HC Deb 04 July 1995 vol 263 cc132-3
10. Mr. MacShane

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what further co-operation or integration with the French armed forces is planned. [30564]

Mr. Soames

The United Kingdom enjoys close bilateral defence relations with France and we are always willing to investigate potential areas for further co-operation.

Mr. MacShane

I welcome that statement and hope that that military co-operation will be extended to political and economic co-operation. Will the Minister say something about Britain's attitude to the gross provocation by France of resuming nuclear tests in the Pacific? Will he send a message of solidarity to the peoples and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand? Does he agree that, for the time being, we should be boycotting Renault and Peugeot cars? If, as Labour Members hope, the Prime Minister is soon confirmed in his post, we will toast that victory in Australian, not French champagne.

Mr. Soames

That would be going a bit too far. The hon. Gentleman tempts us down a very unwise path. Indeed, I am surprised that he has asked such a question because he is a scholar and an aficionado of all things French. He knows that the decision on testing is a matter for the French. For us, the principal objective is an early conclusion to the comprehensive test ban treaty, and the French commitment to that has been reaffirmed. As for sending a message of solidarity to the countries that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, it is the French who should do that.

Mr. Rathbone

Will my hon. Friend reaffirm the Government's support for the activities of the Western European Union and also the funding for its parliamentary assembly?

Mr. Soames

I am happy to endorse the work of the WEU. As my hon. Friend knows from his distinguished work with that body—I had the honour to serve under him for a time—the WEU continues to be developed as the European pillar of NATO and a defence arm of the European Union in a way that is complementary to the alliance. It is important that we do not forget that the bedrock of the defence of Europe is NATO. That remains our first and prime charge.

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