The hon. Gentleman seeks to claim credit for the Washington summit. Of course, the Washington summit took place in 1999, when this Government were in power.
The hon. Gentleman has not been paying attention. I was talking about the decision at the 1994 NATO summit to create a European strategic defence identity within NATO. [Hon. Members: "It is not in the brief."] As it is not in the brief, perhaps he does not know about it.
The hon. Gentleman has quoted at length the communique that resulted from the Camp David meeting between the United Kingdom and President Bush. I have the transcript before me. It raises a number of questions to which the House is entitled to straightforward answers--a good deal more straightforward than the hon. Gentleman is accustomed to giving in other contexts. He certainly will not have the opportunity, as he had with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, simply to say that he would not answer--
Mr. Deputy Speaker:
Order. We are here to discuss the motion before the House. I remind hon. Members that that is all we are here to debate.
Let me quote what President Bush said after the meeting at Camp David. He said of the Prime Minister:
"he also assured me that the European defense would no way undermine NATO. He also assured me that there would be a joint command, that planning would take place within NATO . . . And finally, I was very hopeful when we discussed the Prime Minister's vision that such a vision would encourage our NATO allies and friends to bolster their defense budgets".
So the Prime Minister evidently gave three assurances to President Bush, and he was sitting next to him when President Bush used the words that I have just quoted. He gave an assurance on joint command, an assurance that planning would take place within NATO and an assurance about increases in the budget.
So far as bolstering the defence budget is concerned, there has clearly been no response at all to the Camp David meeting. The Government allowed the defence budget to fall steadily in real terms during their first three years, and the present Budget provides for a 0.1 per cent. increase in real terms in defence spending. The continentals mostly have defence budgets that are stable or falling, and our German allies are in the middle of a steady four-year reduction in nominal terms, which is even bigger in real terms.
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I turn now to the key questions of the joint command. Again, I quote President Bush. He said that
"there would be a joint command."
How does that square with the text of the Nice treaty? How does it square with the explanatory memorandum that the Minister of State sent to the European Scrutiny Committee? Annexe 7 to the Nice treaty does not refer to joint commands. It clearly says that the European Council
"will appoint the operation commander and, through the intermediary of the PSC"--
that is the EU Political and Security Committee--
"instruct him to activate the chain of command."
The treaty goes on to say that
"the entire chain of command must remain under the political control and strategic direction of the EU throughout the operation . . . In that framework the operation commander will report on the conduct of the operation to EU bodies only."
How can that possibly describe a joint command? There is absolutely no reference to a joint command and no description of how it might even come about or what it would look like. It would indeed be a rather unusual animal.
Among other things, the treaty says that there will be
"full respect of the autonomy of EU decision-making",
which also seems to be inconsistent with any idea of a joint command. I will give way to the Minister of State if he wants to explain that to the House. How does the assurance given to President Bush at Camp David--which he accepted in good faith, as is clear from the text of his statement to the press afterwards--square with the text that I have just read out? The hon. Gentleman's silence is eloquent.
I turn now to planning. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that President Bush said that he had received assurances
"that planning would take place within NATO".
There is no reference to any other possibility in his statement or, presumably, in the understanding that he was given of the matter. Annexe 6 to the Nice treaty sets out two possibilities on planning which I shall deal with in turn. It says:
"For operations requiring recourse to NATO assets and capabilities, operational planning will be carried out by the Alliance's planning bodies, and for an autonomous EU operation it will be carried out within one of the European strategic level headquarters."
There is no reference to that whatsoever in the Camp David communique or the statements made to the press by the Prime Minister and the President after that meeting. Was that matter raised? Was that possibility discussed with the President? Did the Minister of State and his colleagues think that President Bush or his advisers somehow would not get round to reading annexe 6? Does the hon. Gentleman, in the course of his duties in the Foreign Office, regularly underestimate the intelligence of the foreigners with whom he is dealing?
Mr. Bill Rammell (Harlow):
I want fully to understand the hon. Gentleman's position. Is he saying that President Bush and his advisers did not read the Nice treaty, were not properly briefed on it and were therefore duped and misled by the Prime Minister? Is not that a strange attitude for the Conservative party to strike against a Republican President?
The hon. Gentleman is sadly all too right, which is why the matter is so serious. He should know
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that for some generations this country's Prime Minister, from whichever political party he comes, has enjoyed a great deal of credibility in Washington. When the Prime Minister went to Camp David, there is no doubt at all that President Bush would not have taken account of the possibility that the Prime Minister would conduct their conversations on the basis of concealing material facts. It is hardly surprising that President Bush's advisers have been extremely concerned since the Camp David meeting that they may indeed have been misled. My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), the shadow Secretary of State for Defence, has often drawn attention to that.
Let us examine the discrepancy between the text of the treaty of Nice and what was said to President Bush. I shall take the two possibilities in the treaty in turn: one is that planning for an EU operation would lie with one of the European strategic level headquarters; the other is that the operational planning structure of the alliance would be involved if NATO assets were involved.
I shall give way. Perhaps the Minister will answer one of my questions.
The hon. Gentleman should calm himself a little. He needs to know that he is insulting the intelligence of the Government of America, which is one of our strongest allies. He ought to know that, before the Nice Council, the draft of the treaty and the annexes were sent to the Americans, who read them very clearly. After the Nice Council, NATO Foreign Ministers--that includes the United States of America--welcomed the Nice conclusions. He is insulting the intelligence of the American Administration and he should apologise for doing so.
It is quite apparent that the Prime Minister gave assurances to President Bush at Camp David because those assurances are in President Bush's statement, which I have already quoted. It is quite clear that the understanding given to President Bush is that which President Bush himself expressed. I have just quoted it.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
In a moment. I must tell the Minister something else. He said that the Conservative party had somehow succeeded in poisoning the mind of the American Administration, but he again underestimates the intelligence of the people he is dealing with. It would be quite impossible to poison the mind of the American Administration with disinformation, but it is possible to make it clear to them that the Government speak with forked tongue. Indeed, individuals members of the Government may speak with forked tongue.
For all that the Minister does not want me to, I shall examine in detail the two possibilities for operational planning. Let us take the example of operational planning in one of the European strategic level headquarters. Here is a question that he may answer: what will happen to the permanent joint headquarters? Will it be turned into an EU headquarters for operational planning purposes? Will all the various sections of PJHQ such as J1, administration; J2, intelligence; J3, operations; and J5,
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planning, be full of staff officers from 14 other EU countries? Does he envisage PJHQ being turned into a combined EU headquarters? Does he seriously think that that is feasible? Does he seriously think that in those circumstances PJHQ could continue to carry out its task of managing our national operations in the Falklands and Cyprus, our deployments in Kosovo and Bosnia and major exercises? The hon. Gentleman shakes his head; he realises that it is not a viable possibility. What exactly does he mean by the words
"within one of the European strategic level headquarters"?
Does he want me to give way to him? I will do so. Will he tell us what that phrase means? Should I count up to 10 to see whether he will respond?