Lords debates UK’s global role, emerging powers and new markets

06 December 2012

Members of the Lords debated the UK’s global role, emerging powers and new markets yesterday (Thursday 6 December).

Lord Howell of Guildford (Conservative), opened the debate, saying: ‘My first proposition is that in the past few years, the international landscape has totally and utterly changed. Huge new markets have emerged, and new economic powers and new centres of political power have arisen.’

He continued: ‘My second contention is that these new markets are going to be conquered by, as much as anything, networking and soft power... I do not mean just the British Council and the BBC World Service, although they are of course extremely important. I mean the whole network of relationships that we luckily possess, but hopelessly underuse, with the Commonwealth countries.’

He went on to make his third point, saying: ‘here at home we have to adjust our institutions and practices to these new conditions still further. For a start, we have to upgrade our trade and export machinery.’

He made his fourth point: ‘...a new international pattern has also led to and created a new Middle East. Regional powers... are already playing a central role as new partners in addressing the intractable issues of the area.’

Lord Howell then made his fifth and final point: ‘the latest energy revolution... looks set to bring benefits all around the world and the prospect of enrichment to a stream of countries.’

Baroness Morris of Bolton (Conservative) spoke about trade, saying: ‘I also see it as our job to promote the virtues of trade itself. Promoting trade is a British tradition. As an island nation, our prosperity and global influence were built on commerce and exploration... Free trade also serves as one of the most effective ways to build trust and co-operation between countries and underpins the development of civilised, peaceful relations between them.’

Lord Alderdice (Liberal Democrat), contributed to the debate, saying: ‘We did not become powerful in the past because of size but because we looked at what we needed to do in the context of the time. Now we have a new context and we can play a significant role. Just look at how well we did with the Olympic Games - not only in organising them but in competing in them - not because we were big but because we focused and had confidence.’

Lord Judd (Labour), discussed soft power, saying: ‘...soft diplomacy, as it is sometimes called, is crucial. That is where we cannot emphasise often enough the role of the BBC and its Overseas Service. We must not let that become diluted... The quality of news in this country is improving because we are getting more international input into ordinary news broadcasts. That is good for British people to understand the issues, but it must not be at the expense of the expertise, depth of knowledge and analysis that used to be in the old Overseas Services.’

Further information

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