POINT OF ORDER – EUROPEAN ARMY – 20 November 2000

[Mr Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will know that the Secretary of State for Defence is in Brussels today undertaking negotiations that will in effect undermine the coherence and success of the most successful military alliance that the world has ever seen. You will also understand that these actions on the part of the Secretary of State and the Government are being carried out without any consultation with the House at all. In view of the very serious nature of those talks and the events that may flow from them, may we look to you to ensure that the Secretary of State for Defence gives the House tomorrow an account of what has transpired today and of what is in store for British forces?

Mr Paul Flynn (Newport, West): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker –

Mr Speaker: Order. Perhaps I can answer the point of order from the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr Soames). I cannot guarantee that a statement will be made tomorrow, but I understand that a statement may be made on Wednesday which will reveal all. Does that help the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn)?

Mr Flynn: Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. There are hon. Members who are members of the Western European Union and of the NATO Assembly and who have been discussing these matters on behalf of the parties in the House for many months now. The matter has been thoroughly discussed and is well understood. It is a shame that a practical way to increase the chances of peace and stability in Europe should be used as a political football by the anti-European fanatics among the Opposition.

Mr David Maclean (Penrith and The Border): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, and your nod and a wink that a statement may be made. Would you be willing to consider a request for an emergency debate if such a statement were not forthcoming from the Government?

Mr Speaker: Order. These matters are hypothetical. I cannot say more than that there will probably be a statement on Wednesday.]

Dr Julian Lewis: Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker, and the comments of the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn). Is it in order for the prerogatives of the House to be usurped by the Western European Union, particularly when so many hon. Members have a great deal of knowledge and expertise in defence matters and know how dangerous the proposal is?

[Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman seems to be making a good debating point.]