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There are still pillars within the EU—and the defence policy and the foreign policy—that allow member states to act together, as we have done in relation to Iran. I
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have already made the point that Spain, Cyprus and Romania declined to recognise Kosovo on the ground that they are independent states within the Union that have their own foreign policies.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): The hon. Gentleman’s example of Iran is not a good one. In fact, it underlines the disunity within Europe on a lot of foreign policy areas. Some EU member states want to extend the sanctions against Iran to financial sanctions while others do not.

Sir Stuart Bell: That is true, but the point I made about Iran was that the actions taken by the three Ministers were intergovernmental within the Union framework. The question of sanctions on Iran is significant, and the time may come—I hope it comes quickly—when the EU and the United States act in concert, because the situation in Iran in relation to uranium enrichment is extremely important. The Foreign Secretary has already made that point.

I want to make a few final points. The foreign policy of the EU has to have certain pillars, and one is to be an ally of the USA and not to see it as a competitor. A lot has been made of relations with Russia in respect of gas and oil, its reaction to the anti-missile missiles, which are coming into Poland and the Czech Republic, and Kosovo. Those important issues must be dealt with between the EU and Russia, but interdependence with Russia must be a major policy plank of the EU.

The EU must not be afraid to seek influence in the continent of Africa, where we have been a colonial power, but where we must seek to use our influence in the interests of the people of Africa in education and health. We must also use our influence with China, which has a role to play in Africa, so that it, too, understands the well-being of the African people and the need for it to play a part in that.

This amending treaty and this foreign policy are seeking to give clear emphasis as to what the direction of the Union is, how other nation states may see the Union and how they may understand that the Union’s foreign policy is based on the rule of law, justice and democracy. Those are our values and principles, which we want to project into the wider world.

I hope that the time comes when we can have a debate of the kind that the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea referred to, in which we can see the EU in the round, accept its policies in the round and see that the EU is in the interests of the British people. It is not opposed to those interests, and together we can make for a better world.

3.38 pm

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire) (Con): I take a simple view on European matters: we are asked to adopt a treaty that brings about a constitution—not just for Europe, but for this country—and we were promised in advance a referendum on that treaty, so it is utterly shameful that the Government should now deprive us of that referendum.

It is all perfectly simple stuff. When politicians make promises, they should keep their word. If they do not do so, there is no point in their speaking at all. Worse,
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that brings into discredit the very process of government. Why should people turn out to vote in elections on the basis of manifestos to which, they believe, the very people who wrote them will pay no attention? This is absolutely shameful.

I also take a simple view on defence matters. First, defence is the most important duty of the Government. I find it hard to understand that a duty so crucial should be funded by slightly more than 2 per cent. of our gross domestic product. I shall return to that point. Secondly, the cornerstone of our defence is NATO. Thirdly, if the EU wants to add to the defence provided by NATO, I have no intrinsic objection to that—provided that it does not thereby weaken NATO in any way.

The Defence Committee is conducting an inquiry on NATO and European defence. I have to warn the House that, although everything else that I have been talking about is very simple, the Lisbon treaty is so far from being simple that I doubt whether we shall be able to conduct a deep forensic analysis of its effect on defence, and if we did, I suspect that it would unbalance our report on the future of NATO. We intend to publish that report shortly in advance of the Bucharest summit.

In evidence to the Committee, the Secretary of State said that the Lisbon treaty would not undermine NATO and that its provisions make it quite clear that NATO remains the foundation of the collective defence of its members. That is very good news indeed. The question is, will it turn out to be true? I welcome that assurance, because it is essential that nothing in the treaty adversely affects the very effective military alliance that is NATO, but I hope that the Minister winding up the debate will repeat that assurance unequivocally to the House.

Clearly, the ambition of many in the EU is to give the EU a stronger defence role, and it is true that, in some respects, the EU might be able to bring something to the party that NATO could not—for example, I believe that intervention in Lebanon was much more appropriate for the European Union than for NATO. What I do not understand, however, is why the European Union is so intent on building up a defence role for itself when it is so reluctant to pay for it, to build its capabilities or to deploy troops to Afghanistan, which many EU members voted for.

One of the main problems that NATO has encountered is the huge disparity in spending between the United States and the European members of NATO. Put simply, Europe does not spend anywhere near enough on defence. As a result of that lack of spending on defence, there is now a huge and growing capability gap between the United States and Europe. If we are to continue to be able to operate with the United States and to be a worthwhile ally, we need to address that as a matter of the highest priority. Any means of bridging the gap and encouraging Europeans to invest more in defence and to develop greater military capabilities can only be welcomed.

We are told that the provisions in the treaty on permanent structured co-operation will enable more effective military capabilities to be developed. Will they? I doubt it. What seems to be lacking in Europe is not structures, but the political will to commit to defence. If the Secretary of State or the Minister who winds up this
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debate could explain to the House how permanent structured co-operation will work in practice and how those provisions will enhance European military capabilities, I would be delighted.

Perhaps the Minister could also explain his understanding of qualified majority voting on permanent structured co-operation. Some people who take a close interest in these matters—after 21 years in the House of Commons, this is my maiden speech on European affairs—believe that it will deprive the United Kingdom of our veto in defence matters. I do not ask for an assurance on that because I do not know how worth while such an assurance would be. It will play out in the fullness of time.

Finally, on European Union-NATO co-operation, the Government have said that the Lisbon treaty will ensure that the European security and defence policy is NATO-friendly. That is jolly good, but at the moment there is little co-operation between the EU and NATO. In fact, there is little communication between them. That is damaging, inefficient and ridiculous. It does not seem to me that the Lisbon treaty adds anything that will improve co-operation between the EU and NATO.

We are discussing defence and security provisions. In practice, the tests will be these: what difference will the treaty make to the practicalities of European defence? Will it improve the military capabilities of the European countries, which lag so starkly behind the United States? Will it assist with the deployability of European forces? Will it lead to greater co-operation between the EU and NATO? These are the key tests, and I have to say that, on each of them, my own answer is: I doubt it.

3.45 pm

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): For the record, I should like to reaffirm my belief that we ought to have a referendum on this matter, because all three parties have promised that we would. My right hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) was trying to explain why the treaty and the constitution were different, and why that made a difference. In answer, I would simply say that, after 30 years of various treaties and something that may once have been called a constitution, we have seen a considerable shift in our relationship with the European Union. We now have a presumption that the majority of our policies will involve a Community method—that is, that the European Parliament will have a role. For that reason, too, a referendum is appropriate.

It is interesting that so many of the treaty provisions on security and defence are enabling measures, because that makes it difficult to have an informed debate on the issues. The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) thought that the objections to the treaty were simply scaremongering. When I was listening to the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), I suddenly discovered a new emotion. We all know about the Jeremy Paxman test, when he is talking to a politician and wonders why this fatherless creature is doing certain things to him. Listening to the right hon. Gentleman, I found myself wondering why he was making me laugh. He does so not only because he is a very funny speaker, but because he manages to hide the total emptiness behind what the Conservatives are trying
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to achieve. I have no idea whether they think that the present arrangements on defence and foreign policy are perfect, or whether there is anything in the proposals that they agree with. All I know is that, whenever he gets up to speak, I find him incredibly funny. That serves a purpose, but we should be cautious, because nothing concrete is coming from that side of the House.

Sir Stuart Bell: Did not the right hon. Gentleman give the game away when he said that he did not want the treaty at all?

Ms Stuart: Indeed, but there are still questions for the Conservatives to answer.

I want to raise a couple of issues about future capabilities, and about the ability of the treaty to achieve certain things. I have some concerns in that regard. When the Foreign Affairs Committee took evidence, one idea that emerged was to acknowledge that foreign policy was now in a separate pillar, that we recognised the intergovernmental nature of the arrangements and that there were certain provisions for movement towards qualified majority voting. For quite a few of us, however, the provisions stretch it to the limit of what I find just about acceptable. We were promised votes in the House on any further changes, but I do not think that single votes will be sufficient. We all know how any Government can just whip through a single vote. I hope that the Government will make a commitment to introducing primary legislation, as a safeguard, should there be any further movement towards QMV in foreign, security and defence policy.

That brings me to my next issue, which is parliamentary oversight. Let us take as an example the external action service. I again refer hon. Members to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report, in which we list a number of questions that have so far gone unanswered. Where is the accountability for the further movements? Will there be parliamentary oversight of those movements? I suspect that there will be European parliamentary oversight, because there is an increased movement towards the European Parliament exercising such oversight, but not oversight by national Parliaments. We need to be careful about what is being done in our name, and to take part in shaping these changes at the time, rather than responding to them afterwards.

This thing is currently called the external action service. It does not have a very catchy name, and before long it will be called what was intended to begin with—the European Union’s diplomatic service—just as the high representative will in time be called the Foreign Minister. To anyone who says that that is scaremongering, I would say that I recall sitting here in 1997 when we created a Scottish Parliament and it was made quite clear that there would be a “Scottish Executive”, not a “Scottish Government”. But what happened when the right hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) came to power in Scotland? The first thing he did was unscrew the plaques of the Queen from any Scottish buildings and he then started referring to himself as the Scottish Government. It did not take long for the BBC also to refer in its news to the Scottish Government. Language is important, so when a name does not sit easily, we should be careful that it does not become certain other things.

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Another aspect of the treaty provisions that worries me tremendously is that we are creating more opportunities for power, but very few opportunities for added responsibility. A number of earlier speakers picked up that theme in relation to defence. We commit ourselves to peacekeeping and military police training, which are very important, but what is singularly lacking—the problem seems to be getting worse—is combat troops. Who within the EU is providing the combat troops? There is no increased commitment in the EU to provide them.

I recall a wonderful moment during a European Convention when an Austrian MEP got up to say that he did not give countries who provide soldiers the right to determine how they should be deployed, in response to which I got up to say, “Precisely those who provide the soldiers have the right to determine how they are deployed.” We need to be much clearer about how those ambitions can be fulfilled. My key point, however, in respect of those positions, is how Parliament relates to them; there must be no move to qualified majority voting without primary legislation. We also need to look into our own procedures for scrutinising the expansion of some of these activities.

3.51 pm

Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart). May I suggest to her a third reason for holding a referendum on the constitutional European Union (Amendment) Bill—that people much younger than me and perhaps just slightly younger than her have never had an opportunity to vote on these matters in this country? It is also a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot). Like him, I believe that the defence of the realm is the first priority of any Government, and I would like to pick up one of the themes about defence mentioned at the end of the excellent speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague).

The only real teeth offered by the Lisbon treaty concerning defence are the incorporation of the European Defence Agency—it was, of course, a key part of the European Union constitution—into that treaty. That is reinforced by the administrative measures being developed within the framework of the existing treaties, chipping away at the national interest provisions of the treaty of Rome while at the same time incrementally increasing the scope of procurement directives to cover more and more military expenditure.

Thus, the main thrust of EU military integration is still being directed through the Monnet method, by which I mean slow and steady integration through economic means with the aim of Europeanising defence equipment. The idea is that the use of common equipment, allied to common foreign policy objectives from which common doctrines evolve, will eventually lead to European military forces being drawn together, resulting in due course in total integration.

Also key to that integration process is the European rapid reaction force, which espouses among other things the doctrine of specialisation. The idea is that single nations, and especially smaller nations, need not provide balanced forces—that is, complete functioning
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formations—but simply components of a larger multinational force, thus fielding truly integrated European forces rather than national forces working together. The thinking behind that stealthy policy objective ensures that, while each member state has military components, only the European Union could actually field a complete, functioning military force.

However, the grit in the oyster is Britain’s insistence on maintaining its own balanced force which, at a certain level, is capable of carrying out self-sustaining operations in a multinational environment, thus defeating the object of integration. Furthermore, because the United Kingdom is fighting a real war alongside the Americans, it is driven by operational imperatives when it comes to the procurement of equipment, rather than by the notional, theoretical equipment profiles recommended in the headline goals specifying the equipment needed for the European rapid reaction force.

After a round of spending in the last decade aimed at “meshing in” with the ERRF, and the last Prime Minister’s European contribution within the St. Malo agreement, the United Kingdom is now diverging from, rather than converging with, EU military structures and ambitions, moving closer to United States forces as it becomes more deeply embedded in Afghan operations. Therefore, practically speaking, UK involvement in EU military integration is at its lowest ebb for some time.

What the Lisbon treaty seeks to do is add to earlier treaties small steps of politically rather than operationally driven integration, but for the Commission that does not go far enough. The very first full-scale attempt at military integration within the European defence community took place in 1950, preceding the treaty of Rome. That inspired the first attempt at a European constitution to bind the European political community, and was set up to control the European army. The raison d’ĂȘtre of the European Union suddenly becomes very clear.

Thus the main conclusion to be drawn is that the original ambitions of the integrationists are not satisfied by the treaty, and that they will have to come back for more. That puts us—and by “us” I mean the people on the opposite side of that argument—in the unsatisfactory position of warning about what can be dismissed as ifs, buts and maybes, rather than attacking hard, concrete proposals. It is all very woolly, nebulous and difficult to grasp: the typical nightmare for those of us who are fighting a project nine tenths of which—as with an iceberg—is hidden from sight.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ann Winterton: I will not, because of the time.

What we can be sure of is that the last Prime Minister lost interest in an integrated European Union defence policy, as he developed a separate foreign policy from the European Union that, together with mistakes made by previous Governments, resulted in the loss of billions of pounds—more than £8 billion, according to my calculations—in cancelled, altered or failed projects, and the provision of equipment unsuited to today’s conflicts.

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Is it not ironic that the very subject of defence, which could be said to have begun the European Union project, should bring about its eventual downfall? The drift, muddle and confusion over the past few years about where the United Kingdom was going has been brought to a head by the Iraq and Afghan wars, in which, through operational necessity, Britain is heading in a different direction. If our armed forces are to succeed, the United Kingdom must continue to take its own line in regard to military thinking and the procurement of equipment.

In true Monnet fashion, however, while recent events have delayed the advancement of defence integration in the Lisbon treaty, further integration will be implemented in future treaties, for the simple reason that full European integration can never take place while national Governments still hold the competence to control their own armed forces and engage in their own security and foreign policy.

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