Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220
WEDNESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2001
MP, MR KEVIN
TEBBIT CMG, AND
220. Let's hope you can prove it when the time
is there. Moving on rapidly to defence diplomacy, you still make
it very much an objective here and your report suggests that you
have met your targets. Is it still a driving force for you, Secretary
of State? Is defence diplomacy a very important part of the role
of the Ministry of Defence?
(Mr Hoon) Yes, it is. We have given it such emphasis
across government that we have established a pooled budget with
both the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development
specifically to look at ways in which we can work together in
a wider sense to prevent conflict which is obviously essential
to our idea of defence diplomacy.
221. The budget went up by ten million in the
Defence Assistance Fund. Where was that extra money principally
(Mr Hoon) Certainly some of that money will be going
to Sierra Leone and to West Africa. There is also a training team
being established in central and eastern Europe. I am sure there
are other areas as well but those are two.
(Mr Tebbit) There are more defence diplomacy scholarships.
(Mr Hatfield) And we have established military advisers,
for example, in Romania, Estonia and Czech Republic, and civilian
defence posts in Romania and Poland. All that comes from this
222. Will those first three remain? Is the plan
to keep them going?
(Mr Hatfield) For the foreseeable future. I am not
suggesting they will be there in ten years' time but I think we
may even extend this to Poland. We are talking to the Polish government
about that now.
223. Finally, relating to the re-allocating
of defence attachés, how is that working out? When will
that be completed? What has been the reaction of our NATO allies
to the changes there? Some of them have borne the brunt of the
(Mr Hoon) I think it is fair to say as you indicated
that the process is not yet entirely complete and it is rather
too soon to judge the reaction to it but this was a careful reconsideration
with the benefit of advice from the Foreign Office of the placing
of defence attachés and a lot of thought was put into where
they should go: we have had a net increase in postsonly
by one but nevertheless it does demonstrate the importance with
which we view defence attachés. I certainly find wherever
I go that they play a very valuable role, and we want to use them
to the best effect.
224. Will you continue the policy of using non-commissioned
officers and warrant officers in posts as defence attachés?
I personally think it is very successful.
(Mr Hatfield) I was in Finland last week and our deputy
defence attaché there was, indeed, a warrant officer and
doing a very good job.
225. And is it policy to continue that as much
(Mr Hatfield) Yes.
226. What is he doing in Finland?
(Mr Hatfield) Finland also provides a defence attaché
service to Estonia. Picking up the NATO point, there has been
a slight reduction in the total number of attachés in NATO
countries but all countries are still covered. One of the important
differences about NATO from a lot of the posts, say, in Africa
or Eastern Europe is we have a massive relationship anyway going
on with those countries and, especially with modern communications,
we have found that it is often easier to work directly and through
the organisation in Brussels, so we do not need to have the same
numerical coverage in each post and I do not think we have any
problems as a result of the adjustments.
227. I would like to put a quick observation
on the record in breach of the 20 years' tradition and say something
in favour of Ministry of Defence officials. I wrote my first pamphlet
on through-life costing 12 years ago and the biggest single item
blocking it then was the attitude of the Treasury saying, "Ah,
but these savings are going to be thrown up a long way away and
we cannot estimate them very accurately", all of which is
true. The work that has been done within the Ministry of Defence
under the last government but which has been continued by this
one in terms of saying, "Well, even if there are estimating
difficulties, we must make sound decisions to spend a little bit
more upfront in order to save further on very substantially",
is critical for a cost-effective procurement effort, and I think
quite a lot of credit must be taken there by the officials concerned.
(Mr Tebbit) That will be of great comfort to my people
and I would like to say that we do this through integrated project
teams so that even if people move on the team remains and the
body of knowledge is captured and continues to be monitored.
Mr Brazier: Yes. I think the principle
Chairman: I hope that pamphlet is still
available in the Admiralty library.
228. Can I take you back to the Future Strategic
Context document and the topical issue of National Missile
Defence. Your essay in paragraph 89 says "The risk of air-launched
weapons of mass destruction attacks will remain very low".
In that context, do you believe that the new US administration
shares that view and can you elaborate the government's present
position on President Bush's National Missile Defence initiative.
(Mr Hoon) This is an assessment in light of our current
judgment about the level of the threat to the United Kingdom but
we recognise and understand that the United States has different
concerns and has identified the emerging threat to the United
States and believes that, given the timescale taken to deal with
it, it is right that they should pursue a missile defence policy.
229. In the view of your remarks then and also
paragraph 59 of the document which confirms the assessment which
I think is absolutely correct, which is that the US administration
and congress are going to go ahead withhowever it comes
out in practicesomething called National Missile Defence,
do you think it would be helpful, given their commitment to consultation
with allies, that we might propose a joint threat assessment within
NATO and perhaps the European allies who are not in NATO as well,
so that our perception and other NATO allies' perceptions of threat
assessments could be put into the pool when the United States
are making their own assessment, so that we try to come to a common
view as to whether National Missile Defence is necessary and particularly
what kind of defence measures would be necessary in the light
of the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty, or any modification to it?
(Mr Hoon) We already do that, and that work is shared
and taken forward together. I am sure you are not missing the
point, but the point about the assessment that the United States
has made is that the threat that they perceive that they need
to deal with is far closer to the United States than it is to
the United Kingdom. The capability, therefore, of a particular
country to be able to deliver a missile to the United States is
a much more direct threat to the United States at this stage than
to the UK simply because of the distances involved.
230. It depends which countries you are talking
(Mr Hoon) Let's be specific. We are talking about
231. If we are talking only about North Korea
(Mr Hoon) We are not talking only about North Korea
but we are talking about North Korea in terms of the first stage
of concern that the United States has. That is the first stage
of concern that they are seeking to address in the early period
of this policy.
232. But if we are looking 20/30 years ahead,
which is what this document was talking about and it is stated
that it is expected that within that timeframe other countries
will develop a capability for chemical, biological or nuclear
armed missiles and so on, is there not an argument that, given
the interrelationships that there are within the world and given
the range of strategic missiles, we, the Russians, the rest of
the NATO and our other European Union partners should all be working
together with the US administration to get a common threat assessment.
That would be consistent with the strategic arms regime and the
control regime that we have and will avoid the problem which many
of us are concerned about which is that the unilateral decision
by an American administration, without taking account of those
wider issues, could lead to the ending of arms control agreements
on a global basis?
(Mr Hoon) The United States have made it clear, and
the new administration has made it quite clear, that whilst they
recognise the necessity for a missile defence system particularly
to protect themselves against that first stage, they will do so
only having consulted allies in NATO. That was said as recently
as last Saturday by the Defense Secretary.
233. I am happy with that but I am proposing
we take a proactive approach to try to get the involvement of
our NATO allies, the Russians and others in this process so that
we avoid it leading to a very serious breakdown of strategic arms
(Mr Hoon) But I do not see the distinction that you
appear to be trying to draw. The United States has identified
a particular threat to the United States and we accept that that
is a serious threat which the United States is quite rightly looking
to defend itself against. The reason is that North Korea simply
is nearer to the United States than to the United Kingdom. Moreover,
they appear to be more willing to use the capability than might
be the case in respect of other countries because threats are
a combination both of ability to deliver as well as a willingness
to use. We simply judge that, at today's state of knowledge, there
is not a country that has both the ability to deliver and the
intention as far as the United Kingdom is concerned, and that
inevitably means that whilst we can share the assessment of threatsand
I made quite clear we perfectly well understand why the United
States reached its conclusionit does not necessarily mean
that because different countries have different perceptions they
can somehow collectively reach a conclusion. If you are threatened,
as the United States is, then you take a particular decision in
the interests of the United States. Discussing that with Russia,
whilst it has some impact, clearly, as far as global arms control
is concerned, does not take away the threat to the United States.
234. But Russia is a lot closer to North Korea
than the United States?
(Mr Hoon) But that is why the second limb of a threat
is important. North Korea has not evinced any public intention,
as far as I am aware, of threatening Russia but there have been
occasions on which North Korea has expressed its reservations
about the United States.
235. The document does not even mention North
Korea, but is talking about a 20/30 year timeframe.
(Mr Hoon) But this is our document. This is the point
I am trying to make to you. You are, with respect, confusing a
threat to the United States with an assessment that we make on
behalf of the United Kingdom.
236. I think the problem here, however, is that
there is a strategic arms control regime. There is an Anti Ballistic
Missile treaty, SALT, Start 1, Start 2, the comprehensive test
ban and all the other matters which come from that and the problem,
if we do not have collective views internationally about these
matters and if the American administration, having said it will
consult, is serious about consulting, then it should be prepared
to consult with all those involved in that process and listen
to what they say. If we do not get collective threat assessments,
my point is we are in danger of bringing down the arms control
regime, and that is my concern?
(Mr Hoon) I think you are conflating a number of different
concerns. For example, you threw in, without qualification, the
ABM treaty. That is bilateral between Russia and the United Stateswe
are not a party to thatand if the United States and Russia
choose, as previously, to amend the terms of that treaty or if,
for example, they judge together that that treaty has no longer
any validity because the international strategic landscape has
changed so much, then it is perfectly open to them to abandon
Chairman: We have to move on.
237. One last point: it is a bilateral treaty
but if one state then chooses to break that treaty, you then are
in the position where there was a deal done with SALT and the
ABM treaty limiting the number of missiles and limiting the anti-missile
systems. If one pillar of that goes, then you are in danger of
the whole international strategic arms control system going and
that has been a consistent position taken by successive British
governments over many years. My concern is we are in danger, if
this process goes forward unilaterally with unilateral breach
of that treaty, it could bring down the whole international arms
Chairman: That is a comment; not a question.
(Mr Hoon) I do think I need to say that that is a
far too melodramatic view of the ABM treaty. The treaty has been
amended in the past
238. By agreement.
(Mr Hoon) Amendments tend to be by agreement, and
there is no reason why that should not occur again in the future
if the parties judge that the treaty has any continuing utility.
They may have come to the conclusion that, in fact, it does not
239. Secretary of State, we are hearing rumours
that there may be a shift in attitudes towards the continuance
of no-fly zones over Iraq. Is this the case, and can you set out
the UK's present position?
(Mr Hoon) We judge that the no-fly zones continue
to be justifiable for humanitarian reasons; in particular we remain
concerned about the threats that Saddam Hussein poses to the people
who live on the ground under the no-fly zones and we will continue
our policy of protecting those people on humanitarian grounds.