HC Deb 09 July 1996 vol 281 c161
4. Mrs. Gorman

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future development of NATO. [34900]

Mr. Portillo

NATO is the cornerstone of European defence arrangements. It must evolve to reflect the demands of its new missions, to absorb new members, and to develop a European defence identity within the alliance. We shall play our full part.

Mrs. Gorman

Given that NATO has preserved the peace in Europe for the past 50 years and that, throughout that period, our nuclear weaponry has been jointly under control of our Government and of the NATO allies, will my right hon. Friend comment on the report issued by the Defence Committee of the European Union which calls for our nuclear weapons, together with those of France, to be placed under the control of a new European defence force?

Mr. Portillo

That proposal is severely misguided. Our nuclear deterrent has, as my hon. Friend said, had a dual purpose since its inception. It has been available for national defence and has been made available for NATO defence. NATO is the appropriate body for the security and defence of Europe. It will remain so, and Britain will remain among its firmest supporters.

Mr. Macdonald

Is not the credibility of the NATO mission in Bosnia constantly being eroded by the continued freedom of Karadzic and Mladic? Is it not time that NATO took serious action to bring them to justice, and is not a NATO follow-on force inconceivable while they are at large in Bosnia?

Mr. Portillo

I have largely dealt with those points already. I add only that, although the long-term peace of Bosnia-Herzegovina depends upon those people being brought to justice, I do not conclude that if, for any reason, they were at liberty at the end of the year, we could not have a follow-on force; nor do I believe that the credibility and effectiveness of the NATO force is called into question by the matter.