WEDNESDAY 19 DECEMBER 2001
Mr Bruce George, in the Chair
RT HON MR ADAM INGRAM, a Member of the House (Minister for the Armed Forces) MR SIMON WEBB CBE, Policy Director, MR IAN LEE, Director Europe, Ministry of Defence, examined
(Mr Ingram) Mr Chairman, could I thank you. This is, obviously, the first time I have given evidence to this Select Committee in my new role, so it is with some trepidation and interest that I approach this particular task. Having served on a select committee myself sometime ago, and having given evidence to other select committees, I know the importance of this and, as you say, this is a very critical and, indeed, topical issue. Geoff Hoon, of course, would have been here to give evidence this morning, and he is sorry he cannot be here today because he is already committed to attending a meeting of NATO ministers in Brussels. I think, as we speak, he is now travelling back for other events later today, but sends his regrets and apologies for not being with us today. I do not know whether it is my pleasure to be here or not, but for the record I will say it is my pleasure to be in attendance. You have already identified Simon Webb, who is our Policy Director and who, I think, is all too familiar to you - and, more importantly, you to him. I do not know whether Ian Lee has popped up in any shape or form in front of you before, but Ian is a Director of Europe and these are the two specialists in this particular area. I know you would welcome any contributions from them to supplement anything that I may say or may not have the direct answer on. I just want to make a very brief statement. Since Geoff last appeared before you to talk about European Security and Defence Policy in March this year, we believe a great deal has been achieved. Most notably, in the last few weeks, there have been first the Capabilities Improvement Conference, in November, and, secondly, the Laeken European Council last weekend. It may be helpful if I set the scene very briefly on these two particular events. The Conference, and the work leading up to it, was important for maintaining our collective commitment. It had five important components: first, it produced a very thorough and professional assessment of the precise nature, quantity and qualities of the capabilities required to meet the Headline Goal. This assessment was based on the work of experts from the 15 EU Member States working with the help and support of NATO experts. It demonstrates the mutually reinforcing nature of NATO and EU goals. Second, it captured some significant adjustments and improvements to the offers of forces and capabilities that countries had made in November 2000. Third, it collected a comprehensive picture of plans and initiatives already in the pipeline within Members States' defence programmes. Fourth, drawing on this information, it was able to identify the remaining shortfall areas - and the most significant areas within that list. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, at the Conference itself Ministers committed to an Action Plan to pursue these remaining shortfalls vigorously to the target of 2003 and beyond. No doubt we will touch on these issues during this session. Secondly, I would like to report very briefly the outcome of the European Council at Laeken. In addition to endorsing the capabilities work I have just described, the Council marked a milestone in the successful development of ESDP. The Council reached two important conclusions: first that the capabilities available and the permanent establishment of the decision-making and advisory structures did give the EU the capacity now to consider undertaking some crisis management operations. Coming only two years after the decisions at Helsinki to pursue these goals, that in itself represents considerable progress. The second conclusion reached is equally significant: the Council concluded that the more demanding operations would require further development of capabilities and that the Union was determined to finalise swiftly arrangements with NATO. Again, I am sure we will come back to those arrangements during this session. For now I should simply like to stress that all the Member States of both the EU and NATO are committed to co-operation between these organisations in the sphere of crisis management. A mutually supportive, close, confident relationship in which each organisation can share its experience, expertise and strength is a shared aim of all the countries involved. In practice, whether in preparation for the Capabilities Conference or in discussions on the Balkans or on the campaign against terrorism, this close relationship is a reality on the ground. It is true that some elements of the formal agreements and arrangements between NATO and the EU have not yet been concluded, but we are very close, and while there are still some details to finalise we are close to call on some of those issues. However, we are not complacent and there is, of course, a great deal still to do. But I believe we can be pleased with progress that has been made on ESDP in a remarkably short period. Now, as the urgency and range of security tasks have grown in recent months, there is a greater need than ever for Europeans to take a fair share of the security burden. The instability and the crisis management tasks that existed before 11 September are still there and so is the requirement for ESDP to play its part in dealing with them. Its objectives are clear: to improve military and civil capabilities across and within partner nations throughout the EU. I would pose a question: who could possibly disagree with that? Mr Chairman, I am all yours.
(Mr Ingram) Clearly, I can only speak for the UK on this, but I would say that our views would be shared across the EU. Of course, that is what discussions and Capabilities Conferences are all about, to try and match what has been identified within the Petersberg Tasks. The upper end would be, I suppose, the peace-making element of all of that, and that would be the separation of parties by force in any theatre of potential conflict or conflict. That would be one area. Conflict prevention and prevention of deployment would, possibly, be another area where it would be the upper end of it. In the sense of where those events could be taking place, then the geographic location would come into some of the dimensions of that debate as well. While the upper end could be defined in the way in which I have defined it, also the capabilities of being able to deliver into areas would sit alongside that type of determination.
(Mr Ingram) War-fighting in the sense that, in a conflict, we have always said that even in relatively benign areas you could still find yourself in a fighting situation. We have always made the point that if fired upon we would expect the situation could be that we would be firing back in those circumstances. The rules of engagement we do not define in precise detail - and, again, you know the reasons for that. On the specific question as to are we getting close to war-fighting, yes, it could well be, in certain circumstances. We would not find ourselves in the upper end tasks against a country, but dealing with factionalism within countries and the separation of factions or different groupings or entities within particular countries, yes, it could - to answer your precise question - be of a war-fighting nature, but not country to country.
(Mr Webb) It is always a mistake when I say this, Chairman, but I was at Petersberg on the day this was agreed, so I remember. I think something which is worth characterising is that the reference to peace-making was introduced fairly late. This was in the early 1990s when the Balkans issue was breaking out, and the reason it was introduced was that people were starting to get worried about fighting in the Balkans. So, indeed, the idea that you might have to separate - exactly as the Minister has said - the parties who, if you like, were warring was very much in people's mind, and the separation of those as opposed to wars between states was in people's mind. The way that the Headline Goals have been scaled - and there is a specific process on this - is that it specifically provides for this kind of operation at the war-fighting end, which is why you find some quite sharp-end capabilities in the Headline Goals, such as expression of air defences and that kind of thing, which is definitely at the war-fighting end. So yes.
(Mr Lee) Not particularly. The scaling of the capabilities, the process by which the Headline Goals have been elaborated and in which it has been defined what all the different capabilities are, obviously, has used, as working assumptions, different scenarios. Those include a scenario referred to as separation of warring parties. So that does include assumptions about combat, possibly, being needed in that situation. Those are assumptions that have been made for military planning purposes in order to work out in more detail what the requirements are which would be needed to underpin the broad statement of the Headline Goal. There has not been an attempt to define precisely in the abstract what the top end of the Petersberg Tasks would be. I think the expectation is that one could not really define it in the abstract, one can only define it in relation to a particular situation which would have to be assessed at the time.
(Mr Lee) No.
(Mr Webb) Yes.
(Mr Lee) Yes, I think so. Perhaps I can just say, on the scenarios in relation to NATO, the actual scenarios that were used originated in the days of the WEU. NATO had done some work on them in those days and NATO did contribute very largely to the assessment work and to the elaboration of them in this work that has happened in the last couple of years. There has been no sense of any dispute or reluctance on the part of NATO in assisting with this work; that has happened throughout.
(Mr Ingram) We are talking about the ESDP and how that is evolving. All within the European theatre or would it go beyond that, I suppose, would be the way I would interpret that question. Again, we are probably some way away from envisaging going beyond the lower end of what can be delivered. Once we get to 2003 then it will be on a case-by-case basis. Could we find ourselves involved in Africa? Yes, possibly. Would it be within Europe, if events such as Kosovo and Serbia manifest themselves? Probably. That would be the way in which it would be envisaged. It is not a global approach that would be anticipated by the ESDP, but where there was a European interest and there was a willingness to deliver on this capability that NATO was not engaged in, then we could find ourselves involved in any one of the Petersberg Tasks as so defined; so humanitarian and, even, through to the upper end if we had the capabilities and NATO was not engaged at that time.
(Mr Ingram) "They" being?
(Mr Ingram) When you use the phrase "serious war-fighting", that could be the Afghanistan situation. It is most unlikely that that would be something which the ESDP could or would ever deliver upon because of the nature and the demands in that particular theatre. So there are limits in that sense. Trying to answer your earlier question about what would be the reach of it in geographic terms and distance terms, what I was saying was we could find ourselves where there were willing nations within Europe, where NATO was not involved, so engaged. Could it be Sierra Leone, if something similar happened? The answer could be yes to that. Because the capabilities are there, we have shown we can do it as a nation, other nations alongside us, depending on the nature of the mission, could deliver enhanced capabilities. So the European dimension could find itself being played in in that way, but in terms of relationship between NATO and ESDP, clearly there has to be a close relationship there and that is being worked on to ensure that it is about enhancing capabilities across NATO and across Europe. Everyone is signed up to that. In my earlier opening statement I think I indicated all nations are seized of that; that everyone benefits from those enhanced capabilities.
(Mr Ingram) Writing everything out or any scenario out is always fraught with some problems because it depends on the case-by-case approach. It has to be: what is the extent of it, what is the nature of it, how quickly can you go in, how quickly can you go out, and how quickly can you deliver that capability to meet the immediate need? There may well be occasions when that demand could be asked for or could be there and could then be met. So to rule it out and say "That will never happen" would be a wrong approach, but I think we then have to draw down and start looking at various scenarios. I have mentioned Sierra Leone. I do not know whether that would satisfy the type of force projection that you were thinking about. We deliver there, as the UK, but there may be something of a slightly larger threat or problem that, by combining forces from the European dimension, we could deliver where NATO may not wish to be so engaged. There are occasions when that could happen, but to be specific, I think, would be difficult at this stage.
(Mr Ingram) First of all, I think we are clear in general terms about what the upper end of the tasks are. What I am saying is that to try and so define them by taking a current example and saying "That would then be repeated at some point in the future and we would then find ourselves engaged", I think, is the wrong way of dealing with this, because rarely do these events occur in exactly the same way or with the same range of problems and the same range of interests in terms of neighbouring countries and other national interests that can play into a particular area. I think we are clear on what the upper ends of the task are, in general terms, and then it comes down to a case-by-case basis. Whether there is quickness in the decision-making process or not, I think, is also driven by events, sometimes by the enormity of what happens or the implications of what could happen. It drives a political will to find a solution. At other times the process will be slow. NATO has to go through that particular process, and there may be occasions when NATO has been through that process and is saying "We do not want to be so engaged", but the EU because of a community of interest which is there, in terms of our range of nations, would say "Yes, we could quickly move in to deal with this particular issue". I think that is why it is difficult to be too specific here, because we are into scenario painting in the future, and nobody can predict that problems will arise other than in very general terms based upon past events. Pre-11 September no one could have said "Well, let's plan in all of those events to the future" because - although much of it had been in your own previous reports and, indeed, in our SDR - the whole question is about the asymmetric threat and how you address it. Look how quickly nations came together on that particular problem.
(Mr Ingram) Simon has got an answer, I think.
(Mr Webb) I think it is banded in several ways. The first, of course, is that although Petersberg Tasks could involve war-fighting and separation of warring parties - as the Minister said - we are not talking about intervening between states or the operation to recover a state, like getting Kuwait back from Iraq, for example. There is a banding there.
(Mr Webb) I am just saying it is not covered by the Petersberg Tasks or between states - about peace-making. The other constraint is because of the capability that is available. The capability, as Ian has explained, has been constructed against various scenarios and the maximum of it reflects the scenario of separating warring parties. Just as a sideline, the size of force we are talking about, if that feels similar to the size of the force which had to intervene in the Balkans in the 1990s, like KFOR, that is not a surprise, because it is the sort of thing which you would have in your mind; quite large and close. There is a mechanism within the EU structure for advice to be given in what is called the "pre-decision phase" by the EU military staff, which is not very large but has the relevant expertise within it. Also, there is an EU military committee which is composed of chiefs of defence who are cautious, realistic and sensible people. At the moment it is very limited, but in 2003 they will be able to say what sort of situations you could make an intervention in. I think I understand your point that there may be a political desire to react to a situation but there will be some very firm advice from military staff backed up by the chiefs of defence to say "Well, actually, what we are capable of doing in this situation is this and, actually, the task which is ahead of us is or is not achievable". It is also tempered, of course, by the willingness of the nations to allocate forces to the task. That is another constraint. So I think the Minister is absolutely right. In an uncertain world ----
(Mr Ingram) That is a relief!
(Mr Webb) ---- it is wrong to try and rule out things that you might or might not do. That just gives comfort to people out there. I would like to rephrase what I said about Iraq. All I am saying is that that is not the sort of scenario on which Headline Goals were constructed, and nor I think was it what people had in mind as Petersberg Tasks because, again, we had just had that war and it was not in our mind. I would not sit and give comfort to Saddam Hussain that there was nothing he could do which would attract the interest of the ESDP; I think he might find somebody else's interest was attracted first.
(Mr Webb) I would not want to give anybody that comfort, but that is why we are being careful about this.
(Mr Webb) Yes.
(Mr Ingram) Probably both. I would not say those are exclusive concepts. To get that type of capable force in place would then mean we are able to meet a range of tasks beyond those which we are able to meet at present. It is about ramping up those capabilities, which undoubtedly are needed; there is no question at all about what is driving this; whether it is within and across European Union or within and across the countries that are members of NATO. There are, clearly, deficiencies within the capabilities; deficiencies and shortfalls which need to be addressed, and this driver can only assist in all of this because it is focussing the minds of all nations. We cannot rest on our laurels and say "We have got all the answers and been able to, necessarily, deliver on all fronts", nor indeed (although it is beyond the EU) can the US. Afghanistan is a very good example of where considerable UK presence has assisted in actions which have been carried out because the US had certain shortfalls. I do not believe that it is a case of one or the other; I do not think they are exclusive concepts.
(Mr Ingram) It is certainly a very useful means to an end, but it is a desirable end against which we have to find argument. I am not saying you are posing it from the point of view of difference with the objective, but it is a very useful means to an end. By setting goals we are then able, hopefully, to achieve those goals. It is the driver; it forces pace and it conditions the minds of those politicians coming round a table and others with responsibility in terms of command to look critically at what can be done, how best it can be delivered, and to what end.
(Mr Ingram) Nothing was going wrong with NATO, but there was a need, first of all, for the recognition that more needed to be done. A good example of what we did in this country was the SDR; the very need to re-examine what our posture was post-Cold War and to see what our own capabilities were. These things, I would not say are relatively new to this debate, but it seems to me there are no solutions you lift off the shelf and say "Here is a new threat imposed or a new environment into which we find ourselves operating, and here is now the answer". It simply cannot work that way. NATO, clearly, because of the wider reach that NATO has, has got a wider range of shortfalls in capabilities it has to address, and that they are doing. The European initiative we are talking about here adds to that. Many of the key players within NATO are obviously European countries, and on that basis, if we are living with a capability in a European dimension then we are helping the NATO shortfalls as well.
(Mr Ingram) I do not think there is a difference, other than what NATO is doing is across a wider reach. They have a bigger range of areas to look at, they are not tied to the Petersberg Tasks, they go beyond that to specific war-fighting against nations and reconstruction of nations. As Simon has pointed out, that is beyond the Petersberg Tasks. There are mutual interests in this, and by taking this forward it sets the conditions. It could also, perhaps, be explained on the basis that some countries are probably more comfortable dealing within a European dimension than within a NATO dimension; they are more comfortable with the type of bilateral or multilateral discussions that take place or the environment in which they discuss it. If that of itself improves capabilities then we should welcome that.
(Mr Ingram) It is 12,500 troops, 18 warships and 72 aircraft. That would be the component force that would have been identified within the SDR as capable of carrying out a medium-scale operation. What we say is that that was one of the things which was defined within the SDR and, therefore, that is what we can contribute to this. That is what we are contributing into the pot, so to speak.
(Mr Ingram) No, because it is not something that is then given to Europe and cannot be touched for any other purposes, nor is it something that would be given to NATO and could not be touched for our own national interests purposes; it is simply defining what we are putting in and making available by way of a contribution. Wherever the demand comes from, that can be drawn upon to meet that need, assuming we agree with the deployment. So it is about saying "This is available for use". We, the UK, then decide whether it is going to be deployed. It is not left to NATO or to the EU; but they know that is there and the offer has been made, and if we need to move into using it we will so determine whether we want to use it and the way in which it is being offered.
(Mr Ingram) I will wait for those questions with some anticipation.
(Mr Ingram) If I interpret your question correctly, would it work against us working bilaterally or multi-nationally with other countries within Europe or elsewhere? The answer to that is no, in the sense that we have what we have available depending, when the request comes in, on what our national interest is in this. If there are competing demands, either from NATO or from ESDP or a combination of that, then we would have to make political decisions within this. Clearly, you can only utilise the resources once, you cannot use them more than once at the same time. We then have to make a decision on where lies our priority.
(Mr Ingram) Yes, absolutely.
(Mr Ingram) I am trying not to give you an answer that says there is a split. What I am saying is that it depends on the set of circumstances. Perhaps we are into scenario painting, but you might want to give me an example of where that could arise, where NATO would have a different interest from the EU and a different interest from UK, France, Germany and so on. There will tend to be, depending on the circumstances, a mutual identification of what needs to be done, but NATO may say "It is not an area into which we want to deploy", knowing there is a capability there within the EU and within those range of Petersberg Tasks, where they have contributions earmarked, and, therefore, they could go off and do it. If we were already engaged in other theatres we would not have that which we were putting into the pot. If we were deployed in a range of other activities and that was in our UK interest, then it would not, obviously, be available then for use. So it is not a case of all those resources standing idly by waiting for an event, they could be used at any point in time.
(Mr Ingram) I am not an economist, so ----
(Mr Ingram) Simon may assist in this. My understanding is you have been given the definitions of the broad contributions that have been made by each of the countries. I do not know whether it is a case for your Clerk then to examine what is the GDP of each of those countries and then to try and define that.
(Mr Ingram) Are we contributing more than someone else.
(Mr Ingram) Again, if you look at what has been offered, while the Headline Goal we talk about is 60,000 deployment, it is in the region of 100,000 if you add up all that which has been contributed. So there is a considerable amount more than the 60,000. Once that is defined and as the Action Plan begins to look at how that is defined with clarity, then we will have a better understanding of this. Are we pulling our weight? The answer is yes. I can only speak for the UK on this.
(Mr Ingram) I have got to say that would be a matter for you to examine by questioning them. All countries that are part of this have put forward what has been anticipated to meet the Headline Goals and, again, I have given you that example of 60,000 but if you tally it up you will find it is in the region of 100,000 as it currently stands. It could well be that other countries are putting in more than was anticipated of them. We would need to bring that down. We will e-mail the position on that.
(Mr Lee) Could I just add a comment on that, following what the Minister said on that last point? All the contributions or offers that have been made by all the Member States are made voluntarily by them according to their decision making and their own wish to participate in the effort to meet the Headline Goal. Participation in any particular operation which might occur in the future would also be a question of national decision and voluntary effort by the various countries. The question of pulling their weight, as it were, is a difficult one because the system does not allocate proportions to different countries according to GDP or any other parameter. The agreement that has been reached is that countries will make their own voluntary commitment as they see fit according to their own wishes and their own decision making. That is the basis of what we have at the moment.
(Mr Ingram) As Ian said, this is a voluntary operation, it is not by diktat or by precise definition. Therefore, we would like - if you think we have not been frank with you - to be more frank, but I think we have tried to examine it as best we can. We will consider if there is any other information we can give you on that that would assist, and you may want to talk about that between our officials as to precisely what you are after and if there is more we could give you to help in your understanding.
(Mr Ingram) I have been at some dinners which have been bun fights but I do not think I would want to elaborate on that analogy.
(Mr Webb) The process of dealing with Headline Goals is a mutual process by which all members have indicated a desire to get to the Headline Goals which were mutually agreed. There is a process which is actually quite visible for countries to declare what contributions they are making. Indeed, I think after the Capability Improvement Conference in November they published - and I think we put it in the library of the House - what countries have said about their contribution. That whole process itself does provide an encouragement for people to work towards a mutual effort. We are encouraging people in this direction, there is no doubt about it, because we did our SDR earlier and feel, to some extent, we are in a good position to encourage others. The Action Plan which was drawn up at the Capability Improvement Conference identifies the areas where there are continued shortfalls. I have just been reading what shortfalls have been remedied in the year, so in terms of effort I was just noting that countries listed as having remedied shortfalls in the year before included France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Austria - and there are lots of repeats in that. So lots of people have been working away achieving things in that year. The Action Plan then provides for groups of countries to undertake to work together to fill the further shortfalls. So there is a process by which we actually, mutually, encourage countries to come through and fill the gaps. I have a sense that people were, within the limits of their capacity, trying to work in that direction. So there is a system which is designed to do what you were just talking about, which is to make sure that we fill all the gaps.
(Mr Ingram) I would just say that politics is not an exact science. You could take it down from the debate that goes across Europe into any nation and look at the debate on priorities that exist at any point in time. That type of argument where you say that every country is woolly in its thinking on occasion, you can certainly prioritise it in budgetary terms but to give every answer to every question to every scenario is simply never going to be realistic to ask of decision makers. This goes back to what Mr Howarth was saying about what we contribute against other countries, but of course other countries may contribute more. They could influence world events in a specific way, ie in terms of international development. The Dutch put a very considerable part of their GDP for instance into international development, I think it is eight per cent, and we are not at that figure. Looking at what we do in terms of military improvements, in terms of capabilities, I think that should sit alongside what the Petersberg Tasks are and what humanitarian elements are in there. While those countries which have the military capabilities will put considerable resources in, others may come along to assist in the process by other means which would then not be put into the military capability pot but could make a significant contribution. That would be the danger of trying to say that we are better than the rest or we have got a shortfall against any other particular country, because it is what is then set against all the deliveries that countries are making to achieve that which we want to achieve from a European dimension and how we can contribute positively, constructively, to world events.
(Mr Webb) Some countries are also doing things that we are not doing. Some countries have signed up (not us) to theatre ballistic missile defence capacity within the shortfalls in a related area which we can talk about a bit later on, which is the civilian lease component. Other countries, for example, contribute a sort of carabinieri/gendarmerie type of element which can be very useful in some of these situations and which we do not do, so there is a complementarity here. As you say, it is a menu and people bring different things along. The challenge is to try and get the menu as complete as we can.
(Mr Webb) The answer is that if there were a critical element that happened to be provided by only a few countries, and there are not many of those, and those countries said that these forces were not available, then the mission could not take place and the EU military staff would say, "We are unable to help with this situation". The one thing we would not do is go crashing around trying to do operations when we did not enough assets, and I think you could rely on the UK Chief of Defence to give clear advice on that point.
(Mr Webb) Nuclear weapons?
(Mr Ingram) The nuclear deterrent would be an example.
(Mr Ingram) Sorry - say that again?
(Mr Ingram) We do not confirm the utilisation of such forces. I know that there is a debate out there that there may be a need for a greater clarity and a greater debate on that but at present that is not something we want to comment upon.
(Mr Ingram) If you look at what we have contributed it is easy to say what we have not contributed in that sense. The rest of our resources of the 12,500, and I think they have listed an 18-warship capability in terms of ro-ros, in terms of nuclear submarines and whatever else and the aircraft, so if there is something not there then it has been defined as not being necessary to meet those requirements.
(Mr Ingram) I am intrigued by the question.
(Mr Lee) We can answer that now. This has not been approached against the criterion of what we could leave out. It is approached from the other end of what we should put in, starting with the Headline Goal itself as the collective goal. That was elaborated down into a large number of particular capability requirements, 144 different capability requirement areas, and then each of the countries put forward what they could offer from their own resources to meet in those capability areas and to meet the various qualitative criteria which are within the goal in terms of readiness and sustainability and so on. In our case we looked at our programme, looked at our own defence planning assumptions and discovered what amount of forces we had which met those criteria and could be made available for those tasks. That rules out nuclear weapons because they do not come within the ambit of peace making in the sense defined. We were able to put forward what we would assume we could field for what we call a continuing medium scale operation. That is how the programme in the UK is constructed. That is what we could put into the pot as it were for this purpose. That is what we have done and we know that other countries have done their own equivalent version of that exercise according to their own plans and their own availabilities.
(Mr Ingram) We are driving towards that. I think it is more than travelling hopefully. We are travelling with a purpose. In terms of earlier exchanges that increased awareness and that increased definition of what is required assists everybody in meeting those goals. It is a very demanding task we have set ourselves but we hope we can get there with commitment and will and determination.
(Mr Ingram) UK forces or European forces?
(Mr Ingram) Very much at the lower end of the task. Geoff Hoon when he was here last in March gave an example, and he may have given it to the House of Lords inquiry, that Mozambique would be the type of example that could probably be delivered at the present time. Indeed the communiqué from Laerken indicates that it would be at the lower end of that. We are only two years away from the starting position on this to where we now are with another two years to go to get to that final point of 2003. It is at the lower end we would be able to deliver.
(Mr Ingram) I would have to give you the answer that I would be confident that we could give the commitment and determination and will and countries seizing of the enormity of what we are trying to do and driving this through across a range of issues that they have to face, whether it is in defence budget terms or whether it is in capability terms, getting to that objective, otherwise at a low point defining those objectives. Closer to call I think would be the time to say, "Is this now going to be achieved?" It would be wrong for me to say we are going to fall far short because that is almost a recipe for failure and that is not in our thinking. The closer we get to it may create of itself a demand to say that we are now significantly short of achieving our objective in 2003; say it was towards the latter end of 2002. That of itself may then give a spur to countries to say, "Okay. We now need to step up what we are doing here". There is a dynamic in this on where we have come from to where we now are, and that is why in my opening statement I used phrases like "significant achievement" and "considerable progress", because we genuinely do believe that much progress has been made and much more will be made.
(Mr Ingram) How would you sustain that in terms of all the capabilities that are being put in? You are talking about the multiplier of 60,000 because of rotation and things like that.
(Mr Ingram) It is part of our planning assumption that by making that contribution we have taken that into account. Other countries are doing the same in the way in which they define this. In what they are putting into the pot they will have included in that assumption the rotational training aspects of their troops in the same way as we would have to do that. By offering 12,500 it is part of our ongoing process of rotation; that is implicit within all that.
(Mr Webb) Sixty thousand is a commitment to provide troops for up to a year. That implies that behind their offers countries must have the rotation to do that. Our 12,500 is not the total number that might participate in the SDP operation. That is our commitment to provide 12,500 and to sustain that. As you say, we need a lot more than that.
(Mr Webb) Yes.
(Mr Ingram) I think it is a significant contribution we are making; there is no question at all about that. We are committed to the concept because it does life capabilities. We can take some credit from the fact that we are taking a lead in this. In one sense we were first to the examination of what we had to do post the Cold War. The SDR gives us an advance in many ways of being able to define our capabilities, to know the stresses that puts upon that if we are dealing with other areas. Remembering what I said earlier, at the end of the day if we are committed elsewhere because of other events then we do not have that to draw upon. A decision has to be taken at that time what do we do, and it is all a question of priorities - where lies the national interest, the European interest, and indeed the NATO interests.
(Mr Webb) I hesitate to correct a soldier, but -----
(Mr Ingram) I think you may be correcting a politician.
(Mr Webb) The 12,500 is really about a brigade size formation and that is what we are talking about. If you go back to the Strategic Defence Review what we said was that we were going to scale for ability to conduct a medium scale operation, which is a brigade plus the extra commitment, on a continuing basis and another medium scale. This is if you like part of our medium scale capacity. Although you only have a brigade out there you might have at administrative level a division to sustain that but it is a brigade. What we are really talking about is that a part of our SDR capacity could be available to the SDP if it was not committed elsewhere, so we are not in that sense extending ourselves any further. It is something we were planning to work up in any event.
(Mr Webb) There are two possibilities. If this is an operation where there is recourse to NATO assets then one of the NATO assets you get is DSACEUR and his ability to do force generation. There is a procedure for that, we do it all the time, and DSACEUR would provide that process. It could be dealt with elsewhere in NATO command chain but DSACEUR would I think be the first port of call. If it was not done there, in other words NATO assets were not for some reason being used, then a national headquarters under the ESDP concept would be provided and we see PJHQ as being able to undertake that role. I would see that happening at PJHQ. I should say perhaps that they would need a bit of reinforcement from the MOD to do it and they would need some extra bodies and we have ideas for that. Basically PJHQ could do that sort of function. As you know, they have commanded multinational operations before.
(Mr Webb) What I am saying is that normally it would be done by DSACEUR but if for some reason that was not feasible there is an alternative. The French have a similarly capable headquarters.
(Mr Webb) It is a technical function.
(Mr Lee) The operation commander would be responsible for that function and, as Mr Webb has said, if the operation was being conducted with recourse to NATO assets and capabilities then DSACEUR is the candidate for that.
(Mr Lee) Then some other person is designated as the operation commander and that other person would draw on a national headquarters to be used for these purposes.
(Mr Lee) No. There is a range of options there.
(Mr Ingram) In what circumstances are you seeking a decision, would be the question. What coalition of forces is being brought together? Who then takes the lead in those circumstances?
(Mr Lee) No, there is not. There is a choice.
(Mr Ingram) There is not a specific person appointed and, depending on the circumstances, which countries are coming in to deal with the particular event, a determination would be made as to who would then take the lead in that. We have a capability in PJHQ which would allow us to do it. The French could offer; the Germans could offer. Clearly it would be the bigger nations who would be contributing to that type of leadership role. There is not a mirror structure or a parallel structure between NATO and ESDP right down the line.
(Mr Ingram) It is up to you to recommend what you want.
(Mr Ingram) There is great unanimity around the table then. That has not been planned for, not been conceived. DSACEUR would have an important role if called upon short of NATO involvement. Given the scale of abilities and capabilities at rest in NATO the likelihood would be that where NATO were not involved there would be quite a high level of contact to move forward on this, and in an advisory role DSACEUR could play a very important role. It may well be that the lead nation of the group of nations may say, "We want very close engagement here. Although NATO is not playing a role we have got to find some point of advice." We have then to consider with all the nations of NATO as to why NATO is not so engaged, so there are some sensitivities around all of that. DSACEUR is important; it fulfils a very vital role, and the close NATO/EU relationship is something that has to be built on.
(Mr Ingram) In the same way that it has got to be squared within NATO. The same issue arises. A number of nations are moving away from a conscript based army. Whether that is a development that takes place over time is a matter for those individual nations. The French, the Spanish and the Italians are hopefully moving to the professionally based army and that may happen in other countries. There is no difference in that if that is a problem as so defined then it applies to NATO as much as it could apply to Europe in the future. I am interested in the reference to the Green Howards because I spent time with them during my Armed Forces parliamentary scheme and understand the quality of that particular group of men and women.
(Mr Ingram) Yes, but you referred to one so I would agree with your latter comment. I just want to put on record my contact with the Green Howards.
(Mr Ingram) Do you want the long answer or the short answer?
(Mr Ingram) Given the fact that we have gone from 94 a year ago to 104 areas that have now been defined, we are still 40 short of the 144, 21 of which are deemed to be militarily significant. We could give you some of the broad details as well as specific details. The shortfalls which have not been fully remedied but where initiatives have been identified, ie there is a need for action to be taken, and this would not be all of them, things such as carrier based air power, combat search and rescue, Cruise missiles and precision guided munitions and the roll-on roll-off shipping resource. There are also shortfalls which have not been fully remedied but where there are new initiatives required and that first category of those where the initiatives haven ow been identified as taken forward but there are others which go beyond that and that would be in recovery and maintenance, transport units, light and medium armoured companies and military intelligence units. That is not a comprehensive list but that is just a flavour of some of the areas. The way in which this has been quantified, and it is an important question, is that it helps the argument that this is an important initiative that we are involved in here because it is about identifying those shortfalls in capabilities, some of which are also NATO shortfalls. We do not want to get into too much of the detail but if there are weaknesses we want to expose the extent of those weaknesses. To define shortfalls in that way and get the nations which then can deliver on those shortfalls, pushing them forward gets us back to the question about confident we are about achieving the Headline Goals by 2003. The very fact that we are quantifying it means that we leapt to it and are pushing forward which we regard as helpful both to the European Union in the way in which we would maybe be called upon to carry out tasks, but also NATO.
(Mr Ingram) Who then picks up which area?
(Mr Ingram) I stand to be corrected on this but my understanding is that that is now part of the action plan which has been defined and which has been taken forward under the Spanish Presidency. It is very much to the fore in terms of what the remit of that Presidency will have to carry out during the time it has that responsibility. The action plans will then look at the totality of it and lead nations will then take on the elements that make up that. That has not yet been defined but that becomes a function for further definition by the Spanish Presidency. I cannot give a specific answer, taking a subject and the UK will be the lead nation or France or whatever, because that has not yet been defined.
(Mr Ingram) That then has to be the approach. It may well be that one nation steps forward and says, "We will deal with this capability shortfall", or the more likely approach would be in terms of burden sharing or pooling. That has to be examined through the action plan approach. If we have a lead nation beginning to examine this and what type of bilateral or multilateral relationships they have with countries and how they can begin to look at some fo the solutions which are there, models which are already in existence between countries at present , and can we then replicate that to deal with some of these shortfalls.
(Mr Lee) Could I just add to that? The principle that is about to be followed although, as the Minister says, we have not established the full detail of how this will work yet in the action plan since the action itself was only agreed at the end of November in the Capability Conference, is that groups of willing nations coming together, those who wish to focus on particular capability areas, will bring their expertise, what current programmes they have in their own national programmes, bring those together with others who are trying to follow similar objectives, and see whether there are ways that they can improve upon their programmes. Are there ways which, if they do things together, they can do them more efficiently than doing them separately by adjusting their programmes, sharing ideas and so on? The initiative will come from the countries themselves. At the end of the day this will work on the will and the input that is made by the countries themselves. There is not any other body or authority telling people what the solutions are. We, along with the other countries, have to work out for ourselves what the solutions are that we are willing to go along with. In some areas we may be willing to enter into pooling arrangements or reciprocal arrangements with other countries. In other areas we would not, and the same would go for others.
(Mr Lee) If they are happy to do that then that is up to them. If it increases the overall capability collectively that is fine. That is a benefit.
(Mr Webb) That is certainly a process that we have been encouraging. There has been some good work done between medical units, for example, where you need to have them in the fore-structure but it is not necessary for each country to provide their own, and there are very good initiatives to try and co-operate on that. I was just looking through the list for an example. Maritime medical evacuation units, for example, are an area where Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and the UK are working together on that.
(Mr Ingram) We would probably need to examine that as it was discussed and developed because all nations would have a national strategic interest as well. By forgoing it what do we lose? We are gaining something in terms of overall capability but if we step back from something we were doing that may not be desirable. In a sense we have to be looking probably more towards a sharing approach, a pooling approach, rather than stepping aside. We have got to recognise that we cannot do everything. Even although we cover the broad range of the tasks and the spectrum, we cannot simply do everything. That is just not within our capabilities, nor indeed can the US in terms of their current Afghanistan conflict. That is the purpose, I suppose, of NATO and why we are saying that is the purpose we are trying to achieve through this initiative.
(Mr Ingram) I am not arguing against that; I am arguing for that. I think the question was, what did we stand back from doing. We have to decide what our national interest in that is and what do we lose potentially by so doing. While we accept wholly the principle, every nation will look at this. If they are being asked not to do something how does the national posture then stand thereafter? We have to make these strategic decisions.
(Mr Ingram) Without having someone alongside us?
(Mr Ingram) I think all the experience tells us that probably everywhere where we have been engaged results in a multinational level of activity in varying degrees and in different shapes and forms because we cannot deliver on every front as an individual nation. There is nothing unusual in that and I cite again the US, the biggest superpower around, which cannot deliver certain parts of its mission in Afghanistan and that is why one of the things that we contributed is that we made that effort so much more productive and so much more effective.
(Mr Ingram) That may be another debate. I am not sure it is necessarily a debate on this occasion, but that is examining other countries. In terms of the specific question about role specialisation and would we go into this on the basis of that being the principle, I am saying no in that sense. That does not mean to say that you will not get role specialisation. We do not have a script either that says that we are walking away from certain areas. The whole drive it seems to me in terms of the multinational approach is about co-operation, about sharing, about partnership, about pooling of resources.
(Mr Ingram) Absolutely, and that is what this initiative is seeking to achieve.
(Mr Lee) As a generalisation it is fair to say that the larger the country the more it will have an interest in trying to maintain as balanced a set of forces as possible, and that is the position that we are in. We do not claim to have all the capabilities in our inventory now, and neither does the US even. Obviously, as you get down to the smaller countries, they are more prepared to work with others in order to produce something and where you stop on that spectrum is a decision you have to take on the particular capability in a particular circumstance.
(Mr Ingram) Could we deliver on every task?
(Mr Ingram) By definition we must be limited, but again I think it would be wrong to then define that in precise terms because I come back to an earlier comment I made about if there are weaknesses we do not want to publicly expose them for obvious reasons.
(Mr Ingram) It is my job to defend the best interests of the situation. We have got some very powerful capabilities and we have shown that in US and UK terms in Afghanistan, so we keep coming back to that. Again, we could say what has been done in Kosovo and Serbia and Macedonia is a very example where there was a lot of doubters about what was going to happen in that particular country - do not go in because there will be mission creep and so on, but we refined that into a willing coalition of interests coming together to find solutions to that in advance of having much of the capabilities that we know we need to do it. It is people putting into the pot "We will do this" and moving that process forward. We were in the lead again on that but then we were able to step back and transfer the lead to another nation. There are quite considerable strengths there and they do come together at points of international or localised crisis and that is a lesson that politicians have to learn. Someone made a comment about dealing with politicians. That slows the process down. I am conscious of the role that I played in a small part at the time of Macedonia with Lord Robertson, what would the UK really put into this and be part of that process. I was watching the close relationship between him and Solano and in defining the NATO/EU dimension to the whole approach. Even where there may be shortfalls or deficiencies, we can still meet some very large crises to manage and manage them to a very considerable extent.
(Mr Webb) It is a good example. Obviously until the A400M, the contract for which was signed last night, comes through there will be limitations on reach in particular. I take your point. An operation you might be able to do close in, yes, but you will not be able to do far away for some time. As you say, this is the sort of area where you can go round encouraging people to look at either leasing or getting your name on some of the aircraft which are up for charter in central Europe, for example. It is all the sort of thing we try and encourage people to do. It is terribly important to get the sense that two out of three was a weigh point, a target that we are on course to get to, but beyond that the capacity and particularly this question of scale and reach and complexity will improve afterwards as these extra things come through. We indeed go round plugging all that and saying, "Yes, let us try and do some interim fixes in the meantime".
(Mr Webb) Yes.
(Mr Lee) There are limitations at the moment. You can think of them in terms, as Simon says, of scale where the larger the scale, the more complicated the command and patrol arrangements, the more you would need to exercise those and obviously things are in their infancy at the moment. There would be limitations on scale for the time being for those reasons. There would be limitations on readiness, the quickness of deployment, and the reach at the moment because of strategic transport deficiencies, so there are some issues there which need to be addressed. In terms of the most complex, most demanding operations at the top of the Petersberg range we were talking about before, then some of the capability areas which are short on precision guided munitions, carrier based air power, suppression of enemy air defences, those kinds of things obviously limit your capacity at the top end of the range. Those are the sorts of areas that need to be worked on particularly vigorously before 2003 and beyond.
(Mr Ingram) That is the whole process in which we are engaged. First of all we have got the task that was set out. These are the things that we are seeking to achieve. It is then defined in terms of capabilities. It is then defined in terms of shortfalls. It is then defined now in terms of the action plan which I referred to, the way in which that will further refine how this is to be taken forward and which country or countries coming together can then push forward on that. In one sense it is saying that everyone has signed up to this and it is down to the leadership given through the Presidency and through the various component parts of the action plan to pull this forward. Whether it is about name calling - I do not think it would get to that. Diplomatic approaches never quite get to that, except criticism of the United Kingdom on occasion, but it seems to me that the totality of this approach is about dealing with those very key issues that you have just alighted on apart from this question of pooled resources where there are no plans, apart from at the very top end in terms of what we define as the political and military management structure of all of this, where there would be a pooling. There are no plans to pool resources in this way at all either through existing currencies or through the euro.
(Mr Ingram) The answer must be yes because we have decided to do so in terms of the top end of this, to look at how to put it in. The way in which NATO operates is that you pay for your own contribution. It is nice, clean, tidy. It is straightforward. That does not mean to say you do not have occasions where pooling can produce a benefit. At the top end of the management structure and the decision making structure there are benefits in that specific way. There may be other examples that may come along but certainly not in terms of the individual capabilities of the totality of capabilities. There are no plans, nor do I know of any plans.
Mr Howarth: That sounds very cagey, Minister, but we have noted it.
(Mr Ingram) Again I would say that those are not exclusive concepts, this ideal of groups of nations or bilateral relationships, developing good working relationships, because that of itself lifts the capability within the totality of what we are trying to do in terms of the EU initiative. They can go along together in this. Our view would be that we gain tremendous benefit from the relationships that we have working with other countries.
(Mr Ingram) The nodding heads tell me there is scope.
(Mr Lee) A good example of this has been an initiative among Nordic countries to put together a peacekeeping brigade called NORDCAPS. We have been associated with that because it is bilaterally out of an arrangement which started up in Kosovo because a lot of those countries came into the brigade which Britain had the privilege of commanding in Kosovo, and they have now taken that forward and are building it up as a peacekeeping brigade which is very valuable because you can deploy it as a brigade. As it happens this is an example of where Norway, not inside the ESDP structure, is ready to offer something which could come within that structure. We entirely agree with you. Mr Hoon after this experience has been going round Europe encouraging the generation of similar ventures. You mentioned earlier this arrangement between the Netherlands and Germany on transport, on air lift, which is very satisfactory. It is well worth encouraging. Perhaps I can just make a point about how do you get the momentum for this. I think there is a political process about this. I think I heard the Spanish Presidency saying that they might invite the Chairmen of the Select Committees on Europe and Defence to come and visit them in Spain next. Perhaps I will not commit them to that, but I am sure that if the Chairman went he would make clear his expectations as other countries will be continuing to drive along with the Capability Group.
(Mr Ingram) If it is held in Norway in the winter it will not happen.
(Mr Ingram) The answer to that is no, not at this stage.
(Mr Ingram) The answer to that would be yes, for the very good reason that it would be wrong to have different types of doctrine. It would be a common doctrine which would then apply across the EU.
(Mr Webb) Yes, I think it is coming through. In particular once Armed Forces have been trained up to a particular doctrine, the art of war which underlines doctrine, they tend to stick with it because you do not want to change, so I think it is becoming a common currency without anybody quite saying that it has to be mandated by NATO. Can I just make a point about exercises? There are indeed no exercises planned for force units but there is an exercise planned for the headquarters, the top level Brussels crisis management machinery, not forces but just the crisis management procedures we were talking about earlier. One of the things which is now more of a determinant of capacity than anything else is the crisis management machinery. You would not want to do too much before you got the exercising done and make sure that was working properly. If we had an emergency crisis as the Minister mentioned in Mozambique, yes, but if it was something on a more significant scale you would need to have an exercise first.
Syd Rapson: Chairman, presumably we will get a report on that.
(Mr Lee) There are national exercises already. There is a programme ahead of those. There are bilateral and various multilateral exercises already planned, and there are already NATO exercises planned. There is a full programme of exercises, including exercising units together so that they work together. What we are saying is that we are not attempting to add to that a programme with the EU labelled "exercises of troops". First, there is not any room in the exercise programme for another set of exercises and secondly, there is not really a need because the sort of co-operation on the ground that you are talking about is already being exercised in NATO and there are other bilateral and multilateral exercises that already exist. The benefits of that can be fed into potential operations in the future.
(Mr Ingram) It may help, Chairman, if we give you the list of all of these planning exercises. That will allow you to see the type of interoperability there is between nations across the reach of this, and that may help in the appreciation of the scale and depth of this.
(Mr Ingram) It is a very fair point and it must be part of the future development. It is just the way, as Mr Lee explained it, that in terms of the current training template to fit something new in would not be deliverable in that sense. We have to plan for that but in terms of the command and control elements of it, let us get that defined, let us see what the needs are and that in a sense would then dictate what is required thereafter. Knowing that we have a lot of combined capabilities that can be plugged into that and so the lessons can be learned that we are currently doing. That is why we want to see the extent of this and I want to put your mind at rest. There may be a specific shortfall in the way in which you have defined it but it is pluggable and will be plugged.
(Mr Webb) One of the points to make is that both SHAPE and other headquarters like PJHQ get plenty of practice. Perhaps I ought to say that behind this there is actually a little bit of a broader inhibition which has been to avoid creating a standing force or, as the Chairman referred to, a Euro army, but I thought he was just trying to wind us up about that. If you read the Laerken declaration you will see that is specifically written out.
(Mr Lee) It has been in since Helsinki.
(Mr Webb) This was the last Laerken. I think there is a little bit of that political inhibition behind this to be perfectly truthful about it. If I may say so, you have illuminated a little question here which is that I suspect you might get a gain of effectiveness if you did exercise top to bottom. On the other hand, is that a step we would want to do towards making a feeling of more of a standing force? At the moment we have decided not to. The honest answer is that there is a bit of politics in this too.
(Mr Ingram) The answer to that is yes because it is not seeking to address that issue of international terrorism. Europe in any event is dealing with the threat of international terrorism across a range of initiatives, as we know, in terms of the way in which it is tackling these things and pursuing them in so many different ways. There are a range of initiatives which have been dealt with here but again we have to look at what the Petersberg Tasks were and the specifics of that, but not unmindful of the events of 11 September and the way in which that impacts upon each of the countries individually and collectively across Europe. It has an impact because it is part of the thought processes which are out there. Under the Chapter work has been done in developing the SDR and defines our capabilities in that enhanced way. Whether those capabilities would then be plugged into something we are doing in the SDP, I would guess not but there is in many ways a developing area of consideration.
(Mr Ingram) I would say no to that because that is not what it was specifically designed to do. Some of the examination this morning has been about can we achieve the objectives which have been set in the way in which they are very demanding. The question has been raised, will we achieve that, and I am trying to give you some confidence that there is a determination to do so. To add a new dimension to this which is still in the process of being defined I think will go beyond the reach of what we are seeking to do in European terms because it is a much more global issue that then has to be dealt with, but that is not to say that Europe is not addressing this issue in a whole range of other ways because undoubtedly we are.
(Mr Webb) The EU certainly, in the sense that Pillar 3, the law and order side of it, is obviously very much engaged and improvements have been made in that direction. NATO of course has taken the decision that this was an attack on the Alliance and so, if you like, the collective defence side of it has been tackled by NATO. At the moment we, as the Minister said, have quite enough to do to get the ESDP towards its targets. I suspect some of the capability goals may need a little quick look because there may be a higher risk to deployed forces than there was before from NBC attack, and I think we ought to have a look at that and we will be doing so. So some adjustment in that direction. Going back to your original question, is it still relevant, the answer is very much, I would say even more important, because the rest of the security agenda is still there. We still have instability on Europe's fringes; you could argue the Middle East situation has created an increased risk of instability there; we have problems in Africa. So all the rest of the agenda is still there. So I think we are actually better off having, even at this stage, the ability to undertake some, not many, operations at this stage. It is a bonus and with everybody else in other organisations being so busy it gives us another component to play with. So to that extent, I think it is more relevant.
(Mr Ingram) I do not think there is anything specific but the danger is that somebody then pops up with a quotation from someone within the administration. There is no indication at all that the very genuine commitment and welcome which has been given to the ESDP by the Americans does not remain. That is still very much the case, because of the very reasons which we have set out here, that lifting European capabilities enhances NATO's capabilities, and that must be welcomed. It is not seen as a threat in any way to NATO's interests by the US. So I do not think it has changed because of the events of 11 September in any way at all.
(Mr Ingram) Again, we are in the early rushes, the very early stages, in the thinking of all of this, and every nation is still examining the implications. We are examining them, we have reacted to it in a very positive and, as I say, productive way. We are tackling it in a very substantial way in international terms. That does not mean to say we have understood the totality of what the threat is or indeed know what we can do in every set of circumstances. We have still a lot of work to do internationally to define all of that. What we are doing in terms of the ESDP, in terms of the Headline Goals, in terms of the Petersberg Tasks, certainly improves the capability of important and powerful nations to come together to deal with these other security crises which could manifest themselves at any time. So that is why there is no question at all that the US - and it is not for me to speak for the US - recognise the importance of this. Where there has been a shift in their opinion on this, if anything, is the question which would lead to the answer that there is probably more of a welcome to this development than less.
(Mr Ingram) It is interesting, Mr Chairman, you have problems with priorities as well.
Chairman: We are prioritising.
(Mr Lee) The set of armed forces in Europe which is most like our own is France's.
(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 ESDP 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 tackled.
(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 things.
(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.
(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 feature - and then there are the arrangements in the amphibious world - and 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.
(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 night.
(Mr Webb) No. You were talking about political momentum and I think the ESDP was a factor in that taking off.
(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.
(Mr Ingram) Can we just absorb those questions and ---
(Mr Ingram) --- we will give you the answers, if there are answers, to some of those questions.
(Mr Ingram) I will absorb that question as well. If we can provide an answer, we will provide an answer.
(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 my constituency.
(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.
(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 contact - Defence Ministers, EU Ministers, even Heads of Government - and 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.
(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.
(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.
(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, 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 assets - things like the AWACS aircraft, some strategic infrastructure type of communications, that kind of thing - which 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.
(Mr Webb) Yes.
(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.
(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 specific question.
(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.
(Mr Ingram) We would view that enlargement by one definition must be beneficial. It does not mean to say there will not be problems associated with enlargement and clearly we could spend a long time debating that. In terms of countries which have very specific capabilities which are outwith the EU coming into the pool and offering something, that would only enhance the capabilities. It does not take anything away. The more nations there are coming in with something to offer, by definition I would argue, the more it strengthens the overall range of capabilities, but clearly it brings with it its own issues as well because it depends when they come in. It will probably be post-2003, so things may well be in place and how do you then plug some of those capabilities in, but it is all progress, it is all development to a better purpose. It would not be a weakening of what we were doing, only a strengthening of it. That is the best way I would describe that, so it would be something to be encouraged.
(Mr Ingram) Again, we are into this scenario-painting. If I say no and then along comes something which is different, it is brought to mind. If I say yes, I would be trying to call to mind why you are asking this very specific question.
(Mr Ingram) I could envisage an occasion where there would be engagement at the same time, there is no question about that. Whether they would then be using the same resources is then the debate, because it depends how much of the resources have been used at any point in time. So it could be a very low scale operation which does not detract from what we have put into the pool or into the resource allocation, and NATO is drawn upon in part and not in total. The answer is, yes, but it is a range and a spectrum we are talking about there and it may be difficult to put any examples to it.
(Mr Ingram) Priorities come into play. It depends what has been asked of NATO. What scale and what fighting and in what security area would NATO be deployed? What is the immediate threat? What is the immediate problem which has to be dealt with?
(Mr Ingram) Priorities come into play at any stage in terms of what we are doing as a nation. We could be deployed, as we are, globally in a whole range of theatres, but if a threat is posed to us then we have to make very quick judgments in all of that. There is no difference in that type of judgmental approach by NATO or by individual countries.
(Mr Webb) It is a fair question though it does not feel as terrifying to us because we deal with this all the time. We spend all our time with Ministers saying, "We are involved here, we might have to do something there, we reserve this, can we manage that", so it is a bit of a natural process for us. Can I come back to something which I perhaps did not spell out enough in an earlier question about the role of the Deputy SACEUR. One really important role he can play in that situation is act as what is sometimes called a strategic co-ordinator. In other words, he, Deputy SACEUR, has visibility across the piece here. There is no problem at all of course about ESDP running operations simultaneously, and NATO runs several operations simultaneously. ESDP could be going off to Mozambique while NATO was in the Balkans, for example, but if you had some question about assets - to put it crudely, you wanted the aeroplanes here rather than there - the Deputy SACEUR is able to provide visibility and co-ordination, and it is a very important part of that job.
(Mr Webb) Yes, and would be able to offer advice and is formally in a position to offer advice in both directions.
(Mr Lee) The original basis of ESDP, the notion of an EU-led operation, is "caveated" in a way by the EU agreeing it would launch an operation, might launch an operation, where NATO as a whole was not engaged. So it is a sort of premise, if you like, of an EU-led operation, that the situation is one where NATO is not engaged, so that is a kind of given, if you like.
(Mr Webb) I would not say that in The Hague, if I were you!
Mr Howarth: Shall I add in our Dutch friends then? At your suggestion, I am happy to do that. We know that the European average is, I believe, 1.8 per cent, the United Kingdom's is 2.5 per cent, NATO's is 2.2 per cent - or the other way round - but certainly the NATO figure is hugely skewed by reference to the United States' contribution ----
Chairman: And Greece and Turkey.
(Mr Ingram) In terms of increased financial commitment to what we are putting in the ESDP, clearly there will be some commitment because of the pooled arrangements at the top decision-making level. It is about £200,000. You can do your conversion to euros if you are so desirous. That margin is not the type of figure which would scare you. Insofar as there are demands for increased defence expenditure, that is part of the on-going debate in Government, and we want to see what response you give us in your report, which may or may not be helpful to any discussion we may be having in Government.
(Mr Ingram) I am not going to give a different answer, maybe slightly different words, from what I gave earlier.
(Mr Ingram) I am not going to particularise this into individual countries. What I was trying to explain earlier was that these are issues which we are coming to a conclusion on, and to rake over the coals of the sensitivity of this would not be helpful. If those countries which have concerns want to publicly expose them and argue them, that is a matter for them, but what we are seeking to do is get a conclusion to this process and to satisfy the needs, the demands, the concerns of those countries which have raised the issues which are of concern to them, whether it is about access to NATO assets or about the relationship between the ESDP and non-EU countries. These are real issues which have to be resolved but I do not think they will be resolved by debate here or consideration here.
(Mr Ingram) Without dealing with the specifics of the premise of the question, we have not rounded off those issues, otherwise that would have been within the Laeken Communiqué and would have been a step forward. We are confident we can get to that point though.
(Mr Ingram) Thank you very much.