmed by recent visits by the Foreign Secretary and my noble friend Lady Anelay.
Colombia is also a leading member of the Alianza del Pacifico, the Pacific Alliance, together with Chile, Peru and Mexico. This regional organisation is good for stability in the region and will create more opportunities for free and fair trade. I know that the British Government are an observer to the Alianza del Pacifico and I hope that we will hear good reports of its activities.
Brazil was of course the bright star but is going through a very unhappy time at present, both in terms of the economy as a result of low commodity prices but also politically with the unprecedented suspension of President Dilma Rousseff. We must wish her Vice-President, now the President, Michel Temer, good luck in facing the challenges. I trust that the support for the Olympic Games which we have shown from the outset, based on our own experience, will be maintained and that a successful Games will help Brazil back to its path of success. Any reassurance from the Minister would be welcome.
Argentina provides another new beginning, with a new President with whom we can build a stronger, more productive relationship. Again, the opportunities are great.
Like others, I welcome the Government’s commitment on international development spending. In April, Ecuador suffered the strongest earthquake in a generation and there have been subsequent aftershocks. Hundreds of casualties and estimated reconstruction costs of more than $3 billion are a daunting prospect when oil prices are low. The UK has contributed emergency relief and our voluntary sector has sprung into action, but I trust that the Department for International Development will continue to provide support to that country through such a tragic experience.
As my exit line, I can assure noble Lords that I have not come across a single Latin American country that wishes the United Kingdom to go it alone and exit the European Union—al contrario.
My Lords, the Government are unwittingly destroying our nation’s ability to design and build complex surface warships. That is particularly surprising when one considers that in the 1990s, the then Conservative Government almost did the same to our submarine-building capability. I thought that they had learned the lesson, but clearly not. From the early 1990s, year on year, the then Conservative Government delayed the order for the new Astute class—despite all our blandishments within the MoD—in theory to save money, finally putting in the order two months before the general election in 1997. Skilled men and women—engineers, designers at Barrow and the supply chains all over the country—were laid off and left to try to find other jobs. As a result, getting the submarine programme back on track was immensely expensive. We came very close to being unable to build submarines at all. Now, after 20 years of effort and huge cost, the submarine programme is back on track and able to deliver the Vanguard replacement programme.
Talking of that, Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech referred to the Government acting,
“to secure the long-term future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent”.—[
Well, hurrah for that, but the Commons decision to go ahead could have been made last year. The decision was postponed and Trident was instead relegated to becoming a political football. We should ensure that the Commons decision to replace our submarines is made this summer. It is crucial to put this whole argument beyond question, and an early vote would clear the air. Does the Minister agree?
The Government are doing exactly the same with the new frigate programme as they did with the submarine programme in the 1990s. I have spoken constantly and, some noble Lords will probably feel, at great length, about our lack of destroyers and frigates. For a great maritime nation, it is a national disgrace. Thirty-four years ago yesterday, the ship that I commanded was sunk in the Falklands. In that conflict, two destroyers, two frigates and 14 escorts were damaged. That is more than the number of destroyers and frigates we have today. Quite simply, we do not have enough and one need only look at the lacklustre responses to my many questions on the subject to realise that the Government know that to be the case. Why have we delayed and delayed the order for our new Type 26 frigates and reduced the number promised? The plan in SDSR 2010 was for 13 to replace the 13 Type 23s, the first to be in service in 2020. In SDSR 2015, the number was reduced to eight, with hoped-for entry in 2023. There was a sweetener—a new class of light frigates would be ordered, but after 50 years in the Navy, I say, let us not delude ourselves: they are on the drawing board and in my experience, there is many a slip twixt cup and lip.
Still, the Type 26s have not been ordered. Why not? Every delay adds to their cost, so when will they be ordered? What is now the planned date when the first will be in service in the RN? When will the last one be delivered? How old will the Type 23 that it is replacing be by then? What is the drum beat of ship orders to ensure the survivability and stability of British shipyards?
I hope to get some clear answers. The series of questions that I have asked trying to establish what, if any, extra money has gone to First Sea Lord’s maritime fighting environment has been given very confusing answers. The reality is that despite much trumpeting about how much extra money there is for defence, the MoD is suffering from a near-term cash crisis, as a number of us on both sides of the House predicted at the time of SDSR 2015. Effectively, there is a £1 billion shortfall in the First Sea Lord’s budget. So the Type 26 programme has been cut and has slipped. Does this remind noble Lords of something? Yes, the submarine debacle of the 1990s.
The delays to the Type 26 programme will come back to haunt us and cost us dear, but more significantly, they are in danger of destroying our complex surface warship-building industry. Without those orders, another major area of British engineering and skill will disappear—we can think of steel and all sorts of things. Sir John Parker’s study is not the answer to this, although I am glad that he is doing the study. The answer is warship orders.
The Battle of Jutland was fought 100 years ago this month. It was a strategic victory because we had out-built the Germans in the number of dreadnought battleships. Today, we cannot even build a frigate, and our nation needs maritime power. The first paragraph of the Queen’s Speech says that the Government will “strengthen national defences”. Again, hurrah for that. That is a great victory for many of us in this Chamber who pointed out that in the last two Queen’s Speeches, defence seemed a real afterthought. Let us put our money where our mouth is. After some pushing, the noble Earl has already admitted in a Written Answer that, far from having more ships in the Navy in 2030, as promised by the Prime Minister in 2015, we will actually have fewer.
We have a choice: to take defence seriously or not. I believe that we must, whether in or out of the EU and, according to the gracious Speech, so do the Government—hurrah. An order of frigates, leading to a steady drum beat of one built per year, will lead to the 30-escort Navy identified as required in much defence policy work, preserve a crucial national capability, reduce costs and lead to export opportunities.
Our great nation is standing into danger. Soft power without hard power to support it is as nothing.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, on her maiden speech. I see that she is no longer in her place, but outside the protocols and confines of the Chamber, I am very glad to acknowledge her as a close friend. In particular, I congratulate her yet again on the remarkable achievement of bringing the Olympic Games to London, which proved to be such a success. In my remarks today, I want to apply my mind and invite noble Lords to apply theirs to the consequences of withdrawal from the European Union for relations between the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
That is of particular significance in the year of the American presidential election. As we have already seen, Mr Trump and Mr Sanders are avowedly isolationist. So far as Mrs Clinton is concerned, she has been badly burned by her support for military action against Iraq and, when she was at the State Department, for being the author of the suggestion that United States’ foreign policy should pivot towards the East. That was later described as a rebalancing in some effort to allay the fears of the Europeans. But what is clear is that the State Department increasingly looks towards China and the problems of the South China Sea.
I do not believe that there is any question of the abandonment of Europe by the United States, whoever becomes president, because of NATO and the obligations that are contained there, particularly in Article 5, and of course because the US has interests to defend and maintain. It is worth pointing out that President Obama’s intervention—which gave rise to one of Mr Johnson’s, shall we say, less attractive interventions—was based on self-interest. We should not be surprised at that, nor feel any sense other than understanding, because it has been the United States’ policy since President Kennedy that Britain should play a leading role in Europe. For the White House, a European Union with the United Kingdom inside it is much more reflective of the United States’ interests and of the values that we and the United States share. Indeed, you could argue, if you were being politically mischievous, that it provides a counterbalance to France and support for Germany by our presence. Such influences are an important part of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. Removing them will have an impact on what we British wish to call the special relationship, although sometimes in American circles it is given rather less credit than we would prefer.
But there is one area where relations are strained: defence spending. Washington spends 75% of NATO’s budget and only four countries in Europe—not three, as was suggested earlier—reach NATO’s minimum spending target of 2% of annual GDP: the United Kingdom, Estonia, Belgium and Poland. The United States used to talk of increased burden sharing when the question of European defence expenditure came up. Now, Members of Congress and of the Administration are much more vocal in private, and increasingly in public, in asserting that Europe gets defence on the cheap, an argument recently put most aggressively by Donald Trump. If Europe wants to maintain the present level of American commitment to Europe, it needs, if I may be forgiven the Americanism, to step up to the plate. It needs to adopt policies of interoperability, force specialisation and—most difficult—common procurement. There is no question of a European army, save in the mind of Mr Juncker. Go around the capitals of members of the European Union and ask people if they want a European army; it will be very hard to find anyone who says yes.
Our role and the role of Europe is to allay the anxieties of the United States and to enhance our security. That we can do through the kind of co-operation in defence which the European Union offers, not least in European projects such as the Eurofighter, now the Eurofighter Typhoon. The compelling arguments for maintaining our presence in Europe only go towards buttressing the strength of our relationship with the United States.
My Lords, I start by congratulating two noble Baronesses who have spoken today, one for the last time and one for the first. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, has a very distinguished record, and it was interesting to note that she apparently once whipped the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, a prospect that most people in Scotland would find very entertaining. My noble friend Lady Jowell made a speech that was patriotic, optimistic and inspirational. It is clear that she is going to make a big contribution to the House, as she has done in politics up to now.
I would like to use my few minutes to remind the House of two letters that were published in the Times and the Daily Telegraph two weeks ago. One was from former Secretaries-General of NATO, including me, and the other is signed by a series of senior American defence experts. They speak volumes for what the referendum on
“As former secretaries general of Nato, we have followed the EU referendum debate carefully and with growing concern. Given the scale and range of challenges to peace and stability we face collectively, the Euro-Atlantic community needs an active and engaged United Kingdom.
“The European Union, with its 500 million people and significant economic power, is a key partner for Nato. The imposition of sanctions on Iran and Russia, led from within the EU by Britain, has been a striking example of the importance of this union for our security. So has the work the EU is doing in the Balkans, in tandem with Nato, to help stave off instability in that region.
“At a time of such global instability, and when Nato is trying to reinforce its role in Eastern Europe, it would be very troubling if Britain ended its membership of the EU.
“While the decision is one for the British people, Brexit would undoubtedly lead to a loss of British influence, undermine Nato and give succour to the West’s enemies just when we need to stand shoulder to shoulder across the Euro-Atlantic community against common threats, including those on our doorstep”.
These are the powerful views of those of us who have had stewardship of the alliance in the last decade and more.
The letter published in the Times is signed by seven White House national security advisers, four US Defence Secretaries and two Secretaries of State. It also sends a powerful message, especially since the signatories come from all political parties in the US:
“The United Kingdom and the United States have a special relationship and longstanding friendship. Having worked closely with the British government in our different capacities, we are loyal friends of the UK. While fully respecting that this is a decision for the British people, we feel it is our duty to articulate our views as to some of the likely consequences of a Brexit vote.
“The world needs a strong and united Europe to work with the US to address the many geopolitical and economic challenges we face. The strong bonds between the US and Europe are rooted in shared values, shared interests, and common history. The United Kingdom has played a key role in strengthening the transatlantic alliance. But we are concerned that should the UK choose to leave the European Union, the UK’s place and influence in the world would be diminished and Europe would be dangerously weakened.
“In our globalised environment it is critical to have size and weight in order to be heard. The special relationship between our countries would not compensate for the loss of influence and clout that the UK would suffer if it was no longer part of the EU, a union of 28 nations with 500 million inhabitants … the large economic bloc in the world. This would be true in foreign policy, defence policy and international trade matters, and other areas where the EU is a significant voice.
“The decision that UK citizens will make on June 23 is of critical importance. All involved must weigh carefully the consequences of the decision not solely from the perspective of domestic economic interests but from the broader perspective of the impact on the European and international geopolitical landscape”.
The names of Robert M Gates, George Shultz, William S Cohen, Madeleine Albright, Bill Perry, Jim Jones, Leon Panetta, Steve Hadley and others are at the bottom of the letter, and I think that the British people, this House and others should pay heed to its wise words.
A previous wise person once said that some decisions are so important that future generations should have a vote. I hope that the people who vote on
My Lords, as several noble Lords have said, this debate is taking place exactly one month before the
Every single sounding of opinion around the country comes up with a common concern, a complaint that individuals need to know more about the basic facts before they make up their minds how to vote. It is understandable that they do not have total confidence in all the facts provided by the two campaigns—all the more so when one of the leaders of the leave campaign is travelling around the country on a bus emblazoned with the figure for Britain’s contribution to the EU budget that is nearly twice the amount of our actual net contribution. That is before we come to nonsensical claims about teabags and bunches of bananas.
However, the Government, responding to requests made by Parliament, have in every case provided a large amount of factual material—to my count, six major studies on different aspects of our membership. The leave campaign’s sole response to these documents is to belittle them as dodgy dossiers, which they are not, or to say that Treasury forecasts are always wrong. These are members of the Government whose Treasury it is that has made the forecasts. It is a little odd to describe it as always wrong. That really will not do if we are to have a decent national debate on this. I fear that the fact that the former Mayor of London has now deserted history after his brush with the ghost of the Führer to futurology in today’s Daily Telegraph does not give me a lot of confidence that this debate is getting more serious.
A lot is said about what is called Project Fear, at least when the risks of leaving are raised by the remain campaign. Eurosceptics should know plenty about that, because they have been running a Project Fear of their own on pretty well everything the EU does for the past 40 years. But risk analysis must surely be part of any major policy decision of the kind the electorate is being asked to take. No business would think it responsible to take a leap in the dark without such an analysis. Of course, that has to include the risks attendant on remaining in the EU. The remain campaign has no reason to fear such an analysis and is not in a position of doing so.
Clearly there has to be—and here I do feel that some of the criticisms of the remain campaign have some force—a strong, positive side to the campaign to stay in the EU, as well as the arguments on the risks of leaving, fundamentally important as those are. Here are just a few of the positive sides with which I think all those in the remain campaign would agree. They are: competing with the common market in services—that is nearly 80% of our economy; creating a level playing field for the digital economy throughout the EU; building up an energy union and a capital markets union; switching the emphasis of the EU budget spending further towards research and innovation, at which we excel and which Europe needs; bringing freer trade negotiations with the US, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and Mercosur to a successful conclusion; strengthening the aspects of EU security policy that are complementary to NATO’s, and working to maximise co-operation between the two organisations; ensuring that EU countries lead in implementing the UN’s 2015 sustainable development goals and the Paris climate change commitments; working more effectively with our EU partners to combat serious organised crime, including in particular terrorism, cybercrime and human trafficking; and facing up together to the challenges from Daesh and from an assertive Russia. That, surely, is quite a list—quite a bit to be getting on with, apart from those unforeseen events, so many of which we are more likely to be able to deal with and cope with effectively in concert with the other Europeans than acting on our own.
All that will be on the table in June, and much else as well: for instance, whether the electorate’s decision then will strengthen or weaken our own union within these islands—a vote to leave carried on English votes against any or all of the votes of to remain in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would, I believe, inevitably weaken our union; whether or not we will put the people of Gibraltar at risk by leaving them more exposed to Spanish unilateral action; whether or not we will undermine the Good Friday agreement in Ireland, and perhaps also the common travel area arrangements; whether or not we will increase intergenerational tensions within our own society if the older half of our population with a higher propensity to vote imposes an outcome on the younger half who will have to live a lot longer with its consequences. Well, that is plenty for one day. I just hope we get it right.
My Lords, I will concentrate my remarks on the upcoming referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. In the time available, I will make just two points: first, to try to explain why Britain is—and I think will continue to be—the awkward squad among our European partners; and secondly, why I believe that awkwardness is in not just Britain’s interests but the wider interests of the European Union.
Noble Lords will be well aware that in living memory most of our partners have had to rebuild their democracy, whether it was after the horrors of the Second World War, of Soviet Communist dictatorship or, in the case of Portugal and Spain, of long-standing authoritarian dictators. Part of the result of that is that for many of our European partners the Treaty of Rome enjoys what I would almost describe as a quasi-religious status. That is not the case in Great Britain. The truth is that during those terrible events, our democratic system was strengthened. The Labour Party supported Winston Churchill’s Government during the war and at the end of that war, when the Conservatives lost the election, they became the loyal Opposition to the Labour Government led by Clement Attlee. So we are entitled to look back with pride on the democratic institutions of our country during those difficult times.
But looking back is not necessarily the best way of coping with the future. This brings me to my second point: the challenge that the European Union faces, and always has faced, and why in Britain asking the awkward question is so useful. It must be said that the basic challenge that the European Union has faced from the outset is to find the right balance between those areas where the pooling of our respective sovereignties gives us added leverage and makes the European Union function better and areas where we risk undermining the undoubted benefits of nation states and everything that goes with them—a sense of belonging, a sense of social cohesion, and so on. This has not been met by the central part of Europe. If one looks around one finds that more and more decisions are taken centrally and more and more national Governments and national Parliaments have been sidelined. If there are any doubts about that, we need only look at the rest of Europe, where so-called patriotic parties are springing up all over the place. That is why Prime Minister Major in Maastricht introduced that admirable thing called subsidiarity, which in essence means that the centre should not take on any responsibilities or do anything that cannot be properly managed at nation state level.
Alas, that admirable principle has subsequently been neutered by something called the yellow card system. One of David Cameron’s achievements in his renegotiation has been to upgrade the yellow card to a red card, whereby if a majority of nation states raise the red card, the proposal is dead. I am pretty confident going forward that this will have a significant influence on the way in which national Parliaments and nations have an input into what is going on in the centre.
Time does not allow me to address the case being made by Brexit. It would be an exaggeration to say that I feel sympathy for its case, but it is based on those feelings of confidence and pride in our democracy that we all share. However, it does not follow that brave Blighty can navigate the difficult waters of the 21st century standing alone. I am afraid that Britannia no longer rules the waves and that Rule Britannia no longer applies.
Noble Lords will have followed Boris Johnson’s principled struggle to decide which side of the debate to join, so I will conclude by suggesting what he might have said to the Brexit campaign had he joined the remain campaign. I think he would have looked them straight in the face and said, “Rule Britannia? That’s history. Cool Britannia: that’s today”. Cool Britannia defends Britain’s values and interests in the largest trading bloc in the world and in international fora where decisions are taken every day that affect the daily lives of all of us. So, along with Boris Johnson, I would say, “Cool Britannia”.
I am so sorry—of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. Hers has been a wonderful life of public service. I also express my appreciation of the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Jowell, which I thought was inspirational.
This debate is about Britain’s role in the world. There is a real question mark about what that would be in the event of a Brexit vote. It is a question that the Brexiteers are extremely reluctant to address, for a very good reason. Since the 1960s there has been a remarkable consensus among the political leadership in Britain that our national strategy—not any party strategy but our national strategy—is based on our membership of the European Union. Every Prime Minister since Harold Macmillan has thought that. Every Chancellor of the Exchequer has thought that while they held the office, as has every Foreign Secretary. Certainly the noble Lord, Lord Owen, used to think that when he was Foreign Secretary—although he is entitled now to what I regard as his very idiosyncratic opinions.
There has been this remarkable consensus, which has rested on two pillars: first, the economic judgment that it was right to put Europe at the centre of our trading and economic relationships, and, secondly, that Europe is an essential foundation of our security and political influence. On the economy, we have benefited enormously in the past half century from our membership of the EU. The City has become the financial centre of the European single market. That is a huge achievement. Also, the inward investment that we have obtained as a result of being in the single market has done so much to revive Britain’s moribund and badly managed industrial sector—as it was 40 or 50 years ago. I know from my part of the world how important foreign inward-investing firms are to decent jobs and wages in our country.
On political influence, while it is true that NATO won the Cold War, it is equally true that the process of European union secured peace and reconciliation in Europe—reconciliation first between France and Germany and now between Germany and Poland, uniting the once-fascist dictatorships and the once-communist autocracies in a union of democracies. It is a wonderful achievement. It must also be the case that Churchill’s vision in the 1940s at the end of the war of Britain at the centre of three circles—the empire and the Commonwealth, the Atlantic alliance, and Europe—has effectively collapsed into one central role in the European Union. It is significant that no Commonwealth Prime Minister, as far as I know, supports our exit—and, as for the Americans, it is only Donald Trump. So Europe is at the centre of our national strategy and we should not allow the Brexiteers to destroy that.
I worry that the Brexiteers’ real ambition is not just to take Britain out of the EU but to see the EU’s break-up of the EU. I thought that that theme was very strong in Michael Gove’s speech. He seemed to think that Brexit would be a signal for a kind of disintegration of the EU—a return to the 19th century Concert of Europe of independent nations. Of course, what underpinned that was vicious nationalism within countries, which led directly to the Battle of the Somme, the anniversary of which we will celebrate the weekend after our referendum vote. So let us have the confidence to reject the pessimists. Europe is at the centre of our economic and political security—and, I believe, of a decent quality of life in this country. I very much hope that we will vote to remain.
I am very pleased to follow the noble Lord’s contribution on the European Union, first because I agree with all of it, and secondly because it means that I do not have to address the subject.
Her Majesty’s comment that:
“Britain’s commitment on international development spending will also be honoured, helping to deliver global stability, support the Sustainable Development Goals and prevent new threats to national security”,—[Official Report, 18/5/16; col. 3.]
was a very welcome element of the Speech, especially in the light of the organised campaign in some quarters against such a commitment. The commitment has been long-standing and the more recent honouring of it was a result of cross-party consensus. That consensus also allowed for the international development assistance targets legislation to be passed by Parliament last year.
This year, the global goals for sustainable development come into effect. The core ambitions—end poverty, combat climate change and fight injustice and inequality—are starting, as the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, suggested, by empowering girls and women. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and my noble friend Lady Northover in arguing for a greater role for women in conflict resolution. Two weeks ago it was my privilege to meet the Syrian Women’s Advisory Board and to talk to them about peaceful constitutional change in the context of the United Kingdom. It was slightly depressing that foremost in their minds were our two referenda about separation, rather than unity. Nevertheless, their perspective can add to the process.
Returning to international aid, it is worth reflecting that there were not too many links between the new DfID strategy and the global goals. Parliament has still to learn of the UK Government’s structure internally to co-ordinate delivery of the global goals and to align DfID’s work with them. Perhaps a named tsar or a senior champion in Government, perhaps in the Cabinet Office, would be appropriate to show how we are driving forward in government our role in delivering the goals. I hope that the noble Earl will say more when he responds to the debate so that we can have a clearer picture of how government structures will deliver our commitments to the global goals.
All the indications suggest that we will be unlikely to meet the goals without concerted and accelerated effort in their early years. Therefore, British leadership in 2016 is essential. Our existing leadership, by honouring our 0.7% commitment and subsequently enshrining it in law, has already driven an improved financial climate. With some exceptions—developed countries such as France, Portugal, Australia and Switzerland reduced support—the trend over the last year has been an increased commitment. The Prime Ministers of Canada and Italy—it is perhaps purely coincidence that they are members of sister parties to the Liberal Democrats—cited our approach of increasing ODA assistance when making the case in their own countries. The ODA/GNI ratio increased in 15 member states of the EU, with nine declining and four remaining stationary. The trend is positive. I have no doubt that a better prospect was realised because of UK leadership at the Financing for Development conference in Addis, and through our work in the EU with our DfID Ministers banging the table. It means that for the least developed countries and fragile states, an increase of 6% in real terms has been registered.
However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels, and those most in need in the world cannot afford for us to do so. There is further scope for British leadership over the coming year on tax transparency, insurance for development and innovation for investment. On tax transparency, the report of the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa estimated that over the last 50 years Africa has lost in excess of $1 trillion—more than all of the development assistance that that continent received over the same period. The UK can do much more—I hope it will—on tax transparency and supporting those countries we take for granted, so that those who owe tax in those countries pay it there.
On innovative financial modelling, there is a real case for the British insurance sector, whose leadership is undoubted, supporting much more innovative development assistance. My noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire indicated that the migration and climate change trends are storms in the face of global development, rather than winds at the back of them. This is an area where British leadership can aid development much more. On the role of our development banks, the UK is now a shareholder in the Asian Development Bank, with £100 million of ODA as our equity. That can be used much more creatively. If we follow what Standard & Poor’s said in an April report, a potential $1 trillion more could be levered through our development banks.
Finally, we have seen with Malaria, TB and AIDS that British aid and leadership can work to deliver much more. In his closing remarks, I hope the noble Earl will address the appeal for increased assistance and lifting the cap on replenishing the global fund. We have seen beyond any doubt that British leadership and assistance can deliver huge success in those areas. In the Second Reading debate on the international assistance Bill, I hoped there would be consensus that all children around the world should take for granted what we have here at home. Our leadership in the world can help deliver that. I hope that our focus after the EU referendum will be on these areas so that, through British leadership, we can gain greater aid for the world’s most needy.
My Lords, this has been an immensely stimulating debate. I particularly appreciated the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell. As one who was a Cabinet Minister at the other end and who retired at the election last year, she, as well as anyone I have heard, illustrated how one can give up elected office but not give up the vision of public service and what can be achieved in this Parliament. I look forward to her further contributions.
I also appreciated listening to the valedictory speech of my noble friend Lady Perry, who I will be very sad not to see in this House so frequently in future. I look forward to seeing her in Cambridge, where she will continue to be one of our brightest stars, not least in the education world. We very much look forward to her leadership in Cambridge in the years ahead.
I will make three quick points, as time does not permit much else. Domestically, the gracious Speech reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to the National Health Service. Of course, the Bill for non-EEA migrants or visitors to this country to pay a proper contribution to the health service is welcome, but your Lordships have agreed today to investigate the sustainability of the NHS in future. One aspect of that is its financial sustainability. Frankly, in the last Parliament—as my noble friend responding to the debate will remember well—we set out to deliver substantial savings in the NHS, and did so. The so-called Nicholson savings of some £15 billion were achieved. The £5.5 billion of administrative savings were achieved, at considerable political cost. However, we never expected at the beginning of the last Parliament that in this one we would have to do not only that again but more.
To be realistic about that, we must recognise that in circumstances where the NHS employs more staff, the population is rising and the demography demonstrates increasing frailty and need, some of our underlying hopes that by this stage we would be looking after many more patients in the community are not being fulfilled to the extent that we expected. We need more innovation, preventative healthcare and digitalisation of healthcare, but, frankly, we also need the resources to transform community services, social care and the NHS. We will not be able to do that in the short run with the resources currently available. As a proportion of GDP, the NHS budget is falling. To be sustainable, we could easily set ourselves the objective that it should not fall any further. In a world where we can commit ourselves to 2% of GDP going to defence and 0.7% to international development aid, I am sure we could make a similar commitment of 7% or something of that order to the NHS as a floor for its future funding. That would be consistent with what was realistically included in the five-year forward view by the NHS for its own resources.
Secondly, happily I do not need to say much of what I might otherwise have done because the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, spoke for me as a Eurosceptic who believes we should remain in the European Union. In 1999, when I ran the Conservatives’ European parliamentary election campaign—very successfully, thank you—we fought on the principle of “in Europe but not run by Europe”. I still believe in that. With the Prime Minister’s most recent negotiation plus all that went before it, we are not in the euro, Schengen or a common asylum policy. We are in the things we want and chose to be in, on the environment, trade and the European arrest warrant. We are now in a situation that we never imagined we could get to, where we can be in a single market which, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, rightly said, still has more to offer us. This week we will probably hear more about e-commerce and the ability to create a single market in online trading. That is really important. We can do all this but do not have to sign up to a united states of Europe. That will not happen and we will not be in the euro. We will retain our essential sovereignty. That is what we always wanted in this Conservative Party for 30 years. Now, when we have that in our grasp, it seems utterly perverse to let it go.
Finally, today is the World Humanitarian Summit. I understand why the Prime Minister felt he had to fight the referendum campaign and could not be in Istanbul, but that is a pity. We have so much leadership to offer and there is so much that needs to be done. The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, spoke very well on this subject. It is important that we do not let the World Humanitarian Summit happen and people walk away saying, “Well, that wasn’t enough”. We must do more coming out of the summit in creating a much stronger professional and staffing infrastructure to handle not only immediate crises but follow-up on seeing how basic education and healthcare can be instrumental to handling such crises. Not least, we must recognise that we in Britain did more than our bit in trying to look after the refugees around Syria. As I saw for myself 18 months ago in Jordan, at that tipping point when they despaired of their ability to go back to Syria, there should have been a ramping up of international effort to give them the education, healthcare and commercial opportunities that would have ensured that they stayed in safe havens outside Syria rather than become so desperate that they started travelling across borders. It is a great pity that we did not invest, and that others did not invest like us, at that time.
My Lords, today’s burning question is how different faiths and cultures can live together in peace—nowhere more so than in the Middle East. The Palestinian territories have been occupied since 1967, and Gaza blockaded since 2006. If nothing is done, the latter may become uninhabitable in just four years’ time. Frustrations lead to wars and personal violence. The situation threatens world peace and is a spur to terrorists.
There are, however, some signs of new creative thoughts. In July 2014, President Abbas asked the UN Secretary-General for “an international protection system” for the Occupied Territories. He gave three strong reasons. He had support from various American academics and from Mr Indyk, a former US Ambassador to Israel. Prince Hassan of Jordan and Mr Churkin of Russia also spoke in favour, the latter in the Security Council. The benefit of protection is that there would be international responsibility for Palestinian self-determination and independence. To achieve this, the security of Israel should be guaranteed, thus allowing it to withdraw its forces from the West Bank and other places. Every existing institution should be co-opted in support of the rule of law for all Palestinians. Israel would gain by assurance of safety from external attacks, plus full recognition by all its neighbours. The goal should be two states living alongside in symbiosis. This would be a victory for all. Such an outline is not original. I trust, however, that it is realistic enough to be put into practice. I urge the Government to reflect on it and to promote it with all their diplomatic resources and skills. Moral imagination is surely needed after so many deaths, bereavements, wounds and violent expulsions.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stone, noted, the gracious Speech was silent on Israel and Palestine. However, I hope that what I have outlined is wholly consistent with our national security objectives. It agrees with the Foreign Secretary’s speech of April this year. It is in line with the four strategic objectives in the Treasury-DfID paper of last November. The first of these was global security and peace, and the last help for the world’s most vulnerable. Who could be more vulnerable than the people of Gaza? Therefore, I commend this proposal to your Lordships.
By way of postscript, I should like to see Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo all within the EU. For this reason and many others, I want us to keep our membership of the EU and to work for much-needed reforms. For many, the rebuilding and reopening of the Ferhadija mosque in Bosnia symbolises interfaith and cross-community co-operation in the kind of moral Europe that I would like to see happen.
My Lords, I wish to speak about the referendum. There is an appeal for facts, but facts about the future are in short supply. It is almost certain that we will have to depend on opinions as part of the mixture.
People talk about a single state, a united Europe and federal structures, and there is no doubt that that has been a project. For example, Giscard D’Estaing said that we never would have got as far as we have if we had told others what we were doing. But who is there who follows in the footsteps of the people of that generation? They may do in Brussels, but then bureaucrats get caught up in the fly-wheel effect. Is there the political will and leadership to go down that project road? I am not so sure.
There are, of course, practical problems. When you talk about a single Europe, what do you mean? Do you mean 47 countries, 28 or 19? Clearly, the euro could lead to some form of integration. However, we need to remember that the euro was an extremely risky experiment and was always seen to be so, even by the people who created it. They knew that they were getting it wrong in the classical sense of creating a monetary union before they had the political union to support it. Right now, it does not look as though they will find a solution to that problem.
In addition, the precedents for federal structures are not very encouraging—at least if one regards the Soviet Union as a federal structure. The United States got to where it is in a very different way in very different circumstances and had a brutal civil war on the way to success, so perhaps the idea of a single European state has always been a Utopian dream and was never going to come about. Indeed, Willie Whitelaw always told Margaret Thatcher when she got exercised about it, “Don’t worry, it won’t happen”.
In any event, given the situation today, the threat—if it is one—of a single Europe is certainly no reason for leaving the European Union. I believe that we should stay and remember that our empiricism versus the continental theory—our side of the argument—has not been fought with diligence. In fact, over long periods, we have failed to fight our corner to any great extent. Now we should concentrate on the single market, which needs improving and loosening up, as has been said. We should also concentrate on tightening security because there is no doubt that the threats do not diminish.
So we need to try a lot harder. We need to make the argument much more strongly and with much more confidence than we have sometimes done in the past. There is not, I believe, a lot of residual confidence in Brussels or in the minds of many of the 28—look at the rise of the right-wing parties and, indeed, other parties, which has been referred to this evening.
If the single Europe project was always a dream, we need to get on with what can be done and not keep pursuing what will not happen. If we could get ourselves and everybody else, one by one, to realise that, we could achieve the European reform which we all wish to see.
My Lords, apart from two or three movements outside the Chamber because of having unexpected visitors for a short while, I have been here for the whole of the debate, which has been of great quality. I think I am right in saying that, so far, only three or four out of a total of 63 speakers have been anti-Europeans, or Brexiteers, expressing a strong wish to leave the EU, not just saying, “I am happy to stay in the EU, but I propose a few modifications”. If that were to reflect the result for the country in the referendum on
The European project is still there and is bringing sovereign European countries together, working together through agreed, integrated institutions. This is the modern notion of sovereignty, not the old-fashioned one expressed in a couple of speeches, including the previous one. The notion of sovereignty as being on your own was last relevant to Britain in about 1912. Towards the end of the First World War the British Armed Forces were under the control of a French commander-in-chief, Admiral Foch. Even then, people did not worry about it so much, and nowadays it is completely out of date, with the development of the global village, let alone the development of the European Union.
Therefore, sovereignty means that countries make their own decisions through their elected Governments and parliaments. We are very proud of our system and its strength, although I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, who is not in his place, that our major weakness is not having a PR system in national elections. That is a serious weakness; the Liberal Democrats have always taken that view, and I respect it. Of course, if they applied it to themselves following their unfortunate fall to eight MPs in the other place in the general election, they ought to reduce their number of Peers to about 45 to equate with that figure, although I understand that that is a different scenario. Other people have often said that you need a greater equivalence between the national popular vote and the Government’s seats in Parliament, otherwise you get disillusionment and a feeling of no involvement at all. People become more and more switched off from politics, particularly when politicians increasingly, with that party system, which is about playing party games almost for the sake of it, constantly change their ideas, policies and principles.
I live in France, which unfortunately also has a non-PR system for national elections, although it is at least a two-round system—a kind of alternative vote system in a way—where you have to have 50% in the first round. That is an improvement, but even then there is a discrepancy between seats in the House and the popular vote. This Government have no right to submit to the public lots of unpopular proposals through legislation on the basis of 24% of the electorate. I am glad that the Government have now recovered their poise by being a truly national Government in representing the referendum case for Britain to stay in. I very much admire what Ministers have been saying on that score, and I very much agree with their quite correct criticisms of other Ministers actually saying untruths on the radio about the realities of the European Union. Every country has a veto, and that too is a measure of the sovereignty of all the member states.
With modern sovereignty, the individual sovereignty of each member state goes up automatically when a collective decision is made—through voting or unanimity but mostly by gradual treaty creation, as Monnet anticipated. Collective sovereignty therefore goes up automatically too, and so does the individual national sovereignty of each state. We are much stronger as a member of the European Union because of all those treaty decisions. That will probably continue in the future, but it depends on what all the member states, meeting together, want. They now work more and more with the European Parliament, for which the turnout in elections is much better than the turnout in United States elections in the old days. When the United States became a single country after the civil war, it even had a property qualification for elections and very low turnouts.
At least the European Parliament is now widely recognised, and the rise of the so-called patriotic parties, which I think is the wrong adjective anyway, is due as much to the reality of austerity as it is to the fear of immigration; it is both together. The public are switched off by continuing austerity; they do not want it in any country. It now behoves us all to press ahead with the referendum campaign and to support the Government in what they want to do. I disagree that their four achievements in the agreements with the other countries were of any substantial content, but they are better than nothing, I suppose, to bring in a larger national constituency of people supporting future European development.
However, the European Union remains democratically based, with a very modestly sized civil service doing what the European sovereign member states, in their meetings in the European Council, and the Council of Ministers with their different portfolios, ask them to do: to look into this, look into that, and make proposals. The Commission is a tiny body. It has nothing to do with democracy. It is like a civil service, except that it often has political chiefs as Commissioners. If we keep telling the public how it actually works more and more as time goes on, I hope and pray that there will be a big yes in the referendum.
My Lords, I found absolutely heartbreaking the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, about the school in Wolverhampton where young girls were written off in the middle of their school careers as having no future. I know that she was talking about some years ago, but it is a sign of how much our education system needs to do better in the future so that this does not happen again. My noble friend Lady Jowell added an element of real vision to this debate.
I will make two brief comments before I move on to the referendum. First, I am delighted that the new process for appointing the Secretary-General of the United Nations will be more transparent than before. We have discussed this in this House, and the Government played their part in ensuring that it would be more transparent. That is positive progress. Secondly, the Foreign Office has been very helpful to the All-Party Group against the Death Penalty in helping us to visit countries that have the death penalty and to engage in discussions with them in the hope of persuading them to reform it and, in the end, to abolish it. I do not know whether we will get more support from the Foreign Office in the current financial year. The Minister’s smile suggests everything.
There is one country in the EU that would be more dismayed than any other if we were to leave, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred to it. Ireland, our closest trading partner, would be absolutely appalled at the thought. If we were to leave, it would be the one border between the United Kingdom and the EU—a border that many people have spent years trying to get rid of, with all the associated violence. I am not clear how we could leave the EU and not have a border in Northern Ireland with some form of passport or other checks. At the moment, we are in the common travel area. Would it be possible to have that if we are not in the EU and Ireland is? I do not understand how that could happen. That alone seems to be a sufficiently positive argument for saying that the people who want us out ought to explain what they are about. We have seen so much violence and devastation in Britain and Ireland as a result of the Troubles, and putting the border back is too awful to contemplate.
Some years ago, when the G8 countries were trying to join the EU, I talked to a senior Minister. I forget which country he was from. He said: “One of the great things about the accession process is that it is making us do much more rapidly the things we ought and need to do anyway”. By that, he meant human rights, the rule of law and all the values that are dear to members of the EU. That this Minister said it was helping them on their path and that they were doing it quicker is a tribute to what the EU is about. There is a danger that the public will still see the debate as being within the Conservative Party or between it and UKIP. We on this side of the House must put that right. It would be a disaster if it was seen as not relevant to people who are not active conservatives.
When I watched the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday morning, I was shocked, along with other Members of the House, to hear a Cabinet Minister denounce Turkey. She said that its membership of the EU was inevitable, which of course it is not, and that if it was a member, all these criminals would come here. It is our partner. We might not like Turkey’s human rights record or be happy that Cyprus has not been resolved yet, but, for heaven’s sake, they have been NATO allies for a long time, and to denounce them in those terms is very offensive to any country. We are trying to persuade Turkey of the benefits of moving to a better position on human rights. In any case, I was looking at some statistics about the prison population. I know that the Turkish prison population is larger than ours, but we have a larger prison population than any other EU country. The EU countries do not say, “We don’t want the Brits living here, because they’re all criminals”, yet that is the conclusion one could draw. Ministers who want us out should be more careful.
Some months ago a Norwegian Minister was interviewed on television. Of course, Norway is not a member of the EU. He said that Norway had to abide by all the EU rules and regulations anyway in order to keep trading. He said, “Please, Britain, stay in, because you understand our position and you can speak for us in Brussels”. I know that some of those advocating getting out of the EU say that we should not be in the single market at all. I hate to say, “What are we going to be like, Albania?”, but that seems to be pretty appalling.
We have a difficult decision to make as a country. I hope to heaven that we make the right one.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, earlier asked for facts in the EU debate to be presented fairly and properly. Vote Leave’s new ad, out today, says that Turkey is joining the EU. There are two things wrong with that. First, it is a lie, a deliberate attempt to mislead. Secondly, it uses Turkey in a way that trivialises and misrepresents its nature, its position and its real importance in the migration crisis. The truth is, of course, not that Turkey is joining the EU but that Turkey is central to resolving the desperate state of affairs in the eastern Mediterranean. The situation is desperate and is getting worse: since this debate started, 120 people have been reported dead in suicide bombings in Syria.
We should not view the situation only or even chiefly through the dangers that migration presents to the countries of the EU. The fact is that western intervention in the eastern Mediterranean has been a disaster. We have intervened in Iraq, Syria and Libya. Can anyone claim that the lives of ordinary people in these countries are better since our interventions? They are not. It is because they are incomparably worse that we have such large-scale migration from the area. The overwhelming majority of migrants are not economic: they are refugees fleeing war, anarchy, the destruction of their homes and imminent death for them and their families. The West is a proximate cause of all this. It has a clear and moral duty not just to ameliorate but to try to fix the root problems, a duty to help not just the migrants but to remove the conditions that make migrant flight necessary. The EU is trying to help with the first and so are we, but our effort is very limited in scale and ungenerous. We can and should take more migrants directly. Other EU countries have done this.
However, it is extremely disappointing and very worrying that the major focus of EU effort is its deal, or putative deal, with Turkey. Long before the EU contrived its deal, Turkey had already taken in 2.7 million Syrian refugees. The cost to Turkey has been enormous, not just financially. Being host already to so many refugees and agreeing to host EU returnees has destabilised the country in significant ways. It has contributed to and been an excuse for attacks on Kurdish polity and Kurdish towns and villages inside Turkey. It has allowed cover for President Erdogan’s push for more power. It has served as a cover for a continuation and worsening of assaults on civil liberties and the rule of law. Last week Turkey began proceedings to withdraw parliamentary immunity from MPs, widely interpreted as the beginning of an action against Kurdish MPs. Before that, the Government closed down or took over opposition media. These things are not compatible with European values. They are not compatible with EU membership.
In normal times the EU would oppose these measures but the desperation to prevent the flow of migrants seems to have overruled the concern for civil rights and the rule of law in Turkey. The EU deal is unsatisfactory and unsafe on many levels. President Erdogan has explicitly refused to uphold his part of the deal—for example, he has explicitly refused to meet EU conditions about reform of his terrorism laws—yet the deal is now in operation. Migrants are being returned to Turkey amid widespread doubts about what conditions await them there. Visa-free access to the Schengen zone is due to commence. This should not happen unless Turkey fulfils its part of the deal.
Europe does need Turkey but we need Turkey as a reliable and trusted partner. We need to accept its right to democratic self-governance and we should applaud its generosity in hosting so many Syrian refugees already. But we should not condone assaults on democratic freedoms or the rule of law. We should not trade help over migration for turning a blind eye to Turkey’s violation of EU rules and principles. Most of all, we should be enlisting Turkey’s active help in addressing the root problem: the continuing war in Syria. Until that war ends, there will be no end to the flight of refugees and no end to the moral and political panic this flight has caused in Europe.
My Lords, like many others, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Perry on her valedictory speech. On a personal note, I thank her for encouraging me to throw my hat in the ring to be elected here a few months ago. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, on a thoughtful and attractive maiden speech.
There are 23 working days until the referendum so in the very short time available I will try to canter through 20-odd reasons to leave the EU. Before I start, I declare two interests, which are in the register, in case they are considered relevant. I am chairman of an international security company and I am employed by a shipping company that happens to be Russian.
We voted to join a free trade area, as is well known, not the political project the European Union has become. The EU is now seen by some as anti-democratic, centralist, failing and, of course, unaccountable. The EU is at the same time both yesterday’s model and seen as having a bleak future. Indeed, if it did not, we might have more wish to remain. The EU’s elites and their apologists here and abroad are both contemptuous and terrified of the will of the people, and I think we have seen a snapshot of that point of view in today’s debate. Regrettably, the EU—like some Members of this House—does not believe in or practise transparency.
Famously, the EU is too often utterly profligate with our money. The EU is currently responsible for economic misery, including mass unemployment across Europe, and thereby for the unfortunate rise of extremist political parties. Only 6% of our businesses and 13% of our trade are associated with the EU. We have declining trade and a trade deficit with the EU. The EU’s share of global trade has been in decline for several years. More than 140 countries in the world are not members of the EU. As your Lordships have heard already, as the fifth-largest economy in the world, we do not need the EU or its permission in order to trade with the world.
Many of the people and organisations that advocate the EU have financial or career reasons to please the EU and its elites. No doubt we can look forward to seeing some of their names in the honours list soon. Many of the people and organisations that advocated our membership of the EU also advocated us joining the euro, with similar predictions of Armageddon if we did not. As we like to say, those people were wrong then and are wrong again now.
In many areas, including human rights, the ECJ has effectively become the supreme court of the UK. The British people do not want this. The EU makes us and continental Europe less safe from serious criminals and terrorists. Far from enabling the UK to punch above its weight, in reality the EU does the opposite. While we remain members of the EU we cannot control immigration into the UK—that is common sense—with obvious consequences for our hospitals, schools, welfare and housing. This has no relevance to giving compassionate asylum here to those genuinely in need.
The EU—and, I regret to say, our Prime Minister—have conducted what many people perceive as sham renegotiations of our relationship with the EU, but fortunately no one here has been fooled. By that sham the EU has shown that in the eyes of many it is incapable of reform. Regrettably, the Prime Minister and Chancellor have also orchestrated what many people consider to be a low and at times dishonest referendum campaign. Perhaps they have been spending too much time with Mr Juncker, who has of course famously said in connection with the EU:
“When it gets serious, you have to lie”.
Je vous remercie tellement, Monsieur Juncker.
Of course leaving the EU will not affect our full, continuing and enthusiastic membership of many other international organisations, in which we are very senior players. The British people are not alone in wanting to leave the EU: it seems the majority of the Dutch, French, Italians and even the Germans are seriously questioning their EU membership now, which is one of the reasons why the EU elites and their fellow travellers everywhere are so terrified of our referendum.
I pose two last questions. Do we really want to remain members of an organisation which, we are told by our elites, we are in effect not allowed to leave? Secondly, would we want to join the EU as it is now or, even more so, with what it looks like becoming? Of course we would not. There may be some countries that benefit from membership of the EU or those, such as Turkey, that would like membership, but for all the reasons set out above, we do not. Do not just take my word for this: take it from the words today of Steve Hilton, previously one of the advisers closest to the Prime Minister.
I say to our people when they vote on
My Lords, how does one follow that? I had not intended to say anything about the referendum, but how can I avoid it, as so many noble Lords have started with the referendum? I have my own problems with it. I spent three years as a delegate to the Economic and Social Committee before I came to your Lordships’ House. At that time, the EU was a wonderful institution, because it was made up of countries which understood each other and had similar attitudes. I thought that that was a good thing. Now we have a huge number of countries, and it is the biggest translating machine the world has ever known or will ever know. The Parliament goes from one town to another, moving out twice a month. Can your Lordships imagine how much money and time that wastes? The budget has not been signed off for 25 years. Would we accept that from any other institution? The Commission is a small bureaucracy, which is not overseen by anybody, as far as I know. The CAP keeps the French countryside and French agriculture going: without it, both of them would collapse. There are a lot of things which are not right.
Moving on to what I wanted to say today, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for touching on two things which no one else has as far as I know—although maybe they did when I was not in the Chamber—women and population. We go through life and do not focus on those two issues. I am hoping for enlightenment one day and that people will start connecting population with climate change. It is just amazing to me that nobody wants to do that. I was the first Member of your Lordships’ House who spoke in a climate change debate on population. In 1950, we were 2.7 billion. How many are we today—7.2 billion? So there is a difference and it will not remain unnoticed. The climate is going to change because, apart from anything else, there are so many people.
There are more than 1 billion women in India and Africa put together, and they have the kind of lives that we cannot even imagine, sitting here. It is unbelievable. I will just give a few little stories, because stories fix things in one’s mind. In Haryana there is a difference of 11% between the number of girls and of boys, because the girls have been aborted or killed. There are two reasons for that: one is dowry, which is horrible, and the other is inheritance, because the laws allow girls to inherit. The unforeseen consequence of that is that the girls are killed so that they will not inherit anything. Especially in agricultural communities, they really worry about that.
Two girls were raped, killed and hanged from a tree in India. The police said, “Oh, they are only low caste”. A girl and a boy wanted to get married and were asked to pay £240 each to be allowed to go on living. The boy paid, but the girl could not and was raped by 17 men in the village. When you hear those things, you do not think they can be true, but they are. With honour killings, you hear the word “honour”, but whose honour are we talking about? Usually what happens is that a boy in one family does something to a girl in another family, and they then rape or kill the sister of that boy. So you kill somebody who has not done anything. In Pakistan, quite often, if you can prove that it is an honour killing, they do not bring any murder charges. A girl and boy were hanged by their parents in their living room because they wanted to get married. Some run away to Delhi, but Delhi and Bombay have agents who find these young people and bring them back. In Kenya, a woman went to work in the local town and was then not allowed back into the village and to see her family. Amazing things take place. Women are used and abused, and if we cannot do anything for them, we do not achieve anything.
I know that my time has almost run out but I must say one quick thing about the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which can now undertake development wherever there is need. Two watchdogs have said that it is not focused and does not do things which will bring down poverty or create more jobs. It says it has created 1.3 million jobs, but nobody has checked to see whether this is true or not. You can say anything. I can say to your Lordships that I created 10 jobs—I probably have, but your Lordships do not know that. They have been given £735 million of our money by DfID this year, and it is right and proper that every penny of that money should be looked at. We should be told what it does with that money, because all the things it has invested in involve fees—fee-paying schools, private hospitals and all those sort of things—and nothing which would help the poor.
My Lords, the greatest peril that we face today is from the self-proclaimed Islamic State. It justifies its evil acts under the fundamentalist theology of the Wahhabi Sunni sect of Islam. It dominates many of the Islamist groups which have sprung up since the Muslim Brotherhood was formed in 1928, comprising as a whole what we call today political Islam. IS is waging all-out war using every weapon, even if outlawed, including genocide. It now targets any Muslim country where it can influence other Islamist groups and organisations. The Taliban in Afghanistan, Boko Haram in Nigeria and, mostly recently, al-Qaeda in Yemen and Libya are in its sights, and so too is Europe.
I want to focus on the tragic spin-off of this cruel onslaught: massive migration, which is overwhelming the resources of the countries in which migrants are seeking refuge. Unwisely, the EU has seen this as a problem for Europe, relying on the European Commission to find a solution—but the problem is a global one. Brussels has proposed mandatory relocation targets for individual EU member states, backed up by huge financial fines for non-compliance. Such a blatant and undemocratic intrusion into national sovereignty was bound to fail, and fail it has. The Commission last week admitted that the EU states have virtually ignored the target of relocating 20,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy by May; only 563 out of the 20,000 have been moved. Of the 160,000 asylum seekers EU Governments agreed to take late last year, only 1,500—less than 1%—have been relocated. Worse, so overconfident, arrogant—or perhaps I should be kinder and say out of touch—was the Commission that it had and still has no plan B. The German-Turkish deal is clearly unsustainable and is collapsing and unravelling rapidly.
Of the possible countries, I suggested Libya, already in dangerous chaos, where UN-backed intervention is very likely to be required. Eight hundred thousand refugees are at this moment massing on the shores of Libya, waiting to be launched on to the summer seas to Europe. Libya is one of the six largest countries in the region, but with by far the smallest population. It has only 6 million people: four people per square kilometre. Of the other five regional states, Saudi Arabia has 14 per square kilometre, Algeria 16, Sudan 21, Morocco 48 and Egypt 87. Indeed, of the largest countries in the world, only Australia is more sparsely populated than Libya, while India has 407, China 140, the USA 84 and Brazil 32. In Europe, Spain has 93, France 117, Italy 120, Germany 225 and the UK 261.
A United Nations military force, which I hope would be NATO in blue helmets, would of course be needed initially to plan, establish, guard, protect and probably administer the area. Of course, Libya should, through the UN, be fully compensated for hosting this enterprise, along with giving up any territory necessary.
I believe that one of our roles here is to throw pebbles into the pool in the hope that the ripples may reach the shore. I only wish that ripples from my pebble had done so. My plan B—or, I hope, a better one—could now have been under way. It may now be too late. Revolt within Europe is on the horizon and anarchy looms.
My Lords, I do not always agree with what the noble Lord says, but I very much agree with what he said about the role of this House in throwing pebbles into the water to see what sort of wave they create. We heard two wonderful speeches this afternoon: the valedictory from the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and the maiden speech from my noble friend Lady Jowell. We shall remember both for a long time.
We are now half way through the Brexit campaign and, on the whole, it has been a rather unedifying spectacle. On the one side, a notable feature has been the publication of some pretty heavyweight studies by academic groups, two by the Treasury—I have not read the one that came out today—and by two of the three most distinguished international organisations in the area of economics, the OECD and the IMF. The third institution, the World Bank, is focused only on the developing world, so it has not been involved.
Those studies have not been responded to at all by the Brexit camp. There has been no attempt at any substantive refutation or rival alternative projections of the great economic prospects that would face us if we left the European Union. There has been only a series of whining complaints that it was unfair that the Government were allowed to produce a study at all—we heard that from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, earlier—and, far worse, a systematic tendency simply to denigrate and impugn the honesty and integrity of people who dare to produce advice to the British people in favour of remaining in the EU.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, I heard Dr Liam Fox on “Question Time” a week or two ago. He studiously avoided addressing any of the economic arguments put forward; on every occasion, he simply attacked the good faith of the people who had put forward those arguments or produced those studies. Christine Lagarde was merely a tool of the French Government—although she is the independent president of the IMF. The Governor of the Bank of England, which is an independent central bank, was merely the tool of the Chancellor. He actually said that the economists in the OECD and the IMF had been bought because the EU pays a subscription to those organisations. I have no idea whether it is true that the EU pays a subscription to them, but it is most unlikely that the scores of extremely distinguished economists in both those institutions, some of whom have an international reputation, would have the faintest idea what the subscription list was of the institution that employed them. The allegations were utterly ridiculous and absurd, but the fact that they were being made by a British politician was very discreditable and unfortunate—but there we are.
What is more, the Brexit camp will not tell us at all what alternative scenario we face if we leave the EU. We are invited to drive into a complete void. We have had Mr Johnson say that he thinks that we should have a Canada-type arrangement with the EU. Perhaps he regrets that now that he has discovered that the Canada arrangement scarcely includes services, when 80% of our GDP is in services. We have had Mr Gove saying that we should have no relationship whatever with the single market. We have had other people talking about Albania and so forth—Mr Gove talked at another moment about Albania; he seems to change his mind rather. So we are quite unclear.
It is serious because it is an open secret in Westminster—is it not?—that the people running the Brexit campaign expect that if they win, the Prime Minister will have to resign. I dare say that they may be right in that assumption. They then intend to try to take over the Tory party in fairly short order, which means taking over the Government of the day. There will not be a general election for four years, so the only chance that the British public have of deciding that matter is the vote they cast on
It is obvious that those running the Brexit campaign want to get as far away as possible from the economy, and these are all methods of trying to change the subject or deflect people’s attention from the serious economic issues at stake. That is why they have focused on the whole business of immigration, which is emotively very powerful. We have had two examples of that just recently. One of them was the Turkey issue. I must say to Ms Mordaunt that the kindest thing that can be said about her remarks to the effect that enlargement was not a matter for unanimity under the EU treaty was that she was extraordinarily ignorant. But I have to tell her that there is no excuse for being ignorant in the MoD. In the MoD, you are surrounded by the most able officials, uniformed and non-uniformed. They will give you a briefing on anything as soon as you ask for it, more or less—within a few hours. All that was necessary for Ms Mordaunt to do if she actually wanted to discover the truth was to ask one of her civil servants to arrange a briefing and tell her what was in the treaty. So the whole episode is very worrying and concerning.
The truth is that in relation to immigration from outside the Union, we have complete sovereign control today and we have no problem about it. If we left the Union, the difference would be that we would no longer have the co-operation of our partners in the EU as we would no longer be a part of the Union. The first casualty of that would be the Sangatte and Dunkirk camps. It is an extraordinary anomaly that the French have permitted the frontier of another country to exist on their territory, but that is what they have done. Anybody who knows any elected representatives, députés or élus locaux—mayors and so forth—from the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region knows that it is a very sensitive issue. The presence of those camps is regarded as a nightmare by the local electorate, and many of those constituencies are marginal between the Front National and the Socialists. They are all straining at the leash to find an excuse to get rid of those camps and to tell the British to take their frontier back. That is a real prospect that has not been identified very much in the discussions so far.
I want to say one thing finally, which is very important, about the other aspect of immigration, which is freedom of movement. It is said that we have control now over immigration from outside the EU but that if we leave the EU we will have control over immigration from the EU as well. We cannot, for two reasons. One is the reason that has often been quoted and has been cited in this House several times this afternoon, which is that, almost certainly, if we want to have some relationship with the single market, which we inevitably and naturally would have to achieve, we would almost certainly have to accept freedom of movement—which every other European country that has access to the single market, including Switzerland and Norway, has accepted. That is a high probability, but it is not a certainty.
However, there is one absolute certainty: we cannot physically leave the freedom of movement regime so long as the Republic of Ireland remains part of the Union and accepts freedom of movement. My noble friend Lord Dubs anticipated me here in putting his finger on this very important point. It is a critical point. The Irish have no intention of leaving the EU or of being bullied by the British to leave the EU or of giving up freedom of movement. Indeed, they have done very well out of freedom of movement. They had a large import of labour from eastern Europe during the Irish boom; then, when the economy fell away after the banking crisis, most of them went home; and now they are coming back again. So they have benefited from that. If you have freedom of movement into Ireland, anybody from Romania, Poland or anywhere else in the EU can go into the Republic of Ireland and, once they are there, they can take a bus or a train or walk across the frontier into the United Kingdom as easily as I can walk into St James’s Park after the debate if I feel like it.
We cannot possibly create a permanent controlled frontier across the island of Ireland, hermetically sealing off the six counties from the 26 counties. That would be regarded as a horrific affront by nationalists in Ireland north and south of the present border. Indeed, it would be regarded by some nationalists as a declaration of war by the British. We did not create such a border even in the days of the Troubles. How could we possibly create it now? It is out of the question. Equally out of the question is to create a border across the United Kingdom itself, dividing Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom. That is simply not a possibility. It follows that so long as Ireland remains in the EU—I will give way in just one second—it is simply not a practical possibility for us to leave it without very serious consequences for the island of Ireland and serious risks to the Belfast peace process and to the progress that has been made over the last few years in that part of the Kingdom.
My Lords, I find it quite annoying that the noble Lord has spoken for nine minutes when the advisory speaking time was five minutes. I cut short a lot of things I had to say, yet we sit here and listen to one noble Lord for nine minutes.
My Lords, I certainly have no intention of going on for nine minutes or anything like that. The thought of upwards of 60 people lining up to give their views on the referendum is rather deadly, but I fear it can hardly be avoided for now is surely the time to stand up and be counted. I am for remain, but I shall try to make the case on a ground we do not hear too much about—namely, the interests of disabled people.
Before I do that, however, I shall try to tot up the score on the grounds we hear all too much about. I say “all too much” because a lot of the advocacy tends to be self-cancelling. That in itself suggests that the arguments are not clear-cut and the ultimate decision must be on a balance of advantages. That said, I believe the balance is clearly in favour of remain. I shall examine the arguments under five heads.
On the economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, remain appears to be winning hands down. Even leave admits that there would be an economic shock in the short term, and remain has a veritable alphabet soup of heavyweight endorsements from the IMF, the OECD, the WTO, the G20, the IFS, the OBR, the CBI, the LSE, the MPC, the World Bank, the Governor of the Bank of England and eight US Treasury Secretaries.
Next, there is the disruption to trading relationships. Leave used to believe that we could have all the benefits of the single market without any of the burdens, but it has been forced to abandon that argument. It is thus now in disarray on the single market. On the whole, it seems now to say that we can do without it, but then the claim that there would be little disruption to trading relationships implodes. Everyone, except leave, agrees that renegotiating bilateral replacements for all the trading relationships vacated by our withdrawal from the EU would be a long and far from straightforward process.
On sovereignty, again remain has the better of the argument. Whenever you go into a collective arrangement, you share some of your sovereignty, but in return you get the benefits of the collective arrangement. If the complaint is that the European Court of Justice sometimes finds against us, it is not a very edifying stance to say that we will accept the jurisdiction of a court only if it is guaranteed never to find against us. On security, the camps may be more evenly matched, but one should not take lightly the warnings of five Secretary-Generals of NATO and a dozen or so US defence and security chiefs. On ability to control immigration, leave probably has the edge, but the weight of this argument depends a lot on how dim a view you take of immigration.
I make that about three and a half to one and a half to the remain campaign, but I do not think the matter should be determined by a sort of accountant’s calculus. Ultimately, it is a question of philosophical orientation and whether you think that in a globalised world you can turn your back on collective arrangements and go it alone in a little England backwater at the edge of the world. I am an internationalist, and I do not think you can.
I said I would say something about disability. The lives of disabled people and their families in the UK have been significantly improved through our membership of the European Union. Many positive changes in our laws and policies over the past 20 years owe their origin to European initiatives. For example, the 2000 directive on equal treatment in employment strengthened the law on discrimination in the workplace to the benefit of disabled people, among others, in the UK. Unfortunately, it is often at national level that we experience difficulty or resistance in the forging of new rights. The British Government were not up for the legal strengthening provided for by the equal treatment in employment directive, for instance. It has been the common experience of disabled people in Britain that we can get advances through the EU that we would not get from British Governments of whatever stripe. Leaving the EU would put these advances at risk, and the EU would no longer prevent UK Governments rolling them back. Leaving the EU would also make it more likely that disabled people in Britain would not be able to enjoy the benefits of new initiatives where the EU is leading and the UK is dragging its feet—for example, over the accessible design of manufactured goods—and it would jeopardise much-needed financial support for disabled people in the UK from EU structural and investment funds which have just been changed to place more emphasis on anti-poverty and social inclusion measures.
The EU’s superior record in advancing and protecting the rights of disabled people is another positive reason for wishing to remain within the EU, and the score goes up to four and a half to one and a half.
My Lords, I have to begin by declaring an interest: at a relatively young age, unfortunately for me, I was made treasurer of the Conservative Group for Europe. I had to raise money for the campaign at the time but I failed dismally and suddenly found myself severely in debt, without the help of other parties.
I feel quite strongly about all this. I have benefited from the EU; I declare an interest in that I am effectively a French peasant farmer who benefits from some grants. I produce olive oil and wine in France and suffer from the problems of wild boar, apparently bred in England, which have come and knocked down the fences and killed and dug up all sorts of things. Still, I love that rural environment.
I think that we have forgotten one of the motives of the original referendum, which was to consult. I am totally in favour of where we are now. I have benefited from grants, and most of us at some time or other have benefited from some support from the EU. It all begins with what was the European Coal and Steel Community. There is a quote that I rather like:
“Gold is for the mistress—silver for the maid—
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.
‘Good!’ said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
‘But Iron—Cold Iron—is master of them all’”.
I believe we are about to run out of steel, though, so I do not think quoting that can be very appropriate. Who are the new steelmakers? Certainly not the ECSC that was created at the beginning. The world has changed.
Where does the UK fit as a country? We are doing rather well. We have a balance of payments surplus, we have some pretty significant exports and we fought away the whole concept of joining the euro—I remember sitting under a tree in France arguing bitterly with people that we did not want to have anything to do with it. We are in a strong position. I am assuming that the debate today is saying to the nation from the House of Lords which way they should vote and which issues they should consider.
One of the reasons why I have been interested in this subject is the historic development of the European countries and their original trading partners. Your Lordships will remember the term “the scramble for Africa”. Africa was based on a collection of colonies set up by most of the current EU members in one form or another. Here is where there is a need for some form of help and assistance in terms of trade, orders and work of that sort. Your Lordships will remember Claude Chaisson, who headed the European Development Fund, which was spent quite well and profitably in Africa to establish new activities. The thought was that there should be co-financing with the British. For some reason or another we felt unable to come to the party, and there were very few joint ventures of that sort.
Most of the troubles of immigration and migration that we are facing are due to a failure of adequate economic and profitable activity in the countries that the immigrants are forced to leave. A hundred years ago everyone was going to Africa because it was a continent full of raw materials that were needed. In Ghana there was so much gold that when the king went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, the money that he spent on the way was enough to keep the countries for maybe 30 or 40 years. I am looking at what the EU, and indeed we ourselves, can do in places like Africa to regenerate their economies and thereby help to reduce their logical migration towards the north. That is not as difficult as it may sound because all it needs is a few contracts in advance to buy the offtake of the raw materials that are still there.
I turn to the rest of the world. I used to sail every year around the Turkish coast in my boat, taking children and others for sailing lessons, and got to know almost all the isles. I am amazed that we have a situation arising at the moment where there has been no control of migration. There have been no adequate controls in the Mediterranean and nothing done to halt the disastrous scenarios that are emerging. If your Lordships will forgive me, I think one of the biggest issues facing the electorate at the moment is going to be the immigrants. It is not a question of arguments about pro or con in the economy; it is about how many million more immigrants are going to try to come to England. It is worrying. I never thought that economic and trade affairs would be faced with this concern about immigration but it is important, and I would like to emphasise that.
My Lords, following on in a sense from the line of thought of the noble Lord, Lord Low, I say that there are a number of headings under which one has to make judgments. In addition to the four pillars of policy, as magisterially set out by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, I shall pose some issues of significance where the Brexiteers seem to be in denial.
The first is that there is a likelihood of an economic setback. It is highly likely to be a trigger for a significant devaluation. Incidentally, a forced devaluation is quite different from an active policy, as was true twice for Labour Governments—although that point may be argued. Still, an active policy to devalue the pound is one thing; to find the pound collapsing is another. If it was a fall of around 20%, as some forecasters have said to me over the past few years, then we would be rapidly approaching parity with the euro. It would be an irony, would it not, if in trying to avoid the national humiliation of falling below the euro, we ended up, as it were, shadowing it. At that point we might as well join it, so thank you to the Brexiteers for that.
Then there is the red herring, if you follow the arithmetic, that we will destroy the health service if we remain because we pay the EU a gross figure of £350 million that could otherwise be spent on it. That has to be put alongside what I just said about a fall in the national income. We have found since 2008 a fall of several points from the national potential, and that soon adds up to between £30 billion and £50 billion. Each 1% loss of national income amounts to £13 billion, since the national income is £1.3 trillion. The Brexiteers are trying to get it into people’s heads that it is a disaster that we pay this sum of £350 million, which is beyond comprehension. However, that is a small fraction—one-20th or one-40th—of the loss of one year’s growth of national income, which would certainly be a minimum forecast for that loss. My question is: what is so cool about viewing with equanimity the prospect of a major devaluation of the pound as a result of a crisis?
Next, who can deny that those who argue that standards at work are being undermined through migration are in many cases the very same people who have always disparaged and misrepresented any and every move to advance and protect workers? I know this from personal experience, having advocated various aspects of the progress of these policies in the TUC for many years. The very same sorts of people who are now saying, “You are no longer protecting the workers”—and thank you very much for that compliment—claim that they are the ones who have protected workers. Each speech every day by Iain Duncan Smith or Michael Gove shows the schizophrenia of the people who are making such claims. The reason why we had to make all these advances at European level was that, if we had tried to make them at national level, each national employer would have said, “No, you can’t do that. We will be undercut”. So the argument is totally the other way around. Parental leave, transfers of undertakings, you name it—they have to be implemented, as we succeeded in doing at European level.
Next, the Brexiteers are in denial of the inevitability—the indispensability—of any free trade area having a number of standards built into it. It happens that I chaired the last EFTA consultative committee that took place, with Britain in it, in 1972 in Vienna, and I assure Mr Duncan Smith and Mr Gove and the rest that the Stockholm treaty of 1959 had a lot of standards built into it, not least on state aids and the rest of it. I have a whole note on that which I do not have time to read out. Therefore we shared sovereignty then, and the whole Conservative Party and, I think, the whole Labour Party thought that EFTA was the bee’s knees, but it had all these requirements for a level playing field built into it.
I wish the best of luck to Mr Gove if he tries to cobble together his free trade area with Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Ukraine. I will repeat that, because you could not make it up: Albania, Bosnia, Serbia and Ukraine. We ought to set it to music—I will have a go now. Surely no self-respecting experienced politician can go on repeating such fantasies when the facts of the matter are drawn to their attention. By the way, EFTA is now in effect subsumed into the single market called the European Economic Area, and all the EFTA countries, including Switzerland, are part of Schengen.
Therefore, on all these three points the credibility of the Brexiteers is zero.
My Lords, I would like to make a powerful speech in favour of remain but we have heard lots of such powerful speeches, and I agree with them. Straight after the referendum there is likely to be a vote on the other matter the gracious Speech referred to: the securing of the future of the British nuclear deterrent. I will therefore make a few comments on that and pose a few questions, because many questions need to be asked before we get to that point of a vote in the other place.
There are economic, practical, moral and legal aspects to the decision to renew the deterrent. The economic estimates of the cost vary widely but they always climb upwards very steeply. The independent Trident Commission estimated in 2014 a lifetime cost of around £100 billion. About six months after that, the Foreign Affairs Committee chair Crispin Blunt estimated a cost of £167 billion, and the figure of £205 billion was very recently reported, so it seems to go up by about £50 billion every six months. Therefore, cost is a big concern, but certainly by no means the only one.
Questions must urgently be asked about whether Trident will already be past its sell-by date technologically before it is put into service. Could the UK be investing in a technology that will shortly be rendered useless by technological advances? Many well-informed people think so. I know that older decision-makers find it hard to imagine the speed with which technological changes happen. Some 25 years ago we had no idea of what cyberwarfare meant or what it would mean to an internet-connected world. My worry is that Trident will be to the UK what Hannibal’s elephants were to him: seemingly fearsome, massive and invulnerable, but easily defeated as the Romans crept round behind them and hamstrung them. The likelihood is that the ability of autonomous underwater submarines and associated detection will develop as fast over the next 20 years as it has in the last 20. If so, the Trident-carrying Vanguard submarines will not be so invisible in the depths of the ocean. What if the very fast developing cyberthreat means that such a nuclear weapons system is a bigger threat than a reassurance?
Then there is the moral case. The pressing case for nuclear disarmament is as strong as ever, but memories of the horrendous nightmare of the reality of a nuclear attack have faded. It is therefore significant that this week, President Obama will visit Hiroshima. The reality of what we mean by nuclear warfare must be remembered and understood. I hope the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will join the almost 7,000 other Mayors for Peace who find targeting of cities, even as a so-called deterrence strategy, totally unacceptable. Moral arguments have been made powerfully by spiritual leaders. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, the noble and right reverend Lord Williams of Oystermouth, said that the weapons were “intrinsically indiscriminate”, and Pope Francis has called for the full application of the non-proliferation treaty. That leads me to the next point, the legal aspect.
Would the renewal of Trident be in violation of the UK’s commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons? The ongoing Marshall Islands case in the International Court of Justice in The Hague began this year. The Marshall Islands argues that nuclear weapons states have failed to carry out good-faith negotiations towards nuclear disarmament. It is not enough just to talk about nuclear disarmament or submit well-meaning Motions to the UN Conference on Disarmament if you are renewing and modernising your nuclear arsenal at the same time. The Marshall Islands case may well just be the start of non-nuclear powers using legal recourse to address these weapons of mass destruction.
The vote in the Commons this year will set a posture for the UK for the next 50 years. We need clear thinking and long and loud debate before it happens. The noble Lord, Lord West, called that a political football. I call it a very necessary debate, and I am glad that Jeremy Corbyn has raised the level of that debate, because before he mentioned it, it was virtually invisible.
As I conclude, I ask the House to spare a thought for Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, who last Sunday was charged with violating the terms of his release, more than a decade after he completed an 18-year jail term, and all for telling the truth.
My Lords, the Government were clear in Her Majesty’s gracious Speech that they will continue to play a leading role in world affairs. With this in mind, I will draw the attention of Your Lordships’ House to the continuing situation in Libya.
Since, Muammur Gaddafi was overthrown, Libya has descended into sectarian violence, with rival factions vying for control. We have seen two opposing Governments and Parliaments, both claiming legitimacy, with armed groups committed to both sides. Numerous war crimes and human rights abuses have been committed. In the midst of all this, Daesh has exploited the absence of a central authority to gain an increasing hold. Libya is now by far its biggest stronghold outside Syria and Iraq.
There is widespread agreement that some of the chaos is down to our failure properly to prepare for the situation following Gaddafi’s removal. We should have prepared a plan for what should happen after his rule ended, but that did not happen. 1t is disappointing that we did not appear to have learned the lessons from Iraq. We must remember that the main victims of the chaos are the innocent Libyan people. It has been suggested that the frequency and severity of atrocities committed by Daesh are being underestimated. It has committed atrocities in Sirte and other places. The situation in Sirte is likely to spiral further out of control. It is reported that rival militias are now preparing to liberate the city from Daesh, each with its own agenda. This could create yet more conflict.
Fortunately, last year some progress was made, with the Libyan Political Agreement leading to the formation of the Government of National Accord. Importantly, the Government are unanimously recognised and supported by the United Nations as the sole legitimate authority in Libya. This is a crucial step in order to assert the rule of law and fill the vacuum in which groups like Daesh have thrived. It is also now important that Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj be respected as Head of State by the international community. He must be supported in achieving financial and military control in order to improve stability. We should also welcome the productive talks last week in Vienna. The Government of National Accord have been asking for our help in training and equipping their forces. A number of encouraging announcements were made in this respect.
Ultimately, it should be Libyans who deal with the military situation, but we should help with training and intelligence-gathering, as well as providing specific weapons to enable them to do so. General Khalifa Haftar remains a controversial figure but retains significant military power, particularly in the east of the country. Some believe that the two sides should unite under one military command in order to properly co-ordinate a strategy against Daesh and other terrorist groups in the country. In any case, I believe that General Haftar will have to form part of a political solution to move things forward.
Internally within Libya, there is still a concerning reluctance on the part of the House of Representatives to accept the new Government. The Speaker himself is still hostile and no Government can legitimately operate without majority support from its Parliament. A sustainable solution must therefore be found.
Another major concern is that, if the situation does not improve, we will continue to see mass movements of migrants. Libyans themselves will continue to flee in greater numbers. Libya’s geographical position also means that it serves as a path for many wishing to enter Europe from other parts of Africa. Interpol recently said that up to 800,000 would-be migrants may be in Libya wishing to cross into Europe.
I have spoken many times in your Lordships’ House on the need to undertake bilateral trade with overseas countries. I hope that we can look at potential opportunities to increase trade with Libya in the future. I shall be chairing a conference on trade with Libya in London in July. Last week I met a leading Libyan politician and an academic, with whom I had fruitful discussions.
I conclude by saying that the global community must act in the interests of Libya and the needs of its people. We must help to rebuild its institutions, through which it can get back on its feet. Stability in Libya can assist with stability in the wider region.
My Lords, the gracious Speech makes the bold statement that Her Majesty’s Government will continue to play a leading role addressing major international security and humanitarian challenges. However, there has not always been strong evidence of that in the debate this afternoon, preoccupied, as it has been, by the forthcoming referendum on Europe—the result of which, I would argue, will have an enormous influence on the role that this country will be able to play in addressing conflict resolution in the coming years.
The gracious Speech refers to Ukraine. Of course, we are not a member of the Normandy group that brings together France and Germany, Russia and the Ukraine itself. It also mentions Syria. There is no mention of Iraq, of Israel/Palestine, of the United Nations, where we are still a permanent member of the Security Council, or of the pending search for a new Secretary-General. The Normandy group was formed precisely on the 70th anniversary of D-day,
I turn now to the Middle East and welcome what the gracious Speech says about ISIS and a lasting political settlement to the Syrian tragedy, now in its sixth year. I welcome, too, the note of caution and implicit welcome for a political settlement in Syria, which, by definition, would somehow have to include all sides. However, other parts of the Middle East are not mentioned—for example, Iraq, where the promised political advances have not materialised some 13 years after the US/UK invasion left the country broken and divided. The recent storming of the green zone in Baghdad by protesters led by the Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr brought to the surface a long-standing dilemma—namely, that the system which has governed the country since 2003 is in dire need of radical reform. However, the ruling political class has set its stance against that and is highly resistant to genuine change.
There is much in the gracious Speech about the need for the fight against Daesh, but that fight cannot be prosecuted solely by military means. That should be stunningly obvious. It needs political recourse, and that is singularly absent in our policy with regard to Iraq—a policy which, I have to say in defence of the Government, is not limited to the UK Government; it is one held by the Government of the US and our other allies.
I want to focus now on Israel and Palestine, and perhaps to state the obvious—that there is no longer a peace process. We seem to be indifferent to that. There have been no serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Authority for more than two years. What was called the Middle East peace process and the quartet are now fictions—entities hollowed out. Yet we know that this is a situation that in the long run is unsustainable. In Israel the right wing gets stronger—especially the national religious groupings—and on the Palestinian side there is a continued division between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The Palestinian Authority is led by Mahmoud Abbas, or Abu Mazen, now 80 years of age, and it is difficult to foresee Israel dealing with a more moderate Palestinian interlocutor. The landscape of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking bears no resemblance to that of a decade ago, in which I was privileged to play some role in both a national and UN capacity. Little, if nothing, has been done to alter the conditions that precipitated unrest and violence in the past—the continuous growth of settlements and the heavy presence of the Israeli army in much of the West Bank. I would welcome the Minister’s reflections on this and on why it is not seemingly a greater priority in the Government’s foreign policy. Is that simply because it is too hard?
I welcome the initiatives that the Minister spoke to with regard to sexual and gender discrimination. I strongly endorse them. However, they cannot on their own substitute for the real hard grind of diplomacy needed to tackle deeply entrenched conflicts that we ignore at our peril.
My Lords, it is not surprising that the debate has concentrated on the question of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, since everything else in the Queen’s Speech is likely to be somewhat overtaken by events and to take place in a different environment if, by any chance, we should decide to leave.
I pointed out at the Second Reading of the referendum Bill that in fact the referendum is not mandatory; the Library confirmed that it is advisory. However, my noble friend on the Front Bench replying to that debate pointed out that the Government will most certainly adhere to the result, regardless of whether the majority is very small or the turnout very low, and that we will be taking a once-in-a-generation decision. That does not seem to be the view either of Mr Farage, who has indicated that we might have a second referendum if he does not like the result of the first, or the Scottish National Party, which also may well call, for different reasons, for a further referendum.
I have always been totally opposed to referendums. I think it is a myth to suppose that they are a democratic way of governing. They are certainly inferior to our system of representative parliamentary democracy, where Members of Parliament are sent to the other place to act as representatives, not delegates, and are responsible to the electorate over time. Matters are then discussed in great detail and with consideration of the interests of minorities, which are certainly not taken into account if one adopts a system of referendums. Having said that, the experience of the Scottish referendum suggests that the results are likely to cause considerable acrimony. All the evidence we have had from Scotland is that there is still a great deal of ill feeling as a result of the referendum. It appears that that is going to be even more so as far as this referendum is concerned, and all the more so because the Prime Minister decided to suspend ministerial collective responsibility.
As was pointed out a moment ago, the people taking part in the discussion are tending not to deal with the arguments at all but to resort largely to slogans and abuse. The atmosphere generally in the course of the campaign so far has been very unfortunate indeed; not merely references to Hitler or Mr Obama’s ancestry or whatever else it may be—that is bad enough—but a campaign which, in some respects, is blatantly dishonest. I will give the two obvious examples, which have been quoted already. First, the leave campaign’s bus has slogans on its side with figures that are clearly wrong. Those engaged in the leave campaign must know that they are wrong. This is something that we should be very concerned about as far as politics in this country is concerned. Certainly the suggestion that the figure mentioned could be somehow allocated to the National Health Service, almost overnight apparently, is disgraceful. Therefore, I find it very worrying that the effect of the referendum is being operated in this way.
Secondly, and similarly, is the discussion of the migrant issue, which is very emotive and important. The question being asked is whether millions more migrants would come in under free movement under the EEC because Turkey has joined but without, at the same time, making the qualification that we have a veto. As is intrinsic in a referendum system, as against parliamentary debate, all the debates have taken place without the qualifications that ought to be spelled out. Therefore, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the people of the country are being deliberately misled rather than properly informed.
I want to stay within the time limit, so I will make one final point. In the whole debate on migration from outside the European Union—I refer to the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire—we are grossly underestimating the scale of this. If we are going to cope with it, we have to have a situation in Europe where we can take a lead. And we cannot take a lead if we have left.
My Lords, what I found so powerful about the valedictory speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, was its sense of humanity. That will be missed. We need much more of it.
The first reality of life in the world in which we live, whether we like it or not, is that we are all totally interdependent, and that stretches right across the globe. We can see that that is true of the refugee crisis, which is only an indication of what is going to come with climatic changes that will, again, affect us all. It is true economically and in terms of health; one only has to think of special crises such as Ebola, but it is there all the time. It is true of international crime, terrorism and security. We have to work together with others.
What troubles me is how, into the middle of this reality, comes this re-emphasis of the word “sovereignty”. I frankly do not know whether people who talk about sovereignty really realise what they are saying. They are using the word emotionally but I am afraid that, unintentionally of course, they will betray future generations. The challenge to all of us is to come to terms with interdependence, and so Governments and political leadership across the board will be judged by the success we are making of meeting that challenge and the contribution we are making to finding the solutions. Of course, co-operation is a word that needs to be reaffirmed in our dialogue about international affairs.
I was very reassured by the opening speech on this side of the House by my noble friend Lord Collins of Highbury. I do not always find myself in total agreement with what is being said, but today I did. I also thought that the speech by my noble friend Lady Jowell was outstanding—a feeling which I am sure is shared by many. It raised me up in the midst of the kind of debate to which we have been subjected recently.
How are we effective in making a success of meeting the challenges of interdependence? It is of course by the spirit in which we join in and are seen to be part of the driving force towards solutions being found on a common basis. If we are always hanging back, if we are always saying, “We’ve got to see how this affects the immediate community of the British Isles”, we betray our young and we betray the future, because our young will find their well-being, security and prosperity in the context of a wider global well-being and security. That is what we should be seen to be second to none in driving towards.
We too often manifest all the indications of a crisis of self-confidence—“Let us get away on a secure little island all of our own”. That is nonsense; it is fatal. We have to join in. Vision and leadership in all this are what are necessary. We can argue about the detail, but we should have confidence in that vision and leadership. Where have the vision and leadership been in this debate?
My noble friend Lord Dubs referred to the UN, which is another area in which we have to play a crucial part. He was quite right to refer to the importance of the Secretary-General appointment, and I join him in thanking the Government for having opened up the process in a way that has never been done before. But it is also true of, for example, the Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I take immense pride in the fact that Britain played a leading part in that declaration; it had people there helping to draft it. We were seen as leaders because Churchill had realised and Roosevelt had realised—particularly Mrs Roosevelt—that human rights were not a nice way of having a nicer society but a fundamental cornerstone of security and stability in society, and if you were not protecting human rights you would see difficulties, tensions and disputes arising.
I leave the House with this thought, because it troubles me all the time and I would like to share it. If any of the language we use or any of the steps we contemplate send a message to the world that somehow we are going cool on human rights and see them as a kind of constraining difficulty which we have to deal with in our administration and legislation, instead of seeing them as positive and central to the well-being of humanity, how will this be interpreted by Putin? How will it be interpreted in other parts of the world? “Ha, the Brits have now come to terms with reality”. I beg the House to recognise that we have got to defend human rights as second to none.
My Lords, the 10 o’clock news this evening will answer for me today’s most important question, and it has nothing to do with the EU or the Treasury: were any of the citizens of Fallujah able to escape prior to the offensive of the Iraqi forces? I fear that the news may not be good. However, I want to begin with some good news: the parliamentary time that has been allocated to the ratification of the Hague convention for the protection of cultural and religious property in conflict is most welcome and slightly overdue.
Although the UN mandate for a peacekeeping force in Central African Republic has been renewed, the Pope’s visit prepared the ground for the recent peaceful elections and the beginning of reconciliation between the Muslim and Christian communities. I am sure that, as the Prime Minister’s special representative on preventing sexual violence in conflict, my noble friend Lady Anelay will take a keen interest in ensuring that the allegations of sexual offences committed by UN peacekeeping troops—which the UK pays for—and French troops in the Central African Republic are properly investigated.
I want to focus today on the human right of freedom of religion or belief, and to declare my particular interest as director of a Commonwealth initiative on that issue. The Commonwealth is an underutilised network of 53 nations, large and small, with a diversity of cultures and it includes Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian-majority democracies. As the new Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, most recently put it, it is well equipped to be,
“the voice for everyone who shares our common values and hopes”.
However, in too many Commonwealth countries, people still face legal restrictions on their ability to practise their religion and discrimination on religious grounds, or are the victims of religiously motivated violence. We cannot ignore the religious element in the killings carried out by Boko Haram, nor the Easter Sunday suicide bombing in Lahore—targeting Christians but with overwhelmingly Muslim victims—nor, closer to home, the killing of the Ahmadi shopkeeper, Asad Shah, in Glasgow. The recent series of killings in Bangladesh of atheist, humanistic and secularistic writers, bloggers, academics and campaigners is not just a violation of freedom of expression, but a violation of the freedom not to hold any religious belief at all should you so choose.
Yet at a time when so many of the human rights challenges that we face both in the UK and around the world have a freedom of religion or belief dimension, the global picture on how seriously the issue is taken, as a key human rights issue in its own right, is disappointingly mixed. While the European Union has created a new special envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside of the EU, Canada has recently disbanded its Office of Religious Freedom, subsuming it into a new Office for Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion. I was pleased to see freedom of religion or belief given a prominent place in the United Kingdom’s pledges in our bid for re-election to the UN Human Rights Council, and I pay particular tribute to the work of the UN Special Rapporteur Heiner Bielefeldt, who will soon finish in that post.
However, as the UN has no legally binding convention on freedom of religion or belief to enforce, I hope that the nimble network of parliamentary democracies with shared language and legal systems could be looked at as a much better multilateral forum for the UK to focus on rather than the bureaucratic heavyweights of the EU and the UN. This network of trusted friends should enable us to do much more behind the scenes to implement effective solutions to these problems.
The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, the new Commonwealth Secretary-General, certainly gave greater profile to the Commonwealth during the recent anti-corruption summit. Her determination to champion human rights, good governance and the rule of law in line with the Commonwealth charter, with the UK hosting the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, is an opportunity not to be missed. Will my noble friend please seek a meeting with the new Secretary-General to discuss the promotion of human rights and, in particular, freedom of religion or belief in the Commonwealth?
As well as key networks such as the Commonwealth, there are key strategic countries—none more so than the home of Sunni theology, Egypt. President al-Sisi has one of the most difficult jobs at the moment, and his challenging speech on religious tolerance to the Al-Azhar University is to be commended. But the arrest in the last few days of Mina Thabet, a prominent human rights activist, especially on freedom of religion or belief in Egypt is very worrying. Will the Minister outline whether Her Majesty’s Government will meet the Government of Egypt to make representations about his arrest?
I pay tribute to the hard work carried out by my noble friend the Minister, but I would be grateful for the assurance, due to the recent publication of the Foreign Affairs Committee report, that that hard work is matched by keen leadership by the Foreign Secretary.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. She is a long-time colleague of mine on the Science and Technology Committee, where her contributions were, like today’s, models of clarity and sensitive perception. My noble friend Lady Jowell in turn showed that she has lost none of the talents that contributed so much to her success in the Commons. I am sure that she will be able to continue that work it this place.
I will confine my remarks tonight to the part of the gracious Speech relating to the securing of the long-term future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, a few minutes ago giving what could be regarded as the unilateralist case for not going on with nuclear weapons. It took me be back some 30 years to when I was a shadow defence spokesman and ultimately shadow Defence Secretary for the Labour Party. At that time, we went about the country arguing much the kind of case that she gave this evening. I went to fight the 1987 election and returned battered and bruised, having gone to seats where I thought we might have a chance of pulling it back and others where we were hopeful that we would hold on—but in every instance we were beaten out of the park. It is always rather disagreeable to find that what you have been advocating and what you believe in can promote such feelings of hostility—at one end indifference and at the other hostility. We thought that we had a balanced case and it became quite clear that the case for unilateralism was not then and is not now acceptable to the British people.
My noble friends Lord Kinnock and Lord Clarke of Hampstead, Gerald Kaufman, myself and some others started a process of consultation and policy review. We went to all the capitals. Perhaps the most interesting of all was when we went to Moscow, which was then still part of the Soviet Union. In discussions with Soviet analysts and defence specialists, including some distinguished members of what was emerging as the Gorbachev Government, when we spoke about the question of Britain giving up the bomb, we asked whether they would follow our lead. They looked at us with a rather wry expression and said, “We would be delighted if you gave up your nuclear weapons. If you were to do that, one of the uncertainties in the western threat would be removed. As long as you have nuclear weapons, we do not know what you are going to do with them. You can say what you like about no first use, with all the moral hand-wringing about the so-called moral dimension to the ownership of weapons, but as long as you have got them, we do not know what you are going to do with them”.
The point is this: we are not just Britain, we are the UK, which is a member of the UN permanent five. We are the fifth-largest economy in the world. If we cannot afford to meet our international responsibilities—which must include providing nuclear guarantees to countries which for a number of reasons do not have the weapons—that is wrong. In the case of Europe, along with France, we will in effect be the nuclear guarantors. We know that the United States is increasingly preoccupied with South America, the Pacific, China and other states on that side of the world, so our responsibility will be that much greater. Therefore, regardless of what happens on
Because we were in many respects powerless, perhaps thankfully we could not really get involved in Crimea. But if the threatening noises were to grow louder in the Baltic republics and were the north of Norway to be subject to increased harassment, the like of which has been happening in these last months, something would have to be done within Europe. If it were left to France on her own, that might not be the kind of force we require. It is not a question of us using the weapons; it is just a question of us making sure that we have them and that we are capable of using them.
Other arguments have been advanced, including technical arguments. The dust gets blown off them every time the renewal debate starts. On the moral use argument, I have to say that, at the end of the day, if we give up our nuclear weapons and there is no response, what was the point of doing it in the first place? The point surely is that we must use the strength of our nuclear arsenal to participate in the discussions and reduction talks which successive British Governments have been instrumental in establishing. This must be part and parcel of what we are talking about in the renewal and replacement of our deterrent. It was not in the gracious Speech, but I do not think that that is necessarily a major problem. It must be that we will have nuclear weapons and we will use them as a negotiating tool in subsequent discussions. This is something to which the present preoccupation with our continuing membership of the EU is completely irrelevant. This will still be an issue when
We need to ensure that we are in a credible position to participate as a member of the permanent five, as one of the richest nations in the world and as one of the predominant powers on the European continent. Regardless of my party’s policy review, if it does not come to the conclusion that I came to nearly 30 years ago by the time of the next general election, I think, sadly, that we will be faced with much the same reality that I had to confront in 1987.
My Lords, I welcome Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech and the opening remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay of St Johns. We have heard a lot about the EU referendum, so I shall not touch that topic. I will, however, mention that parliamentarians, especially the British Indians from both Houses, have come together—there are more than 1 million British Indians in England—and we will campaign for the remain vote.
Tonight I shall concentrate on the commitment on international development aid. It is good to see that that commitment is set to continue. However, as noted from the joint Treasury and DfID policy paper produced last November, it aims to give value for money and seeks to prevent new threats to national security, most notably by earmarking 50% of the aid budget for fragile states, but it does not go into the detail of how this will work in practice.
The change in the way in which aid is spent by DfID—and, indeed, may not be spent by DfID in the future but by other departments in the name of four core objectives, brought about by our need to curtail spending and ensure better value for money across government departments—is welcome. One cannot argue with spending more wisely, but the question is: are the Government spending more wisely? We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, that there are some problems with the spending.
The paper underlines the four core objectives that will underpin aid spending in the future. Two of these involve: promoting promote global prosperity, tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable; and improving the rights of women and girls. One of the key ways of achieving these two aims, as well as our continuing commitment to supporting sustainable development goals, is through education and imparting knowledge and skills to empower people to achieve prosperity for themselves.
To take one example of where our aims can be met fourfold, there is a very successful university in Bangladesh, the Asian University for Women, whose mission statement is to seek to,
“graduate women who will be skilled and innovative professionals, service-oriented leaders in the businesses and communities in which they will work and live, and promoters of intercultural understanding and sustainable human and economic development in Asia and throughout the world”.
Bangladesh is one of the countries that has regularly been in the top 10 for aid from the UK, yet this university is struggling to obtain funding to enable it to carry on doing its good work. The British Council does sterling work in promoting education and improving skills and knowledge. It does much of its work through ODA funding from the FCO. DfID is subject to rigorous assessments of its spending through the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which has noted that DfID should include a more complete explanation of the main categories of ODA spent by other government departments in its Statistics on International Development report to enhance transparency.
Would the Minister agree that, where there is crossover between DfID and the British Council, there is a need for better co-operation between these two organisations to ensure better value for money in order to achieve our aims and objectives, so that universities, such as the Asian University for Women, get much-needed support?
My Lords, we made a decision to join the EU in 1975. Not only should we stick to that decision, but I believe that we are wasting valuable time with the referendum. The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, was absolutely right: we are already part of Europe, not some offshore island. We recognised after 1945 that we wanted to sit down with other European nations, rehabilitate Germany and rebuild the future with them. We need to pursue these objectives. Over time, we have rightly distanced ourselves from some projects—the euro and Schengen. That is fully understood under various treaties and we are not alone in that. We do not need to subscribe to ever-closer union and we can dissuade others from doing so.
One principle of EU foreign policy that I have personally much admired has been enlargement—the opening of the European ideals, which are still known as the Copenhagen principles, to countries seeking membership, chiefly in eastern Europe and the Balkans. I admit that this policy has received a few knocks. Our ability to understand Russian intentions, for instance, and even to talk to Russia has descended into a dense fog of non-diplomacy. This is not just because of Russian aggression but because of our own lack of skill, and that of the EU, in communicating with Russia, as our EU Select Committee report on Ukraine demonstrated. Russia has historic ties with Europe. Shutting her out is not contributing to world peace.
The process of opening up Europe to a wider membership, instead of confining it to an exclusive number, was a deliberate choice supported by successive UK Governments. It has, of course, made decision-making slower and the machinery more cumbersome, but I feel it was the right democratic choice because it enables members old and new to proceed at their own pace. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, that national Parliaments have lost ground. That was also addressed by our EU Committee. Those who criticise the failure of the institution fail to recognise its remarkable flexibility in making policies to suit 28 members and a population of 500 million.
I recognise that the EU is having a rocky ride this year. This is chiefly because of migration and the large numbers coming into Greece and Italy, which has tested the Dublin agreements almost beyond their capacity. It is all very well for us to criticise the EU when we are actually the beneficiaries of those agreements. In fact, we ourselves, in choosing a rethink through a referendum, are shaking up the Union. This may not be a bad thing in itself, but we risk destabilising other EU members through our own uncertainties of policy during this absurd campaign. The Foreign Secretary admitted on
On international development, I too applaud the confirmation of the aid budget and our continuing example and leadership in humanitarian affairs. I, like the noble Lord, Lord Loomba, would like to see a stronger role for the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, or ICAI, which scrutinises aid and reports to the Commons International Development Committee on DfID projects, such as the CDC, mentioned by my noble friend Lady Flather. ICAI’s reports are extremely valuable and it is a pity that it does not communicate more directly to the public. We need to be able to respond to ill-informed tabloid criticism of aid, if and when it comes.
On trafficking, I look forward to the debate in the name of my noble friend Lady Prashar on the EU action plan against migrant smuggling. With the spotlight moving from the Middle East to Africa, the UK is also involved in the EU-Horn of Africa migration route initiative, more familiarly known as the Khartoum process. This programme aims to co-operate with some of Africa’s more authoritarian Governments in an attempt to stop trafficking at source along the borders of Sudan, Eritrea and Libya. We will hear much more about it, but its main motivation is to slow down the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean, although many of these are genuine refugees. There may be some perverse improvement in our relations with Khartoum—they could hardly be worse—under this programme, especially if serious money is changing hands. We may be able to deter a small number of migrants with development programmes, as we have tried to do in Somalia, but most observers are sceptical that the Sudanese and Eritreans will find any reasons to discourage migration or trafficking, given that these are becoming useful sources of revenue for customs officers and police.
Illegal financial transactions cost Africa at least $50 billion every year. The African Union has set up a high-level panel to deal with this, but our own Government should bring their own weight to bear here. DfID transfers, while never entirely free of corruption, are on a much smaller scale and are nowadays monitored, as we heard, through exhaustive internal reviews. I hope the Minister can say something about these development priorities in Africa, which are having so much more impact on us.
Finally, on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, about information, I hope the Minister will put him right on the question of the balance of competencies review. That was an exhaustive process, going through all government departments. Unfortunately, the Government did not, I think, pay enough attention to public awareness and understanding of that review, but the Minister might like to comment.
My Lords, it is a great privilege to speak in this debate on the humble Address, which was made particularly memorable by the eloquent maiden speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, and the valedictory speech of my noble friend Lady Perry.
Normally at this time of night and this stage in a debate, it is customary to say that everything has been said and there is nothing left. However, if you are on the Brexit side of this argument, you are in a very small minority in this House and there is plenty left to say. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, referred to this House being undemocratic and not elected. Were it elected, there would be many more noble Lords advocating the viewpoint that my noble friend Lord Lawson and I will put forward tonight.
Like my noble friend Lord Forsyth, I very much admired the Prime Minister’s Bloomberg speech and its emphasis on reform. However, today, given the Treasury’s extremely dire predictions of what would happen in the event of Britain leaving the EU, I wonder not just—as my noble friend Lord Forsyth said—why the Prime Minister ever dared think about the possibility of a referendum but also how he managed to suggest that he was considering leaving the European Union. How could he have possibly thought that? I dread to think this, but either he did not mean what he said about considering leaving, or the forecasts made by the Treasury and many other distinguished bodies are far too pessimistic.
The dismal outcome predicated in the Treasury forecast seems to depend on two premises: a short-term effect on confidence, and structural changes following changes in trading patterns. On the short-term effect on confidence, it is fairly difficult to forecast a shock—which is, by definition, completely unexpected. Confidence depends on psychology. Shifts in confidence—and psychology—are no better forecast by economists than by anybody else. The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday talked about house prices falling by 10% by 2018. The link between the economy and house prices is always difficult to forecast, but the OBR in its forecast at the time of the Budget expected house prices to rise by 10%, so the Chancellor was saying that, on Brexit, house prices might stabilise. I wonder if that would be such a bad thing. Then, we have the forecast that Brexit will cost households £4,300. That has been pretty widely, comprehensively and thoroughly rubbished. Even the Financial Times, the house journal of the pro-Europeans, said that, far from it being an inspired guess, it is more likely that the numbers were simply made up.
Like other people, economists can be full of groupthink. The most famous examples were the 365 economists who forecast that the economy could not possibly recover after Geoffrey Howe’s famous Budget. A strong consensus often indicates that we are about to make a very bad decision. For lots of people it is self-evident—or appears self-evident—that the single market brings great benefits, and brought great benefits to exporters. However, the fact that people say this, or believe it, does not mean that it is necessarily true. The Minister referred in her speech to full access to the single market. The single market is portrayed as a sort of walled garden to which only a few people have a secret key.
I refer noble Lords to the work of Michael Burrage—whom even the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not call economically illiterate—an academic who has been at Harvard and the LSE and has held various professorships in Asia. He has just written a 200-page book, Myth and Paradox of the Single Market, which is available on the Civitas think tank website, and challenges the orthodoxy. It investigates the trade flows to and from the single market and challenges the theory behind the OECD, IMF and Treasury models. If the historical facts do not fit the theory, I suggest that there is something wrong with the theory. The facts are relayed in enormous detail. I invite noble Lords to look at them on the website. Michael Burrage’s analysis of trade flows into the single market suggests there is no evidence that the single market has increased the UK’s exports or those of the founder members of the single market. Further, there is no evidence that the UK’s exports have grown and benefited during the period of the single market. Non-EU members have benefited most, and non-EU members without any special trade arrangement with the EU have benefited most of all.
Services is the area where the British economy is supposed to be in the vanguard and has most to offer, and which is supposed to be the area of the future. However, Burrage points out that services within EU trade have grown much less than services trade from the EU out into the wider world. Although we like to say that we belong to the largest trading bloc in the world, this work argues strongly that the advantages to us from that are marginal and probably non-existent.
As regards the book’s title, Myth and Paradox, the myth is that we benefit hugely from this large market but the paradox is that non-members have benefited much more. Noble Lords will be familiar with the FT Europe correspondent Wolfgang Munchau, who said of the single market that it is,
“a giant economic non-event, for both the EU and the UK”.
If we leave the EU and are forced to leave the single market, I believe that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. It is rather regrettable that the Government have stirred up so much of that fear with groupthink and all the different studies.
The IMF has been a willing collaborator with the Government in sidestepping the rules the Government have themselves prescribed for the referendum. Normally, the IMF does not intervene in a national argument at the time of a general election. It is quite wrong that it should intervene in this debate at this time in the way that it has, particularly as it has said that it will make another pronouncement on the UK economy three days before polling day, during the purdah period. I very much hope that the Minister will tell the IMF that this is not appropriate and that a period of silence would be welcome. This issue ought to be considered by all sides of the House because, whatever the outcome of the referendum, it is important that it is accepted by everybody and seen to be fair.
My Lords, I was born just before the Second World War and I have very clear memories of the street parties celebrating the defeat of Hitler and of Japan in 1945. Even at that relatively young age, I was left in no doubt that Britain alone of the major European powers had not been defeated and occupied. One reason why Britain is so ambivalent about Europe is that that fact runs deep in our veins, whereas in continental Europe they see both the initial economic community and then the European Union as a war-preventing method. We do not see it as that, which is very significant for the older generation. That fact is very large in the thinking of people of my generation and makes us more anti-European Union than the younger generation, for whom it has less force.
Equally importantly, after the Second World War Britain was by far the most popular nation in Europe, where you could go anywhere with a union jack and be proudly talked to. We were the nation that was a success, not just because of the defeat of Nazi Germany but because we had played such a crucial part in structuring a new Europe. European human rights legislation and the most successful German constitution—these and many other things had a British stamp on them. Similarly, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was set up by the Attlee Government. All those things made us popular. How is it that, in the intervening years, we have become one of the least popular countries in the European Union? It is because so many people in continental Europe have come to the conclusion that Britain does not want to be a member.
The real problem, however, is that Britain cannot make up its mind on this. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, that exactly the same problem applies to this referendum as to that of the Wilson Government in the 1970s. Unless we win it very, very well, the problem will continue; as with the Scottish referendum, it will not solve the problem unless there is a very clear majority. It needs clear political leadership and what has troubled me most, now and over the years, is the lack of that. You cannot lead if you are sitting on the fence. We started off by saying that we did not want anything to do with the economic community, then when it got successful we set up the European free trade area. When that did not work, we pulled the plug and joined what became the European Union. But we were still dragging our feet and being negative. We were still the slightly difficult child in the class saying, “Well it’s a good idea, but”. We really do have to be clear about this.
I suggest that the big crisis in democracy today—not just our own one—is the lack of confidence, which we all acknowledge, in political parties and structures. What is that lack of confidence about? Because of all the technological changes, the new world economy and those sorts of things, the world feels more distant from the people who are governed. We are starting to get a conclusion to that, by recognising that we need devolved powers What is Britain good at? It is actually very, very good at government and the rule of law. It has been a remarkably stabilising force, not just in Europe but in the wider world. This is why many people, including the President of the United States, are saying that Britain needs to be in Europe: because it stabilises it, politically and economically. If we are so good at it, maybe we ought to be in there, saying what the solutions are.
It is absolutely right that the European Union has been far too concerned about minor details, which need to be devolved much more effectively than we have been doing recently. Nation states need to be more devolved, and we are beginning to do that. However, this leaves the big, unanswered question of what you then do about the transnational or international issues. That is actually why the European Union is so important. If we can give the leadership which many people in continental Europe are shouting out for, we need to show that you can govern a continent in a way which makes sense internationally and transnationally but still allows people to make the decisions at a local level which they feel comfortable with. Britain has done that before; it has given that leadership before. If we just sit on the fence or try to go backwards to some ideal, lost world, we will not get there. The world of the 20th century has gone. The United States is no longer the dominant power it was. Britain is no longer the dominant power it was in the 19th century. That is not coming back again, so we need to look at new structures.
Given that there is a very real danger of instability in the world today, which threatens conflict—including in Europe, as we have seen in Ukraine—now is really the time for the British to start leading again in Europe. That means taking a much more positive role, fighting for it, standing up for it and saying all the things we can say so well about government and the rule of law.
My Lords, I too shall focus on the EU. I declare my interest as a board member of Britain Stronger in Europe. But first, on the impending Wales Bill, I hope that the Government will legislate for the Silk commission’s unanimous recommendation of devolving the police service since, following the recent elections, all four police commissioners in Wales—two Plaid Cymru and two Labour—support such a move. I also urge the Government to do everything to improve our relationship with Argentina since, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, stated, a historic opportunity has arisen following the elections there last autumn.
Plaid Cymru urges the people of Wales to vote to remain in the EU. Leaving would have many negative consequences for Wales and the UK. I am four years younger than the noble Lord, Lord Soley—although many of his arguments are ones we must come back to—and my generation is blessed by having enjoyed comparative peace. My parents lived through two bloody world wars. It was to avoid our continent ever again being torn apart that motivated the founders of the European Union. Over the past 70 years we have benefited from the longest period of peace between EU nations in 400 years. The Brexiteers claim that NATO, not the EU, has prevented war. While such a mutual defence treaty is a key military factor, even more important is the building of understanding and mutual trust between peoples and between nations that is facilitated by the European Union. That generates attitudes that make war unthinkable. Peace is not just the absence of armed conflict, it is something much more substantial: it is the forging of friendship and practical co-operation, finding ways to compromise and mutually acceptable ways forward. If we allow the EU to collapse, we start dismantling the infrastructure of peace in our continent and our grandchildren could pay an awful price.
For Wales, the financial and economic factors are clear-cut. We get more by way of direct financial benefit from the EU than we pay to the EU. Over the period to 2020, we shall receive £2 billion from EU structural funds. Other beneficiaries include our farmers. Direct payments benefit 80% of Welsh farmers and the CAP provides 55% of UK income from farming. Economically there is huge benefit from being in a market of 500 million people—here, clearly, I dissent from some comments made a moment ago. More than 90% of Welsh sheep and beef exports go to the EU. More than 200 American and 50 Japanese manufacturing companies have located in Wales specifically to sell to EU markets. If we had not been in the EU, they would not have come to Wales. Companies such as Toyota, Siemens and Airbus have stated that being outside the EU would hamper their long-term interests, and the knock-on effect would hit dozens of small companies in their supply chains.
When we ask Brexiteers what trading arrangement they propose with the EU, we get widely different responses. Some initially cited Norway as their model. Some cited Switzerland. But as it became apparent that those two models contradict other Brexit arguments—such as avoiding all payments, escaping regulations and reducing immigration—they have retreated, it seems, to espousing general international trading treaties, whereby our EU exports would face tariff barriers. This would add between 14% and 70% to our farm export prices, undermining their competitiveness.
As the Brexit case collapses, many Brexiteers retreat to their core motivator—immigration—and in doing so can trigger extremely dangerous attitudes among a minority of the population of the UK. Myopic prejudice against foreigners is not just evil, it ignores the question of what would happen to our hospitals and hotels without immigrant staff, and what would happen to the 2 million Brits living in other parts of the EU.
The European Union has pioneered employee and family rights, particularly the rights of disabled people. EU legislation shaped the UN convention on disability rights. Students continue to get help from the Erasmus programme, and our tourism benefits from EU environmental initiatives.
The consequence of Brexit are stark. What if French authorities no longer restrain those wanting to leave Calais for the UK? How do we control the land border which the UK has with the EU—do we build an iron curtain between the north and south of Ireland? How does quitting the EU enable us to deal with Turkey? As a member state, we have a veto on Turkey’s accession; outside, we have no such voice.
Of course the EU has its faults. But surely, as the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, stressed, the better role for Britain is to be in there, arguing our case and giving leadership, where appropriate, to build a more democratic, more decentralist Europe, rather than sulking on the fringes.
There are deeper reasons for remaining in the EU. Much of our heritage goes back to ancient Greece and Rome. Our culture and Christian values are pre-eminently European. We are part of Europe and to retreat into a blinkered, offshore island mentality is a disservice to future generations. I am proud that Plaid Cymru is an outward-looking internationalist party, which totally rejects racial nationalism and welcomes people to Wales whatever their language, colour or creed. As such, we campaign for Wales and the UK to remain in the EU, which on all key criteria is overwhelmingly in our nation’s interest.
My Lords, we have been treated to two inspiring speeches, one by my noble friend Lady Perry saying goodbye and the other from the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, saying hello. Those speeches impressed us all, but inevitably the debate this afternoon has been overshadowed by the forthcoming referendum. My comment on the Brexit debate itself is simply that it would be a lot healthier and more realistic—and we might be freer from the antics on both sides—if the focus was on what Britain can contribute to a better EU model than the one we are stuck with today, in incredibly fast-changing world conditions and in the networked world which we now have but which did not even exist when the EU was put together or indeed until very recently.
The EU itself faces monumental change from outside forces much bigger than any Government, Commission or Council. Contrary to the apparent thinking of experts such as Chatham House and other think tanks, and contrary to the continuous and constant assertions of many Brexiteers, the EU has no hope of strengthening and cohering into a superstate in the classic sense at all. The reason is that the colossal centrifugal powers of the digital age, the spaghetti bowl of new global trade and capital flows, and the globalisation not only of production but of processes will just not permit that.
If one looks at the political movements in many countries of the European Union, we can already see the transforming effect of politics on member states. My own belief is that in most EU countries, political and grass-roots opinion is pulsating with demands for the rejection of a neo-Luddite Europe and for precisely the reforms towards a somewhat looser Europe that we have been urging in this country. A Europe of progressive nationalism, less centralisation and greater diversity is what most people appear to want. As the former UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, some years ago wisely observed, everyone needs a country to love and the time for a profound renewal of the nation state has truly arrived.
In short, we are addressing a European question, not just a British question, and I believe we should remain in the European Union to work on the answer rather than trying to stand on the sidelines, almost certainly in vain. There are no sidelines in the European situation for our country. Whichever way the vote goes, leave or stay, most of the problems will remain with us. Enormous immigrant pressures—as we have been reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, and others—will continue, widespread treaty restraints will remain on our lawmakers and judges in an increasingly interwoven world, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, just reminded us, and plenty of tiresome regulations will keep piling on our backs and on small business.
Those who look for a nirvana of freedom from controls and overseas involvement in our affairs are, I fear, in for a big disappointment. What can be said with certainty is that after and beyond
If we stay, the urgent task remains. It is reform of the old EU and our place within it, although, as Asia and Africa rise, as global power moves from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, our European region is bound to play a lesser world role and have a lesser significance in our national strategy. If we leave, relations not with not only the EU but the whole world network will need revising, although geography and history will still tie us, whether we like it or not, to the European region, even if more loosely.
Either way, a transformed and greatly enlarged and wider role for both the FCO and all our international agencies and departments and outward-facing activities becomes the priority. This is because our interests and international strategies, and the diplomacy which has to underpin them, have been changed out of all recognition by new technologies and revolutionary trade patterns. Among other things, we will need a more focused and much better-funded FCO to take the lead in the new arena. I hope that Tom Fletcher, whom we read about, will have good luck in his task of overhauling the FCO so that our diplomats pick up the right tunes and, apparently, choose the right chocolates.
In the age of big data and block chains when communication with an international audience swollen to unimaginable size has to be addressed, telling our national story with clarity and confidence is the first and foremost requirement, and an updated FCO has to be the sharpest spearhead in doing that. We seem deliberately to have blunted it. That just cannot be right. Modern digital age diplomacy is a new game, but it is clear that we are still using old dispositions to play it.
In this new era, when power is in unprecedented flux, as Henry Kissinger and others point out, the national imperative is to form a much clearer and more coherent strategy and a more realistic conception of the future. Techniques for combining our traditional hard power—our Armed Forces—with the persuasion and influence of our colossal soft power potential will have to be developed faster and with 10 times more vigour than in the past. My hope is that your Lordships’ new international relations committee, which I have the very great privilege of chairing, will be able to throw more light on some of these areas and the challenges they present.
Finally, we have heard contradictory economic forecasts put with great authority on both sides. The Financial Times says that this time has for economists never been more difficult and more challenging. I just add that I am terribly sorry to hear it.
My Lords, on
That is why, today, the UN is holding the first ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. With the support, I believe, of the UK Government and others, a new fund is being launched called Education Cannot Wait, which will give fresh hope and priority to education, and perhaps child protection, in these camps for both refugees, of whom there are so many around the world today, and internally displaced people—in Iraq, there are more than 3 million, a staggering figure for a country in which we bear some of the responsibility. That is welcome.
The commitment in the gracious Speech to international development and to our contribution in the world is also very welcome. I was a little concerned that it was couched in terms of security rather than being proud of the substantial humanitarian contribution that the UK is making and the way in which we not only pay for so much of the world’s humanitarian aid these days but lead the thinking on how best to spend that money and how best to improve its impact. That said, and although I was pleased to see the sustainable development goals mentioned, I echo the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that the Government do not yet have their own strategy for sustainable development goals in the UK. I believe that sustainable, long-term investment in education and hope in the countries that are most affected by crisis and violence is the best long-term investment for UK aid and development.
In recent months, I also visited the Kuza Project in Mombasa, which is part-funded by DfID. In an area where leaders in the local mosque were effectively recruiting agents for al-Shabaab in Somalia just two years ago, young people now not only are taking up skills and training for jobs but have the opportunity to start their own business and become entrepreneurs. One young Muslim woman said to me that they are becoming a nation not of job seekers but of job creators. That is being funded by UK aid. It is a long-term investment not just in stability in that region but in hope for those young people who might be exploited and perhaps turned to violence.
I echo the points that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, made about the importance of diplomacy and that others in this debate have made about political solutions. As has already been said, we live in an increasingly interdependent world. The decisions made here and the decisions made elsewhere in the world have implications for all, not just economically but culturally and in terms of our security. The way in which we relate to our European neighbours; to other important countries, large and small, in other continents; to the countries affected most by crisis, migration and violence; and to the institutions that bring those countries together, is absolutely essential. The way in which we use our incredibly lucky position in the world—with the language that is most used; membership of the UN Security Council; leading membership of the Commonwealth and of the European Union; a role in the World Bank, because of our status as a donor, and in so many other institutions—that soft power, is absolutely critical. After the debate on the Queen’s Speech and the referendum in June, we will debate the sort of military hardware and power we should have and how we should use it from time to time. The way in which we invest in the long term in those young people and their education and that we use our resources, our talents and our seat at the table to benefit them and the rest of the world is what will mark us out as a nation in years to come.
My Lords, it was reassuring to hear as the opening lines of the gracious Speech that Her Majesty’s Government,
“will use the opportunity of a strengthening economy to deliver security for working people, to increase life chances for the most disadvantaged and to strengthen national defences”.
The attention devoted to matters international generally, and the commitment to the UK continuing to play a leading role in world affairs in particular, were most welcome, particularly given that it was a rather short gracious Speech. Then came a sentence which put a question mark over the whole vision of certainty and the UK’s global standing: Her Majesty’s Government,
“will hold a referendum on membership of the European Union”.
Had we misheard? Was this a copy-and-paste job that had gone wrong in No. 10? Had not many of your Lordships spent many hours in the previous Session of Parliament assisting the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the Government in improving what became the European Union Referendum Act 2015, amending it so that we would have information and in such a way that the polls would be fair and be seen as fair and so that both sides—Britain Stronger in Europe and Vote Leave—would feel that we had done a really good job?
None the less, we seem to have a referendum. Is it a new one? It seems not; rather, it is an opportunity for Members of your Lordships’ House and the wider public to reflect on the debate on the UK’s membership of the EU and on the poll that will take place in just one month’s time, a poll that will affect the future of this country and the life chances of all most profoundly. However, it is a poll with considerable risks. I note in passing that in moving the Motion for an humble Address, the noble Lord, Lord King, took a considerable risk: he commented on the physical appearance of a woman Peer. I gather that that can have somewhat unwanted consequences, so I am a little worried not to see either him or the noble Baroness the Leader of the House in their places today. I trust that they are both well.
I am perfectly content to say that I am 62 and a quarter inches tall on a good day, and I am not expecting that to change whether we vote to leave the EU or vote to remain, any more than I expect the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, suddenly to stop living in France. Some things are not going to change, regardless of the outcome of the vote, and certainly not everything would change on day one. Still, a vote to leave would have economic and geopolitical consequences. Quite what the consequences would be depends in part on how far you believe the so-called experts. At this point, I have to declare an interest; I am not an expert, but my day job in Cambridge is teaching European politics. Whether one believes Michael Burrage, whose paper I have indeed read or at least skimmed, or HMT’s forecasts, it is clear that a period of uncertainty and instability is bound to emerge after a vote to leave.
So why take the risk? I understand that for some the economic consequences are a price worth paying in order to regain sovereignty and democracy, which many believe have been lost through our membership of the EU. Indeed, my understanding from the Daily Telegraph and the Scotsman is that the good people attending a Vote Leave rally in Stirling 10 days ago were told that they should consider the Declaration of Arbroath, written by one Abbot Bernard—no relation, I think, to Bernard Jenkin—as providing a clarion call for leavers: “We fight not for riches nor honour nor glory, but for freedom”. Thus the idea of Scottish independence in the EU was a cruel lie because no state can be truly free in the EU. As such, the logic must go, the UK cannot be free within the EU.
The words of the declaration are beguiling—if I have misquoted them, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, will correct me—but in reality they are a siren call. The problem raised is a false one and the solution proposed illusory. The EU is not some self-created superstate run by unelected bureaucrats; it is an international body, based on the rule of law, in which the UK is represented at every level. It is a voluntary union, not a forced marriage. So why should we contemplate a divorce? What benefits could that bring? Leaving the EU would not lead us back to some halcyon days of parliamentary democracy, nor to the days when Britannia ruled the waves. We would not be returning to the world of the 1950s, still less to that of 1320. The reality of the 21st century is that we live in an interdependent world where regional co-operation is an advantage, not a weakness. Outside the EU we would be subject to a whole range of international laws, as we already are in the UN, the WTO and other voluntary alliances. If we continued to trade with the EU, and particularly if we wanted to be part of the internal market, there would be a price to pay. We would have lost our influence within the EU by severing ties if we harkened to the cruel siren call of illusory sovereignty. We should not take that risk.
My Lords, back in the early 1970s, as a new, young Member of Parliament, I voted in favour of the then Common Market for two reasons: first, because I believed that through a single market we could create greater prosperity in Europe, and, secondly, because I wanted to minimise the risk of ever again fighting a war in Europe. Now the country faces a momentous decision. Despite the dissatisfactory nature of the present European Union—and much is wrong with it, such as its bureaucracy, and so on—I am certainly in favour of staying in it. I am glad that, unlike the rest of the debate in the country, today in this House we have agreed to disagree rather agreeably, and that is good. I have no doubt that, whatever the result on
I will deal with two issues, one of which is specific, and that is Gibraltar. I declare an interest as a former governor and as the present chancellor of a new, regional, University of Gibraltar. We have important responsibilities to that overseas territory, with 30,000 people. They did a great deal to support us in the Second World War. It is very important to them that we remain in the European Union. Gibraltar has benefited enormously from membership since 1973, especially of the EU single market. This has followed centuries of regular harassment—no fewer than 15 sieges over centuries—and of course between 1969 and 1985 Franco kept that frontier closed. Since it was opened in 1985, the economy of Gibraltar has flourished, with tourism, well-regulated financial services, a commercial port and gaming industry, all of which have brought prosperity to Gibraltar. The open frontier even meant that in 2014 there were nearly 10 million visitors across the frontier into Gibraltar. Some 7,000 Spaniards cross the frontier and work there every day. There are enormous regional benefits to Spain and to Gibraltar of that kind of co-operation.
However, the House will be aware of restrictions on traffic that have been imposed by Spain as well as of harassment in the British Gibraltar territorial waters over the last three or four years. The European Union Commission has carried out several inspections on the frontier and told Spain that it must maintain a reasonable flow of traffic and pedestrians. Some former Spanish Governments have co-operated and have developed co-operation with Gibraltar and the region, but not the present Government. The present Foreign Minister, who may not be Foreign Minister beyond
The Chief Minister has warned of the possible serious consequences of our departure from the European Union for Gibraltar. I hope that the Minister will say something else about this at the end to reassure the people of Gibraltar, because to lose unfettered access to the single market would be very damaging to them, and that is an important responsibility for the British Government.
Lastly, I will say a word about security and peace in Europe. Since 1945 we have struggled to find ways to overcome centuries of conflict, national rivalry and imperial rule, whatever form it might take, and we have done so by providing a framework for collaboration in Europe. Some would say that war in Europe again is unimaginable, and that may be true. However, we cannot that for granted. Indeed, we have seen nearby in Ukraine and the Balkans how dangerous it can be. We drifted into World War I through national rivalry, and after World War II Churchill urged us in Europe to co-operate to avoid further conflict. Until recently, Britain was of course preoccupied with imperial responsibilities—now, I am glad to say, transformed into a Commonwealth of equal nations. However, we have sometimes—in fact, quite often—shown a semi-detached attitude to Europe. Our roots are in Europe. Our present arrangements in the EU may not be perfect, but we have opt-out provisions.
At the same time, western European civilisation and the inherited values from that are definitely under threat. The issues facing Europe today are enormous, from the Middle East to the refugees, to terrorism, migration, China and Russian power. As the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, the European Union could go in any direction. It could go in the federal direction through the eurozone; it could stagnate; it could fragment; it could decentralise; or there could be more à la carte, as with Britain’s opt-out arrangements. However, without our presence and influence, Germany may unintentionally become too powerful. As Thomas Mann once said, what was needed was not a German Europe but a European Germany, and I think that we ought to bear that in mind when we take these important decisions.
We need to be in Europe, taking the opportunity of our hard and soft-power strength to influence Europe in a pragmatic fashion to go in a better direction. We need hands-on leadership, rallying like-minded friends such as Ireland, Denmark and Poland to take the same view as to the future of Europe and not sitting on the sidelines wondering what is going to happen next.
My Lords, as we come towards the close of a long, civilised debate—if somewhat full of wishful thinking in some quarters—I begin, as many noble Lords have done, by congratulating my noble friend Lady Perry on the very model of a valedictory speech. For those of us of my age, that is ever present in our minds.
I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, on a maiden speech which proved that she is the living refutation of a view that is all too pervasive nowadays—that Members of Parliament are simply in it for themselves.
I should like to follow many noble Lords in confining my remarks to next month’s referendum. It seems to me that there are two striking aspects of the Government’s case in the European Union referendum debate. The first is that they can find no positive case for the European project, least of all for the full-blooded political union which is its declared objective. All they seek to do is to ramp up fear of what might happen were we to leave the EU. Indeed, today’s so-called Treasury analysis is a classic example of this. It has simply assumed a minor disaster and then, as even the Financial Times has pointed out, it has dishonestly portrayed it as a major disaster in order to scare the pants off the British people. Then it has spelled out the details of this assumption and called it an analysis.
The second striking aspect of the Government’s case is that they avoid like the plague anything that is a matter of fact and dwell exclusively on the area of pure speculation. It is, for example, a fact that UK law is obliged to conform to EU law, whether we like it or not. It is a fact that the European Court of Justice is legally superior to our own Supreme Court. It is a fact that we have no control over our own borders so long as any EU citizen has the right to live and work here. It is a fact that the EU as at present constituted is profoundly undemocratic. It is also a fact that we have to pay a net—I emphasise “net”—subscription of getting on for £10 billion a year in order to be part of this project, whose objective we conspicuously do not share.
But there has not been a word about any of this. Instead, we have a barrage of economically illiterate scaremongering. They speak of the dangers of not having access to the so-called single market. Poppycock. Everyone has access to the European Union market, as indeed our very substantial imports from the whole of the world testify. Indeed, it is a fact that since the so-called single market began, American, Canadian and Australian exports to the EU have grown faster than ours have. We already trade considerably more with the rest of the world than we do with the rest of the European Union, and the difference is growing with every year that passes.
If the existence of the single market is such a boon to those within its borders, how is it that the EU is one of the worst performing regions of the world, with distressingly high levels of youth unemployment?
It is widely acknowledged throughout the world that the economic reforms introduced by the Thatcher Governments of the 1980s, with which I was involved, transformed the British economy and transformed it for the better. We achieved this not by any trade agreement—in any event, as a member of the EU we would have been unable to conclude such an agreement even if we had wanted to—but, importantly, by a thoroughgoing programme of intelligent deregulation. This cannot be built on, and indeed is actively threatened, so long as we remain in the EU with its addiction to ever-more regulation, which is so damaging to the small and medium-sized enterprises that are the backbone of the British economy—however convenient it may be to big businesses, which have an interest in reducing the threat of competition from the small fry.
Tax reform, too, was a key feature of the transformation of the British economy in the 1980s. Today, the proposed financial transaction tax to which the European Union is committed was rightly described by George Osborne as a dagger pointed at the heart of London. He tried to kill the FTT and was roundly defeated. So much for Britain’s influence in today’s European Union.
We can build on the Thatcher era reforms and the economic success they so signally brought only by escaping the suffocating toils of the European Union. The future of this country lies in embracing a genuinely global, rather than little European, future, and doing so as a self-respecting and self-governing democracy.
My Lords, I, too, welcome and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, and say au revoir—but, I suspect, not adieu—to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry.
Amid all the sound and fury of this referendum campaign, what has emerged is the consistency and continuity of the arguments for and against UK membership of the EEC, the European Community or the European Union going back 70 years. Everyone has quoted Winston Churchill, and so will I later, but let me for now give you Harold Macmillan, from a Conservative pamphlet in 1962:
“We in Britain are Europeans. That has always been true, but it has now become a reality which we cannot ignore … Are we now to isolate ourselves from Europe, at a time when our own strength is no longer self-sufficient and when the leading European countries are joining together to build a future of peace and progress, instead of wasting themselves in war?”.
The answer—no, we should not isolate ourselves—is just as relevant today.
I recall that Liberal Democrats and our predecessor parties have unitedly, consistently and persistently been pro-European. We are the only force in British politics that has not vacillated, oscillated and self-destructed over the question of whether our country should participate in a united Europe. We believe that being in the EU is both the patriotic choice and the rational choice. Liberal Democrats, in the 2010-15 coalition, kept the European show on the road, while blue-on-blue discord on Europe developed into the distasteful full-scale internal party war that we see today. In the past, the same was true of Labour and its bitter red-on-red feud.
My hope is that after
There are so many vital and urgent challenges in the world today, as my noble friend Lady Williams pointed out in a speech this morning, from climate change to conflict to pollution to nuclear proliferation, not to mention tax evasion and corruption on a grand scale. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, gave an impressively long list of priorities for EU action, and the noble Lord, Lord Luce, emphasised all the major challenges that we need to address. Yet much of the navel-gazing media focus in this campaign is about whether George Osborne or Boris Johnson might be our future Prime Minister. I have heard about as much from IDS and Jacob Rees-Mogg as I can bear in a lifetime. I exempt the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, who makes me laugh. I still have an appetite to follow the splendidly sensible and robust tweets of Sir Nicholas Soames MP, who is much more qualified than most to talk about what Churchill thought.
It is time to stop treating Europe as a party political football, accept the legitimacy of our EU membership and start concentrating all our efforts on getting the best out of it. I echo some remarks by the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, in that respect. Europe should be mainstreamed in our politics, not treated as some kind of alien body. It was almost amusing to hear some speakers in this debate attack the pro-European elites, echoing the conspiracy thesis of the Brexiteers. It is a bit ironic to hear Members of this House knock the elites.
Far from “mainstreaming” implying an acceptance of everything that comes out of Brussel as a good idea, it means the contrary. Just as you can have lively disagreement in a marriage, even a jolly good row, without risking a divorce, so there is plenty of scope for policy divergences without bringing our actual membership into question. The contribution made by our own EU Select Committee, under the chairmanship of the estimable noble Lord, Lord Boswell, to securing good policy in the EU is admired across the continent. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garel-Jones, on the need to rigorously apply subsidiarity and to bring a sensible critique to EU matters.
It is time that we properly informed and educated our citizens so that they understand the basic mechanics of the EU, which are not in fact that complicated, and are not hoodwinked by, let us call them, untruths coming out of the Brexit camp, such as “We have no control over our borders”—try telling that to passengers arriving at Heathrow Airport—or the confusion between the single market and external trade agreements. We must not go back to the days when even the quality press mixed up the non-EU Council of Europe with the EU’s European Council of 28 Heads of Government, and BBC political correspondents knew absolutely nothing about the relationship between the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and MEPs. A little more knowledge would prevent the repetition of the charge that the Court of Auditors does not sign off EU accounts. In fact, it has done so every year for the past decade.
A refreshing experience of the past few months has been how much of an input we have heard from people who are not politicians. Not only businesspeople but scientists, academics, artists, actors, environmentalists, lawyers, law enforcement specialists and many others have spoken up about why they want to remain. That contribution must not be lost. A silver lining has been that the press and broadcasters have had to talk about Europe.
What has also come out of this campaign and this debate is the enormously valuable contribution that this country already makes to European and international affairs and the potential for an even greater one. We are the network country par excellence. My Churchill quote of the evening is from a letter that he wrote in 1961:
“I think that the Government are right to apply to join the European Economic Community … We might well play a great part in these developments to the profit of not only ourselves, but of our European friends also”.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, referred to that theme of what we can contribute in stability and reform to the EU. The noble Lord, Lord Low, talked of the importance of our philosophical orientation, not bean-counting. Former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski had some double-edged words of praise for the UK a few years ago. He expressed frustration at us, but he first stressed the assets that we have put into the European pool:
“Britain … You have given the Union its common language. The Single Market was largely your brilliant idea. A British commissioner runs our diplomacy”— this was in 2011—
“You could lead Europe on defence. You are an indispensable link across the Atlantic”.
Apart from hiring the guy as our brand ambassador, we should realise what our friends realise and have been saying for months: we need you, we want you, you have so much to give. Stop messing around. As the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said, being in the EU strengthens our voice in the US, the UN and the Commonwealth.
My last quote is from Roy Jenkins in 1975. He referred to fear as the most vulnerable British emotion on which hostility to the EEC can play. How prescient. We have seen that with the Brexiteers whipping up fear against Turks, EU migrants, President Obama and now Canadians in the person of the Governor of the Bank of England—in fact, against foreigners in general in a really xenophobic fashion. In a month’s time, will it all be over? No, it will only just be beginning—the chance for this country to deploy all its assets, advantages and network strengths towards assuming the leadership role in the EU that is ours to take, without one hand constantly tied behind our back.
My Lords, we have had quite a debate today, with some very powerful and well-informed contributions, which show this House at its best. Anyone who has any doubts about the role of the House of Lords—and one or two doubts were expressed in the debate today—only needs to read Hansard tomorrow and they will see what a considerable contribution noble Lords bring to our national life.
I start by congratulating my noble friend Lady Jowell on her maiden speech. It was a powerful, well-argued and moving speech. It shows that she served with distinction as an MP and a Minister in the other place and was someone who had the vision to see that the Olympics could be a success. We look forward to her future contributions.
I am sorry that the speech given by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, was a valedictory speech. It was clear, concise and well argued. Right at the beginning, she spoke about education changing lives. As someone who was born and brought up in a mining valley in south Wales, I know that to be a fact. Education was a pathway out of poverty and she, throughout her life, has ensured that more people have benefited from education and had a better life as a result. I had the honour of serving on the Liaison Committee with the noble Baroness, who is slight of stature but formidable in marshalling her arguments. To be honest, she was pretty good in getting her own way, certainly when pitted against me.
It is right for us to consider three key policy areas together in this debate because foreign affairs, international development and defence are linked, especially if you believe, as I do, that our foreign policy is the signpost we need to point us in the right direction for the other two. The debate comes within weeks of the British people being asked to make a momentous decision on future relations with the European Union. Faced as we are with the economic and military superpowers of the United States, Russia and China, Europe needs to be united, at least economically. I am firmly in the stay camp, believing that, both economically and in our long-term defence, Britain is stronger and safer in the European Union.
My noble friend Lord Collins of Highbury developed themes for foreign policy and spoke about international development. I do not propose to take those arguments further, preferring to deal with the third element of this trinity, defence. But before that I will say a few words about soft power, which is a theme that runs through all three policy areas.
During the 2013-14 Session, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, chaired a committee of this House which produced a report entitled Persuasion and Power in the Modern World. I believe that it was a landmark report which reminded us that Britain over the generations has amassed a great deal of soft power, but the committee concluded that this has been neglected, particularly in our relationship with the Commonwealth. The report called for new approaches, pointing out that the employment of soft power aids our national security, but to achieve that we need to change the mindset among those who shape our international role. Some of the Government’s response to the report was positive, especially recognising that military force alone is insufficient in defending our interests. But then, as so often, the Government rejected a key recommendation urging them to do a lessons learned exercise on post-conflict reconstruction and co-operation between the FCO, DfID and the MoD in Afghanistan. In all my time in the other place, both as a Back-Bencher and as a Minister, I have been frustrated by the reluctance of Governments to do lessons learned exercises. I wonder whether that will ever change.
In the gracious Speech, we were told that the Government will use the opportunity of the new parliamentary Session to strengthen national defences and continue to safeguard national security. We were told that the Government will invest in Britain’s Armed Forces, honour the military covenant and meet the NATO commitment to spend 2% of our national income on defence. We have also been promised a decision to secure the long-term future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
On the last point, there are many who would say, “About time, too”. Many ask why the Government have delayed taking this important decision for so long. Some commentators have said that the decision will be delayed until the party conferences, so that the Prime Minister can gain the maximum party advantage from Labour’s defence review, which will include looking at the question of replacing Trident. I hope not, but the Prime Minister has form on such things, too often thinking tactically about tomorrow’s headlines rather than strategically about the big picture. But surely he cannot be prepared to play party politics with Britain’s defence—some short-term tactical gain for long-term strategic planning. In the debate on the Queen’s Speech in the other place, the Prime Minister said that,
“we will hold a vote in this House to secure the long-term future of Britain’s nuclear deterrent”.—[
I am sure I am not alone in waiting with bated breath for that vote to take place. It is long overdue.
Every gracious Speech tells us that other measures will be laid before us, so perhaps when he replies, the noble Earl can tell us what other measures are meant by the phrase,
“will invest in Britain’s Armed Forces”,
because they certainly need investment. Our Army is smaller than the one we put in the field against Napoleon, while our Navy is reduced to 19 ships and our Air Force reduced to a handful of combat squadrons. We have no maritime patrol aircraft at a time when the Russians are increasing submarine patrols. We have no aircraft carriers and the frigate replacement programme referred to by my noble friend Lord West—I used to call him First Sea Lord when we worked together in the MoD—has been subject to constant change, updating, confusion and delay.
We on these Benches are not alone in expressing concern at the cutbacks in defence pushed through by this Government and the previous Tory-Lib Dem coalition, but the Government appear to be in denial about this—so much so that the most senior Cabinet ministers will go to extraordinary lengths to suppress any discussion of the impact that Government-imposed cuts have had on our Armed Forces. Indeed, if press reports are to be believed, the Foreign Secretary, Mr Hammond, when he was the Defence Secretary, wanted to court-martial General Sir Richard Shirreff, NATO’s deputy supreme commander for Europe, when he said that the Government were taking “one hell of a risk” by cutting the Regular Army and relying on reserves. Now to be fair, the MoD appears to have disputed the court martial threat story, and Mr Hammond has every right to defend his reputation, but did the Foreign Secretary have to go over the top in his response to Sir Richard? Did we need to be regaled this weekend with stories in the press of Mr Hammond saying that Sir Richard has a book to sell and probably a big mortgage to pay? It is a bit beneath the dignity of a Cabinet Minister, especially one holding one of the most senior offices of state, to indulge in this sort of abuse, but there is no accounting for taste.
Setting aside the ephemerality of the court martial story, what is really worrying is the claim by Sir Richard, who said:
“There is and has been a hollowing out of, a cutting away at muscle and damn well nearly at the bone, frankly, in UK defences which puts us now in a very, very different position from where we were even ten … years ago”.
“I would question whether the UK could deploy a division for war. I think that’s highly unlikely. The notion of deploying a division for war as the UK did in Iraq in 2003 … is frankly almost inconceivable”.
Is he right? Is it inconceivable that we could now deploy a division in 2016, as we did in 2003?
I turn to the reserve forces. They do a fantastic job for Britain and we would be less secure without them. We owe a very considerable debt to the men and women of our reserve forces for their commitment and dedication. However, our wholehearted admiration for them should not prevent us asking questions about the Government’s policy on reserves. In the past year, noble Lords on the Government Benches, as well as on other Benches across the House, have expressed concerns about the policy of replacing fully trained professional regulars with reservists.
The Ministry of Defence’s own Major Projects Authority Annual Report 2014-15, covering Future Reserves 2020 has revealed that the programme has gone from amber red to red. The much-heralded purpose of that project was,
“to increase the UK’s Reserve forces in line with the commitment set out in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, however the project has not, thus far, met its published recruitment targets, in particular for Army Reserves”.
Can the Minister say when that will be achieved and what steps have been taken to meet that target?
The Government recently published a paper updating us on the work of the reserves. It contains some very interesting articles covering reservists in operations, reservist training, the employer recognition scheme and pictures of Ministers, including the Defence Secretary. These articles are all very interesting, but on the question of the strength of the reserves there are two lines and a link to a website. What does it say about recruitment? I am afraid that that does not get a mention at all. I wonder why that is.
On cybersecurity, the SDSR 2015 raised the issue of tackling this issue and our ambition was set out that Britain would be a “world leader” in doing so. However, there is concern that the Armed Forces will not have the capacity or the expertise to achieve this. The Chancellor pledged a massive increase in spending on cybersecurity, and the Government pledged a full spectrum of military cyber capability. George Osborne, speaking at GCHQ, said that the Government would protect Britain from cyberattack, if necessary by going on the offensive. This is important if we are to counter the work of people such as ISIL and other terrorist organisations around the world. We were told that we would develop an offensive capability. Can the Minister update us on progress?
Finally, I shall say something about the new doctrine of not telling Parliament when we embed our forces in a conflict situation and place them under the command of a foreign power. We might call it the Fallon doctrine. In March 2011, the then Foreign Secretary William Hague—now the noble Lord, Lord Hague—promised that the Government would enshrine in law the necessity to consult Parliament on military action. In April this year, Mr Fallon said that this policy was now abandoned and the convention whereby Parliament would be consulted on any military action would not apply where our forces were embedded in the Armed Forces of another power and under the command of that country’s military. This is a dangerous doctrine.
In a reply to a Question from me asking about the location of embedded forces, the noble Earl the Minister said that he was,
“not able to provide location details as their disclosure would, or would be likely to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the Armed Forces”.
No one on these Benches will do anything to prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of our Armed Forces. While proclaiming transparency on the matter of embedded forces in a Statement on
I am listening to the noble Lord very carefully, and he is making a very important statement. May I take it as read that he does not include in the requirement to publish the details of our Armed Forces abroad the disposition and deployment of Special Forces?
No, I would agree with the point made by the noble Lord. Indeed, for the benefit of the House, if there is any doubt, before I tabled the Question to the noble Earl, who was away at that time on a very important visit to Korea, I asked the MoD whether I would cause any embarrassment to our national security by tabling the Question—through the help of his colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Ashton. I did not get a response, so I tabled the Question. I took steps to try to ensure that I was not in any way threatening our security by asking such a Question.
While I recognise that there are cases for effective security, this dangerous doctrine is now becoming the rule, not the exception. I hope the Government will review this policy of deliberately keeping Parliament in the dark. The first duty of every Government is the well-being of our people. That begins with the defence of the realm, which is best achieved when there is consensus and agreement across the board on how best that can be done. But, while working with the Government as much as possible, the Opposition—not just the Opposition, but all Members—would be failing in their duty not to raise concerns where we see deficiencies and shortcomings. The criticisms we have made today are meant to be constructive and achieve a better outcome.
I say only this. I learned a long time ago in politics that it is not sensible to reject a good idea simply because somebody else thought of it first. I rather think that the noble Earl would agree with that. His big task now is to persuade the rest of the Government.
My Lords, we have had a fascinating, wide-ranging and well-informed debate, as one might expect of this Chamber. I will shortly pick up on as many points as I can made by noble Lords on all sides, but first I think it would be helpful to return to what I consider to be the three central tenets underlying the programme set out in the gracious Speech from a defence, development and foreign affairs perspective.
First, the Government’s commitment to protecting our people remains absolute. Today we face challenges growing in concurrence, diversity and multiplicity. We are responding with stronger defence. The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, spoke of cuts. Not only have we confirmed that we will meet the NATO guideline to spend 2% of GDP on defence, but we are presiding over a budget that will grow by 0.5% in real terms every year for the remainder of this Parliament. This very significant statement of intent allows us to increase our equipment spend and invest in full-spectrum capabilities, from digital armoured vehicles and F35 stealth fighters to carrier strike. As aggressive nations flaunt their nuclear arsenals, we are securing the future of Britain’s nuclear capability—our ultimate deterrent. Above all, our additional resource allows us to continue to stand up to aggression.
I say to the noble Lord that the SDSR made it clear that we will be able to deploy an expeditionary force across all three services of around 50,000—up from the 30,000 we announced in 2010. The Army could provide that force with up to 40,000 personnel. This is an increase, not a reduction. We are not just focusing on preparing for major conflicts; we are currently conducting lots of smaller operations at the same time, so Joint Force 2025 is being designed to enable us to do that better.
Our investment in defence is particularly evident in the way we are upping our efforts against Daesh, not just in Iraq, but, following last year’s decisive parliamentary vote, in Syria. Our efforts, alongside our coalition partners, are now pushing the terrorists back. They are losing territory, money and manpower. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Baglan, reminded us, we cannot defeat Daesh by military means alone, so we are countering its insidious ideology, such as through the coalition communications cell we have created, to undermine Daesh’s failing propositions that it is winning militarily and building a viable state, and that it represents the only true form of Islam.
The second principle underscoring the gracious Speech is our determination to do everything in our power to safeguard the rules-based international order. That is why our Typhoons are back in the Baltic for the third time to police the skies against Russian aggression. Since beginning their mission in April, they have already been scrambled on numerous occasions and remain on standby all day, every day. In response to mass migration we have ships in the Aegean and Mediterranean, disrupting and preventing illegal people trafficking. We are also doubling the number of UK troops on UN peacekeeping missions. Simultaneously, we will continue to use our influence to defend human rights. Opening this debate, my noble friend spoke movingly about the importance of preventing sexual violence in conflict. This is just one area where we are working hard to defend the values of tolerance that are the cornerstone of our nation.
The third principle behind the gracious Speech is that defence and development are two sides of the same coin. We must deal with the causes as well as the consequence of the issues we face today, whether extremism, mass migration, or deadly disease. That is why we have restructured our aid budget to focus on these great global challenges. Spending money up front on development and building up the capacity of struggling states prevents crisis turning to chaos. More than that, it boosts prosperity which in turn allows us to establish new alliances and trading partners. We are proud that Britain is the only major country in the world meeting the NATO target and the only G7 country spending at least 0.7% on development. It is a commitment we will continue to honour.
The valedictory speech from my noble friend Lady Perry was a reminder, if any were needed, of how much we lose with her retirement from this House. Her humanity, expertise and good sense will be much missed. I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Jowell, for a maiden speech of characteristic warmth and wisdom. We welcome her heartily to our debates.
However, it was perhaps no surprise that the predominant theme of this debate has been the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union and in particular the implications for our national defence and security. The security of Europe relies on not only the strength and unity of NATO’s collective defence but the prosperity underpinned by the EU’s single market. For several decades, the two institutions through their different means have provided the architecture to enable nations to work together in keeping the peace in Europe. We cannot address the threats to our national security alone. They are transnational and even global. We are the largest European defence contributor in NATO and in the EU. Through our active membership of both, we are able to play a leading role in shaping Europe’s security, which requires the broad range of tools that both institutions provide. This is critical for our own national security but also for that of our closest allies and partners around the world. As was emphasised powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, if we leave the EU we lose our ability to ensure that the EU’s tools are used in co-operation with NATO, and that the EU does not try to duplicate NATO’s proven military capabilities but focuses on the critical diplomatic, social and economic levers that enable European nations to address the complex threats to our security.
Leaving the EU risks weakening NATO. As the noble Lord, Lord Soley, rightly said, the UK is an important part of the international system. Our allies and partners often look to us for leadership. As many noble Lords emphasised—the noble Lords, Lord Robertson, Lord Campbell, Lord Kerr, Lord Ashdown, Lord Hannay, Lord Liddle and many others—leaving a major component of the international system would reduce the UK’s international standing, including with our key ally, the United States. At a time of international tension, we should work more closely with the international system and not seek to leave a key element of it. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, was right to say that we played a decisive role in shaping the EU’s common security and defence policy, and in ensuring that it is focused on areas of concern for us—for example, on counter-piracy and the Balkans. Our continued membership will maintain and potentially enhance that influence. On the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, while NATO is the cornerstone of the UK’s defence, the EU plays an important complementary role in addressing and managing international crises.
I hope I will be forgiven for not commenting on every contribution on the subject of the EU, whether for or against our membership, but I briefly turn to the information published by the Government. In response to my noble friend Lord Forsyth, and pace my noble friend Lord Lawson, the Treasury’s comprehensive analysis, published today, has at its core a desire to present as true and fair a view of the future as possible. It focuses on the immediate economic impact of a vote to leave, and the two years that follow. The Treasury followed a comprehensive and best-practice approach to estimate the immediate impact of a vote to leave the EU on the UK economy. In doing so, it did not just pick figures out of the air; it used the available evidence and best-practice techniques, constructing an uncertainty indicator and estimating the impact of uncertainty on the economy. It combined these using a widely used model that assesses the total impact of all the effects on Britain’s economy of a vote to leave. The model is that used by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which is used by more than 40 organisations including the IMF, the OECD, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank.
I am most grateful to my noble friend. I think it is the vector autoregression model that is used. If everyone uses the same model and the same assumptions, it is hardly surprising that we get the same conclusions. He said that the document was objective. How was it, then, that on the radio this morning, when asked why the document did not look at the potential upside, the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid, replied that that was something best left to the campaign group arguing that we should leave?
My Lords, I invite my noble friend to look at the government papers available on GOV.UK, which do not simply address the case for remaining. For example, they talk about alternatives to membership, possible models for the United Kingdom outside the European Union, the rights and obligations of European Union membership et cetera. The Government’s policy is to stay in the European Union. Therefore, I do not think that my noble friend should be surprised if the arguments for doing so are those on which the Government focus.
I conclude this part of my speech by briefly addressing the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Luce, about Gibraltar. We recognise the vital importance of the EU referendum to Gibraltar and call on all those eligible to vote to have their say in this historic decision. The Governments of the UK and Gibraltar believe that the UK and Gibraltar should remain in a reformed EU. The UK has made a commitment to defend and support Gibraltar’s interests, including upholding British sovereignty. We were doing so prior to the referendum and we will continue to do so after it. I turn to—
My Lords, if I may, because I am unsighted on the question, I will write to my noble friend on it. I do not have advice which would enable me to answer him now.
I turn to humanitarian issues, particularly the World Humanitarian Summit referred to by the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Purvis of Tweed, my noble friend Lord Lansley and others, including the noble Lord, Lord McConnell. The Government welcome the UN Secretary-General’s leadership in convening the World Humanitarian Summit, taking place this week. My right honourable friend the Development Secretary is heading the delegation and advancing priorities for a new approach to protracted crisis, a renewed commitment to the protection of civilians in conflict, a reformed humanitarian system, including smarter financing, and a stronger focus on protecting and empowering women and girls. The well-founded passion of my noble friend Lady Perry for education was echoed in a question from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about the Education Cannot Wait Fund. Today, 37 million children living through conflicts or crisis are out of school. This very day, the UK announced that we will commit £30 million to the Education Cannot Wait Fund for education in emergencies. A generation of young people is missing out on education and being cheated out of their future. Their education cannot wait and neither should our support. We want the international community to step up efforts to reach every child with the schooling they need to make their futures brighter.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, referred to the sustainable development goals, as did the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, who suggested the creation of a sustainable development goals champion in the Cabinet Office to ensure effective delivery. The sustainable development goals are a major evolution in the way we think about international development. We have agreed a set of top-level strategic objectives for the Department for International Development to ensure delivery against the goals. DfID will lead a co-ordinated and coherent cross-government approach. The department has a number of review processes ongoing both internally and across government which will inform this strategy. The UK’s decision on the upcoming replenishment of the Global Fund is dependent on the outcomes of reviews which are to be published later this year. We fully support the Global Fund’s funding and allocation model as it currently stands.
The noble Lord, Lord Stone of Blackheath, referred to the use of soft power with the help of the British Council, particularly in education, and referred to building universities with British standards. The noble Lord, Lord Loomba, also spoke on this theme. The British Council makes a major contribution to UK soft power by creating international opportunities and providing access to the UK for the next generation of global leaders, building long-term influence in those countries.
We want an increase in global partnership and networks with higher education institutions in the UK and around the world. To that end, the British Council will do four things in particular. It will promote a dialogue and sharing of practice; it will provide consultancy and services to support development, reform and innovation in higher education; it will promote UK sector expertise and create market opportunities and connections for UK stakeholders and institutions and it will support international scholarships and alumni networks to build long-term influence in those countries.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle asked about the use of overseas development aid by departments other than DfID. He will not be surprised to hear that DfID will continue to be a primary channel of official UK development assistance spending, but in order to respond to the changing world more aid will be administered by other government departments, drawing on their complementary skills. As set out in the UK aid strategy, we will continue to make aid more transparent, committing all UK government departments to be ranked good or very good in the international Aid Transparency Index within the next five years.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked what we were doing to tackle corruption, which is costing developing countries billions of dollars. The UK aid strategy sets out that the Government will do more to tackle the organised crime and corruption that hits the world’s poorest people hardest. Last week, the anti-corruption summit agreed a global declaration that corruption should be exposed, the corrupt pursued and punished, those who suffered fully supported and corruption driven out. DfID funds two police teams to investigate corruption cases affecting developing countries. A £12 million investment between 2006 and 2015 resulted in £170 million of assets stolen from developing countries and laundered in the UK being restrained, recovered or returned. In 2015, my right honourable friend the Development Secretary announced £21 million of new funding for this work over the next five years.
The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, spoke powerfully about violence against women and girls. Ending all forms of such violence is a top priority for the Government. My noble friend Lady Verma has been appointed the ministerial champion for tackling violence against women and girls. Last week, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact gave DfID a green rating for its work in this area, underlining Britain’s leading role in the global efforts to put a stop to violence against women and girls. By 2020, DfID’s support will have enabled 24 million more of the world’s poorest girls to use voluntary family planning information services and supplies.
My noble friend Lady Berridge referred, again very powerfully, to sexual exploitation. We support the UN Secretary-General’s zero-tolerance approach to sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers and civilians working in conflict zones. We have provided £1 million of funding to support training, vetting and implementation of UN reforms. The United Nations needs to act swiftly on the recommendations in Madame Deschamps’ report on this issue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, referred to the CDC. I can tell her, if she does not know already, that a new investment of £735 million over the next three years represents the first capital injection which the Government have made into the CDC for 20 years. Our new investment will allow the CDC to support many more businesses throughout Africa and south Asia, building on its already considerable successes.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the UK’s priorities for the LGBTI conference in Uruguay. The UK Government support the key objectives of the conference: to provide an important opportunity for sharing information, best practice and lessons learned with partners; and to discuss how to better co-ordinate international efforts to support the promotion and protection of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people worldwide. The change to the proposed date has meant that the UK delegation is not yet finalised. We will keep the level of our attendance under review. We are committed to the issues which UK officials across government are familiar with and active upon.
The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, brought us back to a topic of continual concern: the Middle East peace process. We are deeply frustrated at the lack of progress in the process. A just and lasting resolution that delivers peace for both Israelis and Palestinians is long overdue. We believe that a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no better alternative that can deliver peace and a Palestinian state in reality and on the ground. We do not underestimate the challenges but firmly believe that peace is possible if both parties show leadership. Unfortunately, this month has seen the most serious escalation in Gaza since the 2014 conflict, but the UK welcomes all efforts to drive forward progress between the parties, including the Arab and Israeli peace initiatives.
As I say, peace will come only through negotiations between the parties, but international action involving regional players, the EU and the quartet can play a role in supporting that process. FCO officials have met representatives of the Two States One Homeland initiative. The sort of creative thinking that this initiative contributes is welcome. I hope that that provides the gist of an answer to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, who asked the Government to put their full diplomatic resources behind the resolution of the process. I assure him that the Middle East peace process continues to be one of the Government’s principal foreign policy priorities and we devote considerable resources, in both diplomatic effort and financial support, to drive forward progress.
The noble Lord, Lord West, devoted some of his speech to the strength of the Royal Navy. The noble Lord is of course correct that the Royal Navy had a larger overall fleet at the time of the Battle of Jutland 100 years ago but let us be clear: our advanced Royal Navy, set out in the SDSR 2015, has a transformed role and capabilities compared to the navy of the First World War. Our two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers will transform the Royal Navy’s ability to project our influence overseas, forming the core of our maritime task group, with one available at all times; and with the introduction of our Type 26 vessels, we will have one of the most capable anti-submarine fleets in the world. The Type 26 will be complemented by our new class of lighter, flexible general purpose frigates. The Royal Navy will continue to deliver our nuclear deterrent, provide world-class amphibious forces and project our maritime power around the globe. I will write to the noble Lord on his remaining points about the Type 26 frigate, if I may, in view of the time constraint.
Our submarine programme was referred to by the noble Lords, Lord West and Lord Touhig, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly. There will be an opportunity in due course for a debate and vote on our commitment to a successor to the continuous at-sea deterrent. As set out in the SDSR, we have moved away from a traditional single main-gate approach, which is not appropriate for a programme of this scale and complexity, to a staged investment programme.
I should be delighted to pass that suggestion on to the usual channels.
I recognise that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, does not support the principle of the deterrent, but on the cost, which she asked about, the only way to ensure continuous patrols is to have a fleet of four deterrent submarines. We were clear on that in our manifesto. We intend to honour that commitment. We estimate that four new submarines would cost £31 billion, spread over 35 years, on top of which we are setting a contingency of £10 billion. We have been clear about the cost estimates published for the successor submarine. We are replacing the submarines and that cost equates to 20 pence in every £100 of annual government spending. The in-service costs remain unchanged: around 6% of the annual defence budget. I will make one more point to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller: the nuclear deterrent will not be rendered obsolete by new technology, including cyberthreats. We dedicate considerable resource to assessing the threats from emerging capabilities and will apply any necessary mitigation through the lifetime of the nuclear deterrent to combat those threats.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, asked about the non-proliferation treaty. The UK is at the forefront of disarmament efforts. Our nuclear deterrence is at the minimum credible level and we hold barely 1% of the global nuclear weapons stockpile. We regularly call for universal adoption of the NPT in the United Nations and other international meetings and in bilateral meetings with non-NPT nuclear-armed states. However, the noble Lord, Lord O’Neill, was right that we have a political and moral responsibility to protect our people and allies. Our deterrent is a sign to NATO and we cannot outsource that commitment. The deterrent is there to deter the most extreme threats to our national security.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle and the noble Baroness, Lady Jolly, made some powerful points about mental health care for defence personnel. We take the mental health of our personnel very seriously and provide a wide range of effective treatments for those who need them. In the UK, we have a network of military departments for community mental health, located conveniently for major centres of military population. Leaving personnel who have had mental health issues during service are able to access the DCMHs for up to six months after discharge to help them during the transition period.
The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, spoke powerfully and with first-hand knowledge about South Sudan. We remain deeply concerned by the dire humanitarian situation in South Sudan. More than 2.4 million South Sudanese are displaced and almost 3 million people are at risk of life-threatening hunger. All parties must allow unrestricted humanitarian access. We are fully committed to supporting the people of South Sudan and have been a major donor to that country. Cross-border aid is a policy option that we keep under review. We support UN efforts to gain humanitarian access to rebel-held areas and welcome the Government of Sudan’s announcement that they will allow humanitarian aid from within Sudan to reach parts of South Kordofan controlled by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North. We call on all sides to allow immediate and sustained humanitarian access.
As regards Burma, I am sure the noble Baroness will know that the UK has provided £18 million for humanitarian assistance since 2012 for more than 126,000 displaced and conflict-afflicted people, including water and sanitation, as well as work on malnutrition and gender-based violence. We will continue to be active in support of the peace process, both politically and through our development work.
My noble friend Lord Sheikh devoted his speech to Libya. We welcome the Government of National Accord’s move to Tripoli and will be working closely with them as the sole legitimate Government of Libya. We are supporting urgent action by the GNA to reach out to actors in the east of Libya, to assert their authority over Libyan ministries and key financial institutions, and to establish a unified military command structure under a GNA banner. He will know that on
My noble friend Lady Hooper spoke with her typical authority about Latin America, in particularly Colombia. I will write to her about that country, and about Ecuador and Brazil. Time prevents me, I am afraid, from addressing the other issues raised by noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Selsdon and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, who asked me about Saudi Arabia and human rights abuses in Yemen.
I wish to conclude by addressing the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Owen. I will say at the outset that we are happy to accept this amendment because we want to reassure people that this issue is already adequately dealt with. The Government’s position remains that protection of the NHS is non-negotiable, but in our view there is no threat to the NHS from TTIP. Last week, in response to the legal analysis commissioned by Unite on the impact of TTIP on the NHS, the EU said on behalf of Commissioner Malmström that “TTIP poses no risk whatsoever to public services in the EU, including the NHS”, and that nothing in TTIP would affect how the NHS in the UK operates at the moment.
This position was strongly endorsed by the US trade representative Michael Froman. The current draft of the TTIP text includes a wide range of protections for the NHS, including: a general exemption for “a service supplied in the exercise of governmental authority”; a series of exemptions which ensure that government procurement of health services is excluded from the scope of TTIP; an EU-wide reservation allowing member states to take any measures that they see fit in respect of “all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form”; and another EU reservation allowing member states to have public monopolies over activities considered at a national or local level as public utilities—all this with additional UK-specific reservations on specific services such as ambulances and non-hospital residential care. The one thing you will not find anywhere in the draft is a requirement to outsource health services.
At the same time, we are keen to do anything we can to put people’s minds at rest and reassure them that the protection of the NHS is non-negotiable. With that in mind, we are happy to accept the principle of ensuring appropriate protections and exemptions for the NHS in TTIP and, on that basis, we are happy to accept the noble Lord’s amendment, if he chooses to press it. Given the range of provisions already proposed, we do not think it necessary to bring forward domestic legislation, but we are happy to keep that under review as negotiations continue.
The gracious Speech sets out the Government’s stall for the year ahead. We are living at a time fraught with danger and uncertainty, but Britain will not be retreating into her shell. Instead, we are stepping up. We are looking outward, we are being bolder in defence of our interests and we are being tireless in pursuit of a safer, more prosperous world.
My Lords, both Front Benches have accepted the amendment. We are at the start of a debate. Another place has exactly the same amendment down for discussion in a few days. I think it would be churlish to push the issue tonight, but I hope we will start to build a cross-party consensus that the treaty needs substantial changes through the negotiation process.
My Lords, the Government have said that they are prepared to accept his amendment; I respectfully submit that the noble Lord should move it.