Strategic Defence Review

Part of Oral Answers to Questions – in the House of Commons at 2:33 pm on 10th May 1999.

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Photo of Mr George Robertson Mr George Robertson Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, The Secretary of State for Defence 2:33 pm, 10th May 1999

First, let me emphasise what the hon. Gentleman skated over—the fact that the British Government have dissociated themselves from the concept that Mr. Prodi put forward. In terms of the development of reasonable military capability inside Europe to deal with situations in which NATO may not wish to become corporately involved, or in the event of the United States of America and Canada not wishing to be involved in European-based operations, I refer the hon. Gentleman back to the Petersberg tasks. They were adopted by NATO for use through the Western European Union and foresaw precisely that form of European-based operation taking place.

The initiative that we took, which was underlined in the St. Malo agreement, related to focusing the minds of all the European countries on the fact that, first, the common foreign and security policy of the European Union will require better decision making; and secondly, if we in Europe want to do anything about the decisions that we take, we must have much better and much more effective defence capabilities. We have directed attention to those two key components; I should have thought that everyone in the House would have supported them.