NATO - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:17 pm on 2nd April 2019.

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Photo of Earl Howe Earl Howe The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 6:17 pm, 2nd April 2019

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments but am sure that no one listening to his speech will have overlooked a powerful point he made about government messaging in general. I had intended not to comment too much on that theme but rather to go away and report back to him on what we can and should do across government to address his powerful points.

I should like to cover the issues raised by my noble friend Lord Jopling on shortcomings in NATO’s internal financial management. NATO bodies have been strengthening the areas of internal control and risk management, as identified by IBAN audits as areas of weakness to address. The Secretary-General has taken the opportunity of the functional review to do the same at the HQ, and the nations agreed the additional resources for him to do so in December 2018. The UK expects an enhanced internal control and risk management team to be established by autumn this year. Unfortunately, there is currently no consensus among allies on the implementation of the IBAN’s financial performance audit recommendations, which makes progress slow. However, I understand that NATO is looking to create a resource executive function—more or less a chief financial officer role—and is due to submit a recommendation on this matter to the North Atlantic Council this summer.

In my opening contribution to this debate, I quoted NATO’s current Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg. I will finish with the words of one of his illustrious predecessors. Dirk Stikker served at a tumultuous time more than half a century ago, with the Cold War at its height and the Cuban missile crisis taking the world to the brink of nuclear confrontation. He was also a great friend to the UK, having previously served many years as Dutch ambassador. Long after he stood down, he reflected in his memoirs on why NATO continues to play so vital a role in world affairs. He concluded:

“However great a nation, it never has all the pieces on the checkerboard. The checkerboard is vast. And the game without end.”

NATO’s achievements over the past 70 years have been remarkable. It has forged its member nations’ individual strengths into an alliance sufficiently formidable to deter all adversaries—those then and now who would impose their own norms of intolerance and authoritarianism on the free world. NATO has made an enormous difference—whether helping to end the Cold War, stopping terror or bringing reassurance to the vulnerable across the globe from Bosnia to Operation Ocean Shield in the Gulf of Aden. Sometimes this has meant conspicuous heroism on the battlefield or in the conflict zone, and sometimes quiet but tenacious work behind the scenes or under the oceans. As the right reverend Prelate so eloquently put it, NATO is not only a military alliance but a community of values—values that endure. Whatever form it has taken, NATO, as my noble friend Lord Attlee witnessed at first hand, has always done its work supremely well. So today we take the opportunity to pay tribute to the alliance and, in particular, we say thank you to all those men and women over the past seven decades who have served NATO with fortitude and honour. We owe them much. We owe them our peace.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 6.39 pm.