European Security

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th January 2001.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 12:00 am, 15th January 2001

What recent meetings he has had with European Commission officials to discuss European security. [143726]

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

The development of European security and defence policy is a matter for the European Council, not the European Commission. I have therefore had no meetings with Commission officials on this subject, nor do I have any planned.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

It would be nice if Defence Ministers, in attempting to answer the question, tried to give the House the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, rather than having it dragged out of them inch by inch, week by week. Will the Secretary of State now answer the question put to him earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), to which he received a waffly non-reply? What will be the role of DSACEUR?

What will be the command structure? Why did the Secretary of State most revealingly say that these matters will be taken forward in consultation with EU planners, when until now we have been told that there is no separate planning role for that force? What is going on? Can we have the whole truth?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

On the subject of things being nice, it would be nice if an hon. Member and former Minister knew what he was talking about when tabling questions. Clearly, he did not; otherwise, he would not have referred to the European Commission.

We have made it absolutely clear time and again that it is important that there should be a close connection between the European Union and NATO. We have said that the planning process should be the responsibility of NATO; that is where planning will be most effectively conducted. Obviously, there are still matters that require further negotiation and discussion. In the light of those negotiations, it is strongly the British Government's view that the process should conclude that it is for NATO to provide the planning assets rather than any other organisation—not least the European Commission—that may be in the hon. Gentleman's mind.