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Mr. Cash: My right hon. and learned Friend may or may not know that immediately before the House rose for the general election a document was put before the European Scrutiny Committee. We did not have a chance to consider it properly, but it stipulated that a new European satellite surveillance system would be created, which was clearly intended to be in direct competition with the existing arrangements. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend would like to have a look at it later.
The present situation is fraught with danger, which is enhanced by the United Kingdom Government's tendency to pretend that nothing new has happened, that there has been no departure from previous policy and that nothing has changed. I hope that the plain-speaking Minister will come clean, and at least give us the Government's explanation of why they have changed their position and why we have embarked on such a perilous course.
Mr. Hendrick: I am surprised at the degree of what the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) described as hype and spin. It is supposed to be coming from this side of the House, but it is actually coming from the other side. It is as if the treaty represented the end of the world as we know itas if it would lay the nation bare and make it defenceless and vulnerable to threats from around the globe. In fact we are talking about an ideal piece of co-operation, aimed at enhancing European security and making it less dependent on American involvement in European problems.
Mr. Cash: I can only refer the hon. Gentleman to an article that I contributed to The TimesI cannot remember the precise date, but it was several years agowhich followed a great deal of research into this question. At the time, a petition was presented to President Clinton by some 130 congressmen suggesting that Solana should not be given the post. Furthermore, I had discussions with our then Secretary of State for Defence, and with the Prime Minister by fax, during the weekend before the appointment. All this has quite an interesting little history, but I would be happy for the hon. Gentleman to read the article.
Mr. Hendrick: A petition from some American congressmen is hardly convincing evidence that Mr. Solana was not fit to be appointed Secretary-General. Nevertheless, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has his views.
The hon. Gentleman suggested that in some way Mr. Solana was not accountable, or would not be accountable under the new arrangements involving QMV, in respect of his appointment as head of CFSP and our foreign affairs spokesperson in Europe.
Mr. Hendrick: Well, the European Union foreign affairs spokesperson. The hon. Gentleman suggested that he was not accountable, when in fact he can be called to the European Council of Ministers whenever it so wishes.
There is further opposition to QMV in the light of the experience with Jacques Santer. As we discussed in a previous debate, his appointment was supported unanimously at the Council of Ministers and he was a disastrous head of the European Commission. He presided over chaos in the European Union and, like his colleagues, was persuaded to resign and stand down. Had unanimity not been used at that time, we would have had a different head of the European Commission: one appointed by a majority of Ministers, one who would have been the highest common denominator and a good head of the European Commission, rather than the lowest common denominator, which Mr. Santer turned out to be.
On decision making through QMV, the Opposition talk about the development of a European superstate and some cumbersome, lumbering superstructure, but qualified majority voting is the very mechanism that will maintain flexibility within the European Union, streamline decision making, and allow a majority of member states that wish to pursue a particular line not to be held up by tiddler nations that may wish to block everything. It is a recipe
What also surprises me is the number of contradictions that we hear from Opposition Members. The hon. Member for Stone, who unfortunately is not with us at the moment, referred to the Prime Minister mentioning 65,000 troops in a speech. Then he said that the figure was reduced to 60,000. Now he asserts that it may be anything up to 240,000. The hon. Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) said that there was no commitment, no weaponry, no personnelit was a phantom army. Which is the truth? Is it a phantom army? Will it be a European army of 60,000 or 240,000 troops?
Patrick Mercer: The truth is that none of the British troops is dedicated to the task in hand. They are all double or triple-hatted at a time when our defences are already horribly overstretched. No combat power is being added; there are merely staff officers.
Mr. Hendrick: That proves my point. It is not a European army, as the Opposition put it. It is not a standing army. No troops are permanently engaged in a particular task. An army will be assembled with the consent of nation states when the need arises. We did not have a force ready and willing to move in when the trouble started in Bosnia, which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): Will the hon. Gentleman explain why, if it is not meant to be a European army, the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, who presumably should know something about all this, said that it would be a European army?
Mr. Hendrick: The right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the Suez crisis, during which I was but a twinkle in my mother's eye. Indeed, my father just missed being called up for it. As I was not around at the time of that conflict, I cannot speak about it from personal experience. However, I believe that there is an element of peace making in most conflicts. The problems arise when, for example, troops in blue berets are sent into a situation but are given little direction by the United Nations Security Council on how to engage the opposition and on whether they can effectively conduct offensive operations to force those who are causing the conflict to retreat and cease their action. That type of arrangement is different from the one being proposed.
We have to address the issue of establishing a peacemaking force. We would have liked to have such a force in Bosnia, but we did not have the capability to deploy one. We should be working towards establishing that capability, without having to rely totally on the Americans.