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Mr. Jim Marshall: The hon. Gentleman mentioned the possible entry of the Baltic states into the European Union. He said that they would automatically enter the WEU. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will correct that impression. It does not work that way around. It has become a precondition of entry into the WEU that a member state of the European Union must also be a member of NATO. He may argue, as I intend briefly to argue, that we should change that configuration, particularly in the cases of the Baltic states so that their entry into the EU--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. This is a very long intervention. I know that the hon. Gentleman hopes to catch my eye later. Perhaps he could make those points when he does.

Mr. Marshall: I apologise. I hope that it will be sooner rather than later. Perhaps we could alter the rules so that entry into the EU would mean automatic entry into the WEU.

Mr. Heath: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point, and he will no doubt expand on it later.

There is the further difficulty with the extension of NATO to Russian borders. It is not a matter of principle that the Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus should not be incorporated, although in the case of Belarus it seems unlikely. It is a matter of identifying the objectives of NATO, how they work in the geopolitical climate of Europe and whether it is anyone's interest to create what might be perceived as a new cold war front along the Russian border. We must consider whether that would create instability where it does not exist.

I want to discuss what is commonly called the architecture of NATO, which is not always a helpful term. A proliferation of pillars bedevil the European Union, and they are beginning to bedevil NATO. I do not like the analogy of two pillars. If architecture is based on two pillars and one becomes weaker, we get a lopsided structure. I prefer to use the term "a twin foundation". We clearly have that with the United States, which is a very important player, and with the states of Europe, which would form a much stronger player than they currently do, were they able to come to a common position.

I believe that we have to have concerns about the position of the United States. One has only to listen to the debates in the Senate and Congress to realise that there are proper concerns that we as Europeans must face about the attitude of United States politicians and their potential attitude in the future. I thought that the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) was exceedingly polite about Jesse Helms, his American colleague, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Such American attitudes are the sort of thing that we in Europe could frankly do without.

It is essential to develop the positive contribution that the European dimension within NATO can provide. We have the European security and defence identity, and combined joint task forces. All those are moves in the right direction, but we are not there yet. I should like to see much more consolidation within Europe--for instance of the defence industries--as that is essential if we are to maintain competitiveness with the Americans. I should like to see the review undertaken by the Secretary of State

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for Defence encompass the European dimension much more overtly. He knows that we have applauded a great deal of what has emerged from the strategic defence review, but what was missing was the view of how that fitted into a wider European context. We should also see an extension of common procurement.

None of the development that has taken place ought to preclude further strengthening of the consultative machinery to which several hon. Members have referred--the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which is an underdeveloped area of activity. All our Governments should pay a little more attention to CSCE and provide better resources if it is to do its job effectively. We have in it a process for de-escalation of potential tension. That must be the name of the game. We must seek to avoid conflict, rather than having to resolve it once it has arisen. That is an essential component.

The one area that has not been discussed, yet I believe will be essential to European and world politics in the 21st century, is the development of sub-regional organisations. In this sense, "sub-regional" means anything up to half a continent, but it means that people can talk about security, economic and environmental issues that transcend boundaries in the context of a smaller unit that takes people outside the fixed certainties of the blocs and enables them to make quicker progress. We have seen that developing in the Baltic council, the Barents sea, to an extent in the Caspian sea and rather unsuccessfully in the Mediterranean. Those are the areas on which we need to concentrate.

I have not referred yet to the costs of enlargement. As other hon. Members have said, they are terribly difficult to get a grip on in any accurate sense. They are unlikely to be as high as the highest expectations in America or elsewhere. I believe that those expected figures are wrong. We can be sure that the costs will certainly not be as high as the costs of failure in defence in Europe. If we fail to incorporate other countries into NATO and give them reason to develop their armed forces and security machinery outside the envelope of NATO, the costs will inevitably be much higher.

It is important that we do not saddle the applicant countries with inappropriate costs. There is a clear necessity to improve their command structures and their training, but I do not believe that there is an enormous need to improve the military material that they have at their disposal. Enlargement should not be a licence to Lockheed to go hawking its wares around central and eastern Europe. Instead, we should concentrate on the contribution that the applicant countries can make best.

I have taken enough of the House's time, so let me say finally that the Czechs, the Hungarians and the Poles have been waiting for a clear message from the House, as from other Parliaments across Europe. We have a significance as one of the countries that has often taken a lead in these matters and it is a shame that we were not able to do so earlier, but I hope that the message that will go forward from this morning's debate is a clear one.

We accept the protocols that have been laid before us but, more than that, we embrace the countries in central and eastern Europe and we want them to be part of the European family. We believe that they have contributions

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to make; the contributions will be not entirely one way, as some hon. Members have suggested, but reciprocal. Those countries have a contribution to make to NATO and we look forward to ratification at the earliest opportunity. It has the Liberal Democrats' full support.

Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before I call the next speaker, I should like to point out that many hon. Members want to contribute to the debate. We have already lost quite a lot of time because of the statement, so, unless hon. Members' speeches are brief, many will be disappointed.

12.45 pm

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for not allowing my perhaps over-long intervention on the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) to prejudice your judgment as to who should follow him. I am grateful.

I share the concern expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House about the nature of the ratification process for the protocols and treaties. I hope that the Modernisation Committee, as part of its work on improving the working methods in this place and within Government machinery as a whole, will find some more sensible method of allowing Parliament not only to discuss such matters but to be involved in the decision-making and ratification processes.

You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have drawn attention to the fact that the debate is a short one, but that is not our fault. I shall try to heed your request, but we were presented with a maximum of four and a half hours for this debate, and three-quarters of an hour disappeared because of a statement. I welcome that statement, but it means that the House will have only three and three quarter hours at most to discuss a crucial issue. That is a message that the Government and their business managers should take to heart.

I do not want to introduce a note of political acrimony into the debate, because there appears to be cross-party support for the measure in hand, but I am slightly disturbed by the attitude of the official Opposition. The Government fielded my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to introduce the debate, and it will be wound up by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. But who do we have on the Opposition Front Bench? There is no shadow Foreign Secretary--in fact, the shadow Front-Bench team is a real shadow today. I do not know what urgent business is keeping the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) away from the House, but--

Mr. Blunt: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The time for the debate is limited, and you have previously spoken to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) about a lengthy intervention. What the hon. Gentleman is talking about is not germane to the debate, and I wondered whether we could get on.


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