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The Second Deputy Chairman: I call Mr. William Cash.

Mr. Cash: I am sorry, Sir Michael, for not rising immediately to my feet, but I was distracted by a representative of the usual channels. My eagerness to engage in the debate means that such tardiness is very unusual for me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip–Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) has already made it clear that the amendment deals with a matter of immense importance. It is a matter that I have raised with the Prime Minister and the former Foreign Secretary, now the Leader of the House, several times. At issue is the movement towards a European army represented by the establishment of the rapid reaction force.

My noble Friend Lord Tebbit used to be the Member of Parliament for Chingford. He and I opposed the then Conservative Government—our own Government—over the Maastricht treaty, and we made compelling speeches on the treaty's defence implications. Those speeches have subsequently proved justified.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood also made a valuable and important contribution in the Maastricht debates. Indeed, he and my wife managed to transport another hon. Member—whose name must remain undisclosed—away from a secret location a few hundred yards from here and into the Lobby to vote, with the result that we won a crucial Division. I therefore owe my hon. Friend a great debt of gratitude for his sterling—indeed, Special Air Service—assistance at that time.

Let there be no doubt that the genesis of where we are now is the Maastricht treaty, which contained provisions that we do not need to go into, and indeed cannot go into today. It was followed by Amsterdam, whose provisions were negotiated by yet another Conservative Government and handed over to the present Government under the chairmanship of another distinguished Minister for Europe. I do not think that I need to mention his name, but he was one of the revolving chairmen of the Westendorp group.

I wrote a pamphlet in reply to the White Paper that Sir Malcolm Rifkind and the said Minister for Europe produced. It was called the "Blue Paper"; it was 25 or 30 pages long and took the White Paper apart line by line, because I felt so strongly that the Government were going in the wrong direction.

The said Minister for Europe is currently competing strongly for the attention of other Conservative Members of Parliament. I have a letter written in 1995 from yet

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another contender for the Conservative party leadership, in which he set out his reply to me with respect to the questions that are before us under the Nice treaty. It shows the evolution of the thought processes and policy making en route to the present debate.

The letter went, "Thank you for your letter" I am paraphrasing a little bit [Laughter] "about the mischievous piece in The Sunday Telegraph on 12 November, which you also raised with me in the House last week." So, it is all on the record. He went on, "I trust I set your mind at rest then"—some chance—"I and the Government remain totally opposed to any suggestion of a separate European army. Nothing that Malcolm Rifkind and I agreed to in Madrid moved us one jot in that direction. As for our memorandum on European defence which the Prime Minister launched in March, the article misses the point completely. The essence of our position is that the defence of Europe is founded on NATO. NATO also has a role in smaller scale missions like peacekeeping—witness Bosnia."

Now the House may understand my intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood. My point has always been that keeping the peace in places such as Bosnia and making the peace according to the Petersberg tasks—on which I have tested the Foreign Secretary on many occasions—cannot be distinguished from the greater development not merely of a rapid reaction force but the panoply of warfare. Such equipment was exemplified by the stealth bombers, smart bombs and heavy-lift operations provided by the United States under the umbrella of NATO, although attempts were made to claim that such action had been carried out by a chameleon of the Western European Union.

The letter continued that it was unreasonable to expect the North Americans always to want to get involved in such smaller scale missions, such as peacekeeping, and that that was where WEU came in. It stated, "It cannot really do the job at present, so we want to make it more capable, but it has no military forces separate from NATO, nor is it subordinated to the EU. That is how we want to keep it. Hardly a slippery slope to federalism, I think. Yours ever."

The significance of that is that I argued in the House that it was a slippery slope to federalism. Now that we have the Nice treaty, I think that I can reasonably say that the predictions made in those days of rebellion by me and my hon Friends the Members for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) and for Ruislip- Northwood about what would happen after Maastricht demonstrate that we are now in the business of having a European defence capacity.

We could call it by one of thousands of acronyms—ESDI, CFSP, or whatever. However, the question is: what is the function of that body? What is it intended to do and what does it actually do? Does it have the properties and the resources to enable whatever has been created to perform effectively in the interests of whatever defence capacity is being provided?

9.45 pm

I hold a simple view. I believe in alliances and in co-operation, but in no circumstances will I subscribe to those points of the compass that take us into the single, autonomous capacity described in various statements such as the one made at Feira, which annoyed the Turks

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beyond endurance. I attended a meeting held under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office at the Institute for Strategic Studies with a Turkish general, the ambassador and others. There was a heated exchange of views. I was very much on the side of the Turks, because—bluntly—they had been cheated. There is no time to go into every detail, but the bottom line is that the Turks felt cheated and they were extremely angry—with justification, in my judgment.

Subsequent meetings took place, including at Cologne, followed by the Nice arrangements. The important point is that under those arrangements, we are talking about a single autonomous structure, which dovetails with the single structure prescribed by the treaties and from which there is no escape. I look at the Minister for Europe with great interest and concern at this point because there is no way in which he can escape the unequivocal wording of the treaties. That is why my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green was able to visit the Pentagon before the Secretary of State for Defence did so. That is why he was able to see Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney before the Foreign Secretary. I am open to correction if I am wrong, but that is my understanding.

The bottom line is that hosts of indicators have been given by the most distinguished US generals, advisers and senior members of the Administration. My hon. Friend had opportunities to give evidence to the Senate and to Congress on these questions. There were some attempts to retrieve the situation, prompted understandably but regrettably by the Labour Government. However, if one weighs up all the comments that have been made, one realises that my hon. Friend established an international reputation in this field, and that was recognised by the United States Administration.

Dr. Palmer: Is the hon. Gentleman absolutely sure that leading US military figures will welcome his attempt to involve them in the Conservative leadership campaign?

Mr. Cash: I have no idea. The matter is one of historical record. Indeed it is already on the record, so I am saying nothing that has not been said already.

The significance of all this is very simple: through Feira, St. Malo and Cologne we are moving towards not merely a rapid reaction force or enhanced Petersberg tasks, but a European army. I believe that it was Romano Prodi who said—I am paraphrasing—"You can call it Mary or Marianne or whatever you like", but his emphasis was that it would be a European army. That is why he is asking for all those billions of pounds from the European Union, to fill the gap in order to fulfil the functions that will be provided.

There are honest Members of Parliament on the Labour Benches, and they know the truth. Some of them are prepared to say that there should be a European army because they genuinely believe that. I wait with interest, as the debate proceeds, to hear what they have to say. However, it is impossible to provide the defence or military capacity that is needed without providing the money to go with it. As I pointed out in an intervention, it is rubbish to say that the Americans are at fault, when the bottom line is that it was the Americans who provided the mechanics, operational lift and the capacity to bring

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to an end the tragic warfare that ensued for a range of reasons that we do not have the time nor the opportunity to go into tonight—

Mr. Hendrick indicated dissent.

Mr. Cash: The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I wish that I could remember the name of his constituency.

Mr. Hendrick: Preston.

Mr. Cash: I was brought up at school only 15 miles from Preston, so perhaps I should remember that from now on. [Interruption.] Well, the school produced seven VCs, so we did not do too badly. The hon. Gentleman attacked the United States. He mentioned intransigence, and he was extremely critical of the US. He referred in derogatory terms to its concern about body bags.

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