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Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): A view that used to be held in the House, and to which I subscribe, was that a debate should be a debate, and not simply the delivery of several prepared speeches. I therefore compliment my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), who opened the debate for the Conservative party, on the way in which he outlined beyond peradventure the Prime Minister's volte face on some European defence matters. People can change their minds, but such changes should be brought out in the open. My hon. Friend did that admirably.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) has left. I wished to pay tribute to him, because I do not know how many hon. Members realise that it was the hon. Gentleman who, in the North Atlantic Assembly 12 or 14 years ago, began the battle to ban
I support one of the points that the hon. Member for Stockton, North made today. Ministers should reconsider the decision to abandon the royal tournament, and they should re-establish the Aldershot tattoo, if my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) will allow it. They were marvellous events during which the young people of this country could learn something about the military forces. Seeing what the different branches of the military were able to achieve in those presentations was a significant recruiting factor for many people.
The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) carries the British banner in the North Atlantic Assembly with great credit. However, I disagreed with some of his remarks about Sierra Leone today. Our involvement there is becoming deeper and deeper because of the number of military personnel that we have to put in to support the civil Government. I am worried about that. The United Nations does not appear to take the matter nearly as seriously as the Foreign Secretary. We must be wary of that.
The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife also mentioned Kosovo, in relation to which I must declare a personal interest. My wife is the British chairman of International Social Services, which is a charity that works for the unification of broken families. She has recently been to Kosovo, where the organisation was establishing a unit in Pristina to deal with the many thousands of children who are left without families. She said that it was all very well for the members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs when they visited Kosovo--they are met and looked after, and receive food and accommodation--but that going there as a single lady with the secretary general of the ISS was different. None of those amenities was provided.
My wife said that I ought to point out in the House that the co-ordination of the different military personnel to maintain law and order left much to be desired--indeed, was almost non-existent. She said that the idea that United Nations personnel were in control there was a myth. The United Nations side of operations is not a matter for the Ministry of Defence. However, it might examine the co-ordination between the different military forces.
The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) spent much time trying to belittle the Conservative Government's work on defence. I remind him that the great success of NATO, which everyone now claims to be marvellous, was a massive part of the Conservative Government's work on defence. That work consisted of keeping 50,000 men in Germany and dealing with the unrest and difficulties that arose in relation to atomic weapons. The Conservative Government had to carry out those tasks to ensure that NATO became the success that it is.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: My right hon. Friend has made an extremely important point. Will he remind the House that we took that principled stand in the teeth of wholesale opposition from the Labour party, then in opposition, which opposed all our actions to secure NATO, protect our borders and ensure the ultimate defeat of communism?
The collapse of the Berlin wall, the end of the Russian-American stand-off and the proven success of NATO has largely rendered obsolete the traditional categories into which the fear of world war had previously thrust us. The old traditional distinctions between east and west no longer apply. Nowadays, we have to look around us and ask, "Who and where is the foe?"
NATO has made great strides in modernising itself. Thank goodness that America and Canada have accepted the need to remain an integral part of NATO. None the less, important questions remain unaltered and unanswered. How far should NATO extend its tentacles? How can Russia be included, so that it can share and participate in the defence of freedom now that it is stretching out to embrace democracy and human rights? At what point will the role of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe begin to impinge on defence matters, as Russia would wish? What is new for the House to consider?
The Government have taken positive action to create a European security and defence initiative. It would seem reasonable, in time, for Europe not to have to call on the United States for everything to do with defence or security in Europe. We must accept that the United States has been calling for Europe to pick up more of the bill for the defence of Europe. However, I stress with all my strength that the ESDI must not detract from the role of and need for NATO.
Let us presume, for argument's sake, that the ESDI is a good thing. It may well be--we shall have to wait and see. Nevertheless, some major questions arise. Would there be an equal contribution to a rapid reaction force of 60,000 men--20,000 from Britain, 20,000 from France and 20,000 from Germany? Will Britain, or France and Britain, be called on to provide a larger share of manpower, with Germany falling behind? Is that not likely, in view of the current problems in Germany on defence matters, and the deployment of German troops overseas?
What about the cost? Is there again to be an equal share for the United Kingdom, France and Germany? May that not become difficult, given that France and Germany are experiencing major cuts in defence expenditure? As British military manpower is already stretched, will we not require more recruits? Will this not require more expenditure which cannot be met within the present defence review targets?
Let me return to a question that I asked the Secretary of State during Defence questions on Monday. Whence will come the heavy lift potential to move 60,000 men, all the equipment--arms, ammunition, victuals and transport--and the back-up for the force? If the arrangements are to be independent of NATO, and are not to deplete our reserves and manpower for our present vast commitments, there must surely be an increase in Army manpower. There will also be a greater need for heavy transportation and lift to enable the Royal Air Force, where it is a strategic necessity, to meet our present commitments.
These plans were established, after a vast amount of heart-searching in the defence review, as a strategic retirement, long before the ESDI was anywhere near being a realistic concept. How many more men and how much more money will be involved? Where is the heavy
I visited Paris last week with the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. We interviewed French Members of Parliament, including Mr. Vedrine, the Foreign Affairs Minister, and Mr. Richard, the Defence Minister. With Mr. Richard were a number of very senior French officers. In discussion, I raised the matter of acquiring the lift capacity for the rapid reaction force in relation to France. Mr. Richard's response was that "they must not have to rely for long on American lift capacity".
A three-star French general and I left the meeting together. I asked, "Independent lift capacity, in 10 years?" There came the rather depressed reply, "Mon ami, quinze ans"--15 years. If that is the thinking of some of the French military, we should take note of it.
In the context of all the planning for the new defence initiative, let me say something about the deteriorating role of the Western European Union. I understand that it is accepted that the WEU will become surplus to requirements. Will the Minister confirm that? If it is the case, will he tell us what will become of, or be done with, the WEU parliamentary assembly? Will it somehow be merged with the NATO parliamentary assembly? If not, will it become a Committee, and organise part of the working of the European Parliament or the European Union--or will it just wither on the vine? The House deserves to hear the Government's thoughts. Many people are concerned, and many employees--considerable manpower is involved--deserve to know where their future lies.
How is it envisaged that the new initiative will operate as far as the United Nations is concerned? It is expected to be a means of rapid reaction. If that signifies anything, the words themselves define it: its function will be to respond rapidly to sudden instances of major unrest or revolt, or sudden conflict. Will the force mark time until politicians have secured general agreement--whether in Brussels, or from the United Nations in New York--that it may proceed? What if a veto is introduced, to turn rapid reaction into no reaction at all? Does not the very existence of the triumvirate of France, Germany and Great Britain lead one to suspect that the agreed political decisions will be made by those three powers, probably with the acquiescence of the United States--and that all that will be necessary just to launch the rapid reaction force? Moreover, when it has been launched, the nations Prime Ministers will have to consider how to get their action endorsed by the United Nations. Is that really how control of the rapid reaction force will operate? We have not been told, and I think that we need to be told before we go much further.
Publicly, Russia has strongly opposed, and still opposes, the enlargement of NATO. Rightly or wrongly, it sees that enlargement as a major threat to its borders, to its influence, and to the safety of the motherland. Let us be under no misapprehension: although Russia may move towards working for friendship with certain nations of the west, at no time will the objective be other than to regain its position as a major power to equal, or combat, the influence of the United States.
However, while we know that it is going on, surely we need to find ways of ensuring that Russia can be enticed into working with us to defuse potential difficulties. It is possible to work--somewhat--together to enhance democratic institutions and the protection of human rights. That is not always the case, but we must strive to ensure that it happens more often. Russia's role in Yugoslavia, and in the Kosovo crisis, illustrates the need. But we must also obtain a positive policy from Government--a policy that Russia can understand, that is not contrary to the views of our close allies, and that can be increasingly understood and, we hope, enhanced by Russia.
The parliamentary assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe may well be used to that end. The three "baskets" working in the OSCE are represented by the assembly's three Committees--on Political Affairs and Security, on Economic Affairs, Environment and Science, and on Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions.
The Russian delegations have made no secret of the fact that they do not want the first Committee, in considering security, to interpret "security" as merely domestic or internal security, as it does now. They want its remit widened, so that it can consider defence matters. Would it be possible to extend the remit somewhat without turning part of the OSCE into an anti-NATO structure? Should we not be considering that? After all, Russia sees the OSCE in an entirely different light, given that it is a founder member, rather than being invited as a supplicant to the NATO assembly or the Council of Europe.
Could not "security" be extended to the safeguarding of existing national borders? That could well stand a chance of overcoming the Russian aversion to NATO. Is it too absurd to consider Russia's being able, whenever it wished, to opt into a rapid reaction force against revolution or military unrest? After all, we are working with Russia in Bosnia and Kosovo. Could not areas of mutual defence become the leading edge of closer Russian co-operation with the west? Such thinking is not too advanced or too lateral. We need to strengthen, not weaken, our relations with the "Great Bear" while we still understand what that nation can be up to.
My remarks have entailed a vast number of questions and a few original ideas. Will the Minister, in winding up, please give the House detailed answers on the European defence initiative involving the French and German commitments to finance and obtain the heavy lift capability necessary for the forces of the European defence initiative? What will be the necessary increase in British manpower to ensure that our commitments can be met without depleting existing commitments? What is the future of the WEU assembly? What is the Government's view of the new thinking on Russia's role in the OSCE? If I receive some answers to those questions, this debate will have been worth while.