Question for the Secretary of State for Defence

I tabled a question for the Secretary of Defence at Defence Questions and was called at No. 8 on the Order paper. The question was: “What steps he is taking to ensure the UK meets its obligations to NATO.”

The Minister for Armed Forces answered: “Our commitment to NATO is unwavering. We have strengthened our force posture in Estonia, stationed a light cavalry squadron in Poland, provided the NATO mission in Kosovo with personnel, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and provided specialist personnel to the NATO mission in Iraq. The national flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, sailed over the weekend, and will shortly fly the NATO flag as the NATO flagship while on operations in the Euro-Atlantic. We contribute to every NATO mission, declare our nuclear deterrent to NATO, and consistently spend at least 2% of gross domestic product on defence. We will maintain our leading position in NATO over the decades ahead.”

My follow-up question to the Minister’s reply was: “I place on record my condolences to the current Defence Secretary, and my thanks to the former Defence Secretary, whom we wish well in whatever he undertakes to do. I thank the Minister for his full response. He will know that NATO’s obligations are to work with partners, so can he say what discussions he has had with his counterparts in NATO about working with the African Union to ensure stability and security in that region?”

The Minister for Armed Forces answered: “Colleagues have rightly offered their condolences to the new Secretary of State, and remarked on the anniversary of 9/11, but the thing that has maybe fallen through the cracks is for us to send our regards to the former Secretary of State, with whom I had the great pleasure of working for three and a half years. His effort and contribution to defence was quite extraordinary, and I think he will be remembered in history as one of the great Secretaries of State. He should be very proud of everything he achieved. The right hon. Lady is absolutely right that NATO’s southern flank, Africa, is of enormous importance to Europe and the security of the Euro-Atlantic. It will not surprise her to know that, in the wake of the coups over the summer in both Niger and Gabon, conversations among European Defence Ministers and NATO Defence Ministers have been regular and urgent as people seek to understand what the response could be. It does not look like it is one in which NATO would be to the fore, but it is clearly in NATO’s interests that a European response in Africa to these coups is forthcoming.”