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Saturday, 17 February, 2001, 18:25 GMT
Labour: Foreign affairs and defence

Find out more about Labour Party policies on foreign affairs and defence.

When Labour entered government in 1997 it introduced what ministers called an "ethical dimension" into foreign policy making.

One of its first changes was to launch an annual human rights audit of foreign policy.


Labour's 1997 manifesto included a pledge to follow up on the Scott report into the arms to Iraq affair with tougher legislation governing export controls.

The 2000 Queen's speech included a pledge to bring a draft Export Control and Non-Proliferation Bill before Parliament which the party said would modernise the rules governing arms sales by introducing new controls on the trafficking and brokering of weapons.

The party's 2001 manifesto includes a similar pledge to legislate for a licensing system to control the activities of arms brokers and dealers.


Labour has not set a policy on the US's controversial National Missile Defence programme which would require the deployment of new US military radar and communications in the UK.

Labour says that if it is returned to government it will wait for a formal request from Washington before making a decision.

Its 2001 manifesto says that the party wants to encourage the US to work closely with Nato allies and, at the same time, "pursue dialogue with Russia on a new framework for strategic arms control". The manifesto does not clarify whether or not the party believes that the current arms control regime is no longer workable in the light of the missile defence plans.


The party supported the Middle East peace process under the guidance of the former Clinton administration but wants a more prominent role for the UK and the European Union in the region.

Following February's air strikes against Iraq, Labour said that it would review the 11-year-old sanctions to make sure that they would "minimise the humanitarian impact on ordinary Iraqis but "maximise the inability of Saddam Hussein to wage war on his own people, the region and the wider world."

In May, the UK and United States proposed to the United Nations an end to all controls on civilian trade with Iraq.

Under the plan, Iraq would be able to trade commercial goods freely, but strict checks would remain in place to prevent Saddam Hussein obtaining anything deemed military or weapons-related.

Labour has sent British troops into Sierra Leone, a former British colony, to halt the advance of rebel forces and stabilise the democratically-elected government.

The party supports a continued British involvement in training Sierra Leone's military because "it is in Britain's interests" to protect democracy in west Africa.

The party also supports continued involvement in the Balkans, saying that the commitment of the British military to the Kosovo conflict was the appropriate response to a humanitarian catastrophe. It says that the UK has a major role to play in furthering the cause of reconstruction and reconciliation in the Balkans.

Labour has sought close ties with Russia's President Vladmir Putin saying that it will be beneficial for British business.


Labour established a separate Cabinet-level Department for International Development on taking power in 1997.

The party put forward a white paper on Globalisation as part of its last Queen's Speech, though the legislation subsequently fell following the calling of the general election. The manifesto reiterates that the party wants to "shape globalisation so that it works better for the world's poor" but there is no specific pledge of legislation.

The white paper called for ways to make the global economy work for the poor, arguing that by lifting more people out of poverty it will benefit us all.

The party says it wants to look at the impact that the international trading system has on poorer nations, especially in the textiles, agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

Labour has announced that it wants to create an international fund to help provide developing countries with cheap vaccines against childhood diseases.

The party says that the "jubilee fund" would also be used to give 75m children from Commonwealth countries access to primary education for the first time.

Labour also wants to see international financial institutions place poverty reduction at the centre of all their assistance programmes.

However, the party rejects calls for the abolition of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, saying that they should be reformed instead.

Labour committed government to providing an extra 1.6bn over three years for overseas aid.

Labour has already pledged to raise its contribution to eliminating world poverty to 0.3% of GDP from the current level of 0.26%.

The party says that it aims to eventually reach the United Nations' aid target of 0.7% of GDP.


Labour in government commissioned the "Strategic Defence Review" to examine the future of the armed forces in a post-Cold War world.

That review has led to a continuing remodelling of the forces to allow them to react quickly to regionalised conflicts around the world.

The policy included a raft of cuts but in 2000 the Labour government pledged new money to the military which it said would help it complete the changes required under the SDR.

The party strongly supports the development of a European Rapid Reaction Force which would pool European Union forces to undertake missions where Nato does not want to take part.

The party says that Nato must remain the central plank of European defence policy.


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