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Mr. Eric Joyce (Falkirk, West): Does not the fact that the hon. Gentleman is both a serving member of the TA, so presumably he has lobbied in that capacity, and here debating Government policy on the TA give rise to some inconsistency with his comments some years ago of which I have some recollection?

Mr. Swayne: No. I suffer no discomfort at all. The TA is familiar with its role in homeland defence. Although the larger part of the TA was tasked to reinforce the British Army of the Rhine during the Soviet threat, a distinct and significant element of the TA was tasked with home defence to counter the threat of Soviet special forces attacking key points and of assassinations and to keep main supply routes open. So the TA is already familiar with this role and I am absolutely sure that it will have no difficulty carrying it out. My only concern is that the TA also has other roles to which I shall return in a moment.

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Let me say something about the need for flexible forces to which the Secretary of State and the Select Committee drew attention. The Select Committee report states:

That is absolutely true, but we should be aware that we do have additional forces with those capabilities now. It is not a common misconception in this House, but the public believe that the 3rd Commando Brigade and the 16th Air Assault Brigade are all about Royal Marine commandos and parachutists. They are not. There is a significant infantry regiment of the line input into those brigades. We fall into a grave mistake if we have the mindset that there are specialist forces and ordinary forces. Our ordinary forces are themselves specialist forces and can do the job. We must avoid the problem that will arise with respect to morale if we categorise the infantry regiments of the line as available only for what might be called ordinary duties instead of the new, highly deployable, flexible duties which are so necessary. The infantry has been working on that ability to deploy flexibly and quickly for some time. When I visited infantry headquarters in Warminster some weeks ago, I picked up its visitors' handbook. Its first page sets out "the infantry vision". I am not sure whether we should encourage vision among infantrymen. I suspect that the phrase has more to do with the management-speak of Arthur Andersen than with soldiering. Nevertheless, the vision is:

I put a little research into what that doctrine might be. If I may be technical for a moment, much of it turns on what is now called the rule of four. Under the doctrine, to deploy with maximum flexibility, maximum fire support under command and effective use of reserves, a battalion should have four companies, a company should have four platoons and a platoon should have four sections. That differs from the order of battle as it has been hitherto, which has only three of each of those elements.

That begs the enormous question of whether manpower will be forthcoming to sustain that important new order of battle. Those additional resources can come from one of two places. First, we could start to scrap cap badges and amalgamate regiments. However, I am certain that there is no appetite on either side of the House for that approach, because it kills off the goose that lays the golden egg—the very core of our regimental system. Secondly—this is what the Army believes—the additional resources can come, in time of war, from the Territorial Army. After all, that is not dissimilar from the TA's traditional role of filling out the British Army of the Rhine's order of battle.

However, if the TA is earmarked for homeland defence it will be difficult to sustain that new order of battle for the infantry in addition to the existing requirement on the TA to fill the gaps in the regular Army by providing what I described in last week's Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall as the 3,000 or so "serial mobilisers" who constantly go from one mobilisation to another to sustain the regular Army. The whole concept of homeland defence—or home defence, as we used to call it—raises serious questions about the proper establishment of the reserves.

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We were wholly opposed to the cuts in the TA. That is not a party political point, because several Labour Members, not least some of those who serve on the Select Committee, have a distinguished record in that battle. The TA suffered significant damage as a consequence of the strategic defence review. If the Government are to make use of the asset of the TA in the way that the document describes, that damage will require substantial repair. It is evident in the problem of undermanning, in the dearth of junior officers and in the fact that short courses are 40 per cent. undersubscribed. Potential officers are turning up at the Royal Military college, Sandhurst untrained by their battalions, with the result that the course has to be changed from a testing course into a teaching course. One course per year has to be cancelled owing to the shortage.

The debate on the use of the reserves must go beyond the TA. For example, we could consider using the Royal Auxiliary Air Force to provide strike flying formations. That would be comparable with the way in which the National Guard operates in the United States.

Flexibility is vital, but I want to sound a note of caution. The axes—I use the plural advisedly—of evil in the world, be they rogue states, failed states, or whatever, have plenty of conventional armaments. There are 255,000 tanks out there, only 386 of which are ours. The Soviets alone exported some 80,000 T72 tanks. Twenty-nine countries have more than 2,000 tanks; we would be 45th in any league. There must be a balance between firepower, protection and mobility. Given the current state of technology, that balance comes out at about 70 tonnes.

Mr. Kevan Jones: What use would a tank be against a terrorist attack?

Mr. Swayne: The hon. Gentleman will recall that it is not long since this country was at war with Iraq, which has many tanks. We might find ourselves in conflict with failed states not entirely dissimilar to Afghanistan as part of the war against terrorism. Infantry set against their armour without our own armoured support would take enormous casualties. One day, we will develop technology that can replace the tank, but not yet. I suspect that when we have it, it will be fiendishly expensive.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent): Few individual pieces of military equipment are of any use in a terrorist attack—that is why such attacks are so dangerous. Individual pieces of military equipment are used when we carry out our response.

Mr. Swayne: My hon. Friend's point is well made. It is not only a question of high-intensity war fighting—we have found armour to be extremely useful in peacekeeping operations in the Balkans. I am sure that Ministers will confirm that.

I want to move on to an area of defence policy on which I am tempted to congratulate the Government almost unreservedly. [Interruption.] Wait for it. The position that they appear to be taking up as regards ballistic missile defence suggests that they have taken a quantum leap. Only two years ago, speaking on "Newsnight", the Minister for Europe said:

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We can recall the debate in Westminster Hall in which many Labour Members assured us that the ballistic missile defence programme was the greatest threat to global security. Now, the Foreign Secretary declares himself to be "open to new thinking" about it. I read with unalloyed pleasure the speech that he gave on 6 February at King's college. The soundness of his argument was matched only by its familiarity.

Just over a year ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) wrote a pamphlet about ballistic missile defence in which he stated that

of arms control agreements—

In his speech, the Foreign Secretary acknowledged that

of arms control agreements. My right hon. Friend noted in his pamphlet that the "Cold War mindset" of the anti-ballistic missile treaty required its abandonment. That is almost uncannily similar to the phrase that the Foreign Secretary has used. I do not criticise the Foreign Secretary for that; his conversion is a matter of great satisfaction to Opposition Members. Our concern is whether the Government will confirm their position on this policy issue, to show that this is not just evidence of another lurch in policy.

Another item on which I am not so sanguine about the Government's stance—although I share the Secretary of State's preoccupation with it—is the European security and defence policy. The Secretary of State made it clear in November 2000 that that was all about capability. In December 2000, the Nice conclusions stated that

However, figures issued by the House of Commons Library on 13 February 2002 show that EU average defence expenditure has fallen by 5.5 per cent. in each year from 1997 to 2001. In that context, we must bear in mind that the St. Malo agreement was signed in 1998. It is no wonder that Lord Robertson sounds increasingly exasperated in his speeches. On 21 January, in Sweden, he said that Europe was becoming

I urge the Secretary of State to pay considerable attention to the report produced by the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union entitled "The European Policy on Security and Defence". It states that it is not clear what could be done with a European force, and warns against

My concern is that that might end up happening in Macedonia this summer, and I hope that the Secretary of State is alive to that concern and will be able to address it in the fullness of time.

The European security and defence policy adds nothing to military capability. It is, therefore, all the more astonishing that the EU should continue to develop

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political and military structures as though that capability existed and, indeed, as though 11 September had never happened.

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