Foreign Affairs - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 5:37 pm ar 5 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of The Bishop of Leeds The Bishop of Leeds Bishop 5:37, 5 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Young. I endorse the comments made by many speakers about the great respect that we have for the noble Lords, Lord Cameron and Lord Ahmad. I note that it is not only the anniversary of the Fulton speech by Winston Churchill but the 71st anniversary of the death of Stalin—even tyrants are mortal.

Foreign policy is domestic policy, and vice versa. What happens in Gaza hits the streets of Leeds; what happens in Kashmir directly affects attitudes and events in Bradford. It is impossible to put foreign and domestic policies in separate compartments, which is why it is vital that the UK does not create a credibility gap when thinking that what we do in London is not noticed beyond these islands.

In the last 10 years, we have seen the absurdity of speaking of our neighbours as if they could not understand us—I witnessed Brexit—and of demanding adherence by Russia, China, Sudan and so on to the rule of law while being ready in this place to drop commitments made by us. I think that three Bills now have come to this House with a cover note saying that the Secretary of State cannot guarantee that our obligations under human rights legislation, for example, are being met. This country has achieved a credibility over decades, especially in the 80 years since the end of World War II, for honest diplomacy and pragmatic integrity. What takes decades to create can disappear in days when that integrity, or at least reputation for integrity, is compromised or questioned.

As this debate will be wide-ranging and the time limit is short, I will focus briefly on three points: security, strife and Sudan. First, national security is achievable only if and when our neighbours are also sure of their security, which is why the absence of a Palestinian state remains a bleeding wound. Equally, any achievable peace in the Middle East depends on Israel also being secure. This must be resolved diplomatically and politically, not militarily or by terrorism. The current conflict will sow the seeds of the next five generations of violence and vengeance. Our response to it matters more than ever.

Secondly, the integrated review refresh of 2023 moved us from the language of:

Global Britain in a Competitive Age” to

“a more contested and volatile world”.

This is too tame: the world, wherever you look, is now conflictual. It has taken only three years to shift from competitive to contested to conflictual. Policy decisions that are made now must consider long-term aims but be capable of sustained investment, not purely reactive to the immediate. Ukraine might look different now and Russia might be behaving differently if Putin’s aggression in 2014, despite many warnings, had been met with more than a shrug.

Finally, Sudan: it is symptomatic of an age dominated by audio-visual news cycles that the latest conflict takes the headlines. This means that immense suffering falls off our radar too easily. My diocese has been closely linked with Sudan for nearly half a century. The collapse into civil war is appalling. More people, estimated to be between 9 million and 11 million, have been displaced here than anywhere else on the planet. Not only are we witnessing genocide in Darfur again but the whole country now faces extreme famine. Even at the basic level of self-interest, we cannot complain about large-scale migration to the shores of England and other European countries if we do not work with partners collectively to address the fundamental causes of this migration. These are usually climate change, conflict and cruelty, but global crises demand global responses.

I urge the Government to invest more in stopping the drivers of conflict and insecurity in the first place, prioritising conflict prevention rather than resolution alone.