§ [SECOND DAY'S DEBATE]
§ [The Defence Committee has reported on the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1990 in its Eighth Report, House of Commons Paper 388 of Session 1989–90. The Fourth Report of the Committee on Reliability and Maintainability of Defence Equipment, House of Commons Paper 40, and its Seventh Report on Rapier Field Standard, C, House of Commons Paper 273, are also relevant.]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [18 June]:
That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1990 contained in Cm. 1022.—[Mr. Tom King.]
Which amendment was, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
'condemns the Government for its failure to take proper account of, and make constructive responses to, the new conditions created by the welcome emergence of the new democracies in Eastern and Central Europe and the prospective unification of Germany; calls upon the Government to play a positive rôle in the reassessment of the future of NATO strategies including flexible response, and to participate effectively and constructively in the processes of negotiated reduction of nuclear and conventional weapons; deplores the failure of the Government to undertake effective assessment of and preparation for the impact of the potential change in defence needs on defence-related industries and on Her Majesty's Forces, and the possible savings and alternative uses of money currently allocated to the defence budget; and calls upon the Government to participate actively in the development of a new and durable system of security from the Atlantic to the Urals.'—[Mr. O'Neill.]
§ Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, I must inform the House that, because of the number of applications to speak in the debate, I propose to put a 10-minute limit on speeches between 6 and 8 pm. I hope that hon. Members who are called before that time and afterwards will bear that limit in mind so that their colleagues may have an opportunity of making a contribution.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that during business questions last week I put to the Leader of the House the fact that in this defence debate the House should have before it the paper that has been prepared in the Ministry of Defence by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement. Those papers were more than alluded to in yesterday's debate. We cannot have a proper debate on defence, which is vital to the people of this country and to many workers in our constituencies, unless there is full disclosure of what is happening in the Ministry of Defence.
I apologise for being absent for yesterday's debate because I had to be in Scotland, but I have read in Hansard what the Secretary of State said and I understand that we will get the information in dribs and drabs. We are now approaching the summer recess. All the things that might happen, such as the possible cancellation of orders and the endangering of employment in many areas in our constituencies, could happen when the House will not have the opportunity of discussing them. We know that the 808 papers are in the Ministry. Why will not the Minister come clean and make it clear when we shall get the papers and be able to have a proper debate on the issues?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a matter of order for me. As the hon. Gentleman correctly said, it is a matter for the Minister and perhaps the Minister will consider what has been said to him.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does not "Erskine May" provide that where papers are referred to either by hon. Members or Ministers, they should be laid on the Table of the House for consultation by Members? That has certainly happened in the past when hon. Members have been required to produce papers. Should not that practice be followed in this instance?
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman consults "Erskine May" again, he will see that that is the practice when a Minister quotes from state papers. I understand that these are internal papers. When I was in the Chair yesterday, I did not hear any quotations from them.
§ The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Archie Hamilton)
We had an interesting and lively debate yesterday, with many contributions. It was particularly fascinating for me to notice the wide gulf that is appearing between Opposition Members in their views on defence. We had contributions from the old troupers—I do not know whether they are now described as the "hard" or "soft" left—who proclaimed their unilateralist views. The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) made it clear that he saw no role for nuclear weapons. I accept that that is consistent with the views that he has held for a long time. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) sees no role for nuclear weapons—or for NATO either. He raised the old cliché, "Better dead than red." No one would accuse the right hon. Gentleman of believing himself better dead than red. Indeed, in the past he has never rated the Soviet threat as serious, in much the same way as he argues that it has now disappeared.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) is not in his place. He wants to see a 50 per cent. cut in the defence budget over the next five years and sees no role for the Rhine Army or, presumably, for NATO. I note that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) is still demonstrating for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Yesterday, therefore, four out of the six Back-Bench Labour speeches came from unilateral disarmers who want our defence budget halved and our nuclear deterrent scrapped. I do not impugn their motives because they have consistently taken those views, which are shared by a substantial number in the parliamentary Labour party, several of whom are vocal on the Front Bench below the Gangway. Are we talking, therefore, about half or three quarters of the parliamentary Labour party holding such views? That raises another interesting question of where it leaves official Labour policy. The answer is, in the hands of the other part of the Labour party, which is not too concerned about principles or convictions. It is what one might call the "Mandelson wing" of the party. It believes that presentation is all and that thorny issues such as 809 defence need to be carefully massaged—say one thing and mean another. Those hon. Members are the window-dressers of the Labour party.
I refer to Labour's most recent publication, "Looking to the Future", in which plenty of consideration is given to pumping taxpayers' money into the defence industries to enable them to diversify from making defence equipment —as though they themselves had no idea how to manufacture new products.
But what of Britain's nuclear deterrent? I expect that those hon. Members would say, "Ah, that was in the previous document, 'Meet the Challenge: Make the Change', which appeared last year." I suppose that they would claim that it is not worthy of repetition. However, as much of what was in the 1989 document was repeated in this year's publication, why was the future of the nuclear deterrent left out? It was too embarrassing, I suspect.
"Meet the Challenge: Make the the Change" refers to the early decommissioning of first Polaris, then Trident. I accept that it is proposed to do so through negotiations, but there will be no problem in persuading the Soviet Union to agree to negotiate away our deterrent in the early days of a Labour Government, if we have one. The result would be that we should have no nuclear weapons and the Soviet Union would be left with thousands. Many other countries will conceivably have nuclear capabilities, too. It is not quite unilateral disarmament, but the effect is the same. I suspect that that is why the soft left will go along with it.
§ Mr. Cryer
Does the Minister use the same arguments with the 140 non-nuclear nations who have signed the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty? Under that treaty they have pledged themselves not to manufacture or deploy nuclear weapons. Is not the agreement underlying that treaty that the tiny handful of nuclear states will get rid of their nuclear weapons, provided that the non-nuclear states abide by the treaty? Why does not the Minister get rid of Trident instead of maintaining his stupid, warmongering attitude?
§ Mr. Hamilton
Because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, although there are 140 signatories to the non-proliferation treaty, it is not watertight. Several other nations have their own nuclear capability. The hon. Gentleman's policy advocates that we should have no nuclear weapons whatever while other countries in the third world have them. How does the hon. Gentleman explain that to the British public? How does he explain that he wants us to be in a vulnerable position in which we could be blackmailed by Libya because it has a nuclear capability and we have none?
The window dressers and Labour Front-Bench spokesmen remain pretty coy about what other plans they have for defence policy. Yesterday, whenever we thought that we saw an illuminating chink of light, it disappeared again quickly. The hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) referred to the American argument that United States troops in Europe need the nuclear umbrella. He quoted, "No nukes, no troops." At that point my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) intervened to ask whether Labour would keep open bases for United States nuclear-capable aircraft in Britain. That, said the hon. Gentleman, would depend on the 810 circumstances. But what has happened to the Labour commitment to close United States bases in Britain? Has it been abandoned? Or is it Labour policy to negotiate away the deterrent and then hide under the United States nuclear umbrella? There is not much morality in that, but the window dressing section of the Labour party is not long on morality.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
The Minister gloats about our possession of nuclear weapons. I recognise that several countries have nuclear weapons which should not have them and that that presents problems. However, every single argument that the Minister uses is used by Gaddafi and the ruler of Iraq. They argue the same case in the context of the middle east conflict. Will the Minister acknowledge that as far as possible the international community should take steps to reduce the number of countries that possess nuclear weapons? Does the Minister really believe that the argument that he and his colleagues use—that we should be proud of our nuclear weapons and that we should have as many as possible—should also be used by all the Gaddafis and Husseins? They could claim that they have as much right to have nuclear weapons as anyone else.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The hon. Gentleman gets me wrong. I do not gloat that we have nuclear weapons. I gloat about the position of the Labour party. It has a defence policy which is a pathetic fudge and is not supported by a large percentage of the parliamentary party. On the nonproliferation treaty, clearly it is desirable that other countries should not have nuclear weapons. However, despite the nuclear non-profileration treaty, such countries are developing a nuclear capability. That is a reality with which we shall have to deal. Whether it is desirable is immaterial. The unilateral policy advocated by the Labour party is a dangerous policy which will leave us with no nuclear weapons when many other nations have them. That is the reality, whether it is desirable or not.
§ Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)
The Minister states that he is gloating over the possession of a Labour party defence policy. Surely he realises that everyone's defence policy is totally out of date. The circumstances have moved so swiftly and so far that the Government, the Labour party, the United States, NATO and the Warsaw pact are out of date. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should gloat over that so that we can get on to the defence estimates.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The quandary of the Labour party is clearly illustrated by the fact that it cannot even agree on an amendment to the debate—there are two amendments on the Order Paper that say totally different things.
Within the next couple of years we shall have a general election and the country will ask what the Labour party stand for on defence policy. Therefore, it is important to explore that issue to see where it takes us. At the moment the Labour party has two defence policies that advocate dramatically different things, and it is only right that we should say so.
The hon. Member for Clackmannan got himself in a bit of a muddle about whether Labour felt that the regimental system was worth retaining. This is a matter of great concern to the British Army and I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the Government believe in the regimental system and are convinced that it must be 811 maintained for the esprit de corps that it brings to our front-line battalions. Regiments may have to be disbanded or amalgamated, but the regimental system will go on.
§ Mr. Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan)
The Minister did not understand what I said yesterday, but that is not surprising as there are many defence matters which he does not understand that a child of five could grasp. Is he in favour of the retention of the regimental system with fewer regiments? If so, which ones does he envisage disappearing?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I would not have suggested that the hon. Gentleman was in a muddle without carefully reading the Official Report of yesterday's proceedings.
The hon. Gentleman certainly insinuated that we might have to look again at the regimental system. We will retain that system, but with fewer units, which is accepted in "Options for Change". Obviously we are unable to spell out now which units will remain. As the debate proceeded I was glad that we were able to clear the hon. Gentleman's mind. This is a contentious issue and if one talks airy-fairy about whether the regimental system should be reviewed people see the spectre of the Army suddenly being amalgamated into one enormous corps. I find that that does not go down terribly well with the armed forces.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke yesterday about the hopeful prospects that have been opened up by the momentous changes in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. He also set out the new uncertainties that we face. Those have increased as the old order has crumbled beneath the tide of democracy that now extends across the continent, no longer stopping at the Elbe. Our excitement at the opportunities for remodelling the European security environment must not blind us to the real dangers associated with the instability of a transitional period. The recent violence in Romania is a sobering reminder of the tensions that remain just beneath the surface in eastern Europe.
In his speech yesterday my right hon. Friend referred to the work that has been going on in the Ministry of Defence on options for change. This work has been carried out against the background of a threat in Europe that is receding both in terms of capability and intention. The Warsaw pact has ceased to be an effective military grouping, although the Soviet Union, its most powerful member, retains a massive military capability, both conventional and nuclear. However, that capability will be greatly constrained if, as seems likely, we see the withdrawal of all 500,000 Soviet troops from eastern Europe in the next few years. At the same time, we should see reductions in the enormous Soviet superiority in equipment, such as tanks and artillery, through the conventional forces in Europe agreement that we hope will be signed by the end of this year.
In the light of those changing circumstances, it is clearly right that consideration is given to restructuring our force levels and Ministers, working with their key service and civilian advisers on defence policy and the defence programmes, are doing that.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
I have a practical question which is of concern to many service men. In the light of the probable redeployment of some British units in the Federal Republic of Germany to the United Kingdom, has the Ministry of Defence called a halt to the programme of disposing of married quarters? Is 812 not it a fact that since 1979, about 7,000 houses have been sold? Does the Minister agree that if British troops are to be returned from Germany, they and their families deserve to be adequately housed?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I appreciate the point that the hon. Gentleman makes about married quarters, but we still have a policy to sell them. All the policies will be looked at again in view of the proposals coming forward and the effect that they will have on logistic matters such as married quarters.
The House will recognise that changes in direction in defence matters cannot be brought about overnight. The time scale of procurement decisions and the sheer scale of the enterprise mean that we must start now to plan possible future directions against the historic changes under way in Europe. We must take account of the changes that have taken place, those clearly in prospect —such as CFE—but not yet secured, and a range of possible developments in the future, not just the most optimistic or, for that matter, the worst cases.
We must ensure that our future contribution fits in with those of our allies, within a pattern of a revised NATO strategy, operational concept and force structures which have yet to be established. Inevitably it takes time to work through those issues.
It is, of course, essential that we are guided in those considerations by a realistic appraisal of the future political scene in Europe, including likely arms control developments. In parallel, however, we must also keep in sight the short-term financial pressures on defence, alluded to by my right hon. Friend yesterday. It would be folly indeed if measures taken to balance the books in the short term took no account of the wider picture.
As my right hon. Friend said yesterday, we recognise that we have a responsibility to ensure that those most affected in the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence are informed as soon as possible of any proposals. All three services recognise that there must be change in our defence structures. They understand that "Options for Change" is likely to affect all of them and realise that much must be done to plan the way forward. They are impatient to get on with the job.
Of course, we recognise that events may not pan out exactly as we all hope and expect. Whatever the future holds, the House can be assured that we will continue to keep our defences properly and prudently aligned with the security needs of the nation.
§ Mr. Douglas
Am I correct in assuming that we are talking not about clear aims and objectives but about the Government trying to move ahead, incremental step by step, to see where they can go, and that they are trying to reconcile what is happening in the world with Treasury constraints? There are no clear objectives and there is no great option for change. This is a case of making it up as we go along.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I regret that the hon. Gentleman puts that interpretation on my remarks because that is not what I have been saying. The threat, in terms of capability and intention, is receding. We know, for instance, that under the current two-plus-four negotiations the whole future of Soviet troops in eastern Germany is being considered. We can assume—we must plan on certain assumptions—that at some stage those troops, about 380,000 of them, will withdraw from eastern Germany. The implications are 813 that shortly after the Poles will ask for Soviet troops to be withdrawn. So within that time scale—remembering that the Hungarian and Czechoslovakian troops in those two countries are due to go next year—we can assume that the nearest Soviet troops to western boundaries will be in the Ukraine and the western military districts of the Soviet Union.
I am spelling out how the capability of the Soviet Union is changing in terms of the threat to us. At the same time, we can see that intentions in the Soviet Union have also changed, though we must be slightly more wary about that, because intentions could change back again should the political leadership in the Soviet Union change.
Substantial changes are taking place in the capability of the Soviets to inflict damage on the west and, in the light of those changes, it is right, as my right hon. Friend said yesterday, to examine the strength of the Rhine Army, RAF Germany and so on and to start to reorganise the displacement of forces to recognise those future realities. Clearly, as we move into that period—towards the end of the decade—it will be difficult to say at the same time that we want increased funding on defence. The reality will probably be that the money will not be forthcoming and, as my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement said during questions earlier, savings may occur as a result of our planned restructuring.
§ Dr. Godman
In the light of the dramatically changing circumstances that the Minister of State is outlining, is it his Department's intention to call a halt to the policy of seeking to acquire an additional 50,000 acres of land for military training?
§ Mr. Hamilton
The figure of 50,000 acres is not in my mind. We have always made it clear that our existing training areas such as Salisbury plain are not large enough for our purposes, and have not been for years. Therefore, if possible, it would be satisfactory to add to such training areas. We acquire farms on the borders of areas such as Salisbury plain when opportunities arise and I should like to keep that option open. We do not have enough training areas for what we are now doing and the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) would be the first to recognise that, as weaponry becomes more sophisticated and ranges increase, we need more space for exercising, not less. Therefore, I cannot give him that undertaking.
I make no apology for the Ministry of Defence buying land. We have as many sites of special scientific interest as anybody else in this country, other than the national parks. We are tremendous preservers and conservers of nature, flora and fauna, and have done nothing but good in the areas that we own.
The Government consider that NATO has a vital role in Europe and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. NATO was first brought together as a defensive alliance of western nations to resist the threat of Soviet military might. As long as the Soviet Union remains a military super-power with enormous conventional and nuclear capability, that remains the key role of the alliance. The development of Europeanwide co-operative structures—such as the CSCE—complement NATO's role and are not a replacement for it. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield raised that issue yesterday. Of course, we fully 814 appreciate the importance of taking account of the Soviet Union's legitimate security concerns. We understand the historical considerations that colour its thinking on the German issue. Indeed, for that very reason the prospect of a united Germany in NATO is one which the Soviets should, in my view, welcome. Therefore, in any restructuring of British defence forces, a significant contribution to NATO generally and British Forces Germany in particular, must remain.
The central role of nuclear deterrence will also remain. The United Kingdom's strategic deterrent makes an important contribution to alliance security and is the ultimate guarantee of our security—an insurance policy against unwelcome developments in the future. Trident will allow us to maintain a credible strategic nuclear deterrent well into the next century at a relatively modest cost and we remain entirely convinced of the need for it. Although there is clearly a diminishing need for nuclear systems of the shortest range, NATO will continue to review both the quantitative and qualitative requirements for its sub-strategic forces, which will need to offer greater flexibility and longer range. The need to ensure that the basing of nuclear weapons is widespread among NATO nations will also remain an important demonstration of the commitment of alliance members to collective defence and the need to share roles, risks and burdens, as well as the advantages of nuclear deterrence. This burden-sharing is, of course, also important because of the need to offer reassurance to our American allies. The vital importance of a continued United States presence in Europe adds particular weight to that.
The Labour party discussed, in its recent document, the demise of flexible response, although I am never clear what it would put in its place. Perhaps it sees a return to a tripwire strategy as preferable. Let there be no doubt that NATO remains firmly committed to the central concepts underlying flexible response as the best means of maintaining effective prevention of war, which will be essential so long as the Soviet Union retains its awesome military potential.
At the same time, post-war history shows that while we retain effective alliance deterrence, conflict is more likely to erupt in other parts of the world, rather than in Europe, and the possibility remains of the United Kingdom's interests out of area being threatened. Therefore, it is important that forces be retained which can contribute to security in other parts of the world. Such forces can, of course, play a key role in peace keeping, as we have shown time and again in our support for the United Nations. As we reshape our contribution to NATO we need to provide forces with sufficient flexibility to contribute to out-of-area operations, should they prove necessary.
I should like now to deal with the services' commitments in Northern Ireland. In my speech during the Army debate two weeks ago I spoke about security and our anti-terrorist operations in support of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland. Since then the IRA has callously murdered a former RUC reservist and his wife and planted a bomb at the headquarters of the Honourable Artillery Company—a bomb which injured a number of civilians. The IRA has also blown up a former home of my noble Friend Lord McAlpine and a building at an Army training area in Hameln, West Germany—fortunately without loss of life. Thanks to the vigilance of a local farmer, important arrests have been made in Belgium and Holland. That serves to emphasise, as I have 815 often said, that the involvement and support of ordinary people in the community in the fight against terrorism will lead to the IRA's ultimate and inevitable defeat.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
It may have been a slip of the tongue, but I think I heard the Minister say that the IRA had blown up the house of Lord McAlpine. In the press that was attributed to animal liberation groups, not to the IRA.
§ Mr. Hamilton
No; as I understand it, Lord McAlpine runs a zoo, so that would be a strange thing for an animal rights group to do. He was always on a list of the IRA—
§ Mr. Hamilton
As my right hon. Friend says, the IRA claimed the attack.
The protection of our service and civilian personnel and of defence establishments against terrorist attack remains our highest priority. As I said during the Army debate, an additional £126 million was provided last year to fund a major package of security enhancements, here and on the continent. The implementation of those security enhancements is continuing, and we are looking at ways to extend security to cover all areas where people may be vulnerable to terrorist attack. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), who raised this matter yesterday, that all items of operational urgency and significance, including security measures, are exempt from the temporary period of spending restraint.
§ Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)
On security, is the Minister aware of the deep concern in the Kintyre area of Argyll, where I understand that Ministry of Defence police are to be withdrawn from the NATO oil depot? As there is increasing traffic—it is welcome—between Kintyre and Northern Ireland, I should be interested to know whether the Minister agrees that that would be a retrograde step, since I believe that the MOD police are to be replaced by private security arrangements.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I cannot comment on that case, but I know that in general terms we have to review all our security commitments. Although people find that Ministry of Defence police are the most satisfactory for them, those police are also the most expensive way of providing security. I suspect that budgetary considerations may have been taken into account in this case because we are interested in getting the best value for money from the defence budget—but I shall write to the hon. Lady about this.
§ Mr. Winnick
I thank the Minister for giving way to me a second time. Does he accept that those of us who believe that the Birmingham Six are not guilty of the charges against them—I doubt whether any hon. Member thinks that they are guilty—believe nevertheless that those who have carried out crimes against humanity, such as the IRA has, should be brought to justice? Merely because we believe, as some of us have for some time, that certain people in prison are not guilty as charged does not alter our conviction that recent IRA crimes—the soldier who was murdered recently not far from my constituency, the Army major in Germany, and so on—are crimes against humanity, and that those responsible for them should be brought to justice as quickly as possible.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I know that the whole House condemns those atrocities. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would expect me to comment on the Birmingham Six, although I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has looked at the case, I think more than once, and does not consider that it should be reopened.
As I said, it is important that ordinary people, and in particular the local population who live around military bases, are involved in our efforts to protect the service men who live and work there. Last night my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes) suggested the establishment of neighbourhood watch schemes. I assure him that we are studying all options with the relevant civil authorities and intend to announce our conclusions shortly.
We shall continue to use a mix of resources to provide guards for MOD establishments. These include service personnel, Ministry of Defence police, in-house MOD guards and commercial guarding companies. We are examining the creation of a Ministry of Defence guard force. All those options, including commercial guarding companies, where they can demonstrate that they can provide an effective service, must be available to meet the terrorist threat.
I should like to move on to mention the scope of the armed forces' task in Northern Ireland which is, of course, their largest peacetime operational commitment.
The Army's 10 regular battalions in Northern Ireland are currently split into five resident and five roulement battalions. Maintaining this force level requires thorough support and planning. So far this year two resident battalions have already been replaced—one by another resident battalion and the other by a roulement battalion. Each roulement posting requires three battalions per year as the six-month long tours are not timed to the calendar year. Throughout 1990 approximately 20 units will undertake training in preparation for duties in the Province. In addition, there is always a battalion on standby which, if necessary, could deploy at short notice to Northern Ireland, or elsewhere.
The extra cost of the service commitment in Northern Ireland is estimated at about £200 million in this financial year. Both Regular and full-time Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers work long hours—more than 60 hours a week on average. Even the average part-timer contributes about 22 hours a week. The UDR's nine battalions provide an indispensable element of the Army's support to the RUC. UDR soldiers are under constant stress because of the danger of murder, both on and off duty. Almost 200 have been murdered since 1970 and almost 50 ex-members have been killed. The full-time element of the UDR has been increasing which is a reflection of their importance within the Army. We will continue to improve the professionalism and training of the UDR permanent cadre soldier.
We do not often see the statistics about punishment shootings in Northern Ireland. Since 1973 there have been 494 loyalist and 972 republican punishment shootings, making a total of 1,466 people in Northern Ireland who have been shot through the knee-caps and sometimes in the elbows and thighs as well. That is an example of the horrific way in which these extreme organisations carry on in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those extremely moving statistics. Will he join 817 the American ambassador in condemning the mayor of New York for what appears to be happening there in glorifying terrorists?
§ Mr. Hamilton
Some unfortunate remarks have been made in the United States by people who do not in any way understand the situation in the Province. They are seeking to pander to a thoroughly ignorant public in New York and some of the remarks made are thoroughly regrettable.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said yesterday, we owe a great debt to our service men and women, whose courage, dedication and fortitude are demonstrated so vividly and, sadly, so frequently as they help to meet the services' commitments in combating terrorism.
Much has changed in the world, and much is yet to change. We now face a set of circumstances almost unthinkable 12 months ago and certainly not predicted then. We are presented with opportunities to transform the political landscape of Europe from one deformed by confrontation and division to one where democratic freedoms can flourish in a stable security environment. We shall achieve this transformation only if we keep firmly in sight the present realities of the world and are not blinded by visions of utopias just round the corner. We need to keep in check Eurocentric tendencies. There is a wider world. The United Kingdom is part of it and our armed forces and defence activities can help to make it a safer place. The "Statement on the Defence Estimates" sets out our approach to these matters and describes our management of the services and defence resources. I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
First, I take up the theme on which the Minister of State ended and pay tribute to our service men and women for their work in the past year, often in most dangerous circumstances, and, in particular, those who have to serve in Northern Ireland. In addition, as the Secretary of State did this morning, I too praise the co-operation of those European countries which sought to apprehend the cowardly murderers who were obviously well entrenched in Europe. It is an achievement to have such co-operation. I only hope that none of the countries concerned will do as other countries do on occasion and prevent the extradition of those murderers so that they may receive their just deserts.
Unfortunately, I missed the beginning of the Secretary of State's speech yesterday, but I caught his statement that the newspaper report about the Minister of State for Defence Procurement's paper, which was referred to earlier today, was true, that it was not secret, that he had seen it and that he had sent it to the Prime Minister as long ago as before Christmas. But what he did not say yesterday was whether he agreed with its contents. Like many of my hon. Friends, I found it remarkable that the Secretary of State found it necessary to deny that there was a rift between him and his Minister of State. However, for the sake of the country, Opposition Members are pleased that they are jolly pals again, even to the extent that today the Minister of State for the Armed Forces duplicated the Secretary of State's speech yesterday.
818 The Secretary of State spent a long time yesterday analysing political developments—rather badly I should say, particularly in his distortion of what happened at the end of the first world war, his reference to the 10-year rule and his clumsy attempt to blame the Labour party for the decisions of successive Tory Governments. After his long analysis of events in eastern Europe and the geo-political factors that face us at present which has been reiterated today, he stressed the fact that the Soviets are a huge continuing threat and are re-arming at a frightening pace. If they are true, the statistics that he trotted out yesterday were frightening, and he says that he receives intelligence reports, so I presume that they are.
But what is the Government's response to the huge, continuing and increasing threat that is developing from the Soviets? They are cutting back because, as the Secretary of State said in another part of his speech, peace has broken out and there is room to cut back. The Secretary of State made a pathetic and illogical speech. He talked about people riding horses, but he is riding more than two horses on this occasion.
The truth slipped out this morning when the Secretary of State was interviewed on the "Today" programme. He acknowledged that the reason for the present cuts was not what he suggested yesterday and not what the Minister of State for the Armed Forces suggested today—a measured and orderly response to geo-political factors—but the inflation that the Government have created and its impact on the defence estimates.
The Secretary of State said—it is in Hansard—that he could not get any extra money from the Treasury and he had to live within his cash limits. That is why the cuts are taking place. The Government must cut back, not because they are constructing an orderly response to changes in eastern Europe, but because they have been told to create a peace profit in order to fund the poll tax.
The Minister of State talked today about a cold and measured response, but yesterday the Secretary of State said that he has already set in train some short-term changes which have largely been decided and that announcements will be made as appropriate, including some procurement changes that were to be announced by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement yesterday evening.
When I asked the Secretary of State later what short-term changes had already been decided, his response was rather rude, so we thought that we would wait for the Minister of State for Defence Procurement to reply. However, he contributed only three lines about procurement changes. If all those changes have been made, I would expect the Secretary of State to think it appropriate to announce them in the House—or will some of the decisions be delayed until the recess, when there cannot be any parliamentary criticism of the Government's actions?
The Secretary of State was less than truthful with the House yesterday. As usual, it took the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence—the hon. Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates)—to put his finger on the issue. He said:Arbitrary cash cuts and deliberate attrition by inflation make prudent management of the defence budget next to impossible.So much for the Secretary of State's claim that the cuts are a reasoned and rational development.
819 I was amused yesterday by the Secretary of State's reply to the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg), who asked whether the suppliers would receive their money for the work that they had carried out. He responded by saying that the computer at the Ministry of Defence had broken down, and that therefore the suppliers could not be paid. I thought that that was the usual Government response to social security claimants; I never thought that it would be a response to suppliers. [Interruption.] If the Secretary of State does not agree, he should read yesterday's Hansard.
Late in yesterday's debate there was a relatively casual reference to the axing of Tornadoes. The Minister of State for Defence Procurement said:At present, I cannot foresee a place for additional Tornado aircraft in the programme; I have therefore decided not to authorise further work on that order."—[Official Report, 18 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 709 and 771.]There has been much speculation on that issue today. Perhaps in his reply the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement will elaborate on the matter and tell the House what is going on. Does it mean the axing of 31 or 33 aircraft in the eighth batch? Will the remaining 10 —according to the defence estimates, 43 have been ordered —still be ordered? When will the promised £600 million saving he made? Does the approximate delivery rate of 10 Tornadoes a year mean that the savings will be made over three, four or five years? If 10 are already under construction, when will the savings show up?
I have examined the estimates for a budget line on the matter. Perhaps the Minister can tell us tonight what will happen to the Tornadoes: he owes that to the workers at British Aerospace, if not to the management. The management said today that it wanted to discuss the cancellation with the Ministry of Defence, although yesterday the Minister of State for Defence Procurement said that his Department had been consulting British Aerospace on the changes. A slight difference of opinion is emerging.
The mystery that remains is where the immediate £300 million in cuts that the Secretary of State mentioned will be made. How will he guarantee the 3 per cent. savings in this financial year to which he referred? They are not covered by the cutback in the Tornadoes, so where will they be made? We can only assume that the savings will result from the existing moratorium on contracts, civilian recruitment, reductions in planned operations and, I presume, the computer breaking down at convenient times. I look forward to hearing some answers from the Minister this evening.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Tornado order. No doubt he will be aware that that order is important in central and north Lancashire and that the security of jobs there is tied up with the future of the European fighter aircraft. Many Conservative Members are concerned that that project should continue and that Germany should endorse it and continue to develop it as that will benefit British industry and British jobs.
§ Mr. Rogers
Obviously that question should be directed to the Government and not to me. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will make that point if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that yesterday the Minister 820 of State said that the agreement had been signed and that the programme was going ahead. Had the hon. Gentleman been here yesterday, he would have heard that.
Two significant things have happened in the past week or so. The first was the speech by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement to the Royal Aeronautical Society, which fortunately I missed.
§ Mr. Rogers
Yes. It was a speech for which the Minister was attacked by his officials, especially over his pleas for simpler and cheaper weapons and his suggestion that the A310 airbus could be adapted for use as a medium-range bomber.
I know that the Minister has a primitive streak and a desire for the simpler things in life such as servants and antique cars, but I wonder whether he was really serious. He said recently—I think that it was in the debate on the Army—that there was no point in being ironic in this place, but his irony and laid-back approach to arms procurement have raised the wrong hackles this time. It has been suggested that the Minister has a radical approach to defence matters, which would obviously bring him into conflict with the more rural and pedestrian Secretary of State. It seems to me that in some of the things he has said he has mistaken lunacy for free thinking and freaking off for parallel thought. However, I agree with his simpler and cheaper approach to defence procurement. I suggest that he starts at home by sorting out the Procurement Executive.
The second significant event that has occurred in the past couple of weeks was the publication of another substantial report by the Defence Select Committee. Yet again the Select Committee is highly critical of the Government. That is not unusual. It deals with the non-procurement of the Rapier Field Service C—a short-range, low-level air defence guided weapon system. It outlines the sad and sorry saga surrounding the essential fact that Rapier is £300 million over cost and three years behind schedule in coming into service.
The report's criticisms of the Government seem rather muted in tone considering the confessions of witnesses as a result of acute questioning by the Chairman and members of the Select Committee, particularly the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas). The inability to assess the technical risks before full development seems to be at the heart of the problem. Although there was a two-year feasibility study followed by a three-and-a-half year definition study, costing in total more than £18 million, prior to the development phase, it seems that no one except the British taxpayer is picking up the tab. The prime contractor, British Aerospace, has tried to pass on some of the blame to the sub-contractors, Plessey, Marconi and Ferranti—not insignificant companies. They in turn wash their hands of any of the blame. That means that the supervision of the contract by the Ministry of Defence leaves much to be desired.
I was rather taken aback by the arrogance of the replies in the Select Committee report by the assistant under-secretary of state (ordnance) to the Chairman and to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West, who pressed him critically on the issue. Some of the statements in the report are strange. One statement, for example, reads:British Aerospace did not have any incentive to keep the costs to a minimum".821 Does that mean that efficiency or pride in its work were not incentives? Does that mean that the British Aerospace management is so bad that it cannot control costs to a proper level in the production process? Does it mean that British Aerospace can control costs, but that it is overcharging to make excess profits? If that is the case, it means that the supervision by the Ministry of Defence and by the Procurement Executive is deficient and negligent, and that they are guilty of far more than the count of slack control which was mentioned in the report. That could be the case, as the report goes on to say:development work was not monitored against milestones",but payments were simply madeon the basis of work completed rather than demonstration of achievement".Although the programme has been relaunched, matters have gone from bad to worse. The inclusion of £115 million for British Aerospace as a "risk contingency" is another mind-bending decision. Perhaps the Minister can explain it. The Chairman of the Select Committee, the Conservative hon. Member for Hampshire, East, described it as "a sweetener" for British Aerospace. It is one of a long line of those. However, I still cannot understand why such a gratuitous amount was paid to a company that was already contracted to do a job on what was virtually a cost-plus basis.
The report shows incompetence and inefficiency in the Ministry of Defence and in the Procurement Executive on a scale that would land any local authority manager in gaol. The £300 million cost overrun on Rapier is a scandal that requres an immediate Government reaction. The Crichel Down scandal reinforced the principle that a Minister is responsible for the actions of his Department. Sir William Dugdale, who was the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries at the time, resigned over that incident. He was a man of honour.
The Ferranti affair resulted in the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who is here with us this afternoon and who was then the Minister of Aviation, refusing to resign because he argued—perhaps properly —that mistakes could be made over contracts at the edge of known technology and that the Minister, therefore, was not necessarily responsible. However, much to his credit, the right hon. Gentleman instituted an inquiry into the Ferranti affair which resulted in a repayment of £4.25 million by Ferranti for overcosting, and that was a significant sum at the time.
Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, the then Home Secretary, said:The position of the civil servant is that he is wholly and directly responsible to his Minister. It is worth stating again that he holds his office 'at pleasure' and can be dismissed at any time by the Minister.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for warning me that he would refer to this old story. There is nothing that requires concealment. The contract with Ferranti was made long before I was Minister. Ferranti made a substantial profit on a cost-plus basis. Mr. Basil de Ferranti, who' had been my Under-Secretary, and his brother, who was then chairman, discussed the matter. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and I discussed the matter with Mr. de Ferranti. Ferranti agreed that it had made an excessive profit and, as the hon. Gentleman says, it repaid £4 million, which it did not have 822 to do under any legal consideration. I should have thought that the return of £4 million was rather better than my resignation would have been.
§ Mr. Rogers
I did not mention the story as a criticism of the right hon. Gentleman. However, the rather casual way in which he describes the events is not quite borne out by the facts. A committee was set up under Sir John Laing to investigate the matter. The investigation was carried out not on a casual, old-school-tie basis, but as a more formal inquiry.
§ Mr. Rogers
I shall bow to the right hon. Gentleman's version as he was involved in that particular scandal, although he was not responsible for it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] It was a scandal. The scandal was in overcharging, not in the conduct of the Minister and I have not said that as a criticism of the right hon. Member for Pavilion, as the record will show. If Conservative Members believe that ripping off the British taxpayer is not a scandal, they have a very different standard of morality from ours.
The Minister of State for the Armed Forces talked at length about morality today. However, what has he and his Secretary of State done about the Rapier contract? They will not even do what the right hon. Member for Pavilion did—instigate an inquiry. They have kept their heads down and they have shut their mouths. The whole circus carries on performing. [Interruption.] The Minister of State for Defence Procurement finds it amusing that we should be ripped off for £300 million. He really does not care because the friends of the Tory party in big business will benefit. They probably went to the same school as half the Conservative Members. There has been no expression of regret about the rip-off and no acknowledgement of blame. No one has been chastised and no one has been sacked. The Minister will obviously not resign, but he should at least have the guts and gumption to sack the head of the Procurement Executive—a Tory placeman who has presided over "many costs" in time overruns, over much inefficiency and over much poor performance.
That man was brought in by the Government to sort out arms procurement, to introduce efficiency through competition and to reorganise procurement procedure. The Secretary of State is mumbling and seems to be asking my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) whether he agrees. My hon. Friend certainly condemns the rip-offs and the number of slippages in arms procurement. He condemns the hugely expensive overruns and the continual reports from the Select Committee on Defence about poor reliability and maintainability. The Secretary of State is squirming. Is he going to get up now and resign?
§ Mr. Tom King
The hon. Gentleman is speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, so I assume that his attack on Sir Peter Levene, who is not here to defend himself, is made with the authority of his hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) and that it is the Labour party's policy to criticise a public servant in that way. The hon. Gentleman also knows perfectly well that the contract to which he has referred was placed a considerable time before Sir Peter Levene reorganised part 823 of the system of contracts. That point should be put clearly on the record. I was under the impression that Labour Members on the Select Committee also believed that Sir Peter Levene had made a considerable contribution to the procurement process. The hon. Gentleman has now made Labour's view clear. He has made a scurrilous attack, and I hope that he will make it outside the House.
§ Mr. Rogers
The right hon. Gentleman protests a little too much. He knows that he presides over a shambles. He knows that he is getting ripped off by the defence industry. He forgets that, although there was a five-and-a-half-year feasibility and definition study, which cost £80 million before 1983, the development side was placed in 1983. In 1986, long after Sir Peter Levene joined the Procurement Executive, the whole contract was renegotiated. The Secretary of State does not know the facts. He should withdraw what he has said, unless he is quite happy. That is typical of this Government. They have been criticised in a report by a Select Committee that is dominated by Conservative Members, yet all the Secretary of State can do is to blame me for making a "scurrilous attack". Why does he not criticise the Select Committee?
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
It is a little harsh for a Labour Front-Bench spokesman to castigate the Government for insufficiently adhering to fixed-price contracts as milestones when these are management tools that have been introduced by the Government due to the abysmal lack of control over these matters by previous Governments. Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the extent to which the minutes of this debate will be read by foreign arms exporters across Europe and be used against Rapier —a very good British product that has sold well abroad, with competitive tendering?
§ Mr. Rogers
The hon. Member does not know his facts. He has not read the report. He has talked about the Rapier systems being a good product. They do not even work. The systems have not been integrated. The hon. Gentleman ought to check his facts. He talks about this Government's glorious record. Is he aware that 24 projects have exceeded the initial cost estimates and that another 25 projects are subject to time slippage? Defence procurement is in an utter shambles. Sir Peter Levene, despite being brought in specially to correct this has not done so.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
Did my hon. Friend hear the in-depth and searching questions that the Prime Minister endured on the Jimmy Young programme when she castigated overspending by local authorities? Would my hon. Friend care to contrast the situation in local authorities with that in the Ministry of Defence and the overspending on all these projects? What does he think that the Prime Minister should be saying about the gross overspending on Ministry of Defence projects?
§ Mr. Rogers
As I have inferred, Ministers and civil servants seem to be outside any criticism. If there is positive criticism, the Secretary of State says it is scurrilous. It is not. I have heard Ministers castigate Labour and Conservative councillors and local authority managers who are not here to defend themselves. It is a shabby trick that the Secretary of State should make such a statement. I am pleased to see that I have offended the Secretary of State. That was one of my ambitions in life.
Land use in some areas is receiving a great deal of criticism, especially in south-west Wales and St. Davids 824 airfield in Pembrokeshire regarding the proposed installation of "over the horizon" American radar. People in this area, and in Wales as a whole, view the proposition with horror.
The scale of the radar structure is huge, consisting of 120ft high posts, with masts and wires over a mile long. The location is in the beautiful Pembrokeshire national park. The structure is highly intrusive and will have a substantial effect on tourism. It will be visible from the popular coastal footpath and for many miles inland. It will be damaging to the environment. The construction is seen locally as an intrusion and is regarded as an insult because of its presence near St. Davids cathedral, the church of the patron saint of Wales, and in an area where there are many ancient religious sites.
§ Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
Will the hon. Gentleman give a categorical assurance on behalf of the Labour Opposition that the scheme would not go ahead if he were the Minister?
§ Mr. Rogers
Yes. We would stop the work and conduct the proper survey that has been promised by the Government. A promise was made but has not been fulfilled. The Minister of State for Defence Procurement has met himself coming backwards.
In a letter to me dated 6 June, he stated:we are currently at the beginning of the decision-making process, not the end.He was not telling the whole truth. Another paragraph stated:I have concluded that the only suitable location for the transmitter is the MOD owned site at St. Davids airfield".A thorough and proper review of this proposition would be made, regardless of the scoffing remarks of Conservative Members.
§ Mr. Rogers
Defence exports is a matter only casually alluded to in the estimates. The estimates say:Continuing success in the defence exports field does not imply any relaxation of the strict controls needed to prevent weapons or other sensitive equipment falling into the wrong hands.That is right, but many weapons and sensitive equipment fall into the wrong hands.
Iraq, for example, is not a country known for its commitment to human rights. Certainly it is embargoed for receipt of such goods. How much has gone, directly or indirectly, to Iraq through Jordan? The estimates say that the MOD works closely with other Government Departments. The MOD, through the Defence Export Services Organisation and IMS—a wholly-owned subsidiary—has been active in this area and closely involved with the Midland bank and the Export Credits Guarantee Department, directly and indirectly through Jordan. Subventions from the Ministry of Defence budget have been used to allow the Midland Montagu bank to offer preferential interest rates to Jordan for the purchase of arms and ammunition. What is the total amount involved?
Under the Jordanian defence packages agreement of 1986 and 1987, £350 million worth of credit was extended to Jordan. In his reply to me dated 2 May, the Minister stated that virtually all the credit has been committed to contracts on behalf of the Jordan armed forces. The 825 contracts, valued at £150 million, were traced to military supplies to Jordan. What of the remaining £200 million? Where have those military supplies gone?
International Military Supplies is a commercial company, wholly owned by the MOD. Are contracts placed by it included in the list on page 15 in Volume 2 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates? If not, where is its trading disclosed? The Minister stated that the Department has used Astra Holdings over the past few years. From where can this information be obtained?
Serious charges of corruption were laid against senior management of IMS to the previous Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement, the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury). What action was taken, and will the findings be published?
Astra Holdings is involved in the arms business, particularly on the explosives side. The major shareholder is 3i—Investors in Industry—a company chaired by Sir John Cuckney, an ex-director of Midland bank and chief executive of Westland.
Astra purchased PBR, which is a Belgian explosives company and was also involved with the late Dr. Gerald Bull of Big Gun fame. PBR's specialty is shipping explosives to Iraq via Meulebeke airbase on Belgian C130 transports and it is also believed to act as an extra-territorial supplier for IMS—the MOD. But is it also true—as I have been given to understand—that IMS has been involved with South African arms shipments—particularly the shipment last year of 3,000 20 ft containers, transhipped through the Jordanian port of Aqaba to Iraq—and also with the assembly of South African missile components at Wimborne in Dorset, permission for which was given by the British Government?
What is significant in all these deals is the part played by the Prime Minister in her "batting for Britain" role. Last year I attended a defence study group at which Sir Peter Levene, Lord Trefgarne and Lord Chalfont, who chaired the meeting, eulogised the role of the Prime Minister as being central to the Saudi-Jordan arms deal and also to the deal made with Malaysia. Quite what was the Prime Minister's role in all this? Is she party to the sanctions-busting and arms smuggling and to the supply of weapons to Iraq?
When I asked the Prime Minister whether her office had authorised the preferential rates accorded to Jordan for the purchase of arms and ammunition under the Jordan defence package, she replied that it was a matter of commercial confidence. What is commercially confidential about it? The amount and rate may be confidential, but the authorisation itself is not, and the Secretary of State's office said that it did not authorise it anyway. Who authorised the preferential rate for the deal?
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
My hon. Friend is making an interesting point, but Ministers seem to be nodding off. I hope that they will answer my hon. Friend's point.
§ Mr. Rogers
In the Army debate some time ago, I drew the attention of the House to the very bad state of much of our service accommodation. The backlog of maintenance and essential and unavoidable repairs to service accommodation stood at £360 million at 1 April this year. That is an appalling state of affairs. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces appears to find it humorous. He probably agrees with the Chairman of the Select Committee that British soldiers perform better if they live in appalling conditions. If so, his attitude is, in turn, pretty appalling. If local authorities behaved in that way—worthy of the worst landlords in Great Britain—there would be a great hue and cry. Ministers are doing nothing, and, in the meantime, our service men and their families have to suffer appalling conditions. Three hundred and sixty million pounds is the sum required for essential and unavoidable repairs to bring the accommodation up to date.
The Government have been sadly deficient in both the operation and management of our defence and this year's glossy estimates hide a tale of incompetence and mismanagement. That is why we ask the House to support our amendment.
§ 5.3 pm
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
A few months ago we had a momentous debate on the registration of dogs. The House was full and there was hardly anywhere to sit. Today we are discussing the more day-to-day problem of the defence of our people and of the western world. The speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) explains why there has been rather less interest in this debate than there should have been.
I am indebted to Mr. Speaker for reminding me of the pregnant statement made by Mr. Sun Tsu in a famous treatise on strategy several centuries ago. The Chinese general wrote:Supreme excellence lies not in winning battles easily. Supreme excellence lies in winning wars without any battles.By that test, we have done quite well in the west and in the Atlantic alliance. It is true that there have been battles in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Angola, but broadly speaking we have won the third world war without the sacrifices of life and treasure that were exacted in the previous two world wars.
We must ask ourselves what is the explanation for that. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the explanation lies simply in the invention and development of nuclear weapons. I do not think that a confrontation between the conventional forces of east and west would have been possible for a 40-year period without one side or the other bringing matters to a head and without a war which would probably have been even more terrible than the previous two. The burden would probably have fallen most heavily on the democracies, which would have found it more difficult to sustain the necessary expenditure. Without nuclear forces, we should probably have had a bloody third world war.
The lesson is clear. Whatever else we do—whatever other defence dispositions my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his advisers decide upon—we must maintain the British nuclear deterrent. Hitherto, and in the great confrontation which I hope is now ending, we have relied above all on the American deterrent. But we may not always be able to rely on that. We are living in a world in 827 which proliferation has not been stopped but continues apace. The secret of the weapon is out of the bottle. More and more countries will develop it and some are exploring other means such as chemical warfare. It is essential to the safety of our country that we maintain the minimum credible deterrent, which is Trident.
We may also have to think of a responsibility to Europe as a whole for the maintenance of deterrence, and I hope that we shall work in close co-operation with our French friends who also have a nuclear force. That is not to suggest—I shall come to this in a moment—any separation from our American allies, who are cardinal in the defence structure ahead. Thinking in purely European terms, however, we must accept that we have our own deterrent for our own national defence. We may need Anglo-French co-operation for the defence of Europe and a European-American deterrent for the safety of the world.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out yesterday, the threat of Soviet aggression is receding, but there are still half a million Soviet troops in the heart of Europe. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, the Soviets are still producing modern weapons on a large scale and they are still supporting their surrogates in Afghanistan, Angola and, even now, in Ethiopia—with weapons and with moral support. Even if the Soviets withdrew into the Slav heartlands, abandoning the non-Slav republics, they would still represent a formidable military force.
We have won the war, but we have still to win the peace. Threats can arise quickly. Even Sir Winston Churchill did not fully appreciate the German danger until 1936—only three years before the war started. Modern weapons and trained men cannot be improvised. That is a lesson that we learned even in days when training and production were easier—in 1914 and 1939.
What should be our peace aims? International disarmament must be agreed before we can disarm, but it must also be achieved. We want to see the Soviet withdrawal from the heart of Europe. That will take time. We want to see a European defence structure in place that will include the united Germany. We want to see a long-term American commitment to the security of Europe. All those things will take time. Therefore, the peace dividend of which we speak and which we seek—my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement issued a small interim dividend last night—will take time.
What is most necessary is a change in our overall attitude to the strategic problem. For 40 years we related our defence requirement to the Soviet threat. We shall now have to relate it to our responsibilities. When we were the heart of the Commonwealth, we built and maintained a vast Navy—until the 1930s, it was the largest in the world —to meet any contingency and to meet any particular threat. Now the Commonwealth is no longer the centre of our destiny and Europe has taken its place.
Europe has world-wide interests—in Africa and in the middle east, and in oil and minerals. I shall not detain the House by expanding on the Islamic threat which has been filling our Sunday newspapers beyond saying that interested hon. Members should read again chapter 50 of Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" and see how quickly threats can develop. Europe must now face the issue of defence and produce a collective European structure enabling us to protect the vast economic and financial interests that we are putting together in the European Community. Not to do so would 828 be irresponsible. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues will have to discuss the form that that security will take with their counterparts on the continent. I do not wish to go into detail, but our all-volunteer forces are particularly suited to out-of-area operations.
At present NATO is the only game in town, and we are quite right to insist on all-German membership of NATO. However, we must look ahead and recognise—it is the Government's business to deal with matters day by day, but it is our business to look ahead—that NATO has its weaknesses. It does not include France and Spain, which are members of the alliance but not of the military structure. We cannot defend Europe without France, or indefinitely maintain communications with the United States without Spain. There is the problem of German public opinion. Today the majority seem to favour membership of NATO, but the official opposition in Germany is rather divided on the issue.
There is also the problem that NATO has geographical limitations which, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister suggested, do not really apply to the future world to which we are looking. Also, America is not part of the European Community. While I trust that we shall always stand together, the Americans may not always see eye to eye with us, as they have not always done in the past. There is a need to build a European defence structure. At the risk of repetition, I remind the House that I have always believed that the Western European Union might provide such a framework. After all, the Western European Union is the foundation of the European Community—much more than the treaty of Rome.
Had Britain not committed itself to provide armed forces—ground and air—on the continent of Europe, the French Parliament would never have voted and approved the rearmament of Germany, and I am not at all sure whether the German Parliament would approve rearming Germany either.
The WEU is the matrix of the European Community. Everything that has followed, such as the treaty of Rome, has come afterwards. That is important for a special reason. I hope that, in the long term, we can develop a European patriotism, but that is some way off. However, the presence of British and French forces in other countries in Europe, including Germany, will be fundamental to the security of Europe. The Germans could not demand the withdrawal of French and British forces from Germany without repudiating the European Community. That does not mean that we cannot diminish or reduce forces there, but equally I see no reason why we should not have German forces in France, Britain or Spain. We must combine defence if we are to make a reality of the European community.
I stress that I am not suggesting for a moment that we separate from our friends in the United States. I wish to see a global alliance of Europe and the United States. I stress the word "global". In this country, we still tend to think of the Americans as the policemen of the world, but they no longer see themselves in that light. There are enormous claims on their resources, and their resources are not quite what they were. If we want to hold them in Europe and if we want to maintain their commitment, we shall have to give as well as get. Mr. Attlee and his Government understood that point very well—that is why he sent substantial forces to fight in Korea, side by side with the Americans when he thought that the destiny of the 829 Commonwealth was at issue. Today the issue is not the destiny of the Commonwealth, but the destiny of Europe. If we want American safeguards for Europe we should be prepared to help them outside Europe—outside the NATO area, perhaps in Africa, the middle east or even in the Pacific.
§ Mr. Tony Banks
I have much sympathy with what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. Will he give more details about his concept of Europe? He referred to an alliance between Europe and the United States, but how extended into the present east of Europe is the Europe about which the right hon. Gentleman is talking? For example, would it eventually include the Soviet Union as well?
§ Mr. Amery
I shall refer to the hon. Gentleman's last point in a moment. Of course, the European Community is the foundation of what I am talking about, but then there are those who seek association with it—for example, the European Free Trade Association countries. Then, I hope, the emerging democracies of eastern Europe will also join with us, and they should be encouraged to seek membership of the Council of Europe.
The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) asked about the Soviet Union. We are dealing here with a vast entity. The Soviet Union or Russia—I am not sure what name we give it today—stretches to the Pacific and to the borders of China. This is a different world and its future is wrapped in mystery, as is the future of China. I do not think that I should try to define in detail—it would be foolish to do so—what our relationship with it should be. However, I am sure that if we want a good relationship, we must first build a European structure and a global alliance with the United States.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Hon. Members will have listened to the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) with great interest. He brings a tremendous breadth of experience to such debates. As the right hon. Gentleman was developing his last point about the new security structures in which Europe will enjoy parity with the United States, I found myself wondering whether the framework is not already present in the Atlantic alliance. The right hon. Gentleman inferred that there is an onus on Europe to develop a pillar and to take on obligations that will perhaps considerably relieve the United States. That is certainly an objective to which I warm, but it can be achieved only if we retain NATO. Despite the current developments in eastern Europe, we should regard NATO as being simply in a mid-life crisis and we should now be exploring how to achieve a renewal of life for it.
§ Mr. Amery
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's understanding of what I said. The alliance is, of course, fundamental, but the question is whether the existing structure is what we need or whether it should be reformed in various ways to include France and Spain or perhaps to go outside the current area. That is what I was trying to suggest.
§ Mr. Duffy
I am in entire sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman and, possibly, almost in agreement with him.
830 Many of the factors that have determined western security policy over the past 45 years are, as we know, undergoing fundamental change. The collapse of communist rule in eastern Europe has weakened many of the longstanding assumptions about the order of European security. The Warsaw pact, as an effective military alliance, is already fading into the past. Some people in the west have even expressed doubts about NATO's continued usefulness.
The Soviet threat may be non-existent, but Soviet military power remains. Thus, prudence should be the rule of the alliance's reaction to events in eastern Europe. The dissolution of the Soviet empire is one thing, but the dissolution of the Soviet Union is another. What if glasnost or openness continues to encourage dissent, protest, turmoil and disruption much faster than perestroika or restructuring can cure the practical, political, economic, ethnic and sectarian problems that Mr. Gorbachev faces? What if centrifugal forces spin out of control? If Mr. Gorbachev fails, who will control the Soviet Union's still awesome military power, and those military weapons, and to what purpose?
The need for NATO's continued existence is now accepted not only by its members, but by the new eastern European Governments, as I know from personal contact and from visits to all of them, including the Soviet Union. Indeed, even the Soviet political leadership appears to realise that its security is closely bound up with a cohesive western security system.
It was most interesting a week ago today to listen to the Prime Minister's statement about her visit to the Soviet Union and her account of her meeting with Defence Minister Yazov and the chiefs of staff. A year ago I sat in on a North Atlantic Assembly delegation—which, incidentally, I led—which included not only hon. Members of all parties, but three United States senators and leading parliamentarians from all the member nations. It became a stormy meeting, especially when at least one of Marshal Yazov's generals, quite out of turn and to the obvious embarrassment of the Defence Minister, insisted on shouting at one of the United States senators. Following that two and a half hour meeting, the speculation over lunch was how long that general would have lasted had any of us been in Marshal Yazov's position as Defence Minister. That shows just how far things have changed in just one year in the Soviet Union alone. Some of us are in regular contact with the Soviet Union and can otherwise receive reports—we can all read about what is happening there—and we know that tremendous changes are taking place, some of them perhaps unnervingly fast.
NATO's role—current and future—transcends merely countering the Soviet threat. In the Gorbachev or post-Gorbachev era, NATO still has four major missions: to prevent world peace from being endangered by a renewal of Europe's civil wars; to establish structures that will ensure the efficacy of the CFE agreements; to establish two-pillar institutions that will permit the NATO Governments to procure affordable armaments while equitably and efficiently sharing both the benefits and the burdens of NATO's defences; and—this next point recalls the profound observations of the right hon. Member for Pavilion—to resume building the Atlantic community that President John F. Kennedy and others foresaw nearly three decades ago. Those four goals of defence, stability, arms control and the building of new, positive security and 831 political structures, should provide a large enough agenda for anyone seeking a renewed and meaningful political role for the North Atlantic alliance.
In a press conference in Paris on 29 March, the Foreign Secretary referred to the creation ofpolicies, doctrines and structures of the new NATO".I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that, in doctrinal terms, there is clearly a need to reinterpret the strategies of flexible response and forward defence. It is not enough for hon. Members, including some of my hon. Friends, simply to dismiss those strategies as irrelevant because of the changes that are now taking place. Not a bit —the changes do not mean that those issues need not be addressed, because they do. The strategies must certainly be changed, but they must first be reinterpreted. Perhaps the crux of the matter before the House is that, until we have done that, what restructuring of our armed forces can any of us seriously consider?
The change in warning time is the only significant fundamental change that has occurred in so far as it affects tonight's debate. Given that change in warning time, I have no doubt that flexible response, which is quite capable of evolutionary change, as well as forward defence, which is essentially a mobile defence and is also capable of change, will be modified. Thinking of central Europe alone, we must remember that we still have flanks —and some of us have always regarded them as the most vulnerable sectors. As I said, flexible response, forward defence and the size of NATO will all have to be modified.
I am equally confident that "first use" and the role and future of short-range nuclear forces are under current consideration. I am sorry that the Secretary of State is no longer in his place because I should have liked to have been a little more specific, but his colleagues know that MC114/3, which is General John Galvin's basic doctrine and terms of reference, can be adjusted in its essential "force-generation" role, such as mobilisation and deployment, and similar dynamics.
In her speech to NATO Foreign Ministers in Scotland two weeks ago, the Prime Minister rightly dwelt on those strategy questions when she asked:Does forward defence in the central region still make sense in these circumstances? Or should we think more in terms of defence in depth and greater reliance on mobility, flexibility and reserves?She said that it would be prudent for NATO countries to retain a capacity to carry out multiple roles, with more flexible and versatile forces. The House will probably agree with the Prime Minister's thinking on that, yet we look in vain for answers to those questions in the pages of the annual defence White Paper. Although we understand why they are not there, only those answers will ultimately determine the size and shape of Britain's armed services, and not merely the forces that we station in Europe.
Last night's announcement about a reduced Tornado programme was inevitable, was it not, given the unexpected rise in inflation which has brought about a real value cut of about 3 per cent., and continues a trend that began in 1985?
The Government denied for some time that they were engaged in a fundamental defence review. Then it became known that the Prime Minister was chairing a full-scale Cabinet investigation into scope for defence cuts, entitled "Options for Change". The obvious remit for the inquiry is to determine the main general changes which are evident and which the Government expect for the United 832 Kingdom armed forces in this area of diminishing threat. The assessment will be in terms of, first, roles and resources priorities; secondly, procurement patterns; thirdly, recruitment, retention and training of soldiers; and, fourthly, additional tasks such as those which may arise out of verification agreed through CFE.
The inquiry poses other questions of a largely strategic nature that must be addressed first by not only the Ministry of Defence, but hon. Members who are present, if they wish to understand what recommended changes may eventually be announced from the Government Front Bench, we hope before the recess. Assuming that a CFE agreement is signed this year, how soon, for example, should a second round of negotiations begin? Or are events in eastern Europe making the Vienna negotiations irrelevant? What type of framework of participation should attend CFE 2 and what should be the agenda? Has the collapse of communism in eastern Europe, with the attendant reduction in Soviet forces and the impending unification of Germany, cast any doubt in Ministry of Defence planning circles about the continued military and political efficacy of forward defence as a NATO defence imperative? What are the minimum operating requirements of forward defence?
Is the Ministry of Defence doing serious analytical work on alternative defence concepts for NATO, premised on defence dominance and a structural inability to attack on the part of both alliances? If so, what are the implications for future national defence procurement programmes, such as the multiple-launch rocket system?
Are follow-on forces attack concepts still valid? For how long will they be valid? What will be the future determinants to guide such concepts? Will the CFE1 accord make a military integrated structure more or less important? Will the integration include United States forces? How can French forces be included? Should the NATO command structure be changed, and in what direction? Is Lance modernisation dead? What role do short-range nuclear forces play in operational terms?
Without awaiting the findings of the "Options for Change" inquiry, the Government should take four steps. First, they should reassure the services and engage them as much as possible in the inquiry. They should not be kept at arm's length, as it is believed that the Government are doing now. They should be involved in the inquiry at a professional level. Secondly, the Government should point out that reductions in the central European theatre cannot be equated with cuts in major strategic programmes. The European fighter aircraft, the Apache attack helicopter for the Army and the Navy's continuing need for surface warships are all requirements that cannot easily be ditched because, if ditched, they cannot easily be revived.
Thirdly, for all Mr. Gorbachev's perestroika, the Soviet Union added substantially to its armed strength last year. It added 1,700 tanks, 400 ballistic missiles, 600 fighters and 10 submarines. As I said, all that has changed so far is that the short-warning threat has been removed. Soviet forces may be becoming smaller but they are almost certainly becoming better.
Fourthly, the Government should admit the limitations of the peace dividend, given the public expectation, and they should scrupulously avoid seeking to make electoral capital out of it. Fifthly, NATO should retain its present membership and remain primarily a security organisations, although it should undertake an increased political role. It will be essential for stability in Europe that 833 Germany remains a full member of NATO and that the alliance continues to be transatlantic based. But NATO will need to adapt, taking on new roles to reflect changing circumstances. Examples of such roles may include the lengthy and complicated implementation of CFE reductions and accompanying verification measures, the adaptation of our strategy and operational concepts to accommodate a unified Germany, and consultations on the management of east-west relations, the future arms control agenda and the possible future role for CSCE.
The alliance will also be compelled to consider security questions out of area, for example, in the middle east where missile proliferation continues. I agree with the right hon. Member for Pavilion who, in his closing words, said that the alliance will almost certainly have to pay increased attention to the worldwide management of peace.
§ Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) on his speech. I agreed with almost every word, as I did with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). They both made thoughtful speeches, to which I hope the Minister listened carefully.
This debate is timely because we all hope that fundamental reassessments of our defence plans and priorities are taking place. But even this week events in Romania, IRA terrorism on the continent and in the United Kingdom, and Colonel Gaddafi's speech about nuclear weapons in Libya remind us that the world is still an uncertain and dangerous place. The security of our nation and, indeed, of the west demands substantial resources to safeguard it.
I hope that the review of the armed forces taking place in the Ministry of Defence and about which we have heard so much will have a long hard look at reshaping the forces for the changing threats that lie ahead. Undoubtedly, that will mean increased emphasis on some sections of the armed forces and reduced emphasis on others. I hope that that will be in keeping with the radically changing position in central and eastern Europe.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion and my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) have referred to the European security structure. The Western European Union could play an emphasised and substantial role in the developments that lie ahead. The Council of Europe could also play a role, embracing as it does 23 countries stretching from Turkey to Iceland and Finland to Spain, with the Soviet Union, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland as observer states. No doubt other countries from eastern Europe will join those countries as observers. Unlike the CSCE, both the Council of Europe and the Western European Union have parliamentary accountability. I hope that we do not create new and expensive bureaucratic bodies and structures but will adapt existing structures that are accountable to our domestic Parliaments throughout Europe and are more cost effective.
Looking ahead to possible threats to our national security, we must accept that there are still many problems in the Soviet Union. The threat may be much reduced, but no one—the hon. Member for Attercliffe referred to this —can be sure that if there were a total economic 834 breakdown, or if Mr. Gorbachev's position were undermined, there would not be strong military action by the generals or others. When countries go through a revolution, whether economic, political or ethnic—the Soviet Union is undergoing all three—disturbing and strange reactions can take place.
Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State reminded us that the Soviet Union still has substantial superiority in arms and that the CFE treaty has not yet been signed. Arms production continues. The hon. Member for Attercliffe reminded us that there has been substantial production of weapons in the past 12 months. Any unilateral disarmament in anticipation of CFE and the other arms treaties would be a dangerous gamble.
It is important to consider the threat out of areas, notably in the middle east. It may come from Islamic fundamentalism, but may also appear in many other parts of the world—not least the blackmail that could be exercised by some third world countries which have nuclear weapons or the capacity to make them. We must also remember the threat posed by domestic and international terrorism—no country, airline or people is immune from that.
An important responsibility is the protection of our national vital resources and trade routes, and the protection of our trading partners in different parts of the world and of those few Commonwealth countries for which we still have external defence responsibilities. We must also protect the minerals and oil in our exclusive economic zone. Those important matters should be taken into account when considering the future. I hope that the Government and their advisers are considering the radical reshaping of our forces which will be necessary to meet those threats and responsibilities.
Let me put my two-penn'orth in the crystal ball. It is inevitable that there will be a substantial reduction in troops and aircraft on the central front of Germany. I also hope that the support facilities will be reduced as they are extremely expensive to our defence budget and our balance of payments. Undoubtedly the cut in the Tornado order is not the happiest thing for the aircraft industry or many others, but it is the forerunner of other necessary cuts. I envisage that the older jets such as Phantom and Jaguar will be phased out while the Tornado continues in operation. Many tanks will also be decommissioned in central Germany—they will go anyway as a result of the CFE agreement. America, France, Germany, Italy and Britain will require fewer tanks and it is a pity that we cannot get our act together to develop a NATO tank. Fewer tanks will mean that the unit cost of each one, be it Challenger 2 or Leopard 2, will increase. If we had a uniform tank, the production costs could be shared among the countries and cost could be kept down. But that is not possible as chauvinism reigns supreme in that regard.
There must be a more European approach to the troops who will remain on the continent and I hope that we shall have some multinational forces. I foresee a German, Belgian, United Kingdom force operating at a divisional level in northern' Germany. I know that there are problems with language, communications equipment and interoperability, but the Franco-German brigade, which was launched in Stuttgart, has shown us the opportunities available as well as the problems. I was privileged to attend the inauguration of that brigade a year ago. At a higher divisional level there is great scope for economy, but in the first instance the real advantages of such a multinational 835 force would be political, not least following the unification of Germany. We should latch ourselves properly on to Europe, albeit at a lower level than at present.
The hon. Member for Attercliffe referred to the need for greater flexibility and manoeuvrability in our forces; that is paramount. I was greatly impressed by the French Force d'Action Rapide, whose key element is its manoeuvrability as it has light armoured vehicles, helicopters and air mobility. It is nearly 60,000 strong so we are not talking about a lightweight unit. We must follow those lines and create self-contained logistical support. The 24 Air Mobile Brigade at Catterick is a good foundation on which to build. That brigade, together with light infantry forces, should be expanded to give us the flexibility in Europe that we need. In that way our armed forces in Europe would have the added advantage, in common with the Force d'Action Rapide, of being used out of area at short notice.
With fewer troops stationed in a changed Europe and with the CFE treaty in force, there will be less need for resources to be committed to reinforcement and re-supply from north America. It is still important to retain that capability—not least to act as a deterrent to any adventure that might start in eastern Europe. The demand for fewer resources will, I believe, lead to fewer frigates being necessary. If the Soviet navy starts to reduce its forces as a result of economics rather than treaties, I envisage that our SSN hunter-killer submarines could be reduced in due course. That would not, of course, affect our strategic deterrent in the Trident force.
Maritime operations could be expanded in one significant area—a maritime equivalent of the Force d'Action Rapide. The Royal Marines should have an amphibious capability that can be used in an outside area. That means that we must reach a decision on landing platform docks Fearless and Intrepid. In 1986, I was a member of the Defence Select Committee and I was told that a decision would be reached within the following 12 months, but still no decision has been made. In that regard we should operate with the Dutch with whom the Royal Marines already work on the northern flank. They have common requirements for similar ships and they, too, have had to defer a decision because of resources. For heaven's sake, we should get our act together. The Hague and London are separated by a 40-minute flight. We should plan something together on a European basis so that we have maritime and amphibious flexibility. It is desperately needed and we have an excellent foundation on which to build with Whiskey company and the Royal Marine Commandos.
In the next few years, the Army, Air Force and Royal Navy will be subject to meaningful reductions in their capabilities. Eventually that will save money and foreign exchange, but it will take a great deal of time. In the meantime, we must expand certain areas, such as intelligence. I make no apology for mentioning intelligence as the Intelligence Corps is based in my constituency. Its anti-terrorism role in Northern Ireland and throughout the world is magnificent. The men and women wearing the green lanyard of the Intelligence Corps have a key part to play in the future.
I agree with the hon. Member for Attercliffe that once the CFE agreement and other treaties are in place an important function will be verification. I hope that that will be carried out by European satellite and by teams working on the ground. We should work with our European and north American partners. An important 836 component of that will be airborne early warning, and I believe that the AWACS will be fairly busy in the next few years, although perhaps their role will be different from that originally envisaged.
In the future a great deal could be done for our reserve forces once the regular forces are reduced and redeployed. The reserves would provide a cost-effective way in which the Army, Navy and Air Force could retain their latent capability should we get something wrong. Investment in our reserve forces will mean that at home and in Europe we have the capability quickly to expand our regular forces. We must ensure that the reserve forces are well trained and use similar equipment, aircraft, ships, fighters, vehicles or artillery to their regular counterparts.
There has been much talk about the peace dividend, but it is right not to raise public expectation. All parties in the House have a responsibility to that end. The dividend will come in due course, but only as a result of imaginative changes in our defence programmes and procedures and as a result of the continuation of the enormous changes in central and eastern Europe.
Welcome and dramatic though those changes a re, they have happened basically for three reasons. The first, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion pointed out, has been the nuclear deterrent since 1945. Secondly, our free and democratic system, while by no means perfect, is infinitely better than Marxist socialism, which is crumbling all over eastern Europe. Thirdly, the alliance under NATO has stood firm through thick and thin and, as part, of that alliance, the continuing connection between north America and Europe is, was and always will be absolutely critical.
§ Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed), who brings great expertise to the debate. I particularly support what he said about the role of the Western European Union and the Council of Europe in the changing European scene.
Those who have had the opportunity of talking to members of the newly elected Parliaments in the eastern European countries feel that they are facing problems about which they have no experience and that they desperately need the strength of western European parliamentary democracy around them. They need to feel that they are not being left on their own. The Council of Europe can do an important job in providing such solidarity for those newly emerging democracies.
I strongly support those who say that decisions about the future of Britain's armed forces must be set within the NATO framework. We should resist any temptation to hark back to some great imperialist past. We are a European nation, we are part of the European Community and we are part of the Atlantic alliance. That must shape our military planning.
That implies that I do not accept the argument that the dramatic collapse of the Warsaw treaty organisation means that NATO can be allowed to slide into an ineffective position or somehow be subsumed into an all-embracing CSCE process.
NATO is not the mirror image of the Warsaw pact. NATO was set up as a voluntary association of free nations sharing the same democratic values. The Warsaw treaty organisation, by contrast, was established to serve 837 Soviet interests. Its membership was not voluntary but was of a conscript nature. It is salutary to remember that the only time the Warsaw pact fired shots in anger was against its own members in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
There is a powerful case for a new security framework covering the whole of Europe and involving the United States and the USSR. It is needed to reassure those who are concerned about the new balance of power on the continent of Europe. It will be needed to deal with the risk of regional, ethnic or nationalist unrest spilling over into more serious conflicts.
I accept that the CSCE process provides the best framework for developing that sort of new security system, but that is likely to take a considerable time to establish and to become effective and credible. It would be foolish for us to talk of its replacing NATO, even in the longer term.
There is a difference between a system of common security and a system of common defence. Common security necessarily brings together states with different and sometimes conflicting interests. Consider the examples of the League of Nations and the United Nations. It is not always easy in such situations to establish the unified political will that is needed to deal with difficult problems.
Common defence, on the other hand, brings together free nations with shared interests which they combine together to protect. Most of us would accept that NATO has been the most successful such alliance in modern history, and it will be needed for the foreseeable future, even within an institutionalised CSCE framework.
NATO must change to take account of the totally different Europe that is now emerging. I see it as a two-stage process. First, we must make short-term adjustments to take account of the present period of change, which we hope is merely a transition to a more stable situation. During that transitional stage we do not want to take unnecessary risks. We should not gamble with our security, but we can start planning for the second stage in the process. We can start a more thorough and radical review of NATO's military strategy which will be needed if all the changes that we hope for become reality.
It is possible that by the mid-1990s we shall have seen the end of the Warsaw treaty organisation as a military alliance. We might also have seen the total withdrawal of Soviet forces from eastern Europe and the full implementation at least of the first CFE agreement. By then we may be seeing a continuing democratic process in political and economic reform in the nations of eastern Europe.
If we achieve those objectives, we shall need a different sort of NATO with a different strategy. That process of change will, we hope, start at the July summit meeting. It will lead to major changes—of style, objective and strategy —but certain fundamental elements must remain in the new NATO strategy.
First, for as far ahead as we can see, we shall need the presence of a militarily significant number of United States and Canadian forces on the continent of Europe, though at much lower levels than the numbers present today. Secondly, we shall need a united Germany as a full member of NATO with, of course, special arrangements being made for the territory of the GDR. Thirdly, NATO must retain a deterrent force based on an appropriate mix 838 of conventional and nuclear weapons. Fourthly, we need to retain a fully integrated military structure. Fifthly, and in many ways most importantly, we must maintain the original founding principle that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all.
NATO has always been a defensive alliance. It has been there to prevent aggression. The challenge to NATO now is to demonstrate that we can prepare to do more than just prevent war. We must show that NATO can be just as determined in building the peace. That underlines the point made frequently in the debate that NATO must now develop a more political stance, rather than being a purely military alliance. In fact, NATO has never been just a military alliance. At the time of the 1949 treaty, even in those early days emphasis was being laid on political and economic co-operation between the members of the alliance. While it is difficult to envisage any of the regional problems in Europe with which we are concerned demanding a NATO military response, it is easy to see the need for a concerted NATO political response to the uncertainties of the new Europe.
Although responsibility for the economic problems of the newly emerging eastern European nations will fall primarily on the EEC, there is a north American dimension in assisting those nations and solving those problems, and NATO is the main vehicle for the involvement of the United States and Canada in Europe.
NATO will play a more political role in terms of the arms control negotiations which we wish to see continuing and in the verification of that network of treaties which will guarantee the stability and security that we want to achieve at much lower levels of military forces.
In looking at the implications of all this change for the size and shape of Britain's own forces, it is clear that the first step to be taken is to determine what our forces are for, and whether the objectives are for NATO or purely national. Final decisions on that first question cannot be taken until we know the outcome of the NATO review.
However, it is clear that there is a wide measure of agreement in the House about certain general principles which will shape the sort of forces that we shall have in the next couple of decades. We are generally agreed that we want smaller forces which are more mobile and flexible, and capable of swift reaction, rather than large-scale stationed forces capable of fighting old-fashioned wars.
We also recognise that, for the first time in 200 years or so, the bulk of those forces are likely to be stationed in the United Kingdom. The conventional forces in Europe talks and the the implications of German reunification will inevitably reduce the size of our forces stationed in Germany. With regard to our out-of-area commitments, Hong Kong will be gone by 1997 and it is hard to see commitments such as Belize and the Falklands being maintained even at their present reduced levels. We must face the fact that the bulk of our forces will be stationed in this country.
It is easy to produce scenarios of unrest in various parts of Europe leading to local or regional conflicts, but it is hard to imagine that any of those favoured scenarios will inevitably involve the deployment of United Kingdom forces. It is unlikely, for example, that British forces will be deployed in a peace-keeping role between the Armenians and the Azeris, and the unlikelihood of British troops being needed on the continent of Europe will be a major factor in our force planning.
839 It is also becoming much more accepted that in the new environment it will be even more difficult to attract the sort of high quality recruits we shall need into much smaller forces with a more limited career structure. The Secretary of State is therefore absolutely correct to argue that, whatever the peace dividend may be, some part of it must be ploughed back into improving the conditions of our armed forces and the quality of life of our service men and women. If we are to have highly qualified, well trained and well equipped armed forces, with well motivated service men and women, we must accept that we cannot achieve that on the cheap.
I also challenge the assumption that we can depend on reservists to fill the gaps in our professional forces. The new environment will make it as difficult to attract reservists as regular service men. The fact that the Territorial Army is already 15,000 short of its 1990 target of 91,000 illustrates that. The Select Committee report states that 80 per cent. of regular army reservists attended no training in the last nine months of 1989. In an environment in which security is no longer at such a high premium, it will be as difficult to attract people into the reserves as into the regular forces.
I agree with those who have said in the debate that, despite all the changes in the Soviet Union, the USSR will retain a massive nuclear arsenal as far ahead as we can see. Even if the Soviet Union were to break up, which is a strong possibility, the Russian federation would presumably have the benefit of those nuclear weapons. Some of us are no more attracted by the possibility of Russian nationalism than by the threat of Soviet communism.
In this uncertain and dangerous world, it is simply prudent common sense for Britain to retain a minimum nuclear deterrent which is effective and credible. It is therefore absolutely essential for us to retain the concept of four Trident submarines. We can reduce the number of missiles per submarine and vary the number of warheads per missile to take account of future progress in nuclear arms control, but it is absolutely essential to maintain four submarines.
I welcome the prospect of a negotiated removal of land-based, short-range nuclear weapons and nuclear artillery. However, I accept the case for retaining a limited number of sub-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe. I believe that the tactical air-to-surface missile is the most effective system for that role. Therefore, it makes sense to deploy a limited number of those systems on NATO aircraft based in Europe.
Since 1984, the Soviet Union has deployed a growing number of AS15 long-range air-launched cruise missiles, which have a range of between 1,600 and 3,000 km and carry a 250 kilotonne warhead. When such systems exist, it seems ridiculous for NATO not to maintain the ability to deploy a similar, less threatening system of its own.
I also accept the point that has been made several times in this debate about the risk of nuclear proliferation and the number of third world nations obtaining, or trying to obtain, a nuclear and chemical weapons capability allied to ballistic missiles. In that dangerous situation, it is not credible to reply simply on strategic nuclear weapons. We must have a number of sub-strategic systems to take account of such a threat.
In conclusion, I think that we all accept that we face an extraordinary opportunity. As the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said, the propects opening up before us were unthinkable even a year ago. We must grasp the 840 chance that we are now being given and think imaginatively. I strongly endorse the words of the United States Secretary of State, James Baker, in his evidence to the Senate foreign relations committee on 12 June. He said:We want to build a peace defined not just by the absence of war from the Baltic to the Adriatic, but by a community of democratic values that extends from the Atlantic to the Urals.That should be NATO's objective, in which Britain must play its full part.
§ 6.7 pm
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) and I once wrote a book together. He provided the jargon and I provided the jokes. Sadly, it did not sell and was not made into a film. It might have helped to swell the profits of Mr. Robert Maxwell. It might be said that the spectre of being remaindered at Waterloo station looms over the hon. Gentleman and me.
The Government are undertaking the first defence review since the halcyon days of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—[interruption.] That was a different defence review, to which I shall return later. This one is called "Options for Change". It has been fathered by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement. Its midwives meet regularly, under the eye of Mr. Richard Mottram, and we must wish their labours well. I wrote a profile of the Minister of State for Defence Procurement that should have appeared in last Sunday's edition of the Observer. In fact, it is going into next Sunday's edition of the Observer. There are no secrets between the Minister of State and me.
For the past 40 years Britain has done far more than its fair share in defence terms. We should now cut back, but only in a way that enhances our influence, especially in Europe, and helps to contribute to our joint security.
I fear that some of my hon. Friends may find it hard to come to terms with the absence of an enemy. For the first time since the 1860s, Britain lacks an external enemy. The Soviet Union seems to be reverting to Mother Russia—I hope not to imperial Russia. The Warsaw pact lies in ruins. The French and Germans are more than our allies; they are our partners. The rise of Islamic fundamentalism threatens the stability of the near and middle east, but it is not, as such, an enemy of this country. We have little to fear from the Argentinians over the Falklands and, thank God, nothing whatever to fear from Iceland. Unless we go about the world looking for trouble, we should enjoy a long period of real peace.
We must resist the temptation to return to the priorities of the Victorian age. I suspect that there are some members of our great party who might wish to return to those priorities. Europe should not go to the bottom of the list and the prospect of some adventure across the seas be raised to the top. What out-of-area—that is, out of Europe—responsibilities we have we share with our European and American allies. We should not reduce the Rhine Army so far and so fast as to limit our influence in the European Community. Our status in Europe has been largely determined by the size of our military contribution—certainly not by our rhetoric—to the common defence. Many Americans will now go home and a too sizeable reduction in the Rhine Army on our part might leave France and Germany as the major actors on the European scene.
841 Military and political consequences flow from a European priority in defence matters. The first is that it is necessary to keep on the continent of Europe at least a division—a cadre that can easily be reinforced from this country. The second military consequence of the European priority is that the use of nuclear weapons against any targets in Europe, east or west, will be unthinkable.
The political consequences flow from these two military consequences. Should we consider a United Kingdom contribution to a European army? I should like to think so, but the agnosticism of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in all matters pertaining to European unity will remain for some time at least a stumbling block—but a European army, the dream of the 1950s, will be on the agenda in the 1990s.
Lastly, what are the implications for nuclear weapons? Adequate deterrence against the Soviet Union or Russia can be maintained by sea and air-launched cruise missiles. We should hold on to our strategic nuclear national force and build a fourth Trident submarine. But whether or not shorter-range missiles are stationed in Germany must depend on the wishes of the Germans themselves. We must accept whatever decision they reach. We must not lecture our allies from the sidelines.
As we debate on this second day of the defence estimates, the rotary clubs of the low countries are carefully re-enacting the battle of Waterloo. We would not wish the Ministry of Defence—the only building in London designed by Albert Speer—to be shrouded in the smoke of conflict, and we must not permit the Minister of State for Defence Procurement to meet his Waterloo.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
I am overwhelmed at being called now, Mr. Speaker, because I am so used to seeing the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) on panel programmes that I fully expected my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) to be called next. It is a pleasure to hear the hon. Gentleman because he makes telling points that are always worth re-reading, and I am sure that I shall be re-reading them in newspaper articles in the coming weeks.
Yesterday the Secretary of State—echoed today by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces—sneered at the debate going on in the Labour party about defence policy. I found that depressing but predictable, coming as it did from the authoritarian Conservative party. Robust, open debate is not something for which Tories care very much. Why should not the Labour party have a robust open debate in what has been left of democracy in this country by the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher)? Yet when we hold such debates we get sneers and cheap party-political jibes from Conservative Members.
There is also a debate of sorts going on in the Government, based largely on rumours, leaks and innuendos. Ministers go off into their corners and give briefings to their favourite journalists. The Observer headline on Sunday ran:Service chiefs in storm over defence cuts".The same page carried an admirable picture of the Minister of State for Defence Procurement. I have no 842 reason to disbelieve the report—there are too many direct quotations for it to be entirely the meanderings of a drunken journalist.
It seems that the Minister of State has some difficulties in his Department, as has the Secretary of State—they seem to be pitted against each other. I suggest that they discuss among themselves who has set them up for this, as I suspect that it may well have been the Prime Minister, deep in her bunker in Downing street.
I have some time for the Minister of State for Defence Procurement. He has a fight on his hands. He has said that he is looking for substantial reductions in arms expenditure—I heard him say that in a good interview on the Radio 4 programme "Today" a week or so ago. Judging by the quotations in the article that I have mentioned, it is clear that he is not very popular at the Ministry of Defence, so I suggest that he does not go walking around the building late at night on his own.
The Minister of State for Defence Procurement is going for things that we support. He said in the Radio 4 interview that there was something called a peace dividend which made substantial cuts possible. He also said rather touchingly yesterday—I seem to have been the first casualty of the defence review by failing to get into the debate—that he had missed a contribution from me. He is missing it again today, so it must be deliberate on his part. He also said that I had done critical damage to his career by the praise that I had heaped on him during the Air Force debate. Actually, it was an Army debate—the changes these days are so rapid that I am not surprised that he became confused.
I intend to heap still more praise on the Minister's head. He has my total support, although I appreciate that that is not worth a great deal. Given the fight with defence chiefs that the Minister has on his hands, having my support is rather like declaring war simultaneously on the Soviet Union and the United States of America, only to discover that one's only ally is San Marino. But the Minister is still welcome to my support, and I hope that he will wear it as lightly as he can.
As I said, the Minister of State spoke in the interview of a peace dividend. That is what the people of this country want, and it has seeped into the consciousness of enough people to bring great pressure to bear on the Government. The Prime Minister recognises it by trying to get the Minister of State to create enough flexibility of manoeuvre for her to be able to deliver some of the goodies of which she has deprived the people of this country for so long— and to deliver them just before calling a general election.
We want the peace dividend. The people of Newham want it desperately. It will mean that we can do something about the £21 billion defence expenditure, using it for schools, homes and transport—the areas of social expenditure so desperately in need of it.
I heard the Prime Minister talking to Jimmy Young, who was asking her those searing questions of his. I am not surprised that he happens to be her favourite political interviewer. She was very angry about local authorities overspending. When did she ever talk about the overspending on all the defence contracts for which the Minister of State for Defence Procurement is responsible and which Sir Peter Levene has been brought in to deal with? My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) made a good point about that.
There is more than a whiff of hypocrisy from the Prime Minister when she talks about overspending councils 843 because local authorities have been given more and more responsibilities and have had more and more funds taken away from them by the Government. Those authorities are doing the important things that are needed in our society. We need to arm ourselves not with the weapons of death and destruction but with knowledge and skills because they can best defend a united country. That would give us a country in which there is greater equality of opportunity and in which social service provisions would be spread in a way that matches Britain's desperate needs. When reductions in arms expenditure are mentioned some Conservative Members, and also some of my hon. Friends, defend constituency interests in the way that the hon. Member for Aldershot has done. [Interruption.] I thought that the hon. Gentleman would enter a plea on behalf of his constituents, but if I have got that wrong I apologise to him.
No one in the Opposition wants to see indiscriminate cuts affecting our defence industries and our armed forces. Cuts should not be made in an unplanned and indiscriminate fashion. That was why at Question Time I asked the Secretary of State for Defence what his Department was doing about arms conversion work. I did not ask about what firms were doing, but about what studies the Ministry of Defence has carried out because the Ministry will ultimately be responsible for cuts in arms expenditure. The Minister dismissed my question, saying that it was being done outside and that I was concerned only about a central, planned economy. I am in favour of planning which makes sure that decisions made in one Ministry do not have all sorts of repercussions throughout the country.
What is the Ministry of Defence doing about arms conversion to make sure that members of our armed forces who might be declared redundant and who find themselves on the dole do not have to wait around like so many industrial workers who have been pitched out of their jobs as a result of the Government's economic ineptitude? The Government have a responsibility to the armed services to make sure that there is work that people can take up.
The Minister of State for Defence Procurement said something that I have never heard from a Conservative Member in all my time in the House—which goes back only to 1983 but seems much longer. The Minister said that there was a correlation between economic success and low defence expenditure. The Opposition have always said that, but it is the first time that I have heard it said by a Conservative Member, and especially by a Minister. I applaud the Minister again for his honesty and economic intelligence. He deserves more support than he seems to be getting from his own side. In the meantime, for what it is worth, we will give him some support.
§ Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)
It is entertaining and sometimes instructive to listen to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). Later in my speech I shall deal with some of his comments, but initially I should like to concentrate on the need for Britain to have an independent nuclear deterrent. There has been a deafening silence from Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen on that subject. Yesterday they contributed 54 minutes to the debate and did not make a single reference, favourable or unfavourable, to the nuclear deterrent 844 policy. In today's debate, we heard a meandering speech from the Opposition Front Bench that was totally lacking in substance and again made no such reference.
It is incomprehensible that in a two-day debate on the defence estimates and national defence policy the official Opposition party which would seek to form a Government cannot bring itself even to refer to the nuclear deterrent. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West made a fair comment when he said that he and, as he would have us believe, his colleagues wished to have a robust debate. How can there be a robust debate when, as a matter of policy, the Opposition choose to remain silent on such a central feature of our defence policy?
The arguments for a fourth Trident submarine have been well rehearsed. Nothing has changed and the arguments remain exactly the same as they were 30 or 40 years ago when the Polaris programme was introduced and the submarines first commissioned. It is worth reminding the House that the French, who have their own independent nuclear capability, have a fleet of six submarines and the French are by no means bad judges.
Although Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen will not comment on the independent nuclear deterrent, at least yesterday a former Labour Minister of State spoke about it, and his words echo mine. He said:It is absolutely essential that we keep a minimum of four submarines.In a telling comment, he said:I do not believe that the British people would agree to a nuclear deterrent that could be activated at only a fortnight's notice."—[Official Report, 18 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 731.]In a nutshell, that is the essence of the nuclear deterrent and of our need for the fourth submarine.
Ironically one of the matters that was not touched on, except briefly by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright), is that as the so-called peace dividend becomes a reality, and it should, the need for the nuclear deterrent becomes that much greater. As we prepare to take the first risks on the ground with conventional forces, the nuclear deterrent, which has kept the peace in Europe for the past 45 years, must remain.
The difficulty about having a robust debate is that we just do not know Labour's policy. If we believe the Labour party, it intends to cancel the fourth submarine and to negotiate away our existing capability in return for precious little. That would mean that ultimately we would have no independent deterrent of any kind while the Soviet Union would retain a large part of its enormous nuclear arsenal.
Whose is the authentic voice of the Opposition? I have posed that question before in the House. Is it that of the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) or of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), or is it the voice of those whom the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) referred to yesterday as being on the "exotic fringes of the Labour party?" Perhaps I could remind the House of those who form that fringe. There is the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), a former leader of the Labour party, and the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), a would-be contestant for the leadership. There are the hon. Members for Newham, North-West, for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). I could continue the list, but those were the Opposition Members who spoke in yesterday's debate and in essence their speeches were totally against the nuclear deterrent in any 845 shape or form. We do not know whether the hon. Member for Clackmannan is the authentic voice of the Labour party because he chose to remain silent on the issue. I hope that whichever Opposition Member replies to the debate he will make some reference to the nuclear deterrent.
The cancellation of the fourth Trident submarine would, in defence terms, be a disaster. But in economic terms it would be an utter disaster for my constituency. It would destroy the local economy. Nationally, 27,000 jobs depend on the nuclear deterrent, and in the shipyards thousands of people would lose their jobs overnight. It is a cruel deception for Opposition spokesmen to say when they visit the shipyards every two or three years that they will cancel the Trident submarines and switch to building surface vessels or more conventional submarines as though that could happen overnight.
When the Opposition defence spokesman visits Barrow and Furness and tells the people in the shipyards there that they need not worry because the Labour party will cancel the fourth submarine on a Saturday morning and on a Monday morning they will all be building new submarines or new surface vessels, let him explain how, with a snap of the fingers, all the design work can be done, all the materials can be ordered and all the negotiations carried out with the Ministry of Defence. The reality is that the Opposition's policies mean utter disaster for my constituency.
Only three or four years ago the Opposition told us that the cost of Trident had risen to £13 billion. When the hon. Member for Clackmannan became the Opposition's defence spokesman, he gave a figure of £14 billion. The figure given in the estimates is £9.38 billion. This is the fourth successive year in which the cost of the programme has been reduced. It represents a mere 3 per cent. of the defence budget for the next 20 years. It is probably the most cost-effective weapon that Britain has ever had for preserving the peace.
I close by picking up a previous comment. NATO has surely been the most successful defensive alliance in history. It has preserved the peace without ever having to fire a single shot. I am proud that my constituency has been able to play its part and make a contribution to the preservation of peace for so many years.
§ Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)
It is a pleasure to speak in today's debate. Like other hon. Members, I noted from the front page of the Observer on Sunday that the service chiefs do not have confidence in the Ministers at the Ministry of Defence, and in that they are two short steps behind the British public.
If Ministers are organising a debate with political overtones, I congratulate them. Defence, like all other aspects of Government, requires political decision-making. However, I am sceptical about that. That is not because the Minister of State wants a peace dividend—far from it. This is another exercise in saving money to save the Government's neck on the poll tax. The Government have to find money in any way possible before the next election, and all Departments are included.
Like other hon. Members, I warn the Government that in paragraph 2.6 of its latest report the Select Committee on Defence said: 846It is essential that any changes in defence expenditure reflect a planned and orderly process of matching commitments and resources.Service personnel and everyone else are owed that. Ministers should go about their review on that basis, not simply to save a few bob to save their necks at the general election.
The White Paper fails to appreciate the scale of the changes and the challenges involved. I was unable to be present yesterday, but I saw from Hansard that hon. Members said that we should have another White Paper in the autumn to reflect the prevailing situation. I heartily endorse such comments.
At the weekend I was reading a book by Robert McNamara, a former American Defence Secretary, entitled "Out of the Cold". I recommend it to the Secretary of State and his Ministers. He referred to a time in June 1963, which is relevant to today, when President Kennedy delivered an address at the American university in Washington DC when he said:History teaches that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors … We are both"—east and west—devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other and new weapons beget counterweapons … We must, therefore, persevere in the search for peace in the hope that constructive changes within the Communist bloc might bring within reach solutions which now seem beyond us. We must conduct our affairs in such a way that it becomes in the Communists' interest to agree on a genuine peace.Six weeks later, on 25 July 1963, the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain signed the limited test ban treaty and agreed not to test nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, under water or in space. That historic speech by the President of America set the climate for change and for progress in the arms race. We are at the same stage today. Such a climate could be set by the Secretary of State for Defence and the Government. But instead we get the same old rhetoric, chewed up, and we get the sort of abuse—that is all that I can call it—that we heard from the Minister of State at the Dispatch Box today. At a time of great historic change the Minister can do no more than abuse the Labour party. The defence estimates are the Government's responsibility, but they have done nothing to create a climate for change.
There may be a similarity between the Government's approach and that of President Reagan in 1980–88. During those eight years, $2.4 trillion was spent on defence. Notwithstanding the comments of three or four former Secretaries for Defence, including McNamara, McGeorge Bundy and others, President Reagan decided to go ahead and spend that massive sum. What did he do? Some may say that he brought the cold war to an end. Why? Because he brought the Russians to their knees. It took a leader such as Gorbachev to say, "Wait a minute. Where are we going from here? Can we afford to go further?" When Gorbachev witnessed his people in poverty and despair he said that enough was enough. That is where President Reagan and the other cold war warriors have got us to today.
§ Mr. Michael Jack (Flyde)
Will the hon. Gentleman respond to the comment of my right hon. Friend the 847 Secretary of State for Defence yesterday when he pointed out to the House that one new nuclear submarine was being launched every six weeks in the Soviet Union and two aircraft, six tanks and one missile are produced every day?
§ Mr. McFall
I do not want to take up too much time by replying to the hon. Gentleman; I am told that he has only just come into the Chamber.
I remember the evidence that was given many months ago to the United States Senate concerning increased expenditure in the Soviet Union. Five months later, the CIA admitted that that information was wrong and that Soviet military expenditure was decreasing. We are talking about a climate for change; perhaps if the hon. Gentleman listens he will learn something.
In the Soviet Union in the 1960s the growth rate was 6 per cent.; in the 1970s it was 4 per cent.; in the early 1980s, it was 2 per cent. However, in the last few years it has been stagnant. I understand that next year economic Ministers in the Soviet Union are budgeting for famine in some areas. Do the hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) and his hon. Friends think that the Soviet Union is genuine in its attempts to demilitarise and reduce its expenditure budget? If not, they are out of step with public opinion, as most people believe that the Soviet Union is making genuine attempts—President Gorbachev has certainly done so. The Prime Minister says that Gorbachev is genuine, but one is entitled to ask whether the Prime Minister is genuine.
In "Perestroika," Gorbachev spoke of a society in crisis. In Paul Kennedy's book "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers", his thesis was that, as the security commitments and economic strengths of the great powers move out of balance, those powers fall into decline. We must recognise that that is what is happening in the Soviet Union today, and adopt a magnanimous and generous approach. Although it is difficult to conceive of new patterns of relations, there is no doubt that the old threat structure is gone. Hardliners such as Richard Perle can now go to the Senate's armed services committee and say that there is no longer such a thing as the Warsaw pact.
As a member of the Defence Select Committee, I was in Vienna at the conventional forces in Europe talks only a month ago. We spoke to representatives of the eastern European countries—from the Warsaw pact. After speaking to them, I am in no doubt that there is no such thing as concerted action from the Warsaw pact countries. East Germany is the strongest force in those countries. It once had a standing army of 170,000, but that has now been reduced to 70,000, and it is witnessing daily desertions.
If, as some Conservative Members have suggested, a hardline authority could depose President Gorbachev, where does that leave us? In March 1990, the director of the CIA told the Senate's armed services committee that there was little chance that the Soviet hegemony would be restored in eastern Europe. It would be preoccupied with its own internal problems.
In his opening remarks, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said that much had changed, but much was yet to change. What is yet to change is the Government's attitude. I hope that we can look forward to a Defence White Paper in the autumn that will show that their attitude has changed, and that they have caught up with reality.
§ Sir Michael Marshall (Arundel)
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), who I know takes a keen interest in these matters in the Select Committee on Defence.
I wish not only to recognise the opportunities that the defence review provides, but to turn to the problems—and, hopefully, some of the solutions—that we can explore. I have a background and an interest in industry and I take this opportunity to remind the House of my long-standing interest in British Aerospace. With the convergence of civil and military matters, further opportunities are being opened up for companies with which I am associated, if only on the fringe. Those companies are listed in the Register of Members' Interests.
Clearly, the British Aerospace decision on Tornadoes overshadowed yesterday's speeches. It is unnecessary for me to produce further arguments today—the existing arguments speak for themselves, and the problem relating to jobs at Wharton is plain. I do not speak only for British Aerospace—the problem goes far wider. As my hon. Friends will recognise, avionics manufacturers all over the country will now face severe difficulties. For instance, the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) was right to point out yesterday that the decision on Challenger 2 had important long-term implications for Leeds and Newcastle. I wonder how much my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces can tell us—his reply may have been foreshadowed by the Secretary of State—about the thinking process that must be involved in further decisions. Many hon. Members will no doubt pursue points of detail because of their various constituency interests.
One of the most obvious needs is the need to reflect the current inflation position. I pay tribute to the Defence Select Committee—on which I had the privilege to serve for five years—for rightly putting that in a context that causes continuing concern. The Secretary of State was right to emphasise in his opening remarks that there should be no turning on or off of the defence tap. The 10 to 15-year cycle for high technology equipment is, I think, well understood by all hon. Members participating in the debate. I express my appreciation to my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement for what I took to be reaffirmation of the long-term future of the European fighter aircraft, both in his comments in the House and in his talk to the Royal Aeronautical Society.
We should remind ourselves of the substantial level of research and development commitment throughout the defence industrial structure. That has an impact on jobs, training and, above all, education. British Aerospace, for example, is recruiting 1,000 graduates a year. Much of that is predicated on what has previously been seen as a long-term, relatively stable programme of defence commitment. All hon. Members must recognise the challenges presented to British Aerospace, and to other companies seeking to diversify. Huge investments are involved—for example, £500 million in the Honda-Rover partnership. There are cumulative pressures, not only on defence, but in other areas, which could have a vital effect on the country's largest exporter.
There will also be an effect on British service personnel and those working within the Ministry of Defence. I pay tribute, as others have done, to the great dedication of those who serve us, and who embark on their careers 849 assuming that they have a long-term future. A defence review means uncertainty and worry about their own long-term plans.
Will my hon. Friend the Minister and his Department bend their collective mind to the privatisation of a whole range of services currently carried out within the armed services and the Ministry of Defence? I remind my hon. Friend of the contacts that I have had in the past as the chairman of the information technology committee, and draw a comparison with the Defence Department in the United States, which contracts out substantial amounts of in-service activity within military units. The reaction from within the traditional structure of the Ministry of Defence has not been encouraging and there has been a tendency to use security as an excuse for not pursuing further developments. I hope that Ministers will give serious thought to that as the American experience shows that contracting out brings greater flexibility. A substantial defence establishment creates special difficulties in the process of change. Nimrod and other long-term procurement programmes often experience difficulties because they seem to become locked in to reinforcing their own failures. That could be tackled if much of the procurement process was contracted out. I therefore ask Ministers to be bold and imaginative.
We must examine the political dimensions in the context of the Inter-Parliamentary Union's links with parliamentarians from the Soviet Union, and from central and eastern Europe. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have been involved in that process in recent weeks. Some of our thinking on these matters was perhaps brought to a head at the IPU conference on disarmament held in Bonn last month, which was attended by the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill). I am bound to say, if it does not embarrass him unduly, that he gave a sparkling performance which was in some contrast to the inhibitions that he feels when he gets back home. He was ably supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Bruce) who acted as rapporteur. Many important considerations were discussed at that conference, at which 61 countries were represented.
My overwhelming impression was how much the issue with which we are now concerned has become a common problem throughout the European family. One of the highlights of that gathering was hearing the views of Colonel General Chervov, the head of the directorate of Soviet chiefs of staff, and Mr. Novozhilov, the deputy on the Supreme Soviet committee who also happens to be head of Ilyushin aircraft, who made the same point about the time lag of decades in the so-called peace dividend and said that they would need to think about the manpower implications for the Russian forces in East Germany and throughout Russia, the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to take every opportunity to seek international agreement in trying to resolve those problems. I highlight only the confidence and security building measures such as the opening up of military budgets to wider scrutiny. I emphasise the real opportunity that verification provides, with converging civil and military technology, to use space activities through the European Space Agency and through our own expertise in remote sensing at RAE Farnborough to bring together shared information, technology and job creation.
850 I urge my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, when he speaks to the parliamentary space committee tomorrow on defence aspects of space, to bend his mind seriously to those problems. I know that there are difficulties about resolution, but there are ways ahead.
That brings me to my final suggestion for international agreement on military redeployment. We should examine the way which we can use our military for international disaster relief activities. I remind the House that this is the United Nations decade of international disaster relief. The estimates before us remind us of the work done by our own military in relation to the storms in Britain earlier this year and the activities that our forces have undertaken overseas in many challenging situations. I do not in any way sell those achievements short, but with the perennial problems of flooding in Bangladesh and the famines in vast drought-affected areas of Africa, surely the coming together of international military resources, communications, transport and medical supply provide a real chance for us to share that knowledge and expertise. If we can begin to work in that direction—a conference in London on 13 July will seek to take the matter further, and many right hon. and hon. Members are involved—we can look for genuine peace dividends from which we can all benefit.
§ Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)
I have now been in the House for seven years, and in that time I have listened to most of the defence debates and taken part in at least half of them. From that standpoint I must express my regret that I missed yesterday's debate. I tried to make up for that involuntary absence by reading the Official Report today.
My second regret is what I have heard this afternoon. I regret that we are wasting an opportunity and that so much time should have been frittered away on old, partisan, party political bickering among hon. Members on both sides of the House, but principally from the Government, who cannot find the old hacking horses that they have used in previous debates. It was quite pathetic to hear it today in technicolour, panoramic and melodramatic form from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. The Minister displayed the degree to which the Government are bereft of any insight into the current situation.
As I tried to point out to the Minister, circumstances have changed so dramatically and rapidly in the 12 months that no one anywhere knows exactly where we stand. We would be spending our time better trying to collect our wisdom and analysing collectively, not only in the interests of our nation and in the European interests, but in the broader interest of humanity, how best to resolve the situation. The current instability gives us an opportunity that we should be seizing with both hands. We have the opportunity to extend the hand of assistance, which I have mentioned on more than one occasion. I referred to it on the occasion when I spoke from the Dispatch Box. If we do not extend the hand of support and help to Mikhail Gorbachev, we must take the consequences that must follow that denial.
My time is limited, so I shall confine myself to two aspects of our present stance. The Minister made a sideways and somewhat disparaging reference to the Labour party's references to flexible response. Let me explain the situation as I see it as a humble Back-Bench 851 Labour Member. What is a flexible response? For those who are uninitiated in the jargon of NATO, "flexible response" is a euphemism for fighting a conventional war for about five days and then, finding oneself losing, claiming the right to nuke the attacker. In other words, we can say to an aggressor, "If you are beating us with conventional weapons, we can nuke you." Of course I do not mean you, Mr. Speaker: I mean the Soviet bloc.
How has flexible response changed in the past 12 months? We have had negotiations on reductions in conventional weaponry. The agreed levels of conventional arms established ceilings that we could not reach, so we do not have to make any reductions. If we had met all our NATO commitments to the full, we should now be in a position of great strength. We are in a measurably stronger position now than we have been in the past. According to current assessments, we could withstand conventional attack for much longer than five days, so why do we need a flexible response?
I recently had the privilege of visiting the United States and attending talks with representatives of their Defence Department, their Foreign Affairs Department and their National Security Council. It appears that the United States no longer believes that "flexible response" means what it meant in the past. It was stated by those agencies and by the think tank known as the Rand Corporation that the United States will have to find another definition of "flexible response". Possibly they will retain the same expression but work out a different definition. They are already thinking along lines that are not yet being considered by our own Government, as appeared from the Minister's speech today.
I want now to move from the questions that surround that flexible response and what the Government may have in mind, remembering that they will shortly he meeting senior American representatives, and to go on to the concept of first use. Behind the flexible response there has always been NATO's position that, despite commitments from the Soviet bloc that it would not engage in the first use of nuclear weapons, we reserve the right, in answer to conventional, biochemical or chemical supremacy or to nuclear attack, to choose the time to use our nuclear weapons.
I see that the Minister is listening carefully and I thank him for that. I want to point out to him the danger of holding on to the first use concept. At this time, above all, for us to retain the concept of first use in the prospect of any kind of supremacy, whether biological, conventional or chemical, opens the door—and other speakers have said this, but I want to emphasise it—for any international headbanger to justify the possession of nuclear weapons. We should be creating a climate in which—to use an Americanism which I do not like but which is commonly used—we burn down nuclear stockpiles, provide a reason for the non-possession of nuclear weapons and remove ally kind of justifiable excuse on which anyone may seize to persuade an electorate that their country should acquire nuclear weapons in the future.
At a time when the Soviet bloc, which has always been held up as a great threat, is gladly, willingly and, in some instances, unilaterally throwing its weapons away at a rate of knots and reducing its nuclear stockpile at a speed that is positively dazzling, how can the Government justify to the British electorate considering increasing our nuclear weaponry and improving the means of delivery? How can the British electorate understand that and, which is more 852 important, how can the electorates of the nations that are our allies on the continent accept that when we enter the present round of disarmament? I shall be looking for the answers to those questions in the Minister's winding-up speech tonight.
§ 7.2 pm
§ Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)
It was 50 years ago yesterday in this place that Winston Churchill, referring to Adolf Hitler, said:If we are to stand up to him all Europe may be free, and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands".—[Official Report, 18 June 1940; Vol. 362, c. 60.]That was a famous speech by Winston Churchill and it has some relevance to our debate today on these important defence estimates. In many respects, we have been standing up to the Soviet bear for the past 40 years.
For the first time in a generation, we are beginning to see the peace dividend. That dividend is the reduction in tension, which has been brought about not by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, but by the tough stand taken by successive Conservative Governments in Britain and by the NATO alliance. That dividend has been achieved despite the unremitting hostility of the Labour party to all this Government's tough policies. I make no apology to the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) in saying that. There is a difference of view between the Government and the Opposition and it is important that such differences are thrashed out.
Yesterday the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) was frank enough to admit that the attractiveness of past calls for defence cuts may have been exaggerated and that the Opposition's posture then was unsustainable. However, he seemed to say, "Don't worry, chaps. It is a sustainable posture now." The Labour party has continually resisted the tough measures that have brought about the peace dividend.
It can reasonably be said that investment by the countries of the NATO alliance in the defence of those countries has led to the "broad, sunlit" conditions that are beginning to be experienced in Europe. That is an exciting prospect. I rejoice wholeheartedly in the rejection of socialism everywhere in Europe, except in Bulgaria and on the Opposition Benches. However, it is important that we are not lulled into a false sense of security.
Throughout my lifetime I have lived with one certainty the certainty of the iron curtain. To the left was good—that was us—and on the other side were the baddies—the communists. That balance of terror and that certainty have, in many respects, kept the peace in Europe for the past 40 years. As a child, I lived in Germany and I lived nearer the iron curtain than, I suspect, most hon. Members have done. I spent eight years in Germany and I was there as a child when the Berlin wall was built. I shall never forget the building of that wall, nor the dramatic division between our two systems which the wall exemplified. Equally, its destruction exemplified the removal in part of the tyranny that has been exercised over the peoples of eastern Europe for the past 45 years.
I welcome the collapse of the communist system, but we are undoubtedly moving into uncertain times. The balance of terror, which undoubtedly caused tension, nevertheless kept the peace. We are now moving into a period of great uncertainty. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) hit the nail on the head when he referred to the myriad changes taking place and the dangers that they 853 represent. We need think only of events in Romania and the collapse of the Soviet empire. The real question is how long-standing are the changes now taking place in eastern Europe. I do not believe that we can yet determine what the pattern of eastern Europe will be, let alone how long Mr. Gorbachev will last and whether he will be replaced by Mr. Yeltsin or someone else. Ultimately, it is capabilities and not intentions that count.
As we know, the capabilities of the Soviet Union are substantially greater than ours. Their main battle tanks outnumber ours by 49,500 to 24,000—twice as many. It has 42,500 artillery pieces against 18,000 in NATO. It has 11,600 combat aircraft against 6,000. There are 4 million in the armed forces in the Warsaw pact countries and 3 million in NATO. Those are the facts of the capabilities. The hon. Member for Stockton, North is entitled to feel a certain degree of euphoria, which is felt by all of us in the nation, about the changes taking place. However, in the face of the evidence of the capabilities, we are simply not in a position to beat all our swords into ploughshares. As Lieutenant General Horst Jungkurth, the Luftwaffe chief of staff, has said:Even after the force reductions, the Soviet Union will remain the strongest military power in Europe.Forty per cent. of all expenditure on defence goes on procurement. I welcome the decision to proceed with the EH101 Merlin with the Rolls-Royce RTM322 engine. That is excellent news not only for that company, but for the prospects for anti-submarine warfare operations. I hope that consideration will be given to looking at the versatile air mobile variant for the battlefield.
On the European fighter aircraft, we need a new replacement aircraft for the aging F4J Phantoms and for the Jaguars. There are a number of reasons why the European fighter aircraft should go ahead. First, we would be building on a most successful collaboration with our European partners, notably the Tornado. Secondly, Soviet capabilities warrant our adoption of the EFA. The SU27 and the Mig 29 have taken the west by surprise by their sophistication and their capabilities. That point was made by a number of Opposition Members.
The Soviet Union has much more sophisticated kit than hitherto. It is vital, if taxpayers' money is to be spent on the defence of the realm, to make sure that we do not play at it but that we provide our services with the appropriate equipment to meet the threat. The EFA meets that requirement. In the strategic sense, in this of all years—the 50th anniversary of the battle of Britain—we must not forget the lesson of the importance of air superiority. The EFA will serve that purpose.
Many hon. Members have paid tribute to the many and various roles which service personnel perform while defending our nation, this Parliament, free speech, all our institutions and everything that we stand for, but nobody has yet paid tribute to British industry. I pay tribute to those who build the equipment that provides the wherewithal to enable our forces to defend us and to ensure that we enjoy the peace. The defence estimates are presented in an admirable form; they can be easily understood not just by aficionados of military matters but by the general public. They illustrate the enormous success of British industry.
Military imports amounted to £672 million last year compared with exports of £2,408 million. The nation can 854 take pride in British manufacturing industry's proud record. The efforts of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister are to be commended.
There is a window at the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby that is an admirable illustration of the point. It is dedicated to the battle of Britain pilots who turned the work of our hands into the salvation of our country. The performance of British industry has done that in the past 40 years.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)
Order. Regrettably, the hon. Gentleman has had his time. He must bring his speech to a close.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
It is not my intention to follow the line taken by the hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth). I was most intrigued by the remarks of the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks). He wanted a vigorous debate but he did not stay long enough to participate in it. I intended to take up some of the points that he made on the strategic deterrent.
There is a maternity hospital in my constituency. It is not very often that male Members of Parliament visit such establishments, but I had the opportunity to do so last week. I reflected on the great advances that have been made in medical science, yet it is still a struggle for a baby to be born. That has to be contrasted with all the effort and energy that is devoted to killing human beings.
We cannot anticipate what will happen tomorrow, or even today. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) summed it up by saying that as we have lost an enemy we are now struggling to find a role for all the military equipment that we have marshalled over the years in anticipation of the monolithic structure of the Warsaw pact breaking through in central Europe and NATO having to deploy inadequate conventional forces, resulting in our acceptance of the doctrine of flexible response, so characteristically described by the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook). That threat no longer exists.
With hindsight, we can analyse the reasons why this is happening. We do not hear a great deal about the strategic defence initiative, or about Chernobyl. One of the most significant features in President Gorbachev's altered attitude is the fact that acres and acres of the Soviet union's soil are still unusable. Scotland and Wales also have acres and acres of soil that are still unusable. President Gorbachev saw the futility of embarking on a nuclear war that could not be won. That was a breakthrough in Soviet mentality—no longer the arrogance of, "We will bury you", because a nuclear war would kill us all.
Competition in arms procurement and arms producion between the United States and the Soviet Union has ceased; if not reversed, it has certainly been halted. That is significant because those two super-powers have realised the stupidity of continuing to compete and produce weaponry so preposterous in its magnitude as to annihilate the whole human race.
I am not being nasty when I challenge the Ministry of Defence to explain what is meant by "Options for Change". The Minister of State for the Armed Forces explained the background to his thinking which seems to be that the Warsaw pact is disintegrating. There are real prospects of no role for CFE. Should we deploy 855 short-range nuclear weapons and not give them up? Some think that air-launched nuclear missiles should no longer be deployed in Germany. We want to keep NATO in place for stability, but it will be a different NATO with a political, not necessarily a military, thrust.
The one certainty, it is argued, is that we must remain a strategic nuclear power. I cannot grasp that. The argument is that Britain must remain a strategic nuclear power because we have unique responsibilities in the world. Many hon. Members have made that point, but I fail to grasp it. I accepted, perhaps naively or wrongly, up to Polaris that we should continue to be a nuclear power because it was there and would be difficult to get rid of. When I stood as a Labour candidate in the election campaign I said that we should decommission Polaris. We now have a unique opportunity to say that enough is enough, because the first Trident will not be commissioned and in service until the mid-1990s, or late 1994. We do not know the exact terminology—perhaps the Minister will make it clearer in his reply—but we know that President Bush has said, "Whatever you do, do not say anything in your discussions with the Soviet Union about our 'commitment' to provide the D5 missiles because we do not want that muddying the waters." It is extremely doubtful whether, in the context of strategic arms reductions, the United States would feel obliged to continue the Polaris-type arrangements and agreements and to give the United Kingdom D5s—either to use in future discussions or at all.
That would pose a particular problem for an incoming Labour Government. I am not now privy to the Labour party's defence proposals; the House may be surprised to learn that I was never really privy to them. But, as I understand the Labour party's policy, it is proposed that we should have only three Trident-type boats, despite the view expressed yesterday by the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert) that four was the minimum. But the Labour party, in its wisdom, now says that we should have three. In mid-1994—perhaps at the end of 1993—the boats will be sailed over and the Labour Government will say to the United States Government, "Please can we now have 16 D5s?" The Labour party thinks that the United States will give us those D5s for use in the negotiations. That is an absurd proposition, and it will not hold water.
I have a constituency interest in the matter. I welcome the great breakthrough—perhaps not as great as all that—that the proposal to establish a defence diversification agency represents. I do not know what the blazes that means in terms of the new-found supply-side socialist economics of the Labour party; perhaps someone will tell me. But I welcome the thought process, and I will tell the Government why: the market does not apply in the procurement of defence equipment. The Government call defence equipment into being because of their strategic tactical requirements. They cannot then say, "Let the market solve the problem" when they cancel orders or hold up repayments. That cannot be done, and it certainly cannot be done in the dockyards. It could not be done at Vickers, which is essentially a one-product yard. If anyone—even Lord Chalfont—thinks that they are going to build frigates and destroyers at Vickers, he must be stoned out of his tiny head because the overheads would kill it. They might he built at Cammell's, although I do not have time to go into the details.
856 The Government cannot stand back from this one. Whatever emerges from "Options for Change", those who have been praised by the hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood—or Cannock and British industry—are entitled to know what the Government propose to do to support them, particularly in Scotland. What discussions will they have with Scottish Enterprise? I do not think very much of that organisation, but it is a Government organisation. In Fife, in particular, where we depend heavily on the defence industry, it is essential that the Government should not stand back and say, "Let the market solve the problem." That will not be good enough. If they say that, all hell will be let loose. We have a fight on for Ravenscraig just now. And what a fight the Government will have on their hands if they stand back and let the dockyards and other defence-related industries in Fife go to the wall because of their incompetence.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
It is always interesting to follow the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas). No one doubts that he has always had a view on defence matters different from that of many of his Front-Bench colleagues—a view that has often been more realistic than the views of his Front-Bench team.
I found the earlier comments about the peace dividend extremely interesting. To my generation, the peace dividend meant not having wars. In 1945, we were determined that never again should there be a war in Europe. That is, and has been, the peace dividend that has resulted from action taken by successive Governments and by NATO.
The changes in Europe and the USSR, and instability in the middle east and elsewhere, present dangers, new challenges and opportunities. No doubt advice on how to deal with the new circumstances will be coming to the Government from all quarters. I shall refer briefly to only one of the many pieces of advice that I have read recently. It appeared in one of the national daily newspapers and was written by a distinguished former serving officer, Lord Carver. He referred to an old chestnut of his, saying that the Air Force was a temporary development in the evolution of war capability and equipment. In this year of the 50th anniversary of the battle of Britain, we must be glad indeed of that temporary development. I trust that the old chestnut will be treated with interest, as in the past, and ignored.
The House will know of my interest in this matter, which I must now declare: I am still a serving officer in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. It will not surprise the House, therefore, to learn that I propose to spend much of my time talking about Air Force matters.
Low flying is, and will remain, a matter of considerable interest to Ministers. Let me put my position on the line. I support the need for low flying. Royal Air Force pilots must never be asked to go into operational conditions in which they are not equipped to deal with enemy radar and to get beneath it and the surface-to-air missile capability.
The changes in eastern Europe have presented us with a new opportunity. The warning time has now increased, although I would not like to say whether it is now four, five or six weeks. Is it not now time to consider how long it would take pilots to progress from 500 ft, if that was the height at which they were carrying out their sorties, down to the operational level required for action? In my view, we 857 should keep a small number of squadrons at low-level capability all the time, as they might have to be deployed at 48 hours' notice. But the remainder of the Royal Air Force now needs to have an adaptable capability. I wonder how many weeks it would take to train down from 500 ft to the operational levels that would be required. I say that as a former member of the sixth squadron, which was the first of the tank-busting Royal Air Force squadrons.
§ Mr. Walker
Yes. I served in sixth squadron many years ago—no doubt before the hon. Gentleman had an interest in these matters.
Let me deal now with the subject of search and rescue. The replacement of the Wessex helicopters is now overdue and I hope that they will soon be replaced with Sea Kings, particularly at RAF Leuchars, the station that serves my constituency. We are most grateful for the splendid job that the station does year in, year out. I was pleased to hear what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said yesterday about United Kingdom air defence. In the final analysis, if we cannot defend the skies over these islands, these islands cannot be defended. That is why the European fighter aircraft will become increasingly important and why I was pleased by the statement made yesterday about EFA.
I come now to a subject that has meant much to me for most of my adult life, the reserve and auxiliary forces. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), the inspector-general of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, is not with us because his interest in this and mine have coincided for many years. The reserve forces should be manned by individuals who have volunteered, but all those engaged in regular engagements should, as a matter of course, have included in their commitments a commitment to volunteer reserve and reserve forces activity until retirement age. Many people to whom I have spoken would be delighted to carry out those duties. That is particularly true of many former fast jet pilots who are now flying with airlines.
I now refer to the need for an out-of-area capability. We will need an air mobile force that is linked with amphibious forces which can intervene with great mobility and adequate fire power to be able to concentrate on areas in which the unexpected happens. Whatever may be said, most incidents occur unexpectedly. The most recent that we can think of is the Falklands incident.
Hon. Members properly spend much time talking about equipment, yet our most valuable asset must be the people. The Royal Air Force has always recruited from all socio-economic groups. The ability to do the job was what mattered. With demographic changes and competition for suitable candidates, the regular reserve and the auxiliary air force will find themselves increasingly competing. That will make air cadets become more important. An in-depth review of the future role of the air cadets is now required. The Taylor report of about 30 years ago is no longer relevant.
My hon. Friend will be aware of problems in recruiting and retaining Royal Air Force RO staff at headquarters air cadets, which are very much under strength. The present regional structure of the air cadets and the need to justify the appointment of regional commandants must also be 858 examined. Relations between air cadets and volunteer and auxiliary units, together with the responsibility and functions of the Air Cadet Council, should be examined in depth. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will say whether my fears about the future of the flying scholarship scheme are well founded.
There is much more that I would have wished to say but could not because of the time limit on speeches. I have concentrated narrowly on matters in which I have direct responsibility in my duties as a volunteer reserve officer, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will understand that.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
With one or two depressing exceptions, mainly on the Conservative side of the House, the theme of the debate has been one of turning swords into ploughshares. I fear that I am bucking the trend, having left my former Front Bench agriculture position to take up a place on the Defence Select Committee. However, I welcome this opportunity to make some comments on the estimates and on the future options for defence at this turning point in European and global history.
I have the incalculable personal privilege of being a member of what is probably the first generation of Scots ever to have been spared the horror of going to war. I am grateful for that, and I want my sons, and children throughout the world, to enjoy the benefits of peace and stability.
Some people say that the 40 years of stability are entirely attributable to nuclear deterrence. It has certainly been a factor. There has also been a perverse form of stability in inherent super-power confrontation. An iron curtain can pose fewer risks than a broken fence. I have already indicated that I have never been in uniform, but there is more than enough military tradition in my family and in my constituency for me to appreciate the value and importance of the armed forces and the regimental structure to which reference has been made. I hope that we have learnt enough from history to understand the importance of being prepared to meet threats. Perhaps the most recent example of the high price of ill-considered defence cuts is the saga of the Falklands invasion.
The question today is how best to adjust our defence priorities to maintain effective security in Europe and elsewhere while releasing as much as possible of the defence budget for alternative investment in our society and our economy. We should pursue that principle nationally and internationally. Indeed, that must be the key issue of the decade. If we get it right we shall achieve a great deal, but if we get it wrong we could set the scene for another era of conflict in the future. In that sense, our deliberations are crucial.
As a simple Scottish farmer turned politician, with the limited authority of just two weeks on the Defence Select Committee, I shall not have the effrontery to make specific proposals for changes in defence strategies and budgets, but I shall demand a properly informed public debate involving all those who should be consulted before major decisions are made. Clearly, a Government defence review is under way, but I do not think that the current Mutt and Jeff act between the Secretary of State and the Minister of 859 State for Defence Procurement should be regarded as a proper way of conducting such a review. We need a proper review to be conducted in public.
I have read yesterday's debate and today's newspapers, and I see that the Minister of State has cancelled an order for 33 Tornadoes worth £600 million. That may be a good idea—it will certainly cause much rejoicing in my constituency because it will lead to a small reduction in low flying training—but it was not a considered decision. It is just another example of the shopping basket economics with which we have become familiar under the present Administration—if the wage packet is smaller than expected, one can do without light bulbs or mouse traps this week, but if one goes on like that all year one will end up in total darkness or overrun by rodents. That is no way to run a household, let alone manage the defence of the nation. The Select Committee on Defence has clearly said thatNothing could be more foolish. It is essential that any changes in defence expenditure reflect a planned and orderly process of matching commitments and resources. Arbitrary cash cuts, and deliberate attrition by inflation make prudent management of the defence budget next to impossible.The Government should heed that consideration.
By all means let us consider whether we need new aircraft or tanks, whether we can scale down the Rhine army, or even whether we can extricate ourselves from the Trident situation, but let us make such decisions in the course of a genuine national and international defence review. The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which includes all 35 European and north Atlantic countries, is an ideal framework within which to work towards that objective. We must take account of the consequences for the forces of changes in policies, rehousing members of the forces who may be demobilised, and finding alternative jobs for service men.
As a Lothian Member of Parliament with constituents who work for Ferranti—a further 550 job losses were announced yesterday—I make a strong plea for part of the savings made by defence cuts to be specifically earmarked for a diversification programme to help high-tech companies to develop new products and markets. I was pleased to hear the Minister of State give an assurance today that the EFA programme is safe at this stage.
As we approach the options for future defence plans, we must recognise the actual prospects for peace and conflict in future. Thank God the threat of super-power confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw pact has virtually disappeared. I say, "Thank God," but perhaps it would be more appropriate to thank Mr. Gorbachev. There are certainly no thanks to the British Prime Minister, who has been rattling sabres and modernising nuclear weapons while other Governments have striven to reduce risks and threats. But every silver lining has a cloud, and the collapse of Soviet central authority is creating a vacuum with new risks of regional strife.
Those of us who remember our lessons at school about the collapse of the Ottoman empire and the "sick man of Europe" will recall that just such a power vacuum in the Balkans set the scene for the first world war and that places such as Moldavia and Serbia, which are again figuring in the headlines, featured very prominently in that mayhem. There are still festering racial and national problems in eastern Europe, and it would be wise for any European security framework to include a capacity to contain such problems. We in this country have experience of that kind 860 with our role in Northern Ireland. There is also Europe's southern flank and the interface with the middle east. Finally, we must remember Britain's wider residual responsibilities in other parts of the world, and our ability to support the United Nations and to render assistance after natural disasters.
Those are the areas on which we should concentrate our military attention beyond our own shores in the foreseeable future. It is difficult to imagine what possible role a Trident force could have in any of the scenarios that I have described. Although I accept that nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented, I take Enoch Powell's view that British nuclear weapons have about as much deterrent credibility as a threat of national suicide. We would be wise to take advantage of the new circumstances prevailing in Europe and in the world to achieve a genuine multilateral reduction in nuclear weapons—which is now genuinely feasible, thank goodness.
We have unprecedented opportunities to reduce the risk of conflict and to take advantage of substantial savings, but there will still be an important role for well-trained, well-equipped, highly flexible and highly mobile land, sea and air forces, committed to co-operating with our European neighbours. Those should he the objectives of the defence review. I hope that we can establish a consensus in our country to achieve those objectives.
§ Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)
Before referring to the defence estimates, I should like to say a few words about the decision not to proceed with the eighth batch of Tornado. Obviously, that has significance for the north-west, but it also has great significance for the future of the whole Tornado programme. Production will end in another two or three years unless more orders are placed either by our Government or by other states. That point needs to be made because otherwise there will be a gap between the end of Tornado production and the build-up of European fighter aircraft production.
I regret that decision, not only because of its effect on jobs in Lancashire, but because I am not clear why the decision was made. Was it to reduce pressure on the defence budget this year? As I understand it, the aircraft that would have been ordered would not have been part of this year's defence budget, but would largely have been paid for in the future. Is it part of a much more long-term plan to reduce the number of combat aircraft available to the Air Force? Was the decision taken after full consultation and agreement with the Air Force board? I should especially like to know what commitment the original batch of aircraft was ordered to meet because the cancellation suggests that that commitment is no longer necessary. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State could mention some of those points when he replies to the debate or write to me later about them.
Having said that, I am pleased to note that at the same time as that decision was announced last night, it was made clear that the Government are still firmly committed to the European fighter aircraft. That commitment is vital if we are to maintain our present level of technology in that area of aviation. I wish—and still hope—that Opposition Members, and especially the official spokesmen of the 861 Labour party, would fully commit the Labour party to the EFA programme because of its effect on our technological base in Lancashire.
Many hon. Members have referred to the change in the political climate since our previous debate on the defence estimates and many hon. Members have referred to cashing in the peace dividend. All that I would say is that we should not cash in that dividend prematurely. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear that the Soviet Union still has a vast array of weaponry and, if anything, the technology of that weaponry has increased from a year or two ago. It would be a mistake if we cashed in the peace dividend now before we have achieved the force reductions in both NATO and the Warsaw pact which will mean that we can all live in security with lower arms expenditure.
Although I believe that it would be wrong to cash in the peace dividend now, it is none the less worth planning for that future. In so doing, we must first have a clear idea of the threat that we shall be facing in 10 or 15 years—if there is a threat. We also need to know our country's commitment in terms of military hardware. Following that discussion of commitments, we must consider the size of our armed forces and the levels and types of equipment. I believe that the consideration must be made in that order, not the other way round. It is wrong to cut weapons procurement before deciding on the commitments of one's armed services because one may have to scramble around, after cutting the weapons systems, to try to ascertain how one's present weapons and service men could best meet the commitments foisted on them. Again and again during the past 30 years, decisions on defence expenditure have been taken that way round instead of ensuring that we get our commitments right and follow that up with the necessary troop and equipment levels.
In that respect, the Tornado decision is very much a borderline one as it appears to put procurement decisions before those on commitment. However, it is important that we consider methods of reducing defence expenditure quickly other than cutting future procurement program-mes. We could consider reducing the numbers of existing aircraft so that we can continue to use the Tornado in the foreseeable future. Instead of cutting the eighth batch of Tornado aircraft, it might have been better to cut the Buccaneer force and to use Tornado in that role, or to replace the air reconnaissance variant of Jaguar. That would also have the advantage of simplifying the structure of the Air Force round fewer aircraft, rather than round a multiplicity of types. When there are only a few of each type of aircraft, a multiplicity of types leads to increased maintenance, servicing, manning and training costs. Any reorganisation of the three services should look at simplifying equipment levels because fewer types should mean considerable financial savings.
We now have a unique opportunity to look closely at the organisation of our armed services—t is possibly our only such opportunity for the next 20 or 30 years. In considering our new commitments, we should also consider our command structure and question whether we need the present number of people in it. Indeed, I would go a bit further: I believe that it would be worth looking at the rank structure of the three services. With the reduced numbers available to us in the future, is it really necessary 862 that the services are confined to a rank structure that has existed since just before the first world war? Perhaps we should opt for a simpler and more flexible structure, given that our future defence needs must be flexible.
We should also look more closely at ways of contracting out a little more of the hardware. Instead of buying all the equipment, there may be circumstances in which leasing could prove a more cost-effective way of running our armed services.
When we complete the review we shall have fewer service men. I hope that as a result of the way in which the review is carried out and the armed services are organised, those fewer service men will have modern up-to-date equipment and will not be left to man obsolete, old or antiquated equipment. In that respect it is even more important to take the route that I described simply because service men are going through difficult times generally and their future is uncertain. People in any organisation that is reducing in size want to know what their prospects are. It is vital for morale that we make certain that our armed services, even with smaller numbers of service men, have up-to-date equipment to fulfil the tasks for which we need them.
§ Dr. Dafydd Elis Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)
The hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) showed that there is support even among Conservative Members for a thorough-going defence review. His comments on procurement policy should be taken up by the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman. I wish to consider the issue as a whole and the need for us as Europeans to consider how we can redeploy our resources to create a more secure Europe for the future. I also wish to speak briefly on one issue of deployment which I like to call the "over-the-hill" radar station to be located in Pembrokeshire.
Europe is spending £450 billion per year on the so-called defence industries. Clearly, in these new times, we must seek to change the way in which we deploy our resources. The problem with debates such as this is that so often, as the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook) said, hon. Members begin their speeches by saying that changes are taking place but then rehearse the same old arguments.
The new context of political and military change in Europe requires new political, military and security thinking. In particular, we must move towards a way of thinking that demilitarises defence and leads us on to arguments about genuine security. We have a clear example of that before our very eyes. Within the European Community we now have a political structure in which states are integrated which were adversaries only a little earlier this century. No one believes any longer that we should solve inter-state conflicts in Europe by military means. We must think of a mechanism whereby we have a different conception of the relationship between the old blocs that used to divide Europe. We must demilitarise that relationship and create genuine security between previous members of the Warsaw pact and present members of NATO.
The old NATO argument was that the Warsaw pact had overwhelming conventional superiority, particularly in the central region of Europe. Now, with the changes that have taken place in Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, we could argue that the western side of the 863 central region has superiority. Therefore, as we move towards conventional forces reduction agreements in Europe, we must consider how we can move rapidly beyond that to further reductions and particularly to the reduction of short-range nuclear weapons on mainland Europe.
The new framework of the security community should be the CSCE. Even leading members of NATO such as the author of the NATO Harmel report have suggested ways in which we can adapt the CSCE process to make it a successor process to that of NATO.
It saddens me to hear hon. Members, particularly Conservative Members, regurgitate the old arguments for a NATO alliance which predate the changes of the past year. On this Bench we would argue for a way of taking the positive aspects of the European Community and NATO experience together into a strengthened European framework which would provide for genuine common security. That must include the Soviet Union. If not, we should have extended the equivalent of a NATO alliance to the very borders of the Soviet Union—or at least the current borders. Clearly that would be unacceptable to the Soviet Union. We need a broad, flexible framework. It should provide a flexible response—not in military terms—to the new security situation.
That leads me on to the detailed, local point that I wish to make. The attention of the House has already been drawn today to the proposed installation of a new radar station at St. Davids. I draw that again to the attention of the House because it is perhaps the last example of the old thinking. Through the great courtesy of the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, I have just received a copy of a memorandum of understanding of 28 April 1988. It was signed by the United States Government and the United Kingdom Government—the only Government whom St. Davids has, to date.
The fact that the document was signed two years ago shows clearly that the proposal for the radar station which includes the erection of a row half a mile long of 35 masts up to 135 ft. high in St. Davids belongs to the cold war period. It is not part of the forward thinking that we should now apply. I wish to ask several specific questions to which the Minister may respond either now or later in writing.
The Minister of State for Defence Procurement flew into St. Davids for a public meeting. On 16 May, the Western Telegraph, a reliable newspaper, reported that he gave the assurance:The Government will not use Crown immunity to force through the controversial 'over the horizon' radar project for St. Davids Airfield if the planning procedures go against the scheme.At Question Time today the Minister referred to the "exigencies" of the planning process. I should like him to repeat on the record in the House that there will be no attempt to override the planning process if it turns out that the planning authority, the Pembrokeshire coast national park, decides to reject the formal planning clearance notification and the environmental impact assessment report, which may be negative about the proposal. Will that be the end of the story? I shall wait to hear a response on that. Perhaps it will be clearer than the response that I obtained from the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman about whether the project would be cancelled if the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) became Minister of State for Defence Procurement.
864 There are strong environmental, political and military objections to the proposed radar station. I was struck by the statement made this afternoon by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement that the deployment was entirely defensive. Yet the military jargon of annex I of the memorandum of understanding refers to the trials and to "targets of opportunity". Clearly the intention of the radar would be to observe movements of ships, aircraft and other vessels in the Norwegian area of the northern Atlantic.
Although the Minister denied that the deployment will have any offensive capability, it must be seen in the context of the other two similar stations which are being deployed by the United States military. Radar stations are not part of NATO's activities. We are always grateful that it is possible to obtain information from the United States Congress that we cannot obtain easily here. The committee on appropriations of the House of Representatives held discussions on the issue. The record prepared for it shows that the radar station is not included in an approved category of NATO expenditure. It is not expected that it will become eligible, so there will be no NATO funding. But there will be 90 per cent. funding by the "host nation". The United Kingdom Treasury would pay at least 90 per cent. of the cost of the exercise while 10 per cent. would be borne by the United States.
If we are looking for short-term, immediate, painless defence cuts, obviously the cancellation of the memorandum of understanding—before it is cancelled, I hope, by the United States Congress and the House—would be warmly welcomed not only in St. Davids but throughout the United Kingdom. The MOD must realise that by taking on St. Davids it is taking on the historical and cultural traditions of Wales. It could not have chosen a worse site. I assure the Minister that the Church in Wales will be extremely militant on this issue.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak because I represent the constituency in which British Aerospace's military aircraft division has its headquarters. The House can imagine that the cancellation announced by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement of the eighth-batch order for the Tornado is a matter of considerable discussion and concern there.
No one would like to roll back the clock to try to stop the remarkable events of the past 12 months in eastern Europe and in other parts of the world where peace has truly broken out. We must be cautious, however, because although we have speedily endorsed the moves of President Gorbachev and our Prime Minister towards achieving that peace and rejoice in what has happened in eastern Europe, we must reflect on the fact that the so-called experts did not predict those events. We still look to those experts for our guidance, but they failed to predict those events and the speed with which they happened. The experts do not have a particularly good track record, but 865 achieving that peace and rejoice in what has happened in eastern Europe, we must reflect on the fact that the so-called experts did not predict those events. We still look to those experts for our guidance, but they failed to predict those events and the speed with which they happened. The experts do not have a particularly good track record, but it is they who must help us in the next few years to predict exactly what will happen in terms of security and defence in the European theatre and throughout the world.
The leader in today's edition of The Times reviewed the aftermath of the Tornado cancellation and discussed the defence review. It put forward a somewhat strange analysis. It declared in favour of peace and reductions in European defence systems. It said that we should not look for enemies and it praised the concept of flexibility, but it.
This morning the people of Lancashire felt that a bucket of cold water had been thrown over them as they woke up to the reality that cuts in our defence system have already started. It is worth noting that the many families who have given loyal service to our defence industries now accept the reality of what the changes in Europe will mean. I hope that Ministers will not forget the human dimension of the changes. Just as Conservative Members fought vigorously to secure orders for the defence industries, so we shall fight vigorously to help companies and individuals to resolve the problems that we now face.
The Departments of Trade and Industry and of Employment have various schemes designed to promote enterprise and to help areas which, from time to time, experience economic difficulties. The MOD should ensure that those schemes are mobilised as soon as possible to aid the process of diversification which companies such as British Aerospace have already begun to develop. Nobody should ignore the fact that British Aerospace anticipated, to some extent, the changes that have occurred. It has bought Rover and Ballast and Needham and diverted into leisure, construction and investments into new technology. It has made an excellent commitment to airbus and is developing new civil aviation business with the United States. They are all attempts to broaden the company's industrial base and maintain employment within it. Last night's announcement on Tornado, however, instead of assisting the smooth transition from one stage to another, has made that task more difficult.
People in Lancashire will reflect on history and I am sure that at the back of their minds is the TSR 2 project. I am sure that they appreciate that the cuts that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has imposed on the industry in the present circumstances are not in the same vein as the complete renegation of the TSR 2 project. At a time when a good British project had been developed, the Labour party dumped TSR 2 and that decision went very deep with the aviation folk of Lancashire. The Conservatives have a record of proud support of such projects and that will continue.
§ Mr. Jack
My hon. Friend has made a powerful point.
We shall continue to support our friends in Lancashire at this difficult time. British Aerospace is making progress towards diversification which makes Labour's conversion 866 agency look like a stale pork pie. We need to free enterprise and initiative in that company and throughout the defence industries. We need to maintain the aviation skills of Lancashire. The Government have the ability to assist that process and we shall support them.
§ Mr. Jack
If the hon. Gentleman had been listening earlier he would know that the answer lies in the mobilisation of the schemes and projects run by the Departments of Trade and Industry and of Employment. Recently I asked a question about take-up of the enterprise schemes and the employment initiatives. The hon. Gentleman should know that he will find the answer and the proof he needs in the Library.
This year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the battle of Britain. We should remember that that desperate situation arose as a result of a lack of preparedness. Whatever review is undertaken by my right hon. and hon. Friends at the MOD, I plead with them to ensure that they do not leave us unprepared. Our lack of ability to predict the future accurately makes it imperative that major defence projects, such as the European fighter aircraft, are maintained. Whatever type of defence system we procure for the land, sea or air, we must go for quality.
Our defence industries, including British Aerospace in my constituency, have a unique ability to join together complex systems to produce the best in the world of a particular type of equipment. Such technology and ability has found favour not only in this country and in Europe, but in wider export markets. I hope that that skills base will not be dissipated by further reviews.
Last night my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement spoke of the continual consultations that the MOD has had with British Aerospace on the cuts to the Tornado programme. People in my constituency have asked what specific consultations took place between the MOD and British Aerospace. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary could give us that answer either tonight or by letter. Did the MOD discuss the impact of the decision on the ability of British Aerospace to deal with future orders from Saudi Arabia and to maintain and fulfil its obligations to Italy? Those answers should be given before the capability to manufacture Tornado is dispensed with.
In common with my hon. Friends, I should like to know a little more about the criteria used to decide the way in which the defence review will be conducted. We seek an assurance from Ministers that they will properly assess the impact of the defence cuts on our industrial and technological base. We understand that we cannot stand in the way of peace, progress and security, but we want to make certain that any changes are properly managed because of the human dimension involved.
We in Britain must maintain a viable aerospace defence industry not only for home and European requirements but for the export potential that is involved. If we have piecemeal, salami-slice programmes for perhaps short-term economic reasons, that base will be put at risk in the long term.
Will the Minister be radical in his thinking? Has he considered, for example, privatising the work of maintenance facilities that is currently undertaken by the RAF, and flying training? The private sector could provide 867 those facilities at much reduced cost to the RAF. Likewise, the RAF support command—an expensive passenger aircraft system—could be put out to private concerns.
We appreciate that the size of the defence cake will be smaller, but will the Minister consider supporting private enterprise by redistributing the cake? Will he respond to newspaper articles about the EH 101? It has been suggested that companies such as British Aerospace will have an equal opportunity to bid for a share of the contracts. Questions of that sort must be answered.
I endorse the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) about the Tornado in relation to older types of aircraft. If ever there was an opportunity to economise on maintenance, we should have removed the old aircraft first and replaced them with an aircraft such as Tornado, which could have a 30-year life.
In that connection, will the Minister comment, either tonight or by letter, on the Tornado mid-life update? If the decision on the eighth batch is final, a mid-life update and a continual wringing out of benefits from the fundamental design of Tornado is crucial. It means updating the new data bus avionics system and consideration being given to the new weapons systems, the terrain reference radar and other modifications of important items. Workers in my constituency require the Minister's assurance that that programme will go ahead and that we can look forward to Tornado being in service in Europe into the next century.
I endorse all that has been said by my hon. Friends about the importance of the European fighter aircraft. The most telling remark that I have heard on the subject came from Group Captain Ned Frith, who was formerly involved with the armed services and the Ministry of Defence and who is now with British Aerospace. He said:If you have forces, you need an airforce. If you have an airforce, you need an air superiority fighter.There is no doubt that the European fighter aircraft is the finest available. Other hon. Members have referred to potential threats that it meets. It is a defensive aircraft without parallel and I hope that the Minister will endorse what has been said about the Government seeing the project through. If it does not go through with the four partner countries still participating, it will put at risk the whole question of European co-operation on future procurement projects. Whatever the shape of our armed forces, there will still be a need for such procurement activities.
Let us not overlook research and development. I am disturbed to see it said in paragraph 317 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates that the Government are committed to a reduction in defence research and development. Many fine projects are listed in the analysis of the major fields, but when I contrast paragraph 317 with paragraph 322, which talks about the role of our defence exports, I am bound to say that we cannot have our cake and eat it.
We need to develop a concept of technological deterrence. We need to increase spending on research and development to ensure that we have the ideas that will help us and the whole of western Europe to maintain credible defence systems. Research and development has a vital role, and I commend that thought to the Minister.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
The hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), like a number of his hon. Friends, is belatedly realising that there is a link between a reduced 868 defence commitment and building up industry in a planned way. That is why Labour's arms diversification agency, compared with the Tories' "leave it to the market" attitude, will be a huge vote winner for us in constituencies such as Fylde, as Conservative Members will begin to appreciate as the election draws near.
I apologise for the pun, but the Ministry of Defence has been getting away with murder for years, and the Secretary of State got away with murder in his speech yesterday when he said:By the end of this year we could, if all goes well. have in place some of the most far-reaching changes in Europe's defence and security that we have witnessed";and a little later went on:Against that background, we shall also need to consider the forces that we in the United Kingdom will need over the next decade.We are bound to wonder what response he has to the great world changes that are taking place. He said he wantednot only Polaris and then Trident, but the associated frigates, submarines and minesweepers that ensure their safe deployment…we shall maintain also sub-strategic nuclear capability…That means air defence aircraft; surface-to-air missiles and the necessary warning and control systems; naval forces"—of all kinds—maritime patrol aircraft … forces for military home defence … force levels … in Northern Ireland … adequate forces to meet our commitments in the wider world outside Europe … Cyprus, Gibraltar, Belize, Hong Kong and Brunei"—and forcesto respond appropriately where circumstances demand.Nor did he leave out Germany, for later he said:we may seek to reduce our forces stationed in Germany … If our stationed forces are smaller, then they will need mobility and flexibility and a balanced capability".—[Official Report, 18 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 693–4.]That must mean, if they are to be smaller, their having more resources. The right hon. Gentleman was saying, in effect, that, despite all the change that is occurring, there will be no change from his point of view—that there will be no savings, no disarmament and no vision from him towards the changed world. That is why I say that in his speech yesterday he got away with murder. We are entitled to expect more from the nation's Secretary of State for Defence.
We should concentrate on two issues—the peace dividend and the security system for which we should be aiming. Hon. Members in all parts of the House talk about the peace dividend and many say that a large dividend cannot be achieved. That is absolute nonsense. The United States made it clear in its budget of March-April this year that there would be a ․17 billion peace dividend for America in the coming five years—and that is just the first instalment, prior to various agreements being reached with the Soviet Union. It is clear that the United States intends to achieve a much bigger peace dividend in due course, and we could achieve great savings in Britain, too.
The Minister of State for Defence Procurement was reported—it was stated to have been a leak—as saying that we could achieve a saving of £17 billion in the next 10 years. One gets the impression that he was indulging in a kite-flying exercise, as he has not confirmed that statement in public. Either he will not stand by what he said or the Secretary of State has put him down. If the Minister said that there could be a saving of £17 billion in 10 years, he should be severely criticised because there was no reference 869 to that money being used to secure jobs for displaced workers in the defence industry and there is still heavy emphasis on nuclear weapons.
In any event, the saving is far too small. Our defence budget has been running at about £21 billion per year. In last year's Autumn Statement, the amount was increased by £1 billion per year over the next three years, raising it to £24 billion a year overall. If we reduced the figure to the European average of 3 per cent. of GNP, we should have a defence budget of about £15 billion per year. In other words, we could release £60 billion in the next 10 years to build up our neglected public services, including the national health service. What a boost that would be for Britain's economy. The Minister of State for Defence Procurement said in the "Today" radio programme:countries that spend a lower proportion of GDP on defence tend to have a healthier economy and industry.We, too, could be in that position.
From where do such savings come? They could be made straight away if the defence blunders were stopped. The Select Committee said that unreliable equipment costs the country £1 billion per year. The Conservative party should change the anthem at the end of its conferences and sing, "Land of Hopeless Tories," which would be more apt. We could reduce the numbers and commitments of our forces overseas. We could bring back the 67,000 troops of the British Army of the Rhine. Under the conventional forces in Europe agreement there must be cuts in troops and equipment of 10 to 15 per cent. That is under the first CFE agreement. The second CFE agreement is likely to call for 50 per cent. cuts, and we should anticipate that. In our out-of-area territories such as the Falklands and other countries across the world where we are over-committed, we should explore alternative arrangements such as United Nations guarantees and turning such territories into trust territories rather than retaining a military burden.
We can make savings on MOD land. Earlier, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said that the MOD not only had a vast amount of land, but wanted more. It should have less, and turn land over to housing and environmental purposes. We could then save on maintenance.
We should stop increasing our nuclear capabilities. I saw an article stating that cruise missiles were set to return to this country in the form of sea-launched cruise missiles and the tactical air-to-surface missile, of which about 400 are set to return to the United Kingdom. Even United States generals say that that would breach the spirit of the intermediate nuclear forces agreement because such missiles could be carried on aircraft, lobbed into the range of the INF agreement and even strike deep into the Soviet Union. We should not push ahead with that programme. Trident could be cancelled—we could save £1 billion straight away by cancelling the fourth Trident. The Trident programme is preventing much deeper nuclear cuts being agreed between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The peace dividend could be used for other purposes, and could mean more, not fewer jobs, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) said yesterday. Cambridge economists have shown that if we 870 invest in the right sectors we could create 500,000 more jobs. That would clearly have to be tied up with the arms diversification agency.
We could also have a defensive defence policy because we have defence aplenty. The "Directory of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms and Disarmament 1990," by Paul Rogers and Malcolm Dando of Bradford university, states that even after the strategic arms agreement there will still be around 17,000 modern strategic weapons. It also states that new conventional weapons are being developed and deployed which are as lethal as small nuclear devices, but not subject to any arms negotiations. They include weapons which scatter large numbers of "bomblets" over a wide area and artillery multiple rocket launchers which can destroy a small town in one minute. There is plenty of defence to be had from conventional weapons. We can have disarmament and a big peace dividend.
§ Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)
The hon. Gentleman is being extremely helpful by giving a shopping list of those things that he believes that the Labour party should cut from the defence budget. Does he believe that his Front-Bench spokesmen would make those cuts or is it simply the majority of the Labour party who look for such cuts?
§ Mr. Cohen
The Front-Bench spokesmen must speak for themselves, but our latest document talks of achieving cuts in our defence budget by international agreement. However, the Front-Bench spokesmen will have to answer more clearly if the matter is raised with them.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), in his typical way, has talked about trying to get a security system from Vancouver to Vladivostock and from Brest to Brest. Such a security system would have to be international. We cannot defend ourselves properly in isolation and should have a more realistic view of our position in the world. At the last election, during the Conservative party campaign, which was led by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), the party made various allusions to keeping Britain great, the role of empire and our imperialist past. It was not a realistic view of our place in the world.
It would be ideal if we could totally defend ourselves in isolation, but that cannot be done without incurring crippling costs to our economy, and running the terrible risk of nuclear accident—the use of nuclear weapons in a crisis or against third world nations for political and economic advantage. There could be an accident in our nuclear power stations. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces has agreed to extend Calder Hall and Chapelcross, the oldest nuclear power stations in this country, for a further 10 years. The Government are flirting with a Chernobyl-style disaster, and we cannot afford to do that. Our defences must be at the level of comparative nations—not higher, as they are at present.
We must press for the opposite of the arms race, and obtain that through an international institution with a ratchet for arms reductions. NATO cannot do that. The Prime Minister's theory is that NATO can be the world's policeman, but what plans are there to extend NATO membership to every country in the world and turn it into a sort of United Nations? There are none, so it will be seen as working for, and in the interests of, the economically developed western capitalised world. Eastern Europe, China, the middle east and the third world will ask in 871 whose interest NATO is working. The answer is that it will be a force for world domination and continuing economic discrimination. It will be seen as such, and as such it will be resisted, which will lead to further wars and atrocities around the world. NATO cannot transform itself. While soothing words were uttered at its two recent meetings in Canada and Scotland, NATO was planning a big increase in the tactical air-to-surface missiles coming to this country.
The EC cannot fulfil that security role. Sir Leon Brittan wants to give it a military role, but that would be narrow. Even the Minister, in his opening comments, called it the Eurocentric tendency, but it cannot provide security around the world. The best institution to build on is the conference on security and co-operation in Europe. We should build that into a new Euro-wide institution involving every European country. The United States should also play a political role in it, not a military one. It would not be justified for the United States to have a military presence in Europe with its own bases, but it could and should play a political role in such an institution. I should like that organisation to be a sort of United Nations of Europe with teeth. It would be prohibited from interfering internally in any country, but it would have a duty to warn of, and act against, any invasion. A country's troops would have to remain within its own boundaries. Such an organisation should be a permanent forum for keeping down arms spending and force levels.
There should also be a political forum for the discussion and settlement of disputes. War must no longer be seen as an option. It should be made impossible. If we had vision, we should look forward to a post-nuclear Europe and aim at eliminating the arms race. We must get levels down and never allow them to increase again. Nuclear technology cannot be uninvented, but nuclear weapons can be forsworn. If there were another arms race, there would be the risk that nuclear weapons would return. Preventing that would be a powerful incentive for the sort of security institution that I have described.
The 'Tories have shown a lack of vision which could well lead to disaster. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) spoke of the dangers of the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons to every country that might want them. This has been a story of missed opportunities to achieve the peace dividend and a safer world. The Minister of State for Defence Procurement wrote a book about the first world war entitled, "The Donkeys". He must know that he is serving in a Cabinet which could aptly be described in the same way.
§ Mr. Alistair Burt (Bury, North)
It is always an enormous pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), who is an inoffensive little man; he is always perfectly charming and he has no enemies among Conservative Members, although I suspect that he has plenty of them, judging by his contribution tonight, among Labour Front-Bench spokesmen.
I made my maiden speech on defence about seven years ago little realising the difference in circumstances that would arise between then and now. I made that speech because I believed that defence had played a large part in the victory that I secured in the general election. It has been suggested that such victories might become a thing of 872 the past and that no longer will Conservative Members be elected on the defence card. The changing nature of the world, it is said, will mean that the defence policies of Labour and the Conservatives will drift together and the general public will perceive no difference between them.
I suspect that this is largely wrong, for two reasons. First, the British public will still give credit where it is due and will realise that it was the determination of the Prime Minister and the Government, together with the United States, that helped considerably in the change in opinions and attitudes which has led us to today's progress to peace. Secondly, the British public will put their confidence in those who have been generally right about the defence issues facing this country, not in those who have been wrong on each occasion—which is why they have not won the elections.
A debate such as today's could not illustrate more clearly the differences of policy between our two parties. It is important to put these matters on record lest a veil be drawn over them by Labour Members who would like to bury the past. Nothing shows that more clearly than the speech made by the hon. Member for Leyton, which reflected other radical speeches by Labour Members which have suggested that a deep current still runs in the grass roots Labour party in favour of cutting our defence forces dramatically, ending our nuclear deterrent and removing United States forces from Europe.
Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen remain more coy about their opinions. A torrent of ideas comes from behind them to which they say nothing. They also answer nothing to further questions about their intentions from Conservative Members. All that they evince is optimism which they take too far and which takes us too quickly down a road that we would tread more cautiously.
Why do the Opposition voice such optimism? It is because, with no prospect of their campaign promises on spending being satisfied by sensible financial policies, they must seize on the changed circumstances between east and west to provide cash that they cannot find elsewhere. It is entirely right that we should all welcome the opportunities that the new defence situation will give us. but let us avoid expectations that might lead to the unwise seizure of crucial defence resources.
In relation to the fundamental review of defence which is rightly taking place at the moment, I believe that the correct approach of the Government should be to seek whatever reductions in expenditure they can whilst erring, if necessary, on the side of caution in order to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
War is a disease. There is no real cure for it, and it has been epidemic in Europe since the dawn of history. I do not believe that our forefathers' earnest desire for peace was any less sincere than ours. And yet wars occurred. The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) said yesterday that there was no longer a role for military force in Europe. I hope that he is right, but neither I nor my constituents can rely on that. Two devastating European and world wars were lived through, fought in, and remembered by people who are still alive today. Compared with European and world history, the events of recent months in Europe are but the blinking of an eye. It would be folly to take them as the sign that we have been looking for without any further pause for thought.
Can we be really certain of what is to come in these new democracies? We know that a change from a command economy to a market economy will inevitably lead to 873 dislocation, inflation and unemployment. How will such stresses and strains be coped with in cultures which for over a generation have known nothing of these things, having been artificially kept from them?
We have a sophisticated political system for dealing with such matters but no such system yet exists in eastern Europe. Can we be certain that at a time of despair in a foreign country a strong leader will not emerge with a panacea to his country's ills? It might be belief that territorial acquisition of a land once seized from it in a forgotten European charter was the answer to its economic and social ills. We have seen that before. Can we be certain that we will not see it again? Can we be certain of the effect on other countries?
Accordingly, I agree with my hon. Friends who have said that the lessons of the 1930s must not be forgotten. It is easy for a democracy to disarm, but very difficult for a democracy to re-arm. As I said earlier, I believe war to be a disease, virulent and contagious and contained so far in our century only by the inoculation of nuclear deterrence, which provided the sureness and certainty necessary to keep the peace.
Wars are caused not by weapons but by people, and by people's misunderstanding of how others might react in any given situation. I believe this to be the fundamental difference between the two parties, and I hope that the defence review will be conducted by the Government with such strategic aims in mind. I commend to the House and the wider public the excellent essay on the subject of defence and security in a changing world to be found in the Statement on the Defence Estimates.
My belief in caution as the watchword takes me briefly down a second road—that of the American military presence in Europe, which the hon. Member for Leyton and some of his hon. Friends would remove. If the world is to be a safer place, it is essential that the bridge which has been made between Europe and the Americas by way of the United States military presence in Europe be maintained. We must refute the notion that European security can be left to continental Europe alone, and that the lessons of this century can be forgotten. That is a seductive argument with some logic but no history behind it. In much the same way as it is difficult for a democracy to re-arm, it would be extremely difficult—nay, impossible—for an American President to reintroduce American forces to Europe if they were once removed. They are a stabilising link that the world has grown used to and they should be retained.
Another reason for caution in relation to the defence review is the pain that is bound to result from inevitable defence reductions. Pain is not a reason for not doing something; it is merely a reason to proceed cautiously. We have seen an example of that in the Tornado decision which was announced yesterday and which was discussed so effectively and movingly by my hon. Friends the Members for Fylde (Mr. Jack) and for Wyre (Mr. Mans). Another aspect of pain will result from the return of soldiers based in Europe to the United Kingdom, which is bound to increase pressure on training land—the consequences of that must be thought through. I refer colleagues to page 50 of the White Paper and to paragraph 414 which deals with defence lands.
874 There is in my constituency the Holcombe moor training camp. Some years ago the Army proposed to seek extra land in that area. The move was opposed and the public inquiry process commenced nearly two years ago. Today we are still awaiting the result of the inquiry even though the last hearing was more than 18 months ago.
Such a delay is intolerable. The arguments at the inquiry were difficult enough, and my constituents know that, providing certain conditions were met, I supported the Army's application for extra land, as I understood the need for high quality training in areas close to conurbations in which many Regular and Territorial Army personnel are based. I also accept the assurances on environmental safeguards given by the Ministry of Defence, which I know looks after the area well. However, whatever the divided views on the issue may have been, to wait so long for a decision is desperately unfair on all those who have been involved. I appreciate that that is the responsibility not of present Ministers but of others. However, I hope that some notice is taken of the lengthy and involved process necessary to deal with the acquisition and use of training land, and that some policy has been devised for dealing with such problems in the future.
It is an irony that, although it seems that the requirement for training land should diminish as the threat from the Warsaw pact reduces, it may well be that pressure on training land will increase as we will be keeping more troops at home than in Germany.
§ Mr. Rogers
The hon. Gentleman says that he is waiting for a policy from the Government on the acquisition of land for training. Does he not realise that there is a policy and that it has been reiterated in the past two days? It is that if any land of sufficient size becomes available the MOD will make a bid for it. Holcombe moor is not the only place where there are long delays on such matters and where blight is created. I agree with the hon. Gentleman on that issue.
§ Mr. Burt
I am well aware of the MOD's current policy. I was speaking about the procedures for dealing with the acquisition of the land which are poor and I am concerned about that part of the policy. If more troops come home and need more land, the policy for dealing with such land and for explaining to people what is going on will need to be improved. That was why I asked for a new policy on that matter. Unless there is full disclosure, full understanding will not be given by local people who need to be fully involved in decisions of the forces.
Finally, I should like to deal with two wider aspects which result from our defence review and which should be welcome. First, it seems certain that the response to the changing world situation will require British defence forces to be smaller but more flexible and mobile to meet the security needs of our people. This must be done with growing integration among our NATO and European allies, particularly through closer multinational cooperation in the organisation of NATO forces and in increasing NATO's contribution to the political aspects of security development.
Secondly, I hope that reductions in the expenditures of both east and west will not be made up by greater exports to third world countries. The opportunity for ending the global arms race should not be missed. There are few statistics more sickening than those of third world countries that can scarcely meet the need to feed all their 875 people, yet spend a disproportionate amount of their gross national product on armaments, some of which are supplied by western nations. There should be much greater co-operation now between the significant military powers to run down these exports and encourage a greater sense of responsibility among developing nations. The poor and the hungry of the world would benefit more from such a change than from almost any other method of aid which can be devised.
There are many opportunities available at this extraordinary time in human history. They must be grasped, but we must go into these changes with our eyes wide open and conscious of the mistakes of the past, being determined not to repeat them. If we should be bold in our determination to seize the opportunity, it is equally right to be cautious in how we exercise the decisions, in consultation with those who were once our enemies, to make the most of the chances that are before us.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
Apart from my unavoidable absence from the Chamber between 8.30 and 10 pm yesterday, I have listened to almost every speech. It is a matter of slight personal regret that I am the tail end Charlie. I should like partially to follow the path beaten by the hon. Member for Bury, North ( Mr. Burt) and I shall confine my speech to what is called in the White Paper the defence estate.
Before I do so, perhaps the Minister will allow me some immodesty. He will acknowledge that I have some concern about the welfare provisions related to the well-being of members of our armed forces. In that context, will he confirm in his winding-up speech that within the next six months the House will have a Second Reading of an armed services Bill? I think that I am right in saying that such a Bill is a quinquennial event. One was passed in, I think, 1981 and one was certainly passed in 1986 because I was a member of the special Committee that was set up to examine it. Such a Committee enables hon. Members to cross-examine senior civil servants and senior members of the armed forces. The last time that we had a similar Bill I was able to persuade the then Minister of State to change some of the procedures about the care and protection of the sons and daughters of armed forces personnel who were tragically embroiled in either sexual or child abuse cases.
These are important matters and I hope that the Minister will respond helpfully. There are, of course, related matters because in addition to dealing with personnel in the armed forces the Bill deals with their families. Paragraph 414 on page 50 of Volume 1 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates states:We are determined to rationalise and reduce our land holdings wherever possible".I drink to that sentiment. It goes on:But it is also necessary to purchase property to meet specific needs; for example land to meet increased training needs of the Regular and Territorial Army and to accommodate the larger safety areas required by modern weapons.On the same page the statement says that since 1979 over 12,000 hectares of land and some 7,000 married quarters have been sold by the Ministry of Defence producing receipts of, I think, £640 million.
I have already asked about the programme for the disposal of married quarters. In the light of the probable redeployment of armed forces personnel from the Federal 876 Republic of Germany to the United Kingdom, will that policy of selling married quarters be held up? We do not want members of regiments returning to the British Isles being placed in poor accommodation. That would be most unfair to soldiers and others returning from Germany.
Is it likely that a dramatic reduction in conventional forces would lead to a significant diminution in training requirements and training land? The subject of the military use of land is important and, as the hon. Member for Bury, North suggested, in some instances it is controversial. As everyone knows, the MOD is a major landowner in the United Kingdom, perhaps one of the top six. I think that I am right in saying that it owns about 350,000 hectares of land. In Scotland, the combined acreage of land used for military training is 190,000 acres or thereabouts. Those training sites in Scotland are in the Central, Grampian, Highland, Lothian and Tayside regions and in the Western Isles. On some of those sites live firing practice takes place. It is a matter of concern for many other users and would-be users of those open spaces that so much land is taken up by military training. There is a profound conflict of interest between the understandable needs of military training in open spaces and the interests of other users of those open spaces.
Dr. Susan Owens, a fellow of Newnham college, Cambridge, in a recent paper entitled, "Military live firing in national parks", commissioned by the United Kingdom Centre for Economic and Environmental Development, says:Few have claimed that military needs must outweigh all other considerations, and those who have sought to free the national parks from military training have not usually questioned the need in principle for well-prepared armed forces. They have, however, questioned the MOD's right to be the sole arbiter of its training and land requirements. This issue of need—and how it is determined—is crucial".I agree wholeheartedly.
On page 71 of that fine paper Dr. Owens says:There is a clear need for greater public accountability on the issue of military training and land requirements. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, profound changes in geopolitics and in the political significance of environmental issues make the 1990s an appropriate time for a reappraisal of the balance between military and environmental needs.We must strike a balance between the essential military training needs of the nation and the interests of many millions of people who find great enjoyment in walking through our countryside, whether the English and Welsh national parks or the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
Yesterday, the hon. Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, said:We are desperately short of training grounds and always have been."—[Official Report, 18 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 713.]I am not so sure that in the 1990s we will have such a desperate shortage of training grounds. I naturally defer to the hon. Gentleman's greater military expertise in practical and theoretical terms. I understand that he was a colonel in an infantry regiment——
§ Dr. Godman
Then I must defer to the hon. Gentleman. I was just a lonely lance corporal in the Royal Military Police.—[Interruption.] There is no need for such a comment.
§ Dr. Godman
I am glad that you did not, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is shocking to talk like that in the presence of a lady, especially one such as you.
Nevertheless, we should not ignore the interests of others who enjoy wandering through those open spaces. We need to strike a fair and reasonable balance between the conflicting interests. Walking in the countryside is an extremely popular pastime. I have a good deal of sympathy for the views of the Ramblers Association, expressed in another fine document sent to Members of Parliament for the purposes of today's debate. Paragraph 20 says:It appears that the MoD will not respond willingly either to world events, public opinion or reasoned argument when it comes to its land acquisitions policy. The question is whether the decision to continue with the current policy of taking more land, a question which inevitably will have to be considered as part of the secret defence review, will be made in secret or opened up to public debate. The Ramblers Association believes that the public should be involved in deciding how much land the army should have and where it should be located. There should be a proper and full examination in public, pending the outcome of which the MoD's current policy of land acquisitions should be suspended.I take on board the observations made by the Minister this afternoon on the Ministry's protection of some 200 sites of special scientific interest. In fairness, let me go further and quote from page 52 of the White Paper:A full-time conservation officer is employed for the defence estate; he co-ordinates the activities of over 200 local conservation groups. Close relations are maintained with the National Park Authorities, and with the Nature Conservancy Council. A joint Declaration of Intent has been signed with the NCC to promote conservation on the defence estate wherever it is compatible with military requirements.There is always that qualification. The White Paper goes on:Care is also taken to protect archaeological sites, in consultation with English Heritage and its Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland equivalents.That is how it should be. Balancing the interests of the two parties is difficult.
I am not here to make a party-political speech on the defence estate, but much more needs to be done. I say that in view of the astonishing changes taking place in central and eastern Europe and the remarkable changes in east-west relations. The Ministry of Defence must reassess its policy on the acquisition of land for military training. In addition, it should engage in a comprehensive public debate on its land requirements.
I believe that I am right in saying that defence-led requirements are excluded from the EC directive on environmental impact assessments. I know that such an assessment was carried out before the expansion of the Clyde submarine base. I am sure that my hon. Friends the Members for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham) and for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) will agree that that expansion scarred the beautiful landscape across the firth of Clyde from the constituencies of my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton and myself.
Those assessments lay down the same stringent criteria as are rightly imposed upon gas and oil companies in, say, Dorset and north-east Scotland. I warrant that the same criteria were not applied to the Clyde submarine base. If comprehensive EIAs were imposed on Ministry of Defence developments—as they have been on British Petroleum and British Gas—it would be a significant improvement on the present state of affairs. Environmental considerations should be an integral element in defence policies.
878 I stress the need for the Defence Select Committee to investigate present and future land requirements for military training. These are important matters which should not be brushed aside by Ministers and their officials. Millions of people seek to exercise such rights as they have on something as innocuous as a country walk; they should not be denied those rights because of the Ministry of Defence's outdated requirements for military training.
§ Sir Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
I am grateful for the remarks of the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman). It is clear that the Ministry of Defence must strike a fine balance between its needs and environmental needs. I understand that a review is taking place whereby unnecessary sites can be disposed of, and those that are absolutely essential can be either expanded or, if not required, disposed of. As the hon. Gentleman said, we must remember that the Army—and all the armed forces—must have somewhere to fire. I was also pleased when the hon. Gentleman talked of the possibility of accommodation for our forces returning from the British Army of the Rhine: so far, the debate has not dealt with that point.
The Defence White Paper provides an extremely good analysis of what we now have at our disposal. In his excellent introduction, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explained what was necessary. Two things emerged from that explanation—the importance of retaining NATO, and United States troops in Europe—and the idea was built up in the White Paper. He also stressed that, over and above all that, we must preserve our own defences.
When we consider the reductions in our forces that could be achieved by a reduction in the threat from the Soviet bloc and the Warsaw pact, we must remember that we cannot do it overnight. We should be careful not to rush into things to please the Treasury; a comprehensive review is required. As the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said earlier, consultation with the service chiefs is essential: everyone should be involved. No concrete changes can be made until we know the exact threat that faces us.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who pointed out that the peace of the past 40 years had been retained through the nuclear deterrent. We now face the increased difficulties arising from the reunification of Germany, and the split in the provinces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Who would have thought that a vast part of Russia, extending all the way up to China, would become a separate province?
After unification, we must not envisage tanks racing across Germany. After the reunification of Germany, we do not know whether a united Germany will remain in NATO, or will have a looser connection, similar to that of France. I expect the first consequence to be the replacement of tanks by helicopters: cavalry regiments would find themselves equipped with helicopters. Nor do we know the plans of President Gorbachev and the Soviet military command.
The talk of a change from tanks to helicopters reminds me of the beginning of the last war, when I was trained to be a horse cavalry officer. While bombs were falling, the 879 Army had 14 yeomanry regiments, four regular regiments and a scouts' regiment which were still trained on horses. The ghastly massacre of the Polish cavalry alerted us to the necessity of changing from horses to tanks. The cavalry will have to adapt to its new role. I am not suggesting that tanks will be abolished, but to a large extent they will be replaced by helicopters.
Our worldwide commitments, which are well outlined on page 21 of the Command Paper, will remain in many places such as Belize. In my view, certain commitments can be safeguarded only by troops on the ground. It is no good having troops 1,000 miles away and then bringing them in when the damage has been done. The presence of our troops in Belize is well appreciated. They were regarded by hostile neighbours with considerable alarm. Although the dangers may appear to have reduced, there is no guarantee of absolute peace.
If we reduce our armed forces considerably, we shall have to be more reliant on the citizens' army. The Territorial Army and the Regular Reserve will spring to the defence of our country. They must be re-equipped and given equality with the Regular Army. I call them the citizens' army because they will consist of more or less ordinary people able to be called up at very short notice.
There should be no hasty decisions, but clear and definite reductions suitable to our new situation, and we should not rely on quick cuts. We should make sure that our nuclear deterrent is retained.
NATO has the potential to become a great force for world peace. If NATO is expanded to include the WEU and other countries with similar thoughts and ideas, it will become a multinational force with standardised equipment and mixed armies which could be used all over the world. We should retain the ultimate deterrent to be used only in cases of absolute necessity, but under the umbrella of NATO we should be able to produce a force capable of preserving world peace.
§ 9.7 pm
§ Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak this evening. I never knew that the Tory party was in such a desperate economic plight that, when it has fetes in Renfrew, West and Inverclyde, it does not even say on the banner who is holding the fete. That has a lot to do with defence because I discovered a poster which was put up all over my constituency saying,A Day at the White House".It described all the fun of the fair. Lo and behold, it mentioned a helicopter. I had a telephone call from a civil servant, who said, "Mr. Graham, I was so embarrassed. I went to a fete without realising that it was a Conservative fete. I do not attend any party political events because of my position." I understand that a military helicopter was flying in and out all day. For the love of me, I did not know that military personnel had been brought in to bale out the Tories in their desperate economic plight in Scotland.
I hope that the Minister will tell us how much it cost for the helicopter to fly about Scotland—how much the wages, fuel and maintenance were. How much did the Tories raise from that fair? Will they contribute the money to the Select Committee on Defence so that it can spend it on the defence of the nation?
The Minister must have been desperate for money for defence if he had to send out the troops to back up the welly-boot show. I imagine that the welly-boot throwing 880 was the most successful event at the fair. Perhaps the Government are trying to recruit some of the expert welly-boot merchants in my constituency into the Army. How much did it cost to send the helicopter? How much money did that exercise waste for the nation?
§ Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)
It is difficult to follow the points of the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham). However, he made them robustly, and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will take great notice of them. I am grateful to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker. Having spoken in the Army debate last week, I did not think that I would be fortunate enough to speak in the defence debate. However, I am glad to make a brief contribution.
The opening speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday covered the defence estimates in considerable detail and gave us some insights into the way in which he is looking forward to the changes which will inevitably face his Department and which the House will have to address in the coming months. I do not feel quite ready yet to talk about the global issues. If I catch your eye in 10 years' time, Mr. Speaker, I may feel more inclined to look at the global situation. Quite frankly, no right hon. or hon. Member can know what will happen in two years' time. When NATO exercises were being planned and when the British Army of the Rhine was considering its participation, who could have thought that we should be considering the withdrawal of so many troops from Germany as the position changed? Events are moving rapidly.
It is rather nice to think that not everything moves quite as rapidly and that not everything changes quite so quickly. Like many hon. Members, I prefer to spend time with my family or in the garden on Sunday afternoons. However, this Sunday, I had the opportunity to attend the dedication of a new branch banner for the Shrewsbury Royal Artillery Association at Bicton church. That afternoon, all the British Legion branches in the constituency were represented. The general officer commanding the western district took the march past and the Harlescott youth brass band played to lead those who had served in the Royal Artillery and who were active members of the association.
Some people probably sneer at that sort of thing. However, I thought that it was an excellent display of everything that the contribution made by service men in our country stands for. They have been, and continue to be, exceptionally loyal in their service in the Royal Artillery. A great degree of comradeship was much in evidence and it was a privilge to attend the dedication. We should be sorry to miss the comradeship and loyalty as the changes in our armed forces take place.
I draw the attention of the House to page 22 of Volume 1 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates. It mentions the contribution our armed forces make and, sadly, will probably have to continue to make in Northern Ireland. The report tells us that, last year, 223 people were charged with terrorist offences, 31 of those for murder and 48 for attempted murder. I hope that those in the media who pay attention to these debates will consider seriously not only the conspiracy theories that they love to expound on the role of the security forces in Ulster, but the families of the 31 who were murdered and the heartache of the families of 881 the 48 on whom murder was attempted. To the credit of the security forces, 327 weapons and a further 37,500 rounds of ammunition were found. In one of the most difficult jobs of all in the services, 196 bombs were made safe. That shows great courage which many of us in the House would find difficult to emulate. Perhaps that is why 184 awards for gallantry were made, 29 for the Ulster Defence Regiment, which is unfairly criticised all too frequently.
The Regular Reserves are commented on at page 28 of the report. I am grateful to the Minister and his colleagues in the Ministry for changing the card notice system. It was in open format before but now, due to the need for greater security, it will be in closed format. This will put at ease the minds of those who serve in a reserve capacity.
The report tells us that half the regular infantry, with a strength of over 85,000, is made up from volunteer reserves. That would not be possible without the support of the wives, families and girl friends of those who are involved.
I was grateful for the answer given today by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces about the level of employer support for our reserves. He informed the House that, as a result of the volunteer reserve forces campaign launched two years ago, more than 1,100 pledges have been received by the Department from major employers, who represent over half of the United Kingdom work force, to support those of their employees who wish to become involved in the volunteer reserves. With a strength of 85,000, there is no shortage of young men and women who are prepared to serve in our armed forces. Employers are also prepared to give their support.
I hope that we will see the continued production of a British tank which will continue to be driven by an excellent engine which is manufactured in my constituency.
With 26 per cent. of the armed forces procurement budget dedicated to research and development, our arms procurement industry has a great part to play in the foreign policy of our nation and in ensuring that our armed forces are of a high standard and that they have kit with which to work which is the best that can be found. This will give Britain not only strong defences but will continue our world reputation which has been hard earned and which I have every confidence that our colleagues in the Ministry of Defence will not allow to be idly spent.
§ Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)
Thank you for calling me, Mr. Speaker, particularly as at 4.30 yesterday afternoon I asked the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), who I am delighted to see in his place, the following question:What cuts in which defence programmes would a Labour Government make?He told me, and it was many hours ago:If the hon. Gentleman waits, he will have an answer to his question. If he does not like what I am saying, he should try to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.I have tried to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, not so much because I did not like what the hon. Gentleman said, but because he said nothing. That point needs to be made in the closing minutes of this debate.
882 I was not the only one who asked the question. At column 698, my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) asked the hon. Gentleman to explain Labour's defence policy. The hon. Member for Clackmannan said:At present we are debating the defence estimatesand he refused to say more on that point. Later in the debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) asked the same question. The answer was:The response to that question would have to depend on the circumstancesWhen my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) asked the same question, the hon. Member for Clackmannan said:The hon. Gentleman puts figures on cuts that have yet to take place."—[Official Report, 18 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 698–701.]I am very grateful to have been called as I now have the opportunity yet again to extend the invitation to the hon. Member for Clackmannan to answer the questions that were put to him and to which no answer appears in Hansard.
We are not convinced that the next Labour Government, if there ever were one, would do much good, but at least we now have some hints that they will not actually do bad. That was made clear by the hon. Member for Clackmannan, when he said in London on 11 June:It is naive to expect instant benefits from savings on defence expenditure.If nothing else has emerged from the debate it is that, in the words of the hon. Member for Clackmannan,It is naive to expect instant benefits from savings on defence expenditure.That point is brought home clearly on page 8 of the estimates. One has only to look at the CFE limits—257,000 NATO troops and 596,000 Soviet troops are based in Europe, as against a CFE limit for both of 195,000. The defence estimates make it clear thatThe Soviet Union would still retain an offensive capability, but would no longer have (and could not, without breaching the Treaty recreate) the option which it currently enjoys of mounting large-scale offensive action against Western Europe".I have greatly to curtail my remarks. I commend page 48 of the estimates, which deals with trading funds, agencies and defence, although I am slightly disappointed that we are still moving fairly slowly on that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) pointed out, there is a lot more that we could do in maintenance, flight training, transport and the rest. Perhaps we could also do more about the disposal of surplus land, which is mentioned on page 50.
It is essential that we should keep a level head. We are talking about defence procurement programmes which could take five years of research and last for 20 years. There is no real pressure in Germany for the large-scale withdrawal of our troops. Within that 10 or 20-year cycle, we can gradually reduce our defence commitments without that reduction having a major impact on employment and on budgetary contraints. I urge the House to accept that, although we should take cognisance of what is going on in eastern Europe, we should take a balanced view.
§ Mr. Martin O'Neill (Clackmannan)
With the leave of the House, I should like to speak for a second time because my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. 883 Hughes) has not yet recovered fully from the illness from which he has been suffering for some time. I am sure that the House will join me in wishing him all the best.
We have had a useful debate in which there have been a number of points of unanimity, one of which I should like to stress at the outset. I realise that it may be construed from my remarks yesterday that I did not pay sufficient attention to the recognition of the debt that we owe to our armed forces. That recognition was perhaps implicit in my remarks, but it was not explicit and those in our armed forces who read our debates are entitled to enjoy the praise of hon. Members on both sides of the House. They make considerable sacrifices, not just in battle or because of the dangers that they face, but because they forgo a number of their civil liberties so that we may enjoy ours. I join my colleagues in paying tribute to the armed services.
Over the years, the nature of our defence debates has changed. Twenty, 30 or 40 years ago, those with a service background dominated the debates. The reduction in the size of the armed forces, the ending of national service and other factors have meant that there are now just a few hon. Members who have had some service experience. I think in particular of the hon. Members for Wyre (Mr. Mans) and Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and of senior Members such as my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) and the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). The balance has moved towards constituency interests and today we have heard hon. Members talk with passion and care about the problems that the announcement made yesterday in respect of Tornado will create in their constituencies. We have also heard members of the Select Committee of the NATO Assembly and of the Western European Union, as well as enthusiasts—punters such as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) who has yet to return to the Chamber but who is a regular fixture and whose ingenuity and wit we all enjoy.
It has been a good-natured debate, although the Minister of State for the Armed Forces displayed some uncharacteristic bitterness. He seems only to do that at the Dispatch Box; perhaps the trials of office are getting him down. As one colleague said, he tried to be abusive to me. As someone who has spoken on defence for the Labour party for the best part of six years, I do not need to come to the House to be abused—I can be abused at any Labour party meeting that I choose to attend.
The differences in the Labour party on which people have played have always existed. We have had anti-militarists who objected to defence expenditure for economic and social reasons, pacificists who objected to defence for moral reasons, neutralists who had a certain political view to which they wished to give a military expression, and struggles over the years between Atlanticists and Europeans. None of that is new and none of it will end. It is part of the nature of a lively radical party that it will have debates about issues that it considers to be important.
Some of my colleagues were disappointed at the adoption last year of the programme of disarmament by negotiation instead of by independent action. The nature of the exchanges and the many constructive suggestions that we have had give some emphasis to the old definition of unity in the Labour party—it breaks out when the members start stabbing each other in the chest. In the past 884 two days we have had a fair amount of good-hearted exchanges. However, a clear sign of the Government's intentions is still to be displayed.
The Government have been extremely cautious. As the hon. Member for Dunfermline West, (Mr. Douglas) said, the Minister of State today gave the first real rationale for the Government's strategic approach. Perhaps if we had heard that yesterday it might have assisted in the debate. The Minister of State went to some lengths to explain some of the strategic considerations behind the thinking that we hope will lie at the heart of the "Options for Change" review. I say, "we hope will lie", because it seems that the publication of that document is some time away.
Perhaps the Minister of State could assist hon. Members by telling us when the document will be published, in what form it will be published, whether it will be a Green Paper or a White Paper, and giving some indication of when we can hope to debate it. Some aspects of it may require in-depth consideration by Committees of the House. It is important that we get some sign of when the process will be completed and when the dribbling of rumours and complaints from service chiefs and so on will finally stop.
Over the past two days there has been unanimous agreement that the new circumstances in Europe create tremendous opportunities. Hon. Members heard thoughtful speeches by the right hon. Member for Pavilion and by my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe, both of whom had a slightly different emphasis, but they had an optimism that men of their generation probably felt that we were no longer entitled to nurture.
We support the reunification of Germany. We recognise, as do all political parties in Germany and most political parties in western Europe, that there is a case for continued membership of NATO by the Federal Republic and by the Landers when they are assimilated into the new Germany. Special provisions will have to be made.
One of the exciting prospects of the new Germany will be the establishment of a new form of military force in the former East German Länders. That military force will be a people's army and a conscript army, but it will be one whose main preoccupations will be boundary defences and will be of a local militia nature. That will not necessarily be a blueprint for the rest of Europe, but it is a form of military organisation to which we can look with interest and, I hope, from which we can learn. The prospects of a united Germany must be considered in the context of the present acceptability of NATO to all its members. Unlike the Warsaw pact, NATO has existed on the basis of the willing participation of its member states and on consensus being achieved.
Sometimes it has been a consensus with which Opposition Members have not agreed in every respect—and I am sure that the same will be true in the future. However, the same can be said of Conservative Members. We know that the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Defence and his predecessor have gone into meetings with one view, but have come out with a very different view because they were tied to the consensus. We know that that was the case over short-range nuclear forces and the follow-on to Lance. We know that it was only after the discussion process that the Government reached a different view—after the heads had been counted or account had been taken of the nodding process.
I turn now to the Warsaw treaty organisation—if one can dignify it with that name because to all intents and 885 purposes it was not a treaty but simply an extension of Soviet hegemony, sustained by force, against the legitimate desire of the east European peoples to rid themselves of the presence of those alien forces.
NATO can continue for some time, but with different purposes and to different ends. One of the major tasks in the foreseeable future for this side of Europe at least—but it may also be to the satisfaction of eastern Europe—will be the inspection and verification processes that are implicit in negotiated disarmament. As I said yesterday, the consequence of accepting that there should be withdrawal and disarmament is inspection and verification, which in turn must be monitored and organised. That organisation will require new types of equipment. That is why I say that there is a tremendous desire for a reduction in defence expenditure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who walked into the Chamber just a moment ago, referred yesterday to the Cambridge Econometrics study, which makes explicit reference to the necessity for expensive equipment for inspection and verification. Much up-front expenditure will have to be met before we can get our hands on the pot of gold. It is not at the end of the rainbow; it will not be available in 1991. Indeed, in its early stages, it might not be available until 1993, but it will then be available in considerable amounts. If people want disarmament, they need inspection and verification or that disarmament is not worth the paper that it is not even written on. It is important that hon. Members of all parties appreciate that fact.
Because of the nature of the United States and the Soviet Union, the strategic arms reduction talks will take some time, but by the time of the next general election I believe that there will be an opportunity for British participation. We will welcome such participation and believe that it is necessary if we are to involve others, such as the French and the Chinese, in the START process. That would be the only glue that could effectively hold together the non-proliferation treaties which we hope the Government will start to negotiate seriously as the year progresses.
A consequence of reducing troops and changing our military deployment is that we must consider the doctrines that NATO itself adopts. Flexible response has already been examined. As I said earlier—I know that I am disagreeing with some of my hon. Friends in this matter—one cannot have flexible response without the means of flexibility. The nature of the new threat is such that there will be no means of flexibility other than air-launched nuclear systems and there is no demand in Europe for such weapons to be located there.
The idea that there must be nuclear weapons in Europe to justify the presence of conventional troops at whatever level is by no means held unanimously in the United States. If hon. Members doubt what I am saying, I suggest that they read the speeches by Sam Nunn in the Senate this spring. He is by no means a left-winger on defence matters. He is perhaps the hardest headed of the hard-headed realists in the United States. However, he said that if all forms of nuclear weapons were removed from Europe—he is not in favour of that, but he spelt out the logic clearly—it would be incumbent upon us to have some doctrine for the first use of nuclear strategic weapons, and 886 confidence and security-building methods that can accommodate the dangers of any kind of armed movement.
There has been a great deal of talk—often loose talk— about rapidly mobile, easily deployed troops. Hon. Members should note that the mere act of moving those troops quickly can be an act of provocation unless certain ground rules are established and agreements are made. People in think tanks in the United States are giving a great deal of attention to that problem. It would be nice if the Ministry of Defence produced some form of guidance and some imaginative thinking. However, as in so many areas, the Ministry is following along behind the crowd.
I estimate that when CFE 2 comes we shall have the prospect of sizeable force reductions. Legitimate statements have been made tonight by hon. Members from the north-west, including the hon. Members for Fylde (Mr. Jack) and for Wyre (Mr. Mans), expressing anxieties about the lack of notice that they were given of the recently announced cuts and the problems that will be created for programmes which still have some time to run and for which replacements have yet to be found. Those problems will be as nothing if we do not prepare properly for them.
We may disagree about the desirability of a diversification agency. I do not believe that such an agency would provide all the answers or that it should be compulsorily applied to every potential instance of redundancies. However, considerable expertise within Government could be brought to bear to assist companies when they get into difficulties such as British Aerospace is experiencing.
I received a phone call this morning—hon. Members from the north-west probably had a similar call—from the convener of shop stewards at Wharton. He said that the management had told him that they did not know what to do and would discuss the matter and come up with proposals in four weeks. That does not suggest that the cuts in the Tornado order programme were made in a leisurely or relaxed fashion or that a great deal of planning was involved.
The questions put to the Government by hon. Members on both sides will have to be answered. Is there a strategic legitimacy to the cuts? Where do they come within the planning of NATO? We are entitled to an answer to those questions and the people of the north-west will look for a answer. Although it gives me no pleasure to point it out, I remind Conservative Members that a considerable number of Conservative seats in the north-west will be in great jeopardy as a consequence of cuts. The hon. Member for Wyre is laughing, but there are other Conservative Members whose coats are hanging on far slacker nails. I warn Conservative Members of the electoral consequences of the foolhardy, cavalier approach of Government Front-Bench Members. They may sit for safe seats, but they will face their fate at the Dispatch Box.
§ Mr. Franks
The minutes are ticking by and we are now in the second hour of speeches from Labour Front-Bench spokesmen. Will the hon. Gentleman say at least one sentence or perhaps two about Trident?
§ Mr. O'Neill
As far as I am aware, the hon. Gentleman has been in the House for the length of time that it took him to make his speech and—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I shall answer the question in a moment, in my own time. It ill becomes the hon. Member for Barrow 887 and Furness (Mr. Franks) to tell the Opposition what we should or should not do with regard to Trident when the Conservative Government have yet to order the third boat and have refused the funds to allow the pipework on the fourth boat to start. This is the truth. The Trident force is not yet—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. O'Neill
Such was the contribution from a semi-detached, part-time Member who came in at the end of the debate. Let me repeat what I said before I was shouted down. Until the Government place an order for the third boat, it ill becomes the hon. Gentleman to ask us what we might do about a fourth.
The present record of the Government in the management of the defence estate leaves much to be desired. It is clear that the MOD could not even anticipate the increases in inflation and thus it had to come to the House with the half-baked announcements of cuts. I doubt whether the savings from those cuts will appear in this year's accounts.
We must recognise that throughout the debate there has been a considerable amount of imaginative thinking on both sides of the House, with the notable exception of Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen. The advice that has consistently been given by hon. Members on both sides suggests that the Government's defence estimates do not deserve to be supported. They are not worth the support of the country or the House. We ask the House to support the amendment in the name of the official Opposition.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Michael Neubert)
Such has been the interest in this debate that on two successive days it has been extremely difficult to accommodate all those who wanted to take part. The House is aware that the "Options for Change" exercise is under way, and the debate has been a timely opportunity to reassure those hon. Members who have contributed that their views will be taken into account.
The hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) seems to want a fixed timetable for the exercise, but I cannot promise that. We shall come forward at a time of our choosing with our proposals to enable opportunities for discussion and consultation. For the moment we can at least debate the issues against the background of changes in the world and the reflected pressures of public opinion.
After the contributions from the Front-Bench spokesmen, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) spoke. They are parliamentarians of the same generation and were listened to with great interest. My right hon. Friend drew attention to the Chinese saying that supreme excellence lies in winning wars without a battle, and he paid tribute to the battle we have won in such a way. He did not fail to make a connection between the peace we have achieved since the war in Europe, the prospects for the future and the maintenance of the nuclear deterrent. The hon. Member for Clackmannan was distinctly reticent about that a moment ago, as well as throughout the debate. My right 888 hon. Friend also called for a global alliance between Europe and the United States and those who listened to his speech will give thought to and no doubt support that idea.
The hon. Member for Attercliffe said that the only significant change among all the defence changes was that concerning the amount of warning time. He was right to draw our attention to that. He also mentioned CFE2 and NATO has made it clear—it was reaffirmed at the recent meeting of Foreign Ministers at Turnberry—that as soon as the CFE agreement is reached in Vienna we will be prepared to undertake follow-on negotiations. The objective of those negotiations will be considered in full when NATO Heads of State meet in London next month.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed), a former Navy Minister, was listened to with great attention, particularly his remarks about the future shape of the Royal Navy. Obviously I shall give some thought to what he said. He asked about the need to replace LPDs HMS Fearless and Intrepid. We are still considering the results of the studies we commissioned into replacing the capability that they represent. We expect to reach a decision soon, but I remind the House that there is still plenty of time to implement our decision before the current ships reach the end of their lives.
The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) made an unexpected speech in that it came from the Opposition Bench below the Gangway—the hon. Gentleman has his own independent standing in the House—and he supported a fourth Trident. He was almost alone on the Opposition Benches in that, except for the right hon. Member for Dudley, East (Dr. Gilbert), who yesterday pledged himself to support that policy. Even more surprisingly from the Opposition Benches, the hon. Gentleman supported TASM on NATO aircraft based in Europe.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) made a characteristically witty, if brief, contribution, and we could have listened to more without hardship. I could not say that about the speech of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who was powerful in his call for an arms diversification agency, others probably being aghast at the logical consequences of the policies that he espouses in view of the rapid loss to employment that would result in the defence industry.
It was not the first time that I heard such an agency proposed. In The Independent on 1 June there was reference to an arms diversion agency, as it was called, and such is the aptitude of we in the Ministry of Defence to apply acronyms to anything, the concept immediately became ADA in my mind. I am sorry if that sounds like a cleaning lady, but apparently ADA would make good the loss of many thousands of jobs that would flow from reductions in defence expenditure to which Labour supporters are committed, no matter what stands on the Order Paper.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks) asked what would happen to the nuclear deterrent under a future Labour Government, should there ever be one. His question failed to elicit an answer. Indeed, there has been a deafening silence on the whole subject of nuclear deterrence from the Opposition Benches.
My recently honoured hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Sir M. Marshall) asked us to continue with the privatisation and contractorisation of services. I assure him that we are not letting up in the market testing of 889 services wherever appropriate, and that assurance can be given to my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), who also raised the subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth) pointed to the fact that the Soviet Union was still the biggest military power in Europe. That fear was echoed by other hon. Members, who recognised that the world was changing and that we must change with it but who nevertheless suggested that we should err on the side of caution, a phrase used by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt).
Following the announcement of the Minister of State for Defence Procurement last night, a number of my hon. Friends spoke of Tornado. My hon. Friend will be writing to hon. Members who raised the subject, but perhaps I can clarify any confusion about numbers. The number of aircraft with which we are not proceeding is 33, 26 of the strike version and seven of the air defence version.
In announcing our original intention to make the order, my hon. Friend who is now the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs referred to 41 aircraft. The reason for the difference is that eight of the air defence version were brought forward into the seventh batch and are not affected by this decision. The aircraft were intended to replace future predicted losses. We expect both variants of the Tornado to continue in service into the next century.
The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) asked about the armed services Bill. It is a quinquennial measure which will not come up this Session, and of course I cannot anticipate the Queen's Speech.
The debate has had attached to it three Select Committee on Defence reports, one of which has not received more than passing mention, that dealing with the subject of reliability and maintainability—R and M for short. The services acknowledge that much of the equipment that they have in use today fails to come up to the required levels of R and M. That has a direct and erosive impact on our operational capability.
Our prime motivation for seeking improved levels of R and M is to enhance our operational capability. With the prospect of force reductions in Europe, it becomes ever more important that their smaller holdings of weapons and equipment will work when needed.
A second and most significant factor, upon which R and M has a direct bearing, is the cost of operating and supporting equipment. We have estimated that unreliability currently costs the taxpayer £1 billion a year. Although it is acknowledged that that is a broad estimate, it shows the size of the problem. We must reduce that figure substantially—indeed, we aim to halve it, although we recognise that it will take some years to achieve that.
The third factor is the shortage of skilled manpower to maintain and support our equipment. Higher reliability and greater ease of maintenance are essential if we are to match our manpower requirement to diminishing resources. In future, we must achieve better value for money in our equipment acquisition programmes. It is against that background that the House has shown considerable interest in R and M over the past 18 months, if not, in all cases, at this minute.
§ Mr. Neubert
I am sorry but I cannot give way.
The National Audit Offices report on R and M on the Ministry of Defence provided the ground work for the Public Accounts Committee's investigation into the R and M of defence equipment and we shall respond shortly, in the usual way, to the report of the Select Committee on Defence. I am pleased to see that both those investigations, while identifying the problem areas, acknowledge the considerable effort that the Ministry of Defence is now making to secure better levels of R and M.
§ Mr. Graham
Will the Minister please answer the question I asked him? How much did the helicopter at the Tory party fair in Scotland cost?
§ Mr. Neubert
I heard the hon. Gentleman's question the first time, but the hon. Gentleman left it so late to enter the debate and pose it that he will have to wait a little longer to receive a reply.
The Statement on the Defence Estimates is printed in two volumes, which are before the House. It is quite clear that the Government stand by a budget of £21 billion this year. I wonder what the official Opposition stand by, because before we vote on the Statement on the Defence Estimates, we must vote on an amendment. I mean not the first amendment on the Order Paper, supported by 19 Opposition Members, but the second amendment, which I might describe as the official Opposition's afterthought. I wonder which one we should accept as Labour party policy. The first amendment mentionsthe imposition of wasteful, unacceptable and unnecessary burdens of military expenditure upon the British people.Does the hon. Member for Clackmannan, who was saying how much support he gives the armed forces, support that description of expenditure on the armed forces that defend our country? Red Indians warned of white men who spoke with forked tongue. In relation to the Labour party's defence policy, the British people would do well to be warned against the official Opposition who speak with forked amendment.
We know that at the last Labour party conference at Brighton, the party which is represented by the hon. Member for Clackmannan—who may not wish to be reminded of this—voted by two to one for an initial and immediate cut of £5 billion in defence spending. The actual voting was 4.2 million to 1.9 million—it was obviously a well-attended conference. As recently as last March, the Scottish Labour party passed, not by two to one but by 12 to one, a motion calling for a reduction of £9 billion in the defence budget.
I imagine that the hon. Member for Clackmannan, as he is a Scottish Member and the Scottish Labour party is so strong in this House, would be regarded as something of a hero. He might become a local hero in Scotland—the holder of the Scottish equivalent of the Order of Lenin. Yet in yesterday's debate, when my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) challenged him about Labour party figures for reducing spending on defence, he replied as follows:The hon. Gentleman puts figures on cuts that have yet to take place. As far as I know, he, CND and some of the more exotic fringes of the Labour movement have been the only ones to try to impose figures of that nature."—[Official Report, 18 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 701.]I find it hard to understand how the hon. Member for Clackmannan can be so dismissive of his closest parliamentary colleagues, as we understand that the Leader of the Opposition and Mrs. Kinnock are members 891 of CND, as are numerous others of their parliamentary colleagues, whom the hon. Gentleman has thus put in their place.
Is the hon. Gentleman asking us to accept that amongthe more exotic fringes of the Labour movementis the Scottish Labour party, which wants to cut £9 billion from the defence estimates? I see that no answer is forthcoming.
At the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union annual conference in Scarborough the union voted on a similar motion to cut £6 billion from the United Kingdom defence budget of £21 billion. When the motion was put to the vote, it was declared lost on a show of hands. Protests at the chairman's decision followed, and when the motion was put to the ballot the conference voted by 232 to 94 to cut £6 billion from the defence budget. That was either an example of partial blindness on the part of the chairman or of the sort of robust democracy which the hon. Member for Newham, North-West urged on us earlier. But the truth will always come out—
§ Mr. Neubert
Never mind the helicopter; we want to know what the Labour party has to offer for the defence expenditure of this country. Does it offer the official Opposition amendment or the amendment tabled by some Labour Back Benchers? Will the Opposition be voting twice or only once at 10 o'clock?
Several hon. Members warned us against taking things too easily—against accepting the conventional wisdom that peace has broken out barring, or including, the shouting—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. There is a great deal of back-chat going on on both sides of the House. I ask the House to listen to the Minister's concluding words.
§ Mr. Neubert
We are approaching the moment of the Labour party's maximum embarrassment in this two-day debate, so I am not surprised that Opposition Members are no longer prepared to listen. If they proceed with their reductions in defence expenditure, thousands of jobs will be lost, not only in Conservative marginal seats in Lancashire—the prospect encouraging the hon. Member for Clackmannan—but all over the country. One must ask whether the hon. Gentleman's views on that are entirely straightforward because he was foremost in pressing my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to negotiate the EFA radar project so that jobs could be saved in Ferranti in Scotland. He must make up his mind whether to support our defence estimates or to support his hon. Friends.
In opening today's debate my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces spoke about the rapidly changing world in which we live. It offers great prospects for the future, but it is an uncertain and potentially dangerous world. We need the assurance of a sound defence policy buttressed by a sound defence budget. That is what is contained in the statement, and I urge the House to support it.
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 192, Noes 319.895
|Division No. 235]||[10.00 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Anderson, Donald|
|Allen, Graham||Archer, Rt Hon Peter|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Ashton, Joe||Heal, Mrs Sylvia|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Hinchliffe, David|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Barron, Kevin||Hogg, N. (C' nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Home Robertson, John|
|Bell, Stuart||Hood, Jimmy|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Howarth, George (Knowsley A|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)|
|Blair, Tony||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Blunkett, David||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Boateng, Paul||Hughes, Roy (Newport E)|
|Boyes, Roland||Illsley, Eric|
|Bradley, Keith||Ingram, Adam|
|Brown, Gordon (D' mline E)||Janner, Greville|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside,|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Buckley, George J.||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Caborn, Richard||Lambie, David|
|Callaghan, Jim||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)||Lestor, Joan (Eccles)|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Lewis, Terry|
|Canavan, Dennis||Litherland, Robert|
|Carr, Michael||Livingstone, Ken|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Lloyd, Tony (Stratford)|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Clay, Bob||Loyden, Eddie|
|Clelland, David||McAllion, John|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Cohen, Harry||McFall, John|
|Coleman, Donald||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||McKelvey, William|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||McLeish, Henry|
|Corbett, Robin||McNamara, Kevin|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||McWilliam, John|
|Cousins, Jim||Madden, Max|
|Cox, Tom||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Cryer, Bob||Marek, Dr John|
|Cummings, John||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Martlew, Eric|
|Dalyell, Tam||Maxton, John|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Meacher, Michael|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Meale, Alan|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)||Michael, Alun|
|Dewar, Donald||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Dixon, Don||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Dobson, Frank||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Doran, Frank||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Morley, Elliot|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Eadie, Alexander||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Mullin, Chris|
|Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)||Murphy, Paul|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)||Nellist, Dave|
|Fatchett, Derek||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Faulds, Andrew||O'Brien, William|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)||Parry, Robert|
|Fisher, Mark||Patchett, Terry|
|Flannery, Martin||Pike, Peter L.|
|Flynn, Paul||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Prescott, John|
|Foster, Derek||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Foulkes, George||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Fraser, John||Radice, Giles|
|Fyfe, Maria||Randall, Stuart|
|Galloway, George||Redmond, Martin|
|Garrett, John (Norwich South)||Reid, Dr John|
|Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)||Richardson, Jo|
|George, Bruce||Robertson, George|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Gould, Bryan||Rogers, Allan|
|Graham, Thomas||Rooker, Jeff|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Grocott, Bruce||Sheerman, Barry|
|Hardy, Peter||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Walley, Joan|
|Skinner, Dennis||Warden, Gareth (Gower)|
|Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)||Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)||Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)|
|Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)||Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)|
|Snape, Peter||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Soley, Clive||Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wilson, Brian|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Winnick, David|
|Stott, Roger||Worthington, Tony|
|Strang, Gavin||Wray, Jimmy|
|Thomas, Dr Dafydd Elis|
|Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Turner, Dennis||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Vaz, Keith||Mrs. Llin Goldine.|
|Adley, Robert||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Alexander, Richard||Colvin, Michael|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Conway, Derek|
|Allason, Rupert||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Cormack, Patrick|
|Amess, David||Couchman, James|
|Amos, Alan||Critchley, Julian|
|Arbuthnot, James||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Ashby, David||Day, Stephen|
|Atkins, Robert||Devlin, Tim|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Baldry, Tony||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Dover, Den|
|Batiste, Spencer||Dunn, Bob|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Dykes, Hugh|
|Beggs, Roy||Eggar, Tim|
|Bellingham, Henry||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Evennett, David|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Fallon, Michael|
|Benyon, W.||Favell, Tony|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Body, Sir Richard||Fishburn, John Dudley|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Fookes, Dame Janet|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Forman, Nigel|
|Boswell, Tim||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Forth, Eric|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Bowis, John||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Franks, Cecil|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Freeman, Roger|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||French, Douglas|
|Brazier, Julian||Gale, Roger|
|Bright, Graham||Gardiner, George|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Gill, Christopher|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Glyn, Dr Sir Alan|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Burns, Simon||Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles|
|Burt, Alistair||Gorman, Mrs Teresa|
|Butcher, John||Gorst, John|
|Butterfill, John||Gow, Ian|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Greenway, John (Ryedale)|
|Carrington, Matthew||Gregory, Conal|
|Carttiss, Michael||Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)|
|Cartwright, John||Ground, Patrick|
|Cash, William||Grylls, Michael|
|Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda||Hague, William|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Chope, Christopher||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Churchill, Mr||Hannam, John|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)||Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Harris, David|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hayward, Robert||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Mudd, David|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hill, James||Needham, Richard|
|Hind, Kenneth||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Neubert, Michael|
|Holt, Richard||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Norris, Steve|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Page, Richard|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Paice, James|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Patnick, Irvine|
|Hunter, Andrew||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Irvine, Michael||Pawsey, James|
|Irving, Sir Charles||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Jack, Michael||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Janman, Tim||Price, Sir David|
|Jessel, Toby||Raffan, Keith|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Jones, Robert B (Herts W)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Riddick, Graham|
|Key, Robert||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Kilfedder, James||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Rost, Peter|
|Knapman, Roger||Rowe, Andrew|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Ryder, Richard|
|Knowles, Michael||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Knox, David||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Lang, Ian||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Latham, Michael||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Shelton, Sir William|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lightbown, David||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Lilley, Peter||Shersby, Michael|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Lord, Michael||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Luce, Rt Hon Richard||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|McCrindle, Robert||Speed, Keith|
|Macfarlane, Sir Neil||Speller, Tony|
|MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)||Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)|
|Maclean, David||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Squire, Robin|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Madel, David||Steen, Anthony|
|Major, Rt Hon John||Stevens, Lewis|
|Malins, Humfrey||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Mans, Keith||Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)|
|Maples, John||Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)|
|Marland, Paul||Stokes, Sir John|
|Marlow, Tony||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Marshall, John (Hendon S)||Sumberg, David|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Summerson, Hugo|
|Martin, David (Portsmouth S)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Mates, Michael||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Mellor, David||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Miller, Sir Hal||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Mitchell, Sir David||Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Thorne, Neil||Watts, John|
|Thornton, Malcolm||Wells, Bowen|
|Thurnham, Peter||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)||Whitney, Ray|
|Tracey, Richard||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Tredinnick, David||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Trippier, David||Wilkinson, John|
|Trotter, Neville||Wilshire, David|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Vaughan, Sir Gerard||Wolfson, Mark|
|Viggers, Peter||Wood, Timothy|
|Wakeham, Rt Hon John||Woodcock, Dr. Mike|
|Waldegrave, Rt Hon William||Yeo, Tim|
|Walden, George||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Walker, Bill (T'side North)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)||Mr. Alastair Goodlad and|
|Waller, Gary||Mr. Tony Durant.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 322,Noes 27.897
|Division No. 236]||[10.14 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)|
|Alexander, Richard||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Allason, Rupert||Carrington, Matthew|
|Alton, David||Carttiss, Michael|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Cartwright, John|
|Amess, David||Cash, William|
|Amos, Alan||Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda|
|Arbuthnot, James||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Chapman, Sydney|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Chope, Christopher|
|Ashby, David||Churchill, Mr|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)|
|Atkins, Robert||Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Colvin, Michael|
|Baldry, Tony||Conway, Derek|
|Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F' rest)|
|Batiste, Spencer||Cormack, Patrick|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Couchman, James|
|Beggs, Roy||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Bellingham, Henry||Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)|
|Bendall, Vivian||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Day, Stephen|
|Benyon, W.||Devlin, Tim|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Dover, Den|
|Body, Sir Richard||Dunn, Bob|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Dykes, Hugh|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Eggar, Tim|
|Boswell, Tim||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Evennett, David|
|Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)||Fallon, Michael|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Favell, Tony|
|Bowis, John||Fearn, Ronald|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Brazier, Julian||Fishburn, John Dudley|
|Bright, Graham||Fookes, Dame Janet|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Forman, Nigel|
|Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Forth, Eric|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Fox, Sir Marcus|
|Burns, Simon||Franks, Cecil|
|Burt, Alistair||Freeman, Roger|
|Butcher, John||French, Douglas|
|Butterfill, John||Gale, Roger|
|Gardiner, George||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||McCrindle, Robert|
|Gill, Christopher||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Glyn, Dr Sir Alan||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Maclean, David|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Gorst, John||McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick|
|Gow, Ian||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Malins, Humfrey|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Mans, Keith|
|Gregory, Conal||Maples, John|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Marland, Paul|
|Ground, Patrick||Marlow, Tony|
|Grylls, Michael||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Hague, William||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Mates, Michael|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Mellor, David|
|Hannam, John||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'I & Bute)|
|Harris, David||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Mitchell, Sir David|
|Hayward, Robert||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Moss, Malcolm|
|Hill, James||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Hind, Kenneth||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Needham, Richard|
|Holt, Richard||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Neubert, Michael|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Norris, Steve|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Howells, Geraint||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Paice, James|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Patnick, Irvine|
|Hunter, Andrew||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Irvine, Michael||Pawsey, James|
|Irving, Sir Charles||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Jack, Michael||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Janman, Tim||Price, Sir David|
|Jessel, Toby||Raffan, Keith|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Jones, Robert B (Herts W)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Riddick, Graham|
|Key, Robert||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Kilfedder, James||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|King, Roger (B' ham N'thfield)||Ross, William (Londonderry E)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Rowe, Andrew|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Knapman, Roger||Ryder, Richard|
|Knight, Greg (Derby North)||Sackville, Hon Tom|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Knowles, Michael||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Knox, David||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Lang, Ian||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Latham, Michael||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Shelton, Sir William|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Shersby, Michael|
|Lightbown, David||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Lilley, Peter||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Livsey, Richard||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Lord, Michael||Speed, Keith|
|Luce, Rt Hon Richard||Speller, Tony|
|Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)||Trippier, David|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Squire, Robin||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Viggers, Peter|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Steel, Rt Hon Sir David||Waldegrave, Rt Hon William|
|Steen, Anthony||Walden, George|
|Stevens, Lewis||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)||Walker, Bill (T'side North)|
|Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)||Wallace, James|
|Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)||Waller, Gary|
|Stokes, Sir John||Ward, John|
|Stradling Thomas, Sir John||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Sumberg, David||Watts, John|
|Summerson, Hugo||Wells, Bowen|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Wheeler, Sir John|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Whitney, Ray|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Wilkinson, John|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman||Wilshire, David|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Wolfson, Mark|
|Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)||Wood, Timothy|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Woodcock, Dr. Mike|
|Thorne, Neil||Yeo, Tim|
|Thornton, Malcolm||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Tracey, Richard||Mr. Alastair Goodlad|
|Tredinnick, David||and Mr. Tony Durant.|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Livingstone, Ken|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Loyden, Eddie|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)||Madden, Max|
|Canavan, Dennis||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Clay, Bob||Meale, Alan|
|Cohen, Harry||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Cousins, Jim||Mullin, Chris|
|Cryer, Bob||Nellist, Dave|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I)||Parry, Robert|
|Douglas, Dick||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Flannery, Martin||Skinner, Dennis|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)|
|Hinchliffe, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Hood, Jimmy||Mr. Harry Barnes and|
|Hughes, John (Coventry NE)||Mr. Jeremy Corbyn.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1990 contained in Cm. 1022.