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Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I did not want to interrupt the noble Lord in the middle of his extremely interesting speech, but before he sits down perhaps he will deal with the following point. The noble Lord referred to our EU partners also being our NATO partners. Does he agree that our most significant partner in the EU is France, which is not a member of the integrated military structure of NATO and is, at best, an equivocal member of the alliance?

Lord Roper: My Lords, it would take too long to discuss the relationship between France and NATO since the time of Suez, when France pursued a different option from this country. Both of us had problems with the United States at the time of Suez. The French believed that they could never trust them and had to build something of their own and we decided that we had to be as close to the United States as possible. But it is worth remembering that in the past decade-- President Chirac has taken a number of steps in this direction--the French have played a much more active part within NATO actions; in KFOR, in SFOR and in the extraction force which was planned to go into Macedonia to take the Kosovo verification mission out of Kosovo if that had been necessary. If one goes to KFOR or SFOR one will find that the French are now, de facto, integrated, even though, for reasons of theology, the Quai d'Orsay, is not always prepared to admit it.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, it has been both a pleasure and a challenge to have been a member of the committee which produced the report. I joined it fairly late in the gestation of the main report. Therefore, I can pay my own tribute to the work of the committee, to its advisers, to its clerk and, not least, to its admirable chairman.

The committee identifies many concerns for the future which I share: notably, how we are to ensure accountability to national parliaments; how we are to ensure that NATO is not sidelined and the years of building up an effective military machine working by common consent are not wasted; and, not least, how we propose to provide the resources to meet an ever

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increasing number of commitments which may conflict. As the Secretary of State has said of our defence forces, there is only one set of people available for all these tasks.

I do not find the experience of Nice reassuring. It is good to hear that,

    Xany significant operation will require NATO assets and any such operation will be planned at NATO by the planning staff at SHAPE".

I quote from the Nice declaration.

According to the French provisional version of the Treaty of Nice, Article 25, however, the EU Political and Security Committee will exercise, with council authority, the political control and the strategic direction of crisis management operations. The declaration annexed to the final act of the conference says that in conformity with the texts approved--the presidency report and its annexes--the object of the EU is to become rapidly operational. That does not sound like merely having a committee structure.

A decision to that effect is to be taken at latest in the Belgian presidency in 2001. The revised Article 17, which applies to the Petersberg tasks, including missions of combat troops for purposes of crisis management, including missions to re-establish the peace, also lays down that the present article shall form no obstacle to the development of a closer co-operation between two or more states on a bilateral basis in the framework of the EU and of NATO, so long as that does not hinder the operation of the existing Article--a reference, I take it, to enhanced co-operation.

The French text of the revised Articles 17 and 25 contains a number of references to paragraphs and sentences deleted from the original draft, so it is difficult to know what the original proposals were. The revised Article 25, however, refers to the presidential conclusions and annexes. So what do they say? The draft presidential annexes circulated on 30th November say that the European Council approves the presidency report plus annexes, on the European security and defence policy and advocates that the EU should quickly be made operational in this area. There is no reference to any amendments or deletions. That can only mean that the draft presidency report, with its annexes, as published in November, was approved without any changes.

It is reassuring that, despite the many references to EU autonomy and the need to respect the autonomy of EU decision-making, the draft report, now approved, says that in operations requiring recourse to NATO assets and capabilities, operational planning will be carried out by the alliance and planning bodies. That is unequivocal and clear enough. But it leaves it to the EU to decide whether and when to involve NATO. I think that what concerned the committee was that while the EU clearly needs to develop a suitable planning and analysis capacity, it is imperative that it should not set up rival structures to duplicate NATO.

It is not reassuring to read both in the French presidency report and its Feira predecessor that the EU has set up an ever proliferating list of committees.

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Bureaucracy breeds more bureaucracy and, moreover, it engenders a wish to be seen doing something. The whole tenor of the report is that the EU and NATO are equally effective and their relationship is only consultative.

The Poles, as one of the new NATO members who are also to join the EU, said in their written evidence to the committee that they were anxious not to have to face such duplication. They cannot afford it and believe it can only cause strain on limited assets and confusion over tasks. After all, they are used to NATO procedure. Many of these committees were set up expressly to relate the headline goals from the NATO audit, but the mission of the EU military committee apparently is to:

    Xprovide military advice to the Political Committee and military direction to the EU military staff"--


    Xexercise military direction of all military activities within the EU framework".

That is pretty comprehensive.

I cannot see how such an ambitious project can fail to produce serious problems of command and control and of duplication of all too limited resources. Nowhere in any of the annexes, or reports I may say, is there any reference to budgets and costs, with one important exception under Article 48.

We must be concerned about a gradual blurring of the lines between national defence and NATO's defence role on the one hand, and the offensive military adventures undertaken for primarily political reasons for no obvious reason of vital national interest on the other. It could be a dangerous illusion to suppose that the paper tiger that we are setting up could actually fight. The political consequences of a failure in any of the Petersberg tasks could be extremely unfortunate.

Unless these forces have trained together and have a common experience of command and control, it will be of little use on the day for the various national contingents to step forward and proceed to act as an effective force. NATO has been doing this training for years and we cannot afford to waste that investment nor duplicate it.

The presidency report states:

    XThe main challenge for member states is to develop military capabilities which can be put at the disposal of the EU for crisis management purposes".

It goes on to speak of launching and conducting EU-led military operations in response to international crises and of a strategic partnership between the EU and NATO in the management of crises with due regard for the two organisations' decision-making autonomy.

I believe that we must keep a close eye on the emerging tendency of some powerful elements of the EU--among whom I would certainly name the Higher Representative and the French, for different reasons--to marginalise NATO. As I said earlier this week, the Russians, whose strategic aim must be to see NATO dissolved, have spoken of a document approved at an EU meeting with the French in October in Paris, in

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which Russia expresses readiness to co-operate with the EU in the fields of defence and security. Defence is NATO's province. Mr Ivanov said:

    XWe think that this is very important in order to create a single security system in Europe".

The EU had not yet, he said, passed the founding document, but when relevant structures are set up, when we clearly know the legal basis of the EU in this field, we shall start discussing specific spheres for our co-operation. That is presumably a first fruit of the common position on Russia under which Mr Solana discusses security with the Russians. The latter clearly found it a promising alternative to the NATO-Russian Council and a first possible move to make NATO redundant.

My other concerns have been touched on in the brief additional report on the capabilities' goals which has just been published. Does it really make sense that this country whose defence budget has been progressively cut since 1990, apart from a very minor rise which I know the noble Baroness will tell us about later, which is already committed to NATO under Article 5 and to Europe for the Petersberg tasks which have no geographical limits and whose forces are already engaged in Iraq, in Kosovo and in Bosnia and committed in Northern Ireland and in Sierra Leone, should also have signed in April last year, as has been said by other noble Lords, a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN? That could require us to commit forces up to brigade strength anywhere in the world for any length of time that the UN requires. It contains an annex setting out in great detail the exact numbers of helicopters, surface ships, aircraft and all too scarce special forces such as engineers, as well as armour and even hospital ships. We are told that that is only a hope, not a real commitment; XIf we happen to have all that to spare when the UN wants it, well then...".

The sensible Prahami report this year to the Security Council, which owes part of its great common sense to the presence on it of General Naumann who spoke before our committee with such excellent equal good sense, makes the point, equally valid for the EU's plans, that if a UN force is to be deployed, then the various national components in it must have trained together and developed a common doctrine, leadership and operational practices. How do the Government, with our limited resources, propose to meet this not unreasonable condition, both for the UN and the EU, when even now it is proving difficult to release troops, pilots, ships and so on for NATO exercises? More to the point, the UN report quotes two billion dollars as the 2001 budget on peacekeeping operations before any of this has been considered, and that is before any of the proposals in the report, arising out of the memorandum of understanding, signed so far by, apparently, 11 countries, is implemented. When are we going to stop being told, reverting to the EU, that we need only to refocus our defence expenditure?

I know that the Minister will point to the money to be spent on strategic lift and aircraft--that is good--but are we really sure that either we or any of the other EU countries will be able to foot the bill when it comes

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to having a Petersberg task? Certainly, accordingly to Le Monde a week or two ago, the French military are deeply concerned about the cost of moving over to a professional army by 2002. Their forces are, as they say,

    Xliving from day to day financially",

and being told--a familiar theme to us--that there must be compensatory cuts rather than budget increases. I hope very much that those words will not continue to apply to us. We are taking on too much and counting too much on being well out of Kosovo and Bosnia before any new political adventure occurs to the EU.

It is the idea of the political committee in the EU having such power in military terms which frightens me. In 1960 and 1961, in the Congo, I saw the appalling results when a large military force containing a number, then, of experienced troops from India, Malaysia and Nigeria to name only three, was totally mismanaged by a political committee in New York, with devastating results for the unfortunate country to which they were supposed to be bringing peace and stability. That was an extremely expensive operation and it was absolutely worthless. I do not want to see our troops one day in that situation, whether the political committee concerned is sitting in the EU or the UN. I only hope therefore that our troops in Sierra Leone, while they act to support the UN, never come under UN command. The people of Sierra Leone and our forces deserve better than that.

6.43 p.m.

Lord Williams of Elvel: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating our previous chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, and our present chairman, my noble friend Lady Hilton, on the conduct of these debates. We have gone through a rather difficult period, if I may put it like that, because in several respects the scenery has shifted as we have gone along. What was agreed at Nice seems to have been put in jeopardy yesterday. What was the agreed position for the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, on the XToday" programme seems to be in doubt. My noble friend said that it is a question of language. I do not believe that it is a question of language. It is a question of principle. Furthermore, the scenery has shifted yet again in the United States. We now have the result of the presidential election. We know that there is a president-elect who is, if the campaign statements are to be relied on, more reluctant than previous presidents to commit US forces to European problems. We need to consider those facts and think about how we should react.

I welcome the initiative that has been taken. I say that outright because I do not want to be negative or critical. Nevertheless, there are certain problems. First, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will reinforce what was in the gracious Speech, which proclaimed the supremacy of NATO as the basis of the United Kingdom's defence and security. That is your Lordships' primary interest. Secondly, if the so-called French insistence on independence, autonomy or whatever one calls it is adhered to in any reasonable

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respect, that cannot be consistent with NATO's supremacy as our guarantee of security and defence. Those are the two principles on which I would start.

All these things have to go through a long process. But I do not think that, operationally, they make up for any serious military capability or initiative. The Petersberg tasks include humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking. As far as I can see, the humanitarian and rescue tasks could properly be performed by what is proposed. What I cannot see is how, if the United States and NATO decide not to participate in one of the tasks--given the new administration, I suspect that that may be a problem--the proposed rapid reaction force will accommodate that situation. I ask my noble friend to respond to that point.

The Petersberg tasks are okay on humanitarian relief, rescue relief and so on, but we all know that any operation in which one becomes engaged can soon become a much larger operation. Humanitarian relief may start with one thing, which may be in the province of what is proposed, but it may end up in peacemaking or indeed in making war. What will happen if, in a situation like Rwanda or Sierra Leone, the rapid reaction force goes in to rescue citizens of the European Union or others and finds itself in a conflict situation? It may well be at that point that those members of the organisation who had decided to participate in a limited operation then say, XWe are terribly sorry. We are out of the party. This has developed into guns and casualties and we do not want to become involved". What then happens? Do we make a telephone call to Washington to say, XWe're terribly sorry. We've embarked on something which we thought was in our remit, but it has now exploded into something rather serious. Could we please have some help from the United States?" What would be the response? Such a situation is known--in the jargon, I am afraid--as Xmission creep". An operation is embarked upon, but then it turns out that the operation is not only of a rescue or humanitarian nature, but has become a serious war.

It is that kind of circumstance which gives rise to my unease about what is proposed. Unless the United States is prepared to back this proposal to the hilt, we, the Europeans, will find ourselves in an impossible situation where British troops are in the field and being shot at without proper logistic and intelligence support from the United States.

Although I support the initiative, I look to my noble friend to explain how it will work in practice, if she is able to do so. There are serious problems as regards the whole relationship between the European Union and NATO which I know will be handled by the Swedish presidency. It is a matter of extreme concern, not only to myself but also, I am sure, to other noble Lords.

6.52 p.m.

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, with the exception of two notable interventions, the debate so

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far can be summarised briefly as, XGood policy, look out for the elephant traps". That seems to be the general feeling and I believe that it reflects the sentiment underlying the report of the sub-committee. When we discuss security and defence we often refer to Xdouble-hatting". The sub-committee utilised its own variety of that system. I should like therefore to thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, the chairman. He launched the inquiry on the right lines. I thank also the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, who brought it to a satisfactory conclusion. That demonstrates that certain varieties of double-hatting can be extremely effective from time to time.

I believe that the report we are discussing today renders a service in at least three respects. First, it traces the key elements of the defence component of the common foreign and security policy of the Union and shows how far it has developed in a short period of years. Some, including those sitting on the Benches in front of me, may find it disconcerting to see that there has been a progression from a few words in the Maastricht Treaty to an agreement, as we have today, on a European Union force, not a standing army, but a capability of up to 60,000 troops. Most will probably feel that it is right that the Union should put itself in a position to respond, if NATO does not wish to act, to humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks and tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peacemaking. These are of course the so-called XPetersberg tasks" which were drafted in 1992 by the Western European Union in order to distinguish them from common defence. That is why the Petersberg tasks are set out in this way. There was an extremely long argument over the phrase Xpeacemaking". I have heard it before and, while it is an important point, that argument took place when the tasks were first drafted.

The defence of our territory is, of course, a matter for the United Kingdom itself and for NATO. The European Union rapid reaction force is to respond to a different kind of potential need, as described in the Petersberg tasks. The experience of recent years, in particular in Bosnia and Kosovo, has shown that problems of racial strife can give rise to such suffering that a peacekeeping or humanitarian role could be justified. So it is now the intention of the European Union that some forces should in effect be earmarked so that they could form a rapid reaction force--or, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, said, a Xfairly" rapid reaction force--to respond to such a need. I think that most people in this country think that in certain cases, we do have a moral obligation to act and that, if NATO does not wish to act, we should still respond to that moral obligation.

Secondly, the committee's report clearly describes what is the headline goal and, in the very recent update report, the committee reports on the key elements of the commitments conference of 20th November, when the member states of the Union agreed to the assembly of a pool of 100,000 troops, from which up to 60,000 could be used at any one time. Other noble Lords have already pointed out that it is a matter of satisfaction that a number of other states currently outside the

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European Union, in particular Turkey, have also agreed to make a contribution. Certain points of detail may still be under discussion, but Turkey has agreed to make an important contribution, and I welcome that very much.

I conclude that in general there is a broad measure of agreement in western Europe on the approach. That seems to be the reasonable conclusion to draw from the response of the various states which took part in the capabilities conference.

Thirdly, the committee picked out the key political and practical points which follow on from the decision to go forward with the rapid reaction force. These are important points. It is essential that we should stress them and that they should be properly monitored. Indeed, that is an important contribution from the committee. A particular point is that NATO should be the first choice to lead any military mission and that the European Union should act alone only when the alliance as a whole is not engaged. As others have pointed out, this goes to the heart of our relationship with the United States, to which I shall return in a moment.

For the same reason, it is important that the rapid reaction force should be operational by 2003 so that we can demonstrate a real European contribution to the peacekeeping role. Furthermore, all the partners must show that they can meet the costs. I think that it was legitimate for the committee to raise its concerns as regards command and control. The Government seem relatively relaxed about it, but it is a very important point because this function is essential. The relationship with NATO needs to be clear.

I turn now to relations with the United States, which, through NATO, has made such a huge contribution to our collective defence over many years. For myself, I see a real consistency in United States policy over the period. It has been fully committed to NATO and to collective defence but, not unreasonably, it has looked for a strengthening of the European pillar of that defence. It looks for Xa realistic effort" from the European allies. I choose this phrase, which is half a century old. In September 1950, when President Truman deployed four US divisions to Europe, this action was subsequently endorsed by Congress only on the basis of a resolution which insisted that the Joint Chiefs of Staff,

    Xshould certify that the European allies were making a realistic effort on behalf of European defence".

This demonstrates that I have a very long memory. It has been the consistent position of the United States over a long period.

Subject, therefore, to the essential points made by the United Kingdom Government and by the committee on the maintenance of NATO's position and on the avoidance of duplication, it seems to me that the strengthening of Europe's capacity to respond to what now seem to be the type of crises which do arise is in line with the thrust of US policy over very many years. I personally find the remarks of Secretary Albright, Mr Strobe Talbot and Secretary Cohen all consistent. I know that they had points to make, points

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to criticise and points to stress, but they seem consistent with the well-established core of United States policy, even when they stress that changes resulting from the European Union initiative must not leave NATO in a weaker position. Why should they? That is a very good point to make from their point of view. The policy of the United States does not seem to be at risk in the way that we are going forward. We should remember that we are talking about a British/French initiative.

Of course, we do not know what will be the policy of the new US President and administration on the role of NATO, but, if they want to maintain their commitment, the strengthening of a European capability to deal with limited crises--which is, in effect, what it will be--must be also in the interests of the United States also.

Having finally received the draft Treaty of Nice--I do not think that I am allowed to speak French here, so I shall not quote from it in French, which is the only text I have received--I have been struck by the force with which the maintenance of NATO's role is stressed. In Article 17 of the Treaty of European Union, which is revised in some other aspects, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, the treaty stresses that the Union policy respects the obligations resulting from the NATO treaty for members such as the United Kingdom which consider that their common defence is realised in the framework of NATO.

In addition, there is the formal declaration, to which reference has been made, annexed to the final act of the conference--and which will therefore appear in the treaty documents--stressing that the objective of the European Union is to be rapidly operational, and setting the timetable for the decision making by the European Councils.

In sum, the committee has been right to point to the potential problems and to emphasise the possibility of difficulties in terms of potential overstretch of our own forces in the United Kingdom. I am glad to see that in their reply the Government have sought to respond positively to these points. They have pointed out that the intention is further to develop the role of DSACEUR in order for him to assume fully and effectively his European responsibilities, and thus to avoid duplication of NATO structures, and that the UK will influence the ongoing work.

Quite often there is a tendency to assume that something will not work; it is an old British habit. Of course, we need to stress the risks and the dangers, but that is quite different from saying that something will not work. I have complete confidence that the reaction force will come into effect and will work.

7.2 p.m.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, as a relatively new Member of your Lordships' House, may I say how pleased I am to have completed my first report. It was a privilege to do so in such distinguished company--a former Chief of Defence Staff, a former Secretary-General of the European Commission, a very senior

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police officer, distinguished former Secretaries of State, diplomats and so on. Indeed, this is the House of Lords at its best, providing added value to the work of the democratic Commons. We have produced two excellent and unanimous reports. Despite wide variations of views, there was not a XChadless" vote in sight.

In August, our principal report was published. Two months later the issue of the so-called European army blew up in the media, but your Lordships' report was largely ignored. That may have been a failure of the fickle press-- which nevertheless, in contrast, at the same time took up your Lordships' report on, for example, complementary medicine--or, alternatively, it may have been our fault for failing to communicate our work to the press, the media and the public outside. Perhaps we need a rapid reaction force or unit to help us in that task. I suspect that for too long the House of Lords has suffered from overstretch--too few resources for current and future tasks. It is time that we considered resourcing better your Lordships' House, especially the work of its specialist committees.

Noble Lords will recall that our August report welcomed this British initiative. Nevertheless, the report correctly set out our real concerns and identified deficiencies that must be remedied if the Government's ambitions are to be fulfilled.

Two things have happened since the publication of the report to confirm our original optimism: first, the Nice IGC, where the French view was marginalised. Indeed, it seemed to me that the French came out of the confessional with our PM more supplicant than priest and agreed to a text which, for all its post-conference splutterings, is British in tone and tenor. Secondly, the November capabilities commitment conference was a big and successful first step on the road to the realisation of our 2003 goal.

Your Lordships will recall that we were seeking to provide a rapid reaction force of 60,000 troops capable of being mobilised within 60 days, sustained for 12 months and backed up by a further 180,000 troops ready to relieve the core 60,000. We got more--not only assurances on the 180,000 back-up troops but also an immediate down payment of 100,000 troops, exceeding the core 60,000 target by 40,000. In addition, commitments were given with gratifying alacrity by the four non-EU countries, which could quite reasonably have withheld their hand at this early stage. They did not. That says a lot for the acceptability of the idea of the rapid reaction force and for the power of the European Union to unite countries across the continent to the wise and common purpose of collective security and defence. It was truly a leap of Bob Beaman proportions, which has jump started this British initiative of strengthening defence and security in the European Union and within NATO.

How does the rapid reaction force support British objectives? I suggest that the acid test is to determine what the added value is to Britain of investing in this initiative. First, Britain aspires to a leadership role in Europe. Here we have demonstrated it. This in turn

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will help us in our ambitions to institute other reform, including economical, institutional and market oriented.

Secondly, it gives coherence and focus to our existing bilaterals, typified by the German, Italian and British joint air group, which will see Luftwaffe pilots training with the UK's Tornado force; or by Exercise Quickstep, carried out in conjunction with the French armed forces--a veritable pas de deux planned by the dancing major conducting the previous Conservative administration.

Indeed, previous Tory governments have rightly encouraged such co-ordination and integration. Presumably, they did not fear then, as they do now, that the cannabis of such bilateral co-operation would somehow lead on to the cocaine of the rapid response force, which they now so clumsily misrepresent, misinterpret and malign as a putative and spectral European army.

Thirdly, it means that soldiers from the 2 million currently under arms in the European Union can be mobilised into an effective and efficient force of some 60,000 troops. The various conflicts in the Balkans have exposed Europe's previous failures to apply its existing assets to practical problems. It must be in Britain's interests to foster this distinct piece of enhanced co-operation, which gratifyingly enlists all 15 EU states and beyond.

Fourthly, the proposal will have the beneficial effect of prompting our European allies to modernise their military capabilities and, it is to be hoped, injecting more money into their military budgets. They are far more likely to undertake their own defence spending reviews now that such reviews have a definable content. The egregious case of the German armed forces mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton of Eggardon, where men are in over-supply to machines, is well known. The German aspiration to spend existing resources better is to be applauded and will be accelerated by the need to prepare for the rapid reaction force. Getting Britain's allies to change and improve is in Britain's direct interest. It is our own form of encouraging burden-sharing among EU allies within NATO, a point made tellingly by the noble Lord, Lord Roper.

Fifthly, the proposal will strengthen the drive towards a common procurement policy for arms and equipment among EU members. That, in turn, will stimulate a dormant, or perhaps sleepy, single European armaments market--which is, again, good news for Britain and its defence industries. These are jobs for Britain, born of defending Britain.

Sixthly, the proposal will aid and abet the process of enlargement, especially for countries in eastern and central Europe which set such store by their security and defence needs. A safer Europe means a safer Britain.

Seventhly, a better use of existing resources will help with the vexed question of overstretch. This initiative's attack on duplication and overlap represents a gain for British policy. The example of the Nordic countries providing a joint field hospital facility is a noteworthy

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example of the potential to fight overstretch. Incidentally, overstretch is not a function of how many hats you wear for various defence purposes but of whether the hat is waterproof against a foreseeable tempest. If the cap fits, Britain should wear it.

This initiative will strengthen NATO, the lodestar of Britain's and Europe's defence and security policy. That is why the Americans support this initiative. They look with despair on the jigsaw of Europe's armed forces and weep! It is no wonder. They long for the burden to be shared on a more equitable basis.

There are some who are opposed to the proposal for a rapid reaction force and who cite a minority of siren voices on the American scene warning of the potential break-up of NATO. But let me state clearly my belief that giving succour to the slumbering isolationist tendency in United States politics is more likely, not less likely, to encourage complementary and heretical moves by some of our European allies to develop a fully-fledged European independence in the fields of defence and security.

I might add that we give our sincerest wishes to President-elect Bush for his imminent presidency. But he must examine closely the proposed national missile defence system, one of whose unfortunate side-effects might be to encourage isolationism in each of our continents. Governor Bush, who in the past has shown little interest in foreign affairs, must appreciate that the future is a different country. We must do things differently there. Any such American hibernation from the challenges of the future would frustrate Britain's vital interest, which seeks to ensure that all our relationships, not just with America, remain special.

Our report rightly highlights the need for more work to be done on the lacunae of deployability, sustainability and the command and control mechanisms of the rapid reaction force. That work, I am confident, will be successfully completed.

The anxieties concerning the remit of the force, regarding the harder end of the Petersberg tasks, must be assuaged. Nevertheless, at the moment, it is surely true that were we to contemplate serious peace-making without NATO, a lack of heavy lift facility and suitable intelligence-gathering systems would ground our force quicker than a Charlie Dimmock makeover!

With the Petersberg tasks, we should emphasise Britain's opportunities. Our experience gained in Northern Ireland should ensure us a leading role in Europe in practical peacekeeping.

But what are the views of the Opposition on the rapid reaction force and of the Nice IGC confirming it? Some Conservatives have agreed that Britain got the best deal it could from Nice. The noble Lords, Lord Jopling and Lord Howell, are opponents who always advance forceful arguments that test our own. But others have continued unthinkingly to speak of a European army. Indeed, it might be said that the variety of views among the Conservatives in both Houses are as thick as the leaves that fall in Vallombrosa, and sometimes thicker than that!

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Do the Official Opposition, in the form of one Mr Francis Maude, the invisible man who apparently signed the common defence paragraphs of the Maastricht Treaty in invisible ink, really want to repudiate Nice? Do they really want to wreck the rapid reaction force, which so clearly serves British interests and enhances its influence? The high command of the Conservative Party must really become more choosy about the choice of barge poles with which it seeks to push Britain further into the Atlantic. Must we be for ever, at its behest, left on the Continental Shelf?

This is a good beginning. The rapid reaction force is up, if not yet running. It is an initiative that deserves our support, our comfort, our care and our scrutiny in your Lordships' House as it grows from European adolescent to NATO adult in our widening family of transatlantic nations.

7.6 p.m.

Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, it was a privilege to serve on the sub-committee. I join with other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Howell, on his former chairmanship, and our current chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton.

It was extraordinarily interesting working on the sub-committee and, despite considerable disparity of opinion at times, it was very good-humoured. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Williams, refer to the fact that differences of language are not always at the root of misunderstanding but they can, of course, contribute to it. Those of us who were present will remember for a long time the slightly surreal moment when a gentleman from France gave evidence to the sub-committee and appeared to say that he was in favour of a European army, which is how most of us understood him; then, as he faced a barrage of protest, he explained that what he was really saying was that he was not in favour of a European army. Language can make quite a difference.

I said that there was a wide range of opinion among members of the committee, and that is clearly true. But there was one consistent, refreshing and uniting theme. It is clearly expressed in the opinion of the committee given at paragraph 95. It states:

    XEurope's critical need is for forces that can contribute effectively in international crises. Therefore what is needed is military capabilities, not symbolism".

The committee liked General Naumann's expression of Europe's need for Xcapabilities, not new institutions".

Therefore, it is important that the capabilities commitment conference in Brussels on 20th November, to which reference has been made, was in practice, as is stated in our committee's update published this week,

    Xthe first major test in the development of the CESDP".

The purpose of the conference was to reach an agreement on the commitment of troops sufficient to meet the policy's headline goal. As the noble Lord,

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Lord Harrison, made clear, it succeeded in that. We state in the update to our report that the Capabilities Commitment Conference (CCC),

    Xhas succeeded in reaching its main aim".

The first test of reality against rhetoric has been met.

It is also important to state that we face a situation today whereby 11 out of 16 European NATO member states are now increasing their defence expenditure. Perhaps I may express it like this: the Xpost-lottery win" euphoria of 1989 and the end of the Cold War has now come to an end--and a good thing too!

Of course, this is not the first, or the last, time that your Lordships' House has, or will, debate the CESDP. Indeed, our Select Committee promises to return to the subject. When we do so, it will be important for us to strive again to seek reality and to resist hyperbole. Good reconnaissance seeks to distinguish between shadow and substance, suspicion and fact.

I was told last week about a recent dinner party here in London where one European Union member state's ambassador to the Court of St James was rather startled when a guest sitting opposite him at the table rather aggressively asked him to justify his nation's support for Xthis rapid reactionary force". We must be very careful that we do not become a rapid reactionary force. It was also refreshing when, a short while ago in this House, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, condemned,

    Xany hysterical reaction against closer European defence co-operation",

in the discussion on European defence co-operation. His views are clearly treated with the very greatest of respect in the House.

In fact, when one considers the situation, it seems as if the real mover of what has now been agreed at Nice was not in some ways Maastricht in 1991, with its commitment to the,

    Xeventual framing of a common defence policy, which might lead to a common defence"--

a commitment signed up to by the Conservative government at that time. Indeed, when looking at Nice, whether or not we read it in French or in English, it is clear that NATO remains the basis of our collective defence. This is about something different. The impetus has come not from euro aspirations but from proven European weakness, which was demonstrated at Kosovo and in Bosnia, and the salutary realisation that Europe must enhance its capability if it is not to try the patience and comprehension of the United States to breaking point.

It was over Kosovo that Europe could only fly one-fifth of the strike sorties. As the committee's report testifies, despite spending the equivalent of 60 per cent of the United States' total defence budget, only 2 per cent of European forces were capable of being deployed in Kosovo. That is fact. As the committee

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says in paragraph 9 of the report, European countries have had to acknowledge that they are over-dependent on the United States. Further on, in paragraph 12, we say:

    XEuropean governments have come to accept that in the future they cannot take for granted US involvement in the humanitarian, crisis control and peace support missions in which the EU has an interest".

That has to be a realistic judgment. It is one upon which we should ponder most carefully as we now move towards a new presidency in the United States.

Kosovo, as the Americans say, was the Xwake-up call". If the CESDP had not been conceived at Maastricht, given objectives at Amsterdam, headline goals at Helsinki, the means to turn the EU into Xan intelligent customer" of military capability at Cologne and its own commitment to pool capabilities given in November in Brussels, we would have to start again now right at the beginning and move even faster. In the circumstances, I find it extraordinary that Mr William Hague has already made entirely clear in another place--and committed his party to it--his intention not to ratify the Nice treaty at this stage.

If we were to turn our backs on the painstaking advances that have been made in the field and oppose what was agreed in Nice, we would be rejecting reality and Europe's responsibilities. It would be such an action--not one what was agreed at Nice--which would justifiably invite the exasperation of the United States and, in the end, risk the United States' ultimate disillusionment with the transatlantic European Union American Union Alliance.

The report before us this evening is a valuable document. I hope that the House will welcome it. From these Benches we welcome the CESDP. We welcome the commitment of the United Kingdom Government to it and we shall continue to look, with hope, for deeds and not words. I also hope that we shall be assured tonight by the Minister of the Government's consistency of purpose and commitment to that policy. We are still told that apparently no real, if any, increase of resources will be required to make a reality of this policy by Her Majesty's Government. Can this really be so? The Government are eager to point to this policy as an example of their commitment to leadership in Europe. But leadership always carries a price: it requires credibility. Simply to point to the Strategic Defence Review as that job completed is surely too complacent and potentially misleading.

Finally, there is a sense in the House--as, indeed, there was in the committee--that what we are discussing here is truly significant. We do not know the ultimate destination of the course upon which we have embarked. But two things have become quite clear and have been the major motor of this policy. The first is that Europe must do more if we are not to invite America to do much less. Secondly, at the end of the day, Europe must take the responsibility that its wealth and strength provide and be prepared to play its full and proper role.

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7.27 p.m.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, I intend to be very brief because the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, approached me a short while ago and whispered in my ear a reminder that the most important social function of the parliamentary year will be starting in about one minute's time. I do not want to delay those who wish to attend that function. This is not in any way to denigrate the importance of this debate, but we held almost exactly the same debate (at even greater length) on Tuesday last. As the Minister gave a very comprehensive reply to all the points raised on that occasion, I hope that she will find it possible to respond fairly briefly tonight.

In any case, I find it almost unnecessary to say anything, as it has been said very much better by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and, indeed, by the noble Lord, Lord Shore. I am delighted to see that the noble Lord has just returned to his seat in the Chamber. I should like to say how much I admire what he had to say and to express the surprise that I sometimes feel that he does not move one seat backwards or, possibly, one seat further forwards.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, pointed out that the report was published in July not with a bang but with a whimper. I took note of that point and believe that particular attention should be paid to the evidence, which seems rather more timeless, rather than the report itself. That is not to say that the report is not of great value. I pay particular attention to the statement of my noble friend Lady Park to Dr Menon--namely, XI could kiss you". I wonder whether that was a declaration of interest.

The report is of particular value in that the British Parliament comprises the only people not to have been told how many people are involved. On its first page the report quotes the Helsinki Agreement which states that member states must be able by 2003 to deploy within 60 days and sustain for at least a year military forces of up to 50,000 to 60,000 persons. It is not unreasonable to ask how many people in total will be required to sustain these numbers; how they are to be split up among the European nations and, most importantly, how they will be paid for.

It is not only in taking a look at the logistics of getting the various forces together that the report is of great value. It makes it clear that it will be necessary to add another superstructure, exactly the thing that the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, in his speech at the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of NATO said that we did not need. He is quite right. It is interesting to speculate whether, and to what degree, the present Secretary of State is in agreement with his predecessor.

There is no doubt that such a superstructure is also planned physically. A purpose-designed twin office block is to built at Kortenberg to house the staff of EU military structures and policy unit and the external affairs directorate-general. I wonder whether it will house one set of staff or two.

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In the British view, the EU command and control are intended to complement NATO. But in the report Dr Menon says that the,

    XFrench Government has a different view of the sequence notion to the Americans, that the EU should decide first and then go to NATO".

As was made clear on Tuesday, the US is a vital component of all NATO tasks. Speaking without notes, the noble Lord, Lord Shore, could remember only two of the three XDs". The third is no discrimination against non-EU members of NATO. I have some notes on that subject. As he said, the other two were no decoupling and no duplication.

The noble Lord, Lord Watson, commented favourably on the evidence given by General Klaus Naumann. His evidence I believe to be absolutely vital and almost the most important element in the whole report and the evidence. I hope that the Minister and the Secretary of State will read it with much care, if they have not done so already, and that they will ensure that all their European partners do so too.

As all the speakers in today's debate know, the committee has sat on the fence. Its members rightly felt that they had raised a large number of questions which have to be answered. It looks to me as if, on occasions, their collective tongues are firmly in their cheeks. I particularly like the point in their consideration of the Petersberg tasks where they say that peacemaking can include war fighting.

Members of the committee may correct me but they seem to have a wholehearted cynicism about the whole project. However, this is balanced by what was undoubtedly the principle adopted in Nice; namely, XWe must do something; this is something; we must do it". I should like the Minister's comments in brief.

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