HC Deb 25 October 1995 vol 264 cc1005-7
7. Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he last met his Western European Union counterparts to discuss the further development of a common foreign and security policy. [36858]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis)

The Western European Union Foreign and Defence Ministers last met in Lisbon in May this year; the outcome was published in a communiqué of the meeting, a copy of which is in the House of Commons Library. They will meet again in November.

Mr. Marshall

I thank the Minister for that short reply. How are the various and differing views in the reflections committee, especially regarding the future relationship between the Western European Union and the European Union, developing, and which, if any, countries are still pushing for the WEU to be a fourth pillar of the European Union?

Mr. Davis

Our stance has been laid out in a document on our views to the WEU that we have put around. The primary concerns in that document are not to erode our national sovereignty in terms of the command of our forces to support the integrity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; not to duplicate NATO to maintain the important transatlantic dimension in the alliance, not to jeopardise that in any way, and to create a practical capacity to carry out Petersburg missions in particular. So far, there has been a wide variety of views in the reflections group on this matter, including the subordination of the WEU to the EU, which we have resisted.

Mr. Colvin

I take it from my hon. Friend the Minister's answer, therefore, that he is against a merger between the EU and the WEU. Will he also confirm that, with regard to WEU enlargement, Her Majesty's Government would resist an application by any state to become a WEU member unless it was already a full member of NATO—and by full member I mean part of the integrated military structure of NATO—so that it could fully meet any commitment under article 5 of the Washington treaty?

Mr. Davis

My hon. Friend is right that full WEU membership requires article 5 commitment and therefore membership of NATO, so that is correct.

Mr. Home Robertson

Does the Minister acknowledge that up to 250,000 Europeans died during the three years that it took NATO to recognise the need to intervene powerfully in Bosnia, and does he therefore acknowledge that, notwithstanding anything that the Secretary of State for Defence may say, an urgent need exists for an effective European security structure?

Mr. Davis

I do not think that the two halves of the hon. Gentleman's question necessarily connect. It is not clear how an external body could necessarily prevent a civil war if the people of that country are determined to have one.

Sir Peter Emery

Will my hon. Friend take into account the fact that a number of us who serve on the North Atlantic Assembly have found that certain members of the assembly do not always have the same agenda for the operation of WEU as we do and that they may want to use the WEU to weaken NATO and the NATO connection? Will he be aware of that and ensure that the British position keeps the relationship with American forces in NATO very much in mind?

Mr. Davis

I hear what my right hon. Friend says. Resisting that sort of idea, proposal and initiative is the front and centre of our policy in Europe and in the WEU.

Mr. Robin Cook

The Minister will be aware that one of the areas agreed by the Government for joint action under common foreign security policy is nuclear non-proliferation. Why then does he not use the next WEU meeting to speak up for the 80 per cent. of British people who want Britain to condemn the French nuclear tests? If he really believes that closer integration in Europe would cut Britain's ties around Europe, why does he not give some support to Australia and New Zealand, which find that Britain is the only Commonwealth country that supports France against them? Does he not recognise that tough talk in Blackpool and in Westminster on protecting Britain's security interests cannot conceal the shameful silence on this matter that has made this Government the willing accomplice of France?

Mr. Davis

It is interesting to see the hon. Gentleman's background coming back to haunt us. This is of course a clear matter of the French national Government's interest in security. We take those matters seriously, unlike the Labour party. The French Government have clearly said that, like ourselves, they are committed to a comprehensive test ban treaty being successfully achieved in 1996 and the tests are a step towards that aim.

Mr. Garnier

Will my hon. Friend confirm that rather than listening to the muddled and inconsistent thinking of the Opposition, he will underline the NATO transatlantic link and not allow the WEU to be folded into the European Union in the way that some Opposition Members have suggested?

Mr. Davis

I am entirely in sympathy with my hon. Friend's comments. The NATO alliance has worked extraordinarily well in the past 40 years to preserve the peace of Europe. The transatlantic dimension is a key part of that alliance and we will preserve that as a major part of our policy.

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