WEDNESDAY 28 MARCH 2001 _________ Members present: Mr Bruce George, in the Chair Mr Julian Brazier Mr Harry Cohen Mr Mike Hancock Mr Stephen Hepburn Mr Jimmy Hood Dr Julian Lewis Laura Moffatt Mr Peter Viggers _________ THE RT HON GEOFFREY HOON MP (Secretary of State for Defence) and MR RICHARD HATFIELD, Policy Director, Ministry of Defence, examined. Chairman 1. Welcome, Secretary of State. I thought initially of giving you an opportunity of making a statement on foot-and-mouth disease in the north of England, but perhaps I shall refrain from asking, unless you wish to tell us something. (Mr Hoon) Could I simply apologise to you and other members of the Committee for my late arrival. I am sure that if members of the Committee do want to ask about the situation in Cumbria I could give them a first-hand report, but no doubt you would prefer to stick to the said subject. 2. That is a matter of debate. I am sure somebody will frame a question along the lines of whether the European Army can come to our assistance in putting down a hundred thousand sheep. (Mr Hoon) I am delighted to be able to report that the British Army do not need any assistance. 3. Thank you very much. We took evidence from you on 16 February last year, Secretary of State, on the changes taking place in the rapidly developing area of European security and defence. We published our report on the topic in May last year. That report focused on two key issues of what has come to be known as the European Security and Defence Policy, ESDP. The first was the "Helsinki Headline Goal" of a European Rapid Reaction Force to be ready for deployment by the end of 2002. The second was the transfer of functions for the political and strategic direction of this proposed force from the WEU to the EU. In the past 12 months these areas have developed rapidly - we have had two European Councils and the ERRF Capabilities Commitment Conference, and the EU's High Representative for the CFSP, Mr Solana, has been building the institutional structures within the EU. Our report of last year was greeted with a deafening silence. Since then, however, the topic has become one of intense party-political controversy. No doubt strong views on each side on the principle of the policy are held by individual members of this Committee, but we have not assembled here today to debate on party-political lines - that is the job of the Chamber, not the Select Committees. Without either implicitly endorsing or rejecting the principle of the ESDP, I hope we can today examine the practicalities of its implementation so that our evidence can be used to make the party-political debate, which can quite rightly and properly be pursued elsewhere, better informed. Is there anything you would like to say by way of introduction? (Mr Hoon) I look forward to the debate that follows from your injunction. 4. We all do but, with the support of the Committee, we will be drawing stumps in an hour and a half, for which I am very grateful to the Committee. I am sure you will be as well. Firstly, are we on target to achieve the Helsinki Headline Goal in full by the end of next year? (Mr Hoon) The Helsinki Headline Goal is not expressed as being to be achieved by the end of next year. What we are looking for is the year 2003 as being the timetable and whilst there is still a good deal of work to be done I am confident that we will be able to achieve that in the timescale specified. 5. Will the others be able to do so as well, do you think? (Mr Hoon) Yes, I think that there is a very strong commitment to achieving this "tightly defined target", which is how I would describe it. There are certain areas where clearly we do need to do some further work, but nevertheless I think we have made a very good start and we need to maintain the momentum. I might mention for the benefit of the Committee that we have, together with France, proposed that there should be a second Capabilities Conference and that that should take place probably towards the end of this year specifically to identify those areas of shortfall that we are working on, those areas where, after the first Capabilities Conference, we judged that there is more still to be done and to find ways in which we can rectify those gaps. That seems to me to be a very useful step forward. Obviously it will require perhaps a rather more difficult process than the one that has been undertaken so far in the sense that so far we have been able to identify resources that we readily have available. It is rather more difficult to identify which countries will be able to fill the shortfall gaps and therefore it is a slightly more difficult process that we have set in train but nevertheless an extremely important and valuable one because again it does demonstrate our commitment to improving capabilities which is what we judge the European defence is all about. 6. Thank you for that. The only reason I said at the end of 2002 was that the Headline Goals were for the beginning of 2003 so there is not much difference between the two. (Mr Hoon) No, there is not. I am perfectly happy to have this checked but 2003 is the date and my assumption was always that it was by the end of 2003 rather than by the beginning. Chairman: We will have to have a little bet on it afterwards. Mr Viggers 7. At the Conference in November 2000, the Capabilities Commitment Conference, the so-called Force Catalogue was drawn up listing the commitments made by Member States to achieving the Helsinki goals. The Force Catalogue revealed a number of serious deficiencies. I wonder if you would let us know what you think are the most glaring deficiencies and what progress is being made to put them right. (Mr Hoon) As the Committee will be aware, the biggest single weakness is in the area of heavy lift capability. That should not be at all surprising to the Committee because that of course is an area of weakness that this country identified in the process leading to the Strategic Defence Review. It is an area where Kosovo in particular demonstrated a degree of weakness in that we did not have available to us the ability to move forces and equipment quickly into theatres and areas of conflict. That of course is why we have undertaken to purchase, to lease, six ro-ro ferries as well as the very substantial commitment to aircraft that we have made: 25 A400Ms and the leasing of four C17s, the first of which will become available in May of this year. I was in the United States last week and had the opportunity of seeing one of these aircraft, which will be a very considerable addition to the RAF's capability. I did not deal with the second part of your question. It is still a little early to say who will be doing what. Obviously we will be making this contribution, as will other countries, in relation to strategic air lift because, as you will be aware, a number of other countries have also signed up for the A400M. That will be a slightly longer term development of what we need. Part of the work that we are currently engaged on, leading to the second Capabilities Conference, is to examine the areas of weakness and find ways in which to remedy them. I am not avoiding your question. It is just that we still have the work to do leading to the second Capabilities Conference. I suspect even then we will not be able to tick all the boxes because some of these, obviously, like new aircraft, are longer term issues. 8. Following through the issue of new aircraft, one of the biggest projects of all of course is the joint strike fighter which will serve in our aircraft carriers. How closely are we integrated with the United States in developing the joint strike fighter? (Mr Hoon) It has not quite been developed in the way that you suggest. Again in the United States last week I was privileged to be able to see one of the prototypes and the process being undertaken is a competitive one between two consortia that have funded so far the development of the prototypes and will submit those for examination by both the United States Government and the British Government. We have committed ourselves to an eight per cent share in the aircraft although we believe that as a result of that commitment, where we will be a full partner in the project, the opportunities available for British industry will almost certainly produce more than eight per cent of the share of the work that results. This is a very competitive process and when the time comes for making the selection as between the two quite different aircraft, which is going to be quite an interesting process to determine how choices are made between the two solutions to the problem that have been advanced by the two different industrial consortia, obviously we will be fully involved in that. 9. So we are closely involved with the Americans; we will effectively be developing with them, as a minority partner but with them, a joint fighter which will obviously have a significance in terms of having carriers which are similar to theirs. (Mr Hoon) The reason it is described as joint, as I am sure you are aware, is that the idea is to produce an aircraft that can fulfil a number of different roles for different services in the United States as well as for us. There will be different variants of the aircraft according to the function that is required. Essentially the framework within which those variations sit will be common. 10. So we are working in harmony with our American partners to develop this aircraft? (Mr Hoon) What I am trying to get across is that this is very much at the moment an industrial process. Obviously there is close consultation with the Department of Defence and with the Ministry of Defence here. Indeed, I saw the aircraft at a US AF air base. Certainly we are heavily engaged but until the point comes where there is what the Americans call a down selection, where they actually choose which aircraft to take forward, much of the financial responsibility at any rate is placed firmly on the contractors. 11. In evidence given to us the aircraft carrier itself is a tin box on which you load the aeroplane. The aeroplane is the key to the development. (Mr Hoon) It is, but there are still some decisions to be taken as to the precise variant that we might decide upon and consequential decisions for the design of the aircraft carrier. 12. Now tell us about the Anglo-French Carrier Force. (Mr Hoon) There are discussions under way between us and France about co-operation as far as our carriers are concerned but there are no formal proposals that I am aware of to develop a joint force along the lines that your question might suggest. 13. I quote the Commander-in-Chief of the French Navy surface fleet, Admiral Henri-Francois Pile. He said: "We are having tightly focused discussions with the Royal Navy". "Tres ‚troit" was the expression he used. The French Naval Attach‚ said during a broadcast on 3 November on the state programme: "We are having discussions with the British as to whether we can produce a common aircraft programme or a programme with the majority of the systems and armaments in common". (Mr Hoon) There are a variety of different discussions that we are having with partners and allies and I have mentioned them previously to this Committee. I am very committed to working with our partners and allies to develop a common approach. I suspect that the quotation that you have cited rather overstates the degree of development that has so far been achieved. We are certainly having discussions and we are having discussions with quite a considerable number of partners in order to improve the way in which we work together. As I have mentioned to the Committee on a previous occasion, in the area of naval co-operation the Memorandum of Understanding goes back to 1996 and there is a good deal of work done in common but as far as the development of any specific ship in common is concerned, that is not something which is currently planned. 14. I just wonder how Captain Jean Moulou, the French Naval Attach‚, got the impression that for him he was aiming for "a completely joint investment. For me ... Yes", he said. Who is stringing whom along? (Mr Hoon) I am not aware of any plans for there to be developed a joint aircraft carrier. I am sure that there have been from time to time conversations and discussions about that and it is clearly in the fullness of time a possible option, but it is not something that we are working on as of today. Chairman: Perhaps, as Sir Robert Walmsley is in the next room, I can create a precedent by summoning him to answer that question. Mr Viggers 15. I must say that the Navy traditionally used to have a girl in every port but it does sound to me as if the Government may possibly on this occasion be doing something it has been accused of in the past, which is saying different things to different people. Let us move on. All of the capabilities needed to enhance the European Defence Capacity are expensive and require a considerable investment on the part of European states. What is the United Kingdom doing? You mentioned air lift. Can you expand a little on what the United Kingdom is doing to address these deficiencies which have been identified in addition to the air lift which you mentioned earlier? (Mr Hoon) I gave you an example of what we identified in the Strategic Defence Review as being a particular deficiency in the United Kingdom. There is also, as I indicated earlier, a considerable amount of work going on to both identify the shortfalls following on from the Capabilities Conference last November and to work out ways in which each of the countries identifies potential solutions. I have indicated one area where the United Kingdom will make a contribution, which is in relation to heavy lift. It is too early to say yet who will be making other contributions because frankly we will not be able to rectify all of the shortfalls ourselves. Obviously this is a combined effort and we are still discussing with our partners and allies who will do what and by when. (Mr Hatfield) Perhaps I can give a couple of details on where we are in looking at that. One of the other areas identified as a specific shortfall, and in fact it is a familiar one from Nato as well, is the Suppression of Enemy Air Defence, and we are talking to the Germans and Italians in particular about the possibility of co-operation there. Another area where we are talking about the co-operation with, in this case, particularly the French, is Combat Search and Rescue. It is too early to say whether this will lead to a specific proposal but both of those are areas we are investigating. We are working with a Nordic group of countries on what is essentially their plan to produce a single coherent Nordic brigade which could be deployed by 2003 and where we could provide some assistance in fielding that which possibly would fit into a wider British structure. 16. Are there some areas where it has been decided that it will be appropriate for one nation to take the lead and the initiative and seek to provide the filling of the gap in the European Defence Capability? (Mr Hoon) Not yet, no, because those sorts of discussions are still under way. We are still assessing the gaps and who might be in a position to fill them. I suspect, given that in a sense the Headline Goal is a European version of much of what we set out in our Strategic Defence Review in the sense that the emphasis is very much on moving forces quickly into a crisis, that many of the conclusions that we identified as being deficiencies in our own capability will be found ultimately to be common deficiencies across Europe. I think it is fair to say that we probably are more advanced in addressing those issues as a result of the timeliness of the Strategic Defence Review than are a number of our continental partners and therefore we are probably more advanced in addressing some of the solutions as well. 17. We are told that in relation to the numbers sometimes used in international gatherings, particularly of the Nato Parliamentary Assembly, if you take the American effort as a hundred then the European effort in defence is about 60 but the effect is about 15. (Mr Hoon) I would not disagree with that assessment. I would not necessarily agree with the precise statistics but I think that the order of magnitude of the discrepancy is probably about right. Specifically what the Headline Goal is designed to deal with is the gap if you like between the 15 and the 60 because what has happened there over far too many years of course was that European nations simply duplicated their capabilities and the spending that they make is not cumulative. What the Headline Goal is trying to develop is a process by which defence spending in Europe is cumulative rather than duplicating existing capabilities. 18. But dealing with the 60, with the gross European effort, I believe that something like six of the 19 Nato countries are expanding their defence expenditure and these tend to be the rather smaller countries and the increases are small. What is your message to your Nato colleagues in terms of their defence expenditure? (Mr Hoon) Those figures I think came out of Nato and they were a little disappointing, certainly as far as the United Kingdom was concerned, because they did not indicate that the United Kingdom was increasing its defence expenditure which is quite wrong. We will have an extra ś1,250 million to spend on defence in the course of the three years from the Defence Spending Review. Therefore your six is not a strictly accurate figure. The further qualification that you need to reflect upon is that not all countries allocate defence expenditure in quite the same way that we do. For example, Germany does not allocate significant defence procurement spending in with its defence budget. Therefore, when they come, for example, as they will, to allocate the money for A400M, that will only retrospectively appear as allocated to defence. A number of countries adopt a similar approach. Some of those figures do need treating with a certain amount of caution. Nevertheless I agree with the sentiment you have expressed, which is that not only do we want to see European nations spending their money on defence in a different and more effective way, which is what the Headline Goal is about, but we also want to see them spending more. Mr Hancock 19. How are you going to exercise influence to persuade them to change their role from going to try and scatter gun it down to a more specific task force in these countries? (Mr Hoon) That is precisely the purpose of the Headline Goal. The Headline Goal is very specific. It sets out a particular output. Instead of looking at the problem in terms of inputs, that is, what countries spend on defence, which we cannot guarantee will produce what we want at the end of the day, by concentrating on outputs, on what we actually want to deliver, we will use the political process that the European Union affords to ensure that at the end of the process we have what was set out in the Headline Goal. How we get there I accept is still a subject of debate but that is what we are working on. The Capabilities Conference in Brussels was a very useful beginning. What we need to do now is to build on that and go through the process that I have previously described. 20. Do you sense that there is a willingness then on the part of those countries to change so dramatically what they might have been doing in the past? We met the Defence Committee for example from Holland who were here recently. They were not looking to be driven by an EU directive telling them they had to specialise. They were very much of the opinion that they were doing the right thing now. (Mr Hoon) All I can say to you in relation to the Netherlands is that the Government has specifically put aside a fund for their contribution to the Headline Goal, so they have actually recognised the importance of the Headline Goal for the Government. I know not what members of the Committee were saying, but the Government has actually committed itself not only to put money on one side out of its defence budget for this purpose but also to say, and I have had this in conversation a number of times with the Dutch Defence Minister, that whenever a procurement arises they will test the importance of that procurement against the Headline Goal. They will actually say, "What contribution will this particular piece of equipment make to our ability to satisfy the Headline Goal?", which is a fairly forward-leading view in relation to satisfying the goal and I think does demonstrate the commitment that the European countries have to this process. Mr Hepburn 21. How is the Working Group on Capabilities established by the EU and Nato working out in practice? (Mr Hatfield) The Committee has been meeting two or three times already this year. It is only meant to be a temporary group until we get on to more permanent arrangements, but I suspect it will in fact be replaced by a somewhat similar group on a permanent basis to make the big Nato plan system with the EU Headline Goal process so that we make sure that the development for capabilities in the two organisations marches together, particularly of course for the 11 countries who are members of both organisations. At the moment it has only had two or three meetings. One of its early meetings will be about the linkage of the two planning systems in the way I have just described. Mr Brazier 22. Secretary of State, can I ask you how confident you are that the Prime Minister in his recent meetings in Washington and Paris has been able to re-affirm the United Kingdom influence and keep it focused on practical capability issues rather than allowing it to eliminate more fundamental differences in perception, particularly differences in perception between the United Kingdom and France on the future of transatlantic security? To give an example, - you look puzzled - yesterday's statements by General Kelche, the French Chief of Defence Staff, on which you must have been briefed, I will choose one at random (I have a variety): there is no question of "a right of first refusal", "If the EU works properly, it will start working on crises at a very early stage ... Nato has nothing to do with this. At a certain stage the European would decide to conduct a military operation. Either the Americans would come, or not." This will not be playing well in Washington. (Mr Hoon) I think we will give General Kelche an opportunity, which he assures me he is going to take, to make clear the way in which The Daily Telegraph has sought to seriously misrepresent and distort his remarks. I understand that he will be issuing a fairly vigorous rebuttal of the way in which The Daily Telegraph has chosen selectively to highlight his remarks, and indeed will be indicating the ways in which they have very badly misrepresented his view. 23. If it is only one officer and one newspaper perhaps you would like to comment then on the decision by the EU to elect on a very close vote (by eight to seven) a Finn as the first Chief of Staff of this organisation. Do you think that this will be helpful for transatlantic relations, bearing in mind that the Finn made it clear on his appointment in the last 24 hours that joining Nato is not an option they are taking seriously? (Mr Hoon) I welcome the decision. The General is a very talented man with experience both in the European Union but also, crucially, within Nato and I think he will be an ideal candidate to ensure the transparency and co- operation between Nato and the EU that was set out in the Nice Agreement. I am sure that your remarks are not in any way designed to be disparaging to the Finish military who have a very long and distinguished tradition of military activity and are extremely effective and have some very capable armed forces. 24. We saw the Finnish military briefly in Kosovo and they are very good. There is nothing disparaging about that. My concern is that their political masters are not signed up to Nato at a time when you as a Government (and in this respect the Opposition agree with you) feel very strongly that we should keep that links. You want to wholly dissociate yourself then in what you have just said from the comments the Italians made when the results come out, do you? Obviously saying Italy have been betrayed may have been a little bit over the top, but they then go on to observe the fact that the Nato countries within the EU voted overwhelmingly for the Italian candidate and it seems to be the neutral countries within the EU and the French who carried the sway, forming five of the eight votes on the Finnish side. That does not worry you at all? (Mr Hoon) You should not believe all that you read in the newspapers. (Mr Hatfield) I think we should perhaps point out that the votes were cast by secret ballot. (Mr Hoon) And Italian newspapers are no more reliable on this than are British ones, I am afraid. Mr Brazier: So it is not just The Daily Telegraph. Mr Hancock 25. If I could pursue what you said earlier a little more deeply, what progress has been made on the Defence Capability Initiatives by the United Kingdom and our European allies? Is it in itself satisfactory to where we have got to? And as regards progress, say, 12 months from now, where do you see that? Maybe this is a question for Mr Hatfield and for you to wrap it up, Secretary of State. (Mr Hoon) As you will be aware, the United Kingdom has been and continues to be a very strong supporter of the DCI. We think they are making good progress. We have plans to implement fully some 58 per cent of the DCI related force goals compared to around 44 per cent for the alliance as a whole. We are making progress. Clearly there is more to be done. There is a wide range of things that have to be addressed as far as the DCI is concerned, but I think it is right that we recognise the progress that we as a country have made, but also the progress overall that is being made within Nato. There is certainly more that could be done but one of the points to make of course is that the progress that we can make on implementing the Headline Goal will also feed into the progress that has been made on DCI and it is important that those two should operate in harmony and that there should be absolute coherence between the two processes and that is something that we have set out very vigorously. 26. Your planning for this must have recognised a speedier process than what has happened to date surely? (Mr Hoon) Earlier on Mr Viggers indicated by implication the history of this kind of process. The history, sadly, sometimes has been that countries sign up to the need for improvements in military capability but perhaps are not always willing to see through the sometimes difficult decision that that involves. Where I think the Headline Goal can be very useful is that instead of being somewhat abstract, which sometimes in the past these kinds of commitments have been, it is very specific, focusing on a particular capability by a certain time. In those circumstances there will be, I am sure you can realise, a very great deal of political pressure on all those who have signed up to this to deliver and that is obviously part of the pressure that we have to keep bringing to bear to make sure that we are in a position collectively to satisfy the Headline Goal by the due day. 27. It has been indicated to us and by you on more than one occasion that there are five key areas for the DCI. Where has progress been best and where has progress been worst in those five key areas? Who is responsible for the foot-dragging in certain areas? (Mr Hatfield) It is not really a question of foot-dragging. It is a question really of what is easy to achieve. Nato's DCI has a huge range of measures which run from minor improvements in the logistic organisation to major procurements. The easy quick ones have largely been done. I think that although everybody would like it to be faster, Nato's general view is that it is going quite well. The Headline Goal started later. It has only been in existence for a year. It is attempting to hit a narrower but very important target, consistent with DCI, and I would argue that progress so far has been pretty good by comparison with any previous initiative of this sort. Yes, the jury is still out because we have not yet reached the final deadline, but I would say that progress is good rather than bad. 28. Where does some more effort need to be made? What are the areas where you believe more needs to be done quickly? (Mr Hoon) Some of the obvious shortfalls in DCI are similar to the ones that we have discussed already. Heavy lift is one of the examples, although clearly if we want to, the United States has very considerable assets in that area. The issue is the extent to which other countries also play a part and there is quite a strong feeling, not least in the United States, that the United States cannot always be expected to provide all of the vital assets that are needed whenever the Nato Alliance wishes to take military action. 29. But we know that heavy lift is one of the areas. What are the other areas? You know of the potential buy-outs of that heavy lift problem, of firing the Americans to take us somewhere, but what are the other areas that are particular problems? You have avoided telling us. (Mr Hatfield) Are you focusing on the EU's Headline Goal or on Nato's DCI, because DCI of course does have some quite high-tech heavy capability areas which are not within the scope of the Headline Goal because Nato has obviously much wider ambitions. 30. There are five key areas in DCI. Which ones are you achieving and which ones are you failing to get anywhere near? (Mr Hatfield) I think the ones which are going to take the longest to come in are some of the improvements in what is known in the trade as ISTAR: intelligence, surveillance, targeting, acquisition and reconnaissance, because it simply will take us time not only to acquire the new generation equipments but also to bring them into service and integrate them with Command and Control. That is true for anybody. There is not much you can do at the margin to speed it up. 31. Because it is very important, is it not? (Mr Hatfield) It is very important indeed and it will produce long term benefits. That is probably the area which is going to take the longest to bring in although I would not regard that as necessarily being a failure because it is the most demanding target. 32. The next one? (Mr Hatfield) I would not like to put them into order of speed and priority after that. That is the most demanding long term target. The most immediate one is to do with mobility, where there are some quite large short term fixes coming in. We have already talked about that. There are, both for the EU and Nato, long term plans as well and, as the Secretary of State said, the A400M will take quite some time to come into service. Another identified area of weakness, particularly for the Europeans, was in medium and heavy support helicopters. Again that is linked to procurement plans. We know several countries in Europe at the moment are (we hope) about to make some decisions on helicopters. Over the next few years we will see those sorts of capabilities coming in but they will take longer than the immediate priorities of 2003 Headline Goal which, though it is in some ways demanding, is quite a limited segment of capability. 33. Can you tell us one which you are relatively happy about? (Mr Hatfield) What I am happiest about is the way that the European countries are starting to organise better the forces they have got so that out of the large numbers that they are able to muster they can get deployed more quickly. Heavy lift and so on will make a difference to that but it is organising the armed forces in some ways similar to the way we did in modernising the British Army and other services throughout this decade, the way the French are going. The Norwegians are doing something similar even though they are not in the EU. Those I think are the biggest short term gains that we are going to get and putting together some specialist capabilities on a joint basis where they are in short supply. We have seen that in the Balkans already with a multinational hospital. Deployed hospitals are one of the biggest difficulties we all face. 34. My final point is this. Does the effort that has been put in to achieve good results in the five years of DCI conflict with or reinforce the work on the CESDP? (Mr Hatfield) I would put it the other way round because the DCI is the bigger project. The European CESDP project reinforces the DCI. 35. And does it distract from it? (Mr Hatfield) It certainly does not distract from it. Mr Cohen 36. Secretary of State, is there systematic evidence that European allies are actually spending more on defence? Is there an across the board real increase? (Mr Hoon) As we discussed earlier on this afternoon, there are a number of figures that have been in circulation. The one that I tend to find persuasive is that around 11 of the 15 countries have increased their expenditure but the way in which different countries, as I mentioned earlier, assess their defence expenditure does depend on what items they count in. Undoubtedly, however, there has been a real change in approach amongst European nations, partly related to a recognition that defence today is a more expensive and more complex business and does require extra resources. Probably more fundamentally, the process that we went through in terms of the Strategic Defence Review is trying to identify what kind of military assets the country requires in the 21st century, something that actually in different ways has been done in France, in Italy, in Germany, and in a sense is under way as well even in the United States because the new administration is conducting a review. It probably will not be as comprehensive as the Strategic Defence Review in the sense of starting from first principles, but nevertheless they are looking, as recent newspaper reports have indicated, at what are the priorities for the United States in this new century. There are some quite fundamental ideas around about how you then relate that expenditure to those foreign policy objectives, which is precisely what we did in the Strategic Defence Review. Whilst it is always attractive, and I am not in any way resiling from my determination to see more money spent on defence, it is also crucial that that money is spent in the right way and is spent in a way that is consistent with the obligations of a country like the United Kingdom and the state and its history so that we get the best value from the spending that we have. Frankly, that must be true of every other country as well. 37. You said "spent in the right way". In your earlier phrase about some of those countries you said that it depends on what they count in. Are you saying that there are some glaring examples of things that they are counting in as defence expenditure that probably are not of any use to this project? (Mr Hoon) No. I was putting it the other way because there are some countries, and I mentioned Germany, that do not necessarily count in major equipment purchases, for example, because that is funded from a different part of their national budget. Although it is hard to see how, for example, the A400M could be anything other than a defence commitment and will count as part of our defence budget, the money is actually voted quite separately and therefore does not at this stage appear in their defence spending but it will do after the event. 38. Then you said about it being spent in the right way. That is something that George Robertson, the Director-General of Nato, has also said has to be spent more wisely and more efficiently. Is there any common base line across Europe to assess that this is being done? (Mr Hoon) That is never going to be an easy question to answer and I am not going to pretend that it is. The Headline Goal, because it is about outputs, is maybe the start of a process that could ultimately lead to that kind of base line assessment which, certainly if you are saying it would be a good thing, I would strongly agree with that because one of the problems that the United Kingdom very often believes it has is that we organise ourselves efficiently and effectively and are able to put a relatively limited number of members of the armed forces into an operation, yet still derive the same output, the same benefit, from that commitment compared to other countries who perhaps have to deploy many more people because part of the changes that have been undertaken are to ensure that our resources are focused on, if I can put it this way, our war fighting ability and that we do not have what is described sometimes as a long tail, that is, a long support for that, because we have looked very carefully in ensuring that the money we spend goes on our key capabilities. That again is something that does mean that we get the best return for our defence expenditure. 39. I think this term "best practice" needs to be debated right across the European forces. (Mr Hoon) These are delicate, sensitive, diplomatic and political issues but I do not say you are wrong. 40. Can I move on to the issue of intelligence co-operation? There is a definite need for it, and indeed there is a definite need for it in Nato operations which need to be improved, let alone in this new European force. Mr Hatfield did say in answer to Mr Hancock that it would take longer to bring in. Could you indicate the framework which you envisage under which this would operate? (Mr Hoon) Could I emphasise that there is excellent intelligence co- operation inside Nato. 41. There were problems in Kosovo. It came from individual countries rather than Nato having an input. They had to rely on individual countries. (Mr Hoon) But that intelligence is an exchange; that intelligence is moved around as appropriate. No ally is going to allow forces deployed into an operation not to have access to relevant intelligence. It is always the case that individual nations are responsible for the collection of the intelligence but nevertheless there is an extremely co-operative basis upon which that intelligence is then distributed within Nato. I anticipate that the same co-operative arrangements will prevail as far as any EU operation is concerned when Nato itself was not engaged. In a sense, recourse to NATO assets and one of the areas we would be most commonly thinking of would be intelligence assets. 42. From what you are saying, this has implications for NATO as well. I presume we stick to the idea that intelligence is owned and controlled by the individual country and they either put it in the pool or they do not. They may choose not to. There will not be any intelligence that either NATO or this rapid reaction force will have as of right to carry out an operation and also the intelligence will not necessarily be shared equally between allies in an operation. (Mr Hatfield) I think that is slightly misunderstanding the way it is normally done. With a few very specialist exceptions like the NATO early warning aircraft, most of the intelligence gathering assets are nationally owned, whether they are human assets if you like or technical assets. What NATO provides is a framework for gathering that intelligence together, assessing it collectively and passing it to commanders or ministers, as required. That will be done on a tactical basis for the EU by whatever units are deployed in the field. We envisage that, so far as strategic assets are required, we can probably ask individual nations or NATO to provide the information from those sources. It has always been the case that individual intelligence gathering operations have been run by individual states and fed into a common pool. 43. 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 way. (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. 44. Lastly, the Torrejon satellite, the French satellite 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. Dr Lewis 45. 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 Kaspar 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. 46. 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. 47. 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 that -- and you invited me back to discuss this in a number of years' time on a previous occasion -- they 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. 48. 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. 49. ---- 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 NATO. 50. 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." 51. 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. 52. And does not wish to be engaged? (Mr Hoon) And does not wish to be engaged. 53. 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 when NATO is not engaged. I know you spend a long time studying the details of the St Malo agreement and I know you have some difficulties with that. If you look in the St Malo 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. Mr Hancock 54. 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 end -- stealthy aircraft is one illustration that we have touched on already -- the 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. 55. 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 JSF 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. 56. Do you see any evidence of US markets opening up to European defence manufacturers? (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. Mr Cann 57. Would you not accept that there are only two companies left in America, Lockheed Martin and Boeing? (Mr Hoon) I suspect Rapier might have a view on that. 58. They are interlocking ownerships. Surely all we are talking about in British industry there is basically components, are we not? (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. Mr Hancock 59. 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 up ---- 60. Bought by our European colleagues? (Mr Hoon) You keep interrupting me. 61. 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. 62. 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. 63. 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. Mr Viggers 64. 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 been agreed. 65. 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 see -- and I can perfectly well understand it from their point of view -- the same sort of arrangements that they have enjoyed in the WEU available to them as part of this process. There are discussions underway -- they have been underway for some time -- to 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. 66. From my own experience, it is certainly a problem within Turkey. Can you clarify for us how the relationship works between the Political 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 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 processors which, for obvious reasons, are extremely experienced at that kind of planning. 67. One key feature of NATO is that the operational language is English. This is crucially important. Language training is a very important part of NATO in joint operations. Have you perceived any risk at all that English might be challenged? I am not just being nationalistic here because it is the language also of our American and Canadian allies. Is there any risk at all that English might be challenged as the operational language for the European Rapid Reaction Force and European forces? (Mr Hoon) I preferred the first version of your question. I have not perceived any risk to it. Mr Hood 68. How much independent input is the European Union likely to provide to the institution supporting the ERRF? (Mr Hatfield) The key thing that is autonomous is the ability to take political decisions. The only independent input that the EU will have in terms of machinery is a small-ish military staff, about the same size as the WEU had which has been abolished, which can frame the questions that will be sent off to the NATO planning staffs for preparing options for them to consider. Beyond that, it will depend on drawing on capabilities either from NATO or from the EU nations, so there will not be anything else independent being created for the EU as such. 69. Are other NATO allies double hatting their representatives on the Military Committee? (Mr Hatfield) I think it is 9 out of 11. 70. So they are double hatting? (Mr Hatfield) With two exceptions at the moment, Belgium and France. 71. Will the DSACEUR have the right to attend the Military Committee? (Mr Hatfield) In general, yes. 72. What does that mean? (Mr Hatfield) He is not a full member because, as in the case of NATO, it is a committee that is formed of the national chiefs of defence at the highest level. For normal business, he would attend, especially where he was being consulted on aspects which are his responsibility overlapping between NATO and the EU. There may be some business -- for example, if the EU Military Committee was making another selection for its next chairman -- where you would not expect him to attend, but for most business he would be open to attend. That is written down in the documents that have already been prepared. 73. He will only be able to attend when he is invited? (Mr Hatfield) He will normally be present. He is not a member of the committee. 74. He has no right to attend; he has to be invited? (Mr Hatfield) So does anybody else who is not a chief of defence for one of the countries concerned. 75. So the DSACEUR does not have a right to attend? (Mr Hatfield) Correct, but he will normally be invited. 76. I do not know what you mean by "normally". "Normally" can mean many things. (Mr Hatfield) For most meetings and for all meetings where it actually impinges on his responsibility for European forces in the EU and in NATO, he will be invited, but some aspects of business -- for example, the election of a new chairman of committee -- are simply a matter for the committee themselves and do not directly affect the DSACEUR. Laura Moffatt 77. We had just started to talk about the WEU and we would like to know the current status and its dependent organisations. (Mr Hoon) There was a decision that in time the WEU will be wound down. That decision was announced in November 2000. There is a transitional phase. It has been decided that the Netherlands presidency will work on that process to determine what happens to its residual functions by July this year. There is a process but some parts of that process -- not least the Assembly, for example -- are not yet determined. 78. That being the case, when would you hope to see the functions of the WEU settled within the EU structure? Is there a time limit? (Mr Hoon) There is not. For example, the Assembly is one of those areas where I am not sure it is wholly appropriate for governments to determine that matter. I made it clear previously in response to parliamentary questions that it seems to me more a matter for the members of the Assembly to determine whether they still wish to continue to provide that kind of parliamentary advice to governments that they currently make available. That is a debate that I know is taking place amongst members of the Assembly and their colleagues in the European Parliament. 79. That being so, I accept what you say that it is for them to decide they are not going to meet as an Assembly, but what will form the alternative to that democratic input to the whole process? (Mr Hoon) I have resisted being drawn on that because, given the curiosities of the United Kingdom's constitution, I am both a Member of Parliament and a member of the executive. That is a relatively unusual position in modern constitutions and therefore it does seem to me, since you invite me here not as a Member of Parliament but as a member of the executive, that that is essentially a parliamentary matter for the members of the Assembly to advise on. Ultimately, if there is to be a treaty change between the governments, that would have to come to the executive but I do think it is right that in the first place it ought to be for the members of the Assembly and relevant Members of Parliament to give advice on what sort of structures they think appropriate. Obviously, that will be a view that we would take very strongly into account. 80. Do you believe that it is important that there is that accountability process within the whole new structure? (Mr Hoon) I would rather use the word "advice" because I am accountable to the House of Commons, as a member of the executive, for decisions I take as Secretary of State for Defence. That is where my accountability lies and that is very strongly the view that I adhere to. I do see a role for broader thinking and advice that can come from a parliamentary assembly of the kind that we are discussing, but I do not think it is strictly the case that I would be accountable to such an assembly. Mr Cohen 81. Turning to the wider questions, the rapid reaction force is about troops, tactical operations, peace keeping and peace enforcement but Britain and France are both nuclear weapons powers. Do you see any possibility further down the road of the EU having a nuclear component to its forces? (Mr Hoon) No. 82. Turkey has been mentioned, but there are six non-EU allies involved in this. How are they going to be integrated in the political/military decision making process? (Mr Hoon) We have indicated a range of mechanisms by which there would be regular consultation and meetings between the 15 and the 6. We have discussed this afternoon the capabilities conference and all six were present in a meeting immediately afterwards, where they also indicated the force contributions that they could make available to any rapid reaction force as and when required. There will be an extensive process of ensuring the involvement of all six in the discussions and deliberations that are made by the 15. Dr Lewis 83. Do you think that the whole ESDP process is bolstering or straining transatlantic links specifically with the Bush administration? (Mr Hoon) I think it is very considerably strengthening the arrangements because the Americans have long argued understandably that they want to see a much greater contribution to military capability from European nations than they have seen in the past. I know that it is something that this Committee has been also concerned about. In those circumstances, by setting out this quite deliberate goal of improving our military capability, we are, as I have said to you before, both improving our ability to act as a European nation but crucially improving our contribution and our capability within NATO. 84. I accept that that is your intention. To what extent do you think you are succeeding in getting that version of what is being done accepted in America? I particularly have in mind some of the comments of Defence Secretary Rumsfeld when he has pointed out, "We have so much at stake with that alliance" -- meaning NATO -- "we need to be vigilant to see that we do not do anything that would inject an instability into the alliance. It is a lot easier to put something at risk than it is to fashion it in the first place." He would not be making these sorts of comments, would he, unless there was some degree of doubt in his mind? (Mr Hoon) I think he is setting out quite rightly the concerns that all of us have to ensure that this is about improving our capabilities. I do not want to trade Donald Rumsfeld quotes with you but I had a long conversation with him last week. He said, for example, not just last week, "I favour efforts that strengthen NATO. Actions that enhance capabilities can strengthen the alliance. The question is the extent to which the participants in the European force desire to increase their capabilities." These are all very supportive of what we are trying to do, which is to improve military capability. 85. He did famously say that the devil is in the detail. You were quoted on 22 March in the press as having said, "We have made it absolutely clear that those details are details we have to get right to ensure that European defence is wholly consistent with improving capabilities in the NATO context." That seems to be an admission that if you do not get those details right you might fail to ensure that this scheme is improving and strengthening NATO as you wish. (Mr Hoon) I agree with the quotations that you have set out. 86. And? (Mr Hoon) And of course there is always a risk in a complex world that things can go wrong. I think it would be foolish for me to sit here and pretend otherwise. I am absolutely confident that we are on the right track, that the agreements that we have achieved so far are the right agreements, that they are going in the right direction and that ultimately we will be successful. I recognise that it could go wrong; I just do not think it will. 87. What do you think the Russians make of this scheme? What do you believe their perception is of the desirability or otherwise for the creation of this EU rapid reaction force? (Mr Hoon) I honestly do not know. Laura Moffatt 88. To what extent is the debate on missile defence emphasising certain aspects of difference between the Europeans and the United States? (Mr Hoon) I do not think it is. Indeed, the United States, the new administration, has made it very clear on a number of occasions that they will consult European allies and Russia and China for that matter before coming forward with any specific proposal. I think there is a very determined effort amongst Europeans to react constructively to both the threat that we recognise the United States faces but also the means of the solution. 89. How does the United Kingdom try to put the NMD debate in a perspective that does not undermine the attempt of ESDP to strengthen transatlantic links? (Mr Hoon) We have a strong bilateral relationship with the United States, our strongest ally. We have said repeatedly that we would not want to see the United States have to meet this threat without our understanding and support. Equally, the United States has made it clear that it would want to consult with allies, not only the United Kingdom but continental allies as well as countries that are not even allied to the United States, before it goes ahead with any proposal. It is part of the example that I was giving to Dr Lewis earlier. The world is a more complex place sometimes than some Members of this Committee might suggest. Relationships are conducted both on a bilateral basis but also multilaterally through the various alliances that we are part of. 90. That is interesting. How do we prevent the exchanges from, say, Europe about NMD upsetting the Americans and the United States upsetting the Russians and ending up with a great carry-on, shouting at each other across the Atlantic? How do we pick our way through that? (Mr Hoon) I do not think it happens like that. I do not think there are exchanges at the volume that, by implication, your question suggests. On the other hand, again, I find it a little surprising sometimes that it is suggested to me, especially here in a parliamentary committee, that there should not from time to time be differences of opinion between countries and within countries. I spent some time in Congress the other day and the range of opinions that you will find there reflects the entertaining range of opinions that I would find here. In parliamentary democracies, I would expect to find that. Indeed, if I did not find that, there would be something seriously wrong because we would not have that kind of lively debate about these important issues that is so necessary. 91. That must be unquestionably true but how do we avoid getting nations into a corner, saying things that they find it very difficult to get out of later? Debate is fine but how do you stop that? (Mr Hoon) I do not think actually we do that, if you are referring to the Government now. I think governments are very careful to avoid painting each other into a corner. We have very distinguished members of the press here and one of the dangers is that they seize upon quotations, sadly sometimes taken out of context, in order to write glorious headlines that presumably are designed to sell a few newspapers the next day, but that is not always part of the real debate that is going on. I accept, again, in a democracy it is right that they should be able to pick things out in that way but it does not always give a full picture both of the breadth of the debate or perhaps of the breadth of the comments made by the individual in question. It will be interesting to see what they make of my remarks tomorrow. Chairman: There are times when we would like any publicity, lies or otherwise. Dr Lewis: Speak for yourself, Chairman. Chairman: Frankly, if I can keep unanimity among this bunch then NATO should be fairly easy. We have just one more question which is fittingly from the Deputy Chairman, Peter Viggers. Mr Viggers 92. Our discussion has been a little unstructured because the Petersberg tasks, the lower range of military intensity tasks which the European defence identity is meant to face up to is, of course, unspecified. Do you envisage that it will be necessary and it will be helpful to be more specific in the Petersberg tasks? Would that help to enable individuals to know exactly what the Europeans might be facing alone without NATO? (Mr Hoon) Part of the elaboration of the goal, in a sense, is to prepare contingency plans for the range of operations that a European force might become involved with where NATO was not engaged. That would give us some more precise indication of the kind of force packages that would be required and how we would deal with them. I am fairly comfortable with the Petersberg tasks because I do not really think that we can ever precisely identify the kind of operation that is going to come up because no two operations are ever the same, they always have very different kinds of requirements both in the political context and the military response. What we are trying to do is to ensure that across a range of different commitments we have the right kind of forces available. I do not think it particularly helps to be too specific about what that particular operation might consist of. Chairman 93. Thank you very much. I am sorry to have pushed the Committee very hard but I am about to make a speech of Brezhnev-type length in the House of Commons on the regulation of the private security industry that I have been campaigning for for 25 years. (Mr Hoon) I am sure that it will be extensively reported in tomorrow's newspapers. Chairman: If it is half as much as Brezhnev's speeches then I will be delighted. Mr Cann: The rest of us are going down the Chinkie. Chairman 94. Thank you very much. I am not sure whether this will be the last public session of the Committee but if it is, and I suspect it might be although I have no inside knowledge, I would like to thank you and your Department for all the help you have usually provided and my Committee for their tolerance to my occasional bullying. We would like to invite you and your fellow Ministers to a little beano next week. If the election is not called then please hold that invitation in abeyance. Thank you very much for coming along. (Mr Hoon) Thank you all very much. Chairman: I am sure the problems that you have been discussing will probably be debated more fully, if in a less informal manner, in the next few months. Thank you.