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European Defence Agency

Volume 575: debated on Monday 3 February 2014

I can confirm that the UK has successfully blocked any increase in the EDA’s budget for the fourth consecutive year. Hon. and right hon. Members would agree, I think, that it would be perverse to squeeze defence budgets at home while acquiescing to increases in Brussels. As a result of the UK’s action, the agency has been forced to prioritise its work plan to focus on delivery of key European capability shortfalls. We note that some progress has been made, but there is much scope for further improvement, notably from efficiencies from the current internal reorganisation process.

I thank the Minister for his excellent reply. Will he tell the House by what percentage the European Defence Agency’s budget would have increased over the past four or five years had it not been for the UK Government’s determination to keep its costs down?

I cannot give my hon. Friend the precise figure he seeks, although it has been flat cash, so he can probably do the maths himself. What is more important is to compare the European Defence Agency’s operational budget with its functional budget. I am afraid it is not a particularly pretty picture, because in 2010 the operational budget was €8.4 million and in 2014 it €6.4 million, while the figures for the functional budget are €22.1 million and €24.1 million. My hon. Friend will therefore understand why we feel strongly that there is scope for further reform at the European Defence Agency.

Following the meeting on the common security and defence policy on 19 and 20 December, the European Council called for the development of an EU cyber-defence policy framework in 2014. Will the Minister tell us what that will mean for us, in terms of our involvement and responsibilities, and explain how it will interplay with the work on cyber-security currently being undertaken by NATO?

The first thing to say is that we should resist absolutely any duplicity—[Interruption]—any duplication between NATO and the European Defence Agency. It goes without saying that we should avoid duplicity at all times. The important point to note is that cyber-security is a sovereign capability and is therefore not something that we believe should be subcontracted to supranational organisations. Of course we have to discuss doctrine and dogma and how we interact with this evolving modality, but cyber-security remains a sovereign capability as far as we are concerned.