Foreign Secretary's speech, Manchester 2011
William Hague (Conservative)
I am grateful to my excellent team: David Lidington, Jeremy Browne, Alistair Burt, Henry Bellingham, Lord Howell, Lord Green, James Duddridge and my PPS Keith Simpson. They deserve a round of applause.
We've just heard from several powerful speakers. Not only Martin Callanan but my friend Jan Zahradil, who leads our new group in the European Parliament, speaks eloquently for the Europe we believe in. It is only two decades since the people of his country won the right to speak freely and govern themselves.
As we seek to change our country it should inspire us that elsewhere in the world there are people who have overcome problems greater than any we have encountered. We know about persistence but imagine the persistence needed to endure 15 years of house arrest while your political party is banned, and coming out of the other side with determination and dignity. Let us salute Aung San Suu Kyi.
We know about opposing a government we disagree with but imagine opposing a government that murders its opponents and tries to hold onto power with ruthless force.
That is why we should be immensely proud of our role in Libya, where our country's resolve, along with that of France, the United States, our Arab friends and the Libyans themselves prevented a terrible massacre and a humanitarian catastrophe.
When the hour of crisis came, our Prime Minister had the steel and the humanity to call for a no-fly zone, when others doubted. We persuaded other world leaders to join us and to act; and we sought no diplomatic shortcuts and relied on no dodgy dossier to win the argument.
Backed by the very best of British diplomacy, we secured what many said was impossible: an unequivocal UN Security Council resolution authorising military force, strong regional support from Arab nations, and a military operation that was limited, legal, morally right and successful.
There were those who said there was no chance of getting a Security Council Resolution, that the situation in Libya was a stalemate and that Tripoli would not fall; but with patience and determination we and above all the Libyan people proved them wrong.
Today, we are helping Libyans to rebuild their country themselves, not with an occupying force, but with diplomatic and technical assistance, not by imposing our blueprint, but on the basis of their own plans. We can be proud of our diplomats, our Armed Forces, our intelligence services and our country for helping Libyans to win their own freedom.
And always in our minds should be our service men and women now in Afghanistan. Their work is difficult and it is dangerous and we will never forget those who have fallen or let down those who are there today.
We are in Afghanistan to protect our own national security by helping Afghans to take control of theirs. We will build up the Afghan National Security Forces so that they can prevent Al Qaeda from returning as a threat to us and to our allies around the world. That means that after 2014 British forces will no longer be deployed in a combat role or in the numbers they are now. In the months ahead we will do all we can to promote reconciliation and improve governance in Afghanistan as Afghans increasingly take responsibility for their own security.
At the same time we will support democracy in Pakistan, stand firm against Iranian nuclear proliferation, and work for a secure Israel living alongside a Palestinian state with 1967 borders with agreed land swaps, a fair settlement for refugees and Jerusalem as the shared capital of both states. Time is running out for the two state solution and we urge the Israelis and Palestinians to return to negotiations.
We are witnessing a dramatic chain of events. In the Middle East the greatest outpouring of the desire for freedom since the end of the Cold War; in Pakistan the death of Osama Bin Laden; worldwide, al Qaeda wounded but dangerous, its hateful ideology exposed as a murderous sham by the peaceful protestors of Egypt and Tunisia.
In Britain we have always known that the demand for freedom is universal and supported those hungering for it. Our Party's view of foreign policy is guided by our liberal conservatism: our sense of optimism and unquenchable faith in human nature, coupled with respect for the history and culture of other nations.
In the 19th Century we were the nation that led the abolition of the slave trade.
In the 20th Century we alongside the US, through the Second World War and the Cold War stood firm, to set other nations free.
And in the 21st Century we will be true to that inheritance, standing up for the victims of tyranny everywhere, whether it be in Burma, in Syria or in Iran.
So we say to all governments in the Middle East and beyond that grievances must be met with dialogue and reform, not with repression.
Last night we and our European allies tabled a resolution in the UN Security Council calling on the Assad regime to stop the violence in Syria, after months of utterly unacceptable killings, torture and abuses. The decision of Russia and China to veto this resolution, and to side with the brutal regime rather than with the people of Syria is deeply mistaken and regrettable. We will redouble our efforts to work with other nations to increase the pressure on the regime wherever we can, and assure the people of Syria that they will not be forgotten
In the European Union, the United Nations and the G8 we call for a new, bold and ambitious relationship with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, so that as they grow in freedom they can join us in prosperity.
Our ambition is still greater: not only to make the right decisions for today but to create a new way of conducting foreign policy and give the country the means to do it for tomorrow.
We start with a clear sense of what went wrong under the Labour Government.
They strutted on the world stage while saddling our nation with debt; left a black hole in defence expenditure bigger than the entire defence budget, and signed away rights of this country to the European Union while neglecting what they were morally and politically obliged to do, to consult the people of this country;
They sidelined and ran down our Foreign Office, while running through four Defence Secretaries in four years and twelve Europe ministers in thirteen years, in an endless merry-go-round of Ministerial musical chairs; closed more than forty Embassies and posts and axed the Foreign Office language school;
They agonised about whether they were influential in Europe and the United States without being effective enough with either; failed to prepare for the aftermath in Iraq and connived in the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Two years ago we said the decision to release al-Megrahi was wrong, and now the whole world can see that we were right.
This Government is changing the way we conduct foreign policy in four ways.
First, we have created a National Security Council which brings together the key ministers, the Chief of the Defence Staff, the heads of the intelligence agencies and on Libya alone has already met almost sixty times. We work together every day, we consult the experts, our decisions are formally and properly made. Sofa government is out and cabinet government is back.
Second, we are connecting Britain up to the fastest growing regions of the world, launching an ambitious drive to get small businesses exporting, intensifying our links not only with China but with India, Indonesia, Turkey, Brazil and the rest of Latin America.
The truth is that the economic growth of the future is not going to come from government spending, nor is it going to come from more borrowing. It will come from trade and giving people the freedom to trade.
Third, our approach to the European Union is one in tune with the instincts of the British people.
We advance our national interest by preventing the EU from acting to our disadvantage but also by making sure it works to our advantage in trade and in freer markets, such as the new EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, worth up to half a billion pounds a year to our economy.
We are putting forward the real growth agenda, which is what Europe desperately needs: it does not need any more institutions, costly regulations, cumbersome directives or a single extra bureaucrat but it does need burdens on business lifted, the expansion of the Single Market and a passionate belief in the benefits of trade.
It is now acknowledged that when we said that joining the Euro would be a disaster for Britain, we were right.
When we said that Labour should not have let us get sucked in to the Eurozone bail-outs, we were right, and now thanks to David Cameron European bail-outs for Greece will not call on the British taxpayer.
When we said that the costs of the EU budget were out of control we were right, and now we have had unprecedented success in bringing it under control.
And when we said that no more areas of power should go to the EU we were right - and now thanks to the European Union Act 2011 by law that cannot happen without a referendum.
And we are just as right that the EU has more power in our national life than it should, and I believe as strongly as I ever have that when the right moments come this Party should set out to reduce it.
Fourteen years ago I predicted that the Eurozone would become a burning building with no exits. But because the Eurozone countries are our friends and neighbours, and because our prosperity and financial stability is tied with theirs, we must now support them in quenching the flames.
But we will never make the mistake of thinking that anyone else can be relied upon to stand up for the interests of Britain.
We will continue to work closely with our European allies, and in particular in our defence treaties with France we have forged the closest relationship with our neighbour since the Second World War. We pay tribute to the forceful and effective leadership of President Sarkozy.
Of course, our defence will always be anchored in our unbreakable alliance with the United States of America and in the primacy of NATO, and that is why when others proposed an EU military headquarters this summer, on behalf of the United Kingdom I vetoed it.
Fourth, not only are we promoting our own national interest we are increasing our ability to do so. We are building our own network of stronger alliances and expanding our diplomatic network for the first time in decades.
We are opening six Embassies and closing none. We are expanding our diplomatic presence in 22 countries. And we are breathing new life into old neglected alliances such as with Australia, New Zealand and Japan and working to reinvigorate that great institution the Commonwealth.
We will use our influence in the world to pursue own interest and that of common humanity: seeking a global deal on climate change, an International Arms Trade Treaty and a completed Doha Trade Round. And in November, I will host the first meeting of governments to address the challenges posed by cyberspace - to begin to discuss protecting our citizens against cyber crime and cyber attack while ensuring that the internet remains open to all.
For the first time in a decade, we have a government determined to restore the health of the Foreign Office, to rescue its finances, to re-open a language centre and to see through the biggest drive ever seen in Britain to build up traditional diplomatic skills of negotiation and analysis. It is the job of our diplomats to be immersed in the culture and history of other nations, not ensnared in management-speak.
If we have these skills as a nation when we want to negotiate a Treaty it will be done correctly; when we want a Trade deal it will be won; when we intervene overseas we will do so successfully; and so we will ensure that in twenty years time Britain's Foreign office will remain the best diplomatic service in the world.
We have brought new energy to British diplomacy, with Foreign Office ministers visiting 97 countries since the general election, and I have visited nearly 40 countries myself. I have been the first Foreign Secretary to visit Australia since Douglas Hurd, the first ever to visit a united Yemen, the first to make bilateral visits to Tunisia and New Zealand in thirty years.
British diplomacy is more energetic and more present in the world than it has been for decades.
So this is our foreign policy: giving Britain the leadership it needs to thrive as a confident, outward-looking, prosperous, bold nation, a reliable ally and military power, at the heart of international institutions; and pursuing a distinctive British foreign policy that supports our economy, builds up our skills and influence in the world and advances our values.
This Government will use Britain's unique network of alliances and partnerships, our Embassies, our development programmes, our cultural influence, our superb armed forces and diplomatic services, and our national talents to the very full in support of a future for this country that is strong, safe, and prosperous.