Examination of Witness(Questions 47-59)|
THURSDAY 23 JANUARY 2003
Chairman: Thank you very much for coming. You are
most welcome. Many of us admire the way that you seem to spend
your entire time going from committee to committee. Thank you
for coming to this Committee. As you know, we are particularly
interested in defence this morning and, therefore, because I believe
we are going to have divisions in their Lordships' House this
morning, I want to get on as quickly as possible so we do not
interrupt your time with us. Can I ask Lord Inge to open, please.
47. Could you say whether you think the euro
defence mechanism is going to be included in the Treaty? I think
the reason we are asking that is so we allow some members to develop
defence capabilities further through enhanced co-operation. I
have some difficulty understanding how this might develop and
I think what France and Germany are doing is an example of how
we handle Iraq which adds a dimension to that sort of question.
(Ms Stuart) First of all, thank you for asking me
to be here because I think it is quite unique that we have Treaty
preparations where parliamentarians are involved. That is why
I think it is important for me to report back to you where things
are going. It is a very strange mechanism, also, in which decisions
are made because we have working groups which are dominated by
neutral countries in terms of their membership. A report then
goes to the whole Convention, the whole Convention then debates
it and around that you have governments taking actions as they
do that, so you have three inputs. What appears to be happening
is you have quite a firm commitment to have in the new constitution
provisions for foreign, security and defence. The Treaty as it
stands at the moment has got two separate headings, something
which I feel very uncomfortable with because I think defence and
foreign policy, one supports the other, and to try and separate
the two is something I am still very much working on, trying to
combine it and make it clear that the two are together. I have
always taken the view that, yes, there will be a provision but
it has to be one where we build up capacity, where we build up
capacity not in competition with NATO but in support of NATO.
The big political debate which is as yet unresolved is that there
are a group of people in the Convention who think the reason why
the European Union does not have a clearer foreign policy is because
we do not have the mechanisms. There is another group of people
who say the mechanism will not create the political will and it
is no good pretending that something is there when it is not.
I have always taken the latter view. It would not be very sensible
to create a mechanism which binds the euro into a common position
and then there will be countries which will still break ranks
and then it seems a failure of the Union. We say yes to enhanced
co-operation but is the political will there, we do not know.
One final point: I have always taken the view that in those areas
which remain inter-governmental we must not overlook parliamentary
control which is not yet entrenched currently.
48. I am confused, I have to tell you. I am
a simple soldier. If you are going to run complex military operations,
it is very easy to talk about them in peace time but if you are
involved in something like Iraq, there is a need for clear understanding
of who does what. Do you think the people who are devising these
structures really understand that? It does not matter in peace
time, it matters dramatically when you are doing something as
complicated as Iraq or maybe even worse. Is there an understanding
of that complexity, how you needI have bored this Committee
with thisstrategic direction which you give at the top
and then you allow people to get on with it or is going to be
micro-managed at the same time? So not only do you have a very
complex structure but on top of that you are trying to micro-manage
something which cannot be micro-managed.
A. If I can quote what Lord Stockton said in
one of the working groups when he reminded everyone that it is
politicians who decide to go to war but it is the soldiers who
actually then, on the ground, fight the war. If we confuse those
two things we are in trouble.
49. All I would say is that soldiers need politicians
to give them strategic direction and not micro-manage the campaign
once they have told them what they want them to do. I think perhaps
I would disagree with you in the sense that actually you get the
best out of your military if you are getting the right strategic
direction from your statesmen.
A. Let us put it that way. It will be a constitutional
Treaty and I think within that Treaty it should be clear who makes
the decisions. What you are worried about actually would not be
in the constitutional Treaty but that is a different aspect.
Lord Powell of Bayswater
50. I just want to pursue Lord Inge's point.
One gets the impression reading through the very full report that
there is a willingness on the part of most people involved to
do everything together except spend more money on defence. The
impression left is that this is really about institutions, not
about defence. The willingness to have any substance to a European
defence policy just is not there. Is that a fair criticism?
A. It is a fair criticism and it is not. This
was a report of the working group, the most detailed one, which
was, as I said, very much dominated by neutral countries, if you
look at the composition of it. There were three members which
were two government representatives from Germany and from France
and I was the British representative from the parliamentarians.
It was really the three of us who kept stressing it is building
capacity which is very important, not trying to provide the structures
because it is no good pretending that we can do something when
the capacity is not there. The noble Lord Robertson, I think,
made the very forceful point to the group when he said when Germany
after their long political struggling finally decided to deploy
600 soldiers in Kabul they had no means to fly them to Kabul,
they had to hire Russian planes, 145 at a cost of $245,000 each.
I think that point really hit home. You are quite right, there
is a large number particularly of neutral countries who want to
focus on the institutions. It is a conflict that is there.
51. Do you think the more realistic view which
you clearly represent will be properly reflected in the final
outcome of the Convention?
A. I think so. The reason why I am quite confident
is that all the Conventioneersif you would like to call
them as suchrealise that unless our Treaty is accepted
by governments we will not have succeeded and governments are
probably more realistic on that point than we would be.
52. By that you mean that they will give more
A. That would not be in the constitutional Treaty
for the European Union.
53. The two are not connected.
A. There was one example. There was a suggestion
at one stage that we should create a group who would co-operate
on defence and you would have a mechanism where you can be part
of that group based on your percentage of GDP spending on defence.
That was rejected in the end because individual countries calculate
defence spending so very differently. In some countries pension
payments are part of the defence budget, so you would not be a
good admissions criteria. So it will not be enshrined in the constitutional
Treaty but there is an awareness that it is the political will
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
54. In the provision of the working group which
speaks of collective defence and the possibility of there being
a collective defence clause in the Treaty it is made clear there
is a division of opinion about this. What I am not clear about,
and I know I should be by this stage, at least as clear I suspect
as Ms Stuart, is whether what is described as a closer type of
co-operation on defence, which is set out at paragraph 63 of the
working group report under the Treaty, actually represented the
view of the committee at all, a permissive clause, a kind of enhanced
co-operation. It does read as though this is the conclusion of
the whole group although there were differences of views about
who would wish to participate.
A. That part of the report is a clear joint
view, the defence co-operation.
A. Where there was a real political divide was
whether we should have within the constitutional Treaty an equivalent
of Article 5, which would be a mutual defence clause. The view
I took in the committee was that I could live with an Article
5 of the WEU Treaty provided it was made clear that it is delivered
through NATO, and that was when the political divide opened. Therefore,
you will find a commitment in that report that the European Union
is not a defence union, an aggressor, and the report is slightly
unclear where it leaves us in terms of the equivalent Article
Lord Williamson of Horton
56. Can I ask you a question specifically on
that part of the report which is headed "More Solidarity".
I am very much in favour of creating more solidarity but of course
it is the way that you handle it which is very important because
there is going to be a clause, is there not, in the Treaty. It
is going to be a major clause, so we have to be careful about
it. As I understand it, there are basically three positions. There
is one for which there is broad support which does not imply 100
per cent support, broad support, which is a clause which provides
an obligation to work together in the face of threats from non
state entities. This is what I call the "against the Ricin
makers' clause" and there seems to be quite big support for
that. The second one is where there would be a common security
clause which would go much wider and not be necessarily a military
defence. The third is a collective defence clause. Could you give
us a view about, first of all, which way you think it is going
to develop, this approach, and the extent to which you support
that which has the broadest support, which is the first one, the
solidarity clause related to threats from non state entities?
A. I was very content with that clause. The
only word in that clause which slightly worried me was to "prevent"
A. Which I feared suggested pre-emptive action,
so that is open to debate. As to the following ones, the big political
debate here is countries like Finland, for example, will argue
that if we want mutual co-operation, mutual defence, we can join
NATO, it is open to us. It is a political choice. If, for whatever
reason, we have chosen not to join NATO, then that is a signal
that we do not wish that. I think for the third option there is
less support. In the middle you will find there is a fair amount
of movement. Some countries have got real problems, the Swedes,
for example, the minute you mention the word defence, they will
not accept it but they will work more in peacekeeping. The big
debate in the working group then was where does peace keeping
stop and where does it become proactive. Again, I think in terms
of the constitutional Treaty, we will end up certainly with the
first option but I would be very surprised if it went further
Lord Williamson of Horton: Thank you very much. I
must say the collective defence clause would be difficult from
the point of view of the British public because of our other obligations
in NATO. The first one does have quite a bit of attraction.
Lord Morris of Aberavon
58. May I quote the apparent differences in
the philosophy regarding the European Arms Agency. In paragraph
64 we hear that many groups supported it, HMG apparently has not
done so and there is a long history of the desirability of a coherent
European arms procurement. I have an interest in this as far back
as 1968 when we built the Tornado. As regards operational requirements,
I always thought it difficult to understand, as we have tank warfare,
we are about to engage possibly in the same war, a wholly different
approach of Germany on the one hand and ourselves on the other.
There is a long history of failure to meet agreed government targets.
The order is agreed and then it is changed. Is this the reason
why we are less enthusiastic for the European Armaments Agency
or is there something more fundamental and deeper and can the
two views be reconciled?
A. I confess I was slightly surprised when I
read it was your Lordships' Committee's impression that HMG was
not in support of that. Certainly I made the case in the working
group, and because defence is an issue which is so deeply governmental
I very much took the advice of the Foreign Office on this, we
are in favour of it but we prefer the phrase "capabilities
agency". What my concern was, and I know the Government's
concern also, that we did not wish to create a bureaucracy which
did not deliver the capabilities on the ground. In the early stages
of the work I sensed there was ever such a slight movement of
some people to move defence procurement which at the moment is
not within the remit of the Commission into a Commission remit
which is something which we would have objected to. We kept stressing
the word "capabilities". In that sense it is very much
the UK Government view of the more we can co-ordinate that procurement
which increases real capability on the ground without just raising
a bureaucracy which will look good on paper but actually does
not deliver, so I think it has our support provided it is practical.
Is it undermined by the history of failure to deliver? When you
hear the target of this aircraft or not, it is 200 aircraft for
Germany and 100 for Italy and 50 somewhere else and then the financial
ministers a year later say "not 200 we will make it 50",
that makes a nonsense of aspirations. When you talk of capabilities
I say it is whether it is going to be effective.
A. You are quite right, we keep coming back
to what a constitutional Treaty can provide in terms of what we
wish to do. If the political will is not there, which in this
case is the will to provide the money for it, then these aspirations
in the Treaty will come to nothing. I think what we tried to avoid
was creating a structure which pretended to be something which
in the end it was not.
59. The emperor has no clothes.