HC Deb 21 June 1993 vol 227 cc24-120

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [17 June],

That this House approves the statement on the Defence Estimates 1992 contained in Cm 1981.—[Mr. Rifkind]

Question again proposed.

[Relevant documents: Defence Committee report on the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1992, First Report of Session 1992–93, HC 218; Fifth Report from the Defence Committee on Army Commitments and Resources: the Government's Response and Army Manpower Statement of 3rd February 1993, HC 731 of Session 1992–93.]

Madam Speaker

Before I call the Minister, I must announce that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. Also, although I have not imposed a 10-minute limit on speeches today, I ask right hon. and hon. Members voluntarily to restrict the length of time that they speak.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You stated that you chose the amendment in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition and of others of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I tabled an amendment before last Thursday's debate, which unfortunately you were unable to select last Thursday. What consideration have you given to the selection of that amendment, to allow the House the opportunity to express a clear view on the future holding by this country of weapons of mass destruction—nuclear weapons?

Madam Speaker

I always take seriously into consideration any amendment that is submitted to my office, as I did with the amendment in the name of the hon. Gentleman. As he will appreciate, I find it wise not to give reasons for my selection.

3.39 pm
The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Jonathan Aitken)

This is the second day of our debate on the 1992 "Statement on the Defence Estimates". Since it began last Thursday, there have been two historic developments. The Opposition have unexpectedly given birth to their long-awaited defence policy, which appears in the shape of a remarkable amendment to the main motion and can be found on page 5990 of the Order Paper. The amendment entered into the world in a somewhat furtive and surreptitious manner in the doldrums of a Friday afternoon, long after we had concluded the first day of the debate and the usual parliamentary midwives had gone home for the weekend. [Interruption.] Hon. Members cannot say it has anything to do with what the Secretary of State said, because there is no reference to the important points that he made. It was an attempt to heal Labour's wounds, exposed by the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) this afternoon.

The birth of the amendment was a difficult one, which probably gave a new meaning to the phrase "in labour". It is unusual for a policy-making Opposition amendment to be tabled in the middle of a major parliamentary debate. The Government should perhaps take credit for goading Labour into unveiling its policy. My theory is that Labour rushed into mid-debate print because of its obsession with market testing. Labour must have carried out a market test between its two defence factions and then decided that the amendment tabled by one section of the party needed some competition from another in-House bid by Friday.

I do not want to keep intruding into this unlevel playing field, but at least both wings of the Opposition have now unveiled their contradictory defence policies. As Cromwell's Ironside used to say, "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition." There is plenty of ammunition around; inevitably, the official Opposition present an easy target. The Opposition amendment is the familiar old ragbag of demands for quangos and disarmament. But there is one remarkable new demand, and that is that our conventional forces should be negotiated away. I do not know how this can possibly be squared with the Opposition's familiar cry in debate after debate that our forces are already far too overstretched. Perhaps the Opposition will later enlarge on that credibility gap. The Government categorically reject the Opposition amendment, and have no intention of negotiating away our conventional armed forces.

As I said on Thursday, this debate offers a good opportunity to explore in some breadth and depth matters such as our contribution to United Nations operations and our nuclear, naval and air equipment programmes.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

If it is true that the Government have this great commitment to conventional British forces, will the Minister tell us how he can square the commitments that we will continue to have to Belize with the Government's obvious intention to withdraw British troops from that country and, as far as we can see, deploy them in the former Yugoslavia?

Mr. Aitken

The hon. Lady probably missed Thursday's debate. If she had been here, she would have heard this matter presented in a fairer perspective. We are retaining a training presence in Belize, and there is no question of a total severance of our links.

The theme of what I have to say this afternoon might be called "centres of excellence". I use that phrase deliberately because, in the present climate of reassessment of the role and size of our armed forces, it is important to make it clear that the Government have every intention of maintaining our centres of excellence and of playing to our strengths, which are formidable.

If there is one enduring message that I have taken to heart after 15 months as a Defence Minister it is that Britain is a fortunate nation to have such dedicated, highly skilled and totally professional armed forces. Defence ultimately depends on people. Britain excels in the premier world league of fighting and peacekeeping forces because our people—our service men and women—are just about the best in the world at getting their difficult and dangerous jobs done.

The contribution of the British forces to the UN in Bosnia is an example of this excellence. The Cheshires and the Prince of Wales Regiment, and the many other units involved, can take justified pride—as the House does—in the vital work they have done and the businesslike way in which they have gone about it.

When the Cheshires deployed last November with a squadron of 9th/12th Royal Lancers, 35th Royal Engineers Regiment, 5th Ordnance battalion and other units, they faced the difficult task of translating the United Nations mandate into reality on the ground, in a country whose devastated infrastructure made self-sufficiency essential.

The first need was to ensure that the roads were passable for heavy civilian lorries. The Royal Engineers had to open up and maintain tracks over a distance of nearly 400 km, from Split on the Dalmatian coast to Tuzla in north-east Bosnia, in mountainous and muddy terrain and often in severe weather. They also had to provide accommodation for our troops and provide essential power, lighting, heating, water and protection.

The Cheshires concluded that the maximum amount of aid could be delivered to those in need only if transit areas were established. That meant that there was need for a tremendous effort in meeting and negotiating with local leaders and for intensive and high-profile patrolling in Warrior and Scimitar vehicles, which have performed so well. As the House knows, the Cheshires also provided close escorts for convoys when that was necessary. In total, they escorted 562 convoys during their six-month tour and delivered 35,690 tonnes of aid, often operating in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

In mid-May the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire, supported by a squadron of the Light Dragoons, a squadron of the 21st Engineers Regiment, the Royal Logistic Corps and other units, relieved the Cheshire battalion group. They are continuing to escort United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees convoys to north-east Bosnia. They have inherited many of the same problems as their predecessors faced. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has told the House, the recent fighting between Muslims and Croats in central Bosnia gives some cause for concern. so we continue to monitor the position closely. However, in its first month on duty, the battalion group has already been able to escort 209 convoys, delivering more than 6,000 tonnes of aid.

Taken in the round, the British contribution to the humanitarian relief effort in Bosnia must have saved tens of thousands of lives this winter in that unhappy country, and the skill and professionalism with which that job has been done have rightly won widespread international acclaim and appreciation, which I know is echoed by the whole House.

Although I have singled out the Army units in the former Yugoslavia for special praise, I am sure that the House would also like to hear a word of commendation for the naval personnel who have played an important role in the task group in the Adriatic and for the Royal Air Force personnel who have faced very real risks in the humanitarian airlift to Sarajevo.

In such roles, which incidentally are being performed elsewhere in the world—such as Cambodia, where Royal Navy personnel are deployed on United Nations operations—our service men and women are strengthening the United Nations and responding to the humanitarian efforts of the international community, and are doing so with that special British military excellence which is so much a part of our national pride and heritage.

The House will not have been surprised to hear me pay those tributes to the quality of our armed forces, but in that context I would like to mention another centre of excellence whose praises are relatively rarely sung—the Ministry of Defence's civilian staff. The Ministry employs about 155,000 civilian men and women in this country and abroad. Their skills and experience are diverse. We have teachers, fire officers, hydrographers, scientists, doctors, engineers and a host of other professions within the Ministry. The jobs carried out by civilians range from the provision of vital stores and equipment, to the repair and servicing of equipment and to policy and administrative functions inside the Ministry.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's kind words about Ministry of Defence civilian staff. As he knows, the Royal Navy spare parts department has a large facility in my constituency, but the managerial staff may be moved to the new naval support command, which will be based in Bath. The department will be moving from a brand new office block in my constituency, which will shortly be left empty. I fully understand what my hon. Friend says about preserving excellence in our armed forces and their back-up services. Would it not therefore be far more appropriate to keep together a unit that has served the nation and the Navy extremely well and, if a new naval support command is to be formed, to form it around the basis that already exists in my constituency?

Mr. Aitken

My hon. Friend's argument is persuasive on behalf of his constituents, but I know from experience that one needs to look carefully at all sides of the case when an evaluation of this kind has to be made. I shall certainly respond to my hon. Friend's point, perhaps in writing, and see whether there is anything that we can do to meet the argument that he has put forward.

My hon. Friend's general point, however, is that civilians in his constituency, and elsewhere, play an essential role, in terms of the Department, in support of our troops, sometimes even in the front line. They are integral to our defence, at all levels. We could not do without them. Since 1979, the number of civilians has been reduced by about 40 per cent., and will continue to be reduced, in line with the reductions in our armed forces.

May I now move from defence people of excellence to defence programmes of excellence and begin by highlighting the ultimate guarantor of our national security, the defence nuclear programme.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

Can the Minister of State tell us whether the Americans intend to allow us to have any more tests and whether those tests will be for a new weapons system? If we are to have more tests for a new weapons system, will that not be in contravention of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?

Mr. Aitken

The hon. Gentleman knows that we are awaiting an announcement by President Clinton in the next few days. We believe it to be imminent. I intend to say a few words about nuclear testing, but the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that we do not yet know what the American decision is.

We can be justly proud of the United Kingdom Trident programme. It remains on schedule to enter service from the mid-1990s. Since the Government's decision in 1982 to procure the Trident II weapon system, there has been no slippage in the deployment date, and there has been a decrease, in real terms, of £2.8 billion in our estimate of the procurement costs, an achievement that was warmly praised by the Select Committee.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

While the Minister is dealing with our nuclear deterrent, may I ask him about Polaris? He knows that yesterday there was a leak at Faslane which has caused great concern in the surrounding area. There has been a number of leaks from Polaris submarines. What is being done to investigate this particular incident? Can the Minister also say why these incidents are constantly occurring and what he is doing to prevent further occurrences? There seems to be an endemic problem with Polaris submarines. Action is quickly needed.

Mr. Aitken

I do not accept that there is an endemic problem. Concern about this incident should be seen in a true and measured light. I am able to confirm that there was an alert at the Clyde submarine base on the morning of 20 June. A small quantity of reactor coolant was spilt on the casing of a submarine while she was alongside. The spillage was contained on the casing and did not enter loch waters. An investigation is now under way. I should add that the activation of a nuclear alert was a correct but perhaps over-cautious response by staff to what we know now was a comparatively minor incident.

Mr. Foulkes

Does the Minister of State accept that there have been five or six previous incidents and that there is local cause for concern about the occurrence of these incidents and fear that no long-term solution has been found? The fear is that the next time round it may not be what the Minister describes as a minor incident but a major occurrence. Although many local people accept the presence of Polaris submarines, they are understandably anxious to ensure that the highest possible safety standards are maintained.

Mr. Aitken

We believe that we make every effort to maintain the highest possible safety standards. It is wrong to suggest that this was the harbinger of a major incident. It was a minor incident. I have nothing to add to the fair and full reply that I have just given.

Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

Can the Minister of State explain how we can support both the Trident programme and the non-proliferation treaty?

Mr. Aitken

We are supporters of the non-proliferation treaty as a long-term goal; there is no argument about that. We are discussing with our allies the best way of securing it, as I shall make clear in a few moments.

The point that I wish to make to all those who believe in an independent nuclear deterrent—which is not every Opposition Member—is that all parts of the Trident programme are on schedule. The progress that has been achieved represents a tremendous achievement, both for United Kingdom industry and for our own project managers.

The first submarine, Vanguard, is now nearing completion at Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. at Barrow. It is planned to be formally accepted by the Royal Navy in the summer. The second submarine, Victorious, will be launched at around the same time. Good progress is also being made with the construction of the third and fourth boats. We need a credible independent nuclear deterrent underpinning our defence strategy because it provides the ultimate guarantee of our security. Conventional forces alone cannot ensure the prevention of war. Nuclear weapons make a unique contribution by holding out to any aggressor the prospect of suffering unacceptable damage, outweighing any potential gain that he might believe he could otherwise make.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to have gradations of nuclear deterrence, and that merely to have art arsenal as an ultimate strategic deterrent may be inadequate, especially against threats from the third world—the Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein type of threat? Will he therefore closely consider re-equipping the Royal Air Force with a tactical stand-off nuclear missile, because free-fall weapons will not be adequate in view of the enhancement of air defences? We do not wish effectively to leave this area of sub-strategic deterrence in Europe to the French.

Mr. Aitken

I accept that we must carefully consider what sub-strategic weapons may be right for us in the future. I am aware of my hon. Friend's views, which he has articulated on a number of occasions.

Mr. Corbyn

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Aitken

I cannot give way to every intervention; I shall give way later.

In the changing strategic environment, the alliance has reduced its reliance on nuclear weapons, and we have played our part in that reduction. Many uncertainties and risks remain, such as the future of Russia's nuclear arsenal and, above all perhaps, the spread of nuclear technology and materials into unstable or unfriendly hands. Because we face an uncertain future, our deterrent must be adequate for whatever the future may bring. The Trident will fulfil that role, and nothing else can provide the same security or represent better value for money. That is the view of the Government.

Mr. Corbyn

The Minister has not answered the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith). The installation of the Trident submarine system represents an increase in nuclear warheads from 192 to 512—at least a 30 per cent. increase in the killing capacity of nuclear weapons. How on earth can the Government claim to adhere to the United Nations non-proliferation treaty yet propose and encourage an enormous proliferation in Britain's nuclear warheads without saying who the enemy is or at whom these vile weapons are to be directed?

Mr. Aitken

The hon. Gentleman has missed the crucial point. Our nuclear deterrent is a minimum deterrent. We do not say what warheads or missiles we may use and in what form or in what number. I can assure him, as we have often told the House and the country, that it is a minimum nuclear deterrent consistent with our national security.

Mr. Corbyn

That does not satisfy me.

Mr. Aitken

I will never satisfy the hon. Gentleman, and nor could anybody who believes that Britain should have an independent nuclear deterrent. The ideological gulf between us is too wide to be bridged. That may be healthy for democracy, but more healthy for the state of Britain is that the fact that the governing party believes firmly in the necessity of an independent nuclear deterrent.

Mr. Mark Robinson (Somerton and Frome)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Aitken

I must not give way every two minutes. I shall give way later, if necessary.

A discussion of our defence nuclear programme should lead us on to a word or two about nuclear testing, not least because it is vital to correct some of the false assertions that emerged in the speech of the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) on Thursday. Far from being in the vanguard of those who oppose a nuclear test ban, the Government are wholly in favour of a comprehensive test ban treaty as a long-term goal. We look forward to early discussions with the American Government on whether we can move more rapidly to achieve it and how it can help our aim of discouraging nuclear proliferation.

The hon. Member for South Shields was rather naive in suggesting that there is a clear linkage between nuclear testing and nuclear proliferation. In fact, it is possible to develop and deploy a cheap and dirty nuclear device without testing. It is, on the whole, the responsible international priesthood of nuclear specialists who are most supportive of nuclear testing for reasons of safety and credibility. We in Britain do not forget that our limited programme of nuclear tests has made a significant contribution to our confidence in the continued safety of our own nuclear deterrent.

Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

I have listened to the Minister carefully. Has he not read or seen the letter written to me by the Secretary of State and from which I quoted last Thursday in which the Secretary of State admits that; in the preparatory talks on the nonproliferation treaty, other signatories have said that they want evidence of progress on a comprehensive test ban treaty before they will sign an on-going NPT? That is not a wild allegation by me but a precise quotation of what the Secretary of State wrote to me.

Mr. Aitken

We too want progress and are striving towards it. We do not broadcast on the BBC or anywhere else every step in our negotiations with our friends and allies, but, as I said, we are committed to a comprehensive test ban treaty as a long-term goal.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) asked about the future of President Clinton's nuclear testing programme. Our nuclear testing programme is, to some extent, dependent on the outcome of the President's review. The House will not expect me to go into detail about the current state of our discussions with the United States Administration, but we believe that our views are well understood.

Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)

My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned the ability of some countries to develop, in particular, dirty nuclear weapons without testing. Will he assure the House that we give a high priority to and adequately fund the organisations under Britain's control which help us to identify such countries?

Mr. Aitken

Certainly; I give my hon. Friend that assurance. We do indeed make every effort in that difficult sphere.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Aitken

Yes, but I shall not do so after this time.

Mr. Campbell

The Minister has been very generous in giving way, and I am sure that the House would like to acknowledge that. A moment ago he said that Britain was, to a large extent, dependent on the United States. Of course, it is more than that—we are entirely dependent on the United States. If the United States determines that there shall be no more tests, we shall have access to no more facilities for tests. Are the three tests for which the United Kingdom is seeking authority designed to test a new weapon? While he was a Minister, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) told the House several times last year that the moratorium had no consequences for the Trident programme. If we are seeking additional tests, does not it imply that the Government wish to develop a further device?

Mr. Aitken

The answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman's question is that, although the Trident programme has been well tried and tested, we nevertheless need a programme of tests for the continuing safety and credibility of all our nuclear weapons. I cannot go further than that today.

On nuclear issues, I should like to say a word about the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and the recent "Panorama" programme about it. The fundamental point about the AWE is that it is vital to our independent nuclear deterrent. It is the intellectual industrial power house which not only ensures that our nuclear weapons meet their requirements cost-effectively but keeps them safe, effective and reliable throughout their long lives. I have no hesitation in saying that I am proud of the AWE at Aldermaston, of its splendid record of world class achievement, of its immensely skilled industrial work force and, not least, of its calm, assured and responsible attitude to safety.

I should also like to make it clear what the AWE is not. It is most certainly not the caricature institution portrayed by a recent edition of "Panorama" of unsafe buildings, shoddy procedures and mendacious Dr. Strangeloves deliberately misleading the Select Committee. In fact, when it comes to the charge of misleading the public, I hope that the director general of the BBC will take a hard, critical look at that particular edition of "Panorama" and enter a plea of guilty.

"Panorama", which is supposed to be the flagship current affairs programme of the BBC, took its AWE programme into the highly dubious territory of "faction". Actors were employed to reconstruct scenes of alarm and emergency at AWE and impersonated scientists and workers; they even pretended to be genuine interviewees answering reporters' questions. But the really serious editorial crime was that the viewers were not told that any of the scenes were theatrical reconstructions or that any of the interviewees were being played by actors.

Moreover, my Department's press office asked which of the interviewees were unacknowledged actors, which scenes were theatrical reconstructions and where, by the way, was the evidence for making the serious charge that the Select Committee was misled. The answer came back, "Sorry, we will not tell you—it is a BBC secret." That was a classic example of double standards from a programme that was critical of the Ministry of Defence for being too secretive.

Mr. Foulkes

I agree with the Minister about some of the unfortunate presentational aspects of the "Panorama" programme. I also agree that it would be unfortunate if the BBC were to get as secretive as the Ministry of Defence. But two people on the programme—the former director and an official of the Health and Safety Executive—made valid and sensible criticisms about safety at Aldermaston. It is clear that there are delays in the provision of some buildings.

I hope that, notwithstanding the presentational problems of the programme, the Minister will give clear assurances that those two people's criticisms will be looked into and that a report will be published so that everyone can see and know that that establishment is completely safe.

Mr. Aitken

I referred the small incident at AWE to the Health and Safety Executive, and I agreed with the executive that it should publish its report. There is no doubt that a responsible and measured approach to those issues will be taken. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman seems to have come off his high horse of suggesting that I should appear on the programme. I somehow missed out on doing that. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I am not an actor and I did not want to appear. I am sure that I made the right judgment.

Let me refer to some non-nuclear equipment programme matters, which I know are potentially of interest to the House. The first is Eurofighter 2000, a project that remains the keystone of the RAF's future capability. It is good to recall that the project enjoys support from all parts of the House. That support made an important contribution to the project's success in negotiating a turbulent passage last year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), who is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, and the hon. Member for Carlisle, who wound up for the Opposition on Thursday, both raised valid questions about the cost of the programme and the delay in achieving the first flight. The cost figures are complicated but consistent. Recent press speculation concerning a 50 per cent. increase in the cost of the project is, I am glad to say, wide of the mark. The increase in real terms since the start of the EFA development in 1988 is about 10 per cent. I do not welcome that figure or view it with complacency, but such an increase—particularly as it relates to estimates—is not altogether surprising for such a complex international project at the leading edge of technology.

The hon. Member for Carlisle raised the matter of the aircraft's first flight. I share his disappointment that the aircraft did not fly at this year's Paris air show—although, on second thoughts, Paris may have been an inappropriate venue as the French opted out of the project.

Nevertheless, I am glad to have an opportunity to assure the House that the delay is not an indication of major difficulties but the consequence of a number of relatively minor, but time-consuming, technical problems that have to be resolved. Central to those is the proving and qualification of the software for the aircraft's flight control system. With an aerodynamically sophisticated computer-controlled aircraft of that type, the integration of the software is clearly critical to flight safety. There is nothing that cannot be solved here, but the work is taking longer than was originally expected. The precise timing of the first flight is a matter not for the Government but for the manufacturers to decide. I am confident that we will he seeing the aircraft make a successful first flight this year.

With the German funding problems well on the way to being solved, and an excellent spirit of co-operation now flourishing among the partners, the future of the Eurofighter 2000 project now looks in good shape.

Mr. Mark Robinson

A defence debate is the only occasion on which we do not hear employment mentioned by the Opposition. My hon. Friend's announcement will be welcomed by my constituents who work at Normalair-Garrett in Yeovil. I also congratulate my hon. Friend on his announcement last week that the Sonar 2054 contract would be awarded to Marconi at Templecombe, in my constituency. That is an excellent fully integrated underwater system, and the announcement is good news not just for Somerset but for those who live in Dorset and work in my constituency. It is also important for the west country, where the defence industries are so important.

Mr. Aitken

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He reminds us, as do other hon. Members from time to time, that, although the defence requirement of the Eurofighter and other projects is the Government's predominant concern, nevertheless there are important industrial factors to consider. Eurofighter 2000 should create some 28,000 jobs in Britain and 60,000 jobs across Europe. Already some 300 companies—some of them in my hon. Friend's constituency—are working in the high-tech area of the development phase. It would be tragic if, in the military aviation business in which we have been so successful since the days of the Spitfire and the Hurricane, we were to opt out. That would be a sad day industrially for Britain.

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

The project was supported by both sides of the House.

Mr. Aitken

It was accepted by all parties, as the hon. Gentleman would have heard me make clear a few moments ago, if he had been listening.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Aitken

No. I am trying to speak about the Royal Navy's new helicopter carrier.

The understandable sadness about the consequences of our choice of contractor for the future of Swan Hunter has rather overshadowed the importance of that vessel to the Royal Navy. We expect the LPH to enter service towards the end of the decade and to remain in service until the end of the first quarter of the 21st century.

Mr. Stephen Byers (Wallsend)

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way on this specific point. He rightly refers to the disappointment felt on Tyneside about the loss of that order. He will also be aware of the concern that, because Swan Hunter is now in receivership, it may not be permitted to complete the contract on the three frigates that are presently in the yard. I urge the Minister to state that the Ministry of Defence wants the work to be completed on Tyneside. I urge him to reach a speedy conclusion in the current discussions between his Department and the receivers to lift the cloud of uncertainty that currently hangs over shipbuilding on the River Tyne.

Mr. Aitken

I am certainly sympathetic to the point made by the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members whose constituencies are in that part of the country. Those matters are under active discussion between the receiver and ourselves and we are cautiously optimistic that a satisfactory outcome may be possible, but it is too early to say that definitively. We are certainly trying to achieve what the hon. Gentleman hopes we will achieve.

I shall continue to make the obvious point about the helicopter carrier—that it will be a highly versatile ship, with spots for 12 assault helicopters and accommodation for several hundred fully armed troops. It will incorporate all the lessons on damage control learnt from the Falklands conflict. Above all, it will strengthen our armed forces' amphibious capability, which is just the type of highly flexible, mobile and sustainable capability that may be needed more than ever in the changing security environment of the 21st century.

At the beginning of my speech, I said that there had been two historic developments since the debate began on Thursday. The first was when the Opposition gave birth to their latest defence policy, and the second was also an Opposition initiative. An historic first occurred during the opening speech of the hon. Member for South Shields when he made a joke. I correct myself; he borrowed someoned else's joke—from the diary of Alan Clark—probably the Opposition's only joke book because, when the hon. Member for Carlisle wound up, he too relied on quotes and jests from Alan Clark's compendium of wit and wisdom.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

I quoted from the book "The Donkeys", written 30 years ago, but the comment still applies td the Minister today.

Mr. Aitken

Donkeys, diaries, it all comes to much the same thing. That is the Opposition's source of speech ideas. Having discovered its source, I thought I had better catch up on this esoteric homework, so over the weekend I too dipped into Alan Clark's fascinating reminiscences of life as the Minister for Defence Procurement.

My weekend reading left me with the grim realisation that I must seem a very dull, drab, impecunious and unimaginative successor to my friend Alan Clark. Leaving aside one or two faintly envious feelings of regret on personal lifestyle matters, such as the fact that I do not regularly spin down the motorway to Kent at 140 mph in my Porsche for assignations in my medieval castle, what I found really riveting was my predecessor's work style within the Department. As he might have put it, during his days at the Ministry of Defence, the actualité was always highly mouvementé. After one has got through the paragraphs in the diaries that echo literary fantasies more commonly associated with Harold Robbins or with John le Carré than with the home life of our own dear MOD, one clear truth emerges from Alan Clark's writings on which I feel considerable empathy with and sympathy for the author.

All Ministers who have had the honour to serve in the Ministry of Defence since the destruction of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the subsequent disintegration of the Warsaw pact and of the Soviet Union have had to wrestle with one of the most difficult and testing policy judgments of 20th century politics: how do we adjust Britain's defence strategy, spending and policy to the needs of the new security environment while maintaining the standards of excellence that have kept us a premier fighting and peacekeeping force among the leading nations of the international community?

Alan Clark had his own idiosyncratic and, at times, valuable input in the area. In his somewhat different style, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) did the state great service when he produced his measured blueprint in the shape of his "Options for Change" statement in July 1990. However, no sooner was the ink dry on "Options for Change" than we had further upheavals in the security environment, such as the continuing instability within Russia, the muscle-flexing of Iran and of North Korea and the growing evidence that the demise of the communist empire had released tectonic forces of nationalistic hatred and violence of which the Bosnia tragedy may have been only the first eruption.

Against that background, my right hon. and learned Friend the present Secretary of State for Defence has had to make further changes and adjustments to aspects of "Options for Change". Some, such as the increase in Army manpower, have already been announced. Without our Department and within the Government as a whole, we have had a rigorous intellectual and strategic debate whose conclusions will become known when my right hon. and learned Friend publishes next month what I predict will be a seminal White Paper refitting and outlining Britain's defence policy, with more detailed information and explanation than has ever before been published.

Parliament too has a vital part to play in the continuing great debate. There were some valuable contributions to it last Thursday, although not, I am bound to say, from the Opposition. Indeed, looking back on Thursday's debate, the high point was surely the excellent speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) and his spirited exchange with my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster, who chairs the Select Committee on Defence with such distinction. Their exchange elegantly delineated one of the basic issues that we face in defence policy today.

My right hon. Friend the former Minister of State for the Armed Forces put most eloquently the argument that we cannot realistically expect a larger defence budget and that we must match our commitments accordingly. My hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee, on the other hand, quite fairly drew attention to our responsibilities as a permanent member of the Security Council and to the unique contribution that our forces can make. He said that we should not allow a resource ceiling to be the controlling factor on the size of our forces. Those exchanges put into relief the classic dilemma of the defence planner today.

The reality is that one has to make a judgment. Government is all about choosing. Of course, our defence posture should not be purely resource led, nor is it, but nor should it be unconstrained by resource considerations. The harsh fact is that defence expenditure must take its place within our overall priorities for public expenditure. As I said, we have to make a judgment about the level of forces and about the quality of equipment required to meet the contingencies that are likely to arise. That will always involve an element of risk. Total security in defence would mean the total bankruptcy of the Exchequer.

The judgments that we have to make should be supported by a most rigorous analysis of our military commitments and of the forces needed to fulfil them. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has said, at the moment we have in hand precisely such an analysis. Its conclusions and the judgments that we reach based on them will be set out fully in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1993" which we expect to publish in the first week of July. When they see it, I am confident that my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster and other right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in this debate will be impressed by the careful thought that we have given the issues and that there will be far greater understanding and support for the policies set out in the White Paper.

I doubt whether the Opposition will support the forthcoming White Paper any more than they will support the White Paper that we are debating today. To judge by the Opposition amendment on this midsummer's day, they are living in a midsummer night's dream world on defence.

Mr. Martlew

Come on, Bottom.

Mr. Aitken

The hon. Gentleman calls out, "Come on, Bottom." That is just who we are missing: the actor who spends half the play wearing the head of a donkey. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Carlisle is applying for that job.

The Opposition's amendment brays about the starry-eyed proposals of disarmament, defence conversion, quangos and negotiating away our conventional forces. The record of the Government's solid achievement, which I have tried to outline today, contrasts only too clearly with the hollow sham that passes for Opposition defence policy as reflected by their amendment. I urge the House to reject it as decisively as it deserves.

4.20 pm
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

I beg to move, to leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: 'believes that the Government's plans, sketched out in the Statement on the Defence Estimates, Cm. 1981, demonstrate its unwillingness and inability to analyse the long term security needs of the United Kingdom; calls upon the Government to undertake a full defence review which properly assesses UK defence requirements in the light of the recent and fundamental changes in the strategic situation; demands an immediate end to British nuclear testing, which would greatly assist efforts to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons; urges the inclusion of British nuclear and conventional forces in further international disarmament negotiations; and condemns the Government for its failure to provide effective assistance for defence industry diversification or the housing and employment needs of ex-service personnel.'. I start my first speech in an estimates debate as an Opposition Defence spokesman by joining hon. Members on both sides of the House who, in Thursday's debate, sent good wishes to British troops serving overseas in Bosnia and in the other areas of conflict around the world. The confidence that we have in their courage and ability is, unfortunately, in stark contrast to the widespread lack of confidence in the Government's defence policy.

As my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) said last Thursday, we welcome this debate on the estimates White Paper. However, there are some remarkable features to the debate. First, it is remarkable that we have managed to squeeze it in just in the nick of time. As the Minister has just said, the 1993 White Paper is due to be published in only a fortnight's time. Secondly, and even more remarkably, in opening this two-day debate—what the Minister of State for Defence Procurement described to me privately as an "all-singing, all-dancing debate"—the Secretary of State spoke for almost an hour and said almost nothing, which was unlike his normal eloquent self.

The Secretary of State began with a few comments about Bosnia and we welcome those. At the end, he launched a rather limp, personal attack on my colleagues and myself—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We can take it and we can give it as well: just wait for it. Almost all the Secretary of State's speech was devoted to a long and detailed announcement about the Navy and Air Force reserves which incurred the slightly delayed wrath—I understand the reason for that delay—of most of his Conservative colleagues as they began fully to understand the implications.

That announcement could have been made better as an oral statement when questions could have been asked directly and perhaps answered. Many questions still remain unanswered, not least the question that both Conservative and Opposition Members raised. which relates to page 4 of the document which, the Secretary of State seemed to forget, was issued by his predecessor as Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), who is in the Chamber today and who is known to Alan Clark as TK. The document states: The Department should consider extending employment protection to Reserves for training endorsed by the Secretary of State when full-time training is needed for an emergency. Important questions like that have yet to be answered. As many hon. Members said on Thursday, that is a very important issue.

However, the real purpose of Thursday's announcement was revealed in a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) by the Minister of State, who admitted that the purpose of the exercise was to save £10 million. This is the latest in a series of random, salami slicing of the forces' manpower: first, the regiments; then the full-time sailors, air men and air women and now the reserves. All the cuts were dictated by the Treasury with no assessment of how they fit in with the developing defence requirements of the country.

Defence strategy formed no part of the Secretary of State's speech and neither did any of the major defence issues facing this country. The Secretary of State was a dog of war which did not bark. There was no mention of NATO, European security structures, arms control or peacekeeping, which are all covered in detail in the White Paper that we are supposed to be discussing.

What is the explanation? I am a reasonable person, as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps the charitable explanation is that the Secretary of State did not want to pre-empt the 1939—[Interruption]—the 1993 White Paper. It seemed like 1939. That was a very Freudian slip, perhaps it was even Adlerian. Perhaps he did not want to pre-empt the White Paper, but that has not inhibited the Secretary of State in the past. Or is it because each issue is so tricky that an ambitious Cabinet Minister—he is indeed an ambitious Cabinet Minister—wants to play it safe in the volatile world of the Cabinet of today? More likely, is it because the Government are so racked with indecision and uncertainty on defence, as on other issues, that there is no longer any coherent strategy or clear policy to expound?

It is the Secretary of State's misfortune to preside over a Department which has been forced to make major cuts in expenditure. It is his great mistake, however, to attempt to carry out such major cuts—well in excess of "Options for Change"—without anything that approaches a full strategic analysis and review. The Minister of State, in the eloquent last few paragraphs of his speech, covered those points, but, of course, the answer to his dilemma is to conduct the review for which we and even some Conservative Members have been arguing for so long. A full review is the sine qua non of defence policy in the post-cold war world. Yet again, there were calls for such a review on Thursday.

The entire Defence team has been in full-scale retreat for months. No Minister has demonstrated the decisiveness or the progressive thinking that are needed. It is small wonder that the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) chose to be airlifted out of the trenches.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement has had constant criticism from Back-Bench Conservative Members, yet he had strange support from an unexpected quarter. I hope that he read The Independent on Sunday in March, which quoted his old friend Baroness Thatcher singling him out for praise because of his arms sales negotiations. Perhaps she has a wee bit of a vested family interest. She described the Minister of State as one of the few Ministers doing well, adding rather wickedly and who would have thought that". [Interruption.] It all comes back.

Much of the Minister of State's supposed success has been in securing British arms contracts in the middle east. I hate to spoil the party, but his actual record of success has been fairly patchy: reconfirmation of an old deal—Yamamah 2—the signing of the memorandum with Kuwait, and a relatively small contract for 36 tanks to Oman: only 18 definite and 18 predicted. Compare that with the 400 Leclerc tanks that the United Arab Emirates have bought from France or more than 200 Abrams tanks sold to Kuwait from the United States. In both cases, the British Challenger 2 lost out. If the Minister of State is one of the most successful Ministers, that says something for the rest of them, doesn't it?"

One of the major issues that the Secretary of State did not touch on and one of the major issues in defence circles is the role of the United Nations in peacekeeping and humanitarian work, not just in Bosnia and Somalia but in general. The Opposition support the enhanced role for the United Nations in peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts, but more emphasis needs to be put on preventive peacekeeping, with diplomacy and conciliation at an early stage. We welcome United Nations resolution 795 on the deployment of a preventive peacekeeping force in Macedonia as a good example of that.

However, one of the consequences of the increased United Nations role and of Britain playing its full part in it is the emphasis on manpower and on equipment to support the fast, flexible deployment of such manpower—equipment such as the EH101. That is why the current service manpower cuts are so short-sighted. They do not recognise that new and expanding role and they are being done merely for the quickest possible savings to satisfy the Treasury.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Hercules, which came into squadron service in the Royal Air Force in 1967, when it equipped one of our squadrons then based in Singapore and was one of the aircraft that brought Britain's resources back from east of Suez, is still in service more than 25 years later, and facing equal, if not greater, demands and placing even more demands on the crews who are flying that aircraft in very dangerous air?

Mr. Foulkes

I agree fully with my hon. Friend. Indeed, I was going to mention that matter later, but I do not need to do so, as he spelt it out so eloquently. I agree with him.

A proper defence review would have identified the range of new needs, new threats, equipment such as the Hercules to which my hon. Friend referred and the manpower required to meet them and, incidentally, the systems and equipment that are no longer necessary such as the tactical air-to-surface missile or any replacement for the free-fall bomb. The review would have examined the respective roles of NATO, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Western European Union and the need to develop complementary roles and forces for every country in the framework.

The Secretary of State did not mention arms control, which is a crucial issue. As my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields said, it is essential that Britain abandons its unnecessary and unhealthy craving for more nuclear tests. How can we—this deals with what the Minister said earlier—reasonably propose, as the White Paper says, that we will suggest to the non-proliferation treaty conference in 1995 that there should be an indefinite extension of the treaty if we are still testing at the same time and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) rightly said, increasing the number of warheads on Trident from the level on Polaris?

There is a link between the non-proliferation treaty and the comprehensive test ban treaty, as the Secretary of State agreed in his letter to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields.

Mr. Llew Smith

I shall ask my hon. Friend the same question about the non-proliferation treaty that I asked the Minister, who failed to answer. How can we support that treaty and the Trident programme?

Mr. Foulkes

I understand the point made by my hon. Friend. It will be dealt with in great detail by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid). [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] I hope that all hon. Members will wait until the end to hear my hon. Friend deal with it in great detail.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

It is worth waiting for.

Mr. Foulkes

There is more to come. Nuclear weapons are not the only horrific weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

Sometimes the trailer is better than the big picture.

Mr. Foulkes

The comic is even better.

The Secretary of State did not tell us when the Government will take the necessary action in the legislative programme to implement the provisions of the chemical weapons convention. That is important. Incidentally, I hope that the Government will examine the allegations that the Iranian arms supply office in London is to be reopened, and ensure that that does not happen. London is still tarred with the reputation of being the arms-dealing capital of the world.

I can understand why the Secretary of State felt shy on Thursday about mentioning the Trident refit. At the very least, he could have told the House what stage had been reached in the decision-making process and when an announcement could be expected. I hope that the Minister of State will recall that, in the Navy debate in early May, he said that it would be in a few weeks—and we are still waiting. The Government's indecision and the futher delay on the issue have been devastating.

The polarisation that has taken place between Rosyth and Devonport has deepened over the months as the delay increases. It is unfortunate that the managing director of Devonport Management Ltd. said on Scottish television that this is a fight to the death between the two yards as the Government continue to dither. Tory Members from south-west England and Scotland have been forced to raise the stakes and the two yards are pushed into what could ultimately be a destructive Dutch auction.

The Secretary of State rightly pledged a two-yard solution but that has been made increasingly difficult as the procrastination continues. Such a solution will be possible only if the yard that does not get the Trident refit gets some long-term guarantee of other naval work. The matter could have been dealt with much more quickly and with greater certainty of success if the two dockyards had still been under direct Government control instead of facing the uncertainty of contractorisation and privatisation.

If it were in the commercial interests of the company that did not win the Trident refit to reject an alternative, it would have no hesitation in doing so. The Opposition's view is that it is in the strategic and security interests, as well as the economic and employment interests, of the nation that the two dockyards should remain open. By a continuation of delay and dogma, the Government have made that increasingly less likely. I urge that the announcement should be made soon and that it should contain long-term assurances for both Rosyth and Devonport.

Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe)

The hon. Gentleman referred earlier to the United Kingdom's including its nuclear deterrent in disarmament negotiations. He now seems to have left the subject of disarmament negotiations. The House would welcome hearing his party's view on the proposal set out in the amendment to include British conventional forces in international disarmament negotiations. Does the hon. Gentleman intend to touch on that important subject?

Mr. Foulkes

I shall certainly touch on it. I shall give a preview or a trailer, as the Secretary of State described it. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North will pick up the subject later. I shall come to it shortly, but before I do I want to deal with the issue of arms to Iraq, another item which, understandably, the Secretary of State did not touch on.

Many of the revelations from the Scott inquiry so far have shed some light on the Government's knowledge of, and complicity in, the sending of arms-related equipment to Iraq. I shall not go into too much detail, but I wish to draw particular attention to the role played by IMS—a Government-owned arms company.

The inquiry heard how IMS built for Iraq a weapons complex to prepare Exocet missiles and applied to export spare parts for Chieftain tanks. New Ministry of Defence documents have revealed how military advisers recommended that IMS—remember that it is the Government's own arms export company—be rebuked for trying to break the Government's guidelines. I raised the activities of IMS last year, as did some of my hon. Friends. When I met Lord Justice Scott. I asked him to examine the company as part of his inquiry.

My colleagues and I received for my trouble a vitriolic and ill-judged personal attack from the Secretary of State in a speech during last year's debate on arms to Iraq. I shall make no personal attack on him in return. After all, it is his birthday, so it would be inappropriate for me to do so and I can leave that to some of the rightwingers on his own side.

I wish to respond seriously to the Secretary of State's charge that Labour smeared British companies. I have criticised no British company. I believe that companies were led by the Government in exporting defence equipment to Iraq. The Secretary of State also accused me of using the tactics of the spiv and the trickster. He did so for the sole reason that I used information provided by people who wished to remain anonymous. I was attempting to piece together the extent to which Britain had contributed to Saddam's war machine. Surely the Secretary of State does not blame those who wish to remain anonymous and who have seen what happened to the directors of Matrix Churchill and other companies.

The spivs and tricksters are those who seek to have one policy publicly, while pursuing another privately. The Secretary of State reached some new heights of hypocrisy in seeking to divert attacks on Government policy by making personal attacks on Opposition Members.

Mr. Corbyn

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Does he recall that a year after the bombing with chemical weapons of Kurdish places such as Halabja by Saddam Hussein in 1988, the British Government supported the Baghdad arms fair and bankrolled British companies to take part in it and sell defence-related equipment to the Baghdad regime? They were then surprised when the whole thing developed into a war.

Mr. Foulkes

My hon.-Friend is right. It is a continuing series of tragedies that British forces often have to go into theatres of war and face weapons supplied by previous British Governments.

I shall now deal with conventional weapons. There must be some attempt to halt the spread of conventional weapons. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North will deal with some aspects of that.

The effect of the arms trade was put into perspective recently by a report from the organisation Saferworld—its director of communications is a former Conservative candidate for Edinburgh, South and is known to the Secretary of State and me. That report compared the level of regional arms sales with the cost of peacekeeping in those regions. It concluded that Britain, in the 10 years up to 1991, sold £3.8 billion worth of arms to areas where the United Nations is now peacekeeping and that, last year alone, Britain had to pay £250 million to finance the growing United Nations burden. British troops will take part in operations to quell conflicts fuelled by British arms. Surely that is remarkable stupidity.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement does not seem to remember that I welcomed the establishment of the United Nations arms register. It was the Prime Minister who suggested that first step towards some control of conventional arms. The scope of the register must be extended, the types of weapon included should be increased and more specific information should be given about how old or how sophisticated certain weapons are. Information about a state's domestic weapons procurement could also be included. Such an extended register would greatly increase transparency.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

The hon. Gentleman referred to the Saferworld report. Was his attention also attracted by the affirmation in that report of what many people had suspected, that the five most successful arms-selling countries in the world are the five permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations?

Mr. Foulkes

The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a telling point, as he did in the Navy debate.

Diversification was another subject unmentioned by the Secretary of State or the Minister of State for Defence Procurement. In view of what I am about to say, I can understand why. The rate of job losses in the defence industry is deeply worrying and has been seriously underestimated by the Ministry of Defence. The Minister of State for Defence Procurement informed the House: The number of lost jobs since 1990 is approximately 40,000".—[Official Report, 9 March 1993; Vol. 220, c. 769.] The hon. Gentleman has since admitted that he was wrong. The MOD's estimate of the number of job losses was at least 25, per cent. too low. According to the Library, the true figure of defence-related job losses since June 1990, including redundancies from the armed forces, is approximately 81,000.

If we apply the MOD's calculation to subcontractors, it reveals that, for each job lost in a primary supplier, 0.87 jobs have been lost from subcontracting firms. The overall total number of job losses since "Options for Change" was published is three times greater than the Minister of State was prepared to admit. If the Government do not even know the scale of job losses, how can we expect them to do something to prevent them?

On Thursday, Ministers sought to imply that there was some contradiction between what I have said in the past and my policy today. We should follow the practice of other Governments, however, including that of the United States, and take an active role in helping defence companies to convert from arms production to civil production. We should set up a Government agency for that purpose. [Interruption.] This is an important issue. Ministers often shrug their shoulders for years at various suggestions, but are finally forced to take them up. That is what the United States Government had to do.

Our Government agency could meet, head on, the shrinking defence market, which is the major challenge facing the defence industry. It could assist the vast amount of British skill and expertise in that market to produce for civil industry. We need vision from central Government, but all we get is inaction on a grand scale.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) mentioned Belize, because the decision to withdraw our garrison is extremely short-sighted. The remaining troops will have a training role—they will not fulfil their previous function. When the Government made their announcement they said that their assessment of the security threats to Belize is that they are very low". Just a few days later, there was a coup in Guatemala. The subsequent instability in that country proves that the military remains a dominant force there. Surely Ministers, especially those in the MOD, should remember from their experience in the south Atlantic that sending the wrong signals to Latin America can be extremely dangerous. I hope that the MOD will give some further thought to that decision.

I hope that when the Minister of State for the Armed Forces replies to the debate he will also clarify the future of the Caribbean guard ship, because nothing explicity has been said about it. It not only has an important defence role, but an important disaster relief role when hurricanes strike.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Has the hon. Gentleman lost his way, as he does not appear to be keeping to the terms of the Opposition amendment, which calls specifically for the inclusion of … conventional forces in further international disarmament negotiations"? The hon. Gentleman has, however, specifically expressed concern about reducing the number of our armed forces around the world. He appears to be speaking in opposition to his amendment.

Mr. Foulkes

I can understand that the hon. Gentleman, as a Back Bencher, is unaware of the conventional forces in Europe negotiations, which are already under way, but I was most surprised that the Minister also seemed to be unaware of them. As I have already said, my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North, who is an acknowledged world expert on this matter, will deal with it in more detail later.

As the Minister has said, the Opposition have consistently given full support to the Eurofighter project. Indeed, one of my first acts as Opposition spokesman on procurement was to reaffirm Labour's support for the fighter at a time when the project was in serious trouble. The aircraft is the fighter which the Royal Air Force needs for the next century. We fully support the continuation of the programme on that strategic basis.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

I acknowledge the support that the hon. Gentleman has given to the project. Can he tell the House what he is doing to convince the members of the Social Democratic party, the SPD, in Germany of the need for that aircraft so that we can go forward together?

Mr. Foulkes

I have had discussions, courtesy of the Minister of State, with members of the SPD, but, more importantly, my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields has had discussions with high-ranking members of that party. He has stressed our support for the Eurofighter project. The Minister said that he expected the cost of the project to increase by 10 per cent. The Daily Telegraph said of the cost increases: This is creative accounting to eclipse even the most adventurous City takeover arithmetic. I hope that the Minister will spell out exactly how he reached that figure of 10 per cent.

I also hope that the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will state, simply, Britain's share of the overall cost and whether our share is expected to rise in the next few years even above the 10 per cent. increase forecast.

It might also be helpful if the Minister were able to ask the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle about Britain's share of the work on Eurofighter. The Opposition hope that that share will match the level of our contribution.

Mr. Aitken

The work share arrangements cannot possibly be finalised until we enter the production phase. It is premature for any decisions to be made now. They will be made by industry on the basis of the off-take of the numbers of aircraft. That must await the final decision of the four Governments as we enter the production phase.

Mr. Foulkes

I am grateful to the Minister for that information. I am sure that he would agree, however, that, as those decisions are made, we should bear in mind our contribution and ensure that we get a fair, rather than an unduly unfair, return on it.

The Opposition still support Eurofighter as an essential project, but that does not mean that we are in favour of a blank cheque. Money that is overspent on Eurofighter could and should be spent on other badly needed defence projects.

I had intended to mention other procurement projects, such as the EH101 and the Challenger I upgrade. I hope that, at some point, we shall have an opportunity to pursue the particular procurement issues with which the MOD is faced and which are subject to delay. My hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) has already mentioned the great delays to which the Hercules replacement project has been subject.

I know that a great many right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate in the debate so, in conclusion, I should like to return to the Secretary of State's attempt, last week, to divert attention from his own inadequacies. I know that there are many diversionary tactics—the RAF experts, of whom there are many here, describe it as laying down chaff. That is exactly what the Secretary of State was doing on Thursday—laying down chaff.

Mr. Wolfson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Foulkes

More chaff.

Mr. Wolfson

I think not. As the hon. Gentleman is returning, presumably, to what he sees as the key issues, may I remind him that the key issues in the debate on Thursday were costs and expenditure? The hon. Gentleman has mentioned a number of projects which the Labour party supports. Will he tell us how, in terms of Labour policy, all that will be paid for? Will it be at the same level as now, at a higher or at a lower level?

Mr. Foulkes

It was best put in the manifesto on which we fought the last election. It said: We will provide whatever resources are needed for effective defence for our country, providing the necessary level of forces with the appropriate equipment and weapons. That pledge was not included in the Conservative party manifesto. In the year since the election, we have seen cuts that are unco-ordinated and unplanned because the Government do not have an overall defence strategy. In the debate on the Navy, I said, and it bears repeating, that the people whom we represent have fought in successive conflicts, including the Falklands. There are those who fight and those who support them, cooking the meals and repairing the vehicles.

We seek the resolution of conflict by peaceful means. We want to stop the arms trade which fuels such conflicts. We want to alleviate the underlying poverty and prejudice on which conflicts breed. If we fail in peaceful resolution of such conflicts, and if the security of our country or our allies is threatened, we accept the need to defend ourselves and the corollary of that—that we need to provide the means to make that defence both credible and effective.

The bottom line on the Government's defence policy is that it is in a mess. Time and again, those on the Treasury Bench have had to make embarrassing retreats and postpone important decisions. The few decisions that they have made have been exposed as plain wrong. They stand guilty of inconsistency, indecision and old-fashioned incompetence.

4.52 pm
Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

I congratulate the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) on his speech—the first that I have heard him make from the Front Bench—and compliment him on his vigour and gall. I would not have used the word "chaff' against my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman reminded the House of the largest piece of chaff used by a political party—the statement on defence policy in the Labour party's last manifesto in which it tried to cover up the inadequacy of its defence policy.

The hon. Gentleman rightly said that we must not engage in personal attacks, but it required quite an exercise in restraint arid courtesy to listen to the hon. Gentleman, and other Labour Members, chiding my right hon. and learned Friend about every procurement programme, when the Labour party's defence policy would decimate our defence industries and our defence.

I do not wish to indulge in party politics, because there are serious issues to be addressed, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement said today. Among the challenges in the world, we face two serious problems, which I wish to set out for the Secretary of State and the Minister. I have certain recommendations to make which may be helpful, and worth further study.

I readily join my hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley in paying tribute to our forces. We are seeing yet another chapter of extraordinary achievement by our forces in Bosnia. The way in which they are being asked to conduct themselves, not just in the past week, in turning the other cheek in difficult circumstances that could have appalling consequences shows that the tributes paid to them are quite deserved. I associate with those the tributes that anybody who has held the office that I have held would pay to our forces serving now and at any time in Northern Ireland for the work that they carry out to protect the community there.

I also pay tribute to the civilians and all who work in the Ministry of Defence. They have to carry out some of the most difficult tasks, at a time of inevitable change. We have set the course of reorganisation and reduction which involves some redundancy, some movement and some closure. There is widespread understanding in the House that that is necessary, but this is still a worrying time for those involved.

I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) set in train a programme; my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State was also a member of the Cabinet then. We tend to focus on the infantry, and I understand why that is so; it is obviously much in our thoughts at this time. However, one must remember the full spread of the Ministry of Defence. Nearly half a million people are employed there, with 140,000 civilians and 330,000 uniformed staff. Many people are also employed by suppliers to the industry.

All those people are embarking on the process of change sensibly. I pay tribute to those on the Treasury Front Bench who are carrying out this difficult and demanding task. I am pleased that one or two tributes have been paid, perhaps unconsciously, by Labour Members.

When I read the Hansard of Thursday's debate, I saw that they had asked that we keep open the employment office advice centre in Hereford. That is a tribute to the quality of the resettlement advice and of the work being done to help with housing. All that resulted from what I like to believe was an unequalled programme, in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell played a major part. I congratulate him on seeing that, in such a difficult situation, our forces had as much help as we could give them.

In paying tribute to my right hon. Friend, I give the warmest possible welcome to my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), who takes over those responsibilities. I know that he will bring to the challenge of the care of, and concern for, our forces the qualities that make him a valuable member of the Ministry of Defence team.

My first concern is that we set in hand a difficult programme of change designed to operate over four years. It was fully funded and gave people some certainty about the course on which they were embarked. Now, we have a changed situation, for which I make no criticism of my right hon. and learned Friend.

I have considerably more sympathy with an article written by Lord Rees-Mogg that appears in The Times today than I have with others that he has written recently. No responsible member of the Cabinet can pretend that he can remain completely separate from the difficult financial situation that we face at a time of recession, like every other significant country. Many other Governments are facing problems greater than ours.

We built flexibility into the "Options for Change" programme. That is why I was able to support the decision of my right hon. and learned Friend not to remove some battalions. We said that we would allow change so that, if circumstances were different, that could be taken into account. My right hon. and learned Friend was right to do so.

What is also true is what my right hon. and learned Friend said to my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor). The claim that everything was Treasury-led was rubbish. We made decisions and proposals, and it was done by the military and civilian staffs in the Ministry—I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said in his winding-up speech on Thursday, when he set out the matter clearly—under the direction and leadership of one of the most distinguished serving officers of recent years, Field Marshal Sir Richard Vincent, who was vice-chief of the defence staff and who went on to become chief of the defence staff, and is now a distinguished chairman of the military committee of NATO.

As I said, my programme had some flexibility built into it. I recognise that problems, especially financial ones, have arisen since then, but if we ask people to accept change, it is our duty clearly to set out what that entails so that they know what they face. Constant changes lead to low morale. One of the greatest pressures is the overstretching of the infantry. It was always going to be difficult because of the rationalisation of regiments, but it is being made even more difficult by the need for additional regiments in Northern Ireland and those required to form part of the peacekeeping commitments in Bosnia and elsewhere.

I urge on my right hon. and learned Friend the need for a most serious study of the way in which we meet the security commitments of Northern Ireland. It is our duty to meet them. We must consider how the challenges there can be most effectively met without impinging on the roulement commitment and all that that means for our armed forces.

On the wider issue of flexibility, I am delighted that my right hon. and learned Friend is paying particular attention to reserves. I have not yet had the opportunity to study his consultation paper, but I am sure that it deals with the intelligent use of reserves. Indeed, he was kind enough to quote my consultation paper on that matter, and I am glad that he and the Ministry of Defence are building on that.

There appears to be a serious gap in our present contribution to what Ministers have rightly called the third objective of our defence provision. In his foreword to the 1992 White Paper, my right hon. and learned Friend referred to promoting the United Kingdom's wider security interests through the maintenance of international peace and stability. The House knows that the liberation of Kuwait, under the auspices of the United Nations, was a very successful operation. We had the resources, mechanisms and instruments to meet that threat to international peace and stability.

Bosnia poses different needs, and therefore requires different approaches. We have found it much more difficult to meet the challenges there, and I want to discuss ways in which we might better deal with them.

I am not criticising the Government; I simply want to examine the readiness and capability of the United Nations to deal with the challenges. One of the first requirements is to ensure that, in times of potential conflict or disorder, we are able at the earliest possible moment to mount an effective team of observers which might be able to intervene and make a contribution.

I was impressed by the suggestion of Mr. John Keegan, the distinguished defence commentator, of the development of a cadre of political, military and diplomatic observers, perhaps drawn from the ranks of retired officers and diplomats. People may think that I am talking about elderly generals, but there are a number of young retired officers sitting on our Back Benches, and I am sure that people like them could make a highly useful contribution. They are the sort of people that I sent to Bosnia as observers in the early stages of the conflict, and they did valuable work. I do not envisage a standing cadre, as that would be unrealistic. However, the UN should organise a register of available people with the right experience in peacekeeping, monitoring and reconciliation.

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

I hope to catch Madam Speaker's eye later, when I intend to refer to the Commonwealth. Does my right hon. Friend think that within the Commonwealth, and as we become a much more positive force in the world, we could draw up such a list and present it to the United Nations?

Mr. King

The sort of thing that I am talking about is very relevant to the Commonwealth. Mr. Keegan's article drew attention to the French, with their experience in Africa, and to the British colonial experience. Many people have considerable experience of different territories. If they are available—quickly; there is a need for speed—they could make a useful contribution. What we need is a range of instruments that can help in particular situations, each of which is likely to be different.

We need to concentrate in peacekeeping on the speed with which we can move. The UN Secretary General, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, is calling for a standby arrangement of groups of forces from individual countries. I support what my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell said on the first day of this debate about the need for the maximum number of countries to make a contribution.

I am pleased that Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali has called upon Germany and Japan to make forces available so that the burden of meeting the UN's requirements can be spread as widely as possible. That will make it possible to rotate the troops so that we are not stuck with permanent commitments that put an added strain on our deployments.

Another serious matter is the gap between peacekeeping and peacemaking. We need a body that carries greater credibility than pure peacekeeping forces, which have no power to retaliate. In the Gulf, under the auspices of the UN, we blew out of the way an army of 500,000 men and a considerable amount of modern equipment. In the former Yugoslavia, one old peasant with a shotgun prevented the passage of a convoy of 10 Warrior APCs with 30 mm cannon. That happened because of his total commitment, and the understandable limits on the ability of our people to retaliate.

The position is never easy, but there may be times when a different sort of force is needed. It is difficult for individual countries to deploy forces that will take that extra step towards confrontation and retaliation. That calls for a small UN standing force made up of volunteers, not troops seconded from national forces.

I am thinking of suitable groups around the world—the Gurkhas, for example. Many of them would be willing to serve in a force pursuing a responsible aim, and they would be outstandingly good soldiers. I think also of people who have recently left the British forces—perhaps, sadly, because they are no longer required. I think also of the French, the Germans and even the eastern Europeans.

All of those could make up the core of a body that would be prepared to take slightly greater risks of casualty than can be authorised by national Governments for their forces. Those volunteers could move with speed, and perhaps greater conviction, in difficult circumstances. It is not possible in such a debate to examine all the serious issues that would need to be considered, but I think that proposal is worthy of discussion at the highest level with other countries to see whether we could promote that instrument within the United Nations.

Mr. Menzies Campbell

I am listening with interest to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks. He has made a very positive contribution to the debate. Does he agree that a group drawn together in the way he described would ultimately depend for its effectiveness on the rules of engagement on which it was invited to act—which would depend on the United Nations' political commitment—and to the extent to which it could be seen to act in a unified political fashion?

Mr. King

That is obviously true, but I sense that it might be possible for the Security Council, operating entirely with its own forces, and with them as volunteers on clear terms of engagement, could go just that step further than is possible with individual Governments, who must be sensitive to public opinion at home and who have to explain to individuals what it is they run the risk of dying for.

That was not difficult in the Gulf, because in that conflict there was a cause for which people were prepared to engage themselves—and to die, if necessary. The country accepted that also. I do not believe that there is wide public support for dying for the United Nations in Bosnia. That is a real problem, and the instrument that I suggested might just help, although it is not a total answer.

There is then a problem about costs. This year's United Nations peacekeeping operation is already $1 billion in debt. The budget provision for the year was $1.4 billion, but peacekeeping in Somalia has already totalled $1.5 billion, and Cambodia is expected to cost $800 million. The cost of 5,000 men at United Nations rates is £400 million a year, to which must be added equipment, ships, helicopters and other aircraft.

The United Nations' present peacekeeping costs are equivalent to 0.14 per cent. of the defence budgets of the world. It is not easy to raise the issue of costs just now for any country. However, given the self-interest of national Governments, that must be considered—otherwise, peacekeeping will distort individual defence budgets and impose unacceptable pressures on individual defence requirements. I understand that Canada's difficulties have already led it to withdraw its forces from Somalia, and the French are already complaining about the distortion of their defence budget.

One great breakthrough in the Gulf war, and a consequence of the ending of the cold war, is that the Security Council can now work. The use of chapter VII of the charter is becoming more and more frequent. Forty five years ago, the then United Nations Secretary-General said that the time had come to give attention and imagination to strengthening the United Nations. He put forward just such a proposal—and in readiness the United States earmarked 300,000 troops, 1,250 bombers and 2,250 fighters for that standby force.

I am not talking about anything remotely approaching that scale of operation. That earlier initiative was killed by the cold war—and now that has ended, that option is back on the table. The United Nations Secretary-General said that the nations of the world failed to give attention and imagination to strengthening the United Nations. Now is the time to give them again.

5.14 pm
Dr. John Gilbert (Dudley, East)

The right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) makes far more interesting speeches now as a Back Bencher than he ever did or was able to do as Secretary of State for Defence. Various ex-Ministers are affected that way. I shall enjoy reading the right hon. Gentleman's remarks with close attention when I see them set down in print tomorrow.

At the end of today's debate, I propose to join my right hon. and hon. Friends in opposing the Government motion, but I shall not be with them when they vote for their amendment. That will come as no suprise to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench.

The reason for my difficulty with the Opposition amendment relates to a sentence in the middle that demands an immediate end to British nuclear testing, which would greatly assist efforts to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons". I do not hold myself up for one moment as an expert on nuclear testing, but there are few experts on that subject in the House, and it is an issue on which Ministers are almost bound to accept the advice that is given to them.

The proposition that the end of nuclear testing by the Government would contribute in any way to a reduction in the proliferation of nuclear weapons strikes me as an insight into the thought process of the great and good leaders of North Korea—I am not being sarcastic, for that is the title that they give themselves—Saddam Hussein, and those responsible for Iran's defence policy that is very different from my own.

As to the motion, I am astonished to see a Conservative Government responsible for the havoc that the present Government are wreaking on the armed forces of this country. I am particularly concerned about the rundown in the Army and Royal Navy reserves, which are totally deplorable. I am certain that the Government are seeking to put commitments on the armed forces that they do not have the manpower to meet.

That is due in no small part to the Treasury's baleful influence, and I do not believe that the right hon. Member for Bridgwater or his successor as Secretary of State put up nearly as big a fight as they should have done against the Treasury in respect of manpower reductions.

I was interested to hear the remarks of the Minister of State for Defence Procurement about procurement decisions. We must buy where it is cheapest, provided that quality needs are satisfied. I know perfectly well the agonies through which Ministers went at the time of Swan Hunter. I will not criticise them for that decision, because I went through the same agony many times over in respect of Cammell Laird, when I was responsible for warship procurement.

I am not against industrial and regional considerations being taken into account when defence procurement decisions are made—of course not—but any costs attached to those decisions should fall squarely on regional budgets and on the budget of the Department of Employment, and not on the Ministry of Defence's budget.

That Ministry is voted funds by the House to provide the most effective resources as economically as it can for the defence of this country. Those other considerations are wholly admirable, but the cost should not be attached to the Minister of Defence's budget. It is easy to ascertain the cost of a non-optable, non-cheaper solution. Such costs should be placed on the budgets of other Departments—whether it is a case of keeping an order within a certain facility in this country against competition from elsewhere in this country, or of competition from abroad.

I am afraid that it has become a truism to say that we are now free of the cold war, and face an entirely different set of security considerations; it is precisely because it is a truism, however, that we must deal with it. We are now confronted by the problems of state-sponsored terrorism, the deliberate imposition of mass starvation on the populations of certain countries, the use of chemical weapons on countries' inhabitants by their leaders, and deliberate genocide masquerading as "ethnic cleansing"—a disgusting term.

Some developments in the United States seem to have been discussed very little on this side of the Atlantic, developments in what is described as "non-lethal warfare". Hon. Members may consider that almost a contradiction in terms. In fact, there has already been a good deal of research into methods of non-lethal warfare on the other side of the Atlantic. I hope that Ministers are paying attention, as I should like a response to my remarks at the end of the debate.

In September last year, the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command published a document entitled "Operations Concept for Disabling Measures". It seems that a range of methods are available—for instance, supercaustics, which are much more caustic than hydrofluoric acid. An artillery round delivers super-acids that can destroy the optics of heavily armoured vehicles, penetrate vision blocks or glass, or be employed silently to destory key weapons systems or components.

There are many kinds of anti-traction technology which can make it extremely difficult for vehicles to move across bridges or through other narrow defiles. The surfaces of airport runways can be made extremely slippery, so that it is difficult for aircraft to use them. There are many other disabling weapons, often employing laser technology. I shall not try to deceive the House: it is not very pleasant to be on the receiving end. Although disabling, those weapons are in no way lethal.

I understand that there is some argument in the Pentagon about whether such technologies should be treated as "black technologies"—kept as secret programmes—or whether they should be put into the public domain. The argument against the latter option is that, if talked about at length in public, those programmes would have to compete with other "conventional" programmes. I hope to hear that Her Majesty's Government are currently studying the position; I also hope that we can be told whether research is being done here, and how much access this country has to research in the United States.

I wish next to deal with a matter on which I have touched before in the House—the operation of the missile technology control regime. As hon. Members who have been kind enough to listen to my speeches in the past will know, I have long believed that it is more important for us to get a grip on the spread of technology and the development of medium and long-range missiles than it ever was for us to deal with the non-proliferation treaty and nuclear devices. I am especially concerned to note what is apparently still happening in North Korea.

I understand that the model D Scud missile, which has a range of between 1,000 and 1,300 km, will come into service later this year, if it is not in service already. Based in North Korea, it could reach Osaka, the whole of the south of the Korean peninsula, Beijing and Shanghai. I gather that testing is taking place for the model E Scud, which has a range of at least 1,500 km.

We may ask what concern that is of ours. If an effective missile with such a range were sold by the North Koreans to unfriendly powers in the middle east—or to what could become unfriendly powers on the southern shores of the Mediterranean—a great many cities in western Europe, including English cities, would come within its range. I hope that the Government are taking the North Korean developments seriously, will make representations—as they may already be doing—and will take part in joint representations with the Americans. Not only the Americans but the Chinese, the Taiwanese and the Japanese are anxious to introduce some sense into the difficult regime in North Korea.

I shall deal tangentially with some of the subjects raised by the fomer Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King). I shall not detain the House by bemoaning what I consider to be a cause for concern for all of us—the inability, so far, of the United Nations, the European Community and NATO to make any effective contribution to ending the appalling events in what was Yugoslavia.

I believe that the Community has failed to contribute not just because it does not want to make a financial contribution; one of the main reasons is the fact that it has ideological and psychological difficulties with intervening, using its own troops as part of a joint force, in that or any other part of the world. We observed such difficulties, to a lesser degree, during the recent Gulf war: our European partners were far from unanimous in advocating participation with us, the French, the Americans, the Italians and the Dutch.

This country and France have usually been in the van of peacekeeping or peacemaking activities in relation to western European countries, and I think that that will continue. I do not necessarily welcome that state of affairs, but I do not find it deplorable; it is understandable that countries such as Denmark, Portugal and Greece are less enthusiastic than we are about engaging in some of those conflicts.

In a few months, a conference will take place within the European Community to discuss its constitution. It has nothing to do with Maastricht; the aim is to settle some of the constitutional outlines of the Community's future. I hope that, at that conference, the Government will take the initiative and suggest that we should not be so concerned about whether all our Community colleagues contributed material and manpower to operations of this kind, as long as they were prepared to pay a reasonable share of the costs and to take the burden off our defence budget.

If we could reach agreement in advance, over a period, so that these decisions were not always made at the last minute, it would make a substantial contribution to the defence budget of this country. Furthermore, it would make it possible to ease the grotesque overstretch to which the armed forces of this country are subject. and it would add greatly to future stability on the fringes of Europe.

I confess that these are imprecise thoughts that I put before the House. However, I hope that they, together with the suggestions made earlier by the right hon. Member for Bridgwater, will be taken seriously by Her Majesty's Government.

Something has got to be done. We cannot afford a repetition of this shameful inactivity in territories so close to our own, whose civilisations are so close to our own. It could have an immediate impact elsewhere in Europe. Furthermore, it could affect our own security and the wider security of Europe.

5.30 pm
Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon)

The debate has addressed some uncomfortable questions regarding this country's future defence policy. Much of the optimism in the aftermath of the collapse of communism has evaporated. We are debating the defence estimates against a gloomy background of increasing world disorder.

As the Minister of State for Defence Procurement said in his wind-up speech on the first day of the debate: Defence tasks consist of the imperative, the desirable and the optional."—[Official Report, 17 June 1993; Vol. 226, c. 1084.] If we start from the assumption that the imperative is an absolute, what we are talking about principally today is the future shape of our armed forces in the other two categories. I shall develop that theme, for it involves the issue of double hatting. I cannot resist saying to the Minister of State for Defence Procurement that I notice that he has been double hatting, inasmuch as he wound up the debate the other day and opened today's debate. I am sure, however, that he would be the last to complain.

I begin by endorsing heartily the Foreign Secretary's declaration that we "punch above our weight." That we can still do so is a tribute to the universally recognised skill and dedication of our armed forces. That is clearly good for this country's standing in the world, and for its self-esteem. Far more flows from this than narrow, but important, military engagements, such as training teams world wide. Our economy has benefited from trade, both military and non-military, and good will has been generated throughout the world. Several hon. Members have, however, pointed out that we cannot be expected to get involved in every area of conflict and that priorities must be set. We must be selective. To do otherwise would undermine the standards set by the British armed forces.

The "Options for Change" proposals were set out as a direct reaction to the collapse of the Warsaw pact. Since then, events in the Gulf and in Bosnia, let alone in Somalia and 25 or so other conflicts that have erupted throughout the world, have reminded us all that unforeseen commitments can crop up at any time. It is thus essential that the implementation of the inevitable drawdown is done, to coin a phrase, with flexible response.

Many hon. Members feel uncomfortable that those close to the decisions made in "Options for Change"—I should make it clear that I am referring to the military and not to my two right hon. Friends sitting in front of me, my right hon. Friends the Members for Bridgwater (Mr. King) and for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton)—when confronted by developments since "Options for Change" have tended to shrug their shoulders and declare, "Well the resources went one way and the commitments another." I suggest that we shall. have to do better than that.

The fact is that "Options for Change" does not reflect the present rapidly altering world. That is hardly surprising, for it was published some three years ago. I welcome the fact, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater, that the Government have already acknowledged that in reprieving two infantry battalions, in the light of changed circumstances, the criteria that the Minister and his right hon. Friends set out were indeed followed. However, I must point out a certain irony in that the changed circumstances consisted of two parts: the first was a new commitment in Bosnia that was totally unforeseen; the second was the expansion of an existing commitment in Northern Ireland.

I understand that in the defence estimates for 1993, to be published next month, a new form is to be adopted. There will be an assessment of our capability to perform some 50 military tasks on a tri-service basis. I hope that this will, in effect, be a strategic review. For 30 years and more, Governments of both parties have shied away from this concept, but I hope that whatever label is put on it, the defence estimates will, in effect, be a strategic review.

The timing could hardly be better. The United States is reassessing its world-wide role. Russia is preoccupied with its own internal problems. Germany and Japan are constrained by constitutional issues. That leaves only this country and France capable, from Europe, of operating on a global basis.

I hope that I am not unduly cynical when I point out that it is not the capability of carrying out 50 individual tasks as paper exercises that matters. What matters is the capability to carry out what amounts to the actual and inevitable overlap of unpredictable combinations of those tasks. Unless the House is conscious of that problem, I suspect that the exercise will look very neat but will have precious little practical application. One might have 50 things on the menu, but I doubt very much whether any hon. Member would ever have put the Falklands or the Gulf on the menu 12 or more years ago.

Hon. Members in all parts of the House have been critical of past projections by the Ministry of Defence and of the matching of units to tasks. I continue to be deeply concerned about that. We have all seen overstretch. We need to be convinced that the sums are indeed right. Both I and others have put forward sums, but we have not received adequate answers. The Select Committee on Defence, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), has produced in its appendices similar sums showing that the arithmetic is wrong. The House deserves a better answer to these statistical questions.

When I refer to my concern about the 24-month aspiration for tour intervals, one has to remember that it has two aspects. The first is the actual aspect of how impossibly difficult it is to maintain morale in the Army if we do not have a 24-month tour interval. Secondly, the 24-month interval is the index of whether our troops are overstretched or not. I have looked at the numbers carefully and consulted people both inside and outside the House. I cannot say that I am any more convinced that we have a realistic chance of getting to a 24-month tour interval than when the question was first raised in the House about two years ago.

We shall need to be convinced that we achieve meaningful training at brigade, divisional and even at corps level. I am informed that in the past two years there has been virtually no training at brigade level. If my hon. Friend can confirm that that is true, I shall be grateful if he will tell the House what plans have been made to remedy what I believe to be potentially an extremely dangerous situation.

We shall also want to know what is to be done about what I have described in this House before as two-timing NATO. I refer to our troops,, with their NATO commitments, serving in Northern Ireland. I wonder whether, and if, that will be tolerated by our NATO partners. We shall need to be convinced about that.

Finally, we shall need to be convinced that, together with the peace dividend, there is such a thing as a service dividend—in other words, that our brilliantly respected service men and their families are allowed to live the sort of lives that they are entitled to live in this day and age. In a debate last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster told an extraordinary story of service men having to dump their wives in sovereign bases in Cyprus and go off to do an emergency tour in the Falklands. I believe that, in the late 1990s, that cannot and will not be tolerated.

Furthermore, at a time of recession and high unemployment, I find it extremely alarming that recruitment to all ranks has fallen. It is below target, and that is merely storing up trouble for us all in the future. It will have a disastrous effect on morale and, if my somewhat pessimistic comments are well founded, it is not the least able who are leaving our armed forces but the most able, and the lessons of that are obvious to us all.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) and I have not always seen eye to eye on defence matters, but I thank him for his many acts of courtesy during his term of office and congratulate him on his distinguished tenure of his important job.

I should like to return to finance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell and my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster had an interesting exchange on the subject the other day, which will be dealt with later by my hon. Friend the Minister. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster differed about how the armed forces should be funded. I should like to make my position quite clear. In the current economic climate, further resources must be found from within the existing defence budget. That, I believe, is the stand taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell.

One must follow that argument through. It seems to me, at the risk of being simplistic, that there are two different ways of tackling the problem. First, we can reduce our commitments. Hon. Members have expressed reservations about our reduced commitment in Belize which, although I am not an expert on the area, seems strange in view of the uncertainties in Guatemala and central America generally.

Moving on to the question of Ulster, I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) to the Front Bench. We shall rely on his specialised knowledge of security in Ulster, whose problems can be considered constructively by a combination of military and political initiatives. I do not think that this is the right forum in which to discuss the details, but I very much welcome his expertise and ideas on that sensitive subject.

The second way of tackling the problem is to increase efficiency, which can be considered under three headings. The first is the civilian establishment. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement rightly identified the vast array of jobs that are done magnificently by civilians in the Ministry of Defence. It is strange that under "Options for Change" the civilian establishment will be reduced by only 20 per cent. According to briefing papers, that is the proposed reduction in the Army. In fact, if my mathematics are right, the reduction in the Army is 24 per cent.; more importantly, however, the number of fighting troops is being cut by around 40 per cent. It lies rather uneasily to have a 20 per cent. cut in civilian manpower, however well they do their job, but a 40 per cent. cut in fighting forces.

Unfortunately, I missed the remarks of the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), but I suggest that, due to the diversity of employment of the Ministry's civilian employees, other Departments may be able to employ them or, alternatively, their functions may 'be taken away from the Ministry.

The second heading is management of the defence estate. I shall not go into detail, but I have considerable anecdotal evidence of less than efficient management of the defence estates. That needs critical and fresh examination.

Finally, under the heading of increasing efficiency, I ask the House to consider the question of reserves, in which I declare an interest. I noted that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State gave an assurance that the legal position of reserves will be reconsidered. In the Gulf it really came down to, "If we call you up, would you like to come along?", which was not satisfactory. That is a slight over-simplification, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater is nodding and we know that it did not work as well as it should have.

I took up with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell when he was still in office the way in which reservists are now being treated. The mechanism for calling up reserves has been changed. One no longer has to report annually to say, "I am here, fit and can do whatever task is required." There is now what is known as the postal reporting system. If that system is adequate for calling people up at war time, it is an idea that the Whip on duty might pass to the Patronage Secretary. Rather than coming in here and traipsing through the Lobby, hon. Members could send a note saying, "We agree with Government policy" or, in a purely hypothetical case, "We do not agree with Government policy."

The reserves represent a very low cost, well-motivated group of people and their demands on the defence budget are negligible, but I do not think that they are used properly. Many disciplines followed in civilian life could easily be translated into the military on an ad hoc basis: engineers, for instance, and experts in communications, medicine and logistics. I hope that many of the Territorial Army volunteer reserve associations that have expressed concerns to Ministers, and no doubt to Opposition Members, will be actively involved in the consultation process when the role of the reserve forces in the Army is defined.

I should be negligent if I did not point out that we must consider defence budgets and estimates in the context of history over a span. Under "Options for Change", the percentage of gross domestic product devoted to -defence will fall to 3.4 per cent. It has not been so low since 1935, with all the sinister connotations of that dark age. The House should address that point. The percentage has never fallen below 4 per cent. since, and although our actual expenditure is almost identical to that of France and Germany the House knows that our unique commitments place special demands on our budget.

The days of countries taking military action alone are coming to an end for political and economic reasons. We must thus consider British forces towards the end of the century in the context of international organisations. I was fascinated by some of the ideas proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater. The world will look back on its reaction to the tragic events in the former Yugoslavia with shame. To see the international community paralysed and impotent was a pathetic spectacle. The diplomacy of Lords Carrington and Owen and of Mr. Vance was almost certainly doomed from the start in the absence of military sanctions. History teaches us that the only sanctions that work are military sanctions.

There has been much wringing of hands and much hypocrisy. Is the United Nations ever to be more than an instrument of persuasion or more than a thin blue line? What happened to the much-vaunted Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe and to the Western European Union? Is it not clear that the only organisation with a competent command structure for a regional coalition is NATO? If that is so, and as we have a rapid reaction corps, why are we not willing to use it? Do we lack the resolve or the resources?

Much has been said and little has been done, but I believe that the whole sad episode yet to unfold has the smell of something approaching appeasement. One day we shall all pay the price unless we get the international organisation in the right mind and the right shape to deal with future tragedies.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence recently said that our aim is not to be an international gendarmerie. We must therefore aim for a proper modern army, by which I mean properly manned and trained, retaining existing capabilities and focused on the tasks ahead. If we get it wrong, we shall prejudice our permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council and our leadership of the rapid reaction corps, let alone this country's reputation and its safety. If we get it right, we may yet find the role that Dean Acheson said that we had lost, by giving a lead with our special expertise in international organisations. I wish my right hon. and learned Friend and his colleagues well in their difficult task.

As I have already suggested in previous debates—I do not apologise for raising this again—one of our imperatives, to repeat the description that I used at the start of my speech, needs re-examining urgently, especially in view of the extraordinary and unfortunate lag between the publication of the defence estimates and the events to which they refer—

Dr. Reid

It is called a debate.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes

Indeed, the debate which follows. I am referring to the easy solution to get out of the problems I have outlined, which is to shift the drawdown set out in "Options for Change" from 1995 to 1997. In practical politics, one must bear in mind what is certain in this world. One yardstick is that in 1997 we shall withdraw from Hong Kong, so it makes sense militarily and politically for the Government to take that decision which, above all, is a matter of common sense.

5.52 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

I should like to put it on the record and make it known that I am a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and proud to be so. I joined CND in 1966 and am a member of its national council, and I am a vice-chair of Labour Action for Peace. My constituency is very pleased to have in it the offices of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. I make my remarks from that standpoint.

Unfortunately, the amendment tabled by some of my colleagues and myself was not called. Apparently, we are not able to debate why it was not called, but it rejected the defence estimates and called instead for a reduction in spending at least to the European average. That was, in fact, official policy as it was carried by a majority of more than two thirds at last year's Labour party conference. Our amendment also called for a halt to the production and testing of nuclear missiles and de-commission Polaris and Trident submarines; and calls for those employed in the arms and related industries to be provided with economically and socially useful work and for overall spending reductions to be used to benefit the social needs of Britain and the overseas aid programme. Every week, we receive unsolicited bumph about high technology weapons of war. For example, I read Worldwide Weekly Defence News avidly because I am fascinated by the technology involved in the production of weapons of mass destruction. I wish that some—just some—of the scientists and brilliant brains could be put to work solving the world's ecological, health and social problems. The world economy is seriously out of kilter.

Not so long ago, the House went along with the Government's policy on the Gulf war. I remind hon. Members that, only a short time before, the few of us who opposed the arms trade with Iraq prior to the invasion of Kuwait were told to shut up. Indeed, a Minister told me that trade came before anything else in policy considerations. In any case, the Gulf war happened. I ask those who so happily went along with it to consider the outcome of the war: the cost, the bombing of unarmed, retreating soldiers on the road to Basra after the liberation of Kuwait, and the question of human rights, equality and democracy in the liberated Kuwait, which is apparently now one of our staunchest allies. Such issues raise serious questions to which people are entitled to an answer. In addition, the families of the 300,000 mainly Iraqi but also British, American and other soldiers who died in the Gulf war are also entitled to know what the war was all about.

I cannot see what were the great advantages of that awful conflict. There are still enormous denials of human rights and there is still a bloodthirsty regime in power in Iraq, which many of my colleagues opposed—not from 1990 but from 1980 onwards, when we tried to expose its human rights record.

The post cold war era has not brought peace and stability to much of the former Soviet Union. In fact, it has brought a great deal of social conflict, poverty and unrest. I am not defending everything about the previous system, but the break-up of the Soviet Union has not brought peace to the area. In any case, I do not believe that the former Soviet Union presented a threat, any more than I believe that the remains of the Soviet Union, or Russia, present an external threat now.

What concerns me is the NATO strategy enunciated in paragraphs 106 to 109 of the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1992". There is talk of extending NATO's activities outside its sphere of influence in order to protect the security of western Europe and its member states. I am not sure what the out-of-area activities are able or likely to achieve.

It is time for an examination of the history of NATO, the way in which the United States forces were brought back to Britain in 1948, the way in which this country's defence policy and that of every other member state was taken over by a group of generals sitting in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe headquarters in Brussels, the fantastic expenditure on arms and the arms race promoted by NATO which ended up creating the biggest ever federal deficit in the United States, bankrupting the Soviet Union and leading to its break-up. The arms race also led to a massive proliferation of nuclear arms.

Let us consider the effect of the level of defence spending in NATO member states and the industrial development of non-NATO member states. There are obvious parallels. The standard of living in Britain compared to that in Japan or the Scandinavian countries and many others is different from what it was in 1945 or 1950. One of the problems for British industry has been the high level of defence spending and the way in which so much research and development has been diverted into military needs and requirements rather than peaceful needs or the development of our industrial base.

British industry is working with out-of-date equipment because many possible sources of research and development have gone into the arms trade rather than into developing civilian industry. The present problems of the shipbuilding industry have in part been caused by the industry's reliance on defence contracts. The Government should have supported the development of civilian orders and a civilian shipbuilding industry. There are brilliant workers with brilliant skills in the defence industry. I should like those workers to be making bulk carriers, oil tankers and river craft. I do not like their skills being used to develop nuclear weapons or—the current obsession—in the Trident submarine programme.

I wish to mention specifically the issues of Trident and nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons have been used twice in war—in 1945, at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People are still dying today in Japan as a result of the fallout from those small nuclear explosions. The airborne nuclear testing that continued for 30 years after those explosions has caused increased radiation throughout the world, which in turn has probably caused a large number of cancers—as many as have been caused by smaller nuclear explosions such as those at Chernobyl and in other nuclear accidents, some of them unreported, around the world.

I cannot go along with the idea that nuclear defence is any kind of defence at all. Bruce Kent made the point once and his audience immediately knew what he was talking about. He said that having a nuclear weapon was like firing a gun in which there were two bullets, the second of which came out of the back of the gun and killed the person who had fired it. There can never be any kind of defence against nuclear weapons. Indeed, the first to fire a nuclear weapon will be the first to suffer as a consequence of nuclear fallout. Yet we are told that, somehow or other, the massive expense on nuclear weapons is a guarantee of peace around the world. It has been no guarantee whatever—28 wars are being fought between nuclear and non-nuclear countries as we speak. They are being fought in many different theatres and scenarios. Nuclear weapons have not sorted out the world's problems, but have resulted in enormous expenditure on research and development capability. The holding and use of nuclear weapons is fundamentally wrong and immoral.

Hon. Members are asked to approve estimates that include the further development of the Trident nuclear submarine system. Let me cite information that has been given to many hon. Members. The current Polaris nuclear system has four submarines, 16 missiles per submarine and three warheads per missile—a maximum warhead deployment of 192. That makes a total system yield of 38,400 kilotonnes—the equivalent of 3,072 Hiroshima explosions. I remind the House that 60,000 people were killed immediately at Hiroshima, and probably as many more have died in subsequent years.

We are now expected to support and approve the Trident system. That system will have a total of four vessels, unless someone proposes to build the fifth, sixth or seventh. The total yield per warhead is 100 kilotonnes, and the total system yield is 1,200 kilotonnes—the equivalent of 4,096 Hiroshimas—with a range of 6,000 miles. The Trident submarine system has 512 warheads.

We are entitled to know where those warheads are directed. Who is the enemy apparently threatening this country and requiring us to have 512 warheads that can destroy the world and the people in it several times over? What on earth are those warheads for? Whom are they directed against—Iceland, France, Somalia, Angola, South Africa? Who is the enemy against whom we are expected to defend ourselves with a ludicrous amount of firepower, sufficient to destroy our whole world? The cost of the Trident submarine system is absolutely unbelievable. Every time anyone looks into it, we get nearer to realising what that true cost is. I tend to believe the Greenpeace estimate, which puts the figure at a total of £30 billion, including decommissioning costs.

In my view, we need a policy of arms reduction. We need to end once and for all the holding and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Anyone who managed to see the "Panorama" programme on the problems of Aldermaston will begin to realise the danger of the manufacture of nuclear warheads to those who manufacture them or live near their place of manufacture—never mind those against whom they might be directed in future. I repeat that we need a programme of arms reduction. We also need a Government-sponsored arms conversion programme. We do not want pressure for increased arms expenditure of the kind that understandably comes from the endless groups of people whose jobs at shipyards, dockyards and factories are threatened because of the changes in defence priorities and who have been offered no alternative work by the Government from people who themselves know that such an increase is neither necessary nor wanted. We need a Government—sponsored arms conversion agency that can put those people's skills to better use.

I believe that the British Government and others are promoting the arms trade. At the beginning of my speech, I mentioned the arms sold to Iraq, to Indonesia and to bloodthirsty dictatorships all round the world as a result of the British Government's obsession with and heavily subsidised expansion of the arms trade. British industry is falling behind because of the emphasis that has been placed on military rather than peaceful developments. Why cannot the shipyards produce vessels of peace rather than weapons of war?

Let us take a look at what is happening in the world—at the causes and the basic problems. Wealth is being transferred at an unprecedented rate from the poorest to the richest people and countries in the world. Environmental destruction is continuing at an unprecedented rate. Are we seriously approving the expenditure of nearly £24 billion on arms this year at a time when a quarter of the world's population is on the brink of starvation and when life expectancy in a third of the world is rather less than two thirds of the life expectancy of 75 or so that we enjoy in this country?

Why on earth cannot we look towards the real causes of conflict in the world—the imbalance of wealth and power, resources and health resources, life expectancy, education and many other things? We should be using the opportunity afforded by changes in the world to support the principles on which the United Nations was founded—to identify the basic causes of conflict and to try to end armed conflict. Nuclear weapons provide no solution to any of those problems.

Let me quote from a briefing that the Quaker peace organisation was kind enough to send me: In these changing circumstances we suggest it might be helpful to look at security in a different way and consider how one country is not made more safe by its ability to threaten another because these are threats to our common security. In the future wars may arise from a number of sources, in addition to those noted above, and we must consider how to create common security in the face of these threats: economic problems (… maldistribution of resources globally, between north and south as well as east and west … poverty, starvation, debt … environmental problems (climate change, deterioration in life systems such as soil and water), global resources scarcity"— a major factor in the Gulf war— political oppression and human rights abuses"— which receive scant regard from the Ministry of Defence and the arms manufacturers, who are happy to sell arms to Indonesia and similar regimes— terrorism, crime and disease. We are on completely the wrong track. We should look to develop peace in the world, and to develop and support peaceful institutions, rather than arming ourselves for conflicts in order to maintain the unfair economic relationship between north and south. We should be using this opportunity to rid ourselves once and for all of the scourge of nuclear weapons and the threat that they constitute to the whole of humanity.

6.8 pm

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

I hope that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) will acquit me of any charge of discourtesy if I do not follow or try to rebut his argument. I have heard it before. I know that he speaks with great conviction, and I have no doubt that, over the years, he has totally convinced himself that he has the right answers. He has so far failed to convince Conservative Members. No Government in the western world would espouse his view, and an increasing number of those in his party oppose it. I am sorry that I cannot continue further, but I would rather return to the mainstream of the debate, which is not really about nuclear weapons.

I start on a rather sour note. I address my remarks not to the Ministry of Defence but to the way in which we conduct our affairs. It is no good our debating estimates that were published over a year ago when we know that, in a few weeks' time, we shall have another lot. 11 is like trying to guess what this year's train timetable will be by looking at last year's Bradshaw. That is about the size of it.

The speeches by Ministers so far have been reasonably comforting. Of course, there is a promise of better things to come, so Opposition Members had better be careful what they say. They know very well that the Government are far better at handling defence than the Labour party is because they have a united group behind them—except in one area where Back Benchers and Opposition Members continually voice the criticism that we are in danger of spoiling the efficiency of our armed forces by too big a downward pressure on our defence expenditure. That has been the theme of most of the Back-Bench speeches on Thursday and so far today.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) was concerned about the level of expenditure. He talked about the trooping of the colour and the battalion of the Coldstream Guards walking into the sunset, leaving just one battalion. He also mentioned the overstretching of resources, as did the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), who was concerned about the enormous strain on families as a result of having to undertake too many emergency tours.

My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) struck a strong chord with many Conservative Members when he said that there was no longer really effective combined training in our armed forces, and that the first three exercises carried out in a base training camp in Canada—with the generosity and help of the Canadian Government—were a fiasco because all were conducted without infantry. Military commanders will echo some of those points.

My right hon. and hon. Friends must realise that on the Back Benches today there is a remarkable number of hon. Members, some quite new to the House, who are extremely well informed about what is happening in our armed forces. Not all of us agree on the question of the overstretch of resources because of one big difference lying behind people's judgments. I am not asking the Government to spend more in such financial circumstances. I. do not think that that is possible, and I understand that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) said, it is unrealistic to expect it. We spend on defence about the same as France and Germany spend and there is nothing special about Britain that should lead us to insist that the Government should do more.

The disagreement lies in the extent to which we-believe that we face a greater threat than we did before the end of the cold war. One of my hon. Friends said that he did not see any great reduction in the threat from the Warsaw pact countries. I disagree. There is a marked decline in the threat, but I shall not elaborate on that view because I think that it is shared by many hon. Members on both sides of the House. On the other hand, it is no good kidding ourselves; the criticisms about the strain and overstretch of our armed forces are valid and therefore we must reach some conslusions about how we will be able to meet those strains.

We on the Back Benches must insist that, at the very least and beyond any doubt, the Ministry of Defence will resist and continue to resist any further pressures on the defence budget. We do not believe that our armed forces, and especially the Army, will continue to be able to discharge their current duties at the standard we have come to expect if there is a further downward pressure on our already stretched budget. Of course, we recognise that during the interim period, when the strain is especially harsh, the garrisons in Hong Kong and Belize will be withdrawn. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster, the Chairman of the Select Committee, was opposed to that, but as long as we maintain the training, I think that it is fine. I do not see why we must have a premanent occupation of those areas—perhaps the RAF have a different view, judging from the faces of my hon. Friends.

If we understand the realities of finance and that the threat is not as great as it was, it is no good bleating from the Back Benches for the Government to hold on to everything and not withdraw from Cyprus or some other place. That is not fair and it is not common sense. That is one area in which I may differ in emphasis from some of my hon. Friends who have been critical of the stress that is put on the armed forces as a result of the downward pressures on the budget. However, I have no doubt that, unless we stick strongly to the policy that I asserted a moment ago, we shall concede that we can spend less, which will lead to the structure and morale of our armed forces falling apart.

What can we do in the meantime? My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement has told us that he gets better value for money. There are signs that that is happening through competition. Savings cannot wholly be ascribed to the fact that the percentage of the budget that is spent on equipment has declined. My hon. Friend would argue that his economies have been a result of his being able to get better value for money. However, there are undoubtedly pressures on procurement.

There is one area in which we can take some more imaginative steps, which were signalled by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State on Thursday. He referred to the reserves and he said that he expected to come forward later this year with a programme which would make it much more possible for the reserves to be used, by calling out whole units at a time, in a more productive and useful role. I am sure that that is right because it would give the reserves a sense of purpose. As we all know, the first priority of defence is defence of the realm. There is no real threat to the United Kingdom right now.

We have a highly professional Army which, in too many cases, performs duties that do not need to be performed by people with such high skills. It is imperative, therefore, that we should welcome, as I did on Thursday, the first step taken by my right hon. and learned Friend when he said that we should see whether we could have volunteers who would volunteer to serve in a Territorial Army unit on peacekeeping duties overseas. He was not suggesting sending them to Bosnia and getting into that sort of ball game. He was suggesting something less intense and less dangerous than that, which would release highly trained troops.

I rashly jumped to my feet and said that I was sure that such a step would be widely welcomed by both sides. However, when I looked at Opposition Members, I saw that they were very po-faced. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) said that he would have to reserve his judgment on that and that he would give us his opinion today. I should welcome his comments.

Dr. Reid

I know that the hon. Gentleman would expect the courtesy of a reply to that specific point. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) said that we should, of course, wish to see the small print. We welcome the general principle of integration of the Territorial Army into operational duties, although we share the view expressed by those who warned about having to volunteer twice. It is sufficient that a person volunteers once for the Territorial Army. On the second occasion, he should be called up. He should not be asked to run the risk of losing a job or a home by volunteering a second time.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

I do not know how the hon. Gentleman can talk about someone having to volunteer for a second time. Either he volunteers or he does not. I do not see anyone volunteering twice. He can volunteer for a company, as suggested by my right hon. and learned Friend, which he knows before he volunteers will discharge overseas duties. That is a very simple proposition.

What I did not like about some of the feelings expressed in reaction to my right hon. and learned Friend's initiative was the idea that we would try to get infantry on the cheap. That is an old argument that has been brought out in every generation by some Regulars. The more enlightened understand what we are about. Some argue, "Oh my golly, that is money that would otherwise go to the Regulars. It is going to the TA." That is why they do not want the TA to take a more prominent role. I doubt whether that view is strongly held today by our enlightened military leadership. However, that was the little murmur that went round our Back Benches on Thursday.

I stick to my guns. I believe that if we are to be realistic about defence, we must be more flexible. It is no good our asking the military to be flexible unless we have political flexibility. I welcome my right hon. Friend's suggestion.

I would like to consider briefly a subject that was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King). I will deal with the point rather more quickly than might otherwise have been the case because my right hon. Friend covered the ground extremely well. However, there are certain differences of emphasis.

There is no area in which our armed forces have displayed their skills so apparently to the world as they have done in Bosnia. They have also displayed their skills elsewhere in other peacekeeping duties—for example, in Cyprus. Those tasks place enormous strains on our soldiers who face intense provocation. They demand courage and cool judgment when the moment comes for our soldiers to take firm military action.

It is not a criticism of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to say that the UN cannot discharge its functions efficiently. Dr. Boutrous Ghali, the Secretary-General, as good as admitted that in "Agenda for Peace", which was a good document. The Secretary-General is aware that the new international context makes demands on the UN which have become increasingly burdensome. For example, many countries do not pay their bills.

The Secretariat has been called upon to engage in fact-finding, observation, mediation, peacekeeping and peace enforcement. I am sure that we are all familiar with the comments of the first UN commander in Bosnia, the Canadian Major General Mackenzie, who complained about the lack of 24-hour, seven-day service from the United Nations. He said something like, "If you phone on Friday, you'll get the answer when the weekend is over."

Brian Urquhart, a countryman of ours who served so successfully as deputy Secretary-General, put his finger on the matter in an article in the New York Times, of 29 December. He argued that the time had come for the UN to see how far it would welcome an overhaul of its machinery. The Secretary-General followed that up by asking all countries to consider taking chapter VII more seriously as that would give the Security Council the option of using military force to restore international peace and security. He said that that would require the realisation of article 43 whereby member states undertake to make armed forces, assistance and facilities available to the Security Council on a permanent basis. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater suggested that one way of doing that would be for the UN to have a permanent force in which there would be more volunteers from the United Kingdom, France, Germany and goodness knows where else. That would be a kind of Foreign Legion of the UN. I believe that that suggestion should be studied closely. However, I have strong reservations about such a force. I do not know where it would be based, who would train it and to what standard. As some nations do not pay their bills, I am not sure how that force will be financed or equipped.

I do not want to kill stone dead the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater. We know what line my right hon. Friend is taking and I do not think that he will die at the last ditch in respect of his suggestion. However, as a former Secretary of State, he might believe that a more practical way of dealing with the problem would be to set up with the UN a system whereby it could more easily call on regional frameworks that already existed.

Some of those frameworks are better than others and the best is clearly the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. I have worked for the North Atlantic Assembly for 12 years and I have seen a great deal of NATO, so I am very biased. I believe that NATO is ace. It knows what it is on about and its important feature is that the Americans are right there. If the Americans do not want to send troops on peacekeeping ventures because of the bloody nose that they received in Vietnam, I understand that. However, the Americans have a great military characteristic: they have the logistical capacity to take any number of troops, food and the rest to the four corners of the earth. That is what we need. With its superb record and idealism in international affairs, and with its firm commitment to NATO, America would find that to be a very useful role.

If we do not want our soldiers to spend a disproportionate amount of their time on peacekeeping duties or paying a disproportionate burden for the task, the NATO regional framework can best ensure that we pay our fair share and no more and no less.

My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir D. Smith) is an old friend of mine and chairman of the Defence Committee of the Western European Union. I do not believe that WEU is a rival to NATO. As my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington is aware, some NATO circles are not always as complimentary about WEU as I would like them to be because they fear that WEU is the forerunner of control by the European Commission and a kind of federal European army. They hate the idea of that.

I know that that is not the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington. However, we know that we must not go through this ridiculous business of duplication and fighting and squabbling. Many NATO countries are members of WEU and they must sort out that problem. The Heads of Government in the North Atlantic Assembly, all of which are members of WEU, have agreed that NATO should be called upon to contribute to global stability. However, the European nation members of NATO should, among their other problems, resolve their problems to avoid the awful duplication that took place in respect of Yugoslavia.

Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

I agree with a great deal of what my hon. Friend has said. Does he agree that Bosnia happened, rather inconveniently, two or three years too early? Had it happened in two or three years' time, we would have been much better prepared. I agree with my hon. Friend that duplication is wasteful and must be overcome. However, we must achieve that very carefully and many of us have real anxieties about the European Commission taking over the whole of the defence of Europe.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

I understand that the time was out of kilter. However, we now have time to think and to do something about the problem.

I should like my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces to consider the fact that there is money to be made out of anything that involves peacekeeping on a regional basis. As my hon. Friend the Minister will be aware, after the Falklands, many NATO ships come in for special survival training and we are said to run a very good training course. We are paid for that training. If there were a peacekeeping training school, the Brits could be very helpful and provide advice to countries which have not had Our experience—and I do not say that with any sense of vanity.

We have a great responsibility to take the lead in these matters. One of my colleagues referred earlier to "punching our weight" when he quoted my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. We can punch more than our economic weight by virtue of our diplomatic skills, knowledge, integrity in public affairs and our economic weight in terms of overseas aid and so on. We want to live up to our responsibilities and we have the public behind us. It is right to affirm and strengthen the observance of civilised behaviour in international affairs and to strengthen the values of democracy. I believe that our country is well up to that task.

6.27 pm
Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

We have heard many endorsements and much praise for our service men who are serving in various parts of the world. I am sure that we all associate ourselves with that praise and endorse those comments.

However, a large body of ex-service personnel who heard the endorsements from the Treasury Bench will find those words rather windy, hollow and little more than rhetoric. I refer to the 26,000 personnel who, in the 1950s, were sent to witness nuclear test explosions. It is sad that the defence estimates and Ministers have not mentioned those service men.

In my brief contribution, I wish to ask one very simple question. When are those men, the widows—there are now too many widows—and their families going to get justice? In the 1950s, 26,000 service personnel, many of them young men, were called up for national service and were sent to places such as Monte Bello Island in north-west Australia, Maralinga and Emu in South Australia, and Christmas Island and Malden Island in the Pacific, and 14,000 of them directly witnessed nuclear explosions. Eleven men from my own home town went to those tests. Five of them are now dead, and six of them suffer from some form of illness associated with exposure to radiation. One of them, William Rettie, even had it recorded on his death certificate that the cause of his illness was associated with exposure to radiation. Those men and their bereaved families still await justice.

The Government have long said that there was no case for those men to be compensated. Contrary to the official propaganda films that were made at the time and all the subsequent Government statements, for many of those men no protective clothing, either for their bodies or for their eyes, was issued. In the hot sunny weather, many of them wore shorts, vests and sandals.

Back in 1951, the Ministry of Defence stated in a secret memorandum that it needed to test the impact of radiation on human beings. Those tests, as acknowledged by the memorandum, were as much about testing the effects of radiation on human beings as about testing the effects of the nuclear weapons themselves. The Director of Trials Planning at the Admiralty at the time wrote: Ill effects may be long delayed. With any claims for compensation I feel that some formula might be accepted by Ministries which would dispose any tribunal in favour of a … claimant. Sir William Penny went on to state that there was a need for adequate insurance for participating personnel, especially against radioactive hazards, without undue disclosure to insurance companies. We know also that, on 28 April 1958, in the Grapple Y test, the second test off Christmas Island, the megaton nuclear explosion was at a much lower height than the officially reported 8,000 ft, and that it happened not five miles out but one and a half miles from the island. We know that there was greater exposure to radiation than has been acknowledged.

Successive Governments have refused to pay compensation. There has never been more evidence available than is available now. The British Nuclear Test Veterans Association, to its great credit, has gathered much of that information. Indeed, the association was founded only about 10 years ago by a friend of mine who at the time was not involved in politics—a man by the name of Ken McGinley.

Ken is a constituent of mine. He was disgusted at the official position of the Government. He has been an active member of the Labour party for some time; he is now a Labour councillor, and has broadened his activities in relation to helping people. However, his main cause remains the winning of justice for veterans of British nuclear tests.

Let us consider Ken McGinley's experience. The protection that he was offered when he served on Christmas Island was to cover his eyes with his hands. When the bomb went off, Ken saw the skeleton of his hand. Since then, he has suffered many ill effects which he would not wish to be put on the public record, and he has fought consistently for 10 years to win justice for his colleagues.

Those men know what happened on the island—they were at the tests. Many of them feel that all that they did wrong was to serve their country and obey orders.

The case has been taken up over the 10 years by many people, notably the former right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South, Mr. Jack Ashley, as he then was; the former Member for Sunderland, North, Mr. Bob Clay; and my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz). It has also been taken up by the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) and the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins).

During that period, the Government have hidden behind the 1988 study by the National Radiological Protection Board, which the Government have always claimed gave no credence to the nuclear test veterans' claim. The report states: It is concluded from the study that participation has not had a detectable effect on the participants expectation of life nor their total risk of developing cancer"— then, almost as an afterthought, it adds— apart from a possible effect on the risks of developing Multiple Myeloma and Leukaemia. That is a matter of political presentation. The report could and should have said something along the lines that participation might have caused death from multiple myeloma and leukaemia, although not from other cancers. That is the real conclusion of the 1988 report.

Of course, since then, the Government have said, "Hang on: that report was not conclusive, so we will commission another one, and it will be ready at any time." In fact, on 5 June last year, in reply to a parliamentary question, the Prime Minister said: A further report from the NRPB on more recent data on mortality and cancer evidence is expected later this year." —[Official Report, 5 June 1992; Vol. 208, c. 655] On 5 June, the report was to come later.

On 29 July, in response to a letter which I wrote on behalf of Mrs. Rettie and her two daughters—as I said, her husband had died—we were told that it would be later still. The most recent reply from the Prime Minister was on 14 May, and he told me that it would be produced later in 1993.

The report is desperately awaited by those men who are dying from the effects of radiation. More important, it is desperately awaited by widows and children who have lost a loved one, and who feel that they are not getting justice from the Government.

Let us compare that with the situation in the United States of America. In 1988, the year in which the NRPB study was published in Britain, the American Government considered what they would do for their veterans. Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia, speaking in Congress, said: I think it is time to bring an end to the research and to the injustice and to respond with recognition and compassion to what these people went through in the line of duty. We know enough to act. When new legislation was announced by President Ronald Reagan, hardly a left-wing campaigner, he said: The nation is grateful for their special service, and enactment of the law makes clear the nation's concern for their continued welfare. He said: The nation is grateful … We know enough to act. Why is it that the United States of America, with all the research that it has done, has said that it knows enough to act while our Government have continued to stonewall? Men are dead, men are dying, wives are becoming widows, and children are losing fathers, while the Government claim that there is no link with the exposure to nuclear radiation in those tests. Frankly, that argument is believed by fewer and fewer people. The Government's case is becoming less and less credible as more and more evidence accumulates.

I return to the simple question that I want answered: when are those men and their families going to get justice? When can we expect the full publication of the NRPB study? Why have the Government waited and not done the same as the United States has done and said, "Enough research, enough investigation—let's pay just and adequate compensation now"? The motto of the British Nuclear Test Veterans Association is All we seek is justice Let the House give justice to those men and their families.

6.38 pm
Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset. West)

I start by paying tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton), who has carried out a difficult task over the years with good humour and great efficiency, always supplemented by the fact that he towers over us and we are not prepared to risk a punch-up if we disagree too strongly with him. I warmly welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), who has taken over that difficult task.

I am never sure how handover notes are arranged, but I wonder whether one small item has been omitted from them. That would have read, "Watch for an invitation about January of next year to lunch at the annual regimental sergeant-majors conference of the Parachute Regiment." My right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell came to that lunch the year before last, and the Secretary of State came last year. They found it an interesting experience, which I do not think either of them wants to repeat.

That may well be the reason why my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that he had better leave office. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes has about nine months in which to show himself worthy of lunch with the parachute RSMs and to come away virtually unscathed. I am sure that he will do that very well.

I shall first say a word about the welcome announcement by my right hon. Friend on Thursday about giving the Territorial Army a new role and a positive sense of purpose. For 40 years, our Territorial Army had that sense of purpose, because it knew exactly where the enemy was and what its role would be in fighting that enemy if it ever came to war. Suddenly, the whole idea of and reason for a Territorial Army in that context has gone out of the window. I served on the staff of the 16th Airborne Division of the Territorial Army for two years. I know about the quality that we had there—I know that it still exists today and is even better than it was in the 1950s and 1960s.

I warmly welcome what was said on Thursday about calling up those volunteers from the TA and giving them a role. What I do not welcome is the delay that we will face before that decision is implemented. Such a delay may be necessary, but I suggest that one of the first things that the Minister of State should do is earmark those units and give them warning that they may be required for such a duty once the measures are fully implemented.

There seems to be general agreement on both sides of the House that such a warning would be welcome. Obviously, I do not need to stress that too much. Clearly, if the Minister is looking for the right sort of company or companies to perform that function, his first port of call will be the Territorial Army parachute battalions, because they would provide the best source of supply for such a force.

On Thursday, I was delighted that the Secretary of State spent so much time talking about the role of the United Nations. We all know that this will be the decade of the United Nations and, increasingly, we will be involved in United Nations operations, rather than acting independently.

That point was strongly reinforced today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith). There is absolutely no problem if we are dealing with a European theatre of operations, because we have NATO and with it a command structure that is second to none, and so we do not need to look any further. The United Nations can simply designate a NATO command structure to take over the role.

What happens in the rest of the world? That is where our problems begin, because a command structure cannot be cobbled together in a matter of weeks. Much more proper training is needed in a command structure than for the troops who will be answerable to that command. The command structure then needs to be in a position, if possible, to command a homogeneous group of troops who have worked together before and who have a common language—if that can be achieved. If there are common weapons as well, so much the better.

One of my greatest disappointments in the past couple of years is how little has been said about the 1991 Commonwealth conference in Harare. Everyone I know who attended that conference, from the Secretary-General and all the members of the secretariat down, said that it marked a watershed for the Commonwealth. This was for various reasons. South Africa was on the back burner, but also, for the first time, a Commonwealth conference showed a sense of unity and purpose, and began to make sense once again. I have been told that the main reason was the fact that our Prime Minister played a crucial role at the conference. In three months' time, the Commonwealth conference will gather again in Cyprus.

To add to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden said, I am sure that there is another way in which we could operate under United Nations command. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater talked about observers, perhaps drawn from the Commonwealth. We then looked at the possibility of having a regional force. Another option would be a direct United Nations force under the command of the Secretary-General.

Why should we not at least explore the possibility of the Commonwealth playing a part under the United Nations? Why should we not have a small Commonwealth planning group drawn together to discuss this? It would be not regional but worldwide, and above all would give the Commonwealth a sense of purpose that, sadly, it has not had for the past 25 years.

I pass that idea to my hon. Friend the Minister, for what it is worth. I hope that he will forward it through the usual channels and ensure that something is made of it in Cyprus. After all, we are simply looking at a small initial step—a planning group to see whether there would be support in the Commonwealth to ask the Secretary-General of the United Nations whether he would like us to go down that road, and then possibly the establishment of a small permanent planning force with the idea of drawing regional groupings from the Commonwealth as and when required.

It would be impossible for me to finish without saying a word about procurement policy. Five hon. Members have mentioned the EH101 directly—and most other hon. Members have done so indirectly. All of them said that now is the time for a decision.

All hon. Members accept the need for a radical rethink and restructuring of our armed forces to meet the challenge of this decade and those to come. Far be it from me to put the boot in the Armoured Corps, but there is no place in the 1990s and beyond for great massive heavy armed forces sitting around on the north German plain. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden said, the threat from the east has virtually disappeared and we must think more about the sort of conflict in which we might be involved in the future. In my view, it is down with most of the tanks and into helicopters in a more positive way, in support of infantry.

In that context, the helicopter becomes crucial if we are to produce an effective infantry force for any situation under United Nations command and control. That fact was recognised by the former Secretary of State, Lord Younger, when he said, in 1987, that he intended to place an order for 50 utility 101s, with the proviso that the price and the contract could be satisfactorily concluded.

Mr. Wilkinson


Sir Jim Spicer

It should be 50. My recollection is much better. Fifty is the minimum figure, and would be much better at 75.

Sadly, there is still no order. We now have a major problem. It is not as if we are fighting over whether the order should go to Rosyth or Devonport: we seem to be skirmishing over whether a British world beater is ordered or whether we go for a Chinook. The Chinook is a marvellous helicopter, but it is almost in the same category as the Hercules. It has been around for 30 years. It is a good workhorse, but it is at the end of its shelf life. Is it any wonder that the American manufacturers are perfectly prepared to undercut Westland all the way down the line? They want to get shot of their Chinooks. They have far too many. They would like to undermine the challenge that Westland will mount worldwide with the EH101.

Whether we order 25, 50 or 75 helicopters is neither here nor there. It is important that our Government put in an order for that utility version now. That would be the turnkey for orders worldwide for at least 400 utility versions of the EH101. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister is the Minister of State for the Armed Forces and that he does not have full responsibility for procurement policy, but I inform him that the matter will be on the agenda when he meets the RSMs and the Parachute Regiment next year. I hope that he will have achieved a solution before then.

6.51 pm
Mr. John Hutton (Barrow and Furness)

This is the first opportunity that I have had to speak in a defence debate since I was elected to the House. I begin by paying tribute to the professionalism and dedication and the humanitarian efforts of Britain's armed forces around the world. We have heard recently of some of the heroic exploits in Bosnia of our soldiers from the Cheshire Regiment and now the Yorkshire Regiment. It is a tribute to the training and professionalism of our soldiers to draw attention to their work.

Service in the armed forces is public service of the highest order. It is perfectly appropriate for hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber to make that clear. I also have a clear constituency connection with the subject of the debate. As many hon. Members will know, the shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness is synonymous with the Royal Navy. Over many generations and many years, we have provided some of the finest ships that the Navy has ever had.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement spoke about the impressive engineering accomplishment of my constituency in completing the Trident programme to schedule and to cost. It is worthy of note that that is a signal engineering achievement which is without parallel in the history of naval architecture in Britain.

It is also worth placing on record the concern felt in my constituency that, although Ministers talk in the House about the achievements of the men and women who work in the shipyard at Barrow in completing the Trident programme and building many other ships for the Navy, they appear content to do nothing while thousands of my constituents lose their jobs at the shipyard.

It is clearly important for the security and the health of the nation that shipbuilding remains active in my constituency. I must inform Ministers on the Treasury Bench that in 10 or 15 years' time, when the needs of the nation might be different and new and different forms of naval procurement might be required, they may ask the shipbuilding workers in my constituency to co-operate and find that they are not there.

I have said on previous occasions that there is a real danger that, in our drive to reduce defence spending, we shall strike deeply at the core of the defence industry of Britain. There is a strong strategic case for the House, and especially Conservative Members, to pay careful attention to what is happening in the defence industries.

The defence industries are a strategically important part of Britain's engineering base. It is dangerous and damaging for the Government to wring their hands and claim that the problems can be solved by the market and that diversification is about defence cuts. It is not. The case for diversification is a central strategic military case. It is a mistake for Conservative Members to say that there is a problem of over-capacity in the defence industries. That is not the problem. At present we have under-utilised capacity. Diversification is necessary not only to save jobs in the short term but to preserve engineering capability in the long term.

In 10 or 15 years' time, there may well be a need for different types of defence procurement. If the engineering base is not there, as a result of the programme of running down and cutting defence—the problems are felt not only in my constituency but in the constituencies of many other hon. Members who are present tonight—there will be serious strategic problems for the country in the years that lie ahead.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) for his comments about the need for justice for the nuclear test veterans. He made an extremely strong argument to the House. I hope that the Minister will be able to make a positive response.

The House also has a responsibility to set the right parameters for British defence and security policy in a rapidly changing world. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that not all the recent changes have been for the better. Clearly, the end of the cold war and the dismantling of the Warsaw pact were positive developments for Britain and our allies. That is not questioned. There is a consensus between the two sides of the House. However, those changes have not been without other difficulties, as we see in the territory of the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere. Real security problems face many Europeans. Therefore, it is imperative that Britain acts in co-operation with our colleagues in NATO, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations to develop new security structures and policies for the changed world in which we live.

Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends believe that the Government are not effective and rigorous in pursuing some of those changed security priorities. As many hon. Members have said, it is important that the House provides the armed services with the right equipment at the right time and at the right price. Much of the two days of our debate has dealt with difficult decisions on individual items of procurement such as helicopters, main battle tanks, frigates and other items of essential equipment.

Although I agreed with much of what the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) said, the Government repeatedly give the impression that their policy is Treasury-led. It is not sufficient to rely on competition to secure value for money in defence procurement policy. As we saw recently with the demise of Swan Hunter, competition may deliver to the Government equipment of a certain price and value, but the end result is that we lose capacity. It is clear that Swan Hunter might not be there to build ships, frigates or other boats for the Royal Navy in the years that lie ahead.

Competition is obviously important, but it is not sufficient in itself to guarantee some of the long-term procurement priorities that the Government must have.

I said that there was evidence that the Government's policy for procurement was Treasury-led. The Select Committee's first report on the White Paper said at paragraph 4.18 in its discussion of the lightweight Sea Wolf missile system that it was the strong view of the Committee that the decision to cancel the development of lightweight Sea Wolf was another example of financial disciplines overriding military requirement. I choose that as one exmaple of the weakness at the heart of the Government's policy.

As the hon. Member for Wealden and others have said, we cannot expect any substantial increase, or any increase whatever, in the defence budget for many years to come. That is common ground. However, there is a legitimate debate, which we have had tonight and on previous occasions, about how the Government manage the process of change in the defence policy of Britain. Increasingly, there is evidence that the policy is being determined by the Treasury. It is incumbent on defence Ministers to provide a more convincing case than they have been able to produce to date for the priorities that underpin their policy. Ritual incantation of the policy from the Front Bench is not evidence that the policy is not Treasury-led. So long as the Select Committee continues its excellent work to track the Government's progress to date, hon. Members will be furnished with more examples of Treasury-led cuts in our defence programme.

It is important that hon. Members actively support efforts to contain the spread of inappropriate military technology—the nuclear weapon technology. For what it is worth, I believe that the threat from, and spread of, nuclear technology around the world is one of the greatest threats to security for many decades. The Opposition believe that the Government have not paid sufficient attention or devoted enough energy to that issue.

It is important to consider the scant and rather flimsy attention that was paid to nuclear testing and nuclear proliferation in the White Paper. Paragraph 135 strikes me as indicative of some of the problems that we face. On the issue of non-proliferation, the Government say: Our aim at the 1995 NPT"— non-proliferation treaty— Extension Conference will be to negotiate an indefinite extension to the Treaty. I am sure that that approach represents common ground between hon. Members, perhaps with the exception of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert). I am sure that there is consensus on the fact that it should be an international priority to extend the non-proliferation treaty.

The timetable that the Government have announced in the White Paper, however, is far too optimistic given the rather laggardly way in which they have approached the issue to date. The recent preparatory committee meeting in New York was a wasted opportunity for the Government, who concerned themselves with procedural and technical issues. Insufficient attention was paid to making progress on the substantive issues that could form a real agenda for progress on the treaty.

It is also important that we should consider the replacement for the WE177 nuclear gravity bomb. I know that hon. Members have already spoken about that, but I do not believe that there is any such need. It would be an extremely expensive item of equipment to produce in the present economic and political climate. I have not heard any convincing strategic case for it.

To some extent, defence policy lags behind events. It is, therefore, easy for some people to remain fixed in their belief that a panoply of nuclear weaponry is essential to maintain peace. Even in the past four years, however, the world has changed dramatically. I, for one on the Opposition Benches, have always been prepared to accept the case for an independent nuclear deterrent. I have never made any secret of my views on that, subject; after all, I represent Barrow and Furness. The case for a tactical, nuclear replacement for the WE177 gravity bomb, however, cannot be made in current circumstances.

The defence posture encapsulated in the Government's White Paper involves a new programme of nuclear weapon testing at the test site in Nevada. The Minister of State for Defence Procurement has made it clear that the three additional tests requested by the British Government relate to developing a replacement for the gravity bomb. They have nothing to do with Trident, because, as we know, the testing programme for that has been completed. I do not believe that there is any case for the tests to go ahead. That is why I am particularly glad to note that the Opposition amendment tabled by my right hon. and learned Friend, the Leader of the Opposition contains a specific reference to nuclear testing.

Mr. Mans

Am I right to say that the hon. Gentleman believes that once the capability of the strike role of the Tornado becomes obsolete, as a result of the free-fall bomb no longer being a capable system for delivering nuclear weapons, we should rely solely on Trident, despite what he said about nuclear proliferation?

Mr. Hutton

I do not believe that there is a strategic or military case for that type of tactical nuclear weapon. I cannot foresee a range of military circumstances in which that weapon could be deployed effectively.

As I said earlier, I believe that there is a case for an independent nuclear deterrent. I stick to that argument. The particular replacement weapon that we are discussing, however, is unnecessary. In the context of continued pressure on the procurement budget, expenditure on developing the tactical air-to-surface missile, TASM, is wholly unjustified. There is no plausible military case for it.

A decision on the replacement of the WE177 is long overdue—that point has not been made. According to paragraph 7.28 of the 1991 White Paper on the defence estimates, the Government said that a decision on WE117 would be made during 1992. We are obviously some way behind that timetable. I hope that the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will be able to give us the benefit of his opinion on this subject, because it is an issue on which opinion on both sides of the House is divided.

I hope that I have made it clear that my perspective in the debate is based on my strong support of the armed forces and the men and women who serve this country and the international community, through the United Nations, as their members. There are a number of specific concerns, however, on which I want to address the House. They come within the context of my remarks about addressing the House as a constituency Member with an interest at heart.

I must say how delighted my constituents and I were at the Government's decision to place an order to build a helicopter carrier in my constituency. I am sure that my constituents will build a first-class ship for the Royal Navy and provide a good deal for the taxpayer at the same time. However, there is a great deal of concern and sadness in my constituency about what has happened to Swan Hunter. No one in any shipbuilding community takes any satisfaction from seeing other shipyard employees lose their jobs, particularly at a fine shipyard like Swan Hunter, which has developed a reputation for excellence over many years. I urge the Government to find the means to resolve the uncertainty that hangs over the future of that shipyard. It was an important decision to place the order for the carrier, however, and, on behalf of my constituents, I am delighted that it was placed with a shipyard in Barrow and Furness.

In addition to preserving the amphibious role of the Royal Navy, which is crucial in terms of the wider security context in which the British armed forces will operate in the future, and, in particular, to the assistance that we can give to the United Nations in its peacekeeping work, it is also important that the Government can confirm that it will be their policy to place early orders for the replacement of HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid. It is important to concentrate on the complete package. The helicopter carrier is an important part of the amphibious jigsaw. Without replacements for HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid, the Royal Navy, including the Royal Marines, will not be able to play a complete role in that arena.

Other important decisions must be taken about the future procurement of the Royal Navy. The decision on HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid will, however, be awaited with eagerness in my constituency.

I am also concerned about the future size and structure of the Royal Navy submarine fleet. It has been my understanding for some time that the Government are sticking to their assertion that that fleet will consist of 16 submarines. It will be made up of 12 nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines, predominantly from the Trafalgar class, and four type 2400 Upholder diesel electric submarines—a design which was pioneered at Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. shipyard in Barrow.

The future of the Upholder class submarines has been subject to much attention in recent months. The Opposition have tried to raise the issue with the Government. I know that other hon. Members share my concern that the Government might be proposing to dispose of those four diesel electric submarines to a foreign navy. What has changed since "Options for Change"? What strategic assessment underlines the Government's case for believing that they can dispose of those four submarines? I am unaware of any such case. Quite the contrary—without a diesel electric component in the submarine service, the capability, the role, the range of missions and functions that the submarine service can discharge will be handicapped.

In navies throughout the world, including the many successful ones, diesel electric submarines play an important role in the configuration of submarine forces. Particularly in export sales, diesel electric submarines have a sellable identity; the transfer of nuclear technology is a completely different issue, and I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would have strong reservations about that technology being widely sold around the world.

The technology in some diesel electronic submarines is world class and, in particular, the Upholder class submarine could, with the right backing and support from the Government, form the basis of a successful export operation. However, it will be immensely difficult to sell a unique development such as the Upholder class if the Royal Navy does not operate it. What other navy is likely to say, "We'll buy some of those" if the Royal Navy has given up any operating capability _ in that class? On strategic, military and industrial grounds, the type 2400 diesel electric submarine should not be sold but should remain part of the Royal Navy.

There is a more pressing issue in the submarine fleet—the Government's intention to procure a replacement for the Trafalgar class or the Swiftsure submarine. It is important that the Government go ahead with their decision to produce a follow-on to the Trafalgar class boat at the earliest opportunity. The minimum number for the batch-2 Trafalgars should be six. That is the way to guarantee an operational deployment of 12 SSNs, assuming that we maintain our fleet of diesel electric submarines. That is of particular interest to my constituents, because we hope and expect to build those submarines.

I have another concern, and again I locate my comments in the context of the emerging role of Britain's armed forces in a changed world. There is a need for new procurement for the Army to ensure that it has a genuine rapid reaction role. In particular, I should like the Minister to be aware of one item of equipment, if he is not already. VSEL is developing an ultra-lightweight howitzer, which is undergoing tests in the United States. That is an ideal weapon for a rapid reaction corps, and I am delighted that British units will play a leading role in that corps. It will be useful because it is air portable and can be lifted by light helicopters.

My right hon. and hon. Friends have for some time been raising the issue of diversification, and I have also spoken about it. Paragraph 350 of the White Paper., in the words of the Select Committee, offers "nothing but cold comfort" to the defence industry. That is an accurate assessment. At least 80,000 jobs have been lost in the defence industry in the past two and half years. That is a catastrophic loss of skills and talents, which the nation cannot afford for very much longer. I simply emphasise to the Minister and the Government that diversification is not the soft way. It is not an excuse for defence cuts. Far from it—it is a method of retaining capability in an industrial sector.

If we do not have an industrial strategy—I know that those are dirty words to some Tory Members—for preserving skills and jobs, and capacity in the defence industry, we run a serious risk of undermining the capability of Britain's industrial base to equip British armed forces in the years ahead. It is essential that our industrial base has that capacity. That is the point and purpose of a policy of diversification. That is why it forms such an important part of the amendment to the Government's motion. International co-operation is to be encouraged, and collaboration between nations on projects is worthy, but it is not an exclusive policy.

In opening the debate, the Minister of State for Defence Procurement rightly said that the main challenge for defence policyrnakers in the west was how to respond to, and deal with, a changed international climate. I am not convinced that he provided us with any real evidence that the Government either understand the nature of those changes or have any strategy to meet the challenge.

7.14 pm
Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

I am glad that we are having this debate on the 1992 White Paper, albeit a bit late. I sincerely hope that we shall not wait quite so long for the debate on this year's White Paper. I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer) in welcoming my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) to his new duties on the Front Bench.

I have listened to most of the debate, and I fully agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) about nuclear testing. I served with a number of people in the Royal Air Force who took part in those tests in the Pacific, and have little doubt that, if we have to wait for the sort of evidence that is thought necessary before admitting that there are problems, most of them will be dead. It is important that the Ministry of Defence looks closely at the matter immediately to see whether something can be done.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton) that our only nuclear independent weapon should be Trident. It is important to have a flexible deterrent. I question the credibility of Trident as a proper deterrent in the sort of situation that may occur when some of the countries in Asia that are already in possession of nuclear weapons pose a threat to us. A better deterrent is an air-borne system which can be deployed in a way that makes it clear to those nations that we are serious in our intentions. I am not convinced that a submarine-based deterrent would be able to achieve that.

The hon. Gentleman made a good point about the equipment of the Royal Navy. His comments turned into something of a shopping list. Although I fully commend him on representing so well his constituency, and the firm that employs so many people in it, he should be careful about the amount that he suggests should be spent. When I added up the figures, they came to well over £1 billion. Recent Labour party conferences have proposed cutting spending on defence; conference decisions last year or the year before asked for £6.5 billion worth of cuts. I hope that future Labour conferences will be a little more responsible and will match the amount that they propose to spend on defence with the comments made by Opposition Members today and last Thursday about the equipment that they wish the armed services to have. There is a huge gap between the shopping list that they set out and the actual sums that they are prepared to spend on defence.

Defence has already taken a large cut. Figures published as recently as last week by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies show that the defence budget for 1984–85 is £26 billion at 1991–92 prices. By 1994–95, that figure will be reduced to £21.5 billion, a cut of nearly 20 per cent. What is even more significant is that, for that first year, the equipment budget consumed 46 per cent. of the defence budget whereas in 1994–95 it will consume 37 per cent. That shows that equipment has taken a larger share of the cuts than personnel, although the number of personnel will fall from 336,000 to 265,000 by 1994–95.

I mention those figures because in the current public expenditure round it is important to recognise the cuts that have already occurred in the armed forces. If we are to meet our future commitments, they cannot continue. The RAF strike attack capability has been reduced by 40 per cent. and our air defence capability is to be reduced by 30 per cent. Those are large cuts and they are causing a problem with morale. The older service men are concerned that they may be candidates for redundancy and the young service men are concerned about their careers. I meet a number of young service men in my minor capacity as an RAF reserve pilot. When they are part or full way through their training, they often have to wait. for up to two years before completing their training or joining their operational squadrons. That is demoralising and they begin to question whether a career in the armed services is right for them. It costs between £4 million and £5 million to train a front-line Tornado pilot, so it is essential to have a steady throughput.

I hope that the Ministry of Defence will consider ways in which young service men can be used more effectively during the gaps in their training. I accept that such gaps must occur, but I hope not to the extent that has been happening. We need to deploy our young service men in a way that encourages greater motivation. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) suggested, they could be used in peacekeeping roles. Detachment to one of the areas in which we are currently involved would make a good start to their careers.

It is my belief that we have already largely spent the peace dividend, so we cannot spend it again. Although the cold war is over, there is a proliferation of nuclear weapons. There are unstable regimes throughout the world, especially in north Africa and Asia. When determining the size and shape of our future armed forces, we must remember that not only should they be involved in peacekeeping; they should be able to fight in a major conflict. That is an important point to bear in mind when considering budget constraints.

The new roles that will undoubtedly evolve over the next few years mean new weapons systems and equipment. I agree with the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness that there must be a viable defence industry on this side of the Atlantic. However, I do not agree with his suggestion of the establishment of a defence diversification agency. The history of such agencies is not good. The Labour Government established one in 1965 when they cancelled the TSR2, but, if my memory is correct, it lasted for only about six months and was then disbanded.

A better route would be to examine the possibility of combining the research and development facilities in the defence industry with wider industrial research, thereby providing a research and development base in engineering that could apply equally to military and commercial products. I hope that the Department of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence will consider funding projects on a partnership basis, as happens successfully in the USA.

I want to refer to two pieces of new equipment that demonstrate the importance of collaboration in military and civilian research. The first is the replacement for the C130. One of the most interesting points that came out of the recent tragic crash of a C130, with the resultant loss of life, was that the aircraft did not have a black box recorder. That was because it was designed long ago, when black box recorders did not exist in the form that we know them now.

The Labour Government decided to buy American aircraft, and the C130 came into service with the RAF in 1967. I do not want to enter into a debate about whether that decision was right or wrong, although I think it was wrong. What has been evident is not only that the initial purchase of the aircraft caused employment problems in Britain, but that over the past 27 years we have had to rely on the USA for a steady supply of spare parts, maintenance and updating. That has been both a drain on our balance of payments and a cause of unemployment in Britain.

The MOD must seriously consider the whole life costs of a replacement for the C130, not just the costs of the initial purchase. It is a fact that almost any new military aircraft involves spending more on spare parts and modifications during its life than was spent on the initial purchase. Therefore, the case for the C130J is nothing like as attractive is it might initially have appeared to be.

I argue that there is a case for becoming more fully involved in the European future large aircraft programme. Then, not only will we keep a viable aircraft industry on this side of the Atlantic, but we will get good value for the RAF during the life of the aircraft. I understand the time scale problems; it is only a paper aircraft and no detailed design work has been done. I hope that the consortia, both in this country and elsewhere, will firm up their proposals and, perhaps, base the aircraft on some of the technology that already exists in the airbus.

It would be right for the RAF to suggest further modification and renovation of some of its existing C130 fleet so that, at the end of the century, it can purchase the future large aircraft. It will have the ability not just to take on the role of the C130, but to replace some of our tanker force and our maritime reconnaissance force of Nimrods.

That sums up the importance not only of having the right aircraft for the RAF, but of finding a way to retain the technology on this side of the Atlantic so that we can continue to replace the aircraft into the foreseeable future and not rely solely on the Americans.

My final point about the C130 replacement is the importance of having a decent airlift capacity in Europe. At present, as hon. Members said last Thursday, we rely almost solely on the Americans for our heavy lift capability. I do not know how much longer we shall be able to do that, so it makes even greater sense to combine with some other European nations—perhaps encouraging them to take a fuller part in the sort of operations in which British armed forces participated over the past few years—in producing an aircraft that can do the job.

The second project, the EH101, was mentioned by six hon. Members on Thursday and today. The difference between them and me is that I do not have a constituency in the south-west. None the less, I am convinced that the right way forward is for the EH101 to meet the RAF's need for a medium-lift helicopter, not the Chinook.

Again, the full-life costs are important. Whereas the Chinook is cheap to buy, the costs over the life of that aircraft are likely to be much larger. It is difficult to maintain, and while the RAF already has a good training base at Odiham and therefore the on-costs of introducing further aircraft of the same type are small, that advantage must be balanced against having the same helicopter that the Navy has decided to purchase. I argue that, again in the medium term, there are training cost-savings to be made if the EH101 is bought.

Perhaps I should have made the point also in relation to the FLA—the future large aircraft—that there is undoubtedly export potential for the EH101. The Canadians have already bought it, and I am convinced that many other armed forces around the world are only waiting for the RAF to confirm the stated intention of a former Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Younger, seven or eight years ago and firm up the order for that aircraft before considering purchasing the EH 101 themselves. That important decision should be made soon if we are to retain a viable helicopter industry on this side of the Atlantic alongside a viable fixed-wing aircraft industry.

Both projects can demonstrate the link between civilian and military research. Much of the technology that would go into the FLA is readily transferable to the next generation of civilian airlines. In the same way that the American 707 was built on the basis of the defence money that went into the KC135 tanker, and the 747 was based on the American defence spending on the competition for what turned out to be the Galaxy heavy lift transporter, we too should look at ways of ensuring that money put into the FLA will result in another generation of airliners on this side of the Atlantic to succeed the airbus generation that has been so successful to date.

The 1993 White Paper will be published in less than a month, and I hope that it will answer at least some of the questions posed in this debate about the future direction of our armed forces. We have a clearer idea now of what the post-cold war world is likely to be like. It is plain that it will be more unstable, and that in future our armed forces will play varied roles. Beyond that, nothing is clear.

If we are to punch above our weight, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said, it is important to restore morale in our armed services by giving them a much clearer idea of what they will be asked to do in future and the size and shape of the forces that we will have to complete those tasks. I hope very much that the imminent 1993 White Paper will answer at least some of those questions.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. Only one hour and 45 minutes is left before the winding-up speeches, and no fewer than 12 hon. Members still hope to catch my eye. If hon. Members will co-operate, it may be possible for them all to contribute.

7.33 pm
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

I will follow some of the important points made by the hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans), but I will first comment on an earlier reference to Matrix Churchill and trade with Iraq. I was reminded that on the day on which the Select Committee was supposed to begin its deliberations, directors or employees of Forgemasters were arrested and placed in cells in the police station at Rawmarsh in my constituency. I never received a satisfactory explanation for that arrest, except that the Government were passing on to the shoulders of business men burdens that the Government should have been openly eager to bear themselves.

That is not least because it was argued that it was thought that a pipeline rather than a gun was being built. Apparently, that was the Government's view, but if they had even the most rudimentary grasp of metallurgy and had placed a piece of steel in a spectrometer, they could have ascertained that the steel used in a pipeline is rather different from that used to manufacture gun barrels—even long gun barrels of the sort involved in the Matrix Churchill affair.

Just as the Government were eager to have business men serve as fall guys in respect of trade with Iraq, so are the Government deliberately placing service men in an impossible situation. The Government have not adequately reviewed their arrangements since "Options for Change", although since it was published the burdens and responsibilities placed on the services have grown enormously.

In many parts of our armed services, men are repeatedly away from home on short, unaccompanied detachments. The strain on their families is enormous. At the same time, the service man does not know whether he has adequate career prospects. Ministers pay tribute to service men, but those men do not know whether they can maintain the careers that they are currently fulfilling with dedication, ability and courage. That is not a satisfactory situation.

Over the past 18 months on visits to a number of RAF stations, I have been enormously impressed by the technological skills exhibited by those involved in avionics and engineering, who possess a considerable ability to keep old aircraft flying. The hon. Member for Wyre referred also to pilots and pilot training. However, many of those dedicated and able men do not know whether their careers have a future. They must reach certain ranks by certain ages. If promotion is frozen or delayed, they must go. That is not a particularly happy outcome.

Those men know that if they leave, the skills that they have learnt in the RAF will enable them to obtain jobs with private contractors. However, many have asked me, "Who will replace us when we retire, because contractors are much less willing to train than the services?" That aspect should command much more attention. The review should consider also whether the services have an adequate, guaranteed long-term capacity to maintain their equipment.

In the years since the first Halton apprentice, the services have trained people in advanced technology, and have had the use of their services for an average of 12 to 15 years. Then they left, and the largest part of their working life may have been spent applying skills acquired in the services to many areas of British industrial technology. If the training in the services dries up, that will not help Britain today—lacking, as it does, skills training—for that is forefeited in the name of economy.

It is odd that, for some time, we have had little opportunity to hear the sort of speech made by the hon. Member for Wyre. A long time has elapsed since the last Royal Air Force debate. Last July, we briefly debated discipline. Then there was a mongrel debate—to quote the Foreign Secretary—when we hoped to debate the Royal Air Force, but the powers that be decided that it should be a debate about Iraq instead. I trust that the serious decisions that must be made will indeed be made, and that the House will have an opportunity to debate them at an early stage.

Much has been said about aircraft. I referred to the Hercules in an intervention on the Minister. As the hon. Member for Wyre reminded us, it is an old aircraft, but it is not the oldest: the Wessex entered squadron service in 1964, a long time ago. It is a gas-guzzling helicopter, which has had its day. The Puma is not much younger; I believe that it entered squadron service in 1971. In recent years, those two helicopters will have been used much more heavily than was thought possible when they were introduced. The service must be given a new helicopter.

I accept that that puts the Government in some difficulty. As the House has been reminded, they are Treasury led. However, the Government are right to remind the House that our armed forces are of superb quality. Last week, I spoke in a debate on the United Nations in the Western European Union. My speech was not particularly popular: I pointed out that European countries—apart, perhaps, from the French, with their paras and Foreign Legion, and apart from Britain—seem remarkably eager to send medical orderlies, civil police and nursing and military observers to areas of conflict and danger while at the same time they are remarkably unwilling to send adequately trained fighting soldiers or combat aircraft into such difficult zones, perhaps because they are unable to do so. It is remarkable that when we debate the Gulf or, as we did last week, the United Nations, an enormous number of people from the Parliaments of Europe are willing to speak; yet those same Parliaments seem unable to send, or endorse the sending of, those with the skills required to secure order and stability. And this is an unstable world.

The cold war meant stability, although it also meant the sterilisation of the United Nations. The end of the cold war has released forces in Europe that are extremely dangerous. Bosnia may represent just the first stage. Only a few weeks ago, I spoke to members of the Arab League. Their anxiety about the treatment of Muslims in Europe is arousing increasing animosity and hate and it is raising the temperature in the middle east in a way which could prove exceedingly dangerous.

I believe that we should have an adequate capacity to defend the United Kingdom. I think that we are entirely right to tell the Government that the days of privatisation for the sake of dogma should end. I do not suggest that the Government should not look for value for money, but I believe that no service should be weakened by the application of Conservative dogma in favour of privatisation. That would be disloyal—indeed, treacherous. Above all, the Government must understand that the burdens placed on some of our service men—the denial of careers, for example, or anxiety about career prospects—are not tolerable. Their quality and dedication must be reflected properly in the decisions and policies of Her Majesty's Government.

7.43 pm
Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe)

I am' happy to endorse what the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) and a number of others have said about the quality of the British service man, in which we all take great pride. I also agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the importance of the quality of training available to the armed services, and the contribution that it makes to our national life. Like all other Opposition Members, however, he paid too little attention to the huge financial pressures placed on the Government. Those pressures must be dealt with in terms of our crucial national interest.

Along with many other hon. Members—Conservative Members, certainly—I warmly welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), the new Minister of State for the Armed Forces. He is an important new adornment to an impressive defence team, replacing another admirable member, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton). I look forward to his winding-up speech.

As has been pointed out, this rather tardy celebration of the 1992 defence estimates is probably regrettable; however, we are engaging in this crucial debate at a very important time. We are all aware of the problems of the £50 billion public sector borrowing requirement; they make it even more important than usual for us to secure value for money from all our budgets, not least the defence budget.

Moreover, we all understand that the new world order to which we rightly looked forward is proving very dangerous and challenging, and that the peace dividend that we expected is proving difficult to collect. We also understand that the situation in the former Yugoslavia may well repeat itself elsewhere. It is important for us as a nation—and, indeed, the international community—to recognise the need to find a new way in which to tackle the challenges.

That is no reflection on the capacity of the European Community or the United Nations; it is simply a challenge that the world has never faced up to before. That challenge has been exacerbated by the ubiquity of the television screen, and the consequent universal awareness of the horrors now taking place in Bosnia—which, 50 years ago, could have taken place in many parts of the world without having the same political impact. A great deal of hard thinking is needed about the future of our armed forces—not just the British forces, but those of our allies. We need a clear intellectual framework, and a coherent overview of what we require our forces to do.

I must say that I find the three targets set out in the White Paper somewhat vague and unsatisfactory. More brain power should be brought to bear. I say that knowing the difficulties, having had some personal experience as a defence analyst loaned to the Australian Government, as a Foreign Office official and as a Foreign Office Minister. I have had to make such prognoses, and I know that it is a challenge; I also know that what is planned for never materialises as a requirement.

Nevertheless, we must ensure that the best brains available are brought to bear, and that the old charge that defence policy is Treasury-led is finally laid to rest. That is not to deny—I would be the first to say it—that Treasury consideration is the framework within which the hard thinking for which I call must take place.

We could, of course, opt out. Some right hon. and hon. Members—especially Opposition Members—would suggest that our defence spending is too high, and not in the national interest. I suggest that it is very much in the British interest for us to continue to make a significant contribution to our security activities and those of our allies. We have an important contribution to make.

As many hon. Members have pointed out, over the centuries—and recently—our armed forces have manifested characteristic skills, which we owe not only to ourselves but to the rest of the world. Our position as a nuclear power continues to be important, as does our position as a member of the Security Council. There is no opting out for this country. I do not believe that the people of this country would wish us to opt out.

As we face this challenge, our contribution must inevitably, because of resource constraints, be limited. We must therefore take yet another look at the level of international collaboration to which many hon. Members, in particular my hon. Friends, have referred. New ideas are required. Existing organisations should be used. The NATO framework, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer) referred, is particulary valuable.

The roles of the Western European Union, the Franco-German force and the rapid reaction corps are worth examining and exploring further, but the western European contribution is likely to be more effective if the NATO framework is used, not least because of the importance of the United States connection, which needs to be handled with even more care now than it was in the past, because of the changing relationship between western Europe and the United States and the changing attitudes—in some ways worrying—in the United States towards western Europe.

Collaboration means that we should take yet another look at our European relationships. For example, we must encourage our German friends to overcome their constitutional inhibitions about using their own forces. We must ensure that we collaborate not only with them but with our French allies. I was particularly interested in a proposal by Dr. Christopher Coker in a recent edition of the "European Security Analyst" of April 1992. He said: The Europeans might develop … a new formula for European security based not on burden-sharing, but the sharing of responsibilities. Such a concept of security would enable each country to measure its own contribution to a diverse mixture of international public goods such as defence expenditure, foreign aid, grants to multilateral institutions, even environmental protection. Such an accounting framework would permit countries to establish macro-political and macro-economic targets for European security. That approach was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), and it bears close examination.

I want also to refer to our reserve forces. As a former regular officer, I came to appreciate their value, which has greatly increased. I was glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence referred to their contribution in his speech on 17 June. He spoke about the "crucial contribution" that the reserve forces have to make. When he announced the changes, he pledged his personal commitment to the future of our reserve forces."—[Official Report. 17 June 1993; Vol. 226, c. 1008.] I am sure that that is the answer.

In this new, difficult world in which we live, a case can be made for a general reserve force. The unpredictability of the tasks that lie ahead of us is a strong justification for retaining out reserve forces, which cost only just over 2 per cent. of the defence budget. At a very low cost, they provide a well motivated and well trained source of manpower.

Volunteer reservists could be used cost-effectively to bring regular units up to strength, prior to operational deployment, with little or no need to resort to plundering other regular units. Reservists are particularly strong in the infantry battalions. Infantry and armour are the forces that will, I believe, be needed increasingly in this strange new world in which we are learning to live.

I hope that, in my right hon. and learned Friend's review of the Territorial Army, which he has promised later in the year, he will take careful account of the great contribution that the TA infantry battalions in particular have made to this country, and of their potential role in this complex world of the future.

Service in the Territorial Army has an even greater spin-off. It ensures that many members of society become linked with the armed forces and therefore know what the armed forces are all about. It is many years since we dispensed with compulsory military service. Relatively few members of our society therefore understand the needs and the points of view of the armed forces. The reserve forces can make a significant contribution.

If I may dare to say so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, this Chamber makes an important contribution to the reserve forces. Those who saw war service are few indeed. The Father of the House is the only exception who comes immediately to my mind. Hon. Members with Territorial Army and reserve forces service therefore bring another important element to our deliberations.

I return to the crucial issue of funding. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden, I believe that there can be no question of increasing the defence budget. We must, consequently, ensure that we use the funds that are available to the maximum possible effect.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State reminded us, in an article in The Sunday Times on 18 April, that in this current financial year we will still be spending £24.5 billion compared with £23.5 billion two years ago. Those figures have to be set against the constant cuts in manpower and weaponry. That highlights yet again the need for good housekeeping, which must again be emphasised and brought to bear upon the Ministry of Defence and all its activities.

I know that the Ministry of Defence has heard this song for at least 30 years, but it cannot be sung too often. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend and his ministerial colleagues to go on probing and prodding to ensure that we get value for money for the expenditure of £24.5 billion.

7.58 pm
Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

Parliament is being asked to approve a £24 billion commitment to the so-called defence of the nation. However, the Government, who want us to accept this programme, are planning cuts in public services and in invalidity and many other benefits.

It is not good enough just to criticise the Government. There is an obligation on each and every one of us to put forward an alternative. That alternative should, I believe, be based mainly on cuts in defence expenditure. If we made those cuts, we could begin to protect our public services. If we refuse to take that road, we shall have to ask ourselves how we intend to fund those public services, which are so important to each of us. We could, for example, raise VAT and income tax. I would oppose increases in VAT, but would support increases in income tax for higher earners. I suspect, however, that my party will not fight the next election on a platform of tax increases.

We could begin to fund public services by increases in economic growth. I suspect that there will not be growth in the next few years, partly because of the Government's incompetence in managing the economy and, linked to that, because of the recession in western Europe. I suspect that we shall not see economic growth, or the increased tax take that results from it, to fund public services.

If we are unable or unwilling to finance public services using those methods, we must cut not programmes to help areas and people who are in greatest need but our defence programme. Why do not Labour Front-Bench spokesmen have the courage to propose that? Why cannot we link defence expenditure to that of other European countries?

Labour Front-Bench spokesmen continually tell us that we cannot oppose the Maastricht treaty because it is Labour policy to support it. If, all of a sudden, Labour policy, decided at our conference, is now of paramount importance in the minds of our Front-Bench spokesmen, I ask them to apply the same reasoning to this argument. Successive Labour conferences have decided that we should link our defence expenditure to that of other European countries.

The 1992 NATO review shows that the average defence expenditure of European countries is 2.7 per cent. of GDP, whereas in the United Kingdom it is approximately 4 per cent. If we were to spend the same proportion of GDP as our European partners, we would save about £8,000 million. Imagine what we could begin to do with that money. Imagine the houses that we could build and the improvements that we could make in education and health services and invalidity and other state benefits, which are so important to our people. We would then begin to meet the demands and aspirations of the people whom we purport to represent. If we fail and continue to spend vast sums of money on weapons of war, the losers will be those same people whom we were elected to represent. As someone once said: You cannot eat missiles and you cannot educate people with aircraft carriers. It saddens me to say that Labour Members—or at least some Labour Members—will not have the courage to support that demand.

Neither will we have the courage to support the abandonment of Trident. According to the former Minister of State for the Armed Forces, the annual running cost of Trident is about £190 million, although some people would estimate it to be far higher.

What is the purpose of such expenditure? It is supposed to be partly for refits. In the past few months, we have heard a lot of politics about the refit of Trident. Squabbles have broken out between Devonport and Rosyth yards over which is to be awarded what some people regard as a very lucrative contract. I understand Members representing those areas arguing that the contract should be placed with their own work force, but that is not the answer. We should demand the establishment of real jobs, with long-term stability and security, not shadow jobs. We should back conversion of the military nuclear industry. We should use its skills to clean up the terrible legacy of radioactive waste that has already been created by the Polaris nuclear programme, rather than adding to the problem.

Indeed, if a future Labour Government were to implement present party policy, as set out in our last manifesto—to strengthen the non-proliferation treaty and to negotiate with the other four recognised nuclear powers for a reduction in the stocks of nuclear weapons—Trident would not have to be refitted. It would have to be cancelled or negotiated away. It is a short-sighted strategy to continue military employment on a programme that the nation is committed to abandoning as a result of our nuclear disarmament commitments under the non-proliferation treaty.

The former Minister told the House on 18 May that he was somewhat alarmed that my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) had talked about negotiating away our deterrent." [Official Report, 18 May 1993; Vol. 225, c.147.] That is what the non-proliferation treaty requires of us—to enter into negotiations in good faith, to end the nuclear arms race at an early date and to pursue nuclear disarmament. The political pressure that was exerted on, for example, North Korea when it announced in March that it was going to opt out of the non-proliferation treaty—a decision which it postponed a couple of weeks ago—shows that the elite club of nuclear weapons nations, including the United Kingdom, wants to persist with the hypocrisy of, "Do as we tell you, not as we do ourselves."

Some nuclear doubters want a compromise on keeping nuclear weapons by calling for a commitment of no first use by the United Kingdom, but that obviously implies that we shall support their second use. Whom do we intend to blow up with our Trident missiles or Polaris submarines? Perhaps children or teachers in school, patients or medical staff in hospital, the infirm, the old, pregnant mothers or politicians who represent countries in eastern Europe, all of which we now supposedly support. All those innocent people would be devastated even if one single nuclear weapon were dropped on a nuclear or military target.

What is the purpose of our expensive status symbols? Nuclear weapons were not deployed in the Falklands or in the Gulf and I have not heard any rumours that they will be deployed in Yugoslavia or Somalia. We should heed the advice that was given at the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—advice which people hoped would be heard the world over. They said, "Step back and learn from us." That is what we should be doing. I have no confidence that the Government will respond positively to that advice, but surely we must expect Labour Front-Bench spokesmen to do so.

Mr. Wolfson

The hon. Gentleman argues that we should not continue to keep a nuclear deterrent because it has not been deployed in recent conflicts, but what about its possible deployment by others if we did not have that deterrent?

Mr. Smith

If nuclear weapons are a deterrent, by definition, they must deter. They can deter only if the other side knows that we are willing to use them. Once they have been used, civilisation as we know it will come to an end. I cannot see the sense of those nuclear weapons, which is why I began by talking about nuclear weapons and their so-called defence of the nation state and the United Kingdom. I am interested in defence, not annihilation.

That is why we must set our sights a lot higher. I shall conclude with the words of one of the greatest peace campaigners of this century, Bertrand Russell: Humankind could then look forward to a future, immeasurably longer than the past, inspired by a new breadth of vision and a continuing hope perpetually fed by a continuing achievement. He was talking about the possibilities open to us if we should, once and for all, get rid of nuclear weapons. That is the challenge and opportunity facing us. If we refuse to accept that challenge, future generations should not, and will not, forgive us.

8.8 pm

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

We are at a crossroads. Since "Options for Change" was published, the world has changed dramatically. "Options for Change" was meant to reflect the concerns of the Government and to show that the Government had grasped what could be interpreted as the peace dividend. I believe that one essential aspect of "Options for Change" has been overlooked in the past 18 months, and that is that there must be a balance between commitment and resources. There must also be an honest and public recognition of exactly what that commitment is.

Many people in the armed forces believe that there is a hidden agenda. They are dismayed not so much by "Options for Change" but by what has happened since. It is worrying that, depending on what criteria one uses, there are between 24 and 28 conflicts in the world. My proposition is that, far from being a safer place, the world is now more unpredictable, and global insecurity is a reality. I wish to make two specific points in that connection. The first is nuclear proliferation.

Algeria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan are indulging in nuclear research at a dramatic rate. We are well aware that within the old eastern bloc there is not only one nuclear power but four. In the era of the old super-power confrontation we knew what the Soviet negotiating position was likely to be on any particular issue. Whether we liked the Soviets or not, we knew that they would negotiate and that, when they signed the treaty, they would, by and large, deliver. That is no longer the case. We are no longer aware even of who the personalities are in the four eastern bloc nuclear states; nor do we know the extent of the control that they exercise over the nuclear weapons on their territory or how much support individual leaders have in those countries.

I have mentioned the countries that we know are indulging in nuclear research at a dramatic rate. I emphasise their importance because we are talking about nuclear physicists in the old eastern bloc who have spent their lives developing nuclear weapons. Today, they cannot feed their families or buy bread on their income. Accordingly, they are very susceptible to offers of lucrative contracts from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Algeria. None of those states recommend themselves as paragons of stability or democracy. but what of the other countries that we know for certain have nuclear weapons? Israel has about 24 or 26 individual weapons. South Africa has about three devices but has agreed to dismantle them.

We are talking about a proliferation not only of nuclear weapons but of nuclear expertise and, significantly, of the raw material that is required to put them together. Surely it is a dangerous recipe: the technology and the raw materials are available across eastern Europe—there have been several arrests recently in which important technology has been seized—and various powers are willing to employ the people who have that technology.

I deal now with North Korea, another state which one would hardly describe as a paragon of democracy or anything else and which has opted out of nuclear inspection. That is surely a very worrying scenario. What is our response to the threat? I call it a threat because if certain countries acquire nuclear weapons—we know-how very close Saddam. Hussein came to acquiring nuclear technology and at least one weapon—we will become vulnerable to nuclear blackmail.

Although I am a strong advocate of the retention of the nuclear deterrent, I am not entirely convinced that the threat of a nuclear strike by a Trident submarine from 6,000 miles away will have an enormous impact on a despot operating from an Islamic country, perhaps in the north of Africa. I believe that with Trident we may be lumbered with an expensive system which we are obliged to retain. It would be sheer folly for us to rely solely on Trident.

Islamic fundamentalism is the second topic that I should like to cover. Islamic fundamentalism will continue to be a source of instability across the globe. It is easy to forget that the largest Islamic country is also a country that has the second highest rate of population growth. Its name does not immediately spring to mind, but we should bear it in mind that, about 20 years ago, it realised that it was running out of space, exercised aggression and took over a neighbouring country. Not one country did a damned thing to stop the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. It is the country to which we last week decided to sell £500 million worth of jet aircraft trainers.

I am all in favour of defence sales, but anyone visiting Australia will know that the security and intelligence authorities there are always extremely nervous about their neighbour to the north. There is a volatile combination of an Islamic country with an enormous population growth rate and no more room. I therefore believe that Islamic fundamentalism, whether it be in the Mediterranean or in the middle or far east, is likely to be a source of instability in the future.

The Government's first responsibility is not the provision of child benefit to multimillionairesses such as Soraya Khashoggi or the provision of universal benefits to higher rate tax payers. The Government's first responsibility is surely defence. There will not be any money to dish out to meet all the demands on the social security and other budgets if we are not able to defend ourselves. I say "ourselves", but I am not an old Blimp suggesting that the Warsaw pact poses a credible threat to the south coast of England.

We have important commitments throughout the world. Several parallels have been drawn, and Germany and France have been identified as having similar defence budgets to ours. However, their commitments are nothing like ours. They do not have the anxiety that we should surely have about Hong Kong. We have a continuing commitment to NATO and, of course, we have a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That means a commitment to United Nations forces around the world. Bearing in mind dependent territories and our responsibility to the nine remaining colonies, we should not necessarily be considering cutting our budget but deciding what our commitment is and then deciding the appropriate defence strategy to match it. Surely it is dotty to assume that we will always be joined by multinational forces whenever there is a conflict in the globe. The truth is that no one assisted us in the Falklands conflict, and we could not have expected any other European country to do so. In fact, Spain and Italy were utterly opposed to our action and everyone else was ambivalent. We cannot rely on Europe.

Similarly, it is odd that, within a few days of the announcement that we were to reduce our commitment to Belize, there should be political instability on a grand scale in Guatemala—the one country that directly threatens Belize. The proposition that we can reduce our commitment to Belize because the Guatemalans have been quiescent for a while is sheer folly.

The first responsibility of the Government is unquestionably defence. I believe that we should approve the defence estimates this evening, but only if there is a commitment from the Government to explain to the British public what our defence commitment is around the globe and what that commitment is perceived to be in the future. I think that that anxiety is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am afraid that I do not have much faith in the ability of the Foreign Office to protect British interests. It is up to this sovereign Parliament to protect British interests, because I do not believe that anyone else will.

Parallels have been drawn this evening between this age and 1935 and other dark eras. One lesson that can be learned from history is that no one ever learns anything from history. There are no parallels with 1935, or indeed with any other time. We are now aware that there never was a credible threat from the eastern bloc. That threat appeared to be potent, but analysis of the opened archives in the former Soviet Union make oit clear that the Soviets were never a threat to anyone but themselves, countries in the eastern bloc that could not defend themselves and, of course, Afghanistan. That does not change the fact that the armed forces that remain in the former eastern bloc have enormous strength.

I would therefore urge the House—whether or not the Government are prepared to do so—to demand a strategic review of all our commitments around the world. I am afraid that I do not trust the civil servants to do that job for us.

8.24 pm
Ms Ann Coffey (Stockport)

I welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate. My interest concerns the Minister's recent announcement that Kentigern house in Glasgow is the favoured option for the new integrated army personnel centre.

The Minister will appreciate that I am not happy about that decision. Europa house—the rejected building—is in Stockport, and my constituents were bitterly disappointed by the Minister's announcement.

On 13 January 1993, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces initiated a consultation process on the proposal to establish an integrated army personnel centre in Glasgow. That consultation followed a study by Brigadier Roberts, which concluded that the purchase of a commercial property in Glasgow at a cost of £20 million would offer the most cost-effective location.

On 4 March, the Minister announced in the House that an alternative proposal was being looked at relating to a building in Stockport, Europa house, at a significantly lower purchase price of £4 million. He said that a number of other representations also offered alternative solutions to the original selection of Glasgow and, in the light of those, the original parameters of Brigadier Roberts' study and the options available to meet the requirements were to be reviewed. That new review was able to take into account the Department's new space guidelines, which had not been finalised when Brigadier Roberts undertook his study and recommended Glasgow, in November 1992.

The result of the review was the announcement on 13 May that Kentigern house had been chosen for the new army personnel centre. Brigadier Roberts had of course looked at Kentigern house in his original study but had concluded that it was not the most cost-effective option as it involved building an extension to house the anticipated extra staff. The new guidelines meant that the review could now consider more "flexibly" the use of accommodation in Kentigern house.

The space guidelines have not yet been accepted by the Council of Civil Service Unions, as I am sure the Minister is aware; they are still the subject of negotiation. It would presumably be very difficult if they were rejected, as the option of Kentigern house is based on their acceptance.

The introduction of the army personnel centre accommodation study that recommended Kentigern house after looking at all the options states that the formal statement of requirements reflects the recommendations of the Roberts study and that the building specification mirrors closely that which was the basis for the Roberts study search. I draw the Minister's attention to appendix C, which states that all the office accommodation is to be available under one roof. There is a probable requirement to house 1,967 staff full time, with a further 150 in designated support areas. It is proposed to house 1,910 in Kentigern house and the remaining 207 in Wellesley house. Kentigern house is one roof. Wellesley house is one roof. One plus one roof equals two roofs. That does not meet the requirement laid out in appendix C.

I also draw the Minister's attention to appendix A, which deals with car parking requirements and states that there must be one space per 300 sq m of gross office space, with a quota of 3 per cent. of civilian staff for disabled civilian staff, as well as 15 spaces for visitors. Kentigern house has 96 car parking spaces. It is estimated that, of the 1,910 staff to be housed in Kentigern house, 237 will be Army personnel. That leaves 1,673 civilian staff. The 3 per cent. requirement will be 53 spaces. Add to that 15 spaces for visitors and we have a total of 68 spaces, leaving 28 car parking spaces for the 1,957 staff. That is ludicrous. It will not meet the requirement of one space per 300 sq m. In fact, I understand that the 1,000 staff already based in Kentigern house hold a raffle once a month for car parking spaces.

I refer next to the costings and to the comparisons between Kentigern and Europa house. For Kentigern, it is stated that the cost of refurbishment of the building and upgrading services will be £5.79 million and will take 22.5 months—that is very precise—to complete. However, the study states: Feasibility of this option is dependent on whether the whole potential Glasgow requirement—Army personnel centre and non-Army personnel centre—can be housed cost effectively in the city. The Roberts study stated that 75 officers' and 55 soldiers' married quarters would need to be built at a cost of £8 million for the Glasgow option. In the Stockport area—not only in Stockport itself, but in Chester and Ashton-under-Lyne—there is a minimum of 102 quarters, many of which are empty. The cost of Kentigern is £8 million plus £5.79 million for the building—a total of £13.79 million. Add to that the fact that the high cost of Glasgow housing, referred to in the Defence Council Instructions Civilian 75/92, suggests that in relocating staff in Glasgow additional housing costs allowances will have to be higher than anywhere else.

One of the factors in favour of Kentigern was that the first tranche of staff from London could be moved to Glasgow by May 1995, whereas Europa house would be completed in November 1995. However, existing staff have to be moved out to allow refurbishment of the building—some 500 staff for 15 months, at an estimated cost of £0.8 million, which I suggest is a gross underestimate. The cost has now increased from £13.79 million plus £0.8 million to £14.59 million. We must add to that the cost of car parking, as I assume that the Ministry of Defence will he meeting its own requirements as set out in its document.

It is estimated that it would cost £15.98 million for the complete refurbishment of Europa house. It has 510 car parking spaces and it is under one roof. Included in that figure is the purchase price of £4 million. Nuclear Electric owns the building. It is a nationalised industry, so the purchase price is a transfer between the budget of one Government Department and another—meaningless in terms of the overall Government budget. If we subtract £4 million from the £15.98 million, we arrive at the figure of £11.98 million. Some additional housing costs may be added to that. On my calculations, Europa house is the cheaper option. There are other details to consider, such as the cost of redundancies, which would also favour the Stockport location.

Kentigern house does not meet Ministry of Defence requirements on two counts—roofs and car parking. I suggest that the costings are highly dubious and that they have been massaged to make Kentigern house, overwhelmingly, the only possible option. The Kentigern house option was thrown out by Brigadier Roberts in his original study as being too expensive. Since his study and the new study, the specifications have not changed—with the exception of new space guidelines which have allowed a review of Kentigern house. Those new guidelines, which have not as yet been accepted by staff and would apparently create a high degree of staff cramming, make the difference in the building being acceptable. It is incredible that an option thrown out initially as being too expensive is now enthused over as the favoured option.

In the words of the Prime Minister last week, this tale of the search for a site for an integrated army personnel centre "beggars belief". Thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money has been wasted on fairly useless consultants. My constituents believe that those figures bear no relation to reality and that it is a political fix so gross as to be worthy of an episode of "Yes, Minister".

I urge the Minister to reconsider Europa house in the name of justice and fairness to my constituents and the constituents of my colleagues in the north-west. If that does not touch his heart, will he reconsider the matter because his alternative proposal will cost the taxpayer more? That surely cannot be acceptable to the Government—and even if it is acceptable to the Government, it is certainly not acceptable to the people.

8.33 pm
Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

I am glad to follow the hon. Lady. I am going to enrol her in my new organisation called "MOD office-blockers anonymous". That is certainly a scandal waiting to happen. I am sorry to say that I already have an MOD building in mind, which will become vacant and could accommodate all the people she has been talking about—but that is a constituency interest of mine.

I very much appreciate the armed forces of our country and the many civilians who support them—including the many in my constituency. I have just returned from Nigeria, where I was an international observer, watching the military regime transferring, one hopes, to a civilian regime. That made me realise that the standards that our armed forces set, as world leaders, are ones to which we must pay tribute. We must also try to understand those people and maintain their morale in these difficult times.

I am glad to see the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), taking note. I am sure that he has been warned by his colleagues of the terrible people of South Dorset, who are constantly accused of trying to make his life difficult. That is not true. I could go through a list of some 20 or 30 changes that have happened at Portland and at Bovington. I have looked at those changes and I have found my hon. Friend to be working well in that area. I believe that the Ministry occasionally gets things right.

I can assure my hon. Friend that the concerns that I discuss with him are real concerns and that they reflect not a belief that we should increase our MOD budget, but a belief that we must make savings and cut out waste. I am sure that hon. Members from all parties share that view.

I was somewhat confused when I looked at the amendment tabled by the Leader of the Opposition and others. They were obviously flushed out by the official Labour party line as expressed in the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and others, and had to table their own amendment.

It is preposterous that the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition refers to conventional forces being included in "further international disarmament negotiations". That suggests that simply talking to the former Soviet Union about further cuts in its armed forces, as has happened in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, would automatically trigger our ability to cut our armed forces even further. We heard about the Labour party's hidden agenda from the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith). It would mean an additional £8 billion being taken from the defence budget after the cuts that we have already made in it. That chop,-logic must be exposed for what it is.

The other main plank of Labour's policy, about which Labour Members constantly talk, is defence industry diversification. They constantly say that we should tell companies that currently manufacture defence equipment how to convert themselves for civilian uses. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister has read the detailed report produced last Session by the Select Committee on Employment entitled "Industrial Change: Retraining and Redeployment". Labour Members have certainly not read it.

We especially targeted the defence industry and studied what happened in the United States, especially in Texas which found that there were large cuts in its defence industries. We talked to all the defence companies that had studied diversification. Time and time again, the defence companies told us that they could not convert their companies into civilian companies manufacturing consumer goods. It was not possible or sensible.

If an area is affected by large defence reductions, we must do something to stimulate the economy generally. Such efforts must come from other Government Departments. Although the Ministry of Defence is very much appprised of our problems in Portland and in Weymouth, and of the cuts in defence expenditure and defence employment, we have not got the message fully through to all the other Departments.

I am very concerned that after months of discussions about the KONVER programme, which was designed specifically by the European Parliament to get over the problems of individual blackspots caused by cuts in defence which were outside assisted area status, we still do not have agreement within the Government on how to spend the money that is available to us under KONVER. We need to target that money. We must talk to the Department of Transport about the roads infrastructure and to the Department of Environment, which needs to realise that local authorities will have to spend a lot more money on attracting people and will have to provide the sites necessary. The Department of Employment does seem to be aware that it needs to have a lot of retraining and to have many schemes in place. That is extremely important.

In these debates, we go into detail about many issues, not all of which are important in getting the armed forces right. We always spend an enormous amount of time talking about regiments. I am glad to say that there has been little of that today. I believe that we may well have taken a wrong turn in reinstating regiments rather than concentrating on how many more people we could have got into the new regimental structure. That would have been a better way in which to spend the money.

We must also be careful about the balance between high technology and low technology. Yes, we need weapons systems and we must ensure that they are battle-winning, high-technology systems. However, we should not try to reinvent the wheel in every defence manufacturing posture. We must achieve partnerships with the United States and our European allies to ensure that we do not have to build every high-tech system. We must look for economies and take difficult decisions and that occasionally means that a particular manufacturer in a group of constituencies will not receive a certain order.

Low technology is also very important. We must have the infrantryman, the ordinary sailor, marine and RAF guy available to do what is necessary when we carry out the policing roles in which we are so often involved.

The EH101 is very important. The RAF and the Army have been very slow in getting that helicopter for medium lift. By keeping one type of helicopter, we will ensure that there are savings in spares and training. When my hon. Friend the Minister decides to order the EH101 for the other services, he should insist that there is a commonality in respect of that aircraft so that each service does not order a completely different type of EH101. If there is a commonality, there will be interoperability and spares savings.

I want to finish, as I began, by referring to the new organisation that I have just christened called "MOD office-blockers anonymous." As my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces is a fresh face at the Department, I urge him to consider the way in which brand new high-tech office blocks are the name of the game within the MOD.

I understand that my hon. Friend will be able to tap into a computer system. I am not sure whether that system is classified, but I am sure that my hon. Friend has clearance. That system will show him all the current schemes in train to build new office blocks all over the country. I do not know whether those office blocks will be able to move on wheels or attack the enemy if we are under attack, but they seem to be the flavour of the month.

My hon. Friend also has in his Department a complete list of the sites that his predecessors have been persuaded to close and sell for other uses which were never sold and for which we did not receive any money in the form of savings.

When my hon. Friend tries to make savings and when the Treasury is on his back looking for more money, he should ask himself where he can find £300 million for a new office block and to move people. He should also ask himself where he will find another £300 million for a new computer system which, I heard just the other day, will probably never come to fruition. An interim system is being installed and the Sea Systems Controllerate, which is to move to the north of Bristol, will cost an arm and a leg, and I do not believe that it will be efficient. If my hon. Friend the Minister starts with that and moves on to the other office blocks about which we have heard today, I believe that he will make his name quicker in the MOD than he made it in his previous Department.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in the 38 minutes remaining for this debate, six hon. Members still hope to catch my eye. I hope that they will all be able to do that; with a little co-operation, that will happen.

8.42 pm
Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

In the time available to me, I want to concentrate on paragraphs 133 and 134 of the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1992." I wish that we could have had this debate last year, and it is an absolute disgrace that we are debating today a document which is so out of date as world events have moved on so much. Unfortunately, that is the way things are organised at the moment.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) referred on Thursday to the need to achieve a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. He pointed out how the British Government's position is a threat to the continuation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the review conference of which will be held in 1995.

The 1990 NPT review conference was a disaster and complete failure largely because of strong criticisms by several third world countries led by Mexico of the position adopted by the United States and British Governments because they were deemed to have not acted in good faith to secure real measures of nuclear disarmament as a result of their opposition to halting nuclear tests. The British Government's position today poses a long-term threat to the survival of the NPT. It also acts as a red light to disarmament and a green light to proliferators and those who wish to keep nuclear weapons in the republics that have emerged from the former Soviet Union.

We have heard that our action to stop nuclear testing would have no effect on proliferation. I do not accept that. Action that we could take would have a serious effect if only we could have an internationally verified and enforced disarmament regime to stop nuclear testing.

If people say, "Well, you can do nothing about North Korea," they should consider what the United Nations and the international community haye done in the past two years to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. That proves that if the international community and the UN Security Council have the political will and are prepared to carry it through, they can act forcibly to stop countries which defy those treaties and which are prepared surreptitiously and with the connivance of leading figures in this country and, unfortunately, in our Government from building up their nuclear weapons programmes.

The real debate about nuclear testing in this country is not being carried out here. It is being carried out in the United States. I want to refer to two press reports which have appeared in the past few days. On 12 June, The Daily Telegraph reported that: British hopes of testing a redesigned nuclear warhead at a Nevada site suffered a setback yesterday when United States officials suggested President Clinton may drop his plan to resume underground testing. They said Mr. Clinton intended to 'take the temperature' of … Congress on the issue this week. The Times stated that Britain was banking on the United States to restart nuclear weapons tests because it wanted to test a new weapons system. It did not want to go ahead with it for the reason that we are given publicly, which is to ascertain the safety of the old WE177 warhead. Instead, it wanted to introduce a replacement for TASM—the tactical air-to-surface missile—or its successor which presumably will be deployed as a sub-strategic nuclear weapon system alongside the Trident system which, according to the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton), has completed its testing programme.

I want to raise several fundamental questions. Why do we need such a sub-strategic nuclear weapon system? Why do we need to spend some £3,000 million? The hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) referred to the spending of £300 million on an office block. Why do we need to spend £3,000 million on the development of future sub-strategic nuclear weapons which will operate at the same time as the Trident system? On whom will the systems be targeted?

What is the relevance of a sub-strategic nuclear weapon system when NATO's doctrines arc moving away from that way of thinking and when we no longer have the mass tank formations of the Warsaw pact and the Soviet Union which were seen five, seven, 10 and 15 years ago as the justification for such theoretical systems, when it is inconceivable that this country would initiate the use of such nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states? Indeed, our Government, by treaty and commitment, are pledged not to use nuclear weapons against countries which do not possess them and do not use them. According to remarks made by the Prime Minister last year, we are moving away from the idea of threatening the use of nuclear weapons in such circumstances.

What are the military benefits and the reasons for that?' We have heard one justification which was, allegedly, the Islamic fundamentalist boom, but a few minutes later we were told that it had become clear that the alleged Soviet threat of the past never really existed. I wonder whether the alleged Islamic fundamentalist threat exists or whether it is a convenient device for those who wish to continue their nuclearphilia—their love of nuclear weapons--and develop nuclear weapons systems.

This country needs a fundamental rethink about the nuclear weapons system. We have to be prepared to say that we will make our own contribution, persuade our people that this is the right way forward and that we will join people in the United States, Russia and France who, by their own choice, have introduced a moratorium on nuclear testing. Our choice was not made by us; it was made by the United States when it stopped the use of Nevada. We will say to President Clinton and to the Congress of the United States, "We do not want you to lift your moratorium; we want you to opt, as you have said, for a complete and verifiable comprehensive nuclear test-ban treaty by 1996." That should be our aspiration and our goal, and then we need a strong United Nations enforcement against countries which breach the guidelines.

Real security in the future will be based not on national security but on international security and co-operation. That requires us to move from the narrow view that, somehow, we can do things regardless of their impact anywhere else. Arguments in our Parliament for our national nuclear weapons will be used by people in Ukraine who want to keep a nuclear weapons capability and go back on their previous commitments to rid Ukraine of nuclear weapons. It is time that we joined the international mainstream and made our own contribution to verified, negotiated and enforceable measures to stop nuclear testing and bring about nuclear disarmament.

8.52 pm
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I used to be against the televising of Parliament, but the speeches of the hon. Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes) were much better than any party political broadcast that my own party could do. If people had any doubts about voting Conservative at the next election, I would urge them to obtain the video and look at those two performances.

To be serious, I must declare two interests. First, I am a parliamentary consultant to Thorn EMI Electronics Ltd. and, secondly, I am on the parliamentary armed forces scheme with the Royal Marines. I enjoy both roles; both teach me much—certainly much humility. The skills, application and dedication of our armed forces are second to none. Likewise, the personnel who work in our defence industries deserve the very best of the House and of the Government. They work with tremendous commitment and they have enormous skills. Many of those skills are not easily deployed outside the sector in which they work. This sector has'seen huge redundancies, and we must be aware of that.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State made a speech which, like Caesar's Gaul, was divided into three parts. First, there was a section on Bosnia. We are all very aware that our armed forces are involved in the most perilous operations of a humanitarian nature which we admire, although we are deeply anxious because the military objectives do not seem to be very clearly defined. Secondly, my right hon. and learned Friend also spoke about the reserve forces. Thirdly, he had a bash at the Labour party. I thought that this section of his speech was rather tilting at windmills until I read the amendment which was not selected by Madam Speaker and until I heard the two contributions to which I have alluded.

I take as my theme the remarks of the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), who spoke of centres of excellence in our armed forces. I shall briefly allude to three such centres. First, we are a nuclear power, and that is of great importance to world security. I urge the House to consider carefully, as indeed we were enjoined to do by my hon. Friends the Members for Torbay (Mr. Allason) and for Wyre (Mr. Mans), the consequences of moving from an air-launched, sub-strategic nuclear deterrent system. WE177 has a relatively short life ahead of it in operational terms. It cannot be regarded as credible as a theatre nuclear deterrent beyond about the end of this decade because of the enhancement in air defences not just of major powers but of regional powers.

It is my belief that a visible, flexible, easily deployed nuclear deterrent, such as an air-borne system with a stand-off capability—a TASM—is much more credible than a strategic submarine-launched system as a version of Trident. I urge my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister of State to think again about the matter. As I said in an intervention, do we really wish the French to be the only country with a truly credible sub-strategic nuclear deterrent in Europe?

Secondly, on reserves, I applaud what Her Majesty's Government are seeking to do, but they must remember the importance of territorial loyalties and of unit affiliations. It is all very well to try to get individual people to fill posts in the front line, be it in the TA overseas or in the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in Rapier squadrons, but it is the particular units to which they belong and which can be deployed as units which count in recruiting.

I ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister of State to think again about retaining some ships, purpose built for the Royal Naval Reserve. I urge, as my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) did, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force to have flying squadrons. The Americans do so very well, as do the Israelis and the Swiss, and we should do likewise.

Thirdly, the defence industries are a great source of excellence—they have to be. The numbers in our armed forces are dwindling all the time and our reserves, sadly, are dwindling in number, too, which is not what we would wish to see at such a time of uncertainty. We must ensure that they have the best equipment possible.

The decision of the board of Swan Hunter to go into receivership was understandable. However, the Navy cannot afford to see a yard with such a comprehensive capability, from aircraft carriers to corvettes, simply disappear. It negates the competition policy that we have been pursuing. The same can be said about the MLRS3. We need an effective intelligent anti-armour weapon in the control of the Army. We should not rely simply on air power. Aircraft could be in the wrong place, and, of course, one cannot always ensure air superiority.

We need new at tack helicopters as well as support ones for the Royal Marines and the Army. We will need more transport aircraft soon. Although my hon. Friend from the Parachute Regiment, the Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer), decried the need for tanks, we still need them to hold ground and take it. If we buy more tanks, I urge Her Majesty's Government to buy more of the Challenger 2 type than simply revamping the Challenger 1.

8.58 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

I wrote to the Prime Minister after I read an interview in the India Digest, in which he said: I would like to see no nuclear weapons in Pakistan, no nuclear weapons in India and in due course no nuclear weapons in China or anywhere else, I was interested to read that statement, especially as I remember the former Prime Minister saying that she wanted nuclear weapons in Europe and the United Kingdom for ever.

I wrote to the Prime Minister asking whether the Government's policy had changed. I received a reply from the new Minister, the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley)—I congratulate him on his promotion and wish him well in his job. His reply did not please me, because he said that there was "absolutely no inconsistency" between the position of the two Prime Ministers, and added: security does not, however, come from wishful thinking. Presumably, then, the Prime Minister was indulging in wishful thinking.

The Minister said: we maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent for security. Obviously, "minimum" means more in the context of Trident.

Basically, the policy means that the Government want nuclear weapons for ever in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister was being dishonest in India when he said that he does not want nuclear weapons anywhere else because that does not include the United Kingdom. If there is no inconsistency, the Government's policy is that they want nuclear weapons for ever in the United Kingdom and Europe. Nuclear weapons for ever is the heart of the Government's defence policy and that is the reason why they are scuttling the test ban. The proliferation of nuclear weapons worldwide also flows from that policy.

On 1 October 1992, the United States began a moratorium on nuclear testing. Since then, it has been under pressure from the United Kingdom to stop the moratorium and start testing again. The consequence is that Russia, France and China would resume testing again, and small states would say that they need nuclear weapons as well. Once testing started, the pledge of the Clinton Administration for a global, comprehensive test ban by 1996 would be scuttled, and the extension of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty beyond 1995 would be destroyed.

The pressure has paid off, because the United States has released a plan for nine tests, three of which would be for the United Kingdom. However, existing weapons would not be tested—new weapons would be tested. An article in the New York Times on 16 June 1993 says: The British tests would be used to develop a new Trident warhead and a bomb that could be dropped from an aircraft, the Congressional experts said. Ministers said that they do not need to test existing systems, so a new Trident weapon and presumably the tactical air-to-surface missile would be tested.

I ask the Minister clearly whether the Government will cancel TASM. We have heard Government Back Benchers speak in favour of it but they were most unconvincing. As I said, TASM would mean an enormous proliferation and an overkill on an enormous scale. We are talking about hydrogen bombs.

I reiterate one of the lessons of the Gulf war. Dictators such as Saddam Hussein are prepared to go not simply to the brink but over it in defiance of the west. They do not mind if nuclear weapons are used and their populations are slaughtered as a result. Such populations are not in democracies, so they cannot alter the situation. That tactical air-to-surface missile is not a reasonable weapon. It simply kills populations instead of dictators.

My next point relates to thermal oxide reprocessing. The expansion of THORP was justified by the Prime Minister on Thursday in the context of jobs. It has already been argued that here today there should be defence diversification and that new civil jobs would be created by using the peace dividend. But are those nuclear jobs worth the risk of the world being blown up and a city such as London blown to smithereens in a plutonium bomb holocaust? That is what is at stake if THORP is used. In February 1992, I said that it would produce the equivalent of about a quarter of the nuclear arsenals of both theSoviet Union and the United States at their peak by the year 2000".—[Official Report, 24 February 1992: Vol. 204. c. 674.] It could be used to make a bomb.

An article in The Times on 19 November last year said: The world is glutted with plutonium and a good part of it is at Sellafield … The stockpile of plutonium there from civilian nuclear plants amounts to 40 tons: by the end of the century that will have risen to at least 60 tons, theoretically enough to make 10,000 of the bombs that destroyed Nagasaki in 1945. On top of that, 100 to 110 tons of weapons plutonium will come from dismantling nuclear weapons.

The Observer has published an article in which experts say that that plutonium could be used to make bombs. It could be used by terrorists to make bombs. That is an enormous proliferation. It is perverse that the Government and Conservative Back Benchers use proliferation as their main argument for keeping and increasing our nuclear weapons, when we are a main source of plutonium production and of such proliferation. Production of plutonium is lunacy. It is proliferation on a huge scale. It could lead to instability and the devastation of the world. THORP should be abandoned.

9.5 pm

Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)

I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench realise that it is unacceptable that we are debating the 1992 estimates for defence in June 1993. Obviously, I welcome what my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) said about the 1993 White Paper. We look forward to its publication and to a relatively early debate on it.

I strongly support the call by the Chairman of the Defence Select Committee for a rapid return to a proper schedule, so that the 1994 estimates are published in the spring of 1994 and debated at the latest by that summer. To do otherwise is to allow the Executive to develop and implement their defence plans without proper parliamentary scrutiny. It is up to all of us in the House to ensure that that does not happen. That is even more important today, because, in times of peace, defence matters are not necessarily a high political priority. They seldom have been.

Since the first world war, there has always been a considerable number of Members of Parliament with service experience of one type or another. But, as was said earlier in the debate, that group is a rapidly dwindling band. Those with experience of active service are few. My generation is the last to have been through national service. Those who come to the House with a background of service life as professionals or reservists are especially welcome, but in any one parliamentary intake there will not be many.

Thus, defence interests now have a much smaller natural constituency in the House than was formerly the case. That interest comes from members of the Defence Select Committee, those who represent constituencies in which the service element is important to the local economy and other individuals, who, whether they fall into those categories or not, continue to focus clearly on the continuing importance of putting Britain's defence capability high on our agenda. If we do that only in times of crisis, we do it far too late.

The prevalence of defence issues in Parliament plays an important role in public awareness of defence matters. As in Parliament, fewer and fewer people in the general population have had experience of service life. Although the standing of our professional forces is surely higher than that of almost any other profession—politicians probably come at the bottom and the services come at the top—it is vital that the House demonstrates the high priority it gives to defence issues and to those in the services who carry out the job for all of us, to our great safety and with our admiration.

I make no apology for labouring that point, because it leads directly to the first substantive issue that I want to address. "Options for Change" was developed as a policy in the light of the then apparent removal of the threat from the Warsaw pact countries. The removal of that threat was used, and is used, as the central continuing argument to justify the reduction in the armed services. It was accepted by Ministers, however, that the "Options" reductions would be reviewed in the light of any changing circumstances.

My argument is that the break-up of the Soviet Union, let alone the type of situation that arose in the Gulf and the greatly increased peacekeeping role of the UN, has created a different scenario from that which existed when "Options for Change" was published. That point was well argued by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) in a speech which was strategically focused. He spoke particularly about the dangers posed by nuclear proliferation and Muslim fundamentalism.

As a realist, I accept that it is extremely unlikely that the Warsaw threat will return in its old form. The danger to our island and to our NATO allies has therefore greatly diminished. All hon. Members would agree, however, that the world remains an unstable and dangerous place. In many ways, the world is much less certain than it was when cold war confrontations followed a more predictable pattern. Then, the threat of nuclear war had its deterrent effect on brinkmanship. Its ultimate success, in acting as a catalyst for political change, was driven by the economics of the arms race. That is what caused the political approach of the Soviet Union to be radically altered.

A fixed defence budget figure does not represent a satisfactory way forward, but that was the baseline argument used by my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) on Thursday. He was an uncompromising Minister on the importance of getting the public sector borrowing requirement down. He clearly saw it as his ministerial responsibility to play a full part in achieving that. Doubtless he will continue to argue the same case from the Back Benches.

I suggest that that argument contrasts with the original, more flexible approach, used in the argument in favour of "Options for Change". That was confirmed again today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), who stated, once again, that the "Options for Change" plan was not Treasury driven. He said that the policy was based upon a genuine assessment of the changed threat and was developed by the service chiefs and Ministers. He also said that it was designed to be flexible.

I believe that my right hon. Friend was arguing, if gently, that same point today. If I have interpreted him correctly, I firmly support his view. Obviously, budgetary constraints and national circumstances must be taken into account, but I do not believe that it is right to have a fixed figure for defence spending, whatever the threat may be.

I deal now with a number of specific matters. A sharp cut has been proposed in the total number of reserves. I welcome the positive action to increase their training opportunities with the professional services. I am particularly concerned, however, about the future of the Royal Naval Reserve. We need to know a lot more about how those proposals are likely to work, and what the reserve centres will mean in practice. I make one small plea. I hope that the title "HMS' will not be lost from the training establishments, as it is an important focus for people's commitment to what they are doing in the RNR.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater said, we now have the diplomatic will to make the United Nations a real force for peace, something that we could not have done during the cold war. However, we still lack the means to make that diplomatic will an effective arm in action. I welcome my right hon. Friend's proposal, which I hope will be followed through, for a directly employed United Nations force. That could be attractive to many people.

My contribution to the debate would not be complete without a brief reference to the continuing diminution of the British flagged merchant fleet. In my view, we do not have a satisfactory sea-lift capability to get our armed forces to where they may be needed. I ask Ministers again: are they satisfied that that capability exists? We first had arguments about that over 10 years ago, when our capability was 10 times larger than it is now. If it was adequate then, how can it be justified as adequate now?

Finally, how effective is local budgeting, an initiative begun some years ago? Is money being saved by delegating authority for running their own budgets to people out on individual sites operating within the MOD? That proposal was made for Sandhurst, Dartmouth and Cranwell, but I have heard that it was not working as it should, because all the issues still had to go up the MOD tree to be decided on, and then to come all the way down again before being settled.

Has there been progress? If not, there should have been. Other speakers have rightly focused on the need to get maximum value for money, and the MOD bureaucracy must be part of that focus, as well as the fighting arm of the services.

9.17 pm
Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)

Many of the contributions to the debate have focused either on technical arguments or on the heroism of the British armed forces. Vera Brittain offered a different approach, when she wrote in her diary that there was never a shortage of men willing to die heroically—the difficulty was finding one capable of living sensibly. The defence estimates lamentably fail the test of what is sensible. They offer a view of the world that is out of date and out of time. They are mutterings from the men on the Maginot line wanting to live in a world that no longer exists.

When I look for a recognition that we have moved from threat to risk, I find at least a mention of the risk of ethnic and territorial conflict in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, about the risk from economic and political instability and, outside Europe, the risk from arms proliferation.

The defence estimates do not recognise that there is no direct threat to the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom nor the fact that there are other threats, possibly far more serious—for example, from the chain of unstable conventional nuclear power stations down the corridor between eastern and western Europe. There is also the threat from mass population migrations, driven by fear, famine, starvation and civil war. They do not recognise the fact that, in the next decade, there will be global insecurity or wars fought over the resource scarcities of oil, water, Iand and food. Against those causes of insecurity, the White Paper does not offer a programme of protection or redress.

Britain's defence policy should be based on simple principles. First, we should be able to defend ourselves against the threat of invasion. Beyond that, we should contribute to the building of international security systems based on what this country can do best, what it can afford and where the world is going today, rather than where it was yesterday.

We must be willing to confront the contradictions within the defence estimates. They refer to the wish to reverse proliferation, yet many of Britain's policies compound the problems of proliferation. They cite examples of the reversal of the nuclear arms race, yet Britain is expanding its nuclear commitment. We cannot go outside the Chamber and the country and convince countries that do not have nuclear weapons that there is a case for reverse proliferation while we are increasing our nuclear capacity. It is not a credible position for Britain in the world.

We are in fact engaging in vertical proliferation, in breach of article 6 of the non-proliferation treaty. The estimates refer to our desire for an extension of that treaty, yet we are doing our best to sabotage the prospects for that. They refer to wanting to bring to an end the threat of nuclear weapons, yet Britain and China are alone among the nuclear powers in refusing to engage in a moratorium on testing. They talk about wanting reverse proliferation, yet Britain is a major contributor to the spread of the world arms trade.

The estimates refer to the UN register of arms, but this is merely a register of arms sales, not arms making. The estimates do not recognise that Britain commits 45 per cent. of its investment in research and development to researching military hardware. They do not recognise that we are supporting little more than a register of commercial interests in the killing fields of the arms trade.

I shall cut short my intended speech, because there is nothing in the estimates that offers a sensible approach to common security rather than defence. I shall simply cite what the 1991 Stockholm conference said about the real challenge of global security. It said that the agenda for the 21st century was a simple one: Unless we develop an ethical basis for human survival, all our technical solutions may turn out to be ineffectual in the long run. This is so because it is essentially the undeveloped nature of our global morality that has put humankind at risk: our greed, our arrogance, our lack of vision. What value should we place on our genius if, unconstrained by the ethics of survival, it leads the human race to despoil its earthly habitation? Against that measure and that agenda, the estimates fail lamentably, and do not deserve the support of the House.

9.22 pm
Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

I apologise to those hon. Members who have been waiting all evening, but have not been called. I understand their difficulties. There have been so many speeches of substance that it is impossible to deal with them all. Therefore, I shall pick two from each side of the House.

First, the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), who is not in his place—[Interruption.] I am sorry, he is in his place. I do not intend to insult him: he made the best speech that I have heard him make in the House. In particular, I endorse his views about the development of the military structure in the United Nations. I do not agree with all that he said about the voluntary nature of that, but he pushed forward the frontiers in a direction that the House should seriously consider.

Secondly, the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) spoke with tremendous depth of thought on two subjects—nuclear proliferation and the need for those in the western democratic culture to come to terms with Islam.

Thirdly, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) spoke with tremendous passion about the 26,000 veterans of the nuclear tests and about his colleague, Ken McGinley. He spoke not only with passion but with a sense of feeling that is shared by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I make the point to the Minister that those 26,000 people were war wounded. They were wounded in the cause of British defence in the same way as someone who was shot in Bosnia or on the streets of Belfast. I hope that the Minister will take the sense of my hon. Friend's remarks and those made by some Conservative Members, and treat the issue as non-partisan. As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South said, the only question is when those people will receive justice.

Fourthly, my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) spoke of the difficulties that ordinary soldiers, sailors and airmen face because of the academic discussions that we have in the House. They serve in roulement battalions and abroad, and sometimes have to leave their families on unaccompanied tours. We will benefit from being reminded that we are speaking not about facts, figures and statistics but about ordinary men and women who serve this country well.

I pay tribute to my former jousting partner, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton), who also served the country and his party well. I learnt only tonight that the press referred to us as Little and Large, but I have not worked out who was Little and who was Large. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman enjoys a happy retirement on the Back Benches. Having spent two years trying to control a lady from Finchley, it must have been a comedown in the world to be asked to control nothing more than the Parachute Regiment.

We regret also the passing of the former Minister for Defence Procurement, Mr. Alan Clark, who featured in some of the debate. He is probably the first Tory Minister to resign to spend more time with other people's families.

I know that the right hon. Member for Bridgwater will not mind if I come straight to the heart of the matter on "Options for Change". Although Alan Clark was mentioned, no one quoted him directly, but I shall do so. Remember that one is talking of the academic who wrote, "Barbarossa". Writing about "Options for Change", he commented: This happens the whole time. It's not just the slow balls-up"— the House will remember that I am quoting— of the 'Options' project, it's 100 examples a week of waste, blinkers, vested interest, idleness and failure to put the country before narrow personal, regimental or sectarian considerations. I am sure that that was before the time of the present Secretary of State for Defence. Mr. Clark continues: A long letter today from beloved Tip. It is not explained who Tip is, although we can speculate.

He goes on: He says that the whole of the Rhine Army is completely demoralised. There's a freeze on spares, so if vehicles break on exercise they're just towed back to Sennelager and abandoned. The great Panzer workshops that featured in Hitler's exchange with Jodl after the fall of the Remagen bridge are now a scrapyard for broken Land Rovers. The 'chaps' are good, still, and keen. They want to get out into the Empire, sort out the 'trouble spots'. But he says some of the new recruits are almost illiterate. He then writes one of the finest lines ever from a Tory ex-Minister: It's all so depressing. Especially when you think we've had a Tory Government for the last ten years. That is a condemnation of Tory education and of Tory party defence policy.

Mr. Whitney

indicated dissent.

Dr. Reid

Would the hon. Gentleman like me to read more? We have a demand for an encore. Would the hon. Gentleman like me to read more now?

Mr. Whitney

How about reading from Crossman?

Dr. Reid

I do not have anything by Crossman in front of me, but, as we are involved in literature, I will read something more from Mr. Clark: I think what saddens me most is the so near and yet so far experience at MoD. I have written the Defence Review". The right hon. Member for Bridgwater told us that there was no defence review and that, if there was, he wrote it. According to his second in command, that is not true. He states: I have written the Defence Review. It has, to all intents and purposes, been accepted by Number 10. But no one is getting on with it. It's all being screwed by this absurd 'Options' exercise, which muffles everything. Those are not my words; they are the words of one of the defence team. I suppose that we should have a minute's silence for dear departed friends—the old Tory defence team.

I have not been an Opposition spokesman for long, but since I took up this post we have lost a Secretary of State for Defence, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary, a Minister of State for Defence Procurement and—only last week or the week before—a Minister of State for the Armed Forces. We now have a fresh team. I suppose that I should congratulate my opposite number, the new Minister of State for the Armed Forces: he is a very good choice. I understand that he comes from a long line of thespians: he seems to have all the qualifications for membership of the Tory defence team.

Hon. Members would expect me to respond to the points made by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, who launched an attack on the Labour party for having the audacity to suggest that we might have an agreement on conventional arms. He pointed out that that was mentioned in our amendment. I am not sure how long the Minister has been in his post; somebody told me that he had been there for 15 months. I looked him up in "Parliamentary Profiles", which tells us—under "Traits"— Tall; dark; handsome; natty; Old Etonian charm; ruthless, sardonic wit". The one thing it does not say is "knows anything about defence".

Let me try to educate the Minister. Conventional arms agreements have been on-going under Conservative Governments for some 20 years. The last example was known as CFE—conventional forces in Europe. When the Minister attacks, in principle, the idea that reductions in conventional forces are possible, he criticises not the Opposition but his own party. I am sorry if, in his 15 months at the Ministry, no one has told the Minister that we are negotiating conventional force reductions; but I should be obliged if, after those 20 years of agreements, he did not attack the Opposition for including Britain in their amendment.

I shall say no more about the Minister's opening speech: I think that that is the best way in which to treat it. Let me say three things.

Two or three years ago, we said that the Government had made a mistake about the infantry—that they would have to put soldiers back again. They said that we were wrong; now they have done it.

Two or three years ago, we said that the Government should give the Territorial Army an operational role, integrating it with the regular forces. They said that we were wrong; now they have done it.

Three years ago, we said that it was nonsensical to spend £3,000 million on a new sub-strategic nuclear weapon called TASM—the tactical air-to-surface missile. They said that we were wrong, but we predict tonight that they will cancel it, because there is no military or strategic need for it, and there is certainly no financial way in which it can be secured. If we have TASM, we cannot have the infantry. The threats that we now face do not require yet another nuclear weapon; they require British soldiers on the ground.

In his 1992 "Statement on the Defence Estimates", the Secretary of State boasted: In the work on Options for Change"— hon. Members will note that his view was different from that of Alan Clark— and subsequently, we have carried out a fundamental reassessment of the potential for conflict within and outside Europe, and how it should be reflected in defence strategy, policy and the structure of the armed forces. I take it that that was a joke; I take it that it was written with irony and sarcasm. If there is one thing that the Government have not produced, it is a fundamental reassessment and a strategic view of where we should be going.

The hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) warned us not to underestimate the forthcoming White Paper. In a non-partisan spirit, may I say to him that if the Government intend to publish a White Paper that is based on a strategic analysis and opens up to the public and to Parliament the basis on which we are trying to match resources to commitments, the Opposition will welcome it and will give it credit. We do not underestimate the fact that it is a difficult task. If, even belatedly, the Secretary of State for Defence comes to the Dispatch Box and brings with him a rational, strategic analysis of our defence needs and how those commitments are to be matched to our resources, the Labour party will welcome it.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

One is always delighted when a sinner repents. Is the hon. Gentleman serious when he tells the House that his party has had a consistent, coherent defence policy over the past three or four years?

Dr. Reid

I have. [Interruption.] I am not sure that all Conservative Members have always followed a consistent defence policy. The hon. Gentleman should not try to make out that the only people in the world who have shown inconsistency are those who sit on the Opposition side of the House. There are those on the Government side who have been just as inconsistent as others.

None of us underestimates the problems. In particular, the right hon. Member for Bridgwater lived, as he told us, through a period of tremendous change—away from the nuclear threat and capability of the Soviet Union to the new type of risks that we face. Perhaps they could have been foreseen. It is easy to say that in retrospect. I think that it was the German philosopher, Hegel, who said that the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only at the coming of the dusk. It is easy, as I say, to say these things in retrospect. I do not claim that the Labour party has a monopoly of wisdom on defence, but I challenge the arrogant assertion of some Conservative Members that they have a monopoly of wisdom when it comes either to patriotism or to an analysis of defence. They have not.

Mr. Aitken

Can the hon. Gentleman give us the benefit of his wisdom?

Dr. Reid

I am giving the Minister the benefit of my wisdom. If he wishes to intervene, all that he has to do is to come to the Dispatch Box. If, however, someone who has already spent 15 months in the Ministry of Defence does not even know that we were involved in the CFE reductions, he is in no position to try to educate other people.

In an attempt to be constructive, let Me make two or three suggestions to those who sit on the Treasury Bench. As I said earlier, we did it on the infantry; we did it on the analysis of the threat; we did it on TASM. Let me, therefore, put two or three points, which I hope will be constructive, to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces who is to make his defence debut tonight.

I refer to the increasing compulsion of people to think that the United Nations can solve all problems. That is based on two assumptions: first, that for every problem there is a solution and, secondly—the most dangerous assumption—that for every problem there is a military solution. Both assumptions are wrong. The House has not yet come to grips with that fact.

The strategic defence question is ultimately one of foreign affairs policy, because defence is the daughter of foreign affairs. Strategy is merely the use and distribution of military force towards the end of policy. The first and overriding matter, therefore, is clarification of our political—more often than not, foreign affairs—aims and objectives as regards any particular case, within the context of our general aims and objectives.

Within that context there are a number of issues that we should all bear in mind. The first is legality. Is the proposed military action compatible with, justified by or conflicting with international law? International legality is a necessary, but not a sufficient, justification for military action.

The second issue is consensuality. Is the action proposed compatible with, and justified by, United Nations resolutions and the maintenance of a political consensus at the United Nations? In the event of Britain's taking action alone in defence of her own specific interests, this question would be relevant to the United Nations or other potential allies.

The third issue is proportionality. Is the proposed military action proportionate to the threat posed or the aims and objectives envisaged?

The fourth issue is strategy. Put simply, does the military action proposed in any given case—Somalia, Bosnia or anywhere else—stand a reasonable chance of achieving the policy aims desired?

The fifth issue is practicality. Is the military means proposed practical given the history, political complexity, terrain, population, distribution and forces liable to oppose the action at any place or at any time?

Unless we come to terms with those questions and unless we think through our strategic position oil the United Nations, we are in grave danger of imposing an even greater burden on our service men and women that is imposed on them at the moment. Whatever the differences between the two sides of the House, surely we should all agree that our main responsibility must be to ensure that we do not place demands on them that are not matched by the resources that we make available to them.

That, above all, is the accusation that we level at the Government tonight. We shall not vote against the Government's defence estimates. We will not lay ourselves open to any accusation that we shall deprive our service men and women of the resources that they should have, but we will vote for our reasoned amendment because we cannot support a Government strategy where no strategy exists.

9.41 pm
The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Jeremy Hanley)

It is a great honour to be winding up this important and wide-ranging debate. It is also a great honour to have been given the responsibilities that come with this position. I have long been aware of the professionalism and dedication of the men and women of our armed forces, not least from my time in Northern Ireland. I look forward to continuing my association with them.

I was most fortunate to have spent two and a half years at Stormont and to have discovered what I regard as the real Northern Ireland—the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world in one of the most beautiful corners of the globe. I wish them all well and assure them that, in leaving, I shall remain an honorary ambassador for the Province.

I feel particularly honoured to be following in the footsteps of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton), who was Minister of State for the Armed Forces during a period of unprecedented change. When he first assumed office, Honecker, Ceaucescu, Husak, Straub and Jaruzelski were still in power across the eastern bloc. The Warsaw pact still posed a massive threat to the security of the United Kingdom and its allies. At the heart of the Warsaw pact, the Soviet Union still adhered, albeit with ever lessening conviction, to the tenets of Marxism and Leninism.

We now live in a world with a different complexion and the Soviet Union and the Warsaw pact belong to history. The Berlin wall is down and Germany is reunited. The former Soviet troops have left the territory of their erstwhile Warsaw pact allies, and countries of the former Soviet Union, central and eastern Europe and the Baltic states are seeking to entrench the habits of democracy, which were denied to them for half a century. In short, the cold war is over.

I do not want to suggest that my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell was single-handedly responsible for that victory, but he certainly was one of those who had difficult decisions to make about the way in which our defence policy and force structures needed to evolve to reflect the new strategic setting. He deserves the thanks of the House for the dedication and unfailing good humour that he brought to a job that few others could have carried out with such panache in such turbulent times. I have admired him for many years, but having spent the past three weeks learning how massive his job was I admire him all the more. He is a great man in many respects and his shoes will be very hard to fill. Indeed, at a mere 6ft 4 in, I feel a shrimp beside him in stature.

With the end of the cold war, the benchmark against which we assessed our defence requirements disappeared before our eyes.

The certainty of the cold war, in the shape of a monolithic, ideologically hostile adversary, gave way to uncertainty, and the rationale for the force structures which have served NATO so well for so long were no longer appropriate. In spite of the change for the better, represented by the demise of the communist threat, the future of Europe became unpredictable. No one could be certain about the repercussions of the collapse of central power in the Soviet Union. Festering pockets of ethnic tension broke out across central and eastern Europe, not least in the Caucasus and Yugoslavia. In the wider world, the Gulf was soon to provide evidence of the dangers of petty dictators giving practical expression to their aggressive intent.

I am aware that a number of commentators, in the House and elsewhere, question whether there is a logical and coherent link between defence policy and the size and shape of our armed forces. Some even assert that the size and shape of our armed forces are determined wholly by continual Treasury demands for reductions in the defence budget. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) made clear last Thursday, it would be unrealistic to ignore the question of affordability and, as my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Procurement said today, that is the dilemma facing defence planners. However, assertions that changes in the armed forces are imposed arbitrarily are based on misunderstandings, sometimes deliberate.

Manpower requirements are kept under review in the light of a number of factors. A key factor is, of course, operational commitments and any changes in those commitments which are currently unforeseen. Other factors include management initiatives to streamline support functions to ensure that they are carried out most cost effectively so that resources can be concentrated on the front line. Such initiatives include civilianisation and contractorisation. As for the front line itself, new technologies will in some cases require less manpower.

There have been about 40 contributions to the debate. One of the more recent was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes), who spoke about overstretch. We have always acknowledged that restructuring would lead to increased demands on service personnel because units amalgamating, relocating and re-roling are temporarily unavailable for emergency tours. The interval between emergency tours is currently 19 months. Following withdrawal from Belize, however, the average interval for infantry will rise to 20 months in 1994–95 and to 29 months in 1995–96 on the basis of our current commitments. Two battalions will be withdrawn from Berlin in 1994, so there will be an increase in the units available for such tours. The prospect may look dark at the moment, but it will get better very much sooner than some people expect.

The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), in his usual knockabout performance, asked for reassurances about the West Indies guard ship. I can reassure him that, although one of its primary functions is to support the Belize garrison, it is at the same time able to make a useful contribution, for example, to the prevention of drug smuggling and to hurricane aid. As with all defence activities, we keep our commitments under review and our forces are deployed in supporting those which we have undertaken. No change is planned at present.

The Statement on the Defence Estimates contains an essay entitled "Defence Planning in a Changing World". The 1993 Statement on the Defence Estimates, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State told the House last Thursday would be published early next month, will provide an account of the assumptions underpinning the "Options for Change" review, together with a full assessment of the changes which have taken place since then and their impact on our defence policy. As a newcomer to defence, I can say that the "Options for Change" assumptions and, in particular, its identification of the fundamental need to plan for uncertainty have stood the test of time remarkably well.

As my right hon. and learned Friend told the House last April, he commissioned some months ago a detailed analysis of the way in which our defence assets are and need to be employed to meet our various commitments around the world. The links between policy and the overall tasks that the armed forces are called upon to perform and force structures must be made explicit. The analysis will also examine the demands that different tasks make on resources.

The results of that analysis will also be published in the 1993 White Paper. I refute the suggestion of both the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) and my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) that there has been no attempt to match the shape of our forces to threats and risks facing our security and our obligation to the world community and that we are not looking properly at our commitments and resources.

The 1993 statement will show for the mid-1990s how major force elements—such as destroyers, frigates, infantry battalions and combat aircraft—are attributed to policy areas within each of the defence roles, the degree to which forces can be earmarked for more than one task, and how those combine to provide an overall force structure. It will also provide broad order estimated costs of the force elements allocated to a number of policy areas, and set out a number of changes that we plan to make to our force structures and capabilities to reflect changes in the strategic environment.

I believe that the White Paper is a tremendous document, although, of course, the House will have to determine what it thinks of it in time. I believe that there is no need for a defence review as advocated by those on the Opposition Front Bench and others.

I shall answer some of the points that were raised in debate on Thursday and today. First, let me provide a word of comfort for my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin). I call him "gallant" because I am sure that an honorary colonel deserves that epithet—perhaps it is an honorary "gallant." He asked about honorary colonels and whether he would remain one for long. Honorary colonels are appointed to each major Territorial Army unit and also to certain sub-units which are descendants of significant former regiments. They fulfil a similar function to the regular Army's system of colonels-in-chief and colonels of the regiment. They provide a source of advice for commanding officers and fulfil extremely useful functions—not just ceremonial—such as the presentation of awards. More significantly, they seek to use their influence on behalf of their unit with Ministers, politicians and others. The system works well and we have no plans to change the arrangements.

My hon. and gallant Friend also raised the subject of TAVRAs. The territorial, auxiliary and volunteer reserve associations do sterling work in support of the volunteer reserve and cadet forces, although they no longer need be given the statutory duty to provide horses for the reserve forces and their useful function will be reviewed. On many of the other issues, it might be better if I were to write to the hon. Members concerned.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)

I am concerned that we are dealing with trivia when we should be dealing with more important matters. Will the Minister comment on the statement made by the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Jackson)—a former MiniSter—in the recent science and technology debate? He said that this country had overtaxed itself beyond the strength of the economy for four decades for military purposes and that that had caused a serious distortion in this country's science and technological resources to the detriment of civilian uses. Will the Minister address the question of defence diversification, which is alluded to in the Opposition's proposals?

Mr. Hanley

If the hon. Gentleman had not wasted some of the House's time with that question, we might have gone on to some of the "less trivial" matters. The matters that I have raised may very well be trivial to the hon. Gentleman, but they are not trivial to those who raised them.

The hon. Member for South Shields asked about UN troops in the safe areas and whether they were there to protect non-combatants. They are in Bosnia under the authority of UN Security Council resolution 836, which extends their mandate to enable them to deter attacks against the safe areas, to monitor the ceasefire, to promote the withdrawal of military or paramilitary units other than those of the Government of the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to occupy some key points on the ground, in addition to participating in the delivery of humanitarian relief. The resolution authorises all necessary measures, including the use of air power, to support the UN protection force in the performance of its mandate. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we attach the utmost importance to the safety of our forces in Bosnia. We have therefore made appropriate preparations to deploy additional ground and air assets, should they be required, for the protection of the troops.

The hon. Member for South Shields also asked about the return to the United Kingdom of the 105 mm light artillery which was deployed to the Adriatic in January aboard the RFA Argus. To cut the argument short due to lack of time today, I will say only that the RFA Argus is now back in the United Kingdom with the artillery crews. If necessary, the artillery and the crews can be returned to the theatre by air at short notice.

Dr. David Clark

Can the Minister explain to the House why we brought home the RFA Argus, with all the light artillery on it, when the Secretary of State told us two months ago that it would be essential if we had to evacuate our troops from Bosnia? We do not need Sea Harriers—we need cover 24 hours a day. Why did the Secretary of State bring the RFA Argus home?

Mr. Hanley

I have explained that point to the hon. Gentleman. The decision was taken in the light of changing circumstances—notably the deployment of the aircraft now enforcing the no-fly zone, an enhancement of the capabilities of the Sea Harrier, the provision of accommodation better able to provide protection, and the arrival of additional men and equipment, to which I have referred. We can deploy them as quickly as we need, certainly within 48 hours, so there is no need to worry on that score.

On the important issue of nuclear testing, the House knows that since 1961 all our nuclear weapons tests have been conducted underground at the United States test site in Nevada. Last October, President Bush signed into law the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act which included certain limitations on nuclear weapons testing in the United States. At the summit in Vancouver in April, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin agreed that negotiations towards a test ban should begin at an early date, that there should be a moratorium over the next three years and that there would be a maximum of 15 tests, of which three would be British.

The United Kingdom has long supported the ultimate goal of a negotiated and verifiable comprehensive test ban, recognising the potential support for a non-proliferation effort that progress towards that objective could provide. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State said, the House must recognise that a comprehensive test ban would not of itself prevent the production of a relatively crude nuclear weapon without recourse to testing, as has been shown in the recent examples of Iraq and South Africa. We must continue to have the means to maintain the safety of our nuclear weapons at the highest levels of assurance. Over the years, testing has played a central part in that process. However, it is not the only element. Other techniques, such as computer modelling and simulation, play an important and expanding role.

Various Opposition Members have suggested that the Government and especially my Department should interfere in the commercial judgment of defence suppliers by forcing them into other sectors of manufacturing. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley provided a wonderful example. He said that it was disgraceful that the Government were selling arms around the world. Within a few seconds, he then said that it was disgraceful that jobs were being lost in the arms and defence industries. That comment was ridiculous. It may make sense for some of the arms suppliers to diversify, but it is not our place to tell companies how best they can be profitable and competitive. Our interest is in seeing a profitable and competitive defence industry. It sounds fine to call for diversification, but it is not easy to see what role there is for Government in the area. No doubt the hon. Gentleman wants to create as many quangos as possible. However, we believe that we have a defence industry of which we can be proud.

Although the threat to our shores has been dramatically reduced, the world is still a very uncertain and occasionally a dangerous place. Times have changed and we must change with them. We must be ready to deal effectively with the unexpected. I am honoured to have this post. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell said, it is one of the best jobs in Government and the Ministry of Defence is one of the best teams with which to work. In my first few weeks, I have got to know a dazzling array of serving officers, men and women of all ranks, and some of the brightest and most able civil servants I have ever met. What has already etched itself on my mind is their professionalism, their sheer ability, their remarkably high morale and their great sense of humour. I intend to be a champion for the armed forces and I hope to gain their trust. There will be hard decisions to make, but I know that we have a team at the Ministry of Defence who will fight for and with our armed forces.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 228, Noes 277.

Division No. 301] [9.59 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Ashton, Joe
Ainger, Nick Austin-Walker, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Allen, Graham Barron, Kevin
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Battle, John
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Bayley, Hugh
Armstrong, Hilary Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Bell, Stuart Hardy, Peter
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Harman, Ms Harriet
Bennett, Andrew F. Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Benton, Joe Heppell, John
Bermingham, Gerald Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Berry, Dr. Roger Hinchliffe, David
Betts, Clive Hoey, Kate
Blunkett, David Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Boateng, Paul Hoon, Geoffrey
Boyes, Roland Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Bradley, Keith Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hoyle, Doug
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Burden, Richard Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Byers, Stephen Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Caborn, Richard Hutton, John
Callaghan, Jim Illsley, Eric
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Ingram, Adam
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Jamieson, David
Canavan, Dennis Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Cann, Jamie Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Clapham, Michael Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Clelland, David Jowell, Tessa
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Coffey, Ann Keen, Alan
Cohen, Harry Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Connarty, Michael Khabra, Piara S.
Corbett, Robin Kilfoyle, Peter
Corbyn, Jeremy Kirkwood, Archy
Corston, Ms Jean Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cousins, Jim Litherland, Robert
Cryer, Bob Livingstone, Ken
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Llwyd, Elfyn
Dafis, Cynog Loyden, Eddie
Dalyell, Tam McAllion, John
Darling, Alistair McAvoy, Thomas
Davidson, Ian McCartney, Ian
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) McFall, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) McKelvey, William
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Mackinlay, Andrew
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) McLeish, Henry
Denham, John McMaster, Gordon
Dewar, Donald McNamara, Kevin
Dixon, Don Mahon, Alice
Dobson, Frank Mandelson, Peter
Donohoe, Brian H. Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dowd, Jim Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Martlew, Eric
Eagle, Ms Angela Meacher, Michael
Enright, Derek Meale, Alan
Etherington, Bill Michael, Alun
Evans, John (St Helens N) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fatchett, Derek Milburn, Alan
Fisher, Mark Miller, Andrew
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Foulkes, George Moonie, Dr Lewis
Fraser, John Morgan, Rhodri
Fyfe, Maria Morley, Elliot
Galloway, George Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Gapes, Mike Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
George, Bruce Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Gerrard, Neil Mowlam, Marjorie
Golding, Mrs Llin Mullin, Chris
Gordon, Mildred Murphy, Paul
Gould, Bryan O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Graham, Thomas O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) O'Hara, Edward
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Olner, William
Grocott, Bruce O'Neill, Martin
Gunnell, John Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hain, Peter Parry, Robert
Hall, Mike Patchett, Terry
Hanson, David Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin Soley, Clive
Pike, Peter L. Steinberg, Gerry
Pope, Greg Stevenson, George
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E) Straw, Jack
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Prescott, John Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Primarolo, Dawn Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Purchase, Ken Tipping, Paddy
Quin, Ms Joyce Turner, Dennis
Randall, Stuart Tyler, Paul
Raynsford, Nick Vaz, Keith
Redmond, Martin Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Reid, Dr John Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Richardson, Jo Wareing, Robert N
Robertson, George (Hamilton) Watson, Mike
Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW) Welsh, Andrew
Roche, Mrs. Barbara Wicks, Malcolm
Rogers, Allan Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Rowlands, Ted Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Ruddock, Joan Winnick, David
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Wise, Audrey
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Worthington, Tony
Short, Clare Wray, Jimmy
Simpson, Alan Wright, Dr Tony
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Tellers for the Ayes:
Smith, C. (IsI'ton S & F'sbury) Mr. Jon Owen Jones and Mr. John Spellar.
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Aitken, Jonathan Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Alexander, Richard Coe, Sebastian
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Congdon, David
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Conway, Derek
Amess, David Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Ancram, Michael Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Arbuthnot, James Cormack, Patrick
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Couchman, James
Ashby, David Cran, James
Aspinwall, Jack Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Atkins, Robert Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Day, Stephen
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Deva, Nirj Joseph
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Devlin, Tim
Baldry, Tony Dickens, Geoffrey
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Dicks, Terry
Bates, Michael Dorrell, Stephen
Batiste, Spencer Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bellingham, Henry Dover, Den
Bendall, Vivian Duncan, Alan
Beresford, Sir Paul Duncan-Smith, Iain
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dunn, Bob
Body, Sir Richard Durant, Sir Anthony
Booth, Hartley Dykes, Hugh
Boswell, Tim Eggar, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Elletson, Harold
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Bowden, Andrew Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bowis, John Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Evennett, David
Brandreth, Gyles Fabricant, Michael
Brazier, Julian Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bright, Graham Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fishburn, Dudley
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Forman, Nigel
Browning, Mrs. Angela Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Forth, Eric
Burns, Simon Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Burt, Alistair Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Butcher, John Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Butler, Peter Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Carlisle, John (Luton North) French, Douglas
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Fry, Peter
Carrington, Matthew Gale, Roger
Carttiss, Michael Gallie, Phil
Clappison, James Gardiner, Sir George
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Garnier, Edward
Gill, Christopher Needham, Richard
Gillan, Cheryl Nelson, Anthony
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Neubert, Sir Michael
Gorst, John Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Nicholls, Patrick
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Norris, Steve
Grylls, Sir Michael Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Oppenheim, Phillip
Hague, William Ottaway, Richard
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom) Page, Richard
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Paice, James
Hampson, Dr Keith Patnick, Irvine
Hanley, Jeremy Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hannam, Sir John Pawsey, James
Haselhurst, Alan Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hawksley, Warren Pickles, Eric
Hayes, Jerry Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Hendry, Charles Porter, David (Waveney)
Hicks, Robert Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Powell, William (Corby)
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Rathbone, Tim
Horam, John Redwood, Rt Hon John
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Richards, Rod
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Riddick, Graham
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Howell, Sir Ralph (North Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Norfolk) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Hunter, Andrew Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Jack, Michael Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Sackville, Tom
Jessel, Toby Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Key, Robert Shersby, Michael
Kilfedder, Sir James Sims, Roger
King, Rt Hon Tom Skeet, Sir Trevor
Kirkhope, Timothy Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Knapman, Roger Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Soames, Nicholas
Knox, Sir David Speed, Sir Keith
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Spencer, Sir Derek
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Spink, Dr Robert
Leigh, Edward Sproat, Iain
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Lidington, David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Steen, Anthony
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stephen, Michael
Lord, Michael Stern, Michael
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stewart, Allan
MacKay, Andrew Streeter, Gary
Maclean, David Sumberg, David
McLoughlin, Patrick Sweeney, Walter
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sykes, John
Madel, David Tapsell, Sir Peter
Maitland, Lady Olga Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Malone, Gerald Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mans, Keith Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Marland, Paul Temple-Morris, Peter
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Thomason, Roy
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Merchant, Piers Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Milligan, Stephen Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Thurnham, Peter
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Moate, Sir Roger Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Tracey, Richard
Monro, Sir Hector Tredinnick, David
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Trend, Michael
Moss, Malcolm Twinn, Dr Ian
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Willetts, David
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William Wilshire, David
Walden, George Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Waller, Gary Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Wolfson, Mark
Wells, Bowen Wood, Timothy
Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John Yeo, Tim
Whitney, Ray Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Ann Tellers for the Noes:
Wiggin, Sir Jerry Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Sydney Chapman.
Wilkinson, John

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 278, Noes 35.

Division No. 302] [10.14 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Aitken, Jonathan Day, Stephen
Alexander, Richard Deva, Nirj Joseph
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Devlin, Tim
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Dicks, Terry
Amess, David Dorrell, Stephen
Ancram, Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Arbuthnot, James Dover, Den
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Duncan, Alan
Ashby, David Duncan-Smith, Iain
Aspinwall, Jack Dunn, Bob
Atkins, Robert Durant, Sir Anthony
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Dykes, Hugh
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Eggar, Tim
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Elletson, Harold
Baldry, Tony Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bates, Michael Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Batiste, Spencer Evennett, David
Bellingham, Henry Fabricant, Michael
Bendall, Vivian Fenner, Dame Peggy
Beresford, Sir Paul Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fishburn, Dudley
Body, Sir Richard Forman, Nigel
Booth, Hartley Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Boswell, Tim Forth, Eric
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bowden, Andrew Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bowis, John Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes French, Douglas
Brandreth, Gyles Fry, Peter
Brazier. Julian Gale, Roger
Bright, Graham Gallie, Phil
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gardiner, Sir George
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Garnier, Edward
Browning, Mrs. Angela Gill, Christopher
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Gillan, Cheryl
Burns, Simon Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Burt, Alistair Gorst, John
Butcher, John Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Butler, Peter Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Grylls, Sir Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carrington, Matthew Hague, William
Carttiss, Michael Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Clappison, James Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hampson, Dr Keith
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hanley, Jeremy
Coe, Sebastian Hannam, Sir John
Congdon, David Haselhurst, Alan
Conway, Derek Hawksley, Warren
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hayes, Jerry
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hendry, Charles
Cormack, Patrick Hicks, Robert
Couchman, James Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Cran, James Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Horam, John
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Moate, Sir Roger
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Howell, Sir Ralph (North Monro, Sir Hector
Norfolk) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Moss, Malcolm
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Needham, Richard
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Nelson, Anthony
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Neubert, Sir Michael
Hunter, Andrew Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Jack, Michael Nicholls, Patrick
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Jessel, Toby Norris, Steve
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Oppenheim, Phillip
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Ottaway, Richard
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Page, Richard
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Paice, James
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Patnick, Irvine
Key, Robert Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Kilfedder, Sir James Pawsey, James
King, Rt Hon Tom Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Kirkhope, Timothy Pickles, Eric
Kirkwood, Archy Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Knapman, Roger Porter, David (Waveney)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Powell, William (Corby)
Knox, Sir David Rathbone, Tim
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Richards, Rod
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Riddick, Graham
Leigh, Edward Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Lidington, David Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Lightbown, David Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Lord, Michael Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Sackville, Tom
MacKay, Andrew Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Maclean, David Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
McLoughlin, Patrick Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Madel, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Maitland, Lady Olga Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Malone, Gerald Shersby, Michael
Mans, Keith Sims, Roger
Marland, Paul Skeet, Sir Trevor
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Merchant, Piers Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Milligan, Stephen Soames, Nicholas
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Speed, Sir Keith
Spencer, Sir Derek Tredinnick, David
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Trend, Michael
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Twinn, Dr Ian
Spink, Dr Robert Tyler, Paul
Sproat, Iain Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Walden, George
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Waller, Gary
Steen, Anthony Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Stephen, Michael Wells, Bowen
Stern, Michael Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Stewart, Allan Whitney, Ray
Streeter, Gary Whittingdale, John
Sumberg, David Widdecombe, Ann
Sweeney, Walter Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Sykes, John Wilkinson, John
Tapsell, Sir Peter Willetts, David
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wilshire, David
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Temple-Morris, Peter Wolfson, Mark
Thomason, Roy Wood, Timothy
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Yeo, Tim
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Thurnham, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Townend, John (Bridlington) Mr. Sydney Chapman and Mr. Nicholas Baker.
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Tracey, Richard
Adams, Mrs Irene Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Austin-Walker, John Livingstone, Ken
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Llwyd, Elfyn
Burden, Richard Loyden, Eddie
Canavan, Dennis McAllion, John
Clapham, Michael Mahon, Alice
Cohen, Harry Mullin, Chris
Connarty, Michael Parry, Robert
Corbyn, Jeremy Rooney, Terry
Corston, Ms Jean Simpson, Alan
Davidson, Ian Skinner, Dennis
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Watson, Mike
Gerrard, Neil Wise, Audrey
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Wray, Jimmy
Gordon, Mildred
Graham, Thomas Tellers for the Noes:
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Mr. Bob Cryer and Mr. Andrew F. Bennett.
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1992 contained in Cm. 1981.