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NATO Summit (Lisbon)

Volume 520: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2010

4. What assessment he has made of the outcomes of the NATO summit in Lisbon; and if he will make a statement. (30261)

As the Prime Minister made clear to the House on 22 November, the NATO summit was a significant success. By agreeing a new strategic concept, the alliance has shown its determination to face the security challenges of the 21st century together. The summit also took important steps to strengthen euro- Atlantic security, in Afghanistan and in relations with Russia. Our commitment to NATO is as strong as ever.

What discussions, if any, did the Secretary of State have at the NATO summit to encourage the use of the excellent training facilities at HMS Raleigh and Flag Officer Sea Training in Devonport, which contribute significantly to the local economy in the south-west?

Although we did not discuss that specifically at the NATO summit, it is clearly important that NATO nations work together on training. It is also part of our new defence treaty with France that the UK and France will work together to a much greater extent on sharing training facilities, so I will ensure that, between the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, we look at further opportunities in the area that my hon. Friend has raised.

The Lisbon conference showed the same irrational optimism about Afghanistan. Can the Minister explain why, if things are going so well, after spending $52 billion in aid Afghans are still dying in the streets of Kabul of starvation?

I do not think that the NATO summit showed irrational optimism; I think that it showed realism about the situation in Afghanistan. Bringing together all 48 troop-contributing nations of the international security assistance force in one of the sessions at the NATO summit in Lisbon underlined the fact that there are now more countries engaged in what we are doing in Afghanistan than at any stage before. We in no way minimise the fact that there are enormous challenges ahead of us on Afghanistan. Today I have laid before the House a written ministerial statement that updates hon. Members on where we think we are in Afghanistan. Many of those challenges, including in development, remain.

The Lisbon statement said nothing on the future of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. As the Foreign Secretary will be aware, the United Kingdom gave up its tactical nuclear weapons in the 1990s, as militarily useless and politically irrelevant. Will the British Government now support multilateral negotiations between NATO and Russia, so that tactical nuclear weapons can be removed from Europe as a whole?

As my right hon. and learned Friend will be aware, we said at Lisbon that NATO would remain a nuclear alliance to meet current and future threats, which does not directly address his point. The statement at Lisbon recognised the role that the alliance can play in supporting wider disarmament and non-proliferation efforts. We agreed at the summit to reviewing how NATO implements those principles. It will discuss all the strategic threats facing the alliance, and the capabilities that we need to meet them, including nuclear deterrence and missile defence. The argument that my right hon. and learned Friend presents will be part of that review.