QUEEN'S SPEECH DEBATE (4th DAY) – PEACE IN EUROPE & COUNTER-EXTREMISM – 24 May 2016
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Philip Hammond): ... The 2% NATO target is based on NATO definitions, according to which Britain will spend 2% of its GDP on defence. As I am sure he has already found from talking to people in the defence community, the important thing is not the amount spent today, but the long-term commitment to maintain defence spending at 2% of our GDP so that our defence spending rises in line with our prosperity as a nation. That is the right thing for us to do.
Dr Julian Lewis rose –
Mr Hammond: I will be tempted by my right hon. Friend and take one more intervention.
Dr Lewis: My right hon. Friend is right. No NATO rules have been broken – we can argue about whether there was any new money, or whether it was money that we could have counted in the past but did not. Surely the important point is that the 2% is not a target for us: it is a minimum. The last time we faced threats of the sort we face now was in the 1980s, when we spent between 4% and 5% of GDP on defence. We are not talking about ringing church bells over 2%; we need to raise our sights to a higher figure altogether.
Mr Hammond: My right hon. Friend is right to say that 2% is a minimum commitment. The reassurance that that level of spend gives to our armed forces and the military, and the fact that it is linked to our rising GDP, is important. Equally, this is not just about the amount of money spent, although that it is important; it is about how we spend it to ensure the maximum defence effect.
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Hilary Benn (Shadow Foreign Secretary): ... It was the sheer determination and vision of Europe’s founders to end the history of slaughter and to build something better out of the ashes of a still smouldering Europe that made it happen. The Schuman declaration said it all. It resolved to make a future war not merely unthinkable but materially impossible. What it achieved was peace, as the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) – he is not here today – described most eloquently in his remarkable speech back in February. That peace even has the seal of approval of the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), who wrote two years ago in his biography of Churchill that Europe’s securing of the peace had been a “spectacular success”. What a pity that he has learned nothing from his own former wisdom.
Dr Lewis: Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that the people who lie in those graves fought and died for a united Europe? Did they not die for the right of their own countries and the occupied countries to govern themselves? Does he really believe that in the decade before the European Economic Community came into existence there was any risk of war between the democracies created at the end of the second world war?
Mr Benn: Like many Members of this House, I lost an uncle in the second world war. He was an RAF pilot and he was killed three weeks after D-day. He fought, along with everybody else, against the ideology of Nazism and what it did, which is why the rise of the far right in Europe should give us all cause for concern and remind us of the dangers of the past. The growth and stability of the post-war period have led people to believe that that is all done and dusted, but it is not. It is still with us. The values we are fighting to uphold are the values of co-operation between free democracies that have come together of their own volition in the interests of maintaining peace and building something better for the future. That is the difference between those who argue to remain and those who think we should leave.
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Sir Gerald Howarth: ... On the wider issue, it would be perverse in the extreme if, in order to manage extremist Muslims who are bent on our destruction and whom we have allowed to settle in the country, the Government were to impose severe restrictions on those practising the state religion of Christianity, which espouses turning the other cheek and love for thy neighbour. I believe that Christian society here is under threat. It was reported in the paper today that only 52% of people regard themselves as Christian, and we are in danger of creating a vacuum that will be filled by others.
Dr Lewis: I have never been able to document this, but I remember my father telling me – coming as we do from a Jewish background – that when Polish émigrés who settled here at the end of the second world war began, in certain enclaves, to bring some of the anti-Semitic traditions from their homeland of the past to our homeland of the present, the Labour Government of the day made a very firm statement about that. There was nothing discriminatory about focusing on that particular problem; we must focus on the problem where the totalitarian doctrine is being applied.
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Andy Burnham (Shadow Home Secretary): ... We have heard the Prime Minister say that parts of the Muslim community are “quietly condoning” extremism. That does not win hearts and minds in the community, and we need 99.9% of people to work with the Government to find the very small number of people who may be at risk of radicalisation.
Rather than compounding the damage by legislating in haste, I urge Ministers to take a step back and to set up a cross-party review of how the statutory duty is working in practice. That would be much more beneficial than pushing on with further legislation.
Dr Lewis: I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would accept that when we dealt with the totalitarian theories of communism and fascism in the past, we never made illegal the holding of such views; we made illegal the carrying out of such views with any form of violent action. However, does he also accept that where children and indoctrination in secret are concerned, we must intervene if we are not to see the radicalisation of a new generation?
[For Julian's speech in this debate click here.]