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United States Of America

Volume 178: debated on Wednesday 24 October 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he next plans to visit the United States of America to discuss American-European relations.

I have no firm plans for my next visit to the United States. I am in frequent touch with Mr. Baker, and last met him in New York on 2 October during the meeting of CSCE Ministers.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree with his American counterpart that, in the light of the end of the cold war in Europe, NATO is increasingly likely to become a political rather than a military alliance? If so, what steps does he intend to take to further that change?

Those steps were clearly set out at the July NATO summit held in London. We set out the military essentials of the alliance. We—and, of course, the Americans and all the allies—intend to maintain the integrated command, the presence of substantial American troops on the continent of Europe and a sensible mix of nuclear and conventional weapons. We then went on to illustrate the change, in particular by holding out the hand of co-operation to eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Will my right hon. Friend go a little further? Does he realise that the North Atlantic Assembly is the only governmentally accepted body where American members of Congress and European Members of Parliament can meet? Although much consideration is being given to the military structure, the future of a body in which American members of Congress, Canadian Members of Parliament and European members can get together is of the greatest importance and is worthy of serious consideration.

I know the importance of the Atlantic Assembly and the part that my hon. Friend plays in it. I certainly agree that such contacts, forming part of the political side of NATO's work, are extremely important.

As the IRA has extended its activities into many countries of the European Community, and as much of its funding comes from the United States—some of its blood money was probably used this morning in the atrocious attack on the Royal Irish Rangers in Newry and on another regiment in Londonderry, which no doubt the Foreign Secretary will take the opportunity to condemn—has the Foreign Secretary ever raised the question of funding by Americans for the IRA in Europe?

Of course, I condemn this morning's tragic events in Newry and in Londonderry. We have often raised this point. When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I raised it when I visited the United States. The present Administration and the Reagan Administration before them, have taken as strict a line as they can within United States law to ensure that such contributions are not given in a way that could help the outrages about which the right hon. Gentleman is concerned. I agree that we need to keep those reminders constantly before the United States.

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that relations between America and Europe could be seriously undermined because of the failure of the EEC to put forward realistic proposals on agricultural expenditure? Does it worry my right hon. Friend, as Foreign Secretary, that, despite all the pleas that were made for strong action, the EEC is planning a substantial increase in its agricultural spending next year and that, once again, food mountains are growing to all-time highs?

Yes, indeed. I made the first point strongly to my colleagues in Luxembourg on Monday. It is not sensible for the European Community and its leaders to suppose that they will attract much credibility when talking about economic and monetary union or, indeed, political union if they cannot produce a reasonable offer for the GATT negotiations. At the moment, the European Community is isolated. I believe that when examined at the negotiating table, the American offers will prove to have a good deal of fustian in them, but we cannot examine them at the negotiating table until we have a position of our own.

When replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall), the right hon. Gentleman referred with approval to the declaration made at the July NATO summit, which the Prime Minister signed. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that in that declaration NATO endorsed a new NATO strategy making nuclear forces

"truly weapons of last resort",
and that those are the words of President Bush himself? Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why, in her speech in Helsinki on 30 August the Prime Minister said:
"Our first task is in reality to preserve the essentials of the present order. That means … continuing to station nuclear weapons in Europe, without putting new constraints on them such as … 'weapons of last resort'"?
As the Prime Minister signed that declaration and as she has disgracefully repudiated it, will the Foreign Secretary now uphold President Bush and repudiate the Prime Minister?

The right hon. Gentleman has earned his reputation for selective quotation. He omitted—[Interruption.] I see that some of his text is highlighted, but I am not sure whether that is the bit that he left in or the bit that he left out. I recall clearly our discussions at Lancaster house on this point and the balancing sentences and phrases that were used to safeguard the position of the Alliance. One thing that it must preserve is a sensible mix of nuclear and conventional weapons.