Debate (5th Day)
Moved on Wednesday 4 June by Lord Fowler
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
“Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament”.
My Lords, as we debate the gracious Speech, I have just returned from the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, hosted by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and attended by more than 148 countries, as part of our ongoing efforts to end the use of rape as a weapon of war.
Sexual violence destroys the lives of men and women, boys and girls. Its effects last long beyond the original act, and the culture of impunity that exists for such crimes is a major barrier to international peace and security. It is right, therefore, that we have put tackling these abhorrent crimes at the heart of not only our social and developmental policies but our foreign policy. I pay tribute to my right honourable friend for his dedication in bringing this issue to the fore and his success in turning the tide of global opinion so that we can make accountability for these crimes the norm. We can all be incredibly proud that this summit is being held here in London.
Preventing sexual violence is just one area where we believe that the UK has the moral obligation and the diplomatic power to act, to ensure that human rights—the values that are woven into Britain’s DNA—are, as we pledged upon taking office, indivisible from our foreign policy. Such rights are fundamental to the values we cherish: freedom, tolerance, respect and fair play.
That is why we utterly condemn the introduction of anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda, Nigeria, India and the Russian Federation. The safety of LGBT individuals in these countries, and anywhere where discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity exists, is of paramount concern. Our position remains that human rights are universal and should apply equally to all people, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To render consenting same-sex relationships illegal or to discriminate against individuals based on their sexuality is incompatible with international human rights obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
We continue to lobby for greater human rights protections in all areas but in our six global thematic priorities in particular: women’s rights; torture prevention; abolition of the death penalty; freedom of expression on the internet; business and human rights; and freedom of religion or belief.
In addition to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, our commitment to protecting women and girls from violence and discrimination will see the UK co-host the 2014 Girl Summit with UNICEF, drawing international attention to the issues of female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage. In support of existing efforts, the Girl Summit will bring together Governments, civil society, international organisations, community leaders and the private sector from around the world to drive forward a global movement to end FGM and child, early and forced marriage everywhere.
Noble Lords will be aware that the last of the six global thematic human rights priorities—freedom of religion or belief—is a personal priority of mine. In a speech in Washington last year, I spoke of this as a global problem, requiring a global response from international institutions to grass-roots organisations. Progress is being made. UN Security Council Resolution 1618 lays the foundations for combating discrimination against people based on their religion but much more needs to be done.
I am sure that the continuing global trend towards official restrictions on religious practices will concern the whole House, as will the continued religious extremism in some parts of the world, which has been matched by a growing intolerance towards those who think differently. We have seen this in Nigeria with the slaughter, kidnap and human trafficking of innocent schoolchildren by Boko Haram. We have seen this in Sudan, where women have been sentenced to death simply for marrying across religious divides, and we have seen this in Burma, where religious and ethnic tensions continue to cause indiscriminate loss of life throughout the Rakhine province. In all its work, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office fights to protect the fundamental rights of every individual to practise or change their religion, or to follow no religion at all. Without these values, we cannot guarantee our security, our prosperity or indeed our international influence.
We continue to seek to influence others through our soft power: through the British Council, the BBC World Service, which is now funded entirely independently of government, and the “Great” campaign. We also do this through our development budget and defence diplomacy.
Over the past year the Government have adopted a new and ambitious approach to international development, which takes a fundamentally smarter approach to aid by mobilising private investment to multiply the reach and value for money of taxpayers’ funding, to drive growth and jobs and ultimately to lift countries out of poverty. In addition to our national efforts, we continue to promote economic development, prosperity, good governance and the rule of law; and to seek solutions to global threats from climate change to terrorism through international institutions—in particular, the UN and the Commonwealth. Of course, with Scotland the host nation for this year’s Commonwealth Games, we have yet another opportunity to build on the phenomenal success of London 2012 and display the best of British culture, hospitality and business to the world. Some 6,500 athletes and officials from 71 countries will compete in 17 sports over 11 days, but the Commonwealth Games is not the only international event that the UK will host this summer.
NATO remains the cornerstone of our national security and has been so for more than 60 years. We have no stronger allies or closer friends than the other 27 NATO members, so we are delighted that the UK will host the 2014 NATO summit. It will be another important moment in the history of the alliance: an opportunity for leaders to recognise the contribution and sacrifices made by our service men and women, as the ISAF mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, and to consider other ways in which we can support Afghanistan in the years to come. However, the summit will also be about the future of our alliance. It is an alliance whose purpose has been questioned in the 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell but whose role has been given enhanced significance following Russia’s act of flagrant disregard for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent neighbouring state in illegally annexing Crimea earlier this year.
The high turnout and decisive outcome of the recent presidential elections in Ukraine, despite inexcusable attempts by armed separatist gangs to use intimidation to deny citizens the right to vote, shows the Ukrainian people’s resolve to decide their own future without outside interference. Each vote cast was an individual act of courage. Ukrainians have sent a decisive signal of their support for reform and a new future for their country. We look forward to working with the new President on ambitious reforms that can meet the aspirations of the people of Ukraine.
Just as Russia’s actions have caused instability to the east of NATO’s borders, its support for the Syrian regime continues to cause devastation. The situation in Syria remains deeply troubling and the conflict has continued unabated. Although the Assad regime has made some gains in recent months, we do not believe that any side will be able to win this war militarily. The regime’s violence continues without mercy, with the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas causing hundreds of deaths and the displacement of many more people.
When noble Lords debated last year’s gracious Speech, fighting in Syria had claimed 80,000 lives. That figure has now doubled; 6.5 million people, almost half of them children, have been displaced and 10 million people are in dire need of basic humanitarian assistance. A political solution still remains distant. The elections held last Tuesday, in the midst of a civil war, were a grotesque parody of democracy. The outcome was predetermined and millions were denied a say. Our aim remains a more stable, secure and democratic Syria that can meet the needs and aspirations of all its people. While a political solution continues to be sought, we will continue to work to manage the humanitarian consequences of this conflict, limit the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom and ensure the destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons. The UK has been at the forefront of the humanitarian response in Syria and the region. Our total funding for Syria and the region is now £600 million, three times the size of our response to any other humanitarian crisis. The UK has allocated £76 million for cross-border operations to provide assistance to areas that the UN cannot reach, and we will step up those efforts.
This year more than any other we remember the catastrophic effects wrought by war upon our shores. One hundred years after the first shots were fired in the First World War, we remember and pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives for our country. It was not, as many had hoped, the war to end all wars. Indeed, last week’s commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings are still fresh in our minds. We may have lost the last of our Great War veterans but that does not mean that their cause—safeguarding democracy, freedom and security—was not just. Their struggle should be remembered and celebrated. We must continue to fight to protect these principles, for which so many gave their lives.
The reflections of history also give us cause to be grateful for both NATO and the European Union which have provided the basis for co-operation that has brought peace to much of Europe for three generations. We will continue to work with our allies to reform the EU to make it more open, competitive, flexible and democratically accountable, for the benefit of the UK and, indeed, the whole of Europe.
I am aware that a significant number of noble Lords wish to contribute to today’s debate, so I will keep my remarks short, if I may, by referring quickly to part of the FCO’s work that is essential, at times difficult and, apart from in times of serious crisis, often goes overlooked. I speak of our consular responsibilities. Tomorrow will see the first match of the 2014 World Cup. As many as 22,000 England fans are expected to make the trip to Brazil and, as always when Britons are abroad, FCO consular staff will be on hand should they, or any of the Britons who will make 60 million overseas trips this year, need assistance. In 2013, the Foreign Office dealt with more than 900,000 queries and provided 17,000 acts of consular assistance to members of the public, helping British nationals cope with problems such as natural disasters, bereavement, family break-up and many other issues. We already run one of the best consular services of any nation in the world and we are making it even stronger. I pay tribute to all the staff involved for their outstanding dedication and commitment.
These are just some of the areas on which the Government continue to work to promote Britain and her interests overseas, to keep our country and our citizens safe and make them safer, and to ensure that Britain remains a force for good in the world.
My Lords, the Queen’s Speech was notable not simply because there was so little in it; it was notable because of the fact that the whole political debate currently is conducted under the shadow of two significant matters that could change fundamentally and for ever the shape and size of the country and the manner in which it is governed. If the SNP had its way, this would be the final Queen’s Speech prior to the beginning of the end of Britain as we know it.
I firmly hope that my fellow Celts will vote to stay with us in September. Together, we are undoubtedly more able to defend our common interests. As Gordon Brown set out eloquently this week,
“we forget the uniquely progressive set of decisions agreed by Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the 20th century to pool and share all our risks and resources so that whatever your nationality, you have equal social and economic rights of citizenship in the UK”.
Scottish people should be able to take comfort from the fact that citizens will be protected when they are old, sick or unemployed—a progressive pact that is underpinned by the nature of the solidarity settlement which benefits all parts of the country. As Gordon Brown said:
“Economies are becoming more integrated, public recognition of the interdependence of nations is increasing, the power of people—through social networks and non-governmental institutions—is challenging the old nationalist fixation with the trappings of state power”.
If that rings true for Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK, it follows that the same should be true for the UK’s relationship with the EU. If UKIP had its way—and many elements within the Tory party—this could be the final term for a Government prior to a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU and the potential devastating impact that withdrawal would have on the country.
It was interesting to note that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, in his recent written response to my noble friend Lady Royall, did not rule out the possibility of the Conservative Party reintroducing a Bill on the referendum during this Session. If that is the case, I hope that we shall not see any of the shenanigans that we saw during the previous Bill on the EU referendum, with confusion over whether it was a Private Member’s Bill or a government Bill. We saw manipulation of the timetable and a breaking of procedures and conventions developed over decades in this place. Can the Minister give us an assurance that this will not happen again?
The EU is central to the economy of this country, with more than 50% of our trade in goods dependent on easy access to 28 different markets. We need, however, to acknowledge that we have to bring the public along with us. The recent elections have demonstrated once again that there is an urgent need for more rapid reform of the EU—which must take into account the will of the people of Europe—and an understanding that the working class, in particular, feels aggrieved and disenfranchised. We need to remind everyone of the specific benefits that membership of the EU brings: tremendous strides forward in the cross-border fight against crime; protection for workers’ rights, including the right to paid holidays and equality in the workplace; consumer protection measures so that we can be more confident in the goods that we buy; and significant progressive environmental measures in a world where pollution does not respect boundaries and where the impact of excessive carbon emissions is all too prevalent across the globe. We need to communicate in a language that people can understand, and move away from using oversophisticated cosmopolitan political language that alienates and is unintelligible to so many of the public.
The shadow Foreign Secretary set out in a letter to David Cameron recently what the Labour Party’s reform agenda in relation to the EU would look like, but we are still waiting to hear what the Government’s reform agenda is. Will the Minister inform us specifically of what the Government want to see in terms of EU reform? We have been waiting for details for more than a year.
Tomorrow, we will see the kick-off of the football World Cup. I am not usually a great football fan, but I am delighted to say that I have picked Brazil in the office sweepstake. The thing that I love about the World Cup is the national anthems. I am delighted to see that Roy Hodgson has asked the England team to belt out the tune prior to the game, although I hope their grasp of the words is better than that of John Redwood, whose unforgettable attempt to sing the Welsh national anthem when he was Secretary of State for Wales has had more than 100,000 hits on YouTube. If Wales had qualified, I am sure that our lads would have had a go in four-part harmony. We would definitely have won the anthem competition, if not the World Cup.
Unlike in decades past, we will be able to watch the games in real time or repeated later on any number of flat screens, tablets, or even mobile phones. An army of English supporters, as we have heard, has arrived in Brazil as flight prices are not what they used to be, and we can Skype for free those lucky enough to be in Brazil using technology which spans the globe. The point is that the world is changing and becoming smaller and more integrated. The UK cannot isolate itself as a little island. We cannot return to a time when we were content to import the odd casket of wine from the continent.
The cry of national sovereignty is not about simply being able to say no. National sovereignty is no longer absolute. Sovereignty must be pooled for national advantage, whether in Scotland or in the EU. Isolation would make us masters, yes, but in a shrinking sphere of influence. It is only through the EU that the UK, with Scotland, can make its voice heard in the wider world, through joining our voices with those of 500 million others to gain a megaphone above the whisper that the UK would otherwise have in speaking to the 1.3 billion Chinese or 1.2 billion Indians.
The crisis on the EU’s borders in Ukraine demands a united EU response. We need stronger and tighter co-operation with our neighbours on this and other foreign policy areas. We need to create a genuine EU market in energy to protect against the vulnerability of a trade area that currently receives 30% of its gas from Russia. We need to insist on respect for international treaties and we need to be sure that Ukraine respects the minorities within its borders.
The tragedy in Syria continues to unfold. While sham elections take place, innocent civilians are left to fend for themselves without homes and without hope. We must continue to extend our hand of friendship to those who are affected and to support those countries in the surrounding areas which are bearing the brunt of the ensuing refugee crisis.
It is essential that we do not take our eye off the situation in Afghanistan and that we build on the work so ably carried out by my noble friend Lady Ashton in relation to building bridges with Iran. Perhaps the Minister can clarify what is currently happening in Iraq and what the Government’s response will be to the volatile and dangerous situation developing in recent hours.
I give the Opposition’s wholehearted support to the initiative taking place in London this week to prevent sexual violence in conflicts worldwide. Rape as a weapon of war can never be justified, and it is heartening to see that the Foreign Secretary has given such priority to this urgent task. I thank him also for the Girl Summit; that was interesting news.
The UK will be hosting the NATO summit in September, as the Minister mentioned. A commitment to common defence is what led us to intervene 100 years ago in the First World War. Last week, we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings—a significant moment when the tide of fascism in Europe eventually started to turn. That sense of solidarity and the need for common defence systems should rest with us still, in particular at a time of heightened tension in Europe. Wales will be the location of the NATO summit, and that will be an opportunity to showcase the country and highlight opportunities for investment.
The Wales Bill will be coming to the Lords imminently. I hope that this will be a time when we can stop the war on Wales, in which we have seen aggressive attacks by various Conservative Ministers determined to talk down the country. I hope that we can also refrain from the temptation to introduce systems and policies that pit one nation against another within the British Isles. The danger of a race to the bottom in relation to taxation is real. It may achieve the hidden agenda that the current Government are so bent on achieving—the reduction in the size of the state—but that is not an ambition of this side of the House, which understands the importance and value of standing together, of pooling resources and of underlining the principle of shared community services.
Although the Queen’s Speech contains no legislation regarding Northern Ireland, it is clear that devolution must not mean disengagement. A recent poll in the Belfast Telegraph showed that 70% of young people wanted to leave Northern Ireland. It is a tragedy that so many see that as their future. With the Haass talks now reconvening there is a small window of opportunity for the Government to engage with Haass and with Northern Ireland’s political representatives to reach agreements on contentious issues.
In conclusion, it is worth mentioning the issues that were not covered in the Queen’s Speech. There was no reference to human rights or to religious persecution, in particular of Christians, and no mention of Sri Lanka. Can the Minister say whether President Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka still plans to attend the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow? It is our strong view that his presence would not only undermine the values of human rights and tolerance that underpin the Commonwealth but would bring controversy and disruption to the Games.
Can the Minister also clarify what the Government’s position is in relation to the Presidency of the UN General Assembly possibly being undertaken by the homophobic Ugandan Foreign Minister? Does this not underline once more why we need to see reform of the UN and an updating of the institution?
The coalition Government are running out of steam. The sooner we have a Labour Government who understand the new and modern world—an integrated world where isolation within the UK or in Europe is not a sensible option—and who understand the real concerns of the public and the challenges of the cost of living crisis, the better it will be for the entire United Kingdom.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for setting out in very succinct terms the overview of where we are on foreign and defence policy today. However, I point out to her—I know that this view will be echoed around the House—that it was perhaps a bit of a mistake for the usual channels to schedule foreign affairs, defence and international development alongside the significant issue of constitutional affairs, over which, for the first time in 300 years in this country, we have a real dilemma. As it was known that some 80 or so speakers had put their name down, it would have been far better to have set aside separate days for these important matters.
I will stick to foreign affairs, as I would be expected to. My time is brief, so I will stick to just two things. The Foreign Secretary addressed a conference on globalisation last week at Chatham House, where he remarked that the world was more unpredictable and unstable now than in the last decade of the previous century. He also noted, wryly, that his period in office at the FCO coincided with some of the most unstable events that have taken place. Both statements are of course correct, but I am delighted to add that there is no causal link.
I will talk about the capacity of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to undertake deep analysis and problem-solving that renders it—or should render it—equipped to undertake the level of strategic thinking that is required to deal with the level of instability that the Foreign Secretary spoke about. We know that the role of the Foreign Office has changed; it has had its own pivot, if one can describe it as such, towards being a more commercial and trade-focused arm of the UK Government. I also appreciate that the Government have made structural changes, such as the Foreign Service Academy and the language academy, but the positive effects of that will not be felt for some time. In the mean time, the capacity of our diplomatic service to see long-term trends and to identify policy responses does not seem as robust as might be needed for these difficult times.
One example of the lack of capacity is still the dearth of senior women in leadership roles in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In the lead-up to International Women’s Day in March this year, I asked several parliamentary Questions about the role of women appointees at the United Nations, the European Union, other international agencies, NATO, other permanent members of the UN Security Council, our allies, BRICs, and so on. The response I got was truly extraordinary, and bears repeating. Some 11 women had served in senior roles in the past 25 years—I was only able to go back 25 years—while 173 men had served in those roles.
At a time when women’s equality has been pursued by both the Labour Government and indeed by this Government, I was interested to read in the rebuttal to my letter in the Financial Times that Sir Simon Fraser, the Permanent Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, is a Civil Service diversity champion. We shall not hold our breath, although I fully respect the fabulous role that Sir Simon carries out as head of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Diversity matters because problem solving is complex and requires considerable thinking outside the box—which is impossible where one gender or class dominates. I am not trying to say that excellence should be sacrificed to obtain diversity. Indeed, one other sector of excellence in the United Kingdom, the university and higher education sector, has embraced diversity to its credit. Diversity is one of the reasons it ranks so highly among higher education institutions in the world.
Let me turn to my other concern in terms of a lack of strategic thinking in the Foreign Office. That is thinking around dealing with failing and failed states—or indeed states that are too big to fail but that may have to be allowed to fail. The noble Baroness talked about Iraq and Syria, and we know that there are several failing states in Africa. I will concentrate on one in which I know the noble Baroness takes an interest, which is Pakistan. Pakistan suffered an egregious terrorist attack on its principal airport in its principal commercial city earlier this week. It is mired overall in an ongoing decade-long deep and existential crisis.
I discussed the problem of a UK strategy for Pakistan in 2008 with the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. The problem as I saw it was that the regional instability that an unstable and conflict-prone Pakistan would bring about was more profound and far-reaching than the issue of winding down the Af-Pak mission as it became to be known in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in those days.
The very concept of Af-Pak as a single prism was flawed in my estimation. The nature and dispersal of power in Pakistan, which had had authoritarian rule over many decades, was very different from Afghanistan and needed disaggregation from the Afghan war nexus. I was sent off by the Prime Minister to meet the senior Pakistan people in the FCO and it became apparent to me that the advice they were getting was shallow and short-sighted. What we have ended up with, as we have seen with the attack this week, is a Pakistan—which is a nuclear-weapon state of some 170 million people—in which the writ of the Government does not run in large sections of the country. The Governments of the day, each as incompetent as the previous one, do not have a strategy of dealing with the Taliban and are caught in this dilemma of trying to make peace with the terrorists they themselves inculcated and tried to bring about.
In our Foreign Office today we conflate the role of the diaspora—the Pakistani ethnic minority diaspora in Pakistan—with the dilemma that we have as a United Nations Security Council member dealing with Pakistan as a foreign country. So in concluding, I will to come back to our role as a United Nations Security Council member and simply ask the noble Baroness one question. The role of United Nations Secretary-General is coming up for renewal and reappointment in 2016. Will the United Kingdom Government give its backing to a senior female potential Secretary-General should one come up on the horizon?
My Lords, perhaps I could just intervene and remind noble Lords that we do not have a fixed time; we have an advisory time of five minutes. We have 82 speakers and for the courtesy of those speaking later in the debate, I ask noble Lords to bear in mind that when the clock hits five, they have had five minutes.
My Lords, I will concentrate this afternoon on the future of the United Kingdom—the first order question whose significance trumps even the weightiest Bills announced in the gracious Speech.
Of what do nations consist? They possess a physical geography and a political geography. Languages, too, are powerful shapers, as are shared memories—yet nationhood is not just a tangible, practical matter, but a thing of the imagination as well.
Out of all the ingredients that bind, there comes an emotional geography. It is the quality and timbre of the emotional geography of the United Kingdom that exercises me most about 19 September and after—if, as I fervently hope, Scotland has voted to stay together with the rest of us. We may well—I am sure we will—breathe a huge sigh of relief on the evening of 19 September, if such is the outcome, but the “us” question will remain live and testing in the aftermath. My greatest fear is that our islands will experience a creeping estrangement on the part of Scotland, which the further devolution of substantial powers, as proposed by all three mainstream parties, will do little to assuage and may even encourage.
What we will need from Friday 19 September, literally, is a sustained effort devoted to nation rebuilding—and by “nation” I mean the United Kingdom. We must apply every ounce of ingenuity to find ways in which to work together even more effectively as a union to pursue a new unionism, as the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, put it with great eloquence during our debate on 30 January—a sentiment echoed powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in his introduction to the recent report from the Conservative Party’s Commission on the Future Governance of Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Maclennan of Rogart, has long urged a constitutional convention to examine our wider constitutional arrangements—a view I firmly support. I welcome warmly the new All-party Group on Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution, created by the noble Lords, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock and Lord Purvis of Tweed, of which I am a member.
In the event of a decision to stay together, there will be a chance for those of us who cherish the union and love Scotland but are without a vote there to join in fully the national conversation about the future of our islands and the development and refinement of our constitutional arrangements for the purposes of ever better union. I would like to think that your Lordships’ House could have a substantial input into such a conversation. We have, if I can put it tactfully, been around the block a bit, given our average age. We bring together in this Chamber all the constituent nations of the union and a deep reserve of accumulated experience of all parts of the UK, with great swathes of the rest of the world. I am confident that our fine Constitution Committee will be in the vanguard, but it might be useful if we thought, too, in terms of creating a special ad hoc Select Committee on refreshing the union.
Much will depend on the tone and pitch of reactions to a vote to stay together in these crucial days to come in September. There should be no trace of crude triumphalism and great respect shown to those who voted for independence. The yes vote, of course, would settle the Scottish question for ever; a no vote will not, even if the margin is substantial on 18 September. The Cabinet has forbidden Whitehall to draw up any contingency plans for the aftermath of a vote to separate. I ask the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, for whom I have a mighty respect, to urge his colleagues on the Cabinet’s Scotland committee to prepare for the months and years after a no vote a rebuilding and refreshing of a still United Kingdom with a special sense of that crucial emotional geography.
My Lords, in this poorly arranged debate, there is time to speak only in shorthand, so I begin simply by observing that it is a great pity that there was not a single mention of the Commonwealth in the gracious Speech. Not only is it a matter of supreme interest to Her Majesty but the Commonwealth network and our membership of it is a major asset for the power and influence of Britain in this very turbulent world. It is incomprehensible to me why it was missed out.
Secondly, on Ukraine and Crimea, I am glad that some of the hyperbole has begun to go out of the argument. There has been quite an excessive reaction to the difficulties of that whole situation. I believe that it has been the right approach to squeeze Mr Putin in various ways, by various sanctions. However, like Her Majesty’s Government, I have some faith in Mr Poroshenko and his ability to deal with Mr Putin and see the matter held in hand.
Thirdly, I make a brief reference to the grim news from Mosul this morning, which should alarm us all. It confirms finally that there was never an Arab spring; there was an Arab turmoil, which is now developing in even worse ways in many areas. Entirely new approaches are clearly needed, different from the original analysis of what was supposed to be happening in the Arab world and the Middle East.
I shall now confine my remarks to my main subject, European Union reform, on which everyone now seems to be agreed. It has become the all-party mantra, although there is of course little agreement on exactly what it means. The strategic task was stipulated in the Prime Minister’s celebrated Bloomberg speech of 23 January 2013, but there is widespread concern that the follow-up has been weak—even to the point of leaving a vacuum in the whole undertaking—and we all know how a vacuum in policy and debate tends to fill up with extremist and polarised viewpoints.
The reality is that a mere shopping list of UK demands for “concessions” and derogations from the EU treaties—or mere bilateral UK-Commission negotiations of the kind for which some of the more naive Members of the other place have been calling—cannot hope to meet the need for EU reform, or British strategic repositioning, on the scale or at the depth required. For that to go forward, a far more profound and comprehensive approach is required, challenging parts of the outdated, 20th-century philosophy of the old EU at their roots, and mobilising a powerful and sympathetic alliance across the whole EU—an alliance that certainly exists and is there to be aroused and led in sensible directions.
This is a task the formulation and foundations of which go well beyond the scope of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and, indeed, beyond the capacities of the Government as a whole. One has to remember, as many people do not, that the original ideas for European Community integration were conceived and devised almost deliberately outside Governments and often through private channels and meetings. Just as at that time the best brains were recruited from many sources and disciplines to meet the perceived geopolitical challenges of that era—more than 50 years ago—so the best brains and think-tank resources must be applied to shaping Europe in the utterly transformed world conditions that now prevail. This is obviously not a task suitable for Mr Juncker and his colleagues.
The essence of the new situation is that patterns of trade and international economic intercourse have completely changed their nature in this age of hyperconnectivity, meaning that old ideas about trade blocs, such as the concept of the EU single market, have been drained of their potency. Entirely new trade supply chains and global value chains have sprung up, almost like new rivers. Distinctions between manufactured goods, knowledge goods and services have become blurred. Tariffs have diminished and new protectionist devices have been deployed, particularly affecting services and knowledge industries. New patterns of economic and therefore political power have emerged, of which Europe is only a small part and in which the vaunted clout of the European Union, either as a trade bloc or as a political force, has a greatly reduced impact.
The starting point in change must be the excising of the centralising and integrationist mentality from the whole European project. This outlook—the wrong kind of federalism—belongs to a previous hierarchical age before the onset of the information revolution and the consequent empowerment of peoples. It is now rejected not just by politicians but by physicists, scientists, biologists, engineers, psychologists and others. Self-assembly, self-regulation and flexibility all now work organically; rigid and centralised command structures and top-down hierarchies—whether social, political or physical—do not. That is the new reality of our era.
For detail, I have no time, but in my files—and I suspect in the files of many others who have been involved with the Community since the UK first signed the treaty of Rome in 1972, and even before—there is copious documentation on these and other areas on which we have been working for well over 30 years, although to little effect, I am afraid. I must acknowledge, however, that the scene has totally changed, thanks to the microchip and the intensely connected digital world. Rethinking and new analysis must now be undertaken ab initio, within a clearly enunciated strategic reform framework for all Europe. That is an immense but essential task for our best minds in all parties and none, and for our best intellectual networks to undertake—although it is perilously late in the day.
My Lords, we are now in the final stages of the referendum campaign in Scotland. For the most part it has been a robust and civilised debate. However, there has been one stain on our debates. They have been marred by a campaign of personal abuse and insults carried out on social media, particularly by so-called cybernats associated with the Scottish National Party, against anyone who disagrees with them. I regret that very much. Last weekend I called on Mr Salmond to condemn and clearly dissociate himself from some of those accusations. It was an invitation to which he did not respond.
Perhaps we now know why: it was revealed this morning that Mr Salmond’s most senior adviser had been directly and centrally involved, in the past 24 hours, in a personal attack on a mother of a disabled child who was selected and appointed Carer of the Year in Scotland. That personal smear campaign was carried out because he does not like her views on the referendum. This morning, Mr Salmond ordered his adviser to apologise. That is not enough. If he truly abhors the nature of the vile campaign that has persisted over the past period on social media, he needs to go much further: that adviser should be sacked forthwith. Even then, the suspicion will now remain that the online campaign of personal abuse is not a spontaneous uprising of aggrieved supporters of separation. Rather, it is a centrally directed and orchestrated campaign that demeans the yes campaign and discredits the debate that is taking place in Scotland.
However, we are now finally weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of either course of action: the advantages of membership of the United Kingdom and the disadvantages of separation. I would have thought the advantages were pretty clear. We do not need to look in the crystal ball; we can read the book. Such is the denial of those advantages that it constantly reminds me of that famous “Monty Python” sketch, “What did the Romans ever do for us?”. What did the United Kingdom ever do for us in Scotland? It has given financial stability, from the disaster of the Darien scheme at the end of the 17th century to the disaster of the Royal Bank of Scotland at the beginning of the 21st century, with toxic debt greater than the GDP of Scotland.
The response to that is, “I’ll give you that, but what else did the United Kingdom ever do for us?”. It gave us economic strength. As the First Minister of Scotland keeps reminding us, we are among the wealthiest nations in the world after 300 years in the United Kingdom. England is to blame for that, is it? We have apparently prospered even better than England per capita, which is a peculiar way for England to exploit the Scots. Nevertheless, we have that economic strength. “Well, yes, I’ll give you that, but what else?” The United Kingdom has given us social justice, which the nationalists keep talking about. It has given us comprehensive education, the welfare state, national insurance, pensions, the minimum wage and the National Health Service. These were not gifts of nationalism but gifts of mainly Labour Governments, although also of Liberal and other Governments in Britain. “Well, yes, I’ll give you that, but what else?” The United Kingdom has given us individual opportunity, with scientists, administrators, leaders, sports men and women, and business men and women travelling the world. So we go on, but with a constant sense of denial from the First Minister.
However, if his denial of the advantages is great, his denial of the risks is even greater: the risks to do with currency, pensions, EU membership, taxation, immigration and defence and security. To deny that, he has to dismiss, disagree with or, in some cases, denigrate one or two people, such as the President of the United States, the President of the EU, the Scandinavian Foreign Ministers and the former Prime Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt. The First Minister yesterday referred to him as a fool; he said he was “foolish”. There are many people in Europe who might disagree with Carl Bildt and might think he is wrong in some things. There are very few people, other than the First Minister, who think Carl Bildt is a fool.
Yet that process of denial continues. To sustain the claims that separation has great advantages and no risks, you have to dismiss one or two experts. The First Minister has told us that experts know very little about what they are speaking about: the Governor of the Bank of England knows nothing about Bank of England matters; the Secretary-General of NATO is not an authority on NATO; the President of the European Commission, of course, knows very little about the European Union; and the Institute for Fiscal Studies is dreadfully ignorant of fiscal studies. What does Standard & Poor’s, the leading ratings agency, know about ratings? And so it goes on. I have great respect for those who say, “Yes, there are risks but I want to be separate on principle and I will bear the risk”. However, I have no respect for those who say, “This is all reward and no risks”, because that is a massive act of self-denial and a massive act of deception towards the people of Scotland.
Therefore, as we approach the weighing up of the arguments on 18 September, I sincerely hope that, having examined the options, the people of Scotland will give a polite but firm “no thanks” to the nationalists. I think that that will happen and I think, and hope, that it will be a decisive answer, and then we can, as the noble Lord, Lord Hennessy, said, get on with improving and changing our country for the better, without changing our passports.
My Lords, in the limited time available, I shall concentrate my remarks on some aspects of international development, starting with the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. It has helped countries and organisations to work together towards ending poverty since before the turn of the millennium. The legislative perspective began to be organised through the energetic participation of parliamentary delegations, demanding greater recognition for the key role of parliament and legislators in this debate.
There is a growing emphasis on accrual of natural resource revenues, foreign direct investment, taxation, philanthropy and other domestic resources, and thus the pool of resources to be accounted for has deepened and widened. Partner governments and parliaments are now responsible for managing and accounting for the growth of local domestic resources, as well as for external finance such as ODA.
The new focus on the private sector makes sense. Developing countries need jobs and wealth creation. Strong institutions are vital. In the developing world, parliamentary institutions are not only the political underdogs in an executive-dominated landscape; they are chronically ill informed, barely engaged and sorely under-resourced. In fact, capacity is often minimal. Parliaments, the only institutions to hold the mandate of the people and thus at the apex of every country’s accountability structure, do not have the resources to carry out their roles effectively. In fact, the chief constraint to effective development is often the weak capacity for oversight in parliament.
Donors should not, however, shy away from supporting legislatures and instead invest in CSOs as their “development watchdogs”. They should not seek comfort through the idea of stronger NGOs; instead, they should look at building stronger parliaments. Continuing to bypass parliaments because they are weak just further weakens them rather than developing their capacity.
After I delivered the report from the parliamentary forum at the fourth high-level forum in Busan in 2011, parliamentary capacity was included as a key indicator of aid effectiveness in the final statement. However, by the time we reached Mexico City this April, after 18 months of meetings of the committee for Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation—a committee of which our own Secretary of State for DfID was the co-chair—the role of parliaments had all but disappeared. What we did have, however, was the glossy launch of Unleashing the Power of Business, which is a practical road map for systematically engaging business as a partner in development. It professes to be a road map all about partnerships. Set out on the cover are partnerships between donors, between business, between civil society and between recipient governments. Is anything missing? Parliament— the one organisation with the electoral mandate of the people to hold each of the others to account and to demand transparency is parliament. Over eight pages of glossy diagrams, action areas, sectoral roles and examples of public-private sector partnerships, there is not a single mention of parliament—not one.
To be clear, there is a great deal of support for the Government’s initiative for boosting the role of business in aid and development programmes, including from NGOs delivering major programmes, and from the European Commission, which is not exactly renowned as a haven of capitalism, but it comes with a health warning of risking putting profits before the needs of the world’s poorest people. Surely, the major criticisms by the Government’s aid watchdog, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, of the £1.8 billion economic development programme have to be a major wake-up call. That includes, for example, the need to define and articulate where the programme can add most value and to be more realistic in its ambitions and impact; the need for clear guidance to staff on how to design well-balanced country portfolios that match the goals for an end to extreme poverty; the need better to calibrate and manage the risks associated with private sector development; and the need to work harder to understand the barriers and business imperatives faced by the private sector engaged in development. No wonder the ICAI gave DfID a red-amber health warning. If these were the comments from the auditors on the company accounts presented to an AGM, I suspect that the rather banal response to the ICAI from DfID would be swept aside, with the company’s share price dropping like a stone as unconvinced shareholders fled in droves. However, in this case, it is not shareholders that the Government have to worry about; it is the voters.
Given that private sector development is a top priority for DfID, the ICAI report should be seen as an urgent call for DfID to put its work on hold and start open discussions with a much wider array of CSOs, businesses and parliamentary representatives in the UK and overseas. In this area, as was demonstrated in Mexico, DfID is a world leader and the private sector has DfID to thank for the larger space that it now has in development co-operation. That is welcome in many ways but the welcome will soon fade if, in the process, DfID begins to abandon the aid effectiveness agenda. The private sector must have a role and supporting economic development is crucial, recognising that our 0.7% GNI aid allocation is a precious resource that must be focused on aid effectiveness.
In conclusion, the new approach in the fight against poverty is as yet insufficiently evidence-based. Not all growth delivers on poverty reduction and broader economic opportunities. The ICAI report highlights how difficult it is to know how much money is being channelled into this tranche of work. Establishing proper impact assessments without the benefit of clear transparency procedures is daunting and weakening corporate accountability, with some aid not directly targeted at the poor. The private sector is just one ingredient of many in the mix of inclusive economic growth. Taxation, education, health and a sound institutional and parliamentary framework all play crucial roles. While we know the ingredients, far less is known on how best to combine them. Setting them in the guidelines set up by the aid effectiveness agenda could be a good way to start.
My Lords, the silver lining in last month’s otherwise pretty disastrous European Parliament election results may have been well concealed at the time but there is a real opportunity, none the less, as was shown by the leaders of the European Council at their dinner on 27 May, to shift the debate on to a new positive reform agenda and away from the obstructive and disruptive prescriptions of the populist parties whose support has increased so sharply. Will that opportunity be taken, or will it be frittered away among demands for repatriation and renegotiation for more red lines and more British exceptionalism? Will Britain give a lead in shaping a new reform agenda whose aim would be to benefit all member states? That, surely, is the challenge that faces the coalition Government, and indeed all three main parties, as they prepare for next year’s general election. That was what they should have done but, with one exception, did not do in the campaign that preceded the European Parliament elections.
Here are some suggestions for what might be included in such a positive reform agenda. First, an important component will necessarily be policies to encourage sustainable economic growth, particularly in the countries of the eurozone where it is lagging most, and thus to get to grips with the blight of youth unemployment. The lead obviously will be taken by the eurozone member states and the European Central Bank, but we should be in no doubt that it is in our interest that they succeed and we should give them full support and encouragement. Moreover, we stand to gain considerably from the implementation of the structural reform programmes which are a necessary part of that process.
Secondly, the completion of the single market in services and in energy needs to be given a shot in the arm, and a level playing field for the expansion of the digital service industry needs to be created. So far, there has been an awful lot of talk about the digital issues and precious little action. Would it not make sense for the new Commission to publish a White Paper of the same sort that Lord Cockfield, former Member of this House, produced in 1985 on the single market setting out precisely what needed to be done to achieve that level playing field? The European Council could then endorse and implement it.
Thirdly, it is surely essential to make a living reality of the treaty principles of subsidiarity and proportionality in EU law-making and strengthen the role of national parliaments in that process. Your Lordships’ Select Committee gave the Government, some two months ago, a broad menu of measures that would, without treaty change or undue delay, make substantial progress towards those objectives. When will the Government respond to those ideas? What action will they take to implement them? It is within the framework of a positive reform agenda of that sort that we can most effectively also address some of the principal irritants in our relationship with the EU—issues such as the working time directive and the whole range of matters bound up with welfare benefits for migrant workers. We can hope to find solutions to those in the overall context and interest of the EU, not just of one member state.
That domestic reform agenda needs an external component, too. Here, too, I offer three suggestions. First, the eastern challenge represented by the seizure of Crimea and the destabilisation of Ukraine is one we cannot afford to duck. I very much welcome the robust way the Government have handled that so far. Russia’s actions have risked driving a coach and horses through the whole post-Cold War settlement of Europe. We need to help Ukraine consolidate a thoroughly reformed political and economic structure. We need to deter Russia from further meddling in that process by showing credibly how costly that would be for it. We need to diversify our energy security and reduce our collective dependence on Russian gas supplies to a level that would mean we could sustain any politically motivated interruption longer than it could.
Secondly, we should recognise that we have a fight on our hands if we are to realise the major benefits that would accrue from a successful completion of the transatlantic trade and investment negotiations and from freer trade with Japan and India—whose new Government surely offer a real opportunity to revive the negotiations that have so far been languishing. The recent European elections strengthened protectionist pressures, as has the backing and filling in the US Congress. There is a need for a major advocacy campaign in favour of these trade initiatives, as has been proposed by your Lordships’ EU Committee in its recent report.
Thirdly, we must not turn our backs on further enlargement. Progress with Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia is a crucial element in stabilising that fragile region and consolidating the gains of recent years.
These EU priorities are pressing. There is not a great deal of dispute about them. What I said bears a striking resemblance to what came out of the meeting in Sweden last night. What is lacking so far is a real will to move forward on that agenda. I hope the Government will do that when the European Council meets later this month. I hope that we can lift up our eyes from an obsession with issues of personalities, which undermines our ability to push this agenda forward.
My Lords, 41 years ago, as a fairly fresh-faced Member of your Lordships’ House, I took part in one of the first visits that the House of Lords defence group made to RAF Leuchars and RAF Kinloss. I am very lucky to be secretary of this group, which has continued right through. Above all, it came into being as a study group and, my gosh, we are able to reflect.
I hope I can take two minutes of your Lordships’ time to say that we are unbelievably well served by quite one of the best Ministers for Defence that we have had in your Lordships’ House in all my time here, my noble friend Lord Astor. He gathers us humble Back-Benchers, together with noble and gallant Lords, at least once a month and gives a full briefing on everything to do with the Ministry of Defence—the facts, the figures, the equipment, the tactics, the men and women and the problems. He gives us a fantastic background and I am particularly grateful to him for that.
Many of your Lordships may be startled given the length of my hair and, I hope, my bearing, but for two years I was a soldier. I can see many more around the House, including my noble friends Lord Selsdon and Lord Howell of Guildford, who was a distinguished member of the Coldstream Guards for about that time. We are old enough—over 75. I spent two years as a young soldier and I have never forgotten what the Army did for me. We have opportunities to study and visit Army units, Army regiments and all kinds of other groups and members of the Armed Forces. I am amazed at how far things have continued and been able to go on.
I apologise to my noble and learned friend who will be winding up the debate but I am sure he will be able to gather together my thoughts and answer any questions through the usual channels and through the ministry. I would be grateful if the Government could reassure me on the particularly ambitious programme of achieving 30,000 reservists in all branches of the Army and in everything it does. It is clearly an ambitious programme. There are some bright points but some press reports indicate that there are some difficulties. No doubt they will come out in the wash and at some stage over the next year we will be able to have a fuller debate on these matters.
I hope recruiting is carrying on as it should and that no one in the Army, or any other branch of the defence forces, has to wait for up to six months before they can start training. Such delays are mainly because of financial constraints but quite often because of other administrative reasons. I hope I will receive encouraging news on that.
I hope that training facilities, particularly for the Army but also for other branches of the defence forces, are available and being improved, and that value for money can also be improved. There are all kinds of ways in which improvements can be made.
As to the equipment, kit and weaponry that might be needed, I recall—the noble Lord, Lord West, may remember this—a happy day on the ranges at Bisley in 1990. We both had an opportunity to speak to the sharpshooters of the Royal Marines who had serious problems with the SA80 rifle. It was certainly causing trouble then, although it may have been put together and be doing well now. Your Lordships may hear later from the noble Lord and me about what happened and how the Royal Navy brought the entire proceedings at Bisley to a halt that day. He may be able to explain that at a later date and in due course.
The families of all members of the defence forces are of particular importance. I hope that my noble and learned friend will reassure me that the return of forces from Germany is proceeding smoothly, that accommodation is available and that problems are being ironed out.
Next month will be a special month for the Royal Navy and for Scotland. I was encouraged by the fiery speech of the noble Lord, Lord Reid, who is absolutely right. I have a message for the First Minister, who thumped his chest last week and said, “We can”. I, a humble Scot, will tell him that we, the people of Rosyth, delivered on time and that we will see what is happening with that wonderful new carrier in about a fortnight’s time. It was a team effort.
I see my noble friend is getting excited. I was told that I had short sight but I have my glasses on. I will not refer to her in like terms as I do at the football—“Get new glasses”—but I hope the noble and learned Lord will take on board that we are very proud of what is happening at Rosyth.
Finally, I wish every man and woman in the Armed Forces the best. They are the best. We salute them and their families today and for good.
My Lords, I wish to address my remarks to one line in the Queen’s Speech, which states:
“My Ministers will also champion efforts to secure a global agreement on climate change”.
That statement is further defined in an advice note on the Bill, which refers to achieving,
“an international, legally binding, rules based agreement”.
I want to talk about that because it is an almost impossible task. I was actively involved in the Kyoto negotiations in 1997, when we achieved the first global agreement on climate change. Since then I have been involved in the discussions and negotiations right up to today, through the collapse at Copenhagen and, indeed, to the coming, very necessary agreement to be made in Paris in 2015. Although it had its limitations, the first global agreement was largely successful, but now we need to make sure that agreement is achieved in Paris. If we do not reach an agreement in Paris, the whole climate change negotiation and this particular piece of legislation will fall.
We all recognise that the world of 2014 is of course very different economically, politically and socially from the world of 1997. However, the global climate change problem continues to grow because of increasing carbon output. As the IPCC has pointed out, we are beginning to see a serious deterioration of our climate, an increase in world temperatures and more extreme weather events, as it predicted. This is a global problem requiring a global solution and consensus.
A major step forward has been taken through the recent agreement between the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, who were not signatories to the Kyoto formula; namely, the United States and China. Unfortunately, that agreement has not received the kind of attention it should, but as President Obama has made clear, a legal agreement on carbon changes cannot be achieved at the international level because he cannot get such an agreement through Congress. He has chosen to use his presidential powers to ensure that US domestic legislation sets out a legal framework, rather than pursue an international one. Indeed, China is taking a similar course of action. This is a departure from the Kyoto framework, which set out an international legal framework for the industrialised countries. This new agreement has to apply not to 40 countries but to 190, which will of course be much more difficult to achieve. I believe that the framework can be brought together through the EU negotiation system. There is such a big difference in the negotiating positions of these large continents that it threatens a further Copenhagen-style collapse, as happened in 2009. The best approach would be for the European Union to negotiate with China and America to secure a new climate change agreement for Paris.
Unfortunately, climate change is not a priority for the present Government or, indeed, for the European Union, which, committed though it is to an international legal framework, knows that it cannot be applied for the reasons I have explained. The June and September 2014 meetings of the Council of Europe do not have climate change on the agenda. Energy is the priority issue for those meetings, particularly a review of the circumstances around Russia and its gas supplies. The council will be talking about that issue, and climate change is to be left until next January. Given the circumstances of these negotiations, if this issue is left until the end of next January, it will be far too late to have any influence on any agreement to be achieved in Paris. The EU could change its position on this.
There is an alternative, which I have advocated and seen passed by the Council of Europe. Last Sunday, I put it before 60 nations at the GLOBE International summit conference in Mexico, and it was accepted unanimously. What you need to do is get each country to accept climate change legislation of the kind we have in this country and put the globally agreed targets into that legislation. No Government can then come along and change them unless they bring in further legislation. That will give a legal framework, imposed by domestic legislation. That is an obviously good compromise that Europe could produce. But it is not the Government’s position or the European Union’s position. Britain could play a part in changing it but, frankly, this Government have lost their credibility in Europe to make any kind of change or give any priority to this.
We must begin to debate this issue. Climate change is the biggest threat to this planet and the sustainability of what we have. Legislators need to raise their heads. After all, in finding agreements they have nothing to lose but incompetent Governments. Legislators here, everywhere and in the 66 nations that were in Mexico are agreeing to do that. It is time to think radically about it. It is time to make change. Above all, it is time to make an agreement.
My Lords, it is very easy to dismiss a legislative programme as too light, as Members of both Houses have done recently, but I have sat through a good many debates on gracious Speeches in which the accusation has been precisely the opposite. For my part, I remain consistent in arguing that less can be more, as I said to your Lordships on 13 May. Indeed, there are 11 Bills. That is more than one a month over the present Session.
One such Bill will give effect to the Liberal Democrat and Conservative promise to introduce a power of recall for MPs who have committed “serious wrongdoing”. There has never been any intention or promise from any party to introduce a broader power to dismiss MPs whose views someone dislikes. This is not watered down. It is much more likely that what will be in the Bill will be exactly what has been promised by all three parties.
The vital balance to strike, as has been very well put by Michael White in the Guardian, is to retain the Burkean responsibility of an MP to promote unfashionable or unpopular causes while at the same time ensuring that those who break the rules can be evicted by the constituents whose trust they have broken. I understand that Mr Zac Goldsmith prefers the Californian model of recall, but we should note that that would have enabled constituents to petition, perhaps successfully, for the recall of all MPs who had voted for the invasion of Iraq. I was very strongly against the invasion but all those who took the opposite view—the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, might agree with me on this—should certainly not have been evicted on a minority petition because of the action they took as responsible Members of Parliament. Like so much of this territory, getting a recall power right is more complex than it sounds. As ever, this House will have a big role to play in getting the detail right.
Meanwhile, if your Lordships’ House really does feel short of work to do in this Session, I will propose a way in which we can make good use of the newly available time. We regularly lament the lack of pre-legislative scrutiny—something which has improved under this Government but is still not regular enough—but what about post-legislative scrutiny? I am very pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, who has campaigned on this issue. There are plenty of examples of recently enacted legislation that urgently needs review by Joint Committees.
For example, the Academies Act 2010: surely now in the light of recent events there are big questions to ask about how accountability works in academies and free schools. Secondly, the Localism Act 2011: many of us feel that this was potentially one of the biggest successes of this Government, with support right across the House, but it is still criticised as inadequate by the local government community. Thirdly, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011: how well are those police and crime commissioners working with the communities that elected them, even if it was in very small numbers? We need to know.
Those are just a few examples. Others around the House will remember debates on other Bills where it would be beneficial to go back and look again at whose arguments were best supported by the practical effects of the legislation. On two big, controversial Bills—the Health and Social Care Act and the transparency Act—this House has inserted review clauses. Perhaps now is the time to consider whether all Bills should have a review clause, or even a cessation clause, just as all Bills have a commencement clause.
Parliament is not just about legislating. It is about scrutiny, and in this House we take particular pride in the quality of our scrutiny. We have plenty of legislation for the coming months but we could also find plenty more recent legislation to scrutinise for its adequacy or inadequacy, to make sure that it works and is fit for purpose. There is a real opportunity in this Session to do some extremely important work to check the quality of the work we have done previously in this Parliament and I hope that your Lordships’ House will address that issue.
My Lords, last night, alongside the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy of The Shaws, I hosted a meeting that focused on sexual violence in south-central Somalia. The meeting was attended by the Somalian Foreign Minister, Members of the federal Parliament and representatives from the largest Somali women’s group, IIDA. After much robust discussion, a British citizen of Somali extraction stood up and said, “I did not intend to speak this evening but there is something I have not yet heard and it must be said. I stand to say thank you to the Government of the United Kingdom for supporting Somalia and thank you to the British taxpayer. Thank you”. Our noisy debate came to a silent halt as all in the room contemplated the spectre of a Somalia without the essential support of international donors. I think it is fair to say that all present were proud and moved.
I declare an interest as a patron of Legal Action Worldwide, an NGO that provides innovative and legal systems to women and children in fragile and conflict-affected states, and it is with its expert advice that I speak today. Sexual violence in south-central Somalia is pervasive and committed with near total impunity. There were 1,700 reported cases in internally displaced persons camps in 2012 and 800 reported rapes in the capital in the first six months of 2013—and all sources agree that these official figures are likely to vastly underrepresent the actual numbers of women affected by sexual violence in the region. There is a social stigma associated with rape and survivors have a very legitimate fear of reprisals against not only themselves but their broader family.
As with sexual violence the world over, much of it is committed by men known to the women—but in Somalia, a great many rapes and acts of sexual violence are committed by armed men in uniform. Estimates from the UN and Somali bodies vary wildly from 30% to 70% but what is constant is that the perpetrators include the Somali police, the army and, in some cases, peacekeeping troops of the African Union mission in Somalia, AMISOM. This raises very difficult issues for donor nations such as the UK that support either directly or indirectly all three of these security bodies. As a major donor to the security forces and to Somalia more generally, we have a duty not only on paper but in practice to create a red line—a line that says our contribution is dependent on victims of sexual violence in Somalia having recourse to support and meaningful redress.
It has to be said that the UK provides leadership in this area. Last night, we heard from colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that four new AMISOM personnel will focus on the protection of women and children and that AMISOM has promised to implement the civilian casualty tracking cell—a mechanism by which to track and address allegations of abuse. The UK has also supported Somali-led action plans for ministries to address violence—and of course, in the humble Address, the United Kingdom promised to lead efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict worldwide.
However, we must translate promises into action and action plans into implementation. The AMISOM tracking mechanism has been promised for more than three years without moving forward. Will the Minister now establish and agree a date for implementation and subsequent review? The new personnel, however welcome, must implement it with a guarantee that tracking will be accessible to women in the community as part of an effective and trusted mechanism by which civilians can make allegations of sexual violence.
Thirdly, the status of mission agreement should be revised to provide greater clarity on who takes the lead in the investigation of sexual offences so that we do not inadvertently finance a system where the perpetrators and investigators are from the same body.
Finally, can we make certain that action plans for Somalia allowing ministries to address sexual violence are properly funded, resourced, monitored and implemented on time? This includes, I believe, supporting the first sexual offences Bill in Somalia and adopting accountability policies for the Somali police force and the Somali national army. For the women of Somalia, questions of security are inextricably tied to questions of protection from sexual violence. A strong security sector is not weakened by proper structures of justice and accountability—on the contrary.
This week the Foreign Secretary hosts the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. It is a matter of considerable leadership. In last evening’s meeting there was anger and three were tears, but there was also hope. Will the Minister carry our congratulations and these recommendations back to the Foreign Secretary? It is imperative that the structures we put in place are equal to the undertakings that we make.
My Lords, the Scottish referendum means that we face constitutional change, or the possibility of it, on a massive scale. I recall someone remarking that constitutional change in Britain is a bit like unpicking a ball of wool—once it unravels, it is hard to stop without creating a knotty mess. That is neither an argument against constitutional change nor against knitting but it does call for a good pattern to follow.
While it may not rate as constitutional change, many of us on these Benches hope that at the General Synod next month we will finally approve the legislation to enable women to be consecrated as bishops. Unlike the break-up of the United Kingdom which needs only a simple majority vote in one nation, the Church of England requires majorities of two-thirds across the board—bishops, clergy and laity—to achieve such a change. Sixty years ago it would have been unthinkable, but when I was born your Lordships’ House contained only males and only hereditary Peers. Constitutional change, the creation of life Peers and the introduction of women to our Chamber has both reflected and shaped wider cultural change, and the reputation of your Lordships’ House has been enhanced.
Noble Lords will be aware that a diocesan bishop is often in post for four, five or even six years before being introduced here, so these Benches could continue to be all male for some years after the first women are consecrated. Some of us hope that, in consultation with the Government and the usual channels, a way may be found to break the cycle a little and create a faster track for the first female diocesan bishops. It needs sensitive handling. The first women bishops will undergo much media scrutiny and attention so we do not want to make the pressures on them unbearable, but we hope that this modest reform may be permissible without inviting every other good or bad idea about Lords reform to be attached to it. In the light of changes in the composition of your Lordships’ House, I hope that the quicker arrival of women bishops may be welcomed in the closing speeches today.
Culture is the Cinderella subject in today’s debate but I want to draw attention briefly to a remarkable cultural development—the renewal of our cathedrals where, I hope and pray, the first female diocesan bishops will be enthroned. It was their community value which led the Chancellor to allocate £20 million for outstanding cathedral repairs in the last Budget. Cathedral congregations have grown, some remarkably, but the contribution of cathedrals to economic regeneration and social cohesion is often underplayed. The 42 cathedrals of the Church of England—I can speak only for them—receive as many visitors in a year as all English Heritage’s 420 properties combined. That is not to do down English Heritage’s remarkable collection; it simply demonstrates the enormous attraction of cathedrals. One in six British adults will visit a cathedral this year, which is more than will attend football matches, even including those committed enough to travel to Brazil. Those 42 cathedrals employ around 6,000 people. Recent calculations on their economic impact suggest returns of at least £91 million per annum, rising to more than £150 million, including incidental spend.
Cathedrals create community. Cathedral quarters, such as the one in Blackburn, are being created to bring social regeneration to the city. In Chester, a partnership between the cathedral and the police has proved a good way of managing anti-social behaviour by creating a safe as well as beautiful space at the heart of the city. Next week in Norwich, I will host the annual Bishop’s Art Prize exhibition for students of the Norwich University of the Arts. They are given a theme capable of wide interpretation and discover that the church is still a significant sponsor of new art. Canterbury and Winchester have art by Antony Gormley, and St Paul’s has just installed the first permanent moving-image artwork within any cathedral: Bill Viola’s “Martyrs”. Our cathedrals are treasure houses of contemporary art.
Culture is also about people. Our cathedrals are now ablaze with candles lit by people who come to pray in need and distress. They could not operate without an army of volunteers. We have more than 600 in Norwich, and there are more than 800 in Canterbury. At Manchester Cathedral, a scheme of volunteering aimed at the long-term unemployed has had an incredible success rate in getting people back to work.
There may have been no proposed legislation specifically aimed at culture in the gracious Speech, except that all we do has a bearing on it. It is about the way we live our lives, and the walls separating faith and worship from art and economics or from social inclusion and heritage turn out to be very thin indeed and could do with being removed altogether.
My Lords, my contribution will be even shorter than I envisaged simply because my noble friend Lord Lyell has made many of the points that I was going to make, and I very strongly agree with him.
The noble Lord, Lord Dannatt, when he spoke in your Lordships’ Chamber a few months ago, called for a debate on the Floor of the House about defence. I think it very important that we have that debate because the last of our troops will be withdrawing from Afghanistan, and we remember those who have fallen. It would be appropriate to try to learn some of the lessons of that conflict and what more we need to do to strengthen the numbers and equipment of our forces.
In the gracious Speech, there is one Bill which I strongly support: the Armed Forces (Service Complaints and Financial Assistance) Bill. I hope the House will agree a speedy passage for it because it gives the opportunity for service men and women to raise concerns and complaints in a much more efficient and effective manner than at present. The Bill provides for the establishment of an ombudsman to deal with complaints that might not necessarily result in prosecution.
As far as the Reserve Forces are concerned, I hope we do not lose our nerve in backing the creation of a larger reserve force of 30,000 for the Army. When many years ago I shared responsibility with some of your Lordships for the Territorial Army, we were at more than 70,000. To go to 30,000 seems credible and realistic. When our regular soldiers come back from Germany, I hope that many of them will consider transferring their service from the regulars to the Reserve Forces. From my conversations with many of them, there is every hope that that will happen.
Finally, I pay tribute to those recently retired members of the Armed Forces whom I have taken on as a research assistant over the years. I think all of them have gone on with a greater understanding of your Lordships’ House and the process of legislation. If I can embarrass the latest member, Mr Zombanakis, who is listening to this debate, I wish him well at Harvard. All his predecessors have enjoyed their time working for me and understanding the role and function of the House of Lords.
My Lords, aside from some issues concerning Europe, I believe that everyone approaches foreign policy matters in this House in terms of the interests of the United Kingdom and our allies. Party advantage has been almost entirely irrelevant to our debates, and I want to follow that course today.
I want to express an anxiety that our country and this Parliament is at risk of becoming rather more inward-looking and somewhat more self-referential. It is plainly not simply the case that that is true: the current conference which the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, was describing to us, the work being done in sexual violence in law and the work which deals with the core commitments plainly address a much wider set. Yet it is far more common to wonder in a public way about whether we should focus at all on places in which it is erroneously believed that we have little interest or which do not directly threaten our security.
Of course, in this interconnected world, almost all places can be potentially difficult for us. However, this inward-looking trend—which is so plain, for example, in UKIP policy and much of what is said about Europe or NATO, or, indeed, what is being said in the context of the Scottish referendum, and in the discomfort with the potential burden of enforcing, for example, the United Nations rights of protection—is, in my view, a trend that we should resist.
I am making no appeal here to antique “great power” or imperial stances. I abhor war. I am not advocating intervention where goals are undefined, vague or beyond achievement. However, we have an historic and contemporary responsibility. We may no longer be a great power in the sense that that was understood, but we are a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We have a veto. We are expected to act appropriately, or this standing seems certain to be challenged. This standing cannot be cast in our minds as a burden. It is, rather, a privilege that we enjoy in the world.
My apprehensions may, of course, be wrong. What surprises me is that, notwithstanding the depth and variety of knowledge in this House, we have no standing committee to analyse in depth the United Kingdom’s role in the world. There is work undertaken effectively on Europe in committees but, in a complex world, it cannot be grasped on the basis of the occasional debate that we have. Work, as was pointed out by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, earlier, on FCO strategy which is plainly needed would be greatly advanced by having such a capacity.
As today’s debate also includes DCMS, I hope noble Lords will let me comment on the regulation of football in the United Kingdom, and the massive and growing evidence of corruption in FIFA and international football. I start by thanking so many Members of both Houses for their support over the past four years. I have learnt that whistleblowing is an extremely uncomfortable experience; I am not sure that I would advocate it to anybody. The efforts of parts of our media—“Panorama” and Andrew Jennings; the Sunday Times with its “Insight” tradition; and Channel 4’s “Dispatches” and Geoff Atkinson—have been exemplary. Those in the United Kingdom’s World Cup bid, with the very honourable exception of the noble Lord, Lord Mawhinney, whom I am delighted to see in his place, spent much of their time condemning the investigative media, while he applauded it. I congratulate him most sincerely on that.
I wonder if I may try, even briefly, to tell it like it is. FIFA, I am afraid, behaves like a mafia family. It has decades-long traditions of bribes, bungs and corruption. About half of its executive committee who voted on the previous World Cup have had to go. Even its previous president, João Havelange, has been removed from his honorary life presidency in his 90s.
Systematic corruption, underpinned by non-existent investigations where most of the accused are exempt from the investigation, makes it impossible to proceed. Foreign construction workers dying in their dozens in Qatar stadium construction sites are essentially ignored. I applaud Greg Dykes’s rebuttal of Sepp Blatter’s grotesque accusation that all those criticisms are simply racist. The noble Lord, Lord Ouseley, and other noble Lords in this House have demonstrated that concern with racism and concern with proper dealings and anti-corruption go hand in hand.
Don Corleone would have recognised the tactics and would probably have admired them. Domestically, the Burns report on football has been permanently shelved. Take the fit and proper person test for the ownership of football clubs. It failed to stop a Thai politician—a former prime minister with a notorious human rights record—from acquiring a major club in this country, or unknown owners from controlling other great clubs which are essential to the sporting culture. It is important to our sports culture and to fans.
I understand that there is no room for a sports law in the Queen’s Speech—I am coming to the end, I promise. Governments should stay out of sport. However, the deal ought to be that they are entitled to designate the lead associations to regulate each sport, to set out the regulatory requirements and standards in the conduct of international sport. In the case of the FA, it will be a daunting task to take even the most modest steps. However, it is time for that organisation and for other sporting organisations to step up to the mark. Let us try to eliminate corruption wherever it exists, not least in those things which are so dear to people’s hearts.
My Lords, I apologise because I will be unable to be present during the wind-up speeches. However, my noble friend Lord Hennessy will approve of the reason, which is that I will be taking part in the debate on Scotland, which, as he rightly says, is of such huge importance. I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, for her emphasis on the forthcoming conference on the issue of sexual violence in this country and not least to the terrible things that are happening in northern Nigeria.
Very quickly I will point out—not least to the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, who made a major contribution on Somalia—that sexual violence has always been associated with conflict and war, but that the key difference between now and the past is that it is now seen in some areas as a specific strategic object of war to direct sexual violence not just at women but, not least, at children. According to the United Nations Population Fund, there were some 16,000 claims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year. It said that those were the “tip of the iceberg”—the actual figures would have been far higher. It is even more troubling that very many of those affected were under the age of five.
A more recent example, also from the United Nations Population Fund, relates to Syria, where some 38,000 cases of sexual violence against women have been reported. Again, however, the key factor is that many of those girls had been killed by their own family because of the dishonour that rape had brought upon that family. In other words, in the case of Syria the victim was once again the victim, rather than the perpetrator. There are two reasons why that is so important, apart from the fact that it is so important in itself.
First, the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war goes beyond almost anything ever accepted in international law as being an appropriate weapon of war. It even goes beyond what St Thomas Aquinas said about war in the 13th century. Secondly—and it is important that this point is made—we live in a world where demographically the proportion of girls who survive birth is dropping steadily. We do not often recognise that. It is estimated that a surplus of some 34 million men exist in China because of the single child policy, and there is a similarly huge majority of young boys in India compared to young girls because of the practice, sometimes, of infanticide towards girl children.
That really means we are looking at a world that is likely to be more violent and more conflicted than ever before. A week ago I heard Kofi Annan say—I thought it was very interesting—that in his experience as United Nations Secretary-General he looked continually to societies where men and women were equal, to societies that were able to be negative to conflict. Where they were not equal—it is important to note on that, sadly, in much of the Arab world there is no move towards equality of the kind so essential to economic and cultural development—one is seeing yet a further enforcement of what one might describe as a rejection of the female element in a good society.
Let me finally turn to the second of the Government’s proposed summitry, an excellent decision; that is looking at the position of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, rightly referred to the significance of the Commonwealth. This is an area where the Commonwealth could be crucial. It could bring together the training of police for the protection of children in school, including the security of school and university buildings. Perhaps even more importantly, it could look at how, particularly in the case of northern Nigeria, one could set up a Commonwealth group to include, also at our invitation, the French, many of whose former colonies surround the members of the Commonwealth not least in west Africa. There would then be an immediate reaction to anything as awful as the kidnapping of the 300, now, young women in Nigeria, contributing to the country in a way that could not be equalled in any other way. The Commonwealth as a whole should address this issue and bring every possible form of expertise to bear in how to protect these young women.
The presence of young women is a crucial part of the development of societies, particularly developing societies. It is very important that Britain, with her past relationship in this whole area with the Commonwealth, should create a centre which should be seen by any as a source of information and of training, and, above all, a moral certitude of the importance of tackling this dreadful problem.
My Lords, many things have changed in the 11 months since last year’s debate on the humble Address. Some things have improved, such as the UK’s broader economic outlook. Some have loomed larger and grown more intense, such as the debates on Europe and the proposed separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom. However, for those of us interested in security and international order, things have become markedly worse.
This time last year we were hoping, against all our instincts, that Secretary of State Kerry might make some real progress on the Middle East peace process. The pessimistic angels of our nature, alas, proved only too right on that particular issue.
This time last year there was some hope that inclusive governance in countries such as Egypt and Libya might gain a firmer footing. In 2014 that hope has grown fainter.
I cannot claim that we had many realistic hopes for progress in Syria last year, but the outcome has been even worse than our fears. Meanwhile, the political and security situation in Iraq has continued its downward spiral, as we have seen most recently with the events in Mosul.
On a slightly less gloomy note, negotiations continue on the Iranian nuclear programme, and while many obstacles remain, we still have the chance of a deal. However, lest we become too cheerful, events in Pakistan serve to restore our sense of gloom. There, Government hopes of political progress with the Taliban have proved illusory. The recent attack at Karachi airport demonstrates vividly how seriously the internal security situation has declined in that country.
In Europe we face the prospect of a major power ignoring state borders and international agreements to which it is a signatory. Whatever provocation Russia may feel it suffered, nothing can justify its actions in the Crimea and subsequently.
Further afield, frictions continue over the South China Sea, and both the United States and China raised the temperature considerably at the recent Shangri-La dialogue. North Korea remains as dangerously delusional as ever. I could go on, but time does not permit.
What can we conclude from this tale of woe? For my part, I believe that we are witnessing two major strategic shifts, both of which could pose serious challenges to our future security and prosperity. The first, and most obvious, is the rising economic might of China and its use of increasingly sharp elbows on the international scene. The major points of friction may be far removed from us geographically but, in this globalised world, the consequences will certainly be felt here. The second development is the continued unravelling of the Sykes–Picot agreement, and the subsequent post-1918 arrangements that were intended to tidy up the detritus of the Ottoman Empire. The most malign consequence of this is the growth of an ungoverned space straddling the Syria-Iraq border, and the emergence there of extremist Islamic groups, such as the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria.
This is the backdrop to the rapidly approaching general election, and the subsequent security and defence review. It is not a pretty picture and, on the assumption that the United Kingdom still has the strategic intent to contribute to the international order and stability that are so important to this nation, it will require some serious thought. There has already been debate over the lessons we should draw from Russia’s actions in Ukraine. No doubt there are many, but for me there is one that stands out above all others, the lesson that the Athenians taught the Melians during the Peloponnesian war: the strong do what they can; the weak suffer what they must. In a number of ways, we in Europe have grown weak.
The foundation of nearly all power is economic strength, and it is right that over the past few years we should have concentrated on this. We also have in this country a very useful range of soft power tools, and I look forward to the coming debate on the Select Committee report on that issue. But hard power is a key element in the mix, and we are approaching some hard choices on this score in the next defence review. The 2010 defence review sacrificed a degree of strategic coherence in support of economic and fiscal retrenchment but, as the Prime Minister acknowledged in announcing the results of the review, restoring that coherence, in Future Force 2020, would require real-terms increases in the defence budget in each of the years from 2015 onwards. The Chancellor has already made it clear that further belt tightening will be required after the general election. This may be so, but a failure to fund defence as envisaged in the 2010 defence review will fatally undermine the plans for Future Force 2020, and lead inevitably to further capability and manpower reductions in the Armed Forces. We must ask ourselves whether that would be a wise response to the massive challenges to international order that I have outlined. This is a serious question about a crucial issue, and it deserves serious debate. I hope that over the next 11 months we will have the chance, within your Lordships’ House and elsewhere, to conduct just such a debate.
My Lords, my noble friend the Minister highlighted the forthcoming Commonwealth Games and the World Cup in her opening speech. She spoke of soft power, and sport was, of course, a key part in the deliberations of the committee chaired on that subject by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford. I note that “culture” lies in the title of today’s debate, Either there is a typo in the omission of “media and sport” or, more likely, it is an all-embracing recognition of the Corinthian ideal of sport for the able-bodied and disabled alike as inherent in the Foreign Office’s lexicon of a civilised culture.
In reflecting on the brave speech of the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, I believe that it is the governance of sport that is the central issue for the solution to the development of sport in the United Kingdom, and it should be central to our influence within international federations of sport. The rapid global commercialisation of sport over the past 30 years has transformed the relationship between sports policy and the law-makers across the world. The autonomy of sport or, as the European Union calls it in the Nice treaty, the specificity of sport, is important, but it must be earned—it is not a right. Governments, either directly through Treasury support on financial guarantees for major events or indirectly through lottery funding, have significantly increased investment in the sector and placed growing importance on sport and recreation in government policy formulation, including overseas development and diplomacy.
We need to address the consequences of this generational change. We must capture the inspiration of a nation that embraced the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and will do so again through the Commonwealth Games. The soft power accrued from these Games should not be underestimated. We need to look to government to deliver a sports legacy from the 2012 Games—a legacy still capable of transforming the sporting landscape of the United Kingdom in terms of facilities and opportunities, especially for our children, able-bodied and disabled, in all our schools.
We need to bring professional management, accountability and transparency to the organisations that run British sport, and through our influence abroad, to the international bodies that regulate and direct international sport. The need for good governance in sport—along the lines of that required for FTSE 100 companies or major not-for-profit organisations in the United States—is essential if we are to protect the interests of athletes in the future. Only by demonstrating good governance in sport can the Government and British sports administrators use their influence internationally. Only through taking action to introduce best governance among international bodies and federations will the problems that have already beset many of the international organisations—from FIFA today, as the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, bravely stated; to the IOC in Salt Lake City in 2002; to Formula One in recent years—be consigned to history. This is all the more important in the complex world of lex sportiva, in which international organisations and federations set the administrative regulations and dispute-resolving mechanisms of sport, while national Governments and international law are ineluctably playing an increasingly important and active role. It is simply no longer the case that sport and politics can or should be neatly separated.
We need action on behalf of spectators and supporters. Supporters should have at least some representation on the boards of their clubs, thus ending years of disfranchisement. We should substantially strengthen the opportunities for disabled access to sporting venues, in line with the guidelines of the International Paralympic Committee. We need an athletes’ charter to ensure that the voices of our sportswomen and men are heard, and that the many concerns they are expressing are acted upon by sport governing bodies that must follow unimpeachable good governance. We need the Government to become accountable to Parliament for the formulation and delivery of such a sports policy—principally but not exclusively through the Department of Health in the fight against obesity, the Department for Education in all our schools, the Home Office and the DCMS. We need a policy which looks to the Government to act as an enabler, not a micromanager, and to the Minister responsible to have the influence to co-ordinate policy from the centre.