Nato

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20th June 1991.

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Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow 12:00 am, 20th June 1991

To ask the Prime Minister if he has any plans to meet the leaders of other NATO member states to discuss, inter alia, the membership, structure, functions and policy objectives of the organisation and related matters; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

NATO Heads of State and Government will meet in Rome on 7 and 8 November. Our main task will be to conclude the review of NATO's role, strategy and force structures set in hand by the summit in London last July. Good progress has already been made. The reformed alliance will continue to provide the essential basis for our security in the 1990s.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, but may I point out to him that, in Scotland, there is growing concern over what appears to be a piecemeal and fragmented restructuring of the armed forces of all the NATO countries, including the United Kingdom? Will the Prime Minister give the House an assurance that the rapid reaction force will never be deployed outwith mainland Europe unless and until it receives the specific authority of the United St … United Nations. [Interruption.] I said the United Nations and not the United States as I never want to see young Scots, or young men from anywhere in the United Kingdom, being turned into cannon fodder at the behest of an American President skilfully exploiting the sycophantic support of NATO leaders.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

Let me say first how much I welcome the fact that the United Kingdom will command the future NATO rapid reaction force. That is a key role for the British Army and one which I think it will perform splendidly, both in the interests of this country arid of NATO. The specific point that the hon. Gentleman raised is quite clear. The purpose of the rapid reaction corps is to defend NATO territory; it is not a signal of a more interventionist NATO approach elsewhere.

Photo of Mr Robert McCrindle Mr Robert McCrindle , Brentwood and Ongar

When the Prime Minister comes to consider these matters, will he also take into account the enormous advantage of the participation of the United States and Canada in NATO, mapping it out, in the opinion of many of us, as a much more effective medium of western defence than any of the alternatives recommended?

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about that. The presence of north American forces in Europe is absolutely essential; by that I mean US conventional and nuclear contributions, both of which are irreplaceable. They are here now and I hope, trust and believe that they will be here in the future.