Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-119)|
INGRAM, MP, MR
CBE AND MR
WEDNESDAY 19 DECEMBER 2001
100. Does that change our relationship in all
of this? For instance, we have already mentioned the Germans and
the Dutch have agreed to share the A400M, does that not alter
where we are in this, in the sense that we are capable right across
the spectrum and they have a tendency to work together first?
Are there any lessons in that for us?
(Mr Ingram) It would be wrong to say we should ignore
the lessons. Lessons are to be learnt and if there are some positive
things to come from them then we should seize them, but it gets
back to the debate about specialisation. These are big strategic
issues. If we are not going to do something, what is the cost
of not doing that, and I do not mean that in monetary terms but
what we can then deliver. We should always be conscious of new
initiatives and approaches and indeed we lead the way in that
type of relationship with other countries in training terms and
sharing of approaches. So we can put a lot into that teaching
medium but we can also draw from it as well. I think I have already
used the phrase, there is not an answer which you can pick off
the shelf in this and say, "That is the way forward",
we have all got to be learning from each other. Our SDR is a framework
and base which other countries are looking at as a very good example
of how the post-Cold War environment has to be defined and then
101. Would we want to do what the Dutch and
the Germans are doing? Would we want to really share an asset
in that way? Do we see ourselves as something different from them?
(Mr Ingram) Again, because of the range of things
which are around, it would be wrong to say there would be no circumstances
when we could find it attractive. In a sense that could be seen
as a hedging answer but, because it is a developing situation
and there always has to be a pragmatic approach to these developments,
we should never rule out the possibility of new ways of doing
102. It must be difficult to work out how you
get an arrangement like that. It must have been difficult for
the Germans and the Dutch.
(Mr Ingram) I am not saying it is easy or there is
one way of looking at it at present. There are some considerable
complications in terms of the way in which, to use that example,
that works in practice but that is a matter for those nations
so to determine. But I make the point it would be wrong for us
to rule that out completely.
103. Do you see what they have done as a model
for what we can do in the future?
(Mr Ingram) It could well be. It comes back to this
notion of burden-sharing. We cannot do everything. The UK cannot
do everything. We do cover the spectrum of tasks and that remains
our commitment, but as we try to maximise our investment in defence
then we should always look for new ways of doing things. It would
be wrong to ignore them, that is the point I am making.
(Mr Webb) What it does do is enhance your scale and
the ability to do things at the same time. I think the Committee
saw when you went out to Saif Sareea that we have quite a close
relationship with the Netherlands, for example, on medical arrangements,
and that is pretty much a standard featureand then there
are the arrangements in the amphibious worldand we have
a very close understanding with the Netherlands about that and
they have their sovereign decisions, of course. It is not that
we could not do an operation without them but we can do more and
more at the same time by having those arrangements in place. We
need to learn how to do this. We are getting better at it but
it is an area we need to keep working on.
104. Mr Crausby mentioned the A400M, Mr Webb
saw the signatures last night, can you tell us whether you think
the A400M will be shareable by the Germans and the Dutch or will
it be a project too far?
(Mr Webb) I can give you an answer at the policy level,
Chairman. Yes, is the answer. Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg,
Portugal, Spain and Turkey gave the green light by signature last
105. Was Italy in that list?
(Mr Webb) No. You were talking about political momentum
and I think the ESDP was a factor in that taking off.
106. Will it take off with jet engines or propeller
engines? Have they decided on that small point?
(Mr Webb) I am afraid, Sir, you are below my threshold.
We will tell you.
(Mr Ingram) We will provide you with the information
once it becomes available.
Chairman: I think that information is confidential.
We do not know if it has been decided or not.
Jim Knight: Propellers.
107. Perhaps you could ask your colleague, Lord
Bach, to advise on what happened yesterday. I have gone on three
occasions to Germany, pleading with them to stay in the Eurofighter
project, and thankfully that has succeeded, I am not certain I
want to go out to a NATO country and ask them to stay in the A400M
project. I would like to know if the contract which was signed
locks in countries to contribute, to participate? If one country
decides to opt out, will the project still proceed? Are we going
to plan on the assumption that these aircraft will arrive and
be in service at a certain date, or are we going to have some
fall-back plan in case somebody rats on their commitment and leaves
us with an aircraft that is not going to be available?
(Mr Ingram) Can we just absorb those questions and
108. Please do ask Lord Bach.
(Mr Ingram)we will give you the answers, if
there are answers, to some of those questions.
109. Can I just tag one on for absorption and
not answer? Clearly the aerospace industry has difficulties at
the moment. I know Airbus are concerned to retain their skilled
workforce in the UK whilst they are particularly in the gap before
the A400M work really starts. An answer as to what are the conversations
you are having with the DTI about helping them through that interregnum
so those skills are retained, would also be helpful.
(Mr Ingram) I will absorb that question as well. If
we can provide an answer, we will provide an answer.
110. After Christmas will do.
(Mr Ingram) After this Christmas I can promise you.
Rachel Squire: We could all get into issues
of lobbying for our own individual constituencies.
Jim Knight: No, no, Bristol is miles away from
111. Mr Lee you said earlier how the European
Capabilities Action Plan consists of groups of willing nations
working together to improve programmes. As we have for a long
time had groups of nations in Europe willing to work together,
why has it been necessary to introduce a European Capabilities
(Mr Lee) The simple answer to why it has been necessary
is that all previous initiatives have not yet delivered the level
of European capability we want. We have been aware of that for
a number of years and there have been initiatives within the WEU,
when that existed, and also within NATO to try to remedy these
deficiencies. I think it is fair to say that Kosovo during 1999
gave a particular impetus to these efforts, and it was following
on from that that the Headline Goal and the EU's efforts were
launched. It is an additional effort to make another attempt to
reach the goal through a different forum, using a slightly different
method. Largely the same countries are involved. It is a method
which puts the onus on the individual countries to shape up, make
the contributions; a method under which in a sense there is nowhere
to hide. No higher authority is telling countries what to do,
there is no chance of hiding behind the United States as might
sometimes be a criticism in NATO. This is the Europeans having
to make their own efforts transparently amongst themselves to
try and meet these same goals.
112. My second question is really following
that. What makes you confident that this time it will be different?
You say you think the particular features of the European Capabilities
Action Plan are that it is transparent, it is an action plan agreed
between equals and that there is nowhere to hide, are there any
other particular features which make you confident that if we
are ever going to deliver on European capability, this will happen?
(Mr Ingram) Simon Webb touched on this in terms of
the role Geoff Hoon is playing in dealing with countries, and
this is really a political dimension. We have at a political level
all points of political contactDefence Ministers, EU Ministers,
even Heads of Governmentand it has been so defined within
the Laeken Communiqué. It is high on the agenda of the
Spanish Presidency. The focus will be on delivery. If there are
any failures, those who have not assisted the momentum towards
the achievement then have to explain that to their counterparts
at those various levels. That becomes part of the diplomatic process.
Do not sign up to something unless you are prepared to commit
and deliver, and if you cannot do it it would be useful if we
were told the reasons for that. We are committed to it and we
believe the other nations are equally committed to it.
113. Has this action plan been published or
is it going to be? I and others want to actually see what has
been promised and what has been actually delivered so far and
what is still yet to be delivered, particularly in respect of
countries like Spain.
(Mr Ingram) The action plan has not been published
because it is not yet defined. That is the next step in taking
it forward by the Spanish Presidency. Whether it will be published
or not, and there are no plans to publish this, again is something
you may want to comment on, and we will then have to consider
whether there is benefit in greater transparency in that, and
that has to be a judgment across countries because there would
have to be unanimity, I would guess, as to whether such a plan
was published and for what benefits. So we are into the subtleties
and sensitivities of the diplomatic debate which really does not
rest, I suppose, with the Ministry of Defence, although we can
contribute to ensuring we are driving forward on those elements
we have a key part to play in.
114. Can I also ask you about this possibility
of a panel or expert panels? I gather the action plan has flagged
up the possibility of expert panels taking work forward in particular
capability areas. Can you say a little more about what that will
involve and where the UK might take the lead on those panels?
(Mr Lee) A slightly more technical answer to the previous
point you made is that within this process we believe we have
more clarity about exactly what the capability requirements are
than perhaps we had before. They are quantified by type and also
identified by quantity. The amount of extra capability needed
collectively to meet the Headline Goal is a defined level, so
there is a certain extra clarity there which might help in addition
to the factors which the Minister mentioned. In terms of the action
plan and expert panels and so on, as the Minister says, that is
work in progress, it remains to be defined exactly how those panels
will be constituted and who will participate in which. Publishing
the action plan in due course, I suppose, would simply mean publishing
the proceedings or the conclusions of those groups and what interests
might come out of those groups in due course. There is certainly
an intention that there should be progress reports at the end
of each presidency of the EU, so each of those progress reports
will, I suppose, constitute in some sense a publication of what
progress has been made and what state the action plan is in at
that particular time. The expert panels will in essence in our
view be largely self-selecting. Those countries who wish to participate
in a particular area will put themselves forward to do so. The
EU military staff will provide a co-ordinating function to establish
which areas are being dealt with, which areas are not being dealt
with, whether lessons can be learned from one group and passed
to another, and that kind of activity. This, as I say, remains
work in progress. The detail of exactly how this will work is
to be established under the Spanish Presidency and they have a
mandate to do that.
115. My next question, and it is one which is
of particular interest to myself and other colleagues who are
on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, is whether you can describe
for us how the EU would make use of NATO assets and capabilities?
It is a question which is certainly one which has been discussed
a lot amongst NATO parliamentarians. Just what are the arrangements
for moving them over from NATO to EU auspices if and when an operation
(Mr Webb) This is an important part of the whole ESDP
and it is something called Berlin-plus, which is a package of
things which will take some time to describe but we have the expert
here. I would say there were about three or four main elements
to it. The first is to have assured access to NATO planning. NATO
has very well practised military strategic planning staffs, so
when the EU is looking at options it might undertake in a situation
in which NATO was not engaged, those planning staffs could help
generate options they can think about; the so-called pre-decision
phase. There is then the role of NATO in providing an operational
commander and an operational headquarters, and we talked about
the role of Deputy SACEUR. There are other people who could do
it but that is a good illustration of how that could work, and
we talked a little about that earlier on. NATO also has a range
of other fixed type assetsthings like the AWACS aircraft,
some strategic infrastructure type of communications, that kind
of thingwhich could be very relevant and there is a plan
to, as it were, have an understanding in advance about what assets
could be available, so the EU knows what there is, and there has
been some discussion about getting access to them. Those are the
main headings of it. What this will do is allow ESDP to be militarily
much more effective. You can do a lot more with access to those
assets, that is the point, without duplication, which it has been
an absolute determination of the UK to avoid. So it is a good
news story. Discussions have been going on to finalise those arrangements
and people know that Turkey had some concerns about that, and
there was a lot of discussion with Turkey, and I think we have
made a lot of progress in that direction. The package still has
to be finalised but we have made a lot of progress over the last
year on that.
116. You have really touched on my second question,
which was clearly the EU is looking to rely on NATO assets and,
as you have said, you have all been anxious to avoid the duplication
(Mr Webb) Yes.
117.but there has been a great deal of
discussion and objections, particularly by Turkey, to make agreement
to that. I was going to ask you, have specific NATO capabilities
and assets already been earmarked and promised for EU use? Am
I right to think that what you are saying is that a great deal
of discussion is going on and you are a bit closer to that, but
you have not quite yet got there?
(Mr Webb) Can I make a quick point about Turkey? Can
I use the word "concerns" rather than "objections"
because the tone of these things has been about two great organisations
trying to get something done together. That has been my tone.
These are our old friends we are talking about.
(Mr Ingram) This debate clearly is one which has been
on-going. We are trying to get this relationship properly defined.
We are dealing with a new entity here in terms of the ESDP. I
have used the analogy a few times but it is not a case of taking
something off the shelf, it is not a case of plugging into a new
electric power point and off it goes. We are dealing with the
sensitivity of nations. All nations bring their issues to the
table as to what this means and clearly that can be more difficult
for some nations than others. I think you are right in your summation
that we are getting to the point, hopefully, of agreement on this.
It would be wrong to expose the fine details on this because of
the very nature of the discussions which are taking place. To
have openness and to expose all the points of discussion does
not necessarily help the process move forward. If individual nations
want to exhibit it, that is a matter for them, but in terms of
what we are seeking to do, because we want to push this issue
forward, it is important it is plugged into NATO, and it can only
deliver in terms of some of the tasks when it truly has access
to that. It is convincing others of the merits of that argument,
and these touch upon some quite specific sensitivities which we
are currently tackling, and we hope to conclude in the near future.
118. Can I move on to how much of the Helsinki
Headline Goal will be contributed by non-EU countries?
(Mr Lee) To be slightly pedantic, the Headline Goal
itself is a goal set by the EU Member States, so the achievement,
or non-achievement, of the Headline Goal will be assessed in relation
to the EU Member States' commitments. What was invited at Helsinki
and has been pursued since then, are additional contributions
for the supplementary, wider pool of European capabilities and
capability improvements from non-EU countries. Those offers were
made, first of all, last year at the original Capability Conference
in Brussels in November 2000. I do not have with me the entire
list of countries who contributed, but I think it is most of,
if not all of, the non-EU allies and the countries who are candidates
for membership of the EU. Each one of them has identified some
contributions which it could make to a potential EU-led operation.
The way that those contributions will be treated will in effect
be the same way as the Member States' contributions are treated
in terms of the assessment as we go forward.
(Mr Ingram) If that is information we can provide,
we will certainly do so, just to deal with the specifics of this.
Again it comes down to whether those countries are willing for
us impart that type of knowledge and I am unsighted on that, so
we will take this on advice and see how best we can address that
119. I think you might say that in response
to my next question, which is, what has been offered to those
present non-EU countries in return, and that particularly refers
to Turkey's keenness to join the EU?
(Mr Ingram) It would be wrong for us to even try to
assess the motivation, other than to say they would be seized
of the same importance that we place on the ESDP as being an enhancement
of the capabilities of nations which have a mutual interest in
tackling external threats and helping in a whole lot of other
different ways. I would not for a minute think there have been
any deals done on this.