Examination of witnesses (Questions 60-79)
WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001
HOON MP AND
60. One key feature of NATO is that the operational
language is English. This is crucially important. Language training
is a very important part of NATO in joint operations. Have you
perceived any risk at all that English might be challenged? I
am not just being nationalistic here because it is the language
also of our American and Canadian allies. Is there any risk at
all that English might be challenged as the operational language
for the European Rapid Reaction Force and European forces?
(Mr Hoon) I preferred the first version of your question.
I have not perceived any risk to it.
61. How much independent input is the European
Union likely to provide to the institutions supporting the ERRF?
(Mr Hatfield) The key thing that is autonomous is
the ability to take political decisions. The only independent
input that the EU will have in terms of machinery is a small-ish
military staff, about the same size as the WEU had which has been
abolished, which can frame the questions that will be sent off
to the NATO planning staffs for preparing options for them to
consider. Beyond that, it will depend on drawing on capabilities
either from NATO or from the EU nations, so there will not be
anything else independent being created for the EU as such.
62. Are other NATO allies double hatting their
representatives on the Military Committee?
(Mr Hatfield) I think it is 9 out of 11.
63. So they are double hatting?
(Mr Hatfield) With two exceptions at the moment, Belgium
64. Will the DSACEUR have the right to attend
the Military Committee?
(Mr Hatfield) In general, yes.
65. What does that mean?
(Mr Hatfield) He is not a full member because, as
in the case of NATO, it is a committee that is formed of the national
chiefs of defence at the highest level. For normal business, he
would attend, especially where he was being consulted on aspects
which are his responsibility overlapping between NATO and the
EU. There may be some businessfor example, if the EU Military
Committee was making another selection for its next chairmanwhere
you would not expect him to attend, but for most business he would
be open to attend. That is written down in the documents that
have already been prepared.
66. He will only be able to attend when he is
(Mr Hatfield) He will normally be present. He is not
a member of the committee.
67. He has no right to attend; he has to be
(Mr Hatfield) So does anybody else who is not a chief
of defence for one of the countries concerned.
68. So the DSACEUR does not have a right to
(Mr Hatfield) Correct, but he will normally be invited.
I do not know what you mean by "normally".
"Normally" can mean many things.
(Mr Hatfield) For most meetings and for all meetings
where it actually impinges on his responsibility for European
forces in the EU and in NATO, he will be invited, but some aspects
of businessfor example, the election of a new chairman
of committeeare simply a matter for the committee themselves
and do not directly affect the DSACEUR.
70. We had just started to talk about the WEU
and we would like to know its current status and that of its dependent
(Mr Hoon) There was a decision that in time the WEU
will be wound down. That decision was announced in November 2000.
There is a transitional phase. It has been decided that the Netherlands
presidency will work on that process to determine what happens
to its residual functions by July this year. There is a process
but some parts of that processnot least the Assembly, for
exampleare not yet determined.
71. That being the case, when would you hope
to see the functions of the WEU settled within the EU structure?
Is there a time limit?
(Mr Hoon) There is not. For example, the Assembly
is one of those areas where I am not sure it is wholly appropriate
for governments to determine that matter. I made it clear previously
in response to parliamentary questions that it seems to me more
a matter for the members of the Assembly to determine whether
they still wish to continue to provide that kind of parliamentary
advice to governments that they currently make available. That
is a debate that I know is taking place amongst members of the
Assembly and their colleagues in the European Parliament.
72. That being so, I accept what you say that
it is for them to decide they are not going to meet as an Assembly,
but what will form the alternative to that democratic input to
the whole process?
(Mr Hoon) I have resisted being drawn on that because,
given the curiosities of the United Kingdom's constitution, I
am both a Member of Parliament and a member of the executive.
That is a relatively unusual position in modern constitutions
and therefore it does seem to me, since you invite me here not
as a Member of Parliament but as a member of the executive, that
that is essentially a parliamentary matter for the members of
the Assembly to advise on. Ultimately, if there is to be a treaty
change between the governments, that would have to come to the
executive, but I do think it is right that in the first place
it ought to be for the members of the Assembly and relevant Members
of Parliament to give advice on what sort of structures they think
appropriate. Obviously, that will be a view that we would take
very strongly into account.
73. Do you believe that it is important that
there is that accountability process within the whole new structure?
(Mr Hoon) I would rather use the word "advice"
because I am accountable to the House of Commons, as a member
of the executive, for decisions I take as Secretary of State for
Defence. That is where my accountability lies and that is very
strongly the view that I adhere to. I do see a role for broader
thinking and advice that can come from a parliamentary assembly
of the kind that we are discussing, but I do not think it is strictly
the case that I would be accountable to such an assembly.
74. Turning to wider questions, the rapid reaction
force is about troops, tactical operations, peace keeping and
peace enforcement but Britain and France are both nuclear weapons
powers. Do you see any possibility further down the road of the
EU having a nuclear component to its forces?
(Mr Hoon) No.
75. Turkey has been mentioned, but there are
six non-EU allies involved in this. How are they going to be integrated
in the political/military decision making process?
(Mr Hoon) We have indicated a range of mechanisms
by which there would be regular consultation and meetings between
the 15 and the 6. We have discussed this afternoon the capabilities
conference and all six were present in a meeting immediately afterwards,
where they also indicated the force contributions that they could
make available to any rapid reaction force as and when required.
There will be an extensive process of ensuring the involvement
of all six in the discussions and deliberations that are made
by the 15.
76. Do you think that the whole ESDP process
is bolstering or straining transatlantic links, specifically with
the Bush administration?
(Mr Hoon) I think it is very considerably strengthening
the arrangements because the Americans have long argued understandably
that they want to see a much greater contribution to military
capability from European nations than they have seen in the past.
I know that it is something that this Committee has been also
concerned about. In those circumstances, by setting out this quite
deliberate goal of improving our military capability, we are,
as I have said to you before, both improving our ability to act
as a European nation but crucially improving our contribution
and our capability within NATO.
77. I accept that that is your intention. To
what extent do you think you are succeeding in getting that version
of what is being done accepted in America? I particularly have
in mind some of the comments of Defence Secretary Rumsfeld when
he has pointed out, "We have so much at stake with that Alliance"meaning
NATO"we need to be vigilant to see that we do not
do anything that would inject an instability into the Alliance.
It is a lot easier to put something at risk than it is to fashion
it in the first place." He would not be making these sorts
of comments, would he, unless there was some degree of doubt in
(Mr Hoon) I think he is setting out quite rightly
the concerns that all of us have to ensure that this is about
improving our capabilities. I do not want to trade Donald Rumsfeld
quotes with you but I had a long conversation with him last week.
He said, for example, not just last week, "I favour efforts
that strengthen NATO. Actions that enhance capabilities can strengthen
the alliance. The question is the extent to which the participants
in the European force desire to increase their capabilities."
These are all very supportive of what we are trying to do, which
is to improve military capability.
78. He did famously say that the devil is in
the detail. You were quoted on 22 March in the press as having
said, "We have made it absolutely clear that those details
are details we have to get right to ensure that European defence
is wholly consistent with improving capabilities in the NATO context."
That seems to be an admission that if you do not get those details
right you might fail to ensure that this scheme is improving and
strengthening NATO as you wish.
(Mr Hoon) I agree with the quotations that you have
(Mr Hoon) And of course there is always a risk in
a complex world that things can go wrong. I think it would be
foolish for me to sit here and pretend otherwise. I am absolutely
confident that we are on the right track, that the agreements
that we have achieved so far are the right agreements, that they
are going in the right direction and that ultimately we will be
successful. I recognise that it could go wrong; I just do not
think it will.
3 See also letter from Secretary of State, p 17. Back