HC Deb 16 January 1991 vol 183 cc835-6
2. Mr. Douglas

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on discussions he has had with his European partners in relation to common defence.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Douglas Hurd)

The NATO ministerial meeting in December agreed that the European allies should take a greater role. For NATO, the Western European Union and the intergovernmental conference of the Twelve on political union, discussion of European defence will be a key task for this year.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Secretary of State enlarge a little on that answer, especially in regard to our relations with the French? Have there been any discussions about the future role of the strategic deterrent, and sharing such a deterrent with the French, and about the role of naval power and its implications for bases in the United Kingdom? I know that that may be more a matter for the Secretary of State for Defence, but it has implications for bases in Scotland such as the Rosyth naval base and dockyard. Will the Secretary of State comment on these remarks?

Mr. Hurd

As I understand it, there is steadily growing defence co-operation between ourselves and France and that is something which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence welcomes and takes a hand in, but it does not take the form of proposals for a shared nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Has the Foreign Secretary sought guidance from the Belgian Government about the reported refusal to supply ammunition to Britain in case it might be used in the Gulf conflict? As that could put British lives at risk in a prolonged conflict, does he believe that such issues should be clarified before he seeks to transfer our defence responsibility from NATO to some European organisation?

Mr. Hurd

There are no plans to transfer our basic guarantees of security from NATO to anywhere else. I am sure that the request to Belgium for ammunition is still being discussed.

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