Democratic oversight of armed forces is one of the hallmarks of democracy. The UK sometimes needs to deploy its armed forces independently of other countries – in Sierra Leone or the Falklands for example – but we are more likely to commit to military action as part of a multilateral force.
Our commitments in Bosnia, Kosovo and over Libya – and to protect ships from African pirates – take, or took place, under NATO’s command and control.
NATO decisions about military action are taken by the North Atlantic Council – where the UK is represented by a Minister or our Ambassador to NATO.
But NATO decisions are not accountable to Parliamentarians in NATO countries in the same way as their national Ministers of Defence.
This year, for the first time, NATO’s Secretary General published an annual report, and he has committed to report regularly to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on the defence budgets of NATO members and the deployability of their forces.
This is a start, but more transparency and accountability is needed. The Secretary General should answer Parliamentary Questions and report more fully on NATO policies and decisions.
Our Labour defence review should commit us to press for these changes in the North Atlantic Council.
Hugh Bayley is Labour MP for York Central and Vice President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
This article is a written submission to the Shadow Defence Review. Find out how you can get involved here.