§ 2. Mr. Latham
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the outcome of his review of the combat performance of the equipment and weapons of the United Kingdom Armed Forces during the Falkland Islands campaign.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Nott)
I intend that the White Paper on the lessons of the Falklands campaign, which I have already told the House I am producing and which will include the operational, logistic and equipment lessons, will be published before the House rises for the Christmas Recess.
§ Mr. Latham
Is my right hon. Friend aware that he cannot publish too soon the details of the alterations to defence policy that are obviously necessary in the light of the Falklands campaign? Is he also aware of the grave anxiety of Conservative supporters throughout the country at the frequent reports in The Daily Telegraph of grave dissatisfaction amongst extremely senior naval officers?
§ Mr. Nott
If my hon. Friend believes what he reads in The Daily Telegraph, and that story, he will believe anything. It is normal for journalists to check on some of the facts that they report, but apparently that practice spoils these stories. The White Paper is not intended to be a fundamental defence policy White Paper. It is about the lessons of the conflict, especially logistics, operation and equipment.
§ Mr. Nott
Yes. The Rapier system performed exceptionally well. We are providing to all our allies, both 133 to those, like the Americans, who are using Rapier, and to our other allies who are interested in the project, all the lessons that we have learnt about the equipment, which was an outstanding success.
§ Mr. John Silkin
Will the right hon. Gentleman be presenting the White Paper himself? Does he intend that there should be a debate before Christmas in which he will take part, or will that duty be left to his successor?
§ Mr. Nott
Unless the Prime Minister has a reshuffle before Christmas—I do not control that—I shall be presenting the White Paper. I hope that we can produce it in adequate time for the House to absorb it before hon. Members go away for the Christmas Recess. Whether there is a debate will be decided between the usual channels. Obviously, having published the White Paper, I should welcome a debate. Whether time can be found is a matter for discussion between the usual channels.
§ Mr. Silkin
This is a serious question. It would be curious if the White Paper issued by the right hon. Gentleman, who has announced that he intends to leave, for reasons that we understand, were to be debated by someone following him.
§ Mr. Cormack
Is the House to infer from my right hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) that there is no truth in the stories that have been appearing regularly in The Daily Telegraph?