Skip to main content

NATO Responsibilities

Volume 515: debated on Monday 13 September 2010

NATO’s responsibility is to provide for the collective security of its allies against an increasingly diverse range of security challenges, both within the north Atlantic area and beyond. This is being reflected in work on the alliance’s new strategic concept, on which I look forward to further discussions with the Secretary-General and fellow NATO Defence Ministers at our next meeting in October.

There is growing concern off the coast of Somalia, where cargo ships and holiday craft are regularly challenged by pirates seeking ransom from western Governments. With 90% of EU imports arriving by sea, is NATO doing enough to ensure safe passage through the Arabian sea and the Indian ocean?

My hon. Friend is quite right. For a nation such as the United Kingdom, where 92% of all our trade is by sea, the security of the high seas is vital. We contribute in a number of ways: through the NATO mission and through the EU’s Operation Atalanta, which we command and to which we make a military contribution. It is also worth pointing out that there are contributions from other countries, which are increasingly recognising that the security of the high seas goes a lot wider than any of the alliances I have mentioned—particularly given the importance of trade—and is in fact a global security responsibility.

Britain’s contribution to NATO, after the United States and along with France, is by far the most important, because we spend a good chunk of our GDP on defence. Can the Secretary of State confirm that he is doing everything to ensure that we spend more than 2% of GDP on defence in the coming review, and that if we fall below 2%—to the level of the runtish, anaemic armies of some of our European allies—he will not stay in the Cabinet, but resign and protest against such an attack on our status as a world armed power?

We are subjected to quite a lot of humbug in the Chamber, but that takes the biscuit. This Government are committed to the security of the United Kingdom, but we will have to deal with defence expenditure in the light of the huge economic disaster that we inherited from the outgoing Labour Government, and of the fact that we have a massively overspent and overcommitted defence programme, for which the previous Government never bothered to put any money into the budget.