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Volume 564: debated on Monday 17 June 2013

2. What assessment he has made of the effect on NATO’s defence capabilities of the US strategic realignment towards Asia. (159636)

We are assured that there will be no decline in the US commitment to NATO and its members. The collective benefits of NATO membership, however, come with a collective responsibility to share the burden of the alliance’s roles and missions and to pull their weight. We are discussing how all allies can contribute more to our collective security, including through the NATO defence planning process, as discussed most recently at the NATO defence ministerial meeting early this month.

What specific assessment has my hon. Friend made of the willingness of European NATO partner nations to step up to the plate when it comes to security in Europe, the middle east and north Africa and to take into account the Pacific pivot?

First, it is important to say that the Government welcome the rebalancing of US forces towards the Asia-Pacific region, which is very much in line with our assessment and renewed engagement in the area. It is hoped that partner nations will make similar determinations, noting of course the US’s continuing strong engagement in Europe and the MENA—middle east and north Africa—region, with UK encouragement, and approaching collective security and defence with renewed vigour against a very unfavourable economic backdrop.

What assessment has been made of the capacity of the Government-owned contractor-operated organisation to facilitate joint trilateral and bilateral procurement with NATO allies?

It should be no different from the current situation, but I am sure that the hon. Lady will support any measure we can take to improve defence deliverables and salvage the current position from the mess we inherited.

Does my hon. Friend agree that America’s understandable decision to shift its focus towards the Pacific puts all the more responsibility on countries such as Britain, which after all are much closer to the potential threats than America is, to keep up our armed forces despite the economic situation?

Clearly we cannot ignore the economic situation, because it poses a clear and present danger to this country and others. I think that it means that we will have to renew our efforts with our friends and allies to ensure that they, too, spend significant sums of money on defence, but I should emphasise that the US is quite clear about its continuing commitment to Europe and the MENA region, and I think we should take some comfort from that.

NATO’s defence capability includes the protection of the nuclear umbrella. Does the Minister find it incongruous in respect of NATO membership to have, on the one hand, a policy of unilateral disarmament and, on the other, to seek the protection of that nuclear umbrella? That is the policy of the SNP.

It is always nice to find common ground with the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party. On this subject, we are in violent agreement.