European Defence Co-operation

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:38 pm on 22nd November 2000.

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Photo of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean Minister of State (Defence Procurement), Ministry of Defence 5:38 pm, 22nd November 2000

My Lords, the Liberal Democrats have quite rightly studied the position properly and, if I may say so, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, had also understood the position very much better than some others in his party.

We have learnt considerable lessons from Kosovo. As the Statement said, Kosovo was a wake-up call. When we look at the number of sorties undertaken by NATO in Kosovo and see the sharp contrast between the number undertaken by the United States and the number undertaken by Europe, any responsible country would have to look at what it was able to do.

I hope that I have dealt with the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, about our contribution. We believe that it is a proportionate contribution. It is in the range of about 20 per cent of the proportions put forward. But we are a strong defence nation in Europe and we believe that that is entirely consistent with our standing in Europe. We have been very pleased to see the way in which other nations have come forward. The noble Lord was quite right on civilian crisis management. These are important issues. We have been able to get rather further ahead on them than on some of the defence issues. Our discussions are continuing. As the Statement makes clear, this is not an end of the road; it is an important step on the way.