§ 3.7 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Worcester rose to call attention to the case for European co-operation in matters cultural, humanitarian and spiritual; and to move for Papers.
§ The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, in preparing for a conference in Malvern for 1991, the title of which is, "Threshold for Europe, Britain's Heritage, Britain's Future", I have become deeply drawn to the subject of this afternoon's debate. I can only set the scene. I hope that noble Lords will develop some of the important issues. I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield and of the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter.
§ It must now be less than a thousand days to the completion of the single European market. If we were to think of that event solely in terms of setting up a market for 320 million people, we should lose a great opportunity. That is not to deny the importance of prosperity. Prosperous mercantile nations have in the past always been those which have nurtured civilisation. The exchange of goods has always gone with the exchange of ideas.303
§ Nevertheless, Europe possesses other assets which are beyond the material and upon which we should also capitalise.
§ In an uncertain world I believe that we have a common culture, a common faith and some common experience of democratic institutions. I am proud to be British but I rejoice to be also European. Young people now go to Europe as easily as I would have gone to Manchester at their age. Furthermore, I am told that one-third of our population crosses to Europe every year. In the past we have fought battles for freedom on the soil of Europe. We must now fight them again with other weapons; namely, ideas, our own collective wisdom and a certain spiritual vitality.
§ On 5th April the European Parliament again stressed that it saw the single European market as more than just an economic entity. It went on to grapple with social and environmental issues. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, whether it is also the opinion of Her Majesty's Government that it will be more than just an economic entity.
§ What do we mean by Europe? It is surely more than the 12; and more than the 23 of the Council of Europe. It must include those nations which have so recently reclaimed their freedom. In 1942 Winston Churchill expressed the view to Anthony Eden that the European family would act in unity within a council of Europe. In 1950 when that council was launched, he said that the doors were open for all to come in, including our friends from the East, if they shared our purposes. He hoped that the great Soviet Union would also come in. If so all would indeed be well.
How can we keep that spirit of optimism alive and well? Recently in Strasbourg Sir Geoffrey Howe is reported as saying:
When Gorbachev comes in July, he will speak about the Common Home. He need look no further. Here it is".
§ Does that represent the considered view of Her Majesty's Government?
§ For 40 years the Council of Europe has stood for greater European unity, the principles of parliamentary government, human rights, the improvement of living conditions and for human values. I believe that it needs greater affirmation and greater resources. In view of what has been achieved by that council over the years, it would be a pity if other institutions were to be set up. It has recently unanimously agreed to invite all nations involved in the Helsinki process to join it for a full session once a year.
But whatever institutions are proposed for Europe, they will be ineffective if we do not revive the spirit of the people. I quote the well known words of Shelley:
I care not who writes your laws so long as I may write your songs".
§ We have a great storehouse of joy in what we call European civilisation. Not for nothing do we speak of what we call the humanities; in fact they make us understand more keenly what it is to be truly human. However, it is not with high culture that I am most concerned. It is in the field of popular culture that 304 enormous efforts must be made. In the terms of history, the media explosion is fairly new to us all. We have to ask questions such as: What values do we have, what values do we want and how can we establish those values? In default of wrestling with those questions, we recruit more and more police, build larger cages in our football stadia and introduce even greater prohibitions. These questions about values are not just posed from rectory studies in Barchester. It is clear from listening to the radio and television that they are questions being asked by philosophers, politicians and educationists.
§ I believe that we must bring together all those who are concerned with youth, whether they be churchmen, sportsmen, educationists, media people or others. We cannot make people good but we must seek the conditions through which the best can come out. We must surely welcome schemes such as ERASMUS, Yes to Europe and Tempus, by which students and business people may make useful exchanges in training and get to know each other, expelling the xenophobia which bedevils everything. In matters humanitarian there is an urgency that people should be considered as well as policies. There is also an urgency that Europe should look outwards to poorer nations in the rest of the world. If Europe were to look only inwards to its own rich man's club, it should be failing in leadership.
§ Other noble Lords will, I hope, speak about conditions of work and unemployment. The new market in 1992 may produce as many as 2 million new jobs but I am told that as it develops there may be as many as 3 million further unemployed people. The European Parliament recently confirmed that it is committed to the care of the elderly. It will dedicate 1993 as a year for the elderly and the solidarity of all age groups. That is to be welcomed.
§ At this time I want to draw attention to the needs of the family as the basic unit of society and to the needs of children. There will be much migrant labour, many people will be working a long way from home, and it is desirable that governments should put their weight behind the defence and protection of the family. I sit on the council of the Children's Society and my friends there are asking for a European Community programme for the care of children. It may be considered temerarious that this debate should be initiated from these Benches. I know that the story of the Christian Church includes the story of intolerance, bigotry and power corrupting the institutional church. It also includes the story of saints, martyrs and social reformers.
§ Time will not allow me to speak of the way in which, centuries ago, the Venerable Bede constantly observed that it was the Christian faith which gave England its unity and identity. Something similar happened after Rome had disappeared and Christianity enabled Europe to see a further day of civilisation. Our Judaeo-Christian faith has shaped many of our institutions. It has caused us to value the human person and to affirm human communities. Twice in our lifetime materialistic and repressive regimes have tried to dominate Europe and have failed to do so.
§ It is not enough to say, "We have won. " The consumerist and competitive society also has its 305 problems and can create disillusion. There are questions that we avoid at our peril. A society which never asks, "Who are we? What is the chief end of man? What are our duties as well as our rights?" is increasingly vulnerable to the insentience and folly of those who would plunder it, including the demagogue and the commissar.
§ I dare to think that the mainstream Churches are prepared to come to the new Europe in a spirit of humble service. They must work together in their own spirit of glasnost. It has been the wars of religion and the desire of the Church to dominate which in the past has secularised Europe. If they try to do so again, the Churches will almost certainly invite the revenge of the secular environment.
§ Recently, however, we have seen the Church in Poland, East Germany and Czech-Slovakia providing the grit for the people to survive with their dream of freedom intact. Last year an ecumenical assembly in Basle treated with the subjects of "Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation". It was awsomely realistic but hopeful.
§ Vaclav Havel has reminded us of the need to dream dreams and see visions if we want the seemingly impossible to become a reality. I believe that the Churches will be allies in this and with all others who seek to renew the soul of Europe. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3. 22 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, it falls to me on behalf of your Lordships to thank the right reverend Prelate for raising a matter that takes us a little above our normal passion for exchanging statistics across the Floor of the House. The subject that he has raised is an important one, and we look forward to it being further illuminated by our two maiden speakers, one ecclesiastical and one lay person.
In listening to the right reverend Prelate, I was encouraged, as I am sure were other noble Lords, by the indications of the interest not only of the Churches but of other organisations and movements in this country in what is happening in Europe. As he reminded us, there is in the younger generation an unprecedented degree of interest. On the other hand, it is desirable that policies to be pursued must be realistic. I share with him a belief in the Council of Europe and its work. Not everying looks as good as we thought it might be in that year of expectations, 1989. There are very grave difficulties with regard to both the newly emancipated, or in some cases only semi-emancipated, countries of Eastern Europe and the countries of the European Community to which we belong.
It looks as though in central and eastern Europe one result of the lifting of the long Soviet night has been the re-awakening of what were its characteristics for so many centuries and which to some extent explain the faiths of its people, their divisions among themselves and not least their religious divisions. One can see emerging on the map the old fault lines between Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox and Uniate which for some time we have thought were submerged in common misery. We also see the recrudescence of such political, ethnic and linguistic: divisions arising from their cultural 306 history. One would consider that the Czechs and Slovaks had a great many more practical things to do than to spend their time arguing whether to put back the hyphen between Czech and Slovak. Those are not nice things, and in some parts of Europe they have led, and may lead, to actual violence.
On the other hand, in the West we face the social problems to which the right reverend Prelate referred. It seems incredible that at a time when youth is so hopeful in some respects, other aspects of its behaviour give cause for such anxieties. That links with what the right reverend Prelate said about the third world. We face the eruption on to the western European scene of ethnic rivalries and problems which did not exist previously to the same extent, through the inevitable migration from poorer countries to richer or more hopeful countries. It has been a characteristic of human history over the centuries.
The subject has been referred to in other debates. In this country, France, Germany and the Netherlands we have not found the right balance between the need to retain a single cultural —perhaps spiritual—impulse which can help us to solve our problems and the need to allow for appropriate differentiation.
In that sense the problems of Europe are from the Atlantic to the Urals. Nobody can forecast where the next dramatic explosion calling our attention to our weaknesses in some of these respects may come from. Noble Lords will have read about the desecration of Jewish cemetries in France. That has produced the hitherto unknown spectacle of the president of the Republic walking in a procession to express national regret. It was a moving gesture on the part of the French president and his prime minister; but the fact that it needed to be made in the country which for a couple of centuries was thought to be, above all, the country of the Enlightenment is a grim reminder of what can go wrong. Anti-semitism has had a long history in France. It is clear that it has been fuelled by the apparently equally difficult problem of how to deal with the growing North African minority.
Again and again we see that there are common problems. Whether they can best be solved in co-operation, as suggested in the wording of the Motion, or are those which each government must face in its own way with whatever encouragement it can obtain from its friends or neighbours, is an open question. It is true that we are not yet at the stage when a European impulse can make up for national deficiencies. Being "good Europeans" is a nice comment to make about ourselves but, in the end, what governments can do is not determined by their European adherence.
There are ways in which governments can and should co-operate. We see an example in the relatively minor but significant element of football hooliganism. Because of the element of confidence involved, the more important question is: how far is there full and genuine co-operation between European countries in the management control, and eventually one hopes extirpation, of terrorism? Perhaps in reply the Minister will tell us the progress that has been made in the Trevi agreement. The 307 Minister's right honourable friend Mr. Douglas Hurd was then Secretary of State for Home Affairs and he was principally concerned in that agreement.
If some countries mistrust the genuineness with which others regard dangers to themselves—their citizens or their national unity—some of the high hopes based upon co-operation in matters cultural, humanitarian and spiritual are bound to be dashed. There are those who are enemies of our joint civilisation. For instance, there are the neo-nazis (to use an umbrella term) whose activities now stretch from East Germany to France and who in a limited way have an impact on thinking in this country. It is obvious that their activities which cross frontiers must also be challenged by common consent.
Whether it is possible to make a difference through the educational exchanges to which the right reverend Prelate referred, is difficult to say until we have a generation to measure the impact. The problem is that much of what people want done has to be done tomorrow, today or, in some cases, yesterday. Suddenly to call on enough people to teach the English language to the newly-freed nations of Eastern Europe, which would be of considerable benefit to them in a number of ways, and to do that overnight, is clearly asking too much of the resources that we have at out disposal.
Again and again we come up against serious practical problems. That is not to say that they cannot be resolved; but anyone who asks us to embark on exploring the whole range of issues must be prepared to face the evil as well as the good.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Lord Houghton of Sowerby
My Lords, I am fortunate to be able to take part in a debate which unusually has been introduced by a right reverend Prelate. It is infrequent that our debates are initiated from the Bishops' Bench. I was attracted to the debate for two reasons. First, it was being introduced by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester. It was in Worcester that I made my only address in a cathedral and it was on a topic to which I shall refer in a moment. It is not surprising to find that the subject and the speeches that we have heard are as suitable to the pulpit as to your Lordships' House. I have not the slightest doubt that the right reverend Prelate has indulged in such thoughts during the course of his administrations.
The three broad headings offer an opportunity for a high-level philosophical debate. I do not know enough about culture. I am a stranger to spiritual thought and activity and, therefore, I have chosen to speak about humanitarianism. In that area we have a broader common denominator in our European associations than we have in the other two.
Of the three subject headings that we are given for the debate the one with which we can deal in a practical way is the humanitarian attitude towards the welfare of animals. It was on the subject of animals that I made my address in Worcester Cathedral. I clearly remember criticising the doctrine of early religious teaching about the supremacy of 308 man over the rest of the animal kingdom. I criticised the subjugation of the animal kingdom, its use and the subordination of all living things on land, in the air and in the sea to the use and pleasure of human beings. I dissent from that philosophy.
I am a little outraged to find that by a new and rising prophet by the name of Gummer we are being recalled to that ancient philosophy about the use of animals. We are now told that it was one of God's intentions that we should eat animals. During the past 24 hours ! have searched the Book of Genesis. I was surprised to find that a copy is readily available in your Lordships' House. It bears no sign of use but it was sufficient for my purpose. The modern authorised version of the Old Testament reads more like a fairy tale than anything I remember reading at Sunday school. I found nothing in the Book of Genesis about eating animals, although I did not have time to read it all.
The relationship between man and the animal kingdom is becoming one of the great philosophical and practical issues as regards future life on this planet. We must realise that if the planet is to survive, attitudes that have been bred into mankind and fostered by religious beliefs and practices must be abandoned.
Throughout Europe there are differing standards in the humanitarian approach to the welfare of animals. In Spain there is bullfighting. There are also the abominations of the fiestas at which unspeakable cruelties are inflicted on animals. There is the shocking slaughter of migratory birds in Italy. Men go out wearing cocked hats and feathers, with rifles and bags to shoot birds no bigger than thrushes as if they were brave men conquering the turbulent wildlife around them.
Throughout the Mediterranean basin there is much hardship inflicted on animals. There is cruelty to horses in Greece and torture to human beings in Turkey as if they were animals. All in all, we do not have a very clean sheet here in many respects as regards the treatment of animals. Therefore there is a common denominator throughout Europe which can be separated from the differences of culture to some extent. It can be somewhat detached from spiritual thought and activity where mankind tends to think of his own soul far more than he thinks of the care of animals. Why is it that religion has been founded on the selfish concept of the salvation, existence and future of man? I suggest that that is not in keeping with the broad concept of the development of a planet as unique as this in the universe.
In Europe there is a body known as the Eurogroup. Its members are representatives in the European Parliament and its aim is to look after the care of animals throughout Europe and beyond. It is doing very good work indeed. It could do with some support from the Church. All animals could do with that. The broader view which can now be taken not only of humanitarianism in Europe but throughout the world is one in which, with great respect, those who occupy important positions in our ecclesiastical and religious life should now be seen to participate.
309 The Eurogroup is active in the European Parliament. With pressure it brought about the cessation of the import of products from the culling of seals in Labrador. It is seeking to overcome some of the cruel practices as regards the treatment of animals in Europe. We want more punch and power behind that group. No great change can come about in humar affairs without it taking its place in the pulpit. Also, not many great changes in history have come about without them having been in the police court. There is no doubt that the combination of the pulpit and the police court has brought about social change in our history. I am not suggesting that one needs to go into the police court as regards animals, although occasionally one might do so.
That is my message this afternoon. I need take no longer to deliver it. Action needs to be taken. Although at present we need not be concerned with the details of the action, there is a broad common denominator of interest and a broad concept of the standard of humanitarian treatment of other species, in respect of which we can cease to elevate ourselves on a pedestal, which we deny to every other living creature. That is something for the right reverend Prelate who introduced this debate to take back with him. If he does so, that will be very worth while.
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Exeter
My Lords, I ask for your indulgence, especially in view of my accent. I am glad to speak before your Lordships for the first time. I greatly appreciated the words of the noble Lord who preceded me about care for nature and for animals in particular. As we move into the last decade of the century, we must take into account the fact that concern for all facets of life will be very much to the fore. Consideration of co-operation on matters of culture, humanitarianism and spirituality is most timely with that in mind.
We seen to live in a time of contrasts. On the one hand, there is in Europe an apparently inexorable movement towards unity at political levels as well as economically. At the same time, as has already been mentioned, there are strong fears on the part of various groups in different parts of the region about the loss of independence. We see that same contrast emerging throughout the world. My home is in Canada and that is taking place within our boundaries between the English and French speaking people.
What is it that can allow for a genuine togetherness, agreement and co-operation? That is something which must exercise your Lordships. What is ot be done in Europe as a whole? In examining the question of culture or spirituality one must see that behind those thrusts lies a fundamental desire for wholeness. That was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Houghton. The natural world is dependent on the attitudes which we take towards it. As has been said, that has very often been overlooked because of our own self-preoccupation as human beings. It appears that we have been more anxious about our own salvation than about the salvation of the planet.
310 The movement of events is such that we shall all be forced to take that broader picture into account. John Muir, an American naturalist, said:When someone tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world".That is what we are being forced to come to. Whatever our personal attitudes as individuals in the world, they affect the broader scene which is much greater than we have been willing to admit to ourselves.
I attended a conference in France on the theme of our common European home. Various representatives from Eastern Europe were speaking about environmental matters in their part of the world. For example, I was interested to note the conflict which is presently taking place between Czechoslovakia and Hungary over a large hydro-electric project on the Danube which is being developed between those two countries and which also involves Austria.
All parties are concerned about environmental issues, but from different standpoints. The Czechs are evidently concerned about their use of coal for the generation of power and the effect of air pollution on their forests and more generally. The Hungarians have other concerns. Seemingly they have difficulty in getting together on this. How is that situation to be resolved? Traditionally we tend to argue matters out and then come to some kind of compromise which does not fully suit anyone. However, these days with such issues as environmental matters, it is not one or two countries alone that are concerned, as the occurrence at Chernobyl in the Ukraine reminds us. There was radiation even in the water supply of Vancouver, not far from my home in Canada.
How are global issues to be taken into account by people who are concerned merely with local matters? It seems to me that there is a need for a new approach to education. I was pleased during the recent conference to come into contact with some teachers from Hungary. They had been giving serious thought to these issues and recognised that something must be done to inspire in the young a broader view of the world and a sense of personal responsibility for it. Obviously that is more than just an offering of words by teachers. The adults concerned need to have that kind of view because young people depend heavily on the example that is offered to them.
When we look from the West into Eastern Europe there is a tendency to think that we have the answer to all the problems in that part of the world. President Havel of Czechoslovakia recently spoke of his experiences under a repressive regime. He felt as though he was pinned under a boulder, yet in that state he discovered an inner strength which might have been difficult to find in other circumstances. That has given him an outlook of greater toleration and a wider view of the world. There are many who suffered under repressive regimes in Eastern Europe who have a lot to teach us about qualities of character. We sometimes forget that because we are distracted by the fast pace of our industrialised world.
We should not be too quick to rush into that part of the world to convey what we think of as our good 311 news without exhibiting open hearts and an attitude of humility towards what the people in those areas can teach us. There is inspiration for the young, for instance, regarding the qualities of character which really count in life; qualities which are essential in such difficulties as that between the Czechs and the Hungarians on environmental issues, in the discussions between Eastern and Western Europeans, and in the relationship between Europe as a whole and the rest of the world.
If we are to overcome the global problems of the nineties we shall need leadership of a calibre which can take that wider view and can be more open to finding out what works in the largest possible context. I thank your Lordships for your indulgence.
§ 3. 55 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, it is my good fortune to follow the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, in his maiden speech, and to be the first to have the opportunity of congratulating him on the eloquence with which he handled three themes which are close to the heart of our debate today, and for which we must thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester.
I said the noble Marquess spoke about three themes. First, he ended—if I may put it that way —with lessons that can be learnt from the people of Central and Eastern Europe and from the experiences that they suffered. It is important that we recognise that they wanted to join Europe, not necessarily a simulacrum of our society. Secondly, he spoke with eloquence on the need for us to be educated in the dangers that we have inflicted on our environment. He said that in dealing with that we should act not only as individuals, but jointly and in co-operation.
Finally, from his experience in Canada, he expressed—ably, it seemed to me—two common themes of public expectation which exist today; that is to say, the hope for greater unity and the apprehension that that greater unity will in some way diminish our own cultural identities. For all that I should like to congratulate him and thank him for his contribution.
In this discussion, which can range wide and loosely, I share wholeheartedly some of the apprehensions expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and in particular the dangers which the recrudescence of nationalism, which is very much on the cards—indeed, it is in front of our very eyes—will bring with it. The successors to communism appear to be nationalism and fundamentalism, both of which are fairly unpleasant in many of their manifestations. Nothing has been more shocking than the outbreak of anti-semitism only 40 years after Belsen. Words are an inadequate way in which to condemn such outrages, but silence is equally unsatisfactory.
We should remember one point in that connection—that politicians have a heavy responsibility. I do not believe that the outburst of anti-semitism in France would have been so outrageous and unqualified had it not been for the 312 political posture adopted by M. Le Pen. Leaders in politics have a responsibility for setting standards. If they fail to do so the consequences fall on everyone.
There are many different types of co-operation between countries. Perhaps the most important is that between individuals and between cultures, as it were. There is commercial co-operation. Finally, there is the role which governments and states have to play. It seems to me that the last is in some ways the least important. States can do great damage but I doubt whether they can do a great deal of good. What they can do is ease the flow of commerce—such is the nature of one aspect of the European Community.
Secondly, states can ease the flow of intercourse between cultures and between individuals. I refer, for example, to the history of Anglo-Italian relations. That relationship has hardly at all been between states. It has been almost entirely between individuals and two cultures. It started with Italian workmen coming over here in Elizabethan times and going on to the visits in the 17th century which led to the Grand Tour; the famous visit of Milton to Galileo; the Grand Tour which followed it; the habit of the British settling in Italy, and so on. Anglo-Italian relations really became bad between the states; that is, in the 1930s and 1940s. That would seem to offer a lesson to us in what states can and cannot do in this whole area.
Of course, I suppose that we are concerned primarily with the role of states. What has happened over the past two years or so has been a revolution which has changed the nature of our relationship particularly with the Central and Eastern European countries. Nowhere has the cultural change been more marked than that. Until two years ago cultural relations between this country and, say, Poland, was largely an inter-governmental affair which had to be arranged with some delicacy. There were grave limitations on how far one could go. That applied in a much more restricted sense to individuals. Today, countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and elsewhere are welcoming and inviting Western influence in every aspect of their lives.
Two years ago in your Lordships' House we debated cultural diplomacy. It was generally agreed that the projection of British culture was intrinsically important, not only for us but for those on whom it was projected. The opportunities to project that culture have, as a result of the events of the past few years, vastly increased. The two chief instruments at our disposal, apart from commerce and individuals, are the British Council and the BBC's external service.
The most important asset we have at our disposal is, as we were reminded in that debate, the English language. Of the demand for the English language on the Continent of Europe and within Central and Eastern Europe there is no doubt. I would only say, in that connection, that though we cannot possibly satisfy it fully it is crucial that the resources of the British Council should not be diminished or limited. The British Council has an incredibly important role to play in offering training as well as education.
The Government are encouraging business and commerce to invest in those countries. No 313 investment is more rewarding in terms of the influence it brings, or the financial rewards it will ultimately bring, than investment in English language training. Noble Lords may remember that it was ponted out in the debate two years ago—I declare an interest, having been a publisher for much of my life —that the export of British books is greater in terms of return than the export of British motor cars or pharmaceuticals. Books have the additional advantage that they carry with them a message. There is the further advantage that the people who buy English books tend to be influenced by English ways.
There is; another area that I should like to mention before I conclude—the importance of student exchanges. That aspect can hardly be exaggerated. I should like to mention the admirable work done by the Youth Exchange Centre and the British Council in that regard. However, if we compare that with what is done by some other countries it is seen to be pretty inadequate. For example, the Franco-German Youth Office has a budget of £14 million a year, and that is just for the two countries. It was started in 1963. It funds people up to the age of 25. It organises up to 200 teacher exchanges each year, 500 links in further education and innumerable joint activities.
It has been said in this connection—it may have been by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff—that one cannot measure the impact of that kind of youth exchange on the climate of co-operation between countries. I agree that it is extremely difficult to measure. But anyone who in the course of their education spent sometime in another country—I spent a year in the United States—will know that the influence of that experience is never altogether forgotten. Therefore, I hope that in devising policies for co-operation with Europe —East and West —full encouragement for youth exchanges at every level will be made.
If the chief aspect of European co-operation which has changed in the past few years has been that in relations between East and West we cannot neglect the fact that integration of Western Europe, which is going ahead steadily, reveals certain needs which are not being fully met by this country. The chief of those needs is not that we do not teach people English in Western Europe—they seem to learn it by themselves—but that we do not learn their languages Therefore, in thinking about European co-operation and in discussing this whole matter today in your Lordships' House, I believe that we should bear in mind that perhaps a more determined effort to teach foreign languages in English schools—which will mean a massive increase in foreign language teachers; a massive increase on that which we have —should be a high priority in any government's programme.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Lichfield
My Lords, I ask the indulgence of your Lordships as I rise to support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester in calling attention to this case for greater European co-operation in these matters humanitarian, cultural and spiritual. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, for those cautions grounded in historical scholarship 314 and much study and thought. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, for his rebuke perhaps to Christians who have over-emphasised the lordship of man but, I think, in unfaithfulness to their foundation documents, since the Old Testament, I believe, and the New where we are enjoined to consider the lilies do indeed enjoin a reverence for the whole creation. I thank too the noble Marquess for his reference to Vaclav Havel, to whom I also wish to refer.
In asking your Lordships for your indulgence as a newcomer I find myself longing nevertheless to keep the impulse of hope and aspiration with regard to European co-operation in these areas very much alive. From my own limited experience I offer three examples. Just a short time ago I was able to accompany a dear friend, the African Bishop of Scroti in Eastern Uganda, to an all-party parliamentary committee in another place not far from your Lordships' House. That Bishop from North-East Uganda was seeking emergency aid for his people. He was seeking both food and medical aid for the people of a diocese who, despite the valiant efforts of the present Uganda Government, continue to suffer from armed insurgency and the danger of famine at this present moment and over the past two years.
After the Bishop had spoken and pleaded movingly for help for his people I was greatly encouraged by something that I was not prepared for. I discovered that several senior members of this all-party committee were able to establish very swift contact not only with our own High Commission in Kampala but also with other European delegations and embassies in that troubled land. I caught a glimpse—it was a surprise glimpse to me—of how at this point European humanitarian co-operation involving medicine, food and security, can look outwards beyond the prosperous Europe to the crises of a country like Uganda which, 28 years on from independence, is still struggling for stability and prosperity.
I suggest that is the tip of an iceberg, bearing in mind the cautions uttered by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, in respect of an area where co-operation can work and happen. To that humanitarian example I add a cultural example. I return again to Vaclav Havel, the newly-elected President of Czechoslovakia. During the long political winter that followed the Prague Spring, Dr. Havel, as has been referred to by the noble Marquess, suffered periods of imprisonment. But he has also continued his cultural work—if I may describe it as that—as an author, playwright and a writer.
What has been the key to his mettle and to his power to resist? The key seems to have lain in personal conduct, inward conscience and in the power to reveal the falsity of a system that was oppressing him through what he has called "under the boulder", to pick up the previous quotation. He has described it as "living in the truth". That "living in the truth" he himself describes as,living in accordance with a longing for people's rightful dignity, in accordance with moral integrity",and then, interestingly, in accordance witha sense of transcendence over the world".315 He adds:The power of truth cannot be measured in terms of disciples because it lies in the hidden aims of life".I am especially interested in the phrase,a sense of transcendence over the world".In his speech the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, spoke about literature and books. I am an avid reader of the reviews of contemporary writing in this country. It is my own opinion, in terms of the cultural context of writing, that our own literature of plays and novels could be greatly enriched by that sense of transcendence; of something other; a sense of a mystery beyond the world of everyday relations.
The distinguished Irish poet Seamus Heaney has called for just that dimension which I believe East European writers can contribute within a cultural context. Surely, closer firsthand friendship, with English used as a medium, can enrich us culturally here. Those are examples of humanitarian and cultural co-operation which significantly, I believe, keep the impulse of hope alive for me.
Yet what is most difficult is the co-operation in matters spiritual. Here, in our hopes for a new Europe, may I cautiously refer to some of the spiritual traditions of the Polish nation. I am very aware of the warnings given by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, about anti-semitism which has arisen there as well as in France. Yet, as a subaltern serving with the Sixth Armoured Division in post-war Germany, I still remember encounters with the tenacious religious faith of Polish officers and men who had chosen to stay within the British Army at the end of the Second World War.
More recently—and this picks up the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, to youth exchange—teenagers from Walsall and Wolverhampton in my own diocese in the West Midlands have greatly enjoyed and benefited spiritually from youth exchange with Polish families and young people. This exchange continued for several years prior to the recent changes. In the new Poland of the past months those traditions—this perhaps chimes with the warnings given by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff—of Polish faith and spiritual life now face the new chastening challenges of a much more open, doubting and questioning society. Poland is itself now a society of choice.
A first-hand observer writes:For decades the Church has been the keystone of national and social identity … but now the strength of the Church can no longer derive from its historic position in the past. It must flow, if at all, from the active faith and choices of individual people".That is a spiritual strength flowing from the individual choices and the active faith of people. The same is true for England and for Europe. My own diocese has been connected with the diocese of Mecklenburg in East Germany for the past few years. A close friend and an assistant bishop there is hoping to come to our clergy conference in a few months' time. Yet he is not sure that he will be able to come because he and Church authorities in that diocese are having to set up a new education system. He wants co-operation and help from us in thinking about that system in the vacuum which he faces.316 Surely, as other speakers have said, at this level spiritual co-operation with Polish and East German people can bring rewards greater than only economic or political rewards. It is for those reasons that I am glad to support my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester in calling attention to the case and the hope for European co-operation in matters humanitarian, cultural and spiritual.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, it is my very pleasant duty to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield on an outstanding maiden speech. It springs from his distinguished and varied career in the Church, his connections in Uganda and his connection with education in various forms. Obviously, he will apply his wide experience of humanity and Christianity to our benefit in this House.
As a Scot, I was perhaps more impressed by the shrewdness of his comment that the Polish nation now faces complicated issues. It follows closely the observation of my own minister, John Stevenson, in the parish of Kilmuir of the Church of Scotland. He said that Christianity can thrive under Communism but he doubted its survival under comfortable capitalism. It is a fact that we face. We greatly enjoyed the right reverend Prelate's speech. It is a portent of things to come.
We are now coming to a rather less elevated discourse by myself. I want to talk about the Council of Europe. I was glad that the right reverend Prelate who introduced the debate referred specifically to the role of the Council of Europe in these matters. I have been a member of the Council of Europe for about three years. I was appointed to the parliamentary assembly. I have enormously enjoyed it and it has taught me a great deal. The ignorance in this country of the Council of Europe is profound. I dare say that that is true even in this House. People know about the European Community and the European Parliament but they do not know about the Council of Europe. Most people know that it sprang partly from the great speech of Winston Churchill and they know that it exists.
I have been astonished by the effectiveness of that parliamentary assembly, which some people might regard purely as a talking shop or as a source of trips for parliamentarians from all over Europe. It is astonishingly effective. I have been amazed by the enormous respect for the Council of Europe among the people of Eastern Europe. They wanted to be associated with it and they wanted to join because they knew that it had value far beyond the economic and political value of the European Community.
Before last back-end—the autumn in non-agricultural language—I visited Hungary. I was with the committee on refugees, demography, minorities and mass migration. It was the first such meeting of the committee in Eastern Europe. We visited various places. I was impressed by the width of vision of the committee. It does important work and has thought ahead in a way that is typical of the Council of Europe. The Convention of Human Rights and many other conventions originated in the Council of 317 Europe. Perhaps I may detail to the House a little of the humanitarian work of the Committee.
It is presently considering the position inside Turkey of kurdish refugees from Iraq. Whatever one may think of certain aspects of Turkish life, the authorities have an enormous problem there which they are trying to tackle. Without doubt the visit of members of our committee to that area was an enormous help not only in bringing the matter to the notice of the world but also in keeping the authorities there up to the mark, to put it bluntly, in their treatment of the Kurdish refugees, who are a miserably unfortunate people, oppressed in the three countries in which they happen to exist. I do not think that too much knowledge can be spread of their predicament. There is also the simple matter of pressing our government and other governments to give money to relief organisations in order to help.
There are similar problems on the borders of Bulgaria and Turkey. There was an unfortunate repression of Turkish citizens inside Bulgaria. They were forced to change their names to Bulgarian names and were eventually more or less expelled from the country where they lived. A committee of the council is looking at the matter. It has been able to produce a whole range of facts which previously were disguised by the Bulgarian Government and were exaggerated by other sources. Unfortunately, as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, pointed out, other factors are coming to the fore. There is a strong anti-Turkish feeling among the people of Bulgaria which needs to be counteracted by public opinion and education.
I should like to raise the further question not of refugees but of migrants in search of economic improvement in their lives. Until now the problem has been coped with by the prosperous western nations such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Indeed a great many Turks have gone to Germany to work in its industries. We all have enormous problems in dealing with these migrants, especially with the second generation. Problems of education have led to appalling problems of unemployment among young blacks and to the xenophobia and racism which we all deplore. The committee to which I referred is looking at the question of new migration to countries that were previously countries of emigration. I refer to Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, touched on the problem, which is a purely economic one, of the poor people of North Africa who seek to work in and share the prosperity of their near neighbours on the other side of the Mediterranean. At least our committee can warn those countries of the dangers they face and can point to the need for special measures, such as have been taken in Holland, in order to integrate such communities. It can give a strong warning that unless they educate the second generation they will have tremendous problems.
I have said enough to show the work that is done by one small committee of the Council of Europe. It is absolutely essential that we in this country pay more attention to the Council of Europe. We should think more about it and perhaps do more to promote 318 it. It is valued more highly in Europe and in Eastern Europe than it is in this country.
I wholly agree with my noble friend who spoke about the need for education. Occasionally, the Council of Europe has aroused in me nasty feelings of envy, especially when I listen to Dutch people speaking. They can switch from German to French and then into English—and, of course, they also speak Dutch—while I struggle along with my miserable French. I think that we should consider the cultural and humanitarian benefits which may flow to us from the Council of Europe, and also from the other European nations, as well as any benefits which we may be able to offer.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I am both glad and grateful that it falls to me to add my congratulations to the two maiden speakers whom we have had the opportunity to hear this afternoon; namely, the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield.
We on these Benches, and the Liberal Democrats as a party, are sometimes thought of as Euro-fanatics who are willing at the drop of a hat to sell our British birthright for a mess of European potage. I should like to make the point this afternoon that we are European fanatics because we realise—and this realisation has never been more important than at present—how profoundly and deeply we in this country are European. Because we are European in that very profound sense, we have an opportunity and an obligation to play a special part in what is happening as regards the changes in Europe today.
Let us consider, for example, the English language. Its roots are to be found both in Latin from Southern Europe and in the German language. It is the mixture of those two European roots which gives us a language that I think we all agree has a subtlety and a sensitivity which make it a quite exceptional instrument for expressing a wide range of ideas and feelings. No doubt that has contributed to the fact that it is so widely used throughout the world and is such an instrument of international and European development.
If one looks at our ideas about government and democracy, one realises that they stem on the one hand from Rome and on the other, in their determination to allow the voice of ordinary people to be heard, from the old Anglo-Saxon folk moots. Those are European roots of a profound and important kind. Moreover, if one looks at the religion of this country, it will be seen that it draws strength and many of its ideas —even if it is unwilling always to admit it—from the old Roman tradition. It also draws its vigorous, nagging, conscientious individualism from the defiance and the individualism of Luther. Three of the most important characteristics of any country are its language, its ideas of government and democracy and its religious base. Surely, therefore, we are profoundly European in this country.
Even in today's debate some speakers have spoken almost as though they saw Europe as being over there and we as inhabitants of these offshore islands 319 as not being truly European. However, it is because we are so truly European that we here —at any rate, those of us in this party—believe that we have a special contribution to make at present to the developments which are taking place in Europe. As other speakers have said, the dangers of that development going wrong in Europe are very real. There are spectres present which we would ignore at our peril. There is the spectre of anarchism. In many places the resistance against a totalitarian government has undoubtedly led to a great suspicion of any government in any shape or form. There is the real danger of a revival of the nastiest kinds of nationalism.
After all the oppression and indoctrination which has taken place over the past 70 years, is it not remarkable to see that as soon as the cloud is lifted nationalism raises its head and that it has obviously always been there just beneath the surface? Of course, there is a good side to it; but there is also an extremely dangerous side. Other speakers have spoken of the danger of a revival of anti-semitism. We have seen this emerge in places where we fearfully expected it might show its head, and we have also seen it in places where it was hoped it was dead for ever.
There are also the dangers of a crude materialism which can undermine so many of those old values by which we stand and which will not in fact satisfy people for very long. A dangerous vacuum could be left. There is the further danger of a fortress Europe approach, deliberately ignoring the developments and the needs of countries outside Europe.
There is a massive amount of work to be carried out and there are hideously difficult challenges to be met. However, on the other side, there is also the possibility of a second European renaissance. It can happen if, together, we are determined to see that it will happen. There is a great deal to be done on all fronts that have been mentioned in this debate; namely, the cultural, the humanitarian and the spiritual fronts. Those factors interlock with all the other concerns.
I hope that the right reverend Prelate will forgive me for putting the argument this way. I am sure that he would not cut off these issues from the more humdrum issues of trade, economic development and what happens in industries. They all interlock. Moreover, the problems are those of the whole development of Europe, of which the European Community, to which we have given so much thought in this House, is a most important part. Unless that Community is safe, united and strong it is in no position to make the contribution which is needed in order to tackle the problems of the new emerging Europe. That is where we need to be.
I believe that there are Members in this House from all parties who are as enthusiastically European as we are on these Benches. I should like especially to mention someone who is probably the most significant European in your Lordships' House today, in terms of the contributions which he has made to the development of the Community. I suppose that most of us—I am sure he will not mind my saying this—do not think of the noble Lord, 320 Lord Cockfield, as someone who indulges purple patches of oratory. He spoke about the development of the Community at a meeting of the European Economic League two years ago. What he said about the Community on that occasion applies equally, in my view, to the wider question of Europe today. He said:If you belong to a community, you have to accept that at the end of the day it is the community interest which must prevail. We are far from accepting this. We are not alone in this, but that is not the company we ought to be keeping. The leadership of the Community is passing into other hands. There are many people in this country who will view that with indifference. I do not. I am sure you do not. Our history shows that we have both valour and vision. The time to exercise them is here and now".
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, we are all grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester for his interesting Motion and the thoughtful speech with which he opened our debate. He spoke of the need for co-operation in Europe, and his plea could not have come at a more opportune time. He pointed to the importance of high standards of morality and of humanitarian policies. As we would expect from the right reverend Prelate, he also pointed to the significance of spiritual values.
Here in the West we are all conscious these days that great changes are afoot not only in the European Community but in Eastern Europe where a revolution with profound implications is taking place. I think that we would all agree that it is Britain's duty to play a full part in the development of the Community and, with our partners and allies, to do all in our power to help establish stable democracies and healthy economies in the countries of Eastern Europe.
Perhaps I may say how much I enjoyed and appreciated the stimulating speeches of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield and the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, who brought a new dimension to the House—a very large one, the Canadian dimension. We enjoyed both those speeches and look forward to hearing the right reverend Prelate and the noble Marquess often in our debates. I hope that the latter will not regard the distance between his home in Canada and this Chamber as so daunting as to prevent him coming here as often as we should wish. We are grateful to him for bringing a breath of fresh air to our proceedings.
Here in Britain we are conscious that over several centuries we have built a society of which we have a right to be proud. The creation of this society has involved bitter struggle, civil war and—not least—great world wars. What has emerged is not perfect, but we have a free society in Britain with freedom under the law and a parliamentary democracy.
It is against that background that we must look at the right reverend Prelate's Motion. We must also ask the difficult question: is Britain, with all its experience, playing a full part in the great events that are now taking place? After all, the English Channel does make a difference. There is a tendency to be isolationist in these islands and a genuine fear 321 is held by many people that if we are not careful we shall lose the institutions and values that we cherish. There are people in all political parties who reflect this attitude, not excluding the Prime Minister herself and some distinguished members of my own party. I respect their views, even if I do not always agree w th them.
However, we must all realise that our base is now in the European Community and that if we fail to play our full part in co-operating—to use the words of the right reverend Prelate's Motion —we shall find ourselves wallowing in the shallows of history. The fact is that, notwithstanding the claims made by the Government, we have not made the social and economic progress that our partners in the Community have achieved.
Let us also be frank and admit that we have not taken advantage of many valuable European directives and that this has left the workers of this country more vulnerable than at any time since the end of the last war. If we are looking at the humanitarian side, we must accept that British workers have fewer rights than their counterparts in Europe today and that our employment record compares unfavourably with that of our European partners.
One of the most disturbing developments, however, in our view has been the Government's reaction to the Community social charter. The House will recall that at the Madrid Summit last June Britain was the only country to reject the charter. I concede at once that the British Government have the right to debate and to amend Community proposals. We do not have to swallow everything that comes out of Brussels. However, the Prime Minister rejected the charter, calling it Marxist. It was a curious outburst, given the varied political complexion of the Community. It seemed to me that the charter's general principles are enlightened and liberal. We shall be most grateful to the Minister if he will tell us what is the Government's latest view of the amended charter when he comes to wind up.
We also take the view that the principles enshrined in the Treaty of Rome and the Single European Act underline the significance of building a true community, as conceived by the right reverend Prelate, and not merely a common market. The objectives must include assisting poorer nations and regions and a general concern about the environment and the social dimension.
The truth is that there has never been a more urgent need to develop rather than to frustrate co-operation in the broad sense. As the right revererd Prelate emphasised, the emerging democracies of Eastern Europe, the EFTA countries, the Lome countries need an effective, efficient, and socially just European Community, both as partners and also as an example.
I find it strange that the Government —who after all are committed to the Community, as we all are —should set about deliberately attacking one of the man pillars of the structure—namely, the social dimension—and seek to insist that virtually all environmental legislation should be based on Article 130 (s), that is "unanimity" rather than Article 322 100 (a), "majority voting". In my submission, cohesion cannot be developed or achieved in this way.
I do not have the time to deal in any detail with the major principles in the charter but noble Lords will know that the Commission's Action Programme lists the regulations flowing from the charter and suggests a timetable for their implementation. This is not as comprehensive as was intended in the charter, but if it is carried out it will bring great benefits to this country. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, can inform us of the progress being made by the Government to put these limited proposals into effect.
On the humanitarian front—which is another pillar of the right reverend Prelate's Motion —we must take care lest we become an open market for goods and services, but a Europe out of sympathy with refugees. Some recent events—and the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, mentioned one—fill me with foreboding. There is also an urgent need for co-operation between the countries of the West to give help and succour to the world's estimated 12 to 14 million refugees and asylum seekers.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, spoke of the important work on which the Committee of the Council of Europe on refugees, of which he is chairman, is engaged. I agree with everything he said and about the important work done by the Council of Europe which is too often underestimated. We are grateful to him and other noble Lords in the House—including my noble friend Lord Kirkhill—for the effective way in which they conduct their work in the Council on our behalf
The noble Lord, Lord Beloff, referred in his speech to the Trevi Group, on which we are represented by the Home Secretary. There is another committee, the Schengen Group which performs important work. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, agrees with me but there is an aura of mystery about the work of the Trevi Group which the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, may wish to dispel in his speech. Britain is not represented on the Schengen Group, although I understand that if refugees or seekers of asylum are refused entry into one of the states of that group they would automatically be refused entry into the Community.
This matter requires clarification. I further believe that there is need for greater openness in discussions about the freedom of movement of people within the European Community. This is essential in the efforts to protect human rights. Britain should also encourage the promotion of more liberal and humanitarian policies towards refugees and asylum seekers in accord with the spirit of a people's Europe. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees makes a contribution, as we know, but the problem of refugees and of human rights generally should be high on the agenda of summit meetings which are held from time to time.
On the cultural side to which the right reverend Prelate referred, the Community could certainly co-operate in promoting matters of cultural significance in the Community as a whole. I wonder, for example, whether the Globe Theatre project F1 323 which is clearly important to Europe as a whole might involve, with government initiative, the deployment of Community funds. The reference in the Motion to cultural matters is also timely because of the meeting of Community cultural ministers on Friday. The position of the arts in the Community is not crystal clear. While the Treaty of Rome does not cover the arts it has a provision to the effect that every nation may protect its own culture. The difficulty here is that national culture is not precisely defined. Does it, for example, apply to the whole range of state support for the arts? If it does not, it seems to me that we are in real difficulty because different countries may apply different rules. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some guidance. Is the objective, as The Times suggested on 15th May, a forum in the Community which will resolve the problems and set down a binding code of practice to which all Community partners can refer? That seems to me to be the road along which we might travel with profit to all countries involved.
What the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said in her interesting speech about the English language is something with which we all agree. However, if I may put on another hat, I should say that we in Wales are also deeply concerned to sustain our own language and our culture. The Normans built Caernarvon Castle and the other great fortresses in Wales. As the House knows, we have some interesting Roman remains too. We are concerned to ensure that their descendants see them maintained in proper repair!
Finally, like the right reverend Prelate, I must confess that one of the things which has impressed me most in the thrilling turmoil of recent months is the way in which the Churches of Eastern Europe have risen from the dark suppression of many decades. Whatever our views on religion, to witness this has been an inspiring experience. I hope that my noble friend Lord Houghton agrees. The Churches can give guidance and strength to the movement towards freedom and peace. The Churches in the West should combine with those in the East to help build a new and better Europe. If they fail they will be failing their founder. This, I think, is the message of the right reverend Prelate, and we are grateful to him for it.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Trefgarne)
My Lords, in rising to pull the threads of this debate together, I must first congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester upon raising this matter. The debate has been a most interesting, and indeed a fascinating one. If I may say so, it was illuminated even further by the maiden speeches of the noble Marquess and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield. I hope both the noble Marquess and the right reverend Prelate will speak again and often in your Lordships' House. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, I hope that the Atlantic will not form too much of a barrier to the noble Marquess.
The events of the past 10 months in Europe have given us all new hope. Television brought the live 324 testimony of a change of spirit with vividness and immediacy into our homes. We saw with our own eyes the opening of Hungary's borders, the tearing down of the wall that divided Europe and the emergence of Vaclav Havel from the shadows of the constant threat of incarceration to the elegant presidential apartments of Prague Castle. I share the view of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield about President Havel. He has made himself known to us in this country and we were very pleased to receive him when he came here recently.
We have seen, too, the filling of churches all over Eastern and Central Europe with worshippers so long denied them bearing candles of new hope. We saw people sweep aside more than 40 years of despair, as it were in a single day.
We can now again come together on human terms and get to know one another as friends without the impediment of ideological conflict. The Iron Curtain, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall and all that drab, dreary, suffocating and threatening inheritance has been lifted. We do well to proclaim it and to affirm the common heritage of cultural, humanitarian and spiritual links that bind us together in Europe, East and West. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in Bruges in 1988, Warsaw, Budapest and Prague are as much European cities as London and Paris. Europe is now at last putting into practice the principles that underlie the CSCE documents of the 'seventies and 'eighties.
We should not be shy of these dimensions. I think television has made the point for us—if indeed it needed making—that it is at the human level that change has been achieved and that there has been a spiritual thrust behind that achievement. Indeed, the real message from all that has happened recently in Eastern and Central Europe is that human values and dignity count for more than material advantage.
With the return of freedom of expression in Eastern and Central Europe, there can also be a return of truth and honesty in the discussion of problems facing the societies which are undergoing a difficult process of transition, and in the sphere of creative endeavour. Our aim now is to take the great opportunity presented by these changes—the result of popular pressure in which church representatives were often strikingly active (as in the GDR and Poland) —to transform Europe. We should aim to make democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law secure and permanent throughout Europe so as to allow the individual the chance to fulfil his or her potential and to create conditions for greater prosperity.
Cultural co-operation is a vital element in this process of drawing together, of helping to consolidate the constructive changes that have taken place in Europe, and of getting to know and appreciate what is best in each others' traditions. Cultural diplomacy is not just about exchanges of university professors and artistic events, important though these are. It is also about bringing ordinary people closer together across the old barriers. We must rebuild Europe at the level of the individual.
325 Here I want to pay tribute to two organisations in particular—the British Council and the BBC World Service. In any discussion of East/West cultural co-operation—at least as observed from these shores—they deserve special mention. Both have been hindered and harassed for more than 40 years in Eastern and Central Europe. Yet both have been lifelines tc peoples drifting further and further away from the shores of democratic Europe.
The BBC World Service's record is surely remarkable. It has reached individuals in their own languages as well as in English with unbiased, objective reporting despite countless barriers erected against it. Indeed I remember well, during my own time in the Foreign Office, summoning the Soviet Ambassador to complain about jamming. Through its programmes, the World Service has consistently communicated the cultural humanitarian and spiritual values we hold dear to those in Eastern and Central Europe who for more than 40 years have been denied the right to uphold them.
The British Council's work in eastern and central Europe, too, has been crucial in maintaining flows of visitors in both directions between Britain and Eastern and Central Europe; in keeping libraries and information centres going, which were truly windows on another world: in promoting educational and arts exchanges; and, perhaps most important of all, in teaching English, a key to understanding and communication with the wider world.
The huge demand for English language teaching, which the British Council among others is set to meet, is an indication of the task still to be accomplished in European co-operation. The British Council remains a vital agent for cultural co-operation in Europe. History will record the value of the many links which it has forged between East and West.
The scope of East-West exchanges is growing rapidly, and the Government welcome this. There are organisations which will help us in this endeavour, providing a structural framework for our common commitments. These are the European Community, which is engaged in negotiating association agreements with eastern and central European countries, and the Council of Europe, with its special commitment to human rights, which is already providing a forum for cultural co-operation with eastern and central European countries and in which the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, plays such a distinguished part.
There are now successful programmes, promoted by the European Community and the Council of Europe, in the fields of academic exchanges, student mobility, vocational training, young workers' exchanges, co-operation between libraries and much else. I would mention three areas which offer particular opportunities.
The first is youth exchanges. The Government support this activity by funding the Youth Exchange Centre. In the past three years the centre has arranged far 27,000 young people to come here and for a similar number of young Britons to go abroad in groups. Some 17 per cent. of those exchanges are with eastern and central Europe, and the per centage 326 is rising. The emphasis throughout is on disadvantaged youth. Very many of the groups involved are based on church or religious groups or associations.
Sport can be another means of promoting real co-operation at grass roots level in Europe. Active participation in amateur sport creates bonds of friendship that often last a lifetime.
The value of cultural diplomacy, in its widest sense, is well proven. We are now in a position to exploit it to the full, to the benefit of all the people of Europe.
In his important speech in Budapest on 8th May, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales said:We need to rediscover our common heritage of culture and shared religious roots in order to build a Europe which is based on more than material considerations while at the same time recognising that our diversity is an asset and a strengthYour Lordships will very much agree with that sentiment.
In the coming renaissance of a Europe no longer divided by barbed wire and walls, the Churches have more than earned the right to play a leading role. The brave, not always silent, witness of numerous congregations in churches of differing traditions when faced with Marxist persecution has filled us with admiration. None can question the contribution in recent years and months, to these events in the East, of the Roman Catholics in Poland, particularly Father Popieluszko, the Lutherans in East Germany, the Brethren and others in Czechoslovakia and, most notably, of Pastor Tokes in Timisoara. By contrast, the deplorable record of a relative handful of political priests, compromised bishops and, most notoriously, of Moscow's puppet Christian Peace Movement based in Prague, may now mercifully be largely forgotten. The Churches as a whole have emerged from their dark night immeasurably strengthened.
One of the effects of persecution is a greater appreciation of shared values by those persecuted. We must all now build on this growing understanding. We all, not least British Christians, have a role to play in encouraging the ecumenical spirit which is increasingly bringing together Anglicans and Roman Catholics, the Lutherans and the Orthodox, and all other Christian groups in Europe. Indeed, this goes beyond Christianity: we must not forget the contribution of Judaism and all the persecution that Jews, too, have suffered. All this gives the peoples of Europe as a whole a deeper consciousness of their common inheritance, of spiritual values and of their place in the world.
I turn now to some of the specific points that have been raised this afternoon. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester said that he hoped that the Council of Europe would recognise the emerging awareness of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union by welcoming those countries as members. The Government look forward to that as much as the right reverend Prelate. Several of the countries have started the process of becoming involved with the Council of Europe. However, I would sound one word of caution. The Council of Europe has high standards, particularly as regards human rights, and we must not allow those standards 327 to be lowered. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, would echo that sentiment.
My noble friend Lord Beloff referred to the Trevi agreement on terrorism, which was also referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn. It is indeed a good example of co-operation within Europe. It provides for the closest possible exchanges of information and co-ordination of policies with the aim of strengthening our common resolve to defeat international terrorism. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, said that he had not heard much about what was going on. I hope that he will understand that the proceedings of such a group must inevitably be conducted fairly discreetly if they are to be as effective as we all would wish.
The noble Lord may also wish to know about a similarly successful co-operation against the scourge of drug abuse which is carried out through the Council of Europe's Pompidou Group, which has likewise been particularly effective. The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, referred to another group connected with refugees. If I may, I shall write to him on that subject.
The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, and I think one other noble Lord—or perhaps it was a right reverend Prelate—referred to the Lingua programme. This is a European Community programme of practical benefit to thousands of Europe's citizens. Its aim is to improve foreign language competence. It is just getting under way. The Government welcome the programme, which will have a budget of some 200 million ecus over five years. Lingua will provide support for member states' own actions and will make an early contribution to the quality of the teaching of languages in our schools and colleges. It will benefit all levels of education and the working population.
The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, asked why we did not put the same resources into youth exchanges as the FRG and France, for example. I have referred already to some of the steps we have taken in that area. However, it is true that the officially-backed British youth exchanges are relatively small in number in comparison with the French and German exchanges. Nevertheless, in 1989 some 6,000 young people took part in youth exchanges with the FRG and 2,000 in exchanges with France. The Youth Exchange Centre focuses on high-quality exchanges and specialised areas of activity. The centre will be considering carefully in the coming months whether the level of exchanges can be increased. I should add that a great many exchanges take place without assistance from public funds, including those in which my own children take part from time to time.
Turning again to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and particularly the question of the work of the Council of Europe regarding the plight of refugees, I took note of all the points which the noble Lord made. I took special note of his points about the Kurdish refugees from Iraq in Turkey, Turkish refugees from Bulgaria and also new immigrants. Those are all subjects which his committee in the Council of Europe is 328 considering. We can all agree on the importance of the council's work in that area. I wish the noble Lord every success in his contribution to that work.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and several other noble Lords referred to the dangers of nationalism and anti-semitism, of which we have sadly seen some recurrence lately. We are all too aware of the very real dangers of nationalism. We have seen it all too often in our own lifetimes and we see ominous signs of it again in eastern and central Europe. Europe ignores those signs at its peril. If nationalism and anti-semitism are allowed to run rampant, all the precious advances made in the past few months and years will be for nothing. It is right that these matters should be raised here today.
The noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, asked me about the Social Charter. The Government's view on the Social Charter is well known. The noble Lord is entitled to criticise me if he disagrees, as I dare say he does, but we take the view that a number of aspects of the Social Charter cut across matters such as the creation of job opportunities to which we attach great importance. That is why we were not able to give the charter the support which other countries felt able to offer.
As for the social action programme, the United Kingdom will take a full part in the negotiations on individual proposals in the action programme. On the limited information available so far, we expect to be able to accept rather more than one-third of the proposals, but another one-third at least are likely to cause us fundamental difficulties.
I believe that it was also the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, who referred to the importance of European cultural co-operation, particularly as regards the competence of the European Community and Commission in that area. Although the Treaty of Rome does not formally cover culture, European cultural Ministers meet regularly. In Article 36, the Treaty of Rome refers to the protection of national treasures and there are certain cultural industries, such as film production and library technology, which, it could be argued, are covered by the treaty. However, it would not be right to say that there is some formal competence in that area. The main achievements have been in fields of collaboration between libraries on, for example, data processing and, as I said earlier, the Youth for Europe exchange programme. I do not want to go further at this stage, but I certainly do not wish to dismiss the importance of the matter to which the noble Lord referred.
Europe is now entering a new stage of opportunity. We should vigorously pursue our ideals as we develop relations with our eastern and central European neighbours in a pragmatic, step-by-step way, widening our horizons as each hurdle is crossed. We are working from a cultural, humanitarian and spiritual heritage which we all share to a future that we can build together.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Worcester
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for his full and comprehensive reply. I am grateful that the debate has been so interesting and has elicited so many 329 excellent speeches, not least the maiden speeches of the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, to whom we are deeply grateful, and of my noble friend the Bishop of Lichfield. There are those who would have liked to take part in the debate but were unable to do so, perhaps because it was arranged at fairly short notice as a result of the ballot. For example, the most reverend Primate Dr. Runcie who hoped to speak in the debate has been precluded from doing so: he is granting Lambeth degrees this afternoon. There is so much that one could say. I believe, and hope, that there will be many more debates on these issues.
As the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, was so supportive of the debate, I should say in reply to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that, along with Rome, Germany, Lutheranism and the English, we must include the Celts. They played an enormous part in the formation of this country and of this country's faith which raises a particular point; namely, that one of the matters about which I hope we shall be vigilant is the marginalisation of some parts of the European Community and the possibility that the North of England will become more northern and that certain other parts, such as the Principality of Wales, will be left on the fringe. I hope that that will not be so.
Suffice to say that perhaps the most important and awesome point raised in the debate—so many good things which I did not mention have been said by other speakers—is that there must be eternal vigilance and immediate action in the face of the ugly and hateful resurgence of anti-Semitism which we have witnessed recently.
As a schoolboy I lived through the dark years of the war. Many friends older than myself died in the pursuit of the cause of freedom. I cannot bear to think that we should see those heinous matters raise their head. again. I must not say more. In view of the hopeful debate, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.