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Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North): Does the shadow Secretary of State acknowledge that the comments that he and Baroness Thatcher made in Washington DC did nothing to reflect the views that he has just enunciated, and that they caused untold consternation among Congressmen and Senators on the Hill? If he had consulted people such as Congressman Biereuter from Nebraska or the late Herb Bateman, he would have learned a little more about the position than he conveyed to their colleagues. Does he accept that he caused much of the trouble that has been settled by the quotation that the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Keetch) cited earlier?

Mr. Duncan Smith: I am pleased to know that people I meet on visits even listen to my words, let alone act on them. It gives me great pleasure to hear that my words had an effect in Washington; I meant them to have an effect. I am sure that the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) was sincere in his comments. However, I made it clear at the beginning of my remarks in Washington, as I have done today, that capability is critical, but that the method of achieving it is also critical. The key to that is not breaking the alliance. I shall go through that later. However, I did not say anything to the contrary. I pointed out in the evidence that I gave in Washington that I believe that we are engaged in an exercise that will lead to the worst, not the best results. I shall deal with the reasons for that later.

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I have no responsibility for what Lady Thatcher says. If the hon. Member for Stockton, North wants to make some comments to her, he is more than welcome to do so, but I shall not follow him down that road; it is not something that I would necessarily do with ease.

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Spellar): She would hit him on the head with a handbag.

Mr. Duncan Smith: If the Minister would like to claim responsibility for the comments of his predecessors who happened to be Prime Minister, he is welcome to do it. If he wants to claim responsibility for Lady Thatcher's, that is fine. I agree with much of what Lady Thatcher says, but I do not claim that she owes me any apologies or foreknowledge of her remarks. What she says is rightly her business, and we agree with that with which we agree. I am speaking for the Opposition, who will be in government next year. [Interruption.] I cannot keep a straight face because the way in which the Government smile about their demise always gives me great pleasure.

Under the Conservative Government, the European security and defence identity was being developed within NATO, not in competition with it. The Western European Union was being developed as the forum for the expression of European defence interests within NATO, and was formally recognised as such at that time by the European Union. That policy was clearly inherited by the Labour Government when they took power.

In Amsterdam in June 1997, the Prime Minister's spin doctors proudly trumpeted the fact that he had won the "battle" against moves to merge the WEU and the EU. In fact--this is most interesting--when the Prime Minister came back from Amsterdam, he said--[Interruption.] I should like the Secretary of State to listen to this. He may wish to know what the Prime Minister actually said. He said:

I thought that, after Amsterdam, the Prime Minister, at least, was clear. He went on to say that Europe's defence should remain a matter for NATO, not the EU. He described plans for a merger between the WEU and the EU, which now appear to be under way, as

The Guardian--which is always close to Labour, although it sometimes does not like to say so--reported at the time:

Whatever else the Secretary of State thinks the Prime Minister said, I think it is clear from the record what he thought of the proposals. When he was questioned after Amsterdam, I asked him whether he agreed that because he had conceded the principle that defence was in the treaty, others would have an opportunity to build a common defence. He replied:

Suppose that someone who has been locked away in a Big Brother-style house for the past three and a half years--like many Labour Back Benchers--is suddenly

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voted out, as I hope Labour will be next year. It would be fair for that person to assume--given the Prime Minister's strong language after Amsterdam--that the Government's policy had continued along those lines. That is straightforward; it would seem reasonable. But this is the Prime Minister who wrote in The Sun, before the last election, of his great love for the pound, and his strong belief that it was superb. He seems to have fallen out of love with it in double-quick time, so perhaps the person from the Big Brother house would be expecting too much. But he--this character who has been locked away in Big Brother's room--would find that there was a full-blown proposal for an EU force of some 60,000 men on deployment, with a pool back-up of some 200,000 men nominated to sustain it. He would see a raft of EU-based military structures, and a high representative for defence based in Brussels. He would note with some surprise, given the "transplant" comments, that the WEU was to be merged with the EU. He would hear proposals for joint European intelligence facilities. He would read about Mr. Prodi and other politicians who now talk boldly about the creation of a European army.

As the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife said earlier, what that person would not see is any way in which NATO would have a right of refusal, because the Government have handed power to block the decision to the French, who have duly done so. He would see all those aspects of the process being dealt with outside NATO--separated from the NATO alliance. Most surprising of all, however, would be the discovery that all this had been initiated and led by the Prime Minister--the very man who had described such potential developments as an ill-judged transplant operation which he had rejected.

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as he is dwelling on matters of historical record. He and I arrived in the House at about the same time and spent many of our early months here debating European matters. Does he recall that, throughout that period, he was a consistent rebel, opposing the then Conservative Government's policy on Europe? Is it a change in his party's policy on Europe that allows him to sit on the Opposition Front Bench, representing the senior reaches of the Conservative party, or has he changed his views on opposing the European Union?

Mr. Duncan Smith: What a remarkably difficult question. The Conservative party is following common- sense policies on Europe. My party is clear and open about the fact that this Government were elected on the basis of one set of beliefs but immediately changed it for another set. That is exactly what the Prime Minister has done, as evidenced by what I have quoted. Although the Secretary of State has strong beliefs on such matters, he did not write any articles saying how much he loved the pound--clearly, he does not. However, the Prime Minister spent his time doing so and telling us that these arrangements would not work, yet he has now not only agreed to them, but charged and lead the damn things. The Prime Minister is clear and honest in that he never seems to hold an opinion for a day longer than he has to.

Why has all this happened? There is no question but that a U-turn has taken place, but at least it has done so rhetorically. Why did the Prime Minister do it? Did he no longer believe in what he was saying in 1997? Had he

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seen the light? Or did he believe that he had pulled the wool over the British public's eyes for long enough to get away with it? Perhaps it is more relevant that he felt that he was being sidelined in Europe just as the EU was about to embark on the single currency and he needed to find some powerful friends to ensure that he was not left out in the cold, and defence was the big-ticket item that he could use in the corridors of power.

At St. Malo, the Prime Minister clearly laid the foundations for the change in policy. The agreement sealed the initiative that the EU will need recourse to

It stated:


During NATO's 50th anniversary, the French saw a door that opened on to their concerns and dislike of what NATO had previously represented. They saw a chance to change the defence posture of Europe and the British. But even the French were taken aback by the speed of the process that the Prime Minister had initiated. On 20 January 2000, Pierre Moscovici, the French Minister for European Affairs, told L'Express:

The Washington conference, which is often claimed to show what America believes about the process, could have dealt with such matters, but it did not. It became a case of smoke and mirrors--a way in which to deceive the participants into believing that there was nothing to worry about. Undertakings were given but never met. Obligations were talked about but not proceeded with. The debate on European defence was washed over and postponed because of the Kosovo crisis, which occurred in the midst of that conference. The cracks that were appearing had to be papered over for the sake of alliance unity and, therefore, a form of words was agreed that many in Europe thought would keep the Americans sweet. European Governments made it their clear project to manoeuvre around the potential road block represented by the Washington conference and to be careful to keep sight of what was now their clear objective.

Since then, the Government have spun the myth that their new policy was endorsed at Washington in 1999. However, what was endorsed at Washington is not what we have today. The concept conceived at Washington imitated a combined joint task force approach using NATO command structures, operating within NATO, and open to all NATO members, including the United States. The alliance reiterated its readiness to

That was the dream at Washington, but it has remained only that. In reality, Washington plays no part at all in the new policy.

Under the ESDP, we have developed, or are developing, many separate multinational capabilities outside the alliance. We see the setting up of separate capabilities for intelligence gathering, heavy lift by sea and air, logistics support and communications. Under the same policy, we

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have developed separate independent headquarters with separate European command arrangements, all outside NATO.

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