Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [18 October]:
That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1993 contained in Cm. 2270—[Mr. Rifkind.]
Which amendment was: to leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
'believes that the Government's plans, set out in the Statement on the Defence Estimates, CM 2270, do not effectively address the long term security needs of the United Kingdom; congratulates local authorities, trade unions and progressive defence companies for their work on defence diversification; calls for the immediate establishment of a Defence Diversification Agency; welcomes President Clinton's decision to continue the moratorium on nuclear testing; calls for the early signature of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty after 1995; and demands that the United Kingdom fully participates in moves to enhance international peace and security, in particular by strengthening the United Nations.'.—[Dr. David Clark.]
§ [Relevant documents: The Ninth Report from the Defence Committee on the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1993, HC 869 of Session 1992–93; Eighth Report from the Defence Committee on Royal Navy: Commitments and Resources, HC 637.]
§ Madam Speaker
I should inform the House that I have had to impose a limit of 10 minutes on the length of speeches between the hours of 7 and 9 pm. Those speaking outside those hours should use voluntary restraint, so that I can call as many Members as possible.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On today's Order Paper you will see the substantial amendment, supported by 17 hon. Members, which was tabled to give the House an opportunity to decide in a vote what many people in this country would like to hear discussed: whether this country should possess nuclear weapons and cut its arms expenditure. I appeal to you to allow the amendment to be put to a vote at 10 pm.
§ Madam Speaker
The hon. Gentleman raised the matter with me yesterday. I have looked carefully at the amendment standing in his name, but I cannot allow it to be put to the vote. However, it can—and I am sure that it will—be referred to during today's debate.
§ The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Jeremy Hanley)
Yesterday's debate focused on the broader defence issues raised in "Defending Our Future". Today, I should like to respond to a few more of the points from last night's debate and also take the opportunity to make some important announcements.
But first the White Paper. I am pleased to say that "Defending Our Future" has had a positive reception in the House and the press. We have placed our cards on the table and we have a winning hand.
"Defending Our Future"presents critics of Government defence policy with our case for the defence. Those who argue for increases in force levels across the board—because, they claim, we cannot meet our commitments —are given evidence that we can. "Defending Our Future" demonstrates the principle of multiple earmarking, 163 whereby individual force elements are attributed to two or three tasks that are unlikely to require simultaneous fulfilment. I should stress that multiple earmarking is nothing new. It is the only rational way to devise a force structure and has always been practised by both ourselves and our NATO allies.
We have been able to demonstrate that we have a sustainable set of commitments with an effective force structure to meet them. Naturally, we must keep them under review to ensure that they do not grow beyond our ability to fulfil them and to ensure that our force structures and capabilities are adjusted as necessary. That includes ensuring that the high quality of manpower, equipment and support is maintained.
There is still more. We have often been asked to state explicitly the kinds of conflicts in which we anticipate possible British involvement. We illustrate that in table 1 of the White Paper. I accept that that does not amount to a definitive list of scenarios, but it would be neither politically nor militarily sensible to stand here and give a list of countries that we might have to fight.
When it comes down to it, there are no easy alternatives to the defence policy that we are pursuing. Indeed, I must say that I have yet to hear a genuine alternative—even during yesterday's debate—properly argued and taking into account all the aspects of British security requirements and international interests. I believe that "Defending Our Future" makes that clear. It again underlines the fact that we have a sound defence policy, a sustainable range of commitments and the effective and flexible force structures that we need to meet them.
As an excellent example of that flexibility, I am pleased to tell the House that I have today agreed the deployment of HMS Active to Haiti to help our allies in the enforcement of United Nations sanctions against Haiti. HMS Active is currently serving in the Caribbean as the West Indies guardship and is able to divert to Haitian waters without affecting her other commitments. That clearly demonstrates the ability of the armed forces to deploy at short notice to conduct operations and enforce the will of the international community. HMS Active will be working in close co-operation with the United States navy and others enforcing the sanctions.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday touched on the changing face of the world and the situation within Russia, particularly its historic transition down the democratic path. He mentioned also the initiatives that we have in hand to continue the improvement in defence relations with central and eastern European countries and to draw them closer to the west. As an illustration of the change in the security environment, I was pleased last week to pay an official visit to Hungary for discussions with my counterparts in the Hungarian Ministry of Defence and meet Mr. Jeszenszky, its Foreign Minister.
As a member of the North Atlantic Co-operation Council, Hungary is a country of strategic importance to the future development of Europe. It is in the vanguard of the process of reform and restructuring taking place throughout central and eastern Europe and has set a fine example for others to follow. Hungary has made great strides in breaking down the barriers of the cold war and in developing public and parliamentary consensus in the role 164 of the armed forces in a pluralistic society. I am pleased to say that Her Majesty's Government have been able to contribute to the process of democratisation and civilianisation and I hope that we are now looking to deepen our contacts and the programme of co-operation, not only with Hungary but with other north Atlantic co-operation partners. It is in their interests and ours.
On leaving Hungary, my impression was of a country totally committed to the development of armed forces founded on the rule of law and trained and equipped to co-operate effectively in the future with the international community on the difficult challenge that we face in security and defence. I think that that will enhance the security and stability of Europe. It is also clear that Hungary holds our forces in high regard.
In yesterday's debate, the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) referred to the test and evaluation ranges in his constituency. As part of our continuing rationalisation of support areas, we are reviewing all test and evaluation ranges. However, I stress that no decisions have been taken and they will be taken only after full consultation with trade unions and other interested parties. We are conscious of the importance of those establishments to their local economies. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement visited Benbecula and St. Kilda and saw that at first hand.
The hon. Member for Western Isles takes a close interest in the safety of the Scottish fishing fleet, as do a number of hon. Members. "Defending our Future" rightly includes a substantial section on the subject of fishing vessel safety. The House will recall the tragic incident in November 1990 in which a Clyde-based trawler, the Antares, was sunk with the loss of her crew after a submarine became entangled in her nets. I know from my discussions with hon. Members how much concern that unfortunate accident engendered in fishing communities around the country and, in particular, on the Clyde. I place considerable importance on ensuring that everything possible is done to prevent a recurrence.
Some have suggested that the answer is to ban dived submarine operations in inshore water, but that is not an option. If our submarines cannot train in shallow waters, they will not be able to perform their operational role safely or effectively.
The Royal Navy has found ways of cutting the number of dived operations in waters used by fishing vessels. Where possible, training and exercises in areas such as the Clyde are carried out at weekends when fishing does not take place and transits are now routinely conducted on the surface.
When there is a requirement for dived operations in fishing grounds, submarines now follow revised operational procedures designed to ensure that the risk to the safety of fishing vessels is kept to an absolute minimum. Those revised procedures have been worked out in close consultation with representatives of the fishing industry and I am grateful to them for the constructive approach that they have adopted in their discussions with the Navy.
I am delighted to tell the House that we have now formalised those revised procedures in a code of practice. That has been published today in order to make clear to a wider audience the rules that the Royal Navy now follows. I have arranged for a copy of that document to be placed in the Library of the House.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
The code of practice will be welcomed by all those living along the lower Clyde. Will the Minister assure me that all foreign submarines will come under Royal Navy control here and that that stipulation will apply to American submarines? What consultations have taken place with the United States navy, especially in the light of the recent incident in the Minch involving an American submarine?
§ Mr. Hanley
I am well aware of the hon. Gentleman's keen interest in matters involving the safety of the fishing fleet and I am grateful for the consultations that I had with him and some of his colleagues earlier. I can give him the assurance that, if any foreign submarines of any nation wish to sail in United Kingdom waters, they will abide by the code of conduct, to which most of them already adhere. That has been agreed with other nations and I am pleased to give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks.
§ Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)
I congratulate the Minister on the publication of the code of conduct, which, as he said, is the result of long discussions following the tragedy involving a vessel from my constituency. I am particularly pleased that the hon. Gentleman managed to reach an agreement with the Department of Transport that the subfacts should still be broadcast by the coastguards. That will be welcome to fishermen.
Can the Minister give me an assurance that any amendments or changes to the code of practice and the subfacts broadcast will always be discussed with the fishing industry before any such changes take place?
§ Mr. Hanley
I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who has played a leading part in the consultations that led to the successful publication of the code of conduct. This is a non-party issue. It is the safety of men at sea about which we care. I can assure the hon. Lady that the code of practice is intended to be a dynamic document, to which we hope to add in the light of experience. Close consultation between the Royal Navy and the fishing industry will continue.
In taking such measures we have broken new ground and other nations may be able to benefit from our experience. Therefore, we intend to bring the code to the attention of the International Maritime Organisation. Time forbids me from going into any more detail about the code, but, as I have said, it will be published and it is available to hon. Members from today.
Subfacts will continue under the current arrangements for the time being. We intend to extend the subfacts scheme to the Minch and other areas off the west coast of Scotland. Later this year we will also be introducing a subfacts scheme in the Plymouth exercise areas, which have not hitherto been covered, using a British Telecom system. There are ongoing discussions with the Department of Transport, the coastguard and the fishermen's representatives on how best subfacts information should be broadcast in the future.
§ Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)
I have just seen the annex to the code of practice. I am surprised that none of the Welsh coastal areas or St. George's channel are covered by it, because both Welsh and Irish Republic fishing vessels have come into contact with submarines in those areas. Why are not the Welsh coastal areas and St. George's channel included?
§ Mr. Hanley
The hon. Gentleman has seen the map on the back of the document which shows the areas covered by this code of practice and by the subfacts system. Those are areas where we have seen a proven need for the system, but we are always ready to consider an extension to it. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give me chapter and verse about the incidents to which he refers.
I know that a number of hon. Members take a keen interest in the Merchant Navy. As demonstrated during the Gulf crisis and more recently in the deployment of forces to the former Yugoslavia, merchant shipping continues to play an important role in military operations.
In July 1992 my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement announced the conclusion of a review by Government Departments of the defence requirement for merchant ships in times of crisis. This established that there were still sufficient vessels on the British registers for defence purposes. It did, however, identify the need for further study into the availability of British seafarers to man those vessels.
§ Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)
This morning the Select Committee on Employment has been investigating the employment consequences of the decline of the merchant fleet. Whatever my hon. Friend may be about to say, there is very little optimism among the merchant shipping contingents—the unions, the Chamber of Shipping or anybody who has submitted evidence to the inquiry—that the merchant fleet will be able to sustain operations in support of the Royal Navy in the future.
§ Mr. Hanley
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments.
The further work that the Ministry of Defence agreed to carry out, together with the Department of Transport, took into account the figures provided by the Chamber of Shipping from its latest fleet and manpower inquiry of federated vessels and a survey conducted by the Department of Transport of the number of British seamen employed in the non-federated sector.
From all the evidence it is clear that there would be no difficulty in manning strategic chartered or requisitioned ships with British crews if that were necessary. Some 12,000 British officers and 14,500 British ratings are employed in the British shipping industry on federated and non-federated ships. The Select Committee will know that from the evidence given to it. That is hugely in excess of the numbers that we would require, even on the most cautious assumptions.
That takes no account of the Merchant Navy Reserve, which itself would be able to provide a substantial part of our manning requirement in an emergency. Of course, where we would be operating in conjunction with NATO or other allies there is no reason why friendly tonnage and crews should not be considered for logistic movements, as we have done in the past.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) expressed his regret and sadness that the Royal Naval Reserve unit HMS Wildfire is to close. I share those sentiments—as I do about a number of other RNR units which will also be closing—but it is simply not in the interests of the nation or the reserves for the roles and structures to be frozen in the shape required by the cold war. I note, however, that my hon. Friend recognises that 167 the links between the Army and the Medway towns will be strengthened, with Royal Engineer training being largely concentrated in Chatham, at Brompton barracks.
§ Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)
Many of us were prepared to support "Defending Our Future" on the basis that the match which it made between commitments and resources and the procurement programme that was financed under it would be implemented. We are now concerned that important features of that programme might be under threat. For example, I am worried about the future of our tank forces and the procurement programme for them, and many colleagues on the Conservative Benches are worried about other elements of the programme, which we believe to be integral to the White Paper. What comfort can my hon. Friend offer us? When will he be able to make announcements about the procurement programmes, which are long overdue?
§ Mr. Hanley
The House has heard what my hon. Friend said and Government spokesmen have heard what he has said. The issues are complex. It is a sensitive time for decisions about finance. The time for decisions will arrive, but I am grateful for his comments.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
Does the Minister accept that there are many Conservative Members for whom a further cut of £1 billion would not be acceptable?
§ Mr. Hanley
I can confirm that there are Conservative Members for whom a cut of £1 billion would not be acceptable. [Interruption.] I do not intend to identify individual Members or individual Benches.
Let me mention our internal initiatives to increase efficiency and obtain the best value for money from the taxpayer, to which several hon. Members referred during last night's debate. I can today confirm additional proposals aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the support area and ensuring that the size of the support organisation is appropriate to the size of the front line.
§ Mr. Hanley
Would my hon. Friend allow me to make some progress?
We have no intention of bolstering the size of the support area at the expense of the front line. We are determined to make all necessary efficiency savings that are commensurate with operational requirements and effectiveness.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman
I wish to make a somewhat oblique argument on the subject of cost-effectiveness. There is no more cost-effective force in the country than the reservists. Although we all appreciate the enhanced role that some of those have been given, it would be a great pity if, in parallel to that, their numbers were to be reduced. I know that the document says that a reduction is not necessary, but a reduction in that cost-effective force —which occupies our young people so effectively in their spare time—would be regrettable and I hope that it will not be contemplated.
§ Mr. Hanley
The hon. Lady is taking advantage of the consultation period to state her views about the structure of 168 the reserves. The reserves play a valuable part, not only in the history and tradition, but in the present formation of the armed forces. They are very valuable, but we must assess, in the light of changing circumstances, the proper military role for our reserves and then we must assess the numbers that are necessary to meet that commitment. That is part of the debate that is going on.
§ Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)
I shall refer to one aspect of the support service—the Army Records Office in my constituency, which, sadly, has had to be closed so that all the offices can be relocated in Glasgow. Can my hon. Friend confirm that those who are to be made redundant in South Wigston in my constituency will receive the best possible redundancy package, outplacing, counselling and so forth, so that those who have worked so hard for the Ministry of Defence will be properly compensated when the time comes for them to give up service with the military forces?
§ Mr. Hanley
I can give the assurance that my hon. Friend requires. I will return to the subject of the Army personnel centre later if I am given the opportunity to do so.
§ Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the efficiency savings that the Ministry of Defence has made during the past few years have been within a very small percentage of the targets that it set itself and much better than those achieved by virtually any other Department of state? Does he agree that if other Departments of State had done what the Ministry of Defence has done, we would not have quite such a large public sector borrowing requirement?
§ Mr. Hanley
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his tribute to the Ministry of Defence, which is wholly justified, but no single Government Department could not do more, could not do better and could not continue that process. We must always root out inefficiency, especially in the armed forces. The vital aim of our armed forces is not to provide a job protection scheme for the support services, but to ensure that we have an efficient and effective sharp end. We must have effective armed forces and for that we must not waste a penny that should be spent on making sure that our people are better trained and equipped.
§ Mr. Hanley
I have not made as much progress as I would like. I shall give way later.
The House will recall that, on 25 May this year, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) announced a proposal to discontinue in-service first degree engineer officer education for naval officers at the royal naval engineering college at Manadon in Plymouth in preference to a pre-entry engineering degree sponsorship scheme based in the civilian university sector. That proposal stems from a reduction, from about 90 to only 60 students per annum, in the Navy's requirement for engineer officers entering service. About 30 of those already are, and will continue to be, recruited from private sector universities, but that reduction in numbers clearly affects the cost-effectiveness and efficiency of maintaining an expensive "university" facility.
I received many powerful representations about our proposals, in particular from my hon. Friends the Members 169 for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) and for Plymouth, Drake (Dame. J. Fookes), who made a forceful case for the retention of RN officer training at Manadon. I considered those representations carefully, but concluded that the proposals should be confirmed—as those hon. Members, and hon. Members with a constituency interest, will know from the letters that I wrote to them last month informing them of my decision. The sponsorship scheme will save money frm the defence budget and will take advantage of high-quality education available through the university sector.
§ Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)
What attempt has been made to sell the wonderful facilities that this country has for training naval and other personnel to our NATO allies? Might not other countries be interested to send officers to Manadon and more trainees to Portland, for example, thus reducing the need to cut those facilities so drastically?
§ Mr. Hanley
I assure my hon. Friend that every effort is made to provide those facilities. There is great demand for courses of all lengths and at all ranks from nations throughout the world. Our education is second to none. However, there is a requirement for 30 engineers only to be trained in the Royal Navy by those means, plus the other 30, whom we shall manage to recruit from the university sector.
§ Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for clarifying the situation with regard to those engineering courses at Manadon college. I congratulate him on his full consultation exercise. Will he tell us something about the premises? They command a central position in Plymouth and are a magnificent asset. We want them to be transferred to the university of Plymouth so that they will be retained as an asset to the city and used for education. Is his Department prepared to go down that route?
§ Mr. Hanley
I repeat my tribute to my hon. Friend for the efforts that he made. He is right about the quality of the building at Manadon; it is superb and has been rightly defended by all those who have had anything to do with it or who know it. The Ministry of Defence has a responsibility to make the best use of its resources and assets, but the city council has made it clear to us that it regards the building as being of great importance. Having first investigated any possible further use of the building for military training purposes, we shall consider further and hold discussions with the council about a continuing educational use. That would seem to be sensible. 'We cannot rule out anything, nor should we rule out anything at this stage, but we are well aware of what my hon. Friend has said.
I am now able to tell the House that we have decided to select the university of Southampton for the sponsorship scheme. All the universities under consideration were of a very high standard. Indeed, there was a shortlist of about eight universities, but the university of Southampton emerged as offering the best course content and quality relevant to the Navy's requirements in the marine, weapon and air engineering disciplines. The university was also judged to offer the best academic reputation, marketability and geographic location to meet the Navy's specific needs. In no way do I want to run down any of the other seven, but we decided that Southampton was the best location for 170 those 30 students. The Navy is engaged on work with the university to ensure that the campus is absolutely fit for the autumn 1994 intake.
As part of our continuing rationalisation of the Royal Navy, we have also looked at the requirment for berths, known as Z-berths, that are approved for occasional visits by nuclear-powered submarines for rest and recreation or operational reasons. The current number of Z-berths and their locations were derived from assessments carried out in the 1980s, when a larger fleet of nuclear-powered attack submarines was envisaged than is required today. Given the reduction of our nuclear-powered attack submarine fleet to 12 boats and the changing operating patterns of our submarines as they measure up to the new challenges of an unsettled world, it is now clear that not all the berths currently designated as Z-berths will be required. We have therefore decided that Z-berth status will be withdrawn from the following locations in Scotland: at Loch Fyne, Lamlash, Loch Torridon, Loch Na Beiste and Thurso bay; and at Barry and Swansea in Wales.
Approved locations for visits by nuclear-powered warships will remain at about 25 to 30 general locations around the United Kingdom. While we are confident that the remaining berths around the coast of England, Scotland and Wales will be sufficient for the needs of the Royal Navy, the situation will be kept under review.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the local authorities and communities around our coasts that have hosted visits by our nuclear submarines during past years.
Turning to the Army and the question asked earlier, as many hon. Members with a constituency interest will recall, we have been considering improving the cost-effectiveness of the Army's personnel management organisation. A study was carried out last year which concluded that a single integrated Army personnel centre should be created and housed in an existing commercial building in Glasgow—Tay house. It was said that that would allow staff savings of 38 per cent., by comparison with the current organisation—a very useful reduction in support costs.
Subsequent events, in particular the identification of an alternative existing building in Stockport, are well documented and I will not dwell on them now. I shall, however, take this opportunity to thank all those hon. Members who contributed so usefully to the debate, especially my hon. Friends the Members for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), for City of Chester (Mr. Brandreth) and for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam), who advocated alternative solutions so forcefully, and the hon. Members for Stockport (Ms Coffey) and for York (Mr. Bayley) and the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner).
I assure them that a number of those options, particularly those for new build, were most attractive indeed and I examined them very carefully. However, over a 25-year period, the option of going to the eventual destination of Kentigern house in Glasgow will produce savings of about £150 million when compared to the costs of the organisation as it stands today. That seems to me to be absolutely certain as far as acceptance is concerned.
§ Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)
First, I welcome the fact that the original choice of hierarchy for the personnel department has been confirmed, despite some delays. Secondly, I would like some clarification on the number of new jobs. Various figures for the exact number have been given to different organisations in Glasgow. In 171 May this year 700 new jobs were spoken of, but it seems that they might not all be new. They might be taken by people who previously worked in other areas or departments of the Ministry of Defence and the number of new jobs could be as low as 200. Can the Minister say how many new jobs will be created in Glasgow by the move?
§ Mr. Hanley
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have said that if anyone wishes to remain within the Army personnel office they will be given a job. The number of places available in Glasgow will therefore very much depend on how many people want to move there. Our estimate is unchanged from the figure of 700 that he mentioned, but that is merely an estimate and if Glasgow sells itself to the people who work throughout the rest of the United Kingdom there may not be as many new jobs as he mentioned.
§ Dr. Reid
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that reply. He has narrowed the possible take-up of slack to the people who work in the personnel office and it is only fair that they should have the opportunity to go to Glasgow. However, will he confirm that people who work in other departments of the MoD and who may be superfluous to needs, either because of agency status or efficiencies in their departments, will also have the right of first call on the jobs in Glasgow—or is that rumour unsubstantiated and untrue?
§ Mr. Hanley
I am not aware of any guarantees, but I can certainly clarify the position for the hon. Gentleman. I was not aware that he was going to raise the matter and I am not sure of the terms of service of people throughout the Ministry of Defence. It is my understanding that those people in the personnel centre have been given guarantees on relocation and costs for going to Glasgow. The matter is very much in the lap of the gods, but I shall clarify it subsequently with the hon. Gentleman if he wishes.
There are now about 16 defence agencies employing about 40,000 service and civilian staff. Our plans envisage the Ministry of Defence police—which comprises some 5,000 staff—being the next support organisation to become a defence agency. Plans are also well advanced for launching the RAF training group as a defence agency.
I should like to mention civil servants and to pay a tribute to all those who work in the Ministry of Defence, both those who support me and my Front Bench colleagues so ably in London, and those at our units and establishments around the country. We must not lose sight of the fact that this is a difficult time not only for the service men and women affected by the changes in the armed forces, but for all the civilians affected by the disruptions and uncertainties of management and efficiency initiatives.
The House will be aware that there have been several media articles recently about the number of so-called bureaucrats in the Ministry of Defence, comparing numbers and functions unfavourably with those in the armed forces.
As many officials as soldiers",is one such quote. Let us hear another.
§ Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)
The Minister is very patient. May I remind him that the Secretary of State and the Minister of State both visited RAF Sealand in my 172 constituency. I have heard them mention the word efficiency in connection with the Royal Air Force. There is a great concern at RAF Sealand about the impact of market testing on jobs. Will there be a level playing field and a guarantee of a fair and proper chance to compete? Will tenders be evaluated independently and objectively?
When those Ministers visited RAF Sealand they were very impressed by what they saw. I want a commitment from the Minister that there will be a level playing field. Will he accept that my constituents are very willing and that, ideally, he should not go forward with market testing?
§ Mr. Hanley
The RAF benefits considerably from market testing, but there will be independent evaluators on the assessment panel. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the level playing field that he wants is there. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister of State were both murmuring their appreciation of RAF Sealand as he spoke. It is an impressive facility, but the RAF must look for improvements and efficiency in all its operations.
I used the quote about there being as many officials as soldiers, which is terribly misleading. Indeed, my hon. Friends the Members for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) and for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) last night referred to the cost of civil servants and their apparently large numbers. I am afraid that the figures that have been published in some of the articles are totally misleading.
Last April, the totals were 156,500 civilians and 274,000 serving members of the armed forces. It is somewhat unfair to pick just soldiers in the regular Army. Since 1979, there has been a 48 per cent. reduction in the number of United Kingdom-based MOD civil servants. Headquarters' numbers, which include civilians and military, are being reduced by about 20 per cent. and top civilian posts have already been cut by 13 per cent.—top service posts by 12 per cent. Nor, despite the civilianisation of posts, has the proportion of civilians to military staff increased. On the contrary, the civilian-service ratio has reduced since 1980, from 86 per cent. to 57 per cent.
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
Does my hon. Friend accept that large numbers of jobs have been privatised—for instance, people working in the royal ordnance factories and the royal dockyards used to appear as civil servants? The more important factor is surely not the aggregate total of civil servants—including scientists, technologists and so on—but the proportion of people involved in bean counting. That proportion has increased in many areas as a result of the introduction of executive responsibility budgets. In just one area, the training establishment, 70 extra posts of this kind have been created.
§ Mr. Hanley
I am afraid that in a previous life I, too, was a professional bean counter, so I understand what my hon. Friend is saying. The total number of what we might classify as pure bureaucrats or pen-pushers, like Sir Humphrey or his acolytes, is 30,000 in the MOD—quite a slimmed-down total, given the service that they provide. When I talk about reductions in support areas I am also talking about reductions in the MOD. We are continually looking at that matter.
It is equally wrong to talk of civilians in the MOD as a separate arm unrelated to the services. The fact is that a high proportion are recruited and managed by the services 173 themselves and provide them with essential support. Many of them are scientific, technical and engineering staff. I have found the civilian staff in the MOD utterly professional and highly competent. Perhaps it is the competition with their armed forces colleagues that helps to bring out the best in them—I am sure that the armed forces would say so. I happen to think that it is the high quality of the civil servants that brings out the best in their armed forces' colleagues in the MOD.
It is no coincidence that the services are enthusiastic about the civilianisation of posts that do not require to be filled by service manpower, because that frees service men to do the job that they are meant to be doing.
I am delighted to announce a number of positive developments in the employment of women in the armed forces, a matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) referred in colourful language last night, not to mention my hon. Friend the Member for Western-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin)—
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)
I echo my hon. Friend's words about the high quality of the people whom we employ, many of whom realise that there must be large numbers of redundancies. But perhaps what I have been saying has been misinterpreted: they are telling me—the Minister paid tribute to their professionalism just now—that they do not think that the savings made from their salaries should be spent over 15 years on putting up new office blocks. I have been told today that the Treasury is providing £1–143 billion over and above the £1 billion for defence refurbishment. Staff want that figure to be cut, not the number of our forces.
§ Mr. Hanley
Every new project needs an investment appraisal and MOD Ministers will look carefully at such appraisals. The accounting officer at the MOD, the permanent under-secretary, will ensure that the most cost-effective option is the one selected.
To return to women in the armed forces: as from 1 November, the Women's Royal Naval Service will be fully integrated with the Royal Navy. This move is aimed at enhancing the career opportunities for women and the way is now open for women to reach the highest ranks in the Royal Navy. Indeed, the move can be said to pave the way for the first woman member of the Navy Board.
Some people may perceive integration as the disappearance of a broad and historic tradition, that of the Wrens, but I do not believe that it will be. With some few exceptions, men and women in the services will be recruited, trained, developed, promoted and paid in exactly the same way and they will have the same rank titles. Integration is the inevitable and logical culmination of a series of changes made since the 1970s, when women first came under the Naval Discipline Act 1957, and then in 1990, when women went to sea. It should be viewed positively, as a means of ensuring that women can compete on fully equal terms with men, without any artificial barriers to promotion on merit.
Contrary to what some media stories might lead the uninitiated to beleve, mixed manning at sea has proved a real success story. Increasing numbers of women are serving at sea and all new surface ships are built with facilities for women. There are now nearly 800 women serving on 27 surface warships. It would be foolish to pretend that incidents do not occur on board ships between men and women—indeed, it would be surprising if the 174 Navy were the only workplace where they did not occur. But the great majority of men and women in the Navy are going about their jobs in a responsible, disciplined and professional manner.
§ Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks)
I congratulate Ministers, naval officers and other service officers on their real progress in this area. It has shown how equal opportunities can pay off in terms of efficiency and opportunity.
§ Mr. Hanley
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. The policy of the Royal Navy is that all areas of work should be open to women, and that has been achieved in all but a few areas, such as the submarine flotilla and the Royal Marines commando forces, where there are real practical obstacles. The decision not to employ women in the current classes of submarine will be revisited in about five years' time and the potential for further employment with the Royal Marines—as RM bandsmen—is already under review.
§ Dr. Godman
Can the Minister estimate the number of Wrens or women sailors or female members of the Royal Navy who have been dismissed in each of the past 20 years on the grounds of pregnancy? In the light of the findings of recent industrial tribunals in the cases of women dismissed from other services, have naval commanding officers in bases and on ships been given a new code of practice?
§ Mr. Hanley
I have to admit to a deficiency: I do not carry in my head the exact numbers of women dismissed for pregnancy from ships in each of the past 20 years. With cries of "shame!" ringing in my ears, I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will reply to him in detail with the information he requires.
§ Mr. Winston Churchill (Davyhulme)
At the risk of trespassing once again into the field of political incorrectitude, I must tell my hon. Friend that I suspect that he and his defence colleagues, and senior serving officers, would take a different view of the idea of putting women in the front line if they thought there was any serious prospect of an imminent major war.
§ Mr. Hanley
I cannot accept that. Some people may live in a different age or may have been born in a different age, but I would think it wrong if the armed forces refused to recruit a woman who had shown ability and a desire to serve in the Royal Navy and who was competent so to serve. After all, as my hon. Friend knows, we have had a woman Prime Minister and there is no reason why we cannot have women doing everything.
§ Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
Does my hon. Friend accept that it was every bit as dangerous for the women who served on RAF stations during the last war as it is to serve in the Royal Navy now?
§ Mr. Hanley
I agree absolutely. I seem to recall that some of the stories of the greatest bravery to come out of the second world war involved women who served in the Special Operations Executive and in various undercover roles. They suffered far more than did many of our serving men operating in more conventional roles. I believe that women can grasp the opportunities offered by the modern armed forces. I pay a great tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) for his 175 leadership in introducing women into the armed forces. The armed forces will be grateful to my right hon. Friend for years to come.
It was decided earlier this year that women should in future be able to serve as officers and ratings in the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. There was no immediate reason to recruit any personnel into that service, male or female, but now there have been recruits. The RFA has been brought into line with the Royal Navy and the merchant service and that will be implemented progressively.
The most recent recruitment campaign has resulted in three women being selected as officer cadets and I have every expectation that that number will be increased as future recruitment opportunities arise. The three women cadets commenced training last month and they have now embarked on a RFA vessel for a five-month seagoing course.
It has also been decided that female staff of the Royal Navy Supply and Transport Service should be eligible for temporary postings on board RFA vessels as part of their career development, in the same way as their male colleagues. I am pleased to say that the first two female staff have already been appointed to RFA Fort Austin.
Since the disbandment of the Women's Royal Army Corps in April 1992, women have been fully integrated into their employing corps. The integration continues to go well, as I saw myself in Germany earlier this year. All soldier recruits are now trained in mixed-sex platoons in the Army training regiments. Apart from some aspects of physical training, the recruitment programme is identical for men and women. More than 100 career employment groups are now open to women and they are proving successful in areas previously open only to men. The first two female helicopter pilots have now qualified and are serving with their units.
At present women in the regular Army are excluded from the Royal Armoured Corps and the infantry on the grounds of operational effectiveness, but as part of its initiative to employ women more widely, the Army is continuing to devise and validate gender-free testing. The testing, which it is hoped will be introduced in 1995, will help by determining suitability for a particular specialisation according to physical capacity rather than by gender.
Women in the Royal Air Force compete on equal terms with men for appointments, training places and promotion and are now eligible for nearly all branches and trades. There are now eight female pilots and 17 trained female navigators. A further 21 pilots and six navigators are undergoing training. Of the eight trained pilots, two have qualified as fast-jet pilots and will be undertaking Tornado training. The remaining six are serving either as flying instructors, as search and rescue helicopter pilots or as co-pilots in Hercules transport aircraft.
I must say to my hon. Friends who are mumbling in the background that that is not because of political correctness, but through self-interest and trying to get the best people into the armed forces.
§ Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
Will the Minister reassure the House that the ladies who are to be trained as helicopter pilots will not be used in the way helicopters were used in Scotland—to 176 service a Conservative party theft? Will the Minister assure the House that the women will be put to better things than raising money for the Conservative party?
§ Mr. Hanley
I would rather take a woman on a helicopter than the hon. Gentleman; unless, of course, one were to 'use a Sikorsky heavy lift.
Hon. Members will recall that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced the award of battle honours to those ships, regiments and squadrons that took part in the campaign in the Gulf. At that time, the Army regiments and corps and the RAF squadrons had not been selected for battle honours.
I am pleased to be able to tell the House that Her Majesty the Queen has approved the award of battle honours to the Army regiments and corps and RAF squadrons which took part in the campaign to liberate Kuwait. The list of the units to receive honours has been set out in my answer today to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland). The House will wish to join me in welcoming the award of battle honours as a permanent record of the contribution made by the Army and RAF to the liberation of Kuwait and in passing on our congratulations to the men and women involved.
Finally, yesterday the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) raised the matter of our long-term ammunition orders. As my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Procurement pointed out, as the tender period had not yet expired, the hon. Gentleman was rather—as it were—jumping the gun.
Happily, I can now say more on that important subject. My hon. Friend announced to the House on 20 January that our intention was to offer longer-term contracts for ammunition. The aim was to both secure the sources of supply for key types of ammunition and to give industry greater confidence with which to plan ahead and invest. Tenders for the long-term contracts have now been evaluated and I am pleased to be able to tell the House that it is our intention to offer Royal Ordnance plc a contract worth almost £200 million for a package of ammunition requirements covering the period until 1998. The package covers all ammunition requirements in the long-term buy. It includes small arms ammunition, tank training ammunition and charges and some other minor requirements. We expect that the contract will maintain almost 1,000 jobs.
The House will agree that that is excellent news both for our armed forces and for the company. Royal Ordnance's impressive win against an array of top-class international opposition demonstrates clearly the remarkable efficiency improvements that have been made since privatisation. Our policy of long-term ammunition buying makes clear our commitment to achieving value for money to make the best of the sharp end of our armed forces. I also believe that it shows our understanding of the needs and concerns 6f the developing defence industry.
Dr. David Clarke (South Shields)
May I thank the Minister and, with similar courtesy, say that I am grateful for his announcement? I am 177 sorry that I was 24 hours premature, but the announcement will be welcomed in all parts of the House. It means that the men and women who work in Royal Ordnance factories have a secure future and it is a recognition of their skill, which is second to none in the world.
§ Mrs. Winterton
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way so late in the day. May I also welcome the statement that he has made today? It will be very much welcomed in my constituency. The people who work at Radway Green making small arms ammunition for the Army will be delighted by the news. It is good for employment in the future and for investment. As the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) said, Royal Ordnance has a splendid record of achievement since privatisation.
§ Mr. Hanley
My hon. Friend's comments are justified. Hon. Members like good news from time to time, and it is even nicer when people on both sides of the House support the Government in their policies.
§ Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)
May I thank the Minister for his courtesy, and for his dual pretence as he ended? It surprises me that a Defence Minister can pretend with such ability and that is probably the first time that he has had to do so.
The Minister made a long speech with a considerable number of announcements. I do not want to reply to all of those, but I shall comment on one or two. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) has already expressed his pleasure regarding the Royal Ordnance contract, and we also welcome the announcement of the code of practice regarding fishermen and submarines.
May I also take the opportunity to thank in retrospect —although it is not a party issue—my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) for his private Members' Bill this afternoon? My hon. Friend spoke for many hon. Members on both sides of the House. I find the argument that, if an injustice occurred a few years ago, we should just bury it and forget about it quite astonishing. Many innocent people would be languishing in British goals if the same attitude were taken as was espoused by the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Evans).
§ Mr. Graham
My hon. Friends will be aware that Royal Ordnance factory workers from Bishopton, who won a famous victory to keep the factory open, are here today listening to the debate. They must be delighted to hear the news that the Government's long-awaited decision has now been reached. After sweating blood, the work force will once again sweat blood to ensure that Britain is safe in a crisis. That is more than the Tory Government will do.
§ Dr. Reid
I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful comment. We all congratulate the workers at Bishopton, especially those who are here tonight. Indeed, we congratulate workers at all Royal Ordnance factories As the Minister said, they have achieved considerable 178 increases in efficiency and productivity. I congratulate them on what my hon. Friend calls a famous victory. I am sure that all hon. Members and the workers at Bishopton unite in congratulating the Member of Parliament who represents Bishopton on the sweat, blood and tears that he put in to ensure that the contract went to the Royal Ordnance factories.
§ Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)
The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) cast a slur on those who operate our helicopters. We have a major station at HMS Gannet in my constituency. The people there do a great job for those in Scotland and beyond in air-sea rescue. Would the. hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) like to make the point that our helicopter service is a good one in safe hands?
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Before we progress, I remind hon. Members that no fewer than 32 right hon. and hon. Members want to take part in the debate. There have been many interventions. That is right and proper, but they were probably from people who do not intend to speak in the debate. Some hon. Members who are present and who sat here through yesterday's debate will be denied the opportunity to speak if there are too many interventions.
§ Dr. Reid
I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I sat here all day yesterday waiting to speak. I am not getting far in the first five minutes of my speech. I have no hesitation in agreeing with the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallic) or in congratulating not only the pilots who fly our helicopters but those who build helicopters—just in case any hon. Member present represents a constituency that produces helicopters. If anyone else has a particular constituency interest that he wishes to raise, will he or she write to me? I wil raise it in my next speech in opposition to the Minister.
I should like the Minister who is to reply to answer a question in connection with HMS Active, which is normally in the Caribbean and is being sent to Haiti. Will he confirm that when HMS Active goes from the Caribbean to take part in that embargo it will be under the command and control of the United Nations, not the United States? I should be grateful if we could have that important clarification.
Traditionally on these occasions we express gratitude to our soldiers, seamen, airmen and service women. Although we do so by convention and tradition, our gratitude is no less sincere. Along with others, I thank them, wherever they serve and whatever their role in the armed forces. We also thank their families, who bear the burden of their absence, share in the sacrifice of the risks that they take. In their own way, those families commit themselves to public service. In an age in which public service is denigrated, we forget that those who fulfil the greatest public service because they take the greatest risk are those in our armed forces. They do not ask what their country can do for them or even what they can do for their country—they simply go out and do it. We take that for granted on occasions.
It is only natural when we give those thanks that we should think particularly of those who are under active fire at present. We mention, not unnaturally, those in Ireland and Bosnia. But today of all days, it is also appropriate to remind ourselves of those who carry out a vital, delicate and risky task manning the green line that separates two potentially hostile parties in Cyprus.
179 Today, it is appropriate to send our thanks to Brigadier Dick Lamb and all the men and women who serve with him with the United Nations forces in Cyprus. That task should not be taken for granted by anyone, least of all the beneficiaries of the presence of those soldiers serving in Cyprus. We assure our service men and women that no one in the House from any party takes them for granted. We express deep admiration and appreciation of their efforts.
There has been great interest in the debate and, as the Secretary of State will know, a considerable amount of advice has been given. For instance, I notice that in this evening's newspaper—I do not know whether the Secretary of State has read it—advice is offered by no less an authority on defence reviews than Sir John Nott. Receiving advice from Sir John Nott on defence reviews is a little like reading a marching manual by the grand old Duke of York. Nevertheless, it gives some idea of the widespread unease about the position in which we find ourselves.
I shall put four simple propositions to the House. First, the world is not only changing rapidly but changing in a more dangerous direction which requires us to give more attention to problems that are more numerous and complex. Secondly, in that context, the British defence budget has been cut, is being cut and will continue to be cut.
Thirdly, precisely the mismatch between the first two propositions—the expanding nature of the problems that we face and the pressure to commit ourselves more and more as against the reduction in defence spending—has led to the present near-chaos in both thinking and practice at the Ministry of Defence. The fourth simple proposition —I shall elaborate on all of them—is that the chaos and indecision can and ultimately will be solved only by a full defence review and by making hard choices. I shall explore all those propositions.
Let us take the proposition that the world is becoming more unstable and dangerous. All the Front-Bench speakers so far have told us about various visits that they have made. I want to tell the House about three visits that I have made in company with hon. Members from both sides of the House. Those visits confirmed what I suspected before I went—how dangerous and awful many parts of the world are becoming. On three occasions, I visited Bosnia. It is easy to imagine when we see television pictures that one could never have a worse experience. I hope that I never have an experience like it again.
I stood in a mass grave of 85 eighty-year-old women whose heads had been crushed and whose bodies had been ripped open. They had been put in sacks and thrown into a mass grave. The stench of the slaughterhouse was everywhere. It is not an experience which I want to repeat. I have also talked to the orphans in Bosnia. I have mixed with Muslims in the besieged town of Goradze, which is now composed almost entirely of old women and young children.
I moved from Bosnia to Georgia. I was there before the cameras got there. Like Bosnia, it is a beautiful, pleasant and fruitful land full of tremendous potential. Along with the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson), I was awakened by the sound of artillery in the beautiful coastal village of Sukhumi. It was unknown nine months 180 ago, but now appears on our television screens as it is bombarded by the Abkhazians. It has become supposedly the last redoubt of Shevardnadze and the Georgians. We have seen that land torn apart by a revolt not only by the Abkhazians but by the South Assettians and various ethnic groups.
From Georgia, I went to the front line in Azerbaijan, where the tragic war between Azerbaijan and Armenia has caused several hundred thousand refugees to flee. The war has wrecked a potentially economically powerful country with amazing resources of oil. It has destabilised the region in its strategic relations between Russia, Turkey and Iran.
As the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) said, all those places were virtually ignored before CNN and Sky Television turned up. There are 20 to 30 other such places, but the cameras are not there. They all have symptoms of a world from which threats have not disappeared but have merely changed form.
Instability is perhaps greater than ever and the risks are more numerous. There are two reasons for that. First, communism and the centralised control of Leninism suppressed many causes of instability, such as ethnic tension, national rivalries, border disputes and sovereignty claims. Those regimes did not eradicate that instability, but for 70 or 80 years the causes were suppressed. Now that the lid of the pressure pot has been lifted by the removal of Leninism, those causes of instability are seen not to have disappeared.
Secondly, for all its horror, the cold war gave a sort of glacial stability to relations between nations. During the cold war, everyone could freely say, "Of course we believe in the self-determination of nations." That was because we knew that in practice no one would recognise a new nation as that would upset the stability of the two great icebergs facing each other. That stability has been taken away.
Another reason will be recognised by Conservative Members. It is that market economics do not immediately deliver prosperity or democracy. This country had market economics for 200 years before it had any form of democracy. Initially, market economics produces unemployment, poverty, insecurity and degradation. That can be seen in Moscow and, indeed, throughout the former Soviet Union. Poverty, insecurity and degradation are the harbingers not of democracy, but of a demand for totalitarianism, whether from the extreme right of nationalist fascism, from communism or, in other parts of the world, from fundamentalism. All those reasons found my first proposition that the world is more unstable than it was before the end of the cold war.
No doubt Conservatives would dispute my second proposition. It is that in the context of growing risks, our defence budget has been cut every year, is still being cut, and is likely to continue to be cut. Before the taunts, may I say that that will happen whatever party is in power, not just because of a conference resolution, but because of the public's natural expectation that, as the cold war is over, there should be some reduction in defence expenditure. Without being too jaundiced, I should say that it will also happen because of the Government's economic failure and the tragic £50 billion deficit in the public sector borrowing requirement.
It does not take a mathematical genius to work out that there have been cuts. Under current plans, by 1995 the defence budget will have fallen by 20 per cent. in real terms since 1985–86. If the Treasury succeeds in forcing a further £1 billion cut in the annual defence budget, the drop in 181 defence expenditure between 1985 and 1995 will be about 25 per cent. If, as is likely, expenditure under a Conservative Government continues to fall at that rate until the end of the decade—it is likely to do so and we have not been assured that it will not—the defence budget will have fallen by more than 33 per cent. in real terms between 1985 and the year 2000.
It is sheer hypocrisy for Tories to condemn conference resolutions to cut defence expenditure to the European average when the Government have been cutting it in practice by an even greater amount than the theoretical cuts of those resolutions.
§ Dr. Reid
I thought that the hon. Gentleman was not only listening intently but was capable of understanding simple English. At no stage did I say that we would not have cut it. I explicitly said that under any Government it would have been cut. The hon. Gentleman asks by how much more we would have cut it. We would not necessarily have cut it by any more than the Government. If it is cut by £1 billion over the next three years, as the Treasury wants, by the year 2000 there will be a 40 per cent. cut in real terms. If that happens, not only will the Government have surpassed Labour party conference resolutions, but they will be well on the way to meeting the demands of the Liberal party.
We made it plain in our last manifesto that we will provide whatever is required for the defence of the United Kingdom. That is still our position. We also made it plain that we want a full defence review, and I am trying to explain more fully than usual why we want that. My first point was that we have increasing commitments and, secondly, I said that we have a reduced budget. If those two propositions are true—and no hon. Member has yet disputed them—the only way to resolve the mismatch is by a full, open, detailed and rational review of commitments and resources, to bring them into conjunction.
The Government will say that we are wrong, that a defence review is not needed. They told us that when we said two and a half years ago that their figures on the infantry were wrong, but then they admitted that we were right. They told us that we were wrong about the tactical air-to-surface missile. For two and a half years, I have told the Government that they could not afford TASM and that there was no military need for it. They told us that we were wrong, but yesterday they publicly accepted that we were right.
For two and a half years, I said that we could determine the reliability and safety of nuclear weapons without testing, but they said that it could not be done. The President of the United States thinks that it can be done. We have constantly told Ministers with all their civil servants—whether it is 150,000 or 250,000—things that they apparently did not know. I shall take a gamble by predicting that Tomahawk missiles will replace TASM. Those missiles will be put on Trident, as I think the Ministry of Defence already knows but is not telling us.
Perhaps I and The Herald of Glasgow, which is one of my sources, are wrong about that, but the defence correspondent of that newspaper was more correct about the infantry and about TASM than the Secretary of State for Defence. We shall see from an announcement about 182 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Trident submarines whether, once again, that correspondent has been more right than the Secretary of State.
Let us examine the muddled thinking involved in the mismatch between resources and commitments in the absence of a course of action to relate them. It is difficult to get Ministers, even Ministers such as the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, who has committed his life to open government, to speak openly. That is because they are constrained by civil servants and by convention, and by the guard dogs that accompany them everywhere. But occasionally the guard slips, and nowhere is it likely to slip more quickly than from a Minister who has just resigned. That gives rise to 'a free flow of thought and shows the patterns of thought that dictated decisions when he was in Government. I mentioned one such Minister—Mr. Alan Clark—in the previous debate on defence estimates.
Yesterday, we heard a glorious contribution by the recently retired Minister for the Armed Forces, my old friend the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell. Some of his speeches are worth re-reading, but for different reasons. I recommend that one reads the right hon. Gentleman on the difficulties of armed intervention in Yugoslavia, a paragraph that I found concise, well informed, historically accurate and, in many ways, a perfect summary of the difficulties that, I accept, face Ministers.
I recommend that one does not read the right hon. Member's solution to the Irish problem, which is to relieve overstretch by ignoring the problems that cause overstretch in the first place. If I remember it correctly, he said that he was talking not about "peremptory action" in the military sphere but about withdrawing one battalion every six or 12 months. He was thus the first recently retired Minister from the Ministry of Defence fully to support the "Troops Out" movement, although not in a peremptory fashion.
Even better, because it bears directly on the question of a defence review, were the following two sentences. First, he said:I disagree with the Opposition, who say that we should think about specialisation.In other words, he rejected specialisation. He then said:The broad range that I propose will inevitably narrow under financial pressures."—[Official Report. 18 October 1993; Vol. 230, c. 56.]There is the classic confession—unwittingly—of the truth of what the Labour party has said over the past three years. The Government are not taking decisions after thought. but are allowing policies to result from financial pressures.
We thought that they were the result of the inadequacy of the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell when a Minister, but, after last night, we know that they were deliberate, because he thereby applied the free market economic to military choice. He felt that Ministers should not take decisions and that the Opposition should not think about specialisation, which would happen inevitably anyway as a result of economic pressure.
§ Mr. Archie Hamilton (Epsom and Ewell)
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way because we are involved in an interesting debate. Does he agree that specialisation was considered in the Nott review in 1981, which decided that we should get rid of our amphibious forces and cut back on the Navy, and that that policy was proved wrong within a short time by the Falklands war?
§ Dr. Reid
I accept that case. I am not arguing that we should get rid of amphibious forces, or anything like that. I am arguing that, because of economic pressures, we may have to look at specialisation, so we should think about that in advance, through a defence review. What the right hon. Gentleman is arguing—the pattern has been pursued by his successors—is that there is no need to think about it because economic pressures will cause it anyway. When the Treasury demands that the budget is cut by £1 billion, the Department thinks of the last order and delays it by two years.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman interrupted me there, because I have another quote, in which he surpassed himself—incidentally, in the same paragraph.
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East)
Before the hon. Gentleman passes to another selection from the speeches of the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton), I have a question for him. Does it occur to him that, although the Nott proposals were not implemented, and we were thus able to fight the Falklands war, since then, economic pressures have created such circumstances that few people believe that today we would be able to fight such a war?
§ Dr. Reid
We spoke earlier about the merchant fleet. That is a perfect example of the problem that the hon. and learned Gentleman has set out. We could not now mobilise the same flotilla that was mobilised for the Falklands war. However, circumstances have changed—there is now Mount Pleasant airport and different ways to protect the area. I should not like anyone outside the House to get the impression that any Member of Parliament wants to modify our defence of the Falklands and our commitment to the people there. That is not the case, but we would not be able to reinforce it in the same way, as the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests.
I am quoting the words of the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell because he was, merely a few months ago, dictating policy. He said yesterday:It is nonsense to talk about a review because that could not predict any clearly identifiable future threat."—[Official Report. 18 October 1993; Vol. 230, c. 56.]He is thus saying, first, do not think about specialisation and let the market—or, in this case, the Treasury—do it anyway and, secondly, because we cannot with certainty identify a future threat, let us not think about any threat at all.
All Conservative Members who, in their frustration, are wondering why what is going on in the Ministry of Defence is going on should take home that paragraph and frame it. It is symptomatic of the type of thinking that we have had from the Government in the past four years. They have said, "Don't let's think about strategic decisions in the future—leave it to economics. We can't determine everything so let's not determine anything." It is nothing other than a fancy formula for avoiding hard decisions. In Army terminology, it is a combination of a lack of moral fibre and a dereliction of duty.
§ Mr. Archie Hamilton
I am sorry to intervene again, as I know that many hon. Members wish to speak. The hon. Gentleman is dealing with both the defence review and the intelligence on which we base our assessments of where the threat is coming from. Does he accept that, in the case 184 of the Falklands, our intelligence was wrong and that invasion was not forecast, and that the same was true of the occupation of Kuwait?
§ Dr. Reid
The right hon. Gentleman should take note of Denis Healey's law of holes, which is, "When in a hole, stop digging." He is now arguing that there should be no military planning. If everything is so uncertain that we should make no decisions, why should we debate matters and why should we have chiefs of staff and all the civil servants, whether they are bean counters or technologists? If we start from the basis that because we cannot predict everything, we should not try to analyse or judge anything, we shall be in an even sorrier mess—or perhaps not. Perhaps that is the basis on which the three remaining Ministers in the Department operate. As I said last time, they are the three ministerial monkeys of "See no cuts, hear no cuts and speak no cuts."
Those of us who have been attempting to follow the seemingly random direction of British defence policy have struggled long and hard to discern the method behind the madness, but without success.
What are we to make of a Government who, because of the mismatch and their refusal to think things through, reduce the size of the Army from 155,000 to 120,000 and then to 116,000 and then increase it to 121,000? What are we to think of a Government who start off with a surface fleet of "around 45" frigates and destroyers, then announce that we need a surface fleet of "around 40", only to change their mind and conclude that "around 35" will be enough, but they cannot give a definite figure and speak of plus or minus five? What are we to think of a Government who cannot tell us whether 31 ships will be enough in the present circumstances?
What are we to make of a Government who allowed Britain's surface-to-air missile system accidentally to lapse into obsolescence? How does one forget about such a system? How does one "accidentally" allow such a system to lapse? They then rushed about desperately trying to procure a new system before deciding eventually that we no longer require such a capability. What are we to make of a Government who promised a replacement for the WE177 free-fall nuclear bomb by the end of 1990 and then dithered until the end of 1993 before saying what we had been saying for three years—that TASM was not needed in the first place and could not be afforded?
The list of issues on which the Government have prevaricated is endless. Churchill used the glorious phrase:constantly resolute in their equivocation".Never was it more apt than in the case of Defence Ministers.
Let us take the example of what was said about the royal dockyards yesterday. Having botched the allocation of the Trident contract by giving guarantees that proved to be worthless, causing much hardship at both Devonport and Rosyth, Defence Ministers have been panicked by the Treasury—this is a Treasury-led decision—into opting for a tired and discredited policy of privatisation.
I see the Secretary of State smile, as though it were an outrageous suggestion, to the point of being ludicrous, that any decision that he has taken could have been influenced, in some way, by the Treasury. He reminds me of the wee man in the Mercury phone advertisements—the wee snappy dresser with the moustache and the clipped tones. One never knows whether he is serious. When the Secretary of State tells us that his decisions were not made 185 as a result of Treasury pressure, that wee man appears before me. The Secretary of State is smiling as if none of the decisions had anything to do with the Treasury.
We regard the royal dockyards as assets which are vital to national security and we will fight privatisation tooth and nail. (Interruption.) The Secretary of State says, "Huge cheers", but I did not notice the standing ovation after his speech yesterday or the laurel wreaths being carried down to him from Back Benchers shouting, "Hail Caesar, presiding over our victorious armies." Perhaps he did not notice that they were behind him and those are always the ones to watch, as the Secretary of State will know.
Those hoping to discover some kernel of strategic genius guiding Tory defence policy—I am an open-minded man and I thought that perhaps there was one and that they might have some vision of dizzying clarity which I cannot see—will be profoundly let down by the "Statement on the Defence Estimates."
The Secretary of State clearly hoped to distract attention from the intellectual barrenness of his policies by a deluge of mumbo jumbo. Earlier today, someone—I forget which hon. Member it was—said that giving us a large quantity of accurate information is not enough. I do not want to go through the White Paper, but let me tell him that the information it contains is not even accurate. I advise the Minister of State that, if he is employing bean counters, he should employ people who can count beans properly.
Table 3 on page 22 of the estimates sets out the force allocation of the three roles. There are no fewer than 13 instances in which the number of units required for a given task exceeds the incremental total available. Some of those can be made up by war requisitioning, but if table 3 was an attempt to show that we already have adequate forces, those of us who can count up to 14 found that it illustrates the opposite: in 13 of the instances we do not have the forces deemed absolutely necessary.
Those who ask why the decisions are so erratic and unpredictable and why the Ministry of Defence always seems to change its tune under Treasury pressure are asking the same questions as we did. We asked why the decisions were erratic and unpredictable; we asked why Ministers changed their tune under pressure. We searched and thought and could not find any explanation—that is, until this morning.
This morning, I had a quick look through a book which should be recommended reading for anyone who wants to understand why the Ministry of Defence is erratic, unpredictable and changes its tune under pressure. The book is a philosophical tome called,Margaret Thatcher: the Downing Street Years".As we all know, it deals with ideology and general politics and does not descend to the level of political personalities or backstabbing.
On one of the occasions when the former Prime Minister does comment on the personalities involved, she describes the Secretary of State thus: a man whose judgment is "erractic", whose behaviour is "unpreclictable", a man who alwayschanged his tune under pressure".As they say in the Tab advert, suddenly everything becomes clear. That is the explanation of the erratic nature of British defence policy. It is not only because of the mismatch between resources and commitments; it is also a reflection of the erratic and unpredictable nature of the man responsible for formulating it.
186 Had the former Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence been political enemies, I would not have believed it, but I know that they were close political allies because when he was Secretary of State for Scotland the right hon. and learned Gentleman assured me that there was no difference between them; so I take it as an objective comment. Behind the cool and confident exterior of the Scottish legal establishment, apparently lies a quivering wreck presiding over the Ministry of Defence.
The search for a deeper meaning has been a pointless one because there is no deeper meaning. Tory defence policy really is as chaotic and shambolic as it appears to be.
We shall try not to be too harsh in our criticism because I aim to be consistent and take .the advice of the former Prime Minister. She informs us that the Secretary of State is a man who is "sensitive and highly-strung" and we would not wish to be unfair to a man of such a delicate disposition. I shall therefore move on to the general political arguments.
If all that were not enough, the truth is that the sorry mess of "Options for Change" was not exclusively of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's making. The honour belongs mainly to his predecessor, a man who, although he is not noted for his sensitivity, displayed all the erratic and unpredictable qualities expected from a Conservative Secretary of State for Defence. Even so, the 1993 "Statement on the Defence Estimates", although clearly an attempt to respond to the severe criticisms that have been levelled at the Government from both inside and outside Parliament, is an inadequate document in almost every respect.
In particular, there is still no elaboration of the strategic rationale for the decisions that have been reached, no discussion of the foreign policy objectives shaping our military requirements and little explanation of the missions that our armed forces have been restructured to undertake.
We were given assurances that there would be a strategic input into the document. It was heralded by Ministers as a major work, a PhD thesis on strategic thinking. Hon. Members should reread the document. There are five pages on strategy excluding the tables. The Secretary of State has a copy; he can count them. There are four pages in the glossary. There are eight pages in the index. There are as many pages in the glossary and the contents as there are on strategy. There are twice the number of pages in the index as there are on the strategic decisions taken for the future of the British armed forces for the next 30 years. No detailed justification is offered.
I shall not go through any of the shambolic decisions . that are included within the document. I merely repeat that, if we do not have a defence review, we shall have a constant incremental cut across all the services which will represent a reduction in most of them to a critical level. That will mean that, instead of doing some things well, we will do all things badly.
Finally, as the Gulf war showed, we remain crucially dependent on our allies for the provision of certain essential capabilities. When we talk of specialisation, which so horrifies ex-Ministers and, presumably, Ministers, their assumption is that we are doing everything now. But we are dependent on our allies for some tasks, as was amply shown during the Gulf war.
At the Tory party conference, the Secretary of State predicted that if there were any more cuts we would have paper tiger armed forces. Two things struck me about that comment. First, it was made with the air of a detached 187 observer, a commentator. He made the prediction that we may soon have paper tiger armed forces, as if it had nothing to do with him and was all to do with unforeseen circumstances, the "Book of Revelation" or the fairies at the bottom of the garden.
It was a classic case of trying to opt out of responsibility for the present position, and Opposition Members will not let the Secretary of State opt out of that responsibility. The truth is that under his stewardship and that of his predecessor the Tories have forfeited all their claims to be the party of strong defence. I have some sympathy with the frustration of Conservative Back Benchers, including one or two who are nodding in agreement, who recognise that.
I can tell the Secretary of State today that, although we do not want to intrude in grief, if he continues down that path he will not be forgotten by the Conservative party because those on the Benches behind him do not want to forfeit the right to claim to be the party of sound defence. However, he has already done it and he is going further down that road. That is my first point on paper tigers.
Secondly, whatever the Secretary of State or the Government do, the people in the British armed forces will never be paper tigers. Those looking for paper tigers should not look to the armed forces because, however badly resourced or badly treated they may be, their men and women will always rise well above the description of paper tigers.
Those searching for paper tigers should not look in the barrack rooms of the British Army, the ships of the Royal Navy or the air bases of the Royal Air Force. They should not search in the green fields of South Armagh, the green hills of Bosnia or the green peace line in Cyprus—they should look for paper tigers on the Government's green Benches. That is where the paper tigers sit. Using an animal metaphor, I can say only that there is nothing more sickening than someone who can roar like a lion on the party conference platform, but can only squeak like a mouse in the Treasury vaults or the Cabinet room.
We have seen all this before and the British armed forces deserve better. That is why the Opposition will not acquiesce in the Government's plans. That is why we have tabled an amendment. That is why we hope that those who have the fundamental interests of our armed forces at heart will vote for the Opposition amendment.
§ 6.1 pm
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)
It is always enjoyable and entertaining to listen to the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid). I am sorry to disappoint him, but I assure him that Conservative Members stand solidly behind our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. We certainly do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's comments.
I find it sickening to listen to Labour Front-Bench spokesmen pontificating, as they always do, about the level of our defence capability and the cuts that they claim the Conservative Government should not be making—while at the same time saying that they, too, would make cuts, but that they would be different cuts. They are not prepared to say what cuts and whether they would be deeper or lesser cuts. They are not prepared to give the slightest indication to the country of what shape they plan for our defence forces. Of course, they are in the happy position of not 188 having to do that because neither now nor in the foreseeable future will they be in any position to make such decisions.
Having said that, I must now say that I am not entirely happy with the rumours going around the country—which I hope will be proved to be wrong—that there will be further defence cuts over and above those that we have already suffered. I am confident that such rumours do not come from the Ministry of Defence. I am equally confident that our Defence Ministers would not wish such cuts upon us. I want to know where the rumours originated and, in a moment, I want to deal in some detail with the reasons why they cause me great concern.
First, I want to say a few words about the defence estimates. I very much welcome their new shape, with the matching of our commitments with the resources available. I agree with the comments of the hon. Member for Motherwell, North about the matching of the commitments in table 3 on page 22 with the resources allocated to them. For example, the target for defence role 1—MCMVs, the mine clearing vessels—is 28. The number proposed is 25 and the glossary at the end of the estimates shows that we will not get even that many because the number will drop to 18 next year as some of the obsolete vessels are removed and new vessels have not yet been ordered or built.
I am unhappy with many of the detailed aspects of current defence planning. I have the honour to chair the Defence Select Committee, whose report expresses the concern that we could not fully meet our commitments. I shall return to that theme later.
The level of defence expenditure proposed arises not from the 1993 defence estimates, but from "Options for Change", which was introduced in 1991 and originally planned in 1989. The hon. Member for Motherwell, North quoted what Lady Thatcher had said about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Perhaps he should have reminded the House that the person in overall charge of "Options for Change" was Lady Thatcher. It is not right to blame the present leadership—and certainly not right to blame the present MOD team—for our current level of defence. "Options for Change" was based on the assumption that there would be a peace dividend.
I was never one of those who believed that there would be a peace dividend and I want to explore whether we now have a world that is demonstrably safer than it was in 1989. I believe that it is demonstrably very much more dangerous. There is fighting throughout the outer regions of the former Soviet Union. Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia are aflame. As my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out in his opening speech yesterday, Russia came within an ace of dissolving into civil war. There has been no reduction in the number of nuclear warheads in Russia and the Ukraine, but control of them has become much less secure. The danger of nuclear proliferation in states that are incapable of proper and responsible action niust have grown substantially since 1989.
In the far east, China is enormously powerful and is growing in military might. It is buying and building military equipment at an enormous rate and is planning to expand its naval fleet and naval bases. It is still a dictatorial regime—it is crushing Tibet, where it is carrying out genocide to the eternal shame of the west, which seems incapable of doing anything to influence China. It has recently exploded another nuclear bomb in an experiment 189 that directly contravenes the international moratorium on nuclear tests. Looking 10 or 20 years ahead, can we be sure that China will not be a major threat to the western world?
Closer to home and nearer in time, we have only to look at Yugoslavia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. The war in the provinces of the former Yugoslavia threatens to spill over into Albania, Greece and Turkey. That would have horrific consequences for the United Kingdom and western Europe. We cannot for one moment assume that none of that will happen.
The United States of America is currently making some extremely unwelcome and aggressive noises about our special relationship, about Europe and about the future of NATO. I am deeply concerned about that. I am sure that we can hold NATO together, but the unity of the United States and Europe is an essential part of our integral future security. If that is threatened we shall be in grave danger.
There never was any room—and there certainly is no room now—for any peace dividend. Even if I were wrong about that and even if there were plenty of room, I believe that we have already taken any peace dividend, and more than in full. It is a staggering fact that, as a nation, we are now spending less on our defences in real terms than the Labour Government spent in 1978. Since 1989, we have lost 20 per cent. of our manpower capability and 15 per cent. of our overall budget. Under the current defence estimates, we will lose 18 per cent. of our current defence expenditure and almost 23 per cent. of our overall manpower by 1995–26.
There is a contrast between what has happened in the Ministry of Defence and what has happened in all the other big spending Departments. The Department of Health is now spending 50 per cent. more in real terms than it did in 1979; the Department for Education is spending 30 per cent. more; and the Department of Transport 25 per cent. more. I am not quibbling about that and I do not say for a moment that those Departments should not have that increased expenditure.
However, if we must look for savings we should look to those Departments to provide them. They have suffered no cuts in the number of civil servants or in their Departments' activities and there has been enormous growth in their administration costs. The Ministry of Defence has already made a significant attack on those areas and it should take great credit for doing so. Is there room for further cuts? I say that there is not. I do not mean to suggest that some millions of pounds cannot be saved —perhaps even tens of millions—by further pruning inefficiencies and looking for additional economies in administrative costs. I am sure that can be done.
What particularly frightens me are persistent rumours of a cut of £1 billion or more being demanded by the Treasury of the Ministry of Defence. I must tell my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench—and those of my right hon. Friends in the Treasury who are looking over their shoulders—that any such attempt further to cut our defence budget would meet with strong opposition. I have no doubt that I speak for many of my right hon. and hon. Friends on these Back Benches as well as for myself when I say that any attempt to put into action cuts of the scale that I have heard mentioned would offer no alternative but to vote against them.
§ Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)
The hon. Gentleman suggests that cuts should be made in other areas. Does he consider that tax should be increased if that is necessary to save the defence budget?
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I do not want to turn this into a detailed economic debate but it is certainly my view that, when trying to bring down the unacceptably high deficit that I accept exists, the pain ought to be spread among Departments, and there should be a partial increase in tax as well to balance the way in which the gap is narrowed.
The Ministry of Defence can seek exemption from cuts because it is the only Department that has already made enormous savings and should not be asked to contribute further. I am deeply disturbed by rumours and by the false and malicious disinformation released to the press from some source.
One example is the claim that there are more civil servants than fighting men. That is a fatuous misrepresentation of the truth. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces dealt with that point at the beginning of the debate. The fact is that we have 240,000 fighting men and 135,000 civilians—including civil servants, but also all those who man the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, those who have taken over jobs previously done by members of the armed services in guarding depots and headquarters, and those who perform many other tasks taken into the civilian sector. To call them all civil servants and to deride them as pen pushers is offensive.
§ Mr. Cormack
My hon. Friend is making an extremely good speech and some powerful points. I assure him that, if the unthinkable happens, he would not go into the Lobby alone to vote against the cuts.
§ Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)
As to savings and bureaucrats, I remind the House—while my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State is present—that my right hon. and learned Friend took the view that a difference of £64 million is sufficient to justify a transfer from Rosyth to Devonport, despite the additional cost of doing so. Under the guidance of my right hon. and learned Friend when he was Secretary of State for Scotland, it was proposed to build a new palace for the Scottish Office in Leith at a cost of £55 million, plus transfer costs of £10 million. That makes a total of £65 million, to accommodate more bureaucrats at the Scottish Office—a sum higher than £64 million.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
My hon. and learned Friend gives me an opportunity to defend the decision taken by my right hon. and learned Friend to go ahead with the new building at Bristol. It will be expensive, but both the Ministry of Defence and the Public Accounts Committee examined the costings and were satisfied that there will be a substantial overall saving to the Ministry. I therefore have no hesitation in saying that I am sure that it is correct to construct that building.
What can be done to solve our present dilemma? Should we believe the rumours and look for further cuts at the Ministry of Defence? Should we continue, for example, to bash admirals—which seems to be the pastime of whoever circulated the rumours of the past week? We were told that 191 there are more admirals than ships. Several radio commentators said that it is disgraceful that so much gold braid was about.
The truth is very different. In 1989 there were 47 admirals, and now we have 42. In two years' time, we shall have 36. Of those, four will be doctors. Therefore, our entire fleet—which will still be substantial if not as substantial as most of us would like—will be under the command of 32 admirals. By a happy coincidence, that is the same as the number of Private Secretaries, Deputy Private Secretaries, Permanent Secretaries and Under-Secretaries at the Treasury. I know where I would like to see the axe fall.
The great cry appears to be that there should be a public review of our defence requirements in the context of matching our commitments to our resources. Superficially that is an extremely attractive idea, but I must make mention of two papers published by the Defence Select Committee, on defence estimates and on the Royal Navy. I hope that all right hon. and hon. Members will take the opportunity to read both, as well as the Library paper on defence reviews. If they read that paper, they may view with more reluctance the defence review system. It has not been frantically successful in the past, for the reason that it is a rolling programme.
Mention has already been made of the 1962 review. There was also one in 1981, which was not successful, and "Options for Change" was a review by any other name.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but he will find that there is no difference between the process adopted by the Government for "Options for Change" and that normally used for the kind of review that he advocates. We should not go for a public review of our defence requirements but must prevent the Treasury from taking over detailed control of our defence commitments and resources.
There must of course be some financial balance and control over the money that we spend on defence, as on everything else—but I am deeply concerned about the moratorium imposed by the Treasury since July on orders that the Ministry of Defence wants to place. I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces announce the order for ammunition, but that should have gone in months ago. It is only because Royal Ordnance created such a fuss that at last the go-ahead has reluctantly been given.
Orders should also have been placed for Challenger 2 tanks, which I know that my hon. Friend the Minister wanted to enter and which the Ministry of Defence was ready to confirm. That order was blocked by the Treasury, as were preliminary orders for the MCMVs and the EH101. All are vital for our national interest and have been budgeted for. Detailed interference of that kind from the Treasury and from Treasury Ministers and officials is anathema to anyone who believes in proper Government and makes it impossible for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, the Ministry of Defence or the House to keep proper control. We must stop it, and I hope that can be done without recourse to a defence review.
192 We must also make sure that our commitments and resources are balanced. That again is broadly the case now, give or take some of the shortcomings from which we suffer. We must ask whether we have too many commitments at the moment. That is for the Foreign Office to do, not for the Treasury. What are the proper commitments for our country to be carrying out? What do we wish to do?
Briefly, I have no hesitation in advising my right hon. and hon. Friends what those commitments should be. We must be able to defend our own interests at home and abroad. We must be able to play a proper part in NATO and in the United Nations, as required by our allies and as is properly demanded of us as a member of the Security Council. We must also be able to use our armed forces abroad to bolster British interests wherever we deem that appropriate.
I shall give one example of where we have got it wrong —Belize. We have withdrawn our troops from Belize, and that has had two beneficial effects. First, it has helped our emergency tour plot to become shorter, and I welcome that. Secondly, it has saved the Treasury a vast amount—to the tune of £9 million a year.
What were the benefits of having our troops in Belize? Were they worth £9 million a year? The central part of America is critical for the future security of the west. South America, central America and north America are burgeoning trading areas in which we need a strong British presence. We were asked by the Americans to stay there. We were asked by the Belize authorities to stay there. We were asked—ironically—by the Guatemalan Government against whom we were defending Belize. But we decided, for the sake of £9 million and to ease a short-term problem with the ETP, that we would withdraw our troops from Belize.
I was horrified last night by the answer to a question that I put to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. He told me—he did not tell me, but we were safe enough to divine it—that we were not going to renew the guarantee that we gave to Belize that, in the event of its being invaded by Guatemala, we would go to its aid. I can think of no better way of losing friends and our reputation for being prepared to stand by our friends, which the House is entitled to demand of our Government and our Ministry.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)
May I reassure my hon. Friend? It so happens that earlier today I had a meeting with the Prime Minister of Belize, who is in London. I assure my hon. Friend that there continues to be very close consultation between Belize and the United Kingdom. We recognise that Belize has understandable concerns about the future, notwithstanding the very much improved relationship with Guatemala. My hon. Friend can be assured that we continue to discuss with the Belizean Government the way in which any concerns that might develop in future could properly be responded to by the United Kingdom in the interests of ensuring not only security in central America but the continuing independence and integrity of Belize.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I wish that my right hon. and learned Friend had been able to reassure me, but I am afraid that he has done precisely what our hon. Friend the Minister did last night, and that is fail to give me the assurance that I sought. We have clearly not given Belize the assurance that we would unequivocally go to its aid in 193 the event of it being invaded by Guatemala—an undertaking which we have always given in the past and which was the purpose of our troops' presence in Belize until now. With all due respect to my right hon. and learned Friend, it should not be too difficult for Her Majesty's Government to give that undertaking to an ex-colony which heavily depends upon us for its security.
That is one example of where we must look on a wider base rather than purely asking whether that is how we use our defence forces in order to defend immediate British interests. The value of our white ensign and our troops in that area spreads through the whole of that part of the continent and that has an enormous added benefit. Closer to home and in a smaller way, the trooping of the colour ceremonials carried out by the guards has inestimable value for tourism income and for the financial well-being of London. I have seen no sign of that point being taken into account when deciding what will be done about ceremonials.
Last year, we were given an assurance that the cut in the guards regiments would not affect ceremonials, but already this summer there has been what was described as a one-off accidental failure to get the emergency tour plot right. Therefore, the guards had to be taken off other duties. The ceremonial in London was cut in a way that we were assured no one would notice, but one would have had to be blind or ignorant not to notice a substantial difference over two years.
We must carefully consider where the money comes from. I see nothing wrong in the suggestion that the Ministry of Defence be able to charge another Department for the value that our troops give in certain areas. However, I certainly do not believe that we should cut what our troops do in those areas on the spurious ground that we cannot afford it when we are talking about £9 million in the case of Belize and probably a fraction of that amount in terms of extra ceremonial duties which are cut.
§ Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Govan)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, at this moment, Group 4 is practising with horses so that it can bid for the ceremonial aspect of the military when it comes up for tender?
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I do not think that I will waste my time on that intervention. No doubt it will appear in Hansard.
§ Mr. Menzies Campbell
The hon. Gentleman made an interesting comparison between the number of senior civil servants in the Treasury and the number of admirals. He said that there are 32 of each. As many hon. Members think that the Treasury is trying to run the Ministry of Defence, it might be sensible to send admirals to run the Treasury.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I am not sure whether I should have given way on that occasion, either. That intervention gives a lighter note to the finish of what is meant to be a serious speech.
I conclude by reiterating that I do not believe for one moment that this country will remain properly defended and adequately secure, and it will certainly not be able to carry out its duties in the various areas that I described if we suffer any more substantial cuts. I am afraid that I would have to oppose any such action, even though I would do so with great reluctance when my own Government propose it.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
It was a relief to hear in the speech of the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) references to the context in which defence policy should be analysed and in which our defence forces should be deployed. I did not necessarily agree with some of his arguments, but at least he tried to address the wider context of defence policy.
During the past day and a half, we have had two hours and 12 minutes of ministerial speeches, but we have heard nothing of what the Government's defence policy is about. We have heard about weapons, procurements, deployments and medals. Today, from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, we heard about something called gender-free testing.
Yesterday, we even had spatchcocked into the Secretary of State's speech—no doubt it was drafted and inserted by the Foreign Office—a completely gratuitous statement about the situation in Russia today. The House was enlightened by the Secretary of State on how essential to safeguarding Russian democracy it was that the discredited Russian Parliament should be dissolved. I suppose that the same argument might be used about this country at present.
It seems that the Secretary of State for Defence is involved in a great dispute inside the Cabinet about the defence budget. The hon. Member for Upminster, with the weight of his chairmanship of the Select Committee, gave a grave warning to the Government of the consequences among Conservative Back-Bench Members if cuts of £1 billion were made in the defence budget.
It is interesting that the dispute that is going on inside the Cabinet and which is echoed throughout the Conservative press today is not about what the Secretary of State should spend his budget on or whether that expense in necessary, justifiable or cost-effective.
The dispute simply seems to be about what the figures in the budget should be. In defending his budget, the Secretary of State for Defence seems to be echoing Descartes in saying: "I spend, therefore I am." He is simply saying: "I need the budget to show that I am the Secretary of State for Defence, and that the Ministry of Defence has a role to play in the Government." However, that is very different from the Ministry carrying out its role as the protector of the armed services and as the Department designated to work out a defence policy for our country.
The level of defence spending should not be an abstract figure. It should not be as high as the Secretary of State can bargain it up, or as low as the Chancellor can manage to cut it down. I tell the hon. Members for Upminster and for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill)—the latter sought to make the same point yesterday—that having league tables on expenditure between Government Departments is not the point. The point is whether the expenditure of Departments can be justified by what those Departments are doing and what they should be doing.
Whether the defence budget of £24 billion—if that is what it turns out to be—is too high or too low does not depend on picking a figure out of the air or on an argument between the Secretary of State and the Chancellor. It depends on what our armed forces are supposed to be doing, and whether that amount of money will make it possible for our armed forces to do it. The figure of £24 billion is much too low if it does not provide the 195 wherewithal to fulfil a sensible defence policy. However, it is too high if it goes beyond the needs of a sensible defence policy.
The problem with the present level of defence spending and, indeed, any future level of defence spending—it is more likely to be lower than higher—or any variant that is now being considered is that no one knows how much needs to be spent. No one, including the Secretary of State for Defence, has the slightest idea of what the defence policy is about and what it should be about.
Yesterday, the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) intervened in the speech of the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton) with what he clearly regarded as an absolutely daring notion—that the Foreign Office should have some say in what defence policy should be, and that defence policy should be a consequence of foreign policy.
Yet that is simply all that a defence policy should be. It does not exist in abstract. Our forces do not exist in order that they should exist. The defence budget does not exist in order that there should be a figure that can be defended by the Secretary of State or cut down by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It exists to carry out policies in the interests of this country, by defending our country and ensuring that our national interests are defended in the various forums of the world in which we properly have a say.
When Clausewitz said that war was the continuation of diplomacy by other means, he was encapsulating what the right hon. Member for Watford regarded yesterday as so far out a notion that he dared to make it only once he had left the Government—that defence policy should be an arm of foreign policy. But that is precisely what defence policy is and should be: it should be an extension of our foreign policy.
The problem is that, under this Government, the country does not have a foreign policy that can be discerned. It has a number of propositions and elegances that the Foreign Secretary is well equipped to voice. However, we are not getting a world view and a view of Britain's place in that world. We do not have a rational defence policy that can be the military arm of a world view and a view of this country's place in the world.
For 45 years, under both Conservative and Labour Governments, this country's foreign and defence policies were governed, rightly and necessarily, by the cold war. NATO was formed in 1949 to prevent Stalin's armies from overrunning western Europe. The NATO nuclear strategy was necessarily and rightly aimed at preventing the Soviets from backing their huge armies with a nuclear threat.
Mutual assured destruction—with its appropriate acronym of MAD—kept the peace from D day in 1945 to that day in November 1990, to which Lady Thatcher referred in her book, when she heard in Paris that she had failed to be elected on the first Conservative ballot. She was in Paris to represent Britain at the conference which brought about the formal end of the cold war.
The cold war lasted for forty-five and a half years. During that time, we had the same policy and strategy under both Conservative and Labour Governments. It was to deter Communist aggression by alliances, especially NATO, and to have the necessary armed forces on land, sea and air and the necessary nuclear deterrent to make it clear 196 to the Soviets that they faced a nuclear response if they launched a land attack. The policy was tough, but it worked. It was clear, and we all knew where we were.
The problem is that we no longer know where we are, because the certainty of the cold war—the certainty was ugly, but nevertheless it provided a great deal of clarity —has gone. We no longer know why we have the alliance that was rightly formed in 1949.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Defence said that it was desirable to expand NATO to include Russia. However, he did not tell the House why we needed NATO, following the end of the cold war. When Mr. James Baker was the United States Secretary of State—he was a fine Secretary of State—he was rightly responsible for killing NATO's flexible nuclear weapons response strategy, against the bitter resistance of Lady Thatcher.
Mr. Baker said that, following the changes and the end of the cold war, a new raison d'etre for NATO needed to be devised. But no one has tried. No one knows why we still have the alliance, which the Secretary of State should be expanding. Nor do we know why we need strategic weaponry.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Defence boasted about defence co-operation agreements with Russia, Ukraine, Albania and other easter European Communist countries. When I asked him why we needed a nuclear deterrent against countries with which we were working out defence agreements—he was very enthusiastic about the co-operation—he said that the Government did not know what would happen, and therefore had to guard against uncertainty.
The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) is a great advocate of the Royal Air Force. Yesterday, when he rose with some agitation and asked why the tactical air-to-surface missile weapon would not be developed, the Secretary of State said:We must take into account the fact that it is right and proper that we should adapt our nuclear policy to the very changed circumstances that exist in the post-cold war world."—[Official Report, 18 October 1993; Vol. 230, c. 35.]The Secretary of State is sure that it is right not to have the tactical air-to-surface missile weapon. During the general election, the Government challenged Labour Members about whether a Labour Government would have the tactical air-to-surface missile. Nevertheless, he says that we are unsure, because the Government still believe that they should keep Trident.
The Government had better not jeer at the Labour party, or even at silly resolutions passed by the Labour party conference, as one was a couple of weeks ago, because, although those silly Labour party resolutions may not become Labour Government policy, they often become Tory Government policy. That being so, let the Government not be too firm in their defence of the need to have four Trident submarines—much as my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness, (Mr. Hutton) wants them, for practical reasons.
This Government may not decide to commission the four submarines, whatever they say today, and they have absolutely no notion of how many warheads they will have on those submarines. When we say a maximum of 192, the Secretary of State will not say, "Yes, definitely 512," because he knows that he cannot commit himself to that.
I warn the Government that, just as they flourished TASM as their macho symbol at the last general election and taunted the Labour party with it, they had better not 197 taunt the Labour party about even the sloppiest, most sentimental part of the resolutions that it espouses in emotional moments at party conferences because that part may turn out to be more realistic than this Government when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a go at the Secretary of State for Defence.
The Government have not begun to think through what the defence policy should be for a medium-sized European power, such as the United Kingdom, with few worldwide responsibilities outside its European alliance and United Nations commitments. Indeed, in this debate, commitments have been shed like autumn leaves.
We have just had a valid row about getting rid of our commitment in Belize. The hon. Member for Upminster joined in, and I disagree with him. We heard yesterday that our troops are to be withdrawn from Hong Kong. The little contingent will go from South Korea. The commitment in Belize has gone, in my view rightly. We have some sailors in the Caribbean.
The Minister of State for the Armed Forces in last night's speech, which was like a long series of postcards home to his mother—his absolutely delightful mother, whom I greatly admire—told us that among our deployments these days were our sailors going on leave in Miami and getting what he assured us was traditional United States hospitality. I hope that our troops are allowed to be armed if they are to receive the traditional hospitality of Florida.
In these circumstances, every penny that the Government spend on defence is wasted, because it is not being spent for a clear reason in pursuit of a clear policy. We have excellently trained armed forces, who commit themselves magnificently whenever they are called upon to go into action. During the Gulf crisis, I met our troops in the Gulf. They acquitted themselves superbly, as they do whenever they are called on to fight. The question is: what are our troops supposed to be doing and preparing for? What should Britain's defence policy be?
Clearly, we must be equipped properly and adequately. We must be prepared to face and defeat any threat to us as a nation. But who on earth is going to threaten us? Not Germany, despite Lady Thatcher's nightmares. Not Russia, as has been made absolutely clear to us by the Secretary of State for Defence himself. The last thing to interest President Yeltsin is some foreign adventure, unless, like the tiny country in the film "The Mouse that Roared", he can persuade the Americans to fight a war with him, defeat him, occupy Russia and solve his problems for him. President Yeltsin is certainly not about to fight us and, indeed, the Secretary of State has just signed agreements with him.
Clearly, we must have basic forces to meet any rare contingency, should foreign policy fail, as it did so abysmally over the Falklands. This afternoon, it was pointed out to us how near we came to not being equipped to fight that war. We must be able to prepare for such a contingency.
I am ready to support any Budget necessary to make sure that we can deploy whatever forces are required rapidly and efficiently. Clearly, we need troops for Northern Ireland, although I say to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) in all friendliness and good will that the sooner we have an end to that sterile and costly commitment by the political solution of a united Ireland, the better for all of us, including Ireland.
198 Beyond that, we should have well trained, mobile units available for United Nations policing operations on land, in the air and at sea. The end of the cold war has not brought a new world order, as the hon. Member for Upminster made clear so eloquently. Due to a lack of statesmanship by many Governments, including this one, the end of the cold war has brought about a new disorder, which in many ways is less satisfactory and more frightening than the old communist authoritarianism. At least, under communism, the people of those countries, oppressed as they were, lived under a certain rough if ugly order. That order has gone, but the risks have not gone with it.
The people of Yugoslavia presumably thought that nothing could be worse than the communism under which they used to be misgoverned. Now they know that things can be, and indeed are, much worse than that. Is the upheaval in the former Soviet Union preferable to the regime of Mikhail Gorbachev? My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) told us what has been happening in Georgia and Azerbaijan. Many who suffer in those territories would doubt it. Communism was ugly, oppressive and dictatorial; it had its secret police and concentration camps; but it prevented ethnic civil war, which in many ways is worse than what existed before.
Although Russia is no longer the super-power that the Soviet Union once was, it remains a nuclear power. What is more, there are now four nuclear powers where there was one before. One of the problems of there being four irresponsible nuclear powers is the danger of a nuclear capability seeping through to medium-sized and small countries, which will not exercise the control over the weapons that the Soviet Union did. Of course the Soviet Union's ownership of nuclear weapons was odious and ugly, but it was part of a stand-off that the two super-powers understood totally. They both knew where they were, and mutually assured destruction was the name of the game. Brezhnev and Stalin understood that, just as much as Eisenhower.
Already there is proliferation, and now there is a danger of greater proliferation. It can be said that it was far preferable to have a huge super-power, like the Soviet Union, with a nuclear capability than a seepage which enables medium-sized and even small powers to gain a nuclear capability. Too many countries already have that capability, such as India, Pakistan and Israel. A prime aim of our defence policy should be to prevent nuclear proliferation and to reduce the number of countries with a nuclear potential.
That is why this country should take the lead in pressing for a total ban on all nuclear testing. It is frightening that a Chinese resumption of tests should lead President Clinton to consider ending his moratorium on tests. Yet the Government have no idea whether or not they are in favour of nuclear testing. A year or 15 months ago, they said that it was essential; but when I have challenged the Secretary of State for Defence, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, in the Chamber, to say whether they regard it as essential for the country's nuclear capability, they have dodged the question. They do not know—because the answer depends on whether President Clinton will allow them to have nuclear testing.
We ought to be saying that it is best for the whole world if no one carries out such tests. We ought to be using the current moratorium, and our own inability to conduct tests —because the Americans will not allow us to do so—both to negotiate a nuclear test ban treaty and to extend 199 adherence to the non-proliferation treaty. We should be calling on the United Nations to ban trade in all nuclear-potential materials between countries that refuse to sign the non-proliferation treaty—as too many still do.
That would, of course, mean a change of heart in this country. Day after day, the Scott inquiry reveals that the Government fell over themselves to break their own embargo by selling Saddam Hussein not only conventional weapons, but the wherewithal to manufacture nuclear weapons. The disgraceful record of the Thatcher Government—which, for some reason, is not highlighted in that lady's memoirs—was continued under the present Government, right up to the day on which Iraq seized Kuwait: we were enhancing Iraq's nuclear capability until that day in August when Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait. We ought to use the present position to stop testing and to stop proliferation.
Moreover, rather than squabbling internally about the kind of nuclear weapons with which they should make do — as a macho symbol—the Government ought to realise that the only real and practical use for the residual British nuclear capability is to give us authority to participate in, and if necessary initiate, the next round of strategic arms reduction talks, and to demonstrate to countries that already have a nuclear capability—or wish to acquire it—that the United Kingdom is ready to work with them to make the world a safer place, together with France, China, the former Soviet nuclear powers and the United States.
As I have said, this country is a medium-sized power on the edge of Europe, and it is part of the European Community. Nevertheless—medium-sized though it is, and limited though its capabilities are—it is uniquely placed to play a constructive part in world politics and the establishment of a new world order. Ours is the only country in the world that is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the European Community, the Commonwealth and the Group of Seven, and also has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council —which we should insist on keeping, whatever meddling others wish to try.
We are uniquely placed in those five centres of power, influence and authority. We ought to be playing a constructive role in trying to build the new world order for which we hoped when the cold war ended but which has not come about. It is because the Government are failing to take advantage of a unique opportunity, in unique circumstances, that I will readily join my hon. Friends in the Lobby tonight.
§ Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)
Let me declare two interests. In June, for my sins, I was chosen as President of the Western European Assembly. My other interest is hardly relevant to the debate, but I suppose that I should mention it: I am connected with a company that has a good many clients, one of which makes weaponry.
The speech of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) was a tour de force. I agreed with parts of what he said and disagreed with others; time is short and many hon. Members wish to speak, so I hope that he will forgive me if I do not go into the details.
I sat through many of yesterday's speeches and have sat through all today's. There is no doubt about the message 200 from Conservative Members: we are concerned about the defence cuts that are already being implemented and extremely worried by suggestions that more are to come. I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will heed the warnings given by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, and by others who have been present over the past two days.
Because of our commitments—particularly our peace-keeping commitments—any further substantial cuts will have a far-reaching and devastating effect, practically eliminating our role as a major element of NATO. As Lord Younger, the former Secretary of State for Defence, said on the radio yesterday,We are a linchpin of NATO".Indeed we are—and several senior serving officers have told me, "We are already cut to the bone and morale is sagging." Those remarks were not made lightly.
§ Sir Dudley Smith
I would rather not. As my hon. Friend knows, I am not usually chary about giving way, but there have already been a good many interventions. It is very unfair to others who wish to speak.
To date, our peacekeeping role has been very positive and helpful. However, given all the defence requirements of Northern Ireland—I note that the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) has sat through the entire debate—and our intensive role in the former Yugoslavia, we are becoming very thin on the ground, especially the Army.
I welcome the step forward taken yesterday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in regard to reservists; but why have we not been more realistic about them in the past? Why are we not doing more than he suggested, even at this stage? I believe that reservists are the key to modern defence planning. The United States has found that out for itself; indeed, I have observed something of its large and enthusiastic training operation. Men are prepared to give up their weekends and travel hundreds of miles to fly combat aircraft, sail ships and develop the latest soldiering skills. They become virtually as good and reliable as the professionals. The future must lie with reservists if we are to retain credible forces.
Had the Owen peace initiative succeeded, we would already have been compromised over the number of troops required as our contribution to policing duties in the war-torn areas. The stark reality is that greater European instability leads to potentially increased demands on our defence capability. For those who suggest that we should now collect the peace dividend and opt out of our major role in the world, leaving it to others—this has been mentioned in the Chamber over the past two days—I quote just one figure.
Since 1954, in Europe, the Mediterranean and the middle east—nowhere else in the world—3.5 million people have been killed in local and area wars. That is not my fanciful figure; it comes directly from NATO. That staggering statistic should be given to anyone who makes a fuss about defence spending and thinks that we do not economise enough. As the right hon. Member for Gorton pointed out, the world remains a perilous place, and recent events in the Soviet Union have underlined that we would be sensible to bear that in mind at all times. In imploring the Government to keep defence spending at a realistic 201 level—despite all the other crucial demands of which we are ware—I stress that greater co-operation is needed between the allies to harmonise reductions and produce cost-effective solutions to common problems.
Since taking over as President of the WEU Assembly, I have become more than ever convinced that the WEU, as the European pillar of NATO, has a special role to play. I am pleased that the statement on the defence estimates makes frequent and positive mention of its contribution. I am glad that there is United Kingdom support for new Western European Union developments such as the establishment of the satellite centre at Torrejon near Madrid, the planning cell in Brussels, which I saw recently, and the Institute for Security Studies. Of those three developments, two had British directors; one a well-regarded gentleman who formerly sat on the Opposition Benches.
Two other WEU initiatives should also be strongly supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Uprninster and the Government: first, the recent creation of the Western European Union armament group, which superseded the Independent European Programme Group and which is far more flexible and worth while in its new format; and secondly, the development of observation satellites, which, given the confused state of the world, will be necessary over the next decade, if not just to monitor the migration of large numbers of people from one part of the world to another.
Britain is a prominent member of NATO and the Western European Union. In the WEU assembly, the British delegation, drawn from all parties, plays a full and effective role in its proceedings. It cannot be stressed too often that the Western European Union is not trying to duplicate NATO or even trying to succeed it. However, it is sometimes possible for the WEU to act effectively in certain areas, such as the running of three Danube emergency control points in co-operation with Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania and as a catalyst for NATO action, for example, by inspiring the highly successful blockade in the Adriatic, which I was able to see in the past week.
That joint NATO-WEU operation has a complement of 12,000 sailors who have virtually shut down 50 miles of Montenegrin coast line and almost ended the traffic into the two main ports there, exerting a considerable effect on the Serbian economy. Further defence cuts would probably see the end of such help. We would not be able to contribute in future to such operations and would set a poor example to our allies.
We all know that NATO has more than proved its worth since 1949, when, as the right hon. Member for Gorton pointed out, it was formed during the time of a Labour Government—although it was a general wish. However, it must evolve into a new area, which is why next January's summit on the future of NATO is so important. It has become even more important following the American President's comments at the weekend, which I consider unwise and unnecessary.
I am chary about the enlargement of the WEU because of many complications. It would be resented by Russia and would extend a large number of commitments. However, many countries would love to have a closer relationship with the free countries of the old western world and it would be better if our chiefs decided to make the WEU the vehicle by which those countries could join rather than NATO.
202 Defence economists must play a part in the forthcoming summit. That is why I believe that there is so much scope for co-operation and joint enterprise. It is vital that the summit further develops the relationship between the countries of central Europe, and perhaps it could arrange for them to play a part in the Western European Union.
Co-operation between Europeans on security and defence is vital, but we must never abandon national responsibilities. That was clearly underlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster and others, that the No. 1 task for any Government or Secretary of State for Defence is to look after our country and defend our own. We must be vigilant over any attempt to develop a European defence policy beyond the bounds agreed at Maastricht and one in opposition to our interests. We can achieve that by strongly pursuing the kind of policies which have been criticised by the Opposition but which have been generally good over recent years. We must have credible defence spending options available if we are to succeed.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. May I remind hon. Members that speeches from now until 9 pm must be restricted to 10 minutes.
§ 7.6 pm
§ Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
One must be deeply concerned, at a time when there are so many conflicts throughout the world, that the United Kingdom cannot maintain its forces at a level that creates reasonable confidence within our armed services, if not in the country. Confidence is being eroded and the signs are becoming evident.
In the not too distant past, there were separate Ministers for the Army, Navy and Air Force. Without explaining the reason for that arrangement ceasing, the change provided an opportunity, which worked well, for chiefs of staff to take a more panoramic view of our defence interests to minimise the competition among the three arms of our defence forces.
"Options for Change", allied to proposed crippling financial constraints, has now created such a strain that we are already beginning to see old inter-service rivalries re-emerging as each arm understandably seeks to ensure that it is adequate in its role.
No one would suggest that new efficiencies are not possible in the light of reduced threats from the former Warsaw pact, but I am deeply unhappy when it appears that the extent of other threats are under-estimated and under-provided for. It is always a poor recipe for success when one seeks to impose swingeing financial cuts at the same time as seeking to implement radical structural changes.
Most hon. Members depend to a considerable extent on valuable and objective reports from the Defence Select Committee. It is imperative, therefore, that that Committee should have access to as much information as is available. When I was a member of the Committee, it was apparent that one could gain access to much more sensitive information through the United States Pentagon than through our own Ministry of Defence. Is it not time that members of the Select Committee on Defence were positively vetted to ensure that there was no continuing excuse for the Ministry of Defence to act in that coy 203 manner? If not, we shall continue to be unable to make a judgment based on Select Committee indications on, for example, whether our present costly commitment to Cyprus is still justified or whether there may be less expensive alternatives.
Yesterday, I listened with a growing feeling of unease as the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton), struggled, almost in desperation, to present a disturbing method of partially alleviating the problem that we face, by withdrawing a number of battalions from Northern Ireland. I must address that issue, since I was somewhat disappointed that the Minister failed to respond to those dangerous ideas. I hope not to distort what the right hon. Gentleman espoused, or misrepresent his stated reasons for doing so, but it seemed that he was suggesting that there was little or no correlation between the number of troops on the ground and the incidence of terrorism.
On that dangerous premise, he suggested that we should begin to consider reducing the military commitment that operates in support of the civil power in Northern Ireland at the rate of one battalion every six to 12 months. The right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell justified it on the basis that, if the number of troops had any correlaton to the level of terrorism, we would have resolved the problem by initially committing 100,000 troops. That wrongly presumes that the problem was and still is predictable, uniform and constant. But terrorism does not operate like that. It pitches its activities at a level consistent with the vulnerability of the community.
If the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell is correct in his correlation theory, it would be equally logical to conclude that the terrorists would not even notice if troop levels were gradually reduced to zero. Yet we know that that would be nonsense and that decisions on manpower levels take account of current intelligence and the assessment of commanders on the ground. But some of us who listened to the right hon. Gentleman will ponder whether he knows something that we on this Bench do not.
I would not want to believe that a former loyal member of Her Majesty's Government would be party to the abandonment of a part of the United Kingdom or to leaving 1.6 million citizens to be dominated by terrorists. Surely the right hon. Gentleman cannot have failed to recognise that it is those commanders on the ground, including the General Officer Commanding and the Chief Constable, who have access to the most recent intelligence and who, on that basis, have to be depended upon to present their case honestly to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Secretary of State for Defence. The right hon. Gentleman cannot really believe that it would be better to react to terrorist outrages than to respond to a perceived threat.
The reality is that the level of terrorist violence is, at any time, but a fraction of the terrorist intent. We who live in Northern Ireland know that there is a definite correlation between the level of security on the ground and the extent to which the terrorist is denied access to the battle—in practical terms, to his full schedule of targets. It is on that basis that judgments must be made.
It is important that the House is never again lured into the same sort of trap as in 1985, when it embarked upon the fruitless exercise of trying to placate those who cannot be 204 placated through the good offices of those who cannot be trusted. The right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell is intelligent enough to know that if what is understood to be the Hume-Adams agenda were followed and Her Majesty's Government withdrew their presence, even by degrees, the net result would be a move towards a dangerous and unstable independent Ulster, not towards a united Ireland. Ulster Unionists do not want that. Does anyone?
Rather than sowing seeds of doubt about the commitment of the House to the democratic process in Northern Ireland, it may be reasonable to expedite the movement towards greater stability by seeking—through the courts, or if necessary by executive detention—to dismantle the command and control structures of the paramilitary groups. However, the need to withstand subversion in any part of this Kingdom is paramount and cannot be minimised or tinkered with.
Of course one has sympathy for the stresses and strains imposed by 17-month operational cycles in Northern Ireland, but that will abate to some degree when amalgamations are complete. What a pity that the Secretary of State has not seen fit to ameliorate the problem still further by reprieving the Queen's Own Highlanders and the Gordon Highlanders. My party would implore him to do so.
Before leaving the problem of an overstretched Army, I want to ask the Secretary of State about the level at which our troops are equipped. One has to be frightened by the continuing rumours that the SA80 is inadequate for its purpose. Can the Secretary of State for Defence reassure the Housed that a multitude of faults have now been rectified? I wonder how many soldiers have been unfairly penalised for losing parts that have simply dropped off?
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Jonathan Aitken)
I can immediately give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks so that there will be no confusion—the faults on the SA80 have been rectified.
§ Mr. Maginnis
Having bad weapons and inadequate fire power are the quickest ways to demoralise any army. The whole system of procurement is called into question when a weapon like the SA80 is commissioned in the knowledge that it has 32 innate faults. What has been done to ensure that that state of affairs cannot happen again?
Similarly, one must ask how it makes any sense to have our helicopters operating close to the frontier with the Irish Republic while totally under-equipped to deal with the threats that they face. On 23 September last, a number of helicopter crews in the Crosmaglen area of South Armagh, acting above and beyond what might reasonably be expected of them, closed on a heavily armed group of IRA terrorists and succeeded in forcing them to flee and to abandon some of their arms.
The terrorists were equipped with two mobile firing platforms, each fitted with one 12.7mm Duska heavy machine gun, two general purpose machine guns, and one AKM. The Duska is capable of bringing down a helicopter and has an effective range, under those conditions, of 1.5 km. The helicopters are fitted with weaponry which requires them to engage the enemy at about half that distance. Those are the issues which we should be debating as they involve our responsibilities to our security services.
205 Will the Secretary of State enlighten the House on whether he has considered the future of our special forces and how they will fare, in terms of recruitment and resources? What will be the—
§ Mr. Maginnis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I fully respect the 7 o'clock ruling which the Chair imposed earlier, but I must put on record the fact that we, the third largest Opposition party in the House, field one speaker in major debates, and invariably fall within that time trap. An extra minute or even half a minute would have allowed me to finish. I know that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, can do nothing about that, but will you take into consideration the fact that the ruling invariably militates against us when we are trying to put our case to the House?
Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman has placed his submission on record and I shall draw Madam Speaker's attention to it. In fact, I gave the hon. Gentleman an extra 15 seconds to compensate for the Minister's intervention during his speech.
§ Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)
I understand the feelings expressed by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and I hope that he will understand if I do not follow on from the interesting comments that he made. There is a great deal of sympathy and understanding of the problems that he and his colleagues face in Ulster.
From what one has read in the press, both before today's debate and after yesterday's debate, one might gather that we were having a row about whether the Government were spending enough. However, our debate is on the 1993 estimates and the document "Defending our Future" published with the estimates in July.
It is worth putting it on the record that I and my hon. Friends were, on the whole, pleased with much of the report, although that was not graciously acknowledged by Opposition Members. Some new improvements were made to our armed forces, particularly to our anti-armour capability. Such improvements were well received by the House, and we were particularly grateful for the fact that, for the first time, we were able to gauge for ourselves the match between commitments and the resources allowed to meet those commitments.
It would be stupid of me in the few minutes available to go on and on about the estimates, as the debate is still overshadowed by reports that our armed forces are likely to be subjected to drastic cuts. I do not know how much truth there is in the reports. I assume that they contain some truth, but I do not know how much hype there has been or how many of the reports are due to leaks from a Government Department, possibly the Treasury. My friends in the press tell me that there has been many a nod and a wink.
Whatever the scale of the cuts, the fact remains that the sum of £1 billion is undoubtedly disturbing. The concerns expressed by so many of my hon. Friends today cannot be lightly dismissed as the atavistic and knee-jerk reaction to be expected from those who could be regarded as defence buffs. That suggestion has been made, though not, I am glad to say, today. I think that I can say that, with one notable exception, all those I know who take a close 206 interest in the subject—such as members of the Select Committee on Defence and members of the Back-Bench defence committee, of which I am proud to be Chairman —are too young to be described as armchair generals, retired defence strategists or cranky colonels.
Over the years, the Select Committee has done a good job in drawing attention to some of the problems and shortcomings of our defence policy. I should like to think that, in our meetings, we on the Back-Bench committee have tried to be constructive. In our discussions with Ministers, our strictures have always been received in the constructive spirit in which they have been made.
I do not blame the Chancellor of the Exchequer for making it clear, albeit in a television interview and in other ways, that he expects all branches of the Government to help reduce the deficit. It is quite right that he should want to do that. He is a robust man and can look after himself. It would be foolish of me, and I believe of all of us, to suggest that the budget of the Ministry of Defence is inviolable, even though we have already successfully cut out waste in many areas, and have experienced cuts, sometimes against our will. Nevertheless that has been done.
Many of us admire my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the way in which he has conducted our affairs as Secretary of State over the past few years. He gave a sturdy response yesterday to the questions that were put to him. He made sturdy comments about his desire to strengthen our armed forces and ensure that they are well equipped and can carry out their duties, but, at the same time, he expressed a willingness to comply, to some extent, with the requests and demands that were made of him.
I am sure that we all agree that the Secretary of State has been flexible—I believe up to a reasonable point. He will know that there is a big difference between being asked to change the levels of expenditure in defence and other areas of public expenditure. One can switch off some social service expenditure—changes in taxes can be switched on and off. At the stroke of a pen, one can be confident that the recipients of a benefit will feel the effects of the decision almost immediately, or at least within six months if one is a pensioner.
However, the lead times for defence are entirely different. Those who have looked at some of the figures for the 1930s will know what happened then. Year after year, defence was run down, but we managed to beef it up just before the war. Because it did not take too much time to design, build and produce a Hurricane, we had them just in time. One cannot do that today. Most of us know that it takes 10, if not 15 years to develop some of the modern equipment that is needed should one face a serious enemy and threat from abroad.
We should consider also the effect of a run down in the defence forces at a time of instability and the impact that that could have on the morale and quality of leadership that we so much admire. Of course equipment is valuable, but there is not one of us, after seeing our armed forces at work, who has not come away with the striking impression—regardless of the equipment—of the quality of the men and women of every rank. We should talk about the often terrible and hard work done in Northern Ireland; work which demands courage, leadership and understanding. One will not find a better leader anywhere in the world than a corporal in the British Army.
207 Those things cannot be changed overnight. If one destroys what has been created, it takes years to build it up again; I was in a regiment that was disbanded and I know the agony that we went through.
The international situation is fluid, and there are threats from abroad. If it deteriorates, we all know that it is important not to accept cuts that go to the bone. That is the message which the debate sends out.
However, despite all the alarmist talk, which seems to have come from the sources to which I referred earlier, I find it difficult to believe that the Chancellor would seriously propose, or that the Government would accept, further deep cuts. Such cuts would jeopardise our role in NATO and destroy the foundations of our foreign policy. I do not believe that the Government are as crazy as that —I do not believe that the Government are crazy.
I have just returned from the North Atlantic Assembly. We were discussing matters concerning the future of NATO. One of the reasons why I am able to discuss some of our views reasonably sensibly is that I am briefed by the Foreign Office. I do not find anything in the Foreign Office brief that says, "Go easy on NATO. Do not worry about trying to develop it or bring about a better, understanding relationship with France." We have an important role to play in developing European security.
We have important roles to play and the Foreign Office knows that one of them is the strength and leadership of the armed forces in Europe that we have stationed under NATO, and our role in the Rapid Reaction Corps.
We know also that discussions have to take place with the Americans, which we do through the NATO assembly, with Congressmen and others, who expect from us an assertion that we are four-square with them in preserving the alliance, which has kept the peace, and that we are willing to discuss its future, because it is undergoing change. That is why our policy must be adaptable.
The changes that the Government have been forced to make over the years have been partly to do with the economic strength of the nation, but were almost entirely in these past few years due to the changing nature of the threat. We are undoubtedly being criticised, but I think that "Options for Change" provided the framework that enables us to move forward so that we can ensure that our defence policy is in tune with our commitments.
I shall conclude with the point that defence, as we have heard today, is about discharging, first and foremost, the primary duty of our country. Having discharged that duty, we can then decide what is our political interest, whether to be involved in other alliances, to extend our political and economic influence and help create a more secure world.
Our position in the Security Council alone, let alone in Europe, dictates that we have a wider interest than the defence of our shores. I should hate to see soured the statement that we had in July, which was greeted so well. Rather than make a decision that involves not only the Ministry of Defence, but other Departments, I hope that the Government as a whole will help to set the political parameters. If not, we shall see the death of our armed forces by a thousand cuts.
§ Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
I speak in support of the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). I remember that, way back in 1988, Marjorie Thompson warned the Labour movement that we were in danger of having a radical vision without radical policies. Some five years later, according to comments made about the divisions passed at the recent Labour party conference, we have neither a radical vision nor radical policies. If history is to repeat itself, once again this evening we shall be faced with a three-line Whip to abstain on what is the most important issue facing us in this parliamentary Session.
Those same hon. Members who refuse to oppose the defence estimates will be the same people who will vote and campaign against cuts in health, education, housing and so many areas that are important to the communities that we represent. They seem to refuse to accept that there is a link between the level of defence spending and- the provision of public services, or they regard investment in weapons of war as far more important than investment in health and life.
The standard of our public services is dependent on defence spending, especially at a time when all parties seem to be unwilling to increase taxes substantially, even on the richest people within our communities, to begin to pay for those services. Some may argue that that is not necessary because we shall find the taxes to pay for the services through increased economic growth in the months and years ahead. I suspect that that will not happen. We shall not have sufficient economic growth to pay for the services that are so important to our communities.
I believe that the situation is even more difficult when one realises that, with the Maastricht treaty, no country will be allowed to have a budget deficit that exceeds 3 per cent. of its gross domestic product. That means that there will be cuts in public expenditure in the region of £25,000 million, which is almost exactly the same as the budget in the defence estimates for 1993. In such circumstances, defence cuts will be even more important to pay for some of the services, and the cuts in the services that almost certainly will happen through the Maastricht treaty.
I must admit that I find it increasingly difficult to relate to the new Labour party, which asks us to vote for the Maastricht treaty and public expenditure cuts and abstain on defence estimates of £24,500 million. It is our task to defend those services and, for that very reason, I shall vote against the Government's defence estimates this evening.
What savings could be made if we had a decent defence policy? If we linked our defence expenditure to that of a country such as France, we would have savings in the region of £8,000 million. If we linked it to that of Germany, we would have savings in the region of £13,000 million. At the recent Labour party conference, we demanded that our defence expenditure be linked to the average defence expenditure of other countries in western Europe and the scrapping of Trident. That would save us billions upon billions of pounds. Sooner or later, we shall have to confront the issue, or all the talk of defending our public services will be just talk.
Some hon. Members seem to believe that the slashing of the defence budget will come naturally through the ending of the cold war and the peace dividend. But the question that we should be posing is, "What peace dividend?" When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, we were 209 spending about £20,000 million on our defences. Some five years later, in 1993, our defence spending is about £24,500 million, so where is the peace dividend?
It is also disturbing to note that the United States 1994 defence budget is planned to be $275 billion. The United States defence industry employs approximately 2.75 million people, so the cost of each job is approximately $365,000. In 1994, the United States so-called peace dividend will result in savings of only $11.8 billion.
It is somewhat ironic, even obscene, that countries such as Britain and the United States, which are supposedly most responsible for global security, are the very same nations most responsible for arming the conflicts that they are trying to police. Just name a country or a dictatorship from Iraq to Iran, from Indonesia to Somalia, and it will be found that the west has supplied it with arms to engage in conflict.
Some months ago, I asked the Ministry of Defence to list the arms sales to Yugoslavia since 1979. It refused, saying that it would cost too much to compile such information. However, it gave me the information from 1989 and it was a long and sad list. The Government should realise that people from Somalia to the United Kingdom cannot eat weapons or be educated with aircraft carriers. If we continue to spend as much money on weapons of war, if our defence budget continues to increase, if there is no real peace dividend, the losers will be the very same people whom we were elected to defend.
One reason why our defence budget is so high is Trident. In past months, there have been squabbles about whether the Trident refit contract should go to Devonport or Rosyth. I can understand Members of Parliament taking sides, but that is not the answer. The answer is to use the skills, talents and creativity of those people employed in the nuclear industry for peaceful purposes. For example, they could be employed in cleaning up the terrible legacy of radioactive waste that has already been created by the Polaris programme, or in dismantling the stocks of weaponry that are no longer required. The Royal Ordnance factory at Glascoed has the skills to do that work. Why not ensure that it has the work to use those skills?
Vickers, the builders of Trident submarines, could be given the go-ahead to offer thousands of jobs to workers to manufacture the undersea water column which Vickers designed and which could provide energy from a clean, non-polluting source.
If we were to ask anyone in our community to draw up a list of the jobs necessary to make the community nicer and environmentally friendly, it would be almost endless. If a future Labour Government were to implement present party policy, as set out in the latest manifesto, to strengthen the non-proliferation treaty and to negotiate with the other four recognised nuclear powers for a reduction in the stock of nuclear weapons, Trident would not have to be refitted and would either be cancelled or renegotiated out of existence. A unilateral example has been set with yesterday's announcement of TASM's cancellation.
We should also focus on the defence implications of the Maastricht treaty and, in particular, article 4, which requests the Western European Union to implement decisions and actions of the union which have defence implications. By ordering the integration of the Western European Union into the European union, the EC has taken on a military wing—an alliance which is armed with 210 nuclear weapons and which has no restriction on its operation.; a Western European Union which openly admits that its most important pillar is the nuclear pillar.
Whether we are addressing the export of arms, the so-called peace dividend, the non-proliferation treaty, the defence estimates or the Maastricht treaty, we are spending too much effort, imagination, creativity and finance in developing more and more sophisticated ways of destroying life when we should be trying to find ways of preserving it—a life of dignity and hope in which our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to use their truly wonderful talents. That is surely what the Labour movement is about. That is what has attracted generations of people to our cause. If we take that road, we shall have a glorious future. If we fail, we shall be little more than a Social Democratic party mark II.
§ Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)
The one issue that I wish to raise, which has not been adequately addressed in the defence White Paper, is the shared development of a global missile defence system. In May this year, the United States Defence Secretary announced the reduction in research which would now be directed towards ground-based defences instead of space-based weaponry; in other words, an end of the strategic defence initiative.
That decision is dangerously complacent and premature. I fully accept that the original Reagan concept of SDI in 1983 achieved considerable success in ending the arms race without even one brilliant pebble being placed in orbit. To his credit, President Gorbachev perceived that he could not match the technology or resources that the United States was prepared to deploy. Today, it is fashionable to dismiss Reagan's original concept of a laser umbrella as fantasy. Perhaps we shall never know.
In abandoning global defence, the United States is ignoring certain realities. It ignores the reality that the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction shows no signs of abating. By the end of this decade, 15 or more countries will have the capability to produce ballistic missiles, six countries will have missiles with ranges of 2,000 km or more, and several may possess missiles with intercontinental ranges.
At least eight countries will have nuclear weapons or advanced programmes, 30 will probably possess a chemical weapons capability, and seven or more will possess biological weapons. Of course we must hope that international efforts to introduce controls and conventions will succeed, but we have yet to reach that situation.
By the early years of the 21st century, numerous countries with ballistic missiles will have the ability to release not one but dozens of small bomblets—cluster munitions—that would overwhelm any land-based defence system.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will accept that the implications of that for western security and international stability, or instability, are tremendous. The deployment of space-based missile defences, preferably in co-operation with the Russians, is an essential minimum response to such proliferation. The absence of such deployment will serve only to encourage such proliferation. It will also challenge our will and our capability to respond to regional aggression such as that of Iraq against Kuwait, which led to Desert Storm.
211 In view of the United Kingdom's memorandum of understanding with the United States Government sanctioning co-operation in the research of SDI, I should like to know what consultation was undertaken by Mr. Aspen, the United States Defence Secretary, before his announcement effectively ending SDI.
In view of President Yeltsin's offer to Congress in April that Russia wanted to develop global defence with the United States, sharing costs and technology, it would be interesting to know whether he too was consulted on the ending of SDI.
In short, I believe that the Clinton Government's decision to abandon global defence without regard to the anticipated need for global defence is utterly irresponsible. It is a missed opportunity not only for international co-operation but in the development of dual-use technology.
For example, it now threatens to put back the development of the space telescopic mirror, which would transmit light and energy for peaceful purposes, as well as the so-called death ray laser beams. Those are all areas in which British, European and Russian technological capability could be deployed, but American leadership is required. I look forward to hearing from the Minister what representations have been made.
We in Europe cannot afford to abandon the goal of an effective space-based missile defence. One of the lessons of the Gulf war was that an attacking rocket requires to be intercepted in its early boost phase—which means within 70 seconds of launch for a Scud missile. It requires tremendous speed, and can only be guided by sensors from space. That must remain our goal, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will confirm that tonight.
§ Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)
In common with the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson), I wish to refer to one aspect of this wide-ranging debate, although it is not the same one. I make no apologies for making a constituency speech, because of the appalling circumstances that currently confront Swan Hunter shipbuilders on Tyneside. The shipbuilding community on Tyneside has served Britain well in peace and war, and it deserves a hearing in the House—a hearing in the most desperate circumstances.
Two key procurement decisions have put Swan Hunter —the last remaining shipyard in Tyne and Wear—into receivership: the procurement of the auxiliary oiler replenishment vessel—HMS De Lorean as it is known in the industry—and the recent decision as to the procurement of the landing platform helicopter carrier—the LPH. Both were political decisions, both claimed to provide the best value for money at the time of procurement, and both winning bids were heavily subsidised, although by different routes. The eventual outcome of the procurement of the AOR1 has become one of the greatest defence procurement scandals of the post-war era.
The Ministry of Defence has a responsibility to Swan Hunter, both as a supplier and as the main employment base of a community that has provided more than 80 per cent. of all the Royal Navy's fleet auxiliaries in the past 20 years. That community has provided, and continues to 212 provide, warships built to time and delivered fault-free to the Ministry of Defence. It has a record unequalled by any other supplier.
The, decision to allow Swan Hunter to go into receivership was not taken lightly by the Government. The Prime Minister, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Employment, as well as the Treasury and the Ministry of Defence, were all involved in the discussions as to the consequences and in the decision. The outcome—Swan Hunter going into receivership—reflects the collective view of the Government, not just that of the defence chiefs.
What has amazed all those who have followed this issue is the way that the Government have failed to respond to the situation at Swan Hunter since the company went into receivership. No commentator on Tyneside—including Conservative-supporting newspapers like the Evening Chronicle, and broadcasting media like Tyne Tees television and Metro radio—has been able to explain or to understand the Government's indifference to the company's plight. It is all the more perplexing because prospective private-sector purchasers of the business cannot make final commercial judgments because the Government's attitude is ambiguous.
Perhaps there is no ambiguity at all about the Government's attitude towards Tyneside. Perhaps the Government want the business to close; perhaps they want it to cease trading as a shipyard, whether military or merchant. Perhaps they are trying to pretend to the outside world that closure is not their objective, whereas in reality it is. If that is the sort of unambiguous response that we will get from the Government, I hope that the Minister of State for Defence Procurement will tell the truth about the Government's approach to Swan Hunter.
It is a matter of record that, since the receiver arrived, every initiative to help Swan Hunter has been met with double dealing from the Department of Trade and Industry and cold hostility from the Ministry of Defence.
Closure of Swan Hunter has meant some 6,000 direct and indirect redundancies in Tyne and Wear, redundancies inflicted on a shipbuilding community where male unemployment is already 38 per cent. even before the redundancy rounds are completed. There are still 1,600 men working at Swan Hunter, building the type 23 frigates.
The Government have not announced any significant economic development package for the area, whether directly related to shipbuilding or not. The whole issue of intervention funding has been grotesquely mismanaged, particularly in the Government's dealing with the European Commission.
The only possible assumption that can be made is that this was deliberate. Intervention funding would have enabled Swan Hunter to survive as a shipyard, and would have facilitated the transition from over-reliance on warship building to a broader base of civilian activity. Significantly, such a broader base and state aid were made available to Harland and Wolff at the time of the AOR1 competition, and to Kvaerner-Govan at the time of the LPH procurement.
When the Germans needed intervention funding consent from the European Community to deal, perfectly understandably, with the difficult problems in East German yards, the German delegation to the European Commission was led by the German Chancellor, after some very strong lobbying, conducted by all parties and at all levels of 213 German public life. The Germans made it perfectly clear that they were serious about preserving their shipbuilding industry and competing directly with the Pacific rim.
We sent the Minister for Industry, the right hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) to Europe. He managed to put the wrong case to the right commissioner at the end of a meeting convened to discuss something else. Later, he managed to put the right case to the wrong meeting, a meeting that had no power to agree to intervention funding.
By dressing up the Swan Hunter case as part of a package for all four yards, the Minister is disingenuously able to claim, for domestic consumption, that he has made a special case for Tyneside, certain in the knowledge that he has also made a case that the European Commission cannot possibly accept.
It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the Government's intention is to blame Europe for Swan Hunter not getting intervention funding, or better still to blame European socialists. That contemptible strategy would not convince even a Conservative party audience, if such a thing could still be found in Tyneside.
The behaviour of the Ministry of Defence has been even worse. Now that the company is in receivership, the Ministry of Defence is denying it a chance to tender for any MOD work—even minor refit work that would be completed well before the type 23 frigates leave Tyneside. Some 90 per cent. of the refit work for the entire British fleet has now been earmarked for Rosyth dockyard to help underpin the employment base there. I make no complaint about that, but the people who took that decision will not give Swan Hunter a single ship.
There is no core programme for Swan Hunter. The Ministry of Defence could bring forward the landing ships logistic, LSLs, for Swan Hunter—the ships are currently in the programme—but the Government will not do that, because the Prime Minister has personally forbidden it. Even more absurdly, the Ministry of Defence is refusing to send the AOR1 to Swan Hunter, where the several thousand defects that have so far been discovered on that vessel could be remedied by the same work force who delivered its sister ship, the AOR2, to the Navy, defect-free.
Not content with denying the yard domestic work the Government must take the blame for preventing Swan Hunter from gaining a key overseas contract. The Government of Oman wished to place a contract for patrol vessels with Swan Hunter—two or three to start with, but potentially more. The British Government allowed the Omani order to go to a French shipbuilder, CNN, rather than allow the work to be carried out on Tyneside. The international shipbuilding community could not conceal its collective amazement when the Omani decision was announced.
The British Government's attitude has become clear. No other European Government would behave in such a way. It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the Conservative party is deliberately starving the yard of work, with a view to seeing it close.
I hope that, when the Minister of State responds to this debate, he can give the lie to all that, and that he will say that the Ministry will allow Swan Hunter to tender for work, will allow it to win work from his Ministry, will put work into the yard—either while it is in receivership or when it is in new ownership—and that it is the Ministry of 214 Defence's wish that it makes the transition to new ownership by a shipbuilder that can tender for Ministry of Defence work.
§ Mr. Aitken
As long as the yard is in receivership, it will be difficult for it to have the financial strength and credibility to win new orders from the Ministry of Defence, although we have done our best. to give it some extended new work on one or two matters that the hon. Gentleman knows about.
As for the future, we hope that Swan Hunter will survive and flourish and win new orders competitively, and we will do everything to make that possible.
§ Mr. Neville Trotter (Tynemouth)
I will resist the temptation to follow the perverted and obtuse line taken by the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown). I remember the way in which he advised the House, at the start of the sad story of Swan Hunter, that it was all the result of a deliberate plot by a small cabal in the middle of the Ministry of Defence. That spurious and ridiculous idea was seen off by the National Audit Office. I shall confine myself at this stage to the comments that I had intended to make on the general defence scene.
Defence has been a success story. NATO kept the peace for 40 years and won the cold war. Excellent work has been carried out year by year in humanitarian aid and peacekeeping by our forces. In the major war in the Gulf, a significant and distinguished part was played by our men and women. The forces always respond admirably to the challenge. Great tribute must be paid to the individual men and women and to their leaders. We must ensure that our defence policy remains a success.
Our very success in the cold war has caused difficulties. The collapse of the Soviet Union and a reduction in the Russian military capability has led to an inevitable reduction in strength for all the western allies. In our case, we have received a peace dividend in the form of about a 25 per cent. reduction in manpower and a similar envisaged reduction in funding. We have already enjoyed the peace dividend. There is no more to come, in my judgment.
When we confronted the Warsaw pact countries, it was never easy to find the funds to provide all the defence that we desired when the need was obvious. Indeed, force numbers were spelt out for us by NATO, which was helpful.
In the changed circumstances of today, much more difficult decisions must be taken. The Treasury, as always, busily pursues the saving of public money and naturally seeks to maximise the peace dividend. The Treasury argues for the minimum leveel of defence, but the current plans provide the minimum acceptable level of defence. They provide a balanced and capable force.
215 A side effect of the cold war was that forces designed to support NATO were available to fight and win elsewhere, such as in the Falklands and the Gulf. The challenge now is to ensure that, without the immediate and obvious threat from Russia, we maintain that capability to use when necessary.
Self-evidently, the world is far from stable—it is much less stable than it was at the time of the cold war. We read daily of the conflicts raging. In the background of the former Soviet Union there are terrible problems and tremendous pressures. Who can say what form of government will ultimately emerge?
We must be prepared to meet the unexpected, to respond quickly and unexpectedly to unforeseen crises, and furthermore to be able to sustain operations for lengthy periods. It is not sufficient to provide only a gendarmerie for low-intensity peacekeeping. Who can predict when we shall again be called upon to take part in a high-tech campaign such as that in the Gulf?
We must not forget the long-term possibilities, either. Defences are easily disbanded, but it takes many years to rebuild them. Russia retains formidable military capabilities. We wish it well in tackling its immense problems, but we cannot forecast the outcome of the struggle in that country.
The Government have sought to confront the uncertain future with powerful, highly competent forces. I welcome the White Paper. The way in which it sets out the details of our forces is a great improvement. It is inevitable that the more is spelt out, the more questions are asked.
I commend the Government on the way in which they produced the White Paper this year. The Ministry's long-term costings have been carefully constructed so as to maintain our capability. There has been no improvement in the world scene since the long-term costings were arrived at, and no reduction for defence reasons could possibly be justified to reduce the long-term costings now.
I welcome today's announcement of the ammunition order. It will be well received at the Birtley Royal Ordnance factory on Tyneside. My right hon. Friend will understand if I refer particularly to the need to order more Challenger 2 tanks to enable the armoured regiments of the Army to be entirely converted.
Exhaustive studies have taken place in the Ministry and it has been unanimously agreed that the best solution for the Army and the best value for money is to proceed with an order for Challenger 2. I urge my right hon. Friend to proceed in the near future with that order. I emphasise the importance of that order for Vickers, not least for the plant on Tyneside. Such a United Kingdom order would be helpful in securing further export orders for that excellent tank.
I shall mention the question of Navy orders. The House is aware of the disastrous effect on Swan Hunter of losing the LPH order to VSEL. The immediate appointment of a receiver highlighted the dearth of orders in the naval field. Every endeavour is being made locally to secure a new owner for the yard. That is obviously needed. Some months before the collapse, the then owners of Swan Hunter advised me that they could not continue on their own, and that a new owner was needed.
The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East suggested that inadequate attempts have been made to 216 obtain permission from the European Commission for intervention funding. I can categorically deny that, from the content of discussions in which I have taken place. I welcome the Minister's assurance that Swan Hunter can again, with a new owner, compete for new orders for the Royal Navy.
Let me mention potential orders. I welcome the statement at the start of the debate that there are to be more orders for type 23 frigates. I urge my right hon. Friends to proceed as fast as possible with those important ships for the Navy. I also mention the pressing need to replace the landing platform docks Fearless and Intrepid, which are not only 30 years old but expensive to run—far more expensive than modern successors would be.
The Select Committee on Defence, on which I have the honour to serve, pointed out in a report the age of many of our RFAs. Swan Hunter is especially well placed to provide the necessary replacements for those ships.
I welcome the announcement that competition is to take place in ship repair for the Royal Navy's fleet. For too long those ships have been allocated to Devonport or Rosyth. If we read carefully the pronouncements on the future, we shall see that half the surface warships will go out to competition. I welcome that. Tyneside has a proud record. The Southampton was very satisfactorily repaired after collision damage and a Leander was satisfactorily modernised and refitted a few years ago on the Tyne.
In considering the defence scene overall, we must maintain our defence industrial base. We must maintain our technical capability; we must ensure that every help is given to the industry to secure exports; and we must retain the capability to acquire the necessary equipment to expand our forces if needed in some future crisis.
§ Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)
I will refer to the industrial strategic requirement later in my speech. I will follow the comments then of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter).
We have heard many references in the debate to the horrors and slaughter in this unstable world. That instability, and the dangers internationally, lead us to view the role of the Secretary of State with some sympathy as he seeks to extract resources from the Treasury. We cannot wish him well, but we have sympathy, not least because many Opposition Members understand that, if he fails, it will not be Conservative Members who suffer but the personnel in the armed services, to whom so many tributes have been paid in the debate.
The wicket on which the Secretary of State is batting is a bad one, for it comes at a time when Britain's economic weakness is utterly demonstrable—and it is severe. We have experienced a massive decline in our international economic position. Over the past 12 years, we have slipped from sixth to 15th place, and it has become increasingly difficult to match our international obligations with our economic capacity.
I am not suggesting that we should run away from those obligations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) pointed out the importance of our position on the Security Council, but we will eventually reach the point where the policies and values adopted by this Administration for the past decade 217 must be changed—or Britain will not be able to fulfil the commitments that Conservative Members so avidly want us to pursue.
Tribute after tribute has been paid to our service men, but tributes do not relieve the pressures of their duties, the strain of their separation from their families or their profound anxieties about their careers. Yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) made a plea for a gap of 24 months between overseas tours. He was referring to the Army; but the Minister will confirm that it would be impossible for the air force to offer a 24-month gap between tours. A great many RAF personnel have done three tours of duty in a 24-month period—some even more. The strain on those young men and their families is serious indeed.
The young men who perform these frequent tours of duty are never in one place for long, and they are extremely anxious about their careers. The highly skilled technicians whom the Air Force needs to retain are worried about whether their promotion prospects have been slowed down. They are worried that they may not reach the next rank which will allow them to stay in the service.
If they do not, they will be forced out into a world in which there are no jobs, and their great technological abilities will probably be wasted. Young officers, some of whom I know, who are on their fourth tour in a 24-month period, do not know yet whether they will receive permanent commissions, yet they too need to maintain the energy and enthusiasm which the service certainly needs.
The services will not be well served by the contractorisation which, as I said in another debate, leaves Britain with the capacity to defend the realm between 9 am and 5 pm, because civilian firms cannot provide the resources outside that time that the services seem to need.
Defence is not only about people: it is about equipment too. On the last occasion that we debated this subject, I pointed out that the Hercules has been in squadron service for 25 years. Now it is a year older, and it needs replacing, because it is being used more intensively now than ever before. If the Hercules needs replacement because of its antiquity, so too does the Wessex, which entered squadron service some years before the Hercules and which carries our troops in conditions of considerable hazard.
The hon. Member for Tynemouth mentioned the strategic factor. We have also heard about shipbuilding. The Minister tried to tell us that our merchant fleet is large enough to sustain us in a crisis. If it is, it will not be for much longer if its decline continues.
As for engineering, in South Yorkshire we have what is probably the finest engineering steel production capacity in Europe. We have made enormous sacrifices and put in a great deal of investment to achieve that in recent years, but the Templeborough steel works, which produces steel of strategic importance, is to close—not because the quality of its production is poor, or because there have been delivery delays, or because the work force is inadequate.
It is to close because three plants in Europe, two in Germany and one in Spain, are competing with it. None of those plants can compete with the United Kingdom firm, United Engineering Steel, on equal terms, but they remain in competition with it because the German and Spanish Governments give massive state aid to their industries. Our superior plant therefore has to close.
The Minister responsible at the Department of Trade and Industry tells us that we must understand the difficulties facing the German and Spanish Governments in 218 their areas. So we have to bear the costs, despite the fact that unemployment in our area is much worse than in those European areas for which the Minister appears to have some sympathy. The Minister has also assured me that the DTI will serve Britain's national interest. What national interest is served by the slaughter of our merchant marine, our shipbuilding industry and our engineering steel industry?
The Government may be able to manage the armed forces, although increasingly the latter tend to doubt it, but they have shown that they are utterly unfit to manage the strategic requirements of this country.
If Britain is to play the proper part in the world that many of us feel it should, we must return to an economic approach that will make our commitments and obligations achievable. If they are being achieved at present, that is only because, caught between political incompetence and economic inadequacy, our forces are carrying burdens that are becoming intolerable. I honestly believe that, before very long, the Conservative party will have to tell the Government that enough is enough, and that a far wiser approach is essential.
§ 8.5 pm
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
When it was proposed to merge the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Irish Rangers, the Democratic Unionist party warned of the consequences, especially for part-timers in the UDR. It has been clear for some time that the UDR and its part-time members are in the sights of the Republican Government and of certain elements in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the day the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, Garrett Fitzgerald and Dick Spring announced that the agreement would put the UDR out of action.
The vicious attacks launched against the security forces of Northern Ireland, part-timers in particular, are testimony to their effectiveness and their dedication to duty. Twenty years ago, a young member of the UDR was murdered. This week, his mother died, killed by an IRA bomb.
At the time of the merger, the threat to the part-time element was raised in this House. I remind the House that no proper debate on the merging of the regiments was permitted. Indeed, the only Member given the chance to speak in the debate—myself—was guillotined, and no other Ulster Member was allowed to speak.
We were, however, given certain assurances. But the Minister of State for the Armed Forces has supplied my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) with figures showing that, since 1990, the part-time element in the UDR and the RIR has decreased from 3,075 to 2,794; and the number of recruits taken on each year has also declined, from 843 to 407. So, during this crucial period, the number of part-timers has fallen by 10 per cent.—in line with the Dublin-led demands for the phasing out of the part-time element.
There has been a steady reduction in the part-time element ever since the late 1970s, in fact, and the trend has accelerated even as Dublin applies the pressure.
I am also perturbed by the fall in the number of recruits to the regiment. There has been a 50 per cent. drop in the number of soldiers joining it since 1990. The 1992–93 total of 407 compares poorly with totals of between 1,300 and 1,600 in the late 1970s.
The people of Northern Ireland are at present faced with an upsurge of killing and terrorism on all sides. They need 219 to know that the security forces, and the part-time elements in particular, will be maintained and strengthened, and that the IRA will not be given the massive boost of seeing the part-time element eliminated.
I have listened with interest to what Ministers have said about the part-time elements of the security forces. I was surprised that the former Minister for the Armed Forces, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton), talked as he did in the House yesterday. He talked about getting outside operators in, for example, to guard the Maze prison. There are already people who are trained to do that. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that they be sacked to make way for new people who need to be trained? The problem could be solved by using the people who are willing to give their services.
I was also surprised that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have joined the "Troops Out" movement. He said yesterday that, although he did not want a radical measure, he thought that the Government could achieve their goal by withdrawing a battalion from Northern Ireland every six or 12 months. It would not be long until there were no troops there at all if that were done. The right hon. Gentleman also said that, the longer the British Government continue to talk to Dublin, the more they give the IRA the impression that they could leave the United Kingdom altogether with one more push. That is unnerving people.
I suggest that the British Government should deal with the claim that the Dublin Government have over a territory of the United Kingdom. Having dealt with that claim, the oxygen would be taken from the IRA, and it would realise that there was no hope for its campaigns.
However, I cannot accept the assurance that was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East that there is no hidden agenda. That is because of the stark facts before us, and the well-signposted intentions of the Dublin Government, the Social Democratic and Labour party and others who have been prominent in the pan-nationalist attacks on the Ulster Defence Regiment through the years.
The Minister has admitted that the trend of steadily reducing the number of part-timers will continue, at a time when terrorism is on the upsurge. The people of Northern Ireland are convinced that the rundown of the part-time element will continue until it is no longer of any significance, when it will be done away with altogether. Such a betrayal of the part-timers would be an insult of the highest magnitude to the many who have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their Queen and country. The UDR has lost more of its members than any other section of the armed forces. That would be another victory for the IRA and for their fellow travellers.
The part-timers must be retained, because they are needed. At the height of the recent troubles, it was only because part-timers were available that serious sectarian riots were stopped and the districts affected were policed in a proper manner. I would appeal to the Government tonight to face up realistically to what is happening in Northern Ireland.
People are concerned. We hear that the IRA Sinn Fein leader has come to an agreement with the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), the leader of the SDLP. They have said that they now have a plan and, if the plan can be further negotiated, all will be well. The next time the Sinn Fein 220 leader opens his mouth, he is defending the violence and the bombing. He also tells us that there can be no peace until everyone has got around the table. They will decide how peace can be achieved. The IRA could turn off the violence simply by ceasing to bomb, kill and maim.
I trust that the Government will recognise their responsibilities within the United Kingdom. I welcome the fact that the Minister for the Armed Forces has left in the Library copies of correspondence that give the figures for recruitment to the UDR and Royal Irish Rangers through the years. Hon. Members should read it for themselves to see what is happening in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
I was delighted to hear the announcement from the Government that, after a considerable delay, they were going to give a £200 million order to Royal Ordnance.
It was not long ago when Royal Ordnance was bought with British Aerospace. One of the major announcements was that the Bishopton Royal Ordnance factory was to close. I remember that, at the time, everyone said that it would close. The work force fought vigorously and showed the country that they were a caring and dedicated bunch of workers. They were committed to the defence of the country as much as the soldier on the front line. They wanted to work and to contribute to the country. That battle was won, and they have won the right to continue to work in Bishopton. I am glad to say that the factory is still open, and that there are 430 workers still there.
What worries me is that over 600 workers have now left. I can assure the House that those people will probably still be unemployed, languishing on the dole, scramblingm about looking for work and still trying to live on the pitiful dole money that the Government provide for the so-called unfortunate unemployed.
What happened to the grand statements made by the Government about diversification? They have done nothing for the former workers at the Royal Ordnance factories. I can assure the Minister that the workers were delighted to hear today's announcement. However, why was there a huge delay? The announcement could have been made months ago, and we would not have lost all of the jobs that have gone.
I heard the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) talking about jobs that were created in his constituency, including "75 bean counters". I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I would be quite happy to get some of those 75 bean counters jobs in my constituency. Do hon. Members remember what the Minister said? He replied to his hon. Friend that, in a previous life, he had been a bean counter. I can tell the House that he is certainly not working for a bunch of smarties now.
I have never seen such a dummy Government. They cannot manage the economy and they cannot look after the nation's defence in a sensible way. Thousands of dedicated people who have worked sincerely in our arms industry are looking now at the Government who have mismanaged the economy, run the country into a £50 billion deficit and are now looking to cut their jobs to make a saving for the Government's mismanagement.
During the Falklands crisis, the Bishopton factory workers worked 24 hours a day and sweated blood. That was not just to ensure that they kept their jobs, but to 221 ensure that the soldiers, sailors and airmen had the best equipment and the most accurate weapons, provided by British workers. We must recognise that, when our people produce arms for our people, they work to produce the best. Britain should buy the best. It should not go for the lowest bidder.
It is a joke to say that we should go to foreign people in a war and ask them to provide our weapons. I would not chance it. The people of this country would not like it. The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) can smile all he likes, but I am sure that if he wanted a bullet to put in his gun to fire at the enemy he would prefer a Royal Ordnance factory worker's bullet to anyone else's bullet. He would want one which would work; one which would explode and make sure that his head was not blown off.
Today I met a group of shop stewards. They were men who have worked almost all their life at the Royal Ordnance factory. They have skills. They recognise the changing world more than the Government do. But they also recognise that they have a right to receive a wage to pay their rent, electricity and food bills and to pay for a house, a holiday and all the things that go with a salary. The workers say, "Tommy, if the Government continue in their mad, blundering way, are we going to have a job? Are we going to face the dole?" They do not see the Government doing anything to diversify from products for war into meaningful civil products. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what the Government intend to do.
I intervened lightheartedly in the Minister's speech about the ladies who are training as helicopter pilots. Funnily enough, I mentioned the military helicopter that the Tory party in my area used to raise funds. I received deep, sincere apologies and was told that it would not happen again. The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallic) intervened later to say that I had cast a slur on our helicopter service.
§ Mr. Martlew
It appears that that is not the first occasion on which the Conservatives have used military aircraft for private means. Two years ago, in the south of Cumbria, the Red Arrows put on a display because ii was the birthday of a former Cabinet Minister.
§ Mr. Graham
I am most grateful for my hon. Friend's illumination. The Government have abused their power in every way. They use our military forces for their own needs and even to fill their coffers—probably because Asil Nadir did not give them enough. They use a helicopter to make a few bob.
There is no way that I would cast a slur on any of our service men. My late father fought for this country for nine bloody years. He died when I was 19. I am proud of my father and of his record as a sailor in the Royal Navy. I would never cast a slur on the men and women who fight in the front line for this country. The hon. Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) can smile all he likes. People like my father made it possible for him to sit where he is.
Clearly, the world is changing. There is a major split in the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom. I watched the previous Prime Minister talking about the special relationship on television the other day. What a load of nonsense. Mr. Clinton is saying to the United Kingdom, "You are on your own," because he does not get what he wants. Europe does not get what it wants. The special relationship is nonsense when it 222 comes to countries looking after their own. I should like to see a special relationship not just with America but with all parts of the world.
I would like to see the defence bill reduced, but not if we put the country at risk. We are seeing revolutions all over the place in Russia. The most terrible civil war is raging in Yugoslavia. I hope that Britain will ensure that our defence is such that nothing like that will ever happen here.
§ Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) on his speech. We were not laughing at his serious points. We laughed only at his jokes—those that we could understand.
We expect our armed forces to rise to the occasion, whatever it may be, in emergencies. We turned to them in 1990 before the Gulf war, in 1982, and today in Bosnia and Northern Ireland. We must play fair by them. The men and women of our armed forces want to know what is their future. The recurrent complaint in the mess and barrack rooms around the British Isles is not about boots or food, as it normally is. In the language of the trooper, they are saying, "What the — is our future going to be? What is going on?"
"Options for Change" promised a different future. It promised a versatile future after the cold war. The Secretary of State at the time told the House that "Options for Change" would be followed by stability. I fear that the opposite is the case. We have seen considerable cuts since 1991, but no real change in policy. Policy and resources are no longer compatible. Our forces are double or even triple-hatted in their roles. The position seems likely to get worse rather than better.
The armed forces are still a respected institution, made up of high-calibre professionals of all ranks. They remain well equipped and well trained, backed by an excellent defence industry. They are respected at home and abroad. They are successful, reliable and without parallel in the world. They are able to defend the United Kingdom and our national interests whenever they are called upon. Are they not the sort of armed forces that we want? Before we make any change, we must decide what change is desirable.
It is already planned to reduce all armed forces. For example, it is planned to reduce the Army to 119,000 people. That will be the smallest since 1840, when the population of this kingdom was half what it is now. So proportionately we are reducing the Army to smaller than it has been for more than 200 years, before the Napoleonic wars. Yet we cannot get sufficient good recruits into Sandhurst. There is concern about manning and strength in all units.
The question we must ask is, "What sort of armed forces do we want?" Do we want an all-arms capability? Do we want to fight tank wars in the desert and engage in counter-terrorism in Northern Ireland? I suggest that we do. If we give up capabilities, we cannot resuscitate them overnight. We will lose ability, training, experience and equipment. It takes a long time to restore those things. If we withdraw from Belize—as we are doing—we shall endanger the jungle warfare skills that took years to learn in world war two. We may not need them tomorrow, but who can say when we may need them again?
223 If we want a wide range of options, we need the equipment, training and troops for them; we need decisions on equipment. I was delighted to hear the decision on ammunition announced today. But we cannot have a Treasury freeze on future contracts for ever. Decisions on batch 2 Trafalgar class, replacement of the C130, Challenger 2 and minehunters need to be made swiftly because we are asking the armed forces to carry out the tasks listed in the excellent estimates. We must give them the tools for the job in future.
Long-term planning and stability is also essential. That involves equipment contracts, training and organisation. They all take time to get right and put into place. To attract high-calibre armed forces we must offer them a future for however long a person wishes to serve—be it three years or longer. Paradoxically, stability will be achieved by conducting a review of our capabilities, commitments and resources. It is a paradox that at present we have no stability and no review. We need to ask what armed forces we want and what we want those armed forces to be able to do.
Whatever happens, there must be stability, so that our armed forces will know what the future holds for them. Their morale is low and they will vote with their feet, as many are already doing. We have a duty to them to quote yesterday's speech by the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Robathan
I am afraid that I will not.
Defence estimates consider various roles and tasks. At the moment we cannot identify potential enemies, and all certainties have changed. Two weeks after the worst fighting in Moscow since the Bolshevik revolution, it is almost beyond belief that we should be considering further defence reductions.
With nuclear proliferation in north Africa and the middle east, events in the former Yugoslavia, Georgia, the Ukraine and Azerbaijan, let alone in Africa where the USA is contributing so well to peace in Somalia while in Angola and Sudan awful civil wars continue, the world is not a safer place. Russian submarine activity is almost at its pre-1989 level. I hear that Russia has launched 12 new nuclear submarines in the past year. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that.
Confusion and instability abound in international affairs, and they are matched only by confusion and change in our armed forces and in the Ministry of Defence. Commanding officers are being asked to plan for 3 per cent. savings next year. As they cannot cut pay, they have to cut training, operations or manpower as a whole. Will they be asked for further paring of resources? Is the Ministry of Defence budget being planned for 119,000 soldiers or is a shortfall being built in to make matters worse? There is an incoherence in policy which might be rectified by review.
If we cut defence spending as a soft option, in 25 years many of today's political arguments will be largely forgotten and irrelevant. In the middle of the next century nobody will recall the level of social security benefits in 1993, but people will recall whether we had been unable to 224 maintain national security or our interests in a crisis or conflict. That will be remembered, and those responsible will rightly be blamed.
Baldwin and Chamberlain, both good men I am sure, have not been kindly treated by history. I was always taught to speak softly and carry a big stick. I urge the Government to ensure that we continue to speak softly, to wield our influence in international affairs and to have a stick to hand if it is needed; otherwise, in future I am unlikely to be able to support the Government's defence policy.
§ Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)
I support the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), which would be seconded, if they were allowed to, by the vast majority of those who voted for these policies at the recent Labour party conference. I support the amendment because of its fairly basic propositions: first, that our current defence thinking is woefully out of touch with the realities of the modern world; secondly, that we need a wholesale review of our international and defence thinking; and, thirdly, that a profound redirection of our defence spending and priorities is long overdue.
I contrast the realities of the outside world with the issues that frequently seem to obsess the House. I attended a recent conference of the International Peace Bureau in London. It was attended by delegates from all over the world who spoke about the greatest threats to peace and stability in their respective regions. It included delegations from the Caribbean, the middle east, Africa and southern Asia, and I was astonished by the commonality of the issues that they raised.
They spoke about poverty and starvation and the primary threat of environmental disaster. They also spoke about the threats of regional and civil conflict and many of them echoed the comments by Boutros Boutros Ghali in the UN document "The Agenda for Peace 1992":Poverty, disease, famine, oppression and despair abound, joining to produce 17 million refugees, 20 million displaced persons and massive migrations of peoples within and beyond national borders.These are both sources and consequences of conflict that require the ceaseless attention and the highest priority in the efforts of the United Nations. A porous ozone shield could pose a greater threat to an exposed population than a hostile army. Drought and disease can decimate no less mercilessly than the weapons of war.So at this moment of renewed opportunity, the efforts of the (UN) Organisation to build peace, stability and security must encompass matters beyond military threats to break the fetters of strife and warfare that have characterised the past.I contrast those comments with ones that I heard when I visited NATO headquarters and spoke to people there about the threats to peace. Far too often they were bedevilled by a language which was obsessed by the cold war and by images of a world constrained by notions of aggression and deterrence.
I listened with interest to the Khmer Rouge band of the Tory right—those who are most obsessed by market forces and whose lexicon appears to extend little beyond the notion of the words "cut" and "privatise". However, they make special pleas for not cutting defence while advocating a defence posture that is driven by the belief that we can somehow threaten or bully our way through the 225 threats to our existence in the rest of this century and in the century ahead. That is not the way to peace, stability or security.
As an example, I should like to focus on the issue of Trident. The otherwise gung-ho privatisers, in their enthusiasm for continuing expenditure on Trident, should ask themselves how it addresses any of the threats or conflicts in the past decade. Almost the only conceivable use for Trident would be to fill the warheads with a combination of spam and veggie-burgers. We could give advance notice of targeting and send the missiles as food convoys, delivered to their doorsteps as drive-in diners for the dispossessed.
Trident is no deterrent to the many people who are in the process or on the verge of mass migration resulting from fear for their survival. Trident offers no deterrence to hunger, homelessness or starvation. Most of us would take the opportunity to flee if we were faced with the same threats in this century and in the century to come.
There must be an enormous rethink of our priorities, and I shall address some of the possibilities. We must ask two questions about our conventional defence policy. They are, first, what conventional forces are needed to defend this country from attack and, secondly, what forces do we need to honour our international peacekeeping obligations? Beyond that we must move to a different notion—from peace keeping to peace-building. That is the area in which we must move profoundly from our past thinking.
We must acknowledge that the challenge of the next century may well be to take on board the notion of a massive resource shift from NATO to the United Nations. We must face the nuclear paradox because we cannot convincingly say to the rest of the world that it must move away from nuclear proliferation while we reserve the right to retain and increase nuclear weapons. We cannot credibly hide behind the argument of a test ban treaty while we reserve the right to continue testing ourselves.
The House should examine the resolution moved in the House of Representatives by Mike Kopetski, in which the United States proposes to levy charges for the entire cost of restoring areas, such as the Nevada desert, used as test sites. Those costs would be levied against the country that wishes to test in the area. That is a real and significant cost that our Government could face in the future.
We need to say clearly to the public that there is no credible place for nuclear arms in the defence and security system that we must develop. We need to face up to the fact —as I have been trying to do with workers in the Royal Ordnance factory in my constituency—that the future lies not in squandering skills but in using them, in engineering and design, to move from building for war to building for peace. It is the "swords into ploughshares" argument made real.
Those on my Front Bench must be aware that it is no good saying that we want a commitment to a defence diversification industry if we do not start to develop such a policy before we go into government. We need to enter into plans with workers from those industries now so that they know the jobs that they will be doing from day one of the next Labour Government.
We must also face up to redirecting our spending priorities. We have to reduce them to the level of the European average, which in this case would mean the redirection of up to £8 billion. At the same time, we must think the unthinkable—that it may not be relevant or desirable for Britain to retain its place on the Security 226 Council. That would be the biggest challenge that we could face. Our priority should be to set up a conflict resolution council or a preventive diplomacy council under the United Nations. The House and the country should rise to that challenge.
We must address the fact that the future stability of Britain and Europe will be found not through threats of war but through guaranteeing that we can live our lives, in the words of John Dos Pasos,not afraid, not hungry, not cold: not without love.That will not be achieved if we follow the siren voices of the men from the Maginot line who want to keep up the strategy forged in cold war who believe that, with a few more bricks, the world will be a safer place. It will not be, and unless we face the reality of those challenges, we shall betray the future safety of our children and our children's children.
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson). I have three simple points of my own to make. First, it is not just the world which is a more dangerous place, but we face greater dangers than are suggested in the White Paper. Secondly, even within our existing long-term costings, there is a gap between the funds available and even the much smaller level of forces that we plan. Thirdly, we need a strategic review, not a measuring of commitments to resources but a serious look at wartime capabilities and a matching of those with resources.
I am an admirer of Boris Yeltsin, but if an historian today were to compare the Weimar Republic of the 1920s with the present regime in Moscow, and did not know the end of either story, he would notice that the Weimar Republic could draw on a limited pre-1914 democratic experience and on a tremendously successful pre-1914 capitalist past. In contrast, Russia today has neither, and the Russians, unlike the Germans, are a notoriously ungovernable people. Boris Yeltsin today is in power only because the general staff chose to allow him to stay there. The coming elections will take place only because of their agreement.
The situation in Moscow, which has been mentioned by several of my hon. Friends, would be of great worry and concern to statesmen of previous generations. Yet today, the situation is different, because we are dealing with a country that has over 20,000 nuclear weapons and enormous stocks of conventional weapons. It is true that many of them are now unserviceable, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) said, Russia is continuing to build weapons at a great rate.
§ Mr. Brazier
If my hon. and learned Friend will forgive me, I will not, because others are waiting to speak.
That brings me to the other serious danger we face—nuclear proliferation. The break-up of the Soviet Union has meant that 3,000 nuclear scientists and tens of thousands of nuclear technologists have uncertain futures. Jane's Intelligence has calculated that as many as seven new countries, most of them in the middle east and north Africa, will acquire nuclear weapons during the next five years. The Uranium Institute in London has calculated that Saddam Hussein was only 18 months from the bomb when he invaded Kuwait. If he had waited another couple of 227 years, we might have been faced not with deterring but actually with fighting a nuclear armed aggressor. The Government should be publishing their assumptions about those sectors. The White Paper is strong on activities but short on analysis of the threat.
What is our response to the threat? We shall be cutting the resources available for defence from 5 per cent. of GDP in the mid-1980s to 3.2 per cent. in the year after next, even before any further cuts. The percentage of our budget spent on equipment is at its lowest since we took office and will decline over the next three years to a lower level than at any time under the previous Labour Government, so that quality as well as quantity is bound to decline. Stocks of ammunition and spares are both in desperate shortage and training is being cancelled. Inevitably, morale has plummeted.
Worst of all, we are slipping into a peacetime model in which the configuration is being driven by considerations of peacekeeping in Bosnia, of maintaining the blue line in Cyprus, and of providing an extra battalion or two in Ulster. We are losing sight of the necessity to provide high-tech, high-capability forces to defend the country from a real threat. That is why we need a strategic review, oriented towards deciding the priorities and what wartime and military capabilities we want to keep. Only then can we decide what we can afford in the way of peacetime commitments.
If we wish to keep the NATO alliance together, the vital requirement, as a number of hon. Friends have said, is to keep America committed to Europe. I have just been lecturing in the United States and I ended with some meetings on Capitol Hill. The Government are right to resist President Clinton's calls for us to intervene in Bosnia, but we are simply fooling ourselves if we believe that Uncle Sam will continue to bear a disproportionate part of the west's burden if we and our European allies continue to cut, cut and cut again so as to maintain our social programmes.
I expect that three points would come out of a strategic review. First, the emphasis must be on the high-tech and the highly capable. We need a tactical air-launched nuclear weapon—not an expensive Rolls-Royce such as TASM, but a cheaper option, independent of Trident. Secondly, we must keep the armed forces as an attractive career. We cannot expect service families to continue to tolerate the unacceptable levels of separation. Much of the housing is squalid and service men's wives face terrible disadvantages in trying to find employment.
Thirdly, there must be an imaginative use of reserves. Lack of time prevents me from dwelling on that subject. I heard what my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said to me yesterday, but the process that he is conducting now is based on a paper that contains nothing that has not been proposed many times before. The process is identical to all the previous unsatisfactory reviews. We need an independent review of the reserve forces led by a civilian with reservist experience. I have suggested a number of names to my right hon. and learned Friend.
I end where I began. We face considerable dangers in the world today. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby said, in 30 or 40 years' time, nobody will remember our level of spending on health or social security. Do the Government wish to go down in history as the Government 228 who disarmed at a time when, to our east and potentially to our south, the world was sliding increasingly into a nuclear armed chaos? I shall be voting with the Government tonight. I hope that it will not be the last occasion on which I vote with the Government, whom I have loyally supported in the past five or six years, on defence issues.
§ Mr. Jamie Cann (Ipswich)
I come from East Anglia. I am a new boy here, there are many bases in East Anglia and I represent a marginal constituency. All those factors ensure that I talk to many people in an area where people know something about the services. I do not pretend to be an expert on the subject, but I should like to pass on to the House the views that are expressed to me and the views that I share.
I followed carefully the speech of the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan), who I believe is an ex-Army officer, and I consider much of what he said to be correct.
For a number of years, Britain has had three overlapping defence objectives: first, to ensure the protection and security of the United Kingdom and any dependent territories; secondly, to insure against a major external threat to United Kingdom and our allies through membership of NATO; thirdly, to work with our partners in NATO, the Western European Union and the United Nations to maintain Britain's wider security interests by concerted action to safeguard international peace and security. Those objectives have been with us for some time now and I am sure that they represent and are fully representative of the wishes of the House and the people of the country.
However, it seems to me and to those in the services to whom I talk that, although our aims are unchanging and are accepted, our capacity to deliver them is increasingly threatened.
I make no criticism of the men and women who run and staff our armed services. They are admired worldwide for their professionalism, compassion, courage and efficiency. What concerns me and many of them is the seemingly annual reduction in the teeth of the services with no reduction—indeed, often unforeseen increases—in their burden.
The utility players of our armed services—the infantry battalion, the RAF squadron, the destroyer and the frigate —grow fewer year by inexorable year. For example, in 1990 we had 50 destroyers and frigates and 50 infantry battalions. Soon, we will be down to 40 battalions and "about 35" frigates. In addition, 65 Phantoms have been taken out of service since April 1990, with no replacement being provided.
The salami slice annual reduction in the cutting edge of our armed forces is not only deeply debilitating to their reactive capacity, but is also, as has been pointed out, devastating to the morale of both ranks and officers. Service men do not understand the logic of selling a ship such as HMS Challenger for £2 million when it was only recently built at a cost of £240 million. They do not understand why 65 Phantoms were broken up for scrap instead of being preserved for any future use, or why four new submarines built at a cost of £900 million had to be sold to the third-world equivalent of Arthur Daley for the price of a cup final ticket.
229 The objectives of our policy are intact and accepted by all. They are even growing. Why, then, are the forces necessary to achieve them being reduced? When I speak to service men of whatever rank, the word used most often in the conversation is "overstretch". The Government are willing the end without being prepared, it seems to many of us, to provide the means.
I should also like briefly to draw to the House's attention the reserve formations, where morale is being severely affected. Many of us have acquiesced in the reductions in the numbers of regular units because of the promised increase in the numbers and roles of reserve units.
We should therefore examine the Government's track record. Let me give an example from near my patch. As late as July 1992, the Ministry was able to state that the Royal Auxiliary Air Force field squadrons were to be retained for the area defence of airfields in times of war. As of this year, such units are under threat of being disbanded.
The case in point is squadron 2623 based at RAF Barham near RAF Honington. It is unquestionably the strongest, best trained and most effective of the six Royal Auxiliary Air Force field squadrons, yet apparently only four are to be retained, with 2623 squadron being one of the two victims—and why?
The uncharitable, among whom I must include myself, say that it is because 2623 is the squadron that is most up to strength, and therefore has the largest pay bill. The fact that it is the most efficient seems to count for nothing. Indeed, it would appear to count against it, as does the fact that a 120-strong reserve unit capable of defending a base in wartime costs only £500,000 a year to maintain in a state of readiness.
The Government could make the equivalent saving by getting rid of 15 people in the Ministry of Defence and their on-costs. Why do we not do that instead? Why is it that, whenever savings are required in the Ministry of Defence they come from the people who work out in the services and not from the people who sit up the road in that palace?
The reductions in the reserve forces tell the same sorry tale as the treatment of the regulars. It is the exact opposite of Theodore Roosevelt's dictum,Speak softly but carry a big stick".The Government talk tough in wonderful Scottish brogue, but they progressively weaken the armed forces year in, year out.
The Secretary of State would have us believe that he is fighting a savage rearguard action against the Chancellor's pressure to reduce the armed forces budget. In reality, there is no difference of principle between them. As Cabinet members, they are responsible for the year-by debilitation of our armed forces. Their only difference is how much further go down that road in any particular year.
In my view, and certainly in the view of the service men I have spoken to, it is time for the Government to come clean. If the Government cannot afford to keep up all the roles of the armed forces, they should reduce the number or the treatment of those roles. If the Government insist on maintaining the same roles as at present, they should fund them properly. Above all, they should tell service men what is expected of them, give them the necessary manpower and equipment and please restrict themselves to a defence review every 10 years or so and leave them to get on with the job.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)
I shall be brief so that others of my hon. Friends may have the opportunity to speak. I congratulate the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Cann) on what he said. He spoke with real feeling and authority, based on his many conversations with his constituents. There was little in his speech with which I could disagree.
I want to devote the few minutes at my disposal to appealing to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement—and he is a friend in every sense—and our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to stand firm. If one theme has run through every speech from both sides of the House, it is that the world is a much less safe and a much more dangerous place now than it was during the cold war. At this time of danger and volatility, the Government's paramount duty—and it is always a paramount duty—is to ensure the defence of the realm and of our national interests. That cannot be done if we arbitrarily cut defence spending.
It is with real reluctance that I shall vote with the Government tonight. I could not support "Options for Change". We won our battle over the Staffordshire Regiment, but it was a small victory. We have cut too deep already and to cut any more would be, from a Conservative Government, a dereliction of duty and a betrayal of our past. It would totally jeopardise our future. In all conscience, that is not something which I could ever support.
During the past two days, we have spoken several times of what has replaced the Soviet Union. None of us knows whether democracy will survive in Russia. I hope that it will and I back President Yeltsin, but things could go wrong even if he wins the election.
The other point that we must bear in mind is that the United States of America is now led by a much less certain and sure-footed leadership than for some time past. I wish President Clinton well and I want a strong and close relationship between our two countries and between the European Community and the USA. However, the fact is that President Clinton, by his prevarication and his uncertain touch, has almost invalidated the very doctrine of the deterrent that has been the basis of successful policy for the past 50 years.
With such a new, inexperienced and untried leader—and in so far as he has been tried, he has been found wanting—leading the greatest nation in the world, there is a greater responsibility than ever on the other nations of the west, and especially on Britain and France as the two permanent members of the Security Council. Because France is still outside NATO in the fullest sense, that means that that responsibility primarily rests on this country.
Many times in the past we have stood alone; many times we have contributed enormously to the defence of freedom and the survival of decent values. We now have a greater responsibility resting on our shoulders certainly than at any time since the last war and, perhaps, during the whole of this century. This is not a time merely to try to balance the books and to say that £1 billion must go. I must tell my hon. Friend the Minister that if that happens, with the greatest possible reluctance I shall go into the Opposition Lobby and I shall try to persuade as many of my hon. Friends as possible to go with me.
§ Mr. Cormack
I am glad about that. If the Government pursue that course, it will be a black day for this country.
We have been talking about press speculation. I do not believe that the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary or any other member of the Cabinet would for a moment seriously contemplate that sort of arbitrary cut in our defence spending—
§ Mr. Cormack
Indeed, the Government could not contemplate any cut in our defence expenditure, save for any proper economies that can always be made and which were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence.
That is my plea to my hon. Friend the Minister. I do not want to part company with him now or at any time, but we must recognise the priorities. Our national priority is the defence of the realm and the safeguarding of this country and all that it stands for. We cannot, at this moment, turn our backs on our greatest responsibility. I appeal to my hon. Friend to give an answer that will reassure us. I hope that long before 30 November we shall have ceased to discuss such a ghastly course. I hope that the Cabinet will knock it on the head very early and very firmly.
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Govan)
Earlier today, I returned from Belize, where I was with 45 Commando, as part of the armed forces placement scheme, and I want to refer to two issues that arose from that visit. I seek clarification of the exact nature of the Government's commitment to Belize. I read with interest the Hansard report of yesterday's debate, in which the Minister of State for the Armed Forces stated:We will enter into discussions with those interested in the region to ensure that Belize continues to prosper as an independent sovereign state."—[Official Report, 18 October 1993; Vol. 230, c. 116.]That leaves much to be desired. It implies that discussions have not yet taken place. With whom are those discussions to be held—the United States alone or the United States and Mexico? Will Cuba or Guatemala be involved? Who is to give Belize a guarantee of continuing independence?
If we are contemplating British involvement in Belize solely in terms of guaranteeing the complete state's territorial integrity, that misses many of the achievements of British troops until now. It does not cover the risk of constant border incursions—perhaps by the Guatemalan army in hot pursuit of Guatemalan guerrillas—or take account of the roles played by British forces in supporting the civil power and helping to restrain illegal immigration, or take any account of the deterrent effect of the presence of British troops on drugs trafficking and the corresponding corruption of civil society that usually follows from that.
Belize has a far lower level of drug money involvement than many other countries in that part of the world, not least because of the presence of British troops. If those troops are withdrawn, a country that is a beacon of democracy in that part of the world—I speak as someone who visited it shortly after a free general election—may slide into the kind of system that is seen elsewhere in the 232 region. We should not view our forces simply as a means of intervening after the event. They should be there to bolster a democratic regime.
My second point relates to the SA80, which has been the subject of previous discussion and of reports claiming that it is satisfactory. That was not my experience when I was in Belize, and is not supported by reports that I received from officers and marines with whom I discussed the matter.
I watched an exercise in the jungle in which two marines walked 150 yards along a trail, firing at targets popped up by instructors. Those marines suffered six blockages in their SA80s. I was told that the same happened on seven of the previous eight runs up that alley. I spoke subsequently to other marines to establish whether that was the general pattern and was told that the same thing had occurred before, and that they were anxious about the safety and security of the weapon.
John Wilkinson and I had the opportunity to fire the weapon, and both of us encountered a series of blockages and faulty ammunition. The weapon did not work and the ammunition seemed faulty. John spent all his time shooting at red targets—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman of the need to refer to the right hon. and hon. Members by their constituencies.
§ Mr. Davidson
I apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was referring to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), who spent all his time shooting at red targets, whereas I at least switched my aim. In any event, both our weapons constantly jammed. I hope that the Minister will establish whether the situation is now satisfactory, obtain appropriate reports and ensure that we are sending marines and other troops abroad with equipment that actually works.
§ Mr. Davidson
I am glad to hear that point. I should be happy if the Minister would consider the matter. He is a fair and reasonable man. I am reassured by the fact that he helped VSEL Kvaerner jointly to receive the order for the helicopter carrier, for which my constituents and I are eternally grateful.
§ 9.9 pm
§ Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)
I am concerned to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Davidson) said about the SA80, which I had understood was a fine weapon. My only experience with it was during a trip to Cyprus, when I took part in a shooting competition and came last, but that was nothing to do with the weapon. My hon. Friend has made a serious complaint. Perhaps the conditions in which that weapon was used in Belize were different from those in Bosnia or Cyprus. I hope that the Minister will take up that matter.
The debate has been a non-event. According to the papers, it was going to be a key debate. It is a key debate, judging by the number of hon. Members present. I fear the worst with regard to the so—called Tory revolt. If I were a Tory Whip, I would go to my Chief Whip and say, "There 233 are a few there; the ones we expected. You might not get away with knocking £1 billion off the budget, but you could get away with £600 million, £700 million or perhaps, if you push it, £800 million. Some of them will never vote for us anyhow, but the rest can be whipped in. There Is no problem." The duty Government Whip, the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, Atcham (Mr. Conway), is smiling.
The debate is similar to manoeuvres. The Government have pulled a fast one. They decided to hold the debate early so that we would not be in receipt of a copy of the defence budget and would not know what cuts were made. The Government took nearly a year to bring the previous statement before the House. It has taken five parliamentary weeks to prepare this statement, and it is all about tactics. The Conservative rebels, if that is what they would like to be called, are being out-manoeuvred, and they know it.
Yesterday's debate was strange. It was admitted that there was a fight going on between the Treasury and the Ministry of Defence on defence cuts. It was a coded message, but it was made. The Secretary of State also admitted that the Labour party was right to call for a full defence review.
The Secretary of State does not have the ammunition to argue with the Treasury about the right defence expenditure, because he has never considered the minimum required for the defence of the realm. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is now threatening—I understand that he did so during a television interview yesterday—that, if there is a cut of -1 billion, he will have a defence review. That sounds like an offer that his Cabinet colleagues cannot refuse. It is ludicrous of him to make such a statement. I suspect that we are in for troubled times.
At the Dispatch Box yesterday, the Secretary of State had the look about him of people—I have seen them often over the past two years—who work for the Ministry of Defence. He appeared to be unappreciated, unsure of his future role, suffering from low morale and thinking about a career change.
In the first 15 minutes of his speech, he told us about the trouble spots he had visited during the recess and the international statesmen he had met. It became apparent that he was looking for a career change—a career in the Foreign Office. I am not sure whether the Foreign Secretary will accommodate him, but I have a feeling that the Secretary of State is looking for a new job, and at a time like this.
What else did the Secretary of State say yesterday? He announced a new classless system of awards for military bravery. That is in line with the Prime Minister's view of a classless society. I would have welcomed the Secretary of State's action if he had not announced one medal to be given solely to officers. That is not acceptable to the Labour party.
It is a pity that, even when we are doing something that should not be contentious, the Government cannot get away from their class background. The changes will not cost a great deal of money, but I suspect that they will create a great deal of trouble. I read in the newspapers today about people who have received such medals in the past, complaining that they have been degraded in some way by other ranks and officers. I suspect that our constituency postbags will receive letters from people complaining about the changes.
Yesterday, the Secretary of State paid tribute to the United Nations forces serving in Bosnia. I agree that without the United Nations forces, and especially the 234 British forces, many more people in Bosnia would have died. Many civilians would have died if the humanitarian aid had not got through.
I visited Bosnia in September. Like other hon. Members who have never seen a conflict before, I was shocked that there was conflict in a country to which many of us had gone for holidays in the past. We thought that the country was civilised. However, there were three different groups of people who were nice to speak to but who hated each other.
I came away with the feeling that it was a civil war and that we should not get involved in resolving the problem of who should win and who should lose. We should be there to help to restore peace. Our troops are doing a good job. If called upon, we should send more troops to police the peace, but we should not try to resolve the problem.
The Prime Minister was probably right to tell President Clinton that, if we took an active part in the fighting in the former Yugoslavia, it would bring down his Government. I do not think that the British people would accept the number of casualties that British troops and other service men would have sustained in that position. I do not think that any Government would have been able to persuade the British people that the fight was worth losing hundreds or thousands of our citizens.
I am critical of the press and the media, because they have not given a balanced view of what is happening in Bosnia.
§ Mr. Martlew
I shall give way in a moment.
When I was in the former Yugoslavia, I visited the Muslim safe area of Gorazde. The day after the peace agreement failed, the BBC World Service said that the Serbs were shelling Gorazde. We insisted to the Bosnian Serb general we were with that we should travel to Gorazde. He did not want to take us, but eventually he did.
We were met by the United Nations and taken into the Muslim safe area. The United Nations told us that there had been no shelling in the town for more than a week. At the same time, the BBC World Service was saying that the town was being shelled. Disinformation has come to this country, just as it has to other countries. There is general agreement on both sides of the House about our policy in Bosnia.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the moment we dropped the first bomb on Bosnia, we would have been seen to be partial by all three sides and our humanitarian aid, which has been the biggest in the world, would have come to an end?
§ Mr. Martlew
The threat was enough to make the Bosnian Serbs think again, and the ploy worked. It could have turned out differently, but it worked. So there is agreement about Bosnia.
The Government agree with Labour Members about the tactical air-to-surface missile. Not only did we say that there was no need for it—we predicted that the Government would scrap it. On 9 February I told the Secretary of State that, in order to save at least £2 billion, the Government should scrap TASM, and I went on to predict that they would scrap it. The Secretary of State replied that that spoke volumes.
on the inadequacy of Labour thought on those crucial issues."—[Official Report, 9 February 1993; Vol. 218, c. 816.]235 Now he has had second thoughts, and that, too, speaks volumes.
The Tories believe in TASM. We were glad to see it scrapped yesterday, but they believe that it should go ahead. The economy is in a shambles, and the Treasury has put pressure on the Secretary of State for Defence to scrap TASM. The Tories are running the economy in such a way that they cannot afford to provide a nuclear weapon that they think is essential.
I am not convinced that there will be a replacement for TASM—we shall have to wait and see. Perhaps, when the Minister replies, he can tell the House how many millions of pounds have been wasted on developing TASM and their nuclear warhead for it, and what the cancellation costs will be. The House has a right to know.
The Minister said that there would be consultation on the reserves, and that he would be asking for comments. If he takes as much notice of those comments as he took of the consultations on the Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, we might as well not bother. On that occasion, he was interested only in saving £10 million, and I suspect that it will not be any different this time. We hope that the Minister will come to the Dispatch Box, so that he can be questioned on that announcement.
A great deal has been said about the Royal Ordnance order. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham), who made a strong speech. He is the sort of man who shouts and carries a big stick. His philosophy is like mine: if British troops are to shoot bullets, they should be British bullets. We saw what happened in the Gulf war. The Belgians were going to refuse to give us artillery shells.
Why, then, have we placed this order with the French? Can hon. Members imagine the French asking us to tender to supply them with ammunition? What nonsense. Where possible, we should build equipment for British forces in this country. It must be of fine quality and at a competitive price. If we do that, jobs will be maintained here. In addition, we should be careful when we export weapons. British troops should not be fired on by British bullets, as happened in Iraq. The Government have a bad record on that.
The hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) and the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin) asked about the EH101. The order was promised six years ago by Lord Younger. At 3.30 am on 27 July 1993, we thought that we were about to hear an announcement. The knights of the shires, including the hon. Gentleman, were present. I was all excited, because I thought that this was how we would win the Christchurch by-election.
In fact, we heard nothing, but we got something. The Minister said that he understood that there was a possibility of a Dutch order. He had had a word with his Dutch counterpart and—nod, nod, wink, wink—it looked as though everything would be all right. That obviously did the trick, because the order went to the French.
I understand that the Secretary of State for Defence went to Yeovil, as I did. No doubt he saw the commitment of the work force and of management. I understand also that the Chancellor of the Exchequer took away the Secretary of State's cheque book. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence told us tonight that the 236 Secretary of State would not be allowed to place that order until after the Budget. What a situation! It is six years since the Government promised to place the order: the allies won the second world war in less time than that.
Yesterday, in a scurrilous intervention, the hon. Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill) suggested that the social security budget should be cut to save defence. I suspect that that was a rehash of his grandfather's famous wartime phrase "guns before butter"—but, in this instance, it was "guns before social security". I do not think that that would have united the country in 1940.
If extra money must be raised for defence, it should be raised through taxation; it should not be taken from the social security budget, and my party will not stand for that.
§ Mr. Martlew
I am sorry; I have a very tight schedule.
In the past, I have referred to the Secretary of State as the grand old Duke of York, and as one of the "donkeys" described by Alan Clark. Tonight, however, I think that he will be Pontius Pilate: ultimately, he will say, "I wash my hands of this."
I hope that enough Conservative Members will decide to warn the Government with a pre-emptive strike, and join us in the Lobby to tell the Government that they do not believe that defence moneys should be cut further until a review has been completed. I hope that they will vote for the Labour amendment.
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Jonathan Aitken)
In some ways, this two-day defence debate has been unusually sombre, but it has been valuable none the less. It has gone very wide of the White Paper at times, and—naturally—a good deal of attention has been paid to the public expenditure round and rumours of possible defence cuts. I have, of course, taken careful and profound note of the significant number of Conservative Members who have expressed grave reservations on that subject.
The debate has thrown up two main themes, which could be described as "we want a clearer defence strategy" and "we do not want significant defence cuts". I shall address both themes and, indeed, those who developed them. First, however, let me deal with some of the specific points raised by hon. Members. As more than 40 have spoken—over 20 of them this afternoon—I hope that I will be forgiven if I do not mention every speaker, but I will do my best. It will depend on the time that is available.
The hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) asked about HMS Active and the operation that is currently under way near Haiti, under United Nations auspices. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that HMS Active will be under British command and British rules of engagement at all times. Tactical control may be passed to the United States for specific operations, but at all times United Kingdom rules of engagement will apply.
Two hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies—the hon. Members for Fermanagh and 237 South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) —raised important points. I assure them both that the Government have no current plans to withdraw security forces from Northern Ireland: it is our policy there to match force levels with threat levels and we see the present threat level as high.
Indeed, I will go further. We believe that, if the level of support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary were reduced, the number of terrorist attacks would be more than likely to increase. It follows from that that we do not feel able to accept the novel correlation theory—as it is called—of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Hamilton). He is, of course, entitled to his own views, given his new-found freedom; but those views do not yet find favour with Her Majesty's Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) raised some detailed questions about global missile defence. We have been kept in close touch with the thinking of the United States as the strategic defence initiative has evolved. We are aware of the emerging ballistic missiles threat. We have been working to prevent it through various export controls such as the missile technology control regime. We have preliminary studies in hand to consider future medium range surface-to-air missile and we will take ballistic missile threats seriously and carefully into account.
I shall now turn to one of the major themes of the debate: the question of defence strategy. The point has been made by several Members of all parties that our defence policy lacks a coherent strategy. I believe that to be unjustified, but the debate has been enhanced by some good speeches on that subject such as from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the former foreign affairs Opposition Front Bench spokesman, and my hon. Friends the Members for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) and for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) among others.
From the Opposition Benches, the concomitant cry immediately goes up that what we need is a defence review. When I hear that from the Opposition, I do not take it with anything other than a large pinch of salt. We all know that the Opposition's request in this context for a defence review is nothing less than a opportunistic mechanism to cover up the fact that they have no defence policy of their own.
One of the rather amusing features of all our defence debates is the little Punch and Judy show that takes place on the Opposition Benches. No sooner has the Labour Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), bounced up in his usual way to say that the Labour party want a review, than up gets the Liberal party defence spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) who rebukes him in tones of Gladstonian rectitude for what he now felicitously calls the hon. Gentleman's irresistible urge to call for a review. The hon. and learned Gentleman then points out that a review will not provide the answers to difficult questions. With that, we are certainly at one with the Liberal party.
I give greater weight to the more thoughtful arguments put forward by some of my hon. Friends who have asked for a wider concept: a security foreign policy and strategic review of all our commitments. That was emphasised yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) and my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury and others.
In the context of those speeches, I shall turn to the interesting pamphlet "Facing the Future" that was written 238 by 12 of my hon. Friends, several of whom have spoken in the debate: the hon. Members for Wimbledon (Mr. Goodson-Wickes) for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Hargreaves) for Blaby, for Canterbury and others. When a pamphlet is signed by a cabal of my hon. Friends, whose number exceeds the Government majority, it, as Dr. Johnson once said in a different context, concentrates the mind wonderfully. I read it carefully and with some measure of sympathy during the recent recess.
First, I must make friendly criticism of both the views expressed in the pamphlet and of the speeches. Some of the views are set out more in the interrogative than the substantive. In its six pages, the pamphlet asks well over 50 questions, many treble and quadruple-hatted. Some of those questions, I am bound to say, are answerable only by a Minister of clairvoyance. For example, the pamphlet asks:Can we rely on the same commitment of interest holding together the Atlantic alliance over the next 40 years as has sustained it over the previous 40? What are the foreign policy implications of any alternative assumptions we might adopt, or vice versa? . . . Once we have answers to these questions of strategy and doctrine, others will need to be addressed. What changes, if any, do we need to make in numbers, training and, equipment? Do we need more or fewer men, tanks, helicopters, fighter interceptors, stand-off missiles, frigates or carriers? What is the scope for greater specialisation of roles?And so it continues into a further flurry of broad-brush interrogatives.
The sheer scope and breadth of such questions highlights the difficulty that we all face. The plain fact of the matter is that we have had a bonfire of the certainties that prevailed in defence and foreign policy for the 45-odd years of the cold war. Those old certainties have not been replaced with new certainties. We all agree that the world remains a dangerous place, but there is not much agreement about which of the current dangers and uncertainties pose a real and immediate threat to our security or that of our friends and allies.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
Has not President Clinton told the United Nations that his top priority is non-proliferation? Why cannot the Government make that their top priority as well?
§ Mr. Aitken
Of course the Government support the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and drive to achieve it. They have said so unequivocally, so there is not—as the hon. Gentleman seems to be suggesting—any great difference between us and the United States. I deplore the attempts of some journalists, too many commentators and some hon. Members to drive a wedge between ourselves and the United States. The differences between us are minuscule compared with the great interests that keep us together and will do so for many years.
The old certainties have not been replaced with new ones. There is not too much agreement as to which of the current dangers and uncertainties pose an immediate threat to our security or that of our friends and allies. In those circumstances, perhaps the White Paper that we are debating carries more strategic weight and credibility than some of my hon. Friends seem to have thought on first reading it.
§ Mr. Brazier
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has been generous in the amount of time that he has devoted to our little paper. The central message that it was designed to convey was that, since the big changes, we have received from the Ministry of Defence an enormous and 239 unprecedented volume of detail on existing activities, but less information than ever on underlying assumptions, even on issues on which MOD must hold a view.
Those issues include questions such as, how many years, in a broad sense, may we expect before some of the middle eastern powers start to acquire nuclear weapons? Such matters need to be debated in public, and we can then settle questions of priorities—obviously, we cannot afford everything. The problem is that, without such a debate, we end up being pushed along by what is urgently needed in terms of our peacetime commitments instead of what is important in defending vital British and western interests.
§ Mr. Aitken
My hon. Friend is perfectly right to draw attention to the potential menace of nuclear powers in the middle east. It is worth reminding ourselves that, despite all the intelligence skills available on both sides of the Atlantic, no western power was aware of how close Iraq was to becoming a fully fledged nuclear power until the invasion of Kuwait and the aftermath of that conflict revealed the depth of Iraq's nuclear capabilities. My hon. Friend's warning is well taken, but I am not sure that we will achieve any greater accuracy of information than before the Gulf war. We are striving to achieve that, but I am not sure whether my hon. Friend's example is a particularly good one.
A review, of whatever sort, creates uncertainties, and an ongoing review effects the morale of the armed forces. The Government do not believe that the time is right for such a review. I agree with the words in the leader of today's edition of The Times:What is needed is not a cumbersome defence review, whose findings will be out of date as soon as they are published, but a rolling response to the changing world.We must consider the acid test of a rolling response. When I read my hon. Friends' pamphlet, I found that some of the passages, particularly the section entitled "War and Proliferation Closer to Home", echoed John F. Kennedy's seminal work, "Why England Slept". I read those warnings, hear the warnings given in today's debate and return to the White Paper to ask: can we defend ourselves or at least get ready to defend ourselves against such potential threats within the strategy and capability of the White Paper? The answer now is a firm, "Yes, we can." Although I say that we can defend ourselves well now and have strong defences now, if we are to believe the rumours in the press, there seems to be a sword of Damocles hanging over our debate. There seem to be profound anxieties about the effect on defence of the current expenditure round. The debate has been notable for the stern warnings from the Back Benches. By John F. Kennedy's definition, England is clearly not sleeeping at this hour, because my hon. Friends the Members for Upminster, for Staffordshire, South, for Canterbury and for Blaby all said ominous words about their fears and gave warnings of what they might be compelled to do in political and parliamentary terms.
Once or twice in the debate over the past two days, as we talked about cuts, I heard echoes of the ancestral voices of the great Tory parliamentarians of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Leo Amery, Duff Cooper and Brendan Bracken.
Let me come to the big issue of cuts, because, in a major debate about defence spending, I can well understand that some of my hon. Friends wish to warn the House about the 240 dangers, as they see it, of a cut, or cuts, too far. The air is indeed full of rumours. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster, who leads our Select Committee, these days speaks with the authority, expertise and political clout equivalent to Sam Nunn in the United States Senate. My hon. Friend has done us all a service in giving the warnings that he gave today.
I am not against warnings, or even warning shots, but there is a real danger that, without sight of the figures, the proposals or counter-proposals, which are all part of the ebb and flow of public expenditure round of discussions, some of my hon. Friends may fall too easily into believing in a stereotype of stagey confrontation, which may turn out to be far removed from the collegiate discussions that can result in settlements that uphold, as we all hope, a strong and realistic defence posture for Britain.
Before we get to the tabloid or war comic versions of "Treasury Guns for Defence" or our more colourful military response for that over-dramatised scenario: "Bombs Away over the Chief Secretary's Office", let me try to offer the House some conciliatory thoughts on an issue about which Treasury and Ministry of Defence interests do and should meet: value for money in defence spending.
You, Madam Speaker, may or may not be aware of that vivid Pentagon phrase, "Getting more bangs for the buck". In our more restrained way, we in the Ministry of Defence talk of concentrating resources at the sharp end, and, above all, of ensuring that we spend as much as is humanly possible on the front line. I cannot emphasise too strongly the primacy of the front line and the need to give spending priority to it. It is fundamental to the philosophy of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and his entire ministerial team.
It is our priority also to give stability to the funding for the front line, to its manpower and equipment. Even if we have to make difficult and painful decisions elsewhere in the defence budget, we believe that to be the right priority for our defence system, and we are making good progress on that. Many new brooms are sweeping hard to achieve our objectives.
We have a good tale to tell on efficiency savings, because since 1988, as my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster was good enough to acknowledge and praise in his speech, we have secured 2.5 per cent. efficiency improvements, and plan to do so through to 1996–97. By then we shall have reduced the cost of the defence programme by some £3 billion sterling.
If we ask ourselves whether we have done enough in that direction, the honest answer must always be, "Well, not yet." In a budget of more than £23 billion, there are bound to be areas where the quest for value for money has not prevailed as well as it should. We are getting to grips with that problem and are determined to come to closer grips with it. We have had a glimpse of far more radical efficiency savings possibilities as a result of the important lessons that we have learnt from our £1.2 billion market-testing programme, particularly the Army's share of it.
It is the Army that has set the pace in recognising that there are massive areas of support expenditure which can just as efficiently and more cost effectively be delivered to the front line not by service men or women in uniform but by defence industries or by leaner in-house teams of civilians after bidding competitively against each other.
241 For example, right now in the Army Base Repair Organisation, some quite remarkable savings and changes are being made as a result of the spur of competition in the support area. The overhaul of a main battle tank, which used to take 34 weeks, now takes a smaller team of skilled workers just 19 weeks to accomplish with no loss of quality.
A complete review of work practices and procedures is taking place at those Army base workshops. Where we no longer need service men, we no longer need some facilities. Even some officers' messes are going in the reorganisation programme. None of this is easy, but the certain end result, whoever wins the market testing competition, is, first, that the taxpayer will be saved tens of millions of pounds, secondly, that many service men will be redirected from the support area to the front line and, thirdly, that the Army will have at least as efficient and good quality support as it receives at present.
I mention the Army's efficiency savings and market testing programme to make the point that not every defence cut means a reduction in defence capability. What is being accomplished at those Army base workshops will, in part, be notched up to the Treasury as a cut. But Army commanders will see them as a gain because service personnel are being released for the front line.
The hard questions that we have been asking of the Army with such impressive responses and results we are now putting to the other services and to the civil service. The civil service cannot be exempt from value-for-money changes in our determined drive to direct maximum resources to the front line.
Again, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster for what he said about the excellence and quality of our civil servants, so many of whom are in no sense administrators or pen pushers but are there almost as part of the front line, going out to the Gulf and other fields of quite dangerous service.
I also accept the point made by the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Cann), a new contributor to defence debates, that perhaps too often civil servants did not bear the brunt of the pressures while the people whom he described so eloquently from his constituency did. We are very much aware of that worry.
I do not want today to go into a catalogue of targets for the radical value-for-money reforms and efficiency savings which my right hon. Friend intends to achieve within our Department, but it is worth saying that, in today's newspapers alone, there are articles which ask the same hard questions that Ministers have been asking internally.
For example, there was a particularly knowledgeable column this morning by John Keegan, the defence editor of The Daily Telegraph. He suggested that the Department shouldundertake an open-eyed rationalisation of its own house".He mentioned the cost of support agencies, the medical services and the white collar administrators, and I agree with his comments there.
In another article, the defence correspondent of the Daily Express, Mr. John Ingham, drew attention to the differences in the size of the support tail per combat aircraft between the Royal Air Force and other air forces.
I draw the attention of the House to such journalistic signposts only because we ourselves are now travelling fast down the same roads in our internal crusade for efficiency and value-for-money savings. I emphasise again that such savings can be substantial in financial terms but, above all, 242 I emphasise that such savings should not reduce the operation effectiveness of the front line of our services. If those are to be our cuts, they are not the sort of cuts on which tears or votes need be shed.
As yet, I do not know the outcome of the public expenditure round, but I hope that I have gone some way towards making it clear where, according to our internal calculations, the priorities should lie.
I said that I would come back to one or two points, particularly constituency points, made by hon. Members. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) referred to Swan Hunter. We have done our best to sustain Swan Hunter in the difficult time that it is now going through. As a mark of our confidence in Swan Hunter's capability, we have recently given it some extra work, but that is a short-term measure. We shall do everything that we can to help the company find a buyer and secure overseas work. More than that I cannot say, except that we very much hope that Swan Hunter will flourish in the future and win competitive bids.
I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth for his warm welcome for the ammunition order that I announced earlier. As to the Challenger 2 decision, we hope to go ahead with this as soon as practicable. This and other major procurement decisions are, quite fairly, coming under careful scrutiny—which, in the present public expenditure climate, is understandable—but our defence capabilities are not in any way being affected. I understand the natural impatience of some hon. Members who have important factories in their constituencies.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
I warned my hon. Friend that I would intervene. Another very important contract that is awaiting decision is for the Hercules replacement. The Hercules is the front-line work horse for all three services and the oldest aircraft are now more than 30 years old and desperately need refurbishing or replacement. I urge my hon. Friend to issue the invitations to tender for the new Hercules replacements as soon as possible after the public expenditure round.
§ Mr. Aitken
I sympathise with my hon. Friend. We need to replace our Hercules fleet—or at least half of it —in the reasonably near future. We have recently placed a contract with Marshalls of Cambridge to look at the options of either refurbishing the existing fleet or buying a new type of Hercules aircraft. That is under consideration at the moment. I certainly appreciate my hon. Friend's point about urgency and I hope to be able to resolve it as soon as possible.
A number of my hon. Friends have commented on the EH101, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin) and for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin). It is an excellent aircraft. We had a good debate about it in the small hours of the morning in July. We hope to be able to move forward but—again because of the extra scrutiny—we are biding our time. We are not losing any defence capability in doing so; it merely emphasises the importance of price and achieving value for money in that contract.
The hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) seems to be a member of the Labour party. He takes tremendous pride in the work force of the rearmament and stronger armament wing of the Royal Ordnance—quite rightly so—and it was moving to hear 243 him say how he took tremendous pride in his father's military service. If his attitude represented the heart and soul of the modern Labour party—I wish it did—there would be nothing wrong with that. I thank him for his robust contribution to the debate.
As I have talked about at least one Opposition Member who has robust views on defence, I think that it is right that we should have a little fun with the Labour party's general defence policy. The Labour party likes to pretend that it had a very good conference. Well, on defence, it did not. There was a great deal of military posturing around, led by the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), the deputy leader of the Labour party for the time being. She played the role of the Grand Old Duke of York; she marched her troops to the top of the hill and then had to march them down again.
The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman on defence, seemed to be applying for the extraordinary new role of milliner general to the armed forces. A phrase in his speech could have come from the lips of Hardy Amies or the late Norman Hartnell when he said that he was proud of our boys in Bosnia who were "wearing their blue bonnets". I do not know wether he was playing the role of the mad hatter or whether he buys his wife an Easter beret, but I hope that he polishes up on his military terminology before he next visits the Royal Marines or the Paras.
Then there was the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott). He was playing Rupert of the Rhine—charging off wildly in all directions, exhorting the troops in an incomprehensible language and then telling everyone that he had won the first battle of the civil war single-handed.
Meanwhile, however, the ironsides of the trade unions were regrouping. They were regrouping so effectively that the following day in the conference they cast their block votes to make the Labour party push through some of the most irresponsible and destructive anti-defence policy motions in the history of left-wing socialism.
Let me remind the House of composite motion No. 48, which instructs the next Labour Government to carry out the immediate scrapping of Trident. By a majority of 52 to 40, the brothers and the comrades passed that reckless reversion to unilateral nuclear disarmament. Evidently, in the new modern Labour party, OMOV washes redder.
The brothers did not stop at throwing away our nuclear defences. They wiped out most of our conventional defences too, for they also passed, by a 79 per cent. majority—let us remember that a two-thirds majority is binding on the Labour party in policy terms—composite motion No. 49, whose effect would be to reduce Britain's defence spending by one third or £7.5 billion. That is the equivalent of removing the whole of any one of the three services or of stopping the whole of Britain's defence equipment orders to Britain's defence industries—indu stries that employ nearly 500,000 British workers.
The Labour party likes to proclaim in its official motion its support in Parliament for its latest new-fangled quango a defence industry diversification agency, but by its votes at the conference it has created in effect a defence industry destruction agency and a defence industry jobs destruction agency, and we will not let its members forget that.
244 It is also illuminating that, of the plethora of motions on the Order Paper, the amendment of the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn)—not the Front-Bench amendment—represents official Labour party policy. With a two-thirds majority, it means just that.
So much for those composite resolutions. Let their epitaph be, dust to dust, ashes to ashes, composites for the compost heap of history. Let us leave the past to Labour and its squabbles, because it is giving the future to us.
The guiding beacon of our Government's policy must be that sound defences and sound money go hand in hand. On the subject of sound money, let there be no doubt that we all share the view that any sense of a return to high inflation, high interest rates or uncompetitive exchange rates would emasculate Britain's defence capabilities far sooner and far more devastatingly than any foreseeable hostile military attacker is likely to do.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was absolutely right, therefore, when he said in his recent speech at Blackpool:The Conservative Government is the Government of sound money or it is nothing.I know, however, that neither my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor nor anyone else will take it amiss when a Defence Minister adds this important rider; a Conservative Government are also the Government of sound defence or they are nothing.
Her Majesty's Government have to confront the challenge, therefore, of how best we should spare the circle between the two imperative requirements of sound money and sound defence. No one pretends that it is an easy task, but after all, government is all about making difficult choices. When we choose, we shall have to temper financial realism with military responsibility.
No one in Government is suggesting that our defence posture should be purely resource-led, but equally our defence posture cannot be unconstrained by resource considerations, because defence expenditure has to take its place within our overall priorities for public expenditure. That is not just a financial calculation. We cannot, to use the familiar cliché, pretend that there should be a level playing field between the finances of social security and the finances of national security.
Defence goes to the very heart of nationhood. It goes to the heart of the beliefs of the British people about themselves; it goes to the heart of our national self-confidence and of our image, responsibilities and role in the world. It goes to the heart of those deepest of national values which are so well exemplified by our armed forces —honour, discipline, duty, loyalty and patriotism. It is with these higher considerations in mind that I know the Government will face the difficult decisions that lie ahead, to reach a realistic and responsible position that maintains Britain's role in the world as a premier military nation with armed forces of formidable skill, scope and excellence. I commend the motion to the House.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 267, Noes 322248
|Division No. 363]||[10.00 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Armstrong, Hilary|
|Ainger, Nick||Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Ashton, Joe|
|Allen, Graham||Austin-Walker, John|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Banks, Tony (Newham NW)|
|Barnes, Harry||Garrett, John|
|Barron, Kevin||George, Bruce|
|Battle, John||Gerrard, Neil|
|Bayley, Hugh||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Beith, Rt Hon A. J.||Godsiff, Roger|
|Bell, Stuart||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Gordon, Mildred|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||Gould, Bryan|
|Benton, Joe||Graham, Thomas|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Berry, Dr. Roger||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Betts, Clive||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Blair, Tony||Grocott, Bruce|
|Blunkett, David||Gunnell, John|
|Boateng, Paul||Hain, Peter|
|Boyce, Jimmy||Hall, Mike|
|Boyes, Roland||Hanson, David|
|Bradley, Keith||Hardy, Peter|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Harvey, Nick|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Byers, Stephen||Henderson, Doug|
|Caborn, Richard||Heppell, John|
|Callaghan, Jim||Hill, Keith (Streatham)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Hoey, Kate|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Hogg, Norman (Cumbemauld)|
|Cann, Jamie||Home Robertson, John|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)||Hood, Jimmy|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Hoyle, Doug|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Clelland, David||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hughes, Simon (Southward)|
|Coffey, Ann||Hutton, John|
|Cohen, Harry||Illsley, Eric|
|Connarty, Michael||Ingram, Adam|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)|
|Corbett, Robin||Jamieson, David|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)|
|Corston, Ms Jean||Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Cousins, Jim||Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)|
|Cryer, Bob||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)|
|Cummings, John||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Jowelh Tessa|
|Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John||Keen, Alan|
|Dafis, Cynog||Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)|
|Darling, Alistair||Khabra, Piara S.|
|Davidson, Ian||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Leighton, Ron|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Dewar, Donald||Lewis, Terry|
|Dixon, Don||Litherland, Robert|
|Dobson, Frank||Livingstone, Ken|
|Donohoe, Brian H.||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Dowd, Jim||Loyden, Eddie|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Lynne, Ms Liz|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||McAllion, John|
|Eagle, Ms Angela||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Eastham, Ken||McCartney, Ian|
|Enright, Derek||Macdonald, Calum|
|Etherington, Bill||McFall, John|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||McKelvey, William|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Fatchett, Derek||McLeish, Henry|
|Faulds, Andrew||McMaster, Gordon|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Fisher, Mark||McWilliam, John|
|Flynn, Paul||Madden, Max|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Maddock, Mrs Diana|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Mahon, Alice|
|Foulkes, George||Mandelson, Peter|
|Fraser, John||Marek, Dr John|
|Fyfe, Maria||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Galloway, George||Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)|
|Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)||Rogers, Allan|
|Martlew, Eric||Rooney, Terry|
|Maxton, John||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Meacher, Michael||Ruddock, Joan|
|Meale, Alan||Salmond, Alex|
|Michael, Alun||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)||Short, Clare|
|Milburn, Alan||Simpson, Alan|
|Miller, Andrew||Skinner, Dennis|
|Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)|
|Morgan, Rhodri||Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)|
|Moriey, Elliot||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)||Snape, Peter|
|Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Soley, Clive|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Mowlam, Marjorie||Spellar, John|
|Mudie, George||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|Mullin, Chris||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Murphy, Paul||Stevenson, George|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Stott, Roger|
|O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|O'Brien, William (Normanton)||Straw, Jack|
|O'Hara, Edward||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Olner, William||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Tipping, Paddy|
|Parry, Robert||Tyler, Paul|
|Patchett, Terry||Vaz, Keith|
|Pendry, Tom||Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold|
|Pickthall, Colin||Walley, Joan|
|Pike, Peter L.||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Pope, Greg||Watson, Mike|
|Powell, Ray (Ogmore)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Prescott, John||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)|
|Purchase, Ken||Winnick, David|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Wise, Audrey|
|Radice, Giles||Worthington, Tony|
|Randall, Stuart||Wray, Jimmy|
|Raynsford, Nick||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Redmond, Martin||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Reid, Dr John|
|Rendel, David||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Richardson, Jo||Mr. Jon Owen Jones and|
|Robertson, George (Hamilton)||Mr. Dennis Turner.|
|Roche, Mrs. Barbara|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Body, Sir Richard|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Alexander, Richard||Booth, Hartley|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Boswell, Tim|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)|
|Amess, David||Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia|
|Ancram, Michael||Bowis, John|
|Arbuthnot, James||Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Brandreth, Gyles|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Brazier, Julian|
|Ashby, David||Bright, Graham|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Atkins, Robert||Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Browning, Mrs. Angela|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Budgen, Nicholas|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Burns, Simon|
|Baldry, Tony||Burt, Alistair|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Butler, Peter|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Butterfill, John|
|Bates, Michael||Carlisle, John (Luton North)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Beggs, Roy||Carrington, Matthew|
|Bellingham, Henry||Carttiss, Michael|
|Bendall, Vivian||Cash, William|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Churchill, Mr|
|Blackburn, Dr JohnG.||Clapplson, James|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hayes, Jerry|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)||Heald, Oliver|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward|
|Coe, Sebastian||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Colvin, Michael||Hendry, Charles|
|Congdon, David||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Conway, Derek||Hicks, Robert|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Hill, James (Southampton Test)|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Horam, John|
|Couchman, James||Hordem, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Cran, James||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)||Howarth, Alan (Strafrd-on-A)|
|Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)||Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)|
|Day, Stephen||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||Hunter, Andrew|
|Devlin, Tim||Jack, Michael|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Dicks, Terry||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Jessel, Toby|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Dover, Den||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Duncan, Alan||Jones, Robert B. (WHertfdshr)|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Dunn, Bob||Key, Robert|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Kilfedder, Sir James|
|Eggar, Tim||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Elletson, Harold||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Knapman, Roger|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Knight, Dame Jill (Bifm E'stn)|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Knox, Sir David|
|Evennett, David||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Faber, David||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Fabricant, Michael||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Legg, Barry|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Leigh, Edward|
|Fishburn, Dudley||Lennox-Boyd, Mark|
|Forman, Nigel||Lidington, David|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Forth, Eric||Lord, Michael|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||Luff, Peter|
|Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Freeman, Rt Hon Roger||McCrea, Rev William|
|French, Douglas||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Fry, Peter||MacKay, Andrew|
|Gale, Roger||Maclean, David|
|Gallie, Phil||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Gardiner, Sir George||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan||Madel, David|
|Garnier, Edward||Maginnis, Ken|
|Gill, Christopher||Maitland, Lady Olga|
|Gillan, Cheryl||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair '||Malone, Gerald|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Mans, Keith|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Marland, Paul|
|Gorst, John||Marlow, Tony|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Mates, Michael|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Grylls, Sir Michael||Mellor, Rt Hon David|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Merchant, Piers|
|Hague, William||Milligan, Stephen|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)||Mills, Iain|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Moate, Sir Roger|
|Hannam, Sir John||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Hargreaves, Andrew||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hawkins, Nick||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hawksley, Warren||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Spring, Richard|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Sproat, Iain|
|Nicholson! David (Taunton)||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Steen, Anthony|
|Norris, Steve||Stephen, Michael|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley||Stern, Michael|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Stewart, Allan|
|Ottaway, Richard||Streeter, Gary|
|Page, Richard||Sweeney, Walter|
|Paice, James||Sykes, John|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Patnick, Irvine||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Patten, Rt Hon John||Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Taylor, John M. (Solihull)|
|Pawsey, James||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Pickles, Eric||Thomason, Roy|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Portillo, Rt Hon Michael||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Rathbone, Tim||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Redwood, Rt Hon John||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim||Tracey, Richard|
|Richards, Rod||Trend, Michael|
|Riddick, Graham||Trotter, Neville|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Robathan, Andrew||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn||Viggers, Peter|
|Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Robinson, Mark (Somerton)||Walden, George|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Ross, William (E Londonderry)||Waller, Gary|
|Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)||Ward, John|
|Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Ryder, Rt Hon Richard||Waterson, Nigel|
|Sackville, Tom||Watts, John|
|Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Whitney, Ray|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Whittingdale, John|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wilkinson, John|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Willetts, David|
|Shersby, Michael||Wilshire, David|
|Sims, Roger||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'fld)|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Wood, Timothy|
|Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)||Yeo, Tim|
|Soames, Nicholas||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Speed, Sir Keith|
|Spencer, Sir Derek||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)||Mr. David Lightbown and|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Mr. Sydney Chapman.|
|Spink, Dr Robert|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 332, Noes 34.251
|Division No. 364]||[10.20 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)|
|Alexander, Richard||Baldry, Tony|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Banks, Matthew (Southport)|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Amess, David||Bates, Michael|
|Ancram, Michael||Batiste, Spencer|
|Arbuthnot, James||Beggs, Roy|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Beith, Rt Hon A. J.|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Bellingham, Henry|
|Ashby, David||Bendall, Vivian|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Beresford, Sir Paul|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Atkins, Robert||Blackburn, Dr John G.|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Body, Sir Richard|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Booth, Hartley||French, Douglas|
|Boswell, Tim||Fry, Peter|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Gale, Roger|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Gallie, Phil|
|Bowis, John||Gardiner, Sir George|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Garnier, Edward|
|Brazier, Julian||Gill, Christopher|
|Bright, Graham||Gillan, Cheryl|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Gorst, John|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)|
|Burt, Alistair||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Butcher, John||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Butler, Peter||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)|
|Butterfill, John||Grylls, Sir Michael|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)||Hague, William|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Carttiss, Michael||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Cash, William||Hannam, Sir John|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Harvey, Nick|
|Churchill, Mr||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Clappison, James||Hawkins, Nick|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hawksley, Warren|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)||Hayes, Jerry|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||Heald, Oliver|
|Coe, Sebastian||Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward|
|Colvin, Michael||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Congdon, David||Hendry, Charles|
|Conway, Derek||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)||Hicks, Robert|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.|
|Cope, Rt Hon Sir John||Hill, James (Southampton Test)|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)|
|Couchman, James||Horam, John|
|Cran, James||Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)||Howarth, Alan (Strafrd-on-A)|
|Davies, Quentin (Stamford)||Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Day, Stephen||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Deva, Nirj Joseph||Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)|
|Devlin, Tim||Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Hunter, Andrew|
|Dicks, Terry||Jack, Michael|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Dover, Den||Jessel, Toby|
|Duncan, Alan||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Duncan-Smith, Iain||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Dunn, Bob||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Durant, Sir Anthony||Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr)|
|Eggar, Tim||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Elletson, Harold||Key, Robert|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Kilfedder, Sir James|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)||King, Rt Hon Tom|
|Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)||Knapman, Roger|
|Evans, Roger (Monmouth)||Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)|
|Evennett, David||Knight, Greg (Derby N)|
|Faber, David||Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)|
|Fabricant, Michael||Knox, Sir David|
|Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas||Kynoch, George (Kincardine)|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Fishburn, Dudley||Lawrence, Sir Ivan|
|Forman, Nigel||Legg, Barry|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Leigh, Edward|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Lennox-Boyd, Mark|
|Forth, Eric||Lidington, David|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Lightbown, David|
|Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Freeman, Rt Hon Roger||Lord. Michael|
|Luff, Peter||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|Lynne, Ms Liz||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|MacKay, Andrew||Shersby, Michael|
|Maclean, David||Sims, Roger|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Maddock, Mrs Diana||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Madel, David||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Maginnis, Ken||Soames, Nicholas|
|Maitland, Lady Olga||Speed, Sir Keith|
|Malone, Gerald||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Mans, Keith||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Marland, Paul||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Marlow, Tony||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Spring, Richard|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Sproat, Iain|
|Mates, Michael||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|Mellor, Rt Hon David||Steen, Anthony|
|Merchant, Piers||Stephen, Michael|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)||Stem, Michael|
|Milligan, Stephen||Stewart, Allan|
|Mills, Iain||Streeter, Gary|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Sweeney, Walter|
|Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)||Sykes, John|
|Moate, Sir Roger||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Monro, Sir Hector||Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)|
|Moss, Malcolm||Taylor, John M. (Solihull)|
|Nelson, Anthony||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|Neubert, Sir Michael||Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)|
|Newton, Rt Hon Tony||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Thomason, Roy|
|Nicholson, David (Taunton)||Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)|
|Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Norris, Steve||Thornton, Sir Malcolm|
|Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley||Thurnham, Peter|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Ottaway, Richard||Tracey, Richard|
|Page, Richard||Trend, Michael|
|Paice, James||Trotter, Neville|
|Patnick, Irvine||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Patten, Rt Hon John||Tyler, Paul|
|Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Pawsey, James||Viggers, Peter|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Pickles, Eric||Walden, George|
|Porter, Barry (Wirral S)||Walker, Bill (N Tayside)|
|Porter, David (Waveney)||Waller, Gary|
|Portillo, Rt Hon Michael||Ward, John|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Rathbone, Tim||Waterson, Nigel|
|Redwood, Rt Hon John||Watts, John|
|Rendel, David||Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Renton, Rt Hon Tim||Whitney, Ray|
|Richards, Rod||Whittingdale, John|
|Riddick, Graham||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Robathan, Andrew||Wilkinson, John|
|Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn||Willetts, David|
|Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)||Wilshire, David|
|Robinson, Mark (Somerton)||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'Id)|
|Ross, William (E Londonderry)||Wolfson, Mark|
|Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)||Yeo, Tim|
|Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Sackville, Tom||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim||Mr. Sydney Chapman and|
|Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas||Mr. Timothy Wood.|
|Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Austin-Walker, John||Cohen, Harry|
|Barnes, Harry||Dafis, Cynog|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||Ewing, Mrs Margaret|
|Gerrard, Neil||Maxton, John|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Purchase, Ken|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Salmond, Alex|
|Gordon, Mildred||Simpson, Alan|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Gunnell, John||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Hood, Jimmy||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Lewis, Terry||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Livingstone, Ken||Wise, Audrey|
|McAllion, John||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Madden, Max||Mr. Bob Cryer, and|
|Mahon, Alice||Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1993 contained in Cm. 2270.