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Defence Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 950
Taken before the Defence Committee
on Wednesday 26 October 2011
Mr James Arbuthnot (Chair)
Mr Julian Brazier
Mr Jeffrey M. Donaldson
Mr Dai Havard
Mrs Madeleine Moon
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Nick Harvey MP, Minister for the Armed Forces, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope GCB OBE ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton KCB ADC, Chief of the Air Staff, and Lieutenant-General Richard Barrons CBE, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff (Operations), gave evidence.
Q195 Chair: Minister, may I welcome you and your distinguished team? Please would you introduce the team? It is not that we do not know who they are, but it is always good for the record.
Nick Harvey: Thank you very much. I have to my left Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, First Sea Lord, and to my right Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, Chief of the Air Staff, and also to my left Lieutenant-General Richard Barrons, Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff with responsibility for operations.
Q196 Chair: You are most welcome. We understand that neither the Secretary of State nor the Chief of the Defence Staff can be here today, and we accept that that is for good reason. Thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us on the inquiry on Libya.
We will have a lot of questions today, I am afraid, but we would like to start with understanding at this stage-it may be too soon to tell-what you think went well, and what you think went not so well, in relation to the operation from a UK point of view. I know that the Prime Minister has instituted a lessons learned inquiry by the National Security Adviser, but if you could tell us what you think went well and what did not go well, that would be a good start.
Nick Harvey: I think by any objective measure, the operation as a whole and UK involvement in it should be judged a success. When the UK and our allies started military operations, Colonel Gaddafi’s forces were hours away from inflicting a humanitarian catastrophe on Benghazi and Misrata was besieged by snipers and under heavy artillery attack. NATO’s air strikes, the enforcement of the no-fly zone and the arms embargo succeeded in degrading Gaddafi’s ability to attack or threaten civilians or civilian-populated areas. I believe that NATO has saved countless lives and helped the Libyan people to bring an end to 42 years of Gaddafi’s tyrannical rule, leaving the Libyan people now free to choose their own future. I think the UK contribution to all of that has been very significant.
We have played a leading role on the military, diplomatic and humanitarian fronts. Militarily, we flew a fifth of all the air strikes, launched more than 50 helicopter missions from HMS Ocean and helped to enforce the maritime embargo and ensured that the sea lanes were free from threats to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered, which was particularly relevant in Benghazi and Misrata. I think that by all measurements it has been a success for the UK and a success for NATO. It has demonstrated our expeditionary air, maritime and amphibious capabilities and we have shown our Armed Forces in the way we wanted to project them-as flexible, adaptable and able to sustain operations and routine defence commitments worldwide, using allies and allied basing facilities where appropriate.
I think the operation pays testament to all of those involved, both the military personnel and, of course, the many dedicated civilians who provided support to them in different ways. I believe that it has been profoundly significant militarily and diplomatically, and, in giving to the Libyan people the right to determine their future, it has been a success.
Q197 Chair: I think we would all wish to share in the tribute that you have paid to our Armed Forces and the armed forces of other countries who did the same thing. We are grateful to you for expressing it that way. That is the answer to the first part of the question.
Nick Harvey: We do not think from this that anything went conspicuously badly. You referred in your introduction, quite rightly, to a lessons learned exercise, which certainly we, NATO and the French are doing, and I would think that when that piece of work has had time to mature and all the different aspects of this have been considered, there will be things that we conclude could have been done better. It has certainly been the case throughout that we have been quite stretched as an alliance in terms of the intelligence picture with which we were working. There have been challenges in terms of air-to-air refuelling, for example, but in all instances, we have managed, working with allies, to deploy different bits of different nations’ capability to make it work. I think that there is no conspicuous failure that we are chastising ourselves about, but it would be surprising if a lessons learned exercise did not distil for the future some practices that could improve another time.
Q198 Chair: Capability gaps-I think I am particularly looking at the First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Air Staff-that became apparent during the Libyan operation; what would you say they were?
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: Shall I take that first? First, capability gaps as an alliance were not exposed. I think the alliance worked well, recognising the support that was provided by the Americans in the early stages and indeed throughout in some areas. It certainly demonstrated areas within the alliance as a whole where there was a paucity of some of those assets. ISR-intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance-stands out as an area where as an alliance we were short of what was required. We need to look to that in the future as one of the key enablers for us to be able to do this business.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: I absolutely support the issue of knowing what the situation was before we even started, because it was not something that we had in the bank-why should we have? Secondly, there is the need for us to have a better integrated capability on secure communications. That is my clear priority, particularly that capability which is deployable when you already have a major part of your assets deployed on the main effort in Afghanistan. That is an area that I would want us to have another look at to see whether we have got it right.
Q199 Chair: We will come on in more detail to the issue of surveillance and ISTAR generally. How will this experience feed into the next Strategic Defence and Security Review? One of the reasons why I ask that question is that one of the things that was said only a year ago in the SDSR was, "we will be more selective in our use of the Armed Forces, deploying them decisively at the right time but only…where we have a clear strategic aim" and "where we have a viable exit strategy". That was not the case here, was it?
Nick Harvey: I think we had a clear aim. In the exit strategy, the objective was to prevent an atrocity against civilian life. That was not an open-ended commitment. It could have ended in a variety of different ways. It was always clear that this was at most a medium-scale engagement. The aims were entirely clear.
Q200 Chair: But the exit strategy wasn’t, was it?
Nick Harvey: There must be a limit to the number of engagements that you take on at the outset knowing with absolute clarity what the exit strategy would be at the end of it.
Q201 Chair: I did not draft the SDSR; you did.
Nick Harvey: No, and I take your point. The defence planning assumption is that, at any given point in time, we can sustain one medium-scale enduring operation and two other smaller-scale operations. This fitted, I think, the description of what one of those smaller-scale operations would have been. If the aim is clear, there are a range of exit strategies that you can adduce from that. The fact that you do not know for certain which of those it was going to be cannot be taken as invalidating the action or meaning that you should not be willing to embark.
Q202 Chair: No, I am not suggesting that. The Prime Minister accepted that there was not an exit strategy.
Nick Harvey: Not a single, clear one.
Q203 Chair: Yes. It means that this must feed into the next Strategic Defence and Security Review. Perhaps you should be a little less dogmatic about having an exit strategy before you go into something like Libya.
Nick Harvey: I think the entire lessons learned exercise, as well as the practical experience of all those involved, will inevitably feed into the next SDSR process, which I would sincerely hope, because it is unlikely to be conducted at the same time as a Comprehensive Spending Review, may be able to be conducted, as the Committee observed, at a slightly different pace.1
Q204 Chair: Yes. While we were doing the operation in Libya, what contingent capability did we have, for example, around the shores of the United Kingdom?
Nick Harvey: If you are asking that question about the shores of the United Kingdom-
Q205 Chair: Well, what contingent capability did we have, not just around the shores of the United Kingdom?
Nick Harvey: We will start with the naval piece.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: Let me address the standing overseas commitments that we have. Before Libya, we had already recognised stretch in our ability to satisfy our commitment to have a warship in the Caribbean during the hurricane season. We were covering that with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, which is entirely acceptable to do that job, although it did not absolutely satisfy it. During the Libya operation, to satisfy the standing overseas commitments, there was a need to extend some operational tasking programmes. We had to extend time on task for some units and manage our way through the period of the Libya crisis.
Q206 Chair: I am not entirely sure that I understand that answer. What were you not able to do, in terms of contingent liability, that you would have been able to do before the Libya operation?
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: The contingent capability in the maritime sphere is the Response Force Task Group-HMS Ocean, HMS Bulwark, Operation Cougar. That was planned as a standard training requirement that would go into the Mediterranean and some of the units would transit to the Middle East in the early part of this year. We deployed that group early as a consequence of the growing crisis in Libya. In terms of its use, we worked it up in the Mediterranean and had it standing by for contingent option capability-in Libya or as required.
When the situation on the ground in Libya sorted itself it meant that we could make some judgments-we sent the remainder of that group into the Middle East for a period of time before returning it to the United Kingdom. HMS Ocean, for example, was deployed with it, expecting to be away for seven weeks; she is still on operations as contingent requirement in the Indian ocean. So our contingent requirement was available to be used for the crisis of the time. Some of it was used; some of it went on to be contingent in the Middle East.
Q207 Chair: CAS, anything to add?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: I think there are two things. It has been great to be able to demonstrate, yet again, that you can move aircraft and air power from one area to another when you need it to be there. So although today the priority may be Afghanistan and Libya, tomorrow, if a requirement came from somewhere else, it could be moved there. In some cases, we had additional assets that we could have deployed-again, we did that to bolster up the requirements in Afghanistan and in Libya, and have brought them back again. You can do that very flexibly. In other areas, we had to manage aircraft on a task-prioritised base, which is what we do-that is what you do with air power.
Q208 Chair: Was there good interdepartmental co-operation during the operation?
Nick Harvey: Yes. Principally, that was co-ordinated through the National Security Council and its Libya sub-committee, which met on a very regular basis. For a long time, it met daily; thereafter it met at least twice a week. There was a lot of contact between officials, hour by hour, throughout the campaign, including not only those in the Foreign Office but those in the Department for International Development and, at different points, the Treasury and other Departments. There were many different aspects to the engagement in Libya, of which the military component was but one.
Q209 Chair: May I move on to the formulation of the plans for the beginning of the operation? What input did the Ministry of Defence have in the drafting of the United Nations Security Council resolution? What input did the Ministry have in relation to the military risks of the engagement?
Nick Harvey: A military adviser is embedded in our UN mission, in New York, who offered military advice. Instructions, of course, were also fed to the UK mission from the Foreign Office here, which had consulted the Ministry of Defence in those early stages. The NATO contingency planning started before the Security Council resolution was agreed, on the assumption that a clear legal basis would emerge for NATO to act, as well as a demonstrable need for regional support. The NATO nations in the UN Security Council fed into the negotiations around that resolution and they were considering NATO operational capabilities as part of that process.
There was a huge amount of informal discussion across Government and with other allied Governments about the implications of the proposed UNSCR measures. There was also a full risk assessment of the political, legal and human risks. All the countries that subsequently got involved had had an input into framing the resolution and its terms.
Q210 Chair: Including you, for example, CAS?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: No, not directly, but I would not expect to be involved at that stage. They had the policy staff and the commitment staff under General Barrons and the director-general of policy, who will be involved in the other Government Departments and across Whitehall. I expect that it is really more appropriate for him to discuss what involvement there was.
Lieutenant-General Barrons: There is a mechanism that works day to day, which would take the sort of military advice that can be generated within the Ministry of Defence to support the Foreign Office’s direction to our elected staff of the United Nations and the military diplomatic staff at NATO headquarters. In the construction of this mission, the standing process was applied. Therefore, as the United Nations and the North Atlantic Council began to consider the issues, there was plenty of opportunity, which was well taken, to provide military advice and to support our staff in those two places.
Q211 Chair: So the construction of the mission began before the United Nations resolutions were passed?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: The construction of how you might go about this and what it might involve is, of course, an iterative and continuous process. A lot of thinking and planning would have gone on before the decisions were actually taken, as you would anticipate. That is not the same thing as steps being taken to execute a decision that we would need our alliances and organisations to take first.
Q212 Mr Havard: On that basis, there is a question that has been bugging me. Who has oversight of compliance with the British involvement in that process after it has begun? Who in the Ministry of Defence is charged with that? I presume that the Secretary of State is responsible for everything at the end of the day, but who is actually ensuring that the British understanding of the British activity-in order to be properly compliant with the law and everything else-is actually being carried out, so that individual service people and everybody else are clear about where they stand in terms of their legality?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: If we start from the point that the operation has been launched-instructions have been issued, decisions taken and the operation has begun-the commanders in the field will report daily what they are up to and that is supplemented by intelligence and media and other sources of information. All of that is collated into a sense of what is going on, and my organisation in the Ministry of Defence owns that process day-to-day. We take the summation of that and we are required to take it to the Chiefs of Staff committee and to CDS on operational matters. My civilian counterparts ensure that that information is conveyed to the Secretary of State and other Ministers. That is amplified by the discussion that continues daily with key allies about what they think they are seeing and what they are doing.
Part of my organisation’s job is not just issuing instructions to the folks who are to execute the operation and articulating the military side of that across Whitehall, but also holding the commanders to account for how they are doing on behalf of CDS.
Q213 Mrs Moon: How confident are you that the National Transitional Council will carry out its commitment to protect all civilians, including pro-Gaddafi forces?
Nick Harvey: I have to say that, thus far, the performance of the National Transitional Council has-I think it would be fair to say-exceeded most people’s expectations. There was obviously a fear that, in the aftermath of the conflict, things might have descended into the sort of scenes that we have seen elsewhere. It is a matter of considerable relief that, thus far at least, the situation has been really relatively peaceful. When the forces of the National Transitional Council went into Sirte they showed considerable restraint, for example, in repeatedly authorising pauses to enable the civilian population who wished to, to get out and not get drawn up in the fighting. Without trying to rush to judgment too soon, I would say so far, so good. The way they have conducted themselves and the progress of the effort there to bring many different, diverse parts of Libyan society back together again, is doing pretty well at this stage.
Q214 Mrs Moon: Do you have any concerns about the killing of Gaddafi and the 50 members of his forces?
Nick Harvey: We have made it clear to the National Transitional Council that we believe that should be properly investigated and we hope very much that they are going to do that and they have indicated that they are. It is not what we would have done or the way that we would have wanted to see it happen, but in due course perhaps we will understand more about what exactly did happen. But I do not personally, at this stage, form the judgment that that was in any way typical of what is happening across Libya or the approach that the National Transitional Council is taking to try to bring about a reconciliation across the nation.
Q215 Mrs Moon: Was there any suggestion that NATO forces were aware that the convoy leaving Sirte, which was heading for the border, actually contained Gaddafi?
Nick Harvey: I have no knowledge of that.
Lieutenant-General Barrons: The answer to the question is no.
Q216 Mrs Moon: So there was no awareness at all that Gaddafi was in that convoy?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: No.
Q217 Mrs Moon: Were there at any time any opportunities for NATO forces to intervene to protect Gaddafi and ensure that he was taken alive for trial?
Nick Harvey: There were not really any NATO forces on the ground.
Q218 Mrs Moon: I know they were not on the ground, but were they aware, for example, that his whereabouts had been located and that there were attempts to extract him from the drain, or wherever it was he was found? Were NATO forces at any point given any opportunity to intervene and urge that he be taken alive?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: The answer to that question is unequivocally no.
Q219 Mrs Moon: Last week, the NATO Secretary-General announced the winding down of the operation while retaining a capability to protect civilians. I understand there is a preliminary decision that operations will cease on 31 October. What is the UK’s current operational commitment? What would be the role of our Armed Forces after 31 October?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: If I may, the current position is that we were anticipating a North Atlantic Council meeting today, which has now been postponed. On the assumption that that meeting today had confirmed the direction of travel towards concluding Operation Unified Protector on 31 October, the Secretary of State for Defence may agree today to reduce some of the forces that are currently committed to the operation before 31 October because there is no need for them to remain on task. We arrive at 31 October if the North Atlantic Council affirms that the operation has concluded. Then the operation has concluded and the legal basis on which we have been conducting operations ceases at that point and there is then no basis, which currently exists, to continue those operations. That will remain the case unless and until there is a specific request-for example, from the NTC-to nations on a bilateral basis for specific help, which has not yet occurred.
Q220 Mrs Moon: I understand that such a request has been made, actually. Such a request has been made by the National Transitional Council for support from NATO to continue through to the end of the year. Are you aware of that, Minister?
Nick Harvey: No, certainly not in that all-encompassing sense. I believe that there have been some provisional discussions about what sort of help and support they might wish in the future from some of the countries who have been involved in this effort, but it is much too early at this stage to anticipate what form that might take. Broadly, I think it would be support and training and advice, but I am certainly not aware of anything in terms of direct military involvement of the sort you describe. I don’t know whether General Barrons can add to that.
Lieutenant-General Barrons: That is correct. There are clear discussions about what help the NTC might want after Operation Unified Protector has been closed. That has not yet presented itself as a formal request either to us nationally or to NATO or to allies. There is a meeting today in Qatar with the NTC that will begin to discuss the issue, so we may be on that road, but there are-
Q221 Chair: I think it is at that meeting that the Chairman of the NTC has made that request, in Doha.
Nick Harvey: So you are saying it has happened in the past hour or two?
Chair: It was reported on the BBC at 12 minutes past one.
Mrs Moon: The Committee is always bang up to date with its information. The Minister should know that.
Mr Havard: It’s all that ISTAR and intel we’ve got.
Nick Harvey: Very impressive.
Lieutenant-General Barrons: If I may, we are expecting that meeting today to discuss the sort of help the NTC might want in the future. Of course, it will take time for Government to decide how they wish to service that.
Q222 Mrs Moon: Our understanding is that one of the things they are asking for is help in developing their defence and security capability. One area where it has been suggested that the UK has a problem is that the cost of our training is more expensive than the training provided by other nations. I understand the Treasury has fixed a level of training cost that is higher than that of other NATO allies. Therefore, we are an unattractive bargain when shopping around for defence and security training. Is that something you will discuss with the Treasury? Is it something you feel would be helpful for us to provide to the Libyans?
Nick Harvey: It would depend on the extent to which they were able to meet their need anywhere else. If there is a need for them to come to us for support with training, we would enter into a discussion with them. One would hope that the economic outlook for Libya, as time goes on, is sufficiently encouraging that they would pay the price that was asked for what they thought was going to be necessary. That’s not immediately, but it would have to be the expectation going forward.
Q223 Mrs Moon: So you have no plans to talk to the Treasury about making the services available at a more reasonable rate?
Nick Harvey: I have no plans to at this stage, but if this became a material issue we could engage in a discussion with the Treasury at any point.
Chair: Can I impose a pause there and bring in Thomas Docherty?
Q224 Thomas Docherty: Minister, going back to your earlier remarks, you painted a rather rosy picture, if I may say so, of the NTC and its activities. I appreciate that you dwelt on the Gaddafi situation and perhaps inadvertently skipped over the recent events. I think it is fair to say that many of us regard the murder of 53 individuals whose bodies were found outside a hotel to be a war crime. Do you agree that is a war crime?
Nick Harvey: It potentially might be. We would need to know more about it. I can see prima facie that that could be argued.
Q225 Thomas Docherty: Okay. Are you actively seeking an investigation of those circumstances?
Nick Harvey: I think it would be virtually impossible for us to investigate it, but we would certainly hope that the Libyan authorities will do that. If it is possible to assist any international effort to do so, I am sure we would be up for doing that, but it is difficult to see on what basis we ourselves could contribute very much to such an investigation.
Q226 Thomas Docherty: Are you not providing assistance to other potential war crime allegations in the country?
Nick Harvey: General Barrons, do you have anything?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: We do not have a presence on the ground, other than a very small number of people in support of the ambassador. The lead for this issue would normally sit with the United Nations and other similar organisations. Whether the 53 bodies constitute a war crime, or crime, will obviously be for others to judge. I think it sits well outside the military lane. I would merely add that, as far as the NTC’s conduct of military tactical operations is concerned, it has been very alert indeed to the requirement to protect the civilian population. Once you step out beyond the conduct of military operations and you are dealing with the complexity of post-conflict Libya-if I may refer to it as that-where there is no script, there are many competing interests and more than 42 years of difficulty to overcome, there will clearly be difficult pressures at work, but I doubt that the Ministry of Defence are the right people to ask about how to handle that issue.
Q227 Thomas Docherty: Are you talking to DFID, the Foreign Office or other Departments about this issue, because I suspect that this is one of those that might fall between various stools?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: It is regularly raised in the National Security Council environment at official and higher levels. This is something that the Foreign Office leads on, and which the Department for International Development supports.
Q228 Thomas Docherty: Am I therefore right in saying that the UK Government believes that there is the potential for a war crime, and that if it is proved that there is a war crime, you would expect members of the NTC to face exactly the same prosecution? If you think back to Yugoslavia, for example, one of the big issues was that, for a while, we did run a double standard; it has taken us a long time to do that.
Minister, can you give a guarantee to this Committee that the UK Government does not propose to run two different standards-one for the NTC and one for the Gaddafi forces?
Nick Harvey: The UK Government would deplore mass killing in any circumstances in which it took place, and we would support the quest for the truth as to what happened on this occasion. If it can reputably and reliably be established that a crime has been committed, we would expect that to be pursued with the same vigour, whatever the circumstances.
Q229 Mrs Moon: How would you define a successful post-conflict Libya? What would you be looking for to measure that success and how would it be measured?
Nick Harvey: I would have thought the first test that we would apply would be to see stability and peace in that country. We would be looking for organs of government to establish themselves and for the rule of law to be adhered to. In the longer term, one would hope to see Libya prosper, but that is a longer-term aim. The first requirement in the short term is to see peace, stability and law and order.
Q230 Mrs Moon: If you get to the point of seeing peace, stability and law and order, and we deal with the proposed request that we remain for some time, who will make the final decision about when Britain’s forces are pulled out of Libya and are no longer involved in the operation in relation to Libya?
Nick Harvey: The National Security Council and all those on it, with the Prime Minister in the Chair and other Cabinet members, including the Secretary of State for Defence, being around the table.
Q231 Mrs Moon: One of the risks for the future of Libya has been that large numbers of weapons have been made available to the National Transitional Council, which has found a large number of weapons caches belonging to the Gaddafi regime. There are also suggestions that there are large numbers of surface-to-air missiles and weapons of mass destruction unaccounted for. Are you aware of that? What is your assessment of the security implications of that? And what are the NATO allies doing to try to find those weapons?
Nick Harvey: Undoubtedly, this is a major concern for NATO and for the National Transitional Council and, frankly, it should be a major concern for the UN and other countries around the world. Your basic premise is broadly correct that there are munitions at large within the Libyan territory on a scale which is concerning. We are doing what we can to support international efforts. We have committed some personnel. The Americans are taking a lead on that because, unless we can succeed in working with the NTC to get this situation under control, the danger of those munitions and that equipment finding their way around the world is very real and everybody ought to take it seriously. General Barrons, do you want to add any specifics?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: It is absolutely clear: there is no shortage of small arms and ammunition in Libya. Much of that has come from the opening up of the stocks that the former regime upheld, and they were prodigious. Those stocks are not yet under control because they have been dispersed around the country. They are currently in the hands of various forms of militia and security organisations, so corralling that quantum will be very difficult and we should acknowledge that the very porous borders to Libya will not make it straightforward. So there is clearly a risk.
Of particular concern is the substantial number of man-portable air defence systems known to exist in Libya before the conflict and, as the Minister mentioned, that has already led to a US-led, UK-supported project to which we have currently committed four people and the Government have committed £1.5 million. With others, that team is scoping the problem. By that, I mean a survey of literally hundreds of bunkers is being conducted.
Q232 Mrs Moon: So they are on the ground?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: They are on the ground now. Where these weapons are identified, they are recorded and destroyed. There is still some way to go with that. There is a risk that the systems will leak from Libya, but steps are being taken to minimise that risk. The NTC is very alert to that and is as clear as we are about the dangers, and is fully engaged in supporting the project.
Weapons of mass destruction have been mentioned. It was known in advance of the conflict that Libya held and had declared some stocks of chemical weapons. It was known where they were. They are still there, and a very close eye was kept on that stuff. They are currently under control and the ambition is to very quickly restart the Italian-led project that was setting about destroying them. Were there to be in the future undeclared stocks of chemical weapons, the NTC is completely clear that they would have to be dealt with in the same way, and obviously, since they are undeclared, we don’t yet know.
Q233 Mr Havard: May I just go back to the question of the convoy? I am confused about how it was targeted and why it was targeted. Was it an aggressive action by the convoy that seemed to be trying to escape to the border? I have some questions about how this counts as a piece of dynamic targeting, the intelligence comes from it and NATO priding itself on having these elaborate arrangements so that it doesn’t shoot up civilians and doesn’t stray beyond the resolution.
Let me tell this story: an Eritrean mercenary, dying from his wounds, gives you intelligence. It comes into your central unit. You now have some intelligence, but there is a lack of confidence-that it was not understood to be a convoy carrying Gaddafi and it was a some sort of extrajudicial execution process. We need some more clarity. How does a convoy of what appears to be largely civilians escaping to the border become decided by NATO to be a target to be shot at by its jets? How does that happen?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: If I may start, the Chief of Air Staff may wish to follow. In terms of the intelligence picture-the point you made in the middle of your question-did we know that Mr Gaddafi was in that convoy? No. Therefore, the question of it being targeted because of Mr Gaddafi doesn’t really arise. The issue for NATO would be, what was the convoy about? If it were part of the command and control of operations that are asserting themselves against the civilian population, it would constitute a legitimate target. The NATO commanders would take that judgment.
If the NATO commander-in this case, it was the NATO Combined Joint Taskforce commander himself-took the view that that convoy, within the permissions and authorities he had, constituted a legitimate target, it would be entirely appropriate for him to direct the aircraft that were in the skies at the time to interdict. I obviously can’t speak for him, but he clearly took the view that it was a target that fell within his permissions and constituted part of the command and control apparatus surrounding the pro-Gaddafi forces.
Q234 Chair: How can you tell that a convoy is part of a command and control apparatus?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: It would depend on the information available to the task force commander at the time. He would have been acquiring that not just through what was seen from overhead, but from the messages he was getting from a number of sources, including, not least, the NTC itself. However, he would have had to form the judgment that that convoy fell within his permissions. Clearly, I cannot speak for him, and I would therefore not be able to run through the detail of that judgment.
Q235 Mr Havard: So this was a piece of dynamic targeting, in the same way as a lot of other dynamic targets were chosen throughout the conflict. It seemed to be in some way a threat to civilians because it was part of a command and control structure and therefore was interdicted by NATO. Coincidentally, Gaddafi happens to be in one of the trucks; he escapes, and history moves on.
Lieutenant-General Barrons: Yes.
Q236 Chair: CAS, is there anything you would like to add to that?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: No, not really. The key thing for this, as General Barrons said, is the fact that the commander on the spot-this was all connected up-had to have assurance in his own mind that what he was doing was within his rules of engagement and the permissions that he has. Clearly, he did.
Q237 Mr Brazier: General Barrons, could I ask you to explain how the command and control arrangements developed for the operation-in your last answers, you gave us a rather piercing insight towards the end-and, in particular, what changes the UK had to make in the way we organised things in order to accommodate these rather unusual arrangements?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: I will start with the easy bit, which is the NATO command structure. Clearly, it was necessary, in establishing this operation, for the NATO chain of command to establish command and control over the operation, and that was done. The Chief of the Air Staff is absolutely the expert in how that was done in the air domain.
In order to prosecute that operation successfully, it was clearly important that there was some connection between the National Transitional Council, which has a very good view of where the civilian population we are trying to protect exists, and the NATO chain of command. We need to be absolutely clear, however, that our remit is to protect the civilian population, no matter who is oppressing it. We are not therefore acting in any form of military capacity on behalf of the NTC, so it is an unusual position to be in.
The hardest part of the command and control-the Chief of the Air Staff would no doubt wish to elaborate on this-was how to take the range of assets that were provided by nations and make them operate quickly and effectively in the sort of setting we found ourselves in, in Libya. That required some really adroit handling from the commanders, staff and airmen who were flying, to make that happen.
Q238 Mr Brazier: Right. CAS, do you want to come in on that?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: We started through a process where, as it was being decided exactly who was going and what organisation was going to command and control the operation past the first couple of days, there was a necessity to ensure that we hung our absolute command and control structure on NATO. The beauty of having NATO there in the first place was that such a structure already existed.
We then needed to supplement it so that the right SMEs-subject matter experts-were available to the command structure to ensure that the right air packages could be put together, and that the right control could be kept over the whole build-up and when conducting the operation, at the same time. That was done, and that is why the structure was put in place between Naples and Poggio, to ensure that such a structure was there, with the different levels of command between the CJF at Naples and the combined joint taskforce of the air component at Poggio-it was able to command and control what was going on.
At the same time, we must not forget that the naval element was going on as well, which, again, was commanded through Naples. Again, it was based on the NATO structure that exists there, which enabled us to supplement it and therefore we already had something in place that we could use as the basis.
Q239 Mr Brazier: First Sea Lord, do you want to add anything?
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: That was exactly correct.
Q240 Mr Brazier: Minister, may I ask you two political questions arising from the very clear insight we have had? First, do you think that realistically, any similar operation is always going to have to be either US or NATO-led? Secondly, crucially, in light of the subsequent reaction, from the Russians in particular, to the operation, the comments, the very modest resolution on Syria and so on, is there any prospect of us ever again getting such UN approval for a NATO or US-led operation?
Nick Harvey: I think it is very difficult to see how a complex intervention on any sort of scale could take place without a mature command structure. I share your view that one would struggle to see how anything new could be constructed on an ad hoc basis. Therefore, it probably would mean that. A structure like ISAF can be created for something that is ongoing, but again, clearly, that is very strongly NATO and American-led.
On the politics of future UN resolutions, I would say never say never. We just don’t know what circumstances might obtain in the future that might cause different countries to view things in particular ways. You have touched on the issue of Syria, and I would have to concur with your implied judgment that there appears to be no prospect whatever that the Russians-or possibly the Chinese either-would allow another resolution of that sort, given that there is opposition even to drafts of resolutions that are mildly critical of the Syrian regime.
Q241 Sandra Osborne: One of the main aims, as you have already stated, was to protect civilians, but it has been reported that 80% of the casualties in Misrata were civilian casualties. What is your assessment of the level of casualties throughout the operation, including those caused by UK forces and NATO?
Nick Harvey: I would have to say that it has been at the absolute forefront of both British and NATO planning that we were, above all other things, seeking to protect civilians. I think that history will judge that the rates of civilian casualties at the hands of NATO or the United Kingdom were very much lower than in any comparable action in the past. It is very difficult at this stage to draw an estimate of the number of civilian casualties caused by pro-Gaddafi forces or, indeed, by what we were calling the free Libya forces and the forces loyal to what is now the NTC.
The NTC, notwithstanding what other Members have said, has repeatedly made clear the need to respect the rule of law and to prevent revenge attacks. I say again that I think it is to be commended for that. The UN human rights commission of inquiry established that there have been instances in which forces were responsible for committing acts that might constitute war crimes, which may have to be followed up and followed through, but I don’t think we saw any widespread attacks against civilians by the liberation forces. That is in stark contrast, frankly, to the conduct of the Gaddafi regime, which, in Misrata and elsewhere, showed a complete disregard for civilian life. At this stage, I don’t think we are yet in a position to make reliable estimates of numbers.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: Can I just emphasise our enormous, absolutely tremendous efforts to make sure that any chances of civilian deaths being caused by activity from the air, certainly, and from the sea were looked at in incredible detail at lots of levels? A number of targets-many, many targets-were rejected because of the chances of having civilians on the site. In some cases sorties were turned round mid-flight and brought weapons back because of the chance that there would be civilians there. So this is something that was taken extreme care of. Then the guys in the air, when they were actually firing the weapons, because they were precision weapons, again often took the option of diverting the weapon away from the target if something came along to indicate that there were civilians there. So an enormous great effort went into how the air precision weapons were dropped and to ensure that the targets themselves were not going to be overrun by civilians in any way, shape or form.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: Can I add to the answer? It underpins the importance of that ISR persistence that it is not just, "Go out, find the target, and send off an aircraft or naval gunfire support". You have to be persistent in your ISR to make sure that when the munitions arrive you are still going to be able to achieve that level of prevention of casualties outside the mission set zone. The persistence is of fundamental importance.
Q242 Sandra Osborne: Do we have an idea of how the civilians were killed by the pro-Gaddafi forces?
Nick Harvey: How many?
Q243 Sandra Osborne: How were they killed? Was it in the course of fire? Were there massive numbers of executions or murders?
Nick Harvey: There was a huge amount of completely indiscriminate fire.
Lieutenant-General Barrons: If I may, the picture varies considerably across Libya. You mentioned Misrata where there was a really, really hard fight between the NTC and the pro-Gaddafi forces. The nature of that fight was really a combination of the application of artillery and tank fire indiscriminately into the built-up area of Misrata, followed up by hard-pressed infantry attacks and an exchange of small arms fire. So many of the casualties in Misrata were undoubtedly caused by the shelling of the area of the town by the pro-Gaddafi forces, in circumstances in which the civilian population were unable to leave and in many cases unwilling to leave because they feared that if they did they would suffer as badly on their departure.
That is not the picture that you would find in Tripoli, which remains in many areas undamaged, and contrasts significantly with the approach taken by the NTC on its approach to Sirte and Bani Walid, where they provided opportunities for the civilian population to leave, not least because they were very alert to the requirement on us to protect the civilian population, no matter where that threat came from. Like any hard-fought conflict, there were, regrettably, many civilian casualties. We are unable to put a number on that because we are not present on the ground and therefore do not have the way to go and look.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: But it was the very presence of the aircraft overhead that often saw that gunfire going on and therefore because of the permissions that existed at the time, that was evidence of an attack on the civilians and those weapons were pretty well taken out when they started to fire, quite often indiscriminately. That was part of the plan-to make sure that if we saw that happening those weapons were then taken out. In some cases, despite the fact that the Gaddafi forces had tried to hide them in amongst the towns and the buildings and elsewhere, the precision weapons that were available and the skills that were used demonstrated that that could be done with the minimum of collateral damage often when, for instance, other buildings were less than six feet away from the weapon. So this is what we were able to do and this is fundamentally what we were about.
Q244 Sandra Osborne: Do you believe that the provision of arms to the opposition forces was consistent with the UN resolutions?
Nick Harvey: Well, the UK provided non-lethal equipment, for example communications equipment which we believed was necessary to assist in the protection of civilian life. We also sent, for example, body armour. Again, we took the view that it was non-lethal. I would say in passing that all equipment that we gifted was assessed against our usual export control criteria and for compliance with the international sanctions that were in force there. As for anything that other Governments might have done, that is really very much a matter for their judgment, but in terms of what we sent, which was non-lethal equipment, we believe that that did not break international embargos and that it was a necessity to achieve our objective of protecting civilian life.
Q245 Sandra Osborne: But is the position of the UK Government that the provision of arms to the opposition forces was contrary to the UN Security Council resolutions?
Nick Harvey: Well, we didn’t do so ourselves. We supplied, as I said, non-lethal equipment. The judgments that other Governments made are matters for them to justify.
Q246 Sandra Osborne: Like the pro-Gaddafi forces, were the NTC also firing indiscriminately? If so, was action taken to stop them doing so?
Nick Harvey: It was impressed upon them throughout, in all different parts of Libya-recognising of course that there were many disparate elements to the opposition to Gaddafi-that the concern of the international community, and our overriding priority, was the protection of civilian life. That was stated and restated repeatedly to all elements of the opposition. If we had seen any instances of indiscriminate actions by the liberation forces that we thought were imperilling civilian life, we most certainly would have protested to them and demanded that it stop.
I must say, however, that our overall firm impression was that they recognised the need to protect civilian life. We have already touched upon the instances in which they went out of their way to enable civilians to get out of some of the areas of the most contentious fighting. If there have been, during the course of all those months and across that huge territory, instances where anything of that sort has happened, we would hope to see that followed up in the appropriate way in due course, but we do not have knowledge of that and do not believe that to have been the case.
Q247 Chair: On 29 June, the French air force said that they had dropped weapons into the mountains to the west of Libya. Do you think we would be in the position we are in today in relation to Libya had they not supplied those weapons?
Lieutenant-General Barrons: The greatest supply of weapons to the NTC came from the stocks that were already in Libya. The very small amount that France announced that it had delivered at that stage would have been locally significant, but set against the sheer quantum of weapons and ammunition that exists in Libya-in some cases weapons were captured and in many cases they were turned over by elements of the pro-Gaddafi forces as they changed sides, which was highly significant in the closing stages in Tripoli-I do not believe that the outcome would have been any different.
Q248 Mr Havard: You have explained very clearly how you influenced, as it were, the behaviour and the actions of the pro-Gaddafi forces and, in doing so, tried to avoid civilians becoming casualties, but you had the ability to influence the NTC side as well.
Major-General Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah from Qatar has said today that the "the numbers of Qataris on ground were hundreds in every region." There were people on the ground-they were not Brits on the ground-and you had ways of making the NTC forces more efficient as they went along, presumably and partly so that you could influence them so that they could avoid actually doing some of the things that you did not want them to do, as well as do some of the things that they might productively want to do. Is that the reality of where we are? That there was no one on the ground is a bit of mythology, and had there been, the NATO mission as currently constructed could not perhaps really have been conducted in the way that it was. I just offer that as an observation. Maybe there would have been more casualties; maybe it is positive; maybe it is negative. Surely, though, in your targeting process, you had the ability to influence the NTC-side of the operation as well as to exert influence on the other side. Is that a fair picture and what does that tell us about how you were conducting the operations on the ground to protect civilians on either side?
Lieutenant General Richard Barrons: In terms of the mythology that there was no one on the ground, the facts are clear: there were various forms of European representation in Benghazi, alongside the NTC. That is one way in which diplomats and their military advisers can influence and advise the NTC’s senior leadership in Benghazi about how they might choose to conduct their campaign within the rules that have been set. You are absolutely right: there were representatives of Qatar and other Arab nations on the ground; they were there at the request of the NTC, sat alongside the NTC, and were able to provide advice, encouragement and guidance. Our contact with General Hamid, for example, and others meant that we too were able to make suggestions about how they would be able to conduct their operations and stay within the terms set.
Q249 Mr Havard: Can I be clear? The Qatar air component was part of the NATO-tasked operation, certainly initially, and was part of the no-fly activity?
Lieutenant General Richard Barrons: The Qatar air force was not part of NATO, but was part of the air effort, yes.
Q250 Mr Havard: Now you are saying that the NTC were making requests of the Qatar forces to do other things. We had a NATO-plus coalition, prosecuting a UN mandate. How much of this plus bit is in the NATO-plus part, or is the plus bit also operating bilaterally with the NTC? How does all of this fit together in terms of the NATO-plus coalition’s responsibilities under the UN mandate, and which parts are not included?
Lieutenant General Richard Barrons: If I may start, I am sure the Chief of the Air Staff will wish to follow. The UN Security Council resolutions apply equally to everybody. The aircraft and any other assets that Qatar produced were still limited to the missions that we had, which were the no-fly zone, the arms embargo and protection of the civilian population. Any asset that was racked into Operation Unified Protector would be playing to exactly the same regulations as us.
Q251 Mr Havard: What about the other part?
Lieutenant General Richard Barrons: I cannot speak for Qatar. Whether nations conducted things bilaterally would be a matter for them.
Q252 Chair: Anything you would like to add to that?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: No.
Q253 Penny Mordaunt: My questions are to the whole panel, but it probably makes sense to start with the Air Chief Marshal and the First Sea Lord. What impact did Libya have on our existing commitments, including Afghanistan and standing naval and air commitments?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: The overall position is that we were able to maintain all our commitments-for instance, UK air defence, air defence of the Falklands and our commitment to Afghanistan-while conducting the operation in Libya. We did necessarily prioritise where assets went on a daily basis. In some cases they were sent further east and in some cases they were kept in the Mediterranean. These are assets that are, by nature, designed to be able to flexed from one theatre to another when they are needed for the priority that they are doing. Therefore in terms of the overall ability to conduct what we are tasked to conduct as a standing set of tasks, we were able to do that without impact on the operational capability, and where we needed to move assets around we did so. Another example would be that we sometimes took TriStars off mounting air logistics deployments to make them into tankers to support the Tornadoes that were flying out of the UK. We backfilled that, if necessary, by using other assets. If we did not need to and we could delay the missions for the air logistic support, that is what we did. We prioritised the tasks at the time, depending on what they were.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: That is slightly lined up with the question that the Chair asked at the beginning, but we satisfied all of our standing overseas commitments throughout this period, with the exception of that single one in the Caribbean, which we covered through other assets. We managed our way through maintaining coverage in those areas through extended deployment for some ships and by stretching the length of string that some of them were on from various focal points in the South Atlantic, where they were in the South Atlantic. It is worth bearing in mind, of course, that at the early outset of the operation, when we were still under Op Deference-the recovery of personnel from Libya itself-we took one unit that was en route to the Falklands and put it into the Mediterranean to provide support for a short period of time. It did not break the ministerially required distance or the requirements for the Falklands. Of course, we had Cumberland coming back from the Indian Ocean, which we used to provide the necessary recovery of personnel from Benghazi. We managed it for the period of the operation through flexing and stretching some of the deployment baselines.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: Sorry, just so that I do not mislead anybody, we did exactly the same when it came to the extraction of the workers in the various oilfields in Libya-we used every available asset to go and get those people out, including those who were on national contingencies, but that is why you have them on national contingencies: to go and do when you are required to. That is what we did in that way to achieve that aim.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: Just to embellish the point I made to the Chairman about the use of the response group taskforce, that is what it was for. That is what contingency is all about, and we were able to deploy it early to the Mediterranean-
Q254 Penny Mordaunt: This is Cougar?
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: This is Cougar. We deployed it early to the Mediterranean, on what was already a pre-planned training programme-to work itself up and be made available to give options, if required, and then deploy it further on to the Gulf when those options had been assessed. HMS Albion, for instance, was not required.
Q255 Penny Mordaunt: There has been speculation that UK Forces nearly ran out of ammunition during the operation-for example, the newer version of the Brimstone missile-or that there was a stockpile of missiles for reservicing in Afghanistan. What is your response to that assertion? Were there other areas of concern, and what action has been taken to guard against that happening in the future?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: In the whole area of weapons stockpiling, in the old days, shall we say, we would end up buying a whole stock of weapons; at the time, you needed to do that, because the production line was going to run from now to then, and stop. In today’s world, what we do differently is that we make sure we have access to enough stock to meet what we think are the planning requirements in the early stages, and then we maintain a relationship with industry such that we can reorder weapons as required, when their usage starts to go up. We actually have that as part of our formal strategy and policy, and contracts are in place to do it.
That is exactly what we did here. As we started to use the weapons up, new weapons or converted weapons were to tasked industry to be produced and developed, and they were; they were delivered, and therefore the stockpiles were kept at a level commensurate with our operational requirements. Yes, inevitably, decisions are made on a daily, or shall I say a weekly, basis about whether we send weapons stock to this or that place, depending on where we are operating, to make sure that we keep the balance right and the required stocks in place.
Q256 Penny Mordaunt: What happened in the specific case of the Brimstone missile?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: That is exactly what we did. Having used a certain number and recognised where the rate was going and that we were likely to use more, we tasked industry; they produced shifts to come in to work on the existing production lines, as part of the existing contract, to start producing more weapons. In some cases, that was by converting the absolutely standard missile into the dual mode seeker Brimstone missile and, in some cases, it was by starting to look at how to produce new ones. That is where it was started up, and that is where the feed came from to enable us to keep stocks going.
Q257 Penny Mordaunt: Was there a stockpile in Afghanistan of missiles that had been out there a long period of time and were there for reservicing? What happened with that?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: No. Weapons are stored in various locations-obviously, some forward in the operational theatre, and quite a lot back, in purpose-built storage facilities where necessary. They are then deployed to the theatre where they are needed at the time-hopefully, ahead of time, obviously-and they then go into place, ready to feed the stocks. In some cases, weapons will be moved from one theatre to another to make sure the balance is right across the piece. That is part of the active management process that we have in place to make sure that weapons stocks are where they are needed when they are needed, and that is exactly what we did.
Q258 Penny Mordaunt: You are confident that the processes in place to make the most efficient use of what we have worked, and you were happy with what happened?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: I am but, to be absolutely clear, that is because we had sovereign capability to produce that level of weapons and technical capability. The weapons were produced by sovereign manufacture, and therefore we were able to do that. It is part of the strategy to make sure that we understand that.
Q259 Chair: Is it right to say that you were able to do that only because MBDA anticipated the need before the MOD asked for the missiles?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: They were asked to ensure that they were ready to start production of the weapons when we formally went to them and said, "Start producing them."
Mr Havard: That might have been a yes.
Q260 Thomas Docherty: Minister, I have two questions, one following from Penny’s. Did our stocks of new Brimstones reach single figures?
Nick Harvey: Munitions stockpile levels are classified, so I am not going to get drawn into that. We were able to sustain the effort throughout; we did not have any serious worries. The Chief of the Air Staff has explained the way the system operates. It operated satisfactorily throughout, without undermining what we could do in Libya or Afghanistan.
Q261 Thomas Docherty: I am sure you have had a chance to read a transcript of the evidence from Air Marshal Harper. He informed the Committee that, although no nation declared to NATO that it was running low on assets or munitions, he was aware that nation talked to nation about sharing and that they had declared to each other privately around the margins-I think that was his phrase-that they were running short. Was the UK one of those nations?
Nick Harvey: Chief of the Air Staff, did we at any point have a discussion of that sort with our allies?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: Not that I am aware of.2
Q262 Thomas Docherty: That is a diplomatic answer, sir.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: No, it is the true answer: I am not aware of that. I cannot see why it should be. I will answer your questions directly. No, is the answer to your first question.
Nick Harvey: For the avoidance of doubt, I have no knowledge of any such discussions, either.
Q263 Thomas Docherty: Are you aware of which nations were referred to by Air Marshal Harper?
Nick Harvey: No, I am not.
Q264 Penny Mordaunt: I want the First Sea Lord to have a chance to come in on that question whether, in addition to the Brimstone missile, there are other areas of concern he has. I am thinking of the hollowing out of the capability on some of our ships and the armaments they had.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: There were no armaments used in the Libya campaign about which we had any concern in terms of shortage categories with regard to stocks.
Q265 Penny Mordaunt: Does that include not just what was used but what was there? I am thinking of ships being deployed with very much under the number of Sea Wolf or Harpoon missiles.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: In deploying ships, we equip them for the mission which they are tasked for. That might be constrained with regard to the equipment placed on the ship. There are areas of risk in the positioning of ships that require us to put more equipment on board them, for instance, operations in the Arabian Gulf, where the threat levels are higher, than if we are going to operate them in the North Atlantic. Some of the vessels used for Libyan operations were not fitted with what one might call the area-specific kit, nor was it required.
Q266 Penny Mordaunt: And you were comfortable with that?
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: With the operations off Libya, as they progressed, yes, I was comfortable with regard to the equipment, self-defence equipment and the ammunition stocks, which is what we are talking about here, that they held.
Q267 Thomas Docherty: Can I ask the panel, which UK attack capabilities do you believe performed particularly well in the operation?
Nick Harvey: My impression is that they all did, but I expect you are looking for a little more commentary than that. I will ask the Chief of the Air Staff and the First Sea Lord to comment.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: As far as we are concerned, the principal four weapons systems that were used all performed to an extremely high level of satisfaction in terms of their capabilities, and well above the predicted level percentage-wise, with very few exceptions. For instance, to talk about Brimstone in particular, 98.3% to 98.7% of the missiles fired went exactly as per the textbook and did exactly what we expected, so the quality of that was extremely high. The same is true, in ratio terms, of all the precision weapons that we dropped-and bear in mind that that is exactly what we require.
Q268 Thomas Docherty: What about the thinking that, of the 1.5% that were not precise, a significant proportion were within five metres? Is that fair?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: In many cases, less than that, but as ever, precision gurus that we are, we are talking about being exactly on. You are absolutely right: in many cases, it was only a matter of a couple of feet and so not significant in terms of what they were aimed at and what they achieved.
Q269 Thomas Docherty: That is slightly different from 70 years ago, perhaps.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: Just a little.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: As far as maritime fires are concerned, the early requirement to use Tomahawk to suppress enemy air defence was proven yet again. Once you have suppressed the air defences, you can project power more comfortably from the air. Naval fires simply using the 4.5 gun, which some people have suggested was not appropriate in this modern era, was proven again in terms of the ability to put fire on the ground where necessary with some considerable precision. We had to work up our standard procedures to be able to do that, to ensure the required precision that was again necessary to guarantee the safety of life.
Not quite a naval fire, but a very important part of the ability to sustain some of the operations was the mine countermeasures vessel capability, which ensured that, when they placed mines, we were able to disable those mines to allow, ultimately, the passage of vessels in and out of Misrata. While it is not a fire, that was a significant enabler to the overall business.
Q270 Thomas Docherty: What assessment has been made of the effectiveness of the co-operation with our French allies and the French armed forces during Operation Ellamy?
Nick Harvey: Oh, I think it has undoubtedly been a significant success. Of course, in the early days we had to get used to each other’s modus operandi. We had some initial difficulties in basic communications, but those were overcome. As time went on, it went from strength to strength. We are pleased to have demonstrated the ability of the UK and France to act together in a leading role in the way that we have, which is encouraging for the future. NATO allies and the US will have been encouraged by that, too. On the back of the treaties that we signed with France last year, this was a very significant achievement in improving our interoperability and working relations with France.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: May I have the privilege of going back before I answer that point? Not represented here, other than by General Barrons, is another element of fires that I previously forgot to mention, which is the use of attack helicopters flown by a mixture of naval and Army personnel, but by Army personnel in the main. That was a significant contributor to the flexibility.
Q271 Thomas Docherty: I can see why you are the First Sea Lord, because my next question is: what assessment have you made of the effectiveness of Ocean, the attack helicopters and Sea Kings, either individually or in partnership?
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: The partnership arrangement was fundamental. The ability to get the ISTAR from the Sea King SKASaCs, those that fly with the big radar to provide ground surveillance, and the flexibility of the package enabled the tasking of the attack helicopters in a very flexible way. We did not just click our fingers and do it; we have been working it up for some considerable time. Operating in that way, notwithstanding the novelty of how we did it, was something that we already practised. It was effective. It had its limitations-it was not a replacement for a fixed-wing air in any way-but it had its utility in terms of the flexibility of tasking that was required.
Chair: There is a vote in the House of Commons, so I shall suspend the Committee for 10 minutes and hope that everyone can get back here quickly.
Sitting suspended for a vote in the House.
Q272 Thomas Docherty: Air Chief Marshal, what assessment has been made of the performance of Typhoon and Tornado on operations?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: There are three things on that question. First of all, the performance of Tornado has yet again proven it a bedrock of multi-role capability, having precision weapons, first-class reconnaissance capability and first-class targeting capability. As in Afghanistan and as before, it has demonstrated that the Tornado is an excellent platform for what we do and has proved to be very effective.
Typhoon, on its first outing in an operation as opposed to its defensive counter-air role in the UK and the Falklands, proved again to be very reliable-4,500 flying hours with no engine changes.3 It is an amazingly reliable piece of kit. Within a matter of days, we were able to bring forward its existing air-to-ground capability on top of its air-to-air capability and to deliver very effective and very poignantly laser-guided bombs, and eventually to make sure that it could conduct that role simultaneously with its air defence role. Therefore, it could provide the requirement to enforce the no-fly zone and target precisely and accurately targets on the ground.
All of those have proved extremely reliable and effective. We have, of course, had to make sure that the ISR piece that supports them, which is the key element to make sure it all joins up, is equally available. As we have already said, those assets are in short supply. Undoubtedly, if we had had more of those, we could have done more effective operations, but they are nevertheless joined up in a way that makes the whole thing come together.
Q273 Thomas Docherty: For the Committee’s benefit, in approximately 4,500 flying hours, what kind of mileage are you talking about?4
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: Good God! It would have to be a guesstimate. Each sortie typically lasted six to seven hours. In some cases, it transited 700 miles to get there and made the point that it could stay airborne and do the job for a long while when it got there. Thousands and thousands of miles have been flown, but actually, the vast majority of that was over the Libyan coast or mainland, providing the persistent support that was needed on the ground. Typhoon has a long loitering capability compared to many fixed-wing fast jet aeroplanes.
Q274 Thomas Docherty: I think you will probably be aware of the comments by Air Marshal Harper about ISTAR. He said that ISTAR "played a key and pivotal role in the operation. There is no question about that…without that capability I do not think that we would have seen the rapid success that has been achieved." Would you agree with that?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: Absolutely right. It was fundamental. We were able to link up and securely pass information from the Sentinel aircraft providing the ground-mapping capability through the AWACS in E3 aeroplanes, through secure satellite comms, through data links to the Typhoon and from Typhoon to Tornado and onwards. All that was done. Without that combat ISTAR-in other words, the ability to do something about what you find on the ground at the same time-this would undoubtedly have been a more complex operation. The technical capability is there, and it has proven itself to be combat-ready and combat-capable.
Q275 Mrs Moon: Sentinel is one of the platforms due for retirement. Will you be sorry to see it go? Would you prefer it to be kept?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: The requirement for Sentinel is in the SDSR paper, which talked about the fact that when it was no longer required for Afghanistan, we would look to take it out of service. Of course, in the interim, its quality and its performance in Afghanistan and in Libya have demonstrated what a fundamental part of the ISR and the whole combat ISTAR piece it is. I feel that as ever, we will have the opportunity in the next SDSR to look at whether, as the Chairman was asking earlier, that is one of the capabilities that we will want to look at again, to see whether it was the right decision to say that when it is no longer required for Afghanistan, it will go. I am sure that is what we will do.
Q276 Chair: You’re sure that you will decide to keep Sentinel?
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: No, sure to have a look at it in the next SDSR.
Q277 Mrs Moon: The statement that I was given when I asked about Sentinel was that it will be withdrawn from service when it is no longer required to support operations in Afghanistan, so in 2014, potentially.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: No. It depends what the operations in Afghanistan turn out to be. Combat operations in Afghanistan will finish at the end of 2014, not necessarily the whole requirement.
Q278 Mrs Moon: Again, Air Marshal Harper described Sentinel, saying: "It played a key and pivotal role in the operation. There is no question about that. This is a highly capable ISR platform that is able to detect movement on the ground with extraordinary high fidelity and provide that information in real time", and that we "relied extremely heavily on its capability and on similar capabilities…without that capability I do not think that we would have seen the rapid success that has been achieved." I assume, therefore, that when you look again, you will, hopefully, be looking to retain it, perhaps in an upgraded form.
Nick Harvey: Let me endorse what the Chief of the Air Staff has said. NATO, at the Lisbon summit last year, identified that across the alliance, ISR is a priority that we need to turn our attention to. I am confident that when we conduct the lessons learned exercise from Libya, the performance of Sentinel will be one thing on which we will focus. Certainly, the next SDSR will give us an opportunity to consider our future ISR needs and requirements. At that stage, we will be able to consider whether we should indeed extend the life of Sentinel further or, if we are not going to do that, how we will procure some other capability that can plug the gap. I entirely endorse the Chief of the Air Staff’s confidence that this issue will be re-examined in the next SDSR.
Q279 Thomas Docherty: Minister, how did you deal with the lack of a UK fixed-wing aircraft carrier and the reliance on land-based forces?
Nick Harvey: I believe that we coped extremely well. We were able to fly sorties with Typhoon and Tornado, which we did to great effect, as part of the international alliance that had been amassed for the purpose. Of course it is the case that the Americans, the Italians and the French, at various points, used aircraft carriers in the course of the Libyan action, though it is equally true to say that the Italians and the French retired them partway through and the Americans used their carrier at considerably less than its capacity. Of course, the more assets you have available to you in any military engagement, the more options you have got, but we were able to make a thoroughly worthwhile contribution to that international action without needing our own British carrier. The risks that we took, and that we acknowledged that we were taking when we resolved to take a capability gap on carrier strike, were, in my view, vindicated by the events as they unfolded in the Libyan action.
To cast your mind back to the decision in the SDSR, we were coming from a situation where Tornado and Harrier had been our two aircraft in that role, and we are moving to a future, in Future Force 2020, where Typhoon and the JSF will succeed them. The decision that we had to take during the interim was whether we were going to continue operating three aircraft types-Harrier, Tornado and Typhoon-or whether, in order to achieve the impact on the defence budget that we needed, it would be better to delete either Harrier or Tornado rather than salami-slice both of them.
As you know, that was debated in a lively manner as part of the SDSR process. The decision was taken that we will need carrier strike for the future. That is why we have committed to a carrier strike capability for the long term. We will not always be able to depend on the sort of international arrangements that we had on this occasion, but we calculated that we would be able to do so, in foreseeable circumstances, for the next few years. I believe that Libya bore that out, but I shall ask the First Sea Lord to give his perspective.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: Using Libya as an example of the need, or not, for aircraft carriers can lead you to some false assumptions. If we had had a carrier with Harrier capability, as we used to, I suspect we would have used it as another option, and it might have been reactively tasked in some circumstances. But, let us be absolutely clear, it could not have provided the effect of Tornado with Brimstone and Storm Shadow. At that stage, Harrier was not capable of embarking those weapons. We would have had to have used the same effort to achieve the same effect. Of course, we had the advantage of local air basing rights and overflight rights, so we could position strike capability from Italy to be embarked into Libya. It worked-and it worked splendidly.
The Minister’s point is important, however. In future, we risk engagement elsewhere in the world where air basing and overflight rights might not be available. Without that option, all our possibilities might be closed down, so the Government have made a clear decision to build a future aircraft carrier and put on it the Joint Strike Fighter that will be capable of embarking all the weapons that are currently in our arsenal-and probably better ones.
Nick Harvey: If we had instead deleted Tornado at the end of 2010, the first challenge for the residual Harrier force would have been to re-engage in Afghanistan. That being so, it would have been highly unlikely that it would have been available for the action in Libya. Even if it had, it would not have had the same fire power, as the First Sea Lord has observed.
Q280 Thomas Docherty: I will come back to some of the other points in a second, but I want to be clear: are you saying that had the Government disposed of Tornadoes and kept Harrier, there would have been a significant impact on our ability in Libya?
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope: Unquestionably, yes. The immediate challenge for the Harrier force would have been to work itself up again into being capable of performing the task in Afghanistan, and no one should underestimate how big a challenge that would have been. But whatever stage it was at in meeting that challenge, there was no possibility that it could have engaged in Libya at the same time.
Q281 Thomas Docherty: You will obviously be aware of the Committee’s discussions with Air Marshal Harper about the comments of-apologies to him if I get his name wrong-Rear Admiral Paolo Treu, the commander of Italian naval aviation. I do not propose to quote him verbatim, because I am sure that you have been briefed on that. But fundamentally, he said that the situation in Libya demonstrated the advantage of flying Harrier off a carrier. Remember that this is the Italians talking, who had the nearest basing. He said that it was far more cost-effective than simply using land-based forces. He said that using naval power in partnership with land-based forces resulted in less wear and tear on the aircraft. He also said that it was easier to do dynamic tasking and shift operations when using carriers because they were only five minutes away from target rather than being, in some cases, a round trip of six or seven hours away. Is the Rear Admiral wrong?
Nick Harvey: It depends what he means. If he is talking about the cost per flying hour or the cost per sortie, I should imagine he is entirely right, but you cannot consider that in isolation from the effect that you are trying to deliver. If we had sustained two aircraft types instead of deleting one at the end of last year, you would have to factor into any cost comparison the overall cost of sustaining two aircraft types. If you were simply looking at the action in Libya in isolation from that issue, you have to factor in the different effect that you are capable of delivering from a Tornado from that which, had they been available-a mighty big hypothetical-you would have delivered from a Harrier. The actual cost of getting the aircraft into the air, making a flight and coming back may per sortie have been cheaper-I readily admit that-but it seems an almost meaningless statistic.
Q282 Thomas Docherty: With due respect, Minister, you have already said that it was Treasury-driven need to take an air asset out of existence. So it is not unreasonable at all to ask whether you have made an analysis of the cost of running purely land-based operations.
Nick Harvey: Of course.
Q283 Thomas Docherty: Will you share it with the Committee.
Nick Harvey: I have answered innumerable parliamentary questions on the cost of doing just that but, with respect, how is it meaningful to compare the cost of a Harrier sortie with that of a Tornado sortie if the effect they are going to deliver is not comparable? It is of passing interest, but it is almost irrelevant.
Q284 Thomas Docherty: I would suggest that not all the sorties that were carried out by Typhoons and Tornados had to be carried by those aircraft. The fact is that both the United States and the Italians chose to use Harrier. Were they wrong to have used Harrier?
Nick Harvey: Of course not.
Q285 Thomas Docherty: Were they ineffective by using Harrier?
Nick Harvey: Of course not, but they were using it for a different purpose. You are comparing apples with pears. If you were comparing the costs of two alternative ways of doing the same thing, it would be of some considerable significance. But if you are comparing the cost of doing two quite different things, I am struggling to see the relevance of it.
Q286 Bob Russell: Minister, did any political or operational limitations occur due to the reliance placed on partner nations basing and logistics supply?
Nick Harvey: No, we were extremely grateful to partner nations for what they were able to do for us. We were hugely grateful to the United States for the support that it was able to give to us and to others, and we really should note the invaluable role played by Italy in this operation. The UK and NATO are very grateful to the Italians for all their support for our operations over Libya, in addition, of course, to contributing their own military assets. Malta also provided valuable support to the UK’s commitment. Overall, the international collaboration during the whole of this operation has been of the very highest order. The NATO alliance-as we observed early on, it was NATO Plus-actually worked together incredibly well.
Q287 Bob Russell: Thank you. I was going to ask two or three questions about what additional capabilities would have been useful. Colleagues have raised that in general and you and your colleagues have answered them. I shall put the open question to you: are there any further additional capabilities over and above those you have already mentioned, which possibly could have shortened the action, which many people felt was somewhat prolonged, bearing in mind the weight of the nations that were taking on Libya?
Nick Harvey: The critical military difference that might have achieved the outcome quicker would have been the deployment of ground forces, but that would have been completely unacceptable in terms of the international politics of that. As for other equipment that we might have benefited from, you can never have enough ISR. The more you have got, the more it enables you to deal with the other equipment that you have available for the action. I do not know whether General Barrons wants to add anything to this from an operational perspective.
Lieutenant General Richard Barrons: It is tempting to think that, if we had had more ISR, more fast jets and more tankers, we would have been able to take on more targets at once. Would that have expedited the conclusion of the campaign? I don’t know, because it is obviously counter-factual, but the fact is that the decisive part of the campaign was always going to be on the ground when the NTC was able to complete its ambition to remove the Gaddafi regime. Its ability to do that had to grow over time, so it is not necessarily the case that more air effort would have resulted in a quicker outcome, because the NTC military forces were on a really steep learning curve.
Bob Russell: Thank you.
Q288 John Glen: I would like to turn to costs and value for money. In a written ministerial statement of 12 October, the cost of operations was estimated at £160 million with a further £140 million estimated to be the cost of replenishing munitions. I am keen to understand what goes into those figures. There have been some significant, different estimates in the press; Francis Tusa has calculated that it could be between £850 million and £1.75 billion, which is quite a difference.5 I would be grateful if you could set out, Minister, what aspects are included in the statement that the MOD issued, in terms of training costs, wear and tear and other costs borne by the MOD so that we can have a full understanding of what that figure includes.
Nick Harvey: The estimates for the cost of operations in Libya are on the basis of net additional cost of the operations. That will generate a figure that we will claim from the Treasury reserve. It includes only additional costs, not costs that we would have incurred anyway. It would include, for example, the costs of fuel, munitions, extra maintenance requirements, spares, the deployment and recovery of equipment and personnel, accommodation, theatre-specific training and operational allowances, but it would not include things such as the basic salaries of the participants, which we would have been paying anyway. Slightly trickier calculations are made after the event about some of the things that you were touching on, including capital depreciation.
Q289 John Glen: But they are real costs, aren’t they?
Nick Harvey: Oh yes, they are real costs, and although I am saying that they are trickier, that does not mean that we will not adduce a cost from that and present it to the Treasury accordingly. The estimate for Libya comprises two parts: the additional cost of operations and, as a separate estimate, the cost of replenishing munitions. On 12 October, as you have said, the previous Secretary of State issued estimates based on the extension of operations into mid-December, which we can now reasonably anticipate will not happen. They were costs covering a nine-month period, and that estimate was £160 million in additional costs and £140 million on the cost of replenishing munitions-a total of about £300 million. Clearly, when we know exactly when the operation has finished and how much it has cost we will present fully audited costs to the Treasury, which will form part of our accounts and our annual reports.
You referred to an article, which I think was in The Guardian. I have explained that we compute costs on the basis of net additional costs, and the journalist’s calculations in the Guardian story appear to be his cockshy at estimating the entire cost, regardless of whether some of that was cost that the Department would already have been incurring. Governments never estimate the cost of an operation on that basis, and such calculations are almost impossible to verify because there is not really a methodology for doing so. I am sorry to say that I do not recognise his figures or the logic that he has deployed to arrive at them.
Q290 John Glen: Can I move on to talk about the cost-effectiveness of the capabilities? We have gone over the debate of what would have happened had we had a carrier, but we can make some meaningful comparisons between other countries and their utilisation of sorties per aircraft, for example, or the number of pilots per aircraft. Will an evaluation of the cost-effectiveness of deployed, in this case, RAF assets be made with like-for-like comparators within the NATO alliance? That would be a meaningful calculation that would begin to get to an assessment of the value for money of that asset. I know it is very difficult when the outcome is ultimately a good one, but it is a legitimate question in terms of effectiveness.
Nick Harvey: It is a perfectly legitimate question and, as part of the lessons-learned exercise, we will most certainly be scrutinising questions of cost. On the particular point that you are making, where you suggest it would be a valid comparison to look at the costs of sorties made by the RAF against those made by other nations, such a comparison would only be valid if you were comparing like with like.
Q291 John Glen: Canada and Belgium’s shore-based assets were deployed from bases-
Nick Harvey: It depends on exactly what they are doing, and if what they are doing is broadly comparable, a cost comparison may indeed be valid, but the nature of different sorties being flown by different nations in the alliance during the course of the Libyan action was varied. We would have to be extremely cautious of any simplistic comparison model in case we strayed into the territory of not comparing like with like, because the effectiveness of sorties or the number of targets hit or whatever would again depend on what the targets were and what dangers and challenges were implicit in making the hit.
Please do not imagine that I am pooh-poohing the entire notion of making cost comparisons-I am truly not-but we would have to do so with extreme caution that we really were comparing like with like.
Q292 John Glen: No, I understand the caveats, but I want to push it a bit further in a different area. We extensively used Storm Shadow and Brimstone. However, many of our allies did not use them and did not sustain collateral damage and casualties as a consequence of using much cheaper weapons. Given the actual outcomes, is that something that is a legitimate area for consideration?
Nick Harvey: It might rather depend on what the target was, but let me ask the Chief of the Air Staff to answer.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: That is exactly the point here. There were other nations that used a comparator to Storm Shadow-the Italians and the French-but the cost-effectiveness of employing them in the same way would have been exactly the same as ours would be.
The other issue would be that, for instance, no other country had Brimstone and its dual-mode capability. The consequence of that is that those aircraft were doing very specific missions. In essence, therefore, what they achieved was unique in the overall scheme. So trying to make any comparison of that against what others were targeting, as the Minister has said, would be rather false unless you use something very simplistic, which is not valid, such as the cost per hour, because the effectiveness is what we are trying to achieve.
Q293 John Glen: It would be difficult, because we will not be able to look back and understand those operational decisions owing to the sensitivity of the targets, so there will be no effective scrutiny of those decisions.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: What will be effective is the fact that when the mission commanders decide which target sets the different air forces, different formations and different types are going against, they match them against those targets and the conditions of those targets. Therefore, if you wanted to know what the cost-effectiveness of doing that was, you would very quickly get to a point where, in some cases, there was only one that could do it.
Regarding your example of F/A-18s and F-16s, there might be a comparison, depending on the targets that they were going for, but I would equally say that there could very well not be a comparison, because of the target sets that they were going for. It is not just the price per hour; it is the effectiveness of what they are achieving on the ground.
Q294 John Glen: Were we deployed in more expensive and sensitive targeting that would have involved more expensive assets, or were all allies used in similar ways? It seems that you are suggesting that we were up for expensive, top-end activity that necessitated expensive weaponry.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton: No, what I am saying is that you take the assets that were contributed by other nations and you then match the capabilities and weapons that those assets have to the targets that you have to go against. For instance, if we had tried to throw a squadron’s worth of F16s’ capabilities with 500 lb bombs against some of the targets that you send a Tornado with Storm Shadow in, you could have sent another three squadrons and you would not have achieved anything because it is the combination of the aircraft and the weapon that achieves the effect you want on the ground. So that is why it is not simple to do a quick, straightforward cost-effectiveness comparison between one aircraft and its capabilities and another and its capabilities in this sort of mission.
Q295 Chair: How much did we spend on oil and fuel generally in the course of the campaign?
Nick Harvey: That is not a figure that I have at my fingertips. If the Committee is interested in that, we could in due course try to tell you.
Chair: It would be helpful to have a figure on how much was spent on that, not least to work out how much it cost to bring Tornadoes down from faraway places and also how much we spent on munitions. If those figures could be provided I would be grateful.6
Q296 John Glen: We do know that an answer to a parliamentary question said that Tornado fuel costs were £5,000 per hour. We know from two weeks ago that Tornadoes completed 7,000 hours of flying ops. So that is £35 million to start.
Nick Harvey: There would have been further oil requirements on top of that, I fear.
John Glen: Absolutely.
Chair: I should be grateful if you could provide those figures.
Q297 Mr Havard: There will be a question later about the lessons learned exercise. Presumably as part of the lessons learned exercise there will be something a little more qualitative or some granularity in terms of the financial effects and assessments. As part of that perhaps we can have some visibility at a later date of how that was achieved and what they were.
Nick Harvey: There will certainly be a detailed scrutiny of the costs so that we can learn lessons on whether there would be a more cost-effective way of delivering a particular effect in future. Overall, we have helped NATO to avert a humanitarian disaster and the cost-effectiveness of the whole thing is difficult to measure because we are measuring it in terms of human life. I think that we will conclude that the effort the international community made was worth, in human terms, avoiding that catastrophe.
Q298 John Glen: Do you think, given the extensive costs which are obviously yet to be fully calculated, there will be an attempt to reclaim some of them from the Libyan Government when they are in a position to accommodate that?
Nick Harvey: NATO’s intervention in Libya was under a clear UN mandate which has saved countless lives. It is helping to bring new hope to a country that has suffered tyrannical rule for 42 years. We didn’t do this for financial return. It has not been something that we have suggested at any point along the line. We are not mercenaries for hire. We did this because we felt that this was the right thing to do. I hope very much that in the future Libya will become a prosperous and stable nation but I do not think we would help them achieve that if, on top of all the challenges they face in trying to put together a nation state now, we were to send them an invoice. That just is not what we did this for.
Q299 John Glen: But what about the equitable transfer of the burden of costs across NATO in terms of transfers and payments across, given that the distribution of the costs by NATO members was probably not equitable?
Nick Harvey: Well, there are always the discussions within NATO about sharing the burdens both militarily and financially. Those are discussions that we will continue to pursue with our NATO colleagues, but no one should underestimate the difficulties of achieving progress in the direction that all of us would like to see.
Thomas Docherty: Speaking of burden sharing, have the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office now agreed for future activities who pays for evacuating civilians, because I understand that that was one of the issues that caused a slight delay with sorting out who was paying for the flights?
Nick Harvey: I am not aware that we have been in any dispute with the Foreign Office on that.
Chair: Everyone is looking at you, DCDS.
Lieutenant-General Barrons: No. The fact is, if the Ministry of Defence supplies capability in support of the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence is inclined to present a bill for its trouble. What it never does is slow down the speed of response. It is not as if there is an argument, as it were, on the line of departure, about who is going to pay before we go and rescue our citizens. That does not occur.
Q300 Thomas Docherty: So have you billed the Foreign Office for-
Lieutenant-General Barrons: I think the Ministry of Defence is in the habit of billing as many Government Departments as it can.
Nick Harvey: I can absolutely confirm that. There are Treasury guidelines to Government Departments about the way we charge each other. As the Minister responsible for requests for military aid to the civilian authorities, I deal with these all the time, and certainly the Treasury’s opening position is that we should recover full costs from each other unless there is a particular reason, using certain criteria, not to.
Chair: I would like shortly to bring the meeting to an end, because I know at least some of us have other appointments.
Q301 Mr Havard: I have got a heading about implications for SDSR, NATO and so on: there is a debate in the United States that you, obviously, understand, and it reflects everything-John McCain saying we should have used our air power more, and we could have done it shorter. There is a whole debate, however, about whither NATO, and what happens in the future, and how we deploy ourselves in terms of what the future NATO will look like. There is an argument, in other words, in America, that this is a NATO failure. Some people argue that a transformational discussion will now take place, and Libya is the illustrative platform for that transformational debate to take a leap forward.
What do you say about what that says for how we deploy ourselves now, given our declaration of what we think 2020 will look like, and our position? Is there a revision of that? I would like to know what you think: if we act within NATO, that is one set of questions; but how could we act independently, and what have we learned about the necessity? Should we need to go to the Falklands, or if we had to do something independently in relation to Cyprus, where are we in terms of capability?
Nick Harvey: Well, Future Force 2020 aims to give us the ability to undertake operations on our own, but the circumstances in which that would happen would, I sincerely hope, remain quite few and far between. NATO remains absolutely the bedrock of our defence, and it was certainly the underlying assumption in the National Security Strategy and the SDSR that most of the international engagements that we would anticipate participating in would be with NATO allies; and therefore, in making decisions about our own military capabilities we take into account the ability we believe we would have to co-operate with others and make use of their capabilities.
I agree with you that what happened in Libya may mark something of a new chapter in America’s attitude towards Europe and the rest of NATO. I certainly do not for one minute think that the Americans are going to turn their back on Europe and NATO, but I do think, as we look forward, the countries of Europe-I have said this many times before-will need to accept the challenge of carrying more of the burden of our security on our own shoulders, not expecting the Americans to provide as much for us in the next 50 or 60 years as they have in the last. Certainly their conscious decision not to step to the front of this action and lead it, but rather to have NATO do it, but through an enhanced role for the French and the British, may well prove to be an augury of what is to come. It makes it all the more necessary for the countries of Europe to work more closely together, to up our game and to deliver a greater proportion of our own security in the future than we have in the past.
Chair: On that uplifting note we should draw matters to a close. Thank you to all our witnesses for a most helpful and interesting session.
Nick Harvey: Thank you.
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 Note by witness: this figure should read 3035 flying hours
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