moved Amendment No. 16A:
Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after "excluding" insert—
"(i) Article 1, paragraph 45, inserted Article 25a TEU, relating to the adoption of decisions on personal data, unless the Secretary of State has given an undertaking to Parliament that he will not vote in favour of, or otherwise support, any decision that requires the processing of personal data which does not contain standards and penalties relating to the reckless loss of data that are less onerous or exacting than any which are set by the United Kingdom Parliament, unless(a) in each House of Parliament a Minister of the Crown has moved a motion that the House approves Her Majesty's Government's intention to support the adoption of a specified draft decision, and(b) each House has agreed to the motion without amendment; and(ii) "
I shall also speak to Amendment No. 38. New provisions on the handling and sharing of data appear in several places in this treaty and since I have always believed that debates in this House are at their most constructive when we do not stray too widely, I would like to concentrate on data sharing and protection within the common foreign and security policy, and to look at how the new Article 25A is in danger of falling short of the new right in Article 16B to the protection of personal data. Many of my concerns and questions will be very similar to those that can be raised regarding the new provisions for police co-operation and so on, but there will be a better opportunity to examine those matters when we reach the amendments which are dealing with home affairs.
The information that is referred to in new Article 25A will be some of the most sensitive data that Governments will ever handle. For example, it will cover information gathered by the intelligence services of European Union countries and other countries allied with us. Much of this information will have been shared with us by those who expect the data to be as strongly and as closely protected as possible. So my first question to the noble Baroness the Lord President is: how will this Government handle a request made by one of our colleague countries in the European Union for relevant information made available to us, for example, by the United States? The answer to that question will be interesting, but I hope it will also have taken into account whether the Government have thought about the special relationship between the British and United States intelligence services becoming seriously restricted by the possibility that, in future, some information will have to be passed on to 26 other countries whose relationship with the United States may not be as close as ours.
The controversy surrounding the agreements between the European Union and the United States concerning passenger name records shows just how dangerous this area can be. The possibility of our sensitive personal data being passed out of the hands not only of our Government but even of the European Union without proper safeguards is real. What safeguards will the Government ensure are put in the rules and procedures to stop this happening in future? I am not saying that data should never be shared for the purposes of common foreign and security policy—that would be nonsense. I am, however, deeply concerned that the safeguards that will be put in place under this new provision will not be adequate.
It would be wrong of me, at a time when the Government are listing all their mistakes—I have that vision of Andrew Marr asking the Prime Minister, "What other mistakes have you made?"—to point out that the Government have suffered many embarrassments during the past year or so as a result of their inability to keep personal data secure. If they are unable to keep sensitive data secure, how can they be confident about the capability of others to do so? We on these Benches frequently criticise this Government for presiding over some pretty astounding examples of bureaucratic inefficiency, but it is undeniable that many of our colleague countries in the European Union are even more flawed in that regard.
My Amendment No. 16A highlights a new offence of reckless loss of data. This Chamber has managed to insert this change in the criminal justice Bill. I am unaware of what discussions are taking place, but I understand that the principle of it at least is being accepted in another place even as we speak.
It would be wrong of the Government to approve the sharing of data with other countries which do not maintain equally rigorous laws to protect personal data. It is a matter not just of carelessness, but of wilful misuse. Many countries in the European Union, some of which are our closest friends, suffer from high levels of inefficiency when protecting data and have highlighted examples of wrongful behaviour by their officials—if I can put it as euphemistically as that. Many of the countries with which we deal outside the European Union also suffer. We have even less influence with them with which to encourage their reform.
It is clear that the rules and procedures by which these data will be protected are crucial, yet this treaty hands over the final say to independent authorities.
The noble Lord refers to untrustworthy foreigners. I was Secretary-General of NATO, which is an organisation that lives by confidentiality and a lot of things that go way beyond the normal aspect of data. There are 26 members of NATO. Most of them are members also of the European Union. If NATO has since it was established in 1949 managed procedures to protect what needs to be protected, why should we not assume that the European Union can have similarly effective procedures?
I make two points to the noble Lord, whom I respect greatly, not only for the time when he was in senior office in the Government here but also for when he was Secretary-General of NATO. I doubt that the personal records of millions of people would have been lost if he had been in charge in the Cabinet. Equally, I am sure that his experience within NATO raises an important area that we ought to think about. But this House has just decided to impose on the criminal justice Bill a high standard of offence; namely, reckless use of data. In the light of that, I am anxious to ensure that we have a similar test for all data, right across the European Union. The European Union may well be wise to adopt the policies that were so successful when the noble Lord administered them within NATO. We shall wait and see. Who knows, the Minister may well be able to give me the assurances I seek.
I am troubled by the fact that, unlike with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, decisions on this are going to be handed over to independent authorities. I do not think that was the case with NATO. I am worried about the phrase "independent authority". I do not think we should accept an independent authority. The noble Lord, Lord Dykes, said that we were trespassing into areas where we were accepting amendments that had been moved in another place by people with whom he has long-standing antipathy. We are inserting into our amendments ideas that the Government themselves proposed, as we did earlier this evening. I quote, in support of this amendment, Mr Peter Hain, of vivid memory. It was he who said that we cannot accept an independent authority in this context. I anxiously await the Minister's response because the Government cannot so easily reverse their position without at least some explanation. We have to protect our data to the necessary standards, both within this country and, in particular, when we share it. I beg to move.
I confess that I am thoroughly confused about what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, wants to achieve. He is worried that if data passes out of our hands it will not be protected by the proper data protection safeguards, but the precise purpose of the two provisions against which he has tabled amendments is to establish common data protection rules. First, there are specific provisions under the common foreign and security policy. Secondly, the provision that Amendment No. 38 targets is the data protection rules, which would apply normally within the European Union.
If we are worried that there will not be proper data protection safeguards, surely we want to make sure that there are common high standards. I found the noble Lord's account really rather confusing. On the one hand, he deplores, as we all do, the loss of data that we have experienced in the UK. I happen to believe that the UK is not the only member state where this has happened; we have just had rather more publicity. We have to try to make the member states not only pass the laws but live up to them. That means having those strong independent authorities. I remind the noble Lord that those independent authorities are the national data protection supervisors—in our case, the Information Commissioner. This is made clear in paragraph 7.45 of the report from the EU Committee. That makes clear that the independent authority is not some Euromonster. Our own Richard Thomas will monitor compliance. We need the rules and we need them to be respected. If these amendments aim at having no common data protection rules, we are indeed at risk of not having proper protection.
There is some concern that we need to make sure that there is clarification on the scope and purpose of the specific rules for common foreign and security policy, so that they do not then apply to things that should properly be covered by the other clause. I was reassured when the Minister for Europe told the Lords EU Committee that, for instance, a passenger name record agreement, which was agreed with the United States last year precisely on a common foreign and security legal basis—which was shocking—in future would not be agreed, so the specific rules for common foreign and security policy would not apply to data sharing on things such as air passenger data. There will be a lot more coming down the track in that vein, which reassures me to some extent. You would expect me to say no less because the CSFP rules will not be subject to the codecision or assent of the European Parliament, so we are cut out of the picture on the those rules. There is some danger that if the member states use them as the way to circumvent the normal codecision, we would have to look to the national parliaments to be especially vigilant—perhaps more vigilant than they normally are.
I do not think that the noble Lord is on the right track with these two amendments. We need common rules and need them to be enforced properly, which they are not always at the moment. In fact, I believe that the European Commission is contemplating infringement proceedings against the UK, not least because the Information Commissioner does not have the powers and resources that he needs. But we need those common rules and we need them to be properly enforced everywhere, including by our own Information Commissioner. Something that may emerge in future is the requirement to notify a breach of that personal data, which I would welcome. That is perhaps for the future. I hope that the noble Lord might rethink his approach on this, because we need the safeguards of common data protection laws.
Can I just get something clear in my mind? Presumably the data that might be handed over to this new authority would be handed over only provided it was within our own data protection law. Presumably data would not be handed over to this authority or to any country of the European Union unless that was in conformity with our own legislation—and once they were handed over, they would be subject to the safeguards agreed by the European authority. Am I right in that? Is that how it is?
I am not quite sure to whom the noble Lord's question was directed. However, I shall be so presumptuous as to attempt to reply. There is no authority, as he puts it; the data will concern things that happen in Europe, or people in Europe. It will be European data that we want to protect if they are shared, in the case of the CFSP, with other countries—particularly the United States. With regard to the CFSP it would be narrowly drawn and might relate to things done under foreign policy, which at the moment include terrorist listing and financing and that sort of thing, given that national security and intelligence are outside the EU purview altogether and is reserved to member states.
The data are not handed over to some authority; they may be handed over to the authorities of a third country, but the idea is to ensure that when they are handed over they are protected by the data protection rules and that, therefore, we can have some confidence in that regard. That will be monitored by all the 27 separate national data protection supervisors—which in our case is called the Information Commissioner. I hope that that is clear.
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining extremely well the position in that regard. Perhaps I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, on what this proposal in the treaty seeks to do.
We recognise in the 21st century that in good administration it is important to find ways in which to deal with the protection and proper handling of data that affect individuals. That is widely recognised as an essential part of what is needed to ensure that data protection is covered efficiently—when I was a Minister responsible for data protection I spend a huge amount of my time dealing with this—and that appropriate data sharing takes place. Those two—data sharing and data protection—go hand in hand.
The purpose of Article 39 is to set out the specific rules for how we deal with data processing by member states in the issue of common foreign and security policy. A measure that we might be looking at would be, for example, personal data on individuals serving in EU crisis management missions, which would be agreed through the common foreign and security policy, to make sure that when dealing with their data we are suitably thinking about issues to do with data, processing and data protection.
It is absolutely right and proper that these issues are covered in the Lisbon treaty, but in so doing we should recognise the distinctive character of CFSP by having a separate provision for the processing of data by member states in that context, and making it subject to the distinct rules and procedures, including adoption by unanimity. This new article provides that for the first time. Before the treaty in the second pillar there was no capacity to deal with data in the same way as, for example, we had sought to do in the third pillar for justice and home affairs.
The amendment asks the Secretary of State to give an undertaking that he will not vote in favour of any decision that has different standards and penalties for reckless loss of data from those set out in the UK law, or Parliament agrees otherwise to adopt the decision.
The amendment is unnecessary because any proposal would be subject to scrutiny by Parliament in the usual way, and of course it would require unanimity. We believe that the treaty makes sure that there are adequate safeguards to ensure that where provision is shared it should be subject to independent scrutiny. It says that—the noble Lord has already quoted it—compliance with these rules shall be subject to the control of independent authorities. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, is absolutely right that although the authorities will vary from member state to member state, as noble Lords know in our case this will be the Information Commissioner Richard Thomas, which of itself should bring some comfort to the noble Lord. The Information Commissioner and his office is a tried and tested source of information, support, guidance, advice and making sure there is compliance around issues to do with data, as well as the other issues he deals with.
This is an important step forward. It is the first time that there has been expressed provision for data protection in relation to CFSP. Therefore, it is an improvement on the current position, particularly where I have indicated where the independent authority is. The scope for processing such data is likely to be limited. For example, in relation to people in missions, whether to take sanctions against individuals, or in relation to crisis management decisions. But the purpose of the new provision is to recognise that data protection also applies to the processing of personal data by member states when they carry out their CFSP activities and to enable the Union to set rules to ensure that that data are presented.
The European Union Committee conclusions were focused mainly on the repercussions on justice and home affairs issues in particular, as the noble Baroness, indicated, to try to clarify the scope and purpose of Article 39. I reassure the noble Baroness on passenger name records, which has been an important issue. That would not be covered under Article 39 as my honourable friend Jim Murphy indicated, but will be covered under Article 16, and therefore would remain appropriately as the noble Baroness would wish it to be.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised the issue of the coverage for intelligence agencies. These are not covered. The UK secured in the Lisbon treaty explicit confirmation that national security remains the sole competence of member states. We believe that that is a very important objective. It is important that intelligence agencies remain outside the scope of the treaties, as indeed they do. As the noble Lord indicated, discussions have been going on in another piece of legislation about the reckless loss of data. I understand that in the other place they are—or may already have done so—debating the question in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill to look at a civil monetary penalty, which I believe is supported by the Information Commissioner. It will be a government amendment and I think that there has been a great deal of support in your Lordships' House for the proposals that have gone forward.
Whether terrorism is covered within Article 39 depends, as the noble Baroness indicated, on the nature of the activity. It can also fall within justice and home affairs issues, depending on whether one is dealing with law enforcement, and can also be connected to security. The individual case that is before us raises a specific issue. I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured that the independent authority is where it should be and that this covers very specific issues of CFSP for the first time. Therefore, it is a significant and important addition. Those issues to do with, for example, data sharing with the United States are covered under Article 16, as they would have been in the previous three-pillar structure that existed before this treaty was proposed or comes into force. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord can withdraw his amendment.
This has been a very valuable debate. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, very much for her contribution. In Amendment No. 16A, I was seeking to ensure that the highest possible standards apply right across the European Union. If there is any question of us falling below our very high standards, the amendment would require the Minister, who is proposing that we should move in such a direction, to come to Parliament and justify it. She may have thought I was confused but I still see the issue with amazing clarity, particularly following her contribution.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, that he is quite right. We have to make sure that we have got our laws right. That is very much what we have just heard from the Minister, who is about to make a Government concession to accept—at least as I understand it, in principle—the amendment that has been moved in this place to the Criminal Justice Bill. I welcome that. I heard very reassuring words from her.
I always think that when the Minister's brief says, "This amendment is wrong", it means that there is some mistake somewhere. When the Minister says, "This amendment is unnecessary"—that is what the noble Baroness said—that probably means that the amendment is on all fours and is absolutely correct, but at the moment the Government does not wish to accept it. Against that background I would like to retire to consider things in more detail. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 17A:
Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after "excluding" insert—
"(i) Article 1, paragraph 47, amending Article 28 TEU, paragraph 3, unless the Secretary of State has given an undertaking to Parliament that he will not vote in favour of, or otherwise support, any decision that requires a contribution from the United Kingdom towards the start-up fund unless he has laid a report before the House of Commons, detailing the purpose, size and financial control arrangements for the proposed UK contribution and the fund; and that report has been approved by affirmative resolution of the House of Commons; and(i) "
We are dealing with the proposed start-up fund, which is provisioned for in new Article 26(3) of the Treaty of European Union, which was formerly 3111-13 of the constitution. The same words once again are used. The idea is for a start-up fund for foreign policy operations. Everything about the fund is to be decided by qualified majority voting, including the amounts that are to be paid by member states. Once again, the UK Government fought bravely but lost on this issue. They wanted the decisions about the fund to be taken by unanimity. That was overruled, so we are left with the QMV arrangements. The question is whether the Government expect to pay these moneys into the start-up fund in a way that is audited as a matter of course? If the prior agreement is on that and on the finances, management and procedures for the start-up fund, that would at least be reassuring. Could the Minister explain what the main objectives for the fund could be? Is it possible to begin to put ball-park figures on how much we are in for? Could she reassure us about the financial management and auditing of the fund concerned? Very large figures bandied about in the press which may well be inaccurate. I have an article from the Financial Times talking about common foreign and security policy being set to receive £191 million in funds next year, up from rather less than that the year before. That refers to something wider, I think, but perhaps the Minister could illuminate the situation. It deserves illumination before we tick yet another box and nod yet another provision through that we may well come to be puzzled, even confused, by later. I beg to move.
Amendment No. 17A relates to the provisions on the funding arrangements for activity under the CFSP, and in particular new arrangements for urgent funding. In general, all CFSP activity is charged to the EU budget, other than matters having defence or military implications which are charged directly to member states.
New Article 41(3) TEU is new and sets out where rapid access can be granted to the Union budget to finance urgent activity. It is anticipated that this will largely be to finance preparatory activities—that is, before the deployment of a full mission—quickly.
In 2004, the European Council established the Athena mechanism to meet the requirement for limited common funding for military missions, and the funding can be dispersed rapidly. The text on a start-up fund predates the 2004 creation of the Athena mechanism and there is no member state consensus on whether the start-up fund will actually prove necessary. In launching the EU military operation to Chad and the Central African Republic, member states unanimously agreed a joint action which incorporated the common-costs element of the mission which was subject to the Athena mechanism. This enabled the rapid release of funds to launch the mission—50 per cent of the funding was available immediately.
For activity not charged to the Union budget—in other words, with defence and military implications— the new provision envisaged a start-up fund made up of member state contributions. The Council is to agree by QMV to proposals from the high representative on, first, the procedures for setting up and financing the fund; secondly, the procedures for administering it; and, thirdly, the financial control procedures. However, the decision to launch an activity, and thus to draw down on the funds, would be subject to unanimity.
Perhaps I may address a brief question to the Conservative Front Bench. The leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, made an interesting speech some weeks ago at Chatham House in which he proposed a common fund for NATO operations. Does the Conservative Party have any more detail on that? I imagine that it would have many characteristics similar to these proposals and it would be helpful to us, in discussing these proposals, if the Conservatives put more detail on, I suspect, their comparable proposals.
I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, why the amendment he has moved subjects the EU to completely different and much more rigorous procedures than the Government currently apply to the United Nations peacekeeping forces, which now amount to between 100,000 and 110,000 people and of which we pay 6 per cent. That is paid without the specific authorisation of the House of Commons: it is based on the supply that is voted each year in the Budget, as no doubt this money would be. Therefore, there would be no question of going beyond the supply that had been voted by Parliament. Why is it that Her Majesty's Opposition wish to impose stricter and different conditions for this than for the much larger sums that they are already paying for UN peacekeeping?
I am rather flattered that all the questions seem to be coming to this side of the House. I do not know whether that is an omen for the future—of course, I believe that it is. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that all will be revealed in due course. Probably, by the time he as finished, he will wish that he had not asked me that question because he will get a great deal of detail.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked a perfectly fair question about why we do not have a common approach to all these things. They are very different operations and, as I made clear, I moved the amendment in a spirit of inquiry rather than with the intention of driving a wedge of a treaty-wrecking nature into the system. We cannot do that, as we know perfectly well, but we are required to look at this whole treaty and the Bill very closely indeed and we are doing our best.
In these heady times, one has to be careful how one interprets getting all the questions. I say to the noble Lord that, as he understands, the Lisbon treaty does not change current practice in setting out where the administrative and operating expenditure is charged to the Union budget. It does not change where and how operations having defence or military implications are charged to member states. The rapid financing of EU civilian missions and military operations is important, as all noble Lords agree. The provision enables the Council to set up a start-up fund for preparatory activity for tasks with military and defence implications.
For EU military missions, the rapid financing of early costs is important to allow missions to get under way. The start-up fund is another tool to enable this. As the noble Lord, Lord Lee, has said, the requirement for rapid financing of military missions has already been met by the Athena mechanism. The establishment of procedures for the start-up fund for activity with military and defence implications, as noble Lords have indicated, will be decided by QMV. We think that this is a sensible means of sharing the cost of an operation—but a decision to launch any operation with military implications, and a decision to use the fund, will remain, as the noble Lord, Lord Lee, has said, subject to unanimity. The costs of national contributions to military ESDP operations will continue to lie where they fall. In other words, they will be borne by the contributing member states.
Activity under CFSP, as we have discussed at length, is generally decided by unanimity, but there is limited scope for QMV—as we discussed in the last, longer debate on the question of QMV in CFSP. The exceptions are for secondary or implementing measures. For example, the treaty provision introduces QMV for three specific procedures for the start-up fund—setting up and financing the fund; administering it; and the financial control procedures. The substantive issues, as we have said, lie still with unanimity—a decision will be taken by the Council. Under existing procedures for informing Parliament of Council decisions, the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee would scrutinise the decision to establish a start-up fund.
Linked to this amendment is Amendment No. 100, which concerns provisions relating to funding arrangements for activities under CSFP, and in particular the new arrangements for access to rapid funding. Again, the Lisbon treaty does not change current practice on setting out where the administrative and operating expenditure is charged. It does not affect where and how operations having defence or military implications are charged. It does, however, set up new arrangements to enable the Council to access rapid financing for urgent preparatory CFSP activity. That, of course, includes rapid access to the EU budget to fund, for example, a civilian fact finding mission after a peace agreement has been signed; or rapid initial civilian deployments that could prepare the ground for a full crisis management mission.
We want to be sure that, where member states feel that it is important to put a mission on the ground quickly, to support a peace agreement or to prevent conflict, financial procedures allow us to draw immediately on the budget. This change also provides for the Council to set up a start-up fund for preparatory activity for tasks with military and defence implications. That responds to the agenda set by the United Kingdom at the Hampton Court informal meeting of heads of government during our presidency, to ensure that we can respond quickly and effectively.
We believe that this is an important aspect of being able to support the work of the EU, and the establishment of procedures will be decided by QMV. We think that it is a sensible means of burden sharing, but the decision to launch any fund remains subject to unanimity. The costs continue to lie where they fall, but it is too early to give figures—the figures are all pure speculation at this stage and I cannot give them, as I guess the noble Lord would expect me to say. However, I hope that the noble Lord is reassured by what I have said about the way in which the fund will be set up and used, and the requirement of unanimity for the decision to do so, and then of QMV to move into the operations stage. I hope that the noble Lord will feel reassured and will feel able to withdraw the amendment.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for answering my query with her usual scrupulous and meticulous detail and explanation. She reassures me that this is not the sort of embryo of a common defence budget that many people feared and that most of us do not want, but rather it is a sensible squirreling of funds for urgent and immediate matters. It would be nice to know some rough figures in due course, because this is money that has to be voted by Parliament. In the mean time, I have gained the information that I wanted by moving the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 18A:
Clause 2, page 1, line 12, after "excluding" insert—
"(i) Article 1, paragraph 49(a), inserted Article 28A TEU, paragraph 1, on the common security and defence policy, unless the Secretary of State has given an undertaking to Parliament that he will not vote in favour of, or otherwise support, any decision that requires the deployment of UK troops in accordance with the Treaty of Lisbon unless—(a) in each House of Parliament a Minister of the Crown has moved a motion that the House approves Her Majesty's Government's intention to support the deployment of UK troops to the mission concerned, and(b) each House has agreed to the motion without amendment; and(ii) "
The amendments in this group give the Committee the opportunity to discuss the changes that the Lisbon treaty makes to the planning and implementation of both European and United Kingdom defence. It is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to spar with the noble Lord at the Dispatch Box again.
Amendment No. 18A inserts a safeguard that the provisions and the development of a co-ordinated EU defence will not lead to the United Kingdom losing its right to take the final decision on the deployment of its troops. The other amendments in the group focus on provisions about which we have some concerns. At best, the provisions set up meaningless bureaucratic institutions, and at worst they represent the first step down a counterproductive path that will lead to reduced defence capability for Europe and for NATO.
The cornerstone of the UK's and Europe's defence is NATO. It remains the only effective forum in which our European neighbours contribute to the goals of peacekeeping, conflict prevention and international security; and yet the treaty barely mentions it. To consider our future defence strategy without acknowledging the primacy of NATO or the overwhelming capability of our North American allies is meaningless. In Afghanistan, our troops are fighting alongside Americans and Canadians who are providing more troops to NATO there than any other ally.
The United States Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said during his Congressional nomination statement:
"I would support the European Security and Defence Policy, based on the understanding that it would ... help build new European capabilities (that are also available to NATO) ... conduct operations 'where NATO is not engaged' ... do so in a manner that is cooperative, not competitive or duplicative, with NATO".
The provisions do none of those things. They provide no incentive to build new European capabilities, add nothing to the NATO remit and are entirely duplicative. We are being asked to sign up to a ghost NATO, a duplication of its structures and principles, with nothing behind it. The Bill rightly excludes the parts of the treaty dealing with CFSP from UK law; foreign policy, especially when it comes to defence, cannot be imposed on an unwilling Government. Yet, the treaty suggests that the Commission, a supranational organisation, should have a say in the development and implementation of our defence policy through the high representative, who is even to be given the right to propose military operations. That appears to be completely unfeasible. Examples abound of crises where the EU has been unable to take action because of internal divisions—Kosovo is often mentioned—and it provides a textbook example of how effective an intergovernmental, rather than a supragovernmental, organisation can be in contrast.
We are concerned that these provisions will be an expensive distraction from real issues in UK defence. What can we do more closely and effectively to engage European members in NATO? What provision does the treaty make for including Turkey, which is one of the few NATO members that spend more than the recommended 2 per cent on defence? It makes no provision at all, since the EU is divided on the role that Turkey should play in its future. How can the EU have a meaningful military role outside NATO when it actively excludes the only countries, other than the UK, that are willing to spend money on the Armed Forces? It is vital that Parliament should have a final say in the deployment of our troops, hence Amendment No. 18A. The others are probing amendments. I beg to move.
I listened carefully to the noble Lord on the defence aspects of common foreign and security policy and I could not disagree with him more. I led NATO for four years, but I am also a passionate European. More than both of those, I am a passionate realist. I live in the United Kingdom; we are part of the European continent and a European community of nations. If we are to look after ourselves and our neighbourhood, we must have provisions to allow that to happen. Simply relying on the institutions, capabilities and attitudes with which we dealt with previous enemies will simply not be good enough in future.
What Mr Gates, as America's Defense Secretary, said in his confirmation hearing, was absolutely right. The American Administration of President Clinton and that of George W Bush when Donald Rumsfeld was Defense Secretary—and now Robert Gates—supported the concept of European defence. That is a European defence that is not competitive with NATO, is not a duplicate of NATO and is not, as the noble Lord, said, a ghost of NATO. As somebody who led that alliance, I assure him that the proposals in the Lisbon treaty under the provisions known as Berlin Plus, whereby the European Union for autonomous missions can neutralise the capabilities of NATO through a prescribed procedure, are all designed to ensure that Europe has the capability.
Almost exactly 10 years ago I was there when the St Malo declaration was signed, which was the stepping stone to Europe taking more responsibility for its own affairs—and so it should. If we have learnt anything from Bosnia and Kosovo it is that we are not right to depend on America always coming to save us. If this great European Union of 27 nations, accounting for one third of global GDP—exactly the same as the United States of America—cannot raise its own game to be able to deal with problems, sometimes not just in our backyard but inside the back door, what are we worth? Do we wait for what the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, said was the decision of the Americans on some occasions to say sorry; they could not do it as they were full up.
That has already happened. In the early part of 1997 Albania went into meltdown. A country simply collapsed, perversely enough, over a banking scheme that went wrong—a pyramid scheme that got out of control and led to a country essentially going into meltdown. Workers destroyed their own factories and machines. Enver Hoxha's huge stock of rifles and ammunition was broken into and people shot each other. In that crisis the United States of America said no. NATO said, "Too small, too local, not our business. Europe, you look after it". By a process of a coalition of the willing, led by the Italians who had a direct interest in the people who were fleeing across the Adriatic sea, a number of nations, which did not include the United Kingdom, and a bit of good luck, Albania was saved, and it is now joining the European Union and NATO itself just 10 years after that took place.
It is not an imaginary scenario to say that something will come along and that Europe will have to take responsibility for that. The Albanian experience took place just before we came in, in May 1997, and I cast no blame on my predecessor Michael Portillo for taking his decision then. Through what we experienced at the end of Bosnia and in Kosovo, I have been worried ever since about what we would do if something else happened in Europe.
The issue is one of capabilities. I am reassured, rather than worried or scared, by this treaty because for the very first time a European Union treaty has actually taken responsibility for where we need to address that. For from not mentioning NATO, as the noble Lord said, the treaty states in Article 42 of Section 2:
"Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation".
So that is what we wanted. For a long time we have wanted the European Union explicitly and categorically to state the role of NATO, and there it is in stark terms. For those who say that it hardly mentions NATO, NATO is there.
Not only that, but the architects of the Lisbon treaty also listened to the key issue of European defence: the inability of Europe to translate a wiring diagram into capabilities to deal with a crisis. I used to say when I was Defence Secretary, and then repeatedly and relentlessly—to an almost boring extent—in NATO, "You can't send a wiring diagram to a crisis". You can have all the fancy procedures in the world, all the books and magazines, and all the great PowerPoint presentations; at the end of the day, you have got to be able to send soldiers, aeroplanes and enablers if you are actually to tackle and deal with a crisis. Article 42 of Section 2 states:
"Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities".
It then goes on to say how that will be done: a European Defence Agency, the subject of a later group of amendments. That was a British idea, floated by the British Government in order to give some teeth to the sentiment here, that we will progressively improve our capabilities. We have taken two major steps forward in the European Union in, first, recognising the deficiency, which the treaty does, and, secondly, by saying that NATO is the cornerstone of what we do.
Nobody is suggesting that there is going to be a single European army. I do not even think that William Cash and company down the Corridor have gone on about Mr Prodi's European army any more. There was never any thought of a European army, and there is none. If there is to be a European rapid reaction force, it will be made up of components from different nation states, usually with a headquarters based in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe at Mons. That will almost invariably be the case—after all, the troops serving in the aftermath of the Pakistan earthquake and helping the African Union in Darfur are all being co-ordinated by SHAPE in Mons in Belgium. So we are not talking in those terms; we are talking about component parts that will allow Europe to fulfil its own destiny and deal with problems and crises that occur in our neighbourhood.
We listened to the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, in the previous debate, telling us of fantasies that we have heard so often before: that Europeans will drag this mighty United Kingdom into something that we do not want to do. I do not know where the noble Lord has been, but I know where he started off: in the Royal Air Force. It was the United Kingdom trying to drag other European countries into dealing with serious problems. I cannot think of a single instance where other European countries have dragged the United Kingdom unwillingly into dealing with some of these problems.
The noble Lord must have had a memory lapse when he remembered the Falklands because he used the unwillingness of the Europeans to back the United Kingdom wholeheartedly at that time as an example of how weak-kneed these European foreigners are when it comes to defending our interests. His memory lapse must have involved him forgetting that the Americans did not support us in the Falklands either. The United States sat firmly, albeit occasionally uncomfortably, on the fence while the task force went down to the Falkland Islands. Mrs Jeane Kirkpatrick made absolutely certain that President Reagan was not going to support the Iron Lady in her mad escapade that would overturn American foreign policy in Latin America. What help we got—and we got a lot of help—was done under the counter, surreptitiously, and was rarely admitted until after it was all over.
Of course Europeans are going to be divided. We have been divided before. NATO was in existence when America went to fight in Vietnam, but there was no question of asking NATO to get involved in Vietnam. Even this country did not get involved in Vietnam. When it came to Iraq, there was a division among the allies, as there was in the United Nations Security Council. There will be times when we will act together and times when we are divided and individual countries will go their own way or be part of coalitions of the willing. However, where we need to act, where we should act and where there is a collective interest in doing so, we must have the capabilities.
I am a bit tired of the arguments over the Iraq war. I supported the invasion at the time, as did the Conservative Party and a number of other people, but we have gone way beyond that, and terrible mistakes were made after that as well. I think that if we had not dealt with Saddam Hussein at the time we would be dealing with him now. The fact is that there was a division among the allies at that time. Some felt it was important and urgent that we went ahead, and we did. The idea that anything in this treaty or, indeed, the previous treaty or the Maastricht treaty—which was, after all, signed by the Conservative Government and is the first time that a European defence was talked about in a treaty—is going to bind us and grip us together is nonsense because we will remain in charge of our own destiny. I believe that European defence is good and will reinforce NATO as a whole.
Where I am critical, almost to the point of feelings of anger and impotence, is because we in Europe are able to do so little. We talk a great game. Even the critics of the treaty talk a great game about what we can do, what they can do, what they will do and how they will drag us into it, but the reality is so puny. The European Union is an economic giant, yet it is a military nonentity. If we take the graphic statistics, boots on the ground are what count in most missions today. There are 1.5 million Europeans in regular forces and another 1 million in reserves. That is about twice what the United States of America has, yet of all these people who the taxpayers of Europe are paying for, only about 2 per cent can be deployed in the kinds of missions that will be required for the future. Lots of them are ready and prepared and are part of grandiose plans to stop the Soviet Union invading Europe; there are still tank formations that have that primary objective. However, in terms of what we need to do now, only 2 per cent of all those troops can be used. We have twice as many fast jets in the European portfolio than the United States of America has, but only 10 per cent of them can fly day and night in all weathers and deliver guided precision weapons, the only kind of weapon that will have any utility in future.
In each of the catalogues—apart from tanks, of which we have more than enough—we are grossly and seriously deficient. If a decision about Kosovo had to be taken today, I sometimes wonder whether we would be in any better position, almost 10 years on, to be able to do what we did then—to complete a mission in 78 days without a single casualty on the allies' side and to achieve all the objectives that we set out. I fear and worry that we cannot. We are not much further on, but I certainly hope that, in this treaty, we have started to do what is necessary.
In the previous debate, and probably in this one as well, we will talk about the reality of what is going on. My noble friend Lady Ashton outlined a number of the areas where the common foreign policy is working and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, mentioned a few areas where there is great potential for the future.
One experience during my time in NATO has almost disappeared from the scene. It was an insurgency in the small country of Macedonia—still obliged by the United Nations to be called the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It was scandalously—and I say that with great deliberation—excluded from an invitation to NATO membership at the recent Bucharest summit because of an unreasonable and indefensible veto by Greece on that country, simply because it will not change its name. However, in 2001, it was beset by an insurgency and all of the agencies came together—the European Union, NATO, the OSCE, the World Bank, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the European Union's representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown. Everyone got involved.
Javier Solana and I went to Macedonia 11 times between March and November of that year. It got huge coverage and was the biggest story of that time. In the Times, Sir Simon Jenkins, wrote an article saying that it was an unmitigated disaster that we were getting involved in yet another Balkan swamp. The strap line to his front-page article said, with the characteristic understatement for which Simon Jenkins is so well known, that I would not be content until the Balkans were aflame from the Adriatic to Istanbul.
However, all those agencies came together, worked together, on the ground at the highest and lowest levels. A peace plan was designed and, of course, Macedonia is now on the brink of both European Union and NATO membership. If people would like to learn a little more about it, the Royal United Services Institute has just published a small book by Mark Laity, who used to be my representative in Macedonia at the time, chronicling both what happened there and the lessons from it. It is well worth reading for those who would like to know, not about the scary prospects of European defence, but about how it works in action. I think that is of more relevance, frankly, than a lot of the scaremongering we have heard as each stage of the European integration debate has gone along.
However, I say, and I know that my successor would also say, had he been here in the House of Lords as well, that what the treaty proposes—the Berlin-plus arrangements and European defence as part of the common and foreign security policy—will strengthen and not compete with NATO. It will not duplicate NATO but provide assets that will be useful to NATO as a whole. Overall it will add to our capability as Europeans to be able to defend ourselves from the threats of the future rather than the enemies of the past.
If I may, I will start my comments on these amendments with a quotation:
"By common consent, the nations of Europe need to strengthen their military capabilities, make better use of their defence budgets and so organise themselves that they can act together more decisively when intervening in conflicts, conflict prevention and the response to threats and attacks in the several insidious forms that they can take in the world today".—[Hansard, 1/4/08; col. 958.]
Those were the words of the noble Lord, Lord Astor, at Second Reading on
Since its first peacekeeping operation in 2003, the European Union has undertaken roughly 20 missions under its European security and defence policy. Although these operations have been relatively small—the largest was a 7,000-strong peacekeeping operation in Bosnia that is now down to 2,500—most ESDP missions have not been primarily military operations. More interesting have been their complexity and range: preventing civil unrest in Macedonia, reforming the Congolese army and the Georgian judicial system, training Afghan and Iraqi police forces, monitoring the Rafah crossing point in Gaza and overseeing the implementation of the peace agreement in Aceh. Demand for EU action is growing—witness the developing deployments in Kosovo and eastern Chad.
The UK has always supported foreign policy co-operation with our EU partners. If we now want meaningful foreign policy co-operation that amounts to common policies and action among 27 countries, it is in the UK's interests to support the arrangements needed to make this possible. The UK has the ultimate safeguard in the CFSP in that no decision can be taken without its consent or at least acquiescence. Under the Lisbon treaty, the important decisions will continue to be taken unanimously. There is a provision in the existing treaties for implementing decisions to be taken by qualified majority voting, but it is never really used. There is also the so-called emergency break, or safety net. If a likely QMV decision will affect a member state's vital interests, no vote can be taken. If no agreement can be reached, the issue can be referred to the European Council, but the European Council decides the issue unanimously.
On the relationship between a closer European defence policy and NATO—it is a great privilege to follow the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Robertson—we on these Benches do not believe that there is any conflict, and we fully accept the primacy of NATO. As the impact assessment from our own committee on the treaty of Lisbon concludes:
"The central role of NATO in the defence policy of certain Member States such as the UK will continue to be recognised under the new Treaties".
As Victoria Nuland, the US ambassador to NATO, made clear in a speech on
"I am here today in Paris to say that we agree with France—Europe needs, the United States needs, NATO needs, the democratic world needs—a stronger, more capable European defense capacity. An ESDP with only soft power is not enough".
Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Astor, said, again in his Second Reading speech,
"the continuing leading of NATO is of the highest priority".—[Hansard, 1/4/08; col. 959.]
We concur with that sentiment. As the impact assessment concluded:
"As regards the EU Member States, such as the UK, which are also members of NATO, the Lisbon Treaty will not change the current situation with regards to their collective defence, which will continue to be organised and implemented in the framework of NATO".
This debate, like many others in this Committee, brings déjà vu all over again. It strikes me that Her Majesty's Opposition are now more concerned about the United States attitude towards European defence than the United States is, as the noble Lord, Lord Lee, has just demonstrated by the quotation that he gave and as the various quotations from the US Secretary of State and the President of the United States showed in the run-up to the Bucharest meeting. The US actually wants the European Union to move in this direction. It knows perfectly well what is in the Lisbon treaty. If it did not like it, it would say so, but it is not; it is saying the opposite. There we are, then—or, rather, there Her Majesty's Opposition are, manoeuvring themselves into the position which they got into over the reunification of Germany while in government. We all know where that ended; in tears. That should not happen again; frankly, it is clear that things have moved on and that the United States wants Europe to get its act together.
Secondly, the provisions in the Lisbon treaty seem important for European defence capacities. The noble Lord is quite right to emphasise that capacity is very important, but we should just reflect on this: for every country in Europe which might find the need to strengthen its capacity in NATO compelling, which I believe would be this country's view, three or four are more likely to be moved by the argument that they need to make the European capacity to fulfil the Lisbon treaty a reality.
We have to understand that other people sometimes look at these things a little differently from us, but that the net outcome will benefit us. If their defence capacity increases and they are members of NATO, that will be good news for us too. If they do so because of the provisions in the Lisbon treaty—including those for enhanced co-operation, which will invite people who really want to put their backs into this to go ahead—then that will also be good news for this country.
I hope that the Opposition will be convinced that this amendment should not be pressed. I find it a bit puzzling that they seem to be constructing a completely new set of provisions to deal with powers that will be covered by the war powers resolution that the Government have committed to bring to this House. I imagine that we would all agree that European Union operations involving hostilities should be treated in exactly the same way as all other such operations, not by a different and more restrictive set of provisions.
I listened with respect, as I always do, and with interest to the dissertation on defence matters by the noble Lord, Lord Robertson. He, of course, has wide experience in government, in NATO and elsewhere on defence matters. I would not, perhaps, have been on my feet had he not referred to scare stories on defence matters. There have been no scare stories; such matters, in my experience, were introduced into discussions on the European Union in the Single European Act. They first appeared then, so when, for example, we first discussed the issue in 1972 there was no suggestion that there would be a European Union with a defence aspect.
Bit by bit, defence has been introduced into the treaties—and piece by piece, the defence aspect has been built up as being far more important than we were assured in previous debates that it would be. For example, while discussing the Nice treaty, I well remember testing the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, about a European army. She was a Minister of State at that time and really set about me, saying that I was talking absolute rubbish about that—so I, of course, accepted what she said. I respected her as a good Minister and thought, "Well, that's put me in my place". The following day—the noble Lord referred to this—we found that Mr Prodi was saying:
"When I was talking about the European army, I was not joking. If you don't want to call it a European army, don't call it a European army. You can call it 'Margaret', you can call it 'Mary Ann', you can call it any name".
Mr Prodi was then the President of the Commission. So I thought about who was right, and I thought that it had to be the noble Baroness, Lady Symons. But it appears that it was not because, on
"Within the EU itself, we will have to move closer to establishing a common European army".
"The basis for a European Defence exists. We must make it grow. I want Europe to be capable of ensuring its security autonomously".
Those of us who do not really want a European army, which would be responsible to the institutions of the European Union, want proper co-operation between independent nation states. I think we all want that. Some of us are afraid of a European army per se. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, said, "It ain't gonna happen". I hope he is right, but the problem is that ratchet by ratchet the whole defence aspect is growing. A sort of high-command structure and a procurement structure have been set out. We are rationalising—if that is the right way to do it—defence equipment, so that bit by bit the whole basis for a European army is being built up.
Do not blame those of us who mentioned these things before. We are worn out by the remarks and statements of the former President of the European Commission, the German Chancellor and the French President. I hope that in future people will not say that we are putting scare stories about. This is a serious debate, which deserves great scrutiny and intelligent scrutiny, which it has had so far. We must not be afraid of discussing these things openly and saying what we feel about them. That is what we are here for.
Finally, I support Amendment No. 18A, which proposes that both Houses of Parliament should not only be consulted, but also give their consent to the employment of British troops under the arrangements proposed in the treaty. That is extremely important. I believe that somehow or other we must get assurances that that will be so. The Government will find that easy to do, because Mr Brown, on becoming Prime Minister, promised that British troops would not be committed in Europe or anywhere else without the consent of both Houses of Parliament. I hope that the government spokesman will give us that assurance tonight. He can safely do that in the light of the promise made by our Prime Minister, who is an honourable man and, I am sure, would not have made that statement unless he intended to see that it was carried out.
I intervene in this debate with trepidation, given the expertise in this Chamber. But I find myself searching to understand what these words in the treaty, like so much else in it, mean. The trouble is that we seem now to have a common pattern where we are told that the words should not be taken to mean what they say, because somewhere else in the treaty there is a declaration or protocol that says exactly the opposite, or the Government assure us that the words do not need to be taken seriously because they have them under lock and key, and that they would never be used.
As an example, the article referred to by Amendment No. 20 talks about,
"the progressive framing of a common defence policy".
It goes on to say:
"This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides".
To me a common defence means an integrated force. It does not say "a common policy" or "an alliance"; it says "a common defence", which sounds as though we are forming a common force with our allies to defend ourselves jointly. That may well be what is intended and it does say,
"when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides".
But many of us have a problem with the thought of a common defence. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, assures us that it would be a building block of NATO rather than duplication and yet, in the cold light of day, we know that many of our European neighbours have a very different view of NATO—indeed a fairly antagonistic view. The thought that we would be forming a common defence force with those other members of Europe that would not be antagonistic—
I defer to the noble Lord's greater knowledge on this but many instances have come to my attention where the French, in particular, are quoted as taking an antagonistic view towards the United States and their role in NATO, and to NATO more generally. The point remains: are these words meant to mean that we end up with a common defence force or are they not? If they are, that is quite consequential for the United Kingdom's future policy. The Government may say, "This will never happen. We are not advocating a common defence. When the European Council acts unanimously, we will do this. We will never agree to it. You can forget all about it because this is a locked room". The trouble is, this treaty is full of locked rooms with the Government saying, "You do not need to worry about what is in this room because we will keep it locked". I feel slightly uneasy about agreeing to a treaty that has lots of rooms that the Government will keep locked because they can veto them. Or are the Government saying, "Actually, we are very keen that this room should be part of the treaty. We want this common defence"? In that case, this seems a very significant step to include in one article of the treaty without explaining more fully to the British public and to the House what "a common defence" means.
I support these amendments, Amendment No. 20 in particular, until such time as the Government explain to us whether they agree to the formation of a common defence and what a common defence in reality would mean for the UK.
I think my noble friend had something to do with the drafting of the Maastricht treaty. Does he remember whether the words in that treaty were,
"which might in time lead to a common defence"?
We have here:
"This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides".
Would my noble friend agree that that is a very important example of the way this project proceeds step by step, piece by piece, as a "salami slicer", in the words of my noble friend Lord Tebbit?
I must correct the noble Lord; I had nothing to do with the drafting of the Maastricht treaty. But he is correct in saying that the wording continually moves. That is the point I was trying to make. We need to know whether we are supposed to take this wording seriously or whether we can disregard it because it does not mean what it says or the Government will veto it.
In that case, I have two specific questions for the Minister. The first is: what has happened to the framework agreement, signed at Farnborough in August 2000, between France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland,
"concerning measures to facilitate the restructuring and operation of the European defence industry"?
I have the document before me; I am not quite sure of its status. I merely ask the Minister: what has happened to it and does it still apply? I shall briefly quote further from it:
"The objectives of this Agreement are to promote harmonisation of the military requirements of [the] armed forces", of the countries that are signatories to the document. I quote again from Article 4:
"The Parties recognise that the likely consequences of industrial restructuring will be the creation of TDCs"— that is, transnational defence companies—
"possible abandonment of national industrial capacity and thus the acceptance of mutual dependence".
I shall not go on quoting the agreement, but would like to know—
I am doing my best to follow the noble Lord's fascinating reasoning. Does he think that there should not be transnational defence companies? Does he think that they are a retrograde step? Has he noticed that transnational defence companies have emerged generally across the world during the past 20 years?
I have. The point that the noble Lord may have missed, because he may not have studied this document with the attention which it deserves, is that the United States of America is referred to in it as "third parties". I merely ask what has happened to the document, what has happened to our procurement and defence industries since August 2000, and what is the present state of play with the United States of America and our European friends?
My second question to the Minister is even simpler: does he agree with the recent statement of the Polish Defence Minister, Mr Bogdan Klich, who has said:
"We are in favour of a much stronger role for European defence, and that would include a military headquarters"?
Do Her Majesty's Government support the independent military command structure for the European army? If, as I suspect, they do, where will the money come from? Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, with his vast experience in this field, can enlighten us. Where will the money for this European army come from, particularly for the lift and intelligence which will be necessary and for which, at the moment, the European Union presumes to depend on the United States of America?
I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this important debate. There can hardly be a subject that is more important in all the matters that we will discuss in Committee than defence of our country and of Europe. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Astor, for reminding me of the days when we used to—to use his words—"spar across the Dispatch Box". I miss them, too. I have always admired the noble Lord and his expertise in this field.
We were lucky enough to hear a tour de force of a speech by my noble friend Lord Robertson, using his vast experience to inform the Committee. That does not mean that we have to agree with every word that he said, but anyone who heard that speech is likely to have been impressed by it.
The amendments relating to the common security and defence policy would exclude innovations in the area of defence introduced by the Lisbon treaty, but would also remove changes which are not substantial but reflect existing practice. Indeed, one amendment, no doubt a probing amendment, seeks to remove the CSDP altogether. That is not a position that the Government can support; indeed, I think very few noble Lords would support it as a principle that is not in the interests of our country.
I shall make a few general comments about why we support the common security and defence policy, and then address each amendment in turn, doing my best to answer the points that have been made in the debate. Noble Lords will know that the common security and defence policy, currently known as the European security and defence policy, is not a new beast. The Maastricht treaty set the Union the objective of,
"the implementation of a common foreign and security policy including the eventual framing of a common defence policy, which might in time lead to a common defence".
I am pleased and proud to say that we, as a country, have driven this process forward. The UK-French declaration at St Malo in 1998, where the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, played a prominent part, led directly to the creation of what became known as the ESDP. The treaty of Nice, some two years later, subsequently established the structures and procedures to give political control and strategic direction to ESDP. ESDP helps the European Union in its efforts to be an effective conflict-prevention and crisis-management actor to the benefit of both the international community and ourselves. EU missions bring real benefits to people on the ground today. This is what my noble friend Lord Robertson had in mind when he talked about the reality of the situation, whether it is in Bosnia, where a military operation provides a safe and secure environment for continuing stabilisation efforts; in Afghanistan, where a civilian mission is helping to reform the Afghan national police; or in Chad in Africa, where a military operation provides a secure environment for refugee camps. We can be proud of what these missions are achieving.
We have led the way in pushing for the development and enhancement of an effective ESDP. The defence provisions of the treaty contribute—and this is fundamental—to the open, flexible, militarily robust and NATO-friendly ESDP that the UK pioneered and supports. Let us be clear: the provisions of the Lisbon treaty do not alter the long-established fundamental principles of ESDP, which we support. Unanimity remains the primary method for decision-making. The UK will always have a veto on whether the EU should undertake a particular operation. Member states offer military or civilian assets on a voluntary basis. The UK always decides for itself whether it will contribute to any operation. There is no European army. ESDP is about crisis management, not war fighting. The so-called St Petersburg tasks that ESDP is designed to undertake make this crystal clear.
As noble Lords will recognise, there are many threats to international security that require an international response. We therefore need to take advantage of the collective will of European partners to participate in crisis management and stabilisation tasks in support of the international community. The particular combination of civilian and military instruments that ESDP offers endows the EU with what I would argue is a unique capacity that can and does add real value to international stabilisation efforts. In spite of what has been said, there is and remains a clear recognition of NATO as the foundation of its members' collective defence. As the EU Select Committee report states:
"the central role of NATO in the defence policy of certain member states such as the UK will continue to be recognised under the new treaties".
Indeed, Article 42 of the Lisbon treaty says:
"The policy of the Union in accordance with this Article shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defence realised in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework".
It could hardly be clearer.
The ESDP complements rather than competes with NATO. There will of course be times when NATO is best placed to respond; that will nearly always be the case if high-intensity combat is envisaged. Conversely, there will times when only the EU will have the right tools to respond. I pray in aid of that the Palestinian territories, where ESDP activities provide a good example. Additionally, the ESDP can help share the burden of ensuring European stability—for example, as it has done by taking over from NATO the stabilisation force in Bosnia. Increasingly, both the EU and NATO will be operating in the same theatre, such as in Afghanistan, but bringing to bear distinct but complementary instruments and capabilities.
We strongly support renewed efforts to address the need for both organisations to work effectively together, and indeed with other security actors—because there are others in the world—such as the United Nations and the African Union. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, referred to Bucharest. I draw the attention of noble Lords to the recent NATO Bucharest summit communiqué which stated:
"We recognise the value that a stronger and more capable European defence brings, providing capabilities to address the common challenges both NATO and the EU face. We therefore support mutually reinforcing efforts to this end".
For those noble Lords who still express concern that the ESDP somehow undermines NATO and the transatlantic alliance, I quote the President of the United States, President George Bush, who said in advance of the Bucharest summit:
"Building a strong NATO Alliance also requires a strong European defence capacity. So at this summit, I will encourage our European partners to increase their defence investments to support both NATO and EU operations. America believes if Europeans invest in their own defence, they will also be stronger and more capable when we deploy together".
Surely that must give food for thought to those who still maintain that somehow there is this inherent conflict between NATO and the EU capabilities.
The ESDP provides a mechanism to leverage European capability improvements. As my noble friend Lord Robertson said earlier, the issue is, frankly, capabilities. This remains a key objective—it has to, given the position in Europe. Since there is a single set of forces in Europe, these improvements will be available to NATO as well. The ESDP is a key vehicle through which EU member states can share the burden of international crisis management. This directly benefits ourselves as well as strengthening the transatlantic alliance.
I shall speak to the amendments in turn, taking some of them together since they are substantially the same. Amendment No. 18A would seek to exclude the Government deploying troops unless both Houses of Parliament have formally given approval. That seems to have two sides to it; one is about British troops being forced to fight in Europe and the other is about constitutional changes that may take place. Let me be clear at the outset that there is no question now or in future of the European Union forcing British troops to be deployed against our wishes. Any decisions, agreeing to and subsequently launching an EU operation, is by unanimity. If we do not think that an EU operation is advisable, we will be able to veto it.
I should like the noble Lord to continue to hear what I have to say. At one level it would be a decision for the Executive too. It would be the British Government of whatever colour who would say, "We don't think this is an occasion for British troops". They would have the absolute right—this is what seems to be denied elsewhere—to say "No. No British troops". All decisions regarding whether particular member states wish to participate in an agreed ESDP operation, whether by providing troops or other assets, are for those members states to take by themselves. All forces are offered to the EU on a voluntary basis. That has been the case since ESDP began. There is nothing in the Lisbon treaty that changes that.
We have just discussed the Government's proposals to give Parliament a say—this is the second limb of Amendment No. 18A—over the deployment of our Armed Forces into conflict overseas. The White Paper has been referred to. The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, referred to what the Prime Minister said just after he took office. The White Paper published in March of this year outlines proposals granting Parliament the power to approve such deployments. A draft resolution seeking to implement these proposals has been released. That draft resolution is designed to achieve parliamentary oversight of UK deployments while maintaining the operational flexibility necessary to address emergencies or maintain secrecy. Furthermore, the choice of a resolution as a mechanism for the changes eliminates the liability of forces personnel to indictment. There are matters still to be considered in relation to those proposals. They are being considered and discussed as we speak. It would not be appropriate to seek to anticipate that discussion further here.
Amendment No. 109 seeks to exclude the common security and defence policy from the scope of the Bill. I hope I have made the Government's position clear on that. We think it brings benefits to the UK in terms of enhanced security and greater global stability. The noble Lord, Lord Lee, in his excellent speech, mentioned a number of ESDP missions that the EU has. I am not going to repeat them. They are around the world in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. In some of the most difficult parts of the world the EU has played a noble role in trying to sort out those problems. It is for that reason in itself that we would reject Amendment No. 109, which, as I said earlier, I take to be an amendment to raise discussion.
Amendments Nos. 19 and 20 would seek to exclude the provision on the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. The noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, talked about this issue. Noble Lords will know that the provision on common defence is not new. As noted by the European Union Committee report, it was first established at Maastricht. The references to a common defence draw directly on the Maastricht language.
The Lisbon treaty retains the clear requirement that any move to a common European Union defence would require two conditions to be met, just as in the current treaty on European Union. First, such a move will only be,
"when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides".
We retain a veto over any such decision. In addition, the Lisbon treaty goes on to make clear:
"It shall in that case recommend to the Member States the adoption of such a decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements".
It is the double lock that we hear so much about—unanimity in Europe and then each country following its own constitutional requirements before that could happen. The possibility of any British Government of whatever complexion going down this road is so remote that it seems to me that it is extraordinarily unlikely that it would happen.
Some noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, in particular, referred to the wording regarding common defence,. The Lisbon treaty states that a common defence policy,
"might lead to a common defence".
Regarding a common defence policy, it also states:
"This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides".
I should have thought that any reasonable analysis of that use of language suggests that is simply two ways of saying the same thing.
I thought I had answered that question. I said there was a double lock. This is the first lock, of course. I do not think I used quite the same description of the EU Council as the noble Lord has just done. Heads of Government would first have to decide with unanimity that this is what they wanted. Then each country in the EU would have to go through its own constitutional arrangements, which in our case must surely involve some resolution of the House of Commons at the very least, before we could go down this road at all.
I stand corrected. But under the treaties that is not so. If the Executive, the Government of the day, agree this matter unanimously in the Council, then that is the end of it. There is nothing that the House of Commons with its Select Committee or your Lordships' House with its Select Committee can do. There is nothing anyone can do to reverse it. This is one of the main bones of contention about the whole unfortunate project. This is a decision taken by the Executive that belongs to Parliament and the Executive have usurped it and it must be reversed.
I have said twice that it is not just a matter for the Executive. It would be a matter for Parliament under the UK constitutional arrangements. It would be a matter for Parliament. That is the double lock.
I am sorry to labour the point. At the present time, the Executive can make war without the consent of Parliament. That is the constitutional position. The Prime Minister has said that he wants Parliament to be given the right to say yes or no. All we want is an assurance that if that is agreed by Parliament, that system of parliamentary approval will also apply to going to war, providing troops to a European adventure, going to the assistance of another country, or whatever you might call it.
I can do better than repeat myself. There is a definite role for Parliament to play in the eventuality that we decided. As I said, it is an extraordinarily remote possibility that we would decide that it was in our interests to have a common European Union defence policy. If all other 26 European countries agreed that at the same time, then of course Parliament would have a role, undefined at the present time—let me be clear about that—but Parliament having a role means that Parliament could say yes or no. I must move on—
I just wanted to raise a broader point that the noble Lord has just covered. If the noble Lord is saying that it is extremely unlikely that the United Kingdom would want to join in the common defence policy and the Minister is assuring us there is a double lock to prevent that, is the Minister effectively saying that the Government would be happy to accept Amendment No. 20, which removes this provision from the treaty if it were that that required the treaty negotiation? In other words, the Government would be quite happy not to have this provision in the treaty; it is just that they cannot get rid of it.
Perhaps the Minister could take a short rest. The provision that the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, is trying to remove is a part of the treaty itself, so this is a wrecking amendment. It is as simple as that. The issue before us is whether this provision in the Lisbon treaty contains operational provisions. It does not. It merely states that if the European Council so decides, it may move on to another stage, but surely it will be up to the Government to decide at the time what British provisions will cover that. However, there can be no question of removing this provision without wrecking the treaty.
Some of us do not mind whether the treaty is wrecked. In case the Minister has not found the words, they are:
"This will lead to a common defence when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides".
That is an awful long way from Maastricht, which says that this could, in time, lead to a common defence.
These are the words that my noble friend wishes to take out of the treaty. That would not necessarily wreck it; we would simply go back to the other 26 nations to see whether they agree.
I wonder whether the noble Lord, instead of taking one sentence out of context from the new combined treaty, would read all of the next couple of paragraphs. There, the answer to the question is quite clearly laid out. Even if we reached the point, by unanimity, of deciding that there would be a defence policy, the caveats about individual nations are quite clearly laid out in the next paragraphs.
We could dance on the head of this pin all night. The reality is that the protection for individual nations to go their own way is clearly laid down in the treaty.
Perhaps the noble Lord will give me the opportunity of giving them. For him to say that there is a huge difference between Maastricht and what is stated in the Lisbon treaty is absolutely against the use of a good sense of language. It is quite clear that the "will" that appears in the Lisbon treaty applies only if and when there is unanimity in the Council. The position is absolutely the same. So, Members of the Committee should be aware that the Lisbon treaty does not alter the current situation with regard to EU member states such as the UK which are also members of NATO. As the Select Committee report noted, the treaty makes it clear that the collective defence of such member states will continue to be organised and implemented through NATO.
At paragraph 7.112, the EU Committee report says:
"What will not change is that a unanimous European Council decision will be necessary before the EU moves to establish a common defence".
That is how it was at Maastricht and that is how it is now.
Amendments Nos. 21A and 101 would seek to exclude the provision on member states making their civilian and military capabilities available to the EU to undertake operations and missions within the remit of the common security and defence policy. The provision reflects practice since the establishment of the policy. There is no standing EU army. Indeed, EU member states offer on a voluntary basis civilian military capabilities and forces to the Union. After the European Council has decided by unanimity to undertake a mission or operation, those member states which are willing and able to participate in a specific mission will provide national forces during the force generation process. This reflects the reality that all of the EU forces belong to the member states and not to the Union itself. We welcome the fact that the treaty emphasises that common security and defence objectives will be pursued by means of member state capabilities.
Amendment No. 22 seeks to exclude the provision on entrusting the implementation of European security and defence policy tasks to a group of member states that are willing and have the necessary capabilities for such tasks. Although this is a new treaty article, it reflects current practice. The EU Committee report noted:
"The provisions on the European Defence Agency and on crisis management missions are a codification of current practice and will therefore have little impact on the European Security and Defence Policy".
The Council already decides by unanimity to entrust the implementation of an ESDP operational mission to the group of member states willing and able to lead or participate. This is the case, for example, in the recent missions to Chad, where France is the lead nation, with some 10 other member states providing forces. Let me remind the House that the launch of any EU operation requires unanimity. Lisbon treaty Article 1.49.C4—new Article 42.4.TEU of the consolidated treaty—says:
"Decisions relating to the common security and defence policy, including those initiating a mission ... shall be adopted by the Council acting unanimously".
I repeat—any decision to deploy UK troops for an EU-led operation will continue to rest with the UK Government.
Finally, Amendment No. 99 seeks to exclude the provision that allows, in principle, enhanced co-operation to be established for matters with military and defence implications. The procedures for enhanced co-operation originate in the treaty of Amsterdam, but they have never been used. Enhanced co-operation allows a group of member states to work together without affecting those that do not want to. Under the Lisbon treaty, the process would be triggered when at least nine member states want to co-operate in a specific area. The Lisbon treaty makes clear that any decision to set up enhanced co-operation in the area of CFSP, including in areas with military or defence implications, will be taken by the Council acting in unanimity. Enhanced co-operation with military or defence implications cannot take place without the approval of the UK Government. As I have said, it has never been used and there is no proposal for it to be utilised. We would consider any future proposals on their own merits.
The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, asked a couple of questions. He asked me about the defence industry and procurement. The UK Government support improved co-operation among Governments in order to provide Europe with a strong defence, industrial and technological base. This will help the development of military capabilities, the importance of which we have heard about and which lies at the heart of this debate. Do we support military command HQ? We do not believe that an EU operational headquarters would be the best use of scarce resources. That is why we agreed on an EU operations centre that can be activated when necessary.
"an ESDP must be seen as an opportunity, not a danger. And no one today would still seriously assert that NATO and the EU are rivals whose aim is to drive each other out of business".
He went on:
"Such discussions are now altogether obsolete if they ever existed in the past".
I am afraid that the Secretary-General may have been a little optimistic, because some voices are still saying that NATO and the EU are set on a collision course. That is nonsense and I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendments.
Before my noble friend rises to wind up, I notice that the noble Lord—somewhat unusually and giving considerable pleasure to many of us—quoted, with approval, President Bush, when he said that there was a necessity for European countries to increase their military investments. One question I put to the noble Lord that he has not answered—he may want to come back to it at Report—is: where is the money for this dangerous dream? Where is the money for lift and intelligence? Or are we going to go on relying on the United States for that?
I think the noble Lord said that the Government do not approve of an independent command centre or independent military centre in Brussels, in which case we look forward to the conflict that their position will create with the Poles, the French and others. I noticed that in his reply the noble Lord did not mention the Farnborough agreement. Maybe that is something that we can come back to on Report. I want to put those matters on the record before we move on from this amendment, unless the noble Lord has more precise information to give at the moment.
This has been a very useful debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part. The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, spoke with great authority as a former Secretary of State for Defence and an eminent Secretary-General of NATO. The noble Lord said that he is passionate about Europe; I am also passionate about Europe. I worked in France for 11 years, and I spend a lot of time out there.
I was very reassured by what the noble Lord said, and I make no apologies for raising these issues. None of us wants to see NATO being undermined by these provisions. It has served us well for 60 years, and we do not want to drive a wedge between us and our transatlantic allies. I very much hope that the noble Lord is right in his reassurances. The noble Lord was angry at the impotence of Europe, but that will continue as long as European countries have such small defence budgets or where they are so reluctant to share their capability with their allies.
The noble Lord, Lord Lee of Trafford, said that I am raising doubts. We all want NATO and the EU to succeed. It is important that the amendments were tabled to enable us to debate all these important issues. I was heartened by the noble Lord's confirmation of his party's support for the primacy of NATO. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, had yet another swipe at my party. Of course the United States wants to see a greater defence capability in Europe, but not all Americans whom I have spoken to share the noble Lord's optimism that this will happen.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, spoke about a European army, and he was concerned that it would happen bit by bit. My noble friend Lord Blackwell was concerned at the apparently different meanings and intentions of the treaty of Lisbon. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, asked the Minister about the Farnborough agreement of 2000, and he asked where the money is for what he described as "this dangerous dream". I thank the Minister for his very full response to the amendments. As he said, the defence of our country is more important than anything else. The noble Lord addressed our amendments in great detail, and I was assured by his words about a NATO-friendly ESDP; time will tell whether that remains the case. I was assured by his general assurances on the primacy of NATO.
I said at the outset that, with the exception of Amendment No. 18A, these were probing amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said that Amendment No. 20 was a wrecking amendment. I said that it was a probing amendment. With regard to Amendment No. 18A, I was grateful to the Minister for his strong assurance that there would be no question of the EU forcing British troops to engage in any military activity against our will. The noble Lord included the word "Parliament" in the decision-making. On that basis, and his assurances on our other amendments, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The provision highlighted in the amendment is an example of our concern with the provisions that this treaty establishes on European defence. As my noble friends have pointed out, during the European convention in 2003, the Government held a very different opinion on some of the paragraphs in this treaty on the issue of providing aid and assistance for mutual defence. They stated categorically that they,
"cannot accept a provision importing mutual defence commitment in the European Union".
They were quite right. I hope that the Minister will explain why the Government's views on this provision have so radically changed.
Paragraph 7 of the inserted Article 28A clearly duplicates NATO's Article 5 and, as Her Majesty's Government have said:
"The EU cannot duplicate this role"— of mutual defence—
"either as a whole or through reinforced co-operation".
As I made clear in the debate on the previous group of amendments, I do not believe that this treaty will in any way increase the European capability for defence, within or without NATO. The idea that ESDP will be able to implement an effective campaign against an aggressor without NATO or the USA is a fantasy. The inclusion of the phrase,
"this shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States", shows how resistant many European countries, for example, Ireland, Austria and Sweden, are to any threat to their neutrality.
This provision at least mentions NATO, but between the right to neutrality and the obligation to abide by NATO commitments, there is nothing left of this obligation for mutual defence. I beg to move.
I am grateful to the noble Lord for moving his amendment, which seeks to exclude the provision on mutual aid and assistance from the scope of the Bill. This new provision reflects the reality that EU member states would come to the aid of other member states in the unlikely event that they were the victim of armed aggression on their territory. The crucial point to make is that the obligation to provide assistance falls on individual member states, not the institutions of the European Union.
The provision does not provide a basis for the development of an EU collective defence organisation to rival NATO. In fact, as the EU Select Committee report noted, the treaty clearly states that for its members NATO remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation. The Lisbon treaty confirms rather than changes that. The committee report made it clear at 7109, which states:
"The mutual assistance clause, which is examined below ... is even more forthright, as it states that NATO remains the 'foundation' of the collective defence of those Member States who are members of it and the forum for its implementation'. It further states that commitments and cooperation under the CSDP 'shall be consistent with commitments' under NATO. This is a new provision and represents a strengthening of the reference to the role of NATO in the Treaties".
We accept that we have an obligation to come to the aid of an EU member state in the specific circumstances that it has suffered an armed aggression on its territory. The judgment of what all the means in their power involves in practical terms is for the UK Government to decide according to the specific circumstances of the time.
Instead of taking away from NATO, this particular change in the Lisbon treaty strengthens NATO by emphasising in the treaty itself how NATO is the prime organisation.
I also speak to Amendment No. 24. Once again, we are considering a provision that sets up an EU institution but adds nothing to defence capabilities and might actively harm NATO's effectiveness.
The history of the EDA is illuminating. It was proposed in the 2003 constitution, which was of course summarily rejected. This did not prevent the actual creation of the agency. The EDA is up and running, and we are now being asked retrospectively to legitimise it. The EDA, as set up by this treaty, has a wide remit. It is to infer identifying members' capabilities and evaluate how well they are meeting their commitments. It will promote harmonisation and compatible procurement methods, and so on.
All that sounds very sensible until one remembers that it completely disregards NATO. As I have already said, EU capabilities are derisory, and members' commitment to meeting its military objectives minimal. With this provision, we are committing ourselves to harmonising our military capabilities with the weakest of our NATO allies instead of the strongest. Greater interoperability is indeed desirable, but our military equipment will be useless if it is not interoperable with US equipment. What is the point of developing joint procurement projects with countries whose defence spending levels are too low to purchase the end products?
The rules and procedures of the EDA are to be decided by QMV. Countries that have no intention of providing troops, equipment or money to build the military capability of Europe are to have a say in the procurement of equipment by those few countries that, through NATO, are expected to carry out all Europe's obligations. What we have here is a waste of money. As General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue, the chief of defence materiel, defence equipment and support in the Ministry of Defence, so clearly laid out in January, this waste of money actively reduces our military capability. As he put it:
"It is inevitable that our top priority will be current operations and the equipment needed to support them ... We need to think carefully about priorities when every pound sterling or Euro spent on international institutions is a pound or Euro I cannot spend on equipping and supporting deployed front line forces".
Once again, we see the Commission getting involved where it has no business to be. Defence is a matter that should remain squarely in the hands of the national Government. I beg to move.
The noble Lord, for whom I have great respect, has got this completely wrong. I put to him the answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch: where do we get the money from? One of the ways that Europe can find the money for the required capabilities, including the heavy airlift planes that are currently so vitally necessary, is to do so collectively and not individually. The United Kingdom is currently the only country in Europe with heavy lift. We have five C17s leased—or maybe partly bought—from the Americans, a decision taken during my time at the MoD. There is literally nothing else in the European arsenal for that, yet we know that it is required.
If European countries are willing, through the European Defence Agency—which was, as I said, instigated as a British idea—to get the heavy-lift aeroplanes on a collective basis, then they are available for NATO missions just as much as for any European Union mission. The model is the AWACS fleet. Individual nations, apart from Britain and France, cannot really afford—and could not use—the advanced early-warning aircraft. It therefore made sense for NATO at that time collectively to buy a fleet of AWACS planes. They are literally used all the time. They were used after 9/11 to protect the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City as part of our Article 5 commitments, and they were used to protect pretty well every European summit and a lot of other summits as well. That is the model. If we can, through another constituency, not just NATO, but through the European Union get collective ownership of some of these scarce capabilities, the money will be well spent. It will move away from the old territorial defence much more to collective defence, and it will be equally available to NATO when it needs it as it is to the European Union. I would have thought that he, especially, and the Opposition, generally, would be applauding the concept of the collective purchase of the equipment that is required. That is basically what the European Defence Agency is about. It is no more sinister than that. It is a device to make sure that European nations get the capabilities so that they are available when the European Union or NATO requires them.
The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, obviously has different contacts in Washington from some of the rest of us. No less a person than the Minister has prayed in aid President Bush asking where the money is coming from in Europe to pay for all this.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Astor, on his introduction of this amendment, if that does not trouble him too much, but I recommend that he reads the Farnborough agreement, about which I have not had an answer this evening. Perhaps he will study in particular Article 46, which states:
I read them out earlier—
"recognise the need to co-operate in establishing a long term master-plan that would present a common view of their future operational needs. This would constitute a framework for harmonised equipment acquisition planning and would provide orientation for a harmonised defence related R&T policy".
There is an assumption that all this is running in parallel with the interests and needs of the United States of America but, as I mentioned, the Farnborough agreement refers to the United States of America only as "third parties". There is no doubt that in the European Union we are dealing, as my noble friend Lord Blackwell has indicated, with French antagonism to the United States of America, inspired, as I have mentioned before, by its deep psychotic need to bite the hand that fed it in two world wars. That is what we are dealing with, and it is supported by misplaced German guilt, but German guilt none the less. The United Kingdom needs to be extremely careful before it goes down this road of European military collaboration with the European Union at the expense of the special relationship that has served this planet very well over the past century or so.
It is not at the expense of the special relationship. The quotation from President Bush, which I am pleased to have used, suggests that it is the noble Lord who on this occasion is out of kilter with what is being said and thought in Washington. There is not the concern that he expresses. That is, if I may use the French word, passé—it is the past. There was concern some years ago. I remember when I used to debate regularly with the noble Lord, Lord Astor, there was concern about the emergence of European defence, but that is gone. The Americans are pleased and delighted by it. The quotations I used are real quotations from the president himself. It is the noble Lord who has been left behind by history a bit here.
Let me talk about the EDA. The British should be proud of having thought up the idea. It had a very distinguished first chief executive who was a very eminent member of the Ministry of Defence senior Civil Service before he took on that important job.
Improving the military capabilities of EU partners is a key UK objective. No one will disagree and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Astor, would not. Improving these capabilities allows the European Union to share the international burden for crisis management more effectively and is to our direct benefit as a country. For example, the EDA is overseeing a five-member-state project to improve the interoperability between civilian and military radios. Such work will provide real benefits to the civilian side and to the military personnel working together in theatres of operations as they do.
The noble Lord, Lord Astor, suggested that there was no mention of NATO. The EDA focuses on EU capability development, as would be expected of an EU agency. However, the EU-NATO capability group, at which EDA participates, works to ensure that the capability development in the two organisations is complementary.
It is important to remember that there is a link between the EDA and the assets that NATO wants and achieves. We support the objectives and work of the EDA in its role managing the work to improve European defence capabilities including the facilitation of more efficient defence procurement. Furthermore, we welcome the references to the agency in the treaty. The treaty states that:
That has already happened. In reality, those decisions were taken by joint action in July 2004, which established the agency. There is no appetite among member states to reopen these issues. In the second half of last year, the head of the EDA reviewed the applicability of the joint action with all member states, and there was consensus that the joint action was fit for purpose and no appetite for it to be changed. As the EU Select Committee impact assessment notes:
"The provisions on the European Defence Agency and on crisis management missions are a codification of current practice and will therefore have little impact on the European Security and Defence Policy".
The agency three-year financial framework and guidelines for its work programme are agreed by the Council acting by unanimity. It sets the overall framework and size of the agency and ensures that the UK would have the ability to prevent a substantial increase in the size of the agency if it did not fit in with our policy. The money comes from member states—nothing new in that.
As far as money for capabilities is concerned, I will give an example of a France and UK initiative on helicopters—a prospect fund to upgrade European helicopters, with France providing pilot training for hostile conditions. The initiative is being developed through both NATO and the European Defence Agency, as part of the EU. It will make European money go further to provide key enablers.
Beneath the framework, which is set by unanimity, regular decisions are made at the steering board by QMV for rapid decision-making. If there were a decision of strategic importance to the UK that the agency proposed to make by QMV, the UK could use the clause in the joint action which would allow us to have the decision reverted to the Council, which, as I say, acts by unanimity.
I repeat that the agency's main purpose is to help develop EU military capabilities by facilitating joint capability projects between member states and, by goodness, Europe does need some more defence capabilities. Improved EU military capabilities will improve the effectiveness of the ESDP military operations.
Let me make it abundantly clear: the agency does not have any role in the decision to launch or in conducting those operations, and the reference to operational rules in the treaty is only referring to the rules by which the agency itself operates. For those reasons, with the greatest respect to the noble Lord, Lord Astor, his criticism of the EDA is slightly dated. There was concern about it when it was first set up. I remember because I was involved to some small extent at the time. It has yet to prove itself fully, but I submit that it has made a good start. To abandon it now would be quite against the principle of establishing more and better European defence capabilities.
The noble Lord, Lord Robertson, made some important points about the EU collectively purchasing equipment. I hear what he says, but I would have more confidence if our European allies spent what is really needed on defence. Until they are willing to spend real money, they will not have real capability. Only political will in each member state's capital can fix this. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for his generous comments. I will swot up on the Farnborough agreement.
Finally, I am grateful to the Minister for his assurances that the EDA will complement NATO. I remember well our spats across the Dispatch Box about the EDA. In the light of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.