§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ What progress they have made with their defence review.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Does he recall that a few months ago the Government were declaring that a full-scale defence review was not desirable? Have they had second thoughts on that matter?
§ Lord Renton
My Lords, bearing in mind that we always had rather small regular forces and that during both of the last two great wars we were dependent upon people who volunteered for part-time service long before the wars started, will my noble friend say that due recognition will be given in the defence review to the need for good territorial forces?
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, when under the defence review the Government examine the commitments that they believe they have, will they give thought to how to maximise what is known as the peace dividend? When the Government look at whatever scope for reduction there may be, to what extent will they consider retraining those people who are presently employed in the armament and defence business?
§ Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran
My Lords, as the noble Lord will be fully aware, my noble friend Lord Mayhew is an expert on aircraft carriers. In the defence review, what policy do the Government have in relation to aircraft carriers?
§ Lord Mellish
My Lords, is the Minister aware that while recognising the need for a review and reconsideration of our armed forces the vast majority of the public are convinced that Britain should not drop its guard in any way?
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, during the review will the Government give full weight to the views of the Minister for Defence Procurement, Mr. Alan Clark?
§ Lord Leatherland
My Lords, can the Minister give us an assurance that the infantry will not be abolished?
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, is it not the case that following the meeting of Foreign Ministers in Turnberry and the constructive speech made there by the Prime Minister the whole role of NATO is now under the most careful consideration by Her Majesty's Government and the other member governments of NATO? Can the noble Lord give an undertaking to the House that there will be a full and open review of our defence expenditure against that background? Can he undertake that this will be made public as a subject for debate in due course?
§ Lord Reay
My Lords, we do not believe that recent events diminish the need for NATO. The Soviet Union has a formidable military capability and will continue to have one for the foreseeable future. We therefore believe in a secure defence. However, the NATO Summit which will take place in London next month will address the question of how to strike the right balance between preserving the essentials of NATO as it is now and adapting it to meet the new circumstances.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, with great respect, I hope that I did not give the impression that NATO would be diminished. However, is it not the case that it was clear from the Prime Minister's speech in Turnberry that she envisages a different role for NATO in the future?
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, since the world is so obviously in a state of flux is it not a nonsense even to suggest that we make a full disclosure of our defence intentions and our general position?
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, will the Minister say when we shall be told of the Government's decisions on these matters and in what form? Meantime, is he aware that it is difficult to avoid the impression that the Government are being rather limited, slow and secretive about what they are doing?
§ Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone
My Lords, will my noble friend accept that many people in the House think that in view of the rapid change and flux of events in the international world we should applaud the Government's caution before rushing into over-hasty decisions?