HC Deb 03 November 1997 vol 300 cc6-7
5. Mr. Tyrie

If he will make a statement on progress towards NATO enlargement. [11738]

Mr. George Robertson

The Madrid NATO summit invited the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to begin accession talks with NATO. NATO's goal is to sign the accession protocol in December. At the same time, NATO is working with the three countries concerned to facilitate their effective military and political integration into the alliance.

Mr. Tyrie

What will the cost of NATO enlargement be? I note that, after the NATO summit, the Prime Minister said that the cost would be zero. There have been reports in the press, however, that the Pentagon and the NATO military command estimate that the cost will be between £3 billion and £6 billion. What will be the United Kingdom's share of that cost?

Mr. Robertson

Those are not NATO figures. A variety of sources have produced a number of figures, few of which we consider reliable. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not say that the cost would be zero; he said that it would be manageable. The cost of NATO enlargement will emerge from the detailed plans that are being produced, based on the decisions made at Madrid. It would be misleading to present figures at this stage. A good indication of where the costs are likely to fall should be ready for NATO Ministers when they meet in December.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the Secretary of State say what assessment his Department has made of the costs of NATO enlargement to the new member states in raised taxation or cuts in their social programmes, and what estimate he has made of the likely defence expenditure increase in Russia—which feels that it has a new enemy on its borders and is therefore likely to rearm?

Mr. Robertson

Immediately after today's Question Time, I am going to Russia to meet my opposite number, General Sergeyev. The Russians' opinion is not that they have a new enemy on their borders and the NATO-Russia founding charter was a new chapter in the developing relationships between NATO and Russia. We do not believe that the new applicant countries will have to pay a price that will have to come out of their social expenditure.

We will not allow expansion to bankrupt the expanding economies of the applicant countries, because their continued economic health and market economies are an important element in European security. We expect that there will be costs to them—of course there will be—and that they will have responsibilities, but we and the applicant countries believe that every penny that has been spent on NATO has been worth it and that any necessary future expenditure will be in their and Europe's interest.

Mrs. Ewing

Will the Secretary of State advise the House how critical the issue of the NATO nuclear capability has been in those discussions?

Mr. Robertson

Given that there is absolutely no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of the new members, it can be taken that that was not a major factor in the discussions on NATO enlargement.