CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE – EU RAPID REACTION FORCE – 23 April 2001

Dr Julian Lewis: What representations he has received concerning the European security and defence policy?

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Geoffrey Hoon): I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave earlier today to the hon. Members for Blaby(Mr Robathan) and for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson).]

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] I am delighted that the Secretary of State has referred me to his earlier answers, because that enables me to point out how inadequate they were. Is it not a fact that senior American politicians, the Finnish general in charge of the European rapid reaction force and the French Chief of the Defence Staff – who has not, incidentally, modified or retracted anything he said, despite the earlier predictions by the Secretary of State – have made it perfectly clear that the ERRF is to operate outside, not inside, the NATO structure? Will he now stop his waffle about the need to co-operate with our European allies – which we all support, within NATO – and set our doubts at rest? Is not what is being proposed the building of something outside NATO which will undermine NATO – something of which our American allies are becoming increasingly aware?

[Geoff Hoon: We have now had experience of two American Administrations, and both have made it clear that they support efforts by European nations to improve their military capabilities because by doing so they contribute to the success of NATO. We have made it clear that we regard the development of any improved European capabilities as a contribution to NATO.]