DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – MISSILE DEFENCE – 23 June 2003

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Secretary of State agree that it makes better sense to have a missile defence system in place in an era in which we are concerned about rogue regimes with potentially small numbers of missiles than it might have done during a Cold War confrontation when we were dealing with a superpower with very large numbers of missiles? When he discusses these important issues with our NATO allies, what consideration does he give to the financing of any such project in the future? Is it a question of discussing with them how best to co-operate with our American allies on a project that they will finance, or would we have to make a significant financial contribution – and if so, could we afford to do so?

[Geoff Hoon: We have not come to any specific decisions on whether to pursue missile defence for the United Kingdom, but at the Prague summit last November, all our NATO allies clearly demonstrated that we were committed to examining options to address the increasing missile threat. The question of finance has not yet been specifically addressed, and it need not be until there is agreement as to how to go forward in this area.

We have, however, been able to agree a framework memorandum of understanding with the United States, which sets out the guiding principles governing co-operation between the United States and the United Kingdom on missile defence. Obviously, one of the aspects that we have to consider further is the cost, and who should meet that cost.]