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Dr. Julian Lewis: The hon. Gentleman has been exceptionally generous in giving way, and I thank him for that. He says that there is no conflict between the rapid reaction force and NATO, but if the rapid reaction force is not to have standing forces of its ownwhich it is notand if it is only to deploy forces that are normally allocated to NATO, what would happen if it were engaged in a large-scale peacekeeping operation, taking forces away from NATO, and another crisis arose in which NATO and the United States wished to act, but found that their forces were depleted because they were engaged in some escapade with the rapid reaction force? Which of the two crises would come out on top? Is all this necessary, when if the force remained within the structure of NATO, all such matters would be resolved internally?
There is nothing to stop two crises arising at the same time. Presumably, NATO would have the capability to deal with the situation. The hon. Gentleman's hypothesis is unlikely, but if that happened, it could still be dealt with under the current system.
I want to deal with a few of the myths. Opposition Members say that European defence will weaken NATO and undermine relations with the United States. Better European capabilities will strengthen the contribution of European nations to NATO as well as to the EU. Most of the Opposition's arguments are not really about defence capability or our ability to deal with conflictalthough their proposals would inhibit thatbut about a political objection.
Mr. Menzies Campbell: I shall address my brief remarks to the issues raised so eloquently by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). I did not entirely agree with him, but I most certainly did agree with some portions of his thoughtful speech. He struck a chord with me when he spoke about defence expenditure, because there will be no capability unless there is defence expenditure.
If we cast our minds back to the general election, none of the three major parties committed itself in the course of this Parliament to any material increase in defence expenditure. There is a certain amount of creative accounting going on around Europe that justifies some officials saying that defence expenditure is going up. I do not believe that, because the way in which expenditure is allocated is often done differently in different countries. The real question is not what is being spent, but what we are getting for the money that is being spent; to use an expression that was current about 10 or 15 years ago, how big a bang are we getting for the buck?
Respectfully, I say to the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hendrick) that to characterise the problems in the Balkans as being related entirely to US intransigence is not to take a sufficiently broad view of what took place, especially in the period when Bosnia was the source of such difficulty. I have been critical of the fact that the US has been unwilling to commit troops, but we must recall that there was a criticalto use the word in its alternative sensemeeting of the EU here in London at which a lot of warm words were expressed and commitments given. However, there was then no follow-through action or deployment of the necessary forces.
Another element of the Bosnian situation that cannot be avoided is that the mandates handed down by the UN Security Council, and the terms upon which the UN was first operating in Bosnia, were, to say the least, ambiguous. We need a longer historical perspective on Bosnia to see why the international community found it so difficult to deal with something that, as the commemoration today in Srebrenica reminds us forcefully, was horrific to an extent that people thought we were unlikely to experience after the end of the second world war.
On the relationship between NATO and the EU, I adhere strongly to a view that I have persistently expressed in the House; persistently is perhaps the right adverb to use. What we need is a formal protocol between NATO and the EU in which NATO is given a formal right of first refusal. The annexe to the Nice treaty talks about where NATO is not involved. On that point also, I agree with the hon. Member for RuislipNorthwood. We need to locate operational planning in NATO, and I would go further and argue that strategic planning should also be located in NATO.
I part company with the hon. Gentleman on a further point and I shall try to explain my logic. If NATO decided not to become involved in an issue, it would be standing back not only militarily, but politically. If the EU, in furtherance of the provisions we are discussing, decided that it would proceed militarily, it would make no sense to look for political direction of that EU activity from NATO. Some form of political direction must be available on occasions when NATO declines to become involved. We need a structural element in addition to what we have at the moment.
On the issue of scrutiny, we have heard much special pleading for the Western European Union in the House in the past 18 months, but if we are to scrutinise the provisions before us, the place for that scrutiny is in this domestic Parliament. I feel strongly that decisions about sending young men andincreasinglywomen to war should be taken in a forum in which I, as an elected representative with a front-line air base in my constituency, have the right to hold Ministers to account for their decisions. Whatever the merits of the WEU or the European Parliament, I am not willing to cede my responsibility for that scrutiny to a body that has no real constituencyas the hon. Gentleman suggested of the European Parliamentor is essentially an appointed body
Mr. Wilkinson: Is not the point that while ultimate responsibility for sending British troops to war remains with the House, we nevertheless benefit from the fact that our colleagues in the House and in the other place are members of the WEU? In that body, which provides another forum for transnational responsibility in Europe, our colleagues are informed of the obligations, stresses, strains and problems of other member countries that impinge on our national security decisions. The WEU can exert a common will to persuade other Parliaments to do things to our mutual benefit, such as creating heavy lift and other capabilities.
Mr. Campbell: The hon. Gentleman and I may be moving, slowly but inexorably, towards agreement on that subject. It may be a question of emphasis, but the WEU and other such bodiesI speak as someone who has been a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly for some 10 yearshave a tremendous role to play in allowing us to understand the principles and priorities of the other countries involved. However, formal scrutiny is our responsibility and it should not be ceded.
I believe that Turkey should be a member of the European Uniona view not always popular in my partybut it has considerable obstacles to overcome, not least in the conduct of its police and its army and in relation to the universal recognition of human rights. However, Turkey overplayed its hand at first, because it appeared to believe that it could influence the opinion of the EU on its application for membership by displaying a mailed fist on the proposals for the European security and defence policy.
As long as the money is spent and the capability is achieved, I believe that we can make a contribution to NATO, and offer the capacity for the European Union to operate when NATO declines. That is why I believe that these provisions are worthy of support.