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31 Oct 2002 : Column 1020—continued

Mr. Michael Portillo (Kensington and Chelsea): The Minister referred to the co-operation between Departments on this issue, which I applaud. Has he had discussions with the Department for International Development about whether funds for overseas development might in future be channelled more towards promoting good governance in some of the countries where terrorism arises? Could some of that funding be transferred towards schooling, because it seems that in places where public schooling has collapsed, militant organisations provide schools that educate the possible terrorists of the future?

Mr. Ingram: That is a good point, and it highlights the close inter-relationships that exist in taking forward the Government's strategy across a range of issues. That is why I said that our response must not be a military one alone. When we engage internationally, in any part of the world, we must look at how we ensure that we do so with the approach of trying to create a healthy society when that society may have been damaged or flawed. Afghanistan is a good example of that. Substantial aid is pouring into the country in relation to a range of measures, much of which is led by the Department for International Development and its overseas development strategy. I have visited one of the schools that was reopened in the early days post our engagement in Afghanistan. As a result of the Army being in place, that facility was rebuilt, and that kind of measure must be sustained. There are many good examples in many countries of us delivering on that basis. I am sure that that process will develop internationally. However, the

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right hon. Gentleman might want to pursue that directly with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development, with whom I speak often on such matters.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I do not want to interrupt my right hon. Friend's flow, but I have a question on security—although it may well be partly an issue for the Home Office. If, heaven help us, we were to go to war with Iraq, what would happen to the 300,000 Iraqis living in this country? Would measures be taken of an enemy alien nature? What plans do the Government have in mind? I do not expect my right hon. Friend to answer off the top of his head, but I put down a marker that that is a real problem.

Mr. Ingram: My hon. Friend will not be surprised to learn that I cannot give an answer off the top of my head. He is right that it is not a matter for the Ministry of Defence. If the problem were to be dealt with in the way he suggests, it would be the responsibility of the Home Office. I shall touch on the way in which Departments inter-relate and take the lead on a wide range of issues.

The new chapter showed that the SDR's emphasis on expeditionary operations with allies was correct. However, it also identified how to develop it by better exploiting what is known as network-centric capability. What that means in essence is that there is a need, to ensure first that our knowledge base is as deep and wide as possible and, secondly, that data are placed quickly in the hands of those decision makers who direct the response, through weapons platforms and other means, targeting the threat, however fleeting the opportunity may be. We envisage future capability being measured not by the simple number of men or weapons platforms in the overall order of battle, but by the effectiveness with which such power can be applied to hit the right target hard, fast and effectively. It is about best intelligence and best resources best used to best effect.

Whatever our objectives, however, the fact is that we live in the real world. We must recognise that the terrorist has the advantage of surprise and attacks will come according to their choice of time, place and intended effect. It will not always be possible to prevent, deter or disrupt attacks overseas. However, against that background, we have taken important steps for the protection of the United Kingdom from terrorism and for its preparedness to respond to attacks. Let me outline some of those approaches.

We have addressed attacks by renegade aircraft, which were used on 11 September. The Select Committee endorsed our general approach to that very difficult issue, and we may hear more from its members in the debate. We have taken steps that are delivering progressive improvements in our radar systems and have decided on investment that will allow quick reaction interceptors to operate from additional bases at RAF Marham in Norfolk, RAF St. Mawgan in Cornwall and RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset. Those will give air defence commanders better information and more flexibility.

In the same way as we have had the ability to intercept aircraft for many years, we have a capability to deal with renegade shipping, which is another avenue of terrorist attack. The MV Nisha incident at the end of last year

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showed how we can mount such operations successfully, and I pay tribute to the forces deployed and the civilian personnel involved. As a result of the new chapter, we are considering a number of ways to improve that capability further.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): My right hon. Friend said that we are in the process of dramatically improving radar. He will know of extensive reports that wind energy resources, to which the Government are committed as a major policy, are not being supported by the Ministry of Defence, which is blocking them on the basis of the implications for radar. Which one is the Government's priority? Surely the majority of the British people would support wind energy.

Mr. Ingram: My hon. Friend could have mentioned any large structure that interferes with radar. Of course, such interference may not only cause problems for any possible military response; it may affect civil aircraft. The Government's responsibility to ensure the integrity of the system need not be wholly inconsistent with the aims of our energy policy. We are pushing forward a progressive programme for the establishment of wind farms and wind turbines, but in that, as in any other planning approach, all environmental aspects have to be taken into account.

I am surprised that my hon. Friend does not understand that equation. Safety is as important as environmental issues of energy production. These matters are difficult to balance, but those who plan the construction and installation of wind generators need to know where and how they may affect radar coverage and what other environmental impacts they may have.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): On preventive measures, will the Minister tackle the security hazards associated with light aircraft and airfields that are not part of the mainstream commercial industry but sometimes deal with substantial aircraft? Will he reassure the House that that element of our aviation industry is on his radar? Will he reassure us also that the same attention is paid to the threat that comes not only from large ships but from smaller vessels entering UK harbours?

Mr. Ingram: There was always a risk that I would be asked questions outwith my remit. One of the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman may be a matter for the Department for Transport and the other may be a matter for the Home Office. I suggest that he takes up those issues directly with the Departments responsible.

Our response is in aid of civil powers. We stand ready to respond to any request for aid, and that is the matter that the Select Committee examined. I assure the hon. Gentleman that all those sensitive areas are being examined, but that does not mean that there is an easy solution. Any solution may have a big impact, on, among other things, cost, leisure or the economy. As I said in response to the previous intervention, we have to work out complicated equations, trying to find the best solution while maintaining normalcy in society; otherwise the terrorists have effectively won, and that, I am sure, is not the message that the hon. Gentleman

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would want to send. I take note of his concerns, and I will ensure that they are passed on to the appropriate Departments.

We have also made refinements to the well-established defence capabilities that respond to specific types of terrorist incident, including CBRN threats, which are those involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear devices. The House will appreciate that in all those areas, renegade aircraft and shipping and CBRN threats, it is not always advisable to be too specific about what our response would be. The more we publicly define, the more the terrorist knows and the more sophisticated the threat becomes.

Let me now turn to the new chapter and the issue of reserves. We suggested in the new chapter how we might make new use of reserve forces in this country. We published a discussion paper on that topic, and I am pleased that our proposals were broadly welcomed by the emergency services, the public and the volunteer reserves themselves. I can announce the details of their full implementation today. The volunteer reserves of the three services are a capable, integrated and usable part of our capability for military operations of all types at home and overseas. The measures that we are now implementing represent a highly effective way to build a valuable new capability to meet some of the home defence risks that 11 September highlighted. They do not, however, involve changes to existing operational roles or unit structures in the reserve forces.

At the heart of the new arrangements is the establishment of a capability to provide planned assistance to the civil authorities at their request on a regional basis in the event of a home defence incident. There will be 14 civil contingency reaction forces or CCRFs, each comprising some 500 volunteers drawn from existing volunteer reservists. Each will be based on a Territorial Army infantry battalion, and 29 new reserve posts will be established in each battalion to support the CCRF role directly.

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