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Mr. George Robertson: Given circumstances in the world today and the situation in Kosovo at this very moment, I find it remarkable that the hon. Gentleman should engage in a theological discussion that seems to play only to the Back Benches. Why, among all the documentation and bits of paper that he has produced has he not mentioned the Washington communique of the

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NATO summit? Perhaps he intends to read this passage out--it is certainly worth reading. The communique stated:

    "We welcome"--

that is, the 19 nations of NATO--

    "the new impetus given to the strengthening of a common European policy in security and defence for the Amsterdam Treaty and the reflections launched since then in the WEU and--following the St. Malo declaration--in the EU, including the Vienna European Council Conclusions."

The next paragraph states:

    "On the basis of the above principles and building on the Berlin decisions, we therefore stand ready to define and adopt the necessary arrangements for ready access by the European Union to the collective assets and capabilities of the Alliance, for operations in which the Alliance as a whole is not engaged militarily as an Alliance."

That communique was backed by the United States and members of NATO, who are not all members of the EU. They signed up to it. How come it is only the British Conservative party that stands isolated again?

Mr. Maples: It is not a question of being isolated. I will come to those documents, which make it clear that what NATO agreed to, and the United States is happy about, is the development of that capability within NATO. However, what was talked about at Cologne is outside NATO and is not what was agreed at Washington or what people were happy about. The change in policy raises the concerns of the United States.

After Cologne, the German Defence Minister said:

President Chirac said that the creation of a European defence identity was the next major project of European unification after the introduction of the euro.

Ambassador Vershbow said--this is the noted American caution--that

Let us consider what happened in Washington. In the new strategic concept, which is the really important document, there is only one reference to this matter, in paragraph 30, which is headed, "The European Security and Defence Identity". It clearly talks about that being within NATO, stating:

    "On the basis of decisions taken by the Alliance, in Berlin in 1996 and subsequently, the European Security and Defence Identity will continue to be developed within NATO."

My concern is that it is being developed outside NATO. We are perfectly happy about development within NATO--I have no difficulty with that. The Secretary of State quoted the communique, which is a less important document than the new strategic concept, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree.

Mr. Robertson: No.

Mr. Maples: It is. What is more, the communique seems to have been drafted by someone completely

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different, on the hoof at the summit, as I understand that it was because some countries--Turkey in particular--had considerable misgivings about the original draft of the document.

Mr. Robertson: They agreed it.

Mr. Maples: After some redrafting. The communique makes it perfectly clear that development should take place within the WEU. It reaffirms our commitment--[Interruption.] The Secretary of State should listen before he crows too hard about his reading of the agreement. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Secretary of State must not keep interrupting from a sedentary position.

Mr. Maples: I have no problem about that being done inside the Alliance but it is being done outside it. As the United States keeps pointing out, the mechanisms were put in place at Berlin. It wants the ESDI to be firmly anchored within NATO but what is set up at Cologne is something different. It is a European Union structure to develop a military capability outside NATO. It is a parallel and overlapping alliance--a recipe for confusion. The United States is concerned that it will act as a caucus within NATO and that EU members of NATO will meet first to decide a collective position to take to NATO. It breaks all those three Ds--discrimination, duplication and decoupling--that Mrs. Albright set out and it undermines US commitment to NATO, and for what? What is the purpose? What is the change of circumstances that led to it? It would be useful if it helped to advance British interests, but I do not believe that it does. It is all for the sake of being, in some rather intangible sense, at the heart of Europe. There is no advantage for the country, even if it makes European summits nicer for the Prime Minister.

As the Secretary of State pointed out, we are doing this in the light of what is happening in Kosovo. Surely the lesson of our military intervention there is that we are in capable of doing such things without the United States and without American military capability and leadership. The United States would love us to be able to develop more European capability, but we cannot handle Kosovo by ourselves. Of the 1,100 military aircraft that I understand have been involved in operations, 80 per cent. have been from the United States. There was no question of any aggressive ground intervention without the involvement of American troops. That decision was always going to be made in Washington. Therefore, at best, the European Union is taking a pretentious stance. Frankly, it is going to be a fantasy unless we are all prepared to spend much more on defence.

Mr. Dalyell: I have been following the hon. Gentleman's speech with great interest. What does he see as the role of the United Nations in Kosovo? Should not it have been brought in at the earliest stage specifically before any military action was taken?

Mr. Maples: I do not want to be drawn into the debate about Kosovo because we will debate that next Thursday and we have been over that ground many times. We have

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spent much more time on Kosovo than on the European defence identity. Furthermore, if we had waited for the United Nations to act, we would not be anywhere near a solution that would have secured Kosovo for the Kosovar Albanians.

What the EU wants to do will work only if it is prepared to spend an awful lot more on defence.

Mr. Robertson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to intervene as I thought that the House would want to know that the Secretary-General of NATO, Javier Solana, has announced the suspension of air strikes.

Mr. Maples: I am delighted to hear that, as is everyone else in the House, I am sure. Presumably, the next step is that the Security Council will pass a resolution and KFOR will move into Kosovo. I think that the Secretary of State was pointing out to me from his seat that a substantial British contingent is involved and we all wish them well. In some ways, the most difficult part of the Kosovo operation is about to begin. It involves danger to far more military personnel than has the air operation. They will encounter difficulties.

I was talking about defence spending. The development of a parallel military capability makes some sense if we are prepared to spend a lot of money on it. We shall have to duplicate some of what happens already in NATO in command and control structures, and intelligence satellite facilities. It will cost a lot of money. Yet, we are all cutting defence spending. The Government are cutting defence spending by roughly £1 billion over the three years of the defence review. The United Kingdom and France are the only European Union members, other than Greece and Portugal, that spend more than 2 per cent. of their GDP on defence. Germany spends only 1.5 per cent. Yet for all the ways that we might improve Europe's defence capabilities by spending more, we shall spend scarce assets on duplicating what NATO and the United States already possess and what is already available to European members of NATO under the Berlin arrangements. Therefore, it makes sense only if we spend more than it costs to cover the duplication.

Can the Secretary of State name a single European member of NATO who is planning to spend more on defence? The answer is that nobody is. We will not spend more on defence. They may be wrong, but all the political pressures are in the other direction. Everybody wants money released from defence spending because of the end of the cold war.

If we set up these parallel arrangements without spending much more money, we risk the worst of all worlds: a continuing militarily weak Europe and undermining the United States' commitment to NATO. It could be argued that we could do without the United States' commitment to NATO if we were prepared to build up a serious military force in Europe, but it cannot be argued that we can do without that commitment, unless we are prepared to build up that force. We have reached a dangerous halfway stage in this: we are undermining the American commitment to NATO and we are not building up the necessary military forces ourselves. That is a high price to pay.

At the very least, we deserve an explanation for this change of policy, which we have not had. There has been substantial bipartisan consensus on these matters since the

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end of the cold war and since the Labour party dropped its anti-American, CND defence policy a few years ago. Yet the Government have sacrificed that. Not only that, but they have sacrificed Britain's true interests and the transatlantic link, which is vital to our security, and they have risked undermining NATO, which has been the foundation of that security for 50 years. For what? Some transitory and illusory, weekend goodwill within the European Union.

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