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Lord Kennet: My Lords, perhaps I may pick the noble Baroness up on that point. When she said that she was coming to my question of where enlargement will stop, I hoped for a moment that she would be able to throw some light on that question. But I cannot say that she did.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am certainly not going to follow the noble Lord's very interesting thought pattern as he went through the whole of eastern Europe and then into Asia and asked where a line would be drawn. It was an interesting hypothetical case, but I do not suppose for a single moment that the noble Lord thought that I would say that it would stop at a particular geographical point. What matters over these decisions is not the numbers but the cohesion of the alliance. That is the criterion under which Her Majesty's Government will consider any future applications.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, and other noble Lords were concerned about Russia's position in all of this. The new strategic concept will take account of NATO's new and co-operative relationship with Russia. The strategic concept contains some outdated language, a point which my noble friend Lord Hardy of Wath mentioned. I agree with that. It implies an adversarial relationship with Russia. We will request its deletion. The risk to allied security should no longer single out Russia. It should no longer single out any country posing a particular threat. Our priority is to deepen and broaden co-operation within the existing frameworks that I have outlined to your Lordships.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, my noble friend Lord Hanworth and others asked about plans that might be in train to develop the OSCE. The role of the OSCE has developed considerably in recent years and it is likely to continue to do so. Its importance lies in conflict prevention. But the OSCE has no experience in the field we are talking about--NATO's main functions.

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It has little experience and it has not had the necessary command and control structures. The best approach for the OSCE is to concentrate on the civilian aspects of conflict prevention, with military peacekeeping, under the UN or the OSCE mandate where appropriate, being carried out by others such as NATO where the coalitions are willing for that kind of co-operation to take place.

The noble Lord went over some of the ground we covered when we were discussing the Amsterdam Treaty in some detail. I do not propose to go into that in any great detail now other than to say to the noble Lord that Maastricht introduced the concept of the EU common defence policy and of a common defence strategy right across Europe, but at Amsterdam the majority of partners wanted to go further by committing us to a European common defence and to integration of the WEU with the EU.

As I have already said to the noble Lord on previous occasions, it is the view of Her Majesty's Government that those changes would undermine NATO. We still continue to believe that NATO is the bedrock of Europe's security. I know that the noble Lord has other views about the integration of European security, but I must advise him that those views are not necessarily shared by Her Majesty's Government in quite the fully developed way that the noble Lord would like.

The noble Lord also mentioned the question of the new NATO headquarters. NATO has commissioned studies into its future HQ requirements and the cost implications of various options. Analysis of that material is still under way and no decisions have been taken on it as yet.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, wanted me to concentrate a little on the position vis-a-vis Gibraltar and Spain. In the context of Spanish integration into NATO--we support it, of course--we and Spain have been developing arrangements to avoid problems between us over Gibraltar. Satisfactory arrangements are being put into place on the basis of normal alliance practice and without prejudice--I stress that--to the sovereign position as regards Gibraltar.

A great many other questions have been asked, but perhaps I may turn to the points about ratification and accession progress which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. NATO has completed the formal accession negotiations with Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The protocols of accession were signed by NATO and the invited countries' foreign ministers on 17th December. The protocols must now be ratified by allies according to their own constitutional procedures. As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, those procedures will vary according to the countries concerned. However, we have no doubt that the issue will be fully discussed by all the relevant countries.

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet--I hope that he is pleased with at least this part of my speech--and the noble Baroness, Lady Park, for their kind support for having more officials in the Foreign Office. Hard-pressed Foreign Office Ministers will be extremely grateful for those remarks about support that we should be very happy to see in the Foreign Office--the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others permitting.

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Noble Lords also asked about a vision of NATO. Perhaps I may say something about that. Like other noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was anxious about whether we still need NATO. Without in any way detracting from what the noble Lord said, perhaps I may say that British security is inseparable from European security. By replacing a system of national defence policies with collective defence, NATO has transformed security in Europe and has made another war between the Western European nations unthinkable. However, among NATO's key and irreplaceable attributes are that it embodies the US security commitment to Europe. That is the point. This is not just about the countries within Europe, but about the commitment of the United States to European security. That is the bedrock of the NATO alliance.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness and I hope that the House will forgive me. However, what she said implied that I had expressed doubt about the desirability of continuing in NATO. Not so--I was expressing doubt about the desirability of an unlimited expansion of NATO.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I did not mean to imply that the noble Lord was suggesting that everybody should pack up their NATO pencil boxes and go home. However, I thought that in the noble Lord's speech I detected some doubt about American commitment to real security in Europe because of the way in which the United States sometimes deals with such issues in Congress. In that context I strongly support the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that part of our job is to talk not only to the US Administration but to the Senate, the Congress and, if possible, to get over these points to the American people. This dialogue must be had at many different levels throughout NATO. I believe that the noble Baroness gave some very wise advice.

The UK's vision for NATO is that not only should it remain the foundation for our security, but it should embody and maintain the transatlantic security relationship to prevent the renationalisation (if I may put it that way) of defence in Europe. NATO helps to maintain and strengthen key relationships, among which is the relationship with the Russians. It must remain an effective and flexible military instrument to deal with future threats and challenges to our security. Through engagement with other countries in the region it should spread stability and the values of democracy and act as the allies' primary forum for consultation on all issues of concern in relation to security.

Following this debate the Government will deposit notifications of acceptance of the enlargement protocols with the United States Government in Washington in accordance with our obligations under the Washington Treaty. We expect a formal joining ceremony to take place when heads of state and government meet in Washington on 24th and 25th April 1999 which is also the celebration of 50 years of NATO's history. In anticipation of that event I hope that the whole House will join me in welcoming the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the NATO alliance.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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3.41 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, in rising to move that the House do now adjourn your Lordships will not need reminding that this has been a very long Session and there is still more to come. It is thus even more appropriate than usual that I should rise to my feet at this point to pay the usual tributes on the rising of the House for the summer Recess.

First, I should like to say some very sincere thanks to the usual channels for the cooperation that we have been able to achieve since the general election. I am particularly grateful to the Opposition Chief Whip, Lord Strathclyde, for being always available to conduct negotiations both on the spot and in the longer term. It is inevitable that sometimes we disagree, always amicably, but that in no way reflects any weakening of the crucial relationship between us on which so much of the operation of your Lordships' House depends.

I also pay tribute to the Chief Whip on the Liberal Democrat Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. While the noble Lord and his colleagues may have had some different interpretations about government policy on different occasions throughout the year, there can be no doubt that our personal relationship has been warm and constructive.

There are so many other of your Lordships whom I wish to thank, not least the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, for his support in his role as Convenor of the Cross-Benchers, and the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, who stood in for his noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich for part of the year.

I also place on record my warm and personal thanks to my noble friend Lord Richard, who provided a constant, welcome and supportive presence in his role as Leader of the House. I look forward to a similarly constructive relationship with his successor, the noble Baroness, Lady Jay.

I also pay a very sincere tribute to the staff of your Lordships' House for all that they have done over the past year. While the Session has been long and there have been some late nights, I am pleased that we have not had an all-night sitting--yet. In spite of that, I recognise that all of your Lordships' staff put in incredibly long hours and work under great pressure to achieve what can only be described as a Rolls-Royce service in the running of your Lordships' House. It would be invidious of me to single out any particular individuals or groups for particular thanks. There are so many staff who may never be visible to your Lordships upon whose reliability and hard work so much depends. I therefore pay a tribute to the entire staff of your Lordships' House for all they have done for us over the year. I wish everyone a very happy holiday and a well deserved summer break.

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