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William Hague identifies the top three changes he would make to foreign policy

HAGUE WILLIAM CLOSE-UP Last week we published a first tranche and second tranche of shadow foreign secretary William Hague's answers to the questions you recently wanted to be put to him.

Here he replies to some of the general questions you posed about his portfolio, starting by identifying the top three changes he would make to foreign policy.

ConservativeHome: Name three specific things you would change about British foreign policy.

William Hague: First, we would create a fully fledged National Security Council, comprising all relevant senior ministers and chaired by the Prime Minister. This would be a decisive break from the sofa style decision making of the last twelve years, which has often led to decisions being made without all the necessary information being considered or understood. Second, we would be firmly opposed to the greater centralisation of power in EU institutions, which reduces democratic accountability in Britain. Third, we would give a greater emphasis than in recent years to the role of the Commonwealth, a unique network covering a quarter of the world’s population. These are a few examples but I will be making a major speech defining our whole approach to foreign policy before Parliament rises for the summer recess.

CH: It is well noted that your political hero is William Wilberforce, famous for his struggle against the slave trade. What contemporary worldwide struggle do you think is as vital as that and how do you propose a Conservative government would back that struggle?

William Hague: Slavery still exists today in the pernicious modern form we know as human trafficking, which Wilberforce would find as abhorrent as the practices he campaigned against to the very end of his life. Since 2006 I have backed the ‘Stop the Traffik’ Campaign, which is a global movement against the sale of human beings. We will only start to challenge the traffickers’ dominance when we secure the support of governments, voluntary organisations, and, importantly, the public at large. Public opinion is a powerful force, as Wilberforce demonstrated two hundred years ago. There is also much Governments can do to disrupt human trafficking and increase the risks to those who engage in it.

CH: In view of the failure of many of our NATO allies to send combat troops to Afghanistan, what future do you forsee for this organisation?

William Hague: NATO remains the cornerstone of our security and the Conservative Party remains a NATO-first party. NATO’s reputation has suffered in recent years, and the proliferation of national caveats in Afghanistan has been a worrying development.  Several steps need to be taken to address the weaknesses: NATO needs to be modernised; the national caveats issue needs to be addressed; a common NATO operational fund needs to be set up to ensure the fair sharing of the burden between member states, and the relationship between the EU and NATO must be better arranged, specifically where ESDP and NATO meet.

CH: Do you think the UN Security Council needs reform and if so, how?

William Hague: Undoubtedly, but the difficulty is securing it. The UN Security Council still reflects the outcome of the Second World War. The less its composition corresponds to today’s real distribution of power, the less legitimate it will seem, and the more open to challenge. We support reform which gives a permanent seat on the Security Council to Japan, India, Germany, Brazil as well as permanent representation for Africa on the Council, although we recognise that these reforms will take time to secure.

CH: Would you support British Overseas Territories having representation at Westminster if they would like it?

William Hague: British Overseas Territories are not fully integrated into the United Kingdom in the manner of many French colonies and therefore the question of representation at Westminster does not arise. I do believe, however, that the Overseas Territories are owed a clearer sense of leadership and responsibility from the British government. I have already signalled to the Foreign Office that ministers in a Conservative government will take much more interest in this area of policy than Labour ministers have ever appeared to.

CH: I greatly support your belief in Britain's role in the Commonwealth. However, it seems to me we are still living off/taking for granted the relationships built up by previous generations. What more can we do to build on these relationships and prevent traditionally anglophile countries looking to China and elsewhere?

William Hague: It is precisely because I agree that the Commonwealth has been neglected by the current government that I have spent so much time talking about it. Britain can never hope to be the exclusive partner of these countries and it is to be expected that they develop links with other countries. But we shouldn’t squander the many opportunities that the Commonwealth brings or overlook the fact that it has a role to play.


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