HL Deb 16 May 1994 vol 555 cc73-6

7.20 p.m.

Lord Annaly rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 13th April be approved [15th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the first Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, and with the leave of the House, I will also speak to the second Motion standing in my name.

The first of these two orders amends a 1965 Order in Council which designates headquarters and a defence organisation for the purposes of the International Headquarters and Defence Organisations Act 1964. The second amends a 1965 Order in Council which provides for the application to visiting forces and international headquarters of law applicable to home forces.

Later this year a number of changes to the NATO command structure affecting the UK will come into being. The post of Commander-in-Chief Channel lapses on 30th June and the headquarters of Allied Forces Northern Europe in Kolsaas, Norway, closes. The following day reorganisation of the major subordinate: command structure in Allied Command Europe will be. completed, when the headquarters of the new North Western Area is activated. This area will comprise the land mass of the United Kingdom (for the first time) and Norway and the sea and air areas surrounding them. I will arrange for maps and organisational charts outlining these changes to be placed in the Library of the House.

The new NATO headquarters of the North Western region, to be designated Headquarters of the; Commander-in-Chief Allied Forces North Western Europe, will be situated at High Wycombe and will be commanded by a British officer. At the same time two new principal subordinate command headquarters will be activated in the United Kingdom: the headquarters of the Commander Allied Air Forces North Western Europe, also at High Wycombe, and the headquarters of the Commander Allied Naval Forces North Western Europe, at Northwood, which will assume Commander-in-Chief Channel's current responsibilities. Some 330 alliance personnel will be located at the new headquarters in the UK, of whom 130 will be UK personnel.

To reflect these changes it is necessary to amend the International Headquarters and Defence Organisations (Designation and Privileges) Order 1965 (SI 1965/1535) to designate in UK law the new headquarters. We are also taking this opportunity to designate the: NATO Airborne Early Warning Force headquarters in Mons, Belgium, and the NATO E-3A component in Geilenkirchen, Germany, whose visiting staff are treated as members of an international military headquarters but have not yet been formally recognised as having that status under UK law. The purpose of the first order is therefore to establish the status of the various headquarters and visiting forces.

The second order, which amends the Visiting Forces and International Headquarters (Application of Law) Order 1965 (SI 1965/1536), provides for the application to the visiting forces and these headquarters of the law applicable to home forces.

The changes that I have described will effectively complete the adjustments to NATO's command structure agreed at the end of 1991. They represent an important step towards a lighter, more flexible command structure which will enable the alliance to respond more quickly and effectively to the increasingly challenging and diverse demands of the European security situation.

The NATO summit in January charted the next steps for the adaptation of the alliance, and we can expect the new headquarters in the UK to play an important role in giving practical effect to the initiatives agreed there. This will help to keep the UK at the forefront of work to ensure that the Alliance remains centre-stage in European security arrangements in the years ahead. I commend these orders to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 13th April be approved [15th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Annaly.)

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, having carefully studied what was said in another place about these orders, and being content that the two orders should be taken together, we on these Benches welcome them. They have no particular party political significance. Indeed, they have little significance at all except as consequential movements in what is clearly a bigger reorganisation.

I have only one question to ask the Minister. In view of the ending of the Cold War and the reconstruction of the whole system of NATO, should we not in the shorter term be considering a review of the whole structure? A great deal that is still in position has become outdated. Is there any plan in the short term for a reorganisation of the whole structure of NATO?

Lord Annaly

My Lords, the establishment of Headquarters Allied Forces North Western Europe will effectively complete adjustments to NATO command structures agreed at the end of 1991. There are clear advantages to the UK in the establishment of a new major subordinate command here: it will allow us to maintain significant influence at an increasingly important level of command within the alliance's military structure; and there will be cost savings from home basing for the UK complement of staff and economic benefits to the local area from the presence of visiting forces.

The changes to the command structure that I have described have already led to considerable savings in manpower; the UK has been able to reduce its overall contribution by more than 30 per cent. As I have said, these changes represent an important step towards the more flexible command arrangements that the alliance will need in future to enable NATO to respond more quickly and effectively to the challenges now facing us. For the time being the priority will be to get the new headquarters up and running and these orders represent a necessary part of this process.

It might be helpful if I set out the context of changes in the strategic environment which make necessary the changes in the NATO command structure. The alliance has continued to adapt imaginatively to changes in international security situation since publication of its Strategic Concept a little more than two years ago. NATO's strategy was developed with the likelihood of further significant change in mind. It is clear from subsequent developments in the European Security situation that this was prudent.

Events in former Yugoslavia have had a significant impact on NATO's further development. They have provided a graphic illustration of the kinds of risk to European security that we are likely to be faced with in future. It is clear that peacekeeping/peace support operations will be an increasingly important role for the alliance in future. Alliance Ministers consequently agreed that the alliance would consider requests to undertake peacekeeping missions in support of United Nations and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe on a case-by-case basis and that peacekeeping should be included among missions of NATO forces and headquarters. I hope that I have answered the noble Lord's question.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for an answer which I regard as totally satisfactory. We are happy to support the orders.

On Question, Motion agreed to.