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NATO Reform

Volume 525: debated on Monday 14 March 2011

The UK is a leading proponent of reform in NATO. Encouraging progress has been made over the past year, with agreement on streamlining NATO’s command structure and supporting agencies and improvements to its financial management. However, swift implementation of the reforms will be key, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear at the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers last week.

In addition to those reforms, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly has the capacity to help with democratic institution-building in countries such as those in north Africa which we hope are emerging into stronger parliamentary democracies. Did the Minister’s discussions with NATO involve those capabilities?

I pay tribute to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly—indeed, I was speaking earlier to the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) who leads for the UK on that, and I would very much like to meet other Assembly representatives. However, I ought to point out that NATO is principally a military alliance. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear last week, three principles will guide any intervention in Libya: demonstrable need, a clear legal mandate, and solid support from the region. That is the policy that NATO has adopted.

Does the Minister agree that NATO reform would be pretty meaningless unless we can convince our fellow NATO members to step up to the plate and spend 2% of gross domestic product on defence?

I have to agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Lady. That point has been made by the NATO Secretary-General to those recalcitrants, and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to his counterparts. She is absolutely right and I am very pleased to support her.