Examination of witnesses (Questions 40-59)
WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001
HOON MP AND
40. The United Kingdom has long standing agreements
with the United States. These are European operations that the
United States will not be directly involved in. How do you think
those arrangements will be affected?
(Mr Hoon) I do not believe that they will be in any
(Mr Hatfield) The assets that we have are British.
We have an arrangement with the United States which is bilateral
and to mutual advantage. Those assets remain ours whether they
are to be used for a national operation, a NATO operation or indeed
an EU-led operation. We will pass information drawn from those
assets into the operation as required. We will also ask NATO for
information from their sources or even the United States, but
it will be the information that is passed, not the raw intelligence.
41. Lastly, the Torrejon satellite-tracking
facilities, the French facility based in Spain. That is being
transferred from the WEU to the EU. Do we see any value in that
for the United Kingdom? Is there any cost commitment of it to
the United Kingdom? Is it of any use?
(Mr Hatfield) For military purposes, it is of fairly
marginal use. It is a satellite headquarters, an assessment centre,
if you like. The satellites it draws information from are commercial
type satellites that provide useful information for a number of
purposes, but you would not try and run a military operation from
it. It is not a replacement for proper military intelligence.
(Mr Hoon) Most of the imagery that that centre procures
is procured commercially. Presumably, if you had enough money,
you could go out and get the same imagery for yourself.
42. Secretary of State, on the question of expenditure,
is it not a fact that internal NATO documents which were leaked
into the public domain at the beginning of the month showed that
only six of NATO's 16 European members are planning real defence
spending increases over the next five years and all but one of
them are minor players in the Alliance? You may recall the last
time we discussed the rapid reaction force that we reminded you
what Casper Weinberger had said, namely that it is a mathematical
certainty that if we are drawing on the same forces to do something
with the EU rapid reaction force that are currently allocated
to NATO, unless there is some significant increase in the forces
that are available if an EU-led operation is underway, there will
be a diminution in NATO's capability to undertake operations in
those actions in which it wants to be involved. Are you satisfied
that the big players in NATO are going significantly to increase
their forces' contributions and the expenditure concerned?
(Mr Hoon) We do not normally comment on leaked documents.
I would invite you to have some doubt, as a member of the British
Parliament, about the veracity of those figures because you will
have studied very carefully the government's expenditure forecasts
on defence. The six countries that you mention in those documents
did not include the United Kingdom, whereas you know as a Member
of Parliament that there is a very specific commitment to increased
defence spending in each of the next three years over and above
inflation. There is something wrong with those figures right at
the outset. To deal with the substance of your argument, it is
something that I have said a number of times already. I could
deal with your argument by simply saying that it is not how much
the European nations spend on defence; it is what they spend it
on. The European nations could so reorganise all of their defence
expenditure to satisfy the output test of the Helsinki headline
goal and significantly increase their capability to do that particular
job, which is to move forces quickly into a crisis. They would
be left unhappy and no doubt your counterparts on the relevant
parliamentary committees around Europe would be left unhappy because,
in order to satisfy that goal, there would be a number of things
that they would then omit to do. It is about how they spend the
money but at the same time, I repeat, we would also like to see
our partners and allies in Europe spending more. It has to be
spent on the right things, on the right sort of capabilities.
It is about capability and that has always been our emphasis.
43. It seems to me that what you are saying
is that, by efficiency savings, it is possible to undertake the
extra commitments that might be involved without any reduction.
(Mr Hoon) I do not want to mislead you. I am not saying
it is about efficiency. It is about making judgments about what
kind of military capability countries need, individually, bilaterally,
if they work together and as part of international alliances like
NATO in order to ensure that they have the right kind of military
capability in order to do the jobs that are needed of military
forces in the modern world. If we concentrated on that capability
issue, we would probably understand each other more.
44. That is a good general answer but can I
ask you to be specific in this way: which particular countries
do you anticipate improving over, shall we say, the next five
years the strength of their armed forces to the point that, if
the EU were engaged in an operation in which NATO did not wish
to be involved, there would be no diminution in NATO's capability
to engage in the operations in which it does wish to be involved?
(Mr Hoon) I am not going to participate in a guessing
game amongst which particular countries. There is a determined
political commitment by the EU countries to satisfy the Helsinki
headline goal. To the extent that they are successful in doing
thatand you invited me back to discuss this in a number
of years' time on a previous occasionthey will not only
improve their capabilities and the capabilities of European Union
nations collectively where NATO is not engaged; they will also
improve NATO and NATO's collective capabilities, which is why
it is not in any way a diminution in NATO's ability because, by
achieving what we achieve through the Helsinki headline goal,
we will be strengthening NATO.
45. Let me turn to the question that was asked
earlier about whether the Prime Minister had succeeded in overcoming
the appearance of there being fundamental differences in perception
between the United Kingdom and France. You gave us your explanation
for the comments that were reported today by the French chief
of defence staff
(Mr Hoon) I actually gave you his.
Dr Lewis: and the fact that he had been
selectively quoted by the newspaper. Leaving aside the fact that
all quotations are almost by definition selective, one quotation
that has not been denied is the quotation from Mr Blair reported
on 18 March, when he said, "If we do not get involved in
European defence, it will happen without Britain. Then those people
who really may have an agenda to destroy NATO will have control
of it." I think that any logical reading of those words means
that there is some other allied state that Mr Blair had in mind
as having an agenda to destroy NATO. Would you like to categorically
state that it was not France to which Mr Blair was referring?
(Mr Hoon) I was asked this question in defence questions
only the other day and I made it clear then that the Prime Minister
was referring to those people as individuals. You know as well
as I do that there are individuals around who would seek to undermine
46. Some people may find that convincing. I
do not. Would you reassure me on this point: are you saying that
the French accept that NATO will have the right of first refusal
in deciding whether they wish to get involved in any conflict?
(Mr Hoon) I will give you a flavour of what the French
President has said. He said, "European defence is being done
and can only be done in complete harmony with NATO. It is a question
of two tracks which are complementary and not in competition."
47. Yes, but that does not entail a right of
first refusal. You can have two entirely autonomous bodies which
are operating separately but in harmony. The question is: is it
the case that the French, despite what is reported in the press
today, do accept that NATO should have the right of first refusal?
(Mr Hoon) I have dealt with this before with the Committee.
That is to fundamentally misunderstand the way in which countries
work together within alliances. They work together bilaterally.
They do not insulate themselves from conversations with partners
and allies when a crisis is developing. I know that you are determined
to see NATO and the EU in competition and as rivals. Somehow you
imagine that it would be possible for a head of state or head
of government to say, "I am having a conversation today as
a head of state, as a member of NATO, but later on I am going
to have a completely different and separate conversation with
someone else. I am going to forget what I said in the first conversation
as a member of the European Union." It just does not happen
like that. What happens in the context of a crisis is that there
will be a whole series of conversations taking place between the
United Kingdom and the United States, between the United Kingdom
and France and also between the United States and France. They
do speak to each other. They have regular contacts and international
positions are then worked out collectively, through institutions,
but crucially through the kinds and ranges of informal contacts
that go on day in, day out between governments. In those circumstances,
the decision as to who might be responsible ultimately for an
operation will be a decision that will be taken with the fullest
participation of all of our partners and allies. What we have
set out clearly as being where NATO is not engaged means precisely
what it says. It means that the EU would only be involved where
NATO is not engaged.
48. And does not wish to be engaged?
(Mr Hoon) And does not wish to be engaged.
49. Can you spell out where is it specifically
laid down in all the documentation, the treaties, the annexes,
the understandings, the presidency reports, that NATO will have
this first option of taking part?
(Mr Hoon) It has been in every single agreement on
European defence that an EU operation would only be launched where
NATO is not engaged. I know you spend a long time studying the
details of the St Ma®lo agreement and I know you have some
difficulties with that. If you look in the St Ma®lo agreement,
you will see that phrase written down in that agreement between
France and the United Kingdom.
(Mr Hatfield) The EU might be operating in areas where
NATO does not have a remit, outside Europe.
50. You have said a number of times this afternoon, and you
have made great play of it, that it is not how much they spend;
it is what they spend it on. When it comes to what they spend
it on, how much of that do you think is going to be spent on buying
from European defence industries? How do you think what is going
on at the moment and the ambitions for certain states to potentialise
their contribution to it is actually going to be beneficial to
the European defence industries, or are they simply going to be
buying everything off the shelf from the United States?
(Mr Hoon) It depends what kind of equipment we are
discussing. There is no doubt that at the high endstealthy
aircraft is one illustration that we have touched on alreadythe
developed technology tends to be American. At the more basic equipment
end, there are a range of European suppliers who would be able
to satisfy the requirements. I am afraid your question is so open
ended that it is difficult to be specific.
51. Do you think that European defence industries are working
closely enough together to ensure that they are not going to get
left behind? Are you sure that what is trying to be achieved in
achieving the five headline goals fairly quickly is not going
to suggest that they cannot keep up with the pace of the re-equipping
that will be necessary and it simply means that we will turn,
as always, more and more often to the United States to buy from?
(Mr Hoon) I am sorry to repeat myself but again it
does really depend on the kind of equipment that we are discussing.
Building a ro-ro ferry, for example, does not involve enormous
sophistication in terms of the technology that is required. There
are a number of companies not only in Europe but in the United
Kingdom that could satisfy that obligation in a technical sense.
That is vital to the ability to move people and equipment quickly
and effectively. Equally, as I have indicated, there are some
areas of stealth technology where we would have to go to the United
States. As far as the Joint Strike Fighter project is concerned,
there are some areas of the technology that will be incorporated
into that aircraft where the United States has to come not only
to Europe but to the United Kingdom because they do not have that
particular kind of technology that they want to develop. What
your question demonstrates is that it depends on the sophistication
of the equipment that we are discussing but also it does demonstrate
that globally defence industries are becoming ever more integrated.
I do not think there is any doubt about that, but I do not think
they are becoming integrated along precise geographic lines. If
you are tempting me into suggesting that there should be a European
industry as against a US industry, I simply do not believe that
that is going to happen. There is a great deal of transatlantic
integration both between the United Kingdom and north America
as well as between continental Europe and north America.
52. Do you see any evidence of US markets opening up to European
(Mr Hoon) We signed an agreement towards the end of
last year with the United States specifically designed to provide
opportunities for British industry and to give it access on an
equal basis with industry's access from the United States to our
market. I believe that that, together with other agreements that
have been reached in Europe, is a very important platform for
that kind of process. BAE Systems these days, even leaving aside
intergovernmental agreements, believes that it now earns more
money in the United States than it does in the United Kingdom.
Rolls-Royce has made a very important acquisition in the United
States. Our companies are increasingly operating very successfully
in the United States.
53. Would you not accept that there are only two companies
left in America, Lockheed Martin and Boeing?
(Mr Hoon) I suspect Raytheon might have a view on
54. They are interlocking ownerships. Surely all we are talking
about in British industry there is basically components, are we
(Mr Hoon) No. I think we all tend to get a little
hypnotised by the big, exciting projects, fast jets, heavy lift
aircraft, some very sophisticated ships for our navies, but the
procurement of defence equipment goes right down to rowing boats,
as a very basic illustration. In those circumstances, it is necessary
to look at what point in the chain you are looking at, because,
as I have said to the Committee before, I am a customer on behalf
of the United Kingdom taxpayer. My job is to get the best value
and also the best technology. That might mean, in terms of the
technology, that we are at the high end going to be looking at
some very sophisticated equipment that perhaps can only be available
in one or two places anywhere in the world; but it may also mean,
as far as rowing boats are concerned, that I want an array of
potential suppliers both in the United Kingdom and in Europe and
around the world to give me the best price. Some of this conversation
is just too abstract.
55. What we are talking this afternoon is European countries
cooperating in the field of defence. How do you and your colleagues
in your jobs in the other partnership countries assess European
defence industries? How do you assess the role they are going
to play in delivering this re-equipping process? I do not see
many of them queuing up to buy armoured cars, bullets and guns
from the United Kingdom.
(Mr Hoon) I strongly disagree with you. We have one
of the most successful defence industries of any country in the
world. We sell our defence equipment and sustain tens of thousands
of jobs in the United Kingdom because of that success. We have
a range of equipment that really is world beating both in terms
of its technology and in terms of its utility. Countries queue
Mr Hancock: Bought by our European colleagues?
(Mr Hoon) You keep interrupting me.
Mr Hancock: I think we should stick to the issue of
Europe, not worldwide.
(Mr Hoon) First of all, I am talking about the United
Kingdom and the United Kingdom has an extraordinarily successful
defence industry. That industry is successful, as I indicated
earlier, not only in the United States but all around the world.
Wherever I travel in the world, there is very rarely a country
that I go to that is not interested in acquiring equipment manufactured
in the United Kingdom, either equipment solely manufactured in
the United Kingdom or where we manufacture equipment in conjunction
with other countries.
56. Why can we not be successful with our European partners
in selling this equipment?
(Mr Hoon) The answer I am going to give is Eurofighter.
The Greeks have just indicated their willingness to buy Eurofighter.
I am confident that there will be other countries, both in Europe
and beyond, that will find that particular aircraft an extremely
exciting addition to their equipment. I am not at all pessimistic.
I am slightly surprised at the tone of your question because by
implication it appears to be running down British industry and
the European defence industry, both of which are extremely successful.
Mr Hancock: Completely the opposite. Our European
allies who badly need equipping are not buying from us.
(Mr Hoon) I have given you one example already. We
will send you a list.
57. One of the greatest fears of the United States is that
the European Rapid Reaction force will be built around an independent
planning function within the European Military Committee and the
European Military Staff. There has been, despite the original
statement of principles by the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright,
some decoupling, some duplication and some discrimination in setting
up a European Rapid Reaction Force. How realistic are these fears?
(Mr Hoon) Can I simply disagree with the premise?
There has been no decoupling; there has been no duplication. There
is nothing that has been agreed that in any way changes the view
either of the last administration or frankly the views of the
current administration. We have made it quite clear that, as far
as operational planning is concerned, that will be a matter that
we would assume would be the responsibility of NATO. That has
58. Why is Turkey so concerned?
(Mr Hoon) Turkey has a slightly different view, not
least because they are not a member of the European Union. I came
back late last night from Turkey where some of these issues were
discussed. Turkey wants to seeand I can perfectly well
understand it from their point of viewthe same sort of
arrangements that they have enjoyed in the WEU available to them
as part of this process. There are discussions underwaythey
have been underway for some timeto try and ensure that
Turkey is comfortable with the consultation arrangements that
have been extended. I am quietly confident that in time Turkey
will recognise that. It is not a problem for the European Union.
59. From my own experience, it is certainly a problem within
Turkey. Can you clarify for us how the relationship works between
the Political and Security Committee and the European Military
Committee on the one hand and the staff in Mr Solana's office
on the other?
(Mr Hoon) The Political and Security Committee's job
will be to make an assessment of how the European Union could
respond to a given crisis, a given situation. Part of that job
will undoubtedly be to advise on military options and they will
have a very small military staff whose job it will be to give
advice as to the kinds of options that might be available. Once
that moves to operational planning in terms of executing those
options, that will be a matter for NATO planners. That is why
any operational decision will be taken through the NATO processes
which, for obvious reasons, are extremely experienced at that
kind of planning.