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Lord Chalfont: My Lords, will the noble Baroness give way? I am reluctant to interrupt, but she stated that in the course of the debate on the gracious Speech. Of course whenever we deploy British troops we want the best intelligence. We have it. This is nothing to do with any European security and defence initiative. If we deploy British troops, we ourselves have sufficient intelligence capability to get all the intelligence we need to deploy those troops. We do not need to share it with anyone else.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, if the noble Lord will kindly let me finish, perhaps I may be able to answer that point.

Arrangements are being defined that will allow EU member states to feed intelligence into the EU decision- making process. It is just the same as in NATO. And just as in NATO, it will be done on voluntary basis. We will follow that model.

Perhaps I may cast a little more light on the issue for the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. British intelligence will be directed to British staff officers in the EU military command. Decisions as to how that intelligence should be used or shared, to take up the noble Lord's point, will continue to rest in the capitals from which it emanates, just as it does in NATO operations today.

The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, raised concerns about our intelligence relationship with the United States. We have no reason to believe that our relationship with the United States in this important area would be in any way prejudiced by this initiative. We would be operating on the basis which already pertains, which we already all know and understand. It operates very effectively when we operate within NATO.

I must address another great concern voiced by some noble Lords today: America's views on this issue. I strongly endorse the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, about the Americans wanting Europe to strengthen our military capability. As the secretary of the British-America parliamentary group, the noble Lord speaks with particular authority because it has strong contacts with the United States over a long period. The bottom line is that the American

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administration has been consistent in its support for this initiative. Only three weeks ago Robin Cook and Madeleine Albright published a joint article in the Observer addressing criticisms and inaccuracies. But the administration has also, and rightly, been consistent in its insistence that it matters how European defence is implemented. Of course it does. Enormous care must be taken on this. State Secretary Cohen was clear on this when he spoke at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting earlier this month. But the fact is that we agree with him. We see eye to eye with him on this issue. We must not do anything that damages the transatlantic interest and we will not damage NATO.

I was going to go into some detail with the noble Lord, Lord Shore, about his quotes from Mr Cohen and Wesley Clark. If he examines our debate of 12th December--I know that he will because he is an extremely conscientious man--I am sure that he will find the context of those remarks is a little fuller than his remarks earlier today may have led us to believe. Of course it is important what is happening with the incoming administration. We have had some interesting indications of the beliefs of the incoming administration through some of the remarks already made, notably by the adviser Mr Zoellick to President-elect Bush. I welcome the committee's recognition that NATO is an effective organisation and that the common European security and defence policy must strengthen, not rival, the alliance. I entirely agree with the well argued comments of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, on that subject.

The Nice agreement is specific about the relationship between the EU and the alliance. It says that NATO remains the basis of the collective defence of its members. That is the position not just of the United Kingdom Government, but of the whole European Union. It says that NATO will continue to play an important role in crisis management and that the EU will act in crisis management where the alliance as a whole is not engaged. I am sorry that we have repeated that again and again, but it is enormously important, because if I left that point out on this occasion, there might be thought to be a change in the Government's stance. In the coming weeks will shall all have to contend with the fact that every public statement that anybody makes on the initiative will be examined in detail and pored over by every commentator who has a pen in his hand or a microphone in front of him to find some different nuance in what is said. We have to look at what we have agreed and written down between us. In that respect, your Lordships will not find such a gulf of difference between what we say and what our EU allies say.

I believe that I have dealt with the questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Park, on the role of the military committee, but I shall be pleased to write to

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her further on that if she wishes. The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, raised important points about mission creep, but I am afraid that such issues will always be raised when we are militarily engaged. It is not peculiar to an EU-led engagement, as we have seen from the amount of comment--a good deal of it hot air and nonsense--in our media earlier this year about our operations in Sierra Leone. For day after day we heard about nothing but mission creep. It is always right and proper for the Government to keep reviewing the deployment of our troops and to ensure that they are there for the purpose that was originally designated or a purpose that is in concert with how matters are developing on the ground.

I should say something about France, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, and, in a very different way, by my noble friend Lord Shore of Stepney. The noble Lord, Lord Shore, is right in so far as France and Britain have always had different approaches to European defence matters. That is why we have worked so closely with France throughout the process. It has succeeded only because we have been able to find a large amount of common ground. We are not trying to camouflage the disagreements over detail. There are disagreements in every multinational organisation. However, France has signed up to the same agreement as everybody else--an agreement that ties in European defence arrangements closely with NATO. There is no suggestion that the French wish to depart from that agreement.

We have had a good debate. The subject has generated a great deal of hot air elsewhere, but your Lordships have brought a good deal of wisdom to bear on the matters. This has been a timely opportunity for us to set out the position after the Nice European council. We have long argued that Europe needs to face up to its security responsibilities. We have shown in Kosovo that Europe can be a force for good in the world. However, we are not yet doing all that we can. We must strengthen our military capabilities and co-operate more fully at all levels through NATO and the EU.

The recent developments are not about a European Army, undermining NATO or relinquishing sovereignty. Neither are they about adding to the burdens on our Armed Forces. They are mechanisms to ensure a more effective defence effort by European forces, to ensure that European nations can play a more effective part in the alliance's operations and to ensure that, where NATO is not engaged and if its member states wish, the European Union can take action. Through positive, constructive engagement, the United Kingdom has ensured that the EU has followed the right road. Nice was another milestone along that road, which will allow Europe to be able to discharge our responsibilities as one of the richest, most developed groups of nations in the world. It is important that we shoulder those responsibilities properly.

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Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, I am grateful to the contributors to this debate, which I have found very interesting. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Roper, is going to take over as champion of Turkey--an issue that I have pursued in the committee. The committee showed genuine support for the project and the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, should not confuse friendly advice with cynicism.

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I am particularly grateful to the Minister for emphasising her reassurances about the role of NATO--for the third time this week, I think. I put her on warning that the committee will return to the subject in the months and years ahead.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

        House adjourned at five minutes before eight o'clock.

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