NATO Summit

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 3:43 pm on 8th September 2014.

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Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 3:43 pm, 8th September 2014

First, I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Jim Dobbin. He was an assiduous Member of Parliament who always put the people of Heywood and Middleton first. He was, as the Prime Minister said, a man of faith, which underpinned everything he did, and he was a lifelong public servant, having worked in the NHS for 30 years before coming to this House. He was also a proud Scot, and was planning to be in Scotland this week to help campaign to keep our United Kingdom together. He will be sadly missed, not just by his family and friends, but by colleagues from across this House.

I also join the Prime Minister in congratulating the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their happy news, and I, too, wish them well in the months ahead.

I congratulate Wales on its successful hosting of the summit. Perhaps we should also congratulate the enterprising Raffle family on their picture at Stonehenge with President Obama.

I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. This NATO summit was the most important for a generation. Today, NATO faces the gravest challenges in Europe, the middle east and beyond since the fall of the Berlin wall and the first Gulf war. I commend NATO leaders for seizing the opportunity to put down firm markers on the key issues: Russia and Ukraine, ISIL, and defence co-operation.

Starting with Ukraine, the ceasefire and peace plan announced on Friday by the Presidents of Ukraine and Russia was welcome, but it must be observed. It would be a grave mistake to ease international pressure on Russia before Russian troops no longer operate in Ukraine. We therefore welcome the readiness action plan, which is a step towards more nimble and flexible capabilities, sending a signal that if a NATO member is in danger, allies will take quick action. I welcome the attendance of President Poroshenko at the summit. What assurances were specifically given to Ukraine by NATO? Given also the desired aim of agility in the plan, how is the NATO decision-making process requiring agreement of all 28 countries being made sufficiently reliable and swift? Specifically, on the spearhead force, what countries will be host to it and in what situations will it be deployed?

Let me move on to the rise of ISIL in the middle east. The whole world is acutely aware of the barbaric threat that ISIL poses, and it was right that NATO members sought to address that. It is right also to seek to build the widest possible consensus in pursuit of that aim.

There is no long-term solution to ISIL without a long-term plan that is based on widespread partnership in the region and the legitimacy of an inclusive Iraqi Government, and that includes a genuinely multilateral, political, diplomatic and humanitarian alliance.

In that context, will the Prime Minister tell us what progress is being made in the urgent task of assembling a genuine inclusive Government in Iraq? I welcome the united position taken by the Arab League yesterday against ISIL. Will the Prime Minister update the House on what other progress has been made in the vital work of building regional support?

Let me turn to NATO’s clarity of purpose, which is the collective defence of a strong transatlantic alliance. On defence spending, we share the commitment to maintain strong defence and a strong NATO. In the light of the pressures that all countries face, does the Prime Minister agree that part of the task that NATO faces is better pooling of alliance resources so that we have the kinds of capabilities that are required?

Finally, on Afghanistan, I commend the commitment of NATO members to Afghanistan. Our country has made huge sacrifices, and so have a number of others. It is right that by the end of 2014 we will see the drawdown of British forces. I pay tribute to our forces for the sacrifices that they have made and I join the Prime Minister in giving my full support to the military covenant, the armed forces declaration and its implementation.

We know from the past, not least in Iraq, the crucial importance of securing the right political settlement. To ensure that the sacrifices that have been made lead to a better future, Afghan leaders must resolve their current post-election differences and agree to a unified leadership. Will the Prime Minister update the House on progress on that matter and on a security agreement with the remaining forces? Given that the force contribution from coalition nations will be critical, will the Prime Minister tell the House the number of NATO troops expected to stay past 2014 and the UK contribution to that mission?

This summit has demonstrated that the NATO alliance is strong and is needed by its member states more than ever. As President Obama said:

“The defence of Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defence of Berlin and Paris and London."

The task for NATO is to demonstrate this commitment and to understand that wherever our interests lie, we need a strategy that combines military readiness with political, diplomatic and strategic alliances. We join the Government in supporting a NATO that meets that challenge.