HC Deb 18 October 1994 vol 248 cc148-247

[Relevant documents: The Defence Committee has reported on the Statement oh the Defence Estimates 1994 in its Sixth Report of Session 1993–94, HC 68. The First Report from the Defence Committee on the Programme to Replace or Refurbish the Hercules Transport Aircraft, HC 118; the Third Special Report containing the Government's Reply thereto, HC 511; the Second Report on the Progress of the Trident Programme, HC 297; the Third Report on the Progress of the Eurofighter 2000 Programme, HC 222; the Fourth Report on RAF Commitments and Resources, HC 252; the Fifth Report on the Implementation of Lessons Learned from Operation Granby, HC 43; the Fourth Special Report containing the Government's replies to the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Reports, HC 660; and the Eighth Report on the Defence Costs Study, HC 655.]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [17 October], That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1994 contained in Cm. 2550.—[Mr. Rifkind.]

3.44 pm
Madam Speaker

Before I call the Minister, I have to inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. I must also inform the House that a great many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate. I am therefore putting a 10-minute time limit on speeches between the hours of 6 pm and 8 pm. I appeal to those hon. Members who speak outside those hours voluntarily to limit their speeches so that we can have a good exchange and I can call as many hon. Members as possible.

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Nicholas Soames)

I am very proud to stand at the Dispatch Box to open the debate on behalf of the Government today and to make my first full speech as the Armed Forces Minister. I believe it to be a great honour to have been entrusted with such a high responsibility and to have the chance to work with such exceptional and outstanding people.

In briefly replying to the debate last night, I attempted to deal with most of the points raised. I hope to deal with more of them today. I shall ensure that those points that I do not deal with in any detail during my speech will receive a full written reply.

I should first declare an interest. For a short but very happy period of my life I was a serving soldier. I have always been a great admirer of our armed forces and the ethos and culture that has brought them and us such distinction and honour over so many generations.

In the 12 short weeks that I have served at the Ministry of Defence, I have been deeply impressed by two particular things—first, the great scale and diversity of tasks and operations upon which our armed forces are engaged; and secondly, what I believe to be the unequalled dedication and skill of the men and women who so ably guard the life of Britain and play such a crucial role in promoting our interests overseas.

The scale of tasks is, frankly, quite breathtaking. I want to try today to give the House a flavour of the breadth of that work. As this debate takes place, the Queen's ships are on operational patrols in the Adriatic, the Gulf, the Caribbean, the South Atlantic and in Hong Kong. Elsewhere, HMS Glasgow and the royal yacht Britannia are supporting the state visit by Her Majesty the Queen to Russia; HMS Middleton is in Poland as part of NATO's standing naval mine countermeasures force; HMS Hecla is engaged on a hydrographic survey in the Indian ocean; and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker Brambleleaf is on her way to the West Indies in support of the West Indies guardship HMS Broadsword.

The greater part of the Royal Marines spearhead battalion is now fully deployed in Kuwait. The House will be pleased to hear that 45 Commando group are undertaking reconnaissance patrols and already exercising their very considerable skills. At the same time, soldiers of the British Army are training in difficult conditions in the jungles of Brunei, exercising in Jordan, manning observation posts in Hong Kong and along the green line in Cyprus, and playing a leading role in the formation of the new South African army, and more than 600 troops are currently in Rwanda providing the most remarkable humanitarian aid and assistance. Since their deployment, the British contingent in Rwanda has delivered about 1,500 tonnes of aid and treated in excess of 50,000 casualties. That is a truly remarkable achievement.

There are also 1,500 British soldiers exercising currently on the Suffield plains of Canada, training very hard indeed to maintain our absolutely essential ability still to be able to prosecute a high-intensity conflict. All that is in addition to major operational deployments, in the former Yugoslavia, Northern Ireland and the Falklands.

The House will not forget the Tornados, Harriers and Jaguars of the Royal Air Force, and the Navy Sea Harriers, which are flying hourly in support of no-fly zones over both the former republic of Yugoslavia and Iraq. At the same time, the Hercules force continues the task that commenced on 2 July 1992 to resupply Sarajevo. That is an extremely demanding and very hazardous operation requiring quite exceptional skills and it is conducted by a few, specially trained and very brave crews.

Indeed, it is perhaps worth noting that every operational front-line aircraft type of the Royal Air Force is now committed to tasks somewhere around the world with aircraft being operated from a total of 12 deployed bases.

That is the backdrop against which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, in his speech yesterday, drew attention to Britain's place as a major player on the world stage. It is clear that one of the main reasons that that remains the case is that our armed forces and defence capabilities give us the capability to operate around the world. Their outstanding abilities are rightly held in the very highest regard. Their work should be the cause of the greatest pride for everyone in Britain.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

The Minister is setting out a formidable record, but does he agree that it is important that military standards are at least as high as civil standards? Is not he therefore worried about the Health and Safety Executive's report yesterday about the weapons establishment at Aldermaston saying that had it to meet civil requirements it would have to be closed down as a result of its poor safety standards?

Mr. Soames

The particular point that the hon. Gentleman raised will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement tonight, but as to the main part of his question, I have generally found standards in the military to be far higher than those in civilian life.

I have already given a snapshot of the scale of our activities, and I should like now to mention some of the achievements of our armed forces during the past year.

The Royal Navy plays a full part in developing important bilateral relations. This year, contacts with Russia and other central and east European nations have continued to have a high priority.

Earlier this month, the first joint maritime exercise under NATO's "Partnership for Peace" initiative, Exercise Co-operative Venture, took place in the North sea and Baltic approaches. The destroyer, HMS Newcastle, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Olna, participated alongside ships from Russia, Poland, Lithuania and Sweden, as well as with NATO allies.

This year also saw the renewal of the Royal Navy's close ties with South Africa, which included a marvellously successful visit to Cape Town by the frigate, HMS Norfolk, and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Grey Rover, when some 69,000 people visited the ships during their two-day visit.

The Royal Navy also plays a leading role in a number of other activities. That includes providing assistance in the important fight to counter drug-trafficking. While that is not a dedicated defence task, the services possess specialised equipment and capabilities, which can be and are of great assistance to the civil authorities. They have, in the past year, scored some remarkable successes in that area, helping to recover drugs with a value of more than £30 million.

The prominence given in recent years to the Army's operational commitments, both overseas and in Northern Ireland, makes it easy to lose sight of its presence as part of the mainstream of our life on the British mainland. But we all saw last winter how quickly it was able to respond to local requests for help in the face of extreme weather conditions, notably in January when the Royal Engineers built Bailey bridges to counter the flooding around Chichester.

The Army also plays a leading role in a task that receives little prominence at home, but does a huge amount to cement the most crucial and valuable relationships with other countries and their armed forces, which are extremely important to our national interests—the provision of military assistance to a large number of foreign countries.

That is an activity which we do extremely well across all three services, and our reputation for professional excellence is unrivalled, especially in Africa and the middle east. We currently have eight permanent training teams established in eight African countries.

An outstanding example of that work is South Africa's request for help with the amalgamation of the South African defence force with the armed wing of the African National Congress and other South African forces. To that end we have sent a 34-man team to oversee the integration and training of the new national defence force. The primary role of the team is to validate selection criteria and training standards, to monitor training across all four arms of the South African national defence force—army, navy, air force and medical services—and to act as an honest broker in any cases where disagreements arise between the various services.

Short-term teams are also much in demand to meet specific training requirements. For example, a small contingent of Royal Engineers was in Ghana for 11 weeks last spring to train members of the Ghanaian and Sierra Leone armies in minefield detection and clearance skills. Also, a 10-man team has been in Mozambique since February to validate the training of its unified national army.

On the other side of the Atlantic, following the withdrawal of the Belize garrison, we continue to help train the Belize defence force, besides maintaining a substantial unit to provide training support to our own Army combat groups which will be undergoing jungle training there.

Most recently, a short-term training team based in Puerto Rico played a major part in the Americans' pre-deployment training package for elements of the multinational force for Haiti. The 13-man team were involved in training the combined Caribbean Community and Common Market—CARICOM—contingent currently deployed in Haiti. That has been an outstanding success and greatly valued.

Referring now to the Royal Air Force, Tornado and Harrier detachments have now flown a total of nearly 5,000 sorties to date in support of coalition air policing operations in northern and southern Iraq, and their numbers have of course recently been reinforced in response to the recent build-up of Iraqi forces near the Kuwaiti border.

Royal Air Force transport aircraft also continue to provide aid and assistance to the United Nations. For example, 10 Hercules aircraft assisted in the initial deployment, at extremely short notice, of British troops to Rwanda; Royal Air Force Tristars continue to supply those forces. In May this year, two Hercules aircraft assisted in the evacuation of 154 civilians from the Yemen.

Earlier this month, a Royal Air Force helicopter crew received the Shipwrecked Mariners Society's top air-sea rescue trophy, in recognition of their role in the rescue of 13 crewmen from a junk off Hong Kong during typhoon Becky on 17 September last year. That rescue took place in winds of more than 100 mph and 40 ft waves, and well demonstrates the almost unbelievable courage and skill of our search and rescue crews.

In the first eight months of this year, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy search and rescue helicopters and the Royal Air Force mountain rescue teams have been called out to 1,397 incidents, in which 1,095 people were either rescued or rendered assistance.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

As my hon. Friend is talking about the activities of the Royal Air Force, will he congratulate the officers and men, the ground crew and the air crew who spend up to six months of every year overseas on duty? Will my hon. Friend consider the impact on family life and the dedication that is required?

Mr. Soames

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend. I am delighted to pay tribute to the Royal Air Force in particular, but the same tribute should be paid to the Army and the Navy. I intend to say a little about that matter.

Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)

On search and rescue, the Minister knows that I have a particular interest in my constituency and that I have written to him about the matter. Does he accept, however, that recent incidents, particularly in the English channel, have shown that the removal of search and rescue facilities from RAF Manston has significantly increased response times and that it is likely that lives will be lost as a direct result in what is, after all, the busiest shipping channel in the world?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He and I have indulged in prolonged correspondence. I find myself unable to agree with the view that he expresses. I am quite sure that he does not really believe that the Government would have made any such changes unless they were completely satisfactory. I am completely satisfied that the changes that have been made fully provide for safety.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State touched yesterday on our contribution to the process of extending security to the east, and I should like to elaborate for a moment on that.

As a member of NATO, we are playing a prominent role in promoting the "Partnership for Peace" initiative. So far, 23 countries have signed, including Russia and almost all countries of central and eastern Europe. "Partnership for Peace" is designed to expand and intensify political and military co-operation throughout Europe, and it allows partner countries to decide their own level of involvement.

One aspect of co-operation already under way is that of combined exercising. So far, there have been two PFP exercises, one land-based in Poland and one maritime exercise. A third is due to begin this Friday in the Netherlands. All three exercises involve participation by NATO allies, including the United Kingdom and states of central and eastern Europe, and are seen as tangible demonstrations of the very real partnership envisaged by PFP.

Independently of PFP, the United Kingdom has made extensive efforts to establish bilateral defence relations with the countries of central and eastern Europe, and memoranda of understanding covering formal contact programmes have so far been signed with 12 countries. So far, we have jointly exercised, on a bilateral basis, with Poland—twice—and Hungary, and are examining the feasibility of exercising with the Czech Republic and Romania. We also have plans to exercise with Russia, and trilaterally with Hungary and Germany. Other areas of co-operation include assistance to Russia in the form of nuclear weapon super-containers to improve the safety and security of strategic disarmament, and the provision of expert advice on military resettlement.

The United Kingdom is also playing an active role in the formation and training of the joint Baltic peacekeeping battalion. More generally, we attach the greatest importance to assisting with English language training for military and MOD personnel in the central and eastern European states, and are actively examining ways of promoting democratic accountability and civilian involvement in their Ministries of Defence. All that amounts to a demanding programme, but I believe it to be well worth the investment in time and effort as a thoroughly worthwhile contribution to the peace and stability of Europe.

As I have said, in the 12 weeks for which I have been at the Ministry of Defence, I have been fortunate enough to have already seen a good cross-section of the services in Bosnia, Germany, Hong Kong and the middle east, and here at home—particularly, of course, in Northern Ireland. Let me give the House some impression of what I have seen.

One of the first visits that I made was to our troops in Northern Ireland. As the House well knows, the provision of support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary remains our largest and most important continuing peacetime commitment. I was therefore delighted to spend two days in the Province last month. The House will not be surprised to learn that, like everyone else who has visited the armed forces in Northern Ireland over the years—indeed, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State paid his own moving tribute yesterday—I was profoundly impressed by the supreme levels of skills, commitment and motivation that I found among the forces at every level and in every arm.

Over the past 25 years, those forces have done a truly remarkable job under the most onerous and difficult conditions. They are very highly trained and very well led, and they carry out their duties not only to the very highest standards of professionalism, but with much good humour, enthusiasm and complete dedication. No praise is too high for them.

I was particularly delighted to have the opportunity to visit my old regiment, the King's Royal Hussars, and to join its members on the streets in Belfast. I was thrilled to find a very fine regiment indeed, which has adapted readily to a new but temporary dismounted role during a most distinguished and successful tour.

My right hon. and learned Friend paid tribute yesterday to the outstanding job being undertaken by Britfor in the former Yugoslavia. I spent three days visiting the services in Bosnia at the end of September, and saw for myself the truly exceptional work that they have done in their peacekeeping role.

I visited the Royal Air Force detachments deployed at a number of bases throughout Italy. I went from Aviano—where I saw the airborne warning and communication system detachment, which is making an extremely important contribution to deterring and detecting violations of the no-fly zone—to visit the Hercules detachment at Ancona. As I have said, the Hercules airlift—often in dangerous conditions—has made a truly vital difference to the humanitarian operation in Bosnia. It is no exaggeration to say that, without those sometimes hazardous flights into Sarajevo, thousands of people would have died of starvation and cold.

My next stop was Gioia del Colle, the base from which the Tornados and Jaguars fly. The timing of my visit was auspicious; only the day before, the RAF had dropped its first bomb in anger in Europe since the end of the second world war. The House will not be surprised to hear that the operation was entirely successful. I was glad to have the chance to meet not only the flight crews but the ground crews, without whose dedication and hard work such successes simply would not be possible.

From Italy I flew on to HMS Invincible in the Adriatic and spent a fascinating night on board. She is a splendid ship, a supremely effective platform and a vital and considerable asset to Great Britain.

The following two days I spent in central Bosnia and Sarajevo. It brought for me a new perspective on the prospects for that war-torn but very beautiful country. Just a few months ago, central Bosnia was in flames and its people were suffering the grossest horrors of a bitter civil war. The change today is nothing less than dramatic. The fighting between Muslims and Croats has all but stopped and very real and tangible progress has been made.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

I have listened intently to the Minister's speech so far and I am most impressed with his catalogue of exemplary achievements. They are remarkable. Our forces are so busy. Relentless pressure is placed upon them. Why is it then that we are cutting back so relentlessly?

Mr. Soames

I find that the most fatuous question. I do not propose to dignify it with an answer.

UNPROFOR's mission has moved on from creating the conditions to allow aid delivery to maintaining those conditions. For the most part, there is free movement of convoys and most are not escorted. Yes, incidents take place and the peace is fragile and needs nurturing. But it is there. In Gornji Vakuf, where every building in the town centre was utterly devastated by small arms fire, rebuilding work is in progress, schools are reopening and the local administration is tackling the many difficult problems.

Throughout central Bosnia, UNPROFOR, spearheaded by the British contingent, is not only keeping routes open and maintaining freedom of movement but persuading the locals to take control of their own lives and their communities.

In all this, I cannot sufficiently emphasise the credit due to British forces. It is clear that the British contingent is the key mover in taking forward initiatives, albeit very slowly, to get the various factions together to discuss and work out the future of their country. That is not something that can be imposed from outside by using military force; it needs patience and effort. Our soldiers are providing just that.

Therefore, it will come as no surprise to the House that the reputation of British troops has never stood higher in the United Nations—for their superb training, total reliability and great skill in peacekeeping, learnt over many years.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State yesterday rightly singled out the Royal Engineers for the exceptional work that they have done to restore the fabric of the country. But there are many other heros among British forces in Bosnia. For example, the statistics for the logistic battalion based at Split supporting the British forces are unbelievable. In only four months, they have covered almost 2.5 million km. The Army's DROPS vehicles are, in every two-month period, doing a normal two-year mileage. Despite that exceptional loading on vehicles, to say nothing on the men, a very impressive level of reliability has been achieved. That is a great credit to the logistic battalion, and the House will wish to pay it a warm tribute for its remarkable work. Finally, Sarajevo. Busy streets and a bustling marketplace, which only last February was the tragic scene of a grotesque and cowardly mortar attack. Electricity was on and the trams were running.

Of course, concerns, deep worries and anxieties remain. One only has to look up at the Bosnian Serb lines on the surrounding hills to understand why the people of Sarajevo are desperate for UNPROFOR to remain. Talking to some passers-by with General Rose, I was left in no doubt about the strength of their feelings on that matter and their deep sense of gratitude to General Rose personally.

I wish to place on record in the House my profound admiration and respect for the remarkable job that General Rose is doing in the most difficult and trying circumstances. He has our full support. Much remains to be done. There will be no quick fix for the rebuilding of Bosnia, but I am confident that the United Nations approach of consensus is working and can continue to work.

I have also visited our forces in Germany, which despite their decreased presence continue to demonstrate our solid commitment to the North Atlantic alliance. While in Germany, I visited the headquarters of the Ace Rapid Reaction Corps. That was a valuable opportunity for me to have a detailed briefing on the role and responsibilities of the ARRC and the United Kingdom's central contribution to that organisation.

I was much impressed with what I saw. The United Kingdom commander of the ARRC, General Mackenzie, has done a splendid job in welding his team together and giving them a strong sense of purpose and common identity. It is no mean achievement and it is all the more impressive given the short amount of time that the headquarters has been established.

More recently, I returned from a visit to Hong Kong and Brunei, where I was able to see in detail how our garrisons go about their business and get a feel for the reality of the tasks that they perform.

I am pleased to report that morale is high and one cannot fail to be struck by the energy and dedication on display. From the Royal Navy personnel manning the patrol craft in Hong Kong to the crews of the Royal Air Force Wessex helicopters, among Gurkhas in both Hong Kong and Brunei and in the logistic support regiment, which plays a crucial role in supporting the Hong Kong garrison, there is a very real sense of purpose and dedication.

I also want to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution made by civilian staff of the Ministry of Defence—both in support of the armed services and in the support that they provide to Ministers in the formulation and management of defence policy. They are employed in a wide variety of jobs that are essential to defence and to the working of the services at all levels.

Some are right at the sharp end. We have, for example, civilians providing us with essential back-up in Bosnia. Civilian engineers helped to keep our forces operational in the Gulf during the 1991 conflict. Behind the front line, our scientists work at the forefront of technology in the brilliant Defence Research Agency.

Civilian seamen man the ships of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Civilian cartographers provide expertise that is essential—indeed, crucial—to military operations. Civilian police and security guards help to ensure the security of military establishments. Civilians—from storemen to engineers—play a central role in logistic support for the services.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Can the Minister explain why one civilian—the distinguished permanent secretary, Sir Clive Whitmore—found it necessary to go to the then Prime Minister to express the disquiet of the Ministry of Defence about Mark Thatcher's activities in relation to commercial operations with Saudi Arabia? The House of Commons is entitled to some comment. I do not suggest that the Minister should answer now, as one cannot do so off the top of one's head, but in the winding-up speech there should be some considered statement as to why the permanent secretary found it necessary to go to the Prime Minister about such a subject.

Mr. Soames

I thought that I saw the hon. Gentleman boiling up to a question. Sir Clive Whitmore has already denied the veracity of that story. Rather than the answer coming off the top of my head, the question came off the top of the hon. Gentleman's. Sir Clive Whitmore has clearly denied that such an event happened.

Many civilian staff work in agencies in a commercially competitive environment and all are at the forefront of radical change in the organisation and management of defence. A small minority work in the Ministry's headquarters, where they formulate policy advice to Ministers and carry out the functions that are utterly essential to a Department of State. I want to dispel any impression that our civilians are some kind of fourth arm. They are absolutely integral to our defence organisation, and about three quarters of them work in areas headed by senior military officers of all three services. Without them, the defence machine simply could not function.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

We have heard that the Minister has been on his travels in the past 12 weeks. The Secretary of State announced in July that 17 Ministry of Defence bases in this country were to close. How many of those bases has the Minister visited?

Mr. Soames

I have visited a number of bases not only in the United Kingdom but elsewhere, but I do not have the figures at my fingertips. I shall be visiting also a large number of bases in the future. The hon. Gentleman should consider carefully the sensible purpose of the debate which is to debate defence, and not try to make idiotic points.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

May I encourage the Minister to make an additional visit to the Rosehearty bombing range in my constituency where the villagers are anxious about a proposal to extend bombing times to between 10 pm and 12 midnight during the summer months? Will the Minister encourage the RAF to hold a public meeting in the village to explain the proposal in more detail to my constituents? Perhaps the Minister would like to attend such a meeting. Does he agree that it would be arrogant and insensitive of the RAF to refuse to have such a meeting?

Mr. Soames

I certainly would not agree with any such thing, but I should be very happy to receive the hon. Gentleman in my office—if he can spare the time to come and see me—to hear his views on the matter.

Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to mention an area that many hon. Members asked about yesterday—the arrangements for dealing with staff at locations affected by decisions arising from the defence costs study.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

May I raise one area that my hon. Friend has not touched on in his review of the excellent performance of our forces everywhere—the Territorial Army and the reserve generally? I hope that he will say a word about that subject before he ends his speech.

Mr. Soames

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me of that matter. My hon. Friend and others have expressed their satisfaction at the outcome of the announcement by my right hon. and learned Friend. The Territorial Army continues to play a crucial role in our affairs and while I am not going to deal with that matter in great detail in this particular speech, I shall be happy to do so on another occasion.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend yet again. On the subject of the Territorial Army, he will know that my constituency houses the B squadron of the Royal Leicestershire Yeomanry. I do not expect an answer off the cuff, but will my hon. Friend write to me to let me know whether the MOD has decided what role the squadron should play within the Territorial Army? Will it be the nuclear, biological and chemical defence regiment, or a part of it?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the question of the Royal Leicestershire Yeomanry, and I shall happily look into the matter and let him have a detailed reply as soon as I can.

Where staff become surplus at a particular location or establishment, I can assure the House that every effort will be made to find alternative employment for them locally, either elsewhere in the MOD or in Departments. As part of that process, we are in close touch centrally and locally with other Departments. That work is of a high priority and we are fully aware of its great importance.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Royal Marines school of music at Deal is not only well loved but the largest employer in Deal, even if it is small in terms of the total military establishment? Will he take all possible steps to consider keeping the school open for a good few years yet, and not close it in April 1996 in accordance with the proposal?

Mr. Soames

My hon. Friend has been extremely robust in the defence of his constituents' interests. He knows that we are now in a period of consultation and I shall be very happy to see him and a delegation from his constituency to discuss the matter.

Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)

My hon. Friend is well aware of the great concern in the Swindon area about the proposal to close the Princess Alexandra hospital at Wroughton, because he was good enough to receive a delegation of local people led by my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) and myself last month. Does he recognise that it is the overwhelming desire of people in the Swindon area to keep the hospital open? Will he therefore undertake to ensure that my constituents will continue to receive the highest level of health care in the future?

Mr. Soames

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that guarantee, but I cannot give him a guarantee about the future of the hospital. My hon. Friend came to see me with my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) about the possible closure of the hospital. We are still consulting on it, but I hope to let my hon. Friends know the results of that consultation as soon as possible. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) that whatever arrangements are made, they will provide admirable medical care for his constituents and those in the constituencies surrounding Swindon.

The arrangements for dealing with staff at locations affected by decisions arising from the defence costs study is work of a high priority and we are fully aware of its great importance. It is the Department's stated aim to avoid compulsory redundancy wherever possible. In addition to natural turnover, we are therefore making full use of a number of pre-redundancy measures such as recruitment and promotion restrictions, greater use of casual and period appointments, early retirement and voluntary redundancy.

Yesterday, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State dealt comprehensively with the defence costs study and I have no intention of going over the ground that he covered so admirably. I should like, however, to take this opportunity to tell the House that the one defence costs study that was outstanding at the time of the original DCS announcement—the study into defence intelligence—reported as planned at the end of July. I am sure that hon. Members will understand that because of the sensitive nature of some of the subject matter, we shall not be making public all the measures that we propose to implement.

Defence intelligence, and the staffs involved, play a vital role in the work of government, and that will continue. We believe, however, that there is scope to reduce costs through a variety of measures, including a reorganisation of the defence intelligence staff of a similar nature to that being carried out elsewhere in the Ministry of Defence following "Front Line First".

Mr. Adam Ingram (East Kilbride)

I have noted what the Minister said about the detail behind the DCS, but is he aware of the decision to transfer the staff from the directorate of standardisation in Glasgow to Bristol, with the loss of 50 key jobs? Can he explain how that squares with the Government's intention to transfer jobs to Glasgow? Can he also confirm that the director of standardisation has advised his staff that he does not agree with the Government's decision and that the policy unit that has been established will not be cost-effective?

Mr. Soames

I could argue with the hon. Gentleman about that matter on another occasion, but while it is true that some jobs are transferring from Glasgow, a substantial number of other jobs are going to Glasgow.

Mr. Ingram

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Soames

No, I must get on. A substantial number of other jobs are going to Glasgow and it will be a net gainer.

As I said, I am sure that hon. Members will understand that because of the sensitive nature of defence intelligence we cannot make public all the measures that we propose to implement. We believe, however, that there is scope to reduce costs through a variety of measures, including a reorganisation of the defence intelligence staff of a similar nature to that being carried out elsewhere in the MOD.

I should now like to take an early opportunity to deal with two important issues on which there has been much rumour and speculation over the summer break: official service residences and the independent review of service career and manpower structures and terms and conditions—otherwise known as the Bett review.

The House will recall that, in his written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Sir J. Spicer) on 4 July, my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), notified the House of the full cost of the restructuring and refurbishment programme at Haymes Garth, the official residence of the Air Officer Commander-in-Chief, RAF personnel and training command, RAF Innsworth.

My right hon. Friend explained the nature of the audit action that had been set in hand to investigate the circumstances in which the expenditure had been authorised, incurred and notified, including a high-level independent external examination. He also announced that a separate audit had been set in hand on expenditure on official service residences more widely to ensure that in other instances financial control mechanisms have functioned properly.

I am pleased to say that good progress has been made on all that work. On Haymes Garth, Sheila Masters of KPMG Peat Marwick, who has been carrying out the examination for us, has largely completed her work and I expect her final report to be with Ministers in the course of the next few weeks. I will then, of course, be considering with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State the follow-up action required. Against that background, we felt it appropriate that the wider question of representational entertainment in the armed forces should be examined by an independent scrutineer of standing, experience and judgement.

I am glad to be able to tell the House today that, at my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State's request, Sir Peter Cazalet, chairman of APV plc and deputy chairman of GKN, is conducting such a review, which will examine the requirement on senior officers to entertain and the means by which the entertainment should be carried out. In particular, it will consider whether there are alternative and more cost-effective means than the use of official service residences and other service married quarters, and, in the light of that, whether any properties can be disposed of. It will also examine the requirement for domestic assistance and the funding arrangements for official entertainment. The review is expected to take some three to four months to complete.

We are extremely grateful to Sir Peter for agreeing to carry out that important task. I shall, of course, report to the House in due course on the results of his work. I should like to add that that work has the full support of all three services.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

I have detected in the Royal Air Force very little, if any, disquiet about alleged exorbitantly extravagant entertaining on the part of air officers. It is recognised that they have representational functions within the local community, which are widely respected and regarded, not least by Members of this House and Ministers. If any disquiet exists within the Royal Air Force, the bête noire is the question of flying pay. The fact that the announcement that it was under review should be made at a time when two crew men of a Tornado have lost their lives in the highlands of Scotland is the sort of thing that causes disquiet in the services.

Mr. Soames

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend heard me say that the review had the wholehearted backing of all three services. I agree that there is essential representational entertaining to be done, and the important role that Sir Peter Cazalet will be able to carry out will confirm the criteria for that entertainment.

There has been much speculation over the parliamentary recess about the reasons for the Bett review. A great deal of reporting has been highly speculative and, in some cases, downright dishonest and deliberately sensationalist.

As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State made clear yesterday, the fact of the matter is that we commissioned this independent review not for the purpose of cutting costs but to ensure that, as we approach the first part of the 21st century, the arrangements in place are sufficiently flexible and robust and meet our needs in terms of our ability to recruit and retain people of the same admirable quality. In particular, we need to take account of changes in the armed forces and their deployments, and of changes in our national life.

The review is extremely broad, and Mr. Bett and his team bring a wide range of experience to it, including considerable experience of personnel practices, not only in the armed forces but in management and finance in the private sector. The wide ground to be covered in the review means that a great deal of information must be gathered and assessed. As part of that work, the team has been paying an extensive series of visits to units and commands, both in this country and overseas, when they have held discussions with large numbers of service personnel and their spouses. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State expects to receive Mr. Bett's report by the end of March next year.

Some of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), Chairman of the Select Committee, have expressed concern on a number of occasions at what is seen as overstretch in the armed forces. Let me take this opportunity to say that I well understand their concerns. My hon. Friend will understand that they are beaten over my head whenever I go out and about. But I feel that most of those concerns are wide of the mark. Obviously, the whole defence establishment is undergoing a period of profound change, to enable it to be in the best possible shape to meet the challenges and tasks that lie ahead. It is also plain that the services currently have many and varied obligations and commitments. That involves substantial extra effort, but, in my experience, people join the armed forces for excitement and adventure and to serve their country in an active capacity—not, frankly, to sit around on their butts.

Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

My hon. Friend will recall that yesterday, in an intervention, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) mentioned the word "understretch". Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that the essential criterion that our armed forces must meet today is flexibility? I agree with what he has just said, but surely a greater role should be given to our Territorial Army to fulfil a more important role as reserves to our armed forces, to give them the flexibility that they require. The Territorial Army., as its members are in units and are trained, should surely be the first line of reserve for our Army, rather than the last, as it is at the moment. Will my hon. Friend comment on the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater yesterday—about understretch, and ensuring that people are always fully occupied?

Mr. Soames

I hope that I answered my right hon. Friend's argument yesterday, but my right hon. Friend is quite right. We are already making much wider use of the Territorial Army. Indeed, in the Falkland Islands at the moment is a platoon of Territorials, shortly to be reinforced to company strength. We accept that that is an important role that they play.

All those changes involve upheaval, extra effort and all the things that go towards making service life at the moment pretty hectic.

I do, however, recognise the pressures that currently confront many of our service men and women. Before concluding, I take the opportunity to pay a warm personal tribute to a group of people who do not receive the public recognition that is their rightful due—service wives and their families. Many of them, as I speak, may be collecting their children from school, coming home from work or—which is every bit as important—simply keeping the home fires burning. At times of turbulence and high levels of commitment, when their loved ones must be away more often than they, and sometimes we, would wish, I take the opportunity to salute each and every one of them for their patience, fortitude and forbearance and their robust and stoical common sense.

Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)

I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on his magnificent speech, and welcome him to the job that he is now doing. I was sorry to hear that he has not yet grasped the essential point about overstretch. I think that he is wrong in saying that the Defence Select Committee and others are wide of the mark in speaking about that overstretch. Undoubtedly, the 24-month interval between emergency tours should be a minimum. That is widely felt throughout the services at all ranks and that opinion is widely held in the House. My hon. Friend must take another look at that in the weeks ahead.

Mr. Soames

I shall take another look at that because I know how strongly my hon. Friend feels about it and I do not suppose that he will wish to leave the matter there.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

I put on record my thanks for the letter that I received from my hon. Friend, who discussed several of the arguments that I made in my speech yesterday. However, I should be grateful if he tackled one essential matter.

Those wives who are waiting at home and those of my constituents who are worried about their jobs wish to know all about the financial background to the decision. If it goes ahead, will my hon. Friend give a commitment that we can examine as many figures as possible, as we did with the Navy base, so that we may either be convinced or at least fight the case for Portland?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he knows, we shall have a full and detailed consultation on those matters, and I am sure that he and I will have further discussions on the subject.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham)

I am sorry to ask another question at the end of the Minister's speech. He paid a warm tribute to the families of service men. What has he to say to the nine families of the soldiers killed by American A10 planes in the Gulf war? They have yet to receive an adequate explanation from their Government about what happened, an adequate apology from the American Government about what took place or compensation equivalent to that paid to officers because they were from other ranks, although they were killed in broadly analogous circumstances. I have written to the Minister on the subject and received a courteous reply. I should like him now, as a new member of the defence team, to change the Government line on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Soames

The hon. Gentleman is in his most seductive mode when he talks like that. I was grateful to him for sending me the paper that he has written on the matter. He and I are due to have a meeting to discuss it. I do not recognise the position as he outlined it. I look forward to hearing the full details of the case when he comes to see me and I shall, of course, give the case the full consideration that it deserves.

I should not wish to close my speech without making a brief reference to the Labour party's defence policy, although I do not wish to intrude on private grief. Every conference motion tabled at the Labour party conference called for deep cuts in defence. Two days after the launch of the so-called new model Labour party, the Labour party conference voted for £6.5 billion in defence cuts and to do away with Trident.

When hon. Members decide which way to vote tonight, they should consider the fact that if they undertake to make cuts of £6.5 billion, they must give us an account of which arm of the services they intend to do away with—the figure represents the cost of one of the service arms. If the House were to vote for the amendment, it would be a betrayal of the armed forces and Great Britain. I know that the House will wish to reject such a fatuous and idiotic amendment.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Soames

No, I shall not.

One of the responsibilities of being the Armed Forces Minister is to ensure that the work being implemented across the Ministry of Defence is managed in an honourable, sensible and humane manner in order that we continue to get the very best from our service men and women. They are a credit to Great Britain, and a priceless and unique asset. The Conservative Government will always guard their interests.

4.37 pm
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: declines to support the policy of the Government as set out in the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1994 and the Defence Costs Study and calls for a full scale defence review; condemns the continuing process of piecemeal cuts which is undermining the morale and operational effectiveness of the armed forces and which, as a result, has failed to prepare the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom defence industry for the challenges of a post-Cold War world, for the emergence of a European defence and security identity, for an enhanced role in aid of United Nations peacekeeping and for the new opportunities for arms control; and deplores the way that defence capabilities and installations are being run down in an unplanned way instead of planning to counter the adverse effects of change on communities and individuals by expanding the provision for re-training and re-housing service personnel and by utilising and creating instruments such as positive regional policies and a defence diversification agency. I warmly welcome the Minister of State and his colleague, the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, to their new posts. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces is no lightweight politician and is clearly a difficult act to follow, particularly when he meanders so much around all our overseas posts. I confess that he left us not only breathless but jealous of his air miles over his peregrinations, and eager to change roles and follow in his footsteps. Our only concern, after the promises that he made to write to and meet so many hon. Members, is that the only place that he will be free to meet them will be Heathrow airport. He gave us a breathless exposition that was a mixture between the Boys Own paper and Vera Lynn. When he paid tributes to our forces, the Opposition Front-Bench team wholly concurred with what he said.

The Minister comes to his task, as does his colleague, in the footsteps of Ministers who have received promotion. I hope that the present Ministers will also be promoted before they change positions with us at the next election. They come to their posts at a fascinating time of transition, when defence planners and the defence industry seek certainties that are not there. During the cold war, they knew where they were; the identity of the enemy and the nature of the threat were clear. Now, as the late Manfred Wörner said, There is less of a threat but less peace". Some compare our position to the confusion of the citizens of classical Rome in Cavafy's poem "Waiting for the Barbarians": Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven't come And some of our men just in from the border say there are no barbarians any longer Now what's going to happen to us without barbarians? Those people were a kind of solution". In our case, the barbarians did exist but they never came.

It is difficult for the present generation of politicians of a certain age to move from the perceptions of the past and to gird themselves for the challenges of tomorrow's world. That problem of adaptation is compounded for us in the United Kingdom by the unwillingness of the Government to set in train a defence review of the kind that has been undertaken in the United States, France and Germany and thus to initiate a national debate on our role in the new global context. The problem is also compounded by the deep divisions in the Conservative party, which prevent the formation of a coherent strategy and which force the Government to move, crablike, by short-term tactics.

The division over Europe is at the heart of the Conservative party. A Cabinet Minister—such as the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont—needs to be sacked before being wholly frank about Europe. But that right hon. Gentleman's views would be echoed by the Home Secretary, by the Secretary of State for Social Security, by the Secretary of State for Employment and by the Secretary of State for Wales if they, too, were liberated by being sacked. That is the problem for the Prime Minister and the Government when seeking a coherent view on Europe.

There is also a sharp and irreconcilable divide on the Conservative Benches between traditionalists, who understand the excellence of our armed forces and the fact that a military ethos can easily be destroyed but not easily recreated, and the new hard men who understand the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Yesterday, in answer to questioners concerned about stability after the period of turbulence, the Secretary of State said that we could now "contemplate" a period of stability in the sectors that he defined. Those among his Back Benchers who threaten revolt against defence cuts are easily bought off by a lawyer's careful words.

I warn him, however, that the Chief Secretary knows his way around the Ministry. He knows where the bodies are buried; he knows the unfinished work from the defence costs study; and he may require further cuts—due, for instance, to the slippage in the timetable for the budgeted £500 million in 1995–96 from leasing service married quarters to the private sector.

That, then, is the background to our debate on the period since "Options For Change", certain other key Defence Committee papers, the defence estimates and the defence costs study.

Surely 1989 was a decisive turning point in history which has demanded a radical reappraisal of the whole of our external policy. The fact, for example, that warning times of general war are now measured not in hours but in years has led to a proper response by our key allies. We should heed the advice of the oracle at Delphi by knowing ourselves—by recognising that we shall be increasingly unable to do everything and will thus have to make hard choices. Those who have created so much turbulence and loss of morale in our services over the past decade—and particularly in the past four years—are hardly credible when they accuse us, because we demand a review, of seeking to create turbulence.

It is, of course, possible that part of the solution to the problem of overstretch will come from developments in NorthernIreland—which, like the fifth cavalry, will come to the Government's rescue. Of course we wholly commend the Prime Minister and Mr. Reynolds on their initiative and we rejoice in the response of the loyalists last week. We also accept the Secretary of State's wise words yesterday to the effect that it would be imprudent to reduce force levels in Northern Ireland prematurely. Nevertheless a return to normality in our garrison strength in Northern Ireland may now be realistically considered an option or a possibility.

What are the military implications of the breakthrough to peace? Here is a major potential peace dividend: 17,500 soldiers serve in Northern Ireland, an addition of at least £500 million to the military budget. What will happen if, over a few years, we can reduce their numbers to the pre-1969 garrison strength of about 2,500? What will be the effect on training and on tour intervals? Would any forces thus released be assigned to peacekeeping duties? We know that experience in Northern Ireland is highly relevant to such duties.

On the other hand, will these infantry battalions be downsized, to use the jargon? We cannot delay a decision too long, as it will affect both redundancy and recruitment decisions in the coming months.

We need to project possible scenarios over the next 10 to 20 years also because of the length of time involved in procurement decisions. The saga of the Upholder SSKs and the expenditure, for nothing, of £1 billion—the Minister will be well aware of the difficulties of disposing of those craft—well illustrate what I mean by the problems of the time involved in procurement decisions.

Clearly, the massive threat from the former Soviet Union is a thing of the past. I understand that in 1989–90 there were more than 300 intrusions by Russian military aircraft into United Kingdom airspace. In 1993 there were only 12. So how do we plan for the new range of threats? I concede that we see but darkly, but we have to be ready at least for a greater European security and defence identity; we must be prepared for a greater emphasis on peacekeeping in the United Nations and in the conference on security and co-operation in Europe; and we need to redefine the defence and security threat and be ready to seize new opportunities for arms control. Each of those developments has major implications for our procurement policies.

I shall deal first with the future of NATO and European defence, and likely developments within the alliance. As far ahead as we can usefully plan, the core of our defence policy will be within NATO. Yet NATO itself is undergoing a profound transformation. It has lost a threat and is searching for a role. We must ask ourselves whether there is enough consensus between European Governments over that role. NATO has responded well to changes, with the North Atlantic Co-operation Council, the "Partnership for Peace" and the combined joint task forces, but uncertainties remain.

We shall obviously continue to depend on the United States for heavy lift, intelligence, communications and logistics, but we do have some worries about the judgment of the Administration. We thought that the Government's craven unwillingness to oppose the United States view on lifting the Bosnian embargo, which would imperil our troops, was quite wrong. We note that in some ways we are drifting apart: for instance, in the House of Representatives in May, the Barney-Frank amendment was passed, calling for the first time for substantial conditional cuts in the United States presence in Europe.

What about the nature and extent of the Russian threat, or co-operation? Russia has given positive support in Bosnia. It has withdrawn from the Baltic states as promised; it has also withdrawn from Berlin. How do we encourage Russian concern for the resolution of conflicts in its near-abroad without condoning a new colonialism on the part of Mother Russia? It is most important that we try to understand the concerns of this proud country and respond accordingly—by pressing the Baltic states to safeguard the civil rights of their Russian citizens, for example.

There are also important questions about the future of defence co-operation in Europe, with the Western European Union serving both as a European pillar of NATO and as the focus of the European defence identity.

Mr. David Atkinson (Bournemouth, East)

The hon. Gentleman spoke about the Russian presence in other countries. What is his response to the recent agreement between Moldova and Russia regarding the continuing occupation, for the next three years, of the transnational republic of Moldova by the Russian 14th Army? Is not that totally unacceptable? Was the agreement reached because of Russian threats? What does the hon. Gentleman suggest should happen?

Mr. Anderson

That clearly depends on a judgment on the degree of duress under which the Government of Moldova acceded to the new agreement. That partly defines the problem of how to accept the legitimate interests of Russia, which could have major positive implications for us, without yielding to the view that Russia will assume a new colonial garb akin to that of the old Soviet Union. The hon. Gentleman knows the area well and pinpoints the dilemma facing western planners.

The Government have increasingly sidelined themselves on political and hence defence developments by their divisions on Europe. The implications for our defence industry are fundamental to developments in Europe. The 85th edition of Jane's "All the World's Aircraft" launched at Farnborough in September states that the Ministry of Defence has fallen hopelessly out of phase with virtually all the current European aircraft and helicopter programmes … because of … an endless search for the ultimate solution to every requirement, by unrelenting rejection of every proposal on cost grounds, by consequent indecisiveness all round and by a mindless service dedication to US products. That refers specifically to the C130J FLA dilemma which was mentioned by many hon. Members yesterday. Will the Treasury insist on going for the cheaper off-the-shelf alternative or will we dare to look longer and reserve the bulk of the purchase for the European alternative? If we go for the C130J what will be the effect on future European co-operation? If we opt for a wholly American solution, will there be any protection against being wholly overcome by the strength of US defence companies?

Mr. Bill Walker

The hon. Gentleman speaks for Labour on defence. What are his views on the RAF being committed to high-risk development and production programmes being carried out at the same time? Effectively, that is what the hon. Gentleman suggests. Until we have accurate figures on what the future large aircraft is likely to cost, how can the hon. Gentleman commit his party in that way?

Mr. Anderson

The Government and responsible people in the Opposition must place heavy weight on what the RAF says, but that is not the only consideration. We must also examine the major implications for the civilian and defence sectors of our aerospace industry and for co-operation with Europe. We have heard what the RAF said to the Select Committee about needing three such aircraft by the turn of the century. There were suspicions that the RAF was pressing for a decision on the C130J before the end of the century because of the perceived trough in expenditure before expenditure on the Eurofighter comes on stream. All those issues must be carefully weighed.

Mr. Colvin

The hon. Gentleman may have inadvertently made a slip in describing the C130J as an all-American aircraft. As was made clear in yesterday's debate, some 36 British companies would be involved in the manufacture of that aircraft and that would provide about 3,500 jobs. British components would be fitted to all the aircraft that were sold worldwide, and there is a target for the eventual replacement of about 1,500 Hercules. The C130J cannot ever be described as an all-American aircraft.

Mr. Anderson

The issues to be considered include whether such jobs would be put at risk if we did not purchase the C130J, the quality of the jobs created and, more important, the number of jobs that would be lost if we did go for that option.

In the context of European co-operation, on 9 September the Financial Times stated: There should be no question of excluding American products, but the burden of proof must fall on those defence ministries that wish to buy American where there is a competitive European alternative. We are in a harsh competitive world with mega-mergers such as Martin Marietta and Lockheed, and United States embassies are mounting a new drive for United States defence products. In the light of our fragmented aerospace defence industry, can Europe, and can we as part of Europe, withstand that drive?

The French are the masters of nationalist procurement and at some stage we must decide whether to have a counterweight to the overwhelming strength of the United States defence industry. We must ask whether article 223 of the treaty of Rome, which excludes defence from the free market, is adequate, or whether the Government together with our European partners should seek to revise it.

I was impressed by a recent Ernst and Young study on the defence industry. It was published in May and concluded: We are currently witnessing the emergence of two defence axes in the West—one European, the other American. The benefits of American expertise and investment are undeniable. But, while collaboration with the US on specific projects may bring mutual benefits, European industry can only act as an effective counterweight if it rationalises cross-border". That rationalisation should not necessarily be on the model of the Eurofighter with all its inefficiencies arising from the operation of production lines in different countries, but on the model of real mergers, so many of which happen in the United States. The Government must surely have a role in that, just as they have a role in the current dispute between GEC and British Aerospace over the future of VSEL. What is Government policy on the future of VSEL and what are the overall implications for the strength of our defence industry?

Only the Government can make such major decisions, and on them will depend the future of many jobs and the future strength and sophistication of our defence industry.

It is likely that peacekeeping in all its forms will have an increasing effect on the future role of our forces. There is a lively debate under way on the theory and practice of peacekeeping. There is a difference of emphasis, because the United Nations Secretary-General takes a bullish view while the more cautious view of the west is for stricter criteria before intervention—such as a clear threat to international order—and a clear timetable for eventual withdrawal.

Peacekeeping will have major procurement implications: there will be an emphasis on flexibility and amphibiosity and the marines will have a new significance. There are implications for heavy transport and training and for "jointery", one of the themes of the defence costs study, and there will be renewed emphasis on the interoperability of equipment.

I shall now turn to arms control. How are we to redefine the defence and security threats to our interests and press forward with arms control measures, because as we look forward to stability nuclear proliferation raises new threats? Let us hope that yesterday's framework agreement between the North Koreans and the Americans will lead to that problem being removed from the international agenda of concern.

I am a little surprised that the study commissioned by the Ministry of Defence on ballistic missile defence will not be carried out in co-operation with the United States, whose technical expertise we need, and with our European partners, because we need monitoring stations on the continent. Perhaps the Minister can explain why we appear to have gone ahead on a national basis.

On nuclear proliferation, may I ask the Minister for clarification on the following matters? Surely there is a strong case for our taking the lead in pressing for an international conference with a remit to produce an action plan for dealing with the new problem of nuclear smuggling.

What positive steps are we now taking to keep technology in responsible hands? It is surely disgraceful that it took more than two years for the international science and technology centre in Moscow, intended to stem the flow of scientists from the former Soviet Union, to meet; it met for the first time in March 1994 after two years of inaction during which many scientists may have gone to unstable areas which could pose a threat to the west.

It is worrying that the conference on disarmament halted in September with such slow progress towards a comprehensive test ban treaty. Surely it is now clear that there is no prospect of a treaty by next spring, as was envisaged, and that slippage in the timetable will have adverse effects on negotiations to renew the non-proliferation treaty beginning in April.

The main causes of delay on the comprehensive test ban treaty are clearly France and China, but Britain also has been unhelpful in seeking exemption for safety tests. The dangers are clear and we expect a clearer lead from the British Government.

On chemical and biological weapons, we signed the chemical weapons convention in January 1993. Why have the British Government so far failed to ratify? In November last year, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), gave only the following explanation: ratification would come "when parliamentary time permits". I can give this pledge to the Government: if that is their real objection, the measure will get a fair wind from the Opposition, so it will not take up much parliamentary time. Are the Government simply yielding to the concerns of the chemical industry in Britain? Why is Britain refusing to take a lead in such a vital matter?

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

May I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the report of the Group of Seven, of which Britain is obviously a member, of 22 July 1991? The final communiqué contains the words: We reaffirm our intention to become original parties to the chemical weapons convention. If the Government signed up to that, surely there is no case for them to be dragging their feet now.

Mr. Anderson

Yes. Clearly the Government said they will be part of the first 65. There is no parliamentary reason for delay because of the pledge that I have given, so we must look elsewhere. Surely the Government must set a example to other countries that may be delaying.

Behind the defence costs study, which is one of the documents before us today, was the Treasury imperative to find £750 million worth of savings; it all flows from that. What happens if those savings are not realised? In the other place, Lord Bramall pointed out that the enhanced equipment programme—that has been promised so many times—depends on future cash flow which is itself dependent on the DCS proposals being implemented.

On the new recruiting proposals designed to save £25 million, Lord Henley, the Lord Privy Seal, said in the other place: we shall have to move extremely fast".—[Official Report, House of Lords,26 July 1994; Vol. 557, c. 682.] At present only pilot schemes are envisaged.

What is the reason for the abandonment of plans for the housing trust and slippage in the £500 million programme by 1995–96? How long is the delay and what is its effect on the defence budget? What is the reason for the Government's change of mind on the defence estate?

There are a number of positive elements in the defence costs study. It is well written and surely must be seen as part of a continuing process without the necessity for regular grand, comprehensive reviews. It has also revealed some apparently gross extravagances.

There is much scepticism about the validity of the distinction between front-line and support services—a point made very well by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) yesterday. However, there is merit in the business approach to the management of the defence services where business criteria and vocabulary are relevant. Head office is mentioned and it is claimed that briefing is almost a tedious extra.

Clearly, the business approach can be overdone, but management experience is highly relevant. In one case within my knowledge the man in charge of a multi-million pound budget within the Ministry had been transferred from another discipline and had no financial training. That is wrong. The Government should make the best use of expertise from outside in operational research, personnel and technical matters and, if necessary, import people to each level of the Ministry.

Overall, if, as was stated by the Ministry of Defence, the headquarters is, "too large, too heavy, too bureaucratic," who is responsible for that? Given the number of years the Government have been in power, why has it taken so long? It can hardly be attributed to any deficiencies of the last Labour Government.

The defence costs study is insular in its lack of reference to our allies and narrow in its failure to look at the total costs of redundancy, for example.

How worried is the Ministry of Defence about the current shortfall in recruiting? The Sunday Telegraph of 9 October reported that recruiting was "alarmingly behind target". Saatchi and Saatchi has been given £5 million for a recruiting drive. Currently, the MOD is 18 per cent. behind the target for soldiers and 20 per cent. short on officers.

We have had a wide-ranging debate yesterday and today, partly because, as the Select Committee frequently points out, the House has relatively few opportunities to discuss this important subject.

Our fear is that the Government are failing to look strategically and to plan for change because of their internal divisions and because of their general refusal to address the issues. There is a danger that the United Kingdom will be increasingly marginalised in Europe and that our vital defence industries will be harmed in the process.

The tragedy for Britain is that, for party reasons, the Government prefer to avoid key decisions and to feed delusions rather than to address the real issues of what we can and should do well with our excellent armed services, normally not on our own but in co-operation with our allies.

The Government pretend that the state can have no role in tackling the effect of restructuring on industry and communities. The lesson of last week's Bournemouth Conservative conference is that the Government have succeeded in putting clear blue water between themselves and public opinion; they have succeeded in putting clear blue water between themselves and reality and between themselves and British interests. A Labour Government will look long and fearlessly meet the challenge of the future.

5.9 pm

Sir Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton)

I wish to declare an interest as a non-executive director of GEC Marconi. I would be tempted to follow some of the interesting points raised by the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), but I feel that I should abide by the 10-minute rule, even at this early hour, so that as many hon. Members as possible can speak in the debate.

Each year in these debates there is talk of reviewing our defences. In my opinion, what is really needed is a review of our foreign policy objectives. The defence forces are nothing more or less than the means of implementing the Government's foreign policy objectives. Defence capability becomes relevant when inadequate capability makes it impossible to carry out foreign policy objectives.

I want to share with the House a report that has just been published by the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies. Its authors are Dr. Christopher Coker and James Sherr. The report has some quite disturbing parts. On page 14, it states: The Defence Operations Analysis Centre at West Byfleet has constructed about eight main war scenarios which are fought and refought as paper exercises to judge just how Britain would fare in the new world order. These scenarios range from a full-scale war in Bosnia to an amphibious landing in a former colony to rescue British citizens. In almost every exercise the Centre concluded that Britain could no longer do much without help. In one, it is the Americans who provide the aircraft to get the troops in place. In another, it is our NATO allies that bolster our undermanned ground forces. In another it is the Americans who are expected to supply air cover. Why the Americans should continue to do so, if we do so little for them, is a question the Centre did not pose. I agree with the assertion made by many people that we have the most professional armed forces and, therefore, probably the best in quality in the world, but we are not making things easy for them. If the individual soldier in Northern Ireland, before the IRA ceasefire, was working up to 113 hours a week, if units were spending 260 days away from home at one time and if intervals between tours were down to 15 months compared with the minimum of 24, it is obvious that the strain on the Army was increasing.

My concern about the West Byfleet analysis is that the public are not aware of it. I suspect that they think something entirely different—that we can cope with anything that comes along. The question is whether a medium-power can be expected to discharge all of its former responsibilities. The French clearly think so. France spends less on defence than we do. We might feel that it is unreasonably over-conscious of its sense of grandeur. However, France has dominated the United Nations effort in the former Yugoslavia and British subjects were recently evacuated from Aden by French forces. Perhaps that is a sign of the times.

If the West Byfleet analysis is correct, we must question how that state has come about. There are two answers—first, the impact of the Treasury, and secondly, the effect of industrial competition policy. The Treasury rightly insists on financial rectitude, efficiency, prudence and good value for money. We would all agree with that. One of the ways of achieving efficiency is market testing, and again I support the concept. The problem is how we question the rate of progress and the success of market testing.

In the "Market Testing Bulletin", Government Departments are asked to list activities for review. It states: When an activity is reviewed a number of options are considered including abolition, privatisation, contracting out, market testing (with an in-house bid) and restructuring the activity without a formal tender. Therefore not all the activities listed will necessarily be subject to competitive tendering. I welcome the MOD's ministerial commitment to doubling the value of work for which industry will be invited to compete via market testing. It must make sense to make industry responsible for the in-service support of the equipment that it has designed and built. There can be no better way to ensure that industry is given the incentive to design and produce robust and reliable kit.

Ministers will have to monitor the implementation of savings measures. It would be helpful if the services could keep the savings that they have achieved to fund, for example, future equipment purchases. At least that would give them an incentive.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

I am following the right hon. Gentleman's speech with great interest. Does he accept that if there is competitive tendering and the most successful tender comes from in-house, that demonstrates that the Air Force is capable of competing successfully with the other tenderers? That ability should be subject to very real public attention and commendation because it shows that the service is rather more efficient than some hon. Members assume.

Sir Geoffrey Pattie

I agree that such a position should attract the commendation that the hon. Gentleman suggests. All that I hope is that it would be a genuine competition. Often, criteria and overheads are loaded in. We want appropriate savings to be achieved so that they can be used elsewhere in the defence budget.

A good start has been made, but much remains to be done. I would be nervous of a tendency to replace competition by something called benchmarking, which is much too cosy and incestuous. One of the successes has been the Defence Research Agency and I applaud its achievement of in-house economies. With its expanding role, there may be the possibility of a change of name—perhaps the "National Research Agency" might be a good idea.

The really important reason why market testing should succeed is that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has based the funding of new equipment and research and development on the assumption that savings will be achieved. If the savings are not achieved from market testing or any other system, further slices are taken from research and development and the procurement of new equipment. Cutting the R and D budget causes our defence capability to fall because technological advantage must be the name of the game. The R and D and procurement share of the total budget was close to a half in the mid-1980s; it is now closer to a third. That is very unhealthy.

All that might sound theoretical, so I shall give a practical example. A Sea Harrier was shot down over Gorazde recently. It was not because of any failure by the pilot, but because the aircraft had to fly around the target area five times because it did not possess an anti-armour weapon with a seeker that allowed it to operate in poor weather. Systems are available and I hope that the MOD will consider procuring them so that our front-line troops are not placed in such a position again.

I want briefly to say something about competition policy as it applies to the MOD. I did not just support that policy at its inception—I was one of those responsible for introducing and implementing it. We needed such a policy to make industry sharpen up and become competitive, especially in overseas markets. The "cost-plus" mentality had not served industry well. The danger now is that a policy that was designed to produce fitness is in danger of inducing malnutrition, just like any other policy or activity that is followed to excess or to its so-called logical conclusion.

The vital importance of the defence industrial base to the economy of this country, and—by the speed and flexibility of its response—to the MOD, has never been in doubt. As budget trends move against the MOD, there is a disinclination to invest in new-generation equipment. For example, the specification for the Tornado successor must not be written around existing US equipment, which is the tendency in such cases. If the budget is under pressure, it may be thought better to take an existing system from somewhere in the world and write a specification around it—but then, surprise, surprise, we find that British industry cannot meet the specification. We must now assume that a United States off-the-shelf purchase will not necessarily or automatically be the answer.

In my ministerial days there used to be something called the two-way street in UK-US dealings in defence equipment—the idea of reciprocal purchases by the United States following purchases by the United Kingdom of American equipment. There has been something of a surge of purchases from the United States in recent months, as I am sure that hon. Members will have noticed. Although there are extensive offset arrangements, they are not sufficient to maintain a strong industrial defence base here.

The Ministry of Defence is not only a customer. Because of its monopsonistic position as a buyer, it is also the marketplace. It controls the marketplace. It is clear that a number of foreign Governments are now organising their own markets to operate to the benefit of their defence industries.

It follows from what I have said that there will be advantages to the United Kingdom if the leading United Kingdom companies are of a size and capability to compete effectively in world markets and to make whatever alliances may be necessary to pursue United Kingdom interests.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Minister's endorsements of the quality of our armed forces. It is important in a debate of this sort that we do not delude ourselves into thinking that our capabilities are better than they are or that our remaining industrial strengths are greater than they are.

5.21 pm
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

The right hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) speaks with great authority on these affairs. I particularly agree with the points that he made about the loss of the Sea Harrier on the mission to Gorazde. The air crew involved was on a mission impossible. We in this House should be concerned to ensure that when we send our service men into action they have the equipment that they need to carry out the mission that is assigned to them. That is something that we should consider carefully.

The Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence was uncharacteristically generous to the Government in his speech yesterday. As one of the humble foot soldiers on that Committee I should draw the attention of the House to the fact that our report on the defence costs study includes some fairly sharp criticisms. I fear that parts of the "Front Line First" review will further aggravate the damage done by "Options for Change". In particular, the decision to close the Rosyth naval base is just the latest in a long catalogue of shoddy decision making by the Ministry of Defence during recent years.

The massive rundown in our regular forces and their in-house support will stretch our defence capabilities perilously thin. I suspect that the Government will have to rely more and more on volunteer reserves. That point has already been made by a number of hon. Members. It is fair to ask the Minister whether a new reserve forces Bill will be included in the Queen's Speech. That will clearly be required.

I have just returned from a four-week trip to Bosnia, driving a 17-tonne truck for the Edinburgh Direct Aid organisation. Therefore, I want to concentrate on the situation in the former Yugoslavia and, in particular, on the valuable role of the British battalion in the United Nations Protection Force. I was one of 10 volunteers who took six vehicles up into central Bosnia three times with loads of medicine, foods, clothing and other supplies donated by people in Scotland. Edinburgh Direct Aid is one of the small voluntary groups which complement the work of the big agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Overseas Development Administration, to take humanitarian aid directly to communities, hospitals and schools in Bosnia.

Those agencies depend on charitable donations to make up the loads, on volunteers to man the convoys and, crucially, on UNPROFOR to safeguard movement through the civil war zone in so far as that is possible. UNPROFOR is there to help to keep the humanitarian aid moving and to help to achieve peace. I want to talk about both those roles this evening.

The delivery of aid is vital to the victims of ethnic cleansing, to refugees from all the communities in Bosnia and to isolated pockets of Muslims, Croats and even Serbs cut off by the other factions. All are totally dependent on food, medicines and other supplies coming from aid agencies—about 3 million people.

The ordinary people of Bosnia are not responsible for the nightmare. It has been created by nationalist warlords who do not give a damn about the people whom they claim to lead. Most of the Bosnians whom I have met in recent weeks were trying to make the best of a hellish situation with incredible fortitude and dignity. I could give many examples of individuals, hospitals, schools, orphanages and, perhaps most harrowing, homes for handicapped people, which are carrying on in impossible circumstances, but there is no time in the context of this debate.

Our convoy took supplies to destinations in several areas, including the area covered by the British battalion of UNPROFOR. I pay tribute to the British Army medics and G5 personnel for the initiatives that they have set up to help local people to begin to revive their communities. Their guidance is an essential resource for aid agencies going into the area and their support is all the more necessary when the aid agencies come under fire, as we did on several occasions in recent weeks.

That was an interesting experience. It is a little hard to believe that some maniac is shooting at one from over the horizon. It is all very well for those who can go up there, see what is going on and come home again, but the people about whom we should be concerned are those who have to live in those communities, who have been living in such circumstances for three long years, taking casualties week after week. Things are grim, but we should acknowledge that UNPROFOR has had some substantial achievements, to which the Minister referred.

When I visited the town of Gornji Vakuf with the Defence Select Committee in February 1993, the main street was the front line in a hot war between Muslims and Croats. There was no sign of civilian life in the town. At that stage, UNPROFOR's task was to try to deliver aid through a war zone or, to be more accurate, a series of war zones.

This month, the picture in Gornji Vakuf was very different. The town is ruined, but there is now some traffic between the shell holes in the streets, people walking around and even a makeshift market with some goods for sale. It is hardly the idyll that the Minister described in his speech earlier this afternoon, but important progress has been made.

That transformation is the result of the new confederation between Muslims and Croats, established with United Nations help on 23 February. The federation is a truly remarkable achievement, given the intensity of the conflict raging in places such as Gornji Vakuf and Mostar, where the fighting was even worse, just a year ago. It means that UNPROFOR has now moved into a new role of peacekeeping on the old Muslim-Croat confrontation lines. Given the recent history of vicious conflict, that pact is obviously extremely precarious, so it is vital that UNPROFOR soldiers should be kept in place for a long time yet to help to keep that peace in place.

I know from my conversations. with British soldiers during the past few weeks that sitting at obscure checkpoints in all weathers can be a boring and apparently pointless task, but the strategy is working. It is certainly saving lives and making it possible to begin to rebuild shattered communities. All the soldiers serving with the British battalion and the other national contingents in UNPROFOR deserve our congratulations and thanks for what they have achieved so far.

I know that while I was in the area the Minister of State for the Armed Forces passed through Vitez camp. He mentioned that in his speech. I am sure that he expressed his thanks to Colonel John McColl and the Royal Anglians who are serving there now. I do not know how much of the camp the Minister saw, but I want to report on some of the nooks and crannies that he may have missed. I would not like to have to spend six months there and, since that is what we will have to expect soldiers to do for some time yet, starting with the Royal Highland Fusiliers who are moving there during the next few weeks, that camp needs some improvements.

Most seriously, the recent outbreak of dysentery at Vitez camp raises questions about the water supply. I hope that the Minister will address that point urgently, and tell us what is being done about possible sources of infection. In addition, in wet weather, the camp looks and feels like a mud hole and the toilet and shower facilities are temporary units which are not standing up to the strain of the use that they are getting. The accommodation at Gornji Vakuf and at Kiseljak seems to be rather better, but those locations lack the British Telecom satellite links which are important for the soldiers who serve there. I hope that the Minister will consider that point.

I stress that convoy crews such as ours are very grateful for the use of the Army's catering and other facilities at those bases, but, from the point of view of the soldiers, Vitez in particular needs significant improvements. If the problem is UN bureaucracy for funding, the Minister should not hesitate to kick up a fuss to raise standards for soldiers who are serving there.

I am very grateful for the helpful briefings that I received from the military at sector south-west and Britbatt headquarters while I was in the area. Obviously, the views that I now express are my own responsibility. UNPROFOR is doing an absolutely essential task and it must not be withdrawn. In turn, that means that the United States must not lift or breach the arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, I agree strongly with the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who said yesterday that Britain should be prepared to impose a veto in the Security Council if the United States tries to have that arms embargo lifted.

If we were to lift the arms embargo, it would probably take at least a year before the new weapons from the United States could be effectively deployed by the Bosnian Government forces. During that year, neither the Bosnian Serbs nor the Croats—nor their respective supporters—could be expected to sit on their hands. If the arms embargo were lifted, the Bosnian Serb army would certainly launch pre-emptive action to prevent the Muslims taking advantage of their new kit, and Croat extremists would be likely to reopen hostilities rather than risk a shift in power in the confederation towards the Muslims. That hard-won confederation could easily disintegrate.

In those circumstances, UNPROFOR would have to be pulled out, with extreme difficulty, along routes which have countless choke-points—that is, tunnels, bridges and the like—where it is all too easy to obstruct movement. Indeed, even civilians could obstruct movement down those supply routes. Lifting the arms embargo could make things far worse for the beleaguered Muslims. It could be catastrophic.

Apart from that military scenario, it would be unthinkable for the United Nations to walk away from the humanitarian task that it set up in the former Yugoslavia. Millions of people are now dependent on supplies delivered under United Nations protection. I saw some of those people in recent weeks, and it would be a crime to abandon them. Quite apart from our humanitarian obligations, we cannot afford to destroy the credibility of the United Nations as an international peacekeeping organisation. It might not be very good, but it is all we have, and it must be sustained.

Things cannot stand still, either. We need more resources to help reconstruction in the confederation area. I pay tribute to the Army and to the ODA for what they have done to help with roads, bridges and other services. Perhaps the next project should be the reinstatement of the Neretva hydro-electric scheme to restore central Bosnia's electricity supply this winter. That would be extremely good value and a reward for peace in the confederation. I understand that it could be achieved for as little as £3 million. It is worth considering.

Above all, ways must be found to make the Bosnian Serb leadership face up to the need for compromise. The three-year siege of Sarajevo is an affront to European civilisation. The Minister implied that things were returning to normal in Sarajevo. How could he suggest that? The city is entirely cut off and it is subject to regular artillery and sniper fire. Our convoy was denied access to Sarajevo last month, and I understand that last night chetnik irregulars hijacked the cargo from another convoy trying to reach Sarajevo.

The Bosnian Serb army regularly fires artillery and sniper rounds into civilian areas right around the front line, not only at Sarajevo. Yet again, its artillery has blocked the main supply route through Mostar and Jablanica into central Bosnia. When General Rose rightly responded to the latest provocations in Sarajevo, the Bosnian Serb army threatened to attack the United Nations bases. Indeed, I was in Vitez when our soldiers there were put on amber alert because of that threat. The situation is not good and we must remain on our guard.

I appreciate that it is difficult to deal with people such as the Bosnian Serb authorities, but I doubt whether appeasement is the right line, so I was very surprised when General Rose publicly rebuked Bosnian Government forces for seeking to secure part of their own territory during the past month. It is a mistake to try to be even-handed between an aggressor and his victims, especially when one is acting on behalf of the United Nations.

I do not know what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office long-term strategy for the Balkans might be, but I have my suspicions and I fear that General Rose may be influenced by that line. The House should take a close interest in that issue and we should heed the lessons of history, but the debate is not about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; it is about what our defence forces are doing.

UNPROFOR is doing a vital task remarkably well in very difficult circumstances. Its role should be developed and it should emphatically not be withdrawn. The British battalion in UNPROFOR is one of the force's most successful contingents. The experience of those soldiers in Northern Ireland makes them ideally suited to sensitive peacekeeping operations. The whole House earnestly hopes that the Northern Ireland crisis is coming to an end, but after my spell in Bosnia over the past few weeks and after having visited other areas of actual or potential instability with my colleagues on the Defence Select Committee over the past year or so, I have no doubt that there is much more peacekeeping and peacemaking to be done in and around Europe in the coming years. We must maintain high-quality conventional armed forces to play our part in that vital role, but I have very little confidence in the Government's ability or willingness to accept that responsibility.

5.36 pm
Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

It is difficult to follow the speech of the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson). The whole House was riveted by his description of his recent experiences. I congratulate him on what he has achieved in Bosnia and on bringing that experience to the House. I should very much like further to discuss the hon. Gentleman's experiences with him, but I fear that it would have to be outside the Chamber because I need to make my own speech in my own way.

It is a truism that the certainties of the cold war have been replaced by the uncertainties of what is called peace, but nowhere is that uncertainty more prevalent than among the armed forces themselves, who have had to face extreme uncertainty in recent years. It is absolutely right that the Government should cut defence expenditure to take account of the reality of the international situation, but those inevitable cuts have led to difficulties among personnel and to delays in the procurement of essential equipment.

Now, at last, I hope that we have a new situation. I hope that the defence review, "Front Line First", and the statement by the Prime Minister, which was reiterated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State yesterday, that we have now reached a position of stability for our fighting strength mean that we can look forward with confidence to the future. Above all—this point was made by my hon. Friend the Minister—I hope that we do not excessively cling to existing members of the armed forces and delay retirement and recruitment. It is important that we should be able to hold out to our young people again the idea that the armed forces provide an absolutely first-class career which provides rewards and excitement.

I want to deal with one matter that might be regarded as rather narrow, and that is the defence medical services. They are an essential part of our armed forces. A NATO circular on the subject states: Effective medical support to NATO forces is essential to operational success and indicates NATO's seriousness of intent and resolve. Medical back-up is essential. Every four-man infantry patrol has one man who is trained in medical first-aid skills and in the use of sophisticated first-aid equipment. Every member of a naval crew is trained in first aid, and a significant proportion must be trained to a higher level, because first aid primary care is absolutely essential on land and at sea. Members of the Defence Select Committee will graphically recall the demonstration on board Ark Royal in the spring, when, shortly after a hearty breakfast, we were shown exactly what happens on board during a medical emergency. We saw how the naval crew could rally round and support with primary care.

Our armed forces are well equipped with the latest equipment and they are trained to use it. Primary care is not in contention at this point, but secondary care is the subject of part of "Front Line First".

Various factors must be borne in mind. Secondary care is quite a complicated subject. First, however efficient our helicopters and fixed-wing evacuation aircraft ambulances may be, there will still be occasions when it is not possible to treat men away from the front line, and front-line secondary care is needed. We found that in the Falkland Islands, when no airstrip was available for the evacuation of our casualties; we are finding it now in Bosnia, where it is too dangerous to use helicopters for the transmission of personnel.

Moreover, there will be occasions when the casualties are too ill to be moved. There will be occasions when no transport is available to move them and when it would be too dangerous to move them. Increasingly, as we participate in United Nations operations, there will be occasions when we wish, with our medical forces, to treat people who are residents of the country that we are aiding. In Bosnia, for instance, there is no wish or intention to ship out those whom our medical forces may be assisting.

A second factor is the use to which we might put our reservists. There are problems here: we are dealing with specially trained people. I have been told that, when a candidate applies for a consultant post in the national health service, he must fill in a form part of which asks him whether he has any reserve commitment to the armed forces. Given the increasingly competitive environment in the NHS, appointing committees might be reluctant to appoint consultants with such a commitment, who might be taken away from their hospitals. Increased commercial pressures in hospitals and the introduction of performance-related pay might also be a factor.

Mr. Donald Anderson

As the hon. Gentleman may know, many of those concerned with our reservists point out that one of the policies stemming from the new hospital trusts is a reluctance to release people for training.

Mr. Viggers

The hon. Gentleman backs me up, although I regret that he also makes a political point. Indeed, that factor genuinely inhibits greater use of reserves.

My third point is that the defence medical service must be on the same notice to move as the rest of the armed forces. It is no good sending out the front line first and bringing medical support later. As I have said before, medical staff—certainly in primary care—are right there in the front line wherever the forces go: even when the special forces are shinning down chimneys, medical support is present.

The fourth point is slightly complicated. To attract reputable clinicians into the armed forces, we need accreditation procedures that will allow doctors and nurses in the forces to obtain recognition from the individual royal colleges. It is no good having second-rate medical practitioners in the forces, and training is not possible without accreditation. Training and practice go together, and that argues in favour of increased co-operation between the defence medical service and the NHS.

It is not possible, however, to employ people who are entirely interwoven with the NHS. In times of emergency, surgical support teams, field hospitals, primary casualty receiving ships and casualty treatment ships will be needed; people will be required who can work all hours of the day and night, in conditions of war, when equipment shortages and danger are part of the scene. That means that a dedicated group is needed, capable of taking on all medical care and all forms of surgery, medical aid, ophthalmology, pathology and, of course, nuclear medicine: we need a tough, trained, disciplined cadre.

To integrate such people in the NHS is very good for training, but focusing all medical care in the armed services on one area—provided through the NHS—would have a serious effect. It would leave a large hole as and when mobilisation took place. A delicate balance is needed between those working in the NHS and a back-up procedure allowing gaps to be filled when the medical defence service disappears.

How have we dealt with the problem in the past? Until 1992, the defence medical services had seven hospitals—six if we exclude Catterick, which is quite small and specialised—and there were 1,500 dentists and doctors and 7,500 nurses and back-up staff, making a total of 9,000. In February 1993, there was what the MOD described as a "fundamental reassessment", as a result of which it was proposed to close Woolwich, Halton and Plymouth hospitals, leaving only three. A mere 17 months later, in July this year, "Front Line First" announced that we did not need Wroughton or Aldershot; so now we have one. The figure has gone from six to one in two years—the arrangements will take effect in April 1996.

In February 1993, 1,500 beds were thought to be required, of which between 1,100 and 1,200 would be provided in service hospitals. In July 1994, "Front Line First" stated that we needed between 700 and 800 beds, half of which would be in military district hospital units, while the remaining 375 would be provided in the tri-service hospital at Haslar.

I am more concerned about people than about hospitals and beds as such. The numbers do not add up. As I have said, in 1992 we had 9,000 trained staff in the medical defence service; in February 1993, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Sir A. Hamilton)—then Minister of State for the Armed Forces—announced that we needed 20 per cent. fewer than the original 9,000, which I calculate to be a total of 7,200. "Front Line First" states on page 39, however, that the changes now proposed will result in a reduction of approximately 1,020, making a total of 6,180. I should add that my own journalist sources, which have been right in the past, tell me that there will be well over 4,000 job reductions. That simply does not add up.

There is, of course, a possibility of misunderstanding. It is possible that the previous job reductions have not yet been made. I understand that we currently have 1,600 doctors and dentists in the armed forces, compared with the 1,500 who were thought to be needed in 1993. The job reductions have not been made there, and some of the 4,000 reductions may be made in places such as Cyprus and Germany. "Front Line First" points out on page 39 that the 1,020 job cuts are those resulting from Front Line First". If contemporaneous job reductions are taking place which do not derive from "Front Line First", the House deserves to know about it. As a member of the Select Committee, I must say that I have become suspicious of vague numbers that always seem to crystallise at the wrong end of the spectrum of uncertainty. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement to be good enough to put the record straight, and reassure me by stating the current strength of the defence medical service and its proposed strength following the implementation of defence costs study 15 in April 1996.

Subject to satisfaction on the numbers, I welcome the concept of increased co-operation with the NHS through the military district hospital units. Above all, I welcome the choice of Haslar, in my constituency, as the location of the tri-service hospital. Originally founded in 1753 as the Royal hospital, it has a proud record of medical care for all the services, and also provides a full range of care for civilians. Housed in a superb historic building, it has the latest modern medical equipment. With 1 million people in its catchment area, and with strong links with the universities of Portsmouth and Southampton, it would also be the logical centre for the defence medical training organisations, whose location has not yet been finally decided.

Subject to the points that I have raised with my right hon. Friend, I strongly support the proposals in "Front Line First" and the Government's current posture; but I would be grateful for reassurance on the future of the defence medical service.

5.49 pm
Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)

I am extremely grateful to be called so early in this important debate. Although the Minister of State for the Armed Forces is not here I should like to congratulate him on his appointment. I thought at first that the armed forces had a champion on the other side of the House. However, it would appear that the Minister is supporting the Treasury proposals, so obviously the armed forces do not have that champion. He paid tribute to the wives of service personnel and referred to them collecting their children from school. I have to say that at the school at RAF Finningley they are also collecting signatures for a petition against the closure of RAF Finningley. The closure is a tragedy.

I expected a little bit more from the Minister because to me consultation means a two-way exchange of ideas in which people get together and come up with a commonsense, logical solution. Regrettably, that has not been the case. I am sorry that the Minister operates dual standards. I say that because I wrote to ask for a meeting with him about the closure of RAF Finningley. The request was turned down. Yet I hear from his speech from the Dispatch Box this afternoon that he has received deputations from Conservative Members. The RAF personnel at Finningley deserve a little more. I hope that the Minister will agree to a meeting. It is no good putting forward ideas about the future use or retention of RAF Finningley if we do not have the answers to one or two questions that only the Minister or his staff can give.

We met the previous incumbent of the Minister's office before the decision was made to close RAF Finningley. We talked about possible dual use as a means of deferring some of the RAF's costs. I regret that there does not appear to have been a follow-up from that. When the Minister's letter refers to "Front Line First decisions" it should say "Treasury first line" decisions.

The Defence Select Committee report suggests that many points remain to be substantiated before a logical decision can be taken about RAF Finningley. The Minister's letter said that the need to train crews at RAF Finningley had diminished. That is not the information that we have been given. It would appear that the need to train crews will continue well into the future. I hope that the Ministry of Defence and the Prime Minister will get together. While RAF Finningley has served the nation extremely well in the past and has had many millions of pounds spent on it, we suddenly find that it is not compatible because it is isolated. Either the military staff are correct about the past role of RAF Finningley—in which case the Prime Minister is wrong—or the Prime Minister is right, in which case he should have sacked the military staff.

Mr. Soames

I am sorry that I was not here when the hon. Gentleman started his speech. I recall writing to him, although I do not recall the precise nature of my letter. I am sure that I said in the letter that I would be happy to see him at a later stage. If I did not, I confirm across the Floor of the House that I would be happy to see him with a delegation. I am almost sure that I said that a consultation period was taking place and that I would be happy to see him later.

Mr. Redmond

I am extremely grateful for the Minister's intervention. I have the letter in front of me. While it says that the Minister will be happy to consider any comments, it makes no reference to the request for a meeting. I am happy to accept the Minister's assurance.

We have received many letters and telephone calls about the closure of RAF Finningley. The people involved cannot understand why the decision has been taken to close it. I hope that even at this late stage, the decision will be reconsidered. We talk about the war, misery and suffering that dictators cause in the world. We say that there is a need to send in our troops from time to time to support the United Nations. There has been talk about the armed forces being overstretched. That would be the case if the proposals went through.

I have listened to many hon. Members' speeches about the need for an adequate force. Obviously, if we reduce the military capability of the RAF we will put the lads and lasses at risk. They cannot understand the logic of the decision to close RAF Finningley. I cannot answer some of the questions that are being asked of me because we have not yet met the Minister. It has been suggested that the Dominies are to be moved to RAF Cranwell. I understand that there is no room for the aircraft and that there are not enough married quarters there. There are oceans of married quarters at Finningley. I understand that there is no suitable building for the simulator.

It has been suggested that the Jetstreams may be moved to Cranwell, Brize Norton or Church Fenton and that the Hawks may go to Leeming. The costs involved in those movements and in what has happened at Finningley in the past few years must place question marks over the decision reached by the Treasury. I hope that the Minister will tell the Treasury to go back to its slide rules and come up with something more acceptable to the people in the RAF.

RAF Finningley employs 917 service personnel and 650 civilian personnel. It puts into the local economy in Doncaster an estimated £16.5 million. Given the devastation of South Yorkshire caused by the closure of the coal mines, the local authority and the private sector in Doncaster are doing everything possible to attract employment to Doncaster to take up the unemployment. It is important that we consider other factors because we are closing not simply an RAF station but a school. Over the years the school has built up expertise in teaching service personnel children. As we all know, the children move from station to station across the world. It is important that skilled personnel are available to pick up the children and give them the education that they deserve. If RAF Finningley closes, the school will obviously be put at risk.

I could go on, but I am grateful to have been called and as the Minister has given an assurance that we can meet him, I hope to make the points that I was going to make across the Floor of the House on another occasion.

5.58 pm
Mr. Mark Robinson (Somerton and Frome)

We could have been forgiven a few weeks ago for thinking that Saddam Hussein had simply gone away. But, of course, he had not. Once again, he popped up on the Kuwait border. That, more than anything, illustrates the increasingly idiosyncratic world that has followed the post-cold war era. That is why hon. Members on both sides of the House should welcome the Prime Minister's statement in Bournemouth last week that The big upheavals in our armed services are over. What a contrast that statement makes with the amendment that the official Opposition have at last tabled. What is the defence review that they want? I do not think that any Conservative Member or anyone in the country would believe that such a defence review would lead to an increase in defence spending. Of course it would not.

The Opposition condemn the Government in their amendment and use the words "piecemeal cuts". Given the safety curtain that they have drawn down over their defence policies—a defence review—are we to assume that they are really talking about wholesale cuts? Time would tell, in the unlikely event that they were given such an opportunity.

By continuing to bang on about the need for review—we have heard about it in speech after speech—the Opposition continue the uncertainty for our armed forces. The one thing that those forces need is a period of stability and that is what the Prime Minister offered them in his speech last week and what my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence offered them in his speech yesterday.

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

Is that the reason why the 22 motions criticising the Government at the Conservative party conference, plus the motion calling for a full defence review, were not discussed at that conference?

Mr. Robinson

No, that is not the reason. We had a sensible and worthwhile debate on defence at our conference, in which one theme emerged again and again—that our armed services need a period of stability, following the very necessary changes that we made.

The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) gave the game away in his amendment, as did the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) in his speech. In that amendment, we still see the true face of the Labour party on defence matters.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State rightly emphasised the path for Britain in the post-cold war period, when he stressed the need for armed forces that are flexible, mobile and able to respond to the very curious world in which we now live".—[Official Report, 17 October 1994; Vol. 248, c. 37.] "Front Line First" has been a constructive and important contribution to the process of change and it has not been delivered from on high, but worked up through the armed forces, which were involved in it.

The royal naval air station at Yeovilton in my constituency plays an increasingly important part in our nation's defences and I am pleased that "Front Line First" reaffirms that role. The base has a vital contribution to make to Britain's effectiveness and it has done so in many conflicts, including the Falklands and the Gulf war.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the unsung but crucial role that Sea Kings from that air station have played in humanitarian relief operations in Bosnia. That brings me to the crucial role that helicopters have to play to enable us to respond flexibly to unexpected or uncertain conflicts. Although Westland is not in my constituency, many of its employees live in Somerton and Frome, including the chairman. In the EH101, that company has produced a world-beater for the next generation of support helicopters. Merlin aircraft are already destined for the Royal Navy and the NAPNOC—no acceptable price, no contract—negotiations mean, at long last, that a decision on the EH101 order for the RAF is imminent.

I hope that the specifications that are being sought remain realistic and that the matter can be brought to a swift conclusion. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement has had an opportunity to fly in the EH101 and I am sure that he will have seen for himself the aircraft's remarkable capabilities.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has already said that he is looking for a balanced fleet of support helicopters, incorporating the EH101 and the Chinook. The two are not mutually exclusive. A confirmed order for 20 or so EH101 helicopters would be a tremendous boost to the work force at Westland and also to the export opportunities that lie ahead for that aircraft. I hope that once the NAPNOC process is concluded there will be no further delays and the matter will reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Future orders for attack helicopters will also be important to the operational abilities of our armed services. Bidding is in progress and I had the opportunity to see some of the competitors at the Farnborough air show. I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement to achieve a contract by mid-summer 1995. That objective has been reaffirmed on a number of occasions and I hope that in this instance it can be adhered to.

Naturally, there has been concern about reports in the press of cost overruns on the Eurofighter 2000. I am heartened by my right hon. and learned Friend's continuing support for that project. I am sure that the many sub-contractors who will benefit from it will also be heartened, including companies such as Normalair Garrett in the south-west. Once again, that aircraft is a tribute to the part that Britain can play in co-operative European ventures.

Perhaps this is an appropriate moment to mention the future large aircraft, which has been mentioned by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Much has been said about proposals for the FLA. I would simply say that it should not be forgotten and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will not forget it, although it has been forgotten in certain marketing quarters—conveniently, perhaps—that orders for the C130J are worth as much as £1 million per aircraft to United Kingdom sub-contractors and those include Westland.

Just as I do not see the EH101 and the Chinook as mutually exclusive, I do not see the C130J and the FLA as mutually exclusive. They are different aircraft with different capabilities, in different stages of design. Feasibility studies on the FLA have not concluded, although I had the opportunity to see a remarkable mock-up at Farnborough, which was created in just a few days.

The decision to replace the oldest Hercules aircraft with the C130J will not jeopardise the FLA's future prospects. It will have to stand on its own feet after the conclusion of the feasibility studies. There are many unanswered questions about where the money will be found to secure the development of that aircraft.

Meanwhile, the Hercules has done a remarkable job in many theatres. I have been on Hercules aircraft involved in relief operations in Bangladesh and many colleagues have witnessed the aircraft's flexibility. It is smaller than the FLA would be, which is why, even if the latter were built and orders announced, there would be room for both as part of our future defence needs.

Procurement is important. It is important to British industry and to jobs and it is important that people overseas recognise that Britain still has a prominent part to play in the production of aircraft for world markets. We look to our Ministers to support our companies when they try to win orders. We know that they sometimes have to do so against the odds because other countries use different methods and different financing to support their order books, which often makes it more difficult for us. We compete and we win because we produce good aircraft. We have the technicians and the aviators, and I see many of them in my frequent visits to Westland and to another area of the defence industries, Marconi Underwater Systems at Templecombe in my constituency. Defence contracts are very important to the south-west. We need them, and we need the support of Ministers in winning export orders.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse)

Order. Before I call the next speaker, may I remind the House that speeches must now last for no longer than 10 minutes?

6.10 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

I should like to focus my comments on weapons proliferation issues, and I shall refer first to chemical weapons.

I echo the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) that the Government should push ahead with the ratification of the chemical weapons convention. The G7 commitment has been mentioned, and we should find parliamentary time to ratify the convention. I know of no hon. Member—certainly no Opposition Member—who would oppose such a Bill. I wonder whether the Government have other things on their mind. For example, the September issue of Chemistry in Britain—the magazine of the Royal Society of Chemistry—carried an article entitled: Heseltine drags feet on CWC. The article said that the President of the Board of Trade has not been prepared to introduce the bill. Post office privatisation is more important in his view. The proper implementation of the chemical weapons convention should be a defence priority, and I call on the Secretary of State for Defence to press in Cabinet for Britain's ratification to be pushed forward with all speed.

When the defence estimates were published, the Secretary of State told a press conference that the ability to undertake a massive nuclear strike is not enough to ensure deterrence. We need the capability to undertake nuclear action on a more limited scale in order to demonstrate our willingness to defend our vital interests to the utmost. That is a very silly and dangerous approach which, in effect, amounts to lowering the nuclear threshold.

The Government should instead concentrate on strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The NPT was agreed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970—a few months short of the 25th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. Twenty-five years on, the NPT faces a crucial milestone in the decision to be taken on its extension.

The NPT obliges parties without nuclear weapons to refrain from acquiring them. In return, states with nuclear weapons took on obligations of their own. The preamble to the NPT talks of strengthening the trust between States in order to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons; the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles; and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons, and the means of their delivery". Article VI of the NPT obliges the parties to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament". How has the United Kingdom fulfilled those obligations? The short answer is that it has not, and that makes Britain's position on the international stage very difficult. It is the utmost hypocrisy to say that other states do not need nuclear weapons, while maintaining that they are vital for Britain's defence.

The United States and Russia should be congratulated on the progress that they have made in cuts in nuclear arms. Those cuts, though substantial, are only the first step, and much more will be needed. President Yeltsin told the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September that nuclear arms reductions should include Britain, France and China—quite right, too.

Against the trend, Britain is preparing to double the number of strategic nuclear warheads in its stockpile— a maximum of 96 on each Trident submarine against a maximum of 48 on each Polaris submarine.

Aside from the deployment of actual weapons, the Government's policies on nuclear testing have been detrimental to the progress towards a comprehensive test ban treaty, which is currently being negotiated in Geneva. If the Government had not spent so much energy in Washington lobbying hard against a test ban, the talks in Geneva might have started a year earlier. China would not have carried out its nuclear test 10 days ago, the second this year. Those tests should be robustly condemned. Although there is no legal link between the comprehensive test ban and the NPT, there has been a growing political link in the eyes of many states. Speedy progress in Geneva is therefore essential.

In my view, action will be needed in other areas. First, there is the distinction between favoured and non-favoured states, and the blind eye which is turned to favoured states that may be breaching international norms. For example, although Israel is not a member of the NPT, there has been no public pressure from our Government for it to give up on nuclear weapons. However, Pakistan—also not a member of the NPT—has been roundly condemned for having the same ambition. There should not be one set of rules for some favoured states and another set for other states. The spread of nuclear weapons must be condemned at every turn by every country.

Why do non-nuclear states want nuclear weapons? They want them because they think that it is in their interests to obtain them. They should be convinced otherwise. One step that nuclear weapons states could take is to strengthen security assurances—a demand made by many developing states.

A formal agreement on security assurances could be linked to an agreement on "no-first-use" of nuclear weapons; something which China has declared an interest in seeking. That could be part of a deal to encourage China to stop testing and to phase down its nuclear programme. However, Britain is opposed to general security assurances and to "no-first-use" assurances for political reasons. The Government want to retain the option to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states, and that is quite wrong.

That is proved by the distinction that the Government make between sub-strategic and strategic nuclear weapons. The distinction used to be made on the range of the weapons, but now that the sub-strategic so-called "deterrent" is to be carried on Trident missiles, the distinction has become peculiar. As they are identical warheads on identical missiles, the distinction can be made only in the way in which they are used or are threatened to be used.

The truth is that if any nuclear weapon landed on Britain, it would be seen as strategic. Yet, with this distinction, we are trying to say that that is not the case. If it is the case for Britain, it is the case for all other nuclear weapons states. It is clear that the sub-strategic Trident could not be used against any other nuclear state. Who would the weapons be targeted against? The answer is non-nuclear weapons states, and that is the real distinction between strategic and sub-strategic weapons that the Government have made. It is wrong to adopt the attitude that we would attack non-nuclear states with nuclear weapons.

A radical review of nuclear policy in this country is needed. Last year, Rear Admiral Edward Scheafer Junior—the head of US naval intelligence—said that somewhere, some time in this decade, someone is going to set off a nuclear weapon in deadly earnest. The prognosis need not be as bad as that, but action must be taken now to avoid such a situation.

Ted Galen Carpenter, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato institute in Washington, wrote in an article in Foreign Affairs this year: The United States can take some steps to help make a multipolar nuclear world marginally safer. Under no circumstances, however, should Washington place this country at risk in purely regional disputes that have nuclear dangers … the reality is that conflicts between long-standing rivals are an ever-present danger. He concluded by saying that although nuclear weapons had made the super-powers cautious in their cold war rivalry, it is a leap of faith to assume that the existence of nuclear weapons will produce similar restraint in much more volatile regional settings. That, again, is a most important argument in favour of extending the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and making it effective worldwide.

As I have just one minute left in which to speak, I want to emphasise that we need to strengthen security safeguards governing the civil and military use of atomic energy. We could have, for example, a fissiles materials cut-off agreement. We need to strengthen export controls on dual-use technologies as well as nuclear ones. It is scandalous that the current export goods control order, a statutory instrument which was passed at a time of war in September 1939, allows no scrutiny of exports from this country. We should have the right to inspect exported equipment in operation at its destination and to check that it is being used—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)


6.20 pm
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) will forgive me if I do not pursue his argument. We should, however, have a day set aside for a debate on the nuclear proliferation treaty because it is vital to us that we understand what we are on about. Such a debate should command the undivided attention of the House.

The Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), said that he was surprised to learn from a research organisation that Britain could not perform certain missions on its own. I shall not go into the detail of that research, but I am not altogether surprised because I do not know of any country, apart, possibly, from the United States, that wishes to or could undertake any serious military mission without the help of some organisation or other country.

Such co-operation is the theme of the Government's defence policy and it runs through the White Paper that we are discussing today. The Government believe that our security operations will increasingly be pursued multilaterally. If the hon. Member for Swansea, East does not understand that, God help the country if the Labour party came to power.

It is right to pursue that theme because our foreign policy and economic interests are linked increasingly to international partners. The chosen instrument for co-operation has been NATO and continues to be so. After the end of the cold war, some people wrote NATO off in quasi-fourth form essays entitled, "Whither NATO". They implied that the end was nigh. As a long-standing member of the North Atlantic Assembly, I have observed how NATO's structure, including that of the assembly, has adapted to the uncertainties of the post-cold war period.

Mr. Donald Anderson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

No, I am sorry. I hate the 10-minute limit on speeches, but I have never been able to speak without it, so I shall use up my time.

The NATO summit of last January marked an important step in its evolution, because it reaffirmed the interdependence of the alliance, its important links with the United States and the need to strengthen the European pillar of NATO. As a consequence, France is now shedding some of its old suspicions and hostility towards NATO and its serving officers are working within NATO's command structure in Bosnia. The setting up of a combined joint task force, based on the principle that NATO should be able to deploy a headquarters combined task force to carry out a range of operations, whether under NATO, the Western European Union or the United Nations, illustrates the adaptability of NATO and the emphasis that it puts on the need for flexible and rapid reaction forces.

All those changes were foreshadowed in "Options for Change" some years ago and justify to the hilt the Government's decision not to indulge in the luxury of a defence review. Such a review, like a royal commission, takes minutes and wastes years so that it is out of date as soon as it is published.

I welcome the "Partnership for Peace" initiative, just as I welcome my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) who have joined the ministerial team. They will add a great deal to our debates, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Yesterday, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State spoke about "Partnership for Peace" and of the magnificent contributions that we have made to that initiative. They have been widely accepted and we can be proud of that contribution.

It is worth considering our defence costs study and "Front Line First" in the context of our international commitments and our membership of NATO. One of the more unpleasant tasks facing a Secretary of State for Defence must be that of presiding over a policy that cuts defence expenditure. My right hon. and learned Friend cannot like that—his Ministers and hon. Members do not like it either. The Secretary of State is not unlike a general who is ordered to conduct an organised and disciplined retreat that could so easily turn into a rout.

The Secretary of State and his Ministers have been buffeted by the Treasury and understandably impelled by the public to seek a peace dividend. They can claim that their cuts have staved off disaster. The Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence no less, who has never been backward in his criticism, has congratulated the Government on the way in which the defence costs study has limited the damage.

We have had a reassurance from the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State that a line has been drawn and that no further cuts in the strength of the armed forces are contemplated. That assurance, together with "Front Line First", is the best news that we have had for a long time—and not before time either. Nevertheless the past few years have put an enormous strain on the morale of our armed forces. We should not forget that. Ministers are rightly impressed by their dedication and professionalism. They see them at their best, so it is not too difficult to accept from top military leaders that the talk of low morale is exaggerated. That is the way of service men and service women. Their own pride and loyalty to the services prevents them from bellyaching to Ministers.

I have no wish to exaggerate the impact of reducing the numbers in our armed forces, redundancies or forced amalgamations between units. I cannot, however, ignore that impact, nor should it be ignored. All I can affirm is that it would be astonishing if the changes of the past few years had not made their mark on men and women from whom the highest standards are expected.

We are right to be concerned; after all, we do not have conscription. Our allies expect us to make up for our lack of numbers with quality in personnel, training, equipment and research and development. We know that anxieties have been expressed about all those spheres. If one talks to some of our friends who are part of the alliance, it is particularly disturbing to discover that they have noticed those anxieties. One cannot expect to be a leader of Europe in NATO if those allies find defects gradually advancing in our defence structure. Although it is important to praise the professionalism of the services, that must be backed up with proper support. There should be no question of any further hints of reductions in expenditure on defence affecting the quality of either personnel or equipment.

I am bound to be disturbed to hear of wives and families who have been put under enormous strain through the absence of their men folk; of difficulties in recruiting adequate numbers of adequate quality; of potential leaders at all levels leaving the services and, most important, of a lack of training at a level that exercises skills of command and the deployment of advanced technology well beyond those required for peacekeeping duties, important though they are. I cannot remember when we had our last divisional training exercise, except in the Gulf. Those problems are causing concern.

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces referred to the Bett review on the conditions and terms of service of the armed forces. That, too, has caused concern. I hope that it will not cut across the established and well-tried practices that embellish and help to compensate service men and women of all ranks for the many sacrifices that they are called upon to make. Such a review should not be used, nor should we suspect it of being used, as a way of making substantial savings. I was pleased to note how the Minister reassured my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) that that is not the case. I hope that that is true.

I have two questions for my colleagues on the Front Bench. First, are we to take it that when troops engaged in Northern Ireland are no longer needed, there will be no yielding to further pressure for reductions in their number? Some people think that more than an extra 10,000 personnel is needed, but there should be no reduction in their number.

Secondly, if the savings identified in the defence costs study are not realised, can we be reassured that the defence budget will not be cut again or that orders for defence equipment that sustains the quality of our armed forces will not be postponed to a later date?

We all have a shopping list. Mine is a simple one, based on the policy of flexible response, which fits in with NATO. I therefore want a decision on helicopters. There are nice people at Westland, but I am fed up with being bombarded by their questions about when an order will be placed for the EH101. We need that helicopter and we could throw in a Chinook as well, as my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Robinson) suggested. We have kept Westland waiting for too long. I have no doubt that we need an assault helicopter if we want a flexible, effective response. I fancy the Apache. Although I should not wish to repeat the experience, I have looped the loop in an Apache and can vouch for its rapid reliability. The need for a flexible and rapid response means that we must also replace the most aged of our Hercules transport. We cannot have those lolloping around for the next 10 years, waiting for an accident.

In those circumstances, I commend to my hon. Friends the fact that we have enormous support for what has been achieved. However, we hope that the Government will take on board the fears that some of us have expressed in this debate.

6.29 pm
Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) in debate, if not in philosophy. I had not heard before that he had gone loopy in the past. I can commend some of his points to the House. We do not agree on everything, but he and I know full well the points on which we disagree. As well as congratulating the hon. Gentleman on a good speech, I commend the speech of the right hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) and advise Ministers to heed the points that he offered the House. The hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), who has just left the Chamber, made a telling speech on medical facilities.

In the 10 unforgiving minutes allotted to me, I shall concentrate on three areas. First, I visited the Cambodia Trust in Phnom Penh and Kampot and saw there the work being done by a British charity to produce false limbs for the unfortunate victims of the hideous hardware left in that region as a result of the continuous war. The Cambodia Trust trains Cambodians to make false limbs out of materials produced in Cambodia. It then trains the best of those technicians to become lecturers in prosthesis and orthosis. It is currently training administrators and managerial staff to leave a self-sustaining working clinic there within three years, staffed by Cambodians, serving Cambodians, and making all the products in Cambodia. So it will not be dependent on any other state.

That charity seeks to extend its work into other areas of the world. To my knowledge, 27 other countries have huge problems of that kind. Within those countries, 100 million mines have been deployed and 1 million victims are already consigned to sitting in the dust until such time as someone can give them a limb on which to stand and help them to help themselves.

While in Cambodia, I saw at first hand the work of the Mines Advisory Group, which is supervised in the province of Xien Khouane by a man from the Western Isles called Donald Donalson, who was recently made redundant from his job as an RAF bombing range clearance officer. He is doing marvellous work in Cambodia with spirit and great humour. The work being done is admirable.

In that region of south-east Asia, two aspects of the problem are being dealt with by British agencies: the need for amputees to receive provision; and the need for the eradication of weapons that should not have been there in the first place.

The third aspect of the problem that needs a solution is the need for an expression of political will on a global scale. Governments must decide collectively to put a stop to the design, production, deployment of and training in such hideous hardware. The best military minds will agree that it serves no useful purpose. The deployment of those weapons serves only to deny the terrain to everybody else. In so doing, however, it is denied to those deploying the weapons, whether it be on their own land or someone else's. The whole thing is preposterous and serves no useful purpose.

I should like to say a brief word on the general thrust of the defence costs studies. I have already said more than once in the House—I disagree with many of my Opposition colleagues—that the only peace dividend available to us is peace itself. The world has changed so dramatically since the end of the cold war that we have yet to realise the scale of that change. The world is more unstable, there are more trouble spots and they are more unpredictable. The whole question of providing for them is enormous and we cannot predict events.

We have heard a catalogue of the good work done by the forces under pressure and difficulties. The Chairman of the Select Committee on which I serve has expressed concern about overstretching and I agree with him on that. In any given year, 265 nights out of bed is far too much to expect of anyone, even Cabinet Ministers. If the job is so hard and the pressures so high, why on earth are we cutting back? I do not consider that a fatuous question, but I consider the answer given to me a fatuous answer.

In response to questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) on the closure of depots, the Minister said that the remarks were idiotic. I have a few idiotic remarks of my own to make, and they are all in the form of questions. I hope that I shall not receive idiotic answers. I wish to refer specifically to Eaglescliffe, the most modern storage depot in the country, if not in the world—it is brand new. It is remarkable and hon. Members should go and see it. Why has a decision been taken to close Eaglescliffe less than four years after we were assured that it would stay open, when we discussed the Pulvertaft proposals?

Why was the consultation document five years late, so non-specific and so limited that it was confined to four sides of A4 paper? I do not believe that it took five weeks to write four A4 sides. Why was the response to legitimate queries so dismissive and inadequate? Why was a two-week extension to the duration of the consultation period announced less than 24 hours before its closure date? And why only a two-week extension when the curtailment was five weeks plus the obstruction to the questions to the Ministry of Defence? The whole matter is so unreasonable that it makes nonsense of the term "consultation". It beggars description. It is so dismissive that it is disrespectful, and the people of Cleveland deserve a better response.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement and I have had a better than average relationship. I hope that that will remain. Occasionally, he has assisted me and I have sometimes recognised that assistance in the time-honoured parliamentary way. I shall not go into more detail. I have asked a number of pertinent questions tonight, as did the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) in his contribution last night. I do not often agree with him and I do not agree with everything that he said last night, but he made a good speech and the pertinent points in it deserve a response. I had hoped to hear a response to some of those arguments this afternoon.

I am sorry that I could not be here for the first day of this debate, but I read the report of the proceedings this afternoon and saw that the Minister promised to respond today to the points to which he did not respond yesterday.

Mr. Soames

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Cook

I am sorry; I have only seconds left.

I was hoping that I would receive a response earlier this afternoon. I listened carefully and did not hear a response. I hope that the Minister, in replying to the debate, will respond to the arguments that the hon. Member for Stockton, South made and those that I made—or perhaps I may have a copy of the letter that he received. I look forward to it. I listen with interest.

6.39 pm
Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity of catching your eye in this debate. I shall concentrate, in the time available to me, on two or three items.

I should like to identify myself with the views that were expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Robinson), who strongly expressed the case to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement that there should not simply be a one-sided argument about the order for the replacement of the Hercules. I speak with an interest in the matter, since Lucas Aerospace would be providing the FADEC, or engine control management system, for the C130J. I understand that perhaps 1,700 jobs at Lucas and possibly more elsewhere would be involved in about 36 British companies, which have been successful in bidding for part of that contract. I do not wish to take anything away from the excellent idea of the future large aircraft, but we should remember that that proposed aircraft is only at the feasibility stage at the moment; it has not been completed and it has not flown.

Another aspect of the C130J speaks for itself. A huge amount of time, experience and dedication has been invested in that type of aircraft, especially by special forces. They have had to learn to fly it extremely low, sometimes to drop out of it without parachutes, and to drop equipment and sensitive material, with a great deal of expertise, extremely quietly in hostile territory, which would not necessarily be appropriate in a much larger, as yet untested, aeroplane. I say no more at this stage about that, but I hope that my right hon. Friend has listened. The two are in no way mutually exclusive.

I am in some difficulty, having listened carefully to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) at the time when he produced his "Options for Change", because he promised me then that he would go this far and no further. The announcement of last year's unified Budget on 30 November heralded a further reduction in the defence budget—the third significant defence reduction in four years. The overall effect has been to reduce defence expenditure as a proportion of gross national product to about 3 per cent., in stark contrast to the average of about 5 per cent. in the 1970s and 1980s. That is also in stark contrast to the French defence budget, which is currently 3.8 per cent. and increasing by 3 per cent. every year. Between £3 billion and £4 billion, whichever way one works it, has been cut from the defence budget since my right hon. Friend gave me those assurances.

What does my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State think has happened in the past three years to justify the cutting of a further £1 billion or £2 billion from the defence budget? I ask because my right hon. and learned Friend has said from time to time that that is in keeping with the new world order, but that new world order, such as it was, was taken into account by the "Options for Change" exercise, which brought sweeping cuts in 1990. That acknowledged the collapse of communism, the responsibility hangover from our imperial past and the need to deter possible belligerents from the Falkland Islands or other areas as well as from Northern Ireland. It also provided an insurance premium against most serious post-Soviet threats, including nuclear proliferation spreading especially to religious zealots, whether they be in the form of Gaddafi, Saddam or the mullahs of Iran.

I remain to be convinced as yet that my right hon. and learned Friend has defended the defence budget in a way that I might have hoped that he would have been able to.

Specifically, I should like to identify my remarks about the overall strategy for defence expenditure with those of my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith), who said that what we really need is flexibility. I could not agree more. Flexibility is the key in determining the type of forces that we may have in the future.

I have been privileged, with the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire), who spoke so well yesterday from the Opposition Benches, to take part in the armed forces parliamentary scheme. We have visited installations, sadly about to close, both at Portland and in the area that she represents, in Rosyth, the minor war vessels centre, with which we were both inordinately impressed. They were both extremely well-run operations and I hope that my hon. Friends will give us some assurances that their transition to their new homes will be as smooth as possible, so that they may continue to operate in the extremely professional manner that they have done.

We have also had the opportunity to visit several other vessels, including HMS Nottingham sailing in the Adriatic. The one fact that I should like to share with colleagues in the House tonight concerning that ship was that the morale of its men, although excellent—they are doing an excellent job—is being tested by the duration of their tours. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will be able to implement the harmony guidelines and to ensure that, whether the tours be in Northern Ireland or in such places, on board ships, their length will be reduced. That will help officers and crew and their families.

The Navy has worries about several matters which I hope my hon. Friend might be able to tackle. If we are to have flexible response, if amphibious capability is to be the watchword—the byword—of our future planning, especially in naval strategy, we must ensure that our units for that purpose are in tip-top working order. At the centre of those units we must consider our current fleet of aircraft carriers, which will need replacement by the year 2010 or thereabouts. I hope that my hon. Friends will not forget that we have various other areas of significant expenditure in our budgets, all of which may add to a rather nasty lump or blip during that period.

While speaking briefly about deployment, I said in my previous contribution to the House how much I regretted the decision that was forced on my right hon. and learned Friend to scrap the Upholder class of conventional submarines. Those would have been especially useful for special forces deployment. I hope that my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Ministers of State will give urgent consideration to fitting the sub-strategic nuclear submarines, which I understand might in future carry out such a role, with the necessary hatches or other equipment to enable them to do the job in the same way as the Upholders might have done. I am confident that they will perform that task admirably, but I hope that we shall not hesitate to make the necessary expenditure to ensure that it is as well and professionally done as it should be.

Whatever we may think about defence, the most important thing is that our service men believe that they are being well represented here and in the Departments. I have every hope and expectation that my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend, whom I welcome to the Front Bench, will fight for their interests, as I know that hon. Members will.

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

I am grateful for the opportunity of mentioning briefly three issues about which I have written to the Ministers during the recess, and which cause great anxiety locally. I hope that I receive more satisfactory replies in the debate tonight than I have had during the recess. I hope that we have the right Minister of State for Defence Procurement to give me that reply.

Last summer, in the estimates debate, I urgently questioned my right hon. Friend's predecessor about the reports of problems with the ancient Polaris submarines. There had been many incidents. As the Minister knows, there have been further incidents this year about which I have written to him, and especially the incident on HMS Renown in August, which shortly before had had a five-year refit. The Minister admitted to me in a letter that the crew was tested for radioactivity following the return to Faslane and that the submarine had what he described as "a minor defect". Minor defects can turn nuclear submarines into floating time bombs, and they sail down the Clyde past my constituency.

Why is HMS Resolution, the oldest of the Polaris submarines, still continuing in service? It was due for retirement many years ago. Is not the reality that there has been a long series of incidents with those submarines causing dangers to the crew as well as to local people? There should be—I am asking the Minister to institute it—a full safety review of the state of all Polaris submarines so that such disturbing incidents do not occur. Safety considerations must be paramount.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Hargreaves) about the future large aircraft. Many of my constituents work at the British Aerospace Jetstream factory at Prestwick. Dick Evans, the chief executive of British Aerospace, has given me an assurance that some of the FLA work will come to that factory. I am keen to press the case of the FLA as the best long-term replacement for the Hercules. Strong arguments were advanced to show that the FLA option not only safeguards the future of British Aerospace as a whole, which is vital, but is the best aircraft for the country's military requirements. I say to the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) that I do not think that we can pursue both options.

The Government should recognise that refurbishing the existing fleet—in answer to an earlier challenge, I can say that I have flown in one of them—is a viable option in the short term. The Government should not rush into a decision on the first tranche by the end of the year, but should wait for the results of the FLA feasibility study. I do not think that that is an unreasonable request in the light of all the implications.

Another concern that I have held for a long time, as have a number of my colleagues in rural constituencies—I see that my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) is in his place—involves the dangers of low flying. It is a matter of great concern to my constituents. A recent tragic accident at Killin in Perthshire resulted in the loss of two RAF personnel. A Tornado crashed into the hillside narrowly missing a school. I understand that, had it not been for the bravery and skill of the pilot, the aircraft would have hit the primary school. That incident has serious implications. I have received letters from residents in Killin concerned about the implications of low flying.

I understand the need for some low flying training in the United Kingdom, but the Government recognised that it should be reduced as long ago as 1991. I hope that the Minister of State will give a sign today of when the Government intend to reach all the targets for promised reduction in low flying that his predecessor announced three years ago.

Will the Minister consider reviewing and extending the avoidance areas? A number of schools in various rural constituencies in Scotland and the north of England and a number of other sensitive targets are not in the excluded areas. I hope that the Minister will consider an immediate review and an extension of the avoidance areas.

I hope that the Minister will consider seriously the extension of the use of simulators—a policy which was recommended by the Select Committee on Defence. I know that pilots like to fly by the seat of their pants and train in real aircraft, but simulators can be just as effective.

On a subject of great importance, I want to ask the Minister for a commitment on the date of the introduction and full operational capability of the Alfens computer system for controlling low flying. That would be a vital safety addition. It was promised in 1992, and has been delayed again and again. At present, there is no contact between low-flying aircraft, civilian aircraft, helicopters, commercial aircraft and training aircraft. That presents a huge potential danger—there is a major tragedy waiting to happen.

I was astonished to read in Airforces Monthly recently that low-flying aircraft are allowed, in the name of electronic warfare training, to use their defensive aids to jam Skyguard radar, which checks the height and speed of aircraft. Skyguard has been given the role of monitoring adherence to the low flying regulations that are so important for safety. Granting such an allowance effectively gives pilots carte blanche to flout the rules. I hope that the Government will launch an immediate inquiry into the report. How can we take seriously a promise to monitor important low flying regulations when the use of Skyguard seems to be a sham? Low flying monitoring must be kept separate from the operational training role or the public's faith in the policing of low flying will be totally undermined.

I have made a few simple, straightforward, but important requests to the Minister of State. I hope that his reply today will provide me with more satisfactory answers than I received throughout my long correspondence during the recess.

6.55 pm
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

Truly, the mind of a Member of Parliament is conditioned by the state of his seat. The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) was living proof of that as he spoke up on behalf of his constituency—I intend to do the same.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) on his appointment as Minister of State for the Armed Forces and on his speech. It is good to have an ex-soldier in his job. We are glad that he has given up his charger for the Dispatch Box—and so, I suspect, is the horse. To misquote Punch, as a cavalry man, my hon. Friend will no doubt add tone to what, too often in this place, is a vulgar brawl.

I wish to place on record my tribute to the late Manfred Wörner who, as Secretary-General of NATO since 1988—a crucial time in its history—guided that organisation for the collective security of the west to victory over the eastern bloc. He then began the work, through "Partnership for Peace", of winning those countries over to democracy, warts and all—it has been a difficult and painful transition for most of them. He will be a hard act to follow. His courage and determination to continue his work although he was seriously ill was truly noble. Mr. Willy Claes, whom we wish well, will have a hard act to follow.

Successive defence estimates since "Options for Change" have benefited from the so-called peace dividend, but we were always left with the feeling that the Treasury had as much to do with the exercise as the Ministry of Defence. This year it is different. The defence budget is set in spite of the Treasury, not because of it. That budget is now £23 billion, which means that we spend a greater proportion of our gross domestic product on defence than most of our NATO allies, although it is still less than we used to spend during the days of the cold war.

In 1992, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State set out our three defence roles, the third of which was to continue to contribute to promoting the United Kingdom's wider security interests through the maintenance of international peace and security. I recall that at that time no resources were allocated for that third role. So commitments—for example, to UN peacekeeping operations—could be met only by taking resources from roles one and two. This year, for the first time, there have been specific allocations of resources to role three, as our international commitments have become clearer—but that can leave us seriously overstretched elsewhere, especially as regards tour intervals in Northern Ireland. That worries us all.

As a result of the peace dividend, our teeth have been cut but they have also been sharpened. Now, the "Front Line First" document shows how the cost of our defence administration, the tail, can also be cut to the tune of about £750 million. Like many other hon. Members, I want to know where that saving on administration is going to go. I hope that some of it will be ploughed back into the teeth. What about the £500 million that was going to be saved through the setting up of the housing trust? If that trust does not come into being, where will that money be found?

We are assured that the defence costs study will reduce the administrative costs of defence but will not cut our defence capabilities. Only time will tell; but what we can do now is applaud the professionalism of those who carried out the 33 studies. Three cheers also for the fact that we hear that the Treasury is to embark on a similar exercise—perhaps the Ministry of Defence can assist with that.

Many of the changes under "Front Line First" will involve mergers, closures or even the growth of military bases. About 200 hon. Members will have constituency or other local interests to defend. My hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, North-West (Sir D. Mitchell) arid I take a particular interest in two options: first, the proposal to set up a joint defence helicopter flying school either at Shawbury in Shropshire or at Middle Wallop near Andover and, secondly, the plan to combine the chaplains schools in one tri-service establishment, either at Amport in Hampshire or elsewhere.

As a member of the Defence Select Committee I have visited Amport in connection with our study of the MOD estate, and I have been to Middle Wallop to see the Army Air Corps on many occasions. I believe—this view is shared by the local council, Test Valley borough council, which has carried out a detailed study of the issues—that the case for retaining both the Middle Wallop and Amport establishments is compelling on military and cost-effectiveness grounds. It also happens to be common sense.

The school of Army aviation at Middle Wallop already trains the largest number of helicopter pilots of any of the three services. It is well located to serve Royal Navy bases in the south and many RAF stations nearby. It is near the training areas of Salisbury plain and convenient and acceptable low-flying areas that would not be available in Shropshire—where flying activity would more than double if the Army aviation school were moved there.

Middle Wallop, on the other hand, could easily cope with the marginal increase in flying activity that would result from amalgamation. There is also a considerable civil infrastructure to support both Middle Wallop and Amport House, where 2,000 jobs would be lost if these establishments were closed and the services moved elsewhere.

The Amport RAF chaplains school has already amalgamated with the Royal Navy and is demonstrably cost-effective. If it combines with the Army chaplaincy centre from Bagshot Park, the cost per student day can be significantly reduced without major capital investment—in contrast to what would be needed at other possible locations.

Amport is well located to serve the Royal Navy bases at Portsmouth and Plymouth, the Army garrisons at Tidworth, Aldershot and Bulford and the surrounding RAF stations. Amport is also up and running, unlike the alternatives, where establishment costs would be very high.

The alternatives are the redundant education corps establishment at Eltham palace in south-east London, the disused WRAC Queen Elizabeth Park barracks at Guildford and the Royal Naval college at Greenwich. The only serious challenger is Eltham palace. The building is grade I listed, it has been boarded up for two years and, because of archaeological digs nearby, it would have serious planning disadvantages, besides having only 25 years of lease to run. Being in south-east London, it is well away from the hub of military activity. Amport House wins hands down, and has a Gertrude Jekyll garden to boot—good for contemplation.

I want briefly to refer to Farnborough airfield, because no one else has. It is scheduled for disposal, but it is an essential shop window for our aerospace industry. I know that its closure will involve complex considerations. I welcome the fact that the MOD has jointly set up a study group with the DTI to look at its future. Its continued availability is guaranteed only until the end of the decade—only three more air shows—but the airfield needs a firmer undertaking than that. I hope that it survives and that, in time, both the FLA and the C130J will go on show there.

Much has been said about both aircraft. Some people suggest that the air frame of the C130J would be old, but it is not so. It has been completely redesigned, incorporating many lighter and stronger materials. It is thus a new aircraft that follows the original design. I welcome the fact that there will be a feasibility study on the FLA, because I believe that, ultimately, there will be a mixed solution to the problem of transporting our armed forces. Our Select Committee report went into the matter in great detail, and I commend its conclusions to the House.

Having served as a Regular soldier through an earlier period of cuts, let me remind the Minister that the bane of any service man's life is uncertainty. Cuts to both teeth and tail are necessary and sustainable, but so far and no further. Our services now need a period of stability. If the Minister can promise that when he winds up the debate, and then deliver it, his speech will be welcomed here and outside the House.

7.5 pm

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

It will come as no surprise to anyone that, in the short time that I have, I intend to talk about defence almost exclusively in the context of Northern Ireland. After 25 years of violence, one obviously welcomes the ceasefire by the Provisional IRA, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association.

I have spoken in these debates for the past 12 years and the violence has been going on for twice as long as that. No one in my party, not even my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), has been in the House at a time when Northern Ireland was not suffering at the hands of terrorists. Yesterday, the Secretary of State reassured us that there will be no reductions in troop numbers in Northern Ireland until he is convinced that violence has decreased to the point at which he can allow that to happen. I am glad that he intends to resist the siren voices prematurely and irresponsibly suggesting that troops be withdrawn. Although there is a ceasefire at present, there has been nothing so far to demonstrate its permanence.

This is a good time for me to express the thanks of all in Northern Ireland who oppose terrorism to the 300,000 young men and women—it is a startling number—who have served in Northern Ireland in the past 25 years. I express everyone's thanks to them for what they have done to sustain a degree of democracy in Northern Ireland. I am absolutely certain that no other army in the world would have endured the insults, the violence and the number of deaths that these young men and women sustained while remaining courteous in their day-to-day relationships with the general public and restrained in their behaviour.

Amid the euphoria of the ceasefire it is important to introduce an element of reality. The Ulster Unionist party will work only to advance the political process. We are not out to make political capital at anyone's expense during this ceasefire, but any peace settlement in Northern Ireland must be based wholly on democratic principles of the sort outlined in the Downing street declaration. At that moment in history our Prime Minister, in conjunction with the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, said to the people of Northern Ireland, "We believe in consent; we believe that the people of Northern Ireland have the right to decide their own future." The endorsement of that declaration by the United States was welcome, but one must look carefully at how the IRA has reacted to it and try to put the correct interpretation on what is happening.

The IRA equivocated for months about accepting the Downing street declaration. Mr. Gerry Adams went off to the United States and, helped by some of his friends there, he was given the world stage and expected to talk about the peace process. Unfortunately, as soon as he reached the stage he muffed his lines. When he came back he was faced with the problem that the political basis—what the IRA needs for its campaign of violence—had been swept away by the Downing street declaration. That was why my party was able to predict months ago that the IRA would go for a three-month ceasefire: it needed to obtain a political base from which it could continue its terror campaign.

I caution the House that the IRA intends, at active service unit and brigade level, to recommence its violence in January or as soon thereafter as it believes that it can do so. The IRA does not want to enter the democratic process, and the lack of any sign that it does in anything that has been said by Joe Cahill, Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness, who have all regressed over the past six weeks, shows that we are likely to be in for a torrid time in the new year. I wish that the IRA would look at the statement issued by the loyalist paramilitaries when they announced their ceasefire. If the IRA could express its intentions in the same terms, the clock could properly start ticking.

Perhaps when the Minister replies to the debate he will clarify a matter that arose today at Prime Minister's Question Time. The Prime Minister said that if the IRA would give up its Semtex, we could move forward. Will the Minister confirm that the Prime Minister was being illustrative and not definitive in mentioning only Semtex? There has been some confusion in the House and in the press about that extremely important issue.

We all want to be optimistic about the permanency of peace. However, as the Minister will be aware, a permanent end to violence would bring with it the loss of 20,000 security-related jobs which are presently worth about £0.4 billion per annum. Those jobs must be replaced if all sections of the community are to feel that they have a stake in Northern Ireland's success, and that will happen only if economic growth is substantially accelerated. The drive for investment is crucial and the wealth-creating companies in Northern Ireland must have our support if we are to avoid an inevitable increase in unemployment and the problems that go with it.

The recent announcement of a 300 per cent. increase in European Commission funding to the International Fund for Ireland is a well-intentioned response to the possibility of peace in Northern Ireland, but it must be used wisely. That has not always been the case in the past because long-term benefits to the community have too often been hard to identify. If much of the increased IFI resources could be used to provide our young people with extra training opportunities that were relevant to real high-technology jobs, that would prove successful.

In present circumstances we must look to expanding the Province's technological and industrial base, in which aerospace and defence play a key role. Shorts, which has 7,000 employees in the Province and 3,000 in other parts of the world, is our largest employer, and over the past five years it has invested in key technologies and is now a leader in its chosen markets.

The opportunities which the Ministry of Defence's attack helicopter requirement and Hercules replacement programme would open up for aerospace companies in the Province are considerable and would make a major contribution to Northern Ireland's economy in terms of jobs and potential further business. In the Hercules replacement programme, Shorts has joined British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce in the European future large military aircraft project. If the FLA is selected, it will offer United Kingdom companies the prospect of initial work valued at £3 billion. Orders beyond—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I call Mr. Bill Walker.

7.15 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate. As always, the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) and his hon. Friends carry the House with them because of their courage and integrity.

I sincerely welcome the pledges that were given by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State about stability in the armed forces. I welcome the tone of Ministers' speeches, and especially that of my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. I am sure that he will be well liked and well respected if he continues in that vein. He will not be surprised to know that I intend to follow the line of my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) and deal with morale, which must be addressed.

I was pleased that the Minister made public the fact that every type of RAF front-line aircraft is engaged on active operations somewhere in the world. That is important because the aircraft have to be manned both on the ground and in the air and we must look at the impact that that has on families. It also makes nonsense of the specious claims by Mr. David Hart and others about the RAF and the Israeli air force.

Is the Minister aware that air and ground crews now spend six months away from their families each year? In some cases, the time away from home is 270 days a year, and it is important to understand what that means to families.

I spent most of the summer with the Royal Air Force and did so because of my interests, which are listed in the Register of Members' Interests. I am pleased to say I got in some flying hours. People at all levels in the service put a number of questions to me, and I said that I would put them to the Government and the House. First, is the Minister aware that the stress caused by the operations that have been mentioned is occurring at a time when the Royal Air Force has been singled out for yet further manpower cuts which will inevitably reduce the pool of uniformed manpower to support future operations?

Secondly, are the Government aware that by the time the latest round of Treasury-imposed cuts has been implemented by the RAF, manpower will have been reduced by some 40 per cent. since 1990? That is happening at a time when I and many others believe that the world is growing more dangerous and unstable. My question is to ask what steps have been taken to refute the specious claims about the RAF and the comparisons with the Israeli air force. I hope that the Minister will address that.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many of the personnel who will be made redundant by the Royal Air Force as a result of "Front Line First" will be those to whom the Government are looking to provide savings from improved efficiency, the implementation of new procedures and practices and the introduction of market testing? Do Ministers appreciate that many of those who will be responsible for organising and introducing the market testing programme will be the very people whose jobs are at risk? Do they acknowledge that after heaping change upon change on our loyal and outstanding forces, the introduction of the housing trust initiative and Mr. Bett's independent review have been badly timed and damaging to morale? I have to report that those were my findings.

Does my hon. Friend realise that many families are deeply concerned about the future arrangements for married quarters and the education of their children? Does he understand and realise that those matters need urgently to be clarified?

I turn now to other areas of concern and in particular procurement. I shall deal with weapons systems first. I welcome the proposal to purchase cruise missiles, but I have some reservations about the quantity that will be available and the launch vehicle to be used. The submarine is not my idea of an ideal launch vehicle.

The United States uses large surface ships as platforms. That—and the number that can be launched—offsets the less than 50 per cent. accuracy achieved during the Gulf war. The numbers available to the United States make cruise a credible conventional deterrent for the United States. I am not alone in believing that the United Kingdom submarine-launched cruise missiles alone cannot provide the flexibility and determined capability that the United Kingdom may require.

On Royal Air Force procurement, will Ministers confirm that the conventionally armed stand-off missile and the anti-armour weapon—ASRs 1236 and 1238—will be introduced as soon as possible to complement the mid-life update to the Tornado and to provide the Royal Air Force with those urgently needed weapons? Only that, together with cruise missiles, will be an effective and flexible deterrent capability.

Will the Government acknowledge the crucial role played by the Royal Air Force in the Gulf war and the importance of a properly balanced and equipped service for the future? That is vital. Does my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State acknowledge that the bravery and expertise of the Royal Air Force is held in the highest regard throughout the world? The perception in the Royal Air Force today is that the Government have notably failed to acknowledge it. I am confident that the Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), will remedy that. I mean that most sincerely because I welcome the letter that he wrote me about morale.

Cuts in the medical services are affecting morale. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the viability of secondary medical care to the armed forces can be sustained and will he acknowledge that the sharp decline in the number of service consultant specialists brought about by the loss of career prospects will jeopardise the provision of secondary care? Will he make a statement regarding primary medical care and the need to provide adequate levels of health support to military personnel in order to return them to active service at the earliest opportunity? I am standing here today thanks to massive benefits that I gained from RAF medical care after a serious accident. I shall never forget that.

Procurement of the future large aircraft was mentioned earlier. The British Aerospace campaign has not been a wise one. Eurofighter 2000 is much more important than LFA at this time. I do not believe that the Royal Air Force should be faced with two major high-risk programmes at the same time. The Eurofighter is much more important and the Royal Air Force should concentrate on that. We cannot have slippage there.

In their procurement programmes the Germans have funds for development until 2010, which could mean that the aircraft will not fly until 2010. If we do not get the C130J, we shall be in the impossible position that we last faced under the Labour Government, with the wrong aircraft at the wrong time in the wrong place.

The Royal Air Force has been in the vanguard of introducing new working practices and support initiatives, including information technology. I want my hon. Friend to confirm the very disturbing fact that we have fewer military airfields today than at any time since 1933. When did the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Defence last pay an official visit to a Royal Air Force base in Britain?

7.25 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

The House of Commons is entitled to a serious Government response to the alleged activities of the son of the former Prime Minister.

When the issue first arose, frankly I found it distasteful to try to get at the then Prime Minister through her son and I did not ask a single question on the so-called Oman affair.

However, the present position is that many serious people in Britain believe that Mark Thatcher did indeed amass a fortune as a result of an arms procurement and his connection, or supposed or perceived connection, with his mother.

Equally seriously, there is a perception abroad that the integrity of the British state is at stake.

It so happened that I was participating in a conference at Ditchley Park on the Sunday morning when the Mark Thatcher story broke. Ditchley operates under Chatham House rules. Suffice it to say that MOD officials should ask their erstwhile Permanent Secretary, Sir Michael Quinlan, who were the people participating at the conference, because they were people whose opinions about Britain matter.

Ministers cannot just pass by on the other side of the road like a biblical Levite and offer a response as the Secretary of State for Defence did yesterday that Mark Thatcher is neither a member of the Labour party nor… the Conservative party."—[Official Report, 17 October 1994; Vol. 248, c. 49.] That is simply not sufficient.

I am not a Johnny come lately to this particular issue; on the basis of extremely detailed information from several sources, I asked seven questions on 27 November 1992. They should now be answered. First, are the Government aware that an executive of the defence company United Scientific, introduced Mark Thatcher to arms dealer Sarkis Sohanalian in the autumn of 1983 as part of its efforts to win a contract to sell night vision devices ultimately to be used by Iraq? Secondly, will the Government confirm or deny that Prince Banda, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, personally presented a letter to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in 1985 and that that letter made it implicitly clear that commissions would be paid as part of the Al-Yamamah deal between Saudi Arabia and Britain involving the sale of Tornado jets and other defence equipment to Saudi Arabia? Thirdly, will the Government explain the purpose of that letter from King Fahd to Prime Minister Thatcher? Will they explain why Mrs. Thatcher dealt with the Saudi ambassador to the United States and not the Saudi ambassador to Britain while dealing with the Al-Yamamah deal? Fourthly, will the Government confirm or deny that Mark Thatcher received approximately £10 million soon after the signing of the memorandum of understanding for the Al-Yamamah deal in September 1985 and that the agreement on the deal specified that he would receive a further approximately £10 million subsequently? Fifthly, will the Government confirm or deny that Mark Thatcher and a Saudi Arabian middle man involved in the deal, whose name was Wafic Said, paid income tax on money which they earned from the Al-Yamamah deal? Sixthly, are the Government aware that, for some time in 1989, Mark Thatcher lived in a house at 34 Eaton terrace while that house was owned by Formugul, a Panamanian company linked with Saudi Arabian business man, Wafic Said, who played a role in the Al-Yamamah deal? Finally, can the Government confirm or deny that Mr. Christopher Prentice, a Foreign Office official working in the British embassy in Washington in the mid-1980s, was aware that Mark Thatcher was involved in the Al-Yamamah deal?"—[Official Report, 27 November 1992; Vol. 214, c. 1103-4.] Much has happened since I asked those questions, including a document originating from United States intelligence which came to light during the Dooley-Sikorsky trial and highlights Mark Thatcher's role. I shall hand a copy of it to the officials in the Box as soon as I have sat down.

The Prime Minister this afternoon, in a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell), said that evidence should be produced. That document, together with another document—an alleged BAe internal memorandum—deserves at least a serious reply.

I do not have time to read out the whole of that document, but under the heading: Meetings with U.S. Embassy staff in Riyadh brought to light the following concerns it refers to 4 bil U.S. was mentioned in connection with M. Thatcher's son. At the very least, that must be explained.

Furthermore, the internal memorandum states: The same source also states that there is a sizeable payment to the Conservative Party ('a huge sum') which is being administered by Wafic Said in conjunction with Mark T. It also states: The additional financial benefit to Mark T. and his friends Wafic Said and other middle men, all non-tax-paying residents of the UK and to the Conservative Party are absolutely enormous, according to the BAe executive. I want to ask again about Sir Clive Whitmore. A letter sent to my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) said: I understand that Sir Clive Whitmore has confirmed that he did not see Lady Thatcher to pass on a warning about Mr. Thatcher's alleged involvement in the Al Yamamah deal. I have learnt over the years to be very careful about words. I asked whether Sir Clive went to, not saw, the Prime Minister. The MOD press statement is oddly worded. It states: Sir Clive Whitmore confirmed that he did not see Lady Thatcher to pass on Mark Thatcher's alleged involvement in the Al-Yamamah deal. There is no evidence that it was felt necessary for any official concern to be passed to Lady Thatcher. It is very odd for a statement to say that it was not felt necessary for any "official concern" to be passed on. I ask a direct, blunt question—was there any contact on that issue, official or unofficial, between the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence and the then Prime Minister?

It is not only Labour politicians who are concerned about this matter. The leader in The Daily Telegraph on 10 October said: It may be that both he and his mother are able to produce full rebuttals of the Sunday Times's allegations. It is to be hoped that they will do so, because it would be an embarrassing matter indeed if the son of the most distinguished Conservative leader of modern times was believed to have gained large personal profit from his family association with Downing Street. When The Daily Telegraph says something like that, there should at least be a response on the Floor of the House. If, as I believe, there has been massive corruption at the heart of the British state, the least that the Government can do is to state their beliefs on the Floor of the House of Commons.

The place where such questions should be responded to is the Floor of the House. They should not be frivolously shoved off. Right or wrong, they must be answered. This issue will not go away because it affects the honour of our country.

Silence or a frivolous response on these issues in the reply tonight will be interpreted only as governmental determination to turn a blind eye to what may, at home and abroad, be a real disgrace.

During Question Time, the Prime Minister said in answer to the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) that wrongdoing would be rooted out. There is an obligation on the Government to deal with these questions seriously, not frivolously.

7.35 pm
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) down his route. Instead, I join several of my hon. Friends in welcoming the two new Ministers of State to their posts. We are fortunate in having two such doughty fighters for the armed forces at what is, to be frank, a difficult time.

Only twice in the past two centuries has the economy of a great European power imploded and collapsed. The events in post-revolutionary France in the 1790s and in Germany at the time of the Weimar republic led to the two bloodiest conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries. No one here today knows which way Russia will go next. We all wish President Boris Yeltsin well. We are pleased to hear of the splendid reception that the Russians are giving our monarch. However, what we know—as opposed to what we hope and think—is that Russia has an enormous stockpile of nuclear weapons and that it continues to produce very large numbers of high-quality conventional equipment.

The recent French defence White Paper, which was published eight weeks ahead of our own, commented on the proliferation of fissile materials and technology from the ex-Soviet states into the middle east and north Africa: It is to be feared that policies of preventive control alone are not sufficient to protect us against the risks of proliferation. That may be rather rich coming from the French, given their past contribution to various forms of proliferation; nevertheless, they are right on this matter.

The Government are right to recognise that we may have to invest in a strategic defence system, but we must also recognise that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction has implications for more than our nuclear defence. The blunt truth is that, before long, we may find ourselves fighting a war of a mixed conventional and tactical nuclear variety. Indeed, we all know that, had the Gulf war happened two years later, it would have been just such a war.

It is just a month before we remember those hundreds of thousands of our gallant former citizens who fell in action. It is worth also remembering that, even before the weapons of mass destruction came into being, it was possible to lose a division in an afternoon. It happened at El Alamein, at Paschendaele and even at Waterloo. It is sobering to remember that our Regular Army is now so small that if—and pray God it never happens—we were to lose a division in an afternoon in a campaign, we would lose almost half our Regular field Army.

That is why the next spending round is so critical. We should be sending a message not only to potential adversaries, not only to our allies—not least in Washington, where there is a strong isolationist movement—but, above all, to our armed forces that we really are backing our rhetoric on defence with a willingness to fund it properly. We should be saying that with our much smaller armed forces, as they now are, we will find the money to provide them with the training, the spare parts and even the basic necessities, such as bringing the married quarters up to a standard fit to live in.

On the subject of the morale of our armed forces, I believe that we are fortunate to have somebody of Michael Bett's calibre to chair the commission. I see from his entry in "Who's Who" that—along with all his other distinguished posts—he is an honorary colonel of a TA unit. But it is no criticism of him or his team to say that the commission is sitting at an unfortunate time. It has been asked to do this work at that point which every management consultant—I used to work as one—dreads, when so many other teams have been working on so many different issues in the organisation under review, some of which inevitably impinge on the same ground.

We should not be surprised, therefore, if, at the end of the day, the commission comes to relatively conservative conclusions, simply on the basis that there is a limit to how much further change the forces can take without serious damage to their morale. Having said that, I hope that I may be allowed to make a written submission to the commission as I have a number of points of detail that I would like to make in the way of suggestions.

I should like to say something about our reserve forces. During the past four or five years, I have been privileged to visit the reserve forces of the other three major English-speaking countries—America, Canada and Australia. We have a number of world—class units in our Territorial Army—we see them winning competitions which prove it—but there is a great deal that we can learn from abroad. One thing that we can say with certainty is that in the last war all three of those countries had an expansion from a much smaller regular base, in some respects managing it more successfully than we did.

The British professional Regular forces are second to none, but some of the ways in which we organise and structure our reserve forces could be improved on and I want to mention three. First, our officer training, so good in the Regular Army, is woefully inadequate for our volunteer reserves. The trend in all three of the countries that I have mentioned is towards trying to bring the training of reserve officers as close as possible to that of their regular counterparts.

For example, in Canada the majority of officers go through two 10-week continuous training periods to become reservist officers. They are carefully tailored to fit in with university long vacations. In Australia, after a weekend-based build-up similar to that for British reserve officers, there is a nine-week training course. In America, some reservist officers train for as much as six months. Our little two-week course at Sandhurst does not begin to compare with those arrangements. I am sure that we all recognise the value of the new roles that are being found for our volunteer reserves, but it is essential that they are given much-enhanced officer and senior NCO training if they are to perform as well as I believe they can.

The second major difference is the lack of adequate call-out legislation. It is interesting comparing the experience of the Canadians, who do not have it, with that of the Americans next door. The Canadians, with their use of reserve forces in a variety of places including Bosnia, feel that it is essential that they, too, should have reserve forces legislation. I add my voice to those of two other hon. Members who have already mentioned that it is vital that we bring forward the reserve forces Bill on which a number of MOD officials are working hard at the moment.

The third comparison that I want to draw is a sensitive one. It is no criticism of the present incumbent of the post, who I know to be an excellent officer, to say that it is wrong that the British general who directs the reserve forces is a Regular officer. He does not even have a tri-service hat. In all the other three major English-speaking countries there is a head of reserves, with a different name in each case, which is a "purple" post, based firmly in each country's Ministry of Defence, who is a reservist and, as such, has the double-career structure behind him—a successful civilian career as well as a military one. That brings the special expertise to the reserve forces issue that can be brought only by a reservist. I know that I speak for large numbers of people, particularly in the officer corps in the Territorial Army, when I say that, with the current reorganisation, it is hoped that the next head of the reserves will be a reservist.

I want to end where I started—by saying that this is a dangerous world. This is a time at which a great deal could go wrong. The most important single message that will be given by the Government to the armed forces in the next few weeks will not be anything that is said in this debate: it will be the message that is given as a result of the outcome of the next public spending round—particularly of the new third year—because that will show where our priority for defence is going.

7.45 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

I join in the general welcome to the new Minister of State for the Armed Forces. I thank him for his courtesy in inviting me to meet him to talk about midnight bombing in Rosehearty. I am only sorry that he will not visit Rosehearty himself; it seems to be about the only military establishment in western Europe that he has not managed to visit in the past six weeks. None the less, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy, and hope that it will extend to an instruction to the Royal Air Force to have a meeting with the villagers of Rosehearty who are most concerned about the prospect of Tornados operating bombing runs over their village at midnight in the summer months.

I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) is not in his place, although he has been here for a substantial part of the debate and made a 20-minute contribution yesterday. It was interesting to note that the word "Rosyth" did not pass the right hon. Gentleman's lips once. Yet in 1992, when he was Secretary of State for Defence, on a foray into Scotland in February that year, he could hardly speak about anything else. I recall debating with him on the "Today" programme the future prospects of the Rosyth naval base in the context of an independent Scotland. Directly, in The Daily Telegraph, the right hon. Gentleman was moved to say: Vote SNP, and you ultimately say goodbye to the Rosyth base. Unfortunately, people did not vote SNP. They voted for the Union in 1992, and here we are, two years later, saying goodbye to the Rosyth naval base—not ultimately, but right now under the Government's proposals.

I do not know why the right hon. Member for Bridgwater did not mention Rosyth in his speech. I do not know whether it was the result of guilty conscience or whether it is now a case of one broken promise more or less from one Secretary of State more or less not really mattering given a Government who have shredded so many promises since the general election campaign. None the less, it would have been instructive for people in Scotland to have had his insight into the consultative document which shows that the base is about to be effectively closed.

That consultation document tries to pretend that it is not a closure—that having a naval base with no ships stationed at it is not, effectively, a closure of a naval base. Everyone in Fife and in Scotland is well aware that whatever attendant services remain at Rosyth for the time being, they are on a very shoogly nail indeed, since the base has no ships—a very limited time scale.

Equally offensive in the consultation document is the attempt to conceal the real extent of the job losses that are threatened by the closure. I had correspondence with the Secretary of State for Scotland during the summer and eventually it was revealed to me that the Government had not included naval personnel transferring from the east coast of Scotland to the south coast of England in the job loss estimate. That was because the Secretary of State for Scotland believed that some of those people might not live in Fife in the first place and therefore did not think it appropriate to include them in the job loss total.

Whether or not all the naval personnel live in Fife or are stationed at Rosyth at present, we can be reasonably sure that when they are stationed on the south coast of England they certainly will not live in Rosyth, Fife or Scotland and, therefore, will be a substantial economic loss to the Scottish economy.

Fife regional council, in its excellent response to the consultation document, details another three direct attempts by the Government to conceal the true extent of the job losses that are threatened for Fife and for Scotland's economy as a result of the Rosyth closure. I hope that when the Minister replies, he will direct his attention to those points on page 12 of the regional council's response and say whether he agrees with each one. They show that—presumably deliberately—the Government have underestimated the economic impact of the closure of Rosyth to the extent of 500 jobs or more.

As that document tells us, and as the Fraser of Allander Institute study which backs it up states, from 1991 to 1997, the total civilian and service personnel job losses from the plans for Rosyth under the Government's proposals amount to 7,000, with a loss of expenditure to the Fife economy of no less than £71.8 million. It is interesting to compare the rigour of the analysis presented by the regional council with the slipshod and sleekit document that the Government produced in the first place.

The consultation document also shows the most obvious bias. Nowhere in the consultation document is there serious consideration of the alternatives—the closure, perhaps, of Portsmouth or Devonport. The closure of Portsmouth was dismissed as prohibitively costly, without any examination. It is said that it is impractical to close Devonport naval base, with no attendant analysis to back up that statement. The document does not even consider the option of scaling down all three conventional naval bases and compare that in terms of cost savings. The only option which is fully examined is that of effectively closing Rosyth as a naval base. How on earth can it be sensible to concentrate conventional naval base capability along a small stretch of the south coast of England?

The regional council's document, unlike the Government's consultation document, looks in detail at the strategic arguments for keeping Rosyth as an operational effective naval base—at oil and fishing interests and at the shipping lanes that need to be policed from a North sea naval base. It is interesting to compare the Government's suggested savings of as little as £160 million over 10 years with the fact that North sea oil generates overall income of £30 million each and every day and that defence experts say that the decision to concentrate on the south coast of England might put this vital strategic resource at some risk.

David Greenwood, who will be well known to those who are interested in defence and who is director of defence studies at Aberdeen university has written: At the moment, any terrorist threat would be dealt with by commandos from Arbroath and the Navy at Rosyth. The Navy's ability to fulfil this role would be seriously impaired if all its ships were based in Portsmouth and Plymouth. The Navy is responsible for protecting and policing a 200-mile wide strip of water that goes right round the country. It is difficult to see how it could do that with its whole capacity in one corner. Naval experts, unlike the Government, realise the idiocy of concentrating conventional naval bases on the south coast of England. When we consider the strategic requirements of defence, we find a good argument for keeping Rosyth as a naval base. But if we consider only the Conservative party's political strategic requirements in the south of England, the logic of closing Rosyth and keeping the south coast bases becomes very evident indeed. Although Rosyth was used as a key card in the unionist campaign in the previous general election, now and for ever more in Scottish politics it will be a key example of why the economic fate of communities in Fife and in Scotland generally should not be left to decision-making in this Parliament.

The Scottish National party will vote for the amendment, not because we think that it is a perfect amendment—on the contrary, it does not even mention the word "Rosyth"; we would have liked to have seen the case for Rosyth detailed in the amendment. There are weaknesses in the amendment. It does not confront the incredible lack of logic in the maintenance of missile systems. The Opposition spokesperson said that, warhead per warhead, the Labour party's policy is now to maintain the same number of warheads with Trident as previously were held by Polaris. I should have thought that the international climate dictated a reduction in warheads, not the maintenance of warheads.

The lunacy of the Trident missile system and the expenditure of £20,000 million or more on one aspect of strategic defence which in the modern world has been overtaken by events compares with the loss of key Scottish regiments for the lack of a few million pounds, when an obvious defence need has been identified by Conservative Members for their use in peacekeeping roles in Europe and elsewhere.

I remember the Defence Select Committee once saying that redundant nuclear submarines could be used as tourist attractions. That was actually in a Select Committee report. I am a great admirer of Select Committees, but I do not think that that was the most profound statement ever made by one. Let my last suggestion to the House be this, however: if redundant nuclear submarines and nuclear hulks are worthy of being considered as tourist attractions, let them be tourist attractions on the River Thames, because they will not be acceptable in Rosyth naval base, which wants to be a working naval base, not an elephants' graveyard for nuclear hulks.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The 10-minute restriction will end in a few moments. The winding-up speeches are to commence at 9.10 pm, and many hon. Members still wish to speak. I therefore make a plea for concise speeches.

7.55 pm
Mr. Robert Banks (Harrogate)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on his speech and I associate myself with the glowing tribute that he properly paid to the men and women of our armed forces. The British sailor is one of our greatest ambassadors. I hope that there will be every opportunity for the Royal Navy to visit ports abroad and show the flag. It would do a very good job for Britain if given that opportunity.

This debate occurs at a time of great change, and I should like to consider the role of NATO. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the role of NATO became confused. For instance, who is to be in the sights of our armed forces as part of NATO? It is a great achievement that we do not have an enemy at whom to aim our weapons. One of the great aspects of NATO has been the cohesive force that it has held over many years and brought the United States into the defence of Europe and the free world. Nobody should dismiss that lightly. Many people previously felt that NATO's main purpose should be peacekeeping. A better sense of realism has been adopted by those who have taken an interest in its future role.

Peacekeeping is a long process. It is worth recalling that about 72,292 troops from various nations participate in United Nations peacekeeping roles in 14 places throughout the world. One of the earliest deployments of United Nations forces was in Kashmir in 1949, and forces are still there. Forces were placed in Cyprus in 1964. For NATO to take a lead role in peacekeeping operations would undermine the role of the United Nations in a far wider umbrella able to draw on forces from many other countries, and our own troops would be tied indefinitely to policing areas such as Western Sahara, El Salvador and elsewhere. I do not believe that NATO forces must be confined to the NATO area.

That leads me to the construction of NATO to take account of its role with the rapid deployment force. That is its main function—that is, to show that it has the ability to react quickly and with great force. To do that effectively, we must change the orientation of NATO from a central and northern European-oriented force to one which moves further south and takes account of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the consequent possible effects.

A member of NATO which has a pivotal position in the present structure of NATO—Turkey—should be used for stationing our forces in rapid deployment mode for deployment to areas outside NATO boundaries. If NATO is to be effective it must look beyond its existing bounds and embrace north Africa, the middle east and further afield. It is in stamping out such trouble spots, as was well demonstrated in Kuwait, that we can prevent serious international conflict.

If a really effective rapid deployment force is to be established, it is important to have the right equipment and the men and women who are trained to perform the task well. I am particularly pleased that we have ordered Challenger 2 tanks: that will be a great help to Vickers in Leeds, and is hugely appreciated in Yorkshire. It will also be immensely important to the work that a rapid deployment force will have to undertake.

The helicopter lift will be an important element. I know that a difficult decision is involved. I listened carefully to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Robinson); he has a constituency interest in the manufacture of the EH101, which is a combined operation by Westland and Agusta, but the Chinook—to which he referred—is already in service and gives us the opportunity for standardisation, which I have long preached, and interoperability, while giving us the same use of spares currently in stock in the RAF. I understand that the lift capability of the Chinook is rather greater than that of the EH101, which is important in terms of cost-effectiveness.

We must also consider the offset arrangements. We should push hard to ensure that we have the maximum offset for any purchases. Such purchases must be made on the principle of securing good value for money and the best machine for the job.

Many points have arisen during the debate, which has to an extent latched on to the "Front Line First" White Paper. That document draws attention to the need for more cost-consciousness and financial management procedures. My own RAF support management group in Harrogate has existed since 1946 and has done a magnificent job. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister referred to the civilians who have worked, and are working, in our military forces, particularly in the field of support; they do magnificent work with great dedication. The group that I have mentioned is to be moved to RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire, which has involved considerable heart-searching and many difficulties for its staff. I sympathise enormously with those employees and their families, who have been faced with a choice between uprooting themselves and trying to find alternative jobs where they are now.

I appreciate the reasons for the action that is being taken, however. We must shape our support for the tasks that our military forces will undertake in future; we must slim them down and use all the technology to make them as cost-effective as possible. Our buildings in Harrogate were not particularly suitable; they were out of date, which is one of the reasons for the move to RAF Wyton, which I deeply regret.

We must do everything possible to secure jobs for those who will be displaced. We must also consider the disposal of redundant buildings and those that are vacated—as will happen with the Army apprentices college. We need to establish a central computerised clearing house, so that a Department looking for buildings can see what types of building are available. The Home Office, for instance, is always looking for buildings to house offenders; buildings are also needed for health service courses. The various Departments must liaise closely to ensure that uses are found for redundant buildings and jobs are secured for those who are displaced by big changes in our military structure.

I am grateful for the opportunity to present my views. I hope that, in the next year or so, we shall continue in the vein of peace that we have been able to secure by maintaining forces that are adequate to deal with any circumstances.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Ten-minute speeches are no longer required, but many hon. Members still wish to speak. I hope that they will co-operate, so that I can call as many as possible.

8.4 pm

Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)

I wish to speak about an establishment in my constituency, Pendine, whose closure was announced by the Secretary of State in a statement on 14 July. That statement came as a severe blow to the establishment's 340 employees; it is in a relatively remote rural location, where comparable alternative jobs would be impossible to find. The closure decision was made despite an 18-month campaign by the work force, supported by the local authorities: they presented the case for Pendine in as forceful and detailed a way as they could.

We were pleased to see that the consultative document published by the MOD on 14 July contained some explanation of why Pendine had been singled out for closure, but we felt that it was deeply flawed. There were three main errors. One related to the assessment of the option to close Shoeburyness. I should point out that attacking another site, or saying that it should be closed, is no part of our alternative plan; we propose a "slimdown" at Pendine, Shoeburyness and Eskmeals, which are all comparable sites.

The consultative document estimated that the closure of Shoeburyness would increase costs by £5 million. We could not understand that. Apparently, the explanation is that much of the work being done there, involving over-water recovery, would have to be done in Australia. I understand that that is not so; about 80 per cent. of the work could be done at Pendine.

The document states: Pendine's range is relatively restricted to seawards and is constrained in its ability to absorb further work. For instance, any southward extension of the danger area at Pendine would infringe the main Swansea-Pembroke Dock shipping lane. There are three incorrect statements in those two sentences. First, there is no Swansea-Pembroke dock shipping lane; there is light use of that sea area, but it poses no problem to MOD exercises. Secondly, the document says that Pendine's range is "relatively restricted to seawards". The area towards the sea overlaps into the Manorbier and Castlemartin areas: quite a large area is available for test firing—up to 60 km. The last error lies in the words constrained in its ability to absorb further work". The site at Pendine is composed of 5 square miles of land and 5 square miles of foreshore; within that 10 square miles is a considerable area to absorb further work.

Pendine has a unique test track measuring 1,500 m, built to high specifications. If it closed, that would have to be rebuilt at substantial expense. The document estimates a cost of between £7 million and £15 million, but according to our best information the cost would be nearer £20 million to £50 million. That would negate the savings from closure.

As a steering group, we prepared an alternative document of about 30 pages outlining a future for Pendine, based on a slimdown of its present operations. We proposed that all the work now undertaken should be continued, but that many unnecessary assets be disposed of. Llanmiloe house is a posh mansion used for administration. A lot of land could be disposed of. Major cuts in staffing would be possible. Civilianisation of the MOD staff would reduce the cost. If the Blelloch review was implemented, cuts of about 50 per cent. would be possible in the MOD police.

The trade unions at Pendine have volunteered 30 per cent. cuts in staff across the board as part of our alternative business plan. That 30 per cent. figure was not plucked out of the air. It was proposed by Shorts, the company that we understand would be the contractor in any case if the contract was renewed.

The proposals in our document are all costed and we estimate that if the slimdown proposals were adopted, they would save £2.5 million a year and £25 million over a 10-year period. Those are greater savings than the MOD would achieve by closure. The estimated savings in the MOD consultative document are £7 million to £15 million from closure. Our alternative proposal would save £25 million.

We have put the document to the Ministry. It provides for better savings, a much more predictable option and a safer bet in the sense that we do not know what would be the cost of reprovision if Pendine closed. The plan is achievable on a shorter time scale and with less capital cost. It would guarantee quality of work, continuity and customer satisfaction.

I am glad to say that last week we had a useful one-hour meeting with the Minister and his senior civil servants. It was a courteous and constructive meeting. I was pleased to hear today that the Ministry will seriously consider our consultative document. I, hope that the Minister will make a few comments about Pendine in his reply to the debate to clarify the position for the work force there. I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the chance to make those few observations.

8.12 pm
Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

Virtually all the hon. Members who have spoken in the debate during the past two days have commented on the huge changes that have taken place in the armed forces during the past four years.

It is true to say that the "Options for Change" proposals were, to a great extent, accepted by the majority of service men, albeit reluctantly. There may have been a lack of clarity about the direction in which we were going four years ago. There may have been worry about the uncertainty in the world in which we would find ourselves following the demise of the Soviet Union. None the less, there was a realisation among the vast majority of service men that we would probably end up with smaller armed forces.

Although the proposals were called "Options for Change", they were effectively a defence review. The last two defence reviews—if one can call them that—have not been accepted to the same degree as "Options for Change". The changes are perceived within the armed forces as essentially Treasury-led and a result of the need for short-term savings in the public expenditure budget, rather than any long-term considerations for the defence of Britain.

I am pleased to see my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on the Front Bench. I am convinced that were it not for the tenacious way in which he fought some of the more outrageous suggestions made by the Treasury, we would be in a considerably worse position than we are.

The last round of cuts has been handled well by the defence team, most specifically in ensuring that the front line did not suffer so much as previously and in finding ways of meeting at least some of the Treasury targets while ensuring that we maintain our front-line strength. However, some people in the armed forces feel much less reasonably disposed than previously towards putting up with the sort of thing that they have had to put up with over the past two years. They are less prepared to take lying down the sort of things that have happened to them in the past two years.

I congratulate the Ministers of State for the Armed Forces and for Defence Procurement on their appointments. Like my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, I spent a fair amount of the summer months either speaking or operating in my capacity as a pilot in the RAF Reserve with both the Army and the Royal Air Force. From that experience, I learnt that, as many hon. Members have said both yesterday and today, there is worry in the armed services about the uncertainty, instability and disruption that has been caused by the changes.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces rightly pointed out, in introducing the debate today, that service life is about change and unpredictability. People often do not know where they will be in a few months or even a few days. The challenge and excitement that that promotes are part and parcel of service life.

I submit that there is a difference between the short-term instability in not knowing where one will be next year or next month and the stability that has always existed in the armed services, in the sense that people knew how long they would have to serve. People knew that they would be looked after and that they were not in just any other job. I distinguish between the uncertainty in the short term and the greater certainty in the long term which, until recently, has been a feature of service life. I sincerely hope that we will now return to the previous position, in which people in the armed services had a clearer idea about what they would be doing in the following year.

The disruptions that have been caused by previous changes in defence policy—"Options for Change" and what followed—are continuing. They have not stopped simply because we appear to have stopped cutting defence. The changes will continue for several years to come. "Front Line First" is fine. I fully approve of the idea of seeking to ensure that the front line is protected, but let us consider that some individuals may do one tour as part of the front line and in the next tour of duty may be posted to something else. Within a month or two of taking up the post, they may find that it is part of the last cuts and they are out of a job. We must get our minds round that sort of instability and ensure that it is reduced to a bare minimum.

I welcome the commission on pay and allowances. I welcome the assurance that it is not simply another cost-cutting exercise. To me, it is an opportunity to regain the support of some of our armed service men and to show that the exercise is intended to ensure that their pay and allowances packages reflect what they do today in the post-cold war environment and that it will take us forward into the next century. I am not so apprehensive as some of my colleagues and I sincerely hope that that is how the study will end up.

I was very much encouraged by the remarks made last week in Bournemouth by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and by those of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his excellent speech last Friday, which pointed out that the defence of this country has now entered a period of stability. The last thing that the armed services want is another defence review, but that is what the Opposition have suggested. It is my view and that of many service men that we have had enough reviews in the past four years. We have had three, and we certainly do not want another.

I found it extraordinary that the Opposition spokesman yesterday suggested at the start of his speech that we needed a review and that we must wait and see, check and then carry it out. A few sentences later, however, he had already pre-empted his review by saying that an incoming Labour Government would reduce the number of warheads on Trident before they assessed the need for the number that we already have. That shows where the Labour party is coming from on defence.

Every Opposition defence review has resulted in defence cuts. Since the war, no incoming Labour Government have not included defence budget cuts as a high priority in their first two years in office. So, for review read cuts and that is what the three armed services are most concerned about.

Dr. Reid

If it is a simple equation of review equals cuts and if the hon. Gentleman and the Conservative party are against reviews, how does he explain that in the 10 years between 1985 and 1995 there has been a 27 per cent. cut in the armed forces budget in real terms?

Mr. Mans

The hon. Gentleman makes a point. Often, no matter which party carries out a review, it means cuts. That is the point that I was making. The hon. Gentleman talks about a review, but on past experience that means a cut rather than any increase in capability.

Let us compare defence expenditure with other public expenditure. Five years ago, expenditure on defence exceeded that on the health service and education and it was a high percentage of the total cost of social security. The health and education budgets are now much higher than the defence budget and—what is even more interesting—the housing benefit budget alone amounts to nearly 60 per cent. of the defence budget. That gives us a clear idea of what has happened to defence expenditure during the past few years. It has reduced in real terms by nearly 25 per cent., or it certainly will have done by 1995. That is why it is even more important to ensure that we do not cut it any further.

In 1990, the Royal Air Force had a front-line combat strength of just under 400 aeroplanes. By 1995, that strength will have reduced to 278. I should have liked to tell the House the number of RAF stations that have been shut down. Last February, I asked that question and was told that someone would write to me. I understand that the Ministry of Defence has had some difficulty defining an RAF station. I noticed in a newspaper report today that the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) received an answer to his question on RAF stations, which was not dissimilar to mine. Could my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State find a way to answer my question about the number of RAF stations that will exist in 1995, compared to the number in 1985 and 1990, as it is relevant?

Mr. Hardy

The House should be aware of the answer that I received yesterday. Since 1989, 20 stations have been closed and a further 14 will close in the next few years. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman will agree, but there is now a serious threat to Britain's capacity to provide runways for the Royal Air Force.

Mr. Mans

I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument. I think that the answer that I hope to receive soon will confirm precisely what he has told me.

On the procurement of aircraft, I reiterate the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), who mentioned the need to secure the future of Farnborough. It is the shop window of aerospace in this country and it would be nice to see it continue beyond the guaranteed date at the end of this decade.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State recently mentioned the importance of keeping down the cost of Eurofighter 2000, and I entirely agree. As many hon. Members know, I fully support the project, but we must ensure that the costs do not rocket. It is not merely important to keep down the cost of the activities of private industry. We must also ensure that the internal costs of the Ministry of Defence's procurement executive are reined in.

One of the problems is that the Defence Research Agency has new accounting methods now that it has agency status. Previously, there was a system of internal transfers which, I understand, had no cash value attached. There have been considerable increases—if one can call them that—in that area, due to the way in which the money is accounted for.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South)

On the subject of defence procurement for the RAF, given that so many thousands of my constituents and those of my hon. Friend are engaged in building the finest aircraft for the RAF—such as the Tornado—

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

And mine.

Mr. Hawkins

As are many of my hon. Friend's constituents and many others in our area. They are building Tornados now and they will be involved in building the Eurofighter.

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) agree that it is crucial for the future of the RAF that we have the right aircraft? Will he join me in calling on our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State to consider carefully the RAF's future large aircraft need, to ensure that the right aircraft is chosen and that the decision is not too precipitate?

Mr. Mans

I entirely agree, and will return to that subject.

I also associate myself with remarks made about the EH101. I hope that an early decision will be taken on procuring that aircraft, bearing in mind that the intention to do so was announced about nine years ago in the House.

The procurement of the new RAF transport aircraft has dominated this two-day debate. Perhaps I should declare an interest, or more specifically a non-interest. As far as I know, no aircraft company in my constituency is working on either the FLA or the C130J, nor is any company likely to supply either of those projects. None the less, I have a fair number of opinions on the direction that we should take to ensure the right solution.

It is worth bearing in mind the background. As recently as 1991, the Ministry of Defence told the Select Committee on Defence that it needed to replace the Hercules just into the next century—in 2001, 2002 or thereabouts. It did not intend to replace it beforehand.

Earlier this year, there was no clear sign why maintenance costs for the Hercules had risen. The Ministry of Defence seemed to be unable to specify to the Defence Select Committee where the costs had occurred, which worried me. I find it slightly odd that, during the past three years, there has been a rapid change in attitude. From not wanting to procure a new transport aircraft until after 2000, the MOD is now saying that the maintenance of the aircraft is very expensive and has decided to sell some of them off next year. I do not understand how that fits into the scenario of an aging aeroplane that will not last until the next decade.

I cannot see when the decision was taken to change from the previous position of our procuring the aircraft in the new century to suddenly saying that we need it in 1997 or 1998. I believe that those involved have decided to get together with the Lockheed company, which has a new model which appears to be a reasonable aircraft. At the same time, there will be perhaps a little more flexibility than normal in defence forward costings to allow us to take the opportunity of buying the aircraft "off the shelf'.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is not it the case that since the Gulf war the utilisation rate of the Hercules fleet has vastly increased over what was anticipated, owing to its support of operations in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Turkey, the no-fly zone over southern Iraq and Saudi Arabia and in the latest episode in Kuwait? Does not my hon. Friend refer purely to a factor of the fleet's utilisation?

Mr. Mans

My hon. Friend makes a good point. As far as I can ascertain, there have been considerable amounts of extra work throughout the various stages of the life of the Hercules, including what happened in Ethiopia a few years ago. There does not seem to have been as much of a change in the use of the aircraft since 1991 compared with what happened in the early part of its history. I shall quickly move on, as I do not want to waste too much of the House's time.

I feel that the Select Committee's report in March this year was a very good one, and it clearly showed what the position was. Since then, there have been considerable developments. It has been decided which engines the future large aircraft will have, whereas in March that had not been fully decided. It has also been decided that the project will form a part of the Airbus consortium, and that had not been decided in March either. As recently as last March, we were looking at a service date of 2005 and that has already been moved forward to 2002.

If there was an omission in that report it was that the Committee did not focus closely enough on the costs of maintaining the C130J in relation to the earlier C130 that the Royal Air Force already had. As the avionics and engines would be different, we would have to train people and give them new skills to service the aircraft. While it is a new aircraft in its own right, it still has effectively an airframe which is getting on for 40 or 50 years old.

We can say that the C130J may have a lower initial cost and it may be available sooner. It will undoubtedly have higher operating costs and carry less than the FLA. If the RAF were to procure the C130J, it would in effect be operating two different types of aircraft for some considerable time. Against that, the FLA will be clearly able to take more loads—such as the Warrior armoured vehicle—and it will go faster. I think that, over its full life, the FLA is likely to be cheaper than the C130J.

Mr. Bill Walker

On the matter of extra capacity, will my hon. Friend turn his mind to the fact that only one vehicle of the type that he mentioned can go in the aircraft? How many aircraft would be required to move a regiment? If he works that out, he will find that it would require every single one of the aircraft to move one regiment. That is neither realistic nor sensible.

Mr. Mans

I obviously disagree with my hon. Friend, but if what he says is true, it makes some of the procurement decisions made by the RAF in the past look slightly amiss. There has always been a desire to produce an aircraft that would at least take a fair amount of the Army's normal equipment, such as the Warrior.

It is also important to look at the industrial case for the aircraft. Jobs would be created in this country in both cases, but in terms of the C130J the best estimate is 3,500 jobs, while the estimate for the FLA is 11,000.

In terms of technology, there is no doubt that we would lose a great deal of our ability in wing design if we were not part of the consortium that was to produce the FLA. If we are not in the consortium at the start, our wing technology could be transferred to Germany for the next generation of Airbuses.

I believe that this is a very important procurement decision, because it is likely to decide the route that British aviation in this area takes during the next 10 or 20 years. I strongly recommend to my Front-Bench colleagues that they delay their decision on the replacement for the existing Hercules fleet until at least the first quarter of next year when a clear assessment of the alternatives, time scale and costs can be made. If we do not do that, we may find that we make the wrong decision.

8.35 pm
Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)

I wish to speak specifically in support of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn).

We ought not to be under any illusions about what the Government document is. It is not a fundamental review, and it really is an affront to call it "Front Line First". It ought to be called "Front Line Farce". The document fails to address a number of quite specific questions about the nature of the front line and where it is.

In global terms, we ought to realise that the front line—in terms of instability—is to be found somewhere in the regions occupied by 20 million or more refugees from civil and regional wars and by the 20 million more refugees from poverty, famine, drought and fear of persecution. It is to be found within the regions where, surrounded by the massed ranks of the nuclear firepower of the super-states, people have decided to ignore all of us and conduct their own civil or regional wars.

The fault lines of the new front line are to be found along lines determined by poverty, by fear of tomorrow and by the inability to feed oneself or to find water to drink. They are to be found within the countries and communities which are riven by persecution and intimidation, and where people feel that they no longer have a home that they can call their own in a country that belongs to them.

If that is where the front lines are to be found globally, where do we find a recognition of that in the definitions of the appropriate structure of services, of service personnel and of support infrastructures which we would need in this country in relation to our functions in an international environment? Instead of that, we have a farce of a document.

It was exemplified for me yesterday when the Secretary of State said that there were "no sacred cows". He would have been more accurate if he had said that there were "no sacred cows—as long as you ignore the entirety of the arguments around Britain's investment in nuclear arms". That is the one thing which has been specifically excluded by ring-fencing from the review which has taken place and which has been presented to us in this document.

In one sweep over the summer, the £750 million savings—or cuts—incorporated in "Front Line First" were swept aside by the quiet announcement of an £800 million overspend of the Trident programme. If the Trident programme has one virtue—this is probably its only virtue—it is that it is the one programme which makes the channel tunnel look on time and under budget. It is a monstrous waste of money, and its costs are spiralling out of all proportion to even any mythical value which the Trident programme might have.

Let me put it in a different context. In April this year, the House was told that the MOD planned to scrap four new diesel-electric submarines of the Upholder class, at a cost of £1.2 billion. The overspend on Trident would have accounted for almost two thirds of that amount.

It is not only hon. Members who are appalled at the way in which nuclear defence spending has spiralled out of control. The military top brass are becoming fairly brassed off with the incompetent handling of the Trident programme and the drain that it constitutes on the country's defence spending. On 3 August, Field Marshal Sir Nigel Bagnall, Chief of the General Staff between 1985 and 1988, wrote in The Times: It is high time that the need for our independent nuclear deterrent was seriously questioned … The four Trident submarines provide an excessive capability in relation to our status and requirements, and eat far more deeply into the defence budget than is generally acknowledged. The 11,600 uniformed service personnel and the 7,100 civil servants who will lose their jobs because of the cuts announced in "Front Line First" will know to their cost how deeply the cost of Trident cuts into the budget for other services.

"Front Line First" should have been willing to confront the nuclear delusion under which the country has been suffering for far too long. We need to face up to certain stark facts. Trident is militarily useless and is a drain on our national and defence resources. It will not deter terrorists or tin-pot dictators. It destabilises rather than stabilises both the United Kingdom's security policy and international ones. Outside the House and outside the country, the Trident programme is understood to be an act of proliferation when the world is calling out for acts of reverse proliferation. Instead, we have a Government who produce documents that are caught between the helpless and the hopeless.

In the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1994", the Government made two crass statements about the importance of nuclear weapons. First, they said: Complete and general nuclear disarmament remains a desirable ultimate goal, but nuclear weapons cannot be dis-invented. It is as though the Government were saying, "Well, we have got them, what can we do?" My answer is simple—they should turn the page not only of history, but of their own document, because they also made two stark claims about the need to obliterate chemical weapons from the planet. First, they reminded the House: An international treaty to ban chemical weapons—the Chemical Weapons Convention—was signed by 130 countries, including the United Kingdom) when it opened for signature in January 1993. In the following paragraph, the Government state: The United Kingdom abandoned its offensive chemical weapons capability in the 1950s but other states have significant stockpiles to destroy. It appears to me that the Government were patting themselves on the back for an act of unilateral chemical weapons disarmament. If they lay claim to that as a virtue and sign up to a treaty that sets out the terms and conditions for global monitoring and regulation as the means of removing chemical weapons from the surface of the planet, why cannot we do exactly the same thing for nuclear weapons? All it requires is an act of courage and vision. Instead, we have a Government who are either stupid or cynical, because in the estimates the Government said that the ability to undertake a massive nuclear strike is not enough to ensure deterrence … We also need the capability to undertake nuclear action on a more limited scale in order to demonstrate our willingness to defend our vital interests to the utmost, and so induce a political decision to halt aggression without inevitably triggering strategic nuclear exchanges. People in the world at large will draw some simple and obvious conclusions from the Government's statements. First, they will understand that the United Kingdom is willing to use nuclear weapons in non-nuclear conflicts. Secondly, they will appreciate that we would be willing to do so against non-nuclear states.

We are less than a year away from the opening of the UN conference that aims to extend the non-proliferation treaty. When it comes to exerting pressure to extend that treaty, Britain will have no credibility and no one will believe us, because the world already knows that we reserve the right to use nuclear weapons. Other countries will also appreciate that we are in the process of widening the nuclear gap and that we reserve the right to continue to conduct our own nuclear tests.

The creative cuts should have been directed at our nuclear defences. Substantial savings could still be made if the Trident programme were abandoned. Greenpeace has identified that savings of at least £5 billion could be made in the short term and up to £15 billion over the proposed lifetime of Trident. We should have made those savings and redirected those resources.

The redirected resources should have been targeted in two ways. First, they should have gone towards defence diversification. The United Kingdom's record on defence diversification is woeful, because the Government have no commitment to it. They may talk about the Konver programme, but all that amounts to is £15 million funded overwhelmingly from Europe. That money amounts to little more than the commission that one enterprising individual can get from a decent arms deal these days.

To put it in a wider perspective, we need simply recognise that at the moment Germany is investing £500 million in its own defence diversification programme. Between 1985 and 1991, the American company, Frisbee Airborne Hydraulics, shifted from having a 90 per cent. dependence on arms procurement to one of just 20 per cent.—without losing a single job. One could not say that of any of the British arms supplies industries. They are their own killing fields of our most skilled, qualified and imaginative design technologists and engineers. Their jobs are being lost because the Government do not have a serious commitment to any defence diversification programme. It is tragic to have to say this on the day after China agreed to use American help to finance the refocusing of Chinese defence activities and skills towards improving its aeroplane industry and air navigational systems.

I have a royal ordnance factory in my constituency. I have spent a great deal of wonderful time with people in the ROF who have gone through the most phenomenal agenda of changes that they could make if they had a different brief from the main purchaser of their skills—the Government. They could diversify along the lines of technology redeployment, using skills that they have to focus on the international need for munitions decommissioning in eastern Europe and the middle east.

The work force also have computer-aided design skills and could use them to make buildings, the channel tunnel and aircraft safer. They have proposed a whole range of practical developments, but they are being ignored because of a lack of funding. The technology to protect people and structures exists, as do the skills. All it lacks is a Government with a lead and a vision; instead, we hear little more than platitudes—such are the Government's references to defence diversification.

The second plank of refocused resourcing is service personnel. In an organisational context, that is where the real front line lies in the United Kingdom. We have people and organisations with huge skills, but there is a desperate need for a vision to refocus those skills. They need to be refocused towards peace building rather than war fighting. They need to be harnessed in many ways—perhaps around a new international youth initiative and, specifically, towards the massive environmental threats that hang over us all.

I have set out some of those ideas in greater detail in a pamphlet which I published recently, but I shall not try to go through it now. This country needs to rise to the challenge set for it by President Gorbachev when he talked about the three Ds—the need for the world to address the challenges of democracy, development and demilitarisation. Instead, our Government present papers that are still tumbling around the past and tinkering around with the present.

The real sadness of the document before us was brought home to me by a small apocryphal tale that I heard a couple of weeks ago. It was about a conversation between a mother camel and her child. The child asked its mother why it had such big flat feet with thick soles and the mother said, "You have wonderful feet. They are broad so that when you trek across the desert you will not sink into the sand dunes, and they have thick soles so that they will not be burnt by the heat of the sun. Other animals may suffer, but you will thrive." The child camel then said, "But mother, why do I have this hump on my back?" The mother said, "My child, it is a beautiful hump. Other animals would die of thirst in the desert, but you can carry your own water supply, which will get you through for weeks." The child camel then asked its mother, "Why do I have these long eyelashes?" The mother answered, "Your eyelashes are beautiful, my child. In the huge storms across the desert, other animals would be blinded and would grind to a halt. Your eyelashes can sweep away the sand and allow you to see." The child thought for a moment, looked up at its mother and said, "Mother, just one more question: if I have all those beautiful features and abilities, what are we doing stuck here in Dudley zoo?"

The document before us seems to be about Dudley zoo. This country has human and organisational skills that could meet the challenges presented to us by the world outside. We have technological skills, in terms of both high and intermediate technology, which the world desperately needs. People can see a different role which this country could play in international peace building. So why are we tragically stuck with a Government who are intellectually moribund and stranded in their own nuclear version of Dudley zoo?

The world needs its first ex-nuclear state. It needs a defence and international policy focused around peace building. It needs a policy that is free from the shackles of nuclear madness. Those are not to be found in "Front Line First".

8.52 pm
Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon)

I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) was criticising more acutely the Government or the Opposition Front Bench. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), who is just leaving the Chamber, seemed to cringe in his place because yesterday he gave us an unequivocal undertaking that any future Labour Government—God save us—would deploy Trident.

It has given me no pleasure in recent years to have criticised several aspects of the Government's defence policies. So it is an agreeable surprise for me to be able to welcome, with some reservations, the outcome of the defence costs study which, despite many gloomy predictions, has achieved the general aim of "Front Line First".

I pay particular tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and his erstwhile colleague, my right hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), for working so closely with the armed services to produce a result that is broadly acceptable from both the military and financial viewpoints. That was an achievement in itself and the issues were addressed in such a way that the Opposition's call for a defence review now rings hollow.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's speech at the party conference could hardly have put the position more clearly: there are to be no further upheavals. It is exactly that statement of stability to come which the Government, the country and everyone in the armed forces want.

It has been a painful process. For the Army, the position would have been untenable had not "Options for Change" been modified in three material ways: first, by allowing four excellent regiments to escape amalgamation and thus preserve their identities; secondly, by adding back 3,000 men; and, thirdly, by the belated recognition that we needed a regular third armoured Army recce regiment. However, may I warn my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, whom I welcome back to the Department, that the problem of overstretch has not gone away. That fact was brought home to me in stark terms when, during the recess in August, I returned to Northern Ireland for the first time since I served in South Armagh 20 years ago. Together with the qualities that we all admire so much and which we have recognised in this debate, of our troops' maturity, resilience, restraint and humour in the face of all the provocation in Northern Ireland, there is a price to be paid. That price is seen in human terms, such as the above-average divorce rate among soldiers serving in Northern Ireland. That pressure has also led some of our most able soldiers to apply for premature voluntary release.

Thus, the question of overstretch will not go away. There has always been a discrepancy between ministerial assurances and the views of commanders in the field. A 24-month tour interval can be satisfied only if two conditions are fulfilled: first, if the Government can, in due course, reduce the number of troops in Northern Ireland, given the welcome ceasefire, which we all hope holds; and, secondly, if the Government stick to their assurance that no further cuts will be made, even if commitments are reduced.

I hope that we shall hear no more of "overstretch"—a term that was once not in our vocabulary—but I also hope that we shall not now swing the other way and start talking of "understretch". I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement to avoid understretch and to ensure that the qualities of our British soldiers are used in the right way. They can be used in the right way only if soldiers are properly trained and equipped. It is nothing short of disgraceful that recently it has been impossible to exercise adequately at brigade level, let alone in any higher formations.

The pressure on Salisbury plain is becoming ever greater as troops come back from the British Army of the Rhine. Exercises on Salisbury plain depend on the goodwill of the chief constable of Wiltshire, who must close roads from time to time to make a reasonable exercise at that level possible. Even if the BATUS facility in Canada can be upgraded and simulation techniques are developed, is not it time to look anew at training areas closer to home in the former eastern Europe, so that realistic training can be carried out? I fully accept that most of our future actions will be carried out in the framework of a coalition, but surely it is important for our troops to train independently at the highest possible level.

My hon. Friends have already made powerful arguments to rationalise the equipment aspects. We must have a decision soon for our support and attack aircraft. Both are vital for our future flexibility and effectiveness. Any further delay, I submit to my right hon. Friend, will merely compromise our troops' capabilities to carry out their role properly.

In conclusion—I declare an interest as a reserve officer—I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the position of reservists. Saddam Hussein's recent histrionics—they could all too easily develop into something much worse—remind us that we can no longer deploy 25,000 Regulars, especially at short notice, to various areas of conflict throughout the world. Yet the physical annual reporting of reservists has been reduced to a written exercise.

I have already drawn an analogy between that exercise and my writing to the Chief Whip saying, "I will be in the Lobby if there is a Division". I do not think that he would find that any more acceptable than I find the new reservist structure. It is no substitute to fill in a form rather than to appear physically and to report as a reservist. It is an entirely bogus argument that the old system was too expensive in the post-cold war era, and that a new legal system had to be put in place.

We are told that the so-called "high-readiness volunteer" will be introduced, but not until 1996 at the earliest. Is not it an opportunity for a high-readiness Minister to intervene soon to reduce that hiatus to nothing?

Whatever the future holds in what the Secretary of State for Defence described as "this curious world", I am convinced that the Government are on track to enable British troops to lead by example, and to continue to be a force for good around the world, whether in conflict, in humanitarian aid or in a combination of the two.

9.1 pm

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Govan)

In the limited time available to me, I shall discuss some issues related to procurement, because I believe that military purchasing should be considered as part of the industrial strategy that every Government should have.

We are moving increasingly towards a position in which large British companies involved in defence are working with their European colleagues to launch joint projects because of the expense of such projects. I hope that the Government will be able to give us an assurance that competitive tendering will work in a way that is designed to help British firms to collaborate with their European compatriots, and that will allow them to collaborate equally, instead of obliging them to enter a subsidiary role. I am conscious that we have little time to discuss that, and I shall therefore be happy to provide the Minister with further information. I hope that he will make himself available to meet any firm in my constituency that has raised the subject with me.

I also want the Ministers to let us know that they will take account of the support that is being provided by other Governments to firms in their countries when they consider defence industries. I think of Pilkington Optronics in my constituency, which is bidding against foreign competition for masts and periscopes for submarines. Sagem in France and Kollmorgen in the USA have received substantial Government finance to help them with their research programme, but Pilkington and its collaborators have had to fund a research programme from their own funds. I hope that the Government will take that into account and will be prepared to provide co-operation with that company and its collaborators to ensure that they can compete for orders abroad on an equal footing.

For example, I draw to the attention of the Minister of State for Defence Procurement the fact that the French Government are making available a submarine so that the French equipment may be fitted to it as a platform for sales abroad. It obviously gives the French company an advantage when it can give an example of its equipment in operation. I hope, in those circumstances, that the Government will go ahead and place an order for batch 2 Trafalgar submarines as quickly as possible, so that that platform can be provided for the companies in my constituency.

Finally, I shall discuss military procurement standards and procedures. As the Ministers will be aware, part of the gap between the price quoted by Swan Hunter and the price quoted by the VSEL Kvaerner consortium for the landing platform helicopter resulted from the cost of the extra overheads of meeting naval procurement standards. I want the Minister to check whether he believes that those standards, their mode of operation and the level of bureaucracy involved are absolutely and utterly necessary. I hope that he will take account of the fact that Kvaerner, which builds gas carrier and chemical carrier ships to extremely high technical and safety standards, is able lo produce ships at a far lower level of bureaucracy than applies in naval yards. In those circumstances, it seems that there should be a review of the level of bureaucracy—the gold plating and over-engineering—in naval projects supervised by the Ministry of Defence.

In that context, I wish to raise the subject of the ocean survey vessel. I hope that best commercial practice will be adhered to when quotes for that vessel are submitted. I hope that the speed with which the order is let will be more in line with normal commercial practice than is normal naval practice—in other words, quicker.

We have a great national asset in our defence industries. Many of the firms use technology and personnel at the cutting edge of world developments. I hope that the Government will enable such companies to make the best use of their core technologies by providing them with support when it comes to diversification. That subject has already been touched on, but I hope that the Government will act on it in order to reduce the possibility of job losses as a result of defence cuts.

I regret that the leader of the Scottish National party, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), is not present for the end of the debate. I wish to raise an issue related to something that he said. It is important that the Scottish National party should come clean on its plans for defence in Scotland should it gain independence. We need a clear statement from the SNP on whether it intends to retain all existing bases and, if not, which it intends to close. We need a clear statement from the party on whether all existing units based in Scotland will be retained at their present levels. We also need a clear statement from it on whether all Scots in units not based in Scotland will be offered places in the new Scottish armed services. It is essential that the people of Scotland should have answers to those questions. When the Minister responds I hope that he will say that he will provide information when other hon. Members and I table questions designed to identify the costs of a Scottish defence force should independence come to Scotland—something that many of my colleagues and I shall argue strongly against.

9.7 pm

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

I realise that I have only a few moments before the winding-up speeches begin.

It falls to most of us either to applaud those troops who serve from our constituencies or to plead a special case for the manufacturers of defence equipment located in or near our constituencies. I shall not disappoint the House, and shall plead for both.

During the debate on this subject 11 years ago I made my maiden speech. On that occasion I had to make valedictory remarks about 450 years of naval history and the closure of Chatham dockyard in my constituency. Sadly, in the last year, we have lost our last remaining naval connection as HMS Wildfire has been closed due to the constraints on the Royal Naval Reserve.

We still have an important defence establishment in the Medway towns: the Royal School of Military Engineering in my constituency. It is the spiritual headquarters of the sappers, who were rightly praised by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces for their wonderful work in Bosnia and around the world. The sappers have served in every campaign that the British Army has ever fought. It is entirely appropriate that their motto should be "ubique"—everywhere. It was during the sappers memorial weekend recently that I exchanged some words with the Chief Royal Engineer who, instead of giving me a battering for the cuts in defence expenditure and resources, was at pains to emphasise to me the excellence, the energy and the enthusiasm of the young officers serving around this country and abroad whom he had visited in the previous 18 months. He did add that, in order to maintain their energy and enthusiasm, it will be necessary to give those excellent soldiers a sense of purpose and stability and to let them know where their future duties will lie—as part of a NATO rapid reaction corps or as part of a United Nations force, keeping the peace in the hot spots that have erupted in the past few years.

The excellent high-technology company GEC Marconi Avionics is located in my constituency; it provided the backbone of employment in the Medway towns during the difficult years after the dockyard closure. Its peace dividend, if such it can be called, has been a reduction in the work force from 7,000 to just over half that number in the past decade. We in the Medway towns look forward to Marconi winning new procurement orders from the Minister of State for Defence Procurement.

The company is particularly interested in the competition to supply the attack helicopter. It has re-engineered the Bell Supercobra into the Venom helicopter—I believe that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement has seen the company's work on that. When, in the coming months, he starts looking for value for money when placing an order I hope that he will consider value for money for the whole life cycle of the aircraft. Marconi proposes to offer 90 per cent. of the most capable attack helicopter for 60 per cent. of the cost. In these days of straitened resources, that seems to me the sort of offer that my right hon. Friend will find difficult to refuse.

9.11 pm
Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

As usual, we have heard a wide-ranging and extremely knowledgeable number of contributors to this debate, and I hope to refer to many but not all of their speeches. I hope that the Government, having heard all that information and experience, will at least be better informed than before and, we continue to hope, wiser too.

Several hon. Members presented knowledgeable and spirited constituency cases which I do not intend to pursue. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Redmond) spoke about his RAF station with great knowledge and spirit. My hon. Friends the Members for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) and for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) also raised constituency interests.

One or two of the points made in the debate certainly merit a serious response from the Government. No one likes to embark on a personal vendetta, but my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked some difficult and serious questions about Mark Thatcher. The Minister may not want to deal with such grave matters tonight, but some time in the not-too-distant future someone in Government is going to have to provide some answers.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire) and the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) raised again a subject which has been discussed here many times and which is close to my own heart: the manner in which the people who work in Rosyth have been treated—broken pledges, broken promises and broken hearts. Future plans for investment made on the basis of promises given by a previous Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King), lie in ruins. Thousands of people in the Rosyth area have been left bereft of plans or security, and as the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell) said, the problem has affected people in an area much wider than Rosyth itself.

It is my pleasant duty at this point to welcome the new defence team under the old leader. I welcome back the right hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman); I know that he has served the country and the Government well before in defence. We wish him well in his new post. I also welcome the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) to the defence team for the first time. His tribute to the troops was the standard sort that we all pay them, but it was none the less sincere for that. The sincerity of his tribute shone through and must have been apparent to all, as was the pride with which he took his place at the Dispatch Box. It was almost as if he was coming home. I suspect that if the hon. Gentleman had to choose any position in Government, it would be the one that he has been given.

I am much too generous to say that it shows how bad a state the Ministry was in when it had to send for the cavalry. We hope that the Minister's career will be as distinguished in defence as it was in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I am sure that he will have much fun with defence acronyms as in his former post he gave a new dimension to the expression "well hung".

I also congratulate the long-distance runner who is not with us, the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Mr. Coe), on his appointment as a Parliamentary Private Secretary. It is not normal to congratulate hon. Members appointed to such posts, but I understand that he is the PPS to the two Defence Ministers whom I mentioned. That is taking cuts a bit far, even for the Ministry of Defence. However, if someone had to be chosen to run between two Ministers, a better man could not have been selected.

I shall say a quick word about the old defence team whose members have all been promoted to the dizzy heights of the Cabinet. I congratulate them all, especially my old sparring partner, the ex-Minister of State for the Armed Forces, the right hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), who has become chairman of the Conservative party. We recall with pleasure that as Minister of State for the Armed Forces the right hon. Gentleman presided over a drastic reduction in numbers, plummeting morale and a slashing of support. We wish him similar success in his position as chairman of the Conservative party.

The nature of these debates is to concentrate on differences between the parties because it has not been unknown for political points to be scored. But I shall be unorthodox by first outlining the areas of agreement in the new spirit of consensus under our new leader. We join the Government in paying tribute to the men and women of the armed forces. Last year, as in previous years, they have shown by their courage, discipline and professionalism that they are worthy recipients of the proud traditions that they inherit. As we approach Trafalgar day on Friday, it is worth remembering those traditions. If I had not reminded the House of that, Horatio Nelson's great nephew four times removed, the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor), who is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, would have done so.

There is common ground between the Government and Opposition on much operational activity. We welcome "Partnership for Peace", which was mentioned at length by the Secretary of State, the memo of understanding and the bilateral meetings between central European and Baltic military organisations.

We were relieved that the worst fears of the Territorial Army were not realised in the pronouncements on "Front Line First". The hon. Members for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) spoke about that. We agree with the Government about the role played by our military in Ghana and Mozambique and further afield, and particularly in South Africa. We also agree about the role of our forces in United Nations peacekeeping.

The Government and Opposition are on common ground about operations in Ireland. Like the Secretary of State, we look forward to the day when British troops—as he put it on the radio this morning—are no more necessary on the streets of Belfast than they are in Birmingham, Cardiff or Edinburgh. Of course, as the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) said, that is subject to the democratic process.

Mr. David Harris (St. Ives)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Reid

I shall do so in a moment.

We accept that the de-escalation of a military presence in Northern Ireland and activity there is a function not merely of the political process and progress but of security considerations. We should like to flag up to any member of the Government who is listening that if, as we all hope, peace comes to Northern Ireland, that will not be used as the basis for a simple arithmetical equation by which the British armed forces will be reduced by the number who are freed from deployment in Northern Ireland. There is a critical mass beneath which, if our armed forces and particularly the Army are reduced, it will be impossible to build them up again.

Mr. Harris

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. While I heartily endorse his last remarks, as he is welcoming things, did he welcome the motion passed by the Labour party conference that would have cut our defence spending to the average of western European countries and would have meant a £6 billion cut in our defence budget?

Dr. Reid

No. I did not welcome that. What I did welcome, and which no one has mentioned, was the statement by the National Executive Committee that was agreed unanimously by the Labour party conference, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and that stated a nuclear policy that Labour will enter Trident into multilateral arms control negotiation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is now better informed. I also welcomed the 22 motions at the Tory party conference that were critical of the Government, none of which was called. In particular, I congratulate the Conservatives of Torridge and Devon, West who called for a full and objective defence review.

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

What does the hon. Gentleman suggest the country and the House should make of a Labour party conference that simultaneously passes a resolution calling for the cancellation of Trident and at the same time suggests that it should be retained and entered into multilateral defence negotiations? Does the hon. Gentleman really take comfort in such a farrago of nonsense?

Dr. Reid

I suggest that hon. Members become better informed of the Labour party procedures than the Secretary of State for Defence. Let me explain to him that, in order to be considered for the manifesto of the Labour party, a conference decision has to reach two-thirds support. As the Secretary of State has demonstrated that he is not good at figures, I should explain that that is 66 and two thirds per cent. If something is unanimous, it has 100 per cent. support. The national executive statement received 100 per cent. support as it was unanimous, but the conference decision to which he referred received only 55 per cent. or less than two thirds. Had he been informed of that, the Secretary of State would not have been asking fatuous questions from the Dispatch Box.

Let me refer now to areas of agreement. We have long supported the Government's position on Bosnia. Indeed, before they adopted it we proposed a limited humanitarian role for the troops. We concur with the Government's view of the danger of lifting the arms embargo.

In the Gulf, we support the timely response in terms of the dispatch of the troops and Tornado aircraft, although we point out, as we did to the previous Prime Minister, that international legality is a necessary but not sufficient condition for any action, pre-emptive or otherwise. International legality has to be complemented by international political consensus. That is absolutely essential in the Gulf.

There have been, however, substantial areas of discord between the parties. We have made plain our dissatisfaction with the Government's approach to nuclear non-proliferation and their non-approach to a comprehensive test ban treaty. Those issues were raised by my hon. Friends with whom I am not in absolute concurrence on other matters—my hon Friends the Members for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) and for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson). In particular, we view the Government's refusal to limit the nuclear capacity of the new Trident system to that of Polaris as a serious impediment to international progress.

Our most serious differences with the Government lie in the topics that are central to today's debate—the reformation of military thinking, the restructuring of the armed forces and the reformulation of strategic purpose. Like others who have spoken in the debate—it was even hinted at by the ex-Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Bridgwater—we do not believe the Government when they imply that there will be no further changes to our armed forces. No one believes that, excēpt possibly the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Robinson), who in a naive speech tonight—[Interruption.] It is in the eye of the beholder. I thought that it was a naive speech because he seemed to think that the status quo would prevail indefinitely as far as our armed forces are concerned.

There will be change in our armed forces. There may be cuts and there certainly will be a reallocation of resources, irrespective of which Government are in power and it does no one any justice to deny that it will happen. The real question is whether that change will be managed, coherent and in pursuit of a strategic objective, or whether it will be the way that it has been for the past three years—incoherent with no strategic objective, piecemeal and unfair. That is why the Secretary of State, who is not only a lawyer but a Scottish lawyer, chose his words carefully yesterday. When asked directly whether there would be any further cuts, he said that he did not contemplate any further cuts. He did not quite add, "at the present time", but it was implicit in what he said.

We can all be reassured that the Secretary of State does not contemplate any further cuts. Of course, he did not contemplate a freeze in child benefit; he did not contemplate VAT on fuel; he did not contemplate the biggest tax rise in British history—but they happened, so let us be warned.

Every time a Minister denies anything, listen carefully and in the background we can hear a chorus of cocks crowing. No denial from a Minister can be taken seriously, especially when we live in a changing world. After all, it is barely three months since the right hon. and learned Gentleman announced the third round of defence cuts in as many years. As with the previous cuts under "Options for Change" and "Defending our Future", the proposals contained in the defence costs study take the form not of a coherent and internally consistent package of reforms designed to serve an identifiable strategic purpose, but of a series of piecemeal budgetary measures and decisions foisted on Defence Ministers by their colleagues at the Treasury.

The Government's defence, as it was tonight with the Secretary of State, is to attack Labour party policy—[HON. MEMBERS: "Right."] Conservative Members may say that, but it is an attack based not on strength, but on weakness. I must tell them that every time I hear the Secretary of State attack Labour party policy, it reminds me of the famous telegram sent by Marshall Foch at the battle of the Marne to Marshall Joffre, which read: Hard pressed on my right—my centre is yielding—impossible to manoeuvre—situation excellent—I shall attack. That comes to mind every time I hear the Secretary of State—

Mr. Rifkind

They won the war.

Dr. Reid

It is obvious that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not a military historian. It is no thanks to Marshall Foch that we won the war. The expression, "lions led by donkeys" springs to mind—not in relation to the Secretary of State, of course, but Marshall Foch.

The reality is that the biggest squeeze of all is to come. I warn Conservative Back Benchers not to say that we did not tell them. Honest John is putting it on the line for them. Budget predictions produced last year by Ron Smith, a professor of applied economics at Birkbeck college—not, as far as I know, a member of the Socialist Workers party—reveal the extent of the funding gap that already exists, whoever comes to power in two years' time.

Let us assume that the defence budget falls to 2.9 per cent. of gross domestic product at the end of the century—the exact figure in the Government's projections. Let us assume low inflation and sustained economic growth. Those are all perfectly reasonable assumptions. Let us also assume that the procurement budget is sustained at about its current level. Even then, force levels will have to be reduced to 200,000 in order to balance the books.

For the benefit of Conservative Members, I shall tell them now what I told them three years ago—that there was a 27 per cent. real cut. They did not believe it then, but it is now accepted by the Government. That meant a further cut of 32,900 members of the armed forces, or 14 per cent. over and above the present cuts. In other words, between 1985 and the year 2000, the Government—in whose hands we all know defence is safe—will have cut 40 per cent. in real terms from the defence budget. That is not a conference decision with 55 per cent. or 30 per cent. That is not a theoretical proposition of delegates to a party that is in opposition. That is the reality of a Government in power. A 40 per cent. cut is staring Conservative Back Benchers in the face.

The Secretary of State, who has become the master of illusion with figures, the Paul Daniels of Parliament, producing policies designed on paper, an impressive order of battle, must admit that the Government have failed to provide the necessary training, equipment and logistic support out of the present budget.

Mr. Bill Walker

If the Government decide somehow to find the money to offset what the hon. Gentleman is claiming, will the Labour party support that?

Dr. Reid

If the Government can find the money to offset what is coming, I shall make a promise to the hon. Gentleman. I shall have to find only two other miracles to call for the canonisation of the Secretary of State. We do not need to look in the crystal ball; we can read the book—the report published by the Defence Select Committee, chaired by a Conservative Member, on the implications of the lessons learnt from Operation Granby.

The Government took us into a war with two armoured divisions. When they decided to send one armoured division to the Gulf, 77 per cent. of our Challenger tanks were not operational. Again, for the benefit of those who cannot deal with arithmetic, that means that 23 per cent. of our tanks were operational. The Lada has more operational success than the British first armoured division did under the Government. Yet Conservative Members criticise Labour party policy.

When we look at the explanations given by assistants at the Ministry of Defence in defence of their masters, the situation is not alleviated but made worse. The deputy under-secretary, Mr. Roger Jackling, when asked about the inability to produce soldiers and armoured divisions in the field, said that in the former strategic circumstances, what you actually had in the shop window as part of your deterrent posture was of paramount importance. You did not expect to have to use it. I hope that no one told the Russians. In a further illuminating sentence, he added: We are now discovering in the new strategic circumstances that perhaps what constitutes your front line is more likely to be called upon to engage in conflict". There we have it. Under the expert guidance of the Secretary of State for Defence and his predecessor, we have discovered that the Ministry of Defence, 160 years after Clausewitz, has discovered that, in times of conflict, the front line is likely to be called into a fight.

Secondly, with a terrible irony, the Secretary of State, who declared last year that he did not want paper tiger forces, is now branded by his own staff as being part of a Government who, for 15 years, presided over shop window forces. No wonder there is silence on the Conservative Back Benches. That is how far the Conservatives have gone.

Mr. Mark Robinson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Reid

I cannot resist the temptation.

Mr. Robinson

In the light of what the hon. Gentleman has just said, will he give us a hint of what the terms of reference for the defence review proposed in the Opposition's amendment would be?

Dr. Reid

I have only two and half minutes left. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we envisage a defence review that will not be limited exclusively to the Ministry of Defence. It will take into account foreign affairs. I hope that the Prime Minister's office would be involved and I hope that it would be wide enough to weigh cost benefits, not purely within the MOD budget, but the benefits that we get from our position within the United Nations as a result of having a defence force that is capable of playing a role in the United Nations. That is a very general statement in the time available to me, but it is a mile ahead of anything that has been produced by the Government.

Mr. Garnier

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Reid

I must make some progress because the Minister wants to speak.

The Government demonstrate that they have little appreciation of the extensive and complex processes that are required to produce our front-line military capabilities. They have no coherent industrial or defence policy. More than 100,000 employees in the defence sector have been made redundant in the past four years as strategically vital parts of our manufacturing base have been allowed to disappear. The Government are complacent about our ability to transport our armed forces out of area, a point that was made by several Conservative Members.

Above all, the Government are now bent—they are driven by dogma—on a policy of privatising the armed forces. We did not believe that they would do it in respect of the prisons—they have already done it—and they are now doing it in respect of the armed forces. We are not saying that efficiency should not be involved—we are not saying that some services cannot be privatised—but the Government are pushed by dogma and taking it to extremes.

It might be unfair, but we are always left with the impression that the dream scenario for the Government would be the British Army marching into battle, fed by Forte, serviced by Kwik-Fit, stirred by the strains of the London symphony orchestra, and having the solid reassurance that their flank would be guarded by Group 4. That is the Government's attitude. They have followed that dogma through to its illogical conclusion, firm in the belief that the hidden hand of the market will spontaneously cater for the requirements of Britain's national security. It will not.

Mr. Garnier

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Reid

No. I am sorry, but I am at my final conclusion. It is unfair to the Minister to give way, and I have been unfair enough to him tonight.

Echoing the Secretary of State for Defence, the Prime Minister assured the nation last week that the big upheavals in our armed forces are over. Sadly, in time, I believe that that will prove to have been little more than another empty Tory promise.

The Conservatives have learnt nothing from the reverses that they have had in the polls. I do not want to upset my leader, who would rightfully claim the major advances that he has made in law and order, but, in due modesty, we must point out that the Conservative party which, four years ago, was 42 per cent. ahead in the polls on defence, was 10 per cent. behind last week. I hope that that gives some comfort to hon. Members.

The right hon. Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) referred to a report entitled "Arms for Oblivion", which was published by the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies. He did not, out of sympathy for his Front-Bench colleagues, mention its conclusion, which was brought to my attention during the debate. In attempts of honesty and objectivity, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East, who is sitting on the Liberal Benches, and I would like to draw attention to the conclusion of that report. It states: Far from being able to claim that 'defence is safe in our hands' the Conservatives must hope that defence will not be an issue at the next election. They can hope, but it will, and we shall win that debate and the next election.

9.37 pm
The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Roger Freeman)

Opposition Members will not win that defence debate and they will not win the next election.

I have listened to a very entertaining, witty and, at the beginning, courteous contribution, and I thank the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid), but I shall seek to answer the many points that have been raised.

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who is not in his place—

Mr. Martlew

Yes, he is.

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman raised allegations in connection with Mark Thatcher. I shall certainly look at the documents that the hon. Gentleman has passed over tonight and he will receive a considered response. However, as for the comments that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have made, I make it quite plain that the transaction between Her Majesty's Government and Saudi Arabia was on a Government-to-Government basis in which no commissions were paid, and no agents or any middlemen were involved. I will look at the documents and write to the hon. Gentleman.

The Select Committee report, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) referred, and which is the background of the debate, rightly started, on its front page, by affirming the need for NATO. Hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree that NATO is the bedrock of our defence policy. It has been successful; we have deterred the Soviet Union; we have won the cold war. That is the reason for the significant reduction in our armed forces following "Options for Change". Now the threat has moved to the south and the east, but that does not invalidate our membership of NATO. As I have said, it is the bedrock.

Our alliances with European countries are important, but we must never forget our association with the United States, our reliance on it—in part—and our close friendship with a country that still maintains 100,000 troops in western Europe.

The defence costs study, which the debate has largely concerned, relates to support for the front line. It is logical that that should follow on from "Options For Change". It has represented the pulling together of a great number of initiatives started in the Ministry of Defence and it is perfectly sensible for us to aim for £750 million of savings in 1996–97.

Let me tell my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster, who chairs the Select Committee and raised the point in its excellent report, that we will achieve those savings. We have many dozens of proposals, some out for consultation and some still to come. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme (Mr. Churchill), who is not yet in his place, let me say that if we achieve the target—I feel confident that we shall—the benefits will come back to the armed forces. It is wholly appropriate that their efforts should be reflected not only in better capability on the front line, but in better equipment.

I should make it plain to my hon. Friends the Members for Wealden (Sir G. Johnson Smith) and for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes)—and to the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), who spoke yesterday—that if and when we are able to withdraw troops from Northern Ireland, which Northern Ireland Members know will be no easy task, the size of our armed forces will not be affected. Any benefits will come not in redundancies, but in a partial reduction of the overstretch that has been mentioned; my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has made that clear.

Let me reply to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) by saying that the Prime Minister spoke in an illustrative fashion when he talked about Semtex. I can confirm that he meant that we want Semtex and all other weapons to be laid down by the terrorists before progress can be made, as I am sure all hon. Members would wish it to be.

Many hon. Members on both sides of the House mentioned problems with the defence costs study. The study is not an annual round; it has been a special exercise. I have already referred to our £750 million target. My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin), and indeed the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, alluded in passing to the expected receipts from the sale of married quarters—approximately £500 million in 1995-96. I confirm that we intend to proceed with that programme, while refining and improving it. It is a unique and difficult transaction, but we are determined to bring it to fruition; otherwise the defence budget would be affected, and we are determined that that should not happen.

In connection with the defence costs study, let me say in particular to my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce)—who expressed his concern about Portland with great force and courtesy—that I have visited Portland in the last two weeks. I should tell my hon. Friend, and other Conservative Members who have expressed concern, that the consultation exercise continues, although it has been formally completed in part. It will be fair and open, and will continue until Ministers reach a decision.

I invite all hon. Members who have raised concerns about the defence costs study to raise them in person, either with my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces or with me. We share responsibility, and I do not regard anything as foreclosed. We want to ensure that savings are yielded to the defence budget, but yielded in a sensible fashion.

The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) raised the specific issue of Pendine. I confirm to him that we have concluded that we need to rethink the proposals. The hon. Gentleman was perfectly fair; he raised legitimate concerns about the way in which the financial calculations had been done. He was fair enough to say that his group would guarantee those savings, but he asked us to look at the matter in a different fashion which might permit the continuation of the Pendine range in view of the cost of re-provision of the test tracks elsewhere. I accept the force of his argument and I confirm that I will be in touch with him in due course. That is an example of an intelligent response to the case made by the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Ainger), together with the trade unions, in a fair and convincing fashion. We will listen where it is appropriate and where a change of approach is required by the facts.

My hon. Friend the Member for Davyhulme, who is not here at present but will read my remarks in the record, asked my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State yesterday what specific enhancements would result from the defence costs study. We made commitments about the front line. It is not possible to be precise, but it is our belief that savings of about £100 million a year can be ploughed back into augmenting the front line.

In July my right hon. and learned Friend announced a range of measures which will improve front-line capability. The key to the defence costs study is, as my right hon. and learned Friend said, that we will retain our capability. My right hon. and learned Friend has gone further and said that we will not have a series of annual defence mini-reviews. We are not going to cut. There are no further proposals for reductions in regiments, aircraft or ships. Therefore, I can assure the Select Committee that we are now into a period of stability.

Of course, there are several years yet to run in which the original proposals in "Options for Change" and the defence costs study will work themselves out. I cannot deny that. The hon. Member for Motherwell, North was right when he said that there had been significant cuts and that there were still more to come. However, the important point is that we have no further announcements to make. What you see is what you will get. That will bring stability and an improvement in morale to the armed forces.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Sir G. Pattie) was helpful when he referred to the need continually to improve efficiency in the armed forces. May I report that in the year ended 1 October 1995—the year that we are just starting for testing—we expect £334 million-worth of support activity to be tested. That represents a 50 per cent. improvement on the past year. Market testing in the Royal Air Force was raised with me by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman. My right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) announced last year the formal three-year review of the RAF Maintenance Group Defence Agency. Since then, and following consultation, we have announced the decision to rationalise the RAF storage facilities.

Since my appointment I have visited both RAF Sealand and RAF St. Athan. I can now outline briefly the way ahead for both stations. We intend to press ahead now with a vigorous market-testing programme at the two stations to achieve best value for money through competition and the involvement of the private sector as soon as possible. That will be within the framework of Government ownership. However, within that framework, industry will be fully consulted and will be able to make innovative proposals for the maintenance and repair of RAF equipment. Proposals could include partnership—the private sector in partnership with the existing work force—and Government-owned contractor-operated stations.

I was greatly impressed by the work force at both RAF Sealand and RAF St. Athan and commend their dedication. I do not rule out in-house bids. Both trade unions and work force will be fully consulted.

May I associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friends the Members for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), who paid tribute to the Royal Air Force and stressed the importance, within a contracting service—the numbers are reducing dramatically—but one with better equipment, of the need to maintain morale?

Mr. Wilkinson

What authority or disciplinary powers will officers in the Royal Air Force have over contractors responsible for the maintenance of RAF equipment? That is of the greatest importance in engendering confidence in the contracting-out process.

Mr. Freeman

I can assure my hon. Friend that when a regrettable incident took place involving one private sector contractor at St. Athan the contractor was promptly and correctly removed. That experience does not invalidate the market-testing exercise because it was part of the normal process of contracting out certain work. At St. Athan—the major RAF air base—the RAF in—house team won the bid on the 25 Fatigue Index project involved in the repair of the Tornado F3 fighter aircraft and I congratulate them. That is a sign that in-house bids can and do win.

On value for money in procurement, the Eurofighter 2000 and the EH101 support helicopter were mentioned by a number of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members. The key point is that, although we have a commitment to the Eurofighter 2000 programme and we need fresh support helicopters for the Royal Air Force, that need will not be fulfilled at any price. We are determined about that and I hope that this message will be heard clearly by the manufacturers. We will negotiate with them in good faith, but the project must represent good value for the defence vote. That is not an excuse for delay as we need to make progress. The House wants to hear of a conclusion to our consideration of both projects and it will get it.

As for a Hercules replacement—many of my hon. Friends raised the matter—the report of the Defence Select Committee—

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Freeman

May I make my point, then I shall give way briefly for the last time?

The Defence Select Committee report put the issue clearly and I agree with it. The Committee said that the aircraft, which are nearly 30 years old, are experiencing increasing maintenance and decreasing viability. That is plain fact and, therefore, I have to do something. I must make a recommendation about action to my Secretary of State soon—whether this month, the next or early next year remains to be seen. I cannot avoid doing something, but that something is not buying the future large aircraft because it is probably 10 years hence. I hope that that project makes excellent progress and I wish it well as a commercial project.

Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Freeman

No. I must finish my point. The issue before us is whether half the fleet, say, should be refurbished to push on its life for another 10, 15 or 20 years, or whether we should order the only possible aircraft—the C130J—now. That is the issue. It is not a matter of whether we should compare the C130J with the future large aircraft, but of ensuring that the military need of the Royal Air Force is met. We will try to reach that conclusion as quickly as possible. I wish the FLA project all godspeed. I think that we all want a European project and a European design for an aircraft—it is still many years in the future—that can compete and we in the Ministry of Defence will certainly be glad to consider the aircraft, but at the moment it is only a concept.

Mr. Clifton-Brown

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have heard a great deal about the future large aircraft during this debate, mainly from members of the official Opposition? Does he agree that we do not yet have reliable estimates, not merely of development costs but of the procurement costs? Does he also agree that the Hercules replacement programme should be placed on a value-for-money basis and, above all, on the requirements of the RAF? Does my right hon. Friend further agree that that would secure an excellent opportunity for aerospace firms in my constituency and elsewhere within British industry, both now and in the short and long term?

Mr. Freeman

My right hon. and learned Friend will have heard my hon. Friend, and when we come to make the decision the speeches from Members on both sides of the House will be taken into account.

In drawing to a conclusion, I shall first refer to the arguments from both sides of the House regarding ballistic missile defence. That is an extremely important subject on which the Government intend to spend not only time but resources in developing. We are not going to go it alone in developing a response to ballistic missile threats in western Europe. We will co-operate with the United States and with our colleagues in Europe, but I am glad to announce that we have placed a contract with British Aerospace for a pre-feasibility study to look at some of the options which are available to us.

When I was in Washington recently I was able to confirm with the Deputy Secretary of Defence, Dr John Deutch, that we would make a contribution from our own resources—albeit a modest one at this stage—towards some of the technology demonstrators, particularly in the fields of radar and surveillance.

On Trident, I say in response to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) that I have seen the report from the Health and Safety Executive concerning safety at Aldermaston. I commend what Hunting-BRAE has achieved and the plans for additional works at Aldermaston, but the Government accept in principle the argument that we should license Aldermaston and Burghfield, subject to discussions about timing and implementation.

Mr. David Rendel (Newbury)


Mr. Freeman

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have only three minutes left.

On testing and the chemical weapons convention, the Government will ratify the convention as soon as possible.

Finally, I turn to the two Opposition amendments on the Order Paper. First, there is the official Opposition amendment, which calls for a defence review. Which commitments do the Opposition wish to eliminate? [Interruption.] The Opposition had ample time to consider which commitments the Government should reduce. What is the right size of the defence budget? The Opposition have no arguments. They have complained about £750 million of savings in the defence costs study, but, having complained, they have no arguments about how to fund the increase in the defence budget which would occur if those savings had not been made.

Again, on the defence diversification agency, the Opposition have no arguments about the cost of that initiative. So the official Opposition amendment simply calls for a defence review and contains no policy arguments whatsoever.

The other motion on the Order Paper—which we will not have the pleasure of voting on-has been signed by 45 Opposition Members. The motion was carried by the Labour party conference and calls for the elimination of Trident—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Motherwell, North protests, but 45 of his hon. Friends signed the motion. The hon. Gentleman cannot sweep that underneath the table. Forty-five of his colleagues want to scrap Trident and cut the defence budget. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I can count. The hon. Members should look at the early-day motion at the back of the Order Paper.

In arguing the unilateralist case, the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith) said that he wanted defence cuts of £8.5 billion. That would mean cutting the Royal Navy, scrapping our nuclear deterrent and making many cuts in the defence budget. We would have to leave Germany and reduce our—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) may laugh, but where would he make £8.5 billion worth of cuts?

As a result of our policy, we are now in for a period of stability and major enhancements in our defence capability. We have the right balance between commitments, forces and finance. The Opposition remain divided; they are either unilateralists or a vacuum for a defence policy. If they fight the next election on that basis, they will lose the issue. Oppose the Opposition amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 304.

Division No. 304] [21.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Adams, Mrs Irene Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Ainger, Nick Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Denham, John
Allen, Graham Dewar, Donald
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dixon, Don
Anderson, Ms Janet Dobson, Frank
(Ros'dale) Donohoe, Brian H.
Armstrong, Hilary Dowd, Jim
Ashdown, Rt. Hon. Paddy Dunnachie, Jimmy
Ashton, Joe Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Austin-Walker, John Eagle, Ms Angela
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Eastham, Ken
Barnes, Harry Enright, Derek
Barron, Kevin Etherington, Bill
Battle, John Evans, John (St Helens N)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Fatchett, Derek
Bell, Stuart Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fisher, Mark
Bennett, Andrew F. Flynn, Paul
Benton, Joe Foster, Don (Bath)
Bermingham, Gerald Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Berry, Roger Foulkes, George
Betts, Clive Fraser, John
Blair, Tony Fyfe, Maria
Blunkett, David Galloway, George
Boateng, Paul Gapes, Mike
Boyes, Roland Garrett, John
Bradley, Keith George, Bruce
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Gerrard, Neil
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Burden, Richard Godsiff, Roger
Byers, Stephen Golding, Mrs Llin
Caborn, Richard Graham, Thomas
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell-Savours, D. N Grocott Bruce
Canavan, Dennis Gunnell, John
Cann, Jamie Hain, Peter
Chidgey, David Hall, Mike
Chisholm, Malcolm Hanson, David
Church, Judith Hardy, Peter
Clapham, Michael Harman, Ms Harriet
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Henderson, Doug
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Heppell, John
Clelland, David Hicks, Robert
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Coffey, Ann Hinchliffe, David
Cohen, Harry Hodge, Margaret
Cook Frank (Stockton N) Hoey, Kate
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hogg, Norman(Cumbernauld)
Corbett, Robin Home Robertson, John
Corbyn, Jeremy Hood, Jimmy
Corston, Ms Jean Hoon, Geoffrey
Cousins, Jim Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Hoyle, Doug
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Dafis, Cynog Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Dalyell, Tam Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Darling, Alistair Hutton, John
Davidson, Ian Ingram, Adam
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld,H)
Janner, Greville Pope, Greg
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Purchase, Ken
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Quin, Ms Joyce
Jowell, Tessa Radice, Giles
Keen, Alan Randall, Stuart
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Raynsford, Nick
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Redmond, Martin
Khabra, Piara S. Reid, Dr John
Kilfoyle, Peter Rendel, David
Kirkwood, Archy Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Lewis, Terry Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Liddell, Mrs Helen Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Litherland, Robert Rogers, Allan
Livingstone, Ken Rooker, Jeff
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Rooney, Terry
Llwyd, Elfyn Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Loyden, Eddie Rowlands, Ted
Lynne, Ms Liz Ruddock, Joan
Macdonald, Calum Salmond, Alex
Mackinlay, Andrew Sheerman, Barry
MacShane, Denis Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Madden, Max Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Maddock, Mrs Diana Short, Clare
Mahon, Alice Simpson, Alan
Mandelson, Peter Skinner, Dennis
Marek, Dr John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, C. (Isl'ton S" F'sbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Snape, Peter
Martlew, Eric Soley, Clive
McAllion, John Spearing, Nigel
McAvoy, Thomas Spellar, John
McFall, John Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
McKelvey, William Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
McLeish, Henry Stevenson, George
McMaster, Gordon Stott, Roger
McNamara, Kevin Strang, Dr. Gavin
McWilliam, John Straw, Jack
Meacher, Michael Sutcliffe, Gerry
Meale, Alan Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Michael, Alun Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute) Timms, Stephen
Milburn, Alan Tipping, Paddy
Miller, Andrew Turner, Dennis
Moonie, Dr Lewis Tyler, Paul
Morgan, Rhodri Vaz, Keith
Morley, Elliot Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Wallace, James
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe) Walley, Joan
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mowlam, Marjorie Wareing, Robert N
Mudie, George Watson, Mike
Mullin, Chris Welsh, Andrew
Murphy, Paul Wicks, Malcolm
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire) Wigley, Dafydd
O'Brien, William (Normanton Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
O'Neill, Martin Williams Alan W (Carmarthen)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wilson, Brian
Olner, William Winnick, David
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wise, Audrey
Paisley, Rev Ian Worthington, Tony
Parry, Robert Wray, Jimmy
Patchett, Terry Wright, Dr Tony
Pendry, Tom Tellers for the Ayes:
Pickthall, Colin Mr. Eric Illsley, and
Pike, Peter L. Mr. John Cummings
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Aitken, Rt. Hon. Jonathan Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Alexander, Richard Dover, Den
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Duncan, Alan
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Duncan-Smith, Iain
Amess, David Dunn, Bob
Arbuthnot, James Durant, Sir Anthony
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dykes, Hugh
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Eggar, Tim
Ashby, David Elletson, Harold
Aspinwall, Jack Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Atkins, Robert Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Evennett, David
Baldry, Tony Faber, David
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fishburn, Dudley
Bates, Michael Forman, Nigel
Batiste, Spencer Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Beggs, Roy Forth, Eric
Bellingham, Henry Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bendall, Vivian Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Beresford, Sir Paul Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Body, Sir Richard French, Douglas
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fry, Sir Peter
Booth, Hartley Gale, Roger
Boswell, Tim Gallie, Phil
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Gardiner, Sir George
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Bowden, Sir Andrew Garnier, Edward
Bowis, John Gill, Christopher
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brandreth, Gyles Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Brazier, Julian Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Bright, Sir Graham Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Brown, M. (Brigg" Cl'thorpes) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Browning, Mrs. Angela Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Grylls, Sir Michael
Budgen, Nicholas Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Burns, Simon Hague, William
Burt, Alistair Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butcher, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Butler, Peter Hanley, Rt. Hon. Jeremy
Butterfill, John Hannam, Sir John
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hargreaves, Andrew
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Harris, David
Carrington, Matthew Haselhurst, Alan
Carttiss, Michael Hawkins, Nicholas
Cash, William Hayes, Jerry
Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul Heald, Oliver
Churchill, Mr Heathcoat-Amory, David
Clappison, James Hendry, Charles
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Coe, Sebastian Horam, John
Colvin, Michael Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Congdon, David Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Conway, Derek Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Cormack, Patrick Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Couchman, James Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cran, James Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Hunter, Andrew
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jack, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Day, Stephen Jenkin, Bernard
Deva, Nirj Joseph Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Dicks, Terry Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Rathbone, Tim
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Redwood, Rt Hon John
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Key, Robert Richards, Rod
Kilfedder, Sir James Riddick, Graham
King, Rt Hon Tom Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Kirkhope, Timothy Robathan, Andrew
Knapman, Roger Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Knight Greg (Derby N) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Knox, Sir David Rowe, Andrew (mid Kent)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Sackville, Tom
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Legg, Barry Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Leigh, Edward Shaw, David (Dover)
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lidington, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lightbown, David Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Shersby, Michael
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham) Sims, Roger
Lord, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Luff, Peter Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Soames, Nicholas
MacKay, Andrew Speed, Sir Keith
Maclean, David Spencer, Sir Derek
Madel, Sir David Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Maginnis, Ken Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Malone, Gerald Spring, Richard
Mans, Keith Sproat, Iain
Marland, Paul Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Steen, Anthony
Mates, Michael Stephen, Michael
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Stern, Michael
McLoughlin, Patrick Stewart, Allan
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Streeter, Gary
Mellor, Rt Hon David Sumberg, David
Merchant, Piers Sweeney, Walter
Mills, Iain Sykes, John
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Moate, Sir Roger Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd)
Monro, Sir Hector Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Temple-Morris, Peter
Moss, Malcolm Thomason, Roy
Nelson, Anthony Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Neubert, Sir Michael Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Thurnham, Peter
Nicholls, Patrick Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Tracey, Richard
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West Tredinnick, David
Norris, Steve Trend, Michael
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Trotter, Neville
Oppenheim, Phillip Twinn, Dr Ian
Ottaway, Richard Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Page, Richard Viggers, Peter
Paice, James Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Patnick, Sir Irvine Walden, George
Patten, Rt Hon John Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Patten, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Waller, Gary
Pawsey, James Ward, John
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Pickles, Eric Waterson Nigel
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Watts, John
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Wells, Bowen
Powell, William (Corby) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Whitney, Ray
Widdecombe, Ann
Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Wilkinson, John Yeo, Tim
Willetts, David Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton) Tellers for the Noes:
Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld) Mr Sydney Chapman and
Wolfson, Mark Mr Timothy Wood

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put

The House divided: Ayes 321, Noes 32.

Division No. 305] [22.17 pm
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Clappison, James
Aitken, Jonathan Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Alexander, Richard Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Coe, Sebastian
Amess, David Colvin, Michael
Arbuthnot, James Congdon, David
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Conway, Derek
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Ashby, David Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Cormack, Patrick
Aspinwall, Jack Couchman, James
Atkins, Robert Cran, James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Davis, David (Boothferry)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Day, Stephen
Baldry, Tony Deva, Nirj Joseph
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Dicks, Terry
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bates, Michael Dover, Den
Batiste, Spencer Duncan, Alan
Beggs, Roy Duncan-Smith, Iain
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Dunn, Bob
Bellingham, Henry Durant, Sir Anthony
Bendall, Vivian Dykes, Hugh
Beresford, Sir Paul Eggar, Tim
Biffen, Rt Hon John Elletson, Harold
Body, Sir Richard Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Booth, Hartley Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Boswell, Tim Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Evennett, David
Bowden, Sir Andrew Faber, David
Bowis, John Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Fishburn, Dudley
Brandreth, Gyles Forman, Nigel
Brazier, Julian Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bright, Graham Forth, Eric
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Foster, Don (Bath)
Brown, M. (Brigg " Cl'thorpes) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Browning, Mrs. Angela Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Budgen, Nicholas French, Douglas
Burns, Simon Fry, Sir Peter
Burt, Alistair Gale, Roger
Butcher, John Gallie, Phil
Butler, Peter Gardiner, Sir George
Butterfill, John Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Garnier, Edward
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Gill, Christopher
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Carrington, Matthew Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Carttiss, Michael Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Cash, William Grant, Sir A. (Cambs SW)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Chidgey, David Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Churchill, Mr Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Grylls, Sir Michael Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn McLoughlin, Patrick
Hague, William McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mellor, Rt Hon David
Hampson, Dr Keith Merchant, Piers
Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Hannam, Sir John Mills, Iain
Hargreaves, Andrew Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Harris, David Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Harvey, Nick Moate, Sir Roger
Haselhurst, Alan Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hawkins, Nick Monro, Sir Hector
Hayes, Jerry Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Heald, Oliver Moss, Malcolm
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nelson, Anthony
Hendry, Charles Neubert, Sir Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L. Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Nicholls, Patrick
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Horam, John Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter Norris, Steve
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Oppenheim, Phillip
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Ottaway, Richard
Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk) Page, Richard
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Paice, James
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Paisley, Rev Ian
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Patnick, Irvine
Hunter, Andrew Patten, Rt Hon John
Jack, Michael Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Pawsey, James
Jenkin, Bernard Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Pickles, Eric
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Powell, William (Corby)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Rathbone, Tim
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Redwood, Rt Hon John
Key, Robert Rendel, David
Kilfedder, Sir James Renton, Rt Hon Tim
King, Rt Hon Tom Richards, Rod
Kirkhope, Timothy Riddick, Graham
Kirkwood, Archy Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Knapman, Roger Robathan, Andrew
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Knox, Sir David Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Legg, Barry Sackville, Tom
Leigh, Edward Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lidington, David Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lightbown, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham) Shersby, Michael
Lord, Michael Sims, Roger
Luff, Peter Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lynne, Ms Liz Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Soames, Nicholas
MacKay, Andrew Speed, Sir Keith
Maclean, David Spencer, Sir Derek
Maddock, Mrs Diana Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Madel, Sir David Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Maginnis, Ken Spring, Richard
Malone, Gerald Sproat, Iain
Mans, Keith Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Marland, Paul Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Steen, Anthony
Mates, Michael Stephen, Michael
Stern, Michael Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Stewart, Allan Walden, George
Streeter, Gary Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Sumberg, David Wallace, James
Sweeney, Walter Waller, Gary
Sykes, John Ward, John
Tapsell, Sir Peter Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Waterson, Nigel
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Watts, John
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Wells, Bowen
Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Strgfd) Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Whitney, Ray
Temple-Morris, Peter Whittingdale, John
Thomason, Roy Widdecombe, Ann
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V) Wilkinson, John
Thurnham, Peter Willetts, David
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Wilshire, David
Tracey, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Tredinnick, David Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Trend, Michael Wolfson, Mark
Trotter, Neville Yeo, Tim
Twinn, Dr Ian Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Tyler, Paul Tellers for the Ayes:
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Mr. Timothy Wood and
Viggers, Peter Mr. Sydney Chapman
Abbott, Ms Diane Llwyd, Elfyn
Austin-Walker, John Loyden, Eddie
Barnes, Harry Madden, Max
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Mahon, Alice
Bennett, Andrew F. Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Canavan, Dennis Mullin, Chris
Chisholm, Malcolm Pickthall, Colin
Clapham, Michael Salmond, Alex
Cohen, Harry Skinner, Dennis
Dafis, Cynog Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Devlin, Tim Timms, Stephen
Etherington, Bill Welsh, Andrew
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Wigley, Dafydd
Gerrard, Neil Wise, Audrey
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Tellers for the Noes:
Lewis, Terry Mr. Alan Simpson and
Livingstone, Ken Mr. Jeremy Corbyn

Question accordingly agreed to.


That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1994 contained in Cm. 2550.