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Nuclear Tests In India And Pakistan

Volume 590: debated on Monday 1 June 1998

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5.37 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement on India/Pakistan nuclear testing which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"The Government of Pakistan have declared that they carried out six nuclear tests—five on Thursday, and a further one on Saturday. We recognise that the Government of Pakistan were under immense pressure to conduct these tests to match those initiated by India. But we are dismayed by the decision to respond in kind and believe that the interests of Pakistan have been badly served by their decision to do so.

"Pakistan's foremost concern is its national security. That security has not been strengthened by these tests. Long-term security for Pakistan can only come from lowering tension with India and building mutual confidence within the region. It cannot be built on the unstable foundation of an arms race, which will only raise tensions. Already it can be seen from news reports from the region that the voices that have been encouraged by the recent confrontation are the voices of extremism.

"But Pakistan's loss is wider than its own reduced security. Pakistan had the chance to win international support and respect for its restraint. That opportunity has now been lost. As with India, the effect of the nuclear tests by Pakistan has been to diminish, not to enhance, the status of that country within the international community.

"We have made clear to the Government of Pakistan our dismay at their decision. The Pakistani High Commissioner was summoned to the Foreign Office the day after the first tests to receive a message for his Government of our concern. I have recalled the British High Commissioner from Islamabad for consultation in London.

"We have already taken a number of measures to bring home to the Government of India the strength of our concern at their nuclear test programme. Last week we cancelled the visit by the Indian Chief of Naval Staff and we have also cancelled a forthcoming visit by their Chief of Army Staff. At the meeting last week of the General Affairs Council of the European Union, we obtained agreement to a Presidency text which invited the Commission to review India's preferential trade treatment. Having taken such steps against India, I would expect comparable measures to be agreed by European partners against Pakistan for similar action by it.

"Britain's aid programme, unlike that of some other countries, is directly targeted on providing help to the poorest people in the poorest regions. We remain convinced that it would be wrong to penalize the most vulnerable citizens in either country by suspending that aid programme.

"However no one, least of all governments of both countries, should under-state the economic price that they will pay for isolation within the international community. Already the value of the Indian rupee has fallen. Last week, the Indian Government offered 1 billion dollars of government bonds and got no takers. In May, there was a net outflow of foreign institutional investment. And last week the World Bank deferred three loans to India for energy and highways projects of almost a billion dollars as a result of objections by member states including Britain.

"The adverse impact of these economic developments will make it more difficult for India or Pakistan to reduce poverty. That is why it would be a tragedy if both their governments were to persist in an arms race to acquire the most expensive of weapons, which will do nothing to help the millions of their citizens who live in poverty.

"A regional arms race would also have an impact which would stretch far beyond the region. Other states who have already demonstrated their interest in acquiring nuclear weapon technology will be watching closely how the international community now responds to the precedent set by India and Pakistan. Their nuclear programmes therefore are not merely an internal matter for the two countries, but are a legitimate matter of concern for the world.

"At the suggestion of the United States, the permanent five members of the Security Council will meet on Thursday in Geneva to discuss the security implications of the nuclear test programmes and the heightened tension in the region. As President of the G8, Britain has called a meeting of their Foreign Ministers in London next week. That meeting will co-ordinate the response of the leading economies to the nuclear test programmes and how we can best promote dialogue with India and Pakistan and between India and Pakistan. There must be two strategic objectives in our dialogue with those countries.

"First, we must press India and Pakistan to sign up to the global regime against nuclear proliferation. The best way to reduce tension in the region would be for both India and Pakistan now to sign up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and to join in the negotiations at Geneva without conditions and to halt the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Neither the interests of Pakistan nor India, nor those of any other country in the world, are served by encouraging the spread of nuclear weapons.

"The second objective must be to tackle the roots of the tension between both countries. There needs to be a meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan over the issues that at present threaten stability in the region. Their security would be much better promoted by confidence-building measures than by nuclear testing programmes.

"The balance which we must seek in our approach to this issue is to confront firmly the dangers of nuclear proliferation, but without seeking confrontation with the peoples of India or Pakistan. Britain has a long history of close ties with both countries and millions of people in Britain have community links with relatives throughout the sub-continent. Britain therefore does not voice its dismay at the recent nuclear tests out of hostility. On the contrary, it is as a friend of both countries that Britain is appalled at the risks and costs to the peoples of the sub-continent from a nuclear arms race. I ask the whole House to show our united resolve in condemning the nuclear tests and in calling for the Governments of both India and Pakistan to stop testing and to start talking".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.44 p.m.

My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. From these Benches, we share the Government's dismay and disappointment at the nuclear tests conducted last week by the Pakistani Government in a blatant show of disregard for international opinion. We share the sorrow and regret that Pakistan did not heed the international calls for restraint, since these tests fly in the face of worldwide efforts against testing and nuclear proliferation.

Pakistan's decision to conduct its nuclear tests in response to India's tests earlier in May has escalated the already considerable tension in the Indian sub-continent. These tests take Pakistan and India several steps beyond the sabre-rattling enmity that has existed between them for the past 50 years. The world has now openly been brought closer to the spectre of a deadly nuclear arms race in the region which could have grave ramifications for the international community, even though we have suspected this for some time.

Does the Minister believe that sufficient efforts were made by the international community at the G8 summit in Birmingham to induce Pakistan to exercise restraint? What security guarantees were offered to Pakistan in the event of an Indian attack and what assistance was offered to Pakistan? What efforts did the British Government, in particular, make to persuade Pakistan not to conduct its nuclear tests? What further representations do the Government propose to make to the Government of Pakistan following the withdrawal of our High Commissioner there?

From these Benches, we support the Government in their insistence that both Pakistan and India must adhere to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and that both countries must enter into negotiations on a global treaty to stop the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. What immediate action are the Government taking to ensure that these two nations refrain from further tests and from the deployment of nuclear warheads or ballistic missiles and that they abide by the global non-proliferation regime?

Does the Minister accept that if any kind of exception is made for India and Pakistan to become full nuclear powers it sets a precedent for other countries which lack the democratic credentials, but which wish to develop their own nuclear capability? Furthermore, what steps are the Government taking, together with our international partners, to ensure that the examples of India and Pakistan do not give the impression to other Asian and Middle Eastern powers that the possession of a nuclear arsenal is an effective short-cut route to a say at the world's negotiating tables? Does the Minister agree that the long-standing dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir will be a continuing cause of conflict between these two nations? What assessment have the Government made of recent reports in Indian newspapers that the Indian tests were in fact a response to a Chinese-Pakistan attempt to thwart its nuclear weapons programme?

Finally, can the Minister give the House further details about the summit she mentioned due to take place in London on 12th June to co-ordinate efforts to bring nuclear activities in India and Pakistan under international supervision, announced by the Foreign Secretary? What success does the Minister expect this meeting to have, given the failure of the G8 summit to prevent Pakistan's nuclear tests?

5.48 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place. Perhaps I can echo the words of Secretary Cohen, the US Secretary for Defense, that this may be the most dangerous moment for the world since the Cuban missile crisis. It is important that we recognise how much could be at stake.

In that context, has there been any response to the call for both nations to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as soon as possible? Can the Minister comment on further international measures and sanctions which have been taken? I understand that the EBRD, for example, has suspended a loan to India and that the International Monetary Fund is reconsidering the next stage of its assistance to that country. Perhaps the Minister can bring us up to date on the steps which have been taken internationally.

Does she believe that there is a possibility that India and Pakistan might reconsider their unwillingness to discuss the situation in Kashmir, in view of the extreme escalation implied by the fact that they are both now nuclear powers? Does the Commonwealth offer any possible bridge to bring those two nations together with a view to a peaceful settlement?

Finally, perhaps I may ask her two questions with regard to the wider architecture of the world concerning nuclear proliferation and the attempts to try to bring about nuclear disarmament. It is easy for the nuclear powers, in a sense, to dismiss their own responsibility from the day when, in 1970, they first signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Under Article 6 of that treaty a clear responsibility rested upon them. It was a responsibility to seek forms of multilateral disarmament in the nuclear field and to take steps to limit the production of fissile materials, particularly uranium and plutonium. Virtually nothing has happened in the intervening 20 years, for which I certainly do not blame the present Government. But the truth of the matter is that nothing has happened.

I wonder whether the Minister can respond to us by saying whether the Security Council permanent members when they meet, followed by the G8 members when they meet, could look again at the possibility of considering a new initiative in the field of international nuclear disarmament and control over fissile materials globally.

I fear that unless we take much more dramatic steps than have so far been discussed, this may be the beginning of a long slide towards a world of nuclear powers where sooner or later nuclear weapons are almost bound to be used.

5.52 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, for their support for the Statement which I have made to the House.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, asked about sufficient efforts made at the G8. I believe that very considerable efforts were made, not only at the G8 conference itself but by various leaders following up the G8 in the approaches which were made to Pakistan at the highest levels.

We understand, as my right honourable friend's Statement made clear, the pressure under which Pakistan has been working, but we also understand that Pakistan had a considerable opportunity to earn credit over restraint and sadly did not take that opportunity. But no one left any stone unturned with Pakistan in trying to persuade them of the wisdom of that course of action rather than the one which they eventually decided to take.

We have made a démarche with Pakistan to try to persuade them that they should now desist from any further activity in this sphere. The High Commissioner in London was summoned to the Foreign Office and there has been a considerable amount of diplomatic action, as was made clear from my right honourable friend's Statement. We have withdrawn for consultation our High Commissioner in Islamabad.

The noble Baroness then went on to ask me what more was being done. The permanent members of the Security Council are meeting on Thursday of this week. The GAC will be meeting on Monday of next week and the G8 will be meeting on Friday of next week discussing these matters in particular. So I think that in all the arenas open to us at the moment we are making every effort to ensure that the international community is able to co-ordinate its response to the situation which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has rightly described as an extremely serious one and one which is acting against the interests of stability in what we understand is a very fragile part of the world.

Of course, we are also trying to persuade both countries to sign up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked if we have had any indications of whether they might be willing to do so. I have not heard anything through official channels. All I can tell the noble Baroness is probably what she is aware of already, that there have been some reports that the Indians have indicated that they are willing to consider that, but with certain conditions. Of course, it is that conditionality which will probably prove to be extremely difficult. But I say that only as informed opinion at the moment rather than from any particular information that we have directly from the Indian Government.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, also asked about the continuing conflict in Kashmir. Of course, we know that this is the really neuralgic and difficult point between India and Pakistan. As regards a similar Statement that I made in your Lordships' House the other day we discussed the volatile situation in Kashmir.

The noble Baroness said that India claims that it had itself undergone nuclear tests because of the Chinese/Pakistan axis. She will also know that the Pakistanis have said that they undertook their nuclear tests because they believed that they were about to suffer some sort of attack from India. There can be endless speculation from both sides about who did what first and the reasons for it. But we are left with the inescapable position that, as a result of the nuclear testing in both countries, the stabilisation of that part of the world has been severely undermined. Undoubtedly, the position over Kashmir is one of the potent factors involved in that undermining.

The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, also asked about what further action was being taken. At the General Affairs Committee on 25th May there was a strong declaration issued. It was agreed that member states would work for deferral of the consideration of IFI loans in India. Partners also agreed to take all necessary measures should India not accede to and move swiftly to ratify the relevant non-proliferation agreements, including the CTBT.

The noble Baroness then went on to ask about what she described as the lack of action in relation to discussions over fissile materials. Her Majesty's Government are taking a leading part in the negotiations on fissile material in Geneva at the moment. We shall, of course, do everything we can to continue to encourage both India and Pakistan to sign up to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. I would remind your Lordships that currently 149 countries around the world have acceded to the test ban treaties and 186 to the non-proliferation treaty. So I think that despite these very considerable difficulties that we are now experiencing as regards the position of India and Pakistan, the position of the major countries of the world is that the nuclear test ban treaties should be supported and we must do everything we can, both bilaterally as a friend of India and Pakistan, and through the multilateral opportunities open to us, to persuade both countries that the wisdom of their position lies in signing those treaties too.

5.57 p.m.

My Lords, we must thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement from another place. What she has had to say to us would have been more than adequate had we been discussing any weapon other than the nuclear weapon. I think there is a tendency for us to shudder away from the reality of the nuclear weapon.

It is almost a condition of life that no one likes to contemplate his own death. I can remember that being so during the war. No pilot ever got into a cockpit without a firm belief that he would be the one to come back. If that was not so, he would not have been able to take off.

Humanity generally shudders against and refuses to consider the possibility of the elimination of his own species. Therefore, if one is discussing this, as we have been doing, in terms of talking about an ordinary weapon, we ignore the reality. I am not alone in this point of view, of course. The prestigious Oxford Research Group takes a similar view. I shall quote from a statement made by them on this subject.
"The choice is, quite starkly, between arranging for the elimination of nuclear weapons, or anticipating their proliferation to many other countries and sub-state groups".
The Government must have known that that would happen. I say that because, time and again, at the United Nations the Indian representative made the point that, unless the nuclear states were prepared to consider seriously becoming non-nuclear states and moving towards the elimination of such weapons, India would have no alternative but to develop a nuclear weapon.

My Lords, there is very limited time available. Several noble Lords wish to speak and my noble friend should really pose a question on the Statement.

My Lords, I trust that my noble friend has a question for the Minister.

My Lords, the question that I intended to ask my noble friend the Minister is this. Why do the Government refuse to take the step of bringing a certain amount of reality into our discussions on the matter? Why do the Government refuse to say that a nuclear conflict spreading throughout the world would probably result in the end of our civilisation and, indeed, in the extinction of humanity?

The Oxford Research Group has said that that is a possibility. Therefore, does not my noble friend the Minister recognise that to refuse to pay attention to the point I raised, actually avoids and fails to respond to the present situation by removing its gravity and its reality? Is that not the view of my noble friend?

My Lords, I am most dismayed to feel that my noble friend does not think that the Government are dealing with the matter with what he described as a certain amount of "reality". Of course, a nuclear conflict in any part of the world would be disastrous. Indeed, when repeating the Statement, I stated that Britain is appalled by the risks and the costs to the people of the sub-Continent from a nuclear arms race. The Statement also said very clearly and unequivocally that this is not just a regional matter for India and Pakistan; it is a matter for the peoples of the whole world. Other countries throughout the world, perhaps some who are thinking about acquiring nuclear weapons, will be watching very closely what we are doing. That is why there is unprecedented diplomatic activity, as I described in detail when responding to the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, which will take place over the next 10 days to ensure that everything that can be done will be done to discourage both countries from continuing down this path.

My noble friend said that the Government have not done enough and that we should condemn what has happened. I should point out to him that I condemned it unequivocally when repeating the Statement. Britain was the first nuclear power to ratify the CTBT in April of this year. We also withdrew our freefall bomb in March of this year. Our ambitions were clearly stated in the election manifesto in relation to eventual nuclear disarmament through a process of verification and balanced nuclear disarmament throughout the nuclear powers.

Our position is an ambitious but practical one. I am extraordinarily dismayed that my noble friend should think that we are in any way not dealing with the matter seriously or that we have not dealt with it in a realistic manner.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her generous words about friendship for both India and Pakistan. In view of that friendship, will the noble Baroness agree that there is a certain amount of hyping-up of the tension rather than actually trying to improve matters? Perhaps I may also take the liberty to say that I was dismayed to hear the Defence Secretary in the United States, Mr. Cohen, say that this was the same as the Bay of Pigs situation. I was in the US in 1961 and, at that time, China attacked India. It was extremely serious. I know that it was a long time ago and that perhaps the noble Baroness will not remember. However, everyone was absolutely immersed in the situation in the Bay of Pigs and no one in the international community was in the least bit interested in what was happening to India vis-à-vis China.

The Minister must accept the fact that India does not expect the international community to jump up and come to its aid if any other aggression takes place from outside—and that does not include Pakistan. Further, does the noble Baroness realise the true position of Pakistan? How could Pakistan not have followed that course of action? It needed to do so because of internal consumption. The Pakistani Government would have found it extremely difficult to cope with a situation where India had undertaken five nuclear tests while Pakistan had undertaken none. I hope that the noble Baroness will consider the internal situations and, indeed, the immediate situations in the surrounding countries and that she will try not to hype-up the situation to the extent that it has been hyped-up by the international community.

My Lords, in all these issues there is, as the noble Baroness suggests, a fine line to tread between, on the one hand, recognising that there is a grave situation as regards the nuclear testing that has just taken place, and, on the other, going over the top—if I may use a colloquialism—or hyping-up such situations.

The noble Baroness referred to the friendship that the UK has for both India and Pakistan. That means that we are in a position to put forward our views to both countries, but to do so as a friend and not in a spirit of hostility. We must remember that in this country we have large communities of Pakistani-British and Indian-British people with relatives and friends in Pakistan and India who will be most concerned about the heightening of tension between the two countries. The noble Baroness should be in no doubt that that tension has undoubtedly been heightened by the events of the past two or three weeks.

I turn now to whether or not we are overstating the case. It was extremely distressing to read reports of the celebrations which took place in both India and Pakistan in honour of the exploding of their nuclear weapons. The noble Baroness mentioned the comparison that the US Defence Secretary, Mr. Cohen, made, as indeed did the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and said that it was not necessarily helpful. We are where we are today. Therefore, trying to make comparisons with where we have been during the past 10, 20 or 30 years is probably not a very helpful comparison to make.

I can tell the noble Baroness that I do remember the Bay of Pigs incident. I remember it very clearly because I was a very frightened schoolgirl when it happened. In my view, anything that we can do to help lessen the tension between India and Pakistan at present by talking to them and by getting the international fora, which I described earlier, to put forward the views of a number of different nations and, indeed, by persuading them, if we can, to have a dialogue with each other to lessen the tension in that part of the world, will be enormously important.

My Lords, I, too, should like to welcome the Statement. Any nuclear test by anyone, anywhere, is an event that all peace-loving people profoundly regret. India and Pakistan may have had their policy compulsions—in some ways understandable—but nuclear testing is a defeat for peace, for compassion and for the ethic of goodwill between states and peoples.

Although I welcome the Government's approach—namely, to use diplomacy and not economic threats—can my noble friend the Minister tell me whether they will continue on that path? These situations underline the need for international co-operation and the co-ordination of diplomatic efforts. Economic threats, especially sanctions, achieve little in today's world; indeed, they alienate countries to such an extent that they often impede diplomacy. Sanctions will work only if they are universal, and where can universality be achieved in today's world? Moreover, sanctions give opportunities for various dubious business interests, especially those with shady international connections, to make sneak profits by circumventing the law. No government should encourage that. I hope the Government will make sure that it does not happen.

Will the Government sustain their efforts at multilateral diplomacy and work within the framework of the great goodwill that exists towards Britain in both India and Pakistan? That goodwill, which is almost unique in the context of history, must be nurtured. I welcome the Statement and I hope that the Government will pursue their policy of diplomacy.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his support. I remind my noble friend that the General Affairs Council of the European Union agreed on 25th May that member states should work for the deferral of consideration of IFI loans to India, and that partners should also agree to take necessary measures should India not accede to and move towards the relevant non-proliferation agreements. It is only fair to remind my noble friend of that point. As I have already indicated, we shall consult with our EU partners on any comparable measures that may have the same impact on Pakistan. Sanctions, of course, take a number of different forms. We must be clear that we are concerned that we do not start to undermine the aid effort to the poorest people in both countries. I hope that my right honourable friend's Statement made that clear. There are over 300 million desperately poor people in India who live on less than 1 US dollar a day. Cutting off aid would hurt them and not impair India's nuclear programme.

We are concerned that in both India and Pakistan the consequences of any renewed arms race may divert scarce resources from vital productive development and their efforts to reduce poverty and to improve their education provision. I can give my noble friend the assurance, at least in part, not necessarily that there will be no sanctions of any economic nature against either country, but that we shall do everything we can to sustain the diplomatic effort. We are enormously conscious of the importance of trying to sustain aid programmes which help the poorest people in those countries.

My Lords, I apologise that I was not present to hear the beginning of the Statement. I recognise the dangers in this situation. However, like my noble friend Lady Flather, I wonder whether this is the best time to talk of threats, sanctions and lectures and to indulge in handwringing. Have we all completely forgotten that the best outcome of the events in the region is the mutual deterrent effect and the stabilising effect, as we learnt in the cold war? Have we now forgotten that reality that we had to face in the past? Does the present situation not pose an opportunity as much as a danger; namely, for us to press ahead to put the whole non-proliferation regime on a far more effective, less disguised and covert basis? We must understand the position of both Islamabad and Delhi and try to bring them into the regime in an effort to establish a much better basis for non-proliferation in the future, and ultimately a test ban and a reduction in nuclear weapons worldwide.

My Lords, of course we want to bring both countries into the regime of the non-proliferation treaty and to persuade them to sign the test ban treaty. However, Her Majesty's Government would find it difficult to agree with the noble Lord's remarks on mutual deterrence. If that policy were pursued, it is inevitable that other countries, perhaps in the Middle East, may decide that they will develop their nuclear deterrence on the basis that it will constitute mutual deterrence between two countries. I believe that is the policy of despair as regards nuclear disarmament. I hope it is not a policy that commands a great deal of support in your Lordships' House.

However, I agree strongly with the noble Lord's remarks about not indulging in threats and handwringing. I hope that the Statement did not indulge in either threats or handwringing. I believe the Statement is rather well balanced, but then, "I would say that, wouldn't I?" I hope that if the noble Lord has the opportunity to read it in full, he will agree with me. We must do everything we can to persuade both countries that their best interests lie—now that they both have a nuclear deterrent—in not proceeding with their nuclear programmes and in considering the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. We must try to persuade them to sign the test ban treaty as quickly as possible.

My Lords, is not the situation much more urgent than the noble Baroness has indicated? We cannot wait until the test ban treaty is signed or until the sanctions become effective. Would it not be better to work towards a "no first use" agreement by both sides? Perhaps non-nuclear powers such as Canada and the Scandinavian countries should give a lead in this matter, as both India and Pakistan do not trust the nuclear powers to deal fairly with them.

My Lords, of course the situation can be described as urgent although I take the point made earlier about not "hyping-up" the situation to a point where we become more excited than the situation merits at present. The noble Lord is correct to say that we must do what we can to persuade both countries not to adopt a first strike position. I am reminded that Argentina and Brazil, for example, both stopped their nuclear programmes mutually at the same time through the agreement of both countries. There is also the example of the South African programme which was stopped. When countries decide that they are prepared to take a step away from developing nuclear weapons, there are encouraging examples of what can be achieved. We also have the encouraging examples of those countries which have already decided to sign the non-proliferation treaty and the test ban treaty.

My Lords, I have two brief questions for the Minister. First, will she inform the House whether it is the United States or Britain which has convened the G8 foreign ministers' conference and what is the objective of that conference? Will it be in the interests of the people of India and Pakistan not to develop any sanctions policies because, as the Minister rightly pointed out, that will affect the very people one wants to help? Secondly, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, asked about the role of the Commonwealth countries. Will the Minister take into account the role that the Commonwealth Secretariat can perform in trying to establish some kind of rapport between those two countries? India and Pakistan are more likely to listen to other Commonwealth countries than to the United States and Britain. Anyone who knows of the resolve of India and Pakistan at the time of independence will realise that sanctions or force will have no effect whatever on those countries.

My Lords, as president of the G8, Britain proposed a meeting in London on Friday of next week to discuss these matters. The United States proposed that the permanent five members of the Security Council should meet on Thursday of this week in Geneva. As I said, we hold the presidency of the G8 at the moment. Your Lordships may be interested to know that this matter is being discussed in the United Nations. Britain is doing everything it can to try to ensure that the discussion in the United Nations has some impact on both the countries concerned.

The noble Lord also asked about the position vis-à-vis the Commonwealth. I am sure that any international forum that can be used will be used in this situation. It is always a matter of striking a balance between what was described by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, as "hand-wringing" on the one hand, and being able to say something practical and useful on the other. I am sure that if there is any practical role that the Commonwealth can play it will be willing to do so.

My Lords, we have had the prescribed 20 minutes for Back-Bench questions on this Statement. I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.

My Lords, with respect, a noble Lord on the other side of the Chamber took five minutes on one question. Perhaps I may briefly ask one simple question—with permission—I am the only one who has been here for all—

My Lords, I think noble Lords are aware that 20 minutes is the tight timetable on a Statement. I believe that we should observe the normal convention. I therefore move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on the Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.