- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Apr 1986, p. 402-410
- Day, His Excellency, Sir Derek, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Britain identifying a role for itself in the world, commensurate with its economic potential and drawing upon the still-considerable resources of its people. From whence that role is derived. Aspect of Britain's national and international life where a force and influence is still exerted. Some remarks about military power and defence. The role of Britain in NATO. The Falklands. Military contributions to peace by Britain. Britain's founding and continuing role in the United Nations. Membership in the Commonwealth. Britain as members of the European Community. Britain support of multilateral trade negotiations. Britain's aid programme. Economic outlook. The bank and insurance service industries in Britain. Looking ahead to the 21st century. Examples of industrial progress: British Aerospace and the UK Institute for Oceanographic Studies. The arts. Britain using its influence for the common good.
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- 24 Apr 1986
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- Full Text
- BRITAIN: A FORCE IN TODAY'S WORLD
April 24, 1986
His Excellency, Sir Derek Day, K.C.M.G. British High Commissioner to Canada
The President, Harry T. Seymour, Chairman
Your Excellencies, Mr. Consul General, Reverend Sir, distinguished head table guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: It is my pleasure to welcome as our guest speaker today His Excellency, Sir Derek Day, K.C.M.G., British High Commissioner to Canada.
Born in London, Sir Derek Day was educated at Hurstpierpoint College in Sussex and St. Catherine's College, Cambridge, graduating in history. Before attending university, he had served as a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery from 1946 to 1948.
Upon graduation in 1951, Sir Derek Day joined the Foreign Service as the Desk Officer for the Council of Europe. As he accepted positions of increasing responsibility over the next 18 years, he found he was assigned to posts in Tel Aviv, Rome, Washington, Nicosia, Addis Ababa, Salisbury (now Harare) and, of course, London-on occasion for debriefing.
Early in 1980, he was appointed Deputy Under Secretary of State with overall responsibility for relations with Africa, North and South America and the Caribbean.
His Excellency was directly concerned with developments leading to the patriation of the Canadian Constitution in
1982. From 1982 to 1984, he served in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as Deputy Under Secretary of State, responsible for the organisation and administration of the diplomatic service. He was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1973 and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in the June 1984 Queen's Birthday Honours List.
Sir Derek and his wife Sheila have three sons and a daughter.
His Excellency has always been a keen sportsman. He played field hockey for England, and was a member of the Bronze Medal British team at the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952.
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to introduce His Excellency, Sir Derek Day, K.C.M.G., British High Commissioner to Canada, who will address us on the subject, "Britain: A Force in Today's World."
Sir Derek Day
I have chosen as the theme of my remarks today "Britain: A Force in Today's World." To some, this may seem a somewhat strange title. You may perhaps argue that Britain is not a true force in today's world. Or, more generously, that Britain is nothing like the force it was. That may well be true, if one thinks of force in the conventional, and limited, sense of a major military power, or a dominating economic presence. It is also true, if you compare our situation today to that of the 1920s and 1930s. Then, as I and some of you remember, much of our schoolboy atlas was coloured red, indicating a political and economic empire upon which the sun never set. Some of you may also have in mind the pointed remark of (American statesman) Dean Acheson, made in the mid-60s, that "Britain had lost an empire but had not yet found a role." -
Whether or not that remark was justified then (and I believe that it contained more than an element of truth), much has happened in the world, and in Britain, in these past 20 years since Dean Acheson spoke. We have not regained an empire, but we have, as I hope to demonstrate, identified a role for ourselves in the world, commensurate with our economic potential and drawing upon the still-considerable resources of our people.
' That role does not depend upon force in the conventional sense, military and economic, to which I referred earlier. It derives from a readiness to exercise an influence in world affairs, from our deep reservoir of human resources, and from a wealth of experience that has been able to adapt to the changing circumstances in which we and the other nations find ourselves.
'Let me therefore direct your attention to certain aspects of our national and international life where Britain still exerts an influence, a force, and, I hope you will agree, a force for good.
I referred earlier to military power. Britain, of course, makes no pretension of being a military super-power. That privilege, or burden, rests upon the Soviet Union and the United States. But Britain remains a power to be reckoned with, and one that any potential aggressor will ignore at its peril.
Our defence, not only of our physical territory but also of our political, social and economic system, rests, as does yours, upon the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We take our obligations and responsibilities to that alliance seriously. Our armed forces are amongst the most professional, best-equipped and best-trained of all NATO forces. We spend more on defence, in absolute terms, and per capita, than any other ally except the United States. We spend (by NATO definitions) a higher proportion (46 per cent) of our defence budget on equipment than any other ally. Over 90 per cent of our forces are assigned to NATO. About half of the combat strength of the British Army, 55,000 men, is permanently stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany, together with ten thousand airmen. The Royal Navy contributes the lion's share of NATO's readily available maritime forces in the East Atlantic and the Channel. The RAF contributes eleven squadrons to NATO's air forces in the Central Region.
Our capabilities, although concentrated in NATO, are not confined to that area. As the Falklands Islands episode (defeat of Argentinian invaders) demonstrated so clearly, our forces are also capable, at short notice, of operating with total success at great distances from home in the most arduous and adverse circumstances. The Falklands operation (in the South Atlantic) was equivalent to mounting operations in Sydney, Australia, from Vancouver, with a small staging post on Christmas Island in mid-Pacific. The powers of organisation and improvisation that made such an operation successful have not been lost.
The Falklands provided a vivid demonstration of the) value and effectiveness of the Harrier aircraft, the West's only operational vertical take-off and landing aircraft, developed and manufactured in the United Kingdom, and now adopted by others, notably the United States, as part of their own military complement.
Less dramatically, we make our military contribution to peace in many parts of the world. Like Canada, Britain contributes to United Nations peace-keeping operations in Cyprus (where we have the largest single contingent) and the Middle East. Our forces, at the request of the government of Belize, help protect that country from external aggression, thus bringing stability to one corner of Central America. We have forces in Hong Kong and Brunei. Some seven hundred British military personnel provide military training assistance in about thirty countries. British military training teams have been working in Zimbabwe and Uganda, at the invitation of the governments of those countries, to assist in the formation and training of their national forces. So, although our military armoury may not match that of the super-powers, our presence in Central Europe and in many other parts of the world, makes a significant contribution to peace and stability.
--The ability to exert a constructive influence in the world today does not, however, depend solely, or even primarily, upon military strength or upon membership in a defensive ,alliance. Influence is exerted through other means and institutions. Britain continues to play a leading role in such institutions, and notably the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the European Economic Community.
"',Britain, like Canada, is a founder-member of the United Nations. Since the U.N.'s inception more than forty years ago, Britain has been a permanent member of the Security Council. This is more of a responsibility than a privilege. It obliges us to follow events and developments around the world with care and attention so that we are able, when issues are brought before the Council, to contribute knowledgeably and constructively to the debate. We are able (perhaps better able for not being a super-power) to seek practical and honourable solutions and help to defuse potentially threatening situations.
Our membership in the Commonwealth and in the European Community enables us to sound out and influence the views of our friends and partners in these institutions. As with Canada, whose reputation for constructive involvement stands so high, we are often able to steer the discussion and debate in the United Nations into more fruitful channels.
We can, and do, play a similar role in the Commonwealth and Europe, two groupings that comprise a cross-section of our world society and many of the leading industrial nations.
The Commonwealth has been written off many times as an irrelevant talking-shop. And yet, time and again it emerges from the shadows to make its own unique contribution. Many institutions, if they did not already exist, would have to be invented. No one, I suggest, would be able to invent the Commonwealth if it did not already exist. Yet in large and small issues, it is there as a voice for sanity and constructive understanding.
Today the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons provides probably the best chance for many years for peaceful and orderly progress in South Africa. Britain, with Canada, is a member of that group. Five years ago, the Common- . wealth heads of government, meeting in Lusaka, paved the way for the British government's successful resolution of the seemingly insoluble problem of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.
These are the highlights. But all the time the Commonwealth, with Britain and Canada as the major contributors, is quietly working away on youth exchanges, economic development schemes, technical assistance, and a whole range of other activities. Through the agency of the Commonwealth, we can both bring real and effective influence to bear.
The same opportunities and challenges face us as members of the European Community. We have sought to en--sure, with some success, that the Community remains an outward-looking institution, dedicated to an open-trading system and not one that shelters behind a protectionist wall for its industries.
We fully support the next round of multilateral trade negotiations. We also support, politically and financially, the provision of development assistance to the many African, Pacific and Caribbean countries that form part of the LOME Agreement. Through the Lome Convention, the European Community provides freer access to exports from developing countries than is offered by any other industrialised nation. The growing strength of political co-operation in the Community provides us with yet a further opportunity to make a distinctive European voice heard in international affairs.
It is not only through these multilateral institutions that we are able to make a contribution. For example, our own bilateral aid programme benefits some 130 nations. This year, over £1.2 billion (about C $2.5 million) will be available for spending, with further increases planned for the next two years. Three quarters of that aid goes to our traditional partners and friends in the Commonwealth. And when emergencies strike, we have the will and the ability to respond.
A year ago, at the height of the Ethiopian famine, Hercules aircraft of the Royal Air Force were despatched to Addis Ababa where, for many months, they operated in difficult and dangerous conditions, delivering grain, much of it Canadian, at treetop level to beleaguered and starving villagers.
But no country can hope to exert constructive influence outside its own shores unless it can operate from a sound economic basis. Here the outlook for Britain is bright. We are now entering our sixth successive year of growth at about three per cent a year. Even more important, 1985 was the third successive year in which we secured the elusive combination of steady growth and low inflation. Let me reinforce this good news by mentioning just some of the trends referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, in his recent budget statement.
In 1985 as a whole, output in Britain grew by a further three point five per cent, the highest rate of growth in the European Community, and higher than the United States. Our balance of payments was in surplus for the sixth year in succession, by some £3 billion (approximately C $6 billion). There has been a remarkable turnround in productivity. In the six years to 1979, Britain's rate of growth of manufacturing productivity at less than one per cent, was the lowest of the five major industrial nations. In the six years since 1979, our annual rate of growth of manufacturing productivity, at three and a half per cent, has been second only to Japan.
Thus, the economic outlook is good, and 1986 should be another year of steady growth and low inflation.
And I hope it will not be regarded as presumptous if I recall, to an audience in Toronto, that the City of London still has the greatest concentration of banks in the world (responsible for about a quarter of total international bank lending), the world's biggest insurance market (with about one fifth of the international market), and a stock exchange with a larger list of securities than any other exchange.
And London is still the principal international centre for transactions in a large number of commodities. The "big bang" due in October this year will keep London at the forefront in innovative financial developments.
Against this economic background, our industries, our businessmen, and our scientists, are taking advantage of these favourable trends. They are looking ahead to the world of the twenty-first century. British Aerospace is developing plans for a revolutionary horizontal take-off and landing vehicle (HOTOL, as it is known), which will carry passengers from London to Australia in forty-five minutes. This aircraft would take off and land like a normal jetliner on a normal commercial runway. The secret of its propulsion is that it sucks in oxygen and blasts out hot air, something that diplomats, or even politicians, are sometimes accused of.
That is something for the future, but no more improbable than Concorde (supersonic aircraft) would have seemed to us not many years ago. There are many other current developments that demonstrate the inventiveness and creativity of the United Kingdom. The world's largest array of wind machines, seventy-five in number, now operating in Northern California near San Francisco, has been developed and built by a British company. Japan's national public telecommunications network has recently placed an order for highspeed diagnostic and control systems with a British company, comparable surely to selling a refrigerator to an Eskimo.
And in another exciting development, the UK Institutefor Oceanographic Studies has produced a device called GLORIA (Geological Long Range Inclined Asdic), capable of mapping the ocean floor in detail and at a speed (over twenty thousand square kilometres a day) that had not hitherto been possible.
Progress of this kind is based on the solid tradition that has brought Nobel prizes for science to sixty-eight British citizens, a number only exceeded by the United States. Before I close, there is one other aspect of our national life that deserves a mention because it, too, illustrates the influence Britain still exerts around the world. I refer to the arts. Someone recently suggested to me that PBS (Public Broadcasting System in the U.S.), as applied to television, stood for "Principally British Shows." Certainly anyone who views regularly the programmes carried on the PBS network may be excused for thinking these terms. The quality and variety of the production of the British television industry commands widespread appeal, whether it be "Yes, Minister" or the BBC Shakespeare series, "Coronation Street" or "Brideshead Revisited."
Similarly with the theatre and cinema, music, painting and sculpture, literature or the world of pop music. In all these media, Britain continues to demonstrate both originality and creativity. And the BBC World Service is probably listened to by more policymakers and opinion-formers around the world than any other comparable service.
I return, therefore, to my original theme. Britain can no longer impose its wishes and views on others, nor has it any desire to do so. We cannot on our own prevail, in global terms, militarily or economically, but then who can? We recognise our dependence upon, and our interdependence with, others, and, in particular, our allies and friends. But in the new international framework within which we are all obliged to operate, I hope that I may have demonstrated that Britain does have a role to play, that we have the capacity to exercise are influence, and that we have the will to use that influence for the common good.
The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Col. Robert H. Hilborn, President of The Empire Club Foundation, and a distinguished Past President of The Empire Club.