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I have some more plain speaking for the Conservative party: NATO is and will remain the cornerstone of Europe's collective defence. That is a fact. NATO is and will remain our first choice for managing crises: that is also a factmore plain speaking. However hard Conservative Members scan the newspapers for sceptical quotes, the fact remains that NATO has long wanted Europe to take more responsibility and to improve its capability. That is what we are now doing, and NATO as a whole strongly supports it. The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) made some very telling points on that matter in last week's debate.
For the avoidance of doubt, let me quote againfor Opposition Members such as the hon. Member for Stone who do not seem to want to hear itwhat the European Council agreed at Nice, not in the treaty, but in the report on European security and defence policy that was approved by all the Heads of State and Government at Nice:
Mr. Cash: The Minister has to answer just two simple questions. In this context, what does "autonomous" mean? It is clearly stated in the declarations and conclusions to which the Minister has referred, as well as in previous treaties. Secondly, why did Romano Prodi say that it did not matter whether we called it Margaret or Mary-Anne, it would still be a European army? Will the Minister answer those two simple questions now?
Peter Hain: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has exhaustively answered these questions in long debates on the matter. I read the text of treaties and of statements agreed at the inter-governmental conference, rather than random comments made by this or that European leadership figure.
The hon. Member for West Suffolk asked about parliamentary scrutiny of European security and defence policy initiatives. Of course we want to involve Parliament, and I will reflect on his arguments to see in what way they can sensibly be addressed.
The hon. Gentleman also asked about article 7 and the sanctions clause. The article was amended to introduce an early-warning mechanism. Surely it makes sense to establish that there is a risk of a breach of fundamental rights. This will give other member states the opportunity to make recommendations and, one would hope, avoid any breaches occurring.
The hon. Gentleman also asked how we would assess whether a breach had occurred. That would be established by the European Council after it had considered the observations of the member state concerned.
Peter Hain: Finally, the rights that we are talking about are those in article 6.1 of the treaty on European Unionthe Maastricht treaty, as amended by the Amsterdam treaty. The charter of fundamental rights has no legal status and is not referred to in article 6.1. The hon. Member for West Suffolk need, therefore, have no worries on that count.
Mr. Howard: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way at last. If he is serious about wanting to provide opportunities for Members to scrutinise the Bill, will he now answer the simple question that he said he would answer five minutes ago? Will he identify where in any of the texts to be agreed there is any reference to NATO's choosing not to be engagedthe phrase used by the Minister in his speechbefore the European Union becomes engaged? Where in the texts does that language appear?
Peter Hain: I have answered this point, and it has been repeatedly answered in the House. So long as the right hon. and learned Gentleman chooses not to study the record of the debates in the House, I cannot help him further.
The hon. Member for West Suffolk asked about an update on Eurojust. The Tampere European Council in October 1999 agreed to set up Eurojust to improve co-operation between national prosecutors, aiding national criminal investigations into serious organised crime. Organised crime stopped respecting national boundaries long ago. We strongly support Eurojust and the benefits that it will bring in tackling organised crime more effectively. Improving judicial co-operation across the European Union will also help to ensure that serious organised crime is properly investigated and prosecuted.
Eurojust will not involve, as the hon. Member for West Suffolk implied, interference by the EU in national investigations and prosecutions. It will not mean an end to British legal traditions. It will not be a body that investigates and prosecutes in its own right. It will not involve a centralised European public prosecutor. Investigations will continue to be conducted by national authorities. The role of Eurojust will be to aid cross-border investigations by ensuring the co-operation of national authorities. Eurojust is designed to crack down
I should answer several other points that were raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe. He asked why a person from a non-member of NATOa Finnis at the head of the European military committee. General Haggland was elected because of his extensive military experience and his competence. Simply put, he was the best person for the job. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked why the presidency report mentions co-operation with Russia, Ukraine and Canada, but not the United States. That represents recognition of the fact that the countries mentioned might want to join EU-led operations. Were the United States involved, an operation would of course effectively be a NATO operation.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the practical arrangements between the EU and NATO. As I have said before, the EU will not set up rival military structures to duplicate what already exists. The EU will use existing operational planning staff from NATO for EU operations using NATO assets. In addition, the NATO North Atlantic Council and the new EU Political and Security Committee will meet regularly to discuss co-operation and are already doing so. Four groups have been formed to consider detailed areas of co-operation and work is continuing to ensure EU access to NATO assets in an agreed fashion.
Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): There is much to discuss further this evening, and although I thank the Minister for responding to the points that I made, I must tell him that we want to examine his responses with some care before returning to them.
We have heard excellent speeches from a number of new Members. First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rosindell), who discussed the snakes and ladders of political life in terms of majorities in local government, parliamentary elections and the recent and most impressive swing in his constituency. He spoke with affection of his predecessors, who overlapped in his constituency: Sir Michael Neubert and Sir Nicholas Bonsor, who were held in high regard in this place, and his immediate predecessor, Eileen Gordon, who spoke with great conviction on health matters.
My hon. Friend referred to the bulldog spirit, and I hope and believe that he will show that spirit in his membership of the House of Commons. He described his constituency with great affection and talked about flying the Union flag. Romford clearly has an articulate Member of Parliament who will fly the flag for the constituency in the years to come.
I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell). I fought the neighbouring seat of Ashton-under-Lyne some years ago, so I know the area to which he referred. I also pay tribute to Tom Pendry, who was a friend of mine. He was highly regarded in the House and he had a particular knowledge of sport, so the whole Committee will be pleased at the hon. Gentleman's comments about Tom.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned Gaitskell's links to the constituency and the change in the area's economic base. I certainly know of that from my own experience therethe number of mills has changed tremendouslybut he also referred to the new businesses that are transforming the economy. He made a remark that struck me. In discussing his ideals, he used the word "socialism". He sits as a Government Member, so I very much hope that he will be able to sustain those ideals in this place in the years to come.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cheadle (Patsy Calton) for her kind words about her predecessor, Stephen Day, with whom I shared an office when I first became a Member of Parliament. She described the great diversity of the constituency, which contains both affluent and poorer areas, and the congestion problems at Manchester airport, which affect her constituency. She showed clear affection for and knowledge of her area, and she is a fluent and competent speaker. I hope that she will make many more contributions in the House as Member for Cheadle.
We have heard much about parliamentary accountability; no matter how one considers the role for the European rapid reaction force arising from the Nice treaty, we must consider pressing new clause 7 to a Division. We want to highlight the implications for the Western European Union, NATO and the future organisations as well as the UK's role therein. We believe that what was agreed at Nice poses serious threats to NATO, which is the organisation that has secured our peace and stability for more than 50 years. We tamper with it at our peril.
A number of excellent speeches have been made, but I must allude to the brilliantly incisive contribution of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard). The fact of the matter is that what was achieved at Nice has nothing to do with enhanced defence capability or burden sharing or co-operation on defence procurement. It is about politicsthe politics of the integration process of the European Union.