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Part of European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 20th June 2018.

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Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 4:41 pm, 20th June 2018

I welcome this opportunity to debate the role of NATO. The timing is particularly appropriate, with the debate coming ahead of the NATO summit next month. The alliance is the cornerstone of our defence and our collective security, and Labour Members are proud of the role our party played in its founding. The leadership of Clement Attlee and his Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, was so instrumental in setting up the alliance in 1949. Bevin moved the motion

“That this House
approves the North Atlantic Treaty”.

That established NATO. He spoke in that debate of the backdrop of growing global instability and the shared determination of the 12 founding members to avoid any return to conflict. The increasingly aggressive actions of the Soviet Union drove the Government to consider, as he put it,

“how like-minded, neighbourly peoples, whose institutions had been marked down for destruction, could get together, not for the purpose of attack, but in sheer self-defence.”—[Official Report, 12 May 1949;
Vol. 464, c. 2011-2013.]

Bevin was clear that the creation of the alliance was not an aggressive act but was instead about deterrence, a fundamental principle of NATO to this day. The Atlantic treaty was to send a message to potential adversaries that NATO’s members were not a number of weak, divided nations, but rather a united front bound together in the common cause of collective self-defence.