HC Deb 13 February 1991 vol 185 cc843-5
7. Mr. Conway

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what importance he attaches to the strengthening of collective security arrangements.

Mr. Hurd

NATO, including the presence of north American forces in Europe, remains the basis for our collective security. The alliance is adapting to the new circumstances in Europe and we have put forward proposals for strengthening the European pillar within the alliance by building up the Western European Union. The WEU has shown that it can play a useful role in co-ordinating European military activities outside Europe.

Mr. Conway

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reply. Does he accept that defending Europe's interests as an entity must extend beyond physical boundaries to include its interests? If so, does he find less than edifying the response of some of our European and NATO allies to the crisis which we face in the Gulf, particularly nations such as Belgium which have been less than enthusiastic about the part that they could play in the conflict?

Mr. Hurd

This was not a NATO responsibility, except in terms of the threat perceived to Turkey, a NATO member. Efforts to achieve a concerted military response have had patchy results. The Belgians have sent three warships and we are discussing further forms of help with them.

Ms. Short

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that the United Nations plays a part in collective security. Has he heard the suggestions in Germany that in future the Germans cannot be expected to pay without a say and that they should have some kind of representation in the United Nations, perhaps collective European representation, or, as Willie Brandt suggested, two alternating seats for Europe? Does the right hon. Gentleman have a statement to make about those two suggestions?

Mr. Hurd

I am glad that the hon. Lady recognises the United Nations role in enforcing collective security. I hope that she will now back resolution 678—

Ms. Short

I do.

Hon. Members


Mr. Hurd

I withdraw that insinuation. I am glad that the hon. Lady shares my view of the importance of the United Nations to collective security. I hope that the German Government will persist in their plan to amend the German constitution, to enable Germany, with her allies and partners, to play a full part in collective security. Germany has not asked for a permanent seat on the Security Council and there is no such proposal on the table.

Ms. Short

On a point of order. The Foreign Secretary misrepresented me—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members are frequently dissatisfied with the answers that they receive. I heard the Foreign Secretary withdraw that comment.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

May I commend my right hon. Friend for his wise remarks at Blaby on future collective security in the Gulf? Is not it essential that the Gulf states themselves decide what they want, and with whom they co-operate? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the United Kingdom is prepared to play its part in underpinning peace in the region, there is no question of our having a large military presence east of Suez once again?

Mr. Hurd

May I say, first, that I withdrew my suggestion about the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) as soon as she began to show indignation. Indeed, I withdrew it even before I had completed it. I am delighted that, with regard to the Gulf war, we are on the same side.

I agree with the point that my hon. Friend has just made. It is very important that the countries of the region, particularly the Arab members of the coalition against Saddam Hussein's aggression, should begin to form their own ideas about security, especially in the Gulf, after the war. I am very glad that, tomorrow, eight of the states most closely concerned will meet in Cairo to make a start.

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