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Relations with NATO Allies

Volume 667: debated on Tuesday 5 November 2019

NATO is the cornerstone of UK and Euro-Atlantic defence and security and has been for over 70 years. On 12 October I addressed the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, where I reiterated how NATO allies must work together towards our shared values and to uphold peace and the international rule of law.

When we finally leave the European Union in January, there will be six key strategic countries that are committed to the defence of our continent but are not members of the EU. Will my right hon. Friend commit to work with them and others across the continent to ensure that NATO remains the supreme defence posture, rather than the EU army proposed by Mr Verhofstadt and others?

My hon. Friend is a stalwart defender, supporter and champion of NATO and will know that we continue to meet our 2% defence spending target. We contribute to every NATO mission, including leading the Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Estonia. We also lead the Joint Expeditionary Force of up to nine NATO allies and partners, and we do not want that to be undermined by anything done within the EU. Indeed, we want to keep EU, US and North American solidarity as strong as possible.

On behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition and the Labour Front-Bench team, may I welcome you to your new role, Mr Speaker? A vital part of co-operation with our NATO allies is defending ourselves against Russian attempts to interfere with our democracy. To that end, what possible reason can the Government have to delay the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee report until after the general election? What on earth do they have to hide?

The right hon. Lady will know, as she has been in her post for quite a while now, that ISC reports go through a number of stages of clearance and other processes between the ISC and the Government. The reports often contain sensitive information, and I know that she would want to see the integrity of such information protected. The reports have to go through that process before they are published, and it usually takes several weeks to complete.

The recent average, just to respond to the hon. Gentleman, is six weeks. This report was only submitted on 17 October, so it has been handled correctly.

I am surprised that the Secretary of State could answer with a straight face.

On a related issue, I ask the Foreign Secretary a simple yes or no question pursuant to my letter to him on Friday. Does Mr Cummings have unredacted access to top-secret intelligence and unrestricted access to top-secret meetings relating to NATO, Russia, Ukraine and Syria—yes or no?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her letter. As she knows, the Government and Ministers do not comment on security clearance, but the insinuation in her letter that No. 10 is somehow in the grip of a Kremlin mole is frankly ridiculous, even by the standards of the loony left. What is troubling is that the leader of the Labour party sided with the Kremlin when it denied responsibility for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury in 2018—one more reason why this Labour party, under this leader, can never be trusted with Britain’s security.

The question is about NATO. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that one of the biggest fault lines in NATO at the moment is the fact that the largest partner is spending 4% of its GDP on defence, whereas no one else is spending much above 2%? Does he agree it is time for the UK to show a lead and commit to spending 3% of our GDP on defence in the next decade?

I pay tribute to the work my right hon. Friend did as Foreign Secretary. We are committed to and, indeed, are meeting our 2% commitment. Not all NATO members are, and we therefore continue to sympathise with the concerns of the US in that regard and encourage others to meet the commitment. I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer will look fondly and with interest at his suggestion of a 3% commitment.