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International Terrorism

13. Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): What plans he has to adjust defence capabilities to cope with terrorist attacks. [24474]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The work being conducted in the Ministry of Defence on a new chapter to the strategic defence review is designed to ensure that we have the right concepts,

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forces and capabilities in place to deal with the threats that were manifest on 11 September. That work builds on the sound foundation of the strategic defence review, which left the United Kingdom well placed to meet the additional challenges that we now face.

We are considering our capabilities to counter and deter terrorism abroad, and the role of the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces in the defence of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Dawson: I agree that the SDR has proved a robust tool for the purpose of defence planning. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that Members of Parliament, and indeed members of the public, will have an early opportunity to contribute to the new chapter?

Mr. Hoon: I can give that assurance. The work will be done in an open and inclusive manner. We will in February make available discussion material setting out the range of areas that we are considering. It will reflect our emerging thinking, and we will seek views. I hope that that will give interested parties an opportunity to contribute, but let me emphasise that we will welcome contributions from Members of Parliament, members of the public and others with particular interests or expertise at any time.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): I welcome any opportunity to strengthen this country's anti-terrorism defences, but does the Secretary of State know of any example of its embarking on an overseas anti-terrorism peacekeeping mission over the past 50 years without that mission's being prefaced with confident remarks about it all being over in a few months, followed by finding ourselves involved for years and years?

As we take more and more units off for peacekeeping anti-terrorism operations around the world, is a single operational brigade left in the British Army, with all its troops, that could be sent at short notice to fight a war somewhere?

Mr. Hoon: I can give the hon. Gentleman the example that he seeks. The mission concerned took place in Macedonia for 30 days in August last year.

Mr. Nigel Beard (Bexleyheath and Crayford): Srebrenica experienced an appalling atrocity on NATO's doorstep, in which 8,000 innocent people were killed. The perpetrators of the crime and their whereabouts are known. Why is it taking so long to bring General Mladic and Radovan Karadzic to justice?

Mr. Hoon: Obviously, given the opportunity of bringing either of those people—who are indicted war criminals—to justice, British forces would take it.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): The Secretary of State is doubtless familiar with the Defence Select Committee's report on the 1998 SDR, which said that


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Mr. Hoon: All Ministers always pay the closest possible attention to the work of Select Committees. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the Defence Select Committee, as it was then constituted, on its recommendations, which will play an important part in the work that we are currently doing.

European Security and Defence Policy

15. Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): If he will make a statement on the role that is envisaged for the European NATO non–European Union countries in the European security and defence policy. [24476]

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The European Union is committed to the fullest possible involvement of the non-EU European allies and the EU accession partners in the European security and defence policy. The Nice European Council agreed a detailed set of provisions governing consultation with those countries, and arrangements for their participation in EU-led operations.

Sir Sydney Chapman: Thirteen of the 19 flashpoints involving terrorism have a bearing on Turkey. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Turkey and the other NATO non-European Union countries feel frozen out of the European security and defence project? Will he always bear in mind the fact that, whereas NATO has been exclusively and successfully concerned with the defence and security of our continent, the ESDP is primarily concerned with giving a political identity to the European Union?

Mr. Hoon: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman takes that view. Even if that ever was the case, it certainly is not today. Non-EU NATO allies are not being frozen out of the arrangements in any way; they are participating in a mutually supportive system that will allow a clear exchange of ideas and expertise, and will allow non-EU NATO allies to participate in EU-led operations where appropriate.

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's description. There have been constructive, positive discussions, and great progress has been made. The precise terms of the arrangements and the relationship between EU and non-EU NATO allies have not yet been finalised, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that his description does not apply to the way in which the partnerships will develop.

Afghanistan

16. John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): What assessment he has made of the use of the Navy in the Afghan war. [24477]

The Minister of State for Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Royal Navy submarines fired a small number of Tomahawk land attack missiles on 7 and 13 October

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2001. The UK assigned an amphibious task group led by the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, converted for helicopter operations, to the coalition. Other Royal Navy vessels were assigned, including seven Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels, which provided logistical support.

Our task group's commander, Rear Admiral Burnell-Nugent, is also deputy commander for all coalition naval forces in the theatre, responsible for co-ordinating all the coalition's extensive naval operations. Those operations have, since 21 December 2001, included coalition maritime interdiction operations to seize personnel or equipment linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

John Robertson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that extensive answer. When he answered my question of similar ilk, he said:


Has he looked at the role of the Navy at the beginning of the conflict and at how we could mount another campaign using the Navy—perhaps, shall we say, bringing it up to date so that we could do it without the help of some of our coalition friends?

Mr. Ingram: Irrespective of the events of11 September, I know that my hon. Friend is aware that the Government have an extensive shipbuilding programme planned. Orders have already been placed to meet some of the commitments. Clearly, we must learn lessons from every set of circumstances. I assure him that lessons will be learned if they need to be from the current deployment of our maritime force in the Arabian sea.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford): Will the Minister join me in congratulating all members of the Royal Navy on the excellent work that they performed at the beginning of the mission? I say that because a member of my family was part of that force. What progress is being made with the Tomahawk mission, and will all the submarines be equipped with that weapon?

Mr. Ingram: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about the extensive role played by members of the Royal Navy. In a statement to the House dealing with the situation in Afghanistan, I said that in excess of 4,000 naval personnel were being deployed. The figure remains roughly of that magnitude. In my earlier answer,I indicated the extent to which they continued to play a role, so our thanks are due to them just as much as they are due to those who are being deployed on land in Afghanistan.

On the future of the submarine fleet, clearly, what our future posture would be must be considered in the round. What we wish of our joint forces working in an expeditionary way is set out within the SDR.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): Is there any chance of Royal Navy vessels bringing to this country some of the distressed animals from Kabul zoo? Does my right hon. Friend recall the correspondence that I have had with his Department about the plight of the animals in the zoo and the need for veterinary attention? I now understand that

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vets have gone into the zoo. What involvement has there been on the part of Ministry of Defence personnel in helping the animals and protecting the vets in the zoo?

Mr. Ingram: I try to be as helpful as I can be in answering questions. I do not have immediate information as to the specifics of any hands-on involvement by our personnel, but I shall try to find out whether any of them have given assistance to the civil authorities and to those who take care of animals in the zoo.

My hon. Friend asks whether our naval vessels would be used for transporting animals to this country. I have no knowledge of any plans so to do, but I know that he is active in pursuing the matter and has written extensively to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who will address some of the issues that he has raised in detail with him.


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