HC Deb 30 October 1990 vol 178 cc854-5
3. Mr. Cartwright

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he next intends to meet the Secretary-General of NATO to discuss the organisation's future role.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom King)

I next expect to meet Dr. Woerner at the nuclear planning group and defence planning committee meetings in December. I would expect to discuss with him a wide range of defence issues.

Mr. Cartwright

When the Secretary of State next meets the Secretary-General, will he make it abundantly clear that closer European defence collaboration is practical common sense but that it must be kept firmly within the NATO framework? Will he particularly reject the current daydreaming about some European Community defence force, which can only undermine the transatlantic relationship which has been so successful over the past 40 years?

Mr. King

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. He will know that at the very successful NATO summit in London, it was specifically agreed that a key pillar of NATO for the future would be the continuing transatlantic connection. United States forces based in Europe are a very important element of that.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes

Given NATO's magnificent record in maintaining peace in Europe since the second world war, would my right hon. Friend consider using NATO as a framework in a non-military sense as well as a military sense in ensuring continuing United States involvement in the future of a changing Europe?

Mr. King

Certainly, the NATO summit envisaged continuing discussions in the North Atlantic Council about a political dimension as well, but four of the key pillars of the alliance for the future shape of NATO are an integrated military structure, an appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces, United States forces—including nuclear—based in Europe and a united Germany in NATO.

Mr. Beggs

Now that there is movement towards political union in Europe, will the Government encourage the Government of the Irish Republic to join NATO?

Mr. King

I am not sure that that arises on this question.

Mr. Soames

Will my right hon. Friend elaborate on what discussions he has had about the further out-of-area role for NATO when he next meets the Secretary-General?

Mr. King

At present the NATO countries are separately involved in an out-of-area role in the Gulf. Hon. Members interested in defence matters are watching with great interest to see how well the various structures perform. We are co-operating in the Western European Union—that is one aspect of our activities in the Gulf. Our working relationship with the United States clearly benefits from our previous experiences working together within NATO.

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