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Standing Committee

1. The Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.

2. The Standing Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it shall meet.
3. Proceedings in the Standing Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 29th March.

Consideration and Third Reading

4. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at Nine o'clock on the day on which those proceedings are commenced or, if that day is a Thursday, at Six o'clock on that day.

5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the day on which those proceedings are commenced or, if that day is a Thursday, at Seven o'clock on that day.
6. Sessional Order B (Programming Committees) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.

Lords messages

7. Paragraphs (6) and (7) of Sessional Order A (varying and supplementing programme motions) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on any motion

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to vary or supplement this order for the purpose of allocating time to proceedings on consideration of any messages from the Lords, and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith.


Queen's recommendation having been signified--

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills),

(a) any expenses incurred by a Minister of the Crown or government department in consequence of orders under the Act, and
(b) any increase attributable to orders under the Act in the sums which under any other Act are payable out of money so provided.--[Mr. Clelland.]

Question agreed to.

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European Security and Defence Policy

11.10 pm

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): I beg to move,

The motion stands in my name and those of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I welcome the opportunity to set out the Government's position on this important issue. I shall explain why the agreements reached at the Nice European Council--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord): Order. Hon. Members must not--[Interruption.] Order. Hon. Members cannot wave papers and bob up and down in their seats while the Minister is addressing the House.

Mr. Vaz: I am delighted that I have such a large following that Opposition Members have turned out for this debate.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister introduced the motion by saying that it stood in his name and those of his hon. Friends, but none of his hon. Friends appear on the Order Paper.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a point of order.

Mr. Vaz: I shall explain why the agreements reached at the Nice European Council and the subsequent decisions of the January General Affairs Council represent a good outcome for Britain, Europe and NATO.

The House will recall that the European Union's security and defence policy results from an initiative launched by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in 1998. The goals of that initiative have not changed and are fully reflected in the agreements reached at Nice. We want to create a Europe where nations invest in better military capabilities. We want to strengthen Europe's contribution to NATO and to enable Europeans to act where NATO as a whole is not involved.

Nice represented a major step towards securing those goals. The Council agreed on permanent structures for EU political and military bodies, and on inclusive arrangements to involve non-member states in European security and defence policy. It proposed comprehensive consultation and co-operation agreements between the EU and NATO.

The results of Nice have been widely welcomed. The new United States Administration support the emphasis on capabilities and the relationship with NATO. On 23 February at Camp David, President Bush said:

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The Nice report spells out what the ESDP is and, just as importantly in the light of some British reactions, what it is not. The second paragraph of the report could not be clearer. It states that EU nations will act

EU nations will carry out the Petersberg tasks,

In other words, the EU will not be involved in war- fighting or collective defence; those remain with NATO alone.

Hon. Members might like to recall that the Petersberg tasks were agreed by the previous Government as the scope of activity for the Western European Union, so it is somewhat hypocritical to criticise the European Union for being ready to take on the same roles. Moreover, it is worth recalling that the Maastricht treaty signed up EU member states not only to the prospect of a common EU defence policy, but to "a common defence". It is worth reminding the House that one of the Members who signed the Maastricht treaty was the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), who is now shadow Foreign Secretary. Those who sound completely false alarm bells about the threat to NATO were happy to sign up to the prospect of the EU replacing NATO.

The Government have changed the perspective by taking the lead in European defence rather than taking fright. We have shaped the debate and designed the policy in a way that ensures that NATO's pre-eminent role remains unchanged. To make that clear, the report states:

We have only to look to Bosnia and Kosovo for confirmation of the latter point.

The report also makes it clear that there is no such thing as a European army. It states:

Thus the Nice treaty, agreed under the Government, establishes European defence as NATO-friendly and intergovernmental. The House will agree that that is a significant improvement on the open door to a common EU defence that was accepted at Maastricht by the self-proclaimed guardians of NATO and UK sovereignty.

I have clarified what the ESDP is not; I shall now explain what it is

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Vaz: I am delighted to give way to the hon. Gentleman, who, as well as being shadow Secretary of State for Defence, has taken over the role of shadow Foreign Secretary from the right hon. Member for

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Horsham. The hon. Gentleman went to Washington to pour poison into the ears of the Administration. That caused our difficulties.

Mr. Duncan Smith: The Minister claims much credit for moves away from Maastricht and other treaties. Why, in 1997, did the Prime Minister describe the proposals to which the Minister signed up at St. Malo and Nice as "ill-judged transplant" operations, which he voted out?

Mr. Vaz: Let us begin by paying tribute to the right hon. Member for Horsham, who signed the Maastricht treaty in 1992, and to Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who agreed the Petersberg tasks the next year. That is where European defence originated. The continuation of that policy at St. Malo began under the previous Government.

Mr. Duncan Smith indicated dissent.

Mr. Vaz: I know that the hon. Gentleman does not want to take credit for it, but he must. He must also give due credit to the right hon. Member for Horsham.

First and foremost, European defence is about more effective European armed forces. It is about enhancing Europe's contribution to NATO, strengthening our ability to support United Nations or Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe operations, and making it possible for EU nations to respond to crises.

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