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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I suspect that that is rather easier. Crisis management might be, for example, going to the aid of flood victims in countries such as Mozambique. I have used that useful example before.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I was trying to point out to the noble Lord that what has happened might be described as over and above a Petersberg remit. It was a matter for the international community and for a coalition of the willing. The ESDP is not a treaty issue, but the noble Lord seemed to imply that ratification of the treaty would somehow impede us from taking the action that we took. That is not the case. We would still be able to exercise our sovereign right, as would any other country in Europe if it wanted to support such action, as we have seen. Nothing in the treaty would impede that. If the noble Lord genuinely believes that what he said implied that it would, I hope that I can assure him that it would not, because the tasks involved are rather different.
I understand the problem about Petersberg tasks raised by the noble Lords, Lord Waddington and Lord Pearson of Rannoch. It is an old problem that we have discussed over and over in your Lordships' House and in the WEU, when it existed. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, invited me to write to him about the issue. I take it that he would like me to do so before Third Reading. I shall willingly and happily do so. I do not know how much further I shall be able to take a definition of peace enforcing, but I shall do what I can to meet him on that point and to send him a letter. I know that this is rightly a matter of considerable interest to your Lordships, so I shall put a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, when the noble Baroness is so generous as to do that, will she also cover the question that I raised about paragraph 4 of Article 17? The provisions were in the treaty before, but they have a new significance now. They say that closer co-operation between two or more member states on a bilateral level is not prohibited,
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I shall certainly cover that in my letter, but if action does not run counter to that provided for in the title, it does not run counter to that provided for by the definition of Petersberg tasks. That brings us back to the previous point. That is what I understand to be the purport of those words, but I shall write to the noble Lord and confirm that point.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, quoted an interesting article of recent date from a journalist working for The Times. I am sure that there are many interesting contributions from very able journalists across the
The noble Lord is a sensible, erudite and enormously well-read man. Does he really believe that the judgment of a journalist on The Times is better than the judgment of the President of the United States and of the United States Secretary of State? If the noble Lord does not believe them, surely he can believe General Sir Charles Guthrierecently the Chief of the Defence Staff and now a very welcome Member of your Lordships' Housewho said last year:
I believe that those are much more authoritative statements than what one journalist says one day, particularly as we all know that journalists can often say something completely different in subsequent articles. I would prefer to rest my case on authoritative comments from our real allies. I hope that when the noble Lord considers the amendments, he will decide not to press them.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, as I explained, the article to which the Minister referred is an editorial from The Times. That does not make much difference, but it was not just one journalist firing off; it was a considered piece by a team from a fairly distinguished newspaper. However, there is not much to be gained by contrasting that with a string of quotations about the importancean importance that I fully endorseof a stronger European contribution to defence. The question is how that should be engineered and whether some of the things that have been planned and said are a diversion from that.
The best measure of a stronger European contribution to defence is, in this case, budgetary. I do not always believe that more money produces better results, but in the case of defence it almost certainly does. When we look around, that is not what we see. The UK Government have made some steps in the right direction, but I see no sign of that elsewhere in Europe.
We are just as concerned as Secretary Powell and the President of United States, who have carried colossal burdens with great ability. Their concern is for a better European contribution to defence and so is ours. I am at one with the noble Baroness in welcoming the capabilities improvements and the increased interoperability between European equipment and tanks and those of American and other NATO forces. Those measures have been necessary for a long time and it is high time that they were given a more vigorous push. The only issue is that some of us question whether, in doing that, one needs to set up the elaborate pattern of not only making the EU a military power, promptly integrated into NATO, but beginning to develop what our French colleagues have called an autonomous and independent force.
The battle for quotes goes on. I listened with some incredulity to the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, who said that the Americans have not said any of that. I have a file absolutely jammed with quotes from senior American officials, both in office and out of office, who allat the time of St Malo, and after, and until quite recentlywere expressing considerable concern that there might be rivalry with NATO and that that would weaken rather than strengthen European defence.
The result of all these pressures and people flying to and from Washington to reassure the Americans that there would not be a split of NATO, a weakening and duplication, and that we were able to get the Turks on line and involved and not feeling that they have to obstruct everything, has been some rowing back by Ministers. That is not a party political point, it is on the record. Following St Malo, ministerial statements here have been modified very considerably towards the very important point, reiterated quite rightly by the Minister today, that the developments must be properly integrated within NATO. That is what we believe should have happened from the start. I think that, whenever we see signs that that is going to be reneged upon and we are drifting back towards the dreams of the independent and autonomous force proclaimed at St Malo, we are right as an Opposition to seek to call a halt and to seek to move amendments to express our feelings.
Lord Grenfell: My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned St Malo, which of course long predated the Nice treaty. Does he not accept that what we are debating now in the Nice treaty is a reflection of a policy to which the Americans have been able to sign up?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I can only say that one hopes so. However, one's doubts are based on considerable disappointment. There is a constant danger, and there are constant pressures from certain quarterswith which I suspect the noble Lord is more familiar than I amto push this whole project back towards the independent, autonomous force. It is a question of constant vigilance and constant warning that we do not drift that way and weaken the integration in NATO that the Americans rightly felt was necessary from the start, as did we.
The Minister said that double-hatting does not involve any movement of forces or reallocation of troops, and that is technically correct. However, as she knows from her defence experience, producing capabilities at short notice or undertaking to do sodouble-hatting, in factrequires huge preplanning and flexibility arrangements. It also requires adjustment of other plans. One cannot simply lift a whole division or group of manpower and equipment out of the current pattern of defence unless it has been previously crafted and redesigned as a module that can be lifted out. It requires huge effort and, I suspect, considerable expenditure to design the modules of our defence forces so that they can be made ready to go here, there and everywhere.
It is a little disingenuous to say that nothing is involved by happily double-hatting, thereby treble-hatting, some of our troops. A great deal of planning is involved, as all those who have been involved in these matters know very well.
Like many institutions, the institutions that have been created and that are given further encouragement in the treatythey are effectively blessed by the Billhave been carefully built up in response to events that have already happened. Rather like generals, these institutions tend to be planned for the last crisis and the last war. Our fear is that the more flexibility is taken away and the more one creates the new planning staff, the new military structures, the new arrangements, the new double-hatting and the new modules that can or cannot be moved at great speed here and there, the more difficult it will be when allies, the coalitions of the willing and nations of goodwill, determination and responsibility have to come together to meet the next crisis that we have not foreseen. We have no idea how those crises will shape up.
We, too, want what is best for the country and what makes Europe strongest in its contribution to global stability, security and defence. We remain full of doubts that the type of proposition in the treaty will help in that direction. Therefore, as we wish to express those doubts, we should like to test the opinion of the House on the matter.