Lord Garden: My Lords, from these Benches we, too, offer our condolences to the family and friends of Rifleman Coffey, who was killed in Iraq earlier in the week. We warmly welcome the Statement as an indication of improvement in the security situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is always difficult to judge the exact moment when one can make a significant drawdown and there are inevitably some risks associated with it.
I note the report in today’s New York Times of a statement released in Brussels that said that, in doing this,
• “the Union would be prepared to ‘re-establish a more robust military presence if needed’ in the months after the reduction”.
Other reports talk about such a contingency for the next six months. The Statement does not mention that. Perhaps the Minister could clarify whether there is such a contingency, so that it may be necessary to put some more forces in during the transition period. If so, is the UK committed to such a reserve of force capability?
The Statement reviews the history of our involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina and shows how the progressive move from the military operations under NATO auspices to the civil military under the EU, and progressively towards total civil, has been the right approach. Italso shows that we have been at this problem now for 15 years. This is a lesson that we need to learn for our other stability operations worldwide: they take a very long time to achieve what we are seeking.
Does the Minister agree that this has been an excellent example of co-operation between NATO and the EU, in the handover from NATO to the EU? Does he also agree that it has been a milestone in the development of experience for forces operating as part of the European Security and Defence Policy forces and, as such, that it gives us some confidence for the future?
I regret that my noble friend Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon is overseas and cannot be here for this Statement, but I pay tribute to his important role as high representative. Much was achieved during his time in the post. However, does the Minister agree that there is still much to be done? The Statement reflects and welcomes the unification of the military forces. The three communitiesthe Muslims, Serbs and Croatsstill disagree over unifying the police forces. What progress does the Minister see in that aspect? The high representative post itself is to be extended. To what extent does that indicate continuing concerns about the robustness of the political arrangements, rather than the security ones?
In this progression from military to civil, we will presumably need to be thinking EU-wide about more support for civil society in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Statement gives some indications of what the UK has been and is doing, but do we intend to do more in the future on the civil side?
The Statement is a welcome piece of news in the context of the over-commitment of our forces globally, which we have been talking about so much over the past weeks. It presumably also brings other benefits in equipment. Can the Minister tell us whether any support helicopters will be released that we might be able to use elsewhere?
The Statement is also a reminder of the scale of other EU forces that are involved in this operation. They, too, will feel the benefit of a drawdown. Does the Minister feel that this will make it easier toget them to contribute elsewhere, where the demands are needed? We have talked in particular about Afghanistan.
I wonder whether the time is now right for the Ministry of Defence to produce a report on this operationthe history of it, the lessons learnt and the successesas we have done with other operations. Perhaps the Minister might take that idea back to the Ministry of Defence. As the noble Lord, Lord Astor of Hever, reminded us, other problems still remain in the Balkans, particularly in Kosovo and Serbia, and we will have to remain aware of what is happening there and hope that we can have similarly happy outcomes.
Finally, reflecting the Statement, I make from these Benches a tribute to those members of the British Armed Forces who have over the years served there and done a fine job, in particular those who have been injured and killed. As I said earlier in the week when reviewing our contributions in Afghanistan and Iraq, we keep saying how much we value our forces. One tangible way of showing how much we value them is through how much we reward them. The Armed Forces Pay Review Body report is still awaited; it is still overdue. Perhaps the Minister could say something about that in his reply.