Examination of witnesses (Questions 20-39)
WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001
HOON MP AND
20. Secretary of State, can I ask you how confident
you are that the Prime Minister in his recent meetings in Washington
and Paris has been able to re-affirm the United Kingdom influence
and keep it focused on practical capability issues rather than
allowing it to eliminate more fundamental differences in perception,
particularly differences in perception between the United Kingdom
and France on the future of transatlantic security? To give an
example,you look puzzledyesterday's statements by
General Kelche, the French Chief of Defence Staff, on which you
must have been briefed, I will choose one at random (I have a
variety): there is no question of "a right of first refusal",
"If the EU works properly, it will start working on crises
at a very early stage ... NATO has nothing to do with this. At
a certain stage the European Union would decide to conduct a military
operation. Either the Americans would come, or not." This
will not be playing well in Washington.
(Mr Hoon) I think we will give General Kelche an opportunity,
which he assures me he is going to take, to make clear the way
in which The Daily Telegraph has sought to seriously misrepresent
and distort his remarks. I understand that he will be issuing
a fairly vigorous rebuttal of the way in which The Daily Telegraph
has chosen selectively to highlight his remarks, and indeed will
be indicating the ways in which they have very badly misrepresented
21. If it is only one officer and one newspaper
perhaps you would like to comment then on the decision by the
EU to elect on a very close vote (by eight to seven) a Finn as
the first Chief of Staff of this organisation. Do you think that
this will be helpful for transatlantic relations, bearing in mind
that the Finn made it clear on his appointment in the last 24
hours that joining NATO is not an option they are taking seriously?
(Mr Hoon) I welcome the decision. The General is a
very talented man with experience both in the European Union but
also, crucially, within NATO and I think he will be an ideal candidate
to ensure the transparency and co-operation between NATO and the
EU that was set out in the Nice Agreement. I am sure that your
remarks are not in any way designed to be disparaging to the Finnish
military who have a very long and distinguished tradition of military
activity and are extremely effective and have some very capable
22. We saw the Finnish military briefly in Kosovo
and they are very good. There is nothing disparaging about that.
My concern is that their political masters are not signed up to
NATO at a time when you as a Government (and in this respect the
Opposition agree with you) feel very strongly that we should keep
that link. You want to wholly dissociate yourself then in what
you have just said from the comments the Italians made when the
results come out, do you? Obviously saying Italy have been betrayed
may have been a little bit over the top, but they then go on to
observe the fact that the NATO countries within the EU voted overwhelmingly
for the Italian candidate and it seems to be the neutral countries
within the EU and the French who carried the day, forming five
of the eight votes on the Finnish side. That does not worry you
(Mr Hoon) You should not believe all that you read
in the newspapers.
(Mr Hatfield) I think we should perhaps point out
that the votes were cast by secret ballot.
(Mr Hoon) And Italian newspapers are no more reliable
on this than are British ones, I am afraid.
Mr Brazier: So it is not just The
23. If I could pursue what you said earlier
a little more deeply, what progress has been made on the Defence
Capability Initiative by the United Kingdom and our European allies?
Is it satisfactory, where we have got to? And as regards progress,
say, 12 months from now, where do you see that?
(Mr Hoon) As you will be aware, the United Kingdom
has been and continues to be a very strong supporter of the DCI.
We think they are making good progress. We have plans to implement
fully some 58 per cent of the DCI related force goals compared
to around 44 per cent for the Alliance as a whole. We are making
progress. Clearly there is more to be done. There is a wide range
of things that have to be addressed as far as the DCI is concerned,
but I think it is right that we recognise the progress that we
as a country have made, but also the progress overall that is
being made within NATO. There is certainly more that could be
done, but one of the points to make of course is that the progress
that we can make on implementing the Headline Goal will also feed
into the progress that has been made on DCI, and it is important
that those two should operate in harmony and that there should
be absolute coherence between the two processes, and that is something
that we have set out very vigorously.
24. Your planning for this must have anticipated
a speedier process than what has happened to date surely?
(Mr Hoon) Earlier on Mr Viggers indicated by implication
the history of this kind of process. The history, sadly, sometimes
has been that countries sign up to the need for improvements in
military capability but perhaps are not always willing to see
through the sometimes difficult decisions that that involves.
Where I think the Headline Goal can be very useful is that, instead
of being somewhat abstract, which sometimes in the past these
kinds of commitments have been, it is very specific, focusing
on a particular capability by a certain time. In those circumstances
there will be, I am sure you can realise, a very great deal of
political pressure on all those who have signed up to this to
deliver and that is obviously part of the pressure that we have
to keep bringing to bear to make sure that we are in a position
collectively to satisfy the Headline Goal by the due day.
25. It has been indicated to us and by you on
more than one occasion that there are five key areas for the DCI.
Where has progress been best and where has progress been worst
in those five key areas? Who is responsible for the foot-dragging
in certain areas?
(Mr Hatfield) It is not really a question of foot-dragging.
It is a question really of what is easy to achieve. NATO's DCI
has a huge range of measures which run from minor improvements
in the logistic organisation to major procurements. The easy,
quick ones have largely been done. I think that although everybody
would like it to be faster, NATO's general view is that it is
going quite well. The Headline Goal started later. It has only
been in existence for a year. It is attempting to hit a narrower
but very important target, consistent with DCI, and I would argue
that progress so far has been pretty good by comparison with any
previous initiative of this sort. Yes, the jury is still out because
we have not yet reached the final deadline, but I would say that
progress is good rather than bad.
26. Where does some more effort need to be made?
What are the areas where you believe more needs to be done quickly?
(Mr Hoon) Some of the obvious shortfalls in DCI are
similar to the ones that we have discussed already. Heavy lift
is one of the examples, although clearly if we want them, the
United States has very considerable assets in that area. The issue
is the extent to which other countries also play a part and there
is quite a strong feeling, not least in the United States, that
the United States cannot always be expected to provide all of
the vital assets that are needed whenever the NATO Alliance wishes
to take military action.
27. But we know that heavy lift is one of the
areas. What are the other areas? You know of the potential ways
out of that heavy lift problem, of hiring the Americans to take
us somewhere, but what are the other areas that are particular
problems? You have avoided telling us.
(Mr Hatfield) Are you focusing on the EU's Headline
Goal or on NATO's DCI? DCI of course does have some quite high-tech
heavy capability areas which are not within the scope of the EU
Headline Goal because NATO has obviously much wider ambitions.
28. There are five key areas in DCI. Which ones
are you achieving and which ones are you failing to get anywhere
(Mr Hatfield) I think the ones which are going to
take the longest to come in are some of the improvements in what
is known in the trade as ISTAR: intelligence, surveillance, target,
acquisition and reconnaissance, because it simply will take us
time not only to acquire the new generation equipments but also
to bring them into service and integrate them with Command and
Control. That is true for anybody. There is not much you can do
at the margin to speed it up.
29. Because it is very important, is it not?
(Mr Hatfield) It is very important indeed and it will
produce long term benefits. That is probably the area which is
going to take the longest to bring in although I would not regard
that as necessarily being a failure because it is the most demanding
30. The next one?
(Mr Hatfield) I would not like to put them into order
of speed and priority after that. That is the most demanding long
term target. The most immediate one is to do with mobility, where
there are some quite large short term fixes coming in. We have
already talked about that. There are, both for the EU and NATO,
long term plans as well and, as the Secretary of State said, the
A400M will take quite some time to come into service. Another
identified area of weakness, particularly for the Europeans, was
in medium and heavy support helicopters. Again that is linked
to procurement plans. We know several countries in Europe at the
moment are (we hope) about to make some decisions on helicopters.
Over the next few years we will see those sorts of capabilities
coming in but they will take longer than the immediate priorities
of 2003 Headline Goal which, though it is in some ways demanding,
is quite a limited segment of capability.
31. Can you tell us one which you are relatively
(Mr Hatfield) What I am happiest about is the way
that the European countries are starting to organise better the
forces they have got so that out of the large numbers that they
are able to muster they can get deployed more quickly. Heavy lift
and so on will make a difference to that but it is organising
the armed forces in some ways similar to the way we did in modernising
the British Army and other services throughout this decade, the
way the French are going. The Norwegians are doing something similar
even though they are not in the EU. Those I think are the biggest
short term gains that we are going to get, and putting together
some specialist capabilities on a joint basis where they are in
short supply. We have seen that in the Balkans already with a
multinational hospital. Deployed hospitals are one of the biggest
difficulties we all face.
32. My final point is this. Does the effort
that has been put in to achieve good results in the five areas
of DCI conflict with or reinforce the work on the CESDP?
(Mr Hatfield) I would put it the other way round because
the DCI is the bigger project. The European CESDP project reinforces
And does it distract from it?
(Mr Hatfield) It certainly does not distract from
34. Secretary of State, is there systematic
evidence that European allies are actually spending more on defence?
Is there an across the board real increase?
(Mr Hoon) As we discussed earlier on this afternoon,
there are a number of figures that have been in circulation. The
one that I tend to find persuasive is that around 11 of the 15
countries have increased their expenditure but the way in which
different countries, as I mentioned earlier, assess their defence
expenditure does depend on what items they count in. Undoubtedly,
however, there has been a real change in approach amongst European
nations, partly related to a recognition that defence today is
a more expensive and more complex business and does require extra
resources. Probably more fundamentally, the process that we went
through in terms of the Strategic Defence Review is trying to
identify what kind of military assets the country requires in
the 21st century, something that actually in different ways has
been done in France, in Italy, in Germany, and in a sense is under
way as well even in the United States, because the new administration
is conducting a review. It probably will not be as comprehensive
as the Strategic Defence Review in the sense of starting from
first principles, but nevertheless they are looking, as recent
newspaper reports have indicated, at what are the priorities for
the United States in this new century. There are some quite fundamental
ideas around about how you then relate that expenditure to those
foreign policy objectives, which is precisely what we did in the
Strategic Defence Review. Whilst it is always attractive, and
I am not in any way resiling from my determination to see more
money spent on defence, it is also crucial that that money is
spent in the right way and is spent in a way that is consistent
with the obligations of a country like the United Kingdom and
the state and its history so that we get the best value from the
spending that we have. Frankly, that must be true of every other
country as well.
35. You said "spent in the right way".
In your earlier phrase about some of those countries you said
that it depends on what they count in. Are you saying that there
are some glaring examples of things that they are counting in
as defence expenditure that probably are not of any use to this
(Mr Hoon) No. I was putting it the other way because
there are some countries, and I mentioned Germany, that do not
necessarily count in major equipment purchases, for example, because
that is funded from a different part of their national budget.
Although it is hard to see how, for example, the A400M could be
anything other than a defence commitment and will count as part
of our defence budget, the money is actually voted quite separately
and therefore does not at this stage appear in their defence spending
but it will do after the event.
36. Then you said about it being spent in the
right way. That is something that George Robertson, the Secretary-General
of NATO, has also said has to be spent more wisely and more efficiently.
Is there any common base line across Europe to assess that this
is being done?
(Mr Hoon) That is never going to be an easy question
to answer and I am not going to pretend that it is. The Headline
Goal, because it is about outputs, is maybe the start of a process
that could ultimately lead to that kind of base line assessment
which, certainly if you are saying it would be a good thing, I
would strongly agree with that. Because one of the problems that
the United Kingdom very often believes it has is that we organise
ourselves efficiently and effectively and are able to put a relatively
limited number of members of the armed forces into an operation,
yet still derive the same output, the same benefit, from that
commitment compared to other countries who perhaps have to deploy
many more people. That is because part of the changes that have
been undertaken are to ensure that our resources are focused on,
if I can put it this way, our war fighting ability and that we
do not have what is described sometimes as a long tail, that is,
a long support for that capability. We have looked very carefully
in ensuring that the money we spend goes on our key capabilities.
That again is something that does mean that we get the best return
for our defence expenditure.
37. I think this term "best practice"
needs to be debated right across the European forces.
(Mr Hoon) These are delicate, sensitive, diplomatic
and political issues but I do not say you are wrong.
38. Can I move on to the issue of intelligence
co-operation? There is a definite need for it, and indeed there
is a definite need for it in NATO operations which need to be
improved, let alone in this new European force. Mr Hatfield did
say in answer to Mr Hancock that it would take longer to bring
in. Could you indicate the framework which you envisage under
which this would operate?
(Mr Hoon) Could I emphasise that there is excellent
intelligence co-operation inside NATO.
Mr Cohen: There were problems in Kosovo.
It came from individual countries rather than NATO having an input.
They had to rely on individual countries.
(Mr Hoon) But that intelligence is an exchange; that
intelligence is moved around as appropriate. No Ally is going
to allow forces deployed into an operation not to have access
to relevant intelligence. It is always the case that individual
nations are responsible for the collection of the intelligence,
but nevertheless there is an extremely co-operative basis upon
which that intelligence is then distributed within NATO. I anticipate
that the same co-operative arrangements would prevail as far as
any EU operation is concerned when NATO itself was not engaged
but where the EU had recourse to NATO assets and one of the areas
we would be most commonly thinking of would be intelligence assets.
39. From what you are saying, this has implications
for NATO as well. I presume we stick to the idea that intelligence
is owned and controlled by the individual country and they either
put it in the pool or they do not. They may choose not to. There
will not be any intelligence that either NATO or this rapid reaction
force will have as of right to carry out an operation and also
the intelligence will not necessarily be shared equally between
allies in an operation.
(Mr Hatfield) I think that is slightly misunderstanding
the way it is normally done. With a few very specialist exceptions
like the NATO early warning aircraft, most of the intelligence
gathering assets are nationally owned, whether they are human
assets if you like or technical assets. What NATO provides is
a framework for gathering that intelligence together, assessing
it collectively and passing it to commanders or ministers, as
required. That will be done on a tactical basis for the EU by
whatever units are deployed in the field. We envisage that, so
far as strategic assets are required, we can probably ask individual
nations or NATO to provide the information from those sources.
It has always been the case that individual intelligence gathering
operations have been run by individual states and fed into a common
1 See attached note sent to the Committee by the French
Defence Attaché, p 14. Back
See also letter from Secretary of State, p 17. Back