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Mr. Hendrick: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the fact that the EU may consult NATO effectively gives NATO the choice of being involved or not?

Mr. Howard: I have a good deal of respect for the hon. Gentleman, and I cannot believe that he means what he has just said. That is a ludicrous proposition. The European Union has the choice. It then consults NATO, but the EU can refuse to agree with what NATO says. It can consult NATO and reject what NATO says.

If, indeed, there is to be a joint command, and if the planning structure, as the Prime Minister assured the President, is to be within NATO, why on earth is a Political and Security Committee needed? Why is a military committee needed? Why is a military staff needed outside NATO, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) pointed out? Why are all those bodies needed outside NATO?

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir R. Whitney)--European defence co-operation needs to be strengthened. That is right, but it could and should be strengthened within NATO. All the command structures could be established within NATO, and none of the problems would arise.

Mr. Redwood: I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. Did he notice in the Minister's statement and elsewhere in briefings by representatives of the Government that they have conceded the point and moved on? They accept that the words of the treaty and the annexe set out an entirely new and distinct EU structure, but they are now telling the American allies and others not to worry, because significant sums will not be spent on strategic and intelligence command and control, so that will never amount to much. That is a different and rather lame kind of defence.

Mr. Howard: My right hon. Friend makes an important point, with which I entirely agree.

The arrangements can be tested in another way. The House of Commons Select Committee on Defence reported on these matters. The Committee suggested that it was important that DSACEUR, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, should have the right--the right--to attend all meetings of the European military committee. Comparing that report with what appears in the arrangements set out in the treaty of Nice, the House of Commons Library points out that the level of involvement of DSACEUR with EU bodies appears to fall short of the recommendation made by the Defence Committee in its report.

That is absolutely right. DSACEUR's level of involvement certainly does fall short. The treaty provides that DSACEUR may be invited to meetings of the military committee when that committee considers it appropriate, but he has no such right to attend, as was recommended by the Select Committee.

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The United States Defence Secretary was right when he said that the arrangements put at risk something special. It is something that the Government should have held special. By putting it at risk, they have rendered one of the greatest of all the many disservices that they have rendered to this country.

12.29 am

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill): The appropriate response to the first point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) is that the proposals simply do not transfer the whole of the Western European Union into the European Union. The WEU has a range of responsibilities, including the Petersberg tasks, which are being transferred to the EU. However, it has other responsibilities--I refer especially to article 5 of the Brussels treaty--which are rightly not being transferred. I do not think that any party wants collective defence to be undertaken by the EU. Thus, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's first point, on which he built the rest of his speech, is frankly bogus.

I was delighted to hear the speech made by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Sir R. Whitney), who introduced a more sober tone into the Opposition's approach to the debate. He was absolutely correct to say that this country is not alone in defending NATO. There are other EU countries that also attach greater importance to NATO than to the EU. As I said, it is not collective defence that is being transferred to the EU, but the Petersberg tasks, which relate to humanitarian missions, of which there have been several; indeed, there have been far too many in the recent history of Europe. In future, that responsibility is to be undertaken by the EU.

Dr. Julian Lewis: If a Petersberg task is being undertaken, forces will be siphoned off from those previously allocated to NATO in order to discharge it. How can NATO discharge the tasks that remain within its remit if it has depleted forces? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting instead that European countries will spend more money and use larger defence budgets to add to the strength of their armed forces? If so, will he tell us which countries will do so?

Mr. Davis: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I recognise the importance of his comments and accept that forces cannot be used twice in two separate theatres. To pretend otherwise would be ridiculous and deceitful, so I entirely accept his point. However, the new arrangements do not change that situation. NATO can have more than one crisis to deal with. [Interruption.] I should like to finish my point; the hon. Gentleman asked a fair question and I am trying to provide a direct answer. The arrangements do not change the reality. Previously, if two crises occurred at the same time, NATO would have had to choose which one to prioritise. If two crises occur at the same time under the new arrangements, NATO will still have to decide whether to give priority to a crisis that is not being dealt with by the EU or whether to allow some forces to continue to be used by the EU.

Let me give the hon. Gentleman a case in point, as such circumstances are not unprecedented. Four years ago, the need arose for Operation Alba. The United Kingdom did

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not participate in the operation, but several of our NATO allies and some non-NATO European countries did so. If a bigger crisis had arisen that required those forces, the Italians, French and others taking part would have given priority to NATO. [Interruption.] I shall deal with the hon. Gentleman's second point in a moment. I have tried to answer his first question, as he did not receive a reply the first time he asked it.

The hon. Gentleman's second question was about which countries would increase defence expenditure. That is another fair question, of which I am not afraid. Let me give him one good example. I have no doubt that Italy needs to increase its defence expenditure considerably. Currently, it does not define such expenditure in the same way as other NATO members. By NATO's assessment, it does not make a reasonable contribution to the collective defence of Europe and to NATO. There are other examples, but that is one of the most glaring. It does not help the debate to refuse to deal with such points.

I should like now to continue with my main remarks, as I wish to put an important point to the Minister. Many of my hon. Friends and I support the Government's actions to enable the EU to make decisions to deal with the Petersberg tasks and to have the capacity and means of implementing the policy. However, many of us are worried about a defect that the documents do not mention. For several other defence organisations, not least NATO, we have had to create an assembly of parliamentarians to scrutinise common policies, assets, activities and purpose. Members of national Parliaments meet for that purpose, as they do in the Western European Union Assembly. A defect in the arrangements that we are considering is the lack of provision for scrutiny of common activities that are undertaken by the European Union on defence. I am talking not about accountability but about scrutiny.

I regret that our Government have not succeeded in persuading our partners in the EU to implement some of the ideas that the Prime Minister and my hon. Friend the Minister have proposed for establishing an assembly, which will bring national parliamentarians together to scrutinise, exchange information and liaise. I appreciate that our Ministers cannot create such an assembly on their own, but I hope that they will continue to insist that a democratic organisation should have a democratic assembly that brings together the parliamentarians of all the countries involved. I hope that all hon. Members will support that.

12.36 am

Mr. William Cash (Stone): The European security and defence policy is a sort of satire, reminiscent of "Gulliver's Travels" and the tales of Baron von Munchhausen. It is a myth; a voyage in time and space, which is completely at variance with judgment, experience and reality. It is doomed to failure, and is yet another example of lions--in this case, the United States and the United Kingdom--being led by donkeys. As Wellington said of his allies in the Peninsular war:

As Churchill and the British discovered with the Maginot line, such arrangements are all spin and no delivery.

The fault lies with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary. I have raised the point with the Prime Minister over Feira, and with the Foreign Secretary and the

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Secretary of State for Defence whenever they have returned from summits. I have challenged them on every proposition about the autonomy of a European defence policy, its structure and the arrangement that assumes that they will be in the driving seat. On no occasion have they been able to reply with confidence.

The Minister has been parachuted into the job with no prospect of reaching the ground without an unpleasant jolt.

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