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UN Security Council: Information Sharing

Volume 785: debated on Thursday 26 October 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, what assessment they have made of how the United Kingdom and fellow permanent members of the Security Council can improve the sharing of analysis and co-ordination with allies to ensure enhanced security.

My Lords, the United Kingdom is committed to working through the UN Security Council to address threats to international peace and security. We will continue to share analysis with fellow members of the council through informal consultations. During this year’s UN General Assembly high-level week, our efforts were instrumental in ensuring that the international community united to adopt unanimously UNSCR 2379 to help ensure that Daesh is held accountable for the crimes it has committed.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. The United States is a vital ally and a close historic friend but it is hard to share values with its commander-in-chief. During his UNGA speech, he threatened to obliterate at least one, and possibly two, other nations by nuclear means, denounced the Paris climate accords, and has on other occasions expressed his belief that torture is a normal course of events. Given the number of experienced diplomats and internationalists in your Lordships’ House, can the Government share with them how they intend to make a relationship with those at the top of the American Administration to improve our peace and security?

My Lords, the noble Lord raises an important point about international relations, and in that regard I assure him that we have a very deep and long historic relationship with the United States. It is a strong relationship because we share objectives on many fronts. Equally, the strength of that relationship determines that when we disagree on important issues, as the noble Lord has highlighted, we also make that position quite clear; climate change was one issue, as was the recent issue of the Iran nuclear deal. In both those instances, we made it clear that we believe it was regrettable that the US took the stance that it did. That position has been made clear to President Trump by our Prime Minister. However, the strength of our relationship allows us to have those very candid conversations with the US and, indeed, others, when we do disagree.

My Lords, we are the only permanent member of the Security Council that is reducing the size of its armed forces; indeed, we have reduced it by a third since 2010. Does the Minister not think this must make the other members of the Security Council wonder about our eligibility to be there; and, indeed, make other members of the UN consider how important we believe maintaining security and peace around the world actually is?

The noble Lord knows that our Armed Forces remain very strong and that we are at the forefront of relations with regard to peacekeeping. Indeed, I will talk about this very subject at the UN Security Council next week. Contrary to what the noble Lord has expressed, our partners not just in the Security Council but across the General Assembly welcome the United Kingdom’s leadership on a raft of different issues, most recently the Prime Minister’s personal initiative in leading the charge to combat modern slavery.

My Lords, building security requires more than co-operation on military and intelligence issues; it obviously involves co-operating with a range of countries. Of course, Brexit will be a crucial issue in maintaining that co-operation. The noble Lord is right to point out that we have led in Europe. If we are not there in Europe, how will we build security? What will be the mechanisms to ensure that we build security and lead on it globally?

When I saw that this Question had been tabled, I said to officials that it might go quite wide—and, indeed, we have a Brexit-related question. First and foremost, I assure the noble Lord that of course, we continue to have constructive and productive discussions with our European partners. I am confident, as are all members of the Government, that we will reach a progressive and productive end to those discussions in terms of a new relationship with our partners in the European Union. Let me give the noble Lord a practical example. Most recently, the Prime Minister herself led on the important issue of security and countering terrorism, particularly on the internet. She chaired that meeting at the UN, together with the President of France and the Prime Minister of Italy. That underlines the co-operation we have in important areas such as security and countering terrorism. That is continuing, and will continue.

My Lords, I wonder whether the answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, is that we should pay more attention to the generals in the White House, who appear to have achieved something approaching a military coup, albeit with civilian purpose. It is quite right to point to the difficulties of the relationship, but one area that has not been discussed so far is cyberwarfare. Cyberwarfare between permanent members of the Security Council is hardly likely to increase confidence. If analysis were to be of any effect, it would necessarily involve the exchange of intelligence. Intelligence exchanged among the five would inevitably be intelligence available to the 190-odd members of the United Nations. Finally, although it makes a small contribution to security, should not the United Kingdom—and, indeed, the Security Council—be concentrating on drug and people trafficking, counterterrorism, as has been mentioned, and crimes against humanity?

Perhaps I may take the final point first. Of course we are looking at crimes against humanity. That is why the United Kingdom led the resolution to counter Daesh, and I was delighted to report back that not just the permanent members but all members of the Security Council supported that resolution unanimously. On cyberwarfare and security, of course we continue to co-operate internationally. We continue to work constructively with groups such as Five Eyes and other European partners, sharing intelligence to ensure that we counter the narrative of the extremists and any evil intent not just in the interests of our security, but of Europe and globally.

My Lords, the United States is of course a good friend, but is it not nowadays merely one part of the much larger new pattern of networks that are emerging across the world, including Asia and the developing world, in which we have to integrate very closely on security and other matters? One of those networks is the Commonwealth, although there are many others. Does he agree that we have to work much more closely with all of them than we have in the past?

My noble friend is correct. Brexit provides a huge opportunity not only to form a new relationship with the European Union but to strengthen our global relationships. The noble Lord shakes his head. I think that the Commonwealth is important: 52 nations coming together on the common pillars of language and history, and with a common future, to tackle important issues such as modern slavery and cybersecurity. That is what the global Britain aspect is all about—strengthening our relationships not just in Europe but around the world.